Sunday, February 15, 2015

Winter Storm Pot Roast

It seems that every week since late January, we get a huge snow storm or blizzard. Looking out at my back yard, where just a few months ago Teddy B. ran around and chewed on sticks atop a nice bed of grass, I see this:

My city, Worcester, MA, is now the snowiest city in the United States.  That means we have more snow than Buffalo, Aspen, Alaska.  

To occupy my time while I'm confined to the house, and feel warm and cozy on the inside, I've been cooking a big pot of something every week during the storm.  Still feeling the need to stay away from chicken, I searched for a beef recipe and happened upon one called Company Pot Roast in Cooking Light Magazine.  It had an ingredient that I've never used before--morel mushrooms (in dry form). I've always wondered what they were like. They are an interesting-looking mushroom.   They sold them at my grocery store in 1/2 oz. packages. This is likely the brand that you will come across:

What did I think of them?  Well, they looked interesting.  But if they had a special flavor, it was lost.  The other flavors were very strong.  You could use them, they certainly look interesting.  If you decide you'd rather, I think you could just go with cremini mushrooms, fresh ones, perhaps halved.  If I were to go that route, I'd saute them and add them in the last 2 hours.  Why?  because I think if you added them in early, they'd shrink to the size of peppercorns.  

I did think the morels looked cool, and I'd love to try them, fresh perhaps, in a recipe where their flavor would come through more.

Other than the morels, you might wonder about the sundried tomato paste.  I keep thinking that I the brand of tomato paste that comes in the tube has it.  But not at the store where I did my shopping.  I found and used this:

Let's talk about the part of the recipe that I changed.  

A lot of recipes online tend to have reviews and comments from the people who have tried them. They can be really helpful when you are deciding what to do about making the recipe.  You can see where others felt the recipe felt short, and therefore fix it ahead of time.  You can look at the interesting things others did to the recipe and decide if you want to try them too.  For me, with this recipe, I liked the person who added in extra sundried tomato flavor by adding chopped, sundried tomatoes out of the bag.  This is what I'm talking about, and yes, I did add them:

Something interesting came up in the comments.  Quite a few of the people who responded said that they felt the recipe lacked something in the way of flavor.  They did things like adding salt or bullion cubes.  Other commentors felt that was foolish, and recommended that they learn to like less salt.

Me?  As I've mentioned before, I tend to go easy on the salt.  I used unsalted beef broth.  I figured that the low-sodium soy sauce was going to be plenty of salt.  And it was.  Those people who added salt are nuts!  In fact, if I were to make it again, I'd use less soy sauce and replace that liquid with more of the unsalted beef broth, or water.

Oh, and on the morning that I started making the roast, I realized their was a key ingredient that I'd forgotten to get--the potatoes.  Whoops!  It's a good thing I had parsnips in the refrigerator.  Before I realized I had parsnips, my plan was to double the carrots, or maybe add squash, but the parsnips saved the day.  Yay!

I had close company while I peeled and chopped the carrots and parsnips.  My Teddy B. has learned that if he stands underneath me when I'm cooking, something is bound to drop into his territory.  He kept making off with my dropped veggies, and it made me smile.  He's so cute, my little thief.  

I don't know red meat very well.  In fact this was the first time I cooked a pot roast.  It was more expensive than I imagined, and it went from a little too small, to way too big at the store.  I got the one roast that was a little too small.  I cut a big hunk of fat off of it too.  It cooked down a lot.  So I hope you learn from my mistake.  Don't get a roast that isn't big enough.

One last thing:  I didn't make the gravy.  I just used the liquid in it's state.  Nothing seemed to need moisture.  But I'll leave the instructions for it.  It probably would have been nice.

Winter Storm Pot Roast 

(2-pound) boneless chuck roast, trimmed and cut in half 
1/4 cup lower-sodium soy sauce 
garlic cloves, minced 
1 cup beef broth 
(.5-ounce) package dried morels
1 tablespoon cracked black pepper
3 tablespoons sun-dried tomato paste 

1/4 cup sundried tomatoes, chopped
medium onions (about 3/4 pound), quartered 
(16-ounce) package carrots, cut into 2-inch pieces 
16 oz parsnips, chopped 
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons water

Use a pepper mill to pepper the roast on both sides.  Combine the soy sauce and garlic. Add it to a large zip-top plastic bag.  Place the steak in the bag with the liquid. Seal the bag and marinate the roast in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours, turning bag occasionally.  

If you like prepping ahead, you could be cutting your veggies now.  Another opportunity would be during the next step, where you reconstitute the morels.

Bring broth to a boil in a small saucepan; add mushrooms. Remove from heat; cover and let stand 20 minutes. Drain mushrooms.  If you have a cheesecloth, drain the mushrooms with it. I didn't have a cheesecloth, I squeezed the liquid out with my hands. They were clean, so there's nothing wrong with that!  ;)

Remove roast from bag, reserving marinade. Sprinkle roast with pepper, gently pressing pepper into roast. Combine reserved marinade, mushroom broth mixture, and tomato paste; stir well, and set aside.

Place mushrooms, onion, carrot and parsnips in a 6-quart electric slow cooker; toss gently.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add roast, browning it well on all sides. I used tongs to help brown the edges.

Place the roast over the vegetables in slow cooker. Pour the tomato paste mixture into pan, scraping to loosen browned bits. Well, since my pan was nonstick, I stirred with a plastic spoon and loosened the bits with the plastic spoon. 

Pour tomato paste mixture over roast and vegetables. Cover with lid; cook on high-heat setting 1 hour. Reduce to low-heat setting, and cook 8 hours or until roast is tender. Place roast and vegetables on a serving platter; keep warm. Reserve liquid in slow cooker; increase to high-heat setting.

Place flour in a small bowl. Gradually add water, stirring with a whisk until well blended. Add flour mixture to liquid in slow cooker. Cook, uncovered, 15 minutes or until slightly thick, stirring frequently. Serve gravy with roast and vegetables.

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