Food

You still have time to make comfort food!

Last year, our younger daughter and her husband moved back to this area. My son-in-law, leaving Seattle, where he grew up, thought it would be a great idea to institute a family Sunday dinner tradition, at least a couple of days per month. “We’ll trade off,” he said. In practice, Mom and Dad are doing most of the hosting, but that’s OK. We’re retired, they work, and besides, we get to try out a lot of food recipes.

Of course, we’ll crank up the grill in warm weather.  But you still have the rest of May, June and until July 5 (when summer actually starts in Vancouver) to make cool-weather comfort food. I made a pot roast last week, and if slathering gravy on everything except dessert (and I think Dan would have done that, if there was any left) is any indication of success, my pot roast was a hit.

You can get pot roast recipes in almost every cookbook; if you need specific ingredient amounts, check your favorite cookbook or website.  Mine is “interpreted” from at least 4 or 5 sources, none of which I can identify off-hand, except that I always start every food search in a vintage edition of  “Joy of Cooking.”

Slow-roasting beef in our house has a couple of common premises: 1) tough cuts with some fat interspersed throughout (I’ve tried sirloin, but it’s too dry), and, 2) our ancient cast-iron Dutch oven, which I inherited from my mother-in-law, and was at least two generations old when I got it. The addition of oxtails help  enhance the nice meat flavor.

1)     4 lbs boneless chuck shoulder roast (you want left-overs, right?);
2)     About a pound of oxtails;
3)     Savories: onions, garlic, celery, parsley;
4)     Spices: smoked paprika, toasted cumin, Cajun spices, salt & pepper;
5)     Root vegetables:  rutabaga, parsnips, carrots, potatoes;
6)     Low-sodium beef stock;
7)     Either red or white wine;

Marinate the meat in wine, onions, garlic and the spices for at least 12 hours; save the marinade.

Sear the roast on top of the stove, and roast the oxtails in the oven @ about 425. Then set the meats off to the side while you sauté  celery, parsnips, and rutabaga (commercial soup-maker’s secret “beef” flavor enhancer) and even more onions and garlic, if you like .

Return meats, marinade and beef stock to the pot, roast in the oven, lid-on, for about 3 or 4 hours @ 350 d.;  the meat should be falling off the oxtail bones. Add the carrots and potatoes about an hour before serving. Now salt for taste.  Put everything on a platter and store it in a warm oven while you make gravy.

For a lot reasons, good gravy is a mystery.  It’s either too fatty, or lacks flavor, or is too salty, or it’s heavy….

Here’s how I make mine: spoon or pour off most of the fat left in the Dutch oven/cook pot (I use one of those nifty fat separators).  There will still be chunks of veggies and savories in the remaining liquid. Add some more wine and start heating on the top of the stove (don’t forget to scrape the bits off the bottom of the pan). Sprinkle with flour (I use Wondra), make sure it cooks a while. To prevent clumping, this is a good time to use that immersion blender you bought 3 years ago. Now,  start thinning with milk, add salt (careful!) & pepper until it looks and tastes like your Grandmother’s gravy.  Give the blender to your son-in-law to lick…..

Serve with salad, good bread and my wife Becky’s chocolate or lemon-meringue pie.

A meal that’ll bring tears to your eyes…

Ol' Mick

I'm an old guy, been eating all my life. And I've been blessed with marrying a really good cook (she's an actual prize-winner) who still looks much better than do I. Two daughters, both in the food business (one in PR, the other in sales), and both married guys, who also like to cook. Consequently our family gatherings sometimes resemble a raucous cut-throat foodie TV contest on a cooking channel.