I'll never forget the time I challenged myself to make a Beef Wellington from this cooking bible, and was confronted with a recipe calling for many ingredients that cross-referenced to their own recipes which called for further preparations. . . . These were exotic-sounding things I'd never made or in some cases, even heard of before, like roux, puff pastry, Duxelles, liver paté, beef stock reduction. I dedicated a whole week to the Wellington project, and most of the steps were labor-intensive, requiring my full concentration. Which was challenging back then, since in those days I polished off whole bottles of wine while cooking. (They went into me, not only into my sauces.) I have a vague recollection of being gently slapped back into consciousness by my then-boyfriend when it was time to incorporate yet another layer of butter into the puff paste.
But the project I'm describing here was a piece of cake in comparison to that marathon, which I'm not likely to repeat any time soon. (Intrepid readers can refer to JofC, page 455, if they wish to try their own hands at Beef Wellington. Good luck, and be sure to send me a report of your experience. And a list of the wines you consumed during the preparation.)
Not only is this Pot Roast recipe pretty easy to carry off, but also it gives you the opportunity to perform steps that will have you feeling very chef-like. You get to make stock, you get to marinate, you get to deglaze a pan! Readers who share my excitement for doing this kind of cooking-show stuff will understand why I used that exclamation point, which was not in any way ironical. Those of you who are not total culinary geeks will just have to excuse us while we get a little giddy from the (uncapitalized) joy of cooking.
The night before I was going to cook, I assembled my meat and the ingredients for my marinade. For this dish, I'd asked my butcher-lady for a pound and a half of top roast, sliced into 2 inch-thick slices. (Not 2-inch-thick slices. Please pay close attention to my hyphenation, about which I am fa-nat-i-cal.) For the marinade, I ground together in a mortar some cumin seed, some dried rosemary, some salt, and a few black peppercorns. Then I squoze in a few garlic cloves with a press and added a little olive oil to make a paste.
|Ingredients and tools for the marinade|
|Ready for bed — see you in the morning!|
|Where's the beef?|
|This little 9" frying pan is one of my most-used kitchen tools, to which I'll devote a whole posting sometime.|
And now for this week's stock photo:
|Take note of the enormous butternut squash in the background, dwarfing the quart-sized jar!|
Already having the stock on hand made the next step as easy as adding a bouillon cube, which is an ingredient I never intend to buy. Would Julia Child have resorted to this kind of shortcut — I mean, really! (Outraged readers, please send me your favorite uses for bouillon cubes, and try to change my mind.) I poured my approximately 2 cups of semi-sour stock over the top of everything in the crock, closed it up, and turned the dial to low.
I will not burden you with the details of what I did for the next 9 hours, though certain of the activities would make interesting fodder for a very different kind of blog. 'Nough said.
|Before 10 hours in the slow cooker|
|Try not to consume the entire cut of meat while you "test it for doneness."|
At some point, I decided the sauce had reduced enough, so I turned the cooker back to low and replaced the lid on fully. At about hour 10, I got together my chosen accompaniments: buttermilk biscuits and some homemade chutney. (I'd decided to serve the sweet chutney because I was still concerned that my sauce was going to be too sour.)
|This photo really doesn't do justice to the deep red color and silky texture of the chutney. But don't those biscuits look good! (They were.)|
I served the veggies into individual shallow bowls, then laid a few strips of meat and a mushroom or two on top. The chutney and biscuits were served on the side, but I soon added chunks of biscuit to my bowl in order to sop up the sauce, which was really quite wonderful.
After such a meal, I felt warm enough to smile in front of one of the giant mounds of snow outside our building.
One of the most interesting aspects of this dish was "rescuing" the stock after nearly ruining it with some additions of questionable judgment. Who knows, though, maybe the Meyer lemon was the secret ingredient, adding just the right hint of piquancy to my sauce. Or maybe I just got lucky.
Readers, tell us about the times you've gotten lucky in the kitchen. (I am leaving that invitation, with its unsubtle double entendre, open to your individual interpretation.) How were you able to avert culinary disaster with creativity, with luck, or with midnight calls to Mom?