Dad’s Pot Roast

November 3, 2011

Margaux says…

For the most part, I tend to cook a new recipe every night.  But there are a few things that I make on a regular basis (meaning, 2-3 times a year), and this is one of them.  I am a meat-and-potatoes kind of gal…have been since the beginning.  Pot roast is one of my favorite things, next to steak and mashed potatoes, and my dad gave me this recipe for it when I was in middle school.  I’m pretty sure it’s my Granny’s recipe, although she may not have put in the garlic or herbs. Anyway, it’s been a standard for me ever since!

You have to get a nice, marble-y piece of meat…that’s what makes it good.  You can add as many potatoes and carrots as your pot will allow…it seems I can never cook enough carrots!  Just add a little more water if you need to when adding the veg.  The water doesn’t have to completely cover, because the tight-fitting lid will create a steam bath in there, but it should almost cover the ingredients.

The best part about pot roast (well, second best, next to the taste!), is that it is super easy to make!  I like to make it on days where I have a lot of other things going on…it only has a few ingredients, and prep time is only about 10-15 minutes.  If you’re making gravy (which is totally necessary, in my book), that will take another few minutes at the end, but it’s worth the trouble.

Dad’s Pot Roast

2- 2 1/2 lb. Boston or chuck roast
1 medium onion, quartered
2 tbsp olive oil
1-2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp basil
1/2 tsp marjoram
1/2 tsp oregano
2-4 potatoes, quartered
2-4 carrots, cut into 3″ pieces
2-3 cups water (or more, if needed)

You need a dutch oven, cast iron is best-it adds flavor! Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Salt and pepper both sides of the meat. On top of the stove, over medium-high heat, heat oil, and brown meat on both sides. Add water to the top of the meat and add onion, herbs, garlic and 1/2 tsp salt. Place a tight-fitting lid on top and cook in the oven for 1 1/2 hours. Remove from oven and add potatoes and carrots (and a little more water if needed), and cook one more hour. Mmm-mmm-good.

Pan Gravy

I like to use Wondra flour for my gravy–it makes it super easy. First thing you need to do is remove the meat and vegetables from the pan, and strain the juices. I usually reserve 2 cups of the juices for gravy, because my family likes gravy…it makes a lot of gravy. Put the 2 cups of strained juices back in the pan, and turn the heat on medium. Whisk together 4 tbsp Wondra flour and 1/2 cup water. Whisking constantly, add flour/water mixture to the pan, and continue stirring until boiling. Boil a few more minutes until thickened. Season with salt and pepper.

Sometimes I like to get fancy and make red-wine gravy. In this case, just substitute 1/2 cup red wine for 1/2 cup of the juices. It gives the gravy a lot of yummy flavor!

Chicken Pot Pie

October 27, 2011

Margaux says…

After 15 years in Chicago, I’ve come to really dread winter.  I think it was last winter that did me in, and they say that this winter is going to be even worse.  I used to love winter!  The biggest problem is having to bundle up a toddler in a million layers, and buckle all those layers into a car seat, etc, etc, etc.  Bah humbug, right?  Plus, towards the end, I really start to get those end-of-winter blues, and it doesn’t help that the winters seem to keep getting longer in this town.

The up-side to this sad problem of mine is that I cook A LOT in the winter.  Winter seemed to officially kick-off here last week (60 mile-an-hour winds, temps in the 40s, and rain for 3 days straight), and the serious cooking started: I made beef stroganoff, this amazing turkey stew that I’ve made several times in past winters, brown sugar cookies, Granny’s apple cake (which I promise I will post soon…apples never tasted so good), applesauce, chicken stock (of course!), roast beef with mashed potatoes and gravy….and I topped off the week with these chicken pot pies.  I think I gained 10 pounds, (and I kind of felt like Paula Deen with all the butter I used) but the cooking and baking frenzy kept my spirits up!  Luckily we eat a lot of salads to counter-balance all the fat.  Of course, also like typical Chicago, after 4 days of really crappy weather, it was beautiful again for several days…totally teasing me!

These pot pies are nothing like the gross frozen ones of our childhoods (at least my childhood-I had a mother who didn’t like to cook).  Last month’s Martha Stewart has the most beautiful pot pie on the cover, and several more inside, and I decided that this will be the winter of pot pies in our house, starting with this classic.  My husband is totally on board…while eating these he said he wished I made pot pies more often.  Wish granted!

For the chicken, the recipe called for 2 1/4 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts and thighs, cut into 1-inch cubes. Instead, I made a pot of chicken stock the day before with a whole chicken, and just used the cooked chicken in the recipe, cut into the cubes. It ends up being about the same amount of chicken (maybe a little less, but it still turned out great). And then you have chicken broth on hand for other recipes!

For the pie crust, I found I needed more than a half-recipe of pie dough, so I used the remainder of the dough to make a couple apple hand-pies for our dessert since I happened to have apples on hand.  The unfortunate part about pie dough is that you can’t re-roll out the extra after cutting out the crusts because it will get really tough.  So make sure you’re being very conservative when cutting out the pie circles so that you waste very little dough.  Also, I didn’t make an all-butter crust for this recipe because I thought it would be too rich (can you believe I just said that??), and instead did one stick of butter and 1/2 cup of Crisco.

Chicken and Mushroom Pot Pie

makes eight 4-inch potpies, serves 8
make ahead: you can refrigerate the filling for up to 3 days in an airtight container

for the filling:
1 1/2 oz. bacon, finely chopped (about 2-3 strips)
1 tbsp EV olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
8 oz. cremini mushrooms, quartered
3 medium carrots, sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 celery stalk, thinly sliced
coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup plus 1 1/2 tsp all-purpose flour
3 cups chicken stock
2 1/4 lbs. chicken, cubed
3 tbsp heavy cream

for the topping:
1 recipe pie dough (but using 1/2 cup butter and 1/2 cup Crisco in place of the 1 cup of butter and 1/4 cup Crisco, and omitting sugar)
1 large egg, for egg wash (which I forgot to do, and it turned out just fine)

1. Make the filling: Cook bacon in a large skillet over low heat until crisp, about 10 minutes. Transfer bacon to a plate using a slotted spoon. Raise heat to medium, and add oil. Add onion, and cook until translucent, about 8 minutes. Add mushrooms, carrots, and celery, and cook until softened, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in flour.
2. Add stock, and bring to a simmer. Cook until thickened, about 5 minutes. Add chicken and cream. Simmer until chicken is just cooked through, about 5 minutes (if using cooked chicken, there’s no need to cook 5 minutes). Return bacon to saucepan. Let cool.
3. Divide filling among 8 4-inch (12 oz.) ramekins.
4. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Make the topping: Roll out dough to 1/4 inch thickness on a lightly floured surface. Cut out 8 circles that are 1 inch wider than the ramekins. Top ramekins with dough, and crimp edges with a fork to seal. Brush dough with egg wash.
5. Bake until toppings are golden and fillings are bubbling, about 40 minutes.

I can’t let good pie dough go to waste, so I made a couple apple hand pies with it (luckily I had apples on hand).

Peel, core and slice a good baking apple, like Jonathan, Golden Delicious, Macintosh or Granny Smith. Place apples on one side of the pie dough, leaving about an inch or so on the edge for crimping. Cover apples with about 2 tablespoons of sugar, and about 1/4 tsp. cinnamon. Dot with about a tablespoon of butter, cut into small pieces. Fold dough over the apples and crimp the edges (it should be pretty full and packed in there…the apples will shrink when baked). Sprinkle sugar on top, and cut a few small holes in it. Bake for about 30 minutes or so…keep a close eye on it because baking time will vary based on the size of your pies. Take out and cool completely before eating!