Sunday, February 24, 2013

Just a girl and her pot roast

I am 28 years old, and I am aware of my shortcomings.

I can't get myself out of bed in the morning.
My interior decorating skills are slim to none.
I have a weird taste in most things. (As in, Netflix recommending a new category for me: visually striking father-son movies.)

In the past 6 months, I have not
been to the dentist
washed my car
mailed in a single Netflix movie

In the past 6 months, I have
read the entires series of the Hunger Games
watched the entire series of Breaking Bad
begun re-watching the entire series of Breaking Bad, yo

Right now I am not
having children
buying a house

Right now I am
not worrying too much
happy with how things are

I sometimes wonder if I should get my act together more. The truth is, I'm just not there yet. This is the most freedom and least responsibility I have ever had, and I'm enjoying the heck out of it. I can leave town on a weekend and not look back. I can stay out too late on a Friday, and roll out of bed and waste my Saturday. It's OK if my life is in shambles come Sunday night, with no clean laundry or food in the fridge, because I'm the only one who has to deal with it. Hey, at least we can say we had fun!

But, I also know that this can't last forever. It doesn't escape me that my peers are buying homes and having beautiful children in increasing numbers, and I'm still going to theme parties, dressed in 70s disco attire. I'll turn 30 in a little more than a year, and I suppose I'll want to feel a bit more put together by then. It will happen, in time.

For now, I celebrate the things I am good at - the small accomplishments of my regular days. And that, my friends, includes putting a roast into the oven, and cooking it long and slow.

Also, I'm good at Wheel of Fortune, and at making jokes - but we'll save that discussion for another time.

Being able to cook a proper pot roast doesn't rank up there with any actual life milestones, of course, but it does make me feel grown up, in a way. It is a sort of cornerstone for how I was raised, and there's great reward to me in being able to do a bang-up job in recreating the classic dishes that my mom made (and I'm sure her mom made as well). I feel like I'm moving in some direction, at least, and that works for me. For now, anyway.

When I make a pot roast (which is celebrated like a holiday by some in our household), this is the only way I do it. Beef chuck roast + red wine + sliced onion; maybe tuck in a few carrots and potatoes toward the end. That's all I put into this baby, and I don't want it any other way. The red wine infuses the roast and then mingles with the juices, creating a meaty, rich reduction that is perfect for spooning over your plate. I like to crown the roast with rings of sliced onion, which caramelize a bit after roasting in the oven - a tip we can all thank my mom for. By the time you pull the roast out of the oven, the meat is so tender it slumps onto your plate, and you could eat it with a spoon - which might be perfect for scooping up the red wine sauce.

Bon app├ętit!

Red Wine Pot Roast
Note about the wine: For this, I have been using a light, fruity wine - Blue Fin Pinot Noir from Trader Joe's ($3.99!) is perfect for this recipe, and to drink alongside it.

Beef chuck roast - about 3 lbs
Small yellow onion, peeled and sliced into rings about 1/4 inch thick
1/3 bottle Pinot Noir
Tablespoon vegetable oil
Salt and pepper
Veggies (optional) - a few carrots, peeled; a few small red or yellow potatoes, peeled or not

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Season the roast well on both sides with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat; when the oil is glistening, carefully set the roast inside and brown on one side, about 3-5 minutes (if the roast feels stuck to the pan, it's probably not ready to flip yet - it becomes unstuck when it has browned properly). Flip and brown on the other side, about 3-5 minutes. Remove pan from heat, and spoon out and discard as much of the extra fat in the bottom of the pot as possible.

Pour in the 1/3 bottle of wine, and place the onion slices on top of the roast. Cover pot, and set in oven. Cook for about 3 hours total. If you're adding vegetables, squeeze them in around the roast after about two hours of cooking (you want the vegetables to cook for about an hour or so).

After three hours of braising in the oven, remove the pot and check the roast - it's done when the meat is impossibly tender and falls apart against your fork. If it's not quite tender enough, replace the lid and put it back in the oven, checking after 20 minutes or so.

When the roast is done, skim off any excess fat from the red-wine sauce (if there looks to be a layer of oil floating on the top; this isn't always necessary). Serve the roast and vegetables with the sauce spooned over.

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