Let’s Cook: Meat, Potatoes, Gravy — A Superb Trio
Lydia enjoys playing “restaurant”. The other day in her pink and white kitchen, she was listing “soups of the day.” She compiled 12 choices on her white board for her customers. Next she listed the dinner choice – can you guess her favorite dinner choice? Let me give you a hint. She is a “meat and potato” kind of gal. It is listed as the best eating in Lydia’s caf: the trio of meat, potatoes and gravy. Beef roast, brown gravy, and potatoes-either boiled or mashed.
I was raised in a home where roast was most often done in the oven with a long, slow bake. However, when my Aunt Joyce visited, she prepared beef roast on top of the stove in a Dutch oven. It was from her that I had my introduction of cooking beef in moist heat. Fast forward to meeting Jan and her mother, Delores, and they are the queens of cooking beef in moist heat. Their choice of vessel is an electric kettle. It is as well used as the tractor in spring planting and the combine in harvest – bringing flavorsome roast to the hungry appetites of farmers and planting within them the satisfaction of a fine meal.
I came to understand that farm women have a few rules for cooking beef in moist heat. First is to brown the meat on all sides before adding the liquid. This gives it attractive color and enhances the flavors. As the aroma fills the home, amazing things happen with family members. They smile, some hum, men have been known to take out the trash without being asked, and children not only clean their rooms but pledge by the Dutch oven to never toss clothing on the floor again! This all happens as the cook simmers the beef gently in a tightly covered vessel. A snug-fitting lid retains the steam, which softens the connective tissue and holds the flavor as well. This is one of the key reasons for roast turning out well, and why folks are happy when they know a roast is in the kettle.
Some cooks select to cook frozen meats as they may have forgotten to take the roast out to defrost. This lengthens the cooking time; it generally takes one third to one half more time for a frozen than a thawed roast. The end results are very much same. The best tip I can offer for delicious roast is to know that meats are more tender, juicy, tasty and more evenly cooked if they are not hurried and if they are not cooked at too high temperatures.
We often make roast with basic stock, a bit of onion and salt and pepper to taste. When you are looking for a roast with more robust flavor, give the following recipe a try. It may just become a family favorite. The acid in the tomato sauce makes the beef extremely tender. I have also attached a basic recipe for homemade stock which contains less salt than commercial stock.
Oh, I see our mini chef coming towards me wearing her pink apron with notepad and pen in hand. I am going to order roast beef dinner from her menu.
This recipe came via my Aunt Joyce who lives in California. She made this numerous times while visiting us in Underwood.
1 (4 to 5 lb.) chuck or rump pot roast
2 teaspoons salt
1 (8 oz.) can tomato sauce
3 medium onions, thinly sliced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tablespoons brown sugar
teaspoon dry mustard
cup lemon juice
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
6 tablespoons flour
Brown roast well on both sides in fat in heavy pan or Dutch oven. Add salt, pepper, cup stock, tomato sauce, onions and garlic. Cover tightly and simmer over low heat for about 1 hours.
Combine brown sugar, mustard, lemon juice, vinegar, ketchup and Worcestershire sauce and pour over meat. Cover and continue cooking until meat is fork tender-about 1 hours. Check from time to time, and if needed, add stock to keep liquid at bottom of kettle.
Remove meat to warm platter; make gravy. Skim off most of the fat and measure the broth. Add enough water to make 3 cups. Pour in kettle. Mix flour with cup water to make a smooth paste; stir into broth. Return to heat and cook over low heat, stirring constantly with whisk, until gravy bubbles all over. Check seasonings by tasting, adding more salt if needed. Cook and stir about 5 minutes longer.
Serve roast cut in thin slices with gravy or shred the meat and mix with gravy to serve on halves of warm buns.
At some point in your cooking efforts, I would encourage you to make this soup stock. The flavor is rich and wonderful. Those gathered at the red gingham tablecloth will, with gladsome voice, praise the cook. This is one way to make hearts rejoice without wrapping paper and ribbons.
6 pounds meaty beef or lamb bones, cracked
4 quarts cold water
3 carrots, sliced
2 onions, sliced
3 stalks of celery with leaves, diced
2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
6 to 8 peppercorns
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons salt
Roast bones in 350 degree oven 30 minutes to 1 hour or until brown. Place contents from roasting pan into stock pot: add remaining ingredients. Bring slowly to boil: skim as scum rises to surface. Cover and simmer 3 hours or until liquid is reduced by half. Remove bones, meat and vegetables; strain broth through cheesecloth. Cool uncovered; refrigerate or freeze. This is a basic brown soup stock.
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