"The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you've got to have a what-the-hell attitude." — Julia Child
Oh, Julia. I could quote this woman at the beginning of every article I write and never tire of her wit. And what's more is she's right. The mood of the week is nostalgia; I remember as a child sitting with my grandmother, Julia Child on the little TV in her kitchen, baking bread and making “cole slob,” as I called it.
I want so badly to instill those memories in my children. Unfortunately the modern child is far too busy to engage in such ridiculous activities; I do harbor some hope for my daughter. So I have made the kitchen my haven. A place for me to express myself and as an added bonus the end result is my children and I sitting around the table together and talking.
Now I know everyone is busy and some dishes take time. I swear, with a little planning you can get oohs and ahhs on a Monday. Does the chicken dry out in the fridge? Brine it before you cook it. Need an easy way to defrost frozen soup? Freeze it in bags and warm it in hot water like the old boil-in-bag rice. There is a way to cook fabulous meals for your family and still keep your sanity, especially if you have kids old enough to do the dishes.
As Julia said, no fear. Don’t wonder if something will taste good together. Just try it! If it fails, add wine — it will hide anything. That goes for adding it to the food or to the table. The food we create should be tangible, challenging, authentic and all ours. My goal is to give you the stepping stones to creative cooking and the confidence to run with it and make it your own. I want people to remember the comfort of the kitchen and to notice that boxy-shaped appliance to the left of the microwave: your stove.
Not only is cooking and eating dinner a great time to bond with the family but the end result and the “wow is this good” comments foster a sense of pride in ourselves. Believe me, it is possible to cook and save time, to want to create dinners that keep you out of the drive-through line and leave you with work-worthy leftovers.
It was really hard to come up with this recipe. I really do not have to do anything differently; however, a different venue for presenting the food was enough to stump me for a bit. The decision was between some stunner of a difficult and intricate recipe and something down home. The winner is down home.
I know that when I first wrote I talked about tying green beans together with little steamed carrot strings. Sure it’s pretty, but let’s be realistic, no one wants to do that, not on a weekday anyway. In fact I don’t want to do it, unless I’m being paid and I have to.
Now in my blog I was in the middle of winter-ready food, and this recipe ties right in. All the recipes in the series so far had concentrated on cool nights, it was 95 degrees outside. I said, “Just wait, this is Ohio,” and ha, it is now 50 degrees at 7 p.m. Now, let's warm up to dinner and make the most delicious and easy pot roast you will ever eat. No, really! As a side, sweet and creamy mashed potatoes. This dinner double serves as a meal for the family on Monday and lunch for you on Tuesday. What a multi-tasker!
Slow Cooked Pot Roast with Brown Sugared Carrots and Caramelized Onions
Sweet and Creamy Mashed Potatoes
Roasting pan (stove top safe)
2 medium-sized mixing bowls
Large skillet (for those without a stove top safe roaster)
For the roast
1 English roast (or large roast of your preference)
1 small bag of baby carrots or one bunch of full size
4 stalks of celery
2 medium onions
3 cloves of garlic
3 tblsp brown sugar
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp basil
1 bay leaf
1 tsp Herbs de Provence (available as a spice mix in the grocery, great on many dishes)
1 ½ c water
2 beef bullion cubes
1 can cream of celery soup (cream of mushroom is great as well if you have that on hand)
2 tblsps vegetable oil
S & P (salt and pepper)
For the potatoes
1 potato per person, plus a few extra for leftovers
4 tblsp butter
2 tblsps milk
½ c sour cream
2 tblsp juice from the roast
S & P
Putting It All Together
Start with the roast. Take your skillet or cook top safe roaster and add the vegetable oil. Set the heat to medium and allow the oil to heat. Season one side of the roast generously with salt and pepper. Lay the roast seasoned side down in the pan and brown to get a nice crust. In one of the bowls add the carrots and brown sugar. If you are using whole carrots and not the babies cut them in half. But since we are roasting you really do not have to peel them, just wash and go!
Toss the carrots in the brown sugar. Set aside. Flip your roast over then take out the onions and celery. Cut the onions and celery to your preference, just make sure the celery is not too long to fit in the pan. Peel and smash your garlic (there is no need to chop it).
Remove the roast from the heat. Lay the onions, garlic and celery around the sides of the roast in the pan. Sprinkle with the herbs and add the whole bay leaf (you will remove it at the end). Take the brown sugared carrots and put them on top of the roast. There are two reasons for this. One, the carrots stand up to the roasting process a little better and the brown sugar will trickle down into the meat, helping to tenderize the roast. Now pour the can of cream of celery soup over the top of the whole thing and add one can of water. Put in the oven and bake at 400 degrees for one hour and then at 350 for an additional hour and a half. The cooking process takes time; however, it is a no-brainer. Once it is in the oven you can leave it. Once I even went to the grocery while it was roasting.
Peel and dice the potatoes about an hour before dinner is ready. Dice them to a similar size and place in cold water. Always start the potatoes in cold water. Once the water is hot then salt generously. Boil until fork tender. Drain and put in the other mixing bowl. Add the butter first and a little salt and pepper and whip until fluffy. Add the sour cream and the milk and the ladle of juice from the roast and whip again. They are so good there is no need for gravy, although there will be plenty of ready-made gravy at the bottom of the roast pan.
Remove the roast from the oven and use tongs and a spatula to remove it from the roasting pan. Cover with foil and set aside for a few minutes to let the juices settle. You can also remove the veggies from the pan and place them with the roast if you would like. Now, in the pan is a rich and wonderful gravy. If it is all adults for dinner you can spoon it out onto the potatoes as is. Now with kids, at least mine, there had better not be any chunks in the gravy. Take the strainer and ladle the gravy through into a bowl. It will be salty and sweet and the kids will love it.
The best part about this meal is the leftovers. Store in a large freezer bag and not in a plastic container. This will ensure that the meat stays juicy and tender. The next day spoon some mashed potatoes into a to-go container and put some roast and vegies on top. It makes a great next-day lunch. And for the hubby, try a roast sandwich. Put it all on whole grain bread with a little spicy mustard. He will love it!