I think food occupies about 80% of my thought process (don't tell my boyfriend). Currently, I am at the beginning of what feels like a really long and detailed research/hands-on learning project that involves food, gardening, and in general just being a better member of the planet. I am also looking forward to growing some veggies and flowers this summer, and learning to live more seasonally. But you gotta start small, that's the really hard lesson to learn.
But, today was a great day to start, actually, because I just went to the supermarket where I spent about $170. Ouch! But I'm shopping for two, and there were a handful of items that I won't have to buy again for awhile (toiletries, olive oil, storage containers, etc.).
I can't afford to shop 100% organic/local right now, but I do what I can.
I am committed, to organic chicken broth, for example. It looks like something you would want to eat; it has body and texture. It's not the clear liquid that comes out of the can. You know, the kind that looks like someone just wrung a skinned chicken over a vat and through some of the yucky bits in for good measure.
When it comes to vegetables, I would love to shop local/organic all year round. I couldn't afford the winter season's farm share (I need to look into the spring's) and for how many fresh fruits and vegetables we eat, when it comes to $4/lb. for tomatoes versus $2/lb., unfortunately I have to go with the money saver. We just can't afford it. And if you're in the same boat, here's why you shouldn't feel guilty:
Because you're feeding your family fresh vegetables.
That's fabulous, and I believe it's the very first step any family can take when working on developing healthy eating and earth-friendly habits. The only thing I buy in a can right now are beans (and baby peas, because those are delicious)*. Why? Because those big bags of dried beans freak me out and I haven't learned how to work with them yet. But I'm excited to learn, and that's also the next best place to be after feeding yourself and your family fresh vegetables.
*I'm not sure I will ever give up certain guilty pleasures. Bad striving-eco-person? or just human?
I'm learning right now. I have never made a roast in the oven before. By nature I am actually wary of the inside of my oven (I'm not sure why, my mom always has things in the oven). I just didn't go there (save for baking and the occasional roasting of vegetables). But, because I love to cook, I needed to give the inside of my oven the attention it deserved (that's what she said). So I bought a roast! The inexpensive supermarket variety because my local supermarket does NOT have a very extensive meat selection, and like I said, I'm on a budget and really want the leftovers so I can make ravioli tomorrow (you'll want to read that post, for sure). And I'm using the dutch oven that boyfriend's dad bought for me for my birthday (almost a year ago!) for the first time (I'm not kidding, I usually stay away from the oven).
I based this loosely on a recipe in my America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook (also a gift from boyfriend's dad - can you tell we share a special father-in-law/daughter-in-law bond over cooking? It's rad.) which I used mostly for timing and liquid guidelines. Then I just winged it and used what I had!
But here it is now, an hour and a half in:
It's already noticeably smaller than when I started and the two ends were up against the wall of the pot.
So How Was It?
It was delicious! The meat was shred-with-a-fork tender and well-flavored. The wine really rounded out the flavor of the sauce, it was rich (all the fat from the roast rendering into it for 4 hours..mmm) and full of meat-carrot-potato flavor.
This is the sauce while I was finishing it:
And the final product all plated and ready to serve! The boyfriend and I enjoyed it with some bottles of black and tan:
Oven-Virgin Pot Roast
1 hunk o' meat (I bought a bottom round, vary your size according to how many your serving, I picked the smallest one since there are only two of us) - test kitchen recommends tying it with twine to get the meat roughly the same size all over. I recommend this, too. But I had no twine, so I didn't do it.
some olive oil (about 2 Tbs.)
1/2 onion (or a full one, I just had a half of one) cut in half and sliced. I didn't bother chopping because we both like onions and I was feeling a little lazy.
3 garlic cloves - again, I don't think you can ever have enough garlic. My upstairs neighbor's bedroom disagrees, though.
1 Tbs sugar (it was only supposed to be 2 tsp., but luckily before I put the second tablespoon into the mix, I had the foresight to check what the actual number was, so it might be a little sweet, but the extra teaspoon shouldn't kill the whole meal. I would not have thought to do this without T.K.)
6 carrots - 3 chopped into smaller thinner chunks, 3 chopped into thick bite-sized chunks
4 potatoes (or 2-3 smaller ones) - chopped into thick bite-sized pieces (I have a small dutch oven, so I'm only making enough potatoes for the meal we're going to eat tonight since I have other plans for the leftover meat and don't necessarily need a lot of left over veggies. If you have a bigger dutch oven and/or are serving more people or want more veggie leftovers, I would increase the amount of potatoes and carrots a bit).
Celery (I don't buy celery because I can't use it fast enough)
1 cup chicken broth (ideally, 1/2 cup chicken broth and 1/2 cup beef broth, someone forgot to buy beef broth at the supermarket.... if you have a bigger dutch oven and a bigger piece of meat, increase to 2 cups)
water - as much as you need to make the liquid reach half way up the roast (Test Kitchen fact!)
1/4 cup dry red wine -(T.K. ratio, and it was perfect. It was exactly what the sauce needed to go from being overwhelmingly meaty, to meaty with a nice tang)
1/2 tsp thyme or a couple of sprigs fresh - really, season to taste, I always do. I wish I had some fresh parsley, because I would throw that in at the end also, but I feel that you can throw fresh parsley on pretty much anything and it winds up delicious.)
salt and pepper to taste
garlic powder (optional)
dried parsley - fresh would have been ideal, but I had dried, and it adds a nice finishing flavor and also livened up the color of the finished product. Seriously, do this with everything, especially when it's dried because the flavor is much less intense and you are less likely to offend sensitive taste buds with a lot of strong, fresh parsley flavor (however, if I am ever your guest, please offend me with too much parsley, there's never enough).
1. Get that oil heating in your dutch oven over medium-high heat. Preheat oven to 300 F, make sure your rack is in the middle position. Take a look at your meat. Twine it if you got it - basically wrap a piece around it and tie it in a knot ever 1/2-inch or so. Pat dry with a paper towel on all sides. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and garlic powder.
Brown the meat on all sides - about five minutes per side. NO TOUCHING. You don't have to check to see if the meat is browning. I promise it is. Just be patient and do touch if you notice it starting to smoke (lower your temperature a little).
Remove the meat and set it aside. Leave all that good fat behind.
2. In the fat, throw in all your onions and the carrots that you chopped thinly. Let them cook for about 8-10 minutes, until they start to brown a bit. Feel free to add some salt for taste - it also helps the onions release their moisture (fun fact!).
Then add your garlic and sugar and cook until the garlic smells fragrant (this will happen in less than a minute. Garlic is something you can NEVER walk away from).
Now add your broth and thyme; put the roast and any of its drippings back in; add water until the liquid is at the appropriate mid-roast level and bring to a simmer.
3. Cover the dutch oven and stick it in the oven! Turn the roast ever half hour for about 3 hours (bigger roast, more time).
4. Throw in your potatoes and carrots and cook for about an hour (whenever the meat and veggies are tender). I would continue to rotate the meat also since there's always a part of it sticking out of the pot.
5. Remove from the oven. Take the meat out of the pot and set it aside, put your veggies in another bowl. Over medium heat, add the wine to your sauce and let it simmer for a few minutes, adding whatever seasoning you need to make yourself a nice gravy. Feel free to make a roux and thicken it up even! Sauces are awesome that way, you can really make them yours.