Thursday, January 28, 2010

Learning to be a Morning Person

I am not a morning person. At least, I thought I wasn't a morning person, until lately. Working nights at a bookstore (as part of my employee contract, I'm not allowed to blog about it, so I will just leave the name of the chain anonymous), I realized that my sleeping-in habits weren't really conducive to having a life. When you get up at noon and go into work at three, where is your day? It doesn't exist. I struggled for awhile, then Dan got another job that has him up at seven most mornings. Slowly over the past few weeks, I have been easing into the habit of getting up with him (today I managed 9:30, which is pretty epic for me). This new sleeping pattern has shown me a whole new world of life, and let me tell you: I love mornings. I have time to read about food, I have time to write, I have time to make things for later in the night or the following day, I have time for breakfast.

I've never been much of a breakfast person at any point in my life. I remember trying to choke down breakfast in the mornings as a second grader with my mom telling me how important breakfast was. I just couldn't do it. I think it's because I associate breakfast with all of these heavy greasy and/or sweet foods. I'm not ready for that mere moments after waking up. As I've grown, I've realized that it was up to me to shape my breakfast into something more personally palatable. But, I've still been ignoring the meal and waiting to eat until noon or one when I finally found myself feeling hungry.

Not today! Today I woke up, I made coffee, and I decided I was going to have breakfast. I've been carrying around these packets of instant grits since last year when I got into a grits phase (and in college, instant everything was the name of the game), so I decided that would be the base of my meal.

Then I fried up an egg. Now, I may be a little pathetic when it comes to making scrambled eggs, and my omelettes are admittedly an Americanized diner/college cafeteria version of the French classic. But my fried eggs are where I really shine. All you need is a dab of butter over medium heat until it gets a little bubbly, then you drop your egg right into the pan:

Cook the egg until the whites are firm enough to slide a spatula under. I like my whites well-cooked, if you like yours more on the runny side, leave more of the center white uncooked. Then gently slide your spatula under and flip the egg. If you want your yokes runny, you only need to let this side cook for a few seconds, if you want your yoke fully cooked, let it cook for about 30 seconds to a minute (if you're going for fully cooked, you can always flip the egg over carefully for a quick peak and flip it back if it needs a little more time).

I like to sprinkle some salt and (a lot) of black pepper on mine. Today I served the egg over the grits and had a side of tortilla chips and salsa (the same from my juevos athenos omelette).

I also had a glass of my hand-squeezed orange juice with it. Yum!

As I'm writing this, I'm eating my lunch consisting of leftovers from last night. I just mixed my salad with some leftover tomatoes and string beans with a touch of my salad dressing. I didn't warm anything up and it's all wonderful cold and mixed up together! And my salad dressing seems to be holding up well on the counter. In fact, it's even better now since all of the ingredients have had some quality time together and are really blending and enjoying each other. In fact, I think I'm going to take what's left into work to eat during my break and pass up my normal sugary cafe treat.

(One of these days I will start drinking more water, I drink entirely too much coffee.)

Oh, and we definitely woke up to snow today after I had just been marveling at how all the snow from before was finally gone. C'est la vie. It is pretty.

Our backyard:


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Eat More Green Vegetables!

Dan and I have decided, for both financial and health reasons, that we are going to eat significantly less meat and focus more on vegetables. I had to go to the grocery store anyway today, so I decided to grab an array of fruits and vegetables (my major annoyance being that the peppers I bought were all brown and splotchy on the inside... my grocery store has a really pitiful produce/meat/anything I want to buy section). I really had no idea what I was going to make tonight, so I just followed my heart. But I'll get to tonight in a second.

First, I want to tell you about my delicious curry-carrot bread... which was not meant to be.

I have Michael Ruhlman's book Ratio, which I love. I've had good luck with other doughs and batters I have made from it... but something with this quick bread went terribly wrong (and I think it had something to do with me browning butter, not beating the eggs slightly before I added something that probably should have been cooled longer, and just being generally unpracticed in baking).

The batter looked kind of weird to begin with:

What are those chunks?! Are they butter? Are they egg? They tasted like butter... but there's a lot of butter in this recipe, so who really knows. I tasted it and I couldn't tell. But whatever, right? I figured everything would just melt and cook up in the oven. Why not?

Don't let that delicious, crisp, perfect golden-brown complexion fool you. Inside, it was a mushy, eggy, greasy mess:

It wasn't even edible. You could taste how it would have been delicious had something more chemically-correct happened inside.

I thought I could salvage it by making croutons out of it (which is going to be a future project, because seriously, how awesome would curried croutons be in a salad?), but by the next day they were just soggy lumps again. How sad.

So that was that.

Today, on the other hand, was very successful. I started out by restocking our juice supply with some more orange juice and grapefruit juice (this is, admittedly, pricey... but the containers last for 2-3 days before they go bad, we moderate our consumption, and it's like eating an orange or half of a grapefruit every time you have a small glass). I didn't strain the grapefruit this time because Dan likes the chunks when it's not coming from a carton. Now let me tell you, oranges are the easy, laid-back hand-juicers... grapefruits are the opposite. They are the high-maintenance, attention-demanding fruit. Oranges I squeeze and it's done. Grapefruits make me deal with these:

Not only did they have large seeds, they had all these tiny seeds which couldn't all be picked out before juicing. So because I'm a good girlfriend (keep in mind, I can't handle grapefruit in it's pure form, so I don't drink this stuff) I went after each round of juice with a spoon to pick as many of them as possible out - and that is, of course, after getting as many as possible before juicing with the pointed tip of a steak knife. I need to buy a fine mesh strainer because this was a little much even for me. But now we have fresh juice in the fridge, which is a great after dinner treat or an anytime snack (I like getting a glass when I want to eat because I'm bored).

Then it was time to figure out dinner. I knew it had to involve salad because I had red leaf lettuce in the fridge that had to get used real soon.

So I chopped up the lettuce and added two carrots-worth of carrot peel into the mix for some color and texture:

(My dad made the serving set! He's awesome!)

And then I whipped together some dressing because I had a cut lemon in the fridge from cocktails I don't know how many days ago. This is an easy and delicious salad dress:

3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil (which I think is worth spending a few extra dollars on; there is noticeable quality difference between your supermarket's store brand and a brand a few notches up. You don't have to go all out, but I think it's a worthwhile expense especially when oil is one of your only condiments.)
1 Tbs dijon mustard
1/2-1 lemon (depending on how lemony you want it to be; you can use a lot without it being too overpowering - everything else in the dressing cuts the intense citrus very nicely)
garlic powder - I would say about 1/4 tsp (I do all spices to taste, always start with less and taste; you can always add) (ALTERNATIVE: for added zing, use 1-2 cloves fresh, crushed - preferably through a garlic press - cloves; because the garlic isn't cooked it will add a significant amount of spice to the dressing. Keep that in mind if you don't like things very spicy. If you're worried, stick with garlic powder. The other option is to infuse the oil with garlic by gently cooking the two together over low-medium heat... but that's for another day!)
basil - dust the surface of the olive oil with it so it's fairly covered*
parsley - same as basil
chives - quarter sized dollop in the palm of your hand
thyme - same as chives
a shake/pinch of crushed red pepper flakes  (totally optional, but delicious)
salt and pepper to taste
*If you're using fresh herbs, chop them up very fine and use a couple of fair-sized finger pinches

Whisk all ingredients together in a bowl or measuring cup. Instant dressing!

I'm going to keep some unrefrigerated for a few days and see what happens. From what I can gather from the label of the mustard bottle (which is the only thing I was kind of concerned about just sitting), there really isn't anything that I wouldn't keep out of the refrigerator as separate ingredients in it. Which, of course, doesn't mean anything (please, if someone has learned this lesson already, let me know), but I'm willing to see what happens.

This salad was being made while I roasted tomatoes in the oven. They were tossed in a bit of olive oil, some red pepper flakes, parsley, a dash of cayenne, and some salt and pepper and baked in a 350 degree F oven until they were sizzling and just beginning to look crispy.

Towards the end of their time in the oven, I filled a medium saucepan with water and got it to a rolling boil because I had frozen string beans that needed to be blanched quickly before they could be sauteed. I love string beans and they never look good in the supermarket here. You can find frozen string beans without any salt added; a nice alternative to fresh. Right before the water reached a boil, I began cooking the garlic (much to my neighbor's bane!). To infuse the oil, start the garlic and oil together in a cold pan over medium, medium-low heat.

When they start to turn a light golden-brown around the edges, you can throw in the string beans. Be careful if you just blanched them - shake out as much water as possible from them to minimize oil splatters. The garlic will finish cooking and develop a nice crust without really burning while the string beans cook. Sautee them, stirring occasionally until they too start to brown (or a little before, whichever you prefer). In the middle of cooking:

(Check out that fine pan Steve bought me for Christmas)

A couple of minutes before I took the tomatoes out of the oven, I sprinkled some gorgonzola cheese over them and let it melt.

I also cooked up a couple of servings of couscous while I was finishing the beans. It's easier to make than pasta (which I thought was impossible)!

Boil 1/2 cup of water, some salt, 1/2 pat of butter.
Add couscous.
Stir virogrously and immediately take off heat and cover.
Let sit 5 minutes.
 Fluff with fork.

It does not get any better than that when satisfying the need for a starchy sidedish. And you can add in basically whatever you want for flavor. I used parsely, but any combination of herbs, spices, and dressings would be welcome.

And then I put all of the elements together on one beautiful, tasty plate:

Monday, January 25, 2010

Rainy Day Lunch: Juevos Athenos

While I wanted nothing more than to run to the supermarket so I could make pies in a jar (Mrs. Scrimp shared a glorious link to the recipe from Our Best Bites), the weather is really too dismal for that. Between the rain and the wind, I feel damp just looking out my kitchen window. But it's warm enough in here, and, upon waking up this morning, I realized that our rescued poinsettias were thirsty. Dan took them home when his boss at the pizzaria got tired of having them around. There's a lush white one, a trooper of a pink one, and a Charlie-Brown-Christmas-Tree red one:

Charlie Brown was basically leafless, aside from his blooms, when we got him. On the day I took the above pictures, I was so proud of him for making little leaves! And today, while I was watering him, I discovered that he's even working on more blossoms:

I haven't had any cooking projects going lately because on Friday we were supposed to do an Iron Chef competition at a friend's house, and that got canceled. Saturday I worked from 11-7, which really killed my prime cooking hours and I ate leftovers upon getting home. And yesterday we were at another friend's house watching the Jets lose.

Today, I have all day, but admittedly, rain makes me lazier than I already am. I really want to make bread, but that might continue getting put off. I did, however, make an omelette (well, an American omelette) for lunch with the feta cheese and salsa I had in the fridge. I love omelettes because you can really do whatever you want with them and you really can't mess them up - you can make them look less than pretty, but even if you wind up with a mashed together mess, it's still going to taste good.

Start with a pat of butter in a cold frying pan; while that's warming you'll mix up your eggs.

I made a two egg omelette and I just eye-balled all of my ingredients. Omelettes are all about taste preferences, in my opinion. You put as much or as little of a filling as you like on the inside. If you're making a big omelette for a number of people, I recommend moderation on all fillings.

And what's the secret to great eggs? Why, dairy, of course! Adding a splash of milk or cream (or, like me, half-and-half) to eggs for omelettes or scrambled eggs makes for more delicious eggs (I need to do some more research into this... my dad claims that the milk helps make scrambled eggs the appropriate fluffy consistency).

I don't salt my eggs when I'm cooking with cheese (especially feta) because I think the cheese adds enough saltiness on it's own for me. Again, a matter of preference!

2 eggs
splash half-and-half (or milk, cream)
pepper (to taste)

Whisk all the ingredients together quickly with a wire whisk or a fork for a minute or two. You don't want any gooey gobs of egg poking through, basically.

When you're done doing this, your butter should be nice and melted and sizzling a little. With a spatula (never use metal tools on nonstick surfaces!) spread the butter around the pan, coating it as evenly as possible. Pour your beaten eggs into the pan. They stay fairly controlled, but you can always nudge at the edges a little to get it to stay a certain size.

When the eggs are about half way done cooking (or a little earlier if you like runny eggs... I tend to like well-cooked eggs, but I'm slowly expanding my horizons - I think I'll have to if I want to learn to make real French omelettes) you're ready for your filling. I chose:

salsa (I used a smoked jalapeno salsa from Original Juan Specialty Food - I found it in the organic/natural aisle at the supermarket. Delicious! It says it's medium spicy, but if you're used to regular jarred salsa rankings - whose flavor is tame to begin with - this is more of a hot! than a medium; too spicy for Dan who is generally OK with things labeled medium spicy. Long story short: I am glad I did not buy the hot.)

Plop your fillings in the center of your omelette. While it is up to you how much of each ingredient you want, keep in mind that the goal here is to have the egg wrap around your fillings, so if you use too much you will wind up with a squishy mess in your pan and on your plate:

That's about 3 Tbs of feta and 2 Tbs of salsa.

Once the edges of the eggs are cooked to your liking and are firm enough to fold, create an egg burrito:

Ideally, I should have been able to flip this. But it was going to ooze out the one end if I did (and I did try, and it did make a bit of a mess, but it happens). So in the interest of keeping it together and not having a really big mess, I poked at it a couple of times and then just left it only for a few more minutes to finish cooking on the inside. And then I had my delicious Juevos Athenos omelette:

And what goes better with an omelette than fresh squeezes tangerine/clementine juice (these just showed up in my fridge one day after Dan had been at his mom, Carol's, house, so I don't really know which they are). I got this juicer from Dan's dad, Steve... it's awesome!

4 tangerines/clementines gave me a nice glass of juice.

If you like your juice extra-chunky (and believe me, when it's fresh-squeezed, you might. Leave all your preconceived notions about floaty bits in your OJ at the door and at least try it unstrained once. Dan dislikes pulp in his store-bought orange juice, but he loved half-chewing on the juice I made from oranges and grapefruits last week.) don't strain it. Otherwise, if you have a colander you can half strain it - which is kind of the "grovestand" equivalent of fresh-squeezed juices, and if you have a fine-mesh strainer you can have relatively pulp-free juice. If you do strain it in one way or another, make sure to mash at the pulp in the strainer to squeeze out every drop of delicious juice.

I need to get my hands on a blender now, because I have some ideas of what can happen with this simple little tool. Think of all the cocktail possibilities..... fresh squeezed pulpy lime juice, tequila, ice, and salt? Probably the best margarita ever.... Stay tuned for that one once I get a blender!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Take Two: Shepard's Pie Pierogies with Gravy

There was a ton of pot roast left after last night (and even after my endeavors tonight, there is still a ton of meat left; and technically, I'm not actually done with my endeavors tonight!)

I said yesterday that I was going to use the leftovers to make ravioli... weellll, I did one better and made Shepard's Pie Pierogies. I wasn't expecting to wind up with leftover vegetables last night, but I did. More carrots than potatoes, but I remedied that by just boiling the end of the potatoes I had purchased and adding them into the mix. I think it was a good idea, too, because it added some clear potato flavor since they weren't cooked with everything else.

Now, you may be wondering, what could you possibly add to something already so delicious and make it even better? The answer, as always, is: Dairy! Seriously. Butter and/or cream (in this case half-and-half) make everything better (unless you're vegan, but I'm not; if you are.... you wouldn't be making this dish anyway, but there will be recipes in here for you, too!). So after boiling the rest of the potatoes I added some butter and half-and-half and whipped out my handy potato masher:

1 Tbs. butter
   half-and-half to taste

I kept the heat on medium low when I was melting the butter and adding the cream. Then I took it off heat because it doesn't need to be cooking to add the meat to it. I was going for about a 1:1 ratio between meat and potato/carrot mix. So just cut enough meat to match the amount of potato/carrot you're working with. Chop it pretty fine, big chunks would be a hassle to work with when assembling the pierogies.

Just take that handy potato masher and mash 'em all together! While you're making the dough, the filling can just rest at room temperature. Or throw it in the fridge - this is what I would do next time. My dough and filling wound up being done at about the same time (I actually made the dough while the potatoes were boiling since that takes a fair amount of time), which meant the filling was a little warm while I was working it, which could have been problematic for the dough. Only one wound up breaking, but next time I plan to roll the dough out more and I would definitely want the filling cold in the case.

For Christmas my dad got me a pasta dough roller, which is probably one of the greatest kitchen inventions ever. It's not even an appliance.. I associate appliances with electricity, and this requires none! It's fabulous:

The towel is also a good trick to know if you're a home pasta maker and don't have a butcher block counter or a big wood cutting board. You do flour the surface of it, and when you're done, bundle it up and shake it out outside. This is less clean up for me than using another cutting board, especially since there's a lot of flour moving around once you start cranking.

Making pasta dough is super easy. I made a double recipe so it was as follows:
3 cups all-purpose flour (though you will need more handy for surfaces and to really finish the dough)
3 eggs (large)
1 cup water

Create a well in the center of the flour for the liquid ingredients. Like so:

Now make your hand into a claw: your own appendage is going to become a kitchen tool! Start swirling the liquid around the bowl, slowly incorporating the flour into the liquid until you get a relatively solid mass. Use both hands to knead the dough into a ball. If the dough is sticky add more flour - I like to cover the outside of the ball and then knead it in. Kneading is best done in a fold-and-palm-press method. Fold the dough over, must it with your palm, repeat for about 10 minutes (I tend to give up early because I get bored... but it's good to do it for the entire amount). The dough should be pleasantly smooth, almost velvety feeling.

Pasta dough is really a learn from experience type thing... But, it's a dough that's very forgiving. You don't have to worry about overworking it, and you can constantly add water or flour to get consistency right. Don't be afraid to add too much flour, because you can always add a little water to loosen things up, and vice-versa.

After you have your dough ready, divide it out into portions. If you don't have a mechanical roller and you're rolling out by hand with a rolling pin, I would just go for two big sheets. Determine the size that's right for you based on the space you'll have available - you need to have even numbers. If you have a straggler, cut him in half  and have two smaller pieces. Size really does not matter at this point (this is, like, the only time though). This will become clear in just a minute. But here's my dough all portioned out:

Before rolling each piece, I coated them in flour and gave them one final kneading for good measure. The dough likes to be pretty dry, I've found, when running them through the pasta maker. I only rolled them out to a setting of 2, which left them about 1/8" thick. I would roll them thinner next time, maybe a 4, but I was afraid of them falling apart on me. With my left over dough and filling, I am going to make them thinner. They were very good, but the flavor of the dough was very present, and I want it to be a little more in the background than it was.

Rolled out dough:

 Uniform for the most part. If you need to, you can gently tug the edges of the dough and pat them down if you need an extra 1/4" or so. If you're stretching any more than that, stretch at the middle a little bit also otherwise the dough will be thicker in the middle.

Time for filling!
1-2 tsp filling mixture (depending on how wide that particular section of dough is - less room around the edges, less filling. You need enough dough remaining to be able to seal the pierogi without the dough stretching and breaking or the seams popping open.

 Put a second layer of dough on top and press down lightly on top of each mound of filling and also around the edges. Basically you're looking to remove air bubbles. Be gentle here. You want to maintain the shape of the filling and you don't want to rip the dough.

They look like a chain of dough eggs!

Now it's time to cut and shape them. I inherited a dough cutter thing from Dan's great-aunt, but a very sharp knife or a sharp biscuit cutter would also do the trick. Basically cut in between each mound so that they're their own autonomous dumplings. Then press gently down around the edges - if you keep this standardized, you wind up with the pretty little dumpling indentations that are now generally done by machine. And then trim away as much excess dough as you want. If you have a dough cutter, you can actually make them almost circular. It takes a little bit of practice, but I was getting pretty good by the time I finished my last pierogi:

To cook them, just get a big pot of water (salted or unsalted, definitely a taste and health preference) boiling and throw them in for about three minutes. When they start floating, take them out. It will be very obvious.

While I waited for the water to boil, I warmed up last night's gravy. I mixed up a quick roux... about two tablespoons water with a couple of inches of water in a bowl. Whisk those together BEFORE adding them to the sauce. Then whisk it into the sauce, put the heat on high, and bring to a boil... whisking a lot. Then bring it back down to a simmer.

Drain your pierogies and mix them with the sauce (I had just enough gravy to give them a nice coating). They also cooked perfectly, which was a pleasant surprise:


Tomorrow I am actually going to make bread dough as well as make the last round of dumplings and freeze them.

Grocery Shopping Makes Pot Roast Happen

(Recipe below)

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.