Crazy-simple Pot Roast

Lynne did a show recently where she mentioned off-hand that if you use your dutch oven on a cooktop instead of your oven you’ll get similar results and save a lot of energy. We’ve always done roasts in the oven and we had a roast in the fridge so I thought I’d give this a whirl. But I was also short on time (less than 1.5 hours until dinner) and short on ingredients too, so I tried making the simplest pot roast I could think of. Turned out great.

  • 1.5-2lb beef roast
  • 2 carrots, peeled, diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, diced
  • 1 giant russet potato (peeling optional), diced
  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1/8 cup water
  • 1 tbsp kosher salt
  • 1 tbsp coarse ground black pepper
  • olive oil

Heat the dutch oven on medium-high. Put some oil on, heat it right below the smoke point. Thoroughly salt and pepper one side of the roast, then put that side down on the dutch oven. While it’s searing salt and pepper the other side. Sear for a minute or two then flip. Sear on the other side then remove the roast to a plate. Should be nice and brown, crusty on both sides.

Loosen the fond off the bottom, add more olive oil and throw in the vegetables. Toss with more oil and saute for a few minutes. Add a splash of water, the wine, bring to a slow boil, reduce to a simmer and cover for 10-15 minutes. You want the potatoes to start showing signs of cooking and the onions starting to become translucent.

Place the roast on top of the vegetables, cover and continue simmering. After 20 minutes start checking the internal temp of the roast. Take it off the heat when it reaches an internal temp of 120F, should take about 20-30 minutes. Let it rest for 5-10 minutes before serving.

If you want to make this complicated you could add fresh mushrooms, fresh thyme, fresh rosemary, shallots, dried porcini mushrooms, a little beef stock (instead of water), or maybe a little butter (as a substitute for some of the oil). If you want to get fancy you could reduce the sauce with some additional wine and butter (maybe a touch of cognac and fresh herbs too?) and pour that over the roast when serving. Most of the crowd at my house wouldn’t appreciate that though.

What’s especially great about this is if you don’t eat the whole thing you can chop the rest of the roast, make a quick roux from 2 tbsp flour + 3 tbsp butter, add 2 cups chicken stock and 1 tsp cognac or brandy then simmer for a few minutes and you’ve got a beef stew out of the leftovers. Sounds cliche you’ll want to say “bam!” after completing the stew.

Matsutake Bisque

Fall is matsutake season in the Pacific Northwest. We went mushroom hunting last weekend and came back with a few pounds–they’re easy to find if you know where to look.

  • 1 lb fresh matsutake mushrooms, sliced thin
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 4 cups beef stock
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • 8 tbsp half and half
  • 2 tbsp olive oil

Saute mushrooms and onion in olive oil over high heat. The mushrooms will release most of their liquid after a few minutes, then reduce heat and simmer until most of the liquid evaporates. Add beef broth, bring to boil then reduce heat and simmer on low for 30-45 minutes.

Transfer mushrooms and onions to blender along with a cup or two of liquid. Blend on high speed until smooth. Transfer blended mixture back to stock and mix thoroughly.

Make a roux with the butter, flour and half and half. In a separate pan melt butter on medium heat, add flour and stir vigorously with a fork until butter produces dense bubbles, about 60-90 seconds. Add half and half and continue stirring vigorously until thickened, then stir roux into mushroom stock.

Serve. Fresh parsley would make a nice garnish on top.

Julia’s mushroom bisque recipe calls for stirring in a few egg yolks at the end, and using a bay leaf in the stock. I haven’t tried it with the matsutakes but I suspect it will detract from the unique nutty/woody flavor of the matsutake. I am curious however..

Quick “Tonkotsu” Ramen

Inspired by this article at The Food Lab on making tonkotsu ramen at home, but not inspired by the crazy prep time (12+ hours), I thought I would attempt speeding the process up with a pressure cooker, substituting a little chicken broth and skipping the chashu pork. It turned out pretty good, and took a fraction of the time. I started about 2PM and was eating by 6PM, my kids loved it, and I spent probably less than hour in front of the stove.


  • 3/4 lb pig feet
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 3 celery stalks
  • 1/2 yellow onion
  • 4 tbsp miso
  • 2 tbsp fresh finely chopped garlic
  • 1 tsp fresh finely chopped ginger
  • 4 chopped scallions
  • 1/2 lb thinly sliced pork, shabu-shabu style
  • 4 oz white mushrooms, quartered
  • noodles*

Rinse the pig feet in water, then place in the pressure cooker with the celery and fill half way with water. Add about a tsp of salt, then fire it up and walk away.

After about 2 hours take it off the heat and let it cool. Use a fat separator to separate the pork bits and vegetables from the broth, rinse out the pressure cooker and then return 4 cups of the pork broth to the pressure cooker. Keep a good amount of the pork fat in the stock, you’ll thank me later.

Add the chicken broth to the pork broth, toss in the mushrooms, onion and a slice or two of the pork and simmer at just under a boil.

At this point you’ll want to start bringing your pork up to room temperature. Later I’m going to ask you cook it in your bowl in the hot soup, and you’ll want it warmed up as much as possible so it cooks fully and doesn’t cool your soup too much. It this makes you nervous it also tastes great if you flash-brown the pork in the garlic-infused oil you’re left with following the next step, then set it aside in a covered bowl. Just don’t over-cook it.

Heat up a few tablespoons of vegetable oil in a pan and fry the garlic and ginger, until it’s a crispy, golden brown. Then remove from the pan and set aside.

Let your stock go with the mushrooms and onion for at least 15 minutes. Once the mushrooms are soft and the onion is a little translucent add the miso. 4 tbsp is just a suggestion–I would recommend starting there and adding more to taste.

Now get your *noodles ready. You want them to be steaming when you pour the soup over them. I’ve done this a few ways: With pre-cooked soft noodles you can heat them with a few drops water in the microwave, or you can drop them in the stock for 15-30s inside a large colander ladle. (I wouldn’t recommend the later unless you plan to consume all of the stock immediately, as the stock will get starchier the more you do this). With fresh noodles you can boil them separately then strain them in a colander–just be sure they’re still hot when you assemble the soup.

To serve, put the noodles in a bowl and place some of that raw, thinly sliced pork on top. Pour the near-boiling soup in, then sprinkle on the fried garlic and scallions. I also like to add a little bit of pure chili paste on top.


See also: Mediocre Tonkatsu Ramen

You should cook using cast iron

It’s been about 5 years since my wife and I switched full-time to cast iron cookware. We’ve thrown out all of our Teflon and all that remains that’s not cast iron are a few stainless pots and sauté pans.
If you haven’t made the switch yet, you should make the switch:
  • Easy to clean. Just quickly scrub under hot water with a stainless steel scrubber and wipe dry. A few times a week rub a few drops of oil in with a paper towel. Stainless spatulas are also easier to clean than the plastic ones you need to use with teflon.
  • Easy to cook with. Cast iron heats incredibly evenly, meaning your pan won’t have any hot spots. Apply a little bit of oil before cooking and you’ve got a perfect non-stick surface. Fried eggs, omelets, steaks are all wonderful when cooked in cast iron.
  • No health or environmental concerns. Teflon breaks down over time and gets into your food, stainless can warp or rust if mishandled. Cast iron is virtually indestructible. Even if your cast iron rusts you can scrub the rust off, reseason it and it’s as good as new. Your children’s children will inherit your cast iron.
  • Highly affordable. Cast iron pans are about half to a third the cost of equivalent non-stick pans and when you consider they last forever it’s an even better bargain.
See also

Turkey recycling: soup

What do you do with all these leftovers? You can’t let them go to waste! You paid top dollar for that organic free range turkey and you’re determined to squeeze every drop of flavor out of it.

I’m not a fan of leftover dark meat by itself so I decided to make something out of it. Inspired by The Best Chicken Stew from last month’s Cook’s Illustrated (which I made, and it was the best), I thought I would try making “The Best Turkey Stew.” It turned out pretty awesome, if I may be so bold. Since you can’t taste mine (we ate it all in <24 hours) you’ll just have to take my word for it.  But here’s how you can make your own…
8 cups water
4 cooked turkey pieces (I used 4 wings but some combo of wings/legs would work also)
6 sprigs fresh thyme
6 sprigs fresh parsley
4 fresh sage leaves
0.5oz dried porcini mushrooms, rinsed
1 bay leaf
6 tbsp bacon grease, melted
3 tbsp flour
1 onion, finely chopped
2 carrots, chopped
3 celery stalks, chopped
Stock: Separate most of the meat off the leftover turkey pieces and start a stock from the bones, fat and little bits of meat you’re too lazy to pick off, using the ingredients above. Let it go at a slow simmer, covered, for about 3-4 hours. If it hasn’t boiled down to about 2/3 the liquid content uncover it and let it continue simmering until it does. Pull the bones out and run the rest through a fat separator, squeezing as much liquid out of the meat and herbs as possible. You should be left with about 4 cups of opaque, dense, hearty turkey stock.
Soup: After you’ve got the stock, chop the meat bits into bite sized pieces and place them in a dutch oven on the stove with 3 tbsp of bacon grease. (If you don’t have bacon grease laying around, by all means go make some fresh bacon grease and then add the bacon bits into the recipe later!) Heat the turkey bits on medium-high until lightly browned. Add the onion, carrots, and celery and continue to cook until veggies are soft. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 325F.
Build a roux: Push the meat and veggies to one side of the dutch oven and pour the remaining bacon grease into the cleared side.  Working quickly, sprinkle the flour over the grease and mix the flour in using a fork, making sure there are no chunky bits of flour. Keep mixing it for a minute while it starts to bubble and turn brown. Add about a half cup of turkey stock to the roux and keep mixing it until it thickens, then add the rest of the turkey stock.
Finish the soup: Place the dutch oven, uncovered, into your oven and cook for 1 hour. When you take it out fond will have formed on the sides of the dutch oven, scrape this off and mix it back into the soup! It’s full of awesome flavor.
Serve: Put leftover bread in the toaster oven for a few minutes, dice it up and then toss it on top of the soup. Serve with a Chateaneuf-du-Pape Grenach blanc or Franzia Crisp White, whatever your preference is.
Opportunities for expansion: If I had a half cup of white wine on hand, I would have added it before tossing in the oven. I think that would have made a good addition. I also meant to add a teaspoon or so of anchovy paste to amp up the savory content but spaced it.. turns out it didn’t really need it, but I wonder.. 

Good pinto beans

Pressure cooker + beans = amazing

2 cups pinto beans

7 cups water

2 tbsp oil

2 tbsp chili powder
2 tsp salt
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 red onion, diced
4 cloves garlic
4 bay leaves
Express bean soak: Rinse beans and place in a 2-cup microwave safe measuring cup (Pyrex).  Cover with water, microwave for ~4 minutes (until boiling), let stand for 10 minutes.

Place soaked beans and everything else in a pressure cooker, cook on high heat for 45 minutes. Remove from heat and let rest for 15 minutes (still under pressure). Remove lid, remove bay leaves, salt to taste.

See also: Good beans

Turkish Coffee

For a single serving you will need:

2oz water
1 scoop coffee grounds
1/2 tsp sugar (optional)

Place in pot and gradually bring to 200F. Gently stir as it passes through 150F, but stop stirring after 150F or else the grounds won’t settle and you won’t capture the foam. When it reaches temp take it off the heat and let is rest for a minute, then slowly pour into 1oz cup, leaving most of the grinds in the pot. If you did it right you should have a small layer of foam on the top of each cup.

If you’re doing several cups at once, pour a little into each in a round robin fashion so the grinds that escape are evenly distributed.

Coffee: It needs to be pre-ground finer than an espresso grind. Your home grinder probably cant do it. I found a Lebanese brand at a local international market that’s excellent.. $3 for 7oz, and I store it in an air right container in the fridge; keeps fresh for about 2 weeks.

Thanks baltan for the advice! 😉

Low-carb ground beef and vegetable stews

I’ve been messing around with low-carb ground beef and vegetable stews lately.  No potatoes, no noodles, and pretty much just using whatever I have available in the fridge.  I was surprised how easy it was to come up with something hearty and enjoyable so I thought I’d share.

Experiment 1:
1/2 lb ground beef
1/2 lb hot italian sausage
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic
1 bunch of celery, diced
2 zucchinis, sliced
1 can of diced tomatoes
dried basil
italian seasoning
bay leaf
Experiment 2:
1 lb ground beef
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic
1 head of cauliflower, separated
2 cans of diced tomatoes
1 can of green beans
dried oregano
chili powder
Start by sautéing the onion over high heat with some olive oil, then add the meat and garlic, dry seasonings, salt and keep it going until the meat is mostly done.  Meanwhile, start the non-canned vegetables in a large pot over very low heat with some olive oil and salt.  When the meat is ready combine everything in the big pot, add the canned vegetables and bring to a boil.  Once its at a boil reduce to a simmer and cover and cook for at least an hour.  Before serving add more salt, to taste.
With #1 I just ate it straight-up, but added some fideo on the side for my kids that I cooked in some of the stock from the stew.
With #2 I served it with a few dollops of plain yogurt on top, sprinkled with dried oregano, a dash of paprika and a little celery salt.

“Slow-smoked” baby back ribs

I made some ribs tonight.  Took about 3 hours to make and about 3 minutes to eat.

Preheat oven to 325F.

Dry rub:

* 1 part salt
* 1 part pepper
* 2 parts smoked paprika
* dash cayenne pepper (to taste)

Combine dry rub ingredients.  Remove membrane from ribs.  On a piece of aluminum foil, rub dry rub into the ribs.  Start with about 2 tbsp of dry rub per rack, but don’t leave too much excess in the foil (or the corners of the ribs will end up too salty).  Splash about 1 tsp of concentrated liquid smoke onto each side of the ribs.  Wrap ribs in two layers of aluminum foil as tight as you can get them without tearing.

Bake in oven on a baking pan for 1.5 hours at 325F membrane side up.  Flip over, then bake for another 1.5 hours at 300F with membrane side down.

BBQ sauce:

* 1 part salt
* 1 part pepper
* 2 parts brown sugar
* 8 parts ketchup
* 4 parts apple cider vinegar
* big splash worcestershire sauce
* light splash concentrated liquid smoke

Combine BBQ sauce ingredients.  Remove ribs from oven.  Carefully open up ribs and lay them on one layer of aluminum foil membrane side down (discarding one layer of foil).  Be mindful of the hot steam that will escape when you open the foil.  Cover topside of ribs with BBQ sauce, about 3 tbsp per rack.

Place ribs back into oven and broil on top rack of oven for 2-3 minutes, or until sauce on the top begins to caramelize.  Remove from foil and serve.

I gotta give props to Cheater BBQ for inspiration on this one.  Their indoor rib recipe is great, but I think mine is better. 🙂