Perfect Pot Roast Sandwiches

When my sister emailed to ask if I had been abducted by aliens, I knew it had been too long since my last blog post.  To be honest, I haven’t felt very chatty.  The heat really gets me down, even when I stay in the house and I didn’t want to whine in public.  Now I have something positive to say.

Several years ago, a restaurant opened here called Copeland’s Cheesecake Bistro (or something like that).  It was apparently started by someone who used to work at the Cheesecake Factory because a lot of the menu is the same.  If you have ever been to either of them, they violate the number one rule of Robert Irvine, the Restaurant Impossible guy.  He wants to see one page menus.  Their menus are more like the phone book to a small town.

Being a discriminating diner (which I prefer to the derogatory picky-eater label other people try to stick on me), I want choices but when a restaurant offers every kind of food under the sun, I am suspect about how much of it could actually be prepared in their kitchen.

One of my favorite food groups is gravy, so when I saw the pot roast sandwich, that seemed like a good thing to try.  I thought I had died and gone to heaven.  They brought the gravy in a little bowl so I could dip every mouthful of my sandwich in it. 

Having that sandwich for lunch meant I didn’t need to fix dinner.  A scrambled egg or small salad was all I could manage even 6 hours later.  I knew it was too much food but, oh my, it was the most wonderful of comfort foods.  I exercised restraint and only went on special occasions, about 4 times a year.

Sadly, that was not enough to keep them in business and suddenly they were gone without warning.  Where was I going to get my pot roast sandwich fix?

And so the experimenting began.  I have made Yankee-style pot roast for years in a slow cooker but it never produced that thick, flavorful gravy that made me so happy.  The first significant advance was when I brought home a stainless steel Dutch oven from my mother’s house.  You wouldn’t think there would be such a difference between a slow cooker and a Dutch oven but the results were much more tasty.

The reason was simple.  I could caramelize the onions and carrots, I could sauté the meat.  The resulting flavors were a good start toward a more flavorful pot roast than the one I had been making.

The long, slow cooking seemed different in the Dutch oven.  Plus I was able to thicken up the gravy easily in a pot that could be used on the stove and brought to a boil.

But the final secret came because I am an inveterate reader of recipes.  I didn’t even save the recipe because it wasn’t a dish I would ever make, but the chef added oyster sauce to a meat dish.  Not a Chinese dish, just an ordinary meat dish.  I love Beef with Oyster Sauce, so I thought, why not?

It was perfect.  I felt like I discovered uranium, solved a quadratic equation, mastered weightlessness.  Only better – we could eat this whenever we wanted!  You can, too.  My recipe is below.

P.S. The original sandwich was picked up and dipped in gravy.  I served mine open faced and ate it with a knife and fork.  More gravy, less mess.

Pot Roast and Gravy
Prep time: about 30 minutes  Cooking time: 3-5 hours, depending on meat

Ingredients

2-5 lbs London broil, chuck, sirloin – whatever cut you prefer. **  Trim fat off and use a metal needle-type tenderizer before rubbing with seasoning mix made from bulleted items below

  • 2 tsps EACH salt, garlic powder, onion powder, ground mustard. 
  • 1 tsp black pepper

1 TBSP olive oil
1 bouillon cube each beef and chicken, dissolved in 2 cups water (use actual broth if you prefer)  Double to make more gravy
1/2 cup red or white wine
1 bag crinkle cut carrots
1 large sweet onion, chopped
12 oz. sliced mushrooms
4-6 segments of garlic, chopped, mashed or sliced
1/4 cup oyster sauce
3 heaping tsps of cornstarch dissolved in small amount of water (half a juice glass)

** I like the flavor of chuck best but it is so fatty, I spend a lot of time trimming.  It also tends to just shred apart.  Sometimes, that is what I want.  I’ve never liked eye round but, if you do, it should work fine.

For the sandwiches:
your choice of bread.  We used good quality sandwich rolls. French bread would work, too.
Mayo made with olive oil
shredded lettuce

In a Dutch oven, heat 1 TBSP of olive oil and add the chopped onion.  Cook on medium for 5 minutes.  Add carrot slices.  Cook until the onion begins to brown slightly, stirring occasionally.  Add the mushrooms and garlic and cook another 5 minutes.  Remove vegetables to bowl. 

While veggies are cooking, tenderize your meat and rub all over with your seasonings.  If you set the piece on waxed paper when you begin, there is no messy clean up.

Turn heat up to medium high.  Add meat to hot pot.  Cook several minutes on each side, until the meat begins to show a good brown color.

Remove meat and add wine.  I have a flat wooden stirrer that scrapes the brown off the pot easily.  Add the bouillon/broth and the oyster sauce.  Stir until blended.  Put meat and vegetable mixture back in the pot.  I made sure there was a layer of veggies on the bottom so the meat was surrounded by flavors.

Cover.  You can reduce the heat to simmer on the stove or put the pot in the oven at 275F.  The liquid should bubble gently but not boil.  Depending on how thick your meat is, cook for 3-5 hours.  The longer you cook, the more the meat will tend to fall apart.  If you prefer to have actual slices, check it at 3 hours.

When the meat is done, remove carefully to a platter and let rest as you thicken the gravy.  Dissolve the cornstarch in water and add to the liquid and vegetables in the Dutch oven.  Turn the heat up until the mixture bubbles continuously.  Stir occasionally.  You can tell when it has thickened.

This can be made well in advance of dinner, even the previous day.

To serve as traditional pot roast, you can actually add potatoes while it is cooking, but I prefer to cook them in a pressure cooker or bake them in the oven.

To serve as sandwiches:

Slice the rolls open and warm in the oven.  Here’s a tip.  Put the rolls on a baking tray and slide into a cold oven.  Turn on to 350F.  When the timer beeps, turn the oven off and remove perfectly warmed bread.

Arrange the two halves of each roll on a plate.  Add mayo to each piece and top with a generous portion of shredded iceberg lettuce.  It will actually stay crisp.

Spoon the pot roast mixture over the bread, being sure to add enough gravy.  Eat with a knife and fork.

Note: If you are watching cholesterol and calories, you trimmed the meat and added only 1 tbsp of fat to the pot roast.  The mix has lots of veggies.  You are using reduced fat mayo.  Okay, it’s not a chicken salad, but if you eat one helping, this seems like a reasonable dinner to me.

Felting–Big Surprise to Me!

When Lily Kerns suggested a class on felting, I was not enthusiastic.  I had been hearing about these new machines that punched fibers together and I just couldn’t see the appeal.   She assured me that she was not going to use a machine and that other people would see the beauty in this art form.

She was right, of course, as she so often is about things that are a little off the beaten path.  We have been offering the class for a couple years now and the variety of work done by our students goes far beyond anything I could have imagined.

JeanNa
JeaNa created an abstract composition with different shapes, colors and textures that has a deep richness to it

Patty Powers
Patty Powers’ project looks like one of those Victorian nosegays, elegant and frilly

These and many other abstract pieces were lovely and showed great imagination.  But the ones that really captured my heart and made me reconsider felting as an art form were the pictures that looked like they came from the Impressionist School.  The very idea that anyone had that much control over the placement of loose fibers just blew my mind!

Celine Lang
Celine Lang created a beach with stormy surf rolling in

sharon in_TN
Sharon in Tennessee sculpted this beach scene

Teresita_n
Teresita’s picture looks like a Van Gogh

Vicki Fisher-Lerer
This piece by Vicki Fisher-Lerer makes me think of the Monet series on haystacks.  She got the color down perfectly.

So, I freely admit it – I was wrong.  Whisper Felting must be a great class to inspire works like these.  If this all appeals to you, the class starts this weekend and you still have three days to sign up.  Visit us at www.QuiltUniversity.com.

Something for nothing

I am talking about all the credit cards that offer cash back incentives.  You might have one or two in your wallet.  Ever wonder why they are so nice to you and where the money comes from?

Discover was first and they started it more than 20 years ago.  It sounded like a good deal until I “discovered” that merchants paid more for accepting a Discover card than for MasterCard and Visa.

I can testify that merchant rates have accelerated as the rewards system has grown.  People who charge more are paying to get that money back which would be fine, except it doesn’t stop there.

To keep their own bottom line healthy, retail merchants have to adjust their prices when the cost of business goes up.  We all could see it happening when gas prices started to rise precipitously.  I don’t know what things are like where you live, but I have not noticed those increases going away even though gas has come back down.

I can understand the thinking.  First, they have no guarantee it won’t happen again.  Gas prices bounce up and down regularly.  Second, we kept right on buying things like food – what choice did we have?  So, why not keep the extra cash now that transportation costs have decreased again?

The credit card scam is small enough that merchants could swallow the loss for awhile and then raise everything by 5%.  Got that?  Everything you buy, whether you choose to pay for it with a credit card or not, costs you more so credit card companies can entice more customers.

Does that make sense to you?

Hot as Hades

Summer officially began only two weeks ago here in the Northern Hemisphere, but you wouldn’t know it from the thermometer.  We had our first 90 degree day in May 2.  Then we got hoodwinked by several weeks of below average temperatures.  I knew it was too good to last.  We had three triple digit days in June.  That may be normal for places like Arizona and Texas, but not for Virginia, where we don’t usually get this kind of heat until late July or August.

To make it worse, our area has had so little rain that our grass is beginning to crunch underfoot.  If you want to find me any morning between 6 and 8 a.m., I am out in the yard doing what I can to protect the garden.  By 10 a.m., it it way too hot for me outside.

Hot weather turns me into a lump.  I can’t think, much less get anything done, if forced to endure temperatures above 80, so you can imagine what 90 does to me.  It constantly surprises me to hear people say they haven’t even turned on their air conditioning when I have had mine on for weeks.

That got me to thinking about how we always assume that everyone else is like us. We do this despite the constant evidence to the contrary.  For example, when reality shows started flooding the TV schedule, I was sure they wouldn’t last long.   Who would watch? 

I don’t like tattoos, beer or sports, and it was nice I could say that without being struck by lightning.  I am not a fan of violent action movies and I don’t think I have the right to know everything in the world about people in show biz.  I am also in the minority.

Maybe everyone is the same except me!  There’s a terrifying thought.  I like the idea of being unique as much as the next person but no one wants to be really, truly alone and isolated.  Do they?  Perhaps I am projecting again.

Possibly we are the same in our basic biology, but we have the option of being different in our opinions and our taste.  Do we learn to like strawberries and not turnips or are we hardwired with our preferences?  Are we all interchangeable grains of sand in the great cosmos or unique snowflakes?  If I get to choose, I want to be a snowflake.  And that might explain why heat bothers me so much.