Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Quest for Roast and The Use of Leftovers

I want to make a really good, foolproof crockpot roast. I am not sure why this has been eluding me. "Everybody" says that it's one of the easiest, most basic meals to make. I've followed numerous recipes. I've tried putting the potatoes and carrots under and over the meat. (although now I hear also that some people don't put them in at all and cook them separately. I haven't tried that yet.) I've tried on low and high. I've tried cooking less and more than it calls for. I've tried different kinds of seasonings, different amounts of water/soup/beer, .... I'm tired. My family has eaten a bunch of roast that I'm just not happy with. I want the meat to be able to come apart with forks instead of a hacksaw. I want potatoes that are neither crunchy nor mushy. I want some gravy, but not too much, and I want it to taste good. Not too salty, not too boring.

Is this too much to ask?

The other night I got closer to what I'm looking for, following my friend Jenn's direction. She swore I could not mess it up and I did not believe her, since my track record is so bad. She is of the school who steams the veggies separately, but I didn't want to. So I put them in the bottom and plopped the meat on top. Then she said she always puts a package of Lipton onion soup mix and a can of cream of mushroom soup on it. I didn't have Lipton so I made some. I'm finding that pretty much every mix like that has a clone on the internet. It's a beautiful thing. Turns out onion soup mix is mostly dried onion and beef bouillon granules. I have those things. And Gluten Free Cafe has come out with a can of mushroom soup that I like enough to use in cooking. There is still a place in my heart for Campbell's, but oh well. Them's the breaks.

Then came the problem of cooking. My crockpot was a wedding present, so it's 14, and I think it doesn't get as hot as the newer ones. I put it in at 11:30 and was going to do it on high. Jenn said no, it would burn, and I should start on low. Hmm. I turned it to high at 3:30 and we didn't eat till 8 pm. But it tasted good!!!! So to recap:

potatoes, carrots, meat, cream of 'shroom soup, and onion soup mix. Mine went 4 hours on low and 4 1/2 hours on high.

Second day: ROAST SOUP. My mom made it with the leftovers the last time my roast went Horribly Wrong, and it was super tasty- WAY better than the original roast. She said her mom used to make it all the time after roast day, so I'm not sure how I made it to age 35 without knowing this trick. Maybe my mom makes good roast and there were never any leftovers? Dunno. Anyway. I made it again last night and I love it.

You cube up the leftover meat and throw it in a big pot with the veggies and any leftover gravy you've got. Then you start adding things from your fridge. :) It's a little different every time. This time I added:

2 mushrooms (who saves TWO mushrooms? I am a freak. But they were in a ziploc, so there you are.)
a 28 0z can of diced tomatoes, with the juice
2 stalks celery
part of a red onion
a can of corn
a baggie of leftover canned mixed veggies from the daycare kids' lunch the other day
the rest of a box of beef broth
about a cup of water

And then I heated it for the time it took to make cornbread, and it was AWESOME. I highly recommend it, even if you screw up your roast on a regular basis. The soup is forgiving. Eat it with cornbread and be happy.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Grandma's Potato Salad

This is one of the first recipes I mentioned wanting to put up here, and since the crickets have been chirping here for months... I figured I would go back and actually do it. I want to get started putting up more regular posts.

Usually I am very careful about Following The Recipe. I don't do well just tossing stuff in a bowl. However, that tends to be how grandmas cook, and since this recipe is hers, I don't have measurements. With something like potato salad though, you can't really mess it up. Just taste it as you go along and make sure it's the way you like it, and you'll be fine.

So. You will need:

  • a pot full of potatoes. it depends on how big they are. generally I end up with between 7-9.
  • radishes. Yes, I know that's weird. But they're so crunchy and good in this salad! I don't LOVE the flavor, so I only put in around 4 or 5, cut very small.
  • dill pickle. Pickles are my friend so I chop way more than most people probably would. I like Claussen best.
  • red onion. I go by how the colors look in the bowl, depending on how much of the other ingredients I end up with. 1/2 to 1 onion, I'd say.
  • mayo, mustard, salt, and pepper to taste
  • hard boiled eggs if you like them. I HATE THEM so I always leave them out. My mom said she puts around 5 in there.
Peel the potatoes and then boil them whole in a pot of water till they are fork tender. They'll fall apart a little and that's fine, but try to save the pieces. Cool them and slice them very thinly into a big bowl. Salt every layer as you put them in there. Salt them way more than you think you need to, because those puppies suck it up like nobody's business. (and if you ever use a bread machine and want to make potato bread, you can save that starchy potato-y water and use it in place of the regular water and it makes killer bread!!)

Then put in all the other stuff, chopped very small, and stir in the mayo and mustard. I don't put much mustard- just a big shot from the bottle.

It's better if you make it ahead of time so you can chill it and let the flavors meld, but I never do. We love it too much to wait. :)