Bison Pot Roast with vegetables, Squash Purée, Roasted Asparagus, Lentil, Barley & Feta Salad, and Pavlova with Black Currant Curd and Fruit Salsa
Sorry, I totally dropped the ball last night. Our good friends came from BC for dinner and a sleepover, which obviously went late. After midnight when everyone else retired to their bedrooms, I diligently logged on to post dinner here. But when at quarter to one I plugged my camera in to upload photos and the battery died, I let a few expletives fly and went to bed.
Of course I didn’t remember that it was Free Stuff Friday until this morning, when I needed to get a couple hours of visiting in while popping corn and making pakoras for Tasha’s big CD release party this afternoon. (Which was a blast – great to see some of you there and finally meet you in person!)
But let’s backtrack to yesterday: by mid afternoon it had already dropped to 4 degrees and was threatening snow. So instead of sitting out on the patio, flipping something meaty on the barbecue while balancing cold gin & tonics, I put a pot roast in the oven. It was a good thing, actually – awhile ago one of you dear readers surprised me with a bag of frozen bison, straight from the farm, and I was waiting for an opportunity (and dinner guests) to cook the blade roast. It was a beautiful, small (perfectly sized) one, and I started by patting it dry and seasoning it with salt and pepper, then browned it on all sides in some canola oil in a hot cast iron skillet. Some recipes instruct flouring the meat first – if you do this, do it sparingly, or you end up browning the flour and not the meat. I prefer to brown the meat straight-up, and if I want a bit of flour to help thicken the sauce, dust it lightly as it goes into the pot. (I find it doesn’t do much anyway – I’d rather cook it down and intensify it than thicken it with flour.)
You can cook a pot roast one of two ways – in a pot on the stovetop, or in a pot in the oven. I opted for door #2 only because my only stovetop pot of the right size was otherwise occupied storing ginger-carrot soup for the CD release party (an odd choice for a kids’ party, you may think? One of her songs, the Recipe Hoe Down, has lyrics that instruct making soup, apple crisp and veggie pakoras with chutney, which determined part of the menu) – so I used my enamel-coated cast iron pot. Not a Le Creuset, which are beautiful but a little too rich for my blood – I have one small orange one I picked up at a garage sale for the low low price of $7, but my big oval enamel-cast iron pot was made by a company called Authentic Kitchen, and I picked it up at Winners for $20. I have managed to get a lot of mileage out of it over the years – I can’t imagine it’s any lesser than a real Le Creuset. It is, by the way, what I make my no-knead bread in. You can see it’s well used.
So the other great thing about browning your meat in a skillet first (or a pot, if you’re doing it on the stovetop) is all those brown bits, which is what is going to give your gravy so much flavour. (That’s why you’re browning the meat in the first place – to create that flavour – rather than throwing it in the pot raw.) I transferred the meat to the pot and then added an onion, cut into thin wedges, to the pan, just to get up some of those meaty bits. Then added those to the pot with the meat, chunked up a couple carrots, and poured about a cup of beef broth into the pan to quickly get up any of that remaining tastiness, and poured it around the meat with the end of a bottle of sherry. You want enough liquid to come about a third of the way up the meat – any kind of broth, wine, tomato juice, and water all work well, and I have even heard of people using coffee. Cover it tightly with a lid or foil, and simmer on low heat or bake it at no higher than 300°F for about 3 hours, until the meat is fork-tender. If you like, add about a pound of baby new potatoes to the pot during the last hour of cooking. I did.
Basic Pot Roast
3-4 lb. chuck roast, rump roast, boneless bottom or eye of round or brisket (beef or bison)
salt and pepper
a drizzle of canola or olive oil
1 onion, peeled and cut into thin wedges
2 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
2 garlic cloves, crushed or chopped
1-2 cups liquid (beef or vegetable broth, wine, crushed tomatoes or juice, or a combination of these)
1-2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, sherry or chili sauce (optional – just to add flavour)
Pat your roast dry with paper towels and season it generously with salt and pepper. In a large pot or skillet set over medium-high heat, heat a drizzle of oil until hot but not smoking. Brown the roast on all sides, turning it with tongs or a fork.
Remove the roast from the pot and set it aside on a plate. Add the onion, carrot, and garlic to the pot and cook for a few minutes, until they start to brown. (If you want to skip this step, just throw the veggies in with the roast. Cooking them first caramelizes them a bit, adding more flavor.) Return the roast to the pot and add the liquid and any seasonings you like.
Cover the pot tightly and simmer the roast on low heat on the stovetop or inside a 275°F oven for 3-4 hours, turning the meat once or twice if you think of it.
Remove the roast from the juices and set it aside. Wrap it loosely with foil to keep it warm. Let the juices settle for a few minutes, then scoop any excess fat off the surface with a wide spoon. Strain the solids out by pouring the juices through a sieve or using a slotted spoon, or purée them with a hand-held immersion blender or in a regular blender or food processor. Return the strained or puréed liquid to the pot, set it over medium heat and bring it to a boil. Simmer for about 10 minutes to reduce and concentrate the juices, adding salt and pepper to taste.
Slice or shred the beef and serve it with the sauce poured overtop. Serves 6, with leftovers.
Dessert was an easy choice – I had leftover black currant curd and fruit from Thursday’s barbecue. (Mike is getting pretty handy at finely chopping a mango, kiwi and handful of strawberries to make salsa.) I made a half batch of pavlova – 3 egg whites still turned out 10 individual nests twice the size of the ones I usually do. Honestly, pavlova is the easiest make-ahead dessert around. And if you do a full batch – which calls for 6 egg whites – you’ll have 6 yolks left over with which to make lemon curd. Or black currant, if you have access to some concentrated juice (like Ribena – but I use local stuff from Kayben farms – and they do mail order!). Spoon a bit of curd into the meringue, then top with whipped cream and fruit. If not the salsa – fresh berries, mango, peaches, passionfruit, whatever is in season wherever you are.
Lemon or Black Currant Curd
6 egg yolks
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup lemon juice or black currant concentrate (like Ribena, or black currant concentrate from Kayben farms)
zest of one or two lemons (if you’re making lemon curd)
1/3 cup butter, cut into pieces
In a medium saucepan, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, lemon juice and zest. Set over medium heat and cook, stirring often (if not constantly) with a whisk, until the mixture comes to a boil and thickens. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter. Set aside to cool. Makes about 2 cups.
So for Free Stuff Fridays, in honour of Tasha’s spanking new CD, I have a copy of Big Bad Bantam Rooster to give away. If you have kids, or know any parents of kids, they will love it. I find myself playing it even when W isn’t in the car, when there is no one to tell me to PLEASE stop singing, even after having listened to it (and specifically tracks 3, 5, 6, 9 and 17) eight thousand times. As always, I’m curious what you had for dinner last night. But I have another burning question.
What the hell is this?
(Mike’s mom sends W letters regularly, with dollar store stickers plastered all over the envelope. They all look like variations on this mutant theme. Now, art is universal, is it not? Seriously. I will be shocked if W doesn’t develop an aversion to clowns. I’m not sure which is more confusing, the actual artwork or the trim job.)
One Year Ago: Sausage, Black Bean and Sweet Potato Soup