16 January 2011
Winter Refuge - Pot Roast
Mid-January always feels like a challenging space in my annual calendar. The holidays are past and winter settles in. The shortest days of the year are not only short but often deeply gray in this part of the country. Rain clouds gather over us for days on end lending little light and an aura of gloom to our winter routines.
While the dull sky threatens to bring me down one of my favorite places of refuge is the kitchen. On a dim afternoon it is comforting to light a candle and watch the flame dance. It brightens the space between my spice-colored kitchen walls. I add the sound of a familiar playlist on my iHome and turn the oven on low while I contemplate dinner.
Mid-winter above all other times of the year is the season that begs for comfort food. Sitting here my mind turns to Beef Barley Soup, Chicken and Dumplings and Pot Roast among other dishes I enjoyed around the family table as a child. These dinners from my childhood have withstood the test of time and are highly favored by my children as well.
Tonight I am planning on serving Pot Roast. While it cooks the aroma of meat and herbs will waft through the house and the warmth of the oven will make the kitchen toasty and inviting. When the meat begins to flake apart easily I will put some potatoes on to boil. Before I know it the family will gather and we will share a meal of tender meat and hearty vegetables.
Within a month the Witch Hazel will bloom at the side of the house and announce the promise of another spring’s slow unfurling. Step by step my garden will regenerate and open itself anew. Meanwhile we will incubate a culture of warmth and welcome in my home kitchen. It is a sign of comfort and hope to have a covered pot in a warm oven on a cold winter day. With the kitchen fragrant and warm we will gather around our table and savor the blessings of the season.
2-4 Tablespoons olive oil
2 onions, cut into wedges
4 stalks celery
3.5 to 4 lb. pot roast (I used a 3.88 beef chuck roast)
½ cup flour
1 cup wine
2 Tablespoons brandy, if desired
2 cups beef broth
3 cloves garlic
3 sprigs rosemary
4-6 sprigs thyme
Place a dutch oven on the stovetop over medium heat (I use my 5-quart Le Creuset oval french oven.) When hot, add two Tablespoons olive oil and heat until shimmery.
Brown the onion in the oil. When it begins to soften turn it to brown on all sides. When done remove to a plate.
Add the carrots and celery to the hot dutch oven and brown them on all sides before removing to the same plate.
Season the roast with salt and pepper. Dredge it in the flour. Add additional oil to the pot if needed. When hot, place the roast in the dutch oven and brown it on all sides. When brown remove and set aside.
Add wine (and brandy, if desired) to the pot. Whisk off stuck or browned bits from the bottom of the pan.
Add back pot roast. Pour in the beef broth. Add back the carrots, celery and onion. Submerge the garlic and herb sprigs in broth.
Cover tightly with lid.
Put the pot in the oven at 275 degrees for 3-4 hours, or until the meat is fall-apart tender.
Serve with mashed potatoes and enjoy!