Tuesday, May 01, 2012

just shut up and cook this thing

That's a charming name for a cooking column, don't you think?  What?  Not so much?

Anyway, today I wanted to share the recipe for this pot roast that I make, because it's something that the kids like, and takes very little active cooking time (although there is a lot of passive cookery--stay tuned) and I think turns out looking and tasting much fancier than it actually is, which is to say: NOT FANCY AT ALL.  Also it freezes quite nicely so, you know, more food for later.

The first thing you need when you're cooking this thing is a big pot. Well, no, actually I guess the first thing you need is not to be a vegetarian.  But beyond that, the pot. The best kind of pot is one of those ceramic-coated cast iron pots for slow cooking.  I have (and LOVE) these Lodge Dutch Ovens (which actually has much less to do with farts than it sounds like) because they work well and look great and are many, many times cheaper than the equivalently-sized Le Creuset Dutch Ovens that I assume Lodge is knocking off.  

I should have probably taken a picture of the meat before I started cooking it, but I FORGOT so I'll just tell you that while a lot of "roast" or "brisket" type cuts will work well for this recipe (and are generally on the cheaper side), the one that I've found to work the best has been beef shoulder.  I know, that's maybe too anatomical for you, but just trust me.  Shoulder.  Get a piece that has some good fat on it, it's not going to kill you.

I like to use this dry steak rub on the meat before I get it into the pan.  It's pretty much just a mixture of salt and pepper and dried garlic and red pepper flakes and whatnot, but whatever proportion it's in is good, and I rarely have to season the roast at the end, because it's all flavored up already.

Pour some olive oil into the bottom of the pot and let it get hot.  Like, very very hot.  High flame.  You need it to be hot because they first thing you're going to do is brown the meat.  The whole thing.  Just throw it in there.  (Don't really throw it, slide it in gently.  The hot oil!  Splashy!)  It takes a couple minutes (four? five? I don't know) on each side, but you'll be able to tell when it's done because it's going to start smelling yum.  Like BROWNED MEAT.  

(I told you this was not for vegetarians, right?)

OK, while your meat is browning (keep the lid of the pot on while it's doing that--there's a lot of smoke, and the oil besides) cut up one big yellow onion.  Don't be fussy about it, big chunks is fine, this thing's going to cook down for hours.

Then when both sides of the meat are nicely seared, pick it up with a pair of tongs and just scatter the onions underneath the meat, along the bottom of the pan.  Put the meat back on top.

You have a bottle opener handy, right?  Good.  Pop open a bottle of wine.  It doesn't have to be nice, just drinkable.  (I used this Yellow Tail Cabernet Sauvignon that they had at the supermarket, because it tastes fine and it was on sale for $6.00--don't be scandalized, wine snobs.)  Now go ahead and pour that wine on top, all over everything--maybe about 1/3rd to 1/2 of the bottle.  It's OK if the meat isn't all covered up, it's going to make it's own meat juices (ew?) and the wine is just going to be, like, extra flavor stuff.

Turn the heat way, way down, as far as it'll go almost while still maintaining a lazy simmer.  We have that kind of stove where there's no flame (what do they call it?  Conduction cooktop or whatever?  Anyway, it's the flat kind with no fire) and I don't really love cooking without a flame but for slow cooking it's the greatest, because you can really get the heat down low.  Now to put the rest of the ingredients in.

Here, by the way, is the main reason I make this recipe as often as I do:

We have these two giant rosemary bushes in our backyard.  We didn't plant them, the real grown-ups that lived here before us did, but they're there and they're great.  I usually snip off a 4 or 5-inch stem for this roast and just sort of stick it in there.

Other stuff you can put in (if you like): mushrooms, carrots, potatoes.  I didn't put potatoes in mine because this ends up making a lot of food and I usually freeze half of it for a later day, and you know how potatoes get all mealy in the freezer.  But if you're having a bunch of people over, by all means, cube up some potatoes and throw them in there.  (You might want to wait a few hours before you do that so they don't break up over the long cooking time.)  Also throw in a mess of diced garlic into the liquid.  How much?  I don't know, a big tablespoonful.  Mo' garlic, mo' tasty.

See how pretty?  And then you just sort of cover it up (make sure the lid fits on tightly) and walk away for, like, four or five hours.  Seriously, you don't need to do anything else.  Once in a while (like every hour) you can get your tongs and flip the meat over if you feel like it so the top doesn't dry out, but I'm not sure how much it matters.  The long low heat ends up generating a lot of meaty juice and everything ends up in the liquid in the end.

Again, just make sure the heat is low low low.  You want the liquid to be just bubbling a teeny little bit, but a long low heat is what's going to make the meat tender.  Cook it too hot and too fast and it'll just get tough.  But low and slow and you'll have that kind of meat that just falls apart when you poke it with a fork.  All the better for your edentulous future.

See how that goes?  Keep it cooking for a bunch of hours and just leave it alone, mostly.  I made this because I was post-call today and I wanted to take a nap, and that's basically what I did while dinner was on the stove.  I suppose you could do this in a crock pot too, you'd just have to brown the meat first before sticking it in there.  Actual labor involved was, like, 20 minutes. (Not counting going to the supermarket to get the meat--I am not a person who relishes cooking so I used baby cut carrots and pre-sliced mushrooms because why the hell not?)

Look, it's not like Jacques Pepin or anything but it's rustic and homey and people tend to like it, even child people.  Serve it over rice or mashed potatoes (if you don't have potatoes already in it), or do Cal's favorite variation, which is with a salad and those Pillsbury crescent rolls that come in a tube.  Oh, if I loved anything as much as my kids love bread in a tube, I'd probably be a much more contented person.

Enjoy!  Also, are there any other easy (emphasis: EASY) recipes that you can recommend for us to use some of that rosemary?


  1. I take branches from my giant rosemary shrubs and lay them on a baking sheet. Then I slice up some potatoes and toss the potato slices with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Then I spread the potatoes out on top of the rosemary branches. Then I roast the whole thing until the potatoes are cooked and crispy. Yum.

  2. You can use rosemary as skewers for grilling things (and by things, mostly I mean meat). You might have to pre-poke the meat with a real skewer. You can also cook the roast in the oven after it's all browned (like 300 degrees-ish) if you have a gas stove and don't want to worry about the flame blowing out! Or if you have cats and don't want them nosing around on the hot, unattended stovetop.

  3. Annapolitan5:24 PM

    One of my mother's more successful recipes was to take a hunk o' meat like flank steak (cheap cut) and smother it with two cans of Campbells condensed Golden Mushroom soup (not cream of mushroom -- GOLDEN Mushroom.) And cook it either in a crockpot or in a dutch oven placed in the oven for several hours until the meat is falling apart tender. This is a meal that calls for potatoes as a side dish because of all that meaty gravy that's made from the golden mushroom soup combined with the meat juices.

    I have no idea how rosemary added to this would taste but there's one way to find out.

  4. I make lamb stew with rosemary. Take 1-2 lbs. of stew cut lamb, dredged in flour and lightly friend, then add to a crock pot with basically the same stuff here: rosemary, carrots, onion, garlic, potato, celery, 1 T salt, and some cracked black pepper. Add enough water to barely cover the lamb and cook in the crock pot on low for 6-8 hours. I usually turn the crock pot on when I leave in the morning, and when I come home, there is this yummy, delicious stew that is the perfect consistency because of the flour.

    Also, your style of cooking and writing cracks me up. "Don't be scandalized, wine snobs." LOVE it.

    1. Oops! I meant that you should lightly FRY the lamb, but lightly friending is probably a good life lesson for the kids, since they're going to eat said lamb. You wouldn't want to heavily friend something you're going to eat now, would you?

  5. Anonymous6:49 PM

    Love your recipes - thanks for sharing!

  6. Seriously..you had my mouth watering for the entire duration of your post...I'm almost certain I'm going home tonight and making pot roast! Thanks!!! :))

  7. I always find it amusing to see Montreal Steak rub... I live in Montreal and have no idea what qualifies it as from our city.
    Marieke, Montreal, Qc, Canada!

  8. lol Love your "recipes." They are one of my favorite things to read. More enjoyable than all of the food blogs I follow. Btw those are some kickass rosemary bushes. Bon appetit!

  9. You could do what my brother does-- make rosemary parmesan no-knead bread.

  10. Eating ramyun noodles and wishing I had a pot of that to eat....the potatoes sound yummy....and I think I would drink the other half of the wine while the hunk of meat cooked.

    Also, loved it that a physician is encouraging people to get a fatty hunk of meat!!!

  11. Maggie9:35 AM

    This is the EASIEST recipe I know of - and it's from bon appetite, so you know it is going to be good. I made the cherry-tomato salsa the first time I made it, but ever since I just serve the trout with other veggies. Enjoy!


  12. I too have a rosemary bush that is being systematically hacked away. I cut up a bunch of veggies (broccoli, cauliflower, mushrooms, squash, carrots, etc), mix some olive oil and lemon juice and toss them with that. I add a bit of salt and pepper, then cut a few sprigs of rosemary. I put the rosemary on the bottom of the pan, put the veggies on top and bake them at 400 for 20 mins. Halfway through I stir the whole thing up. The rosemary turns brown, but doesn't burn.

    At least it doesn't burn in my 20 year old oven. Seriously. My oven has one of those timers that you have to TURN the dial and then it makes a buzzy sound that scares the kids. Fun!

    Thanks for the pot roast recipe. Will try it. My vegetarian husband, however, will be exempt :-)

  13. Anonymous8:38 PM

    If you feel like wandering down a vegetarian byway for a change, my brother-in-law taught me to make a delicious lentil soup with rosemary. Use the red lentils, not the brown ones. Fry up some onions and garlic, throw in a bunch of rosemary and some lentils, add veggie broth or water. Cover and cook slowly until the lentils are completely soft and falling apart. Add more broth if you want it soupier. Salt and pepper to taste. It sounds so boring but it's really, really good, and even better the next day. So simple! So cheap! So easy! It freezes well too. My favorite way to serve it is with some dark rye bread, but I bet it would be yummy with bread in a tube too. :)

  14. saw a tasty looking sweet potato-rosemary soup today on Food Network. Basically start cooking a few shallots & cloves of garlic, then add 3-ish large white sweet potatoes, two sticks of rosemary & 6 c. chicken broth; simmer until the potatoes are tender. Then puree with an immersion blender and add 1/2 c. (?) marscapone cheese. Seasoning with salt & pepper as you go; shouldn't need to do a lot of seasoning at the end. Looks fantastic and I'm psyched to try it!

    We also have done quite a few times a flatbread pizza-ish thing with caramelized onions, rosemary & gorgonzola (or blue cheese, depending on what you have). Nice flavors together.

    Good luck! :) and thanks for sharing the roast!

  15. Outre2:05 AM

    Fresh mussels in white wine butter sauce with rosemary.

    Sautee chopped/julienned onions (and bit of finely chopped garlic) throw in rosemary pan roast the rosemary slightly, pour in white wine (around 1c to about 2 lb of mussels) bring to boil and steam somewhere between 5 to 10 mins, depending on when the mussels open up. I failed to salt the broth the other day when I made this and wasn’t as flavorful. But in general I’m weary of salting the broth/water while cooking bivalves...cause sometimes they are saltier than usual. I cooked around alb recently and should have added at least a 1tsp of sea salt to the broth.

    Serve with toasted banquette or french fries/oven fries. It’s essential to have a ‘dipable’ starch to sop up all the delicious broth.

  16. Outre2:09 AM

    Agh, my Safari auto corrected 4lb to alb. So to clarify, I should have added at least 1 tsp of sea salt to my broth, which was about 1.5c of white wine and whatever the mussels spat out.

    I did however, soak the mussels for half a day, so that may have contributed to lower salt content of the finished recipe.

  17. Rosemary Lemon Chicken (idea from the Colorado Cache cookbook)

    snip rosemary into flour. add salt and pepper. dredge boneless skinless chicken breasts. Brown those on each side in a pan with hot olive oil (not so much smoking...). Add chicken broth to halfway up the chicken breasts and juice of 1 lemon. Put lid on and simmer until chicken is done (not all that long and I do use a meat thermometer. I'm an engineer so I have a high regard for any margin of safety). You can add mushrooms if you like :) Serve over rice or smashed potatoes. Very rosemary/lemon tasty.

  18. Additional thought: if your kids like the rosemary flavor, but don't want the green bits in the chicken coating then you can use your pot roast method and just throw the same size sprig of rosemary that you use in your other recipe into the chicken broth w/ lemon juice.

  19. Anonymous8:40 AM

    I take 2 packs of chicken legs from the store, put them in a ziploc, cover them with buttermilk, throw in salt, pepper, a couple of splashes of hot sauce and then some rosemary. Let soak all day, and grill for about 20 minutes. Delicious and not overpowering with rosemary.

  20. Marinate chicken in raspberry vinegar with a can of frozen lemonade (melted), rosemary and some garlic. I don't measure anything, just make it enough to cover everything. After some quality marinating time (sometimes I only do this for a half hour and it's still tasty), dump it all into one of those Pyrex baking pans (so as to cook it with the juicy stuff) and bake as you would any chicken breast. My mom always used to serve it with roasted potatoes and broccoli.

  21. Anonymous1:26 AM

    OK, I make a roast chicken with rosemary which is even easier than the beef roast because the splattery browning step isn't necessary, but you get the same umami essence in the end. Wash a 3-4 lb chicken and squeeze it with the juice of a whole lemon. (no bottled dreck) Place a sprig of rosemary and 1/2 small onion in cavity with s&p. Drizzle 1 T olive oil on bird and put in Lodge pan breast side down. Sprinkle seasoning of your choice on bird and tuck a sprig of rosemary in the area where the wing meets the body (armpit?) The critical step is to preheat oven very hot - 475, and roast chicken approx. 20 minutes, then turn down to 350 degrees for another hour+ depending on size. You won't believe the smell and the flavor is divine.

  22. Daniel5:45 AM

    If you put the seasoning on the meat BEFORE you put it in the pan, the whole thing burns up with all the fine flavor of it. I would put in on after browning the beef...

    1. Anonymous5:23 PM

      you have a good point, but if you watch the bird carefully and turn down the heat before anything gets too browned there shouldn't be a problem. (of course I hold off on fresh garlic till the temp lowerss)

  23. Ange in MKE9:05 PM

    Long time lurker de-lurking. I made pot roast yesterday (as the weather in Wisconsin is a CRAPFEST so comfort food seemed logical) and our recipes are pretty much identical! I agree about the taters getting mealy and falling apart so I made some garlic mashed on the side. I didn't have rosemary so used thyme...I also decided that I wanted to drink my wine (also yellow tail, just Shiraz vs Cab) so I only added a splash and used mostly beef broth instead). ANYWAY(getting to the point) you can use the same method to make beef stew. Just use stew meat in lieu of beef hunk. Same ingredients & same method. Love your blog and your book. You crack this Polish Milwaukee girl UP!!!!

  24. Anonymous8:05 AM

    Get breadmaker, add home bread recipe or supermarket packet one, add lashings 2-3 tablespoons at least) of finely chopped fresh rosemary. Remove from breadmaker after dough cycle, fashion into bread rolls and let rise somewhere warm then bake, or roll out onto pizza stone, let rise, poke dimples in and sprinkle with rock salt, bake. Instant yummo bread rolls or focaccia. [Loose use of word instant, but mucho worth it.]

    Love this stuff so much we actually ate all our rosemary plant. RIP.

    1. Anonymous8:06 AM

      Focaccia - paint with olive oil, *then* sprinkle with rock salt.

  25. Anonymous8:35 PM

    I just made this following your instructions. It was great!