Fool-Proof Beef Pot Roast with Bacon and Mushrooms

This is the moistest, tenderest, most flavorful pot roast I’ve ever made. It’s a little bit time-consuming, but well worth it for the end result! There are a few things I think make this recipe work so well: 1) Bacon provides smoke, salt and richness that really enhance the dish. 2) Dried mushrooms pack an intense punch for even more flavor. 3) Using two small roasts instead of one big one, and trussing them — this is something Cook’s Illustrated recommends, because it promotes even cooking. 4) Patience — don’t try to rush the cooking time.

I call this fool-proof because I messed up a lot of things along the way and it still came out great. First off, I chose a pot that was too small, because I was determined to use my Corning Ware, so I had to scoop out a bunch of the cooking liquid and cram the meat in sideways. Also I’m terrible at trussing, so it was starting to fall apart at the end. Most pot roast recipes recommend searing the roasts before cooking, but I didn’t bother, because they’re unwieldy and I always end up splashing myself with oil and I hate that step. And I miscalculated my prep time, so by the time I got the whole thing in the oven, dinnertime would have been pushed back to 9 p.m. (way too late for my 5-year-old). My husband whipped up some barbecued chicken as a plan B, and I stewed about not being able to eat the dish I’d been slaving over. Thankfully, pot roast tastes even better reheated the next day (more on that in the recipe below), so after it finished cooking, I let it cool a bit and then put it in the refrigerator and went to bed.

Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated‘s Italian-Style Pot Roast.

Serves 8

Ingredients

8 oz bacon, snipped into 1/2-inch pieces
2 medium onions, chopped
4 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
3 celery ribs, chopped
6 garlic cloves, sliced
1 1/2 cups red wine
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 14 1/2-oz cans diced tomatoes, drained
2 cups low-sodium beef broth
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 oz dried mushrooms (porcini and/or others)
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
2 tsp dried oregano leaves
2 bay leaves
2 3-lb boneless beef chuck roasts
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

In a large (at least 6-quart size) oven-safe pot, saute bacon over medium heat until fat has rendered and edges are starting to brown. Spoon out excess grease, reserving about 1 tbsp. Add onions, carrots and celery and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook another 1 minute.

Add wine, tomato paste, diced tomatoes, mushrooms, red pepper flakes, oregano and bay leaves. Combine broths in a separate bowl.

Truss each roast tightly with kitchen twine. It doesn’t have to be pretty — you just want each roast to hold together in a roughly uniform shape while cooking. Season the roasts with salt and pepper, then nestle in the pot and pour in enough broth so that the meat is partially submerged. Bring to a boil.

Cover and bake for 3 1/2-4 hours, turning the meat at the halfway point. The roasts should be fork tender and falling apart. Remove the meat from the cooking liquid and let rest, covered with foil, for about 20 minutes.

(At this point you can return the meat to the pot and refrigerate overnight, if desired. This actually makes the next step a lot easier — skimming off the fat. In the fridge, the fat solidifies in a layer on top, which can be chipped away with a spoon. Then you can reheat the roast on the stove top.)

Set the (hot or reheated) meat aside. After skimming the fat from the surface, bring the cooking liquid to a boil and simmer to reduce a little into a sauce, about 30 minutes. You can use it as is or blend it with an immersion blender for a thick, rich sauce.

Slice the meat across the grain and pour a liberal amount of sauce on top. You might want more sauce in a gravy boat at the table. I actually ate spoonfuls of sauce by itself, it was so good!

Pictured: Corning Ware Spice O’ Life A-5-B Saucepot; Corning Ware Blue Cornflower P-332 Roaster; Pyrex Spring Blossom 2 403 Round Mixing Bowl; Pyrex Town and Country 501 Refrigerator Dish

Roasted Broccoli Stems with Lemon and Parmesan

Broccoli stems often get overlooked — even I’ve been guilty of throwing them away when prepping florets for roasting or steaming. But they are delicious! The outer edges can be very woody, so be sure to peel thoroughly.

Recipe adapted from NY Times Cooking‘s Roasted Broccolini and Lemon with Parmesan.

Serves 4

Ingredients

stems from two bunches of broccoli, peeled and sliced thin lengthwise (about 1/8 inch thick), plus a few sliced florets
half of 1 lemon, sliced thin (seeds removed)
4 garlic cloves, sliced
4 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
1/4 cup grated Parmesan

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

In a large bowl, toss broccoli, lemon and garlic in olive oil until well coated. Spread the mixture out on a baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper, and sprinkle with Parmesan.

Roast until broccoli is tender and browned on the edges, about 25 minutes.

Pictured: Corning Ware Green Macrame P-332 Roaster

Campfire Chili Cheese Dip

We recently returned from a camping trip in the redwoods, where this dip was a welcome snack the first evening after working hard to set up all our gear. I’ve made it both over the campfire and in the oven at home, and I have to say it tastes better while camping! You can make it in a disposable pie tin or in a cast-iron skillet, but I decided to try it in Corning Ware — more details on that below.

The recipe is not my invention, but I’ve seen it all over the internet so I don’t feel bad duplicating it here.

 

Ingredients

cream cheese (up to one 8-oz block; amount depends on the size of your pan)
1 can chili (any kind)
shredded cheese (any kind; I used Monterey Jack this time)

Spread an even layer of cream cheese on the bottom of the pan. Add the chili, then top with a layer of shredded cheese. Cover with aluminum foil and heat over the fire until the chili is bubbling and cheese is melted. Serve with tortilla chips.

Pictured: Corning Ware Spice O’ Life A-1-B Casserole

So, can this be cooked over the fire in Corning Ware? Well, I don’t recommend it. First off, the Corning Ware website explicitly says the stovetop product is “not intended for camping, industrial or commercial use.” That refers to modern pyroceram products, not vintage, but still.

On the other hand, if Corning Ware can withstand the stovetop and broiler, and can even go directly from freezer to the flame, why not the campfire? In particular, Corning Ware’s stovetop percolators seem ideal for camp coffee. I don’t see why a casserole dish would have any problem. So, I decided to go for it:

 

I was expecting the dish to get pretty dirty, and it did. After cooking there was a heavy coating of soot all over the bottom and sides. Thankfully, that cleaned up fairly easily with some soap and a scrubby sponge. The before (well, more like mid-cleaning) and after:

 

Unfortunately, while cleaning the bottom I noticed a long scratch that looks like it could be a crack (in the center of the photo):

img_2031

After pondering it for a while, I think the soot may have simply made an existing scratch/crack more visible — so most likely the damage is not from the campfire. Still, I probably would not try this experiment again.

It sure was fun, though!

Thrifted Find: Corning Ware Menuettes

These tiny pans from Corning Ware’s Menuette line are so cute, especially in two of my favorite patterns: Wildflower (on top in the above photo) and Floral Bouquet Third Edition (bottom). I found the P-82-B saucepan at Goodwill and the¬†P-83-B skillet at Savers, and couldn’t pass them up even though I tend to prefer models with detachable handles.

The skillet is just the right size to fry an egg, something I’ve been meaning to try in my Corning Ware. Since cooking with pyroceram is fairly new to me, it’s been really fun to get a feel for it. The egg ended up with nice brown crispy bits on the bottom and a slightly runny yolk, just the way I like it. Using plenty of butter was a good idea.

 

The pans originally came in sets of three with tiny lids, so that gives me a few things to hunt for…. There’s more info about the Menuette line over at the Corning Ware 411 site.

Thrifted Find: Pyrex Divided Dishes

Pyrex divided dishes are especially fun to collect, due to the sheer variety of limited-release patterns out there. My favorite is Dandelion Duet (pictured above), which came out in 1959, advertised for its ability to hold two separate packages of frozen foods in one dish. (The Corning Museum of Glass has a great ad from the era in its library collection here.)

After a flurry of bidding on the Goodwill auction website, I’ve found myself with quite a few dishes (is this what obsession looks like?):

img_1892

Clockwise from top right: Verde, Snowflake (x2), Pink Daisy, Opal,  Royal Wheat, Golden Acorn, Town and Country, Dandelion Duet, Butterfly Gold.

Since shopping Goodwill online is sort of like cheating, I also took a picture of the pieces I actually scored in real-world thrift stores (Savers and Hope Thrift). Finding lids is always a particular treat.

img_1897

So what can divided dishes be used for? Chips and dip, cheese and crackers, soup and salad, chicken and waffles, spicy and mild, two different sides, different flavors of jello, individual pies with one crust … the possibilities are endless. I’ve also heard of people using them as dinner plates.

It’s worth noting that other manufacturers also made divided dishes. I frequently see Glasbake models in thrift stores, and Fire King seems to have some too.

 

Rustic Potato Leek Soup with Sausage and Kale

Sausage, potatoes and greens are a classic soup combo that I have made a bunch of different ways. For the sausage I’ve used linguica, Spanish chorizo, andouille, kielbasa. Potatoes could be white beans, barley, rice, quinoa. In place of kale: spinach, collard greens, broccoli leaves. (On a side note, if you ever have a chance to get some broccoli leaves, do it! We were ordering them in our Imperfect Produce¬†box for a while and braising them like other hearty greens — really yummy. I’ve never seen them in stores.)

For this soup I wanted to use some of the flavors of potato leek soup but make it chunkier and brothier, like a stew. If you’re not a fan of kale, you can sub in spinach — add it after the potatoes are cooked and simmer for a minute or so just to cook it lightly.

Whether you opt for kale or spinach, it’s helpful to use an oversized pot, so that there’s plenty of room to accommodate the greens before they wilt and become more manageable. I used a 6 3/4-quart Le Crueset dutch oven, my go-to pot for making soup and cooking greens.

Serves 8

Ingredients

1 lb bulk italian sausage
1 onion, chopped
2 leeks, chopped (white and light green portion only)
2 celery ribs, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 1/2 lbs mixed potatoes, partially peeled and chopped into 1/2-inch cubes (I used russet and red potatoes)
8 cups low sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup white wine
1 tbsp fresh thyme, chopped
1 bay leaf
10 oz kale (about 2 bunches), stemmed and chopped
1/4 cup heavy cream
salt and pepper

In a large pot over medium-high heat, cook the sausage, breaking it up into bite-sized crumbles, until it’s browned through. Add onions, leeks and celery and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook about 1 minute more.

Add potatoes, chicken broth, wine, thyme and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, then stir in kale. Bring to a boil again, then turn down the heat, cover and simmer until the potatoes are cooked and the kale is tender, about 20 minutes.

Stir in the cream and heat to warm through, then season to taste with salt and pepper.

Pictured: Pyrex Butterfly Gold 402 Round Mixing Bowl; Pyrex Spring Blossom 402 Round Mixing Bowl, Pyrex Spring Blossom 401 Round Mixing Bowl

Thrifted Find: GE Beehive Mixing Bowl

I have a soft spot for these utilitarian bowls made for vintage stand mixers. Various glass companies produced them for various mixer brands, usually in two-bowl sets. The bowls in the back of the photo were my first purchases when I started looking for vintage kitchenware in thrift stores: Fire King on the left (found the two-bowl set at Hope Thrift, and was bummed to discover today that the smaller bowl was cracked) and Glasbake on the right (found at Goodwill). Both were designed for Sunbeam mixers. The GE beehive bowl in the front of the photo is my most recent find, snagged at Hope Thrift. I’d been eyeing it on the shelf for a few weeks, and finally caved when it was marked 50 percent off.

The large bowls make great salad bowls, and the small ones are handy for storing leftover soup and such in the fridge. Now I’ll be on the hunt for a replacement bowl to complete the Fire King set.