From NPC Co-Chair Megan Romer
A few things are true:
1. Once a month, I have a Sunday meeting that runs for 4 hours.
2. Many other nights of the week, I have dinnertime meetings.
3. I remain a boring old-fashioned mom who values family dinner and extended mealtime conversation and try to do it as often as possible.
4. I get a meat CSA that includes at least one or two large hunks of sinewy beef each month, the sort that really only does well via the lowest and slowest possible method.
Great news! I’ve managed to combine these four truths into a monthly pot roast dinner every time there’s a 4-hour NPC meeting, and if you’re following along with the same NPC meetings at home, you can join me in this delicious pursuit! (West Coasters, you can have it for lunch, why are you complaining!?)
Pot roast may not be the most luxurious preparation of beef, but after four hours of Robert and his damned Rules, it’s comforting and filling, and the day-long aromas wafting from the oven into your carefully-manicured Zoom room are the stuff of dreams.
A tough hunk of beef, 4-5-ish lbs. (My CSA share often has a chuck roast, so that’s my go-to, but I’ve done bottom rounds and briskets to similar delightful effect)
1 tbsp-ish cooking oil or butter
2 onions, sliced (whatever kind)
4-20 cloves of garlic, roughly minced
2-4 stalks of celery, chopped
2-4 carrots, chopped (or a handful of dried-out baby carrots that your kid didn’t eat because your dumb ass also bought Doritos)
A big bowl full of mixed chunked root vegetables (I usually do a couple sweet potatoes, a handful of radishes, maybe a couple turnips, parsnips, cubes of winter squash are also good despite not being a root, mushrooms are good despite not being a vegetable)
6-ish cups of a combo of broth/stock and red wine or beer (I like half a bottle of wine and a tall deli container or grocery store carton of stock, beef if I have it but chicken or veg is fine, Better than Bouillon also works; you mostly just want enough to cover the meat, it’s fine if you need to splash a little water in to raise the level)
2-ish tbsp of herbs (oh, y’know. Rosemary, thyme, maybe a little oregano or even tarragon. You can use an herb mix, I think Italian Herbs is usually a little too spaghetti-coded for this but probably fine, my favorite lib herbs Penzey’s have some that work well, Fines Herbes, Sunny Paris, etc.)
Umami boosters (this is where you can get pretty weird – I like to use a couple tbsp of worcestershire and a tbsp each of fish sauce and mushroom-flavored soy sauce, plus maybe a splash of Balsamic or Chinkiang vinegar. You can use mushroom powder or anchovy paste, tomato paste is fine but does change the character of the sauce a little bit more. You can also just use the worcestershire or use nothing, I guess.)
1 tbsp of flour
1 tbsp of butter (a different one from earlier, I didn’t forget)
1. Preheat the oven to 300
2. If you’re using a dutch oven, put it on the stovetop and get some sort of oil or butter going over medium heat. If you’re using a baking dish to roast, use a pan for the stove part.
3. Pat dry your hunk of beef, salt and pepper, and sear it in that pan, a few minutes on each side, until it’s nice and brown and bits have started to stick to the bottom.
4. Call your co-chair while you’re doing this and make sure everyone knows who’s doing which part of the meeting.
5. Once your beef is browned, put it on a plate and throw in your onions. They’ll be really sizzly, that’s fine, let ‘em stick and brown up a bit, just don’t let them burn.
6. Once your onions have started softening, throw in your garlic. This is a good spot to add herbs, too, tho if you forget, just add them later, whatever.
7. Better add in your carrots and celery, you’re running out of time, you have to be in front of your computer in 10 minutes.
8. If you are using the dutch oven, deglaze it with your wine (it’s fine to leave the veggies in there) – if you’re using a pan, it’s easier to transfer the veggies before you add the wine. Just make sure you’re scraping up all the good brown bits, that’s what matters about the process here.
9. Assemble round 1 of roasting: all the onions and garlic and carrots and celery PLUS your hunk of beef PLUS the wine (or whatever) that you just deglazed the pan with PLUS your herbs and umami boosters, get it all jammed into your roasting dish or dutch oven, slam that sonofagun in the oven, grab a seltzer and run to your computer.
10. Chair or participate in no fewer than 2 hours of a meeting.
11. Meeting break! Run back to the kitchen and peel a pile of vegetables at top speed. Jam them into the roaster, maybe test the simmering broth for flavor adjustments, grab water and run to the bathroom so fast.
12. Chair or participate in the rest of the meeting.
13. You may be tired but remember that your grandma worked 40 hours a week in a factory that made chains, you’re fine, go back to the kitchen and make some mashed potatoes or buttered egg noodles. By the time those are done, so’s the beef. Pull it out and use a little saucepan/pot to drain a cup or two of the gravy into, putting it over medium heat.
14. Now you’re gonna be FANCY fancy and make something called a “beurre manié,” which is French for “manhandled butter” (for real) – you’re gonna take a tablespoon-ish of softened butter and mash it together with a tablespoon-ish of flour until you make a sort of pasty dough-looking thing. Then, drop that hunk of paste into your gravy and whisk like hell. The butter lets the flour float gently into the gravy, one molecule at a time (or something) so it doesn’t clump up and it ends up thickening your gravy (and your arteries) in a really lovely, velvety way.
15. Once it’s all incorporated and the gravy has started to thicken, you can dump it back into the big pot, where you can just kind of poke it around the veggies and meat and it’ll re-integrate into the Big Gravy and thicken it all, just a little, not in an gooey cornstarchy way, but enough to coat the buttered noodles really beautifully.
16. Slice the beef (or just pull it apart) and serve.
That’s it, that’s all.