Sunday, January 13, 2013

Cooking through Cook's

I am  contemplating cooking my way through the” Cook’s Illustrated The Science of Good Cooking” book.  The primary issues are time and my innate inability to stick to a recipe unless it is baking and even then I fudge on spices.  If you have ever watched the Cook’s show you know they are a little snotty and do not approve of substitutions or deviations.  I understand their reasoning; they are trying to perfect each recipe.  I am not perfect.  My cooking is not perfect.  The only reason I am contemplating this is the desire to be a better cook.  After all, it is something I do every single day so I should be more knowledgeable than I currently am.   If do this I have to be honest and recognize my short comings, such as following verbatim the recipes.
 Case in point, tonight’s dinner of pot roast.  I will not print out their recipe due to copy write laws. (I like my house and don’t want to lose it anytime soon.)  I will tell you what I actually did when there are at least three changes in the recipe.  Cook’s does not like sirloin top steak.  It is tough and can be difficult to tenderize.  It can be used as a roast in a pinch though.  Of course my grocery store frequently puts it on sale, and with three growing boys, I love sales.  So tonight I had two slightly freezer burnt cuts of meat defrosted which totaled up at 2.32 lbs.  I decided to make (an approximation) of Classic Pot Roast.  Here is the recipe as I actually prepared the roast.

Two sirloin top steaks just over two lbs
Olive oil (to coat bottom of pan)
Salt and pepper to taste
½ red onion, chopped
3 carrots, roughly chopped
2 stalks of celery roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves minced
2 tsp sugar
2 TBS Kitchen Bouquet
1 ½ c beef broth
1 cup water
7 small Yukon potatoes, chopped into ½ inch cubes
½ cup red wine 

This is not a walk- in-the house from work and get it on the table in 30 minutes meal.  Not even close.  Depending on the cut and size of your beef you need 3-4 hours cooking time, and that does not count prep.  Not time we have on most days but when you have it, this will produce rave reviews at your table.
I used my big Bertha Le Crueset Dutch oven for this meal so I could brown and cook everything in one pot.   Less cleanup time equals a happy me.  Lower your oven rack so the pot can sit in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 300 degrees.  On the stovetop, heat your Dutch oven with just enough olive oil to lightly coat the bottom over medium high heat.  Pat the beef with paper towels and salt and pepper to taste before browning the beef on all sides.  Remove beef and set aside.  Add onion, carrots and celery, sautéing until just starting to brown or onion turns translucent.  Add minced garlic and sugar, sauté for about a minute.  The sugar is supposed to prevent the garlic from becoming bitter.  I have never tried that before but the meal was not bitter in anyway.  Add the beef broth and Kitchen Bouquet at this time, scraping up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan.  My mother introduced me to Kitchen Bouquet a few years ago and it adds a little extra to the flavor of beef.  Put beef back into the pot and add enough water to come up half way up the meat, for my dish that was about 1 cup of water. 
The next step was something I had never done before.  Cover the top of the pot with foil and then put the lid on tightly.  This ensures a complete seal creating steam in the pot to produce a tender roast at low temperatures.  Place in oven.  No, you can’t just walk away from this meal.  Now every 30 minutes you need to remove the pot from the oven and turn the meat over then reapply the foil and lid.  You are looking for the beef to become fork tender.  At two hours my sirloin was easily pierced by a fork so I took the pot out to add the cubed potatoes.  They are chopped fairly small, a trick I picked up from a delicious meal at a local restaurant a few years ago.  I flipped the beef one last time and put it in the oven for one more hour.  Are you done yet?  Of course not!   (Did I mention this is time consuming?)
Remove the pot from  the oven and transfer back to the stovetop.  Take the beef out and let it rest on the cutting board, be sure you have a way to trap the juices so they can go back in the pot.  While the beef rests bring the broth and potatoes up to a low boil.  Keep the mixture cooking for 6-8 minutes.  The purpose of this is to reduce the sauce thereby intensifying the flavor of the sauce.  Then add the red wine and cook down for about five more minutes.  Slice the beef across the grain which should be very easy to do at this point.  Place in a serving dish and then pour the potatoes and sauce over the roast.  Serve with a good bread to mop all those juices on the plate and a salad so you feel healthier.  I also made a side of mushrooms.  Yes it would have been much easier to just throw them in with everything else but somehow I gave birth to mushroom haters.  Bless their hearts!  So I make them on the side and then everyone can add (or not) as desired.  Here is that recipe.

One small package of baby portabellas de-stemmed and sliced. 
2 TBS reduced sodium soy sauce
2 TBS Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce
Salt and pepper to taste

Place butter in a small skillet and melt over medium heat until butter begins to brown.  Add mushrooms and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently.  Add sauces and cook for 3-5 minutes more.   Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve and enjoy.  I can eat these all by themselves.  They would be great over a grilled steak or a baked potato.  

I hope you enjoy this recipe.  Now to peruse my cookbook for the next experiment.  Only 399 more recipes to go!

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