The pot roast fell apart.
Four hours at 250°, and a three-pound chuck roast falls apart when nudged with a fork.
It has taken me twelve years to relearn that.
Until 1988, I cooked lovely pot roasts, tender and tasty. I followed my mother’s example: no flouring, no searing, just season the meat, put it into a cast iron skillet or a Dutch oven, add onions and a little water, turn on the heat, and leave it alone. On top of the stove, in the oven, it doesn’t matter. Later, add potatoes and carrots. Cook until done.
But in 1988, I stopped cooking–that’s another story–and didn’t pick it up again on a regular basis until fifteen years later when I acquired David and thought I had to feed him nutritious, well balanced meals. He was polite, ate what was put before him, and said it was good. It wasn’t. Tough beef, tough chicken, tough meat in general. Afraid I would poison him and then have to explain it to his brothers, I cooked meat long enough to kill every possible bacterium and then some.
A modern woman steeped in the traditions of librarianship, I spent years googling pot roast recipes: Michigan Secret Pot Roast, Family Style Pot Roast, Busy Day Pot Roast, Hearty Pot Roast, Easy Pot Roast, Pot Roast in Foil, Perfect Pot Roast, Savory Pot Roast, Paula Deen Pot Roast. A plethora of pot roasts. Not much help, though, because temperatures vary widely and instructions equivocate regarding cooking times. So many read something like, Cook until meat falls apart when touched by fork. Well, d’oh.
Meal preparation is labor-intensive, and there’s little room for error. When I cook, I don’t want wishy-washy estimates. I want answers.
The break-through came with a recipe calling for an oven temperature of 250°. I’d never cooked anything that slowly, but desperate times, etc. Last night (on the theory that everything tastes better on the second day) I floured, seared, added broth–still don’t believe in it, but fifty million roasters can’t be wrong–sautéed and tossed in onion and garlic, secured our prospective entrée in a tepid oven, and went back to binge watching Law and Order. Four hours later, I removed roast from oven, inserted fork, and–voila! Immediate disintegration.
Unfortunately, I’d been so intent on the fate of the meat that I forgot to add potatoes and carrots. This morning I boiled them in the remaining beef broth and tossed them into the pot with the main course.
Unless history books have it all wrong, pot roast isn’t traditional Thanksgiving fare. So why did we have it?
- After years of eating holiday turkey, I realized I don’t like it. I like dressing and gravy, but not turkey.
- I cooked a Christmas turkey in 1972 and a Thanksgiving turkey in 1999, and they were delicious. Post-1999, they’ve been flops. And a lot of work.
- Since marrying David, I’ve roasted, in addition to turkeys, a duck and a goose. The duck had enough meat on its little bones to last through one dinner and about a half a sandwich. The goose, selected because the Cratchitts serve it every Christmas, had to be parboiled. Without a pot large enough to hold an entire goose, I had to parboil one end at a time. I didn’t enjoy it.
- David and I like pot roast.
- I am stubborn. I do not give up, nor do I give in. If anyone thinks I’m going to be brought to my knees by some steer’s shoulder, he can think again.
Of course, pot roast wasn’t the only dish on our table. We also had dressing, gravy,and brownies. HEB helped with the dressing. Duncan Hines helped with the brownies.
I took care of the gravy myself. It’d been eons since I made gravy, and just before adding homemade flour-and-water thickener, I heard a still, small voice say, You’re going to ruin that. But I didn’t.
So that’s the story of Thanksgiving Dinner 2016: Relatively Perfect Pot Roast. In 2017, I’ll remember to add vegetables.
The other remarkable thing about Thanksgiving Dinner 2016 is that I cooked it, served it, and cleaned up after it. In the past eleven months, I’ve prepared maybe five meals–maybe–and each time I played out halfway through and left the finishing up to David. Today I stayed the course. I must be feeling better.
Oh. I just remembered–I was going to fix deviled eggs. Darn. But I’ll do it tomorrow. After all, tomorrow is another day.
And I forgot the cranberry sauce.
David’s supper. He found the cranberry sauce.