All, the perils of getting older, you just want a nice birthday dinner and dessert instead of a big, loud party. Maybe when he’s on his own in Berkeley, that will change, but for his 19th birthday, he asked for a nice pot roast dinner and some lemon bars for dinner. It tuns out that lemon curd is easy to make dairy free, and using a few of our Meyer lemons to add some floral notes, the lemon bar were fantastic. The pot roast was pretty good too; I used a French pot roast recipe from Cooks Illustrated (see sidebar) that came out wonderfully. Chance loved the lemon bars, although the grain free version I made for John came out with a burnt cookie crust, so that needs work. We all agreed that lemon curd needs to be on the dinner table more often.
You can see the pot roast dinner being eaten, with lots of mashed potatoes, of course! John would divorce me if I didn’t make mashed potatoes on a regular basis, or at least when I make a nice pot roast! I also made a nice salad with candied walnuts, blue cheese and sliced pears and some veggies that were cooked with the pot roast.
And then I took the opportunity to take some group shots of the boys, I don’t get to do that often anymore!
French Pot Roast
1 boneless beef chuck (4 to 5 pounds), pulled apart into 2 pieces and fat trimmed
2teaspoons kosher salt
1bottle red wine (750 ml), medium-bodied
10sprigs fresh parsley leaves
2tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves
2sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
Ground black pepper
4ounces bacon, preferably thick cut, cut into ¼-inch pieces crosswise
1 medium onion, chopped fine (about 1 cup)
3 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through garlic press (about 1 tablespoon)
1tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour
2cups beef broth
4 medium carrots, peeled and cut on bias into 1 ½-inch pieces
2cups frozen pearl onions
3tablespoons unsalted butter
½cup water, plus ¼ cup cold water to bloom gelatin
10ounces white mushrooms, wiped clean, stems trimmed, halved if small and quartered if large
1tablespoon unflavored gelatin (powdered)
A medium-bodied, fruity red wine such as Côtes du Rhône or Pinot Noir is best for this recipe. If frozen pearl onions are unavailable, use fresh peeled pearl onions and follow the recipe as directed. The gelatin lends richness and body to the finished sauce; don’t omit it. To prepare this dish in advance, follow the recipe through step 7, skipping the step of softening and adding the gelatin. Place the meat back into the reduced sauce, cool it to room temperature, cover it, and refrigerate it for up to 2 days. To serve, slice the beef and arrange it in a 13 by 9-inch baking dish. Bring the sauce to a simmer and stir in the gelatin until completely dissolved. Pour the warm sauce over the meat, cover it with aluminum foil, and bake it in a 350-degree oven until heated through, about 30 minutes. Serve this dish with boiled potatoes, buttered noodles, or steamed rice.
1. Season meat with kosher salt, place on wire rack set in rimmed baking sheet, and let rest at room temperature for 1 hour.
2. Meanwhile, bring wine to simmer in large saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook until reduced to 2 cups, about 15 minutes. Using kitchen twine, tie parsley sprigs, thyme sprigs, and bay leaves into bundle.
3. Pat beef dry with paper towels and season generously with pepper. Tie three pieces of kitchen twine around each piece of meat to keep it from falling apart.
4. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 300 degrees. Cook bacon in large Dutch oven over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until crisp, 6 to 8 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towel-lined plate and reserve. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons fat; return Dutch oven to medium-high heat and heat until fat begins to smoke. Add beef to pot and brown on all sides, 8 to 10 minutes total. Transfer beef to large plate and set aside.
5. Reduce heat to medium; add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning to soften, 2 to 4 minutes. Add garlic, flour, and reserved bacon; cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add reduced wine, broth, and herb bundle, scraping bottom of pan with wooden spoon to loosen browned bits. Return roast and any accumulated juices to pot; increase heat to high and bring liquid to simmer, then place large sheet of foil over pot and cover tightly with lid. Set pot in oven and cook, using tongs to turn beef every hour, until dinner fork slips easily in and out of meat, 2 1/2 to 3 hours, adding carrots to pot after 2 hours.
6. While meat cooks, bring pearl onions, butter, sugar, and 1/2 cup water to boil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium, cover, and cook until onions are tender, 5 to 8 minutes. Uncover, increase heat to medium-high, and cook until all liquid evaporates, 3 to 4 minutes. Add mushrooms and 1/4 teaspoon table salt; cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are browned and glazed, 8 to 12 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside. Place remaining 1/4 cup cold water in small bowl and sprinkle gelatin on top.
7. Transfer beef to cutting board; tent with foil to keep warm. Allow braising liquid to settle about 5 minutes; then, using wide, shallow spoon, skim fat off surface. Remove herb bundle and stir in onion-mushroom mixture. Bring liquid to simmer over medium-high heat and cook until mixture is slightly thickened and reduced to 3 1/4 cups, 20 to 30 minutes. Season sauce with salt and pepper. Add softened gelatin and stir until completely dissolved.
8. Remove kitchen twine from meat and discard. Using chef’s or carving knife, cut meat against grain into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Divide meat among warmed bowls or transfer to platter; arrange vegetables around meat, pour sauce on top, and sprinkle with minced parsley. Serve immediately.