Stuff and Nonsense: cooking with spirits

Showing posts with label cooking with spirits. Show all posts
Showing posts with label cooking with spirits. Show all posts


Perfect Pot Roast (It's Beer Wot Does It)

This pot roast is my easy-peasy, totally not fancy but fabulously delicious go-to recipe. I've been making it for years, but never bothered to blog about it properly because it seemed ... too easy. Too not-special-enough for the interwebs. And yet. I've made this pot roast nearly a dozen times now, which means it must be good and good is always worth sharing, right?

This pot roast always cooks up delicious. Sweet and tender. Beefy and rich. Quite definitely the best pot roast I have ever made and I think the mildness of the beer had a lot to do with it. Previously, I always used bottles of Heineken in this recipe because Heineken's what I had on hand. Except, this time, we were all out of Heineken and I ended up using one of the pint bottles of Bud Light Platinum one of The Husband's poker buddies left behind. It's a mild, innocuous beer which is exactly what I want in this pot roast. Combined with the meat juices and the vegetables, the beer creates a mouth-watering smell which always leaves me desperate to lick the oven door long before the roast is ready.

Perfect Pot Roast

Serves 6


  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 3 lb beef chuck underblade pot roast
  • Garlic powder, salt, and pepper, as desired
  • 1 bottle pale lager beer
  • 8 small potatoes, halved (I used a mixture of red and yellow)
  • 1 large red onion, cut into large chunks
  • 5 carrots, cut into large chunks (peel if you're fussy)
  • 4 ribs celery, cut into large chunks
  • Penzeys Tuscan Sunset or McCormick Salt Free Garlic & Herb Seasoning (or similar salt-free seasoning), as needed


  • Preheat oven to 325°F.
  • Heat olive oil in bottom of French/Dutch oven. Liberally season roast with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Sear all sides of beef roast. Turn off burner.

  • Put carrots, celery, and potatoes around beef. Scatter onions over beef. Pour a bottle of beer over it all. Sprinkle liberally with your favorite salt-free seasoning.

  • Cover tightly and bake for 3 hours. Serve with pan juices or make a gravy from them.

Before I owned a fancy pot, I used to make this in a broiler pan tightly covered in foil, so don't worry if you don't own a French/Dutch oven. An oven-safe covered casserole would work fine, too, if you have one.


Week Day Comfort Food: Slow Cooker Pot Roast

Terrible hankering for pot roast when I was planning out this week's menu -- blame the turning leaves and cooler breezes -- but I couldn't quite figure out which pot roast recipe to use. And then I decided "To heck with it! I can't go wrong chucking random roastie ingredients in the slow cooker!" So that's what I did. And it was turned out pretty darn fabulous.

Slow Cooker Pot Roast
Serve 2, with lots of leftovers for soup or whathaveyou

3 lb boneless chuck roast
1 small red onion, halved and sliced
6 cloves garlic, crushed
4 oz sliced white button mushrooms
2 Tbsp tomato paste
[Amore Tomato Paste Double Concentrated Tube]
1 envelope onion soup mix [Lipton]
1 bottle stout [Guinness 250 Anniversary Stout]
As many chopped carrots and baby potatoes as will line the bottom of your slow cooker insert

Arrange carrots and potatoes at bottom of slow cooker insert.

Add with roast. Top with mushrooms, onions, and garlic.

Whisk stout, onion soup mix, and tomato paste together and pour over everything.

Cover and cook on LOW for 8-10 hrs.

Remove meat and vegetables to a warm oven. Whisk cornstarch and water together to make a slurry and whisk into the juices at the bottom of the slow cooker. Cook on High for 10 minutes or until thickened. Serve.

This roast made more than enough for two for supper so I shredded the remaining meat (we ate all the veg) and made a really tasty beef barley soup with frozen mixed vegetable blend, frozen pearl onions, more mushrooms, quick-cooking barley, leftover gravy, broth, bay, thyme, salt, and pepper.


Beery-Good Irish Bacon

I wasn't planning on cooking anything special for Saint Patrick's Day, but then I saw "Guinness Glazed Irish Bacon" over at The Runaway Spoon and, ohhhh, I was just smitten. And, conveniently, I had all the ingredients on hand. (Who doesn't keep a spare package of back bacon in their freezer?).

Glazed Bacon Ingredients

This recipe goes together very easily -- the most difficult part was patiently waiting for the glaze to reduce when all I really wanted to do was stuff my belly with glazed bacon as quickly as possible. I used Guinness 250 Anniversary Stout, which is a bit maltier and milder than regular ol' Guinness. I also broiled my bacon, simply because I couldn't fit all the bacon in a skillet and was feeling too lazy to cook it in batches.

Guinness Glazed Irish Bacon

Anyway, I thought the glazed bacon was fabulous -- a perfect blend of sweet, salty, and smoky. I served the bacon with roasted Brussels sprouts I'd tossed with a little bit of the extra glaze and lots of cracked black pepper. Yum!


Slow Cooker Beef Shanks, Yum

It's been miserable cold here and I've had a terrible craving for rich, meaty dishes like beef bourguignon. Alas, the only beef in my freezer were two beef shank cross cuts picked up on a whim a few months ago. I couldn't turn them into beef bourguignon. But, surely, I could do something similar? I went to the internets, since the library was closed, and found many ways to braise beef shanks in red wine and stock. I cobbled the recipes together and came up with this:

Slow Cooked Beef Shanks

Rich, hearty, flavorful, succulent ... it was like the best pot roast ever. That sound's terrible, doesn't it? But a really good pot roast is not easily come by, in my humble opinion, and this was everything I want a pot roast to be.
Slow Cooker Beef Shanks

2 beef shank cross cuts weighing about 1.5 lbs each, well trimmed
olive oil, as needed
2 cups beef stock
1½ cups red wine [Newport Vineyards 2011 Merlot]
2 heads garlic, bashed and peeled
2 large carrots, peeled and cubed
2 celery ribs, sliced
1 bay leaf
1 tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp dried thyme
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar [Bella Gusta Fig Balsamic]
sea salt and pepper, to taste

Generously season shanks with salt and pepper.

Heat oil in a large French/Dutch oven until the pot is quite hot. Add shanks and sear on each side until deep brown (I had to do this in batches). Add to slow cooker.

Beef Shanks Ready for the Slow Cooker

Reduce temperature to medium. Drain some of the fat from the pot so only a tablespoon remains. Add carrots, onions, garlic, and celery. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes or until the onion is translucent.

Add bay, thyme, rosemary, stock, and wine. Cook, uncovered, for about 20 minutes or until the mixture is reduced by half. Pour over shanks. Drizzle with balsamic. Cover and cook on Low for 10 hours.

Slow Cooked Beef Shanks
After cooking 10 hours
Remove beef and vegetables from slow cooker, shred beef, and cover to keep warm. Skim fat from juices, crank the slow cooker up to High, and thicken the juices with a cornstarch or arrowroot slurry. Season to taste. Serve over mashed potatoes (or polenta, if you're posh).

Beef Shank Bones
Look at those beautiful bare bones.


Mmm, Brisket In My Slow Cooker

My dad's mom was never much of a drinker, but she always had a bottle of Manischewitz Concord Grape on hand. Indeed, I think it was the only wine I ever saw her drink. My grandmother has been on my mind a lot lately so, when I thought about making a brisket earlier this week, I thought about Manischewitz.

Why brisket? I can't precisely say. A vague craving for pot roast couple with too much talk about slow cooker barbecue with some co-workers followed by a brief, intense infatuation with Joan Nathan's Jewish Cooking in America ... and then I saw brisket was on sale?

The Internet is full of ways to slow cook brisket and many of the recipes I found used ingredients like chili sauce and onion soup mix. I took the "best bits" from those recipes and spun them to suit my own taste preferences. Heinz balsamic ketchup for chili sauce, for example, because I wanted lots of tang but no heat. Lots of onion and garlic, because alliums make everything better. And Manischewitz Concord Grape, for grandma.

Slow Cooker Brisket
Manischewitz for the win!
The piece of brisket I bought was slightly too large for my slow cooker so I halved it and arranged the two pieces, edges overlapping, at the bottom of the insert.

(As with any roast, it's important to cook the meat fat side up so that the fat, as it renders, bastes the meat).

Wednesday's Supper
O, beautiful onions! Beautiful brisket!
Tangy Slow Cooker Brisket

3 - 4 lb brisket, flat cut
4 large cloves garlic, sliced thickly
1 large red onion, sliced thickly
1 envelope Lipton Recipe Secrets Onion
8 oz Heinz Ketchup Blended with Balsamic Vinegar
5 oz Manischewitz Concord Grape

Lay onion and garlic at bottom of slow cooker insert. Top with brisket, fat side up.

Mix together soup mix, ketchup, and wine. Pour over brisket. Cover and cook on LOW for 10 hours.

Slow Cooker Brisket
Looking so fine!
I served the brisket with chive-mashed potatoes and garlicky green beans. The potatoes were a complete cheat as they were leftover from work's Thanksgiving dinner. I reheated them in the microwave with milk and butter and then mixed in a liberal amount of Penzeys dehydrated chopped chives.

The garlicky green beans are pretty much a supper time standby. I take a bag of fresh steam-in-bag ones, poke holes to let the steam out, and then use those holes to poke slivers of sliced garlic cloves into the bag. Shake everything about to distribute the garlic and then microwave as directed. Season the cooked beans with a drizzle of olive oil and some black pepper. We can easily consume a 12 oz bag between us at one meal ... although I admit I probably eat more than my fair share of these lovely beans.


Italian Homework: Chicken Marsala

I just completed “Lesson 8: Meat, Chicken, and Fish” for my online Italian cooking class and you know what that means, right? It means I've four lessons to go! I'm that much closer to pie-making!

(Unsurprisingly, I am totes winning at failing Weight Watchers).

For this lesson, I chose to make chicken marsala as The Husband and I are really partial to anything that involves chicken, wine, and mushrooms. And by partial I mean, there can never been too much wine, chicken, and mushrooms. Especially, the mushrooms.

Chicken Marsala
Alas, so much brown! Delicious, yes. But so brown.
The instructor's recipe made a good, but very basic marsala lacking the richness and perfection of, say, Cook's Illustrated's chicken marsala. If I made this version again, I'd be sure to cook lots of garlic and chopped red onion with the mushrooms. And I'd probably serve the marsala with mashed potatoes, because all that good wine sauce deserves garlicky mashed potatoes. (The Husband said it would be better served with chips, but then those British people like fries with everything ... which is awesome, by the way).
Beginner's Chicken Marsala
Yield: 4 Servings

¼ C flour
4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, pounded ½ inch thick
4 T butter [I used 2]
4+ T olive oil [I used 2]
2 cups sliced mushrooms [I used 1 pound]
½ cup Marsala wine 
¼ cup chicken broth or stock
Salt and pepper to taste
1 lb of pasta such as linguine, if desired [I used fettuccine]

Pat the chicken dry. Mix the flour, salt and pepper in a large baggie. Add chicken to the baggie. Shake until all pieces are coated well. Pour oil into a large pan and add butter, heat until butter is melted.

Place chicken in the pan, and brown lightly on both sides. Remove chicken pieces and set aside. Add mushrooms to the pan with a little more olive oil if needed. Brown mushrooms and let their liquid cook off.

Add wine and stock, stir well, scraping up brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Put the chicken back on top of the mushrooms and heat until cooked through, about 10 minutes. Cook your pasta while the chicken is finishing so that they are done together.

Serve chicken over pasta with mushrooms and sauce. Garnish with chopped parsley and freshly grated cheese, if desired.
(And, if you don't have any marsala wine, a good sherry works fine. Really!)