My Rouses Everyday, September & October 2018
A Boy Scout leader and avid sportsman, my father was an ace at one-pot meals cooked in one of his treasured cast-iron pots over a wood fire. The choices were endless — crawfish étouffée, chicken aux gros onions, grillades, round steak with onions and a version of pork jambalaya that I thought was outstanding, but it was my mother who really mastered the art of pot roasts.
Coming from a farming family, she had learned at an early age how to turn a piece of meat cooked with whatever vegetables were available in the home garden into a splendid repast, especially on a cold winter day when the wind rattled the windows in the kitchen. Of course, this pot of goodness took the better part of an afternoon to make ready for supper, and the aroma that wafted from the kitchen all day long always made my mouth water and my tummy rumble. Like Papa, Mama had a collection of Lodge cast-iron pots.
Lucky me — I inherited one of her favorites pots, and when cooler weather sets in, I pull it out from the pantry and set to my task. I like a chuck, rump or bottom-round roast but a front-cut brisket, although leaner, is also a good choice for braising. Braising is a cooking method that requires well-seasoned (I use cayenne pepper, salt and garlic powder) meat to be pan-seared (to brown the meat, thus enhancing the appearance and flavor), then cooked long and slow with whatever vegetables you choose — onions, garlic, carrots, potatoes, celery and turnips are my choices. Then all is cooked for several hours in some kind of liquid — beef stock, wine, beer or a combination of all three — just know that the liquid must cover a little over half of the meat in the pot. Sometimes, I add a dab or two of tomato paste to give the braising liquid a rich color and flavor. Once you get everything in the pot and put a lid on it, you don’t have to do much tending to it, other than to occasionally check the level of the braising liquid and the tenderness of the meat.
Below is my pot roast recipe, but feel free to experiment with different cuts of beef, herbs and spices, and types of braising liquid. Serve it with Louisiana’s customary rice, or perhaps give some thought to grits or polenta.