Easy Beef Pot Roast

When we were growing up, we had a beef pot roast at least once a week.  Mom’s beef pot roasts were simple affairs made with chuck roast, water, vegetables, a bay leaf and salt and pepper.  Simple though they were, they tasted wonderful, especially with fresh rolls and plenty of butter.

Later, when Bob and I shared an apartment at Madison, we experimented with different spices and cooking liquids.  I blush to admit it, but we liked pretty much every variation we tried.  Perhaps we were better cooks than we thought, though it might be more accurate to say that we were better eaters.  The recipe below is one that Jerri and I have used for many years, and it still tastes good to us and our guests.

If you have to do the dishes, you will appreciate a pot roast made on top of the stove.  The meat, potatoes and vegetables cook in one pan.  By varying your cooking liquid you can achieve the flavor you like best.

INGREDIENTS:

2 1/2 to 3 lb. beef chuck roast
1/2 cup dry red wine such as a cabernet sauvignon or merlot
1/2 cup water
1 beef bouillon cube
1 bay leaf
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
1/8 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. salt
1 medium onion
4 to 5 carrots
3 to 4 potatoes
1 1/2 T cornstarch

PROCEDURE:

Trim excess fat from the meat.  Put the trimmings in a skillet with a tight-fitting lid and render the fat scraps until you have coated the bottom and sides of skillet with the rendered fat.  Discard the trimmings.  Turn the heat up and brown the roast in the hot pan on all sides.  Drain any excess fat after the meat is browned.

Turn down the heat, sprinkle the salt and grind the pepper over the meat.  Add 1/2 cup wine and 1/2 cup water along with the bay leaf, cloves and bouillon cube.  Cover and simmer for about 1 1/2 hours.  Check once or twice to make certain that the liquid does not boil away.  Add a small amount of wine or water if necessary.

Peel and cut the onion into thick slices and place them on top of the meat.  Peel and quarter the potatoes and clean and cut the carrots into 2 inch pieces.  Place them around the meat in the skillet.  Shake a little salt on the vegetables.  Cook until the vegetables are done, about half an hour.  Remove the meat and vegetables and keep them warm.  To make the gravy add water or a combination of water and wine to make about 1 1/2 cups of liquid.  Dissolve the cornstarch in 1/4 cup cold water, stir into the pan and cook until clear.  Taste and adjust the seasoning.

Slice the meat and pass it with the vegetables and gravy.  Serve with more of the wine used to cook the roast accompanied by a green salad and fresh bread.

VARIATIONS:  Use red port wine and about 1/4 tsp. basil instead of the burgundy and bay leaf.  Or substitute beer for the burgundy.  If you want a little more zip, add a couple of dashes of cayenne or hot sauce.

 

Blue Steaks

Whoever first had the idea of combining blue cheese with chopped beef must be memorialized in a museum of culinary arts somewhere. If not, he or she should be. The combination is wonderful. I first had this steak at a small supper club near Eagle River, Wisconsin in the summer of 1961. I made my first blue steaks about three weeks later when I went home to visit my family.

The steaks were not a great success. My father, though born and raised in Wisconsin, didn’t like cheese, my mother thought that all hamburger should be fried until it withered in defeat and back then my sisters didn’t like anything I cooked. But if I do say so myself those blue steaks were almost as good as the one I had at the supper club, so I kept making them.

There are many recipes for hamburgers garnished with a blue cheese sauce and a few with blue cheese fillings that include ingredients such as garlic, onion, sour cream and various spices. I have eaten such, and they are often quite tasty, but in this instance I think that simpler is better. I like to make these large enough to serve as a steak, six to eight ounces. Could we call them diet blue burgers?

INGREDIENTS

Extra lean ground beef
Blue or gorgonzola cheese
Steak seasoning

PROCEDURE

Size the steaks according to appetite. For each steak, make two thin patties of meat. Put a layer of blue cheese in the center of one patty, top with the other patty, seal the edges well and sprinkle lightly with steak seasoning or salt and pepper. Grill over charcoal to the desired doneness; for medium to medium well, grill three to four minutes on one side, turn over and grill another three to four minutes. Serve with a garden salad, baked potato, and fresh green peas for an elegant, inexpensive dinner.

NOTE

Let diners add more seasoning or steak sauce if they wish. One nice thing about this steak is that you can vary the amount of cheese to suit individual tastes. For an eight ounce steak, I use about two tablespoons.

When it is cold and nasty outside, I fry these delicacies in a hot cast iron skillet coated lightly with cooking spray. They still taste pretty good.