Simple Pot Roast

There are certain dishes that call out to us.  You might want to recreate that favorite cookie from your childhood, or a dish that a neighbor offered you when you visited, perhaps it’s something that you associate with a grandparent or even a close friend.  My mother used to make gedempfte fleish, braised beef of some kind, and although I have no recollection of how it was prepared, what it tasted like, or even the smell, I have wanted to duplicate that pot roast for years.  I finally decided to try it over Rosh Hashana.

This humble piece of meat, held together by white butcher twine, is cooked on low heat for hours, slowly coaxed into a dish worth serving.  Once released from the string, the meat just falls apart on the plate, landing in every direction, completely unlike brisket which is thinly sliced and carefully arranged on an elegant platter.  Pot Roast is peasant food at its best.  I have now made it twice and on both occasions it elicited a response that was perfectly suited to this earthy dish.  After dinner, when the roast itself was finished, “the kids” stood over the pan filled with the braising liquid, mopping it up with pieces of Challah.  Ignoring their pressed shirts and silk blouses, they risked spills and stains.  What more is there to say of the lowly pot roast other than to tell you it is my newly found treasure based on a vague and distant memory.

Simple Pot Roast

1  4 or 5 lb. chuck roast, tied.

1 bottle of good red wine, like a Burgundy

2 onions, cut in half

2 cloves garlic

2 stalks celery, cut

2 carrots, cut

2 bay leaves

1 tsp salt

1 tsp pepper

2 Tb oil

3 Tb flour

Put roast in a large pot and add wine.  Make sure meat is covered with liquid, and if not, add some beef broth.  Add vegetables, bay leaves, garlic, salt and pepper to the pot.  Allow beef to marinate overnight, turning meat every few hours.  Next day, remove beef from marinade and dry with paper towels.  Roll beef in a shallow plate of flour, shaking off excess.  Place oil in cast iron pan and sear meat on all sides till crusty and dark brown.  Return seared roast to pot filled with marinade, cover pot, and allow to a simmer over low heat for one hour.  Then put pot in a preheated 275 degree oven and cook roast for about three hours or till meat is very tender.  Remove string, slice think,  and serve  roast and some gravy over mashed potatoes or even on top of a stack of golden Latkes.  Serves 6-8

Enjoy,

Irene

Moroccan Carrots

 

Photo taken by Elizabeth Saiger

They are almost like characters in a book, these relatives that I have heard so much about but never had the opportunity to meet.  The baker, the grocer, and the tanner.  Yisroel (Isser) Gutman, my maternal grandfather, the one who I know the most about, owned a tannery in Mogielnica.  Is it coincidence or did I purposely seek out the stories of my namesake?  What I do know is that he was observant, davening in Shul three times a day, leaving little time to spend with his family.  My mother told us how he maimed himself to avoid conscription into the Polish army out of fear that he would be forced to eat “treif.

My favorite story was the one of his great adventure.  One night, long before the war, Isser left his home in the middle of the night, while everyone else was asleep,  to rendezvous with an uncle with who had concocted a plan.  They had hired a driver with a horse and wagon to meet them at a certain hour and take them to the port where they boarded a ship bound for the United States.  Apparently when my grandmother woke up that morning and heard the news, she went to the port to stop him, but it was too late.  Yes, my grandfather left his family without any discussion, but I prefer to think about the great lengths that he undertook to improve their lot.  Isser stayed in New York for about a year, but we don’t know anything about his life there.  Did he work as a tanner, did he live on the Lower East side, where I imagine him living, was he happy, lonely, prosperous?  We know that my grandmother refused to join him in this “heathen” land and eventually Isser returned to Poland and neither she nor he survived

I think of Isser more often during this time of year because of two stories that connect him to the holidays.  One was that he would insist on eating all of his meals in the sukkah no matter how bad the weather was, forcing my grandmother to carry his food out to him while the rest of the family ate inside.  The other story is that the head of the fish, which was considered not only a delicacy but also a symbol of good fortune, was always saved for my grandfather on Rosh Hashana, out of deference and respect.

We didn’t make fish for Rosh Hashana but we did serve other symbolic foods.  Dates and pomegranates, beets and kreplach, (kreplach represent our concealed fate for the coming year.)  In Yiddish the word for carrots is mehren, a word that also means multiply or increase, so they too were included.  I like to slice them and drizzle them with olive oil so that they look like a bowl of glistening golden coins, a reminder of the riches we hope for in the New Year.  Riches that come in the form of enjoying good health, from spending time with family, and from remembering and sharing the stories that have enriched my life.   These carrots, although not an Ashkenazi dish, remind me of Isser who wanted more from life and tried his best to achieve it.  G’mar Hatimah Tovah.

Moroccan Carrots

2 pounds large carrots, peeled and sliced into coin size thickness

1/3 cup olive oil

juice of two lemons

5 garlic cloves, minced

2 tsp ground cumin

salt and pepper to taste

Boil sliced carrots in a large pot of water for about 8 minutes.  Drain under cold water.  Place carrots in bowl and toss with remaining ingredients.  Adjust seasoning.  Sprinkle with chopped cilantro if desired.  Serves 6-8 as a side dish.

Enjoy,

Irene

 

Austrian Cream Veloute Soup

Having a chef come to your home with the intention of helping you cook can be an intimidating experience.  I knew for several weeks that newlyweds from our synagogue had accepted an invitation to join us for Shabbat and were planning to come early and help prepare the meal.  Michael (the chef) and I were in charge of the soup and pasta.  Emily and Norm were going to bake Challot.  My older son was going to keep us entertained.

At 3:00 Michael and Emily arrived and the five of us spent the afternoon in our favorite place, the kitchen.  The counter, in my narrow galley kitchen, was divided into two stations. There was the baking corner and the soup/pasta corner.  Michael, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, had worked in a high-end New York restaurant for several years.  I would love to say that we were a team, dissecting the recipes and discussing the pluses and minuses of fresh tomatoes versus canned.  It was nothing like that.  Michael and I started making the pasta sauce together but he had such command of the kitchen that after a few bottles of wine, I decided to take complete advantage of my guest and let the pro do his magic, and magic it was.


Here is the soup that Michael prepared. Incredibly rich and delicious, the texture of this soup is like velvet.

Austrian Cream Veloute Soup

This soup requires a few steps, but it’s worth it.

Vegetable Stock

1 lb. each of carrots, leeks, Spanish onion,

1 fennel bulb

2 sprigs Thyme

2 Bay Leaves

1 bunch Italian parsley

4 1/2 quarts water

2-3 Tbs vegetable oil

Grind all raw vegetables in food grinder or Cuisineart, and place in stock pot with vegetable oil.  Saute vegetables and herbs for several minutes, until they began to give off some liquid.  Add water and simmer for one hour.  Then take your stock along with the vegetables and put through a fine mesh strainer, removing all pulp.

Note: This stock can be used as a base for any soup.

1 1/2 sticks butter

1 1/2 cups flour

salt and pepper to taste

Melt butter in a large pot and slowly add flour, whisking together to make a roux.  Cook for several minutes, and slowly add your homemade vegetable stock. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer for about 45 minutes. Add juice of half a lemon.  Allow to cool slightly and whisk in sour cream.  When ready to serve, ladle soup into bowls and add some homemade croutons. Garnish with chopped chives.

2- 8 oz. containers sour cream

Garnish with croutons and chives

juice of half a lemon


Enjoy,

Irene