Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Tax Day, Pot Roast Day

Today was tax day for me. I filed my federal and state taxes online, no problems -- although I ended up owing a lot more to Uncle Sugar than I thought. Remember the payroll tax cut that expired in 2013? Well, I forgot; and my tax withholding was based on the prior year's total owed. Hopefully Uncle Sugar doesn't assess a penalty.

My state taxes, as always, were a breeze. By the way, did you know that there's a $50 credit for giving money to a politician? If you have someone you like, give him or her $50, and you get a credit on your taxes. Meaning: the campaign contribution costs you nothing! I think $50 is the max, however.

I also found out that the amount I can contribute to my IRA was higher than I thought. So I have a check on my desk which I'll run over to my friend in Piqua tomorrow.

It also turns out that in Russia, I have to file a tax return. Only that must be done on paper. So I printed off the papers and spent a good hour trying to fill it out correctly. I think I got it right. I owed nothing; I get nothing back. 

After that, I got working on a pot roast I was planning. I found a recipe at Allrecipes.com, with which I've had good luck. Especially helpful are the reviews, where I often see variations that look better than the original.

Anyway, this recipe started with a roast (I can't recall what cut of beef), some flour and pepper (I added garlic powder), and some butter. I was a little short on the butter, so I used the rest of the oil I had.

Here's the roast, after having been dredged in the flour/pepper/garlic mixture, browning in the butter and oil. As a matter of fact, it did smell good!

Meanwhile, I chopped up these vegetables for the pan. I will add some potatoes shortly.

And here's everything crammed into the pan. Over this I poured about 3/4ths cup of dry Vermouth (per the recipe), but omitted the dry onion soup mix and the cream of mushroom soup. Instead, I added some beef broth. Now I'm thinking I might have salted it. What do you think?

Stay tuned, as always, for further developments.

Update, 5:47 pm...

After cutting up some red potatoes, I got the roast from the oven and pulled back the foil. Why, yes, it does smell good! As you can see, it's rather brothy. That's good, I think. Remember the butter and oil I used to brown the meat? I saved that. That, plus this, will make some splendid gravy, don't you think? And since I won't want to explain that later, this is a good time to tell you how I do that...

Gravy is easy. The basics are some flavorful juice from the meat you're cooking, and/or some added broth, plus some fat and some flour. Yes, flour, not corn starch. First you start with the fat, and add a bit of flour, making a roux. The flour won't be lumpy that way. Then you take the broth -- this pan, for example, after the meat and vegetables are removed -- and this should be cooked down a bit, being careful to scrape all the crusty, tasty bits into the broth. If you don't have a lot of liquid, but you do have lots of browning on the pan, You can add some liquid and "wash" that goodness into the liquid. This is called "deglazing," and you can't miss with this. Any liquid will do, but I wouldn't use water unless I had nothing else. Wine works nicely, although you may want to cook it a bit if you don't want to taste the alcohol. The roux -- which can be browned, by the way, but I tend not to do that -- goes in, adding thickness. I happen to like gravy that's not overly thick; mainly because that's how I remember mom doing it.

I was thinking of sauteing some spinach, but I'm not sure now. What do you think?

Oh, and about the salt -- I decided to add some Kosher salt, along with some more pepper and garlic powder. Can't go wrong with that!

Update, 7:18 pm...

OK, it's time to take the roast from the oven. Here it is...

While that rests, I whip up the gravy. Sorry I didn't give you a shot of the crispy bits left over from the browning, but you can see them if you look closely. I had so much broth, I decided not to turn it all into gravy. I can always make more. Here I am stirring it so it's a little bit thick, as I like it.

And here's dinner, with a bit of gravy on it, and some red wine from the next county over. The containers in the picture hold the remaining broth (bottom) and gravy (top). The pan full of meat and veggie goodness is nearby. Now I eat! (Actually, I started before I posted these pictures!)

The Verdict?

Quite good! After all that, it needed a bit more salt and pepper, and more garlic wouldn't have hurt. The carrots, despite cooking for three hours, were perfect. The onion was a little soft, but I don't mind that. I really like onions baked this way. The meat was nearly fork-tender; which means it'll be even better after it sits a bit in the fridge. The potato was good, although the half left on my plate might benefit from a bit more gravy...Which was very good. Even the wine was good, if a bit...thin.

I can't believe this would be the first pot roast I've made, yet I can't remember doing it. This is something I'd definitely make again, and with guests, next time! This wasn't hard, and I didn't need a crock-pot for this, although that would work. Nor did I need to keep a close eye on it, which is good!


rcg said...

OK, I'm drooling. I like to season the meat with a rub based on the seasoning I would put in the gravy. It is carried into the pan by the fat that drains from the meat. Also, I have run the cooked celery and carrots through a blender rather than add flour. An interesting twist.

Anonymous said...

That looks good. There are a lot of variations to that meal. I also recall having it where the gravy was formed with the vegetables run through a blender, along with burgundy the meat was cooked in. Other times I had it similar to yours, though with cloves added. One should reward oneself for the timely completion of taxes.

Sara said...

Half a packet of onion soup mixed with a little water (as in a few dribbles from the faucet), then dumped over everything. We also add cabbage, which I prefer over onions.

Jennifer said...

That looks really good. I want all three of my children to learn how to cook. When I was a teenager, feminists were urging girls to get out of the kitchen and do meaningful things, but my father insisted that I learn how to cook the basics. He was a good cook himself. Cooking is an act of true creativity, isn't it? I think that's why your cooking blogs are so popular. You are showing your creativity here, Father Fox. :)

Fr Martin Fox said...


My mother thought it important that her sons knew how to do things like cooking, cleaning, sewing and laundry.

As far as cooking, a few basic skills can make a big difference. This recipe, for example, is really very simple.

rcg said...

Jennifer, that attitude of 'feminists' seems pretty funny when one considers the other 'important' task dim in value if there is nothing to eat. Heck, I imagine whatever else was being done that one of the first things they traded it for was something to eat. Only a fool would think that his mother was less valuable because she "only" fed and clothed him.

Serious question: prophets and disciples performed many healing and even resurrection miracles as did Christ. Did any of them feed a throng as He did with the fishes and loaves? If not, what does it say about the relative value of those acts?

rcg said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jennifer said...

The domestic arts are really devalued, especially by women with a feminist philosphy. But look at what dysfunctional lives prominent feminists have lead...Betty Friedan, just to name one.

I took my father's advice and did learn to cook. I'm not bad. :) Years ago I used to prepare the lunch for a synagogue with an elderly Ashkenazi congregation. They all liked what I prepared for them. It was mostly German food, but I prepared it specially to their liking, and was careful to observe their dietary laws. And I used fake meat for the Wurstsalat. It was a lot of fun. :)

Jenny said...

You really are developing as a cook--so good to see!
The roast looks great!
I always salt and pepper the beef before browning in a Dutch oven pot, but do not flour the roast. Then I braise the pot roast in the same pot stovetop for a couple of hours with the onions, then add carrots and potatoes for the last half hour of braising as my Mom did. I also usually throw some whole tipped green beans on top of the other veggies just to have something green. At the end of cook time, I remove all but the braising liquid, then make gravy in the same Dutch oven pot. This was the Sunday dinner I grew up with and we still love.

Anonymous said...

Great first pot roast, Father! My first foray into cooking as a newlwed was to prepare my husband's favorite - goetta - for him. Since I'm originally from a small Pensylvania town near Pittsburgh, I had never tasted it. I had also never seen it being cooked. When my spouse awoke, I removed the pan lid with a flourish, revealing a huge cadaverous-looking lump surrounded by water. "What IS it?" he asked. I had boiled his goetta. ~ Rosemary A.