There was a time, in the thirty minutes after Alpine, when I would have pulled over, because I couldn't see twenty feet in front of me, except that I knew that everyone else was having the same problem, many worse than me, and the only thing for it was to press on ahead of the pace. I can still feel the residue of tension in my neck, the product of both realism and too many viewings of Audrey Rose. Still, there was room for me to remember Kim Diehl on stage at the Warfield on 10/28/89, singing "Into the White" as the strobes blinked and I gripped my last Rolling Rock, teeth digging into my my lower lip. Focus is itself a form of distraction. And the now is increasingly then.
February 12th, 2007
I picked up a boneless chuck roast a few days before my weekend trip and realized, upon returning, that I needed to cook it today or tomorrow. So I poked around in the fridge -- and garage -- this afternoon and found the ingredients to get started. The finished product is delicious, if I do say so myself, so I'll share the recipe with you:
• Pre-heat the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.I ended up taking the dishes out a little prematurely tonight, due to collective hunger, but the meat was already very good. I put the dishes back in a while longer and made sure to get every drop of the liquid left on the plate after finishing the not-quite-tender meat. Mmmmmm.
• Cut the meat into pieces that will fit comfortably inside your oven-safe cookware.
• Brown them in a little olive oil inside a cast iron pan, being sure not to do too many at a time, as they need room to brown properly.
• Set them aside on a dish once they are browned.
• Do not wash out the frying pan; you'll need its residue later.
• Meanwhile, as you are browning the meat, make a soffritto by hand or, to make things easier, in a mechanical chopper.
• For mine, I used a few carrots and parnsips, left over from a previous pot roast, two habañero chiles, and a lone Yukon Gold potato. Chop fine.
• Cut up a few onions and, if you have celery, a few stalks.
• Lay the onion and celery pieces on the bottom of the aforementioned oven-safe cookware. I used two round Corningware dishes, the classic sort with see-through glass lids.
• Disperse half the soffritto over the onion and celery pieces.
• Add fresh herbs as desired. My preference is to foreground one herb, rather than use a bunch together. And I also try to use fresh ones. In this case, I used the leftover rosemary from a recent chicken roasting. I placed two stems in each pot.
• Array the browned pieces of meat over top of the onion-celery-and-soffritto base.
• Disperse the rest of the soffritto over top of the meat.
• Wedge sliced mushrooms in the space between the pieces of meat and the edge of the dishes and then add the remainder over top of the meat, leaving enough room to add liquid without spilling over the edges.
• Turn the frying pan back on and deglaze it with red wine.
• Pour the contents of the pan over everything, making sure to use an equal amount of liquid in each dish if you are using more than one.
• If there's still room for a little liquid, you can add a bit more to the frying pan and heat that, then pour that over top as well.
• Cover the dish or dishes and place in the oven, which will be pre-heated by now.
• Cook for several hours, until at least half of the liquid has cooked off and the pieces of meat fall apart easily at the prodding of a fork.
• While the meat is in the oven, you should make its carbohydrate complement. In my case, I cooked farfalle -- "bow-tie" pasta -- until al dente, then tossed them in a bowl with a little olive oil. I also grated pecorino romano cheese to sprinkle over the cooked pasta, since parmesan, real or virtual, wouldn't be strong enough to stand out against the spicy pot roast.
• Serve, ideally, with a robust red wine or mineral water.