Sunday, January 18, 2015

Beer-Braised Pot Roast

January's Beer Braised Pot Roast is amazing. I have nothing clever to say, no critiques to be made, and no observations on anything at all. I just want to eat more beef.

We started with a trip to Earth Fare, where Jackson screamed out in the produce section, "GAH! What is THAT?" when I picked up the small carrots with the green tops still intact. Remember back before carrots came prewashed in bags? I do. Apparently my kids do not. We had a long talk about food that comes from the Earth, as we walked to the meat counter, and I was relatively certain that I was in the running for mom of the year.

Back at home, we washed and peeled the carrots and trimmed the greenery. When I say we, what I mean is, I did all of this while Jackson watched TV and Caroline splashed in the sink. Feel free to revoke that mom of the year award at any time.

I set the 4-pound roast out on the counter to start coming up to room temperature while I was working on the carrots, and gave it a good rub-down with salt, pepper, and instant ground coffee. Then I seared it on all sides before putting it in the crock pot. This step definitely adds some time and extra mess in the kitchen, but the sear is so crucial. Plus you get to make some yummy sauce from all the dark bits in the pan.


After the sear and transfer to the crock pot, I reached the most important point in the process: Opening two dark beers at 8am on a Sunday. I would be lying if I said that I didn't take a taste. But just a tiny one...

The broth mixture turned out well. I couldn't find the concentrated stock called for in the recipe, so I just used a regular stock but reduced it for quite awhile.

Then I poured it over the meat in the crockpot and put the pearl onions and carrots on top. I've never put the vegetables on top like this, when I've made roasts in the past, but it is pure genius! The carrots were cooked perfectly!

Nine hours later, the meat was falling apart and the vegetables were rich and cooked through, but still with a little bite.

The grits were made stove-top, alongside the gravy. I had far more liquid than I needed, perhaps because I used regular stock instead of concentrated stock. But the flavor was amazing!

I have never served roast on a bed of grits before, but it was perfect. This dish plated just as beautifully at home as it did on the magazine cover. The kids ate it, and Jonathan and I went back for seconds (and thirds).

Seriously good food. I will absolutely make this again.


1 pound small carrots with tops, peeled
1 (3- to 4-lb.) boneless chuck roast, trimmed
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons instant dark roast coffee
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons tomato paste
4 garlic cloves, chopped
2 (12-oz.) bottles stout beer
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
2 (1-oz.) containers home-style concentrated beef stock (from a 4.66-oz. package)
2 pounds pearl onions
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
Hot cooked grits
Garnish: fresh thyme sprigs


1. Cut tops from carrots, leaving 1 inch of greenery on each. Sprinkle roast with salt and pepper. Rub coffee over roast, and let stand at room temperature 10 minutes. Cook roast in hot oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat 3 to 5 minutes on each side or until browned, reserving drippings in skillet. Place roast in a 6-qt. slow cooker.
2. Add tomato paste and garlic to hot drippings, and sauté 1 minute. Slowly add beer, whisking constantly. Stir in thyme and concentrated beef stock; bring to a boil. Boil, stirring occasionally, 8 minutes or until mixture reduces to about 3 cups.
3. Pour beer mixture over roast. Top roast with onions and carrots. Cover and cook on LOW 8 to 10 hours or until roast is fork-tender. Transfer roast to a serving platter, and shred into large chunks, discarding any large pieces of fat. Spoon vegetables onto platter around roast.
4. Skim fat from cooking liquid; transfer cooking liquid to a large saucepan. Whisk in vinegar. Whisk together cornstarch and 2 Tbsp. water in a small bowl until smooth; add to mixture in pan, stirring until blended. Bring mixture to a boil, and boil, whisking often, 1 minute or until sauce reaches desired thickness. Serve sauce with roast, vegetables, and hot cooked grits.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Chocolate Cake and Self-Doubt

Last week I ran a marathon. A marathon. Twenty six and two tenths of a mile. I actually did that.

And yet, I still hesitate when asked, "Are you a runner?"

"Well...I like to run, but..."

But I'm not that fast. I don't get out as often as I'd like. I don't do hills. I could stand to tone up a bit. Sometimes I take breaks. Sometimes I just want to walk. I'm definitely not [fill in the blank with any number of people I know who are faster, more consistent, longer-term, "better" runners].

I'm working on it, but that voice of self-doubt is my biggest enemy. It also creeps in every single month, when that Southern Living pops up in my mailbox.

"Are you a baker?"

"Well...I like to play around in the kitchen, but..."

But I don't do any big fancy gourmet types of cooking. I just make simple, down-home stuff. Sometimes it doesn't come out that pretty, but it usually tastes okay. I'm definitely not [fill in the blank with any number of people I know who legitimately could be featured on Food Network].

I'm going to work on that too. Over a nice, big hunk of Triple Chocolate Buttermilk Bundt Cake. Because seriously, this thing is great. I am a runner and a baker, and this is delicious, gorgeous cake. Moist, rich chocolate batter with bittersweet chocolate chunks and hints of coffee. Tangy, sweet buttermilk glaze. Gooey, oozy chocolate drizzle. This was an easy cake that I will absolutely make again! (and best of all, now I've got half a carton of buttermilk to use up...fried chicken later this week, for sure!)

Here's to cake!


Triple Chocolate Buttermilk Bundt Cake

2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon table salt
1 1/2 cups butter, softened at room temperature
3 cups granulated sugar
5 large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
2 teaspoons instant espresso
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup 60% cacao bittersweet chocolate morsels
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate morsels
3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract 
1 cup powdered sugar
1 to 2 Tbsp. buttermilk
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Prepare Cake: Preheat oven to 325°. Whisk together flour and next 3 ingredients. Beat 1 1/2 cups butter in a medium bowl at medium-high speed with an electric mixer until smooth. Gradually add granulated sugar, beating until light and fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating just until yolk disappears. Combine 1 1/4 cups buttermilk and next 2 ingredients. Add flour mixture to egg mixture alternately with buttermilk mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat at low speed after each addition. Fold in bittersweet chocolate morsels.
[note: It helps to toss the morsels lightly in flour before folding them into the batter to prevent them from sinking during baking]
Pour batter into a well-greased (with shortening) and floured 12-cup Bundt pan. Sharply tap pan on counter to remove air bubbles.
[note: My preparation made more batter than my Bundt pan could hold. I actually overflowed the pan a little bit when it rose during baking, plus I ate a fair amount of batter that didn't make it into the pan at all!]

2. Bake at 325° for 1 hour and 15 minutes to 1 hour and 25 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack 20 minutes. Remove from pan; cool completely on rack.

3. Prepare Chocolate Glaze: Combine semisweet chocolate morsels, 3 Tbsp. butter, and 1 Tbsp. corn syrup in a microwave-safe glass bowl. Microwave at MEDIUM (50% power) 1 to 1 1/2 minutes or until morsels begin to melt, stirring after 1 minute. Stir until smooth. Stir in 1/2 tsp. vanilla.

4. Prepare Buttermilk Glaze: Whisk together powdered sugar, 1 Tbsp. buttermilk, and 1/4 tsp. vanilla in a small bowl until smooth. Add up to 1 Tbsp. buttermilk, if desired.
[note: I added a few dashes of salt to balance the sweetness of this glaze. Also, I would err on the side of less buttermilk...mine was a little runnier than I would have preferred]

5. Drizzle warm glazes over cooled cake.