December 31, 2014

Dear friends,

The flu got me.  Just a couple of hours after I plunked a glorious pot roast on the table in front of my brother and sister-in-law Sunday, I went to bed with a box of tissues and a bottle of Nyquil.

For this week’s newsletter I intended to retry and tinker with a curry recipe from a new cookbook I got for Christmas, but I have barely enough energy to make tea. Forgive me. I’ll be back in form next week. Meanwhile, here’s my favorite pot roast recipe. I’ve printed it before, but a repeat is warranted, flu or not.

Those new to the recipe shouldn’t be put off by the dill pickle spears. They add an acidic note to the rich sour cream gravy. You may eat them or not. Personally, I think the cooked pickles are delicious.

1 blade pot roast, 2 inches thick (3 to 5 lbs.)
Salt, pepper, paprika, flour
1/2 lb. bacon, diced
4 to 6 dill pickle spears
1 large onion, sliced
1 can (8 oz.) tomato sauce
1 cup water
1/2 cup sour cream

Rub pot roast all over with salt, pepper, paprika and flour. Fry diced bacon in a Dutch oven until crisp. Remove bacon with slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Pour off all but three tablespoons of bacon fat.

Brown pot roast in remaining bacon fat. Add pickles and onion slices. Stir in tomato sauce and water.

Cover and simmer for 2 1/2 to 3 hours, adding water if needed. Liquid should come halfway up the side of the roast.

When meat is tender, remove to a platter. Add bacon bits to broth. Stir in sour cream and heat gently. Pass sauce in a gravy boat.

As the year ends, it’s out with the old and in with the new. But while you’re sweeping your life clean, don’t go crazy with your spice cabinet. Although many “experts” recommend pitching dried herbs and spices that are more than a year old, I think that’s insane, especially given the number of jars and plastic baggies in my double-wide spice storage area. Here’s my guide to spice storage:

Buy as many spices as possible in whole form because they remain fresh indefinitely. I keep a miniature grater in the spice cabinets next to a bag of whole nutmeg, which I bought at least five years ago. Buying spices such as cumin, cardamom and cloves in seed or whole form is less convenient, but you could grind them in an electric spice grinder if desired. Some recipes call for whole spices, so it’s smart to keep the ones you use a lot on hand. Remember, you need never throw them away.

Pre-ground spices and dried herbs do lose potency over time and if I were the mistress of Downton Abbey I would have the cook dispose of them after one year. I can’t afford such wanton waste, though, so I just use more of the spice or herb if, after tasting, I think a dish requires it. I would buy fresh spices and dried herbs only when a recipe is so wonderful and time-consuming to make that using old ingredients would be foolish.


From Ellen:
I have my bread dough for your cranberry-raisin-pecan bread proofing for its overnight stint, but it took almost 2 cups of water to make the dough cohesive.  I’m hoping you meant 2 cups rather than the 1 cup you said you used.

Took while to get all those little ‘goodies’ incorporated, too.

Dear Ellen: I’m glad you realized I had goofed, and I hope others did, too because the bread is delicious. My directions called for 1 3/4 cups water. I should have noted that I used almost 2 cups water to produce a sticky dough. Even that amount could be too much or too little, though, depending on how the flour measures on any given day.

A tip on incorporating the dried fruits and nuts: The last time I made the bread, I stirred in the goodies while adding the water, which was much easier than waiting until the dough was mixed.

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