WALLA WALLA TABLE - An American fall classic, and we ain't talking World Series here

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As we move into fall the days are getting shorter and the nights are getting colder. Admit it, what you really want is something to warm the body and soul without having to spend hours sitting watching and stirring pots and pans, right?

This week we bring you one of our favorite family recipes that is sure to excite even if the name does not.

This is a great meal that you can get a lot of mileage out of all week long and with very little effort.

It's called pot roast. Yes, pot roast. Plain and simple.

It is one of the classic American dishes you either love or hate. Most of those I've had in my life have been rather blah, unfortunately.

But once I learned how to cook and do it properly, things seemed to change for the pot roast.

Gone were the dry chewy bits of meat and that rather bland sauce (aka "gravy") and the monotone taste of everything in the pot.

Now it is different. Now the meat is properly cooked. Moist and tender. Easily pulled apart with nothing more than a fork.

Vegetables are cooked lightly and retain their individual identity while still bringing some other great flavors to the party.

And the gravy is the best part, full of flavor without being greasy or bland. We'll walk you through all of the steps this week, but read it fully BEFORE you attempt to cook it so that you are familiar with all of the steps and necessary equipment.

Cheers.

Damon Burke co-owns the Salumiere Cesario gourmet grocery in downtown Walla Walla. He can be reached at wallawallatable@gmail.com. He also writes online at thegrocersbag.blogspot.com.

Classic Pot Roast

Here is what you are going to need:

  • Large enameled pot or cast iron dutch oven, or equivalent large cast iron skillet at least 2 inches deep.
  • Large roasting pan (preferably NOT a non-stick) at least 3 inches deep.
  • A large inexpensive cut of meat, such as a blade or chuck roast, at least 2 pounds and boned out. Now if you are crafty enough to remember, ask your butcher to bone out your roast and wrap the bones to use to make stock.
  • A really good whisk or even better an immersion/hand blender

For the roast:

  • 1 cup or so of extra virgin olive oil.
  • 2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 2 pieces of star anise
  • 2 onions, rough cut
  • 2-6 large garlic cloves, mashed with the flat of your knife.
  • to 1 pound of cremini mushrooms, washed, stems trimmed, caps quartered
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons of flour for gravy
  • 1 pound of pearl onions, blanched to remove outer skin, leave ends, trim root shoots
  • 2 carrots, peeled and rough cut
  • 3 stalks of celery washed and rough cut.
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 cups of dry, red wine
  • to 1 quart of beef stock, hot
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley, or green onions (optional) for garnish

Set your skillet or pot over medium-high flame and rub your roast with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Salt and pepper evenly. Ensure pan is really hot before putting in the roast to brown or it will just steam. Brown roast evenly on both sides, turning only once. It should take about 3 to 5 minutes per side to brown. Remove roast from pan, add onion, carrots, celery and brown. Once vegetables are browned add garlic, cook for 3 minutes and deglaze with wine, reducing the amount of liquid by half. Heat your oven to 350 F. Place meat in a roasting pan. Once your skillet or pot sauce has reduced by half, strain into roasting pan with meat. Add ground allspice, star anise, stock. The carrots, onion, garlic and celery have done their job; thank them and send them to the composter. Slip your roast into your now-heated oven and set timer for 30 minutes, then cover the whole deal with foil and cook for 1 hours. Remove from oven, flip roast and add mushrooms, pearl onions, recover and cook for 30 more minutes.

Remove from oven and let meat rest on a plate or baking sheet covered for 10 minutes. While meat is resting make gravy. With a slotted or perforated spoon remove onions and mushrooms. Add flour to pan and with a whisk or wooden spoon, mix with pan sauce. Remove to a smaller 2- to 5-quart sauce pan, being sure to get all of the fond from the roasting pan, and set over medium flame. If your flour begins to clump, remove lumps with whisk or hand blender. If that doesn’t remove lumps, put the gravy in a blender and blend until smooth. Once smooth, warm to desired consistency knowing that flour thickens at a boil. (And if you want it thicker, let it boil). Add salt, pepper or whatever else it needs. Cut meat serve with gravy, mushrooms and pearl onions. We enjoy this at home with mashed potatoes, rice, noodles even risotto.

The roast can be made a day in advance. To reheat, add about a cup of stock into a large sauce pan and add gravy. Once hot, add meat and cover at a simmer for 10 to 15 minutes to heat through. Garnish with parsley or green onions. It’s easy to reheat in the microwave for quick meals during the week.

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