Saturday, June 6, 2009

Virginia Good's Pot Roast

There is very little that I will say that is positive about Virginia Good. She was my Mother-in-Law. She ruined both of her children, was terminally self centered, and raised her daughter to be her old age companion. She did all she could to separate us from before the marriage so that she could keep her hooks in her daughter. Too bad. she was a bright woman and could be a wonderful person if she had only tried.
However, she had three wonderful attributes. She had excellent taste in decorating. Not that I would do the same things, but her house was always beautifully done.
She had an excellent pedigree, having been descended from people like Shakespeare and Francis Drake.
She was a great cook. She had some of the failings of the cooks of the fifties and sixties with their penchant for fake potatoes, high calorie meals etc., but her traditional foods and family recipes were truly wonderful. I wish I had more of them available to me. Cole Slaw, Sticky Buns, Apple Dumplings, Ham-cheese-Cauliflower-Potato Casserole, Crab Cakes, Steamed Shrimp with Old Bay. The most requested of her meals was Pennsylvania Dutch Pot Pie. I have to assume that they knew much more about the Pennsylvania Dutch than I did, but I do not have any reason to believe that this was a specifically Pennsylvania Dutch recipe. The only convincing element of this recipe that would make me believe, is the use of a double starch. Though that is not necessarily an attribute of Pennsylvania Dutch, the argument was that this was a meal that like many other farm meals that was meant to fill up hungry farm hands. So, I am willing to believe despite the meagre evidence.
In this case, they had the habit of making an egg noodle recipe, roll and stretch it out thin, and boil large squares, the size of your palm, in the broth at the end of the meal or for the second day or both. I suspect that the real South-German or Swiss(The Pennsylvania Dutch were actually Swiss for the most part.) recipes might include Spaetzele, which are actually easier to make.
This is nothing like a traditional New England Pot Roast, but is much more flavorful.

Use a Bottom Round Roast
Remove all the fat, silver skin, membranes separating the lobes of meat and cleaning those as well. There should be nothing but meat, the chunks usually ending up about the size of a man's fist or smaller.

I used a pressure cooker. The nice thing about the pressure cooker was that is was relatively narrow and deep. There was enough room on the bottom to fit all the meat, and the resulting liquid did not spread out so it covered the meat.

Film the bottom of the pan with olive oil and heat till the smell of the oil becomes strong but it is not smoking.

Press the meat into the oil slowly so as not to cool the pan too much. Keep the temperature up.

Leave it in the oil till the meat is very brown, then turn to repeat till all sides are browned.

Reduce the heat to low.
Sprinkle the top of the meat with Italian seasoning.
Sprinkle generously with powdered bullion or crushed cubes.
Add carrots and onions(she used pearl onions when available).
1 or 2 bay leaves.
(I add half a dozen garlic cloves though that would absolutely horrify her)
Add a couple of cups of water if water does not immediately accumulate in the bottom.

Cover the pan tightly(I did not use the pressure function of the cooker) and reduce the heat to a bubble(190 degrees is the ideal) After about an hour, liquid should have accumulated.
Add potatoes (peeled)
Continue to cook for a couple of hours at least. The meat should flake easily.
Remove the vegetables and potatoes if the are getting over cooked, to be added just before the end of the cooking process.
Drain the meat and vegetables and return the broth to the pan.

Make egg noodle dough and roll out and stretch on a lightly floured surface VERY thinly. Cut into 4 inch squares. Dry for an hour or so, then drop a couple at a time into the broth to cook. It will take only a couple of minutes. The flour on the noodles will also thicken the broth very slightly.

Serve all in a large serving bowl.

They would also do the browning and half cook the meat, then remove the broth and meat to large shallow pans, seal them with foil and bake for a couple of hours at a very low temperature. This was done when there was a large gathering. They would do several roasts in separate batches, then put them all together in one or two pans the size of the oven.

In a way, this is not a great way to cook meat. Everything is wrong..The meat separates into strings, the surface is dry and crusty...but somehow, this is a wonderful dish...It tastes marvelous. The leftover meat steeps in the leftover broth and can be sliced across the grain of the meat for delightful sandwiches on buttered bread. Perhaps this would be at its best if done one day, then reheated the following day to serve.

Pasta dough

2 cups all purpose flour(unbleached)
2 cups semolina flour(Or use all, all purpose)
generous pinch of salt
6 eggs
2 tablespoons olive oil

Make a mound of the mixed flours and salt.

Make a crater in the middle and break the eggs into it.

Ad the oil.

Beat the eggs with a fork, and slowly beat in flour from the mound a bit at a time till all is incorporated. Add a bit of water if dry, a bit more flour if wet.

Knead the dough on a floured surface till smooth and elastic. Alloow to rest ten minutes if it refuses to work without being springy.

Leave on the counter with a mixing bowl upside down over it till it has rested at least half an hour.

Roll out on a floured surface or run through a pasta machine according to the manufacturers instructions.

Cut the noodles and dry on a floured towel for about half an hour before cooking.

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