Thursday, September 2, 2010

Two meals from one

Time for another recipe - only this one's a two-fer.  I'm making chuck roast with potatoes and onions today, and vegetable beef soup from the leftovers for tomorrow.  It sounds so, well, so plain and down-home, but it's one of our favorite meals that also becomes one of our other favorite meals.  I got the original roast and soup recipes from my Mom, and modified them only slightly to suit my taste.

First, the chuck roast.  When it's done right, this chuck roast is falling apart, melt in your mouth tender.  Here's how I do it:

Totally Tender Chuck Roast

1 lean chuck roast (approximately 3 - 3 1/2 pounds)
6 medium potatoes, halved (skins on or off is your choice - I leave them on)
6 large carrots, quartered into chunks
2 large onions, cut into large chunks
1 envelope instant onion soup mix (I use Lipton, but others are fine too)
2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
fresh ground pepper to taste

Place the thawed chuck roast in the middle of a large casserole dish - I use a wide, shallow one (about 12" x 15" x 2").  Surround the roast with the potatoes, carrots, and onions.  Sprinkle the onion soup mix mostly over the roast, and dust a bit of it over the veggies.  I add fresh ground pepper liberally, all over the meat and veggies.  I don't add any extra salt, but you can if you choose to.  Finally, drizzle the Worcestershire sauce over the meat.

Cover tightly with foil, and place in the oven.  Bake at 275 for 3 to 3 1/2 hours - long, slow baking at a lower temperature is the secret to getting a totally tender roast.  Remove the foil for the last 15 minutes of baking, to brown the meat and veggies just a little.  Serves 4 (or 6-8 if you don't plan on making soup out of it).

Now, I usually make this meal for the two of us, and after I set aside a serving or two for leftover lunches, the roast, broth and veggies that are left I use to make a large kettle of vegetable beef soup.  I make it the same night we've had the roast, right after dinner. 

Vegetable Beef Soup

In a large stock pot, put the following:

Leftover chuck roast (about 3 cups of meat, cut into bite-sized pieces)
Leftover roast potatoes, carrots, and onions, cut into bite-sized pieces
Any broth that's with the leftover meat and veggies  (you can skim off the fat later)
1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes or tomato puree
Use the tomato can, and add three cans of warm water
1 16 oz. package of frozen mixed vegetables
1 15 oz. can dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
salt and pepper to taste

Bring the soup slowly to a low boil, stirring occasionally.  Turn down to low heat and let simmer for at least one hour.  Turn it off, let it cool for a couple hours, and put it in the refrigerator.  Letting the soup cook then sit overnight allows the flavors to blend.  The next day you can skim off the fat, then reheat the soup slowly, and serve it with your favorite crackers, biscuits, or fresh bread.  Obviously you can adjust the veggies to suit your taste.  My mother often adds a couple cups of chopped cabbage to her vegetable beef soup, but doesn't use the beans.  I've been known to use just frozen corn if I'm out of frozen mixed veggies.  My husband dislikes peas, so I don't add extra of those, but extra cut green beans are always good.  I'm just doing with my recipe what my Mom has been doing all my life - making good food for my family by using what's on hand.  Well, for my husband and I - my veggie-averse kids won't eat my soup, but that's a whole 'nother post.

Oh, a note about measurements:  I'm not an uptight, strict measurer as a cook.  In fact, I rarely use measuring devices, aside from my trusty 1 cup measuring cup and my 2 cup Pyrex liquid measure, and my teaspoon.  I'm more likely to cook with "abouts" - about one cup, about one teaspoon, about whatever amount I think works best for a recipe.  I have some recipes I don't measure at all any more, I just throw them together.  But, I do try to make a meal and note the closest measure of my ingredients before I share the recipe with anyone else, so they get the same results.  Mom says I cook like her mother did - an "egg-sized" lump of shortening, a "handful" of oatmeal, a "sprinkle" of cinnamon, etc.  I wish I could cook with both of my grandmothers now. . . .