Weekly Winner: Taking Pot Roast Up a Notch

We have had a beautiful summer here in Chicago, but as always, I’m ready for fall. No matter what, the first breeze of slightly cooler air and I’m craving heartier food — big vats of stewed, braised, lovingly tended hunks of meat with tasty, savory sides. So for this Sunday’s supper — it was time to elevate the pot roast.

IMG_0568.JPGI got this recipe from Cuisine at Home magazine, and while the recipe (as they usually are) was flawless, there was one thing that troubled me.  What to do with the pancetta once you rendered the fat from it to sear the beef in?  I even had my husband read through the recipe.  “They don’t mean for me to NOT use the pancetta, do they?”  “That’s crazy”!  I solved the problem by adding it to the roasted Brussels Sprouts we had with it.  Et Voila, crisis averted.

Pancetta conundrum aside, this recipe solves the problem of the typically “one note” pot roast recipe.  I find that more times than not, most pot roast tastes like, well…. meat.  And only meat.  Not that that’s all bad, but it can get a tad boring.  This roast has great depth from the dried porcini and red wine, and a nice zippy zing from the balsamic — a LOT of balsamic.  Here’s the recipe and as good as it was on Sunday night — Monday’s version was even better — pot roast tacos! (No seriously, they were incredible!)

Balsamic Braised Beef

Serves 6


4 oz pancetta, diced

1 bone-in beef chuck roast (5 lbs) trimmed and seasoned with salt and pepper

2 cups chopped onions

1 cup chopped celery

5 garlic cloves, smashed

1 Tbsp. mustard seeds

2 Tbsp tomato paste

1/2 cup dry red wine

1-1/2 cups balsamic vinegar

2 dried bay leaves

3 sprigs fresh rosemary, divided

2 Tbsp honey

1/2 oz dried porcini mushrooms

1 tsp unsalted butter, softened

1 tsp all-purpose flour


Cook pancetta in a large saute pan over medium-low heat until crisp, 20 minutes; transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate and reserve drippings.

Sear roast in drippings in sam pan over medium-high heat until browned on all sides, 15 minutes; transfer to a 7 to 8-quart slow cooker.

Saute onions, carrots, celery, garlic and mustard seeds in same pan until liquid starts to release, 1-2 minutes.  Stir in tomato paste and cook until it begins to caramelize, 2-3 minutes.

Deglaze pan with wine, scraping up any brown bits.  Cook mixture until wine nearly evaporates, 2 minutes, transfer to slow cooker.

Add vinegar, bay leaves, 2 sprigs rosemary, honey, and mushrooms to slow cooker.  Cover slow cooker and cook roast until fork-tender on high setting, about 5 hours.

Transfer roast to a cutting board and break into pieces using two forks; discard any excess fat.  Strain braising liquid through a fine-mesh sieve; discard solids.  skim any fat from surface of liquid and discard. Transfer liquid to a saucepan with remaining rosemary sprig over medium heat.  Bring liquid to a simmer and reduce to 1-1/4 cups; discard rosemary.

Combine butter and flour, then whisk into reduced liquid.  Simmer sauce until thickened, 2 minutes; season with salt and pepper.

Weekly Winner: Tantalizingly Thai Chicken Thighs

IMG_1237.JPGLately I find that I have been somewhat obsessed by all things Thai — well culinarily speaking.  I simply cannot get enough!  I’m also a big fan of bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs as well.  This dish sublimely combines the two – as well as adding just a hint of autumn (which I’m actually starting to look forward to) with the sweet potatoes.  The result?  A perfectly balanced, wonderfully aromatic, and delightfully easy dinner!

Everything in this dish is comforting and mellow with just a hint of spice.  The one ingredient that absolutely makes the dish is the scallions on top — you really need that sharp bite of onion.  It all comes together in one amazing dish — and to top it all off, it’s even pretty!  Definitely a Weekly Winner and certainly a dish that will go into seriously heavy rotation in this household.

The recipe comes from Cook’s Country Magazine.  The only change I made was to delete the chopped cilantro on top.  If you enjoy the taste of soap on your meals than go for it, but not in this house!  Otherwise, it is quick, easy, and so much more than the sum of its few parts.  I simply can’t say enough about it so I will stop and just share the recipe.  Do yourself and everyone in your house a favor — Make.  This.  Dish!

Thai-Style Chicken and Sweet Potato Curry

Serves 4


6 bone-in chicken thighs, trimmed

Salt and Pepper

3 Tbsp red curry paste

1 lb sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch pieces

1 13.5 oz can coconut milk

2 Tbsp fish sauce

4 scallions, sliced thin on bias

1/4 cup dry-roasted peanuts, crushed


1.  Pat chicken dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper.  Place chicken skin side down in a 12-inch skillet.  Cover and set skillet over medium-high heat and cook until skin is browned, about 7 minutes.  Flip chicken and cook on second side until lightly browned, about 1-1/2 minutes.  Transfer chicken to plate and discard all but 1 tablespoon of fat.

2.  Add curry paste to skillet and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Stir in potatoes, coconut milk and fish sauce, scraping up any browned bits.  Return chicken and any accumulated juices to skillet, skin side up.  Bring to simmer, reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and continue to cook until chicken registers 175 degrees, about 12 minutes.  Transfer chicken to platter.  Season sauce with salt and pepper to taste.  Spoon sauce and potatoes over chicken.  Sprinkle scallions and peanuts over the top.  Serve.



Weekly Winner: Seeing Summer Out With an Amazing Slab of Pig

IMG_0461.JPGIt just seemed fitting to celebrate Labor Day with throwing something on the grill.  After all, it is how we welcome in summer, how we cook most of the summer, and how we say goodby to it.  When in doubt, we tend to throw something on the grill.  And in this household, if you’re going to bother to fire up the grill, it’s a pretty safe bet that pork will be involved.

The only real question this Labor Day weekend was, what to grill?  Ribs are a safe bet.  Always tasty and always a hit.  For just the two of us, the go-to cut is bone-in pork chops (as has been well documented in this blog.)  But in both of those cases, there’s no adventure to it.  We’ve been there and we’ve done that again… and again… and again.

So for this Labor Day Eve when we found ourselves in need of a Sunday Supper and a suitable celebratory meal welcome in Labor Day, I thought it would be the perfect time to give this little number a try.  Gochujang Pork Shoulder Steaks.  The recipe comes from Bon Appetit and intrigued me for a number of reasons.  First of all: pork shoulder.  For my money it is the best part of my beloved pig (well, maybe bacon is, but I digress).   Secondly: Gochujang.  I have just recently discovered this wonderful sauce.  It is a Korean hot pepper paste and it is perfectly spiced.  Its got heat, but will not overwhelm.  It also has a gorgeous red color that turns everything it touches to a burnished red loveliness.

Now for a word on the two different photos.  The top one is the one from Bon Appetit.  That picture also had a lot to do with me pulling the recipe.  It is gorgeous.  The lower one was our final result.  Not as gorgeous, but dang, was it good!

Gochujang Pork Shoulder Steaks


8 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed

1 2” piece of ginger, peeled and sliced

½ cup dry sake

½ cup gochujang (Korean hot pepper paste)

½ cup mirin

¼ cup vegetable oil, plus more for grilling

1 ½ lb skinless, boneless pork shoulder, sliced ¾” thick


Puree garlic, ginger, sake, gochujang, mirin and ¼ cup oil in a blender. Set ¼ cup marinade aside; chill. Transfer remaining marinade to a large dish. Add pork; turn to coat. Chill, turning occasionally, at least 2 hours.

Prepare grill for medium-high heat; oil grate. Remove pork from marinade and grill, basting with reserved marinade, turning occasionally, and moving pork to a cooler area if flare-up occurs, until cooked to desired doneness, 20 minutes for medium.

Transfer pork to a cutting board and let rest 5 minutes before thinly slicing against the grain.