By the Dishtowels of my Grandmothers….

December 6, 2009

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I vow I will never again crush a tomato by hand!

I’ve seen it done countless times on those cooking shows–sometimes they squeeze the tomatoes directly into the pan, sometimes into a large glass bowl before adding them to the pot. I’d never done either, usually opting to dice on a cutting board–or even for some recipes, a quick blitz in the mini-processor. (Blasphemy, I know! Sorry Mario, Giada, Ina, Lidia…) I really enjoy the elemental nature of food and cooking–and I’m all for hands-on—there’s nothing I like more than kneading dough and rubbing spices into meat. I even dream of finding the vineyard in Italy that will allow me to re-enact the Lucy-in-the-wine-barrel experience! *smile* But hand crushing tomatoes? That holds no appeal for me.

Why you ask?

1) I’m not a fan of the large tomato chunk. 2) I’m working in a Manhattan kitchen with minimal counter space, so I don’t have room for that large glass bowl–either on my counter, or in my sink waiting to be washed. 3) Control, control, control. Not that I’m obsessed with chopping things all the same size, but see reason #1. 4) I love to eat tomatoes, cook with tomatoes; I even rather enjoy peeling tomatoes…but the feel of the skinless flesh? Icky!

But last night, something came over me and I did it for the first time. And what a mess! An unsatisfying mess. Ugh! Tomato juice and seeds EVERYWHERE! On the stove, the floor, the backsplash, the range hood, a bowl on the little patch of counter on *the other side* of the stove, all over the front of my apron…and they were so persistently, explosively messy, they even went all the way around my hips, past my apron!, and onto my skirt. Really now—there was no need for that. I’ve had more fun burning caramel and losing the pan, than I did crushing those tomatoes by hand!

Phew! I feel better with that off my chest. But now I wonder, are all my Italian forebearers shaking their fists at me from up above??? Oh well, I’ll just blame it on my French side, I guess!

Here’s the recipe that fooled me into such a foolish un-enjoyable endeavor! I’ve made it many times before, using my trusty hand-chop method, and plan to go right back to it next time. But messiness aside, it did come out tender and full of flavor, so I do encourage you to try it– however you crush your tomatoes! This was based on a recipe from Bon Appetit, you can find that recipe here, though as usual, my version has “upped” the amount of sauce.

Pot Roast with Red Wine and Porcini

1 cup low-salt beef broth
1/2 ounce dried porcini mushrooms

1 4-pound boneless beef chuck roast, trimmed
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 large onion, coarsely chopped
2 celery stalks with some leaves, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes, diced
1/2 cup crushed tomatoes
1 cup dry red wine
1 cup beef broth (or whatever is left from the can you opened to soak the mushrooms)

1 tablespoon butter, room temperature
1 tablespoon Flour

Preheat oven to 300°F. (Last night I already had the oven at 350°, so I kept it there and reduced the cooking time a bit.)

Bring broth to simmer in saucepan. Remove from heat; add mushrooms, cover, and let stand until soft, about 15 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer mushrooms to cutting board. Chop coarsely. Reserve mushrooms and broth separately.

Sprinkle beef with kosher salt and pepper. Heat oil in heavy large ovenproof pot over medium-high heat. Add beef and cook until brown on all sides, about 15 minutes total. Transfer beef to large plate. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon drippings from pot.

Place pot over medium heat. Add onion and celery, sauté until beginning to brown, about 8 minutes.

Add garlic, marjoram, and reserved porcini mushrooms; sauté 1 minute. Sprinkle with Salt and Pepper.

Pour wine over vegetables; boil 5 minutes to reduce, stirring frequently and scraping up browned bits from bottom of pot. Add diced tomatoes and crushed tomatoes to pot, cook 3 minutes. Add beef broth and the reserved mushroom broth, leaving any sediment behind. Bring to a boil, and boil uncovered for about 5 minutes.

Return beef and any accumulated juices to pot. Cover; transfer to oven. Cook 1 1/2 hours. Turn beef and continue cooking until tender, about 1 1/2 hours longer.

Transfer beef to cutting board; tent with foil. Spoon fat from surface of juices in pot. Bring juices to boil; cook until liquid is reduced to 4 cups, about 7 minutes, then reduce the heat to a simmer.

Thoroughly mix the flour with the butter, and whisk into the sauce. (You may need to more or less to achieve your desired sauce/gravy consistency…so feel free to experiment.) Season with salt and pepper.

Slice the meat and serve with the delicious sauce spooned over top.

Serves 6.

Filed Under: Mains, Recipe, Savory

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