There is a trend with at least three members of my family. We like to cook at odd hours of the day and night. Actually, I don’t know if “like” is the right word; for me, at least, it is a habit borne of necessity. The habit does, though, make it possible to create full-fledged meals any day of the week, but at the expense of less sleep than a normal person should require. And, Gran Fran is the reigning queen of this domain.
As far back as I can remember, I heard the sounds of pound cakes being whacked out of baking tins, Kitchen Aid mixers whirring, and caught the smells of roasting meats at any hour of the day or night. If there was a need for a big dinner on a Friday, for instance, Gran Fran would stay up the night before until at least 3AM and then get up again at 6 AM to leave for work. She was always pleasant about it, but with a bit of “…No, no, that’s ok, I can do it myself,” whenever she was asked if she wanted help.
The results were always great, and made all five of us the envy of our friends, since we got food cooked from scratch that was better than you could get in most restaurants. As the years went by and most of us moved out, the cooking marathons became less frequent, usually revolving around homecomings of the older kids.
Being the youngest, I got to see the preparations for these events firsthand. The most memorable was one night when I was in college (yes, I lived with my parents through most of college, bless them for taking me in), I came home late with a friend, around 2AM. There was Gran Fran sacked out on the couch, still wearing her apron and headscarf (circa 1973 by home textile designer, Vera), glasses on, “watching” TV. Once I closed the kitchen door, she was roused enough to utter these two statements:
“I was just resting my eyes. The pot roast on the stove is ready. Want some?”
The friend I was with had not experienced the Gran Fran way before and was astounded to be asked this not only at 2AM but by someone who was seemingly asleep. Of course, the pot roast (served with steamed potatoes, naturally) was fantastic and my friend stated she would come back any time of the day or night to see what Gran Fran would produce.
So, in an effort to continue Gran Fran’s legacy of cooking all-nighters, I now do the same. Mine are usually at 6AM before my daughter wakes up and we have to go to school and work, but the results are the same. And, I hope that Gran Fran will see that for me, it’s also just a little bit of trouble, but that’s ok, I can do it myself.
Pot Roast a la Gran Fran
(You may have noticed by now that all of the recipes on the site “serve 8”. Think about it; we were a family of 7, so this was the necessary serving size for everything we made. You can’t imagine how hard it was to relearn how to cook all of this stuff in smaller batches when I moved out!)
You will need 1 heavy skillet and 1 heavy, deep Non-Reactive stew pan with a lid
• 3 to 3 ½ lbs Bottom Round Beef, whole
• ¼ lb double smoked bacon, diced
• 2 Tbsp Olive Oil
• 2 Carrots, sliced into small pieces
• 1 White Onion, diced
• 2 cloves Garlic, minced
• 3 cups Dry Red Wine
• Salt and Pepper to taste
• ½ Tbsp Thyme (dried or a little less if using fresh)
• 1 Bay Leaf
• 1 Tbsp Tomato Paste
• 2 Tbsp Flour
• Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
• Boil diced bacon in 3 cups of water for 10 minutes.
• Refresh bacon under cold water by rinsing it briefly. Then, pat dry.
• Heat Olive Oil in large skillet.
• Add bacon, browning well on all sides.
• When bacon browns, remove from pan and set aside.
• Dry Beef well. Add to pan of hot oil.
• Brown well on all sides.
• In heavy stew pan, add some oil from the skillet.
• Sauté onions and carrots until golden.
• Sprinkle the vegetables with flour.
• Brown until golden over medium heat, 3 – 5 minutes.
• Add the browned meat to the vegetables.
• Pour wine into the empty skillet, bring to a boil, while scrapping the browned bits off the bottom.
• Add wine and vegetable scrapings to the Beef stew pot.
• If there is not enough liquid to cover the Beef, add water to barely cover the meat.
• Stir in tomato paste, thyme, bay leaf and garlic.
• Bring to a boil once more on the stovetop.
• Cover closely (Hi, Gran Fran)
• Place on lower rack of oven. Leave pan undisturbed in oven for 1½ hours, stir, put cover back on and simmer another 1½ hours.
• Before serving add braised pearl onions (see below) and sautéed mushrooms
Braised Onions a la Gran Fran
To be served in Pot Roast
• 1 lb Tiny Onions
• 3 Tbsp Olive Oil
• 1 Bay Leaf
• Salt and Pepper to taste
• ½ cup Red Wine
• Peel onions by dipping in boiling water for 1 minute to loosen skins. Slip skins off.
• Heat olive oil in sauté pan and add Onions.
• Toss until golden brown.
• Sprinkle with salt, pepper, thyme and bay leaf.
• Add wine and bring to a boil.
• Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 35 minutes.
• Remove from heat, add to Pot Roast and enjoy!!
The Pot Roast is best if served a day after you make it, since it absorbs all of the lovely flavors the spices and wine broth have let off. Serve with mashed or steamed potatoes.