The cool temperatures of autumn put us in the mood for comforting foods. Stews and one dish meals and casseroles can provide that warm, healthy comfort. If we make them with lean meats, poultry and fish, and plenty of vegetables and legumes, they provide all the nutrition a meal should have. These meals can be low in calories as well, if we avoid too much fat and use lean cooking methods. I think the best part is the wonderful aroma that fills the house as our slow food cooks.
Pot roast is a favorite that is versatile and inexpensive. Choose a cut of meat that needs long, slow cooking, which will also be the least expensive cut. Trim off all visible fat. Start by seasoning the meat on all sides with salt and pepper. In a heavy dutch oven, over medium high heat, brown the meat on all sides in a small amount of oil. This will take about 20 minutes. Allow each side to get very brown and crusty before turning. Turning too soon may result in sticking. If the meat feels like it is sticking, let it brown a little longer.
When the meat is entirely browned on all sides, add liquid to reach halfway up the sides of the meat. This can be plain water, or any kind of broth, wine, or a combination. Add a quartered onion, several cloves of garlic, a bay leaf and 6 or so peppercorns.
Bring the pot up to the boil. Cover and place in a 350 degree F oven for at least 1 hour. Add to the pot some small or quartered medium onions, a stalk of celery cut in large pieces, and for each person a carrot cut in chunks and a medium potato cut in half. You may also add any other root vegetable, such as leeks, turnips and parsnips. Return the covered pot to the oven for 1 more hour. When the meat is done and tender, remove it from the pot to a warm platter and let it rest for 15 minutes before slicing. Arrange the vegetables around the meat.
There will be delicious juices in the pot. Skim off any fat. Puree some of the vegetables in the juices to make a thick, rich tasting, low fat gravy.
Pot roast can also be made in a slow cooker. Brown the meat in a skillet and transfer it to the crockpot. Deglaze the skillet with broth, water, or wine if you like, and add the delicious liquid to the pot. Add the vegetables half way through the cooking time, usually 6 to 8 hours total.
There are so many possibilities and, as usual, our members use all their creativity with fresh ingredients in cooking the following recipes.