WRITTEN ON February 8th, 2010 BY Meredith AND STORED IN Beef, Dinner

This past weekend my hometown received their second major dumping of the wintry white stuff.

They got almost 30 inches in some spots.  Trees were down, power was out. People were stranded in their homes with nothing to do but eat, drink and play Monopoly.  I was so jealous.  We were supposed to get a few measly inches in New York…alas, nary a flake.

In one of many phone conversations with my mom over the weekend (it was just my parents stuck inside all weekend.  Neither of them are big board-gamers.  Entertainment was thin on the ground), we reminisced about another major snow fall, years ago.  I was about 4, and we were living in a neighborhood called Rodgers Forge, a place full of young families.  There was a similar blizzard that year, complete with thunder and lightening, and snow drifts of several feet.  Residents of Murdock Road (row houses and parallel parking) spent days shoveling themselves out; once they’d freed the car, they’d set beach chairs or other lawn furniture in its place to save the spot (it was, and still is, I imagine, a cardinal sin to park in someone else’s shoveled spot.  It’s the ultimate weasel move).

It’s actually one of my first memories of childhood.  It’s just fuzzy, more a feeling and a flash than anything else.  I am walking through a tunnel of snow (really just the shoveled sidewalks, but in 4 foot snow piles, a kid is basically dwarfed), blinded by it, curious where it leads.  And I’m not at all scared, cause my mom is right there with me. Not holding my hand, but I know she’s right behind me, dragging the sled and whatever else I’ve probably dropped along the way.

Talking to her throughout the weekend made me so nostalgic for those snowy days as a child, when you could go out sledding and romping around and come home to a warm house and Swiss Miss hot chocolate with mini-marshmallows.  Wet socks and gloves were left on the radiator to dry, and there was always something stew-y and comforting cooking for dinner.  Sounds too good to be true?  It was.  My mom made sure of it. Never mind that, as a teacher, snow days were her day off too.  She was always up early to listen to the school closings, and it was the best feeling in the world when she’d poke her head in and say, softly, “Go back to sleep.  No school today.”

My mom used to make a beef stew with similar flavors to this pot roast.  I love keeping the roast whole and cooking it long and slow, so that it falls apart in strings.  I like to use brisket, for it’s marbling and flavor.  Here’s a tip: make it the day before, let it chill overnight and re-heat it on the stove top the next day. It’s even better that way.

As I get older, I keep the hope alive that I’ll be able to pass these feelings on to my own children.  The knowledge that you are safe and warm and looked after. For now, I’m content to re-hash with my own mommy, and remember with love how she was always there, just behind me, dragging all my baggage without so much as one complaint.

Hello pot, I'm roast.

Snowy Day Pot Roast (serves 4)
1 2 1/2 lb brisket or chuck roast
1 large onion, sliced
4 shallots, peeled and quartered
4 garlic cloves, smashed
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp fresh oregano
4 sprigs fresh thyme, picked
1 cups red wine
1 cup low-sodium beef broth
3 carrots, peeled and cut into large, evenly sized chunks
1 fennel bulb, cut into similar sized chunks as carrots
2 stalks celery, same size as carrots
Salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil
Pre-heat oven to 350. In a large, heavy dutch oven, over medium heat, pour a few drizzles of olive oil.  Add onions and shallots, caramelize about 10 minutes.  Add garlic, cook about 1 minute more.  Pat beef dry, season well with salt and pepper.  Remove onion mixture to a bowl.  Add a bit more olive oil to the pot, then brown beef well on all sides, about 5 minutes per side. Add onions back into pot, along with bay leaves, oregano, thyme and wine.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce wine by half, then add beef broth.  The liquid should come just halfway up the sides of the beef.  Bring to a boil, season with salt, pepper and a dash of paprika.  Cover with lid, place in oven.  Braise about 1 1/2 hours. Remove from oven, turn beef over.  Cover and cook another 45 minutes.  Take pot out of oven, remove beef.  Add carrots, fennel and celery to pot, place beef back on top.  Cover again and cook for 45 minutes more.  Beef should fall apart when you pull it with a fork.  Skim excess fat off the top.  Serve beef and vegetables over top egg noodles with sauce on top.

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