Thursday, September 27, 2012

Family Dinner 101

Fall has definitely arrived in Philadelphia, and with the cooler air comes a renewed desire to use my oven.  In the summer it tends to heat up the main floor of my tiny house so I try to steer clear of it if I can and stick to grilling and stovetop cooking.  But there are few things I love more than the warmth of my oven and the warm, comforting smells coming from it on a chilly day.

I love the fall.  It's my favorite time of year.  I love the return of scarves and sweaters and oversized hoodies and sweat pants and chunky boots and flare jeans.  I love coming home from work and walking up my walkway as dusk is setting, being able to see the living room lamp illuminating my screen door from the front and knowing I'm heading towards a warm, cozy house.  No doubt to be greeted by my daughter's excitement at my return: "Mommy mommy!  You back!  I miss you all day!"  The icing on that comfy cake right there is the smell of something fantastic coming out of my kitchen.

This meal is one of those meals that really scents up your house.  It's a smell I grew up with.  One of my mom's "famous" dishes is roast beef, mashed potatoes, and "bwack gwavy".  She usually made it on Sunday nights when we were all home for dinner.  It's one of those scents that you carry with you from childhood to adulthood -- whenever I smell it cooking, no matter how old I was or am, my stomach growls, my mouth waters, and I start wondering how long it is till dinner is ready.  It's usually requested for my birthday dinner and sometimes my sister's birthday dinner.  And though it's a simple recipe, it took me a while to master it the way my mom has.  If you watch my mom make it, it's effortless: she doesn't measure anything, she just knows.  And to be honest, I'm still trying to master mashed potatoes.  I am very hit or miss with them.  So most of the time I just say screw it and make smashed potatoes.  I have never once made potatoes as silky smooth as my mom has.  But I will keep on trying.

So I'm figuring you know what roast beef and mashed potatoes are, but you may be wondering what "bwack gwavy" is.  I'm not quite sure where this recipe came from; it might be my mom's original.  I just know she always makes it with this meal, and it's the only time she makes it.  And yes, we usually pronounce it like that because that's how my baby sister would say it.  It just stuck.  Personally, I drench my roast beef and potatoes in bearnaise sauce (have you ever had this?  Pick up a packet in your sauce aisle; Knorr makes the best.  You may never go back to gravy on anything again.  I literally put this on everything -- I even dip french fries in it.  Hey, a girl's gotta keep her curves somehow) so I have never had a taste for "bwack gwavy", but my husband loves it.  In fact, he mastered the gravy recipe and now I just let him make it when we are having this for dinner.

Next time you feel like warming up your house on a chilly day with your oven and some mouth-watering smells, consider this family dinner recipe. 

Beth's Roast Beef
  • 1 eye round roast
  • 1 packet Lipton Onion Soup Mix
  • Water
Season beef with salt and pepper on all sides. 

Prepare a roasting pan by pouring the packing of onion soup mix into the bottom, and covering with water.  Stir if necessary.

Set the roast on a roasting rack above the water & soup mix.

Roast at 350 for about an hour or an hour and a half, until desired doneness.  Check with a meat thermometer if you'd like.  Medium should read about 145 and medium-well should read about 155.

Not-Really-Beth's Mashed Potatoes
  • 4-6 large Russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 3/4 stick butter
  • 1/2 cup milk or buttermilk
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Combine milk or buttermilk and butter in a small skillet or saucepan.  Set over very low heat to melt the butter and warm the milk.  Whisk to combine when the butter has melted.  Keep warm.  (Note: This step is not my mom's step.  I came up with this on my own.  Sorry Beff!  My mom stands at the counter over a big pot of potatoes and throws cold butter and cold milk into them and mixes everything with a hand mixer and it always comes out perfectly.  That method did not work for me, so I employed this.  What can I say, my mom is magical.)

Boil potato cubes 15-20 minutes, or until tender.  They should just start to break apart when pierced with a fork, or if pierced with a knife, they should slide right off the blade.  Drain and return to saucepan.

Pour half of the melted butter mixture into the saucepan of potatoes.  Season liberally with salt and pepper.  With an electric hand mixer, beat until the melted butter mixture is combined.  If more is needed, pour in more.  Whip to desired consistency.  Taste for flavorings, and add more salt, pepper, or butter as desired.

Beth's Bwack Gwavy
  • Drippings and onion soup mix from the roasting pan
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch, whisked with enough warm water to dissolve it
  • 1 tablespoon Kitchen Bouquet
Pour pan drippings and leftover soup mix into a saucepan over medium heat.  In a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and warm water.  Add to the saucepan.  Whisk gravy to combine with cornstarch mixture until it thickens.  Add more dissolved cornstarch and water as desired.  Whisk in Kitchen Bouquet and let simmer till you're ready to serve.

We usually round out this meal with corn and crescent rolls.  Of course, I always have my pot of bearnaise sauce next to my plate (no, I do not share).  And then we can usually talk my dad into taking us all out to Dairy Queen for some dessert afterwards.

Anyway.  When you're all done, you should have some deliciousness that looks like this:

Om nom nom, right?  Enjoy!!

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