25 Recipes #5: Pot Roast

Another week, another delicious thing simmering away in the kitchen.  This time it was pot roast, a long slow braise making the most of an inexpensive piece of meat.

Pot Roast Before

Pot roast is one of those 50s housewife kind of meals that I imagine my mom ate growing up.  My grandma was – and still is – a total 50s housewife, complete with red lipstick and meat-and-potatoes meals on the table when her doctor husband came home from the office.  I can easily imagine pot roast, carrots, and potatoes on the table with a green salad and pie for dessert.  I don’t remember ever having pot roast growing up – my dad’s not a meat-and-potatoes guy – but I’ve had a taste for it since we shared a portion at Knight’s a few months ago.

Pot Roast Plated

Nothing fancy here: the meat and veg get a quick brown, then a slow cook in the oven for a few mouth-watering hours, until you almost can’t stand it and have to take a peek.  It’s fortunate that I did, as while the recipe called for three hours in the oven, our roast was D-O-N-E at 1:45.  While the meat rested, I reduced the hell out of the pan juices, and about 15 minutes later – and an hour ahead of schedule – we sat down to a fantastic meal.

Recipe:
Perfect Pot Roast from The Pioneer Woman Cooks, who recommends 3 hours for 3#, 4 hours for 4-5#.  I would STRONGLY recommend checking your roast with a meat thermometer at the halfway point, as our 3# roast was well beyond the temps for well-done after 1:45.  Nothing that a little gravy couldn’t fix, but it would have been INEDIBLE if we’d let it go another hour.

Sweaty E

41/365 [Hot Yoga...the aftermath]
Photo by The Hamster Factor

I took my first Bikram yoga class yesterday after purchasing a LivingSocial coupon for 10 classes for $20 a few weeks ago. Most yoga classes around here seem to run around $15 per class – unless you’re willing to commit to more – so $2/class was a crazy good deal and a good opportunity to try something new.

The first thing you should know about Bikram is that it is done in a hot room. Like, really hot. Like, the sort of hot that is unthinkable when the mercury’s barely nudged above 30 for months on end. 105 degrees, to be precise. At 105 degrees, you start sweating just lying flat on the ground. In this extremely hot room, you’re led through a series of 26 postures – asanas – that build strength and increase circulation, in theory invigorating every part of your body in the process. And you sweat. And then you sweat some more. And then, when you don’t think you possibly can sweat any more at all ever, you produce more sweat. I finished my class around noon, and was still drenched in sweat an hour later.

I have primarily taken vinyasa classes, so there were some aspects of Bikram that I found odd or difficult. There was less emphasis on becoming grounded in a pose as a means of providing balance – something I have really appreciated about both vinyasa and hatha classes previously. I felt like the class and the postures were more focused on flexibility than building strength, but that may have been because I’m used to moving between poses, rather than getting into a pose, then immediately flipping around and taking a break. I certainly experienced a deeper flexibility than I recalled from previous classes, possibly as a result of the heat, possibly because of all of the other exercise I’ve been doing in the last month.

I have 9 classes left on my card, and 3 months to use them, so I’ll definitely report back on my future experiences. Oh, and one other thing: don’t eat bacon before Bikram. I felt like I was sweating out bacon aromas which, while not unpleasant, was pretty weird.

Why Ice-T is Awesome

An ordered list for a sunny Tuesday afternoon:

  1. Cool nickname? Check.
  2. Music career? 8 solo albums and 4 with Body Count.
  3. Acting career? Spans 28 years and includes Breakin 2: Electric Boogaloo and 10 years on Law & Order: SVU
  4. Military career? Check: four years in the Army.
  5. Literary career? Check: one book, with another forthcoming.
  6. Much younger wife with a ludicrous booty? Check [maybe NSFW].
  7. Gets to hang out with Richard Belzer aka John Munch
  8. 78,000+ people tune in to his often hilarious tweets.
  9. Overall a pretty fly dude.

25 Recipes #4: Ragù alla bolognese

Sunday night’s bolognese was wildly easier and wildly more delicious than I anticipated. Ragù alla bolognese was on my 25 Recipes list in part because I keep hearing about pots of bolognese simmering away at Shana’s house – and part because while I can make a solid marinara, I really should branch out a bit in my tomato-based sauces.

Here’s the first thing I learned: there are two basic ragùs: bolognese and napoletana.  Both start with a soffrito and derive most of their flavors from the meat, but as is the way with regional cooking, the recipes diverge wildly from there, resulting in sauces that are defined by their differences rather than their essential natures.  An authentic bolognese has only a minimal amount of tomatoes, while napoletana is rich with velvety tomatoes, a byproduct of the longer growing season in Naples.  The meat is more finely chopped in a bolognese, while the soffrito of a napoletana contains more onions and herbs.

Three Meats Four Dice

Both sauces are characterized by a long, slow preparation, making them perfect for a lazy Sunday – or for a snowy night when plans have been canceled and you can wait another hour for dinner while a pot simmers away, filling the house with amazing aromas.  The longer the simmer, the better, but I started prep at 5:30, and by 7:30, we were fiending for a taste.

Meat and SoffritoSimmer Down

Ready to goFusilli Bolognese

And oh my gosh, was it worth the wait.  Shane literally groaned upon taking his first bite – always a good sign.  The sauce tucked itself into the grooves of the fusilli – Meijer’s upscale store-brand, made using the traditional bronze die process that results in a substantially better texture. We halved the recipe and would’ve eaten the entire thing, had good sense and an awareness of the caloric punch of beef AND pork AND veal AND heavy cream not prevailed.  Besides, if it was this amazing for dinner, just imagine how good the leftovers will be for lunch?

Recipe: Pasta Bolognese from Food and Wine

Friday this and that

Things I’m into right now:
1. Essential Mixes have been carrying me through long workdays of literature reviews and conference prep.
2. THREE DAYS left at my current job! I start here on 28 February.
3. I’m in desperate need of a pedicure. I might treat myself after tomorrow’s seven mile run. (OMG, running seven miles)

Things I do not like:
1. The weird faces in reddit rage comics.
2. Brak, at least in his appearances on Space Ghost thus far.

Things that do not exist as far as I know, but really should:
1. A website that shows you all of your available transit options between two locations, including schedules and pricing. One-click booking would be ideal. Use case: I want to travel from DC to NYC. My options include several bus lines, flights from three nearby airports, the Acela, car rental, etc.
2. A website that lets you input your price range, then shows you your flight (or, ideally, all transit) options. Example: I want to spend up to $300 on airfare for my upcoming vacation. Where can I go if I book my tickets today?
3. A coffeeshop along the lines of Aroma, Kopi, or Paradiso. Adequate coffee, free wireless, and affordable lunch options. As far as I’m concerned, these things are essential to grad school success, and are woefully absent in A2.
4. Even better, I would like the above in my neighborhood. Or any kind of cafe within a few blocks of my house.

12 Books, 12 Months: Month 5 Round Up

Several of us traveled to other places, times, or possible lives in our reading this month. Amber read The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich, and while she isn’t going to quit her job tomorrow, it did inspire her to reexamine aspects of her lifestyle and career [review].  Meghan read The Great Reset: How New Ways of Living and Working Drive Post-Crash Prosperity, perhaps an interesting counterpoint to The 4-Hour Workweek.  The author envisions a future of “high speed rail, walkable communities, less reliance on cars and highways and smaller housing,” but “can’t quite bring himself to admit that ‘the evidence for [being frugal] is “more like wishful thinking”‘” [review].  Grace read Mama, PhD: Women Write About Motherhood and Academic Life, which didn’t provide new perspectives on “the mommy wars and the second shift” which seems to exist in most industries but did spark discussion with her partner, an academic, about the unfortunate fact that his colleague, an accomplished scientist and mother of two, is something of an anomaly in their field [review].

I read – and admittedly didn’t finish – Blue Highways: A Journey into America, a rambling road narrative that dipped into many hidden corners of our country.  I look forward to finishing one of these days, taking the book at the same pace as William Least Heat-Moon took his road trip [review].  Out of Yarn read My Land and My People: The Original Autobiography of His Holiness the Dalai Lama of Tibet – a totally different kind of journey, compelling and restrained, of a stranger in a strange land longing to return home [review].

Mike read The Sheltering Sky, and described the author’s style as feeling “as arid as the desert landscape he’s writing about.”  While Mike was undecided about the book itself, he was drawn in by biographic information about the author, Paul Bowles, who had, by all accounts, an amazing life [review].  In the same part of the fictional world, Rebekah read The Alchemist and, upon finishing, wished that she hadn’t, as she found the spiritual and moralizing aspects grating. Coelho’s writing, which she has enjoyed elsewhere, was “simple and elegant in its way, but more irritating than compelling” [review].

I haven’t read much science fiction, so I apologize if I do these stories a disservice in my summary.  Angel reread Dune, one of the most seminal of the genre, full of “suspense…political intrigue, adventure, and coming of age, all in an epic science fiction tale.” His review ends with a strong exhortation that “if you consider yourself a science fiction reader, and you have not read Dune, go read it.”  J Harker took advantage of a rare opportunity for pleasure reading and read not one but two sci-fi novels: Citizen of the Galaxy [review] and Snow Crash [review], both of which imagine other lives in other worlds, though not entirely convincingly.  The former, written in the 50s, explores slavery and race relations in a far distant future; the latter hearkens back to strange fads of bygone days, somehow making what sounds like a plodding story fun and engrossing for 470 pages.  Now THAT is good writing.  Or bad writing.  Or something.  Also points to J Harker for the reference to Hackers, which I also cited in my class Tuesday night.  On a slightly different but related note, Sara read Haroun and the Sea of Stories, written by Salman Rushdie  “just after the fatwa against his life was announced, wondering each day if he would see his son again.”  As a result, the book – written for children but enjoyed by adults – is an allegory packed with the sort of characters Rushdie was encountering in his real life. [review]

One of the things I love hearing about are the fortuitous ways we come to read the things we do.  Anj picked up People of the Book for her aunt’s bookclub last year, zipped through 180 pages, and was happy to return to it this month.  The book centers around a conservator who protected the Sarajavo Haggadah– a book about a book, with stories building upon stories. [review]  Eva, laid up after emergency surgery, read The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo after myriad recommendations, and found to be “suspenseful and action-packed”, “just different enough from [her] usual mystery choices that it felt exotic and new” [review] – a nice change from her last read, Gourmet Rhapsody, which “left an unpleasant aftertaste”, especially in comparison to the author’s “completely savorable” other work [review].

Lanea read The Good Brother, a gorgeous example of Appalachian fiction that explores “the concept of manhood and its attendant responsibilities and pitfalls” while expressing a surprising and subtle clarity in his interpretation of “race and difference in Appalachia”   [review].  Vanessa felt like she barely scratched the surface of For Whom the Bell Tolls – darkly dramatic, poignant, intense, and poetic as only Hemingway can be.  A quote from the man himself opens and summarizes her review: “All good books have one thing in common – they are truer than if they had really happened.”  Vanessa also read A Reliable Wife, a swift and elegantly-written book “set in the middle of a Wisconsin winter”, fraught with “violence, loneliness, and a hum of insanity.”  That description rings true in the depths of a Michigan winter as well, making me all the more curious to check out the book and the author’s other work [review].

Finally, Jill read Rock, Paper, Scissors: Game Theory in Everyday Life, her first non-fiction read in this challenge.  She hoped to learn more about game theory than she actually did, partially due to the way concepts were explained in adjacent text.  Most interesting to me from her review was that she learned that herrings fart, which, as she says, “you never know when you might find that useful”.  Mark posted twice about Peak Learning, one review mostly positive, the other taking back his earlier review.  While some of the exercises had potential for the adult learner who wants to focus his/her continuing education, at least 80% of the book is “fluff/extraneous babbling”, and a large portion of the remainder is woefully out of date.  Mark also read The Social Life of Information, and has me intensely curious about his “slowly awakening thesis that ‘information’ as a foundational concept for libraries and librarians is a dangerous one,” which seems to have been fostered by the authors’ exploration of the information/IT binary [review].

Thanks for another great month of reads and reviews, you guys!  Fingers crossed that spring break allows me some time to get caught up on my own reading – and to get the monthly round-up out in a somewhat more timely manner.

First (homemade) steak in 10+ years

So, it turns out that I like steak. No one is more surprised than me, especially given that I went 13 years with no beef. In the last month, I’ve had or shared four steaks, plus steak on assorted salads. That’s a lot of steak, you guys!

Tonight marked my first attempt at making a real steak in at least 10 years. I’ve been back to eating beef for a year, but I’m still pretty intimidated by cooking it, which which made tonight’s steak success even more surprising. It was perfectly grilled, you guys, tender and moist, topped with a spicy horseradish chimichurri.

Cool steak u guys

Recipe: Grilled Sirloin with Horseradish Chimichurri from Fitness