A toast for roastsSeasonings can take your meat to another level.
One of the things I could always count on when growing up was supper being on the table every night between 5:30 and 6 p.m. and a full-blown Sunday dinner, usually sometime in the early to midafternoon. Even after my mom started to work, we had a home-cooked meal every day.
Back then, it usually was the woman of the house who did the cooking, unlike today, when many men are just as comfortable in the kitchen as they are in the garage. And guys like me would just as soon be fixing something on the stove as making repairs to the car.
I looked forward with much anticipation to those Sunday dinners. We most certainly had a vegetable (carrots, beans, coleslaw or wilted lettuce), some kind of potato dish (mashed, baked or roasted) as well as dressing (either bread or a bread/sausage combo). And, of course, there were all sorts of condiments, ranging from homemade pickled beets to celery stuffed with cream cheese and sprinkled with paprika to olives, green onions and radishes.
As for the main course, if we didn’t have fried chicken, I could be sure there would be either a beef or pork roast.
Generally, Mom would brown the meat in a little butter or shortening before putting it in the oven. Browning the meat sealed in the rich flavor. Then, she would put the meat in a roaster (we had one of those silver Wagner Ware Magnalite oval models) with a little bit of water and place it in the oven. If she was making a pork or beef roast, she added a whole onion and sometimes potatoes and carrots.
The coup de grace was the gravy she made from the drippings.
And my mom sure knew how to make gravy. I’m sure she learned how from her mother, who also was a great cook. Mom used to say the gravy Grandma Menard made, especially when she cooked veal and pork roasts together, was out of this world.
The only seasonings my mom used were salt and pepper, and that’s the strategy I followed over the years — until discovering that herbs and spices can add a lot of flavor to meat.
My favorite these days is Old Bay’s Seasoning, which is owned by McCormick & Co., the spice people. It’s a blend of 11 herbs and spices, including salt and pepper. It was formulated by Gustav Brunn, a German immigrant to Baltimore in the early 1900s, who used it on steamed crab, shrimp, lobster and other tasty seafood dishes that originated in the Chesapeake Bay area. Since then, cooks have been seasoning all sorts of food with it, including roasted meats.
Just about everyone has their favorite way to spice up their meat, including the supermarkets, most of which carry seasoned chicken, beef and pork in their display cases.
A co-worker of mine recently has been raving about a couple of burgundy pepper roasts she purchased at Hugo’s. Denny Wynne, the meat manager at the East Grand Forks Hugo’s store, said he’s been hearing lots of good things about that particular roast from customers.
A new recipe I’m looking forward to trying contains fresh thyme. It’s for a pork pot roast and comes highly touted from Rex Huss of Grand Forks. (See recipe at www.grand forksherald.com/event/tag/group/Features/tag/ food/.) The recipe also features sweet potatoes, red Bartlett pears, thinly sliced prosciutto and honey, among other things.
Now, that’s not exactly your mother’s pot roast. But then again, can anyone ever duplicate anything of Mom’s?
Tiedeman is food editor at the Herald. Reach him at 780-1136 or toll-free at (800) 477-6572, or e-mail at email@example.com.