Sunday, October 30, 2011

Fall Put A Spell On Me

"Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns."
- George Eliot

The fall season is finally upon us in Nashville, and it is bewitching. The bright leaves of red and orange, the bountiful pumpkin displays, the smell of apple cider lingering in the crisp autumn air, candy corn, and the excitement around Halloween costumes and Thanksgiving pies make me euphoric.  Even the opportunity to wear scarves and boots again tickles my fashionable fancy. This is my happy place.

This past weekend was the first in three weeks that I have been home. And I've never been more content to answer "absolutely nothing" when asked if I had any plans for the last two days. But I did know of one familiar place where I wanted to spend some time this weekend: my kitchen. I've had it in my head to make a pot roast for about a week. And Saturday presented the perfect opportunity to do so. Because this recipe called for a good 5 hours of my time, I needed a lazy weekend to enjoy the process from shopping for the ingredients to serving it on the plate. 

From our apartment, you can see a snippet of the downtown skyline. So I opened the door to our balcony, letting the brisk air fill the room, and began to prepare a traditional Yankee pot roast. About an hour into cooking, Nina Simone's "I Put a Spell on You" started to play on Pandora. And I thought
 this song was the perfect compliment to my dish.

A hearty meal that could leave you with a week's worth of leftovers is a great choice for the fall. The flavor is good. The level of difficulty in making this dish is easy. And the pot roast comes out wonderfully tender. You could serve it over brown rice, or we chose to simply eat it as is - soaking up any leftover broth with a crusty fresh loaf of bread.

Bon Appétit!

Traditional Yankee Pot Roast


2 teaspoons olive oil
1 (4-pound) boneless chuck roast, trimmed
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon cracked black pepper
2 cups coarsely chopped onion
2 cups low-salt beef broth
1/4 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 cup chopped plum tomato
1 1/4 pounds small red potatoes
1 pound carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Chopped fresh parsley (optional)


* Preheat oven to 300°.
* Heat olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Sprinkle roast with salt and pepper. Add roast to pan, browning on all sides (about 8 minutes). Remove from pan. Add onion to pan; sauté 8 minutes or until browned. Return roast to pan. Combine broth, ketchup, and Worcestershire; pour over roast. Add tomato; bring to a simmer.
* Cover and bake at 300° for 2 1/2 hours or until tender. Add potatoes and carrots; cover and bake an additional 30 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Stir in lemon juice. Garnish with parsley, if desired.

Monday, October 24, 2011

A Texas Sized Appetite

Quand l'appetit va, tout va.
- Obelix

Upon leaving rise, a quaint French restaurant in Dallas, the hostess hands you a small piece of paper with a unique quote printed on the inside. Written in French, my quote read: "When the appetite goes, everything goes." And here I am, writing this post 5 months after my last entry. It's funny how a seemingly insignificant piece of paper, a random luck of the draw, spoke straight to the core of me.

This past week, I had random encounters with three of my lifelong loves: French food, the French language, and friends (best friends). And so my appetite kicked in to reconnect with each. This past weekend marked the third annual girls' weekend. Each fall, my closest girl friends from college get together for a long weekend. And this year we traveled to my girlfriend's hometown of Dallas, TX. The Big D was awesome! I would also like to take this opportunity to thank her boyfriend who endured sharing one bathroom with 4 women as we paraded and primped in front of the mirror for hours before going out each night.

Girls' weekend is similar to the holidays for me. You're surrounded by people you love; there's always a lot of commotion, and I indefinitely gain a few lbs from the amount of food and alcohol I consume. And so the word appetite takes on a more literal tone as it relates to how much I managed to eat and drink in one weekend. And it was all worth it. But you better believe it's gonna be soup and salads for the remainder of the week.

Of all the wonderful restaurants we sampled this past weekend in Tejas, my favorite was rise. Hedda Gioia Dowd, a Memphis native (my home girl!), is co-owner and creative genius behind this charming salon de souffle. Known for their souffles, rise specializes in both the savory and sweet versions of this classic French food. I had the ever so scrumptious raspberry souffle. French music softly plays in the background. Fresh coffee is served in a French Press. All the dishware is unique pieces of pottery. And your water for the table is contained in recycled wine bottles - great idea for the home might I add. It just doesn't get cuter than this place.

Of course rise has a cookbook (Rise to the Occasion). And, of course, I had to have it. I feel the need to make a souffle of my very own in the near future! My copy was signed by the Chef and co-owner, Cherif Brahmi. He writes: "Le bonheur est dans la cuisine..." Happiness is in the kitchen. Well said monsieur.

Keeping in theme with all things French, I had to choose a song from Edith Piaf. I love her. And if you ever have any interest in learning more about this cultural icon, I highly recommend the film "La Vie en Rose" with Marion Cotillard. Excellent. Quite a depressing life Edith lived. But it's an amazing one at that.