Sunday, August 30, 2009

Sunday Dinner, Part 1

Sunday dinner at our house has become an official event over the last few months though we've actually been having it for years. It started not long after we were married. My husband would mow the lawn, we'd both do laundry and I would make a big dinner to cap off the week. There wasn't any particular significance to the day for us, it was just the end of the weekend when we had the time and energy to put into chores and the making of a big meal. It seemed to happen the same way on the same day every week for years. Eventually we decided that instead of letting things like laundry and big meals fall on Sundays by chance, let's just plan on them. When we actually gave these mundane tasks and the gluttonous meal the titles of "Sunday Chores" and "Sunday Dinner", they became something to be counted on, a familiar benchmark of the week that we each looked forward to and planned on. No longer did I ponder when the grass would be cut. No longer was there any doubt of when there would be a freshly laundered batch of towels in the linen closet. No longer would I question when I was going to use that roast in the refrigerator or wonder if I should go ahead and freeze it. We now know that no matter what happens during the week, we will have clean clothes on Sunday. We know that the weeds might be creeping into the yard on Saturday but by Sunday they'll be gone. And we know that no matter what we throw together for dinner during the rest of the week, on Sunday we will eat like kings.

Our Sunday dinners aren't fancy or particularly gourmet. The meal is usually traditional home cooked food that can be found on the plates of thousands of other families in middle America. The differences between our Sunday dinners and our Thursday dinners are the amount of time, effort or ingredients involved in making the meal and dessert. Weekends afford us more time to roll, knead, baste and slow broil a dish. There is freedom in the fact that there aren't any time constraints telling me that dinner can't be served earlier than X o'clock but really no later
Y o'clock. On Sundays dinner is ready when it's ready, no apologies needed.

When we finally do sit down to eat we enjoy each forkful that crosses our lips, we grab second helpings, we clean our plates with pieces of bread, mopping up any residual flavors and juices, making for one last perfect bite. It's a meal that is savored and carries over into the work-week ahead. On Mondays at noon I know my husband is sitting at his desk at work, enjoying the meal for a second time and looking forward to the next Sunday Dinner. And that's why we do that way.

Occasionally here on the blog I will post a Sunday Dinner menu, complete with a main dish, at least one side or bread recipe and a decadent dessert. This first one is a classic for a reason.



Pot Roast

2 tablespoons olive oil
4 lbs boneless chuck roast or rump roast
1 medium onion
1 1/2 cups baby carrots (about 12 ounces)
2 ribs of celery, cut into 1 inch pieces
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoon tomato paste
3 cups beef broth
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon rubbed sage
1/2 teaspoon cumin
salt and pepper to taste
2 bay leaves
1 pound small red potatoes, quartered (can leave skins on or peeled if preferred)

In a Dutch oven or stock pot, heat 2 tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat. Season roast with salt and pepper on each side and add to Dutch oven. Sear/brown each side of roast, turning occasionally to prevent burning, about 3 minutes per side. Remove from pot and let rest on a plate.
Add onion, carrots and celery to Dutch oven and cook until onions are translucent and carrots & celery begin to soften (about 5 minutes). Add water and tomato paste and simmer for 5 minutes . Return roast to the pot and add broth, thyme, sage, cumin and bay leaves. Cover with lid and bake at 325 for 2 hours. Add the potatoes and continue baking for 45 minutes.

Remove bay leaves. Transfer roast and (using a slotted spoon) vegetables to a large plate/platter. Keep warm.

Gravy

4 tablespoons butter, melted
4 tablespoons flour

Place pot with beef broth on a stovetop burner on medium heat. In a medium bowl mix melted butter and flour until a thick paste or slurry forms. Whisk into broth and simmer until thickened (5-10 minutes). Season with salt and pepper as desired.



Cornbread

1 3/4 cups ground cornmeal
3/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/3 cups milk (whole or 2%)
1 eggs
4 tablespoons butter, melted

Place an 8 inch square baking dish in oven while preheating to 375 degrees.

In a medium bowl combine the cornmeal, flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder. Whisk together. In a large bowl (or in measuring cup) whisk the milk, egg and butter. Stir into dry mixture until well blended.
Carefully remove the hot pan from the oven and grease bottom and sides of pan with butter or non stick cooking spray. Pour and spread the batter in the pan and bake at 425 degrees for 23 minutes or until lightly browned.



S'More Cake with Coconut Frosting

1 1/2 sticks butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 eggs plus 1 yolk
3/4 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
12 oz package semi sweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups mini marshmallows
Butter the bottom of a 13x9 pan. Line bottom with waxed paper.
In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar for about 3 minutes, until light and fluffy. Slowly beat in all eggs, milk and vanilla. Stir together flour, baking powder and salt. Add in the flour mixture a little at a time. Gently stir in chocolate chips and marshmallows

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake cake about 25 to 30 minutes, or until center is springy to the touch. Cool Completely.

Frosting

3 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/8 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons ice water
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla (or 1 tsp vanilla and 1 tsp coconut extract)
3 teaspoons light corn syrup

1/2 cup flaked coconut

Place all ingredients except vanilla and coconut, in top of double boiler (over boiling water). Beat with electric hand mixer for about 15 minutes, or until icing is stiff enough to stand in peaks. Remove from heat and add vanilla. Gently stir in coconut.

Garnish

2-4 tablespoons graham cracker crumbs

Frost top of cake and sprinkle with graham crumbs as desired.

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