First thing every morning I grab a cup of coffee that Dave brews early each morning and I take out our Corgi, Kitty, to, as my mother would have said, "stretch her legs." While she busies herself sniffing out the latest news from every tree and shrub, I look up at our ash trees to see if they're starting to build their furry leaf casings—a sure harbinger on our little lot—and I take a moment to note which canes of forsythia need clipping and whether the bleeding heart has emerged from under the leaf litter.
Early spring around here means yard work, with its requisite raking, trimming and moving of plants to new spots before they're smothered in shade by larger neighbors or spread beyond their assigned places in what we loosely call our "landscape." Attempting to tame their natural inclinations is better achieved in the cooler temperatures we're having now, before it warms up and they explode with growth and we'd rather laze about and sip cool drinks than labor in the yard.
Cool days and still-chilly nights not only hamper this spring explosion, but also provide a last opportunity to get out the braising pot before warmer days beg for grilling outside. The heavenly pot roast recipe below is super simple and can be assembled and put in the oven to simmer for a few hours while you're outside doing yardwork. Plus it provides an excuse to schedule breaks every hour or so to check and make sure the liquid hasn't all cooked away (add water if it seems low).
The smell when you come in the house for those "breaks" will give you motivation to get the outside work done quicker, too, the better to come inside and enjoy a cocktail while you make a salad and boil potatoes to serve alongside. And sitting down to a hearty and flavor-filled dinner that basically cooks itself? I can't think of a better reward for all that hard work!
Pot Roast Bourguignon
This is extremely easy to make, but you'll need to get it in the oven four hours before dinner or make it the day before. Cutting back on the time in the oven makes for a less than stellar, though still delicious, result.
4 slices bacon, cut in 1/4" pieces
1 3-5 lb. chuck roast
Salt and pepper
1 lg. onion, chopped in 1/2" dice
4 lg. cloves garlic, chopped roughly
4 med. carrots, sliced in 1/4" rounds
1 lb. mushrooms, sliced
1 tsp. thyme
3 large bay leaves
2 6" sprigs rosemary
1 qt. (32 oz.) roasted tomatoes
3-4 c. red wine
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Put bacon in a large braising pot that can go in the oven and fry till fat is rendered and it starts to brown. Add onions and garlic and sauté 2-3 min., then add carrots and sauté 2-3 min. Add sliced mushrooms and sauté till tender. Stir in tomatoes, bay leaves and herbs, then add wine. Sprinkle roast generously with salt and pepper and add to pot. Bring to a boil, then cover tightly and place the pot in the oven. (If the lid doesn't fit tightly, put a sheet of parchment paper over the pot, then place the lid on.) Roast for 2 hrs. Remove meat from pot and slice in 1/4" slices, then return the sliced meat to the pot, submerging slices in the sauce and vegetables. Replace cover and bake for another 1 1/2 hrs.