My favorite dinner guest

As you may have guessed, I like to eat. What I like even more is feeding people who like to eat, and my hands down favorite folks to feed are non-cooks who love to eat. They make the BEST dinner party guests. Why? Because there are few opportunities in life when you get to feel like a goddess, genius, and Houdini simultaneously. Feeding a food-loving non-cook is one. What you think is just throwing a few ingredients together is pure magic to them. It’s as though you’ve just pulled a rabbit out of your ear, which is dressed like Sinatra and singing I’ve Got the World on a String…in French. I’m not kidding – it’s THAT miraculous! Regardless of how many times you feign modesty, it still happens. I LOVE my non-cooking eaters! Think explaining how you made the dish would destroy the magic? Hell no! Whenever I’ve tried, I noticed that with each word the non-cooking food lover’s head starts to cock to one side, their eyes get glazed and their smile grows. You know that adorable look puppies get when you talk to them in a high-pitched voice? That’s the look! No matter how clear your instructions or descriptive your descriptions, they know YOU are going to cook for them again. Only another cook listens to how you made something. A non-cook doesn’t give a crap. They just love you for sharing the end product and want you to do it again, please. It’s the perfect circle really – a symbiotic relationship that makes everyone happy with full bellies and warm hearts. Plus you get to feel like the best thing since sliced bread. And I don’t plan on stopping any time soon. Because there is no one better to receive my food than someone who loves to eat it, maybe even more than me.

The suggestion for a recipe to share in this post came from an authority on this subject, one of my BEST non-cooking-food-loving friends. A little-known fact about the non-cook is that while they might not care how something is made, they have excellent memory of what was made. The ‘bones’ of this red wine pot roast with porcini recipe came from Epicurious.com, and I think it’s the best pot roast I’ve ever had. The last time I made it, I used an Elk roast (luckily my brother bagged one last winter), and it worked quite well.  I’m certain it would work equally as well with venison. If you do use game, there will be far less fat to skim off at the end (you may even have to add a little more oil to the pot after searing the meat.)

Buttered noodles or mashed potatoes make a nice side for this, but in my mind there’s nothing better than dumplings to sop up all that good gravy. Make this meal for your favorite eaters and POOF!!  You’re a culinary Criss Angel!

Red-Wine Pot Roast With Porcini 

Makes 6 servings

  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
  • 1 4-pound boneless beef chuck roast, trimmed
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, coarsely chopped
  • 2 celery stalks with some leaves, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
  • 3 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1 TBSP chopped fresh marjoram, or a 1 tsp dried
  • 3 cups roasted cherry tomatoes (doubled the recipe), or 1 28 oz. can of whole tomatoes, drained
  • 1 cup red wine

Preheat oven to 300°F. Bring broth to simmer in saucepan. Once it’s simmering, turn off the heat, add mushrooms, cover and let stand until soft, about 15 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer mushrooms to cutting board. Chop coarsely. Reserve mushrooms and broth separately.

Generously salt and pepper the meat. Heat oil in large ovenproof pot over medium-high heat. Add meat and sear until brown on all sides, about 15 minutes total. Transfer meat to large plate. Pour off all but 1 TBSP drippings from pot, or if you don’t have that much, add more oil to make about 1 TBSP. Place pot over medium heat. Add onion and celery. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and sauté until beginning to brown, about 6-8 minutes. Add garlic, chopped marjoram, and reserved porcini mushrooms; sauté 1 minute. Add roasted tomatoes and their juice to pot. (If you are using canned tomatoes, crush tomatoes one at a time with your hands into pot.) Cook 3 minutes, stirring frequently and scraping up browned bits from bottom of pot. Add wine and boil 5 minutes. Then add reserved mushroom broth, leaving any sediment behind. Boil 3 minutes.

Return meat and any accumulated juices to pot. Cover and transfer to oven. Cook 1 1/2 hours. Turn meat and continue cooking until tender, about 1 1/2 hours longer. This is a great recipe to make a day ahead. Just cool and put pot a into the fridge. When you are ready, reheat on stove until heated through and proceed to next step.

If you are eating it right away, remove meat to a cutting board and tent with foil. Skim any fat from surface of juices in pot. Bring juices to boil and cook until liquid is reduced to about 4 cups, about 5-7 minutes. Taste and adjust salt and pepper if needed. Cut roast into 1/2-inch slices. Transfer to platter. Spoon juices over.

Potato Dumplings

I have a confession to make. When I asked my mother for Oma’s dumpling recipe she smiled and said, “Well, Mom would use Panni Potato Dumpling mix.” Shocked? Not really. Oma was no dope, and if they were good, it was fine with her. For you purists out there, there are several good recipes in the internet to make you feel better. Me? I’m sticking with the mix….I wouldn’t want to mess with Oma’s recipe… 😉

The best way to serve these (trust me, I know dumplings) is with buttered breadcrumbs. Melt together about 1/2 a stick of butter and ¼ cup dry unseasoned breadcrumbs. Sprinkle the crumbs over the dumplings. And as far as leftovers go? A sliced dumpling fried in butter and topped with a fried or poached egg is pure magic!

Calories: POOF – they disappeared! Told ya it was magic…

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4 thoughts on “My favorite dinner guest

  1. Ahhh – I wasn’t the non-cooking guest but was honored to be at the same table and I must tell you all – this meal is FABULOUS!

  2. Hah! Too funny – I am about to post a similar recipe from Italy. I will have to try yours and see how they differ! Marjoram is such an under-appreciated herb. Love that I can grow it year-round here. And I really like the idea of using the roasted cherry tomatoes… Yum again… and again… and again…

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