My son is in bed, giddy with excitement, and unable to sleep. Why? He received fungus in the mail.
He is a sixth grader, with a typical assignment: a scientific experiment of any kind, based on the scientific method. You know, have a control group, apply a different variable in each consecutive instance… many kids are comparing how fast their dog runs after a tennis ball versus a baseball. Or how long it takes for different liquids to slide down a window pane. Or they are building rocket launchers of some sort.
Not my son. He wanted to grow mushrooms. We had to order them online. He was talking circles around my head tonight, when he read the inordinately detailed instructions: he had been concerned there wouldn’t be enough spores to continue to grow several samples of the mushrooms (tubers in this case). Yeah, keeps me up at night too.
Seriously. Though it is probably better than fourth grade when he was assigned a year-long research project and instead of choosing chocolate (my vote), or whales or stars to study, he chose jet engines. And now it is tubers, and spores and control groups. And tri-fold poster boards and power point presentations with click-able video-clips. What planet am I on? Oh, and son, can you fix my computer again?
Scholastic humor and parental confusion aside, this week I ordered food through the mail and now I can hardly sleep.
I have been meaning to try out a CSA for over a year, and this is my first week inside my commitment and consequently outside of my sleep cycles. CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. It is a movement to support local farming, to help minimize the risk of farmers by paying in advance for food and then riding out the season with them. It gives them assurances that all is not lost if certain crops fail or unforeseen forces affect their farm. And it gives me fabulously fresh, local farm food.
Opening the farmer box was like opening a Christmas stocking.
The lone farm onion was sliced and spread in the bottom of a braising pot, like a mattress, only to cradle a big hunk of beef. The best part of this easy braise? My mushroom-growing 12 year old made it. I wasn’t even home; the only time he called me during its preparation was to find out where my red rain boots were. (He usually slides them on when popping out into the yard—in this instance it was to clip a bay leaf for the recipe. Incidentally, they were on my feet—and I was out and about).
I decided to make—er, have my son make—this braise because I was pinged by Karen from Family Style Food; she was braising because she was put up to it by Swirling Notions Braisy Chain.** (And if that isn’t hard enough to follow, this braise is borrowed from Northwest Essentials). I was happy to oblige; braising is a brilliant way to have dinner cooking long before you need to put it on the table.*
Caramel Pot Roast
1/4 cup sugar
1 (4-pound) bone in chuck roast (I used a 3 Lb roast)
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 medium onion, peeled and sliced thin
2 cups beef broth
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves or 1 teaspoon dried
1 bay leaf, fresh or dried
Oven to 300 degrees. Place dutch oven over medium-high heat. Scatter the sugar over the surface of pan. The sugar will melt, unevenly at first; swirl the pan until the melted sugar is a deep brown and covers the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle the roast with the salt and pepper and using tongs to avoid getting splashed with hot caramel, lay the roast gently to rest in the molten sugar. Sautee 1 minute; turn it over and brown the other side. Lift the roast out of the pan. Stir the sliced onion around in the pan just long enough to heat it up and give it a little color, then pour in the beef broth. Sprinkle in the thyme leaves and slip the bay leaf into the liquid. Replace roast; cover the pan and put it in the oven. Roast 3 1/2 hours. Transfer the roast from the pan and let it rest; boil the pan juices until they are reduced to about half their original volume then strain and serve the sauce with the beef.
*Although, if you don’t get it into the oven on time, and have to jet out and run errands or carpools, you just might have to have your 12 year old get it in the oven for you.
**I don’t want to be the braisy-chain-breaker; so I have some blogging pals to tag. May the braising continue with: