Wednesday, January 8, 2014

"Pat & Betty's No-Fuss Cooking (Reynolds Wrap)" - (Winter Solstice) Homestyle Pot Roast


Date I made this recipe:  December 29, 2013 (Intended for Solstice)

Pat & Betty's No-Fuss Cooking (Reynolds Wrap)  by Patricia A. Schweitzer and Betty T. Morton, home economists for Reynolds Wrap
Published by:  Hyperion
ISBN:  1-4013-0060-X
Recipe:  Homestyle Pot Roast – p. 120-121

Every once in a while, as I'm putting newly-acquired cookbooks on the shelf, I make a note on my calendar to cook from a book to celebrate certain occasions.  As an example, this year I made a note on Halloween to use the Great Pumpkin Cookbook.  I also made a note on my calendar for December 21st, The Winter Solstice, to make a dish from the cookbook Pat & Betty's No-Fuss Cooking.  Pat and Betty were product spokespeople for Reynolds Wrap aluminum foil and "foil" is a good word to describe my intent to "foil" the longest and darkest day of the year by bringing the light into my cooking.  I thought using aluminum foil would be just the ticket as it's shiny, it's bright, and keeps the heat in on a very cold day.  Get thee back, darkness!

But on the 21st, my brother and sister-in-law flew in for a visit and so dinner got put on hold until the 29th and even then my bright idea (hahahaha) fizzled because the recipe I selected did not require aluminum foil.  I know, right?  Here's what happened:  given that my plans were temporarily set aside, I did not really read through my selected recipe like I should.  And that's because I just assumed (and you know how that word gets us all into trouble) that a recipe for pot roast in a cookbook published by the good people who make aluminum foil would require the sucker to be all wrapped up, nice and cozy in said foil, just like mom used to make.  And I'm sorry, why add the word "Home[style]" to the recipe if you didn't intend for us to invoke memories of "home" and mom and family dinner?  Shame on you, Reynolds Wrap.

What was required was a plastic oven bag.  What????  That's just wrong.  Wrong, wrong, Reynolds Wrap wrong.  A plastic oven bag is not at all shiny, is not made out of aluminum therefore...FAIL.  But I was pressed for time and under the gun to get this dish made so I acquiesced but not before searching the internet to see if I could tweak the recipe to use aluminum foil.  And the answer was yes...but not quite...and so I went with the bag.  (Hangs head in shame.)

Now if you ask me, and you didn't, I think this is why the end result was not quite to my liking.  The roast was fine, it was delicious but the meat was not pull-apart like it was when mom made it in – and this is important – aluminum foil (or "tin foil" as we always called it).  It could very well be due to the fact that chuck roast has more marble in it than other cuts of meat but I think it's the bag.  And no, I don't care that it was tested in Reynolds Wraps' test kitchen by none other than Pat and Betty!

Savvy TV viewers may recall that Pat  (Schweitzer) and Betty (Morton), two actual home economists, were the faces of Reynolds Wrap in TV commercials airing in the mid 90's.  Together, they showed us all how to best use Reynolds Wrap for all of our cooking needs.  And perhaps my memory is foggy but I swore they didn't do any commercials featuring anything but aluminum foil and yet their cookbook, published in 2003 includes recipes utilizing cooking bags as well as wax paper and plastic wrap.  And again, this is just wrong, wrong, really wrong.  BUT...I like Pat and Betty and so I was prepared to overlook this minor (not really) flaw in the roast recipe. 

And okay sure, I could have made something requiring a foil-lined pan instead of a cooking bag  or even one of their recipes calling for an aluminum oven bag but I had my heart set on a roast in foil.  And let's face it, when temperatures dip, a Watermelon Boat is the last thing anybody wants to eat.  (Yesterday, the temperature started out as a balmy -22 degrees so yeah..."no" to the watermelon on page 30.)

And so in conclusion, if you like Pat and Betty or Pat or Betty or if you like the concept of aluminum foil (that wonderful light-projecting product) or if you like Reynolds Wrap (and I do), then this is your book.  The recipes are not complicated and some of them were tempting, just not on a day when I was all about celebrating the Winter Solstice even if it was 8 days later when I did so.  What can I say?  The holidays just flew by!

So happy light, happy warming temperatures (I hope) and happing roasting, even if it is in an oven bag.

Homestyle Pot Roast – makes 7-8 servings
¼ cup flour
2/3 cup water
One 1-ounce envelope onion soup mix
One 3- to 3 ½-pound boneless beef chuck pot roast
6 to 8 small whole red potatoes
1 medium onion, cut in quarters
One 16-ounce package peeled fresh baby carrots
Chopped parsley (optional)

Preheat the oven to 325F.  Add the flour to a large oven bag, shake the bag to distribute the flour, and put in a 9-by-13-by-2-inch baking pan.

Add the water and soup mix to the bag and squeeze the bag to blend them with the flour.  Put the roast in the bag and turn the bag to coat the meat with the sauce.  Arrange the potatoes, onion, and carrots around the roast.

Close the bag with the provided nylon tie and cut six ½-inch slits in the top.

Bake for 2 ½ to 3 hours, or until the beef is tender.

Open the bag carefully and transfer the meat and vegetables to a serving platter.  Stir the gravy and spoon it over the meat and vegetables.  Sprinkle the meat and vegetables with parsley before serving, if desired.

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