I cannot remember the last time the temperature was below 80 on Halloween. Granted, my memory sucks, but I'm 43, or possibly 44, and that's a long time in dog years. It's a pretty long time regardless of your species.
Last week we had a few days in the 60s, and my wife decided it was time for hearty stews. “Make me hearty stews,” she said. “OK,” was my response, because while she is small in stature, she is mighty, and I've learned to pick my battles.
I have a pressure cooker, and I have access to supermarkets and the funds to make that access relevant. I am equipped to prepare a hearty stew. The question, then, is what hearty stew?
To cut to the chase, I bought a chuck roast. I cut off a bunch of fat and chopped it up. I cooked the fat on low heat with a little water until the fat rendered out. While that happened, I cut most of the chuck roast into ¾ inch cubes. I browned those slowly over medium heat on all sides, in two batches. When I finished there was a dark brown fond in the pan.
I added chopped onion, celery and bell pepper to the pan along with some salt, then covered it and let it cook for 5 minutes before removing the lid and stirring the brown fond into the vegetables. I added some Marsala, then some beef stock, the reserved beef cubes and cooked it under pressure for 30 minutes.
The beautiful thing about the pressure cooker is that it's even more difficult than it would normally be to mess up something like this. The beef turned out tender and juicy, and once I'd put the braising liquid through a sieve and added some butter, it was as sophisticated a sauce as you'd see just about anywhere. I guess what I'm saying is that I love my pressure cooker and happy Halloween.
Because I am negligent, I did not alert you in time for Poppy Tooker's book signing at Barnes & Noble last weekend. I am wearing a shirt made of steel wool and gnashing my teeth as I write this, but I hope that I can at least mitigate my crime to some extent by announcing a few other opportunities for you to procure Poppy's latest work – Louisiana Eats – and get her to sign it for you in the bargain. At 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 13, Poppy will be at the Jefferson Parish Library (4747 W. Napoleon Ave., Metairie). From 5:30-7:30 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 15, she'll be at Pitot House (1440 Moss St.). If you miss those, you can catch her from 6-8 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 21, at Chickie Wah Wah.
Poppy is pretty awesome, and if you haven't met her, you're missing out. You can get some some measure of her personality by listening to her radio show but there's no substitute for meeting her in person.
Stay out of trouble tonight, kids.