Hearty Meat Dishes for the Winter

A friend once told me that the easiest cooking is roasting a large piece of meat – i.e. turkey, roast beef, pork, leg of lamb – because you put it on to cook and forget about it. A mother of several teenage boys, she knew about big appetites and was probably right about getting the most for your effort.

Some cooks, however, shy away from big cooking for the simple reason that it’s big. What I like about it is that you usually have multiple meals on your hands, saving time and effort in the long run. Whether roasting in the oven or simmering in a Dutch oven on top of the stove, little attention is required after the cooking begins. Sometimes you can put the vegetables in on top of the meat and a whole meal is ready in one pot. Putting it in a slow cooker to simmer all day is a boon to working cooks.

When I would come home from college on weekends, usually with several friends, we often requested a “pot.” Tired of grilled cheeses and burgers, we wanted some of my mother’s down-home cooking. A “pot” usually consisted of a roast with carrots and potatoes around it, or a chicken with noodles, carrots and lima beans cooked in the broth.

I have recently cooked my first rolled roast and it was a hit at a dinner party. The key is cutting a pork loin so that it will roll up around a little stuffing. That is the hard part; the rest is a breeze. It is a fancy presentation of a pork roast that can more easily be placed whole in the oven with veggies surrounding it.

My shortcut to the old Creole favorite beef daube takes minutes to prepare for a giant meal, and my version of a chicken in the pot goes into the oven for a total meal.

In my mind, these are wintry dishes, the kind you want to smell cooking when you come home from work, tired and cold. Not that we have much cold weather, but to us in coastal Louisiana, a 40-degree temp requires layers of coats and scarves and we’re still cold.

If you’re away at work all day, you can put these dishes in a slow cooker with similar effect. The smells will greet you while you put on your slippers and light a fire.

Rolled Pork Roast

1 3-pound piece boneless
  pork loin
Salt, freshly ground pepper and
  Creole seasoning to taste
3 1/2 Tablespoons olive oil,
1/2 pound Italian sausage (hot
  or mild), casings removed
1/2 onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled
  and diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup Panko breadcrumbs
2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage,
  chopped, or 1/2 teaspoon dried
2 teaspoons chopped fresh
  rosemary, chopped, or 1/2
  teaspoon dried
2 teaspoons chopped fresh
  oregano, chopped, or 1/2
  teaspoon dried
1/2 cup white wine

First you must butterfly the pork loin. If you have purchased a whole pork loin, cut away 3 pounds and freeze the rest for another meal. Place the loin on a large chopping board with fat facing down and short side toward you. With a sharp knife slice the length of the loin down the center, leaving 1/2-inch meat uncut. Cut each side horizontally to the cutting board and away from the center until each side lays flat, all about 1-inch in thickness. Cover with wax paper or parchment paper, and pound with the flat side of a mallet until the piece of pork reaches a smooth surface, still about 1/2-inch in thickness. Sprinkle liberally with salt, pepper and Creole seasoning. Set aside.

In a large skillet, sauté the sausage until no longer pink. Remove from skillet. In same skillet, sauté onion, celery and apple in 1 Tablespoon olive oil until wilted, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and sauté 1 minute more.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Place 1 Tablespoon olive oil in a smaller skillet and sauté breadcrumbs until lightly browned. Stir in herbs and sauté 1 minute longer. Mix this into sausage mixture.

Spread dressing evenly onto pork, leaving a 1-inch margin on all sides. Pat it down and roll the pork, jelly-roll style. Make sure the dressing is contained and wrap the roast with string to keep it together. Sprinkle the outside with more seasoning. Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat and add remaining oil. When hot, brown roast on all sides. Place roast seam side down in a roasting pan fitted with a rack and add wine to the bottom of the pan to keep juices from burning. Pour oil off sauté pan and deglaze with water by adding 1/2-cup of water to the pan and heating it to boiling. Pour this over the roast. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until internal temperature is 145 degrees on a meat thermometer.

Remove roast from the oven and let it rest for 10 minutes before serving. Slice into 1- to 1 1/2-inch pieces to serve. Pour pan juices over slices.

Serves 8 to 10

Easy Beef Daube

1 3- to 4-pound beef roast
  (chuck, shoulder, rump)
Creole seasoning, freshly ground
  black pepper and garlic powder
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
1 14.5-ounce can beef broth
1/2 cup red wine
1 24-ounce jar marinara
  (spaghetti) sauce
1 1/2 pounds spaghetti, cooked
  al dente
Parmesan cheese, grated

Sprinkle roast liberally with seasonings. Heat oil in a large, heavy pot (Dutch oven) and brown roast on all sides. (Note: Roast can be cooked in a slow cooker on low setting for 10 hours.) Reduce heat to a simmer and add broth, wine and marinara sauce. Cover and simmer on low heat for about 4 hours or until meat is falling apart. Stir and turn several times during cooking. If sauce needs to thicken, leave top off pot for last hour. Serve over spaghetti. Top with Parmesan.

Serves 6 to 8

Roast Chicken With Root Vegetables

1 chicken, about 4 pounds
Salt, freshly ground pepper and
  Creole seasoning
2 Tablespoons olive oil
Several stems fresh rosemary
1 large onion, cut in fourths
2 large carrots, cut into 2-inch
Several small turnips or 1 large,
  cut in halves
2 medium Yukon Gold potatoes,
  cut into halves
2 medium parsnips, peeled and
  cut into 2-inch pieces
1 fennel bulb, cut in half
1 14.5-ounce can chicken broth

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Rinse chicken and pat dry. Season liberally inside and out with salt, pepper and Creole seasoning. Place a stem or two of rosemary inside the chicken. Tie legs together.

Heat oil in a large, preferably oval, ovenproof Dutch oven or iron pot on top of stove. Brown whole chicken on all sides, turning and moving frequently in the pot so that the skin doesn’t pull off. Turn the bird on its back and scatter all the vegetables around and on top of it. Pour can of broth over it and season with salt, pepper and Creole seasoning. Cover and roast in the oven for about 1 1/2 hours, or until juices run clear when a thigh is pierced and vegetables are fork-tender. Stir the vegetables several times during the roasting.

When ready to serve, place chicken on a large platter with vegetables around it. Skim the fat from the juices in the baking pan and pour remaining juices over the chicken and vegetables.

Serves 4 to 6

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