Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Comfort food at -40˚: Moose pot roast, brussel sprouts, and mashed potatoes

Today was the last day of Christmas vacation-- I'm headed back to work tomorrow after a bit of time off for the holidays and this is what I work up to:

This was actually what my friend Shawn posted this morning on Facebook-- I don't have a smart phone since I'm a bit of a Luddite, but you get the idea.  It was pretty much too cold to do much more than drink tea and stoke the wood stove.

I decided to pull out my slow cooker since the owls on it make me happy.  And I had a moose pot roast to cook; today seemed like the perfect day for it.

Whenever I prepare a roast, it reminds me of my old roommate Brian from the first year I lived in Fairbanks in the Jesuit Volunteer house.  He's from the the South and had some amazing culinary tricks up his sleeve-- especially his red beans and rice.  Since one of the vows we took was to live under the poverty line, this guy who had been use to eating meat at three meals a day spent an entire year eating ramen noodles for lunch, but he was even able to dress those up a bit.  Anyways, he taught me the neat trick of embedding garlic cloves into a roast before cooking it.  I do it every time I cook a roast...

After browning the roast in a cast iron skillet with a bit of olive oil, I loaded it up in the slow cooker along with a diced red onion (also a nod to Brian who really got me hooked on them), a diced jalapeƱos (a cold day like this needed all the heat it could get), some Northwood Fire spice mix (from Penzey's), and some cumin.

And then I turned it on and let it do its magic for about 7 hours... and it smelled amazing for at least 6 of those hours.

On to the brussel sprouts.  Growing up, the only vegetables we ever had with dinner was corn and/or broccoli.  Once, when we were living in St. Louis, my mom made brussel sprouts and they were awful.  Frozen and then boiled, I remember them being mushy and bitter.  That's why, in high school I was completely flabbergasted when Cristina Jesurun declared her love for brussel sprouts to me.  We were standing in the hallway outside of Dr. Judd's room and all I could think was "Really? but she has such good taste otherwise! What is wrong with her?"  I could not comprehend this at all until fall potluck at Les and Teri Viereck's.  Teri brought out a pan of roasted vegetables including brussels sprouts.  I must have been feeling adventurous that day and tried one.  Omigod, it was good!  And I've been a brussel sprout lover ever since.  Brussel sprouts are like cilantro where you either love them or hate them-- very few people are ambivalent to brussel sprouts or cilantro.  Either you taste the bitterness or you don't.

To cook up the brussel sprouts, I first trim them and rinse them.  Then I heat up some olive oil in a skillet.  When the oil is hot, I throw them in and sprinkle them with a bit of freshly ground black pepper, Himalayan pink salt crystals, and a mixture of dried herbs (Green Goddess mix from Penzey's, in fact but I've also used Italian seasonings before too).  Cook until the brussel sprouts become a more vivid green and become tender, stir occasionally.  Some of the outer leaves will crisp up which adds a great texture to them!

Adding in some mashed potatoes, the meal is complete... and I hear it's suppose to warm up to -25˚F tomorrow!