Archive | January 8th, 2010

Save the Date: Olives Olé, March 27

Save the Date: Olives Olé, March 27

Want to sample olives from the largest olive bar in the area? Or talk to olive growers and nutritionists about the health benefits of this fruit?

Olives Olé, International Olive Festival of Texas, will host its second annual event, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. March 27. The festival, sponsored by Les Dames d’Escoffier San Antonio Chapter, will again be at  Sandy Oaks Olive Orchard, a working ranch with a large olive orchard near Elmendorf.

For the $10 entry fee you can sample olives, attend expert seminars on health, nutrition, organic gardening, herbs and growing olives. Participate in comparison tastings of olive oils and learn some tips from cooking demonstrations. A food concession staffed by the members of Les Dames will offer gourmet snacks and dishes for sale, as well.

This family event costs $10 per person to attend. Tickets may be purchased at the gate or at area H-E-B customer service desks.

Sandy Oaks Olive Orchard is 20 miles south of San Antonio. Exit No. 120 onto Hardy Road off IH-37. Turn left, drive over the Interstate bridge and go about one-quarter mile to Mathis Road. Turn left, then go another one-quarter mile to Sandy Oaks.

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Pot Roast With Wild Mushrooms and Thyme

Pot Roast With Wild Mushrooms and Thyme

One of the things I love about a well-made pot roast is the way each bite breaks away so easily; how the sauce seems to almost melt into the long-simmered beef.

In this dish, the scents of cooking are so inviting they’ll wake you up from a winter’s nap and draw you into the kitchen, making you wish you could speed the process.

But don’t try. This dish turns out beautifully given the proper time.

A few tips:

1. Thyme is easy to grow and use. You can also purchase it in the store year-round. Just use a piece of kitchen string to tie the bundle of stems together and put into the pot of simmering broth while the roast is cooking. The leaves will fall off the stem, and all you have to do at the end is pull the bundle out. Also, be sure you pull out the bay leaf.

2. Use a dry red wine you wouldn’t mind drinking with the dish when it is finished. You’re not using much, but the flavor will tell.

3. I used Pacific Organic Beef Broth. It was opaque rather than clear; it had body and was well worth the reasonable price. I think it, along with the tomato sauce, wine, Worcestershire sauce and the mushroom liquid, made the completed sauce the rich, brown color that it was.

Rehydrating mushrooms in a small bowl.

4. Here’s a tip I have learned and re-learned from both Italian and Mexican cooks: Put plenty of herbs into the stew to cook. But, at the end, refresh the flavor with a few more fresh-chopped herbs. It does make a difference.

5. And, another tip from the great caldo makers of San Antonio: Add a few carrot slices to the cooking liquid if you like sweetness in the broth. I don’t want a sweet gravy, so I cook the carrots separately, and serve them alongside the dish.

5. There are a number of ways to build on flavor:  Use good ingredients, making sure each and every one of them is a flavor builder, not a neutral, unless it’s needed water. The broth, wine, tomato sauce, and other ingredients  back up the delicious natural flavors that the long-cooked beef imparts to the liquid. Another is reduction:  In  this recipe, I reduced the broth after the roast had become tender, before putting in the thickener. Then, it is further cooked so that the flour in the thickening blend cooks long enough to get rid of a raw flour taste. You know it’s right when the sauce, or gravy, if you prefer, takes on a lovely, glossy sheen. Add the mushrooms, cook a little longer, and you’re there.

Pot Roast with Wild Mushrooms and Thyme

3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more, if needed, divided use
2 1/2 pounds beef shoulder roast
Salt, to taste
Black pepper, to taste
Few grindings of white pepper
1 cup water
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup diced celery, with some of the leaves
1 cup diced onion or leek, or combination
3 large cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
1 quart beef broth, such as Pacific Organic Beef Broth
1 cup water
1 cup boiling water
1 cup dried wild mushrooms
1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce (plain, not seasoned)
1 tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
3/4 cup dry red wine (not ‘cooking’ wine)
1 large bundle fresh thyme stems (such as you buy at the store, reserving 3-4 of the stems)
1/2 large bay leaf (don’t forget to take it out before you serve the pot roast)
5 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, divided use
1/2 cup flour
1 (10-ounce) package wide egg noodles, cooked, for serving
2 tablespoons butter
Salt, to taste
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Put a large, heavy-bottom pan for searing the meat on the stove. Heat the olive oil over medium heat until very hot. Rub both sides of the beef roast with the salt, pepper and white pepper. Place into the hot oil and brown well on both sides. Remove to a heavy-bottomed pot with a lid.

Put 1 cup water into the pan where you cooked the beef. Turn the heat down and scrape the pan, getting up browned bits. Pour into the pan with the roast. Add the 2 tablespoons olive oil to the first pan and sauté the onion, celery, onion and garlic until lightly browned. Scrape into the beef pot.

Pour 1 cup boiling water (or very hot water) over the dried mushrooms and set aside. Into the beef pot put the broth, remaining cup water, tomato sauce, Worcestershire sauce, wine, thyme, bay leaf, parsley. Cover the pot, turn down the heat so the liquid comes to a bubbling simmer, but not hard boil. Let cook until the beef is tender to cut, but not falling apart. (About 1 1/2 hours.)

Remove cooked beef to a platter and set aside. (Cover the top with some plastic wrap.) Strain the broth and skim off some of the fat. (Discard the well-cooked diced vegetables, unless someone wants to eat them.)

Put the broth back on the stove and pour in the water from the mushrooms. Simmer the broth, uncovered, by about a third. Remove 2 cups of the broth and and put it in a medium bowl. Whisk into the broth 1/2 cup flour. When the flour mixture is smooth, slowly whisk it into the broth on the stove. Put the beef back into the simmering mixture. Chop and add the wild mushrooms and another tablespoon of the parsley and some of the fresh thyme leaves that you reserved.The dish will be done in about 15=20 minutes, when the sauce becomes glossy and has no taste of flour, and the meat is now very tender.

Cook noodles according to package directions and drain. Toss in salt, butter and parsley. Put in large serving dish with sloping sides. Add the cooked roast and pour over the sauce.  (The roast will be so tender that it will really be easy to cut and serve portions from the dish, served family style.)

Makes 5-6 servings.

From Bonnie Walker

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Baby, It’s Cold Outside!

Baby, It’s Cold Outside!

As the winter continues to blast the region with icy gusts of wind and below-freezing temperatures, the time has come for some hearty fare cooked slowly to add warmth to your home as well as your body.

And what could be more welcome than beef cooked until it falls apart with the touch of a fork? SavorSA offers two complementary yet different takes on braised beef with mushrooms. One is Pot Roast With Wild Mushrooms and Thyme, which is cooked in red wine. The other, Pasta With Braised Beef and Mushrooms, has wine with a hint of  cream.

We also include a recipe for Guinness Stew, an old favorite whose appeal extends far beyond Ireland.

No matter what you cook, just remember to stay warm this weekend.

Recipe: Pot Roast with Wild Mushrooms and Thyme

Recipe: Pasta With Braised Beef and Mushrooms

Recipe: Make Guinness Stew in a Slow Cooker

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Make Guinness Stew in a Slow Cooker

Make Guinness Stew in a Slow Cooker

This variation on an Irish classic stews in a slow cooker, such as a Crock-Pot, for hours before its flavors meld together into a savory whole.

Guinness Stew in a Slow Cooker

8-10 red potatoes, skin on, quartered
6 carrots, peeled, sliced into thick chunks
2 stalks celery, cut in chunks
3 bay leaves, divided use
3 pounds stew meat, cubed
1/2 cup flour
Dash of salt
Dash of black pepper
Dash of garlic powder
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
4 large garlic cloves, minced
8 ounces baby portobello mushrooms, halved
2 (8 ounce) cans tomato sauce
10 3/4 ounces beef broth
1 envelope Lipton Onion Soup Mix
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon Creole seasoning
1 teaspoon Italian herb seasoning, such as Mrs. Dash
12 ounces Guinness Stout
1 cup frozen peas, if desired

Put potato, carrot, and celery chunks in the bottom of slow cooker or Crock-Pot. Top with 2 bay leaves.

Season flour with a dash of salt, pepper and garlic powder and coat the beef with the flour mixture. Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil over med-high heat in a large skillet and add 1 bay leaf. Sauté beef in batches, just until browned. Add more oil to pan as necessary for each batch. Remove and set aside.

Add onion and garlic to the same pan and sauté over med heat for a few minutes, then add about half the can of beef broth to deglaze, scraping up the brown bits on the bottom of the pan.

Add meat and onions to slow cooker, top with mushrooms.

Mix remaining beef broth with tomato sauce, onion soup mix, remaining seasonings, and add to slow cooker. Pour in most of bottle of beer (whatever fits, I had a few sips left for me).

Cook 8 hours on low heat. Stir in frozen peas when done, they’ll heat up on their own. Serve with crusty French bread.

Makes 10 servings.

Adapted from

(Photo: Nicholas Mistry)

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