What Did I Leave Out of the Beef & Vegetable Stir Fry?

Beef & Vegetable Stir Fry

You know that feeling when you know you’re forgetting something but can’t quite put your finger on it? That happened to me last night when I made a beef stir-fry and vegetable stir-fry that I’ve done many times before. The recipe, adapted over the years from the Cook’s Illustrated book “Steaks, Chops, Roasts, and Ribs,” is fairly simple to make and always imparts a lot of flavor.

I had already left out two ingredients – fresh ginger and red pepper – because I didn’t have them and wasn’t about to venture out in the bitter cold (we’re talking -20s before wind chill). But as I sat down to eat my dinner, I knew immediately something else was missing. What was it?

I’ll give you a clue: it’s a bulb… very aromatic… often induces tears… Any guesses? Bueller, Bueller?

Fine, here’s the answer: onion! It was right there, sitting on the counter just steps away from where I was working. I left out the onion? Who does that? It’s only the most common ingredient in just about all cuisines. No wonder my stir-fry was lacking. Seriously, bad Jackie (crap, now I’m yelling at myself in the third person – that really can’t be good).

Moral of the story: beef stir-fry without onion is edible but nothing special; beef stir-fry with onion makes the world go ’round.

Here’s the recipe WITH onion and the rest of the forgotten ingredients: Read more of this >>

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Pot Roast

Pot Roast

A childhood favorite for many, pot roast was something I’d rarely eaten. Maybe once or twice growing up then again in culinary school during the braising lesson, and finally a few weeks ago at Nookies, a neighborhood restaurant featuring standard breakfast and lunch fare. It was one of the featured specials and seemed like a good idea as I slowly peeled off my hat, gloves and heavy winter jacket, still shivering from the frigid and blustery weather just outside.

Sadly, that pot roast was a disappointment (I’ve got to stick with pancakes there). The beef wasn’t tough but certainly wasn’t as tender as I’d been expecting, and the broth was extremely bland even after I’d added salt, something I rarely do at restaurants. At least the winter vegetables were alright.

I figured with all the talk about pot roast being a comfort food that it had to be better than this – surely I could do better. Now that I’d issued myself a challenge, I set out to do just that. And boy did I.

I did my best to keep the ingredients simple and use mostly what I had on hand – celery, onion, garlic, sweet potato, a few new potatoes, thyme, and a Roma tomato (this was a last minute substitution as I was certain I had canned tomatoes but didn’t), along with chicken broth and red wine. The key was to build flavors by slow cooking and then letting the ingredients sit together overnight, which would make the beef melt-in-your-mouth tender and bursting with flavor.

Despite the long cooking time, this is an easy one-pot meal that is best made in advance. It is rustic in nature so you don’t even have to spend a lot of time precisely chopping the vegetables. There are no excuses with this dish and it shocks me that my standby neighborhood restaurant could get it so wrong.

Here’s the recipe:

Read more of this >>

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