We all have that one recipe that we really really enjoy, but really really cannot serve to company. It isn’t that it tastes weird, or could only be consumed by a pregnant woman at the ‘pickles and ice cream cravings’ stage. In fact, it tastes absolutely wonderful! It’s just that the finished product looks like something an elephant pulled out of a trash can and stomped on.
In Culinary school, we are trained to make it pretty or don’t serve it at all, because it’s widely accepted that we humans eat with our eyes. And I think that’s so very limiting and sad. Because some of the most nutrient dense and flavorful meals that I have been privileged to enjoy were not pretty to look at. But man, oh man, were they ever delicious!
So this year, I am paying homage to this frequently overlooked food genre. Check back here for recipes that aren’t restaurant approved, but taste fabulous anyway! I promise not to post any pictures, so you can decide to try them based on the ingredient list rather than some random visual aid.
This first recipe is one of my favorite ways to stretch the budget. I call it Pot Roast Puree. The friend who turned me on to this recipe lovingly called it Bat Barf Gravy.
You will need:
1/2 of a leftover beef or buffalo pot roast, complete with the vegetables made and served with it, and all of the juices
Between 8 and 12 ounces beef broth or stock (whichever you prefer)
Nutritional Yeast (about a shot glassful)
Salt and pepper, to taste
A blender or food processor
Heavy bottomed, non-stick pot with well-fitting lid
Puree the cold leftovers until smooth. Depending on the tool used, this will take anywhere from 3 to 7 minutes. It will look like baby food. I know, I know, but never fear – it gets worse!
Transfer to heavy bottomed pot and cook, covered, over medium high heat until the bottom scorches. See? I told you it got worse. Yes, I’m telling you to burn dinner. Sort of. I’ll explain why later. Just do it. If you set off the smoke alarm, you’ve over-burned it and the dog won’t eat it. Don’t do that. Just burn it enough to get a good smokey flavor and some nice crunchy bits to highlight the smoothness of the puree.
Now stir in the broth (use more broth to make a lovely cream of bovine soup, or less to make a thicker gravy-like goop) and turn the heat to the lowest setting on your stovetop. Simmer for at least 30 minutes.
Add the yeast, then salt and pepper to taste.
I love how versatile this recipe is. Below are just a few ways to use it.
Soup: serve with a garnish of parsley, carmelized onions and garlic, or even some parmesan shavings for a tasty winter soup.
Gravy: serve over warm biscuits and fried eggs for a hearty winter breakfast.
Meatrolls: Spread an even layer of thick goop onto pizza dough rolled out thin. Roll up like a cinnamon roll, slice into 2″ thick pieces, bake according to the dough recipe, and enjoy!
Pasta Bake: Skip the simmer stage. Double the broth, add your favorite dry pasta in an amount equal to the amount of broth, some shredded parmesan cheese, chopped fresh spinach, and minced tomatoes, onions, garlic, and parsley. Bake at 350 degrees Farenheit (or your local equivalent) until the pasta is al dente. Let cool for 10 minutes before slicing and serving with a dollop of sour cream or ricotta.
Ravioli: Combine equal amounts of ricotta cheese and puree and use as filling for home made raviolis.
Why burn the puree? For better texture and flavor. Scorching the ingredients prior to pureeing would still add that nice smokey flavor, but the meat and veggies would dry out and get stringy. By burning the puree instead, you get that great flavor without the grainy texture that stringy dried out meat and veggies would create.
This recipe freezes quite well without losing too much in translation, so any leftovers from this round can be safely saved for months if stored in an air tight container such as a zipper bag or by using one of those vacuum sealers.