Shelley’s Rich & Flavorful Chuck Roast

I made this last week and it was amazing. The taste was rich, and the meat was incredibly tender.  I need to disclose that I used meat that was grass fed in Vermont, so the quality was exquisite. But either way, I’m sure it will still taste wonderful.  This was the full dinner with a simple, deconstructed side salad.

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When I cook, I figure out what I’m going to make, review multiple recipes and then combine the ingredients that I like. I’m not someone who’s exact and will taste as I move along, adding spices as I go.  I always figure that if you’re using good ingredients you can’t go wrong. The recipe below is a guide to use and I know you’ll have great results.  Put on some music, pour a glass of Merlot and let’s get started! (You could get everything ready the night before and power up the slow cooker in the morning)

Ingredients

1 bone-in (5 lbs) or boneless (3-4 lbs) chuck roast

Used to brown the meat

  • 5 teaspoons course salt (My favorite is Maldon)
  • 5 teaspoons fresh ground pepper
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons Ghee clarified butter (You can find at any grocery store. It has a high burn rate so perfect for browning meat.  Ordinary butter can burn)
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil (grape seed or avocado as examples)
  • ¼ cup chardonnay to deglaze the pan plus another glass for you…

Aioli sauce to coat the meat in the slow cooker (adjust to your taste)

  • 4 tablespoons of mayonnaise
  • 2 teaspoons Bragg apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon dried dill
  • ¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon buttermilk, optional
  • 1 package of Knorr classic brown gravy mix (or a packaged gravy mix you like)
  • 2 teaspoon “Better than Bouillon” beef flavor
  • 1 teaspoon McCormick Grill Mates Montreal Chicken seasoning (I use the chicken vs. the beef because it’s not so strong in flavor but you could use either. Add more if needed)
  • 2 teaspoons of butter (optional to deglaze)

Vegetables

 Stay in the cooker the entire time

  • 1 -2 large shallots sliced
  • 1 large sweet yellow onion sliced

Add ½ way through

  • Carrots sliced in chunks (I used 6 and added one extra)
  • Yukon potatoes slides in chunks (I used around 5)

Cook separately and serve with the meat

  • Mushrooms – I love to mix them, shiitake, portobello, brown button, etc to get a more complex flavor. Slice thin and sauté in Ghee (1 tablespoon) and grape seed or avocado oil (1 tablespoon)
  • Shelley’s world-famous Jalapenos – These are optional but are wonderful with the meat if you like spice. To make these, cut open, cut out the seeds, toss in grape seed oil, add course salt and bake at 350˚ for 15 minutes or until tender. Serve on the side.
  • Chopped up Italian parsley to use as garnish

Side Dishes

  • Egg noodles: Cook the noodles in heavily salted water (this is what flavors the noodles, otherwise they will be bland). To bring the water to a boil more quickly, cover the pot. When you drain do not rinse with water. If you do, you’ll lose the flavor. Toss with some grape seed or avocado oil to keep the noodles from sticking.  Serve immediately.
  • Fresh green salad

Steps – This looks like a lot but it goes fast!

  1.  Brown the Meat
  • Dry the meat before you start. This is really important to get a nice sear.
  • Liberally salt, pepper and flour each side of the meat. I realize I noted # of teaspoons above but I take a few pinches of salt and grinds of pepper for each side. This does note need to be exact.
  • Heat the Ghee and oil in a pan. Add more if needed.
  • Sear the meat on each side for about 4-5 minutes each until golden brown.
  • Use a “splatter cover” to help keep your stove top clean.

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     2.  Layer the Slow Cooker

  • Place the sliced onion and shallot on the bottom of the slow cooker. In the photo below  you’ll see some potatoes under the meat. I learned the hard way and put them in first. They were cooked about 4 hours in and I had to fish them out. Just add the shallots and onions now and wait on the rest of the vegetables.
  • Carefully move the meat from the pan that you used to sear it to the slow cooker.
  • Deglaze the pan you cooked the meat in with the chardonnay and drizzle it over the meat. I use chardonnay vs. red wine because it adds a milder flavor. I also added a little butter. To deglaze a pan simple pour the wine into the pan and take a spatula or wooden spoon and scrape / stir the browned bits from the pan over a moderate-high heat to melt all the cooking residues into the liquid.

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     3.  Create and Add Your Aioli

  • Mix all ingredients together as noted above and blend well using a fork or whisk
  • Evenly spoon the mixture over the meat so it covers the entire surface

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     4.  Cook on low in a slow cooker for 7-8 hours or until the meat breaks apart

  • With about 3 hours to go add the vegetables on top of the meat and cover the cooker.

    5. Tips for serving

  • Before your guests arrive take the meat and vegetables out of the slow cooker.
  • Cut away any fat and the bone and discard.
  • Break the meat into pieces. The meat should be tender so this should be easy to do. If it’s not tender and you’re getting close to serving time then put it back in and kick the heat to high.  That should tenderize the meat faster.
  • Pour the juice that’s in the slow cooker into a separator and separate out the fat. Discard the fat and return the juice to the slow cooker.
  • If you like a thicker gravy, pull 1 cup of the juice out and add 1 tablespoon of corn starch to it and whisk until you remove any lumps. Stir back into the slow cooker and cook on high for 15 minutes or until the juice thickens. Repeat to create a thicker sauce.
  • Put the meat and vegetables in a serving dish and either pour the gravy over everything or serve the gravy on the side.
  • Sprinkle the mushrooms and cut up Italian parsley over the top.
  • Serve with egg noodles

That’s it! Serve with a nice light salad and the drink of your choice. Let me know in the comments section if you try this and if you have any tips.  And of course, what your drink of choice is.  XO and Cheers!!!! Photogirl 

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Capay Almond Festival

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Last Sunday I decided to scout out the area that will host the Capay Valley Almond Festival on February 24, 2019.  The blossoms are everywhere here in Los Gatos, CA where I live so I figured they would be weighing the branches down up north.  We’ve had tons of rain this season. It’s probably normal for this time of year but it always catches me off guard, making me long for the sun.  Sunday looked to be sunny so I planned an early departure.

52327029_10157029441381489_3154828421519900672_nMy first tip for any trip is start out early! I can never understand why people leave late when they’re off on an adventure. And by late, I mean 10:00 or past. Why not get there as early as possible so you have time to relax, explore and to top it off, miss the traffic?

I pushed off around 6:30 am as soon as the rain stopped with coffee in hand. The sun was creeping up over the mountains and the air was clean after a night of rain.  With the rest of the world asleep – I can attest to this since no one was on the highway – I worked my way north over to highway 680 and then up to 505 north.  Before I take you through the trip I’d recommend, let me tell you a little bit about the festival.

The Capay Valley Almond Festival began in 1915 and is the only five town event in Northern California.  I image that first year and the excitement of driving along the back roads in a brand-new Detroiter motor car (photo below) with the wind blowing through ones hair, smelling the fresh air while white blossoms would be falling around you like spring snow.

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Well, 104 years later the festival is upon us again. This “traveling” festival takes you through five Capay Valley towns including Esparto, Capay, Brooks, Guinda and Rumsy. Here is a map that I got from the Esparto Regional Chamber of Commerce.  I used it as a reference when I did my scouting trip and can offer some thoughts if you have the opportunity to go. I marked a few places in red and to make it easy, I’ve provided addresses so you can easily drop them into your GPS. Let me note that because I went a week early there were very few blossoms.  So I can’t WOW you with a bunch.  But trust me, if you go when they are blooming you’ll be amazed.  Here are some examples with some photo credits. (Kite Hill Artisan Almond Milk Foods, GreaterCapayValley.org)

Back to the map:

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  1. Historic Oakdale Ranch: 17785 Country Road 86A, Esparto, CA (Bring breakfast and coffee to enjoy by the lake)
  2. Country Road (CR) 22: Directions below
  3. Road Trip Bar & Grill: 24989 CA-16, Capay, CA 95607
  4. Seka Hills Olive Mill: 19326 Rd 78, Brooks, CA 95606 (Olive oil /wine taste and have lunch outside)
  5. Western Yolo Grange: 16787 Forest Ave, Guinda, CA 95637
  6. Early dinner in Yountville: Head south via highway 128

1. Historic Oakdale Ranch: 17785 Country Road 86A, Esparto, CA 

This was a little hard to find and there was actually no one there when I went.  However, they may have folks at the site the day of the festival.  It was very pretty and remote with a small lake, palm trees and a dock.  Bring coffee and breakfast with you and sit by the waterside as a start to your tour.

 

Best way to get there so you take the scenic drive: When you’re on 505 look for 29A and exit left. Make your first right (89) and head north to Country Road 23, then right on Country Road 86A. The ranch will be on your right. The sign is a little hard to find so keep your eyes peeled.

2. Country Road 22

I tried to find the Freeheart Farms and Event Center and never did.  What I did find was Country Road 22 and it was beautiful.  Lined with almond trees, fields dotted with grazing horses and even a family of peacocks it’s a must see road. From the Historic Oakdale Ranch head south on Country Road 86A and make a right on Country Road 23. Pass Country road 85B and the next road is Country Road 22. When you get to the end of CR 22 drive along CR 87, 14 and 85 as noted in the map above to see more almond blooms.

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3. Road Trip Bar and Grill

This is a well-known restaurant / bar with a lovely outdoor dining area.  It also has a tribute to Veterans which was nice to see.   I would recommend to order their special of the day.  When I was there it was a French dip and the couple next to me got it and it looked amazing.

4. Seka Hills Olive Mill

I absolutely fell in love with this place. Make sure  you enjoy the trees which line the drive up to the store and tasting room.  They have a beautiful outdoor seating area located under olive trees.  You can olive oil / wine taste which was great fun.  You can also have a glass of wine and order food to eat outside.  I’d recommend to have lunch here.

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5. Western Yolo Grange

I actually never saw this place but read about it in a blog from last year. It sounds like they have a number of festival events so you might want to check it out. All along the drive you’ll see almond blossoms so take your time and enjoy.

6. Back home along high 128 over to Yountville/Napa for an early dinner at Ottimo

Once you’re explored the festival consider taking an alternative route home and head over to the Yountville/Napa area and have an early dinner at Ottimo where they have the absolute best pizza!  The route I recommend is highway 128 west to 29 south.  You’ll pass lake Berryessa and drive through the countryside that will make you feel like you’re on a movie set.

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Early Dinner at Ottimo: 6525 Washington St, Yountville, CA 94599

Ottimo is located in the quaint town of Yountville among shops, restaurants and tasting rooms.  It’s absolutely charming and the pizza is some of the best I’ve ever had.  Michael Chiarello is the founder and a well known chef.  Ottimo means “optimal” and it certainly is.

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You can either stay the night up in Napa or head home. If you start early this is an easy day trip. Please let me know if you go in the comments section!  XO Photogirl.

Here’s a map showing where Capay is in relation to Yountville

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Saratoga Farmers Market

Saratoga Farmers' MarketEvery Saturday from 9am to 1pm.
Saratoga Farmers’ Market
Every Saturday from 9am to 1pm.

First, I didn’t even know that you could eat a purple carrot. Or a white beet. I may have seen them in the past but I felt like a kid when I saw them again. There are many Farmers’ Markets but one of my favorite is the Saratoga Farmers’ Market which is held in the West Valley College parking lot every Saturday from 9am – 1pm. As you can see above, I went a bit crazy a few weeks ago. (Also note my kitchen spring garden!) I have a Nutribullet so generally try to schedule my Saturday mornings, purchasing organic vegetables to make my special V9 drink (I’ll give you the recipe in an upcoming blog, the +1=9 is a secret ingredient which I’ll share).

Seasonal fruits and vegetables for Saratoga and Santa Clara County
I’m amazed at the huge assortment of seasonal fruits and vegetables!

What I really like about this Farmers’ Market are the reasonable prices. But even more important, you’re helping the local farmers. I stroll around the entire market once before I hand over the “dough”. See what I like, and then start bagging my goods. Some of the other items you’ll find include roasted chicken (which you’ll smell from the parking lot), fresh fish, eggs, flowers, and some of the best tamales you’ll ever eat. (Being that I’m from New Mexico I feel that I speak with some level of authority) 😉 I wanted to post this on Friday so you can hopefully have a chance to check it out. I’m heading there tomorrow so I’ll post more photos in the hopes to tempt you for a visit. Happy Friday!

Healthy Eggnog

One look at a glass of eggnog and you can feel your pants getting tighter. Some of it is so thick it’s almost impossible to suck it through a straw. You’re left holding your head back stuggling to get that thick glop at the bottom of your glass.  I ran…

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Crystal Water

sYesterday I had lunch at Pizza Antica, a fabulous restaurant located in Santa Row (An outdoor shopping mall in Northern Californa). I was the only one who braved the cold. Bundled under a heater, I shot this photo.  After which I consumed the best brussel…

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