Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Workers of the World, Unite!

Here in the good ol' US of A, we just celebrated the symbolic end of summer with the long Labor Day weekend, a federal holiday hastily enacted in 1894 by a president and congress fearful of labor union unrest after the military and US Marshals killed several railway strikers in Pullman, Illinois. Like all American holidays, this one has been watered down to make it palatable to BBQ aficionados and football fans (the NFL and college seasons begin this weekend). These days, most folks couldn't identify the President (Grover Cleveland), who signed the act, if he fell on top of them, let alone point to Pullman on a map. So, patriotic Americans that the Lone Ranger and I are, we invited friends over for pot roast and apple crumb cake!
Peyton's Labor Day Dinner Menu
Strawberry salad with poppy seed vinaigrette
Pot roast
Mashed potatoes with pan gravy
Poached asparagus
Apple crumb cake
Any cook worth her salt should know how to make a pot roast. If not, get on the telephone to your mothers right now and get a recipe. The Lone Ranger plugs his beef with garlic cloves before searing in his own sainted mother's cast iron Dutch oven. Once the meat is browned on all sides, add vegetables - traditionally onions, carrots and celery - some good stock and red wine, return the beef to the pot and place in a 350°F oven for three hours. I usually go a little lower on the temp, 275° or so and cook for longer, but, with company expected at 5:00, we were pressed for time. Remove the roast from the pot, loosely tent with aluminum foil and allow to rest for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, strain the juices from the Dutch oven, whisk in a slurry of flour & water, herbs and seasonings, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and allow the pan gravy to thicken and reduce. Slice your roast thinly against the bias and serve.
The Lone Ranger taught me a chef's secret about perfect, creamy mashed potatoes: whip the spuds BEFORE adding any liquid or butter. Failure to comply will result in a lumpy side and dinner guests who mock you openly.
Well, the Lone Ranger went all out with the table setting. Grandma's silver, best China and crystal. The Queen herself (or two, for that matter) would have felt right at home. The highlight for me though? The salad!
Strawberry Salad with Poppy Seed Dressing
  • 2 Tbsp sesame seeds
  • 1 Tbsp poppy seeds
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup white vinegar
  • ¼ tsp paprika
  • ¼ tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 Tbsp minced onion
  • 2 cups baby spinach
  • 1 qt fresh strawberries, cored and sliced
  • ¼ cup sliced almonds
Combine the first 8 ingredients in a sealable jar and shake viorously to combine. If making ahead of time, refrigerate until ready to serve with the salad. Arrange spinach on salad plates and top with sliced strawberries. Sprinkle almonds around the salad, then drizzle with poppy seed dressing. We served ours before the main course. D-lish!
Did someone say dessert? Well, there were two, actually. The LR made his apple crumb cake, but one of our guests brought home-made Key lime pie. Recipes to follow, but just look at that money shot!
Friends arrived early and stayed late. I love that. Between dinner and the sweet stuff, it was cool enough on the patio for a fire in the Mexican chiminea. Neighbors caught sight of the light and shadow play and joined us for pie. We sat out there until late in the night savoring our made-up American birthright. I'll pass up any stadium tailgating party every time for a night like this, and I defy you to challenge me.
Thanks for taking the time - Blog O. Food

1 comment:

BigAssBelle said...

Oh my stars, that sounds like a fantastic evening! And the menu ~ divine. I need breakfast!!! I also need a good pot roast recipe. Meat defeats me many times. The best roasts I make are done stovetop rather than in the oven. Damn, that pie... gorgeous. And thanks for the reminder about Labor Day. You mean it's not just an annual picnic-at-the-lake day? Real meaning behind it? Incredible.