So there’s this BlogHer Food thing this weekend in San Francisco you may have heard about. And I’m going, flying out after a half-day’s work tomorrow. Here is a partial list of things I have not yet done: (1) laundry, for the clean clothes I will need to ; (2) pack; (3) shower and wash my hair; (4) figure out how to get from the airport at 7pm to dinner in the city at 8pm; (5) check the weather; (6) check in for my flight; (7) everything else in the entire universe.

So I needed a Smackdown that would provide a lot of bang for the buck without sucking up too much of my Thursday night, because it’s also vitally important that I watch Fringe. (So expect more pictures and fewer words tonight.)

I recently got a review copy of Forking Fantastic!, the new dinner-party oriented cookbook from the bloggers behind Sunday Night Dinners and Roving Gastronome and Sunday Night Dinner in Astoria. I don’t really do reviews here, but food bloggers gotta have each others’ backs and besides, I haven’t gotten a new cookbook in a while. Ergo: a Smackdown from the book, and a giveaway for you.

I decided to go with the overnight-braised chuck roast with salt-boiled potatoes and anchovy-spiked greens. This was partly because the weather’s been getting chillier and I thought something hearty would be a nice way to usher in autumn, and mostly because I got to chuck a bunch of shit in a pot, go to bed, and have dinner the next day.

Not that it involved no work on my part: I did have to saute a shit-ton of mushrooms, and carve out little garlic-holding pouches in the meat which I’m not going to lie, creeped me out unnecessarily. I also had to squish canned tomatoes through my fingers, which also creeps me out unnecessarily.

Then I dumped in some olives and most of a bottle of wine left over from my sister-in-law’s wedding two years ago, stuck it in the oven and went to bed. Note the time:

I’m a little surprised Brian let me do this; he is very caution-oriented and I wasn’t sure he’d go for the whole leaving-the-oven-on-all-night thing. I think the prospect of a weekend’s worth of pot roast was enough to do it.

On the other hand, I am completely willing to risk burning the house down for a nice roast

This is what you wake up to along with, as promised, the best-smelling apartment on the block.

Then you stick it in the fridge while you go to work, and you come home to this:


FYI, it’s a quarter after 10, and I’ve still done NOTHING.

Anyway, the grotesque congealed beef fat goes away as you re-heat the roast, obviously, melting back into the meaty juices to enrich them. Because the fat? She makes things delicious.

It takes about 45 minutes to re-heat this puppy (which re-invigorates the luscious smell in your home), so I made the side dishes so’s everything’d be done at the same time. I am notoriously awful at being able to coordinate like that, but this seemed fail-safe. I put a pot of salty, salty, salty water on for the potatoes; the water is supposed to be salty enough that the potatoes float, but I didn’t have enough salt in the pantry, so mine were more “treading water.”

Crap, now Project Runway is on.

While the potatoes were bobbing away I started the greens, which were supposed to be escarole but ended up being chard (they told me I could!) because I have horrible, haunting memories of childhood weeping at my refusal to eat escarole soup. They’re wilted down in a mixture of olive oil, anchovies and red pepper flakes.

Which could be fantastic, or could be a hot tranny mess. Only time will tell. And yes, I know that descriptor is very mid-2008.

I stuck a fork into a potato to test it; the potato was done, and the fork came out of water looking less like a fork and more like Lot’s Wife.  I fished them out of the pot, crushed them roughly with a fork and added a few pats of butter on top. I think I was supposed to add a few knobs, but I still don’t have the whole dab-knob-dollop thing worked out; I’m really only comfortable with the pat.

I heaped the wilted chard into a serving bowl, fished the hunk of meat out of the pot to cut a few slices, and dinner was served. And thankfully, the temperature shot up to the mid-80s today, so we ate this sitting at the kitchen table with the air conditioner going full blast.

At the end of the day, you end up with some pot roast on crack. And some really, really fucking good potatoes. And some chard that I’m not entirely sure about but it might just be me because Brian dug ’em.

Although I gave Brian all my olives (I love the taste, hate the texture), the beef had a rich beefy flavors that was augmented by the 17 pounds of mushrooms and cut by the briny olives and brash rosemary and was perfectly cooked. The potatoes: you show me the person who can resist a farm-fresh baby yukon gold crusted with salt and kissed by good butter, and I will shut this blog right down. The chard I’m still not sure about; I love chard, but something about the flavor combo was not up my alley. I think I got the idea, it just wasn’t a good idea for me. I think.

Tell me your favorite cold-weather comfy food and win your own copy of Forking Fantastic! Giveaway open until September 10th, winner chosen by random-number-picker Brian.

And now, I’m finally going to pack my fricking bag. As soon as the dryer is done. And I take a shower. And pack my various electronic gadgets. And Project Runway is over.