Cookbook Roulette #11 – Great Greek Gravy?

I skipped ahead by an assignment last week, but it wasn’t really my fault. I blame the grocery store butcher who was trying to sell a 5 pound piece of 7-bone chuck steak in our small town and eventually had to mark it down to less than $2/pound. I had already picked my recipes for the next round of testing and this kicked them off perfectly, albeit a bit more quickly than I had expected. I’ll still do Roulette #10 (another baking book!), but this week was all about classy flashbacks to the extravagance of setting a formal table in the late 80’s.

The Cookbook:

Does anyone else find themselves buying random cookbooks while perusing thrift shops for Christmas gift opportunities? That’s how I added this week’s book and its sister volume to my shelf. A compilation published by the late Gourmet magazine, its full and official title is The Best of Gourmet 1988. The first half is given over to a combination of menu plans for unique events, like Pre-Theater Dinner or Luncheon Among the Violets, complete with lavish photo spreads. The second half is a typical cookbook, though the ingredients occasionally make me raise my eyebrows. And I got a good giggle out of the paragraphs on how they catered to ‘the trend toward healthful lighter eating’ by including extra pasta and grain recipes. How times, and diet advice, change!

The Recipe:

Greek-Style Pot Roast

1/2 cup flour
4 tsp dried oregano
3 tsp salt
2 tsp black pepper
5 lbs beef chuck steak

3 TBSP vegetable oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 cup beef broth
1 tsp garlic paste
1 tsp cornstarch
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 cups orzo
1 TBSP fresh dill

this book is also full of fun little food sketches…

Mix together the flour, oregano, salt, and pepper and use this mixture to liberally coat your steak. Heat the oil in a skillet over high heat. Once the pan is hot, sear both sides of the steak until a dark brown crust forms. Remove the steak from the skillet and place in a crock pot. Deglaze the skillet by pouring the red wine vinegar over it and stirring to loosen any stuck on bits. Scrape the contents of the skillet into the crock pot. Add the beef broth, garlic paste, and Worcestershire sauce, then cover and cook until tender, 3-4 hours. Remove the steak and set it aside. Transfer the broth to a pot, mixing 1 tsp of broth with the cornstarch and then adding it back in. Bring the broth to a boil and let thicken (I found the amount of cornstarch to sauce to be very far from my ideal sauce viscosity, so I used my leftover flour/seasoning mix to make it full on gravy. If you want to do the same, just slowly sprinkle about 1/4 cup of flour into the mixture while whisking vigorously.) Let the gravy continue to cook for several minutes after adding the last of the flour to cook the starch flavor out, then shut off the heat. When you’re ready to put the meal on the table, bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook the orzo for 8-10 minutes. Drain and toss with the fresh dill. Serve the meat and gravy over the pasta.

The Verdict:

Does adding oregano to a crock pot braised steak turn it Greek? I didn’t think that the criteria were quite that loose. The end results were perfectly satisfying and I quite enjoyed the light touch of dill in the orzo under the hearty steak and gravy topper, but Greek was not a descriptor that would have leaped to my mind if I had been assigned the naming of this recipe. On the other hand, in a cookbook that refers the user to specialty food shops for many ingredients that are now commonly seen in my neighborhood grocery stores, perhaps this combination did seem more exotic and boundary pushing. Final verdict? Tasty, but not unique enough to dig up the recipe again. 10/10 for cookbook photo elegance and overall browsability, though!