On Friday night, Paul’s work hosted a family night out at our local minor-league hockey game. Matthew is a huge hockey enthusiast and had been looking forward to this outing for months. Emma and Lucy, on the other hand, could care less about the hockey game and instead show up mainly for the food. Unlimited appetizers, desserts, cotton candy, and soft drinks? The two of them are more than willing to revel in gluttony heaven. Thankfully, the event is held in a press box that is outfitted with comfortable furniture and ample floor space for the little kids to run around and amuse themselves in other destructive ways rather than being tied to a bleacher seat where they would undoubtedly whine, moan, and flail, consequently obstructing the views of fans who actually came to watch the hockey match.
Despite every comfort of food and drink, Emma was a whiny, grumpy mess at the event. The game did not start until 7:00, the time that we normally have her winding down for bed, and boy did she need sleep that evening! When her cotton candy fell off of its paper handle, she bawled as if her puppy had just run away. I was half ready to scoop her up and leave when Paul’s boss suddenly came in and started handing hockey pucks out to all the kids. When he handed one to Emma, she scowled in displeasure. What was she supposed to do with this? I wasn’t sure myself, but Paul’s boss instructed all the kids to follow him out to the rink for some contest called “Chuck-a-Puck.” For those unfamiliar with this popular hockey fan game, basically audience members receive hockey pucks with a number on them that are linked back to their admission tickets. At halftime, the fans have the opportunity to throw their puck onto the ice in the hopes of landing in one of several designated targets. The fans whose pucks successfully hit the targets win a prize. Well, Emma, after having the concept of the game explained to her, just chucked her puck into the corner of the room and refused to go. I certainly wasn’t going to force her but Paul shoved her and her puck out the door and made her follow Matthew and the other kids down to the rink to participate in the game. She sauntered out with her shoulders hunched and her face wearing a frown, but obeyed.
I watched from the press box as they made their way down to the bottom row of seats lining the rink. Emma was still sulking, but at least holding her puck. The ice had been completely cleared with the exception of two hula hoops and two baby pools placed in a circular formation in the very center of the rink. The kids were all instructed to “ready their pucks” and then after a booming count to three, hundreds of hockey pucks were sent hurling over the barriers into the rink. The child whose puck landed in either the hula hoop or the baby pool was to receive a prize. I watched Matthew’s puck soar high into the hair, clear the glass barrier (thankfully), and land on the ice, nowhere near the targets but at least on the ice. I completely missed Emma’s throw. The kids headed back to the press box.
When Emma, Matthew, and Paul came back, Paul told me, “Emma won!” What? How in the world could she possibly have won? It would have been an amazing feat had she cleared the glass barrier alone (I was honestly worried about her puck ricocheting off of it and injuring another person)! But she did. Her numbered puck had clearly landed in one of the hula hoops. I congratulated Emma on her accomplishment and thoughts of enrolling her and that amazing arm of hers in some baseball classes for gifted athletes danced through my head.
Then Paul explained what REALLY happened.
Apparently, when it was time for the kids to throw, Emma wound herself up and threw her puck with all her might but somehow it actually popped up and flew backwards. Paul had quickly run back, caught the puck, and then flung it as quick as he could into the center of the ice before Emma could realize what happened. Amazingly, Paul managed to fling the puck right into one of the targets. And that, my friends, is how Emma won two tickets to the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto, Canada.
With no plans to go to Toronto any time soon and honestly we would be charlatans if we were to claim to be die-hard hockey fans. Thankfully, Emma’s godparents are hockey fanatics and are also planning a Canadian vacation in the coming months so Emma was more than happy to gift the tickets to them. Enjoy Jessica and Jesse!
And that is how Emma won Chuck-a-Puck.
Today is all things cold, dreary, wet, dark, and gloomy. Days like today need something warm and comforting to be served for dinnertime and I can think of nothing more homey than a beautiful pot roast served with mashed potatoes. Pot roast is one of those dishes than can be so wonderful when prepared well but so awful should the pot roast be dry, watery, or under seasoned.
Below is the absolute best recipe for pot roast in the world. It’s seriously fantastic. It’s so good, in fact, that the year I was pregnant with Emma and going through a major shellfish aversion, we made this pot roast instead of our normal fish dinner for Christmas Eve. Christmas Eve worthy! That’s how amazing this dish is!
The recipe reads like your typical pot roast recipe, only you must make this in a Dutch Oven in the oven – NOT the crockpot! The meat to be used here is a Chuck-Eye Roast – it’s got just the right amount of marbling to ensure a flavorful, tender meat. The roast cooks in a stewing liquid of onions, celery, carrots, thyme, bay leaves, and red wine. The smell of this cooking is heavenly. But the BEST part is when the whole thing comes out of the oven, the meat is set aside to rest, and the most AMAZING gravy is made from the vegetables and defatted cooking liquid. Everything is pureed with a bit of extra beef broth before being amped up with just a touch of extra wine and balsamic vinegar to make a sauce that I could eat by the spoonful. Douse mashed potatoes and the sliced pot roast with this gravy and you will be in comfort-food heaven. I’m not exaggerating the merits of this dinner – it’s been one of our favorites for seven years now!
We don’t have many cold, dreary days left! Make this before the grilling days begin!
The World’s Best Pot Roast
from Cook’s Illustrated
1 boneless chuck-eye roast (3 1/2 to 4 pounds), pulled into two pieces at natural seam and trimmed of large knobs of fat
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 medium onions, halved and sliced thin (about 2 cups)
1 large carrot, chopped medium (about 1 cup)
1 celery rib, chopped medium (about 3/4 cup)
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 cup beef broth, plus 1-2 additional cups for the sauce
1/2 cup dry red wine, plus an additional 1/4 cup for the sauce
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 bay leaf
1 sprig plus 1/4 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves
Ground black pepper
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Sprinkle the pieces of meat with 1 tablespoon salt (1 1/2 teaspoons if using table salt), place on a wire rack set in a rimmed baking sheet and let stand at room temperature for 1 hours.
Adjust the oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 300 degrees. Heat butter in heavy-bottomed Dutch oven over medium heat. When foaming subsides, add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and beginning to brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Add carrot and celery; continue to cook, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes longer. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in 1 cup broth, 1/2 cups wine, tomato paste, bay leaf, and thyme sprig; bring to simmer.
Pat beef dry with paper towels and season generously with pepper. Using 3 pieces of kitchen twine, tie each piece of meat into loaf shape for even cooking.
Nestle the meat on top of the vegetables. Cover pot tightly with large piece of foil and cover with lid. Transfer pot to oven. Cook beef until fully tender, or until a sharp knife can easily slip in and out of meat, 3 1/2 to 4 hours turning halfway through cooking.
Transfer roasts too cutting board and tent loosely with foil. Strain liquid through mesh strainer into 4 cup liquid measuring cup. Discard bay leaf and thyme sprig. Transfer vegetables to blender jar. Allow liquid to settle 5 minutes, then skim any fat off the surface. Add beef broth as necessary to bring total liquid amount to 3 cups. Place liquid in blender with vegetables and blend until smooth, about 2 minutes. Transfer sauce to medium saucepan and bring to simmer over medium heat.
While sauce heats, remove twine from roast and slice against grain into 1/2-inch slices. Transfer meat to large serving platter. Stir chopped thyme, remaining 1/4 cup wine, and vinegar into sauce and season to taste with sat and pepper. Spoon half of sauce over meat, passing remaining sauce separately.