With a kitchen full of expensive gadgets, mixes and packaged food, most people can put dinner on the table. But truly understanding how basic foods are cooked and why flavors turn out as they do is the difference between an "OK" cook and a "why is there a line on my porch?" cook.
What did Mom have to work with? There's a few hamburger buns left from the last cookout, a few canned goods. A cheap chunk of roast beast was picked up, one that will be best prepared by slow cooking as that will soften the connective tissue without toughening the muscle. Still, it will need something to bring out the flavor.
It's DIY dinner time.
Mom said that you first need to sear the meat the get the flavors that come only from the Maillard Reaction.
No, not Mallard! It's MAILLARD.
Mom said "It's a form of nonenzymatic browning resulting from a chemical reaction between an amino acid and a reducing sugar, normally with heat (and named after a French chemist who described it, not in the context of a French Dip but in attempt to reproduce biological protein synthesis). The reactive carbonyl group of the sugar reacts with the nucleophilic amino group of the amino acid, and forms a complex mixture of poorly characterized molecules responsible for a range of odors and flavors.
In the reaction, hundreds of different flavor compounds are created, that in turn break down, forming yet more new flavor compounds. The browning reactions that occur when meat is roasted or seared are complicated, but most occur by Maillard browning with contributions from other chemical reactions, including the breakdown of the tetrapyrrole rings of the muscle protein myoblogin "
I just looked at her and said WTD??? Sometimes I think I need a "Momspeak for Black Labs (and we're no dummies) book".
But she want on to explain that this process enhances the flavor of any food that contains proteins and sugars and there are some food whose flavor profiles owe a LOT to Dr. Maillard. Grilled roasted meats, crusty bread, dark beer, roasted coffee, chocolate, toast, cookies.
Any food that you are cooking at temps above 250 F are going to have some Maillard components giving it color/texture/aroma. If you know that, and can take full advantage of it, your dinner guests will thank you, even if you experiment on them, like Mom does.
So don't forget to sear. It's a scientific chain reaction of "MMMMMM".
DIY Beef Dip (with old slightly flat, squished buns - no Mom - I was NOT talking about you!)
Into a crockpot went:
2 1/4 cups beef broth (with added water to bring total liquid up to 2 and 1/3 cups
1 cup Merlot
1 can cranberry sauce
1 package Knorr or Lipton French Onion Soup Mix *
1 heaping teaspoon crushed garlic
a couple of grinds of fresh tellecherry black pepper
3 1/2 to 4 pound rump roast
*homemade soup mix (no MSG!)= 3/4 cup dried onion, 1/3 cup Penzey's beef soup base or bouillon powder, 1/4 tsp celery seed, 1 tsp parsley flakes, 1 tsp turmeric, 1/4 tsp pepper. Store in air tight container and use 4 Tablespoons for most recipes that call for a package of soup mix.
First, lightly and quickly sear roast in a smoking hot pan covered with a thick sheen of oil. It's done properly when there is a light brown crust on each side and the smell is pleasant, not acrid. Don't overdo!
Place roast fat side up in crock pot and cover with the remaining, ingredients which you have blended in a bowl. Cover and set to lowest setting. Seven to eight hours later, the meat will be falling apart tender and the au jus will be fragrant and incredibly good,. The cranberry adds a delicious undertone, not a fruity taste. Mom said she would have preferred some crusty Ciabatta rolls to stand up to dipping the sandwich, but messy will work with a knife and fork.
I may not understand how it worked but boy did it smell tasty! (I got some plain beef treats as this had garlic which doggies should not eat)