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Scones, Salsa & Pot Roast: New Old Favorites

by John Raven, Ph.B.

It has been a long, dreary winter in Texas. It snowed in places where it has never snowed before. Luckily, my yard was not one of those places. I had to settle for just enough rain to make a mess on nearly a daily basis.

While confined to the indoors by the weather, I had plenty time for my favorite occupations -- cooking and eating. There are a couple of things that keep popping up on my menu. I guess that means they are favorites of mine. I thought this would be a good time to share them with my readers here at Texas Cooking.



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Those of you who have been with me for a while know I consider a recipe just a rough guide to what's cooking. I've never seen a recipe that was chiseled in stone. Of course, I know all my readers have enough cooking savvy to know that a quart of milk is too much when a cup is called for and that cider vinegar is not a good substitute for cooking sherry. With all that in mind, here we go.

Texas Scones
A Texan likes a little something sweet with his coffee in the afternoons. It has to be just a little sweet, not real sweet. The traditional cinnamon bun can be a bit too sticky with sugar topping at times, therefore, my Texas Scones.

  • 2 cups flour (I prefer unbleached)
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 heaping tablespoons baking powder
  • 1/3 cup shortening (butter-flavor Crisco preferred)
  • 3/4 cup (or more) chopped, dried fruit. (Sun Maid Tropical Trio, a combination of pineapple, mango and papaya is a winner. Just plain raisins are good, too.)
In a large mixing bowl, mix the dry ingredients. Cut in the shortening with a pastry cutter. Add the chopped fruit.

Add enough water to make a medium-firm dough. It will be sticky. Drop dollops a bit larger than golf balls on a cookie sheet. This mix will make about a dozen. (You can pat the dough out about three-quarters of an inch thick and cut into rounds if you prefer).

Bake at 450F degrees until they are the color you like. The peaks will be a little darker. Serve warm or cold. They are great warmed in the broiler the next morning for breakfast.

Universal Salsa
Here's a dish that can't make up its mind as to whether it's salsa or gazpacho. Either way, it fits in a lot of places, but this salsa is really great with corn chips.

  • 1 medium white onion, chopped fine
  • 2 small or one large cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped
  • 1 can stewed tomatoes
  • 1 4-ounce can chopped green chiles*
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery seed
  • Light sprinkle of garlic powder or one clove fresh garlic smashed
  • black pepper and salt to taste
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar**
Combine all, and refrigerate overnight.

* You can substitute one or more pickled jalapeno peppers for the canned. Remove the seeds and pith before mincing.
** Adjust the brown sugar/vinegar mix to suit your taste. You may need it sweeter or tarter.

Raven's Should-be-famous Pot Roast
This recipe was a work in progress for years. I think I finally understand how it works. I have never had a failure with this recipe.

The most important thing for this recipe is the proper roasting container. I have a large, heavy aluminum fry pan with a dome lid that works to perfection. I have also used my cast iron chili pot. A Dutch oven would be perfect. Whatever, it must have a tight-fitting lid.

  • One 3- to 4-pound shoulder chuck roast
  • 1 large onion, peeled and sliced
  • 1 large bell pepper, seeded and sliced
  • 2 or more large potatoes, quartered
  • 4 to 6 large carrots, sliced
  • Lawry's Seasoned Salt
  • all-purpose flour for dusting
  • oil for browning
This is the minimum for a decent pot roast. We will talk about add-ins later.

Season the roast on both sides with the Lawry's. Give it a good dusting of flour. Heat a small amount of oil in your roaster and brown the roast on both sides. When it's brown, cut the burner down to medium and put the sliced bell pepper on top of the roast, followed by the onion. Arrange the potatoes and carrots around or on top the roast. Cover and adjust the heat to produce the slowest possible simmer. Let it cook for at least three hours. Check the carrots, when they are fork tender it will be done. Cooking it longer is better, four or five hours will be fine. After a couple of hours, check to make sure the pan is not cooking dry. Add a bit of water, if needed. If everything is working right, you should not need to add any water.

The chuck shoulder roast is lean and tender. You can use nearly any other cut of meat you have on hand. A small market-trimmed brisket will work, although it may take a little longer cooking time to become real tender. I have used pork shoulder, country-style ribs, various chuck blade cuts and a venison ham in this recipe, all with outstanding results. You can even form up a block of hamburger and cook it this way.

The good part
The above is the Shaker-style pot roast -- no frills but good. I have cooked a lot of other things in with my pot roast and am always amazed at how good everything comes out.

The onion comes out so good I always put in at least two. If you can find pearl onions in the raw state, they are perfect. Adding a yellow and or red bell pepper will add flavor and color to the dish. Turnips are great here, just peeled and quartered if large; small ones can go in whole. Sweet potatoes fit right in. Cauliflower and asparagus will work. If you like broccoli, toss some in. I try to always include several wedges of cabbage on top of the whole mix. To get fancy, use brussels sprouts instead of cabbage, fresh preferred. If you use frozen, prepare them according to package directions and add at the last minute. Put in all of what you like until the pot is full. When the vegetables have wilted, give the whole thing a light sprinkle of the Lawry's.

To serve, spoon the vegetables into a large bowl. You can separate them or just let them mix. Let the roast set a few minutes before carving. If everything went right, you can carve it with a fork. If you want to thicken the pot liquor, remove everything from the pot but the drippings, bring to a heavy boil and stir in a tablespoon or two of flour mixed in a little water. Cook until it thickens.

All you need to accompany this is a big glass of ice tea and some home made bread or biscuits. You won't have room for salad or dessert.

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