Dorothy Day famously said, “Food for the body is not enough. There must be food for the soul.”
I tend to agree with Dorothy, with one added caveat to her words: sometimes food for the body feeds the soul as well. Neurologists and cardiologists of various faith backgrounds have for quite some time worked to pinpoint the exact location of the soul in our bodies, assuming it may reside in some particular portion of our brain or heart. But as far as I know, they have not hunted for the soul in the place where I think mine might reside: in the stomach.
I recently lost a cousin who meant a great deal to me, as well as a wonderful member of my congregation, and immediately my soul ached, which is to say, my stomach did. We all know that feeling: a hollowness in the pit of your stomach that lingers with loss. If the soul resides in your mind, then I suppose you try to wrap your head around the logic of such a situation, which of course is often impossible. If the soul resides in your heart, I suppose you ride the waves of emotion times of loss bring, as many of us do. But if your soul is in your stomach, you feed it, with comforting food that begins to fill those hollow places with tastes of family gatherings and memories of your mama's table.
That food for me, and I'm sure for many of you, is my mother's pot roast. Simple, well-seasoned beef braised with wine, stock and herbs atop creamy roasted garlic mashed potatoes can't help but feed your soul. So whatever your week has been like, whether it's been one of great joy, everyday routine, or unexpected sorrow, take time to feed your soul. The wonderful thing about this recipe is that it makes enough to feed not just your soul, but your neighbor's as well.
Pot Roast with Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Generously serves 6.
2-3 lb. chuck roast (rump roast will work as well, you just may need to cut it in half)
4 carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks
1 yellow onion, cut into sixths
3 large russet potatoes, peeled (if you like) and cut into 1-inch cubes
4 cloves of garlic, whole and unpeeled
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
4 sprigs fresh thyme
salt and pepper
2 cups beef broth
1 cup dry red wine
1 cup whole milk
4 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons arrowroot or cornstarch
Preheat oven to 275 degrees. Heat olive oil on medium-high in a large dutch oven. Add onions and brown on all sides, about 6 minutes. Remove to a plate. Add carrots and brown about 2 minutes and remove to plate. Add more olive oil to dutch oven if needed. Dry meat with a paper towel (to get a nice caramelization on the outside — Julia says so!) and season generously with salt and pepper, pressing seasoning into the meat slightly. Sear the beef on all sides until deep brown, about 2 minutes per side. Remove meat and add wine, whisking to scrape up all of the delicious bits from the bottom of the pan. Add beef broth and stir. Add beef back to the dutch oven along with the vegetables and herbs. Cover and roast for about 3 hours, until the meat deliciously pulls apart with a fork. During the last 30 minutes of roasting, you'll want to roast your garlic as well. Take a square piece of aluminum foil, place cloves in the center, drizzle with a little olive oil and season lightly with salt and pepper. Wrap tightly and place beside dutch oven in oven to roast for 30 minutes, until cloves are completely soft and slightly brown and pop out of the skins easily.
When the beef is fork tender, remove the beef and vegetables from the dutch oven and place on a platter, covering with foil. Put dutch oven on medium heat and remove about 1/2 cup of the drippings. Add arrowroot or cornstarch and whisk well, until smooth. Return thickened drippings to the dutch oven and continue whisking, seasoning with salt and pepper as needed, until a gravy consistency is reached. If you have a lumpy situations, fear not! Simply pour gravy through a sieve before serving.
Now whip up those glorious garlic mashed potatoes. Heat milk and butter in a glass measuring cup in the microwave about 45 seconds, until warm. Place cubed potatoes in a large pot of water and bring to a boil and cook until potatoes come apart when pricked with a fork, about ten minutes. Drain well and return to the hot pot, placing back in the stove a couple of minutes allowing excess moisture to evaporate. Add roasted garlic and mash all together until smooth. Add milk and butter a small amount at a time, stirring until creamy. Season generously with salt and pepper. Pull beef apart with a fork and serve atop mashed potatoes with vegetables and gravy.
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The Rev. Whitney Wilkinson is pastor of Cameron Presbyterian Church.