Mind your p’s and…tuna?

I’ve said many times that food is love. This particular dish particularly proves that to be true for several reasons…

There’s nothing like a “family recipe”, something that has been made and passed down for generations. My sweet Grandma Lou made this for my dad when he was growing up and he loved it. (and since my Grandpa lovingly says that she could “burn water”, that’s really sayin’ something!) She gave the recipe to my mom when they got married who made it her own and fed it to us my entire life. I made it for the butcher, an italian who grew up eating his mother’s “pasta & peas”, and he loved it. Three generations, not too shabby for a simple 3 ingredient salad. Remember that yard work I mentioned in my anniversary post? Well it’s still going on and my father has so generously been helping his son in law. So yesterday I called them in for lunch and they were delighted to see what was on the menu. As he sat down to eat, my dad reminisced about his mother making it for him and said, “this is my definition of comfort food.” When somebody says that about your food, you know you’re doing something right. 

That being said, I actually really dislike it myself. Is loathe too strong a word? (And it’s not because I can’t stand the sight of anything creamy with mayo, that’s my mother in law.) Let me explain, as it has nothing to do with the taste (although truthfully I can do without peas) but rather what it represents. As I mentioned, my mom made it often when I was a kid, especially for the convention. Because it’s cheap, easy, and served cold, it was the perfect thing to serve as we trudged through the door after the long drive home from an exhausting day at Vet Stadium. I hated driving home from the convention. It took forever, crammed into the back of the station wagon, inevitably arguing with my older sister, plus we always had some interesting passengers with us along the way, and driving home meant we had to drive there in the morning obviously which meant getting up SUPER early. But most of all, driving home meant staying home, instead of at a super exciting (and super expensive-but what kid cares about that?!) Philadelphia hotel with a pool and tons of friends everywhere. 

That salad (which my mother had wisely prepared ahead so she wouldn’t have to cook after such a long day) meant one thing to me- we weren’t going out to eat. Yet another exciting feature of the convention, going out with all your friends! (Mind you we did do this on occasion but more so as we got older and when we weren’t outside all day in 100 degree heat causing fatigue, heat stroke, and all sorts of unpleasant odors) It wasn’t that the pasta tasted bad, it was just that I knew that giant Tupperware bowl with the blue lid (which she still uses to this day, if that’s not a testament to a good brand I don’t know what is!) was sitting there in the fridge waiting for us and it was the only thing standing between me and a kids meal at the Ground Round. (my favorite childhood restaurant, they played old cartoons on a big projector screen and gave you popcorn while you waited for your food, it was the best. I think it’s a Macaroni Grill now.) I understand perhaps this all sounds bratty and ungrateful but these were my honest feelings as a child and are by no means any reflection on how I currently feel about the convention or my mother and is in no way meant to imply that I was deprived as a child (even though I may have felt so at the time but what kid doesn’t?) To this day, even though it’s delicious, I won’t eat this salad, I just can’t. 

However, like I said before, the butcher loves it. So I make it for him. And now, every year when we go to the convention, the roles have reversed- I frugally plan the menu and make the food to give my mom a break. And I make the tuna pasta salad for my family, (with a little something different on the side for myself of course) because, well, food is love. 

Still want the recipe?

Pasta & Peas Salad                     Schochler Shells 

  • 1 lb mini shells (really any pasta will be fine, quiona shells work really nicely too but shhh don’t tell the plumber, he hates quiona pasta…even though he regularly eats it unknowingly) 
  • 1 bag frozen peas
  • Mayonnaise (I’m sorry but I can’t give you a measurent, the amount of mayo one uses is a really personal decision I feel) 
  • 2 cans of tuna (drained and preferably albacore) 
  • Salt & pepper (mom adds dill to her’s which I don’t care for but floats and boats and all that) 

Boil the pasta and let it cool. Break tuna up into small pieces. Put shells into a large bowl and fold in tuna and peas. Put in mayo (I like to start with a little and add more as I see fit but remember if you make this ahead the pasta will absorb a good amount and could become dry so you may want to have some on the side) then season generously with salt, pepper, and the aforementioned but not preferable, dill. That’s pretty much it folks, I hope this becomes a family recipe of yours as well!  

And just to avoid any backlash from this post…love you Mommy! 

how much wood would a woodchuck chuck…

Chuck roast. I asked the butcher for a good definition and this is what he sent me…

“This particular cut of meat comes from the sub primal cut known as the chuck, an area located near the neck and shoulder area of the steer. It’s very popular as a ground meat due to its high fat content but is also delicious left whole and served as a roast. The fatty tissue, collagen, (no Botox necessary) melts for the most part during long cooking methods and makes for a delicious meal.”

Smart and funny! I picked a good one, that’s for sure! That may be the technical definition but I, however, define it as the ultimate air freshener and perfect meal on a cold rainy day like today. I decided to combine a few of my favorite recipes and flavors to make the perfect pot roast. Give it a try, I dare you. 

Beauty & The Butcher’s Pot Roast  

Ingredients

  • a few tablespoons olive oil
  • Chuck Roast apx. 4 lbs.
  • 1 good sized yellow onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup good balsamic vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard (don’t you just love Dijon mustard? I feel it’s an under utilized condiment that adds a tangy distinguished flavor to many dishes. Not to mention the grey poupon jokes.)
  •  a handful of thyme. obviously fresh sprigs would be prefered but I only had dry on hand and it’ll do pig, it’ll do.
  •  2 cups beef broth
  • several carrots (honestly whatever you have on hand and yay! no peeling! just chop off the ends)
  • kosher salt & black pepper

* side note: you may have noticed the lack of potatoes in the list of ingredients. this was done purposely. although most traditional roast recipes call for them, I find that after cooking for such a long period of time the potatoes become mealy and mushy. that combined with the fact that I make a pretty mean mashed potato, i prefer to prepare them separately, mash them, and serve the roast atop the delicious spuds.) All that being said, add potatoes if you want, it will still be yummy.

Instructions

  •  Preheat oven to 300F.
  • Heat oil in a large dutch oven (i love my blessed discounted le crueset dutch oven! If you don’t have one then a crock pot should work too) over high heat.
  • Season chuck roast well with salt and pepper, add to pan and brown well on all sides (a few minutes a side.)
  • Remove roast and set aside.
  • Add chopped onion to drippings in pot and reduce heat to medium.
  • Sauté onions until soft, about 5 minutes.
  • Add balsamic vinegar, increase heat to medium-high and boil until reduced and slightly syrupy, about 4-5 more minutes. 
  • Stir in Dijon. Man I wish you could smell this right now!
  • Set roast on top of onions in pot.
  • Pour in 2 cups beef broth and add thyme. 
  • Cover and place in oven for 2 1/2 hours or until very tender.
    Add carrots and to pot and return to oven. Continue cooking until they are tender, about 30 minutes or more depending on how you like your carrots.
  • Season again with s&p, serve over a bed of mashed taters, and enjoy!