2/3 cup flour
2 cloves garlic — peeled and chopped
1 cup chopped onion
3 TBS oil
3/4 cup red wine — optional
1 cup V-8 vegetable juice
1 cup black coffee
1 beef bouillon cubes
1 cup water
2 tsp dried thyme — or Italian herbs
1 bay leaf
salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 large carrots, or small sack of baby carrots
5 potatoes — peeled and quartered
other vegetables — if desired
1/3 cup cold water
3 Tbsp cornstarch
Find your biggest stove top pot with a lid, and pour the oil in it. Put it on medium heat. Unwrap the roast and stare at it in dismay. That’s a lot of beef! But until the day you become a vegetarian, you just have to deal with it…..Pour the flour and however much salt and pepper you want into one of those nice plastic bags your apples or bananas came in. Drop the beef in there, close tightly, and wallop it around until the meat is coated.
Watch the flour drift around your kitchen and when it settles and the oil is hot, add the meat to the pot. Let it sizzle away for about 10 minutes, or until browned. If all the oil has disappeared, add 2 more tablespoons (this is not diet food, have you guessed that yet?!).
When the oil is hot again, turn the roast with the aid of a heavy duty spatula and a big fork, or whatever works for you. When you have turned it, dust the browned side with 1 teaspoon of the herbs. At this point also, add the onion and garlic to the pan. Let them all brown for another 10 minutes or so, then remove the meat from the pan. (I do something here that would probably gross out Julia Child, but it works for me. I put the meat in the upturned lid of the pot, and don’t bother with another stinkin’ plate to wash. I mean, the lid’s going to get all messy anyway, right?)
To the pot with the onion and the garlic, I add the wine and watch it bubble away for a few minutes. Scrape up and stir around all the browned bits on the bottom… That’s very important as it gives a real richness to the gravy and keeps the roast from sticking. (If you don’t use wine, use apple juice.) After about 3 minutes, add the coffee, beef broth, V-8, water and bay leaf. Turn the heat up and bring to a boil; add the meat back in. Watch until the whole mess is boiling away, then turn down the heat until it is just simmering. This is also very important, because if you boil it, it just gets tough, but if you gently simmer it, eventually it will become falling-apart tender.
Let it simmer covered for about 2 1/2 hours. I don’t bother to turn it but I do occasionally baste the top. At this point, add your vegetables (and maybe a little more water if it needs it). Turn the heat up for a few minutes so it simmers again, then turn it back down to just maintain the simmer. Add the remaining herbs. Put the lid back on and let it do its thing for about 40 minutes. (yup, that’s over 3 hours cooking time and you can do it even longer…. it just gets more tender. Just keep it at a low simmer, NOT A BOIL.)
Now is the time to make your biscuits and yell for somebody to set the table. Don’t forget the butter for the potatoes! Also, put the oven on low heat.
Remove the vegetables to an ovenproof dish and put in the warm oven to stay (naturally,) warm. Haul the roast out onto a big plate and make somebody else deal with carving it while you make the gravy.
Using a slotted spoon, fish out all the really big chunks of leftover stuff. I leave all the bits of onion and garlic in, and if anyone ever complained about lumps, I’d lump them… Anyway, turn the heat up, take cold water and stir the cornstarch into it. While stirring the gravy with one hand, slowly drizzle this in. If it doesn’t thicken enough, add a little more cornstarch, always dissolving it in cold water first.
Remember, this isn’t supposed to be a really thick gravy. Now, taste it, and add salt and pepper until it’s the way you like it. It is better to under salt than over salt….. Sometimes when I want a smooth gravy, I use a Braun hand blender to puree it. Just a matter of choice.
Okay! Put it all on the table, sit down, enjoy, and refuse to get up and wait on anybody. Pour gravy on everything, and enjoy, enjoy, enjoy.
If there are leftovers, I pour the gravy over everything and freeze it in small portions; great to give to the kids when need a hot, quick meal.
NOTES : NOTE: If you don’t want to buy a whole bottle of red wine you can find the little individual bottles usually….It’s worth the trouble to find it. (Sutter Home Zinfandel is what I buy.) Also, V-8 comes in smaller cans, so you don’t have to waste a whole jug of the stuff. Keep the rest on the shelf for the next time you make this!