"The gunsmith should, and probably will, be quite content to master the task of screwing in a brass front sight on a shotgun without having the sight look as if it had been mashed between two moving gears."
- Professional Gunsmithing by Robert J. Howe (1946)
On the Shotgun -
"During the course of a year there is probably no other type of weapon that will cross the gunsmith's counter in such quantity and variety as the shotgun - from the engraved expensive British and German double barrel custom made jobs to the single shot eight dollar price of a boy. And like a mother chick with her brood, the gunsmith must learn to know and love them all, for woe betide the gun craftsman who publicly refers to some customers pet scatter gun as being inferior to another type."
- Profesional Gunsmithing by Robert J. Hower (1946)
There's all sorts of ways to do things, but sometimes just the basics can be as good as all the new found gadgets. The books these quotes are from is an excellent one for a basic understanding of Gunsmithing. The skills are timeless, only the technology and tools have changed (if you don't have the skills all the technology in the world is useless). It also has some info on how to use old Atlas Lathes and Mills.
You have to understanding the basics. Such it is with gunsmithing, such it is with another craft - foodsmithing.
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 do we have to work with? There's a few hamburger buns left from the 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.
First you need to sear the meat the get the flavors that come only from the Maillard Reaction.
No, not Mallard! It's MAILLARD.
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 (you've all just been waiting for this, haven't you?)
This 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 I do.
So don't forget to sear. It's a scientific chain reaction of "MMMMMM".
Range Beef Dip
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 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. I'd have preferred some crusty Ciabatta rolls to stand up to dipping the sandwich, but messy will work with a knife and fork.
Try it. It may not be as great as your Mom's recipe, but, like a basic shotgun, it's still pretty darn good.