“My grandmother would run the Quarter and the Bywater growing up as a girl. Her house was always the gathering spot for family get-togethers: baptisms, first communions, birthdays, funerals, Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving. She did it all. Growing up, I didn’t think too much, except, “We’re going to Maw Maw’s house, and we’re going to eat really well.” When I was in college, I spent a semester living with her. My grandfather had passed and I wound up moving in with her for about seven or eight months. That’s where I really started learning because I saw the dedication that she had to her cooking.
She always got up at about 4:30, 5 in the morning. She would go to daily Mass and then she’d get someone to bring her by one of the grocery stores. She’d spend the rest of the morning prepping or cooking. It always started with the trinity, no matter what. No matter what she was doing, she was always cooking onions, bell peppers and celery, and always having garlic going on. It would be in the meatballs, hamburger patties, stuffed bell peppers, red beans, roast, smothered chicken, smothered pork chops, whatever she was cooking. It was just her and me in the house. But my aunts would come over to visit, she’d have friends over, and she’d cook for the neighbors. Her freezer was piled high with all these incredible things to eat.
I was terrible. I remember calling her a couple times, “Maw Maw, how do you cut a bell pepper?” She’d talk me through things on the phone. “When you’re browning something, what’s it supposed to look like?” In the beginning, I would burn things a lot. I would overcook things a lot.
Being from New Orleans, I feel that a pot of red beans and some roast beef, a pot of gumbo, those are some things you have to know. You have to know how to play a blues, you have to know how to play a funk song, some New Orleans piano. If I was going to take an interest in cooking, I was going to have to learn all these things. I keep trying and reading recipes, watching the cooking shows, talking to different guys; I talk to Brint Anderson about recipes. There’s a couple of other musicians that I talk with, trying to get different little tips. This roast beef recipe is a culmination of all that, based on my grandmother’s foundation.
Maw Maw always used green bell peppers. George Porter’s wife, Ara, she always makes smothered chicken and smothered pork chops with red bell peppers instead of green bell peppers, so I tried it one time, and it was great. One time, I was working on the roast beef and looking for the trinity. I didn’t have any green bell peppers, but I had the red bell peppers, so I thought, “Let me just try it,” and it made it a little sweeter, the gravy is more reddish in color. That’s one thing that I changed. The other thing I use, that she never used, that I got from Brint Anderson, is that red wine always helps.”
Maw Maw’s Roast Beef
1 (3-4lb) chuck roast
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder seasoning salt pepper
1 onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
10-12 garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup flour
2 cups beef stock
2 cups red wine
2 tbsp worchestershire sauce
1 bay leaf
1 cup grated smoked gouda
1 loaf French bread
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Pat roast dry with paper towels and season with onion powder, garlic powder, seasoning salt and pepper; let sit while you chop the vegetables. Dust roast with flour; save whatever doesn’t stick. Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Brown roast on all sides, then remove from Dutch oven. Sauté onion, bell pepper and celery until translucent. Add garlic and sauté for 2-3 more minutes. Add leftover flour to veggies. Add enough beef stock to deglaze the bottom of the Dutch oven, scraping up all the chunky bits. Return roast (with juices) to Dutch oven. Add wine and enough beef stock to cover top of roast. Add worchestershire sauce and bay leaf. Bring to a simmer.
Cover and bake in the oven for 90 minutes. Flip the roast and bake for another 60 minutes. If you want to make pot roast you add peeled and cut potatoes and carrots for the last 30 minutes. If you want to make po-boys, keep reading.
After the 60 minutes, flip the roast again, trying not to break it apart. Return to oven for 45 minutes. It’s done when it begins to break easily. Carefully remove roast from pot and put in a covered dish. Blend the gravy with a hand blender until all veggies and meat scraps disappear. Bring to a simmer and reduce until the gravy thickens.
Remove excess fat from roast as you break the meat up by hand. Mix meat and gravy; heat through. Serve on toasted French bread with a little mayonnaise and grated smoked gouda on top. Banging!