Thursday, January 19, 2012

Liberty Tree Tavern - New England Pot Roast

The Liberty Tree Tavern is a wonderful restaurant in the Liberty Square "land" of the Magic Kingdom.  I really like the colonial atmosphere and I have always had a good meal there.  The Liberty Tree Tavern serves a la carte lunch options and a "family style" turkey meal at dinner.  I prefer the options at lunch and I enjoyed the pot roast lunch entree a few years back. 

Here is the menu description of the pot roast:

New England Pot Roast... Our Tavern Keeper's Favorite - Braised beef in a Cabernet wine and mushroom sauce served with mashed potatoes and garden vegetables - $17.99

Sound like a good choice for dinner on a cold Michigan winter night, right?  There are a few different recipes for the Liberty Tree Pot Roast floating around on the web and in the Disney cookbooks... and I chose to follow the New England Pot Roast recipe in the Cooking with Mickey and the Disney Chefs because I only had about 2 1/2 pounds of meat (some recipes called for 6 pounds).  I did tweak the recipe a bit, but I will explain that as I go. 

Here is a picture of all the ingredients needed:

First of all, I heated 1/4 cup of vegetable oil in my pot.  Then I seared the meat on all sides.  I used about 2 1/2 pounds of chuck roast.  The recipe calls for 3 pounds boneless beef shoulder roast.

Then I took the meat out of the pot and set it aside.  I added 1 stick (1/2 cup) butter to the pan and let it melt.   Make sure you keep all of those brown bits in the pot... it gives the sauce great flavor.

Next, I added 2 cups large diced carrots, 2 cups large diced celery and 2 cups large diced onions.

Then I added 1/4 cup chopped garlic.  Normally I would recommend chopping it fresh, but someone had brought this jarred garlic over to my house the other day, so I used it.  

Now, this is one place where I ventured away from the printed recipe.  The entree description mentions a mushroom sauce and there are no mushrooms to be found in this recipe (although they are in some of the other versions of this recipe).  Since I had mushrooms on hand, I added them.  Just one package of sliced white mushrooms.  I actually wish I had added more because they were very good in the sauce.

2 Tablespoons chopped fresh thyme went in next.

Saute until the veggies are tender and then stir in one cup of flour. 

Cook the flour a bit so that your dish doesn't taste like paste.  Add 1 cup wine (the entree description mentions a Cabernet sauce, so I used a Cabernet).  Don't worry about the funny purple color the dish has... it comes out fine :)

Stir in 6 cups of beef broth.

At this point you can add the beef back into the pot and cover it.

Do you like my Le Creuset dutch oven?  It was very favorite wedding present last year (I shouldn't play favorites but I put it on my registry as a "dream" present and I couldn't believe someone actually got it for me.... I mean... us).  I call it "my precious."  Unfortunately, "my precious" is really, really heavy... especially when filled with pot roast and gravy.  I didn't want to deal with hoisting it in and out of my small oven, so I cooked the pot roast on the stove top (low flame).  If you want to put in the oven, the recipe calls for 350 degrees. 

The recipe says to cook the roast for 45-60 minutes, which is crazy-talk!  There is no way pot roast can get tender in 45 minutes.  I cooked mine for almost 3 hours and it could have gone longer. 

Here is the finished pot roast...

I sliced the meat and served it on top of mashed potatoes.

The verdict?  It was really good and my husband approved.  The meat was tender and the gravy was full of flavor.  The recipe made an enormous amount of gravy (even if I had doubled the amount of meat), but don't throw it away after eating the pot roast.  I saved the gravy and used it to make a shepherd's pie the next night.  I browned up some ground turkey (you can use beef if you like), then I mixed in the pot roast gravy and vegetables.  I put it in a casserole dish, covered it with some mashed sweet potatoes and some cheddar cheese.  I popped it in the over to brown the potatoes a bit and melt the cheese.  It was yummy way to use the leftovers. 

The pot roast was a success.. the recipe was easy and the results were close to what the Liberty Tree Tavern served.  It is just too bad that I wasn't able to go for a ride on the Haunted Mansion after this meal!

Is the Liberty Tree Tavern New England Pot Roast a go-to of yours or do you choose a different menu item when visiting the restaurant?   I like several items on the menu so I will be cooking some of the other Liberty Tree Tavern dishes for this blog in the future.   What's your favorite?

Friday, January 6, 2012

Crystal Palace - Puffed French Toast

This is one of my all-time favorite foods... the Puffed French Toast from the Crystal Palace restaurant in the Magic Kingdom.  I remember going to the restaurant as a child when it was a cafeteria-style establishment.  You would take a tray and pick up what ever you wanted along the line and pay at the end.  The Puffed French Toast was entree-sized and absolutely delicious.  There were no characters to entertain us while dining back then, just the beautiful interior and the small birds that would fly around inside.

These days the Crystal Palace is a character meal which features Winnie the Pooh and "friends."  I still enjoy the restaurant and it probably is my favorite character meal (although it does get LOUD in there!).  It is a lot of fun and the food is good.  They still serve the Puffed French Toast, but it has been miniaturized and you can find it at the "children's buffet" (a shorter buffet table set up for the little ones to serve themselves).   I feel no guilt or embarrassment as I take food from the kids' table each time I visit!

A good tip for having breakfast at the Crystal Palace is to make your reservation for the earliest opening of the day, before the park opens to the public.  This way, you can get some great family photos in front of the castle with almost no one else on Main Street.  Also, you will have had a great breakfast and already be in the park when the "rope drops" at the Magic Kingdom.

Ok... on to the food!  I made this as a special treat for New Year's Day.   Here is a pic of the ingredients...

Yes, that is an episode of Friends on my tv in the background. I can't resist a good Friends repeat! 

First, I cut the bread into thick slices.  The recipe calls for Texas Toast, but my grocery store didn't have any (or even any bakery white bread that I could cut into think slices), so I bought a loaf of Italian bread.  I knew I was using it for french toast, so I bought it from the day-old bread section since I was going to want it a bit stale anyway.  Stale bread soaks in the custard much better and won't fall apart like fresh bread in the egg mixture.  I didn't cut the crusts off, but it might be a good idea if your bread has a tough, crispy crust.

In a large bowl, I mixed together 2 eggs, 2 1/2 Tbs sugar, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp vanilla extract.

Then I added 2 cups milk.  Next, I gradually whisked in 1 cup of flour and 2 1/2 tsp baking powder.  Mix until it is smooth.

In a shallow dish, combine 4 tsp cinnamon with 3/4 cup sugar and set aside.

Place a few slices of bread in the custard and let it sit a few minutes to soak up some creamy goodness.  Meanwhile, heat up about 1 inch of vegetable oil in a pan (I used my cast iron skillet).


When you think that your oil is hot enough, take your soaked bread pieces (let any excess batter drip off) and carefully place them in the hot oil.  I used tongs to make sure didn't splatter any oil and they made it easy to carefully flip them over.  Only cook a few pieces at a time... if you crowd the pan the oil will drop in temperature.

After a few minutes the bottoms should be golden brown and you can flip them over to cook on the other side.

When they are golden brown on both sides, place them on a plate covered in paper towels (which will soak up some of the excess oil).

While they are still warm, coat them in the cinnamon sugar topping.  Really press them into the sugar and get a nice coating... this is the good stuff!  Get the sides too.  I did this with my hands, but since they are pretty warm you may want to use forks or spoons to coat them.

And that's pretty much it!  If you are feeding a crowd and want to serve all the pieces at once you may want to keep the french toast warm in a low oven while you continue cooking.  

Here is the final result!

Let's just go crazy and add butter and maple syrup.

This certainly doesn't need syrup, but I love the thick, super-sweet magic that happens when that cinnamon coating mixes with the maple syrup.  I guess it brings back those childhood Disney memories.  My husband prefers it without butter and syrup and says it tastes like a yummy churro.

I think Piglet (with my Mickey doll) would approve!