I’ve carried a single photo of my mother & I to every place I’ve ever lived for the last 20-plus years, but I’ve never really looked at it.
I’d tuck the blurred image – me, squinty & self-assured despite the fact that my pink-buttoned dress likely hides a diaper; her, focused on the camera, the growth of an old perm caught in the breeze around the neckline of her floral smock – away into an ancient photo sleeve as if it didn’t exist. Because in all the important ways: it didn’t.
It’s an image of motherhood incongruous alongside the woman I came to know, later. The clouds behind us are ink-swirled, the tide so far out I imagine our toes squishing into wet sand. I wonder on what day or why my dad bundled us up to drive likely hours to find a patch of beach. He’s behind the camera, his enthusiasm greater than his photography skills, as we hover around the edges of softness in the exposure.
The two of us appear united, pointing at a starfish on a rock in her hand. But sometimes I wonder if it’s telling that she’s not touching me at all, despite crouching down to the height of the toddler on her left.
Did she know then that she didn’t love me? Or did that come later?
I remember tromping up & down rock pools on stubby legs, gathering up starfish for my pail, sloshing them around as I clambered over barnacles & slid on seaweed. The jolt of sun-warmed water on my skin a surprise after the shock of the sea.
When I returned triumphant, starfish bounty ready to behold, my dad taught me that we had to return them home. We could count their limbs and admire their colors. But starfish need the sea, he said. And ever so gently, we held them on sandy palms and let the waves reclaim them.
Staring at this photo, really seeing it for the first time, is the same for me. I see her smile without its later venom & let myself imagine this day at the seaside like it might have simply been: a time when, perhaps, my mother did love me. Once.
It gives me a few stolen moments in the seeing where I can, ever so gently with my heart, open my chubby little fist and release the memories of who she became later, like starfish into the surf of my own salt.Print
French Onion Pot Roast
If you’re looking for rich, deep flavors & simple ingredients, this French onion pot roast is for you. Bonus: it makes its own addictive onion-packed jus!
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 5 hours 30 minutes
- Total Time: 5 hours 45 minutes
- Yield: Serves 4 - 6 1x
- Category: one pot, make ahead
- Method: oven, stovetop
- Cuisine: gluten free, grain free, dairy free, nut free, paleo, whole30
- 2 – 2 1/2 lbs / 900 – 1135 g boneless chuck roast
- 2 tbsp / 30 ml avocado or mild olive oil
- 2 1/4 cups / 540 ml beef or chicken broth, divided
- 2 lbs / 900 g yellow onions, about 4 medium
- 2 medium shallots
- 1 head of garlic, or to taste
- 1 1/2 tsp / 7 g fine sea salt, divided
- 3 tbsp / 45 ml balsamic vinegar
- 1 tbsp / 15 ml concentrated tomato paste, like this
- 1 tbsp / 9 g chopped dried onions, I like these
- 1 tsp / 4 g onion powder
- 1 tsp / 3 g granulated garlic
- 1 tsp / 1 g dried parsley
- 1 tsp / 1 g dried thyme
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup / 120 ml red wine
- 3 tbsp / 45 ml red wine vinegar
- 2 bay leaves
SEAR: Pat all sides of the boneless chuck roast dry. Preheat a large dutch oven over medium high. Coat the bottom of the dutch oven with the oil and, once shimmering, place the chuck roast down. Cook until the beef has a lovely deep brown crust and releases from the pan, about 5 minutes, then turn over and repeat until all sides have browned. If the fat gets too hot, turn down the heat a little as you go. Remove the beef to a plate to rest. Take your time to really build that crust because it’s the bedrock of this dish’s beefy flavor!
SOFTEN: While the beef is browning, peel and chop the onions & shallots into thick half moons. Peel the garlic and slice thinly. Remove the now-empty dutch oven from the heat and carefully pour in 1/4 cup / 60 milliliters of the broth – it will splash and splatter a bit! – to de-glaze, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom with a spatula. Add the sliced onions to the dutch oven and stir to coat. Return the dutch oven to the heat and reduce to a low medium. Cook, stirring often, until the onions wilt down a little and start to release their own liquids, about 5 minutes or so.
REDUCE: Preheat the oven to 325 F / 160 C and lower the oven rack if you need to make room for the dutch oven & its lid. Sprinkle the onions with 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and add the sliced shallots. Drizzle with the balsamic vinegar and cook, stirring often, until there is very little liquid left in the bottom of the pot, the onions have reduced by about half and are lightly coated with the thickened vinegar but do not brown, about 5 – 8 minutes or so. Stir in the sliced garlic and cook until fragrant.
SEASON: Scooch the onions over and drop the tomato paste into the pot, frying for a few seconds before stirring it through. Next add the seasoning mix of dried onions, onion powder, granulated garlic, parsley, thyme and black pepper, stirring through. Make a well in the middle of the onions so that you can place the chuck roast in the middle on the bottom of the dutch oven. Pour over the red wine, remaining 2 cups / 480 milliliters of broth and the red wine vinegar. Add the bay leaves and make sure that the onions are covered by the broth, then partially cover with the lid and bring the french onion pot roast to a gentle simmer.
COOK: Remove the now simmering pot roast from the stove top and cover with a loose layer of foil, then place the lid on top so that it has a nice tight seal. Pop the french onion pot roast into the oven and cook for 2 hours. Remove from the oven and use a spatula or two to carefully flip the pot roast over & nestle it back into its onion bath. Replace the foil and lid, then cook until tender, about another 2 hours.
REST: Once the beef is fork tender, transfer the dutch oven to a trivet. Remove and discard the foil, then replace the lid and let it rest for 15 – 30 minutes.
SERVE: Carefully transfer the pot roast to a chopping board and use tongs or a couple of forks to gently pull it into chunks but without over shredding the meat. Discard the bay leaves and any stray pieces of fat or membrane that remain, then return the pot roast pieces to the dutch oven and stir through the gravy. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed before serving the french onion pot roast with its gravy spooned over the top.
Black pepper is a Stage 1 AIP reintroduction & tomato paste is a Stage 4 AIP reintroduction. They can both be omitted to make this recipe Elimination Phase friendly.