Tuesday, November 8, 2016

So Who Is Lillian Hellman And Did She Make This Roast?

Lillian Hellman's Pot Roast

Since last year when Mommy and her family moved 11 hours closer to us, I have spent much time driving up and down a very busy interstate highway when I go to visit and babysit. Three hours down there. Three hours back. (In fact, I'm sitting at their kitchen table right this minute.) Satellite radio is wonderful for long trips because I don't lose radio stations as I travel.

But in the last several months, I added audio books to my listening. Pride And Prejudice was terrific entertainment for a couple of trips. It was about 13 hours of listening. And it had me laughing from the first few sentences. People haven't changed much over the years. I have seen the movie more than once, but I had never read the book. Listening to it was great fun.

I listened to The Martian (11 hours.) I still haven't seen the award winning movie but can't imagine it's better than the book. This one kept me....well, I can't say "on the edge of my seat" because I was driving. But you get the idea. It was a thriller. I also listen to non-fiction books and feel more informed. I am listening to Just Mercy right now.

But when I had a chance to get a free book several weeks ago, I picked Nora Ephron's Heartburn because, (#1) it was much shorter than the others—under 6 hours, and (#2) Meryl Streep was the reader. Meryl Streep rode in the car with me for hours! If you don't know Nora Ephron from her books, you'll know some of her movies—Sleepless In Seattle, When Harry Met Sally, and her last film, Julie & Julia.

While the book Heartburn is very 1980s, it was pleasant entertainment for one trip down and back. What I had not expected when I chose it, was that it was filled with recipes. As Meryl Streep read the book and read the recipes, I kept thinking, "That sounds good. I would make that." But this was an AUDIO book. I couldn't go back and look at the recipe. And I was driving. I couldn't jot them down as I listened.

The very last recipe in the book did sound good and easy. It was nearly easy enough to remember, but I wasn't sure about the herbs. Thanks to the powers of Google, I found the recipe easily. One blogger said this recipe was "just this side of white trash." I'm guessing she said that because of use of condensed soup and dry onion soup mix. I think I feel insulted. Those ingredients are still in use where I live. (Although people do use them less and less now.)

Well, I had to try this recipe. And you know I often tinker with a recipe when I use it. I could not find a 4-lb roast at my store, so I bought the biggest chuck roast they had. It was 3 pounds, so I reduced the amount of liquid a little. My changes are in italics. And years ago I found that browning a roast before cooking improved the color and the flavor. But if I were running short on time, I still might skip that and just put everything in the pot, like the recipe says.

So, who was Lillian Hellman? And did she really make this pot roast? She was a dramatist and screenwriter at a time when "writers were celebrities and their recklessness was admirable." You can google her name and read more if you're interested. And did she really make this roast—who knows? All I can tell you is that it's good.

LILLIAN HELLMAN'S POT ROAST (from the book Heartburn)

4-lb beef roast, the more expensive the better (I used a 3-lb chuck roast)
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 envelope dry onion soup mix
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped (I used 1-1/2 tsp jarred minced garlic)
2 cups red wine (I used one soup can wine)
2 cups water (I used one soup can water)
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried basil

Put ingredients in a large good pot and cover. Bake at 350 for 3-1/2 hours until tender. Remove bay leaf before serving.

How I cooked it:  Now, I browned the meat first in a heavy Dutch oven. I tossed the onion in on top of the roast, then mixed soups, wine, water and herbs and poured over all. I put the lid on the Dutch oven and baked it. I turned the roast over about halfway through the cooking time.

Daddy-O, who loved the roast, asked if I could have used the slow cooker. When you use a slow cooker, the big difference is that the liquids aren't reduced. See the photo above with the roast still in the pot? You can see that the soup/water/wine mix has cooked down into a thick rich gravy. I don't think the end result would be the same if you go the crockpot route. Probably still good, but not the same.

If you have tender ears, be forewarned that The Martian uses words that are not in my own vocabulary. Kind of surprised me. But if I had been stranded alone on Mars, I might have needed some of those words.


  1. Goodness, I thought I left a comment when I saw your roast, but it looks like I didn't. First of all, it looks delicious. Secondly, I don't care for the term 'white trash' either. Thirdly, I use those ingredients to which you thought the offensive term is attributed, too! Fourthly, I would listen to a book if the car if it was read by Meryl Streep too!!! I've never heard of Lillian Hellman before your post, so thanks!

    1. I'm not sure why I didn't start listening to audio books in the car sooner. Makes me feel like I'm using my time better on those long drives.

    2. Ditto! I still use condensed soup and onion soup mix all the time!

    3. I know...I have days when there would be no dinner if I didn't use shortcuts!


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