From Sickles Farm to our Table

Best Pot Roast Recipe

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is IMG_3255-1280x721-1-1024x577.jpgWhen I was growing up in Rumson there were a couple of rituals that made summer even more wonderful.  One started on the last day of school and lasted all summer long–going to the beach. Every single day it was not raining my mom would load our old station wagon with three, four, five, and finally, six kids and head over the Sea Bright Bridge.

We played in the waves for hours on end, our fingers wrinkling and our lips turning blue, swallowing water and eating sand until we became expert wave riders.  Our sandcastles were legendary, fantastic creations with moats and turrets which we topped with the shells, beach pebbles and colorful sea glass we found roaming the shoreline.

Eventually even the most perfect day would come to an end and she’d herd us back into the wagon, but often we didn’t go straight home.  At least two or three times a week our mother would stay on Ridge Road and drive all the way to Sickles Farm just over the Rumson border in Little Silver.

Seatbelt free (they hadn’t been invented yet I guess) we would bounce along the rutted gravel road through the fields and orchards that led to a makeshift farm stand. Barefoot, sunburned and sandy we ‘d navigate bushels and bushels of freshly picked corn, and devour on the spot peaches that melted into your mouth, down your shirt–all the way to your toes. And always we’d get lots of those little boxes of blueberries that with a splash of lemon and barely a hint of sugar made the world’s most delicious pie.

Fast forward fifty plus years and the old Sickles Farm is no more. Although I will always be nostalgic for the olden days, its successor–Sickles Market–is a year-round enterprise completely in tune to the needs of the modern family.  Working mom?  Staying at home dad?  Just a little kid?

Who does not love having the freshest fruit and veg, the convenience of quality prepared foods, a butcher selling wholesome meat, a separate cheese department plus a great bakery right on the premises?  The road may be paved now, and some of the fields sprout townhomes, but the heart of Sickles Farm lives on.

Sickles Market

So it is still a long way to go until summer.  Not sure what to make for dinner on one of these cold, wintry nights? Pop into Sickles Market and buy a nice hunk of beef, some great fresh veggies, a beautiful loaf of french bread and in a couple of hours you will have a meal fit for a king–or a carload of kids.  And don’t forget to pick up a fresh fruit pie for dessert!

From Sickles Market to a British Cottage table–perfect!

The Best Pot Roast

Buy a well marbled four pound-ish chuck roast.  Season with salt and pepper, then dredge the whole roast in flour. Brown in an oven proof pan in a few glugs of olive oil.  Try not to fuss with it too much–brown means brown–leave it alone turning only once until you have it nicely seared. Remove from pot.

Then add some more olive oil to the pan and basically whatever vegetables, chopped, that you like. I used two leeks, two carrots, two celery stalks, one onion and five cloves of garlic.  If you happen to have some pancetta in the fridge dice it and put it in the pot.  Cook for about ten minutes until tender and then add 2 cups of decent red wine, a 28 ounce can of whole tomatoes (squish these) and thyme and rosemary and one bay leaf. Put the roast back in and add about one cup of chicken stock so the roast is mostly submerged.

Cook in a 350-degree oven. After three and one-half hours or so partially cook some fresh baby carrots (leave them whole with a bit of green at the top), pearl onions and baby potatoes, then saute in butter until lightly browned.  (If you are lazy you can skip both these steps and just toss them in your pot roast adding more liquid if necessary, but it makes a nicer presentation if the veggies look pretty and colorful).

After you do this take the roast out of the oven, skim off as much fat as possible and most of the cooked vegetables (you can transfer to a blender and puree the sauce or just make a slurry with some flour and sauce and thicken it that way). Surround with your beautiful carrots, potatoes, and onions on a large platter and spoon the sauce over it.  I like to serve the extra sauce on the side in a gravy boat.

Add a loaf of freshly baked french bread, a tossed salad and a nice bottle of red wine and your meal is complete.

And don’t forget the pie!