This month, my company celebrates its 20 Year Anniversary. And as the head of the Potluck Planning Committee, this seemed like a fantastic opportunity for a luncheon get-together. So I sent out a mass email to my coworkers, asking for dishes to represent the work we do, and/or how long we’ve been doing it. AKA—since the 90s.
This is by far one of the most fun potlucks we’ve had. I was SO impressed with the cleverness and creativity of my coworkers. There are tons of pics at the end of this post so you all can share our nerdy-food-geekery.
As for my entry, of course I wanted to do something Cajun. But what?
Well, last year, we did a huge amount of work after the Joplin Tornado. Spill cleanup, disposal of regulated materials (aka sifting through debris at a commercial retail store to recover pharmaceuticals, bullets, alcohol, cleaning supplies, fluorescent bulbs, etc.), demolition, debris removal…
DEBRIS! My Aha Moment had occurred.
In New Orleans, a big, fat, drippy, gravy-coated shredded roast beef poboy is frequently referred to as a “debris” (DAY-bree) po-boy. The name comes from the gravy, which is made from reducing the pan drippings from the roast beef (including the delicious little bits of roast beef, or debris, that fall off as you’re cutting the meat). Mother’s Restaurant in New Orleans is quite famous for their amazing debris poboys & biscuits:
I found a good recipe online for making my own NOLA-style debris, but that recipe called for braising the meat. I wanted to use my Crockpot. And so I did. And it still turned out just fantastic.
1 large roast; whatever’s on sale. Chuck roast used to be the cheapest, but lately I’ve seen it hovering around $4/lb. Rump roast seems to go on sale here more often for closer to $2. Aim for about 3.5 lbs of meat.
3 garlic cloves, quartered
1 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1 small carrot, diced
1 cup beef broth
1 cup chicken broth (we used bouillon cubes for both of these with good results
Water, if necessary
2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp hot sauce (Louisiana Gold)
1 tsp dried thyme
1 bay leaf
1 Tbsp Cajun Brown Gravy Mix (or flour and some extra Cajun seasoning, if you don’t have this mix)
Cut small slits into the roast, and insert the garlic slices. Then season liberally (both sides) with Cajun seasoning, black pepper, and cayenne—use in proportion to your & your family’s tastes. I.E. – if they don’t like spicy food, you can omit the cayenne.
Heat a large skillet with the olive oil over medium heat until it begins to smoke. Swirl the oil to make sure the bottom is coated. Then—add your giant slab o’ meat to the pan. Start to realize that what the store called a “roast” seems to look an awful lot like the Ol’ 96’er.
You see the similarity, no?
Brown El Slab O’ Carne on all sides, then set aside. Add onions and carrots to the pan, season with salt & pepper, and sauté until onions start to caramelize.
Then, place the onion mixture in the bottom of your Crockpot. Add the beef on top of that, then pour the broths over that. If the broth is not level with the meat, add a little water. Add your seasonings, cover, and Set on Low for 8-10 hours (overnight works perfectly).
When you wake up the next morning, you will have a slab of meat that will fall apart with little to no effort. Dispose of the bay leaf, then fish your meat out of the crock. It will probably crumble—that’s TOTALLY okay, since we’re shredding this stuff anyway. Use a fork and some tongs, and in less than 5 minutes, you will have THIS:
Now—transfer the liquid from the Crockpot into a large skillet, and add your brown gravy mix. This will help thicken up the gravy a little faster. Set the skillet to medium heat and stir occasionally until the liquid is reduced by half.
Then fish the carrots out (because they look odd in gravy), place the shredded meat back in your Crockpot, and cover with the gravy. Toss to coat. If your gravy gets a little too reduced, no problem, just add a lil’ bit of water.
Serve with a side of split rolls (because these are mini-servings—if you’re planning to serve as a meal, use French bread) and you have: Joplin “Debris” PoBoys!
(Note my note. I like to edu-mah-cate my coworkers. It’s culture, y’all.)
And now, I’d like to showcase some of the other amazing dishes that my coworkers came up with!
First, we have Babsy’s “oil spill” hummus. Is this not the cutest thing ever? She made that little “drum” herself, too.
(The “Odor: Garlic” made me LOL.)
And just in case there’s a spill of some delicious dipping oil, we have absorbent pads!
We also had some very hazardous Kool-Aid to drink:
And for Dessert: some “DNAPL” pie, and a cake with an old photo of our CEO on it, back when she used to have to get down in the dirt like us.
As per usual with potlucks, I MAY have overeaten.
All in all, a really fun luncheon. Our owner loved the cake and even told us the story behind it. Sometimes it’s hard for me to imagine our boss, who is always very fashionable and put together, out there in a hard hat and Tyvek, but here’s proof! It’s great to work in this sort of environment, with fun & equally nerdy coworkers and bosses who’ve been in the trenches (both literally and metaphorically) themselves. Here’s to another 20 years!!!