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Just a wafer-thin slice [Aug. 29th, 2009|02:39 pm]
[Current Mood |amuseddomestic]

How can you tell when we are cooking at home instead of relying on takeout?

The kitchen is clean.

Ironically, if our in-home eating consists of morning bagels, leftovers from the fridge, and takeout boxes, we have a tendency to let things pile up in the sink and on the counters.

My secret belief is that is because we feel guilty and slothful about our eating habits and therefore are scurrying in and out of the kitchen with an "I know nothing! I see nothing!" speed.

But today I realized that a roast I'd purchased a couple days ago was unlikely to survive many more uncooked days, and as we all staggered out of bed around the crack of 11 (okay, noon for me) still weirdly worn out from our last few days of tourism, this was the day to kick back, take it easy, and make stroganoff for dinner.

Step one of kicking back and taking it easy? Clean up the kitchen, of course. There weren't that many dishes in the sink, but the counters had disappeared under the assorted bags o' booty brought home from our tourist-shopping. Those removed to more apt places, counters wiped down, and dishes loaded in the dishwasher, I set to work on an actual home-cooked meal.

It's appalling how little we do that these days. This is a situation that we keep telling ourselves must change but which doesn't manage to do so. But after a trip to Lehman's in Kidron, Ohio - a veritable Mecca of sensible tools for home, garden, and kitchen - and drooling over hundreds of dollars in cast iron cookware,* I had to force myself to walk away, because I do not make good use of the pots and pans I already own. And that's a pity.

Here in Ohio, we have an abundance of fresh food available, excellent market resources, and I don't make proper use of these things. So I am determined to try harder. And that starts today with stroganoff.**

*Yes, I know that the holy grails of cookware are All Clad and such, but I love cast iron. I love the even heat, and the weight, and the ease of maintenance if you know what you're doing. I also understand that it's necessary to keep non-cast iron pots and pans around for dishes that contain tomatoes and other acidic foods, and really even for cream sauce-based dishes, since these are hard on the surface of cast iron. I am happy to have cast iron be more pans rather than replacement pans.

**My stroganoff:
Start with a cut of roast, the least expensive on the market that day. Do NOT use precut stew meat; you are paying more for what is essentially scrap bits trimmed off other pieces of meat. Cut the roast into bite-sized chunks, approximately 1-1/2" cubes - exactness is not required. Dust the chunks in a mixture of flour, salt, pepper and garlic powder. Again, exactness of proportions is unnecessary. If you like lots of garlic or just a little pepper, knock yourself out.

Chop an onion, mince garlic, and look around the kitchen for that leek or shallot left over from some other recipe and chop that up, too. In a small-to-medium stock pot, pour in enough olive oil to cover the bottom and add your chopped treasures. Saute until soft. Slice half a pound of mushrooms and chuck them in, then search in the back of the cupboard for that package of dried specialty mushrooms you bought once for some fussy recipe you never did get around to making. Toss those in as well and feel very smug about getting them off the shelf.

Once the onions are translucent, add the dusted beef chunks and brown them just slightly. There will probably be more beef than your pan can brown evenly. This is not a big deal. just get them browned until there is a nice crusty layer on the bottom of the pot.

Add about 3/4 of a cup of red port wine. It can be the cheapest port in the supermarket, but make it port. If you absolutely can't get port, then settle for burgundy, but it's not the same. Stir everything around in it, then add Swanson's chicken stock. Yes, chicken. Don't ask me why, but it tastes better than with beef stock.

Now, cover with a close-fitting lid and simmer for at least 4 if not 7 hours, stirring occasionally. This is why you can use chuck, round, whatever kind of roast. By the end, the meat will be soft and flavorful.

45 minutes before serving, cook the appropriate amount of egg noodles. I generally cook half a bag. Cook them until they are a bit beyond al dente, drain them, and then add them to the stroganoff. I realize that most stroganoff is served over noodles, but this allows the noodles to absorb the flavor and is much better.

Now, this is the part that will show me up as a poseur, but add a packet of supermarket stroganoff mix and an extra cup of water to your stroganoff. I know, appalling. But it's yummy, dammit, and I've done more than just brown hamburger, so shut up. Turn up the heat and get everything all bubbly for about 5 minutes, then take off the heat and add a cup of sour cream, stir in thoroughly, and serve. It's awesome.

[User Picture]From: clodia_risa
2009-08-29 07:35 pm (UTC)
I drool equally over All-Clad and beautiful huge pieces of cast iron. I got a cast iron dutch oven for my wedding and I use it nearly every week. I love it.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2009-08-29 07:50 pm (UTC)
Chili is generally not too acidic and won't do that much damage, agreed.

I lost my cast iron in the divorce and have been mourning it since. I only have two small pans.
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[User Picture]From: conscience
2009-08-29 07:51 pm (UTC)
Oh, yum.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2009-08-29 08:48 pm (UTC)
It is quite tasty. And I am serving it with roasted asparagus tonight around 7. For "afternoon tea," we are having slices of the raw milk cheese from Amish country, and just now I realize that if I'd had any smarts I would have picked up a couple apples to go with it and the crackers. Ah, well.
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[User Picture]From: pjhandley
2009-08-29 08:45 pm (UTC)
sounds good. although, my sister puts ketchup in hers prior to adding the sour cream, and believe or not it will enhance the flavor.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2009-08-29 08:49 pm (UTC)
I have seen this suggestion, but I think the port wine substitutes for the ketchup. Some day when I'm feeling adventurous I will try that. Today is a comfort food sort of day.
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[User Picture]From: kisekinotenshi
2009-08-29 09:25 pm (UTC)
And that makes me almost wish I ate meat. ;D Darn this picky palate of mine! Things like stroganoff can't be done with tofu, no matter what most die hard veggies say. *siiiiiiggggghhhhh* I do miss porcupines too (huge meatballs made with rice, my mom used to make it when I was a kid).

I am saving things like one of those amazing stand mixers and real cookware for when I move into a real house. Once I have enough space and a permanent enough situation that I won't be moving every 2 or 3 years, then I figure I can allow myself the luxury of real cooking implements. In the mean time, I'll make do with my sad, cheap Walmart pots.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2009-08-29 10:11 pm (UTC)
The trick is to pick up these things one at a time - Christmas prezzie requests, garage sale finds, etc. You can't do it all at once, but you can do it a bit at a time.
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[User Picture]From: mamculuna
2009-08-29 09:55 pm (UTC)
I love to cook with cast iron, too, but it seems that it's dangerous for men to have too much iron and the iron does leach from the pan into the food. Nevertheless, I can't stand making pancakes with anything else.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2009-08-29 10:14 pm (UTC)
I cooked with it for years and it never had an adverse effect on John. I don't that that all that much leaches if you aren't cooking with a lot of acidic foods.
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[User Picture]From: dglenn
2009-08-30 12:26 am (UTC)
I got my cast iron specifically for using over campfires. (I do wish I knew where my cooking tripod got to in my last move.) But of course, I had to use it a bit at home to get used to it, and to build up the coating ... and once I started using it at all I pretty much haven't used any skillets other than my cast iron one since. I use one Teflon pot and one enameled one, but when it comes to skillets, the non-cast-iron ones have all sat idle for several years. (I use the dutch oven somewhat less often, and the cauldron barely at all because it takes so darned long to heat up, but the skillet even gets used in place of baking dishes sometimes (great for cornbread) in addition to being my main skillet.) At this point my main reason for having any other type of skillet is in case a guest wants to cook meat (which I'd really rather not happen in my cast iron).

And if when I screw up the coating on the cast iron, I just strip it down and start over instead of worrying about having ruined my cookware. Y'know, it's really pretty easy to care for even if you only barely know what you're doing. The one complaint I have is the weight, and that only when my wrists are acting up (and the mass helps so much in evening out the heat, so if it weren't for Earth gravity, even the mass would be purely a positive).

I do still drool at All Clad, but more and more often I find myself thinking, "Yeah, it'd be sweet, but I'd probably mostly just use the cast iron anyhow." So instead I wind up looking at other sizes of cast iron than what I've got (a wee veggieburger-sized one would be convenient, and once in a while I wish for a large one). I never expected to switch so completely to cast iron before I started using it -- I thought the cast iron would be the occasional-use-only tool!
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2009-08-30 12:58 am (UTC)
The weight is an issue - you certainly aren't going to flip an omelet one-handed with one. But yes, as long as you don't do something stupid like dunk a red-hot skillet in icey water, there's very little you can do to ruin your cast iron.

And the evenness of the heat is awesome.

There are things that a steel or enamel pot are great for: boiling water for pasta, marinara sauces, making big pots of stock. I won't get rid of my steel, but I want cast iron.
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[User Picture]From: theferrett
2009-08-30 01:12 am (UTC)
Dear Gini's journal people:

It's that good.

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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2009-08-30 06:23 am (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: phillipalden
2009-08-30 01:29 am (UTC)
I love Beef Stroganoff!
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[User Picture]From: midnightsjane
2009-08-30 04:24 am (UTC)
Your recipe sounds wonderful! I must give it a try.
I really love to cook, even though it's usually just for me. I've had a longstanding rule that I will cook at least one good meal a day, and sit down to eat it. After all, I'm worth it.
I've been loving all the good fresh veggies from my garden! Tonight I made a mild curry with fresh red onions, fresh cabbage, diced potato and some lean bison steak. It was quite tasty.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2009-08-30 06:26 am (UTC)
That sounds delicious! And it's such a good plan to take care of yourself like that.
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[User Picture]From: tormentedartist
2009-08-30 06:36 am (UTC)
Don't ask me why, but it tastes better than with beef stock.

Beef stock suck IMO. Why i don't know but it does. I used it once and never again...of course it was one of those bullion cube ones, so maybe it taste great if you make it yourself?
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2009-08-30 01:31 pm (UTC)
The Swanson's stock in the boxes is vastly better than cubes, but the chicken stock just seems to lead to more stroganoff rather than "just stew" flavor.

And it's better if you make it yourself, but keeping a quantity of homemade stock on hand would require more freezer capacity that I can dedicate to such things. Someday, the upright freezer in the basement.....
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[User Picture]From: cindyg
2009-08-30 06:39 am (UTC)
Thank you for sharing this recipe! Will be using my slow cooker to simmer the meat and its fixings after doing the saute/browning. Will deglaze the pan with the wine, definitely.

Not quite an exact copy of your recipe, but I think it ought to turn out edible when I'm done with it. :)
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2009-08-30 01:32 pm (UTC)
As long as you deglaze well, it should be quite yummy!
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