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