Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Student's Ragout AKA Stewed Students
One of the best ways to save money when cooking at home is to look for what I call "peasant meals." If you can find recipes that were made by poor but busy people, you ae almost guaranteed a yummy and cheap meal. A good clue to whether your recipe is a "peasant meal" is if it takes a cheap cut of meat and simmers it for a long time to make it tender.
This is the case with Student's Ragout, which I believe I found in Mother Earth News a year or so ago; unfortunately, I cut the source citation off the top of the recipe, and I can't find it on the web site. (So at least I tried for proper attribution here.) It is an easy and filling recipe that tenderizes a tough cut of meat and creates tons of leftovers.
The recipe supposedly was created by French (I believe) students who needed a cheap, easy, and flexible meal they could make for themselves on a budget. Given my work in higher education, it is only natural that the name of this dish immediately morphed into "stewed students" around here in tribute to the students who do such a good job of keeping me on my toes.
2-4 slices bacon (I like to splurge on Trader Joe's Applewood Smoked Bacon)
1 pound round steak, flank steak, or cube steak cut into bite-sized pieces
1 medium onion
4-8 medium potatoes
1 clove garlic (optional)
sage, salt, and pepper to taste
Some recipes call for cooking the bacon first; often, we just layer it in the bottom of the pan, then add layers of meat, potatoes, carrots, and onion. (Layer in order of tenderness of the ingredient.) Add garlic, sage, and salt and pepper, then cover with water until just about level with the tops of the potatoes. Cover and cook on medium until meat is cooked and veggies are tender, about 45 minutes. (If you feel like things are burning rather than simmering, you may need to add water as you go.) Don't mix the ingredients until they are done. You see it above, served with some green veggies from the sunroom (yes, we still have lettuce growing in December this year!).
Makes 4-5 servings.
This is a great SOLE recipe for (not so) Urban Hennery, because we were able to use meat from our freezer (locally sourced, no hormones), the last of the cellared potatoes and onions and the last frozen carrots, and our own garlic and sage. (I cooked this with the last onion, although the holidays have gotten my posts out of order a bit, so I have already written about switching to store onions.) Really, the only thing that was not local was the bacon, and it was more sustainably produced that most store bacon. If ever there was an excuse for loading up the freezer and the cellar during the fall, it is this recipe.
Nearly-vegetarian option: This recipe works just fine without the steak, leaving you with bacon and veggies. In fact, I sometimes do one pot of meaty ragout for hubby and one pot of low-meat ragout for me, which means we have leftovers for nearly a week!
Fast: This is moderately time-intensive, as you do have to chop all the ingredients and then let it simmer. But it sure isn't difficult work.
Cheap: Cheap is the point of this one. Load up on root veggies from your garden or farmer's market and some inexpensive cuts of meat, and your only financial splurge will be the bacon.
Good: It is a balanced, filling, sustainable meal, which is welcome on a cold day.
Posted by Jennifer Lorenzetti at 9:00 AM