Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Stews, with interludes of roast meat

"Honey, it's going to be stews, with interludes of roast meat, from here through to spring," I told Kevin, and he responded with a groan of pleasure. Stew and anything that starts with meat are popular around here. I like to make a pot of stew and eat on it for a few days. Success is any stew that doesn't overstay its welcome. Black-eyed peas were a recent stew, and I would say that thanks to the generous amount of bacon in them, they did not overstay their welcome with me, but just barely. I should have warned you in my last post that a pound of dried beans makes a lot of cooked beans. Generally, you'll get about four cups of cooked beans from a cup of dried, and two cups of cooked make a good meal. Laurel's Kitchen has whole pages of tables, including dried-to-cooked volume conversions. I have the old version of this classic American vegetarian cookbook, which was handed down to me from a friend, and a tattered, re-taped, and flour-enriched paperback volume it is, as I refer to it each time I make bread.

After black-eyed peas was a barley lentil stew with carrots and spinach, also a success. I made more than a gallon of it, flavored with a little over a pound of andouille, most of a fresh batch of duck stock, and an ounce or so of fresh basil. I used more of the duck stock tonight in roasting a turkey breast that I had in the freezer from Thanksgiving. We didn't have anyone over last year, but had ordered this big local turkey, so I butchered it and cooked it in pieces. I made stock from the largest part of the carcass, and the legs ended up in a cacciatore. On Thanksgiving Kevin grilled half the breast that I'd wet-brined, and tonight I honey-glazed and oven-roasted the other half for sandwiches: half a boneless breast, roasted at 450°F takes about half an hour for a meat thermometer to read 160°F internally.

We ate the turkey this evening with bacon, avocado, and mayo on whole wheat toast, and sides of oven-roasted curried sweet potato fries. Oven-roasting does not give the same crispy exterior as deep frying, but soft, sweet fries with chewy roasted bits are pretty good, too. To make the fries, I scrubbed and sliced three very big sweet potatoes, tossed them with about half a cup of olive oil and a tablespoon of curry powder, then roasted them in the same 450° oven as the turkey breast, turning them every ten minutes until they were totally soft through, and beginning to brown on some sides. I let them roast for about half an hour, and could have roasted them longer to get them crispier, but the turkey and bacon were ready.

I have two recent acquisitions, both sure to make appearances here. One is a digital camera, a simple point-and-shoot model from Kodak that I intend to use mainly for taking pictures of food I cook. The other is a five-quart programmable crock pot. I'm planning to break both in on a batch of cabbage rolls. The local version of this dish is known as galumpkes, is stuffed with beef and rice, and is simmered in tomato juice or puree. My cabbage rolls will be made of lamb and rice, and simmered in a lamb ragù from my freezer.

I missed the last local meat sale at our winter farm share location, but there's another coming up, and I hope to stock up on roasts, and to get some bone-in, for making more stock and sauce. We're also expecting another local lamb this month, so hopefully I have a big stash of stock bones coming. I don't know why quart freezer bags full of meat stocks and sauces filling my freezer give me such a warm feeling of food security, but they do.
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