Saturday, December 30, 2017

One Pot Wonder

I woke up at an amazing 8:30 a.m. on Friday. It was a balmy 11 degrees. I checked the driveway and could still see most of the tire tracks, so the snow last night must have just been a trace.

It took me forever to get cleaned up. I can only assume it's because I had no plans to go out so there was no reason to hurry.  I finally shaved, showered and got dressed in shorts and a t-shirt.

I had another cup of coffee and then started prepping for this weekend's dinners. I was not using a recipe, per se. I was mostly making this up.

I was making beef stew, but not for tonight's dinner. Beef stew seems to taste better if made a day in advance.

So, I got the Dutch oven and added a stick of butter. Then I sliced up a box of huge button mushrooms I got on sale at Kroger's (probably because they were so big). I solved that problem by slicing them and then cutting the slices in half. I sauteed those until they reduced by half and then set them aside.

While they were cooking, I cut a large onion into one inch chunks and diced two stalks of celery. I also smashed and minced six cloves of garlic.

I added regular (not extra virgin) olive oil until I had about a half inch in the pot. I had 1 1/2 pounds of stewing beef (also bought on the discount shelf - gone are the days I can afford a chuck roast to cube up). So, I seasoned all of it with salt and pepper and browned it in three batches (so as not to overcrowd the pan). I kept turning it with my long metal tongs and. when each batch was done, I pulled them out with a slotted spoon and set them aside.

I added in the onions and celery and two tablespoons of balsamic vinegar. I cooked them for about five minutes, scraping the bottom of the pot for the brown bits. In the last minute of cooking, I added in the garlic.

I preheated the oven to 325 degrees.

When the onions, celery and garlic were done, I added in 1 1/2 tablespoons of tomato paste and stirred that until it incorporated. Then I put in the meat and its juices. I sprinkled that with 1/4 cup of flour and stirred with a wooden spoon until the flour was dissolved (a minute or two).

Then I put in one box of beef broth, a cup or so of water, a splash of Worcestershire sauce (for umami), a bay leaf, a palmful of dried thyme and a sprinkle of sugar.  I scraped the pan bottom again with the wooden spoon as I brought it to a boil. I put the oven-proof lid on the Dutch oven and stuck it in the oven on the bottom rack to braise for two hours.

Helpful Hint: I have a decent (if somewhat stained) Dutch oven these days. But, back in the day, the cheaper one I used had a plastic knob on the lid (not oven proof). I solved that problem by buying a metal cabinet knob at a hardware store and replacing the plastic one.

I took advantage of the interval to clean up the kitchen (I learned that from Jake and Carla) and then went in the living room to read.

After the two hours were up, I took the Dutch oven out of the real oven. The liquid had really reduced! So, I took a spoon and carefully skimmed off as much grease as I could. I added another can of beef broth and half a can of water. I taste-tested it and decided it needed more pepper.

I added in four carrots, peeled and cut on the bias. Then I added one pound of Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into big chunks.

Note: Normally, I prefer Idaho potatoes for stews. I think they hold up better. But, all I had were the Yukon Gold ones, so I used them.

I stirred everything and stuck it back in the oven for another hour.

Sidebar: You could do all this on the stove top of course, but I prefer to just walk away from it, rather than worrying about it burning on the pan bottom, etc.

When the hour was up, I checked the potatoes and they were done. I put the Dutch oven on top of the stove and added in the sauteed mushrooms and a handful of frozen peas. I stirred that until the peas were thawed. Then I took off the lid to let it cool.

Note: I will reheat the stew tomorrow and add in the dumplings.

I cleaned up the last few items and started the dishwasher. I put the other oven racks back in the oven. Then I disinfected the counter tops.

I called my primary care physician's to see where this release form was at. They said that the person dealing with this at the surgeon's office was off work until January 2, 2018!!! I told Tina just to remember while all this nonsense was going on, I was slowly going blind, waiting. She apologized, and so did I. But, its frustrating!

Amanda and Keldon picked me up just after 6:00 p.m. The plan was to grab some dinner and then drive through the Wayne County Lightfest.

We went to Chili's. I got the Buffalo Chicken "Ranch" Sandwich, but asked for Bleu Cheese dressing, instead.

Sidebar: Buffalo chicken anything and ranch dressing? What is wrong with you people?

The sandwich was delicious, but very, very messy to eat.

Then we drove to the Lightfest. On the way, I learned why Scott absolutely refused to go this year. Seems last year, they waiting in line for almost an hour before finally just getting to the little shed where you pay your $5.00.

But, the Lightfest ends on Saturday. It probably will be really crowded then. So, tonight, its was now or never. And, for some reason, we breezed right up to the toll booth!

Disclaimer: In Scott's defense, a long line quickly built up behind us. We were just lucky.

At the Wayne County Lightfest, you drive your car through four miles of holiday light displays lining Hines Drive. There are 47 separate displays. It's all stop and go, so there are plenty of photo ops.

I tried to take photos, but couldn't get my flash to turn off. Amanda took a boat load, so I borrowed some of her best for you.

Note: Jake and Carla went with me years ago. But, there were probably double the displays this year as opposed to back in the day. They even had a "Time Tunnel" past which there were dinosaurs!

They drove back to my house and dropped me off around 8:30 p.m. I started watching the Red Wings game, and we won for a change!!!

I switched to reading in bed until I fell asleep around midnight.

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