Just for fun I am starting something new, cooking for two. Recipes can be changed to allow for extra table sitters, but I have my reasons for two only.
I started something a year or so ago, getting someone interested in cooking with her mom, we were a bit tricky, her mom and I, but everyone seemed to benefit from this. An interest in cooking was achieved. There were quality interactions between Mother and daughter, and the food was yummy and creative. I know this because her Mom told me how good it was. The interest in cooking was also created, and this I know too, because her daughter told me she liked doing it as well… I hope to make that interest grow more, hence this new possible series of posts. Cooking for Two.
There are times that you decide that you want to cook, but the pantry is a bit skimpy and the freezer is almost empty.
Comfort food is uncomplicated food and lends itself well to cooking on a budget or with an almost empty stock of food. For those days you haven’t made it to the grocery store yet… or Dad hasn’t gone shopping.
So the first recipe, Stewed meat on mashed potatoes. mmmmmm. We love this.
Truly comfort food is named correctly, as it makes you feel good when you eat it, it is never fancy, mostly easy to cook and not a complicated dish. Simple is best.
This recipe is so easy to make and can be changed easily. You can use any veggie or any meat, so it is flexible.
A stewed meat served over a mashed potato dish with a nice gravy makes people go back for seconds. If there are leftovers it is great a second night too, and you can add to it the second night if you want with ease. If you are cooking for one, then you have tomorrows dinner ready too.
The meat can be beef, chicken or pork. This is what is handy with this recipe, it is very flexible to suit what you have handy.
The list of stuff
With about a pound of meat, cut into bite sized pieces. If you are using chicken breast it is easy to cut, if you are using legs and thighs (more flavour) just take the skin off and cook them on the bone, when they are cooked take them out of the pot at the end and remove all the bones. (it is a bit messy but the flavour is much better)
Three or four or five or six potatoes, you know how much the two of you eat, and potatoes really vary in size. Cook extra if you have more meat and you will have yummy left overs for lunches or tomorrows dinner. Extra mashed potatoes are nice fried in the morning too with fried eggs. (not mixed together lol)
Any veggies you have, fresh, frozen or tinned, or none. This goes well with a salad too or a just meat and potato dinner.
2 cups of water, if you have a tin of soup broth or a tin of soup, use that, mix in one cup of water with the soup. Any tinned soup will work, but if it has noodles they will get mushy, if it has veggies they will to but it will add flavour, so that is ok. Cream of mushroom soup works great.
Potatoes, more on how many farther down.
1/4 cup of milk, or so
3 tablespoons of flour
1 chopped onion if you wish
herbs or spices, more on this later, this is optional.
3 table spoons of oil or margarine or butter to brown the meat in
Flavours, this can be Ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, powder soup mix, more on all of this later too as this is all optional and you can change it each time.
How to do it:
When the meat is cut in bite sized pieces dry it with a paper towel, dry meat browns, if it is wet, then it boils or poaches. We want it to brown now.
Put the flour, 3 tablespoons in a bowl that will hold the meat, season it with a few shakes of salt and pepper, don’t over salt. If you have any herb/spices like onion powder (not onion salt as it makes the food salty) Garlic powder, thyme, sage, oregano.. add a few shakes to the flour, maybe about a teaspoon, if you don’t it is ok.
Then put the meat in the flour and mix it up so the meat is coated well. This adds more flavour to the meat and helps it brown.
Put a pan on the stove and turn the burner on to medium high (pssst water is about the only thing that should be cooked on high) let the pan warm a bit, maybe a minute or so and then put in the 3 tablespoons of oil. Watch if if you use butter, it burns fast. As soon as the oil heats, you can tell as it will swirl around the pan when you tip it a bit. Toss in the meat and the chopped onion if you want to add it.
Now resist the urge to stir it right away. let it sit just a bit. You are browning it to increase the flavour. This is called searing. At first the meat sticks to the pan, as it heats it relaxes and lets go, so then stir or rotate and let it sit for a bit again.
You are not cooking the meat now, just searing all the sides if you can to add some flavour to it. So maybe cook it one or two minutes for each side and then you can pour the 2 cups of water in, be careful it will sizzle a lot and could burn you, pour slowly and not while on the burner, just take the pan off for a moment whilst you pour in the liquid (eeeps I sound old again lol). Did I mention to be careful with the knife when you cut the meat, veggies and potatoes… hmmm… well be careful. 🙂 (pssst you know I am teasing… well a bit)
Stir this up and turn the heat down to very low, almost off. If you have some powder soup mix, then add two level tablespoons now. If you don’t, then don’t worry.
Now, this is when you can add some flavour, a tablespoon of ketchup is nice, those herbs and spices on the list at the top can go in now. A few shakes of Worcestershire sauce. Or some soy sauce, not much as it is salty.
Put the lid on the pan and let it simmer for an hour. Stir it every once and a while, if it is not bubbling a bit, turn the heat up, if it is boiling hard, turn the heat down. If you are adding fresh veggies, like carrots, put them in now, chopped up to bite sized pieces, then let it simmer for the hour. Green or Red bell peppers are nice in this.
While this cooks chop up your potatoes, you can peel them or just wash them well first. The peel is actually nice in mashed potatoes. OH don’t make a face. lol.
Put on a pot of water and salt it well, add the potatoes, it is good if there is enough water to cover them, boil until they are very tender, if you don’t boil on high it shouldn’t boil over. Poke a fork in them, if it doesn’t meet resistance the potato is cooked. If you cook the potatoes in some soup stock, it adds a lot of flavour, so instead of adding salt, use a tablespoon of powdered soup stock that matches the meat you cook. When the potatoes are cooked, drain them, add a bit of butter or margarine, maybe a tablespoon. If you warm 1/4 cup of milk first in the microwave it keeps the potatoes from getting sticky, add this too. Either mash them up with a masher or use an electric mixer to make them smooth. If they are still too thick add a bit more milk or water.
A gravy that is thicker is nicer, so to thicken the gravy there are two ways, you can use flour or corn starch. Corn starch is easier.
so first if you are using corn starch, remove a cup of liquid, put three table spoons of corn starch in a measuring cup, add 1/2 cup of cold water or milk if you cooked chicken, that works too. Mix it up well, be sure all the powder dissolves, if you are unsure, pour it through a strainer to check for lumps. Add this to the cup of liquid you removed and stir it up, then add it back to the stewed meat and let it simmer, keep stirring, it will thicken quickly. When it thickens, remove it from the heat, as it will burn easily now.
if you are using flour, the best way is to make what is called a rue. Melt three spoons of margarine or butter in a pan (level spoons), do this on a medium heat. Then add three spoons of flour and stir them together, let them cook just a bit whilst you stir. Then slowly add the liquid you took out and keep stirring them together, as soon as it is mixed you can add it back to the meat and keep stirring. If it is too thick you can add a bit of water, or milk if you used chicken.
Now if you have tinned or frozen veggies you can add them now to the meat, if tinned, drain the water first before you add them. Frozen corn or peas works well for this and cooks quickly in the gravy.
Put the potatoes on the plate and the stewed meat with the gravy on top, it is easy and very yummy.
tis better than pizza 😉 … with a nice salad it is really great.
I know this looks complicated because it is so flexible, ingredients are not exact, but the point is, it is hard to mess it up, you can change it lots, even add a tin of tomatoes to it. Being flexible when cooking makes it more fun.