“Mmmmm….” said Dolly, audibly sniffing as she came in from school last Friday, “…that smells really good what is it when is it going to be done I’m starving!”
Unfortunately for her, it was going to be a couple of hours before everyone else got home and dinner would be ready. Some things can’t be rushed.
I love one-pot and all-day-cooker meals. They can be easy to make, economical, and popular with everyone in the house. With the weather in the northeast turning reliably chilly, they’re especially appealing.
Not to mention practical and forgiving. Since I work at home most Fridays, I can load the cooker before sitting at my desk, and forget it all day. Not that I actually can forget it, with the lovely smells that fill the house (which cause frequent taste-testing) from the magical blending of slowly intensifying flavors. And if I have to tweak the ingredients for what we have, it hardly matters.
The rest of the day went something like this:
“Is it ready yet?”
Ten minutes passed.
“Is it ready yet?”
Ten more minutes passed.
“Is it ready yet?!”
“No….I’ll tell you when it is.”
Then ten more minutes passed.
“Is it readyyy yeeeetttt?!”
Three hours just flew by. I couldn’t blame her, though. It was distracting. Cooking like this, as an aside, can be a great teacher of patience.
She was waiting on a family favorite. My wife had recently returned from the store with a large package of stewing beef and an intent look. Something had triggered a memory of a dish her mom made for years, so she wanted to try it. As soon as possible, if we could, thanks.
What was it? I asked.
“I don’t know,” she laughed. “But she made it all the time, and it had tomato soup!”
My mother-in-law had to think a moment when I called her for the recipe. She had nothing to go on other than my concise description. For about a minute, she verbally looked through the attic.
Then it hit her. “Oh!” she blurted, “Stay In Bed Stew! Ha!” I’d never heard of it. “I used to love it,” she said, “because I could throw it on and go back to bed!” Sounded like a winner.
So the recipe she gave me (the card was right on top of the recipe box, as it turned out), very little of which I followed, was:
- 2 lbs stewing beef (I had 4. It’s a pretty big pot.)
- A quarter of a small onion (Didn’t have any, which was out of the ordinary. So, I added mushrooms and carrots, since they’re close enough.)
- 1 Bay Leaf (Nope. Provencal herbs.)
- 2 cans of condensed tomato soup with a can of water (Wrong again. Had a box of another kind which qualified.)
- Garlic Salt (That I did have, and I almost forgot it.)
- Put it in a covered pan in a 350-degree oven for at least three hours (Merrily substituted my all-day-cooker.)
- Serve over egg noodles (And, strangely, no. Had to use thumbprints, which the kids all like.)
It turned out pretty well, even if the result was off by a detail or two. Well enough for Dolly to take two dishes, and to preserve childhood memories intact. There was also plenty left for a couple of days’ worth of lunches.
On those days, I got questions from colleagues who came within sniffing range. Every ten minutes.