Two dishes, minimal effort and, more importantly, little active time.
I’m just planning your week for you, aren’t I? You’ll even have enough food to bring soup to a potluck AND eat it for lunch for a couple days, and share some meat with your friend who comes over to help paint the house.
Speaking of a new house, how neat would it be to grow your furniture in the shape you want? It’s my dream.
Food can change someone’s life, as exemplified in DC kitchens.
The key to both of these dishes is Time. Lots of time in the oven makes the meat tender and flaky and flavors the juice, and time on the stove caramelizes the onions so they have a depth of flavor it’s hard to believe comes from the sharp white vegetable.
Cooking methods like this are helpful for a variety of cuts of meat. If you buy half a cow or pig (which is often cheaper, and better for the farmer: if you want to eat more ecologically sensibly, this is the way to do it, because it forces you to use all parts of an animal—much like a vegetable CSA), or hunt and get a whole animal, you will end up with large chunks of meat that take a little more work to tenderize. This process—what my dad aptly terms “low ‘n’ slow”—is perfect for those cuts. I actually used a top round steak here, which could be cooked in other ways, but this is what I wanted and goodness, it’s delicious. Also, it was water buffalo from the ME Water Buffalo Co., I think extra flavorful.
It also makes for a great no-recipe recipe. French onion soup is a little more of a process, but still fairly straightforward.
Slow Roasted Meat Meat (anywhere from 1-5lbs, or larger if you have a large vessel; can be beef, pork, lamb, goat, water buffalo, elk, what have you. Bone or not) Onions Garlic Carrots +/ other veggies A bit of oil 1 cup or more wine (I like red but white would work too) Other liquid (stock, or! Whey!*) Salt and pepper Herbs (thyme!) Time
Turn on the oven to 200ºF or so. Chop up the onions and garlic (garlic you can also leave in whole cloves). Rub the meat with salt and pepper. In a Dutch oven, if you have one (or an oven-proof pan of some kind), heat up the oil and sweat the onions and other veggies (sauté until soft and fragrant). Move to the side of the pan and add the meat. Sear/brown the meat on both sides, just to get some color. Stir in the herbs. Add the wine and deglaze the pan—scrape up all the brown bits from searing the meat and any onion that may have caramelized. Add the rest of the liquid until the meat is covered (or at least mostly covered—I kind of topped it with veggies to keep it moist). Cover and put it in the oven and let cook for 4 hours or longer (I actually left and let it cook. Make sure your fire alarms are set though).
After a long time, remove from the oven. The meat should fall apart and there will be a lot of juice/wine sauce.
If you like, you can top pasta (or croutons, as below) with this ragu (although that might not be quite the right definition. A traditional ragu may be made on a stove?) and a little parmesan, and leave it at that.
Alternatively, use the juice to make French onion soup, and then make the meat into sandwiches (now or later), eat it on polenta, or put it (san jus) on pasta later!
That way, you can also make soup.
French onion soup 4-6 yellow onions (depending on size) 2-3 tablespoons butter Garlic, minced 2ish tablespoons flour 5-6 cups beef stock, or 2ish cups meat juice and other liquid (more whey!) 1 cup red wine 1 bay leaf Thyme Cheesy croutons Bread Olive oil Cheese
Begin with the onions. Chop, against the grain, very thinly. Melt butter in a large pan over medium high heat and add the onions. Let sit until beginning to brown, then stir. Let brown for a few more minutes, then stir again. Keep stirring—they will brown more quickly as they heat up, so watch that they don’t burn and turn the heat down if necessary. You aren’t trying to burn them, but get a nice caramel color and let them sink into themselves. This takes, you guessed it, time. Add the garlic and salt near the end of the process.
Once the onions are caramelized, add a little flour and mix it in, cooking just for a minute or so to get rid of the raw flour taste. Add extra butter if needed. Then add the rest of the ingredients, scraping up the bits of onion stuck to the pan (if you can warm up the stock beforehand, this is better). Simmer for as long as you have—again, more time=more flavor, but since you’ve roasted the meat in wine juice, there’s already lots of flavor so you don’t need to let it go all day here. It should be a beautiful deep brown color.
If you’d like to make cheesy croutons (highly recommended), chop up some bread (I like the hardier, seedy ones for this but your preference) into small cubes, put on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, and toast in the oven for 15 minutes or so (temperature around 350ºF, or whatever if you’re cooking something else too). Once starting to get crispy, top with cheese of your choice, or a mix of cheeses (recommended). I did it this way so I could transport them both, but if you are serving it right away, put the soup in bowls, top with croutons and cheese, and place in the oven to melt the cheese, ending with the broiler to make it nice and crispy. Mmm, soup.
Before you leave, dancing cows!!
*The whey I used was acid whey (as opposed to sweet whey), from when I made ricotta. I hate wasting things, and I do think it added a certain solidity to the juice and a little extra oomph.