Saturday, January 9, 2010

Oh where, Oh where

did that recipe go?

About a month ago, during a long Saturday of baking Christmas cookies, the thought occurred to me that I needed to also make dinner. Having three teenagers, I am no longer able to placate them with cheerios or cheese and crackers. As my kids have grown, they have also become more difficult to shoo from the oldest, a stereotypical 17 year old boy, will stand in from of the open fridge door, open random storage containers, pinch out a taste from each, and push them back onto the shelves. Which would be fine except for the chill wafting into the kitchen from the open fridge door (not even considering the extra exercise the compressor gets during this activity).

Our middle son will dramatically drag himself into the kitchen, emitting a long, low moan, "I'm soooooooooooooooo hungry. What is for dinner?" This is followed by one of two activities: he will either glide over to wherever I am standing, drop his head painfully onto my shoulder, and roll his head back and forth while emitting a Bela Lugosi horror movie moan (much easier for him now that he has grown taller than me); or if I tell him the menu, he will offer a critique based on the last time I served that dish, with reminders to use the same brand of red sauce or to be sure to omit the bay leaf this time.

As I think about our daughter's response to hunger now, I wonder if she's anticipating a career as a CEO. She will be lounging in front of the computer or with a book, fail to notice me up to my elbows in dish suds (on this specific Saturday, it was lebkuchen dough) and with a wave of her hand proclaim, "Mom, can you get me a snack?"

On this particular day, my fallback meals were unavailable: the Trader Joe's pizzas had all been consumed, we had eaten soup for lunch, pasta had been yesterday's supper. I also considered the following variables: the oven was already hot; a chuck roast was thawing in the fridge; and I had a half-bottle of red wine, a package of mushrooms on the verge, a handful of grape tomatoes, and a half-pound of carrots.

And then the recipe appeared--it was truly karma. It was a recipe for an oven-baked beef bourguignon...a recipe to feed an extended family or a hockey team, with it's 7 lbs of beef and two bottles of burgundy. Yeesh, I had the four of us (hubby was on the road) and the above-mentioned provisions. So I followed a fine family tradition and (drum roll, please) improvised--the proportions, at least. I had to do some dissection on the chuck roast, but what resulted were bite-sized pieces of meat that seared quickly in olive oil. Omitted the onions--yes, I know some think this is sacrilege, but my digestion doesn't tolerate alliums--briefly sauteed the other veggies, tossed in a bay leaf, some rosemary, paprika, thyme. Lid on and my stockpot went into the oven while I washed baking sheets and sorted the cookies into tins. Cooked some egg noodles and micro'd some peas, and it was dinner.

What came out of the oven initially seemed dark and crusty, but as I stirred the stew it smelled wonderful, naturally thickened by the softened veggies (I had completely neglected to toss the meat in seasoned flour--I guess having played with flour all day I didn't see the use for more). The beef was tender and flavorful, and I love a good excuse to use egg noodles (can't get the troops to eat them otherwise, which is totally incomprehensible to me--People, we're talking pasta here!)

So now for my dilemma: it's now wintery in our part of the world, and tomorrow is forcast to be cold and windy. In culinary terms, perfect stew weather. The beef is thawing; mushooms, carrots, and red wine are at hand. There are noodles in the pantry. The only problem is, I've misplaced the recipe! I cannot recall where I found it, have checked cooking websites and reviewed my cookbooks, and so far, nothing.

I may be forced to follow that fine family tradition. I may have to improvise.


  1. I am not stereotypical! The action is.

  2. Yes. You're right.

    I love you too, Grammar King.