Weekend Food

A Casserole That Can Waken Teenagers from Deep Sleep

Last Friday night I didn’t cook dinner because Tory and I were out in the far western part of the state for a softball-related thing. We drove 2 hours out and 1½ hours back for a 2-hour event. That left Mike to battle traffic for an hour and pick Max up at the shopping center where the Big Ten Bus dropped him off (thus beginning his official Christmas Break) so we don’t have to drive four hours to get him at Big Ten College. It all worked out well, but it meant no home-cooked dinner for any of us.

This is a handy recipe book.

 Saturday we didn’t have anything pressing on our schedule so in the morning I pulled out the skillet, casserole dish, knife, and cutting board, then lined up the ingredients along the counter to make a stew. I’ve made this one every winter for years. The kids love it and Mike loves it. Me? Not so much after I spend all day making it. It’s from a recipe book published by Sunset; I think I paid $4 for it when the kids were really small, and every recipe I’ve made from it has been great: Simple food that warms your stomach.

 As I began to sauté the seasoned beef Max and Tory were still fast asleep and Mike was working in the front office. Did I tell you I do my best cooking in my night clothes? I put the browned beef cubes in a casserole dish, along with a whole onion from the garden that I studded with cloves.

 The fragrance of the browned beef wafted through the house.

 I added a daub of butter to the skillet and sprinkled in some flour, stirred it a few seconds then poured a half bottle of merlot over top, added some beef broth and chopped garlic and cooked the whole thing down some.

 The smell was heavenly.

 Next, I peeled a long peel off an orange, then added it and marjoram and thyme to the other ingredients and set the thing to cooking in the oven at 325 degrees for hours. Meanwhile, in the same skillet I sautéed little white onions, mushrooms, carrots, and celery and set them aside, waiting the required number of hours before adding them to the casserole.

 As the hours passed, the scent of beef and herbs and all that good stuff filled the house.

 Not long after I noticed the rich smell,  beds squeaked, feet hit the floor, and Mike wandered in from the office.  Soon three sets of eyes alternated between staring at me and then the oven, until Max asked with a great deal of anticipation, “When do we eat?”

It looked prettier just out of the oven, in the large casserole, before it was picked over.

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