Sunday, January 23, 2011

Sunday Night Gathering (of the fragments)

Today is Sunday and that means we eat out after Church. Usually we eat our main meal of the day then, but today we went to I Cantina at Patton Creek and had fish tacos ( Hub and me) or fish burgers (Son3) The food was delicious but it left me having to do something a little more substantial than just a sandwich for supper. I did not want to go to the grocery store so I looked just to see what I had in the fridge. Luckily I found about a pound of ground beef that was on its last day of shelf life. I also had some broccoli that really needed to be cooked yesterday, and some greens left from the Carmine salad night. Also there were about 5 rolls in the bread box. Eureka!!!!!!! A supper of fragments of other night's dinners. Next I had to decide how to cook it.

I have a cookbook I have had for years ( I am talking about since the late 70's) and I used it often when I had a little of this and a little more of that. The book is the More with Less cookbook. It was put together by Doris Janzen Longacre for the Mennonite Central Committee. It has a lot of Pennsylvania Dutch recipes and it's mostly very simple farm food. The premise of the book is to get by using less of the worlds resources to process food ( less meat more veggies and grains) with an emphasis on preparing a simple yet tasty eating system. When I first got the cookbook, my older kids were very young and money was very tight. I used it to stretch my food budget as much as possible. It focuses on making your food from scratch rather than relying on prepared mixes. ( It was an early proponent of the Slow Food Movement before there even was a movement!) I used this book so often when they were young that the book long ago lost its cover and now the first page I have is page 19. Fortunately the beginning of the book deals with all the how to's of consuming less (meat and processed food) yet actually having more. I knew I could find something in it that would match what I had on hand, oh yeah, but it had to be something I had never made before. It only took me about 3 pages to settle on this one. At some point and time I had even written "try this" on the recipe. ( I know I didn't make it before because every time I used a recipe in this book I wrote the family reaction to it along with a make again or don't make notation.

This is a recipe called Inflation Steaks. I don't know if it is called that because they are money savers or if it is because the volume of the meat inflates with the cracker crumbs. It is supposed to be the one pan answer to less meat usage per person.

More With Less Doris Janzen Longacre

Poor Man's Steak

1 1/2 pounds hamburger meat
1/2 cup water
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Combine all ingredients and mix well. Pat out about 3/4 inch thick on a cookie sheet. Cover and place in the refrigerator overnight. (In my world that means put it on the quick freeze shelf of the freezer for about 45 minutes)

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
Cut into steak shaped (?) pieces before cooking. Since I cut the pieces in squares we must prefer square steaks. Dredge in flour and pan fry in a small amount of oil till just browned. When browned put in a baking dish and pour 1-2 cups of mushroom sauce over all. Bake for 1 1/2 hour.

Mushroom Sauce

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk, stock or combination

Cook until smooth and thickened, set aside

In a small skillet saute' 1/4 cup mushrooms and 1 tablespoon minced onion in a little butter. Add to the sauce. (Essentially this is a b├ęchamel sauce with mushrooms and a tad of onion)

I think I tell you what I did differently because a recipe should really just be a starting point instead of an absolute direction. First of all, instead of salt and pepper in the meat mixture, I used Angelo's steak seasoning. If you have ever been to Panama City in Florida it's the place with the gigantic fiberglass bull out front. Their steak seasoning is wonderful and we make a special trip there every time we go to the beach just to pick up a couple of jars of the stuff. It lasts us throughout the year. I also added some parsley just because I had some on hand. Instead of putting just water in the meat mixture I used 1/2 beef broth (had some in the fridge) and 1/2 red wine (sitting on the counter). I patted it out in what we call the brownie pan, 'cause that is what I usually make brownies in. I measured it just to be accurate and it is an 8x11 pan.

When it was seriously cold I cut it into the square steak shapes while it was still in the pan. I think this is why they want you to wait overnight, because I did have a little trouble getting it out of the pan. Some of my square steaks had irregular borders. I skipped the whole dredging in flour bit. I just sprayed Pam in a cast iron skillet (heavy spray) and browned the pieces. While they were browning I washed out the pan I had them in to begin with, sprayed it with Pam and put the pieces back in the same pan.

The mushroom sauce was altered a little. I cooked the flour and butter to a light beige color and then added about a cup of beef stock. I put a pinch of salt when I added the broth, but the broth is already salted and I didn't want the sauce to be too salty. I thought I had fresh mushrooms but I didn't, so I had to grab a can out of the pantry. I tossed it in (medium size can) liquid and all and stirred until it was smooth. It still seemed a little thicker than I wanted it to be, so I added about 1/4 cup of white wine (Yes I know you are not supposed to have white wine with beef, but the square steaks don't care and it was just for a little added flavor. Besides I had used to last bit of the opened bottle in the meat mixture) I also added about a tablespoon of fresh parsley and a couple of pinches of dried thyme. I poured it over the fake steak put an aluminum foil top on it and stuck it in the over to bake. 300 degrees for an hour and a half seemed a little excessive to me so about halfway through I turned the heat up to 350. I mean, it's ground beef no matter how you slice it. It doesn't need the low slow cook time to tenderize it.

We ate our supper and decided it had a really nice taste to it. It did expand the ground beef. We could have served at least on other teenage boy, which is a pretty decent feat for 1 pound of ground beef. The official verdict from all of us is that it f had the mouth feel of meatloaf, but it tasted like a non greasy, easy to eat cube steak. Since I opted to not coat it with flour and pan fry it to begin with the grease level was relatively low. I only use ground sirloin or ground round and both of those are very low in fat. The mushroom sauce was very beefy tasting and had a nice golden brown color. It cooked down a good bit, so I would think it needs to be at least as thin as mine was. ( about the consistency of a traditional gravy) In a pinch I think a can of golden mushroom soup would be a fine alternative to making the sauce. Though we liked it fine, I am not sure I would do it again. It was not a lot of work but it was a lot of steps just to get an end product that was "perfectly fine". I could have mixed up Sloppy Joe's with the same amount of beef and I think it would have been received equally well. All in all I give this an average score.

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