Monday, February 06, 2006

Tex-Mex stew... and Sarah's kitchen confession

So… iPodmomma asked about the recipe for beef stew.


I have a confession.

I am a rebel. A maverick. A renegade.

Well… at least in the kitchen. Rarely do I use recipes for savoury stuff. For baking, I always use a recipe, but for all other stuff… not so much. And when I do have a recipe, I start changing it around before I even get started, so the result is rarely like whatever was intended by the original.

Having said all that, and setting all modesty aside, I am quite a good cook. I started cooking full dinners when I was about eleven, or so… I used recipes religiously those first few years and then followed in my mother’s footsteps and used them less and less, experimenting and trusting myself more with each passing year.

Once, at a party I had a few years ago, a fella who’d been brought by one of the guests said, “You cook like this and you’re not married? Do you want to be married… to me?!” Naturally, I chuckled.

Sure there is the occasional muck up… but it’s rare.

About a year ago I had a Korean homestay student living with me who wanted to learn how to cook Western food. So, I let her look through all my recipe books and pick the ones she wanted to learn. We made those and in that case, we followed the recipe.

When I was making something, she would often want to help. I always accepted, but I think I drove her a little crazy because she would often ask, “How much do I put?”

I would shrug my shoulders and say, “Enough.”

At first she got a puzzled look on her face and said, “Enough? How much is enough?”

I told her, “You will know. And if you make a mistake and we don’t like it, then you will know for next time.”

I just about drove her batty with that! Later, I explained that cooking does not simply have to be about following a recipe in a mechanical fashion, but understanding foods; how some foods combine with others and what goes together... and that part of the process is learning to trust yourself and think "outside the recipe".

She got me back when she was teaching me know to make “Korean sushi”, as she called it. (I forget the Korean word for it now… Gim Bap, maybe?) Anyway, I asked, “How much rice do you put on the seaweed?”

She looked at me and smiled and said, “Enough.”

So… to answer your question, there was no recipe for the Tex-Mex beef stew. I just sort of … threw it together. For what it’s worth, here’s what went in it:

  • Outside round of beef (less expensive cut, good for stew) – browned in the skillet
  • Added onion and garlic (for amounts, see above)
  • I think I threw in some seasoning salt at that point, too.

While that was cooking, I got the crock pot started:

  • A couple of potatoes, peeled, washed and sliced
  • A can of beans (I forget what kind… navy beans, maybe?)
  • A can of mushrooms (but only because the packages of fresh ones at the grocery store were hideously expensive and there were no bulk ones left by the time I got there.)
  • A couple of stalks of celery, washed and sliced
  • Oh yeah… and I also threw in some apple cider vinegar (mostly to soften up the beef, but also because my Buddist/Taoist friend [don’t ask…], Roberto, who is a chef extraordinaire always says, “Apple cider vinegar is good for your pH balance!" Roberto knows about these sorts of things, and it seems that whenever I follow his words of advice when it comes to cooking, rarely am I disappointed…)

And then I made some sauce:

  • Beef bouillon
  • A partial envelope of taco seasoning (hence the Tex Mex)
  • A few other spices I found in the cupboard, but now I can’t remember what they were…
  • A bit of corn starch to thicken it up.

Tossed it all in the crock pot and let it cook overnight. As I look back on what I just wrote, it seems like a horridly odd combination of stuff, but in my own defense, I tasted it briefly this morning and was quite pleased indeed. It will make for good lunches and dinners this week.

So there you are… sorry it’s not so precise as a “real” recipe.


Anvilcloud said...

I cannot cook beyond the recipe. I started too late, and I'm too dumb.

Turtle Guy said...

Like you, I often simply throw stuff together. "Enough" is just as valid a measurement as any, really. I maintain that it's the "accurate measurements" (or rather, not!) that make some things so very good!

robtherunner said...

The stew sounds good. I am hungry from studying rather than running.

Janice said...

Hi Sarah,

Your cooking sounds like my grandmother's way of cooking; which was a pinch of this and a handful of that.

She raised eight kids and a husband, and lived to the ripe old age of 94.


Granny said...

This is so weird. Janice (commenter before me) and I live about 30 miles from each other and keep showing up in tandem. Vibes moving down CA Hwy 99 perhaps?

At last, someone who cooks like I do. I post recipes on granny as fast as I can find them but when I have to post one of my own I'm lost. Stew, for me, is very like yours but it's also usually prepared on refrigerator cleaning day.

Granny said...

Sarah Elaine, I am beginning to worry about me. I never looked at the sidebar before I left the comment. No wonder I recognize so many of the people.

Of course it's you - who else would it be.

Just added you to bloglines.

ipodmomma said...

you cook a lot like me... :)))

sounds very yummy! will have to give it a try...

love the bit about your Korean pal... :)))

wthenrest said...

Sooo uh... when do I get an invite miss good cook?? :0) I am a very good guinea pig for new recipies