Le Sacre Du Printemps

This meal was made, upon late return home, entirely with things that were already in the fridge and needed using up. It was not in any way sexy or elegant, but it had profound utilitarian appeal: it made for very good, nutritious eating and cleared some space in the fridge. Those containers of various remnants can be pretty sexy if you look at them with the right mindset. If it’s not working for you, drink seven beers and try again.

I was debating whether to even write about this, but then Emma posted a request for easy dinner recipes, going out of her way to forbid me from participating because she’s English and only ever eats mushy peas with marmite (when she’s sober enough to “cook” at all, that is) and is thus intimidated by food as the rest of us understand it. Unless we’re talking about pastries of any sort, in which case it’s open season.

The point of this meal is not to tell you exactly how I made it, though I will. It’s that with a hunk of some sort of meat (cured, usually, but in this case actually a hunk of roast beef from a few nights earlier) and some leafy green vegetables—or any braise-friendly sort, really—and some stock (and/or whey, like in this) you can make a sound meal and free up space in the fridge for all the éclairs you just ordered online while you watched countless videos of owls instead of working.

So: roast beef, cut into small and thus quick-cooking pieces, browned in a bit of oil with half an onion, also chopped, and a dried aji cereza, a hot Peruvian pepper. There were two partial cabbages in the fridge, left from making the stuffed cabbage from a few posts back, and they needed eating; whole cabbages, especially the Western kind, have astonishing longevity in the fridge, but once cut they do begin to wither and need cooking. Go read the stuffed cabbage thing if you haven’t. This variation on meat and cabbage (and dairy, for that matter) is exactly the sort of home cooking that makes the daily practice of preparing food such a pleasure: what is on hand, treated with care and a little imagination, becomes the shared family feast, no matter how humble.

To that fragrant combination I added the cabbage, some shredded and some cut into chunks for different textures once cooked, and a mixture of yogurt whey and chicken stock to just about cover everything. I added a generous pour of rice vinegar and an emphatic squirt of fish sauce, then covered it and let it simmer for about an hour and a half. Two is really the magic number if you want falling-apart beef and fully tender cabbage (unless you use a pressure cooker) but a little al dente can be nice too, especially if you turn up the heat after you take the lid off to boil off some of the remaining liquid and make a drier dish.

There was also some brown rice in the fridge, which I revived on the stove with a bit of water to relax it, and the chives are going off right now so you’ll be able to enjoy nothing but purple pompoms in my dinner for weeks to come.

With more liquid, this would have made a good soup. I could have cooked the rice right in there, too. The result was a lot like a choucroute garni, but with beef instead of pork and with Japanese vinegar, Vietnamese fish sauce, Peruvian pepper and whey. The sourness of the vinegar and whey gave it a persuasively sauerkraut flavor, and the chunks of meat made it substantial enough for a humid evening.

To reiterate:

A heel of meat

Some sorry-looking cabbage

Stock and/or whey

And you have dinner. Other seasonings highly tweakable, but fish sauce is near-indispensable and lacking whey the vinegar is pretty important for acidity.

I could say more, but I need to post this now in order for the title to be relevant. Oh, just Google it and you’ll see.

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One Comment

  1. May 30

    Funny, I thought it was a shaggy pasta in the bowl!.. Lovely combination. I am pretty much a fridge Nazi when it comes to left-overs. I HATE wasting food and try to come up with creative ways to use
    bits and bobs that I find. My success rate is somewhere around 70% with only about 8% dogs and about the same triumphs. It’s a good habit to encourage… waste is so… wasteful!

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