Kooking with a K

Jeff and I have a term for preparing food that can’t exactly be called cooking, but isn’t quite take-out either. Taco kits, mac and cheese from a box, and freezer-to-oven pizzas fit in this category. We try to not to “Kook with a K” very often, for the sake of our health, finances and the environment.

However, a spice and recipe kit for beef burgundy at the grocery store caught my eye. I had recently tried a beef stew from a food network show and found it bland and not worth adding to our winter cooking repertoire. I’m not sure where a product like this falls in our cooking lexicon – is it cooking or is it assembly? I haven’t tried it yet, but I’m concerned about two of the possible outcomes:

1. It will be amazing and I will be forced to continue to buy this spice kit for eternity while always wondering about the exact ratio of herbs and spices (and dehydrated bell peppers and orange rind).

2. It will be so-so and I will be stuck with 10 servings of mediocre stew.

I did find the list of ingredients helpful while in the grocery store,  but ignored their brand suggestions and bought whichever brand of bacon, beef broth and canned tomatoes I damn well felt like.

Impressions while cooking:

Packet number one smells of cloves – it gets mixed with the flour for dredging the beef.

Medium-high when browning the beef is too high in my pan – a lot of the flour particles are burning. I think what we want here are brown bits to de-glaze with some of the red wine called for in the recipe.

They suggest using a saucepan, but I’m glad my instincts told me to grab my dutch oven – as it is, there’s just enough room.

Okay – now that it’s in the oven for the next 90 minutes, I can honestly say that this is cooking with a C. There was a fair amount of prep and cooking – cleaning and quartering mushrooms, chopping onions, frying bacon, dredging and browning beef, de-glazing the pan. My kitchen looks like a bomb hit it – I have used three pans (my cast iron frying pan, the dutch oven and a saute pan to finish off the beef while I washed the dutch oven to get the burnt bits out), a strainer for the canned tomatoes, a couple of cutting boards – one for onions and mushrooms, one for bacon, measuring cups and spoons, assorted bowls to collect bacon fat and tomato juice. Fairly work intensive. This is not a “dinner in 20 minutes on a weeknight” type of meal, more like “I have a stat holiday and my husband doesn’t so I guess I’ll cook him something nice for dinner”.

I think it serves its purpose well – nab an impulse shopper who needs some inspiration and make it very simple to find the rest of the ingredients in the same shopping trip.

However, this has also (without tasting it yet) firmed up my resolution to dig around for beef stew recipes with cloves, rosemary, thyme and orange flavourings. I don’t like being dependent on Spice-Bot.

The verdict:

It tastes like beef stew. Aromatic, yes, but it has that pre-fab taste I encounter whenever I eat something freezer-to-oven.  Still, I’m glad for the inspiration to look for a good beef burgundy stew recipe. Thanks, Spice-Bot!