Monday, November 9, 2009

Ovenless Creations to Keep the Family Conscious

I have been a week without an oven, and it has really stretched my imagination, in a good way! Seven days ago I put a butternut squash in to bake in the late afternoon. An hour later, I put in brussels sprouts and apples to roast and was surprised at how cool the oven was. But I ignored it and then an hour later, added in macaroni and cheese. All the while, I kept wondering why the brussels sprouts smelled so much like gas. So, after two and a half hours of sitting in a brussels sprout-stinking home with my kids, wondering why I had a headache, I finally realized that it was actually a gas-filled death trap and turned the barely warm oven off. We ran the kids outside to get oxygen back into their blood, opened all the windows in the house to let in the 35 degree clean air, and called the stove repair company. A week later, they showed up. So, in between both Dave and I forgetting multiple times that we did not in fact have a working oven, we made good use of the crock pot and stove top. I went so far as to have potatoes all prepped for baking, turned to the oven and was greeted by the masking tape across the burners blaring "DO NOT USE OVEN".

The kids and I made beef stock while Dave was at work. This is Dave's purview so I felt pretty uncertain about what to do, but luckily my 4-year old son remembered perfectly and it turned out rich and tasty. It also emptied the freezer of the odd assortment of bones we had been collecting for a very long time.

The stock went overnight in the crock pot, and the next afternoon, I made it into stove-top stew, which used up the random package of "pork kebabs" (no idea what cut that indicates) we got from the meat CSA. I have no problem with mixing meat media, but if you do, make beef stew; it will be great.

Beef Stock

In a crock pot add the following:
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, cut into large chunks
2 sticks celery, cut into large chunks
10 peppercorns
1 bay leaf
4 or 5 beef rib bones

Add water until everything is covered. Cover pot, put on low, and cook overnight. In the morning, strain and either freeze in freezer safe containers or refrigerate and use within a few days.

Pork Gnocchi Stew

1 TBSP olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 shallot, minced
2 carrots, sliced into 1/2 inch chunks
1 cup tiny potatoes or equivalent amount regular potato cut into bite-sized pieces
1 lb. pork cut into 1 to 1 1/2 inch pieces
1 teas. oregano
1/2 teas. thyme
1 quart beef stock
1 lb. package shelf stable gnocchi
salt and pepper to taste

In a Dutch oven saute onion and shallot in olive oil until they begin to smell good, ~ 5 minutes.

Add carrots and potatoes and cook 5 more minutes.

Add pork and let cook, stirring frequently, 5 more minutes.

Add spices and beef stock. Bring to a simmer and then cover and turn low and cook for at least 1 1/2 hours, stirring every 30 minutes or so.

Remove cover, add gnocchi and bring heat up to medium and cook for 30 more minutes, stirring every 5 or 10. If it's sticking, turn heat down a bit.

Add salt and pepper to taste.