Notice: I’ll not be indulging in the April Fools foolishness of bogus posts.
So, with that out of the way…
On Saturday, I roasted a leg of lamb. Terribly easy to do: Place leg in pot. (Make sure any labels or plastic bone end covers or other alien debris is removed). Sprinkle over with garlic granules ( I bought a 25 oz plastic shaker bottle of McCormic brand at COSTCO a few years ago … and I’m still trying to use it up! – just air dried ground up garlic.) or you can use fresh garlic smeared on the surface if you like. A light sprinkling over of salt and a few grinds of pepper as you like it. Surround it with small to modest sized red or golden potatoes, carrots (leave the skin on for rustic, but scrub clean and trim the ends – break or cut into about 3 to 4 inch sections so they plate nicely) Stuff the whole thing, uncovered, into a 350 F oven for about 20 minutes / pound (rare-ish) to 30 minutes / lb (more the way I like it). That’s basically it.
Now, that’s about $25 to $35 of lamb and vegetables. That’s not the ‘nearly free’ part.
When it’s done, serve slices of lamb and plate the potatoes and carrot chunks, then slice the vegetables in place, gently, into about 1/4 inch thick slices. Put a pat of butter on each as desired. By cutting them on the plate (serrated steak knife is best) you get the look of a whole vegetable and the convenience of “one fork bites”…
Now, you have most of the roast on a cutting board, and the dinner served. Using a slotted spoon, lift the remaining vegetables into a container for the fridge. Slice the lamb for use as leftover / sandwiches / “whatever” and put it in the fridge. What to do with the pot full of interesting juices…
Do NOT remove the fat. Why folks say to do that is beyond me. It’s got the flavor and richness. What you want to do is dilute it with a load of soup…
Into the roasting pan ( I use an enameled pan), add a few inches of water. Set it in an easy to reach place. Chop up an onion and toss it in. You want pieces about 1/4 inch on a side. Small like in soups. “Dice”. Do the same thing with “a few” carrots. I used 3 big ones. About a cup of celery dice. I don’t trim off the leafy ends as they are great in soups. Just chop it up. (Trim any brown ends off though). Toss it all in the pot and set it on a burner set to medium. (My pot is round, if you have a long roasting pot you can still do this but put the burner in the middle – once the bottom is deglazed and things are “on their way” you can pour it into a round pot if you desire easier handling)
At this point you have the basic Mirepoix and broth going. Now you add some body. I toss in a handfull of pearled barley and a handfull of lentils. I’d guess it’s about 2 or 3 ounces of each. This gets to simmer a few minutes as you prep the rest. At some point I’ll add more water. This gets added to about 1/2 gallon total water, or about 2 inches below the top edge of my round roasting pan. Don’t add it all at once, just “as needed” for your ingredients to get a nice vegetable stew going.
Now I raid the fridge.
You are looking for leftover vegetables. Judgement is needed here. So left over fire-breathing jalapeño stuffed Scotch Bonnet peppers probably ought not go in… I had a cup of sweet peas from Thursday and about 1/2 cup of steamed zucchini slices. I diced the zukes and added both to the pot. I also added 2 “not beef” vegetarian bouillon cubes. This has a generally meat like flavor, but without being beef, so you don’t have clashing flavors. I find it very useful for making richer soups since “lamb bouillon” seems unavailable anywhere.
Next I got about 2 cups worth of red potatoes. Scrubbed them and peeled off any imperfect bits. These get diced and added to the pot. (By now I was about 1/2 hour into it and the grain / lentils are starting to cook). When it comes back up to starting to boil, put the lid on and turn it down to a simmer. I let it simmer about 1/2 hour more, then check that there’s no “green” flavor to the spuds and that the grains and lentils are soft enough. At that time, adjust the salt and pepper to suit your tastes. I “sprinkle over” the pot with a good shake of salt (less if more bouillon, more if less bouillon), then put a couple of pepper grinds in the 4 cardinal points of the pot. Stir and taste. Adjust any flavor profile to your liking. (So, for example, you will note I said to use an onion. I didn’t have one this time so added a ‘sprinkle around the pot’ of granulated garlic to give it some allium flavors.)
That’s basically it.
Now, vegetables are NOT free, but compared to everything else they nearly are. A couple of bouillon cubes are also nearly nothing. The pan drippings are free, especially since many folks just pitch them out. The seasonings used are also nearly no cost. My final volume was 3 quarts ( poured with a canning funnel into a 1/2 gallon jar and a one quart jar, so an accurate measure. Solids reach about the 3/4 to 7/8 height of the jar.). These were capped and allowed to cool to ‘just warm’ on the counter then placed in the fridge last night.
I doubt I have $2 in the whole pot of stew.
The lamb roast gave us 2 big dinners, and then 3 tubs of slices. These are Pyrex dishes with clip on lids of 2 cups each. That’s 6 cups of slices.
Today, for lunch, we had the quart jar. I added about 1/4 of the tub (or about 1/2 cup) of lamb dices from one of the tubs. This was the most rough bits (that didn’t slice well) to make this particular batch “lamb stew” instead of vegetable stew. I make that about $1 to $1.50 of lamb; but it is optional. As a vegetable stew it’s still quite good.
So there you have it. Today, for lunch, we had more stew than we needed at about $1/2 to $1 per person including the crackers and added lamb dice
We’ve still got 2 more meals like that to go, already in the jar, along with enough lamb slices for about 4 to 6 of more meals – like lamb sandwiches or re-heated roast; just add side vegetables or salad. All up, I’ll get about a dozen meals out of this one roast + stew. This was a small boneless leg of about 4.4 lbs. Were it a full sized bone in leg, I’d get a lot more; but for reasons beyond my ken, the local markets have shifted to these small roasts.
Now this same process can be used with roast chickens, turkey, beef, “whatever”. When it’s chicken, I’ll use rice instead of barley, or sometimes toss in “soup pasta” when reheating it and simmer about 10 minutes. (If put in the first cooking, then cooled in the fridge and then reheated, it swells too much and soaks up too much soup!) Most any mild grain can be used, and several kinds of pasta, along with many different beans or peas. Just realize dry beans need a long slow cook, so ought to be cooked in a couple of changes of water and then added to the soup as already cooked beans. Beans work especially well if you use a Ham or Pork roast base for the soup.
When cooled, a layer of fat will form on top of the soup. Some folks are paranoid about fat, others just don’t want the calories. You can just lift it off the soup and toss it. I prefer to just let it melt as the soup reheats. It adds a richness to the soup that’s delightful and adds flavor depth. It soaks into the crackers and is no “worse” than butter on cracker (or the oil cooked into rich flavored crackers like Ritz).
Between the various possible grains, legumes, and noodles; the various leftover vegetables, and the 5 or 6 main meat choices (beef, pork, ham, chicken, turkey, duck, lamb,…) you have a huge number of variations possible. Then you can vary the spices too. Add a bit of Italian spice mix, or some Greek…
As long as you don’t use any leftovers that have “gone off”, it’s pretty fool proof. I’ve never yet had a soup that was bad. A few were ‘thin’, and some added bouillon fixes that. Some are a bit bland – that’s when the spice cabinet comes into play, or just leaving the bay leaf from the roast beef in the pan for a while while simmering… I like a bit more salt than the spouse, and she wants nearly no pepper, so my bowl gets some added of both.
Don’t be afraid to experiment! If it’s not to your liking, you are out “nearly nothing” anyway! Some pan drippings, a bit of bouillon, a few cups of vegetables and some leftovers… But really, I’ve never had to pitch a batch.
So that’s the way you can get 6 meals for nearly nothing. By doing this, you can make a “too expensive’ roast very affordable.