Knowing what to do…

…with what you got is, perhaps, the best legacy of confidence developed over time in the kitchen. True, some cooking classes and a couple of intensive cooking boot camps help, but nothing gets the point across like going after something and getting a successful outcome.

Few things challenge like the end of a week cooking elsewhere, when what’s left (the ‘what you got’ of this post) is in almost total control of what you can do. So, where was I? Some diced red and green bell pepper; a quarter or a white onion; the tail end of a container of button mushrooms; and about 1-1/2 inches of white wine that had been in the fridge for months. Walking to get a baking potato, some cottage cheese, and sour cream, I was set. Let’s go!

Pierce the potato in a few places, wrap it in foil, and put it in a 425 deg oven to bake for about 1-1/4 hours. While the potato is baking, slice the mushrooms and the 1/4 of an onion; get the bell peppers out of the fridge. Rather than buy beef/chicken/vegetable stock, I keep cubed versions on hand (long shelf life, and no waste) – one cube beef stock in a cup of boiling water will do it.

About 20 minutes before the potato is ready, put the mushrooms in a dry, hot pan to sweat out some of the moisture (you’ll get more mushroom flavor and have better control over the liquid that way). Once they start looking dry, add a small amount of a neutral oil and about a tablespoon of butter (for flavor).

Once the oil and butter have heated, and the mushrooms are sizzling a bit, add the onions and sauté until the onions are soft and starting to brown. Add the cup of beef stock, a splash of white wine, then salt and pepper to taste. just before you’re ready to assemble, add some sour cream – a sprinkling of flour if you want it to thicken a bit more.

Take the potato from the oven, open it, and pile the steamy, fragrant mushroom/onion sauce on it. Rich, creamy, and delicious. For lack of a more descriptive name, I call it baked potato Stroganoff. Enjoy.

As easy as this is, a little preparation and learning from past mistakes contribute to the ease.

First, I almost always have diced bell peppers in the fridge. They are great for ramping up cottage cheese (in the background of the tip pic), and also take scrambled eggs (scrambled in or on top) to the next level. They keep for a week in the fridge. The same for diced onion.

I can’t say enough about keeping cubed stock on hand. Not only is it easy, but when you’re cooking for one it’s an ideal way to maintain portion control and avoid wasting what’s left when you don’t need the amount in a larger container.

Cottage cheese and sour cream both have a respectable shelf life if kept refrigerated. For that matter, so do half ‘n’ half and heavy cream. Use what you need/want, and the rest will be around for a while.

While time will thicken most sauces, a sprinkling of flour helps, but save it until the end unless you’ve started with a butter and flour roux. Gluten free? Potato starch works, as does cornstarch or arrowroot. Sprinkle them in, or create a slurry with water before putting them in. You’ll avoid lumps.

6 responses to “Knowing what to do…”

  1. Harriet Raskin Avatar
    Harriet Raskin

    Looks delicious


  2. As always – very imaginative!!!!


  3. Oh I really like this one. Making one pot meals with whatever is hanging around for years while feeding a family made it my wheelhouse! We called it “MacGyvering”, as a nod to the series of that name with the guy who routinely saved the world from disaster with a gum wrapper and a hairpin.
    My hot tip takeaway from this was about “sweating” mushrooms. I roasted some recently and they were NOT good – too much water inside made the texture blah.
    Thank you : )


  4. I like that!
    I chop fresh green pepper and onions, put in freezer to have handy for recipes. I purchase 1/2 bushel of corn down near the Tombigbee River, trim them a little, and freeze it whole…..microwave in the shuck and it is delicious.


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