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Sunday, August 9, 2009

Budget Meals

When I was younger, I didn't understand why my parents always had packs of ground beef and pork on the grocery list every week. I would even become disheartened at the thought that i'll probably see this ground meat sauteed with cubed potatoes, carrots and red bell peppers in tomato sauce. That was how our cook would usually prepare it.

However, ever since I was managing my own kitchen, I find that there was good reason for always having ground pork and/or beef on hand. It's one of the most versatile food items there is. Now, I was thinking - if only our cook back then also had a versatile mind. . .

Well, one evening, I was in a pinch as to what dish to serve my family. Remembering I had lean ground beef sitting in the freezer, I transformed it into hamburger patties with a twist. Mixed in were minced vegetables as well for an even healthier take. It just took me under an hour to compose a complete meal of burger steaks with mushroom gravy, corn niblets, sauteed spinach and java rice. The results were very satisfactory. I'm sharing it here and hope you make it part of your "emergency kit". But having it with pre-meditation for dinner with friends can wow them as well.

Burger Steaks

3/4 kg. ground lean beef (top sirloin)
1/2 c. each of dry bread crumbs, minced carrots & green beans
1 whole red onion, minced
3 medium-sized eggs
salt & pepper

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl until well incorporated. Form into patties and stack them on a plate separated with wax paper. If you have time, refrigerate the patties for at least an hour before cooking to allow flavors to blend. If you're in a hurry, put the patties in the freezer for 15 minutes first before cooking. I prefer pan-grilling the burgers in chorizo lard, but cooking it in other fat is good as well.

For the mushroom gravy:

1/2 c. button mushrooms, quartered
1 T. minced garlic
1 c. chicken stock
2 T. cornstarch mixed with 3 T. stock or water
2 T. Worcestershire sauce
1-2 T. pan juices from the burger steaks
butter for sauteeing

Saute garlic in butter and pan juices until almost brown and/or fragrant. Add mushrooms and cook for 1 minute. Add chicken stock and Worcestershire sauce and let boil mixing the broth occasionally. When broth boils, mix in the cornstarch mixture and stir continuously until sauce thickens. Correct with salt and pepper to taste.

But if you want another short cut, I can recommend using a pack of Cream of Mushroom Soup. I mix the contents of one pouch in 2 cups water, stirring continuously with a wooden spoon over a low fire. I still add the Worcestershire sauce for color and additional flavor. And, you can't have too much sprinkling of salt and pepper.

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