I have a wonderful cookbook which has been quite useful at helping me to create some great meals. I bought Simply Ming One-Pot Meals at a silent auction during Village Day in my town. Since then, I have delighted in putting into practice the concept at the heart of the book: By employing one of seven basic cooking methods, you can create a satisfying "one pot" meal. In actual practice, it may take more than one, but that's okay. I have lots of pots and also a dishwasher.
The chapters are Braise, Wok, Saute, Roast, High Temp, Soup, Toss.
I cranked out a lot of these while staying with my brother in California, the one I cooked for in exchange for a stay at his luxurious digs (although it was my idea to cook; I think he would have been happy if I'd just taken him out to a restaurant once in awhile). The point is, you can do this kind of thing for less money than you can pay staying at a hotel, and it feels like family rather than the impersonal kind of rat-race some of us are forced to deal with. Thankfully, we are compatible personalities with many similar interests, and my husband can help him with his computer system too. We try not to be moochers.
I didn't carefully tally what I bought for his larder then. If daily meals cost less than the $150/ day a hotel would have cost, then we were ahead of the game. I didn't mind getting expensive cuts of meat at How's, San Marino, an old-fashioned rich peoples' suburban grocery, independent for all I know, nearby. It has a real butcher shop in-store. It has a pretty good bakery too. It stocks most of the stuff you'd find at Stop and Shop, but it seems to have carefully managed departments, like produce. Their shitake mushrooms, for instance, were top quality, better than what I can get at my local Whole Foods. Of course California produce tends to be a lot fresher than Massachusetts, except for our seasonal corn, tomatoes and apples.
Tonight I am making something from the Ming cookbook, Sweet and Sour Mango Pork. I am back in the Boston area where I live with my husband. The kids have moved out (to other expensive places to live). It'll just be us eating this dish, but it should last for about three meals.
I found myself laughing about how I thought I was buying an economical cut of meat: a picnic shoulder of pork, locally grown and slaughtered. It came with bone and pork rind, and was "only" $2.99/lb at the local Whole Foods. Oh joy! The price was $11.52. But was it actually close to 4 lbs of pork? Nowhere near (and frankly I don't care for pork rind, cooked up into cracklin's, although I recall that George Bush Senior, as a faux Texan, pretended to love the stuff which other people give to their dogs to chew on). I don't have a dog to make cracklin's for, not since my beloved little Becky ran out in front of a car. Broken hearted, I decided to love other people's dogs from then on. So maybe a neighbor can use the pork rind, but I can't.
Cut up that pork shoulder has yielded 1 1/4 lbs of good red trimmed meat, at by my calculation, about $9.21 per pound. I believe that's a little high for pork shoulder in the real world.
The recipe actually called for 1 1/2 lbs, but I think we can overlook that fractional difference. It's a stir-fry. Just add more veg.
If I am really being thrifty, I will save the bone at least and make bean soup with it. It isn't smoked like ham, but it might add some flavor to a soup made with beans and onions. I don't have to decide right away - I can freeze the bones (thus expending some energy, of course).
I'll let you know tomorrow how the whole thing tasted.
Meanwhile, I should do an inventory of all my larder, be a good steward of the garde manger. I certainly spent quite a bit this week, at my usual places, Whole Foods and Costco. In order to maintain an honest relationship with my sister, I am going to have to show what is used and what is wasted, and what is bought on impulse. Tomorrow that exposure of my private hoarding will begin. The goal is to use, to give and to reallocate resources. Winter will be upon us before we know it. Time to gain a measure of control.