STIR THE POT; AN EASY STUDENT STEW THAT IS BETTER THAN KRAFT DINNER

STIR THE POT; AN EASY STUDENT STEW THAT IS BETTER THAN KRAFT DINNER

I genuinely enjoy cooking, it was a way for me to decompress and be creative during quarantine, and even now, I still find comfort in kitchen. I always look forward to those evenings when I have the time and space to put effort into my meals. I’ll pour myself a glass of wine or crack open a beer, put on some tunes, and just vibe in the kitchen. On those occasions, I rarely(/never) follow a recipe or have any sort of concrete plan– I just mess around and try out different things. This usually leads to a lot of messy dishes and occasionally, sauce on the ceiling. Unfortunately, once school is in full swing, I rarely have the time to enjoy cooking or make myself gourmet dishes. The weekly staples become ramen, eggs, macaroni, or a frozen pizza. When you are swamped with work and just stopping at home in between classes or quickly getting changed to go out, it is difficult to find the time to cook. Despite the time constraint, I have found that cooking a meal for myself  that tastes good and is somewhat healthy acts as a form of self-care. When you are putting time and effort into something that will fuel your body, (insert benefit/result). This year, I have promised myself to do better and find meals that are easy and quick to make, yet still healthy and more nutritious than something from a box. There is nothing better than making yourself a dish that you are not only proud of, but one that can also sustain you and give you the energy you need to tackle your day. In this article, I will walk you through my favourite home-cooked meal along with a few vegetarian and vegan variations. 

The dish that I will be discussing is simple, and great for cold nights when you need a comfort meal. This short rib and kimchi stew takes about 45 minutes to make. If you have more time, you can also cook it longer at a lower temperature. I know not every student has 45 minutes to cook, but this meal will last you multiple days. All you have to do is re-heat it, and enjoy . For kitchen equipment, you will need a large pot or dutch oven, and a strainer. I highly recommend investing in a dutch oven or some sort of large ceramic pot, as they fit a large quantity of food and are very easy to clean. I cook almost everything in mine– from meat or fish, to gumbos, and even soups. 

 My inspiration behind this dish is that I wanted to make a hearty stew that would last multiple days. As a lover of spicy food, I wanted to add a lot of heat and create a dish that was curated for my own tastes. Kimchi and gochujang, red chili paste, are both fermented Korean foods that have quite a lot of spice and funk. If you would prefer your stew without any heat, you can substitute the gochujang and kimchi with tomato paste and additional chicken stock. If you would like to make this dish vegan, you can substitute the short ribs out for tofu and the chicken stock for vegetable broth. I have tried this dish with tofu and it is still absolutely delicious. Just remember to squeeze as much liquid out of your tofu as possible so that it absorbs more flavour and stays relatively firm.

 

Here is a list of ingredients that I use to make my stew:

5lbs of short ribs

About 1 package of oyster mushrooms

1 large onion

A lot of garlic (however much you are comfortable using)

2 medium carrots

1 stalk of celery

1 jar of kimchi (or less, I’m sorry I really like kimchi)

1 tablespoon or large dollop of gochujang

A few cups of chicken stock (however much covers your meat)

A heavy sprinkling of cayenne pepper

A large pinch of salt

A nice grind, pinch, or sprinkle of black pepper 

 

Steps: 

 

  1.  The first step in making this dish is braising your short ribs. Cut them into sections, and then toss them into your pot or dutch oven with lots of olive oil. Cook them on each side so they are crisp and just cooked through– this should take about 15 minutes. Cooking meat can sometimes be intimidating, especially if you don’t have a meat thermometer (let’s be real, I doubt most students have a meat thermometer). The nice thing about this recipe is that the meat is cooked a second time with the rest of the ingredients later, so you don’t need to worry about checking if it’s done in this first step. 
  2. Next, remove the meat from the dutch oven and place it on a large plate. Add garlic, onion, and gochujang to the pot and scrape the bottom to loosen any meat drippings, mixing them in with the aromatics. 
  3. Once the onion is translucent, add in carrots, mushrooms, short ribs and celery. Your house should be smelling wonderful at this point. Afterwards, add in cayenne pepper, salt, black pepper, and any other spices you want. 
  4. If you are adding kimchi to your dish, which I highly recommend, wait until all your veggies are well cooked to add the kimchi. As a lover of kimchi, I like to add a whole jar. Again, you do not need to add that much. I buy my kimchi from the Market Square farmer’s market in Kingston, but you can find it at most grocery stores; however, jars are much more expensive at Loblaws or Metro than at the market. 
  5. After adding the kimchi, pour in enough stock to cover your meat, and then stir everything together a few times, letting it cook at a simmer for 15min-1 hour. Cooking time is entirely up to you– if you are short on time, you do not need to let it (simmer, broil, cook)for a full hour. 
  6. While your stew is cooking, it is time to get your noodles ready! I buy udon noodles, which are super cheap and, in my opinion, make every dish better. I tend to add noodles to almost anything. You can either add your noodles directly into the pot, as the liquid will cook them, or you can use another pot to cook them separately. If I am feeling lazy and don’t want to dirty another dish, I will usually just toss the noodles into the stew and let everything cook together for another few minutes. Udon noodles cook very fast,which is why I tend to favor them over pasta, so this step won’t take long.
  7. Finally, your stew is ready to serve! Usually, one pot of stew will last me about three to four meals depending on how hungry I am, and takes under an hour to make. This meal could also be served for a large group of people, feeding around four to five guests. 

I hope that you try this recipe! It has become one of my favourites to make, especially in the Fall and Winter. With the Fall semester starting up and our schedules getting busier again, I will usually make a large stew, like this one, on Sunday night and then be set for meals for the next few days. Full disclosure, I have eaten leftovers of this stew for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and even as a midnight snack – it’s that good. 

 

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