harry potter and the ridiculously-named stew.

I am a terrible hypocrite. The best thing to do if you ever find yourself saying one thing and doing another is to 'fess up to it on the internet. Then, haivng acknowledged your faults, you can continue being a hypocrite all you want. After all, you told everybody in the whole world about what you did, and what more can anyone reasonably ask?

Here's what I did. After I nagged and whined about how Josh's library was going to take over the house, he started going through them and getting rid of some of them. He put them in a stack for me to take to the used book store. I looked through them and instead of putting them in the "Bookstore" bag I keep for just such purpose, I put them in the "For Sandra" stack instead.

One of the books was a cookbook called Great British Cooking: A Well-Kept Secret. It's geared toward American cooks, and so as a part of enticing would-be buyers, all the recipes have very silly names, so as to make them seem more exotic (Singin' Hinnies, Gooseberry Fool, Angels on Horseback, etc.). The introduction starts off with an excerpt from Virginia Woolf and continues with a series of jokes about how bad British cooking is.

Josh found this at some yard sale or thrift store, I suspect with the thought of giving it to a coworker of his who hails from the British Isles. Of course, that was a goofy, if well-intentioned idea. It would be like giving me a cookbook of Southern American recipes adapted for British cooks. I don't use very many cookbooks at all, because the internet is full of recipes with pictures and reviews from real live home chefs. But I decided that I might as well cook one British recipe, to decide whether the book might be worth keeping. I looked through most of them and picked out one suited to my kitchen - meaning that all the ingredients were things that I already had in the pantry or the freezer.

This is an important consideration for me. I talk cooking with another lady, and I once asked if she had any good meatless recipes. She sent me something with mascarpone in it, and I had to explain that I was more interested in things that I could make with basic pantry staples, which mascarpone was not. I want delicious recipes, but I also want something that makes sense for everyday eating.

Anyway, what I picked out and what I made was Chiddingly Hot Pot. I promise I did not pick it out for the name, because most of the dishes in the book had similarly ridiculous titles. As it turns out, this dish is also included in the Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook, where the author claims it's referenced in chapter 15 of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. It's basically just beef stew. But it's good beef stew. It was easy to make, and while it did require a couple hours to cook, most of that is baking time, so I was able to go see if the dish was actually referenced in Harry Potter.

It seems like the compiler of the Harry Potter cookbook may also be picking recipes just for the silly names, because the actual book just says that someone was eating a "stew." Oh well.

Chiddingly Hot Pot
By Jane Garmey

2 lbs. stewing beef, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 Tbs. flour
2 Tbs. oil
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
2 medium-sized onions, finely chopped
freshly ground black pepper
2 medium-sized potatoes, sliced in rounds
3 cloves
1 Tbs. tarragon vinegar*
1 oz. melted butter
Approx. 2 cups beef stock
Preheat the oven to 325° F.
Dust the meat with flour and brown it in the oil in a frying pan over low heat. Remove the meat and fry the celery and onions in the same pan for 3 minutes.

Put a layer of onions and celery in the bottom of a deep casserole, then a layer of meat and after that a layer of potatoes. Season each layer with salt and pepper and add the cloves and vinegar. Repeat the layers and finish with a layer of potatoes. Brush them with the melted butter and add enough stock to reach just below the potatoes.

Cover the casserole and cook for 1 ½ hours. Remove the cover and cook for an additional ½ hour to brown the potatoes.

Notes: I left out the salt, because I was using canned beef stock, which has plenty. I also didn't have any idea what tarragon vinegar was, so I used apple cider vinegar and threw in a bit of parsley that was languishing in my fridge. Tarragon, parsley, whatever. I also did both the sauteing and the oven cooking in a Dutch oven, so it was sort of a one-dish meal. You could even say it was a hot pot!

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