What’s for dinner: Cornbread-and-Beef Skillet Pie

Click on the photo to go to the recipe on the Everyday Food website.

Unlike at my family’s house, where the cook doesn’t have to do the dishes, I also clean up after making dinner. (Partly because I am of the clean-as-you-go school of food preparation, and partly because Mr. Brooks leaves for work by 7 p.m.) And really, doing dishes is sort of Zen for me: One sink with detergent (Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day geranium scent, currently); the other with a capful of ammonia as rinse, which I think is a leftover habit from working in a restaurant with the three separate sinks; then drying by hand so there are no weird water spots.

This is not to say, however, that it’s fun every night. So this week’s theme is “one-pan suppers,” which I hope will minimize the sinkwork.

I was quite keen to haul my cast-iron skillet out of storage in the garage for the first night’s recipe, which calls for an “oven-proof” skillet. But the cast-iron one wasn’t large enough to hold all of the vegetables and brown the beef — plus I had a moment of “wait a minute — aren’t you supposed to avoid cooking acidic foods, such as tomato-based sauces, in cast iron?” (Answer: apparently so; although this was only 1/4 cup of tomato paste and for not very long, so maybe it would be have been OK? At any rate, thanks for completely ignoring that issue, Everyday Food). So I upgraded to a larger, non-iron skillet, just in case.

Cost of ingredients: $15.85. I already had the flour, baking soda, salt, pepper and olive oil.

Substitutions: Regular ground beef instead of ground sirloin, which (a) I couldn’t find on my own, and (b) sounded a little pricey to be used in a dish that was about to be hoisted into an oven in a tomato- and pepper-based sauce.

As easy as they said? Indeed. I am getting a little tired of chopping and slicing onions and red peppers, however.

How’d THAT go over? While the dish was in the oven I perused the recipe’s comments section, and was a little worried by the number of people who were complaining about its lack of flavor. How could something with tomatoes, onions and peppers be as blah as they said? As it turns out, the dish was indeed lacking pretty much all flavor — the cornmeal biscuits added only texture, no flavor, and the concoction beneath was so bland it reminded me of hospital food designed not to upset sensitive stomachs. The dish started with promise, but ended in disappointment. To salvage the situation, I ended up adding liberal doses of Worcestershire and barbecue sauces.

Would I make it again? Maybe — but with significant doctoring. Add sugar and salt to the cornmeal mixture — or even just use cornbread mix — for a sweetness that’s lacking. And add spices to the meat and vegetables — I actually liked what the Worcestershire and barbecue sauces combined to create, but I could also see using cumin and something else to create a hot spiciness instead.

WHAT SAM WORE: 03-17-10
Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
The sweater: Extra-fine merino wool V-neck vest from Uniqlo, New York.
The shirt: Long-sleeved cotton button-down from H&M, Scottsdale.
The pants: Boot-cut corduroys by 7 for All Mankind, from Last Chance.
The shoes: Leather slip-ons from Bacco Bucci, from Last Chance.

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