This post is dedicated to my brother, Brian, who said recently that he’s trying to eat “more cooked vegetables.” His resolution I find charming; it’s so much more idiosyncratic than one of the standard <yawn> resolutions, like trying to lose weight or save money. A couple of years ago, on New Year’s Day, I resolved to stop using parentheticals in my writing. (I’m addicted to them.) I succeeded perfectly for one month, as most people do. Still, I keep trying.
Last night for dinner I made American chop suey, a staple of childhood and, really, just about one of the best New England comfort dishes we’ve got going. I realized, as threw it together (because it is one of those kinds of dishes), that it’s a painless way to get your cooked vegetables, because, except for the tomatoes, they are all verily disguised. Aside from the canned tomatoes, there are two others: bell pepper and onion. Yes, onions are vegetables, too.
It’s cheap; it’s good; and it’s easy to remember the recipe, because everything is in quantities of one: 1 pound of this, 1 can of that, and so on. However, American chop suey (also called ghoulash in the Midwest and chili-mac on public school cafeteria menus) is not photogenic. Here’s the recipe, without photographic illustration, passed down to me by my mother and revised by me:
American Chop Suey
serves 6; leftovers keep well and taste better the next day
1 lb. extra lean ground beef
1 lb. macaroni (shells or elbows or bowties)
1 red bell pepper, chopped fine (green pepper? yuck)
1 medium yellow onion, chopped fine
1 T. vegetable oil
1 large can (28 oz.) crushed tomatoes (Contadina brand my favorite)
1 good splash of Worcestershire sauce
1 shake of salt
1 shake of ground black pepper
Have all ingredients ready to go. Begin.
- Put water on to boil for the macaroni.
- In nonstick fry pan over medium heat, sauté the chopped red pepper and onion in the vegetable oil for a few minutes until soft. Transfer them to bowl and set aside.
- In same fry pan, sauté (or “scramble”) the ground beef until cooked through. With the spoon, break up the beef into really small pieces as it cooks. Be assiduous; don’t walk away.
- Is the water boiling yet? Cook according to package directions, al denté. (Note: American chop suey gets its bad rep from overcooked macaroni. Do not make mushy macaroni!)
- Meanwhile, add the sautéed peppers and onions back to the scrambled hamburger. To this mixture, add the can of crushed tomatoes, and a dash of Worcestershire, salt, and ground pepper. Heat through, and keep over low heat as macaroni boils.
- Drain macaroni. Put the hamburger/tomato mix into the empty macaroni pot, and then add the drained macaroni and mix.
- Serve. Pass the salt, please. I like a lot.
Note to vegetarians: You can use Morningstar soy crumbles in place of the hamburger; you’ll just have to cook it less and the recipe will go faster. I have tried it this way, too, and it’s still delicious.