Stoned & Honed:

Home cooking for the self-isolated

It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I have been preparing for it since I was 12 years old.

The preparation began after my parents allowed me to read The Hot Zone by Richard Preston at a much too young age, and ever since, I have been psychologically preparing for a global pandemic.

So, give me access to an afternoon of your time and the contents of your freezer, and I will help you create something delicious, nutritious, and freezable. I even have some strong opinions on what you should watch on TV while we wait this thing out.

Freezer Stew

In a situation like self-isolation, I look at the freezer space in my kitchen as exceptionally valuable real estate. Right now, if your freezer is anything like mine, there are some forgotten packages of meat and vegetables that can be put to good use, and give you the ability to use that precious space in your freezer more efficiently.

What is nice about this recipe is it really is an incredible blank canvas for what you have on hand and what you enjoy. You can sub out the meat for more legumes or firm tofu. You can add the herbs and spices you love. All you need is a good cooking vessel, some odds and ends from your freezer, 45 minutes of prep time, and a few hours to relax while it cooks.

The stew I am creating for my photos is a beef blade roast stew with sweet potatoes, bell peppers, black beans and cauliflower. In this recipe, I rub the beef with salt, black pepper, mustard seed, and minced scotch bonnet peppers for a little heat. I will also be using some homemade turkey stock and leftover potato water instead of vegetable broth.

Ingredients and equipment

  • 1 Spanish onion, diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, smashed
  • 3 sticks celery, diced
  • 2 medium carrots, diced
  • Approximately 2 to 3 lbs beef blade roast or stewing beef or sirloin roast or pork shoulder or chicken thighs, defrosted and cut into one-inch cubes and aggressively seasoned with salt and pepper
  • 1 L vegetable broth
  • 1 medium sweet potato, cubed
  • 1 bag of whatever random frozen vegetables you have that are near a dead date
  • 1 can black beans, fava beans, or lentils, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 15 mL Worcestershire sauce or soy sauce
  • Thyme
  • Bay leaf
  • Smoked paprika
  • Black pepper
  • 1 to 15 g pate cannabutter, frozen and cut into tiny pieces
  • 1 Dutch oven or slow cooker
  • 2 large bowls
  • 1 can opener


I like to do this recipe in an enamelled cast iron Dutch oven as I find it cuts about 90 minutes off the cook time and gives me a better caramelization on my meat and veggies, but you can totally use a slow cooker for this recipe. If you’re going to do this, brown the meat and sweat the vegetables in a separate pan or pot, and then transfer to the slow cooker.

Directions

In a Dutch oven on medium heat, add the seasoned meat and brown. Do not overcook the meat—you just want to brown it and get some of its juices into the cooking vessel. Once browned, remove meat, place in a separate bowl and cover.

Drop the heat down between low and medium and add the Mirepoix (French kitchen vocab for finely chopped onions, celery, and carrot) to the Dutch oven. The mirepoix will slowly cook in the meat juices and begin to release their natural oils (sweating). Then add your garlic, sweet potato, and freezer veggies along with any herbs or spices you’d like.

Turn the heat back to medium and cook down the vegetables for about 10 minutes until they begin to soften. Deglaze with broth or stock as needed but do not overdo the liquid—just enough to pick up the fond (French for base; these are the amazing caramelized bits that stick to the pot). Add the beans and chickpeas and make sure they are folded into the cooking vegetables. Add enough broth to the Dutch oven that your veggies are wet, but they are also not covered by the broth (this is important).

Preheat your oven to 350 F.

Now it’s time to carefully reincorporate the meat in a layer on top of your stew. You do not want to mix your meat into the broth and vegetables. You want this layer of meat to rest above the vegetables. This is the best possible environment for a phenomenon called the Maillard reaction, a mingling of amino acids and reduced sugars during the cooking process that creates flavour. Think of the Maillard reaction as the big bang that created Guy Fieri’s Flavortown (or maybe don’t do that.)

Once the meat has been placed on top of the vegetables, affix the lid to the Dutch oven and place in the preheated oven. Set a timer for two hours, light a joint, get comfy, and maybe watch a little television.

After two hours, take the stew out of the oven and remove the lid carefully (I currently have a steam burn on my forearm). Look into the cooking vessel and check the moisture level of the vegetables. Generally at this point, there will be minimal liquid. Slowly add one litre of warm water, making sure not to disturb the layer of meat on top of the stewing vegetables. This is the point where you sprinkle your chopped frozen cannabutter on top of the meat. Cover the cooking vessel and return it to the oven for another hour.

When the hour’s up, remove the Dutch oven and let it rest, closed, for 20 minutes. This will allow the stew to slowly cool. At the same time, the steam condenses on the bottom of the lid which is covered in a secondary fond that has formed on the underside of the lid, releasing more flavour as that condensed steam just drips right back into the stew. When you open the dutch oven again be aware steam burns. Now you can finally stir the stew all together and serve.

I love to serve this with a little hot sauce, a piece of sourdough, and a dark ale with some fruit-driven heft to it.

When it comes to storage, I portion the stew into containers. I am blessed with a partner who lives for organization so I have Tupperware at my disposal but you can just use Ziplock bags, or old containers just as easily.

TV shows to watch in this apocalypse

Terriers (2010): A perfect single season of TV, starring Donal Louge and Michael Raymond James, about two hapless unlicensed private detectives who uncover a conspiracy in their seaside town. Like Chinatown meets The Rockford Files, but with the sardonically funny voice of a Thomas Pynchon novel. Find it on iTunes or Apple TV.

High Maintenance (2016 - present): Though there are a bunch of seasons of High Maintenance on Vimeo, the four-season HBO iteration of the show is the most accessible. This brainchild of comedy duo Katja Blitchfeld and Ben Sinclair, it’s a joyfully strange look into the lives of New Yorkers, through the eyes of a good-natured bicycle-driving cannabis dealer. Find it on Crave.

Murder She Wrote (1984 - 1996): Do you want to watch a procedural murder mystery show with a female protagonist who is underestimated because of her gender in every episode but then runs intelletual circles around her male counterparts until they rely on her to do their jobs for them? Maybe that hits a little too close to home. Or maybe it’s your new favorite show on Amazon Prime.

The Night Manager (2016): This spy thriller mini-series based on a John LeCarre novel is a must for fans of the genre. A beautifully shot cat-and-mouse story of international arms dealing and money laundering, starring Tom Hiddleston, Hugh Laurie and Olivia Coleman. Find it on Amazon Prime.

Banshee (2013 - 2016): Do you like the idea of a show based in a sleepy Pennsylvania town that includes incredibly graphic violence, gratuitous sex, Amish gangsters, Serbian war criminals, white supremeists, a tribe of Native American assassins, more gratuitus sex, and a quippy Korean super hacker who also happens to also be a fierce drag queen? Well then you should watch the four insane seasons of Banshee on Crave.