- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Cold weather arrived in our usually warmer climate earlier than usual. We pulled out sweaters, gloves, fleeces, and our beloved warm and comfy recipes. Nothing beats a meal from the Dutch oven — pot roast, simmered steaks, chicken and rice to both nourish and make dinner easy for the busy cook.

This recipe is one my mother used to make for us when we were little, using beef cube steaks and spooning whatever delicious juices and drippings that collected as the meat cooked over rice. You can opt for mashed potatoes or couscous, whatever the family enjoys, and they will love this rib-sticking recipe.

Five time-shaving meals to cook in a Dutch oven

• Bake your favorite pot roast, a chuck is the best cut at 300 degrees for 3 hours.

• Braise beef stew meat (2 pounds) in a can of tomato soup, a can of cream of mushroom soup, nearly a cup of red wine and a package (1.3 ounces) of onion soup mix at 250 degrees for 4 hours. Add mushrooms, if you like.

• Simmer your favorite chili recipe in the oven, covered, instead of on top of the range.

• Blanket four seared chicken breasts in two cans of cream of mushroom soup and one soup can full of milk and simmer, covered, for 3 hours at 300 degrees.

• Braise your favorite pasta sauce in the Dutch oven for 2 hours at 300 degrees. Cook pasta on top of the range and serve with grated Parmesan cheese.

Steak and gravy

4 beef cube steaks (about 11/4 pounds total)

Salt and black pepper

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

11/4 cups thinly sliced onion (from 1 large onion)

Pat steaks dry with paper towels and season on both sides with salt and pepper. Place flour in a shallow bowl. Dredge both sides of steaks in flour, then shake off the excess. Heat oil in a 5- to 6-quart heavy, covered flameproof casserole or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add steaks and brown them on both sides, 1 minute per side.

Transfer steaks to a plate. Add onion to casserole. Reduce heat to medium and cook onion, stirring with a wooden spoon, until it softens slightly, 1 minute. Pour in 2/3 cup water and stir to loosen up any brown bits stuck to the bottom of the casserole. Bring mixture to a boil, then turn off the heat. Place steaks on top of liquid and onions and cover casserole. Bake steaks on center rack of preheated 300-degree oven until fork-tender and the liquid has thickened into a gravy, about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Serve steaks topped with onions. Makes 4 servings.

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