Monday, December 22, 2008

American Chop Suey and a Tale of Two Dinners

This weekend, I made a pair of vastly different meals: Pork Shoulder with Guinness, Dried Cherries, and Sweet Potatoes from Daniel Boulud’s 2006 Braise cookbook, and American Chop Suey, from my favorite long-defunct food blog, Words to Eat By.

The first dish took more than five hours and ran about $20, while other was finished in 45 minutes and cost a little over $5. Both were tasty and satisfyingly filling – perfect comfort foods for -47°F. Alas, only one will make frequent repeat performances, and it ain’t the dinner with 14 ingredients, all found in different stores (a.k.a. the pork thingie).

Don’t get me wrong, I really liked Boulud’s recipe. It WAS delicious. Plus, I got to sear, sautĂ©, braise, and marinate, and didn’t burn myself beyond recognition during the Brown Pork in Very Hot Oil portion of the program. Sadly, it’s a once-in-awhile kinda dish, as the expense and ingredient list are too prohibitive for regular appearances.

American Chop Suey, on the other hand … this is going into rotation. Essentially macaroni and ground turkey (with a cup of vegetables thrown in for posterity), it’s not rocket science. But I LIKED IT. And it’s got crazy potential, too. Like:

Add Whatever You Have Lying Around the Fridge Potential: good
Double the Recipe and Portion it Out for Lunch Potential: very good
Leftover Potential: excellent.
“Will My Kids Like It?” Potential: off the charts

Though it does fall short in other areas:

Freezer Potential: not so much
Crockpot Potential: *vomits on office chair*

All in all, it’s a keeper, and I highly suggest it for a weeknight meal. For the holidays, go with the Pork Shoulder, though. If you have the time, cash, and pure brute strength, I can definitely e-mail you the recipe.

American Chop Suey
Makes 5 nice-sized servings
Adapted from Words to Eat By

1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
1 ½ lbs ground turkey
½ lb (2 c.) uncooked elbow macaroni
½ cup minced onion
½ cup chopped red bell pepper or celery (or pepper AND celery – Kris)
2 8-oz cans tomato sauce
1 cup water
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teapsoon pepper
1-1 ½ tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1) In a large nonstick skillet or saute pan, heat 1/2 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat. Add turkey. Cook until browned, breaking it up with the back of a spoon as you go. Remove turkey and place on plate or in bowl for time being.

2) Wipe the pan with a paper towel to get some of the grease out. Add remaining 1/2 tablespoon olive oil and heat over medium-high heat. Add macaroni, onion, pepper, and celery (if having). Cook for 5 or 6 minutes, until onion is soft and a little translucent, stirring occasionally. Add meat back into pan. Stir.

3) Add tomato sauce, water, salt, pepper, and Worcestershire sauce. Stir everything and cover pan. Drop heat to medium-low and simmer about 20 or 25 minutes.Voila!

Approximate Calories, Fat, and Price Per Serving
427 calories, 13.4 g fat, $1.09

1 tablespoon olive oil: 139 calories, 13.5 g fat, $0.12
1 ½ lbs ground turkey: 960 calories, 48 g fat, $3.73
½ lb (2 c.) uncooked elbow macaroni: 811 calories, 4.1 g fat, $0.33
½ cup minced onion: 34 calories, 0.1 g fat, $0.12
½ cup chopped red bell pepper or celery (or pepper AND celery – Kris): 14 calories, 0.1 g fat, $0.39
2 8-oz cans tomato sauce: 173 calories, 1 g fat, $0.50
1 cup water: negligible calories and fat, FREE
1 teaspoon salt: negligible calories and fat, $0.01
¼ teapsoon pepper: negligible calories and fat, $0.01
1-1 ½ tablespoon Worcestershire sauce: 5 calories, 0 g fat, $0.22
TOTAL: 2136 calories, 66.8 g fat, $5.43
PER SERVING (TOTAL/5): 427 calories, 13.4 g fat, $1.09

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Julie said...

American Chop Suey??? This looks suspiciously like what we all called "Johnny Mazzerati" when I was growing up.

Anonymous said...

I will definitely try the American Chop Suey, but send me the pork thingie too. It's been pre-tested, so I might not mind the ingredients and cost if it's guaranteed to turn out delicious. Many thanks. Love the blog.

Anonymous said...

Growning up, my family called this goulash. But whatever name you choose, it's very tasty.

Pam said...

"Johnny Mazzerati"? " American Chop Suey"? Clearly this is the "Skillet Mac and Beef" of my childhood, gussied up with ground turkey instead of hamburger!

Stephanie said...

Goulash is what we call it too. We like to add pepperoni and mozzarella cheese. Probably not the healthiest additions, but YUMMY!

AJP said...

Chop suey was invented in America...but anyway, we ate the same thing growing up, but it was called "More!" as in, you eat it, and then you want some more! I haven't eaten it since I was a kid--brings back memories!

CJ said...

In our house we called that American goulash or skillet spaghetti. Our American chop suey had chop suey vegetables in it.

Funny how different families make up funny names for their dishes.

Either way, it looks yummy!

Anonymous said...

I grew up eating this and we also called it goulash. The only difference is that my mom would add cheddar cheese. Mmmmmmmm

debbie said...

Hey thanks for the shoutout! American Chop Suey is the New England name for it, I believe--I've seen it on menus all over Maine, and my mom's originally from Boston so that would explain my childhood dinners...

And I'm proud to say that your favorite long-defunct food blog is now back in action.

Kris said...

AUGH! Debbie! That's fantastic! I'm so happy you're back. It's the second-best news of the day! (Tuesday, 1/20)

Anonymous said...

I tried it. I think the Worcestershire made the meal taste a lot stranger than it needed too. though this ingredient is in some of the American Chop Suey recipes I think it takes away from the tomato flavor rather than enhancing it. As far as the cost base for the ingredients--I think the cost for the meat, onion and pepper were estimated at much less than I paid. In actuality I probably paid around 10 dollars for the ingredients. Overall, I won't try the recipe again and we are throwing the left overs away. Sorry but I had to be honest.

Kris said...

Hi Anon - thanks for writing, and for trying it. Totally understood that it wasn't to your taste.

I'm curious, though: what kind of onion and pepper did you buy? Those ingredients shouldn't be much more than two bucks, wherever you are in the U.S. (Again, just asking). Thanks!

Anonymous said...

We call it chop suey, but I have always used beef, but my recipe is different. Mine consists of:

Egg noodles
2-3large cans of whole tomatoes
sharp cheddar cheese

My kids love it, it is quick cheap and easy, and it lasts a few meals.

jteters_2000 said...

Each family's version is for sure different in a little way. We brown about a pound of ground beef with chopped onion, drain any grease, add 1 can of tomato soup along with 1/2 can of water . Simmer for about 5 minutes. Add cooked macaroni (enough for 4) Grated cheddar could be added or diced American cheese or even a half packet of cheese powder. I have a feeling this is how Hamburger Helper got started.

Anonymous said...

Making this for the second time in 2 weeks – what does that say about its deliciousness? The BEST leftover lunch as well, got lots of attention when I brought it out for lunch at work - "that smells AMAZING!". Thanks to the SA Goons who put me onto this.

Anonymous said...

I grew up in Maine from a French Canadian background and American Chop Suey and goulash were totally different dishes. The goulash my grandmother made was more of a soup or chilli, I believe of eastern European origin, and did not have noodles or pasta. It was very tomato and pepper based with beans, onions and ground beef in it. While the American Chop Suey was more of a simplified Italian dish, a ground beef and tomato sauce akin to a bolognese, with elbow macaroni.

Anonymous said...

Made this last night! Was delicious!
Increased the ingredient amounts by about 50% to serve a family of four and had to use Soy Sauce instead of Worcestershire but it still turned out great.
Thanks for the recipe. :D

Aj Simmons said...

this was delicious!!