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My Dad’s Beef-and-Yogurt Casserole

As we settle into the long, cold, dark days that come with the final slog through winter, we — your pals from The Hairpin and The Awl — will be bringing you some of our favorite casserole recipes (and crockery recommendations).

I used to be a vegan. And you know how you read ANYTHING about vegans, and people say “oh, this vegan I know was such a dick about it,” and then the vegans all write in and say “I’m not like that at all, and I don’t know anyone who is,” and it’s extremely predictable? Well, I was totally that vegan-who-was-a-dick-about-it, and I’m willing to believe that I am responsible for all the bad vegan PR out there in the world. I’m no longer a vegan; I just stopped caring. It’s not that I don’t think it’s more ethical, or anything. You go, vegans!

Anyway, I’ve been doing this half-assed Paleo-Primal thing for the last few years, and it’s been working for me just fine, and I was both a combative, surly vegan AND a lazy, pastafarian vegan, so I am certainly in far better health now than I was then, right down to the cold, wet nose and glossy coat. The important thing, obviously, is to have a rigid eating style and to be very vocal and pushy about it, right?

The great thing about this recipe is the number of easy hacks you can make to suit various obnoxious lifestyles.

There’s Carnivore Version, Lazy Carnivore Version, Omnivore Version (this is the one that’s REALLY more like a casserole), Vegetarian Version, and they are all…oh, God, you guys, it smells so good. It’s unbelievably fragrant and juicy and rewarding and easy, and perfect served over buttery basmati rice. I know it sounds weird, but it’s absolutely delicious. I’ll share Carnivore Version in its entirety, and just tell you what to do to shake it up, okay? It’s about twenty minutes of active labor, then four hours of cooking time.

Ingredients:

2.5 lbs stewing beef (don’t do this at the last minute like I did, resulting in heavily-discounted about-to-expire factory-beef)
One 32 oz tub of plain, full-fat yogurt (sometimes vanilla yogurt LOOKS like the plain container, and that would be … disgusting, so be careful)
3 T oil (vegetable oil is best, I used a olive oil/canola blend, pure olive oil is not a great choice, ghee works too!)
1.5 tsp salt
1 tsp cayenne pepper
2-3 tsp black pepper (it sounds like a lot, but it’s fantastic in this)
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
0.5 tsp powdered ginger (don’t go buy it if you don’t have it, it’s not mandatory)
1 T tomato paste (try to buy the tubes, because otherwise you wind up tossing the rest of the little can after it eventually moulders in your fridge)
One or two yellow onions, coarsely chopped

Equipment:

If you have an oven-safe saucepan with a lid, great. A cast-iron Dutch oven is perfect, too. If you have neither of these things, do your browning and sauteeing in any kind of pan, then transfer to a big ovenproof pot with a lid and add the yogurt, etc.
Tongs or a spatula.
Cutting board
A large plate
Aluminum foil
Oven mitts (a strong shout-out here for the Ove-Glove)

What You Do:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

In your saucepan or Dutch oven, heat a tablespoon of oil over medium heat. Using the tongs, brown the beef in batches, adding more oil as needed. Set the browned beef on a plate. Add the onion to the saucepan, saute for about five minutes. Return the beef to the saucepan. Add all other ingredients, stir. Let the mixture come to a simmer. Cover tightly with a sheet of aluminum foil, and then the lid. Transfer to your preheated oven.

After three hours hours, check on it, and if it seems a little dry, add a cup of boiling water and replace lid.

Cook for at least an additional hour. EAT THE HELL OUT OF IT. There was supposed to be a picture of the finished product, but, um, I ate the hell out of it and that didn’t wind up happening. It doesn’t look nice anyway.

NOW FOR THE HACKS:

Lazy Carnivore – don’t bother browning the beef, use minced garlic from a jar.
Omnivore – sub out half the beef for a head of cauliflower broken into florets, and don’t add the cauliflower until after the first hour or so of cooking.
Vegetarian – skip the beef entirely, use two heads of cauliflower, total cooking time goes down to two hours.

Credit goes to my stay-at-home dad, who made my little brother and I into those obnoxious kids who preferred his homemade samosas to all the Kraft Dinner* in the world.

*Even with really expensive ketchups, like, dijon ketchup.

Previously: Veggie Moussaka With Puy Lentils.

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