This one, provided it passed Health Department rules, would be in my kitchen. If you’re a college student or you KNOW a college student, it should be in your repertoire.
There’s a potentially tremendous amount of fun having a ‘hobo stew’ or ‘rock soup’ party. For those who haven’t played, the centerpiece is that everyone brings something – a veggie or some meat (and I’ve seen some fruits as well) – and it all gets tossed into the pot. It cooks for a LONG time while everyone entertains themselves, and then you have a meal that’s from everyone.
A hint, by the way. Ban canned pork and beans. I honestly do not know why, but it creates this nasty undertaste in both these dishes. I say that as someone who LIKES many canned pork and beans – even some others shudder at. (I am one of those sick fools who liked the MRE beans. yeah.) You can add liver – the taste melds and works. Apricots, kimchi and sauerkraut, all seem to work if there are enough other things to meld with. But not pork and beans. So why am I telling you this?
The perpetual stew. Get a large crockpot – I mean LARGE. Into that crockpot goes all your leftovers that are too small to save for a full serving tomorrow – or sometimes even if it IS a full serving. Every so often add water. Toss in bones from the chicken or pork chops you cut up – not the ones you gnawed upon, please, but raw or cooked. Just remember to fish them out in a day or two. Once a week or so, add a couple of tablespoons of vinegar.
Seasoning – herbs and spices, salt and pepper – wait till you dish out a serving.
It works. It’s a hot meal at the ready ANY TIME. It’s rich and flavorful but nothing stands out. After a week in the pot whatever it was becomes part of the enrichening porridge and the only chewy chunks are the recent additions. If you’ve got need, buy something for the pot. Leftover anything that you’d put into a stew gets added.
I had a period where this was either breakfast or the evening meal most of the week. Some bread on the side, some salt and pepper, and it was plenty. Because it got leftovers (and an occasional specific) the flavor always changed – just a bit, but it did. It was always good, it was always healthy, it was always hot and ready and it STILL beats most things I’d pop from a microwave.
If I ran my hypothetical restaurant this would be there. At the end of the day any soups that were a bit old and unworthy of saving as themselves would go in, and it’d go into the refrigerator. Chicken that needed to be cooked or gone – perhaps some slices that didn’t get cooked into chicken with rice – get tossed in as well; just to give you the idea. At opening it’d go onto a slow burner to continue simmering, with a check every so often for water.
And due to a philosophical opinion it would be the cheapest soup on the menu – the soup everyone can afford a cup of if need be. If it’s all you can afford, it’s what you need. Just a bit of everything plus some care that you can always count on.