Poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese. ~ CK Chesterton

Howdy Yall! It's time to lick your lips and drool as we discuss yummy vittles and Texas testaments to taste!

I hope you enjoy your time with us. Please be sure to drop by and leave a message or a hello. We want to know how to better serve you!

~Blue Zebra

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Mulligan Stew For Me, Please

Can you believe this individual breakfast serving, as large as it is, included 2 eggs, Mulligan Stew, a homemade English muffin, a huge serving of grits with real, unsalted butter and coffee and only cost $1.00 to make? It's true!

Eggs as most people know are an excellent way to stretch a food budget. Why do you think coffee houses are so successful? Everyone seems to adore breakfasts no matter the time of day, served as an eye-opener in the morning or late at night after a long evening spent dancing and partying with friends. It's a perfect way to start or end the day! With the mark-ups on breakfasts what they are, the coffee houses are making a fortune cooking it for us! Well, ok, maybe not a fortune but they are turning a tidy profit.

But ask any mom from circa 1950 and she will tell you that breakfast for dinner was one of the savvy ways to stretch a dollar when money was tight, especially towards the end of your pay period or month! I remember eating breakfast for dinner at least one time every week and sometimes more often! Figure that today a dozen eggs can cost as little as $0.79 cents/dozen. The fresh, brown farm eggs I use only cost me $1.40/doz at my farm stand, just $0.12 each! They pack a wallop of superior protein per egg and work great in so many dishes.

Mulligan Stew is a great dish to serve with or without eggs. The combinations of these ingredients and the cooking method may very well have other names in different states or even countries, but in my family it was called Mulligan Stew and it originated during the Great Depression which occurred after the big stock market crash in 1929. My mom's mom, we called her Gay, created this as a way to feed her growing family, having very meager food and money at her command.

The original recipe I am going to share with you stretched to serve 6 people: a mom, a dad and 4 growing children (3 girls and 1 hungry boy). She fed these 6 people on 3 strips of bacon, an onion and a can of tomatoes or tomato sauce (whichever she happened to have in her empty pantry).

Also, the original dish was served over toasted slices of your basic five cent loaf of sandwich bread and each person received two slices of toast with a bit of the Mulligan Stew topping the toast. No eggs were served. No grits graced the table. It was coffee (if they had enough money for it) or plain ole' water. I asked my mom how on earth this recipe fed 6 people and she replied, "The momma and the papa didn't get much to eat."

We had 5 kids in our family and until she died, our grandmother(Dad's mom, WaWa) lived with us, making it 8 people in a tiny cracker box house that kinda resembled the houses being built in the movie "It's a Wonderful Life", the typical 1950s style ranch houses on standard little lots. It's funny, but I remembered our house feeling big and the yard being "enormous" lol. To drive by it today, it is so small. I still don't see how we all lived so well within its comforting walls.

I digress, though. My mom used to make this recipe for us as children. It too was a way to make her budget stretch further than it had any right to stretch. I want to remember seeing this dish at the end of every month...but reality was that we probably saw it throughout the month! She never got tired of eating it. To this day, Mom still loves Mulligan Stew. Imagine feeding 5 children on about 3-4 slices of bacon, 10 slices of bread and a can of tomatoes!

Wow! It's so easy to forget how blessed we are and that right now, today, despite the economic prosperity most of us enjoy, there are people who are making "dishrag soup" out there, trying to feed their babies on a nickel or less per day. Not to be maudlin, I just find that it helps to keep things in perspective and keeps me counting my blessings and thanking God instead of whining about what I want and don't have...

So back to Mulligan Stew. I was feeling nostalgic and thought I would go ahead and reveal the dish that inspired the name for my blog. This is a wonderful dish, penny-wise or not. It can appear very basic and easy or it can take on an elegant slant, depending on how it's served and with what accompaniments. To me it embodies the flavors of the South. Forget about pouring off the fat, here. This dish was meant to let the fat help assuage hunger signals by giving a rich mouth feel and a satisfied tummy. It isn't greasy, believe me!

I hope you will try this recipe. It is so quick and easy to make and warms you up all over. It's basic comfort food! And for those of you who have never experienced Southern grits! They are a perfect butter delivery system.

Mulligan Stew
Serves 4 or 6 (in a pinch!)

3 Strips Bacon, cut up, raw
1 Large Onion, chopped coarsely
1 15-1/2 oz Can Tomato Sauce or
Chopped Tomatoes (I used chopped), with juice
1/4 - 1/2 tsp Granulated Garlic Powder, or
2-3 cloves Fresh Garlic, crushed -
(It depends on how garlicky you like it!!!)
1/2 can Water, measured in tomato can to rinse it out
Salt and Pepper to taste

Sautee the bacon on medium low until about 3/4 of the way done. You want to "sweat" out and render the fat, so you are looking for a slow cooking here in order to keep as much of the liquid in the pan as possible. Add chopped onion to bacon and grease in the pan and continue to saute over medium low until the onion is soft and translucent. You will actually cook the onion beyond the translucent stage and will cook it until the edges start to brown and caramelize. Add the can of tomato product with it's juices, along with the 1/2 can of water. Add the garlic and salt and pepper. Allow Mulligan Stew to simmer over medium to medium low heat until the sauce has thickened a bit, about 20-30 minutes. You still want it a bit on the soupy side, so that it will "go further" and feed more people! Taste at the end of cooking and adjust seasoning if necessary. Serve hot off of the stove!

Blue Zebra NOTE:
I like to serve this dish plain as it was originally intended to be served, over toast. But it makes an excellent brunch or breakfast dish (or dinner!) when served with eggs. Fried or poached, both preps work well from a taste perspective. It's also easy to poach the eggs right on top of the stew in the same saute pan. Simply crack your eggs on top of the stew (I like to make a little "egg indention" for each egg) and cover with the lid to the pan. Poach for 3-5 minutes or until whites are set and yolks are still lovely and runny. So rich! You'd forget you were penny-pinching with this recipe! Scoop the poached egg and stew out together and serve on top of toast or toasted English muffins as I did today.

For a low carb and more upscale alternative, serve the stew and poached egg over an artichoke bottom or a sauteed Portobello mushroom cap or on top of a "raft" of asparagus spears instead of the toast or muffin. Serve toast points on the side if you have the carbs to spare. Mmmmmm!

Mulligan Stew works great as a quick sauce for pasta or as a tomato based sauce over chicken, pork or fish or seafood (scallops, shrimp and crawdaddys are fabo-tastic). If you are going to use it as a sauce for meat or fish, simply season your meat/seafood with salt, pepper and granulated garlic powder (not garlic salt!!) and sear in a pan with a bit of oil or butter until it's brown on the outside but still raw inside. Transfer to the Mulligan Stew pan and let it simmer with the lid on for about 30 minutes or until the meat is done and the sauce is thickened.

Blue Zebra Cooking Technique Tip: Saute, Sear, Sweat
Sauteing, searing and sweating are three basic techniques of cooking. Doing each of these properly results in completely different taste elements to the same ingredient! Learn how to do each one well and the technique can be extended "laterally" - which means you can apply it to any number of different ingredients, preparation steps and recipes. It opens a whole new arena and repertoire of foods you can cook!

A "saute" generally tends to use a higher heat and a shorter period of time on the heat. The object is to let it cook undisturbed so that the side of the ingredient exposed to the pan surface will sear and get a caramelized crust. The purpose for this is because this browning builds flavor and complexity. The browning consists of sugar molecules and proteins actually caramelizing from the heat. Often, cooks look for the browned residue left in the bottom of most non-stick pans after the browning has been completed. This is called "the fond" and is particularly wonderful if the heat is moderated during sauteing so that you promote browning but avoid burning. The fond is usually deglazed, or released from the pan bottom by the use of a liquid addition and gentle scraping with a spatula. Once released, the liquid and browned bits are allowed to reduce and then seasoned and used as pan gravy or juice. With sauteing, you are generally looking for the food to be cooked and ready for plating.

A "sear" is done like a saute only much, much shorter time and maybe even a little higher heat. The objective of a sear is to caramelize the outside surface layers of an ingredient without cooking it throughout. With a sear, you want to seal the outter surface in order to protect the moisture inside of the ingredient. It effectively "seals" the substance, providing you don't pierce the seared surface. Usually 1-3 minutes per side, depending on the thickness of the ingredient is all that would be required to sear something over high heat in a heavy saute pan. The thicker and heavier a pan, the less likely something is to burn while searing and generally, the heat will be more even. Meats or fish and some shellfish are prime examples of items that would be seared in a pan prior to adding to a sauce or liquid to finish cooking or prior to putting into an oven to finish roasting.

A "sweat" is done at a lower temperature from a saute. The purpose of this technique is to soften the ingredients and break down the cell walls, releasing the sugars within the product but doing it without any browning. It not only keeps a sauce lighter in color, since there is no caramelization but there is also a more delicate flavor associated with this technique. You will usually see this technique applied most frequently with ingredients such as onions and garlic or mirapoix, a French word denoting the "French Trinity" or combination of onions, celery and carrots in varying degrees of "chop". The sweat is usually a first step in building complex flavors for soups, stews, braises and sauces of many types. You would rarely sweat a meat or protein, for example.


Dianne said...


I use to have a recipe for mulligan stew that consisted of tomato soup as an ingredient. I remember very little of it. Do you have a version of it or know anything about it? HELP I would love to have that recipe or anything you would know that is similar

Blue Zebra said...

Dianne your question got me doing research. It's so funny how insulated I am...lol as if my family is the only family with a Mulligan Stew recipe. :D What I found made even more sense to me. Googling led me to www.answers.com where it described the stew as being created in hobo camps during the early 1900's. The cook at the hobo camp was known as a Mulligan-mixer and the stew was a hodge-podge of any meats or veggies available to them.

My grandfather actually "went on the road" during the depression looking for work. Don't know if he "rode the rails" or not. Maybe that's where my grandmother got the recipe? Or maybe it was just through listening to the radio or to friends in that day...

I will ask my mom about your question. She did say that they made it with whatever kind of tomatoes they had on hand. I even wonder if you could make it from paste and water it down?

I would think that tomato soup would be something that would have been used if it was on hand. You could try this recipe made with soup. You might have to cook it down a bit more or else maybe even add a bit of corn starch.

Dianne said...


I am definately going to try your recipe for mulligan stew for Wednesday's Dinner. I want to continue being a member of the herd so please except my 1000 apologies... A thousand pardons. I love your interesting story on the origin of Mulligan stew. I mean it's somewhat a romantic notion to ride the rails and live by your wits. They use to make a stone soup.. the hobo's who rode the rails. I love history, fun stuff. :x

Blue Zebra said...

Gosh I hope you like it!!! Let me know, ok?! *Mwuah!!* You know half the fun of bein' a blue zebra is not havin' to be part of the herd of black and white animals! You get to be a zebra of your own color. It's more fun to run that way. ;)

Dianne said...

I'd like to be an orange zebra I figure I'll pick orange before anyone else does. Orange is great think about it... Naval oranges, orange creamcicles, orange tic tacs, orange soda (the best is stewarts orange soda AND orange soda is just oh so refreshing) the Denver Broncos are known as the orange crush and the best thing is nothing rhymes with orange, I'll be an ORANGE ZEBRA. It'll be a hoot to see what color zebra other's will choose and why. This is fun. Dianne is an orange zebra because nothing rhymes with orange. hahahahaha. Plus My favorite flavor is orange I have a great recipe for Orange Dreamsicle Cake, will post it tomorrow along with my recipe for challah bread AND if anyone can explain in layman's terms the proper way to bread it, I will be eternally greatful, show a real orange zebra bow to the (color?) zebra who posts it.

Blue Zebra said...

Orange it is then! :D And you shall be an orange zebra! Hahaha!

So tell me, what are we breading?

And both the challah bread and orange dreamsicle cake sound fantastic! Can't wait to get them. I might have to try making cupcakes out of it! :D Mmmmm cupcakes *think Homer's voice here* ...

kippercat said...

Hi Blue,

We wanted a light supper the other night, so I used half a loaf of multigrain bread to make a cheesy bread pudding. Wanting to recreate more of the flavor of your wondeful looking plate, I used plenty of eggs in the bread pudding. We topped it with the mulligan stew. Even my DH, who wants a sizable amount of meat with meals, was happy with it. Your version of Mulligan Stew is one I'll repeat. :D

Blue Zebra said...

Hi kipperkat!! Again, so sorry to miss you comment! I'm so thrilled that you tried one of my recipes. :D Wow! :D It's awesome isn't it? I'm always amazed at how significant it feels to eat it, especially when there's so little bacon/meat in it. It's like eating "magical air soup" right? But of course, your fantastic bread pudding (sounds divine btw!) would be a meal in itself :D!