Back to school with student's ragout

Summer has really just started and already we're overwhelmed with back-to-school ads and displays.

I'm old enough to remember that getting ready for school didn't happen until August and school, even college, didn't start until after Labor Day.

But I may as well go with the flow. Today, I'm sharing an old recipe my mother made often.

As often as she made it, I asked the question, "Why do you call it student's ragout?"

Her answer was something like, "Well, it's made from inexpensive ingredients, what students can afford. It only takes one pan, and it can just sit simmering on the stove while you're studying."

Hmmm. I often wondered if she made that up.

This really is more of a peasant dish in my book cheap ingredients slowly cooked. It is an easy and filling dish and fills the house with a wonderful aroma.

That's exactly what happened when I recently cooked this at home.

My husband came into the house after mowing between the raindrops and said, "Mmmm. Something sure smells good."

When I told him it was student's ragout, he, of course, asked the same question I did as a child. I gave him the same answer my mother did. I think he bought it.

The most plausible explanation for the name is that this recipe supposedly was created by French students who needed a cheap, easy, and flexible meal they could make for themselves on a budget.

The only thing that's not easy about this dish is the chopping. Even clean-up is easy.

The only thing missing from this dish is a bit of green. A sprinkling of fresh parsley would fix that, but I don't suppose French students had time for that.

Student's ragout

Makes 4 to 6 servings

4 slices bacon

1 pound round steak, flank steak, or cube steak cut into bite-sized pieces

1 medium onion

4-6 medium potatoes

2-3 carrots

Sage, salt, and pepper to taste

Layer the bacon in large deep frying pan. Then add layers in the following order, lightly seasoning each layer with salt and pepper as you go: meat, potatoes carrot and onion.

Cover and cook on medium high heat until you hear the bacon sizzle. Then, remove the lid, add enough water to come just about level with the potatoes, reduce the heat to a simmer. Simmer for 40 to 45 minutes. You may need to add more water.n

(Wolbert is a former corporate communicator and English teacher, now indulging in her two loves, writing and cooking. She can be reached at or at her Sprigs of Rosemary Facebook page.)