At 7:18 this evening, I will have been a mother for exactly 25 years.

My 11-pound, 1-ounce bouncing baby boy arrived pretty darn hungry that evening and has had a seemingly hollow leg since. When we brought Owen to his first home, though, he didn’t notice it had no kitchen. It was a three-room suite in a Harvard University residential hall where his parents served as tutors (in exchange for no rent and unlimited dining hall food) while his dad wrote a dissertation and his mom waffled on returning to work as a tech journalist covering Microsoft Corp.’s push to dominate a newly networked world.

By the time he was taking solid foods four months later, we’d upgraded suites. Still just three rooms, but this living room accommodated a bank of kitchen cabinets and an apartment-sized refrigerator. The counterspace and a power strip glued to the wall supported a bread maker, toaster, microwave oven and hot plate. The kitchen sink, squeezed between the shower stall and a hand-washing sink, sat about 5 feet from the bathroom toilet. A drop-leaf table from K-Mart backed up against a pull-out couch equipped for visiting grandparents.

I went back to work, eventually. And I packed daycare lunches and made dinners when I arrived home too late to hit the dining hall. At the time, it felt like survival mode, but in the soft light of my now empty nest, I think that is when and where I started to learn to cook sustainably, even if that’s not how I framed it.

To be clear, I am talking about just the cooking part of sustainability. I didn’t cotton on to sourcing ingredients sustainably until we moved out of the city and into central Pennsylvania circa 2000, where farm stands dotted all four roads leading out of town. Back in that makeshift kitchen corner of the living room in Cambridge, my meal prep was mean, lean and clean out of necessity, but in retrospect, it was also green in several ways.

All meals (excepting Bolognese sauce, which was a weekend project) followed three simple rules.


1. They used just a single cooking vessel because I had just one burner at my disposal. I’ve since come to understand that cooking in one pot also means you don’t waste water on washing up.

2. Cooking time peaked at 30 minutes because the kid had a firm 7:30 bedtime. From a green point of view, a quick cook time means less fossil fuel.

3. Leftovers were required. All three members of this little family carried packed lunches. Packing them straight from the cooking vessel at night helped ensure that we got out the door on time in the morning and also meant we wasted less food.

The meal I cooked most in that kitchen was steamed broccoli and cheesy scrambled eggs because Owen liked to eat that most days. I’d steam a frying pan full of bite-sized broccoli crowns dry, meaning I’d add a 1/2 cup of water and cover the pan with a glass lid until I could see that the crowns were bright green and then remove the lid, so the water evaporated. I’d pull out half of the broccoli to cool to be used later as a snack with hummus and add a couple of whisked eggs to the pan to scramble around the broccoli, and then I’d sprinkle grated cheese on top.

There were lots of chicken noodle dishes made from boxed broth, rotisserie chicken pickings, julienned vegetables and quick-cooking frozen tortellini. And beef and vegetable stir-fry was always an option when we had rice leftover from a weekend splurge on take-away Indian food.

But stews, a one-pot wonder dish for eons, always fell short because I lacked the one thing these traditional low and slow dishes require: time. Time to tenderize whatever meat I was using. Time for the flavors to meld. Time for the sauce to reduce to coat the ingredients rather than drown them.


So I taught myself a few tricks to making a quicker stew.

First, starting with a flavorful fat (bacon fat, sesame oil, browned butter) adds depth to a 30-minute stew. Second, sausage is the best protein for a quick one-pot meal. I brown it in the flavored fat, remove it from the pan and add it back for the last 10 minutes of cooking. Onion and a few garlic cloves go in next. Just sweat those a bit before you add a couple tablespoons of flour. The flour combines with the fat to eventually thicken the liquid so that it smoothly coats the onions.

Next, a half cup of white wine or dark beer (the alcohol will cook off) and a teaspoon of mustard (I prefer brown to Dijon for this job) added to the roux-covered alliums will elevate the flavor. Layer 1/4-inch slices of white and sweet potatoes (these are necessary for a rounded flavor and pretty color) and fill the gaps around them with beef broth, because chicken is a little wimpy for this job. Add a bouquet of thyme, lay the par-cooked sausages on top, cover and simmer until the potatoes are tender. If you like, add a cup of frozen peas for the last few minutes for a bit of green color.

I don’t typically add peas because I think making a flavorful stew, in one pot, in 30 minutes or less is already a pretty green proposition.

Happy Birthday, Owen! I hope you’re celebrating with a good meal made with local and seasonal ingredients.

Place the browned sausages over the potatoes to finish cooking the Dublin coddle. Photo by Christine Burns Rudalevige

Green Eating Dublin Coddle


Dublin Coddle is a traditional Irish potato and sausage stew that cooks slowly in the oven. I’ve employed a few green-cooking tricks to get this on the table in 30 minutes.

Serve 2 (with plenty of leftovers)

2 ounces of fatty bacon ends, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
4 local pork sausages
2 cups sliced yellow onion
6 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon brown mustard
1 cup dark beer
3 medium potatoes, sliced into 1/2-inch rounds
2 small sweet potatoes, sliced into 1/2-inch rounds
3 to 4 cups beef broth
6 thyme sprigs, tied together with kitchen twine
Thyme leaves, for garnish

In a heavy Dutch oven over medium heat, add the bacon pieces and cook until the fat renders out and the pieces crisp up, 3-4 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer bacon bits to a flattened paper bag to drain. Place the sausages into the fat in the pan and brown them on 2 sides. Transfer those to the paper bag as well.

Add the onions and garlic to the pot, and turn the heat to medium high. Stir to coat them in fat. Cook until they soften slightly, about 2 minutes. Stir in the flour, and cook, stirring continuously for 1 minute. Add beer and mustard, stirring constantly. Layer in potatoes. Add broth so that the potatoes are just covered. Add a bundle of thyme, and place par-cooked sausages on top. Cover and cook until the potatoes are tender and the sausages are cooked through, 10-12 minutes.

Serve the stew in warm bowls, garnished with the reserved crispy bacon and thyme leaves.

Local foods advocate Christine Burns Rudalevige is the editor of Edible Maine magazine and the author of “Green Plate Special,” both a column about eating sustainably in the Portland Press Herald and the name of her 2017 cookbook. She can be contacted at:

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