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What’s For Dinner?

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The weather sure has changed swiftly here. Last Saturday at the alpaca farm it felt like summer. By Sunday it felt like fall. And when the weather turns cooler I start making supper again. See, in the summer it’s all about the grill. Grilled chicken, steak, pork chops, even veggies. Everything gets thrown on the grill. But in the fall, it’s all about comfort food. Pot roast and mashed potatoes. Roast pork and oven browned potatoes. Lasagna and chili and beef stew. And my old stand-by, American Chop Suey.


I didn’t realize until last week that American Chop Suey is a regional food and it is apparently most familiar in the Boston area. But when I mentioned to Anne that I had a hankering for it and she asked me what the heck it was, I discovered that it isn’t widely known outside of New England. Anyway, we had it for dinner last night. It’s what I make when I don’t know what to make because I always have the ingredients on hand. Hamburger, macaroni, chopped onion, tomato soup and stewed tomatoes. Green pepper is nice if it’s around but if you don’t have it, that’s okay, too. Fry up the hamburger and onion, boil the macaroni and the dump it all into a pot with the tomato soup and stewed tomatoes. I think most people actually use tomato sauce but my mom always used tomato soup and so do I.

And you know what? My family loves this meal! It’s quick, it’s simple and it’s even better as leftovers.

What’s your standby recipe for when you don’t know what to make for dinner? I’d love to hear about it.

This Post Has 76 Comments

  1. American Chop Suey— makes me think of the days of football practice and cheerleading— my mom kept it “on the (stove)top” so whoever was in the house could just “heat and eat”. I love this dish,but Dan hates it. So, our standby?

    1. steak and “goop” (goop: ff italian dressing and mushrooms and peppers and onion, all boiled together and poured over the steak)
    2. guiness beef stew and Brown Bread… now, you are a real bostonian if you have eaten Brown Bread and baked beans. 🙂
    🙂 Kate

  2. We always called that dish goulash too. I had some at summer camp one year that was just awful and haven’t been able to eat it since; I should try again.

    My standbys are black bean soup (saute an onion, add three cans of drained black beans that have been blended with 2 cups chicken broth, a can of green chilis, 2 small or 1 large can of diced tomatoes, and about 2 teaspoons cumin. Simmer for 10 minutes and serve with cheese, tortilla chips, avocado, sour cream, and a squeeze of lime juice.) and various chicken and rice dishes; I always have chicken breasts in the freezer.

  3. Can you imagine? People NOT knowing what american chop suey is? It seems so wrong!
    People around here sure love their food!

  4. We make American Chop Suey too! I never realized it was a “New England” thing either. And I noticed in the picture (yum) it’s not just ANY macaroni, it must be elbows……always elbows. My mother always added mushrooms (never green peppers because we didn’t like them). Thanks for the idea for dinner tonight, I was going to make Sloppy Joes but will now make Chop Suey.

  5. my stand by dinner when there’s NOTHING going on is fried eggs and white rice. i think it’s a hispanic thing, but i love it. also any time i can eat “breakfast” foods for dinner… well sign me up! Hope to see you at Rheinback!

  6. I make something like American Chop suey, but at my house it’s called “Pot of Gold”. Everything from your recipe is the same except, omit the stewed tomatoes, add one can of cream style corn, one small can of sliced olives & about a cup of grated cheese. MMMMMM

  7. What you call American Chop Suey, my brother learned as a Cub Scout but called African Goulash.

    My favorite “go to” meal in the Spring/Summer/Fall is Sausage Glop

    Brown one pound of bulk sausage (your favorite kind), pour off most of the grease. Add whatever fresh veggies you have on hand: onions,corn, peppers, zucchini. At the last minute add fresh diced tomatoes. Takes 15 minutes tops.

    Can’t think of anything to cook? Take ONE large ovenproof bowl. Add ONE cup of RAW macaroni and ONE tablespoon of butter/margarine. Heat in microwave until butter melts and stir to coat macaroni (don’t skip this step). Add THREE cups of milk and as much packaged grated cheese as you want – it should be just visible under the surface of the milk. You can also add a can of corn or a can of green chile if you have it. But it in the oven and bake for about an hour. That’s it. ONE bowl, ONE spoon.

  8. That’s goulash where I’m from too. My mom put a smidge of brown sugar in it. Mmmmm. I’ve been thinking of comfort cooking myself, except my evenings and weekends have been mercilessly busy. Grrrr. Have you tried La’s drunken bovine stew? That’s next on my list, if I can just keep a bottle of red in the house long enough…..

  9. Oh Lord! I used to cry as soon as I saw my New England mother assembling Chop Suey…eewww! LOL.

    I had no idea that eveyone didn’t know what CS was. Even though it is not one of my favorites as an adult, I do make it for my kids and guess what……they like it…haha!

  10. Oh I love that stuff, my mum makes a mean pot of American Chop Suey… and I didn’t know it wasn’t known outside of NE until I loved out west, and no one knew what I was talking about it, but they sure love it… I even have my mil (born and bred in L.A.) making my mother’s recipe… ah comfort food

  11. In Vermont we call it “goulash” and I never had it until I met my husband.

    Last night I made chicken stew with dumplings. And apple pie for dessert, of course. Can you say “comfort food”?

  12. Oh, not with the American Chop Suey argument again! Sandy went through this last year. It’s fucking GOULASH in the rest of the world. Don’t say “New England.” It’s Southern New Hampshire and parts of Massachusetts only, as far as I can tell. Heehee. American Chop Suey. PLEASE. (LOL)

  13. Scott’s grandmother used to make that for us. I didn’t realize it was a regional thing, but I had also never had it before.

    These days we grab a Freschettas pizza and stick it in the oven. But when I’m actually cooking, Japanese chicken curry is my standby. Easy and yummy, with plenty for leftovers.

  14. I sometimes make a similar dish, but I don’t always use tomato soup. I use cream of mushroom, or cream of celery sometimes. I also use different kinds of pasta, or do a half and half mixture of pasta and white rice. I add water to the dish so the raw pasta and rice cook in the soup mixture. And if I don’t have hamburger I might use chopped ham or leftover cooked chicken. I think of it as the Day Before Payday dish, as it’s cheap and easy when you’re broke and need to feel like you’re not starving.

    I get tired of thinking of dinner meals, so I have been know to resort to pancakes, or even just scones and tea.

  15. My husband is from Iowa and they had a goulash. I had never heard of it. He uses spagetti instead of macaroni, some kind of bean, kidney,etc. I knew I’d made it when I could fix it as good as his mama!

  16. Yum. I’ll have to try this recipe. I have a similiar recipe that is my stand-by, but I call it goulash. You add velveeta cheese and some chili powder, but everything else is the same.

  17. So funny the way things in this extremely mobile, mixed country can still stay so completely regional. Here in southeastern New England (Fall River, specifically), chow mein sandwiches are a big thing. (I have to say there’s a good reason, in my opinion, that they never caught on elsewhere.)

  18. My Mom use to make the best! My oldest daughter renamed the meal to “Grammaa’s Stuff”. The name has stuck. Even I have managed to make “Stuff” come out pretty tastey. (Surprising since “I don’t cook” and when I do the family has the poison control number close at hand)
    Thanks for the memories!

  19. Hi Carole, I just discovered your blog!

    I have heard of American chop suey, but never actually seen it in person or knew what it was. It looks yummy! I will make chili a lot, and if I have the time I make these parmesan bread bowls to go with it. The recipe for the bread bowls comes from one of those checkout-aisle Betty Crocker cookbooks, the paper-back kind, and it is GOOD! Then I usually combine the leftover chili with cooked macaroni and some tomato juice or sauce (just enough to water it down slightly) and serve it with cheddar cheese on top a few nights later. Chili mac, delicious.

    I’m the same way about comfort foods in the fall and winter. I’m more about soup, though. I have a mean collection of soups in my repertoire.

  20. I’m from Ohio and it’s called goulash there…or as mom called used to call it: “shit on the shingle”. Don’t ask why…I have no idea. One of my ol’ standby dishes consist of adding cooked medium shells to one large can of boiling tomato juice, then removing it from the heat and topping it off with 8 0z of cubed cheddar cheese. Mix through and let stand for about five minutes or the cheese is melted—Don’t stir!!!
    Best comfort food on the planet!!

  21. My best friend had a grandmother, who was born & raised in Maine, made American Chop Suey all the time! We just thought it was her grandmother’s made up creation. Who knew that other make it too?

    She (my bf) introduced it to me while we were still in high school many (cough, cough) years ago. Although, I must admit, we cheat and use chunky spaghetti sauce in placed of the soup & stewed tomatoes.

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