Hangry waits for no one. Especially not Kendra Vaculin, our associate food editor. In Speedy Does It, her monthly column, she’s sharing whoa-worthy dinners you can get on the table like *snaps fingers* that.
Julie & Julia came out the August after I graduated high school, weeks before I left for college. On one of our last weekends together before we moved away from home (and each other), my best friend Mairead and I went to see it. Immediately upon exiting the theater, we decided to make bœuf bourguignon.
The defining characteristic of any beef stew—and certainly of Julia Child’s famed recipe—is that it takes forever, which Julia & Julia made sure to express. In the movie, after food blogger Julie Powell (played by Amy Adams) slides a bubbling, wine-filled pot into her oven, the camera focuses in on her kitchen timer as she beeps the number up higher and higher.
“How long does it take to cook?” the disembodied voice of Powell’s husband, Eric Powell (Chris Messina) asks. And with overwhelmed reverence, Amy breathes the answer: “Two. And a half. Hours.”
We said the same thing after locating my mom’s copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking at my house. “Two? And a half? Hours?” It was already 7 p.m. We hadn’t even gone to the grocery store. My mother gently intervened, suggesting we tackle something else from the book—something a little more achievable for two people who had done no planning whatsoever and were not (despite my current profession) all that adept in the kitchen. We settled on ratatouille and a breadcrumb-topped tomato situation, the photos of which mark some of the earliest instances of my longest enduring hobby: taking pictures of what I eat. We were extremely proud.
This is all to say: If two 18-year-old idiots with literally no responsibilities don’t have time to make beef stew, you absolutely do not either. You have things to do! You, an adult, are busy. For the comfort of a pot of tender beef, creamy potatoes, and a red wine–spiked broth, you are going to need to look elsewhere. And in this case, elsewhere is a beef stew–inspired meatball soup.
For something that takes just one hour from start to finish, this soup has surprising depth, and a coziness factor that rivals your favorite knit blanket. By using hand-torn mushrooms and frozen pearl onions that turn sweet as you simmer, your prep work is minimal. Simple meatballs with earthy thyme stand in for long-braised beef chuck, which means you retain the same delight of breaking large pieces into smaller bites as you eat.
It’s soup with the hardiness of stew for a fraction of the labor, which makes it weeknight-friendly and, in a nice twist of fate, achievable for someone who has done minimal planning. My recommendation is to serve it with crusty bread and the rest of the wine from the bottle, with Julie & Julia on TV—because it’s nice to watch someone else toil away in the kitchen, especially if you don’t have to.