Yes, there is a bit of advance preparation, but that will be at the grocery store, whenever you see some boneless chicken or pork on sale. (Bone-in meat can also be used; it just takes a little more prep. I'll be putting up another entry on making stock from bones in the next few weeks.)
While it would be possible to use this method with cubed beef, the cuts of beef that will remain tender with this approach are not usually very budget-friendly.
You can cube the meat before you freeze it or just wait until time to serve--in case you decide on a different way of preparing it.
You will also need to have the other two ingredients on hand: potatoes (which, for a really frugal cook, should almost always be in the pantry)
and a favorite oil and vinegar typed dressing.
I rarely buy purchased salad dressings, but I do like to keep one of the vinaigrettes in the refrigerator just for marinades. I prefer Costco's Kirkland Balsamic Vinaigrette, but choose whatever is your favorite, whenever it is on sale.
You may also want a little olive or canola oil and added salt or other seasonings to fit your tastes, but these too should be staples that will be readily at hand. Because many prepared dressings are already quite high in salt, be cautious about adding more until you taste the finished product.
One thing to keep in mind: most prepared dressings will have some sweetener in them, and in fact this will help finish with a nicely browned and caramelized dish. However, you do need to keep the heat low enough that the browning doesn't turn into blackening--this isn't a "blackened" Cajun kind of meal! Medium to medium high heat should be just fine.
With these basic ingredients, you are ready to make a main dish that will be faster than you might imagine, with a relatively low cost if you watch for sales on the meat. The key is to keep the vegetable and meat pieces not too large so that cooking can proceed quickly. Using enough dressing for the marinade will avoid drying out the meat in the short time you will be cooking it.
...and that's it. The flavors of old-fashioned pot roast with roasted potatoes in a fraction of the time.
Meat and Potatoes Main Dish in Minutes
Per person to be served:
4 oz boneless chicken or pork, cut in about 1 inch cubes
purchased oil and vinegar style dressing
1 medium potato, scrubbed but not peeled,
olive or canola oil (optional)
added salt or other seasonings, to taste
1. Place the chicken or pork in a small bowl or plastic bag and pour over just enough dressing to cover. Stir thoroughly to be sure every cube is covered. Set aside for about 15 to 20 minutes, while preparing the potatoes and any other sides you may be making. (If you need to marinate the meat longer, you should return it to the refrigerator.)
2. Pour any excess marinade from the meat into a large enough pan so that the meat can be spread in a single layer. Don't try to use too small a pan, as that will lengthen the time needed to prepare the food and will reduce the browning.
If there is very little marinade available, add a little oil to just cover the bottom of the pan. Heat on medium high for a few minutes, until the marinade/oil barely begins to sizzle.
3. Spread the meat cubes evenly across the pan and allow to cook, uncovered, for about 5 to 7 minutes, until the bottom side of each is well-browned. Stir to brown all sides of the meat.
4. Meanwhile, cut the potatoes into thick slices (about 1/2 inch thick). Spread the potato slices across the pan and stir them in so that they are all coated with the browning marinade. If necessary, add a tablespoon or so of water to be sure all the meat and potatoes are being steeped in the pan juices--just don't add too much. You want to keep the mixture sauteeing, not poaching!
5. Cover the pan and continue to cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Turn the potatoes and continue to cook another 6 to 8 minutes, until the potatoes are just tender. Taste for seasonings and serve.
Cut carrots into 1 inch chunks--or use baby carrots--and add those with the potatoes. Onions, garlic, and/or celery could also be cut coarsely and added with the potatoes.
The per serving cost of the dish can be cut further by increasing the proportion of potatoes to meat.
Frozen vegetables--broccoli, peas, corn, etc.--can be added. Cook the meat and potatoes until just done and then add the frozen vegetables (no reason to thaw), cover the pan, and continue cooking for another 5 minutes or so, until the entire mixture has returned to full heat.