Please and welcome to read my story of Great American Hero!
Over here at my other website, GalacticMu. Bring your friends.
Please and welcome to read my story of Great American Hero!
Over here at my other website, GalacticMu. Bring your friends.
Blerd, this was a super-tasty dinner last night and today I feel like I ate a bucket of lard. I think I’m going on a low-fat diet for a few days to try and work that shit out.
Basically it’s a Southern classic, lightly fancified: shrimp and grits. The shrimp is cooked fast in a red pepper and cream sauce, which tastes divine and despite having the fat-free delights of the shrimp is still made with heavy cream. I should have just made a thickened milk gravy, instead.
The entire time I made the dinner I listened to my next door neighbors that live across the alley, Cerise and her mother, Mom. I have never seen them (there is a large, robust bush that covers their kitchen window) but I hear them. Every night. Cerise is, I guesstimate, about 14 years old and has the lungs of an elephant. She sings. And loves the sound of her own voice. And Top 40 hits, or at least about fifteen seconds of them. She also often goes into ADD-like fits of random sound-making, and lest you think I jest, I assure you: it’s like a parrot on a cocktail of LSD and industrial-grade amphetamines. For a long time I wondered how Mom (whom I have only ever heard referred to in drawn-out “MOOOOOOOOOOOOM!” shrieks) dealt with the relentless, cacophonous sound, but then Mom began to warble too and I realized that it was a family affair.
Anyway, they loudly discuss everything from dates to dinner, and often as not its like having a television on in the other room in that I’m oddly entranced clearly missing out on large chunks of the story.
I took my time chopping the peppers for the sauce, taking photos as I went, listening to Cerise and Mom’s back-and-forth. It was when Mom yelled out “CERISE! You want more gravy?” that my ears perked. Gravy. Gravy is delicious.
Cerise entered the kitchen, preceded by a series of ultrasonic chirps and clicks. “What kind of fish is this?” she asked. Wait a second, fish? Fish and gravy? Damn, this is my kind of family.
Fatty McFatterson Shrimp and Grits
Very, very loosely adapted from A Yankee in a Southern Kitchen’s blog, so loosely that I would call it “inspired by.”
1 red bell pepper, peeled and diced small
1 yellow bell pepper, peeled and diced small
1/4 onion, diced small
1/2 C. heavy cream
1 chicken (or vegetable) small bullion cube such as Wyler’s (or 1/2 large one, such as Knorr)
black pepper to taste
2 green onions, chopped up
a few dashes of hot sauce (I’m a Frank’s Red Hot girl, myself)
1 lb. raw shrimp, peeled
grits, prepared as you see fit1 (and I saw fit to make cheese grits – told you it was Fatty McFattersons)
1 Also: Yankee up there scolds the usage of quick grits (“don’t even think about [it]”) to which I say: phhhfft. I know no Southerner that denounces the delights of the quick grit.
“Do these typically drip like this or is this leaking?”
— Woman behind me at grocery checkout holding gallon of milk
In honor of Father’s Day and by proxy my own father, today I decided to take another jab at what can only be referred to my as my Meatpie Obsession1. Real briefly: when I was in New Zealand I nurtured a totally unhealthy fascination with the country’s analog to America’s hotdog: the beloved meatpie. Before I started this website, I tried to make meatpies here in the US, and while I came up with a pretty good facsimile, the final recipe required practically an entire day in the kitchen. And the recipe ended up making only four pies. I was pretty pissed.
This time! This time I said screw-you to the pastry part of the meatpie. Admittedly risky (the shortcrust and puffpastry of the meatpie are arguably the best part), I wondered if a Shepherd’s Pie version would satisfy me.
This is… sort of repellant. I swear it’s just an ugly duckling. Except, not literally. Ugly lambling?
I started out by making a lamb version of the meatpie filling I’d previously perfected. I already had 1/3-pound of ground lamb in the freezer, so I started with that. I wanted something a little heartier, so at the store I picked up some bone-in lamb shoulder steaks that were on sale (normally I don’t buy bone-in steaks because I think they’re a waste of money – yes, the bone adds flavor, but not so much that I want 50% of the weight of what I’m paying for to be inedible to humans) and cut the meat off the bone, chopping it into small chunks. And then of course I realized that I was missing out and threw the bone in to bubble down with the meat slurry. Mmm, meat slurry.
When it had cooked down and the barley was soft, I stirred in frozen peas and fresh mint. And discovered again that I’d made too little. I don’t know what it is. Normally I make at least double the amount of food as is needed or even reasonably expected or even edible over the next week, but for some horrible reason I made exactly two adult servings of the minted lamb filling, which would turn out to be sad indeed, as I would later discover.
Now, mashed potatoes. You make them however you make them, but in my family, we spell “love” B-U-T-T-E-R. It’s how we express affection for one another. Also: H-E-A-V-Y C-R-E-A-M. What. What? Anyway, make them however you make them (note to self: maybe I should actually invest in a ricer, since my whole “they’re not lumpy, they’re rustic” excuse is starting to sound lame to my own ears) and then spread a thinnish layer over the top of the lamb.
After a quick pass under the broiler, what came out the other end was shockingly exactly what I imagined: creamy-hot potatoes with a thin crust (just like TV dinner potatoes!) and a straight-from-New-Zealand filling. It was delightful. I wish o wish I had leftovers. And because we’re all used to me being a fickle moron: I also wish I’d just plopped a puff pastry crust on top instead of the mashed potatoes.
Why? Well, it would have been easier. And the potatoes made it more filling than I would have liked. And ultimately, what I really missed was that crunchy/velvety interplay between the meatpie filling and the shell. Even a toasted croissant sliced and ladled with the filling would have been a deeply satisfying meal. And by “deeply satisfying” I think we both understand I mean “3,000 calorie.” Oh wells.
Now, this recipe has a prohibitively long ingredient list, so unless you cook like me (i.e., a lot of stews) then you won’t have most of the ingredients already sitting around, like I do. In that way, this meal is cheap for me to make. It might not be for you. Life is complicated.
Honorary Kiwi Shepherd’s Pie
Original Beef Filling
In New Zealand the most popular meatpie is a simple “mince” pie, or ground beef. It sounds off-putting (and certainly can be off-putting, depending on who made it) but it’s a solid, down-home comfort food if I’ve ever seen one. My filling is not reflective of the most common of the mince pies, because to be completely honest, the most common ones are bland as ass. Mine is better.
1/4 C. very finely diced onion
1+ Lb. ground beef2
3 Tbsp. flour
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
2 beef bullion cubes
1 1/2 C. water
2 tsp. Porcini mushroom powder3
1 Tbsp. Kitchen Bouquet4
1/4 C. ketchup
1 Tbsp. ground pepper
salt to taste
Newfangled Minted Lamb Filling
This version doesn’t have to be as I printed: the mix of ground (mince) and chunked lamb was the result of poor planning, but was tasty and I’d do it again.
1/4 C. finely diced onion
1/3 Lb. ground lamb
1/3 Lb. lamb meat, diced into 1/2-inch chunks
2 T. soy sauce
1 beef bullion cube
1 C. water
1 tsp. Porcini mushroom powder
1 tsp. Kitchen Bouquet
1/4 C. ketchup
1/4 C. pearled barley
1 C. frozen peas
1/4 C. chopped FRESH mint
2 tsp. ground pepper
salt to taste
1 Ha-ha! My dad has been a vegetarian for over 40 years. Love you, dad!
2 You know how there’s no such thing as a package of a pound of ground beef anymore? They are always about a third to a full half-pound over. This recipe was made with a pack of something like 1.34 lbs. ground beef, but small variation will work.
3 This stuff is a miracle. They sell it at the spice shop in Olympia, where I stock up when I am visiting my family. It’s basically super-mushroomy and in fact makes me nearly gag when I smell it straight out of the jar: it’s a sort of fishy, sweaty odor. But added in small doses to food, it’s like adding MSG — in short, it’s like getting punched in the face with umami.
4 Kitchen Bouquet can be found in either the sauce or the spice aisle of the grocery store. It’s an old-fashioned “gravy enhancer” that is basically hyper-concentrated vegetables and caramel coloring. While some people used it just to darken their gravy to a richer brown (which it does well) it also adds a flavor similar to that of the Porcini mushroom powder, a natural MSG-like umami. It is also NOT the same as Maggi “Seasoning” which is sold right next to it. The Maggi “Seasoning” has a distinct flavor of its own and is in fact often used by Chinese food restaurants in America, which means using the “Seasoning” can veer your food dangerously into take-out flavor territory.
I’ve had a long week, I don’t know about you. And with the best intentions, I started to roast some beets:
and then forgot to take any more photos. Just my hands. Look at them, they are beety.
And then I made a batch of sloppy joes, both because they are delicious and because I am 12 years old. But really: tomatoey slop on bread? My god, I can’t express my gratitude for Joe and his invention of the Sloppy. But then I wondered: is this really a blog post? I mean, I used a can of Manwich, for fuck’s sake. So no, I guess not.
To no one’s surprise, my hangover last week lasted something like three days. That’ll teach me to imbibe the organic, sulfite-free wine as though it were no longer poison. Note to self: the sulfites and pesticides keep the wine from destroying my brain. In an attempt to settle my tummy ages later, I made an avocado smoothie, a treat I am normally tickled pink over. Instead, I took a few bites and felt ill. It wasn’t the smoothie’s fault — Mike said his was delicious — but something about the fatty avocado and sweetened condensed milk sent my body into post-traumatic shock. Blerg.
After that I told my mom1 I was making my favorite white cake recipe, a Cook’s Illustrated version that tends to be, well, I’ll be polite and call it a fickle bitch, and lo and behold, guess what totally didn’t work out at all? That’s right, thanks mom! In a moment of weakness I didn’t let the milk and egg whites come to room temperature and the whole thing was a waste of half-a-dozen eggs and a stick-and-a-half of butter. I was too angry to take photos of the failure. ANGER BURGER!
So here’s fingers crossed for a better week ahead.
Oh! I nearly forgot: my friend Leesa and I were talking about chicken and dumplings when I said “I’ve never had a good dumpling.” They’re always leaden and gooey and I realize after I’ve made them that I’d just rather float a good biscuit on whatever it was I made and call it a day. Or a matzo ball. But here’s the question: have you ever had a decent dumpling? And if so, will you tell us the recipe immediately?
1My mom has never had this recipe work for her, thus it has gained a kind of supernatural credence in our household. The problem is that the temperatures must be exactly what they tell you, a tricky prospect when the butter is described as “soft but still cool” and the milk and egg whites as “room temperature” — whose room? And what? Huh? However: let it be known that when it is good, it is good.
Hold on, I have to go boil some fucking eggs now.
Today at work a customer asked me to find a children’s book for her. I asked, “What’s the book called?” and she answered, “The Queen’s Knickers,” to which I smirked and then typed into our search engine before realizing it: THE QUEEN’S KNOCKERS, but I’d already hit return which then made my entry stay on the screen for about 15 or 20 seconds while it searched for results. The results were fun, too.
My dad, whom you may or may not know because he is pretty much totally famous on the internet, sent me an email detailing the construction of one of his Epic Sangwiches¹ for which he is known. I mean, they’re always different and often questionable (I once watched his face light with mad-scientist glee as he bit into a peanut-butter, mayonnaise and lettuce sandwich) but you can’t really argue with his tactics because he’s a remarkably fit and healthy 60-something-going-on-12-year-old man.
“Okay, so I was craving one of my fave sammies one day. One which, I think maybe, I invented when I was a young experimental lad. My sammy consisted of some nice, nutty whole-grain bread (any bread is fine, even Wonder Bread which rocked you and grampa Jim’s world!). The other ingredients were PNB, honey, sliced banana and usually date halves and walnuts, if I had those last two around. The dates and nuts aren’t mandatory, but that was my ‘ultimate’sangwich.”
I should point at here that we’d often skip the bread part in a animalistic panic to get it all into out mouths faster, and just peel a banana, smear peanut butter and honey on the end, and then stick a walnut piece and a date piece on the end and take a bite. And then repeat until the banana was gone. But I digress.
“You plop a goodly amount of PNB on yer bread, no need to spread it all purdy-like yet.
Then, ya drizzle honey all over the PNB and stir, stir, stir with yer butter knife until the two form a sort of stiff paste*, which happens pretty quickly. (*This step is crucial or you will have honey dripping all over yer lap.) Then ya spread that paste out smoove like on your bread of choice. (Note: At this point, if you are gonna put dates, nuts or anything else on, you have to ‘push’ them into the PNB so they stay put!) Cut yer nanner length-wise into 3 equal slices. Much experimentation revealed that 3 slices will fit perfectly on the bread. If the nanner is very long, just chop the pointy ends off to make a good fit for yer bread. And that was my basic fave sammy. Total ‘energy-bomb’, I think maybe Spartans ate this right before they kicked some country’s ass!”
“Now to my recent project:
I started out to make the above sammy one day last week and started thinking about Elvis’ famous Coronary Gut-bomb2.”
“Me was thinking … hmmm, wish I could make one, but fuck, I don’t eat meatses any more.3 Then inspiration hit me! Make it like Big E would have, but just put a copious amount of that veggy bacon smak you got me at the Co-op and don’t fry it in bacon fat … shaweeet!”4
“I fried it to a greasy golden-brown using my fave zero-trans fat marge in a fry pan. I must admit … pretty damn tasty, even if not the real thing.”
“So that’s what I did here kiddo. It’s not at all true to the original that helped Kill the King, but it’s close enough for me.”
“BTW: I dubbed my version the I Coulda Saved Elvis’ Life Sangwich … heh”
So there you have it! Now you know where I learned to fry things in butter and margarine. And where I learned to render the nutritional value of fruits meaningless.
¹My dad’s dad, Jim, was beloved for a million-n-one reasons, one of which was his ability mangle play the English language like a harp. “Sangwich” was pretty much standard. Another favorite was his announcement that his employer had given him a nice “boneless check” for the holidays.
²A note on the Elvis Sandwich conspiracy: many years ago I read that Elvis’ favorite sandwich was a peanut-butter, banana and bacon sandwich on an entire loaf of that shitty grocery store French bread, after which the entire thing is fried in the hot bacon fat. I remember it down to details: that the sandwich used an entire 1lb. package of bacon, that it took several bananas and often an entire small jar of Skippy (or was it Jif ?). I also remember that they knew this because the person the article was interviewing was one of Elvis’ assistants who had to actually, physically, personally make the sandwiches. Years later people would mention this sandwich and somehow leave out the bacon part – sometimes, rarely, they’d mention it was grilled in bacon fat, but the 1lb. of bacon was missing from the story. In fact, I was home sick watching an episode of Oprah when she’s shown around Graceland by Lisa Marie Presley herself and Lisa Marie mentions that her dad’s favorite sandwich was… that’s right, just a peanut-butter and banana sandwich. WHAT THE FUCK? Isn’t he basically famous for eating this atrociously deadly sandwich (sometimes several a day!) and a entire Ziplock baggie of pills every single day? I mean, aside from being famous for being a musician or whatever it is he was? I can’t believe they’re trying to make it sound like he just ate this healthy sandwich, la-tee-dah.
³ I love how my dad says “any more.” He hasn’t eaten meat since the late 1960’s.
4 Also: No, I didn’t get it from the Co-op. I got it from Buck’s on 5th Ave. in Olympia, Washington. I assume it was just bulk Bacon Salt brand, but maybe not (the bacon salt doesn’t appear on Buck’s website).
My hosting service migrated me to a different server for a reason they did not disclose but declared an “emergency” (drama queens), and now some stuff ain’t workin’ right. But we’ll get it all sorted soon, don’t worry. And I’ve got a real treat of a post waiting to go when it does get sorted, so all will be rainbows and bunnies and cocaine before you can snap your fingers and say “Why did that bottle of organic sulfite-free wine I drank last night give me the worst migraine I’ve ever had?”
Update from the web nerd: It’s working! Hurrah!
Usually when someone learns I have Crohn’s disease, the first thing they ask is what that means. Translate to human, please. And I usually cut it down to the universal language: food. Which means that my answer is: you know all the things doctors tell you to eat for colon health? Fresh fruits and vegetables? Fiber? Whole grains? Yeah… all that will put me in the hospital.
I mean, not to be too dramatic or anything; I’d have to have a diet almost entirely of raw vegetables, whole grains and high-fiber foods for a while before I was whimpering my way to the ER, but it would happen, and sooner rather than later. The flip side of this is that I actually really like to eat foods that’d be considered healthy — I love salads, for example. I really like steel cut oats and I adore whole wheat pastries. I just have to eat them in moderation.
This gets thrown out the window when I make Bob Barley Salad.
The recipe is based on one my mom found in a magazine over ten years ago, but the one I make now has few ingredients in common with its ancestor. And somewhere in that last decade my dad started calling in “Bob Barley Salad” after he noticed that the salad colors are predominately red, green and gold¹.
Bob Barley salad is pretty much equal parts pearled barley, black-eyed peas, red peppers, corn, green stuff and vinaigrette. Simple. And motherfucking addictive. Trust. In fact, it is dangerous for me to cook it because I just eat it and eat it and eat it even though extensive experience has shown me that I’m going to be clutching my aching bowels and crying in about 24 hours. Such is life. I mean, I guess. Living is supposed to be painful, right? Right?
The black-eyed peas are key, here. Actually, it’s all key. You have to just trust me: this is one of those More Than the Sum of Its Parts salads. Anyway, the black-eyed peas (also known as field peas) can come from a can (easiest) or dry in a bag (hardest), but if you can get them frozen I highly recommend it: they are firm, earthy and mild, and even though you still have to cook them for a half an hour, they’re totally worth it. And! You already have to cook the barley, so you can just cook them together, no biggie.
Whoa, what was I thinking with the saturation levels on this photo?!
Everything else gets chopped and thrown into a bowl while the peas and barley are cooking. It’s a gorgeous, irresistible salad, but you’ll have to resist it because it just simply has to sit overnight before eating.
In fact, I usually add more cilantro and green onion on the second day to boost the flavor a little, making the salad officially a mild pain-in-the-ass to make, but you’ll do it because I say so. And all the while you are making it you’ll be muttering “I don’t get it, it’s just a grain and vinaigrette salad,” but 24 hours later you’ll wonder what wretched faerie came and tinkled all over your salad. You can’t stop eating it, can you? It’s not a gift, this recipe. It’s a curse.
Bob Barley Salad
makes a fuck ton
1 C. pearled barley
2 C. frozen black-eyed peas (or 1 can canned)
2 14oz. cans vegetable broth, plus 1 C. water to total 4 C
2 red bell peppers, diced
2 C. frozen corn
1/3 C. lemon juice
zest of 1 small lemon
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
2-4 green onions, finely chopped
1 C. finely chopped cilantro
1 C. olive oil
2 Tbsp. honey
salt to taste
¹No, it doesn’t matter to him that Bob Marley is Jamaican and not Ethiopian. My dad is a complicated, confused man. Who loves puns.