A simple loaf

March 31, 2015

So simple, so good.

So simple, so good.

Last weekend, I attended a Methodist church event at a retreat center in the Ozarks. It had caught my eye because of its title, “Food for the Heart and Soul,” and its explanation that it would be (a) led by, among others, a professionally trained chef, an (b) would focus on the preparing of food and the actual eating of a meal as a spiritual practice.

Having been on something of a journey of spiritual exploration for the past year or so, and given my love of cooking, and just generally needing a good break, I signed up.

It was an excellent weekend. I learned a lot, including a fascinating presentation from a herbalist, one of the last of the traditional Ozark “granny women”; some wonderful food; some new understanding. I enjoyed some marvelous food, and came home with some excellent recipes, one of which I’ve made in the two days since I’ve been back.

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So: this happened:

The corned beef latke. A marvelous thing.

The corned beef latke. A marvelous thing.

You’ll recall we had corned beef on and about St. Patrick’s Day. While it was what I thought was a decent sized corned beef when I bought it, between shrinkage from cooking and the getting rid of all the fat after it’d been cooked to provide flavor and moisture to the lean meat, there weren’t too many meals from it. You saw two of them, the traditional corned beef and cabbage, potatoes and carrots, and a corned beef sandwich that missed being a Reuben because of the lack of sauerkraut.

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Corned beef, two ways

March 21, 2015

Corned beef dinner. Traditional. Good.

Corned beef dinner. Traditional. Good.

Lord have mercy. It’s Saturday. To be precise, it’s Saturday of NCAA basketball second-round games,with me going into the second round at 20-12, with only three second-round games already dead due to first-round bad picks. Let’s play ball.

I’m not sure what happened to this week, other than the fact that getting real busy with work stuff and sticking to my goal of making it to the gym all five weekdays, it got busy. There has been little, if any, cooking since Tuesday, when we celebrated St. Patrick’s Day with the traditional corned beef, cabbage, potatoes and carrots. And a beer or two, though the beer was Yuengling, bootlegged across the river from Memphis.

Corned beef sandwich on homemade rye. No kraut, so I used bread and butter pickles.

Corned beef sandwich on homemade rye. No kraut, so I used bread and butter pickles.

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Recycling R Us

March 17, 2015

Shells, recycled meat sauce, grated parmigiano. Excellent.

Shells, recycled meat sauce, grated parmigiano. Excellent.

The nice thing about an Italian roast chicken is that it recycles through several other meals.

Four of us pretty much decimated the four-pound bird Sunday, but there were some bits of white meat left as well as both drumsticks. That’ll be enough chicken for — something, yet to be determined; soup, or chicken and dressing, or, well, something.

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At long last, chicken!

March 16, 2015

I found chickens!

Near-organic, not-factory-farmed, non-hormone-injected, taste like real food, chickens! And I don’t have to drive three-quarters of the way across the state to get them!

cooked chickenLong-time readers may recall I discovered the joys of “tractor chickens” back in Hot Springs, when I bought them from a farmer at the Farmers’ Market. After I left, since I had a client down that way, I would frequently take my cooler and pick up chickens, along with their pork products, on the way home and stash them in the freezer.

That gig ended last fall, and while I’ve been down that way a couple of times, it’s not a regular enough trip to depend on for a chicken supply. I found natural beef and pork here in NEA, but I’d been unsuccessful in finding chicken, so I’d been reduced to occasionally buying the grocery store bird, where even the organic ones are pale, flaccid versions of the farm chicken.

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Happy Pi Day!

March 14, 2015

Pecan pi for pi day.

Pecan pi for pi day.

Here would be your pi of the day.

It gets many rave reviews from Epicurious (four forks, 48 reviews). It’s similar to my standard recipe, but for the fact it calls for brown sugar instead of white sugar. And it has two full cups of pecan halves, plus a little, as that was the last of my holiday pecan stash.

I wanted to make a pie of some sort to mark the auspicious occasion (3-14-15, or 3.1415 etc.). Didn’t feel like lemon icebox. Didn’t have any fruit for a fruit pie. Had pecans, as well as brown sugar, butter, vanilla and Karo corn syrup. That’ll work.

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Soup and a sandwich. It'll keep you warm in the winter.

Soup and a sandwich. It’ll keep you warm in the winter.

Well, OK. Maybe that’s a little over the top. But comfort food and snowcream can go a long way toward assuaging the misery of eight to ten inches of snow and single-digit temperatures.

A taste of the past -- snowcream.

A taste of the past — snowcream.

Having, for once in my life, planned ahead, I found myself with more possibilities for snow day cookery than I’d originally thought. I could make chili….or I could make soup….or I could make rouladen…or I could make chicken and dressing….or I could make pot roast…or…..

You get the idea.

I’d been jonesing for pimiento cheese for a while, so that was my first effort, resulting in a quart of the lovely stuff stashed in my fridge. That, in turn, helped point me in the direction of vegetable beef soup, because if God made anything better than pimiento cheese with homemade vegetable beef soup, he kept it for hisownself.

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