Old-fashioned country cooking

December 11, 2017

Kraut and kielbasa, home fries, peas and relish. M’mmm.

Sometimes, you’ve just gotta do it. You’ve just gotta fall back on your roots, and cook something that you don’t even remember when you had it the first time (likely before you were sentient).

That’s the way this dinner was.

I had been craving sauerkraut and kielbasa for a week. And I hadn’t had it because of one thing or another, and what it came down to was, I just hadn’t cooked. But I still had kielbasa in the fridge (thank you, Lord, for vacuum packaging), and kraut in the pantry, and one day last week I determined it was, by George, TIME.

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Finished product, minus a chicken thigh.

Y’all. You’ve got to try this.

I have just made my maiden voyage at cassoulet, the country French bean-based stew that was once a mainstay of peasants in the southwest of that country. Yes, it calls for ingredients you can’t get at your local supermarket. Hie yourselves to the big city to a semi-gourmet market or a specialty food store, or order these things from Amazon. They’re worth the unconscionable costs of shipping things which must be kept cold.

Because this? Made my eyes roll back in my head.

Plan on getting an early start if you want to make this; it calls for an overnight soak for the beans, and you want to start them cooking in the morning, because the whole thing wants to go in the oven at noon for a 6:30 dinner. You might, in fact, want to make it when it’s cold outside (like I did), so the six-and-a-half-hour bake warms your house while it fills it with tantalizing smells.

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I will admit it. I’m a deadline-driven individual. If you want me to do something, give me a date certain by which it needs to be done. Do NOT, ever, tell me, “oh, whenever you get around to it,” because? It is highly likely to be long enough you have forgotten you asked me.

It matters not if this is work or otherwise. I am at present looking at two projects that deadline this month, one of which involves me getting my piece done before the other individual involved can get hers done, the other of which is, well, sizeable. Ideally, I should be through with each of them by the end of next week.

So what did I do today, you ask?

I made spiced pecans.

Now, in all fairness, the pecans didn’t take long, and I’ve been working on both projects, off and on, all day, and I’ll put in a few more hours on them tomorrow, but I still have miles to go before I sleep, as it were.

And the pecans were HERE. And they were PRETTY. And I’ve been thinking for DAYS about holiday treats.

How it is, is, like this. For, I guess, well more than 10 years, I’ve had a friend who gifts me every year a two-pound box of pecan halves from the South Georgia Pecan Co.  Now, these are purely gorgeous pecans. They’re big — an inch and a half long, 3/4 of an inch wide. They’re tasty. Very few of them come broken into smaller pieces. And like clockwork, sometime in early December, in time for all my holiday baking and candy-ing, here they come in the mail.

They came today.

Now, it so happens that I have residing in my freezer some six or seven pounds of pecans I’d bought from an individual here locally, that I’ve been using in my baking and such. And that’ll be nearly-about enough pecans to do me through Christmas and well into next year (I use them in granola, too). And see above comment on how attractive these pecans are.

So I spiced ’em.  Half of them are savory, half of them are sweet. Likely, all of them will be eaten before they ever make it into a treat bag for Christmas baskets, but hey, I guess that’s OK. ‘Tis the season, and all that.

For the savory ones, I used the sauce I always use when I make my Chex mix (which I’d forgotten to put on the holiday make-in list, so I added it). For a pound of pecan halves, you’ll need:

  • 1/2 stick butter
  • 1 1/2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 3-4 cloves confited garlic, with its oil
  • 8-10 drops of hot sauce, to taste
  • 1/2 tsp Lawry’s seasoned salt
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder

Melt the butter. Use your immersion blender to whiz the garlic with the butter, and add the hot sauce, seasoned salt and onion powder; whiz it again. Pour over the pecans, and stir well to make sure they’re all coated. Pour them over into a parchment paper-lined pan.

In this case, I set them aside until I got the other batch ready. That involved:

  • Separating an egg, and beating the white with a couple of tablespoons of water until it was foamy (not stiff, just uniformly foamy)
  • Adding 1/3 cup brown sugar and 2/3 cup white sugar, as well as 1 1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 to 1 tsp hot smoked paprika or hot pepper of your choice

Stir that all up, and add a little water if it doesn’t seem thin enough to easily coat the pecans. Add the pecans and stir until they’re well coated. Again, dump out into a parchment-paper lined pan.

Put the pans in a 300-degree oven. Bake for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes (be sure you use separate spatulas, and keep up with which one’s which). At the end of the 30 minutes, pour the nuts out onto waxed paper in a single layer, if they’re in a thicker layer than that in the pan, and let them cool completely. Package in something airtight and hide them.

Because if you don’t, you ‘n y’mama ‘n ’em will get into them well before Christmas, and likely before dinner.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.


Oh, look! It’s a new gadget! And pickles-to-be!

It’s bad enough to have those folks over at the eGullet.org food forum encouraging my purchases of kitchen related gadgetry and cookbooks and such (not to mention specialty ingredients…). Now the damn produce at the grocery store has commenced enabling me to make purchases of culinary widgetry I did not know I needed.

Witness these. These pretty little lids are, in fact, fermenting lids; they’re designed to let you brine your veggies in the jar until the lactic acid sours them to your taste, all the while allowing built-up carbon dioxide to escape while keeping impurities and such out. Once your veggies are fermented to suit, you change out for a regular lid, clap the jar in the fridge to stop the fermentation process, or water-bath can it to make it shelf stable.

And it was the damn cucumbers that made me do it.

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Soup ‘n grilled cheese. Color is weird, for some reason.

…you at least get really good soup.

And I had been jonesing for vegetable beef soup since Friday. So I made it Sunday.

So the toll is three containers removed from the fridge, and three put back. Except the three put back are more total volume than the three taken out. Ya can’t win for losing.

But damn, this stuff is good. And the Instant Pot makes it easy, and quick.

I still had about a cup and a half of shredded beef and jus in the fridge from the shredded beef sandwiches last week. It kept looking at me, every time I’d open the fridge, whispering “vegetable soup.”

Your leftovers don’t talk to you? That’s sad. You must not have a very intimate relationship with what you cook. Me and my leftovers, we tight. Until it comes time to pitch them out. Sometimes they talk me into leaving them in there an extra day or three, usually a decision I regret.

I had stopped off at the grocery on the way home from church, and picked up a couple of packages of frozen veggies and a box of Lipton Beefy Onion Soup Mix. Got home, went to the canned goods, and grabbed a quart of tomatoes, a pint of tomato juice, and a half-pint of tomato sauce. Dumped all the tomato stuff and the beef and the two envelopes of soup mix from the box into the Instant Pot; peeled four small potatoes, cubed those up in about half-inch dice, and threw them in. Set it to manual for 10 minutes. Probably didn’t need that long.

Let the pressure release, then added the two 12-ounce bags of frozen veggies, and while I was at it, the containers of caramelized onions and sauteed mushrooms from the fridge. (Hey, fridge cleanout and leftover reuse is a Good Thing.) Gave it another five minutes and let the pressure release again.

Needs no other seasoning, beyond what the beef had originally. The soup mix is plenty salty. I did dose my bowl with a few shakes of Worcestershire sauce, which is standard operating procedure for me with tomato or veggie-beef soup.

It was done in well under an hour, and could’ve been done quicker than that. I do not know that it could have been better than that. I’ve got a couple of quarts ready to go in the freezer, IF I can find room in the freezer, and then I’ll be eating lunch off what’s left in the third container (another quart-plus) for the next few days’ lunches.

And you ‘n y’mama ‘n ’em are welcome to come up for a bowl of soup.


Muffins. Make these. As soon as humanly possible.

I have a confession to make.

Yesterday, when I was writing my post on using Thanksgiving leftovers, I was talking through my hat when I suggested sweet potato muffins. I THOUGHT sweet potato muffins ought to work — people make pumpkin muffins, after all — but I’d never actually MADE them when I tossed out that offhand suggestion.

Now I have. And I can testify that you ought to, as well.

Got up this morning determined I’d get to Sunday School AND church — I’d been skipping the first, of late. I wasn’t cooking a family dinner, so I decided I’d make some muffins. More to the point, I’d try the sweet potato muffins, since I had proffered them as a use of leftover Thanksgiving sweet potatoes.

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Best way to use up leftover mashed potatoes. Do this.

You have more than likely had all the turkey sandwiches you want by this time in the Thanksgiving weekend. (If not, go ‘head on. I am not the boss of you.)

Here, then are some ideas of what you can do with said turkey, and some of the other Thanksgiving leftovers, as well.

I’ll start out with non-turkey, since that’s the photo above. Anyone who’s read this blog very long knows of my love for the latke, and his first cousin, the potato pancake. My Mama used to make stewed potatoes, in a white sauce, regularly; I loved them, because I knew the next day or so would bring potato cakes. These are one of the highest and best uses of leftover mashed potatoes.

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