Friday, January 25, 2008

More (comfort) food for thought

By Jove, I think she's GOT it!

My mom was a gooood cook. Unfortunately, by the time I was old enough to pay attention, cookin wasn't exactly high on my list of priorities. She'd try to teach me and I, being a teenager, just wasn't interested. At all.

She was a good cook. Trouble is, she very rarely used a recipe. So now that I am interested, she's gone and there's no written record of the great meals that, I'm sure, her mom taught her to make.

Occasionally, I'll try to recreate some of her dishes. Some of the "comfort food" that I fondly remember. Her from-scratch Red Velvet Cake. Her home made chicken and noodles. Her roast beef hash. Her fried pork brains. Uh. Nevermind. That was one dish that I just could never get excited about. It wasn't so much the was the texture. And her gravies...Oooooo! She did awesome beef gravy. And white "fried chicken gravy". And sausage gravy.

I've had some mild "successes". I've had more "not even closes". Over time, I've become convinced that some of the ingredients just don't taste the same as they did back then. But I've kept tryin.

Thankfully, she did manage to teach me about gravies and roux before she was gone. I think I'd be safe in sayin I could give her a run for her money in the homemade gravy department. I do killer sausage gravy and biscuits, if I do say so myself.

I can do homemade noodles almost as good as hers. If I could find some homegrown eggs and a homegrown, freshly slaughtered chicken, I might get the whole chicken and noodles thing dead-on.

I can almost get the flavor of her roast beef hash, but I can't get the texture right. See, she used one of those old, cast-iron meat grinders. She'd grind up the leftover roast, along with a few raw potatoes and a big ole onion and bake the whole mess. It was awesome.

The Red Velvet Cake? That was one of the "not even closes". I dunno. Lard just doesn't taste like it used to. On top of that, I've told ya before...I'm just not a baker.

One of my favorite dishes was somethin she called "Hungarian Goulash". It was kinda like beef stew...except not quite so many vegetables. Just beef, carrots, pearl onions and potatoes. It was in a red, tomato-ey, sort of sweet-sour sauce that was delicious. I've tried several times to recreate that one and never had much luck.

The Zigster and I were talkin about what we considered "comfort foods" the other day, and I got ta thinkin about that damn Hungarian Goulash. So I thought I'd give it another whirl.

And I think I've got it! 'Course, I added a few "extras"...but the sauce is just damn near it. Aaaaand, I wrote it down while I was experimenting.

The Stew
2-3 lb. chuck roast, chunked up
6 new potatoes, scrubbed and halved
1 1 lb. bag of frozen pearl onions
3-4 carrots cut in large chunks

1 green pepper cut in large chunks
2 portobella mushrooms cut in large chunks

Try to cut up all the veggies in approximately the same size...they'll cook evenly.

The Sauce
1 15 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 T crushed garlic or 2-3 cloves fresh garlic, chopped fine
1/2 C dark brown sugar
2 T Worcestershire sauce
2 T sweet Hungarian paprika (don't use regular paprika...won't be the same)
1/3 C ketchup
1/3 C barbecue sauce

Salt and pepper the meat, brown in a little oil, throw it in the crockpot (don't add any liquid...the meat will release enough) and cook on "High" til slightly tender. Mix the sauce up and throw it in with the meat and cook another hour or so. Add the potatoes, carrots and onions and cook until the potatoes and carrots are tender. If you add the "optionals", add 'em when the potatoes are almost done (the peppers and mushrooms will cook up fairly fast). Turn the crockpot down to "Medium" or "Low" and let it hang out a while.

This is a one-pot meal, so just serve it up with some crusty French bread or a nice sourdough.

Now, I'm pretty sure mom never used ketchup or barbecue sauce. In fact, I don't remember even havin bottled barbecue sauce back then. (Yea, I'm old.) So I don't know what she used. Maybe she added a little more brown sugar and some apple cider vinegar...I dunno. But my recipe is pretty damn close.

Mmmmmmm...comfort food. What's yours?


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