Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas! HAM

This month has slipped by so quickly that I haven't been able to give you more postings. None of it was a matter of shopping for Christmas presents, because I refuse to play along anymore. It was some sort of narcolepsy en croute with nausea gravy. No, not the flu.
I did make some King Arthur dog biscuits for a couple of my canine friends, Jasmine and Raymu. Then John and SuZann will be getting a jar of that batch of brandied raisins I made at mid-year for an ice cream recipe. SuZann doesn't drink alcohol, so, these babies will get her looped. John likes good wine, and brandy is made from wine, and so the raisins will be compatico to John's preferences. I do aim to please.
The local friends drive to far away places to spend Christmas with their families. No one visits here. And, although we miss them and would love to see them, I don't expect my in-laws to drive 12 hours for a meal and no presents. We prefer they don't have to travel at all, that they stay warm and cozy in their homes, safe and sound instead of spending an insane amount of money on gasoline. Besides, we keep in touch often during the rest of the year.

However, we will be having company after Christmas Day, when my old friend Patrick arrives all the way from La Quinta. We haven't seen him in 9 years, when they were visiting Donna's mother, the next county over. And since that fun time, our moms and Donna passed away, each of them one year apart to the exact day. All of our lives went through change, and change again, forever leaving their foozie plotz on our hearts for the rest of ours.
When such a friendship spans 39 years, it becomes a treasure trove of funny memories. When we all first met, the three of us worked at Denny's. Patrick and I worked the graveyard shift at the one on Hwy.111, and Donna worked swing at the big Denny's with the Amigo Room out on the old Hwy. 10. We barely knew each other when Patrick decided to test my cool. He grabbed a meat cleaver and a can of whipped cream, made a scary face at me and then chased me into the ladies restroom. I laughed my butt off. You had to be there because it was like a cartoon. Funnier still were the two sheriffs drinking coffee, who paid no attention to it whatsoever. Later on I came to find out there was a time when Patrick was a deputy, so, these guys were used to his antics.
But what a great surprise for Christmas! The original Fonz.

This particular recipe for ham was one my mother used. I don't know if it was her own, or if she got it from a gal pal at a dinner party. She made this for Easter, one year, (and I do mean one), and I about died from the pleasure of this melt-in-your-mouth hump diddy with its sass of apricot jam and ground cloves and brown sugar, all baked into meat-love perfection. Even the fat couldn't have been done any better, with its golden brown to almost black variances from crispy to greasy. And every time I have used this recipe, it comes out the same fabulous way.
When Grandmother Jeanette fell ill to old age, she developed odd hurdles to jump, one being she had a fungus on the back of her tongue and had to gargle with this awful stuff known as gentian lilac. It stained the inside of her mouth purple and killed her taste buds. Mother was hard pressed to come up with a special visit dinner, as Grandma liked her own cooking and no one else's would do. There were 'the ways' to follow, and a schedule to stick to, and everything had to be done so-so. But, this time Grandma had no choice in the matter. It was interesting to see the shoe on the other foot with her sitting at the kitchen table, watching the action, with hands crippled from rheumatoid arthritis, unable to contribute to the family meal. She could barely hold a fork. And she couldn't chew hard. She...couldn'
Finally, in Grandma's eyes, Marie did something right. That ham, melted in her mouth and coated her tongue with zippy juices and...she could taste it! Rightfully so, Mother was quite proud.
This may or may not be on time for Christmas, but do try it anyway.

Pink Elephants coffee Cafe
Adapted from Linda's mom's recipe.

1/2 already cooked, bone-in ham

1 cup brown sugar
2 Tbsp. flour
1 tsp. dry mustard
3/4 tsp. ground cloves

1 14-oz. jar Apricot Preserves (original recipe called for baby food)

1. Preheat oven to 400F.
2. Rinse off ham (always rinse off store bought pork) and place in foil-lined roasting pan, with one lengthways and one crossing that sideways, all sides high enough to fold over and seal the ham closed. Try to have the cut end exposed. If ham isn't shaped to do that, put it cut side down. It's preferable to expose the cut end.
3. Coat ham, patting on the dry mixture all over, piling whatever is extra on top of the ham. Wrap up the foil over the ham to firmly close and place on rack in oven.
4. Bake at 400F for 1 1/2 hours (already cooked ham only).
5. Remove ham from oven, carefully open foil, and pile all of the apricot jam on top. Close to cover loosely open, and return to oven to cook for one more hour.

If a thicker sauce is desired, pour drippings into pan and stir in a little cornstarch/water.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Kahlua Crunch Ice Cream

Let's take a break from turkey and ham, and pamper ourselves with a delicate and creamy delight which takes a holiday from the holidays. It is wise to work in spurts and stop to lick the beater for awhile.
What do you have on your list of fascinating foods? Is there a new member added to that list? Is there a new take on an old favorite? Do you organize by cold or hot? Sweet or savory? Salty or spicy? Some ladies organize by chocolate. I know that there are no index tabs that read "fascinating". This is more a mental list, things we 'keep in mind', as it were.
Homemade ice cream is high up on my list of fascinating foods. And David Lebovitz is high up there as an expert on making ice cream at home. He is spot on with his recipes and with his book The Perfect Scoop. He never gives reckless advice about food. If the recipe uses an odd duck spice or ingredient, he will lead you to where you need to go to learn about it. And he has never steered me wrong.
Recently, David recommended "Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams At Home" by Jeni Britton Bauer. Upon this generous revelation I wondered why on earth he would share the ice cream limelight. But, when he explained that she uses an egg-free base recipe, I HAD TO buy this book. And I don't regret it for a moment. Her method is easy, creamy, and without the potential to a liver train wreck. .
I developed this recipe, inspired by her recipe for Cognac Ice Cream. Her base recipe is sound.And I always wanted to try making Kahlua Ice Cream because, although it tastes like crap on its own, something wonderful gets born when you add cream.
Also in her book, there is a recipe for Honeycomb Krunch Candy using actual honey. It's actually an old recipe for Honeycomb Candy, named for that it is filled with layers of holes, like a sponge. It is airy and crunchy. Honey makes it sticky and, in my opinion, too sweet.

The memory came rushing in of a Kahlua Krunch Cake I had made in the 80's and 90's. It has eight whipped egg whites folded into the batter and then baked in a tube pan (like for Angel Food Cake). What you get is a cake lighter than air that melts in your mouth. The frosting is nothing more than freshly whipped cream packed with Kahlua Crunch Candy pieces. This produces a gentle texture compatibility with a whisper of Kahlua kisses, where you close your eyes and slowly chew each bite to enjoy it fully. Yeah, one of those experiences, like, "Not tonite, Dear. I have Kahlua Cake".
With all that in mind I KNOW what the ice cream is going to taste like. Sure would be nice to have the cake to go with it!

Tell me, peeps, are you gifted with olfactory memory? Do you have a keen sense of taste and smell? Do you develop recipes or do you just figure that if it could be done, it would have been done already ? I used to fall into the latter category, back in the days when Julia Child ruled the rangetop. Nowadays, I am overwhelmed by the flavor possibilities. I will never be an Iron Chef or the winner of Cupcake Wars, or as darling as Dorie Greenspan. But, like all of you I am still learning and it will be so until the day I plotz. You can be sure that I won't pass on a recipe without having made it myself.
If the information is known to me, I will always give credit to the originator of the recipe, or if I develop a recipe from another's, I will give you that information, as well. I am not a dietician or a nutritionist, it is not my job to break down a label complete with calorie count per portion and all of the stuff obsessed upon when dieting or dealing with dis-ease. For the record, I have total sympathy for those with food restrictions not of their own choosing, but I approach food in the way that is acceptable for me. And I aim for "delicious".
There are some religious folks who feel that it is sin to enjoy your food, and the cook has to eat in the kitchen by herself. I do not understand the why of these rituals emphasizing that food is only fuel and the wife and mother who cooks the food is beneath sitting to dine with her family. These rituals seem to coincide with the avoidance of joy, to please The Lord. This is the ancient school of self-hatred taught by those who believe we were put on this earth to suffer, just as they believe we are born pre-destined to burn in hell.
No room for such nonsense at my kitchen table. Food issues aren't good for anyone's health. I do tend to be hostile and sarcastic about certain folks who control others with their own dietary preferences, taking issue with anything and everything I eat. That I eat at all is a miracle, so, if I sit down to the table and can actually eat, it involves just a few bites. So, please don't make the eating unpleasant and exacerbate the stomach situation with anger and upset.
Used to be, as far as ice cream went, it had to be chocolate mint chip or dark chocolate. Then I managed a Baskin Robbins, which now has way more than the original 31 flavors. Still, the number one choice of the customers, of all things, was vanilla.
When Ben & Jerry's came into play, I snarfed down every flavor I could find, only to fall back into the rut of three habitual choices: Coffee Heath Bar Crunch, Vanilla Heath Bar Crunch, and Phish Phood (Mr. P's favorite). It doesn't matter, all of these flavors, we are creatures of habits formed. If you are a strawberry girl, you aren't going to be enticed by chocolate ice cream stuffed with Reese's peanut butter cups. It wouldn't be human!

This Kahlua Crunch Ice Cream is a dreamy experience. It is The Precious which Gollum will never see, (nor does that sniveling piece of snot deserve to!). Here, you have Kahlua flavored ice cream filled with little bits of Kahlua Candy Crunch which turn softish in the freezing process. They are tiny tears of Kahlua bursts with a teensy suggestion of crunch.

While it looks like all of the candy pieces floated to the top, believe me, it's in there.
On its own it is enough to satisfy, but I like to top it with fresh whipped cream flavored with 1 Tbsp. Kahlua and 2 Tbsp. sugar per 2 cups cream. Then I top it with a hefty sprinkling of dry Kahlua candy, which provides the actual crunch. The candy might have areas that are a tad salty,but that is from little lumps of baking soda that didn't mix in. You can see where it rests inside the bigger holes in the blobula, and this can be removed with a pastry brush before you break up the blob into pieces.
With the whipped cream, White Russians come to mind, minus the buzz, for there isn't near enough Kahlua used to weave an alcohol spell.......

What,...THAT? Yeah, well, I may have fibbed a little. My relatives tend to 'pop in' this time of year. Since he is here,.. meet my imaginary Uncle Morty. He is one of a trio of Smeg Men who hang out at the cafe with a purple clairvoyant who eats eggs and eyeballs. Eating eyeballs helps him 'see'.

And then there are Sol and Mosche, Uncle Morty's lodge brothers. Sol is a very naughty boy. Poofter boy and his beauty mark. Don't let the obsequious Sol fool you. He speaks with a lisp, yes, but he can't be trusted with sharp objects. They say that he is slightly cracked, but I don't know because he never takes his pants off!
Mosche chases cars and stuffs toads into his pockets. He barks at the moon ever since he learned to fly. He would rather play with rockets than to give his reasons why. Bubbe says he's hard to feed, his knickers are a-tatter. Off he flies, to the left and to the right, in his search for ever after.

"Obsequious, Purple and Clairvoyant" by Linda Odekirk Tewes
12" x 24" acrylic mixed media
3rd Place
Highland Art Center's 26th annual juried show, 2010

Pink Elephants coffee Cafe
Adapted from a recipe by Jeni Britton Bauer
Makes about 1 quart.

Measure out into narrow, deep, heavy-bottomed pot:

2 cups whole milk (divide into 2 Tbsp. for slurry into small bowl)
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar
2 Tbsp. light corn syrup


2 Tbsp. milk
1 Tbsp. + 1 tsp. cornstarch
In a small bowl make a SMOOTH slurry by mixing together thoroughly. Set aside.

3 Tbsp. cream cheese, softened
1/4 tsp. fine sea salt
In a small bowl, whisk together until smooth. Set aside.

1/4 cup Kahlua
1 cup Kahlua Crunch Candy pieces, about 1/4" size (recipe below)

1. Prepare a very large, deep bowl partially filled with ice cubes and centrally fitted with a smaller, deep, glass or stainless steel bowl. Keep center bowl DRY inside.
2. In deep, narrow, heavy-bottomed 4-quart pot, heat milk, cream, sugar, and corn syrup to the boil over medium-high heat, then boil for 4 min. Remove from heat and gradually whisk in the cornstarch slurry.
3. Bring to the boil again and boil, stirring, for 1 min. only, using a spatula or a wooden spoon, until slightly thickened.
4. Gradually whisk a little of the hot mixture into the cream cheese/salt mixture and stir until smooth. Stir into mixture in the pot until smooth.
5. Stir in the Kahlua to mix thoroughly.
6. Pour the mixture into the centered glass bowl. Add more ice cubes around outside of it as necessary. Let stand without disturbing for about 30 min., until cold and slightly thickened.
7. Pour cooled mixture into your ice cream maker and follow manufacturer's instructions. I let the machine churn for about 30 min., no longer. Mix in Kahlua Crunch Candy pieces.
8. Pour into freezer-proof container, cover top of ice cream with a cut-to-fit piece of parchment paper, and then secure with tight fitting lid.
9. Ice cream should be firm in 4 hours, but I prefer to freeze it overnight for reason of marrying the flavors so that it doesn't taste too sweet. You will probably let out a BLEAH when you taste it before it is frozen firm. Sickeningly sweet and a little weird.

Makes enough to fill a gallon-sized zipper bag.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Place a 9" x 9" metal pan on that and line the pan with 2 pieces of parchment paper in a crossover so that all sides will overhang 3-4". Make sure this is centered on the cookie sheet. When it is time to pour in the blobula, it is going to expand and roll over the sides, like a school science project showing how lava flows. Now that you have been warned, you won't be so terrified of this process. It will come to an immediate stop as it cools before it has a chance to escape the papered perimeter under the pan.

1 1/2 cups sugar
2 Tbsp. water
1/4 cup Kahlua
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1 Tbsp. baking soda, sifted and free of lumps

1. Into narrow, deep, heavy-bottomed pot, measure out all ingredients except the baking soda. Stir to mix and then bring to the boil and cook it to 310F (hard crack stage) on your candy thermometer, about 10 min.

2. Remove from heat and WORKING QUICKLY add the 1 Tbsp. baking soda (free from lumps). Mixture will foam rapidly the instant the baking soda is added. Stir briskly but just until the mixture thickens, and do not break down the foam with too much stirring.
3. Turn out into prepared 9" x 9" pan: DO NOT STIR. Let stand until cold (room temperature).

Peel paper gently off from bottom of blob, break into chunks to fit a gallon-sized zipper bag and, using a rolling pin or your fists, break down into 1/4" pieces to mix into the ice cream, and 1/2" pieces for sprinkling.

The leftover candy will keep in the sealed zipper bag for 1-2 months, stored in a cool, dry place (NOT the refrigerator), and can be used in other ice creams and recipes. It IS candy, keep in mind, so, you can munch away without feeling you are doing something weird.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Sweet Potato Pie

Turkey this, and pumpkin that. Tights down to his shoes and a buckle on his hat. It never happened, and that is that.
Public schools are a great bullshit factory. A social engineering speak tank of pseudo-education and overbearing teachers who seem of the opinion that they are pretty hot stuff. They turn out compliant little nobodies who can't spell, won't read, can't tell the time unless the clock is digital, and do not have a clue how to use a ruler. But they can take a test the way they are taught to, and the collective rating, if high enough, brings the school a bigger piece of the money pie. No room for truth, for that would just mess up everything. If you are a great teacher and teach the kids the truth, you will soon find yourself ostracized by the cliques of your peers and then maybe out of a job.
Putting aside your religious beliefs, what sense is there to removing Christ from Christmas? And what is the point to having impressionable young children write letters to Santa Claus, who is a big FAT lie? And how moot it becomes to add further insult to our intelligence when the local newspaper devotes its 2nd of 2 whole thin sections to the whining prattle of I want this, and, I want that...I, me, me, my, me, me, mine...GIMMIE, GIMMIE, GIMMIE!
They want designer clothes and shoes that light up. They want electronics. And for all of their expectations of Santa, they get nothing you can't afford, and you then become the bad guy for not getting them what they wanted. You could keep life sweet and simple if you tell them the truth from the get-go. Because if you sell them on Santa, and then the gig is up and they figure out the truth, they will never truly trust you again. They see you as a few crackers short of a box, and you can't become a member of their clubhouse.
TV news likes to do blurbs about the corporate stores "suffering losses" due to a slacker public that won't spend its money like it used to. How can something be a 'loss' when it wasn't earned?How can they claim tax credit for what they never had? I have been asking that very question ever since I was a kid, and no one can answer me still. If the success of your business relies solely upon holiday sales then you need a new game plan.
I hear way too much about shopping and zilch on peace and collective good will. Oh, but, peace and love and gratitude do not come with retail tags, so, I guess the consensus is that if it doesn't cost a chunk of change SOMEwhere down the line, it must suck.
Shall we OCCUPY SANTA and hit the banks where it counts? Find the strength to close your wallets and just say NO. Gee, they will suffer the losses of billions of dollars they never had! Hey, their ancestors created Satan Claus and the December 25th Christmas. And now they won't give credit to Christ! (pun way intended) Think about it: The Big Red Guy puts you in the red. So, let's OCCUPY his ass and toss the goofy suit OUT. Those department store Santas can then take their flasks and their drippy red noses and find another place to fart and sniggle with little kids in their piss-stained laps. Alcoholics do dribble, you know. Of course, not all department store, and corner store and lodge or library Santa is a drunk. Some of them reek of pot.
My next jester's gesture will be the upside of what now becomes a pleasant and ambient, thankful
time. Best case scenario? Depends on what you like to do. I have spent many a Thanksgiving in coffee shops, loving the hot coffee and observing the gaggle of others who were alone, or with family in tow. The families seemed to be having a miserable time of it while the loners enjoyed their 'steal away' of semi-solitude and the freedom to be quiet. But when Mr. P and I spend the holiday at home, the words to describe it would be "gratitude, thanks, and blessings in joyful abundance". Yes, abundance can look sharp on a pretty dinner plate, but there is also abundance in holding your mug of coffee and looking out the windows at the trees, lolly gagging in your pajamas and holding hands with your beloved.
Never mind the clutter of the other entrees, I am beholding a bird that gave its life to sustain mine. Gee, it must be a holiday because this is a mighty big turkey.
My method for cooking turkey is to put it in a cooking bag that is coated inside with 2 Tbsp. of flour, snip 5 small slits through the top of the bag, position the package just right in the roasting pan, put it in a 325F oven and forget about it for 2 1/2 hours. When it's done, the meat will fall off the carcass and be so moist and tender, you might cry. Mr. P and I scramble for the dark meat, but he concedes the honor to me to pull off the skin (all of it) and eat as much as I want before sharing with him. "OOOOH, BABY!", as Grandma Susie used to say. I sprinkle a little fine salt on it and bite into the delicate, crispy, golden brown chimera of turkey beauty. Can't touch this. It's MINE.
Yup. The Bag is my buddy. It holds the juices and protects the juices from drying out, so there is quite a bit to make a sizable batch of gravy, especially when you add a big can of chicken broth for volume. Just think about those hot turkey sandwiches with dressing under the turkey slices on the bread, smothered in gravy. With the dressing inside, I call it The Marvel. With a thick slice of jellied cranberry on the side, and a fresh, crispy stick of salted celery, you are good to go. I tend to sprinkle the top of the gravy with black pepper. How about you? For this reason, alone, I make a very large casserole of dressing.
Sweet Potato Pie tastes like a Chiffon Pumpkin Pie: Silky. Scrumpdiddlyumptious. Filling and rich. Cooking is pretty much a regional thing. Some recipes spread far and wide because they are too good not to.
Think back to the times when spices and goods arrived in big, wooden merchant ships from across the oceans of wet-sprayed air, humungous waves, and smelly men. Whew! What a ride. People relied upon these ships (with their motley crews, smart-assed parrots, hadn't seen a wench in 8 months)to supply them with just about everything they needed for their stores and their homes. Nowadays, we have planes, trains, trucks, faster ships, and delivery services. (Oh, how I miss having a milkman!) We travel and view and taste and shop, and we bring back with us a new food to like at home.
We find that, despite our modern reaches into the food wilderness, there are still fruits and vegetables we've never heard of. Suddenly it is a kosher thing to make food using the durin fruit as an ingredient. Have you ever smelled one? Nobody really likes it, but the Iron Chefs use it on TV frequently, like squid and jellyfish. Jellyfish are like muscular snot with venom. But to the Asian taste buds, they are one more of a variety of textures used. I guess that Asians don't think of snot when they eat.
Sweet Potato Pie is one of the best southern traditions to hit California, along with fried chicken (its origin is disputable), jumbolaya, bourbon pecan pie and the Allman Brothers. Let's not forget Dr. John and the Neville Brothers. The south is a whole different way of life and social schisms. Why, they even have elephants in their living rooms! They must be plentiful there because nobody wants to talk about them. Some foods are stereotyped as "Black food", but don't get that confused with blackened fish. And Sweet Potato Pie is one of those proprietary claims. This one took me by surprise, my ignorance of it no secret. It was one of those easy, first-time perfect pies which beg presence on your dinner table. Here, I present it as dessert.

Mr. P took a liking to the pie and was truly enjoying it,...until I blurted out that it tastes just like pumpkin pie. Then his chewing slowed as he backed away from his plate a little. Mr. P absolutely hates pumpkin pie. I shouldn't have uttered a word. Appropriate time to shove a bite into my pie hole.

Adapted from Dooky Chase, New Orleans
One 9" pie.
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
1/4 cup finely chopped pecans
1/4 cup ice cold water, as needed
1/2 cup cold butter OR vegetable shortening
A few shakes of ground cinnamon

In a food processor, pulse together all the dry ingredients and the cold butter (or shortening) into short bursts until the mixture forms pea-sized lumps. Add the water through the chute as you pulse until the mixture forms a stiff dough and pulls away from the sides of the food processor bowl. Remove the dough and form it into a 6" disc, wrap it in plastic wrap, and chill for one hour in the fridge. This dough can be made in advance and kept refrigerated for several days, or it can be frozen. I would use it within one month.
If you are pressed for time, you can use unbaked Pillsbury pie crust (sold 2 to a box). Prick holes with a fork in the bottom and lightly sprinkle with ground cinnamon before pre-baking for 10 min. @375. Keep your eye on it so it doesn't cook too brown or burn. This is what I used for the pie pictured in this posting.
2 large sweet potatoes (weighing together no more than 2 lbs., preferably 1 1/2 lbs.)
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
2 large eggs, slightly beaten
1/4 cup condensed milk (evaporated milk will work, too)
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 Tbsp. butter, melted
1/2 cup chopped pecans OR enough pecan halves to decorate outer top of pie in a circle.
A few shakes of gr. cinnamon to mix with the chopped pecans, (if using chopped)
1. Preheat oven to 375F.
2. Roll the chilled pie dough into a 12" round. Store-bought is already sized enough. Press into a 9" pie pan or fluted pie pan (Not for tarts. A fluted pie pan works nice for pretty edges and sides.) Sprinkle bottom lightly with ground cinnamon. Trim top flush with top of pie pan. Sprinkle bottom of nested crust with a light bit of cinnamon. Put in oven and bake for 10-15 minutes, until the crust is set and begins to brown slightly. Remove from oven. Set aside to cool.

3. Peel and cut yams into 1" cubes and put into a stockpot. Fill with water to 1" above the yams. Bring to the boil and then lower heat to slow boil for about 25 min., until a fork goes in and out without resistance. You want them soft, totally done. No second chances.
4. Drain off water in a colander in the sink. Put the cooked cubes into a large bowl and, using a potato masher (NOT a ricer or food processor or a blender), mash them up. While doing that, mix in the sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg, then whisk in the eggs, milk, and vanilla extract, in that order. When all is mashed together into an evenly smooth filling, add the melted butter and mix thoroughly. Remember, the butter goes in last.
5. Pour mixture into cooled pie shell. Arrange pecan halves, if using, around the outer ring of the pie and sprinkle on a little cinnamon. If using chopped pecans, mix with cinnamon and sprinkle over the pie, all over.

6. Bake for 20 to 25 min. (I baked for 20 min. because my oven runs hot.) until the filling is set and the edges of the crust has browned.

7. Serve warm or at room temperature (cold is yummy, too) with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream if served as dessert. You can use it as a vegetable entree, if you like.

It looks real pretty with ham, too!

Pictured here is Samtheyam. Samtheyam is one year old. This was an experiment, to see how long it would thrive and flourish before a last minute planting. One year, so far, but it has become like a member of the family, so, it gets its own pot and will be raised like a plant.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Fartless Chili For A Cold Night

Trick or Treat, when I was a kid,...those were the days! We lived in a safe neighborhood in a relatively safe little town, and us girls had our buddy system for "safety in numbers". We had our bases covered. Our older brothers set off, far enough away from us that we didn't actually see them do anything. But, it was a given that we just knew who was soaping up the car windows and throwing eggs at the houses. It wasn't worth getting our asses kicked for telling. It all came out in the wash, right? No harm, no foul.
None of us were accompanied by adults and we were free to be as silly as we wanted for as long as we could endure it. Oh man. Life was good. At least it was for a few hours.
In the late 1950's, Halloween was a candy coup de tat. The tolerant adults who opened their doors, time and time again, were also generous adults who gave us full-sized Hershey Bars, and very good candy, and whole packs of chewing gum. After a visit to every compliant house within a 1/2 mile radius, we would return home with our booty and feeling rich with an entire shopping bag full of sweet treasures. Oh yeah, home with the stash! For the most part, we had very cool neighbors on Halloween, and there was always one in a witch costume with her cauldron of dry ice made dramatic by many purple and green lights all over the place. It was fun to see someone's mom roll with it like that.

Our mom allowed us to keep the booty in our rooms with us. This worked out well for me because there was as much joy in counting it as there was pleasure in eating it. This was the beginning of my learning about advertising layouts and logos.No shit. I was a serious kid with an arty appetite as to how it all worked, no matter the medium. And along with Halloween came The Sugar Buzz. Oh, FUN.
And I showed the adults a thing or two about self-discipline. Never ruined my appetite for dinner and ate every bite on the plate. Grandmother Jeanette was new to this concept coming from me. And she didn't think it was such a good idea for my mom to be permissive as to allow us kids to keep it all in our rooms. My elders were fascists.
Then something happened to Halloween as we knew it, as like everything else since the murder of JFK. Everything changed so drastically, it made me sick to my stomach a lot. There began a big media to-do about razor blades hidden in apples, and every piece of candy had to be inspected for needle holes in the wrappers,and an adult had to accompany the kids for Trick or Treat, and the candy bars became bite-sized, and the other candy tasted terrible. The street became mean and my mother did a flip flop of opinion, deciding that it was the Devil's holiday, therefore I was no longer allowed to do Trick or Treat. She wasn't religious until I was in my 40's, so, where was this coming from? Yup. Everything and everyone....changed. That era died...

One of the cool things about living in the mountains is that there are no Trick or Treaters. It isn't pretty to think what could happen to these short little freaks in the dark of evening, scaring the skunks, perplexing the bears and disturbing the natural order of things that go bump in the night. And it is hello-nippy cold on Halloween night. Top all of that with that there are no streetlights whatsoever and there are long distances between houses, you can bank on it that there won't be Trick or Treaters. Nice saving$ right there. So you are free to exhale and kick back.
A small town with a population of 1,500, a virtual drive-thru of cuteness from the Gold Rush Days, it isn't without its Halloween spirit (more of a truth than a pun). "Uptown", there are merchants open and one place all doodeed up for the little ones to get their monster boogie on and depart with a pittance of crappy candy, all in the name of good fun for all. Some of the adults enjoy the hell out of dressing up in costume and acting retarded. And yes, it can be scary! Two of our better friends love it so much, they got married Oct. 31. Mr. P and I tied the legal knot the day before, but it had nothing to do with that obvious day of orange and black.

Mr. P likes to sow cow in the kitchen, adding a little of this, and a sprinkle of that until his witch's brew begets hop toads of flavor. A bowlful of his warm chili, sprinkled on top with finely chopped onion and piled high with grated cheddar cheese is a big hug on a cold night.

Pink Elephants coffee Cafe

Note: If you prefer to make your own beans:
Use 1/2 small bag of pinto beans and 1/2 small bag of pink beans. Toss into colander and rinse well, making sure to remove any little rocks, bean casings, lizard heads and dirt. Place cleaned beans in a large, non-reactive (steel or enamel) pot and cover with water up to 2" higher than the beans. Cover and let soak overnight. DO NOT SALT THE BEANS. Salting makes them tough. When ready to cook, the next day, drain beans of water in colander, put beans back in pot and fill will fresh water to 2" above the beans. Bring to the boil and stir, then lower heat to low medium and cook for 2 hours. If water boils down too much, add more water to 2" above beans only once. The beans turn the water into a yummy bean juice and it thickens, which is what you want. When done, remove from heat and set aside. Use as indicated in recipe, omitting the 1/2 can of water in the recipe.
1# beef chuck (stew meat), cut into 1" pieces
1 cup flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
Brown paper bag, lunch-sized
1/4 cup cooking oil or meat lard
1 large (24 oz.) can Ranch Style Beans
1 medium can (15 oz.) diced tomatoes or 2 fresh tomatoes, diced
1/2 the empty can of water
2 Tbsp. chili powder (3 Tbsp. if using homemade beans)
2 Tbsp. cumin (3 Tbsp. if using homemade beans)
1 Tbsp. cayenne pepper ( add 1 1/2 tsp. more if using homemade beans)
1 Tbsp. onion powder (2 Tbsp. if using homemade beans)
1 Tbsp. garlic powder (2 Tbsp. if using homemade beans)
2 tsp. to 1 Tbsp. ground Mexican oregano (1 1/2 Tbsp. if using homemade beans)

1. Put beans, tomatoes and water in crock pot and stir well. Put on high heat.
2. Make a dredge of flour, salt and black pepper and shake it up in the brown bag. Toss in the meat pieces, a handful at a time, and shake to coat thoroughly. Place coated meat pieces on a plate while you heat up the oil/lard in a non-stick skillet on medium high heat. When oil/lard is hot, add coated meat pieces and fry to brown on all sides. Remove from heat
3. Add meat and all of the oil/lard with it to crock pot and stir well to mix all. When hot,add the chili powder, cumin, cayenne pepper, onion powder, garlic powder and Mexican oregano. Stir well to distribute evenly. Cover and let simmer on low heat for 2 1/2 hours. Then turn off heat and salt to taste. Be careful not to salt too much if using canned beans.

note: You can find ground Mexican oregano at the supermarket in their isle of canned Mexican foods and Asian specialties. The spices are in small, clear bags on rack hooks.
This is a very nice mild chili. You can make it as hot as you like by adding thin slices of jalapenos, serranos, or Habaneros (Scotch Bonnets). But you don't want to add the pepper slices until 10 min. before end of cooking time, otherwise the pepper slices will turn into the consistency of snot without flavor. Garnish with chopped onions, pepper slices, grated cheese or crushed saltine crackers if you like.