Sometimes holidays are not what you planned. Often they take on a life of their own. Perhaps that’s what Christmas is all about. Welcoming or being open to something new, something loving, maybe even moving on from what you thought you had to have.
When I first moved to altitude, everyone seemed to talk about the changes needed to cook here. There were lots of suggestions about baking particularly (use less yeast and sugar–more salt for bread), but also about cooking anything at all (cook longer and with more liquid) and I paid attention. To be sure, some baking required a bit of adjustment — a few things never did come around — but the biggest hurdle was lack of humidity. Leave a piece of bread on the counter for a few minutes (say the phone rang when you were about to make a sandwich) and you’d return to dry bread–as if you left it out all night in Chicago or were drying bread for stuffing in Miami. Bake cookies, leave them to cool on the rack a couple of hours instead of a couple of minutes, and you’d have rocks. All Colorado cookies are biscotti is how I look at it. Cookies must be eaten, stored in very tightly-sealed containers, and/or frozen as soon as they’re cool. More than one Colorado baker has just thrown in the towel at Christmas. You simply can’t eat them before they’re stale. My method is to freeze every batch, taking out just the number of cookies you’ll eat — or give away– at one sitting. It works, but you need a big freezer –or a freezing garage– if you’re a happy baker in December.
Aside: There are those that will tell you it’s more attitude than altitude. I might agree, though I beat an extra egg into my corn and tea breads and I always bake with extra-large eggs no matter what. I also cut the amount of sugar in many baked goods–even things like a mashed sweet potato casserole. Continue reading
I don’t know if Friday Night “Dinner and a Movie” is still on. Last time I tuned in, it offered decent film viewing as well as little vignettes and cooking segments presented by talented folk. The music was the late 40’s jump tune (Louis Thomas Jordan), “Beans and Cornbread!” Loved it. I don’t know what it is about the phrase… Once you hear it, you just start walking around going, “Beans and cornbread uh uh uh…Beans and cornbread…” The “uh uh uh” is the tenor sax.
I raised my kids on bean soup and corn bread (or plain old beans and cornbread), though I don’t think I knew the tune back then… It’s a good tune!! And I still make it a couple of times a season. Simply put, we’re always glad to get it. It’s inexpensive, fairly healthy, and goes a long way. Dried beans have a long history south and north of the Mason-Dixon line and both Dave’s mom and my mom made big pots to feed their families. So it’s comfort food for both of us. In fact, the first meal I had at Dave’s house when we were dating was a pot of ham and beans. (Crock-pot fare was big in the mid-70’s.) He’s quick to remind me that in his house, beans were always served with ketchup. In my house, ketchup with beans would have been anathema. Yuck. Hot sauce, yes. Vinegar with hot peppers, probably. Ketchup, no.
|This is a ham hock from our little corner store, Widmer’s.|
Beans are a good reason to cook a ham; you’ll have the ham bone. No ham bone? Buy a ham hock or two as well as a ham steak if you like a lot of meat. Have a great butcher? Have him/her cut that big ham hock in half for you. You’ll only need half. Wrap the other half well in foil and freeze for up to two months.
But there are beans and there are beans. There’s cornbread and there’s cornbread. You can make all kinds… Here’s another version I offered on Dinner Place last spring:
Just for grins and giggles, let’s say you just want to make plain old very yummy bean soup. You’d like to know how to make a truly tasty cast iron pan of corn bread. You can. You can scratch that itch for a fine, old-fashioned meal. Even if years ago you did do the Elvis sneer– or squint and whistle in through your teeth when you knew there were beans for supper. My guess is you don’t do that any more. In fact, when you’re on a road trip, you may pull in to Cracker Barrel for just such a lunch.
And, uh, oh, by the way, if you invite friends to share this sumptuous repast and throw in a couple of bottles of Côtes du Rhône (choose an inexpensive version of this dry French red blend)…you’ll be at the top of the heap with them for your “rustic” choice in dinner fare. Pick up a baguette to add to the bread basket. A few olives in a bowl for starters. Sounds like a good New Year’s Day plan.
beans and cornbread alyce style
bean soup (made in two stages–broth/beans and soup)
makes 10 – 12 servings
First the broth and cooking the beans half-way:
1# dried white or navy beans, rinsed well, picked over and soaked overnight or quick-soaked*
1 Smoked ham bone or smoked ham hock
6 cups chicken stock
3 quarts water (or more as needed to keep beans cooking freely)
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon Fresh ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, cut in half
1 stalk celery
10 sprigs fresh parsley and 2 large sprigs thyme tied in a bundle**
4 drops hot sauce (or to taste)
*You do not have to soak beans contrary to common wisdom. They will, however, cook more evenly and (rumor has it) be less gassy if you do soak them. Place the cleaned and sorted beans in the pot with water just to cover overnight. Or for quick soak: place cleaned and sorted beans in pot just barely covered with water and bring to a boil for two minutes. Turn heat off, cover pot, and let sit one hour before making soup. Discard soaking liquid for either method.
**Or use just the parsley tied and add 1 teaspoon dried thyme
Add all of the broth ingredients to a large (10-12 quart) stock pot. Bring to a boil. Lower heat to a simmer. Let cook about an hour or until beans are just beginning to soften. Take out ham hock or bone and cool a bit. Remove any usable meat, chop, and return to pot. Discard bone. Remove herb bundle and discard. Remove large pieces of vegetables, cool briefly and chop; return to pot. Don’t take out the bay leaves. Whoever gets them has good luck. Continue below at “Make the Soup.”
Second, make the soup:
2 cups ham cut into half-inch pieces
3 tablespoons tomato paste (or 15 ounce can chopped tomatoes)
2 cups chopped celery
1 cup each chopped onion and carrots
Bring the pot of soup to a boil. Reduce heat to a healthy simmer and cook another 1-2 hours until beans and all vegetables are tender. (The time will depend somewhat on how high you have the heat, how done the beans already were, etc.) Add water, if needed, to ensure vegetables are all cooking very freely in liquid. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary. If you’d like a thicker soup, remove two cups of beans and vegetables and mash or puree in the food processor. Return mashed vegetables to pot and taste again for seasoning. Serve hot with corn bread, butter, and honey. Store cooled leftovers well-covered in the refrigerator three days or in the freezer for up to six months.
Variations: Want a slow-cooker bean soup? Try this one.
You can also slow–“cook” bean soup in the oven like my friend Tony does. Try this.
It doesn’t take much to convert this to a more French version. Read here.
alyce’s corn bread
makes one 9″inch cast iron pan (can use 9″ baking pan if necessary)
- 5 tablespoons butter, divided (1/4 cup or 4 tablespoons for batter; 1 tablespoon to grease pan)
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon finely minced onion
- 1 1/4 cups white or yellow cornmeal
3/4 cup unbleached white flour
1/4 cup white, granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper or more to taste
- Pre heat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit (205 Celsius). Place rack at center.
- Melt 4 tablespoons of the butter and set aside.
- Heat a 9″ cast iron skillet (23 Le Creuset) on the stove top over low flame with the tablespoon of remaining butter. (If using a baking pan, simply grease the pan.) Tilt and tip skillet from side to side to coat the entire pan with a film of butter. Remove from heat if butter begins to burn.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, onion, and reserved melted butter. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, mix well the dry ingredients (cornmeal – pepper). Pour milk mixture into dry ingredients and mix until just barely combined.
- Pour batter into hot skillet or greased pan. I let the pan sit there a minute or two. Using hot pad for skillet, carefully move skillet to oven center rack.
- Bake about twenty minutes or until bread is golden brown with crispy edges and a toothpick inserted at center comes out clean. Serve hot with honey and butter. Wrap leftovers carefully and store at room temperature for one-two days or up to one week in the refrigerator. (Good crumbled in milk for breakfast.)
two-dog kitchen and around the ‘hood
|Came home from a trip to find someone had (we guess) a bit too much holiday eggnog and ran our fence down. Sad.|
|Back from the groomer. A bit embarrassed by the regalia. Cute babies, HUH?!|
Better late than never: a little of the Thanksgiving baking above and below:
|Maple-Bourbon Pecan Pie|
|Cranberry-Apple Tart with Almond Paste Crust|
|Pour the pumpkin mixture into a pie plate on a baking sheet that’s already in the oven.|
|C is for Cherry|
|My One-Minute (microwave) Pumpkin Custards made into tiny pies with an Anna’s Ginger Thin.|
Sing a new song; make a pot of beans,