Monday, January 17, 2011

Cornundrum No More

I haven't forgotten about my lemon saga.  I just have been having some... technical difficulties with my marmalade, so there is some regrouping that needs to be done before I have enough for a full entry.
Good thing we had other food (foodie?) stuff going on this weekend!
Since getting his new smoker for Christmas, Scott has been all a-twitter about doing a brisket.  I really really really wanted him to let me corn it so it would become pastrami, but apparently someone doesn't want to be told how to use his toy.  
So, Texas brisket it was!
Scott won't fill me in on what he puts in his special rub, but there were some orange powders and some white ones, and I know that black pepper went into it, but that's about all I can give you.  If you have ever seen one of those BBQ cook-offs, you know how secretive people are about their rubs.  In the end, it didn't matter what went into it - the final product was all that was needed.
Then the brisket went into the smoker (8:45-ish) to absorb the mesquite goodness coming from below.  It had to cook to 185, but remember - smoking is a "low and slow" process - you don't want the meat to cook too quickly, as you won't get that lovely ring, and you'll likely end up with a rather tough offering on your plate.  This literally took all day, with Scott tending to it, adjusting the heat as needed (he's still figuring out all the bells and whistles) and adding more chips when the smoke showed signs of fading.

Just in from the smoker, having a bit of a rest.
Of course a brisket is a big ol' hunk of beef, as you might be able to tell from this pic of the finished product, so we invited his mom over for dinner (hosting other guests on Day 2 of potty training seems kind of uncool on several fronts, as there is a semi-clad toddler racing around).  She offered to bring dessert, so we took on everything else.
The main dish being under control, we looked not far at all for the veggie of the night - each week, when we pick up our amazing (half) share of Desert Root Farms veggies, we are greeted with a cheerful recipe attached to the bag, highlighting at least one of the goodies inside.
This week's recipe was clear evidence of kismet - we had all the ingredients (well, some were in the bag attached to the recipe, but we at least had them NOW).

Sauteed Turnips with Spinach
(courtesy the amazing people at Desert Root Farms)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 3 medium turnips, peeled and cut into matchsticks
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 10 ounces fresh spinach, coarsely chopped
  • freshly ground nutmeg, to taste
  • salt and pepper, to taste
Heat oil in saute pan over medium-high heat.  Add garlic, turnips, and raisons; cook about one minute.
Add lemon juice; cover and cook three minutes at medium heat.
Stir in the spinach and cook until just wilted.
Sprinkle with nutmeg, salt and pepper.

My modifications:
  • I used bacon fat instead of olive oil
  • We didn't have any raisins, so I used dried cranberries
  • We used only one turnip, but it was Gigantor, pictured below.
  • I don't think Scott peeled it, but I can't say.  I tend to not peel my root vegetables, as the skins offer many wonderful nutrients, and they often look pretty, too.
Now THAT is a turnip!
And not even the biggest one of the week, according to DRF's FB page!
And what else?  Scott suggested some green beans that I had picked up at the store, but those were for a different purpose (more on that in a sec...).  We decided on cornbread, but I rather blanched when he said he needed to run out to get some Jiffy® mix.  Don't get me wrong - that stuff (well, the blueberry muffin mix) got me through high school.  But if we are going to smoke our own brisket and use startingly fresh veggies, would a boxed mix really do the trick?
Rhetorical question - the answer is no.
My friend Katie, who is embarking on an amazing year-long adventure of homemade everything, recently posted a link to a skillet cornbread recipe that she made for dinner.  Excitedly, I scanned down the page and clicked the link - hey, if it takes you to a page that is called "olsouthrecipes," it's going to be the real thing.
Then, my heart sank -  I knew we didn't have enough corn meal for that recipe.
However, a short check through a search engine yielded a similar recipe but with smaller portion sizes.  I melded these two recipes, as I just could NOT in good conscience use shortening when we had bacon fat and butter, so the second recipe in and of itself was out.
Here is the final recipe that I came up with after modifying both recipes:

Skillet Cornbread
  • 1 cup cornmeal (I used yellow, but I'm sure white would be fine)
  • 1/2 cup AP flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup whole milk (I mean, you could use any milk, I suppose, but...)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons (or so) bacon fat
Preheat the oven to 450.
In a large bowl, mix the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, and salt with a whisk.  Set aside.
In another bowl, mix the buttermilk and the milk with a whisk (you can use the same one).  Add the egg and stir (don't beat it like you are scrambling eggs; this is somewhat gentle work).  Stir in the baking soda in the same manner.
Pour the milk mixture into the cornmeal mixture and stir with the whisk until all the ingredients are just combined.
Slowly drizzle in the melted butter, stirring as you pour.
Melt the bacon fat in a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat.
Pour the batter into the skillet (you should hear sizzling) and cook for one minute on the stove top.
Place the skillet into the oven and cook for 15-20 minutes until crispy and golden.  Serve warm (or cold, or re-heated).
***I have read in several articles that you MUST use a cast iron skillet - anything else changes the taste. I honestly am not sure what else one would use, unless it was muffin tins, but then you wouldn't have cornbread, would you?  You'd have corn muffins.

Sizzling on the stove top - you can see the bacon fat bubbling up.
Just out of the oven - looks kind of like a giant pancake, doesn't it?
Remember that your skillet will bE SUPER HOT!  Use the little mitt thingies that came with it.
Now, let me be very clear here:  I really don't like cornbread.
Or so I thought.
I have always, ALWAYS put loads of butter and honey on my cornbread, even if it was sweet cornbread (which, according to certain experts... uh, family, that I have asked, is NOT southern cornbread) in the first place.  I was SURE that there was no other way to eat it, or, in my eyes, choke it down.  How else could I eat something THAT terribly dry?
But oh, mama, this cornbread...
This was amazing cornbread.  It was moist; it was fluffy; it was buttery.  In short, it was AMAZING.

Put all of this together, add some freshly squeezed lemonade (I used four of the five leftover lemons I mentioned in my last post), and you have a meal!

I was the only one who really liked the turnip dish, but I think that it's quite adaptable - you could really use any dark, leafy green or root vegetable in the place of the spinach and turnips (respectively).  I'm also quite certain that any dried fruit - or perhaps olives; I like olives - would be fine instead of the raisins.  I'm already thinking that it might be fun to add a dash of cumin next time; I find that is a great match to dried fruits in savory dishes.

I don't want to admit how little time elapsed between the full plate pic and this one.
There was definitely a "less talking - more eating" thing going on!
Now, the green beans I mentioned earlier had a special purpose.  I read that pickling brine can be "recycled" using pickling cucumbers once the original contents of the container have been consumed.  Of course, those aren't really in season at the moment, so I thought I would try to stuff some green beans (these are great in a bloody Mary, btw) into the jars that once housed my pickled okra (as of tonight, two of the jars have been demolished).
The first jar isn't quite ready - I stuffed them in there without doing anything to them but washing them and cutting them to size.
I'm hoping to speed up the process just a tick for the second jar; I parboiled this bunch before sending them into the briny depths.  Only time will tell, though.

Finally, I had a little "a-ha!" moment coming home from the store today (where I got WW flour instead of the AP that was on my list - derp!).  I realized that I had forgotten to get mustard, and we are completely out.  UGH!  We both really like mustard, although we tend to drift toward the "fancy schmancy" mustards instead of the yellow bottles (although I was mad about using the last of that, too).
Then I just told myself - we HAVE mustard seeds; I'll make it!
There we have it - I realized that making food from scratch, even condiments, is way more fun that getting it from the store.
Wait isn't that the intent of this blog?  For me to travel down the road of truly good eating, which means to put fewer ingredients - basically, only the pronounceable ingredients - in my mouth?  To come to enjoy making a meal, even if it's more elaborate to prepare or seemingly less healthy at first (I have used more bacon fat since starting this blog than I think I have in my life leading up to last fall)?  Well, yeah.
Epiphany?  No.  Just a realization that keeping tabs on myself and holding myself accountable is working.  I am eating less food but enjoying the collecting, preparing, and eating of it so much more than I ever thought I would.
The mustard seeds have to sit in their little bath until Wednesday, but I'm excitedly considering my spice options already.  Suggestions are welcome - just know that in the question the Pommes Frites street vendors of Regensburg often posed to me, "Süß oder scharf," I always choose scharf.

1 comment:

  1. So having just spent the past four months in Texas, I ate my fair share of brisket (at least for a Northern girl). But I can't say that I'd ever be brave enough to make it myself! I'm impressed! (And also jealous! Looks delish!)