Thursday, September 11, 2008

Parle Vous...


Cassoulet (from Occitan caçolet [kasuˈlet]) is a rich, slow-cooked bean stew or casserole originating in the southwest of France, containing meat (typically pork sausages, pork, goose, duck and sometimes mutton), pork skin (couennes) and white haricot beans.

Awhile back I came across this recipe online, printed it out, and added it to my ever-growing stack of "recipes to try". Finally, last winter, I made it for the first time. Greg and I both really liked it, so it went into the "keep" pile. I have no idea who posted this recipe. I think it was someone on a freezer cooking email group I used to belong to, so my apologies for not being able to credit anyone.

This is a hearty dish, good for Fall and Winter. It's easy and cooks in the crockpot, so there's little effort or mess. Perfect for a busy day. And the leftovers freeze well.

Layer the following ingredients in a crockpot that has been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Don't stir. Cook on high for 4 hours, or low for 8-9 hours.
1 onion, sliced

3 carrots, sliced (I chopped up several baby carrots)
3 cloves, garlic, minced

3 cans Great Northern white beans with liquid

3 tsp. chicken boullion granules (I don't have that, so I used a very generous teaspoon of chicken base.)

1 bay leaf

1 tsp powdered thyme (I ran out to my herb garden and cut some fresh. Just throw the whole thing in - the leaves will fall off and the stems will be fished out later.)

3 sirloin pork chops, cut in half (I used 2 large-ish bone-in regular chops from a 'family-sized' package)
1/2 lb. smoked garlic sausage, cut in pieces (I used lean turkey sausage. Not as strong a flavor, but a little healthier)
1/4 lb. bacon, cut in small pieces (I used about half that much, and cooked it first)

Now put the lid on your crockpot and walk away. Don't stir this until you're ready to eat. And you'll be wanting to eat, since it smells so good as it cooks!

I'll use this as a one-dish meal since everything is included. That's the beauty of it. Only one crock to wash. We all love that!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Comfort Cooking

*(Goulash is a dish, originally from Hungary, usually made of beef, red onions, vegetables and paprika powder.[1] The name comes from the Hungarian gulyás (pronounced goo-yash), the word for a cattle stockman or herdsman.) Wikipedia

My mom was a very basic cook - a good cook, but she pretty much made only simple, mostly fast, easy, and economical dishes. She was feeding a family of seven on a limited budget, so we had lots of inexpensive hamburger, macaroni, potatoes, and chicken.
This dish, goulash, was a staple in our home. It's one of the first things I learned to cook, and when it was my turn to plan and prepare meals for the week, it was always on the menu.
There are tons of recipes for goulash, but this is how my mom taught me:
*Put water on to boil for macaroni. Cook pasta as soon as it boils, while the meat is browning. I used ziti here, but we always used macaroni when I was a kid.
*Dice onion and brown with the hamburger. I used about a pound of 90/10 ground sirloin here. I also added a big clove of garlic. (Mom never used cloves of garlic, though she did eventually discover garlic salt, and I always added a little of that.) While the meat cooks, stir and chop it into small pieces. When it is thoroughly cooked, pour into a strainer and drain the fat. Is there anything that smells like my childhood more than hamburger and onion browning on the stove? I think not.
*Drain the pasta and add to the cooked hamburger in the skillet. Oh yeah, we always made goulash in the skillet.
*Now add one can of tomato soup. Yes, I have sometimes made it with tomato sauce instead, but it's not the same. Use the soup.
*Next, I put in a dollop of yellow mustard and a squirt of ketchup. Yep, a dollop and a squirt. This is a recipe you make to taste, so start small and add more if you think it needs it.

I put in a little bit of salt, not much, since I'm using canned soup. Lots of fresh ground black pepper. Stir up, cook on low until heated through, and then enjoy.

When I was high school, I started putting my own personal twists on the traditional dishes Mom had taught me to make. Sometimes really good, other times not so much. One of the favorite changes I made to goulash was to add cheese. Just before serving, I'd put a few slices of Kraft American cheese in the pan and mix it up. Dad and the boys loved it. Tonight I simply shredded a little sharp cheddar over the top. Oh, and I added some chopped chives (from my garden, Tonita).
I don't know what made me decide this afternoon to make goulash for supper. I haven't made it in probably 10 or 12 years, but I'm glad I did. There was a hearty, hot meal on the stove when Greg got home from work.

It was served with fresh cucumber in Ranch on the side. (Mom would have sliced the cucumber and put it in white vinegar with sliced white onion. Yum. But Greg doesn't like the tang of vinegar, so he gets Ranch.)

I know many of my Adams cousins who read this blog have their own personal memories of Mom and goulash. There are tales of her telling stories about gypsies and such in relation to this meal. I don't know about that, but to all of us, goulash reminds us of our childhood.