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Saturday, December 27, 2008

Free Food!

If you have never made soup from your Thanksgiving or Christmas turkey bones, you owe it to yourself to do it. I am an advocate of free food and when it is easy and delicious too, all the better.

The first time I saw this miracle was the year we had Thanksgiving dinner with a friend. As soon as we finished eating and had relaxed briefly, we cleared the table. She went into action, tearing all the meat off the bones and tossing the bones (along with any bits of fat or skin) into a large soup pot. Scrapings left in the roasting pan that did not make it into the gravy went in too, along with any juices from cooking the giblets or from the carving platter.

This was turned on to simmer for hours and eventually became a delicious turkey soup. I have been a convert ever since. One of the best soups I ever made was from the carcass of a turkey cooked on the grill and begged from the hostess, who was going to throw it away, from another Thanksgiving with friends. I have even brought home the carcass from Thanksgiving dinner at the in-laws for making soup without having first made a turkey. Free food!

I now make soup stock from any kind of bones including those from beef or pork roasts and chicken bones - either from chicken cooked at home or fried chicken from the take out place. Sometimes I save them in the freezer until I have a large potful, sometimes I just cook up what I have and then I have enough stock to make gravy or a sauce. Here is how I do it.

After removing all the meat from the bones, toss the bones into your largest pot (break some of them to fit, if you have to, with a meat cleaver or a meat tenderizer hammer). Also add any bits of fat or skin and scrape any juices or drippings from the pan or the platter. I also add things like onion skins and peelings from the scrubbed vegetables I might have cooked with the meal - anything except those from the cabbage family like broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, which will give the stock a strong, unpleasant flavor. The vegetable trimmings - everything from onion skins to carrot scrapings to celery trimmings - will add flavor and color to the stock.

Cover the stuff in the pot with water to cover, even filling it to within an inch of the brim. Add a few bay leaves and several pepper corns and turn the heat on to low. Allow the stock to simmer at the very lowest heat, hardly even shimmering. This will ensure a clear stock. Heavier boiling will cause it to be darker and cloudy. The low simmer extracts all the flavor and goodness from the bones. Allow it to cook several hours or all day long but leave enough time to cool it and to discard the bones and strain the stock.

Strain through cheesecloth lined colander for the clearest stock, and portion into tall narrow containers. The kind that Chinese take-out soup comes in. This allows the fat to congeal in a thicker layer that is easily removed. Chill the stock overnight in the fridge. If you plan to freeze it, remove the fat first. Otherwise, leave the fat layer on until you use the stock for soup or sauces.

I also save the fat for cooking things like hash brown, turkey hash or fried potatoes. It adds flavor and it's free! The stock and the fat will keep a day or two in the fridge and much longer in the freezer.

To make gravy, heat a couple tablespoons of the fat (or butter or olive oil) with an equal amount of flour over medium low heat. Cook, stirring with a whisk, for a minute or so. Add a cup or so of your stock, stirring with the whisk to avoid any lumps. Continue whisking and cooking until the gravy thickens and boils. Season with a little salt and pepper and dried herbs. You can also add a little milk for cream for a "country" gravy to serve over noodles, mashed potatoes or biscuits.

Quotable Quotes; in the category Talk Is Cheap!

"I live on good soup, not on fine words."


Saturday, December 20, 2008

O I Love Hash!

Anyone who watched Sesame Street In the early days (1970s PBS) will remember that each character had their own song - Kermit and "Being Green", Ernie and "Rubber Duckie" and the curmudgeonly Oscar The Grouch and "I Love Trash". To paraphrase Oscar, I Love Hash!

You can make hash out of anything - corned beef, roast beef, roast pork, ham, turkey, chicken or just vegetables even. Hash is a great way to use up leftover ingredients and have something warm and comforting to sustain you.

My mom used to make hash from the leftover roast beef that was too small to become a French dip sandwich (if there was not enough for hash, it went into a pot of soup). When mom made corned beef hash it was always for breakfast and always from a can. Roast beef hash was supper. I am not sure if dad liked or hated roast beef hash - he had a penchant for meat and potatoes but generally in their own separate and distinct places on the plate, not all mixed together, and he detested anything he called "slop".

We never had, for instance, creamed chipped beef on toast or chicken ala king - dishes my husband grew up on, loved, and craves even to this day. Unfortunately, I did not learn how to make these so they are not a part of my culinary repertoire. Consequently, he only gets them on rare occasions or when we eat at this mothers house. And since she does not generally cook this way any more, those occasions are becoming rarer and, I hope, more special.

But it seems to me roast beef and less often, turkey hash, were not so rare at home. We had roast beef quite often. Of course, it was bought on special, and keep in mind there was a lot of food in a good sized roast. Dinner for the family with leftovers for sandwiches, hash and soup at subsequent meals.

One of the best hash dishes I had was ham hash at a diner. Chunks of ham carved from the bone, potatoes and onions, crisped in the skillet or on the grill and served with the requisite ketchup. Delicious.

I make hash from anything, even leftover lunch meat. The routine is pretty much the same. Dice an onion and toss it in the pan with a little butter, olive oil or bacon grease if you have any. Dice up the leftover potatoes and other vegetables, or a raw potato if there are no leftovers. Finally, dice up the leftover meat and toss it in at the end to finish and heat through. Serve with or without a poached egg and toast and don't forget the ketchup.

If I am using a raw potato I will add it soon after the onion and cover the pan, giving it a stir every few minutes, and letting it cook about 15 minutes until the potato is cooked through. A leftover potato requires just enough time to get it hot and a little crispy before adding the meat.

Season with salt and pepper to taste and a little crushed red pepper flakes, if you like it spicy. A dash of Worcestershire or Tabasco is a good thing.

Enjoy your hash and know that meals like this can feed your soul as well as your tummy. Lets see if I can add a verse to Oscar's song - sing along with me!

I have an old skillet of leftover meat,
potatoes and onions that cannot be beat.
I'll cook it all up over plenty of heat.
I love it because it's hash!

Quotable Quotes; in the category But Gimme The Good Stuff!

"There is nothing worse for the health, or for the palate, than a poor hash, while a good hash is not only a favorite dish in most families, but an essential article of economy and convenience."

Catharine E. Beecher
'Miss Beecher’s Domestic Receipt-Book' (1846)

Saturday, December 13, 2008

But What About Those Shoes?

I received this picture in the mail a few weeks ago. It was sent by a friend, tucked into a Christmas card even though it was September. On the envelope, with an arrow pointing to the picture of the shepherds, was written "not yet" and in the card was a message that she was packing to move and this was the only thing she could find in which to mail the picture.

If you go to my sister's blog, you will see the companion picture to this one. Mary is standing in profile, probably to show off the huge bow (no doubt the precursor to the 1980s butt-bow bridal gown). I hope you will agree that these photos epitomize the beauty and innocence of a major childhood event. As Mary said, "Jesus clearly loved us that day, you can tell because our socks aren’t all scrunched down in our shoes like they are in every single other picture that was ever taken of us."

Mary looks beautiful and innocent, as she should. I look like I am about to skin my knee. I think this is the only picture of me as a kid without a band-aid on my leg.

The picture was taken years and years ago in front of the friend's house, maybe by her mom or her dad. The occasion was my sister's first communion. Big sister like, I have my arm around her - either through a protective urge or, more likely, because the photographer told me to!

Click on the picture and enlarge it. I want you to see the beatific expressions on our faces. And the fact that our socks are not all scrunched and falling down. And the fact that I am wearing black shoes.

They are probably not the same shoes I wore for my own first communion two years earlier. As I recall my feet grew rapidly and a few years after this picture was taken I was probably wearing my mom's shoes.

I did wear black shoes at my first communion (see how I make this all about me?) and I suffered because of it. One of my darling little classmates had told me that my black shoes were a sign that my soul was not pure. Of course, I accepted this as gospel. Even though my mother told me my classmate was wrong, I still walked up the communion aisle with a wormy feeling in my tummy, hoping God could not see my black shoes. Luckily they were not black patent leather - that would have been a whole other ball of wax.

Take a good look at the picture. I'll tell you about that coat another time!

Quotable Quotes; in the category This Is What I Should Have Told Her!

“A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is still putting on its shoes.”
Mark Twain

Saturday, December 6, 2008

It's Almost Like Famous!

I occasionally clean out my "cookies" and perform other routine maintenance on my computer. Then I have to google everything because it's no longer stored in my web browser memory banks. Last time I did this, I had to google my blog and to my surprise, I found returns to sites other than my own blog. People had actually blogged about my blog in their own blog posts! Unbelievable!

It was a strange feeling to know that others had not only read my blog but had posted links to it in their blog posts. I felt suddenly revealed and vulnerable. But after reading the blog posts, I felt really, really good. Somebody had found something in my writing that was worthy of commenting on and passing on to others.

This particular post was about the pink turnip pickles from a few posts back. And there were comments about the recipe and the success others had with it. Great feeling!

I contacted the blogger, thanked her for linking to my posting and asked if I could link to her blog. If you look in my blog headings for You May Also Like . . . , you will notice a new link to this blog, the one that highlighted the pickle recipe. I hope you will follow the link to wherever it may take you. I guarantee if you keep going, you will find a lot more than pickled turnips.

Quotable Quotes; in the category I Thought There Was More To It Than This!
“It is strange to be known so universally and yet to be so lonely.”

Albert Einstein