Monday, May 17, 2010

Home Cookin'

My sister came by today with some homemade mushroom soup, part of the bounty of a mountain trek that yielded a whole bunch of morels. Blessed with this little surprise, I wanted to make a Sunday supper that would take advantage of the soup and clear away some leftovers at the same time. So this is not exactly a recipe, but an idea for a meal of country-fried steak, garlic mashed potatoes, mixed veggies, and a spinach-daikon salad.
Earlier in this beautiful day, I was thinking of reviving my long-lost bartending skills, and I wanted to start simple with back-to-the-basics margaritas and bloody Marys. So, the supper was washed down with what I think is a pretty decent margarita.
To replicate this supper, you'd need cube steak, potatoes, veggies of choice (I used broccoli, colored peppers and onion, garlic, flour, cream, an egg, butter, rosemary, basil and coarse-ground black pepper, a little kosher salt, some olive oil and canola oil.
The main event is country-fried steak, which is a way of turning a not-so-great piece of beef into a tasty main course. It is a cube steak, dipped in beaten egg, then dredged in seasoned flour and fried like frying chicken. The rest, as they say, is gravy. (To actually make gravy, use the leftover flour-herb mixture and the leftover frying oil from the steak to make a roux, add milk and season to taste, stirring until thick. I didn't make gravy this time because the garlic mashed potatoes stand nicely on their own.)
First, peel and rinse potatoes. I recommend two or three fist-sized potatoes per serving. You will also need garlic, at least two or three cloves per serving. Rinse the potatoes, cut into small cubes, add minced chopped garlic, a dash of salt, and enough water to cover, and cook the combination. Bring the water to a boil, then reduce the heat to simmer until fork-tender
Meanwhile, with the backside of a hefty knife, whack the cube steak on both sides. It will look big, but will cook itself back down to size. Add a tablespoon each of canola oil and olive oil to a big frypan and heat. Dip the cube steak in well-beaten egg, then dredge in a bowl that has at least two tablespoons of flour, a teaspoon each of rosemary and basil, a half-teaspoon of ground black pepper, a dash of salt and whatever other herbs strike your fancy. A little Worcester sauce is not a bad addition. Coat both sides of the cube steak with flour, then gently place in the frypan of hot oil to brown on both sides. Remove to drain the oil, then place on foil in a 325F oven while dealing with the rest of this meal.
When the potatoes are done enough, remove from heat, drain, mash the potatoes and add at least a tablespoon of butter and enough cream to make the potato-garlic combination smooth. Bring your veggie medley to a boil, reduce to simmer, drain and add a bit of butter. Shake the pan to coat with butter.
I then ladled out some of that nice mushroom soup (mushrooms, potatoes, butter, onion, salt and pepper) into a bowl and microwaved for a minute, then sprinkled a little dill over it to serve.
By this time, it's easy to plate the cube steak (country-fried steak), add a couple of scoops of the garlic mashed potatoes, and the veggies. I made a little salad of fresh spinach and daikon, made a simple dressing, and felt pretty good about cleaning the fridge while also having a tasty combination of healthy foods for supper.
We will deal with the margarita recipe in a future posting.
I mused earlier about the challenge of cooking for one, or more specifically, buying for one and managing to minimize waste. I remember as a kid being reminded that other people in the world don't have it so good, and for all the progress we've made in the decades since then, we in rich countries still haven't found a way to balance our gross excesses against the poverty, ignorance and hunger of too much of the rest of the world.
I'm not on a feed-the-poor kick here, but I do think it is a good idea to do what we can, and we can at least try to cook in ways that reduce our own sloth and minimize waste (and waist).