Sunday, September 27, 2009

the only way beer ever passes through my lips

On Thursday night the kids asked me for something quick and simple. I hadn't felt well on Thursday, nothing terrible, just tired, cranky and headachy. "Make something you don't have to think about, Mom, but I'd like something warm," said my sixteen-year old boy. This fits the bill perfectly.

Barbequed Meatloaf
(adapted from who knows how many recipes)

serves 4

1 pound ground beef, preferably ground chuck or my Daddy's if you can get it
1/3 cup seasoned bread crumbs
1/2 small onion, diced
1 large clove garlic, diced or pressed
1 egg, slightly beaten
1/3 cup barbeque sauce (we like Sweet Baby Ray's) plus extra for top

Mix all ingredients together except the extra sauce. Form into a loaf (I use a bread pan). Spread extra sauce over the top in a thin layer. Bake at 350 degrees F for about an hour. Be sure to pour off any fat before plating.

Baked Macaroni and Cheese
(adapted from Southern Living's The Ultimate Cookbook)

serves 4 to 6

2 cups pasta, such as small shells
1/4 c butter
1/4 c flour
2 c cold milk
1/4 t dry mustard
salt to taste
pepper to taste (freshly ground is best)
4 ounces shredded Vermont Sharp White Cheddar

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside. Melt butter over low heat in a heavy bottomed saucepan. Whisk in flour and cook for one minute. Slowly whisk in milk. (It is important to keep it cold to keep from forming lumps as you add the milk to the roux.) Season with dry mustard, salt, and pepper. Bring flame to medium and cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture thickens. Stir in cheese until melted and well combined. Pour in cooked macaroni and mix well. Turn into buttered two quart casserole. Bake at 350 degrees F for 25 to 35 minutes.

And now for the beer:

Blue Moon Beer Bread
(adapted from a friend's recipe)

Serves 4 at my house

3 c self-rising flour
1/2 c sugar
12 ounces Blue Moon Belgian White

Combine all ingredients until a soft dough forms. Turn into a buttered loaf pan and bake at 350 degrees F for 50 to 60 minutes.

Now, you can use any kind of beer you want, but the Blue Moon is wheat ale and I really prefer the flavor over anything else I've tried. I have no idea whether the beer is good for drinking, it just makes good bread. You can also stir in half a cup of your favorite cheese. Delicious.

This is a simple, satisfying meal, and very boy-friendly. The flavors work well together. I usually serve buttered corn or roasted baby carrots alongside for a complete meal (growing boys, you know).

This time, the picture is mine, but was taken on the following Saturday when hubby and I decided we wanted a repeat of the macaroni and cheese with the bread sans meatloaf.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Fall Comfort

Fall air started to creep into Oklahoma about two weeks into September. It was a gradual change, just the way Mother Nature meant. By Monday afternoon, our days were in the 70s followed by nights in the 50s. After all the infernal rain passed through, the sky shined periwinkle blue. Perfect fall weather put me in the mood for comfort food.

Honestly, some of my comfort food probably isn't what most people automatically turn to when seeking mental as well as physical nourishment. Over the past two weeks, I've prepared normal comfort food such as pot roast with potatoes and carrots, baked potato soup served with Blue Moon beer bread, and meatloaf with baked macaroni and cheese. Potage d'Oignon with Croque Monsieur -- better known as French Onion soup with ham and cheese sandwiches -- was my hands-down favorite, partially because it required a trip to La Baguette. On Tuesday night I made poulet en cocotte bonne femme or chicken with bacon, onions and potatoes roased in a casserole.

These meals have been so delicious I decided to share them with you. First up, soup and sandwiches.

Potage d'Oignon
(Onion Soup)

From Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume I

The onions for an onion soup need a long, slow cooking in butter and oil, then a long, slow simmering in stock for them to develop the deep, rich flavor which characterizes a perfect brew. You should therefore count on 2 ½ hours at least from start to finish. Though the preliminary cooking in butter requires some watching, the actual simmering can proceed almost unattended.
Serves six to eight

1 ½ pounds or about 5 cups thinly sliced onions
3 T butter
1 T oil
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp sugar
3 T flour
2 quarts boiling brown stock or beef bouillon
½ cup dry white wine, such as chardonnay
Salt and pepper to taste
3 T brandy
Rounds of hard-toasted French bread
1 ½ c grated Swiss cheese

Cook the onions slowly with the butter and oil in covered pan for 15 minutes. Uncover, raise heat to moderate, and stir in the salt and sugar. Cook for 30 to 40 minutes stirring frequently, until the onions have turned an even, deep golden brown. Sprinkle in the flour and stir for three minutes. Off the heat, blend in the boiling liquid (I use broth made with Knorr bouillon). Add the wine and season to taste. Simmer partially covered for 30 to 40 minutes or more, skimming occasionally. Correct seasoning.

Just before serving, stir in the brandy. Pour into soup cups over rounds of bread. Top with grated cheese.

Now, I know wine and brandy in one dish may seem a bit over the top, but trust me, don't make this without them. It is more than worth that trip to the liquor store. I used a 2007 Dancing Bull chardonnay which is pretty cheap. The brandy, not as cheap. I bought an E & J V.S.O.P. which ran about $20, but it is a pretty big bottle. The brandy is stirred in right at the end, so quality is important. Never cook with something you wouldn't drink straight. Since neither my husband nor I actually drink brandy, it will last a long time at 3 tablespoons per use.

This is really a simple soup, it's just time consuming. At the end you can run the soup cups under the broiler for a few minutes to melt the cheese if your soup cups are oven proof. I personally do not find this necessary.

Croque Monsieur
(literally, crunch mister)

From Bon Appétit

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 cup whole milk
Pinch of ground nutmeg
1 bay leaf
4 slices firm white sandwich bread
4 ounces thinly sliced Black Forest ham
4 ounces sliced Gruyère cheese
1 tablespoon melted butter
1/4 cup grated Gruyère cheese
2 teaspoons chopped fresh chives

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in small saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and stir 1 minute. Gradually whisk in milk. Add nutmeg and bay leaf. Increase heat to medium-high and boil until sauce thickens, whisking constantly, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Preheat broiler. Place 2 bread slices on work surface. Top each with half of ham and sliced Gruyère. Top with remaining bread. Heat heavy large skillet over low heat. Brush sandwiches with 1 tablespoon melted butter. Add to skillet and cook until deep golden brown, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to small baking sheet. Spoon sauce, then grated cheese over sandwiches. Broil until cheese begins to brown, about 2 minutes.

These sandwiches took me back to Montmartre, where my lovely daughter and I ate these for dinner our first night in Paris. Delicious. Don't skimp and leave off the sauce. It's worth the little bit of extra effort.

As Julia would say, bon appétit!

Pictures are bing images; I did not have the foresight to photograph my own food.

Friday, September 4, 2009

the end of summer

I don't know exactly how the entire summer got away from me, but I haven't posted a thing on my blog since May.

Our lovely daughter is installed in her dorm room at the University of Oklahoma. She was accepted into the school of drama and is delighted with her schedule. Unlike most majors, the dramaturgy program sprinkles drama courses through all four years. This semester, she is taking costume construction, intro to acting, logic, government, and make-up. Believe it or not, this is the recommended course of study for a first semester freshman. Needless to say, the girl is in tall cotton.

I am having a much easier time than expected with her departure. That might have something to do with the fact that, so far, she's slept at home at least one night of her weekends. It's hard to miss a kid who's here weekly. She calls every other day or so to tell me about her days. I find it quite amusing that she usually tells me more about what she's eaten that day than what's being discussed in classes. Last night she called me because she needed to do laundry, which required that I deposit money onto something called a "Sooner Card". She planned to do laundry and study for her first test, which is in logic. When I took logic, it was a philosophy course. In OU's dramaturgy program, logic satifies her math requirement. I would have killed to sub logic for college algebra!

Middle son is a sophomore in high school and the little guy is a fifth grader this year. The house is quieter with just the two of them here. Who knew an 18 year old girl could cause so much ruckus? The boys ask about their sister and are happy to talk to her on the phone but don't seem to miss her much. One of them made the comment that she wasn't here much more when she lived with us. I think that's an exaggeration. Maybe.

So, life goes on without much change. I admit to being surprised.

I'll leave you with photos of my front yard as it looks today with fall just around the corner. The shots of the roses are just for you, Laurie.

burgundy cotton crape myrtle and daylilies

yellow queen gallardia, barberry and grasses

another shot of the gallardia, with burning bush and blue boy roses

purple fountain grass, yellow lantana, tri-color sedum

lily, painted fern, and ginger caladium

spurred butterfly pea


blue butterfly pea with double blossoms

climbing rose

shrub rose

the blue boy rose again