This is my first contribution to Virtual Victualists, so please indulge me with a bit of introduction. I was born and raised a city girl, but have lived in the Mid-Michigan farmlands for about 15 years now. I have come to love the earthmomma lifestyle! We grow a huge vegetable garden every summer and also have apple trees – from this bounty, I preserve literally hundreds of quarts and pints of green beans, tomatoes, relishes, jellies, applesauce and salsas. I also dehydrate many foods – I really love my dehydrator!
I also grow many of my own herbs. Garlic, oregano, rosemary, sage, chives, marjoram, lemon thyme… and whatever else strikes my fancy. And then there are the teas. I grow and dry chamomile, chocolate mint, spearmint, catnip, poppy, borage, raspberry leaves, lemon balm… oh, and I am a forager. I roam the back fields and come home with serviceberries, wild strawberries, blackberries, and various oddities.
My cooking background is pretty diverse. Back in Seattle, I was married for a time to a chef and learned many techniques from him. Here in Michigan, I picked up plenty of tricks from those who lived through the depression on how to preserve food – primarily from my mother in law, who left us a week ago, and to whom I dedicate this blog entry. Thanks for all the inspiration and common sense, Momma Caribou. 🙂
Now, be warned. I do not cook ‘formal’ foods. My stuff isn’t snobbish. It’s hearty, cosy, comforting everyday food. It’s also very flexible and you are encouraged to bend my suggestions to suit your own tastes. I merely provide a start point and guidelines.
So then, that’s enough about me – let’s cook some dinner! I’ll be working with venison steak, but any cut of red meat will do. Heck, try ostrich. I did. It’s yummy. The method I use is great for taking a cheap piece of meat and ending up with fall-apart tender carnivorian bliss.
In a saucepan large enough to comfortably hold everything, toss all of this, in no particular order:
- Meat pieces no larger than 4” in length.
- One Quart of tomatoes, or tomato sauce, or peeled fresh tomatoes. Really, any form of tomatoes you can get your mitts on. (Tomatoes add flavor and color BUT MOST IMPORTANTLY they break down the fibers of the meat, causing it to be fall-apart tender.)
- One diced onion. Any kind.
- Garlic to taste. I used four cloves because I have a lot of them, but you can use any form you like.
- Diced bell peppers, any and all colors (optional)
- Splash of Worcestershire sauce
- Salt, pepper, any other herbs that appeal. Red pepper flakes are fun. A bay leaf adds depth.
Get it all up to bubbly heat, add a bit of water if needed so the meat swims nicely, turn the burner down to a simmer and put the lid on. Forget about it for a few hours. Go do something fun.
Once the fun is done, come back and lift the meat out of the pot. Set it aside on a plate. Now you have a potful of veggie goop, laced with meat juices. Let it cool just slightly, then pour it into your blender. If you don’t have a blender – improvise with whatever will puree the goop. In a pinch, I’ve used a potato masher.
Whirr up the veggie goop till smooth. Return it to the pot and get it back up to boiling. Mix a few tablespoons of cornstarch with COLD water in a cup, then drizzle it into the goop while stirring energetically. Viola! You now have vegetable gravy.
And really, that’s it! Now you can cook any budget piece of red meat and end up with fall apart yumminess. This is a good recipe for gamey meat too, as the tomatoes and herbs help mellow the flavor. (I am lucky enough to get venison literally from the fields behind our home, where the deer feed on apples and corn. No gamey taste whatsoever.)
Tonight I decided on baked herbed potato spears, rather than plain baked potatoes. Grease a cookie sheet with your preferred oil, and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Scrub your potatoes. Slice them in half, then into long, fat sticks. Lay them out, skin side down, on the cookie sheet. Brush on more oil (or in our case, due to a lowfat diet, we spritz with a can of olive oil cooking spray.) Now you get to have fun. What do you like on your taters, precious? I sprinkle mine with salt, pepper, crushed oregano, parsley and garlic flakes. Rosemary is also lovely. Go for what you like.
Are you getting the hint that my recipes are totally flexible and adaptable to your whims? Good. When I make this with baked potatoes, I ladle the gravy over the open, burst potato. Tonight, since we did roasted potato spears, I served the veggie gravy in au jus bowls on the side for dipping.
Next time, I’ll talk about sourdough. And pancakes!
(The photos are my own, taken with my phone. I make NO claims to being a visual artist! Just wanted to show you what I make.)