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Mommy Food is Copyright © 2007 by Ralph Robert Moore.
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I wanted to provide the recipes for some of the great comfort foods Mary and I make. Lord knows we can all use some comfort, these days.
friends before food
Happy is the man with a cheeseburger in his palm, warm as a breast.
We seek solace from food, self-medicating one ketchup-dripping french fry at a time, so it's no surprise there's a special classification of foods known as "Mommy Food."
Mommy Food is generally not that sophisticated (after all, it's not called "Mother Food"), and often includes "store-bought" rather than "from scratch" ingredients. Swirl a wooden spoon through most Mommy Food sauces, and you'll see the spiral of a Campbell's Soup. The great weaning overseen by Madison Avenue is complete: Mommy equals canned food from a large international corporation.
So our Mommy Food recipes tonight all feature Campbell's Soup.
Each recipe is easy to make, incredibly delicious.
Here's our menu:
All three dinners require no great cooking skills (unless you consider opening a can to be a cooking skill.)
For each meat category, I've also added a second, bonus recipe featuring the same meat used in a different Mommy Food.
Ready? Let's make us some Mommy Food.
SALISBURY STEAKS, WITH CHEESIER THAN CHIRPER MACARONI AND CHEESE, AND BRUSSEL SPROUTS
Salisbury steaks are a poor man's porterhouse, a bunless hamburger placed on a dinner plate, with sauce.
Place the ground beef in a bowl.
Chop up the raw onion, add to the bowl.
Open both cans of Beefy Mushroom.
Pour a quarter cup of the soup into the bowl.
Add the salt and pepper to the bowl.
Get your hands down in there, the same hands that used to be held by your mother, so long ago, and thoroughly massage everything together.
Form six pink and pearl patties.
Heat up a dutch oven. Pour vegetable oil into the dutch oven, just enough to slick the bottom.
Place the patties in the dutch oven, and gently cook over low to medium heat on both sides until the patties are thoroughly cooked through (unlike hamburger patties, you don't want to sear the sides, so keep the heat fairly low.)
Once the patties are cooked, add the remainder of the two cans of Beefy Mushroom, and one soup can of water.
Bring to a gentle simmer, turn the heat to low, and put a lid on the dutch oven.
The patties are going to cook for an hour. Every once in a while, lift the lid to make sure everything is okay, nothing is burning or sticking. Halfway through the hour, turn the patties over.
While the patties slowly simmer, make the Cheesier Than Chirper Macaroni and Cheese.
Chirper was one of our cats. He had a complicated personality (every living thing has a personality, even insects.)
For the Cheesier Than Chirper Macaroni and Cheese you'll need:
My wife, Mary, came up with this recipe. I guarantee it's better than any macaroni and cheese you've ever had.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Cook the macaroni according to the package directions.
While the macaroni is cooking, in a saucepan heat the two cans of Cream of Mushroom soup and the cup of heavy cream to a low simmer (do not boil.)
Cut the orange brick of cheese into quarter-inch slices.
Crack the whole egg, drop it into one of the empty soup cans.
Once the soup and heavy cream mixture (the sauce) is gently simmering (not boiling), use a wooden spoon to place a few spoonfuls of the sauce into the soup can with the whole egg, whisking the whole egg all the while (it helps if you have two people involved in this step, one to whisk the whole egg, one to drop in the heated sauce.) The point here is you want to slowly raise the temperature of the whole egg, so it isn't "shocked" when you add it to the sauce. A shocked egg occurs when the egg is too cold when you add it to a hot liquid. A shocked egg doesn't incorporate into a hot sauce, but instead stays separate, like the strands of egg you see floating in egg drop soup. Lovely as egg drop soup is, that's not what we want here.
Once you've dropped in two or three spoonfuls of hot sauce into the whole egg in the soup can, and the whole egg/sauce mixture is smooth, not lumpy, pour the contents of the soup can (whole egg, spoonfuls of sauce) into the saucepan with the rest of the sauce. Immediately stir the mixture in the saucepan, so the egg is smoothly incorporated.
(If your whole egg/spoonfuls of sauce mixture is not smooth in the soup can, if the egg has clotted, like scrambled eggs, discard the contents of the soup can and start with a new whole egg, new spoonfuls. But really, you'll probably get it right the first time. I have a lot of confidence in you.)
Once the macaroni is done to your liking, drain it in your kitchen sink, in a colander.
Add the pound of sliced cheddar cheese to the sauce in the sauce pan.
Swirl the cheese around in the sauce to help it melt. The heat should be low to medium at this point, so nothing sticks.
Once the cheese has completely melted into the sauce, dump half the cooked macaroni elbows into an oven-proof dutch oven. Add all the sauce. Keep adding more macaroni, a spoonful at a time, until you have a rather soupy mixture. Resist adding all the macaroni.
Crush the Saltines until they're dust and small shards.
Melt the butter in a skillet. Add the crushed Saltines. Swirl the Saltines around in the skillet with a wooden spoon, so the Saltines soak up all that melted butter. Once the Saltines start to turn golden, carefully spoon them over the surface of the macaroni and cheese mixture in the dutch oven, until the surface is covered with the Saltines.
Place the dutch oven in the oven, uncovered. Cook for forty-five minutes.
Now we're going to do the brussel sprouts.
I pity the poor brussel sprout. I really do. Almost every recipe I've ever read for brussels pairs them with shallots, and often decides to toss in some bacon, like rice at a shotgun wedding. Trust me. Brussels are fine on their own. They shouldn't have to go through the humiliation, inviting someone to their party, to feel the need to add, Shallots will be there! Maybe even Bacon!
Rinse the noble brussel sprouts. Cut off a thin slice from each brown root end. Cut each brussel sprout in half.
Add an inch of water to a skillet with a lid.
Bring the water to a boil.
Add the brussell sprouts.
Place a lump of butter (3 tablespoons) on top of the brussel sprouts, in the center.
Cover the skillet.
Reduce the heat to medium.
Cook for thirty minutes.
Drain the brussel sprouts. Put in a bowl. Add the salt and pepper, thoroughly mix.
On each plate, place two Salisbury steaks. Drape with the sauce. Add alongside the steaks a big ladleful's worth of macaroni and cheese, with its Saltine crust. Add a pile of brussel sprouts.
This is a perfect meal. Beef and cheddar cheese go really well together, and the brussel sprouts add a note of bitterness that really brings out the sweetness of the other two components.
If for some reason you absolutely detest brussel sprouts (I feel sorry for you), serve with frozen peas instead. Don't use canned peas. The frozen food industry in America has contractually captured the market in obtaining the best peas. Canned and fresh peas just don't measure up.
What about the other two Salisbury steaks?
Eat them that same evening, or freeze them. Same with any leftover macaroni and cheese. They both freeze really well, and make a great lunch, individually or together, with a tossed green salad served with an oil and vinegar sauce.
BONUS BEEF RECIPE
Take a seven-bone steak or thick chuck steak. Sprinkle heavily on both sides with seasoning salt and lemon pepper. Brown in a skillet on both sides. Place in a roasting pan. In a bowl, combine two cans of Campbell's Cream of Mushroom soup with two cans of Campbell's French Onion soup. Add the soup mixture around the sides of the steak in the roasting pan. Slice a raw, medium onion and place the slices atop the steak. Tightly cover the roasting pan with aluminum foil. Bake in the oven at two hundred and fifty degrees for four hours. Serve the beef with mashed potatoes or noodles, using the roasting pan juices as gravy. Leftover beef (and there should be a lot of it) can be pulled apart and used for tacos, enchiladas, and hot beef sandwiches on a hamburger bun.
CHICKEN AND DUMPLINGS
A century ago, before mass food production, when people spent a lot of time walking down dirt roads, chicken was really expensive. That's why Herbert Hoover came up with the slogan, "A chicken in every pot." That was like saying, "A lobster in every pot." In 1928, when Hoover made his promise, Americans were only eating half a pound of chicken a year (most chickens back then were raised for show, not consumption.)
All that changed after World War II, when mass production took over.
Today, Americans eat 90 pounds of chicken a year.
This Chicken and Dumplings recipe is one of those great, "one pot" meals. It's absolutely delicious.
NOTE: Campbell's Chicken Broth, and similar products, have a rather strong chicken flavor, and are sometimes referred to as "double strength" broths. We don't want that strong a chicken flavor in our recipe, because it would drown out the subtle vegetable flavors of carrot, celery, onion. That's why this recipe calls for you to dilute the canned broth with water. However, if you're using your own stock, which I heartily recommend, and which I assume will be a bit weak-flavored, you don't need to add the extra water. Just increase the amount of homemade chicken stock to equal the canned broth plus water amount. In other words, we want about 64 ounces of broth all together, either 32 ounces of double strength (canned) broth and 32 ounces of water, or 64 ounces of weak, homemade broth.
NOTE: Technically, a "chicken breast" refers to both sides of meat slung around the hump of a chicken's back bone. However, conventionally, a "chicken breast" means just one side of that arrangement. That's the terminology we're using here. A "chicken breast" means one side of breast meat.
Place the broth in a dutch oven. If you're using canned broth, add three cans of water to the three cans of broth. Start heating the dutch oven.
Cut the carrots and celery in half. Add them to the dutch oven.
Peel the two onions, but leave them whole. Add them to the dutch oven.
Slip the three or four raw chicken breasts into the dutch oven.
Add the tablespoon of dried thyme, crumbling it between your fingers to release the oils, and the juice of a whole lemon.
Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer. Cover.
Let simmer one hour.
Remove three tablespoons of cooking liquid from the dutch oven.
Set the removed cooking liquid aside, in a small bowl, so it can cool.
Continue cooking the contents of the dutch oven for an additional half hour.
Add three tablespoons of flour to the cooled three tablespoons of cooking liquid.
Stir this mix back into the dutch oven.
In a bowl, combine two cups of Bisquick with three-quarters of a cup of milk.
Using a tablespoon, drop the Bisquick mix, which should look like thickened pancake batter, onto the simmering surface of the dutch oven contents.
Allow the contents to simmer for ten minutes, uncovered.
Place a lid on the dutch oven, simmer an additional ten minutes.
At this point, the dumplings should be done. (A toothpick inserted into the center should withdraw dry.)
Using a ladle, place a chicken breast on each plate, joined by the colors of cooked carrots, celery, and onion, and a few dumplings.
Cover everything with the thickened yellow sauce.
BONUS CHICKEN RECIPE
Brown four chicken thighs on both sides in a skillet. Place the thighs in an au gratin pan or similar oven-proof container. Cover the thighs with two undiluted cans of Campbell's Creamy Chicken Mushroom Soup. Cook, uncovered, at three hundred and fifty degrees for thirty minutes. While the chicken cooks, on the stovetop cook a package of rice pilaf, preferred, or regular white rice. Serve two chicken thighs on each plate, with the rice. Spoon the sauce over the chicken and the rice. Serve with fresh broccoli (the very best way to cook broccoli is to cut the broccoli into long strips, so you have part of the stem and part of the flowerets in each strip, add them to a glass bowl, put in a few tablespoons of water, stretch plastic wrap across the top of the bowl, and cook them in the microwave using the Fresh Vegetable - Hard setting. Once the microwave indicates they're done, drain the water, add two tablespoons of butter, a quarter teaspoon each of salt and black pepper, and toss.)
PORK CHOP CASSEROLE
I remember watching a trial on TV once, the slowness of it, the cameras right in the courtroom, trained on the tables of the prosecuting team and the defense team, all these ordinary folk sitting in chairs behind wide tables, leaning sideways, whispering to each other.
The crime in this case was murder.
The defendant, a middle-aged woman, was accused of stabbing her sister to death, with a fork, during a family meal. They had been arguing over who would get the final pork chop.
Chefs love cooking with pork.
The thing about pork is, it absorbs the flavors of the ingredients with which it's cooked. That means chefs can add an extraordinary number of flavors to pork.
The meat that chefs least like cooking with is chicken, because no matter what they do, it winds up tasting like chicken. It doesn't absorb other flavors well.
This is another "one pot" meal, where all you need is a dutch oven.
Here are the ingredients:
NOTE: There are different cuts of pork chops. This recipe works best with loin chops, where you have a solid piece of pork attached to a single, curved bone. Other chop choices, such as shoulder chops, don't work as well here, because you have a lot of small bone fragments, which might get lost in the sauce, and result in a painful, tooth-crunching experience.
In a skillet, brown the four pork chops in oil and butter.
Put the browned pork chops in the bottom of a dutch oven.
Add on top of the chops the 4 carrots, cut in half, and the package of frozen Italian green beans.
Prepare the scalloped potatoes according to the package directions. Add to the saucepan in which you're cooking the scalloped potatoes the can of Campbell's Cream of Celery soup.
Pour this saucepan mixture over the contents in the dutch oven.
Add the tablespoon of Worchester sauce.
Bake in a three hundred and fifty degree oven, covered, for sixty minutes.
Bake uncovered for an additional thirty minutes.
Serve on a dinner plate placing the chops on one side of the plate, the vegetable mixture on the other side.
This is an unusual dish, because just going by the ingredients, it sounds like it might be a bit blah. But, in fact, it's absolutely delicious, and is, in many ways, the essence of Mommy Food. I could eat the entire dutch oven of sauced vegetables all by myself, that's how good they are.
BONUS PORK RECIPE
When people think about a pork roast, the cut they almost always settle on is a tenderloin roast.
You've got a tube of solid pork, which can be easily cut into serving slices.
The truth though is that pork tenderloin really does not have a lot of flavor, and the lean, closely-grained texture can be a bit monotonous.
A far better selection, and much less expensive, is the pork shoulder. There's a lot more fat, meaning a lot more flavor and mouth feel, and the texture is much more pleasing.
Buy a pork shoulder. Cover it with seasoning salt, lemon pepper, and garlic powder. Place it in a roasting pan, cover with aluminum foil, bake for four hours at two hundred and fifty degrees.
Once the shoulder is done, you can harvest the roast for a number of different dishes.
Use part of the roast for a pork dinner (the juices in the bottom of the pan will make an incredible pork gravy, unlike anything you've ever tasted before. Drain the drippings from the pan. Assuming you have one cup of drippings, place the roasting pan across two stove top burners, set the heat to low-medium, add three tablespoons of oil to the roasting pan, and three tablespoons of flour. Using a wooden spoon, mix the oil and flour together, and cook for a few minutes, until the mixture turns brown. Slowly add the cup of pork drippings, stirring constantly. Let simmer a few more minutes, thickening, then serve with the pork.)
For the pork left over from your pork dinner, pull the pork apart, and freeze it in serving-size packets for future use.
Pork shoulder pulled-apart meat is perfect for tacos (use a package of Taco Bell taco seasoning, reheating the pork in a cup of water to which the seasoning has been added. Once most of the water has evaporated, place the seasoned pork meat in the bottom of several taco shells, and top with all or several of the following: Shredded iceberg lettuce, chopped tomato, grated cheddar cheese, sour cream, guacamole and sliced black olives.)
The pulled-apart meat can also be used for BBQ pork sandwiches (reheat the defrosted pulled-apart pork in a saucepan with a little bit of your favorite BBQ sauce, toast both halves of a hamburger bun in a skillet with melted butter, place a heap of BBQ pork on the bottom half of the hamburger bun, add a little more BBQ sauce, and clamp down the top half of the hamburger bun.)