Posts Tagged ‘eggs’

It’s not a food blog…

…But this is some seriously good food.

Rob and I are a little sad right now. Our two children, Kelsey 17, Garrett 15, are in England right now visiting their aunt, uncle and cousins. Oh, and Paris. And some other stuff. Anyway, for six weeks, the lights of our lives are gone. We can Skype them, of course, and they’re having a blast; this is a golden opportunity I would never, ever deny them. But they’re not here. And I mean, Rob and I are the lights of each others’ lives, too, but I’m not an ebullient, amazing little singer with pink hair, and he’s not a super-witty gamer nerd who flails his arms when he gets excited. The house is lonely.

What do I do when I’m lonely? Or stressed, angry, sad, bothered by anything?

I cook. I cook a lot. I am my grandmother’s granddaughter, and my mother’s child. I love food. I love to present it. I love it when people go “Oh that’s good” and their eyes roll back in their heads a little. I think I love seeing people’s reactions to  my food more than I love eating it. Maybe. That could be a toss-up.

And though this recipe has never had an egg (or lamb, damn it–though it could, oh yes, absolutely it could) anywhere near it (until the end; you’ll see), it bears posting because it’s one of our favorites. It’s creamy, melty and smoky, with just enough meat to satisfy. It’s also NOT diet friendly. I have puttered with low-cal adaptations (fat-free sausage, low/nonfat cheese, skim milk), but if you’re going for comfort food, this is the stuff right here.

Notes: If you’re going to use bacon, I’d fry it up first and drain the grease. If you want a hit of extra umame, fry up whatever you’re using for meat first. Anything you get golden brown and a little crisp is going to add to the flavor. I was lazy, so no browning for me.

You could cut this recipe in half, but it wouldn’t feed the entire National Guard that way. Besides, this makes amazing leftovers. Also, I always forget there’s half an onion I didn’t use and then it goes bad.

Scalloped Potato Dinner:

2-3 lb (about 6-8) yellow potatoes, scrubbed and thinly sliced
1 large sweet onion, thinly sliced
1 pound of your choice of pork and/or beef product (kielbasa, smoked sausage, bacon, those large Eckridge franks with the cheese inside, that stuff from Canada that is called “bacon” but is really made of lies, prosciutto, pancetta, ham), thinly sliced

Cheesy white sauce:

4 tbsp butter
6 tbsp all-purpose flour
3 cups milk, heated almost to boiling
1 1/2 lb (that’s right, POUNDS) of good, sharp cheddar (about 6 cups), shredded
salt and pepper to taste

Oven preheated to 300F or slow cooker

Melt butter in a largeish pan until the sizzling stops. Stir in flour to make a paste and cook over medium heat for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Kill the heat and whisk in hot milk slowly. Continuing to whisk, heat sauce to a simmer. Slowly incorporate 3 cups of cheese, a small handful at a time, until melted and smooth. Add salt and pepper to

Random picture of a cat

Random picture of a cat

taste.

Into the bottom of your hopefully very massive slow cooker or dutch oven, ladle about a cup of sauce. Add a layer of potatoes (they can overlap a little at the edges, it’s not rocket science), a layer of onions, a scattering of meat, and a sprinkling of cheese. Continue layering in this way until you’re out of ingredients. I ended up at the top of my slow cooker with one more ladleful of sauce. Onto that I laid some prosciutto I had to use up; woe is me, and a final layer of cheese. Lid that bad boy and either set your slow cooker on low forever or on high for about 4 hours. When it’s done through, take off the lid and pop your cooker’s pot under your broiler for about 2-3 minutes. If you’re using the oven, be prepared to wait about 2, maybe 2 1/2 hours. Remove the lid the last 30 minutes and allow cheese to brown.

When you can easily push a butter knife all the way down through the potatoes, your cheese and meat bomb is done. Serve with some kind of vegetable or a salad, for Pete’s sake. Or do what we do and eat it with fried eggs for breakfast.

Oh, and the sheep still don’t like me. I sat out there the other day with a little scoop of grain about five feet from me. The b– er, Sarsaparilla had the nerve to actually stamp her foot at me because I wouldn’t go away. I could see irritation in her eyes. She wanted to kick me, but she was too much of a chicken–har–to try.

Next time, I will let the hens eat it in front of her face.

 

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Eggs! And a tomato.

Farming, even on a small scale, is work–and I’m not even talking about the “up before sunrise to milk the cows” kind of work. Granted, I’m a lucky woman with a husband who, since this was his idea, does most of it. He does the repairs and improvements on the chicken house. He handles all of the aquaponics; I have no idea about any of it beyond “Ooh! Fishies!” and “Can I pick that yet?” If a fence needs to be fixed, a new watering system invented, that’s him. By and large, he does it with stuff he has lying around, too, on the cheap. He’s so thrifty and handy that way, whereas I…well, I go outside and step into the sunlight and am immediately hissing, “It burns us, preciousss!

Observe: the waterer is a Christmas tree stand with a carboy upended into it.

Observe: the waterer is a Christmas tree stand with a carboy upended into it.

I digress. Tomato.

From the aquaponics garden…

Let me digress some more. Aquaponics.

For the uninitiated, aquaponics  is a system that is very similar to hydroponics. However, where hydroponics uses water with chemical nutrients to fertilize the plants, aquaponics uses the effluvia that is pumped up from a fish tank.

Effluvia is a great word, isn’t it? Effluvium, singular, is “an unpleasant or harmful odor, secretion, or discharge.” Yes, kids. Fish poop.

From the Internet, here is an aquaponics diagram that tells it like it is. The fish live their lives. They eat. They “produce effluvia.” The water is pumped out into a grow bed in which plants are supported and growing in smooth gravel. Just gravel! That’s it. The plants filter out the bad stuff like nitrates and ammonia, and beneficial bacteria do their thing to assist the process; the newly-cleaned water drains into a tank and is then pumped back in for the fish. It’s ingenious, really, and is something like 96% water efficient, far more so than conventional farming. Successful aquaponics farms can produce thousands of pounds of food and fish a year, completely organically.

And oh, my goodness, the produce. I’ve mentioned my insanely fat mint plants. Rob’s grown basil that continued to yield long after the season was over. He’s also done a lot of experimenting with heirlooms and that kind of thing, and so now we have tomatoes. When he first started playing around with this, we noticed an asparagus plant growing something like four inches over a 24-hour period. It’s crazy. But when the plant has to produce fruit rather than just stalks and leaves, that takes a little more time, and of course it depends on the type of  tomato.

Look at all that mint. That'd go great in Leilani's mojitos.

Look at all that mint. That’d go great in Leilani’s mojitos.

The eggs are bigger than the tomatoes. That amuses the hell out of me. But that’s okay, because small tomatoes pack a lot of big flavor. These particular plants produce a lovely, compact tomato that’s red and green in color, oddly enough, when perfectly ripe. We have exactly two of them right now. Naturally, something had to be done with tomatoes and eggs.

egg_tomato

Lovely.

When you have a new, novel thing, like cute chickens that produce lovely eggs or a lonely, lovely tomato plant, you value that food like gold. A good friend said something along the lines of, “You don’t put farm-fresh eggs in stuff. You eat them basted in butter.” And that is a damned fine rule of thumb. You treat those single-celled organisms of deliciousness with the reverence that they deserve, and only when you have an abundance do you put them in stuff. Not to say you should be any less reverent when making pancakes with your eggs, or using an egg to bind a meatloaf, but you take my meaning. We are still working on stockpiling an abundance (because we’re too busy eating them basted in butter, I guess), so for the most part, each egg is handled like the lockless, lidless treasure that it is. Ditto the tomatoes. So where I would have gone with some kind of Italian egg tart involving the basil from last year (I’ll take a food dehydrator for the win, Alex), eggs, fresh parmesan and tomatoes, I didn’t quite have enough tomato to do what I wanted, which would be something like a layered garlic and cheese tart bound together with eggs. So I went simpler.

I have a few specialties that I excel at. At which I excel. One of them is a really, really nice shepherd’s pie. I can’t wait to do that with lamb, I am just dying for it. Another is lasagna. It’s an event when I make lasagna, and it always produces about ten pounds of leftovers, or “food of the future,” as Rob says. But the daily special, as it were, is a fried egg sandwich with bacon and cheese. American cheese, to be precise. Don’t you judge me; it’s classic, it’s comfort food, and it’s breakfast, and all bets are off when it’s breakfast. Creamy, melty, crunchy, with juuuust enough of the yolk left soft. Yum. And only I can do them. If he so much as spreads the mayonnaise (Hellmann’s, thank you very much), it’s not the same.

tomato_slices2

Beautiful slices of tomato.

Now, I had to incorporate that beautiful tomato. I hate to say “elevated” when it comes to food; it’s a meaningless term. I mean, I get the implication, but I hear it so much that I have to interject my own mental image of food going up on an elevator that you’re desperately trying to catch. “Hold the door!” you yell as your snobby, pretentious food sneers at you.

So this is not an “elevated” egg sandwich. It’s just a different one. I wouldn’t be in the mood for it every day, and I don’t think it’s really any more pretentious than a regular egg sandwich. But it came together beautifully: crisp toast,creamy and savory mayo, rich egg yolk, tangy cheddar, sweet tomatoes, crunchy, smoky bacon. It was a thing of beauty.

The next time you have a beautiful tomato, try this. I promise you won’t regret it.

Have you ever found a fantastic way to use one lovely, precious piece of farm-fresh produce? What did you do?

(Trying out a new feature: those are not inserted ads; I hand-picked those two blog posts in case anyone wants to read more.)