All-Grilled Chipotle-Herb Salmon, Southwestern Corn on the Cob, Home Fries, and Turnips

August 1, 2011 § 2 Comments

A couple months ago, on a lukewarm Spring day, we made some awesome grilled salmon, grilled asparagus, and a wonderfully light (non-vinegary/mayonaisey) potato salad. We set a table out back, opened a couple bottles of Shiner Hefeweizen, and let the dogs hang out in the yard with us while we ate. “What a wonderful post this will make,” I thought. The only photos that came out well, however, were of Woody and Bailey begging for their share of the meal:

Bailey begs by showing how good and pretty she is..

Woody is less subtle.

Since the salmon was a hit with all four of us, Kelly jotted down what I’d done to it and I finished my beer determined to recreate the dish for the blog. With salmon on sale this week, I knew it was time.

But I’ve neglected you, blog, for a while now. I got all caught up in worrying about being unemployed, important life decisions about where Kelly and I might end up living in a year, beating the PS3 game I got for free as an apology from Sony for leaking my private information….  How can I make it up to you? In case the above cute dog photos aren’t enough, I’ll make it up by posting a feast. An all-grilled feast. Grilled Chipotle-Herb Salmon, Southwestern Corn on the Cob, Home Fries, and Turnip. That’s right. Turnip.

Grilled Chipotle Herb Salmon

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb salmon fillet
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped fresh herbs (we used dill, mint, chives, basil, and cilantro)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • chipotle powder
  • 1 tbsp or more olive oil
  • sea salt
  • 1 fresh lemon

Method:

Rub the salmon fillet on both sides with olive oil. With the skin side down, use a knife to score the fish across its width in four or fives places, about 1/4-1/2 inch deep depending on the thickness of the fillet. Rub the surface with the herbs and garlic, making sure some of this mixture gets pushed down into the slits you just made. Evenly shake a dusting of chipotle powder over the fillet, and finish by adding a pinch of sea salt. Place salmon skin side down on a preheated grill over medium-high heat, hitting it with a good squeeze of lemon just before closing the lid. Grill for about four minutes a side, hitting it with more lemon when you flip it. (Protip: Use tongs and oil-soaked paper towels to lubricate the fish’s spot on the grill before putting it on in order to keep it from sticking later). The salmon is done when it flakes with a fork.

Southwestern Grilled Corn on the Cob

Ingredients:

  • 3 ears of corn, husks intact
  • partial stick of butter
  • garlic powder
  • chipotle powder

It took me a while, but I finally struck upon my favorite prep method for corn on the cob. First, gently peel back the leaves of the husk without detaching them—kind of like peeling a banana. Once you’re down to the corn, remove all the silk and discard. Now’s the fun part. Take your stick of butter and, using it like a glue stick, rub it all over the exposed corn.

I used to try brushing on a melted butter/seasoning mixture, rolling the corn in the same, and a few other hairbrained ideas, but the Glue Stick Method™ is hands down the winner. The butter is dispersed evenly, stays where it’s meant to, and acts as a magnet for whatever seasoning you use. Once the corn is nice and buttery, sprinkle on some chipotle powder and garlic powder (as much or as little as suits your taste, but we like it spicy), then carefully fold the husks back up leaf by leaf. You’ve now created a self-contained flavor-baster. The outer husk will keep the corn from burning while the seasoned, buttery insides will happily sit and cook over the fire. Grill over medium-high heat, turning occasionally as the husks start to brown. The corn is done when all four sides of the husk have nice, medium brown grill marks and the tips of the leaves are charred. You can also peel the a husk back and poke a kernel with a fork to check for doneness.

Grilled Home Fries:

Ingredients:

  • 3 medium red potatoes
  • 1/2 tbsp mixed fresh herbs
  • 1 pinch sea salt
  • a dusting of paprika
  • black pepper
  • drizzle of olive oil

Method:

Cut potatoes, skin on, into 1/2-3/4 inch cubes. Toss with a drizzle of olive oil to coat, then toss again with herbs, salt, pepper, and paprika. Grill on a pre-heated grill pan over medium-high heat, turning regularly to prevent burning.

Grilled Turnips

Ingredients:

  • 1 turnip
  • tbsp olive oil
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • salt and pepper

Method:

This one was a whim. Kelly saw a similar recipe in a recent issue of Food and Wine, and it sounded too interesting not to try. I loved raw turnips growing up, so I was especially game. Cut turnip into 1/2 inch thick slices, brush with oil to coat, and season. Grill over medium-high heat just long enough to get some grill marks on both sides.

This was the view with everything going at once. I have to say, also, that this meal paired extremely well with Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy. While not a great beer—somewhat evasively wine-coolerish, even—it’s a refreshing and dangerous little beer out of Wisconsin that tastes more like lemonade than a wheat beer. I took a swig right before a bite of salmon, and the mingling of the flavors was nice.

With the temperatures hanging in the mid-upper 90s of late, we opted for the porch instead of the yard this time. Everything turned out great. Even the turnips, which mainly mellowed and tenderized, taking on a little bit of flavor from the flame but otherwise just tasting like turnips. Nothin’ wrong with that…

“Recipes for Poets”: Grilled Pancetta, Spinach, and Onion Pita Pizza

May 20, 2011 § Leave a comment

About a month ago, the folks over at 32 Poems suggested a “Recipes for Poets” blog carnival, the idea being to share quick and healthy recipes by poets for poets so that everyone can eat a little better and spend a little more time writing. 32 Poems being a great magazine, coedited by fellow—though just before my time—UNT alum John Poch, and me with a spanking new food/poetry blog, I was of course excited about the proposal. I also had no idea what to make. It was Kelly who eventually saved the day, suggesting the simple and versatile flatbread/pita pizzas she used to make during a brief stint years ago at The Green Chai Cafe in Bastrop, TX. They’re perfect for any meal, just enough to fill you up without being heavy.

First thing you’ll need is pita. The thicker, pocketier pita you’ll usually find at stores won’t do. You’re looking for the wider, flatter kind like the ones pictured. We currently get ours from Shawarma King, an awesome Middle Eastern restaurant here in Kalamazoo, who gets theirs from Yasmeen Bakery in Dearborn. Back in Texas we found good pita at Sprouts, and I imagine places like Whole Foods and such would have it, too, if you can’t find a good Middle Eastern restaurant or specialty store to buy from. It’s also pretty easy to make. We recently followed the recipe on this site (scroll down a bit or do a ctrl-f for “pita bread”) with good results, though next time I’m either going to use all-purpose flour or a half and half mix of all-purpose and bread flour, as it came out a bit too elastic for me. This of course abandons the “quick” caveat of this recipe, but they can be made ahead and freeze very well.

Once you have your pita the rest is just play. For my toppings last night I chose pancetta, spinach, onion, cherry tomatoes, garlic, and basil. Toppings

With the pita darker side down, drizzle with olive oil, and add garlic.

Olive oil and garlic

Next add two big handfuls of spinach along with sliced cherry tomatoes, red onion, and some basil leaves. Slice the tomato fairly thinly, by the way. The “dough” is already baked, so with the short cooking time the tomatoes need to be fairly thin in order to be affected by the heat.

Spinach, tomatoes, and red onion

Add pancetta, mozzarella, and Parmesan. You can put the pancetta on whole if you like, or chop/tear it like I have.

Pancetta, mozarella, and parmesan

Grilling is optional, but since it’s summer and since I’m always looking for any excuse to use my new grill, on it went. If you’re grilling, let the grill get hot then turn the burners down to just under medium when you put the pizza on. Again the “dough” is already cooked here, so all you’re trying to do is melt the cheese, lightly wilt the spinach, and crisp up the pita, which will burn quickly if you have the heat too high. You can also put the pizza on a baking sheet in a 475° oven for 8-10 minutes. When the cheese is melted and the pita crisp, it’s ready.

Slice, shake on some red pepper flakes, and enjoy. This is, of course, just one of many ways to make these. Try it with pesto, Roma tomatoes, and slices of fresh buffalo mozzarella for lunch, or bacon, fried eggs, and sautéd onion for breakfast. Kelly mentioned last night that you can hold the cheese altogether for a vegan version—that super-thin sliced tomatoes will lightly caramelize and do the binding-together work the cheese would do normally. With the leftover pancetta from last night and some marinara I made a few days ago, I just made a more traditional one for lunch, adding green bell peppers and chopped, pickled wax peppers, and ate it as I began typing up this entry. And with six or so pita left in the freezer, I’m sure we’ll be making more soon.

Rubsputin

May 7, 2011 § Leave a comment

I don’t remember, exactly, when I made the original batch. But, like a lovingly maintained and ancient sourdough starter or the embers of an Olympic torch, the lineage from that first throwing-together of ingredients to the vital 1/2 tablespoon or so currently sitting atop the fridge—safely sealed in an orange Tupperware container—is long and unbroken. I wish I could say that the name “Rubsputin” came a few years in and after much use, during an hazy and probably alcohol-inspired moment of cleverness when I realized that my dry rub, like it’s Mad Monk namesake, simply would not die. Sadly, though, I cannot. The name came first. The lineage, however, was accidental. I always had just a tiny bit left, and would mix the new batch in the same container. When we moved to Michigan, I transferred the half cup or so I had from an old coffee can to it’s current Tupperware tabernacle. Consequently, and as you’ve probably gathered, I can’t give you a recipe. But this isn’t something you want to measure. It should be organic and a bit haphazard; something different every time, something you’re as excited to taste and can be as pleasantly surprised by as your hungry guests hopefully will be. It should be sacred, and it should be yours.

Rubsputin

I can’t give you a recipe, but I can tell you how I came to mine. Like many of our creations, it was born out of the desire not to go back to the store for forgotten ingredients. Scanning our spice rack, I started plugging what we had into Google hoping to find a recipe that wouldn’t leave too much out. I ended up riffing off two recipes: Alton Brown’s Baby Back Rib recipe and Aaron McCargo Jr.’s Big Daddy Rub. I trust Alton Brown implicitly, and McCargo’s gave hints to proportions for ingredients we had that Brown left out.

When it comes down to it, Alton Brown’s 8:3:1:1 ratio is pretty righteous. 8 tbsp brown sugar, 3 tbsp salt, 1 tbsp chili powder, and 1 tbsp total other mixed spices. McCargo’s adds quite a bit of paprika—as much, actually, as he uses salt—which worked out because I didn’t have the Old Bay Brown called for. I remember being low on brown sugar and high on chili powder (ancho, chipotle, and regular, in fact). Neither of them mention garlic powder, but I wanted it in there, too. With everything we had arranged before me, I started mixing. Brown sugar, salt, chili powder, pinch of various spices, lid on, shake, open, poke with finger, taste, adjust with a pinch of this, generous pinch of that, lid on, shake, open, poke with finger, taste…. This is how one dances with Rubsputin. There’s really no way to screw it up. If you get too spicy, thin it back with more brown sugar. If you put in too much sugar, add more salt and chili powder then adjust spices as needed. When you’re down to a tiny bit and need to rekindle the rub, start again by adding brown sugar to what you have, then some heat, some salt, and start the dance again. I would advise that, tasted on its own, it will want to be a bit spicier and saltier than you might think, as pork especially tends to suck up and mellow those attributes. Be very generous in your application and let the meat sit and get acquainted with its flavorings at least an hour before throwing it on the fire.

Given a good dry rub and slow cooking over low heat, there’s really not much need for sauce. My recent excitement over obtaining a new grill and the resulting and necessary cookout with our upstairs neighbor and his girlfriend, however, seemed the perfect reason to try making my own.  Again, the cupboards were bare, but I had a bottle of chipotle-flavored Tabasco sauce and some molasses. A few minutes of Googling later and I had the base: 2 tbsp molasses to 4 tbsp Tabasco. On its own, this would make a pretty decent basting sauce, but I wanted more. In the spirit of Rubsputin, I started adding things, tasting as I went. Here’s approximately what ended up happening this time around. The sauce doesn’t have a name yet, so feel free to suggest one.

Chipotle Tabasco BBQ Sauce (Bride of Rubsputin?)

  • 2 tbsp molasses
  • 4 tbsp chipotle Tabasco
  • 3-4 tbsp ketchup
  • 2 tbsp spicy brown mustard (or Dijon, or plain yellow)
  • 1/2 tsp applewood smoked salt (or kosher, or sea salt)
  • 2-3 splashes Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tbsp Heinz 57
  • 3-6 grinds black pepper

I was out of garlic and onion powders, else those would definitely have gone in. Other possible candidates to add might be a bit of vinegar, a tiny amount of liquid smoke, some Rubsputin for continuity…. As above, this is an approximate business. Make your base then add slowly, whisking with a fork and tasting as you go until you get it just where you want it. Brush on the sauce during the last few minutes of grilling, flipping once and applying more to make sure you’re fully covered, then transfer what’s left to a ramekin or, if you’ve made a ton, into a squeeze bottle to have on hand at the table.

Below is a picture of a recent end result—Rubsputin undeadingly applied to some country style pork ribs, finished with homemade sauce, and accompanied by skewered squash and onion. Of all the meals we’ve made since moving here, it’s the first run of this we did with our neighbor that rates at the very top—the first introduction of pork to the new grill, first homemade bbq sauce, first hints of winter finally letting go, first calm breath of summer, and the first vision of a backyard full of happy and hungry friends. I ate until I was just uncomfortable, drank two or three more beers than I probably needed, and slept very, very well.

Geek Cuisine: Doctor Who Stew II

May 3, 2011 § Leave a comment

Here, finally, are the pics to accompany the Doctor Who Stew entry. We ended up watching the premiere the night it aired after all so did not accompany the show with the meal, our early evening already promised to the grilling of three manner of animal and many beers. We did, however, rock out the stew a couple nights later. Kind of seems odd making the stew this time of year, but Michigan won’t quite let go of it’s cool breeze. It is nice enough, at least, to spend some time on the porch, so along with the closeup stew shot I’ve also added a quaint little on-the-table pic, complete with a seasonally-optimistic Texas beer. In other news, the new grill has been fed a number of times, and over the weekend was called upon to sear some lamb kafta and for a night of drinks, conversation, and South African rap with some friends. I realized I should probably have documented that one after the fact, especially with my first attempt at homemade pita, but there will be many, many chances still to come to correct this oversight.

“Recipes for Poets”

April 29, 2011 § Leave a comment

The good folks at 32 Poems are compiling a sort of blog-link cookbook anthology of healthy, 20 minute or so prep-time recipes, and have posted a call to participe. The idea is to provide starving poets and artists (and, really, anyone) a fun source of easy and quick recipes to keep them from spending all their time in the kitchen (or, to keep them from going broke or growing sluggish from eating out all the time). They’re asking bloggers to post a recipe that fits the criteria to their own blogs on May 20th, which will then be linked-to from a master list on 32 Poems‘ own blog. Pretty nifty, eh?

So yeah, I’m in. Now, what to make…?

Cooking with “Shells”

April 28, 2011 § Leave a comment

Whenever I think of poetry and food together, I think first of Craig Arnold and his debut collection, Shells, in which food and cooking are recurring images. Yesterday marks two years since Craig disappeared on the island of Kuchinoerabujima in Japan. I didn’t know Craig, but was lucky enough to meet him through a mutual friend and spend a couple days playing taxi-driver during the DFW leg of the whirlwind reading tour following Shells‘ release. He was warm, funny, charismatic, and had an energy for poetry unlike any I’d yet encountered.

But this post isn’t meant to be a eulogy. I wrote more on that taxicab weekend and something of a remembrance on my old blog when they called off the search, and you can read that here if you like. Rather, I hope for this post to be a nod to a fine poet who made an impression on me, a lover of food and travel, a guy I really, really, selfishly wish I could read more of. I also want to do more than just post a poem or two of his and call it good. As I reread Shells last week, I had the idea of using the book to build a menu. Many of the poems simply mention food. “For a Cook” is possibly the closest thing to a verse version of Kitchen Confidential you’ll find and has elements of a recipe, albeit a sabotaged one that’s probably best avoided. “Hot,” the first of his poems I ever encountered, doesn’t give a recipe, and I’d be scared to try if it did, the subject being a man who scorched away his sense taste with years of chili pepper abuse. Two poems, though—”Scrubbing Mussels” and “Saffron”—give both ingredients and loose directions, so I went with them.

I should say up front that I kind of screwed this one up. I’d never cooked mussels before, and Kelly’s usually on rice detail. Here’s what I did, though. Hopefully we can learn from my mistakes.

“Scrubbing Mussels”
(Mussels in White Wine)

“…Once they are cleaned, and more
or less alike, they’re ready to arrange
in the skillet, large enough for a single layer,

with chopped onions and garlic, maybe a pinch
of tarragon—no salt, they will provide
the salt themselves—butter, a half-inch
or so of dry white wine. Replace the lid,

turn on and light the gas. Make sure the match
is thoroughly stubbed out….”

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • one small white onion, chopped
  • 5-6 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 lb fresh mussels, scrubbed and debearded (discard any that aren’t shut tightly to begin with)
  • 1/4 tsp tarragon
  • juice of half a lemon

Method:

I started by sautéing the onion in butter and olive oil over medium heat until just translucent. I added the garlic and sautéd another minute before arranging the mussels in a single layer, along with a half-inch of white wine and a pinch of tarragon, then covered the skillet and cooked for 8-10 minutes until all the mussels opened, discarding the ones that didn’t. I removed the mussels, tenting them with foil in a separate bowl, then blasted the heat and added a squeeze of lemon to the remaining liquid, hoping to reduce this to a sauce. When the liquid reduced by just over half, I poured it over the mussels to serve.

Of the two, this was the more successful recipe. The sauce didn’t quite come together as I wanted, but I also didn’t really plan for it. Doing it again, I’d make sure to get a drier white wine. I’d also probably follow Craig’s instructions more closely, putting everything in first then lighting the heat and letting all cook together rather than doing the onions and garlic first.

“Saffron”
(Saffroned Rice Pilaf)

“…Sauté the rice to the color of a pearl
in oil flavored with pepper, cinnamon bark,

bay leaf and cardamom, the small green kind.
Simmer until the spices have all floated
up to the top—if you want to, pick them out.

Just before it’s done, stir in the saffron
crumbled and soaked in milk….”

Ingredients:

  • 4-5 tbsp olive oil
  • 5 cardamom pods
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 7-10 whole black peppercorns
  • 3/4 inch of cinnamon stick or about 1/4 tsp, broken
  • pinch of saffron
  • 1/8 cup milk
  • 1 cup white basmati rice

Method:

There’s a reason Kelly makes the rice, it would appear. I was thrown at first with Craig’s instruction to sauté the spices (an Indian method called tarkaring, I’d find out later). I also couldn’t imagine quite how the dish was meant to turn out, so I asked the nice folks at Reddit for advice. After establishing that I was after some sort of pilaf, and with a loose set of instructions, I went at it.

The problem now was that I had no idea as to the proportions of the spices. Rather arbitrarily going with the above, I warmed a good bit of oil in a pan then sautéd the cardamom pods, bay leaves, black peppercorns, and bits of cinnamon slowly until they became fragrant.

Then I got confused. I retrieved the spices and set them aside, then put in the rice, sautéing until “pearly.” I tried to mash up all the spices but the bay leaves in a tiny pestle and mortar, reread the poem and realized they were meant to stay in until they floated to the top at the simmer stage, tried to put some of the now-mashed spices back in, then added 1 1/4 cup water and brought everything to a boil. The spices came right to the top so I started taking them out, then decided to leave them in. The poem said it was optional anyway, and they were now too pulverized to easily retrieve.

I also never covered the rice to let it properly steam. While it was trainwrecking on the stove, I warmed about 1/8 cup of milk and crumbled in a pinch of saffron to soak. After the third round of adding more water to the unevenly cooking rice, I consulted Kelly—furiously grading in the other room—and confirmed that, yes, I should’ve covered the rice from the start. I tasted it and was met immediately with a numbing sensation on the tip of my tongue. Too much cardamom, or maybe I sautéd the spices too long, or shouldn’t have pulverized them….

In the end, I never did get the rice cooked through evenly. With the mussels finished and the rice at least al dente in most spots, I killed the heat, stirred in the saffron mixture, and let it steam, covered, for 5 minutes more.

So, there it is. The rice, you’ll see, is wrong and rather horrid looking. Kelly didn’t taste the over-numbing cardamom like I did, so maybe I just got a big dose early that never wore off. The mussels were good, if a little too sweet for the generic white wine I cooked them in. A success? Not really. A fitting tribute? Maybe? I like to think Craig would’ve approved of the sentiment—the odd, ekphrasis of food describing a poem describing food. Maybe next year I’ll try again. Maybe I’ll go with the Thai after all.

Geek Cuisine: Doctor Who Stew

April 23, 2011 § 3 Comments

Like all loves and habits acquired early in childhood, Doctor Who seems to just have always been there. In the late afternoon—after Sesame Street, Electric Company, and Kids Incorporated—KPTS, the Wichita PBS station, would signal its shift into older-kids/adult programming by playing a single music video to fill the gap between shows. This video, as I remember, was always either Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” or Cindy Lauper’s “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun,” so it must’ve been around 1985. Having just finished my homework, mom just starting dinner prep, and with about an hour until dad would get home from work, it was just me, the TV, and the wide blue of the living room floor.

I suppose how I came to Doctor Who is an easy answer. Of four channels, three were news and one had a goofy-looking guy with a robot dog and funny voice. (And, the most awesome theme music of. all. time.) But why did it stick? I liked Star Wars but wasn’t particularly invested in science fiction at that point. It wasn’t action-packed and full of explosions like my beloved GI Joe and Transformers cartoons. Often, due to the accents and British turns of phrase, it didn’t even really make sense to me. What it was, however, was mine. No one else in my class watched it, and my attempts to explain it to them must’ve sounded mad. On the weekends while the non-asthmatic kids were learning how to shoot a basketball, I would steal the “old towels” from the hall closet (horrid, red/orange things), lay them end to end on the floor, clothespin the edges, then ceremoniously fold the edges in a couple times until I had a two-towels-long scarf. I would clothespin another around my neck like a cape, substituting for Tom Baker’s long red coat. Occasionally the Doctor wore a hat, so I sometimes would grab a frayed straw one from the playroom downstairs.

“You may be a doctor, but I’m the Doctor. The definite article, you might say.”

The resemblance, as you can see, was uncanny. I mixed five or so Construx sets to build a TARDIS console on the downstairs ping-pong table, and stole a tire pressure gauge from the tool drawer for my sonic screwdriver. Flexing his drafting skills, my dad made me a scale K9 out of cardboard and Scotch tape, which I dragged around by a string. I rode my red Schwinn around the neighborhood, “scarf” dangerously flowing behind me, yelling random things in an unbelievably bad English accent. When the priest at church said anything about “Galilee,” I could only hear “Gallifrey,” home planet of the Time Lords. I’m sure I also yelled like a Dalek throughout all of this, and I laugh now thinking of what the mostly elderly residents of N. Illinois Street must’ve thought of that Leis kid running around the neighborhood in towels growling “Exterminate!”

As I got older, basketball and track practice took over the Doctor’s time slot. I don’t know when KPTS stopped airing it (though years later I found they did still air the Tom Baker and Peter Davison episodes around midnight), and didn’t know it had been canceled in Britain. For me, there was no Doctor after Davison. In 1996 I tried to set my VCR to record the Paul McGann revival movie, but it tuned to the wrong channel and I missed it. When I heard in 2004 that the BBC was bringing Doctor Who back, I was, like many, excited and skeptical. When I heard the opening theme, tearing up a bit when the main riff kicked in (tearing up or getting chills, actually, probably half the time I hear that damn theme in any of its variations, including just now), I knew we were going to be okay. Christopher Eccleston gave me my childhood hero back, and David Tennant, when he took over, came as close as probably anyone ever will to tying Tom Baker—my time-scarved, childhood döppelganger—as my favorite. Nobody watched it with me as a kid, but I had geekier friends now. When I graduated with my Ph.D. I bought myself a replica sonic screwdriver and a package of Jelly Babies, joking that I only got the degree so I could be called “The Doctor.” I turned Kelly into a fan, too, and when I proposed last Christmas even went so nerdily far as to hide the ring in a homemade TARDIS gift box.

Today is the premiere of the 6th season of the rebooted Doctor Who, and Matt Smith’s second as the Doctor—the eleventh incarnation, seven regenerations under his belt since I first met him, and now, like me, with a hot redhead companion. To accompany the premiere (which I’ll actually be watching Sunday, so actual shot of food forthcoming and no spoilers please), I’ll be making the first recipe my mom ever wrote down for sent along with me when I left for grad school. As a child I had an intense dislike of having parts of my meal touch each other. Steak, potatoes, and beans had to keep to their corner. One night my mom made a stew, and I simply could not be convinced to eat it. Not until she, with that part of the brain only moms have, persuaded me by renaming it “Doctor Who Stew”. It’s a hearty, comforty, cold-weather sort of stew, and whenever I make it, a part of me goes back to being that kid on the living room floor watching the funny man in the scarf and his robot dog travel through time and space.

Doctor Who Stew
(recipe courtesy of my mom)

  • 1 lb. sirloin, trimmed and cut in bite-sized pieces
  • 1 can tomato juice (if needed)
  • 3 potatoes, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 cans diced, seasoned tomatos
  • 1 package frozen green beans
  • 1 small package fresh carrots, cut into inch or so pieces
  • 1 onion (optional)
  • 1 handful frozen corn
  • 1-2 tbsp. Heinz 57
  • Cavender’s Greek Seasoning
  • Salt/Pepper

Method:

Preheat oven to 350°. Mix ingredients in a 12×16 baking dish. Season with salt, pepper, Cavender’s, and a big tablespoon or so Heinz 57 to taste. Add tomato juice or water if you want more liquid (the liquid from the stewed tomatoes is usually enough for me, but if you use fresh you may want to add a bit). Cover with foil and cook for approximately 2 hours.

This is the recipe as it was given to me, but of course there’s room to play. We’ve made versions of this with venison, spicy versions a liberal splashing of Worcestershire sauce in place of the Heinz 57, stewed our own tomatoes and went all-fresh with the ingredients, and thrown all manner of other seasonings in. It, of course, can also be made on the stove top or in a slow cooker. It’s also great reheated the next day. However it’s made, it’s one of the first things I start thinking of when the air turns cool in the fall.

I can’t end this post without saying farewell again to Elisabeth Sladen. As Sarah Jane Smith she was companion to both the Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker incarnations of the Doctor and was there on Skaro when the Daleks were born. She returned in a few episodes with Tennant, and in 2007 was given her own spinoff series, The Sarah Jane Adventures. She died of cancer last Tuesday. So long, Sarah Jane….

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