Waldorf salad is another one of those things that can just be kind of tossed all together according to the taste buds of the cook. And if you’re a really sweet, kind cook, you will take into consideration your family’s/guests’ taste buds also.
But what if the item to be served is not a matter of taste so much as it is texture??
This very thing has happened in Mrs. Hate’s family—a texture issue brought to the forefront by none other than her son-in-law.
Waldorf salad showed up on the dinner table on a fairly regular basis when I was growing up. Here’re the ingredients:
- apples (your preference of a tasty, crisp eating apple…back then apples were generally of the Red Delicious persuasion)
- mayonnaise (used to use Kraft until they completely lost their cool AND their mojo when they changed the recipe several years ago..I HATED that little corporate decision (ridiculous), but rallied and discovered Duke’s mayonnaise…really quite good)
- celery, diced
- pecans, diced
- marshmallows (why not use miniature)
And here’s how to put it all together!!
Peel or don’t peel your apples and cut in small chunks.
Add all other ingredients to your liking and proportion.
This must be the shortest Mrs. Hate recipe yet!!
But what about the rest of the recipe title…”fruit and mayonnaise and marshmallows and nuts all mixed together freak me out”?
Love that son-in-law, wouldn’t swap him for the world, he worships my daughter (she’s worship-worthy to the nth…a kumquat if there ever was one)…but his food quirks can be a challenge to the cook.
This is the type of son-in-law who throws his all into everything—intense, cheerful, thoughtful, curious, smart, talks a mile a minute, multitasks like Hydra in Greek mythology could have if cell phones and tablets and laptops and all such things had been around in myth time—but you put an innocent, harmless bowl of Waldorf salad in front of him and he says:
“WHAT IS THIS WITH ALL THIS FRUIT AND MAYONNAISE AND MARSHMALLOW AND NUTS IN IT? THINGS WITH FRUIT AND MAYONNAISE AND MARSHMALLOWS AND NUTS ALL MIXED TOGETHER FREAK ME OUT!!”
Well son, you are easily freaked out—a little high strung there it seems.
The poor thing kind of paled when we told him what it was and how much we loved it and could eat it by the bucketful.
Since he’s a big talker anyway, and my sisters and I were curious about just what was it about Waldorf salad that was so freakishly scary, we…asked him!!!
He started making his case for the fact that, individually, he LIKED all those ingredients and had no PROBLEM with them…individually.
But you mix them all together and the texture just…freaked him out.
We love him. He’s ours, all ours.
But Waldorf salad RULES, I don’t care who you are!!
HATE POINT: the new Kraft mayonnaise
LOVE POINT: that son-in-law
her husband had a feeding tube the last ten years of his life
cancer of the larynx took away from him the ability to speak or eat
and tube feeding kept him going
the patient said she looked back on the years before cancer came
and remembered how
she was always busy being a wife and a mother
a farmer husband and five children kept her busy in the kitchen
and they always enjoyed their fellowship around the table
the day came when she set a full dinner table as she always had done
an abundance of riches
fried chicken and mashed potatoes
butterbeans and squash
sliced tomatoes and spring onions
cornbread and sweet tea
chocolate cake and pecan pie
her husband walked into the kitchen and saw the spread
he knew he could not enjoy
and mouthed these words:
I could eat every bite of this
the patient said
her heart broke
that was the last time she laid out food as a spread
How to say this without sounding tactless? This patient appeared to be just an ordinary elderly woman…small-boned, grizzled short hair, no makeup, plain of dress, quiet of demeanor. You’d see her sort pushing the buggy in the grocery store and then getting into a serviceable, old four-door car.
So what was special about this woman? Well, you’d just have to get to know her, but it didn’t take long being around her to become enamored with her spirit.
She was not particularly “depressed” at being in the hospital…she just accepted it as a part of life that the human body will fail us at times.
She had a dry wit about her that peeked out, once you got to know her. She didn’t let being in her early nineties take away her love of seeing a little humor in everyday life situations.
She had a love for her family, and they for her. Her children and in-laws were faithful “spend-the-nighters” in the hospital room and stayed during the long days also.
She had lived a plain, hard-working life as a farmer’s wife and mother of five children. What others might see as drudgery, she saw as blessings. Read Proverbs 31:10-31.
She had a delicacy of spirit and concern for others that we would all do well to emulate. Imagine all the joy she had for all those years preparing those delicious meals with vegetables from her own garden, laying it all out in all its abundance for her family to enjoy, and then realizing the sadness it caused her husband…that he could not eat it. And just like that, she quit doing what had been such a part of family life for so many years…the pleasure of seeing a beautiful home-cooked meal all laid out in all its glory.
It’s been over five years since the patient left the hospital, and I’ve wondered about her often.
My wonders were answered several months ago. Her obituary expressed the characteristics mentioned above and also stated something I didn’t know…that she had spent the last two years of her life in a nursing home where, the obituary declared, “she made many friends”. What an example of a pleasant attitude and good life until the very end at almost 100 years of age!!
This “ordinary elderly woman” was, in fact, extraordinary. She blessed us, and we loved her.
“Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”
If there are 52 Sundays in a year’s time, and Mimi cooked roast beef a lot on Sundays, then we probably had roast beef Sunday dinners maybe 40 out of 52 Sundays. The way Mimi cooked roast beef, you never got tired of it, so it was no problem to eat it almost every Sunday.
A roast beef Sunday dinner menu:
- roast beef and gravy
- Mahatma white rice
- green beans (sometimes with new potatoes)
- brown-n-serve rolls (sadly, this is “not scratch”)
- Waldorf salad or congealed grapefruit salad
- strawberry shortcake for dessert
Now this particular menu lineup was not necessarily set in stone, but pretty much if you had roast beef, you’d have the rest of it. For instance, for some reason Mimi didn’t usually have butterbeans with the roast. Butterbeans were more the type of vegetable that we had with fried chicken or fried pork chops…that’s just how it was.
The gravy varied from a thin pan juice (my favorite) to gravy thickened with flour and water…also very good; it just depended on Mimi’s cooking mood that day.
White rice—was basmati even INVENTED back then??? A rhetorical question, if you will.
The fresh green beans were always delicious, and even though there was a starch hanging around in the form of white rice, a few potatoes added to the starch offering via the green beans were okay.
The squash were of the yellow crookneck variety, of course…just your ordinary delicious from-the-southern-garden squash. Mimi would scrub them a little to get the garden dirt off, slice them into medium-size chunks, slice up some Vidalia onion and green bell pepper in small pieces, put squash, onion, and bell pepper in a pot of salted water (just enough to cover), bring to a boil, and then simmer until just soft.
Then drain, put into a LIGHTLY buttered Pyrex dish, dot some butter chunks (remember…Land O’Lakes unsalted butter) over the top, and “cook” in a 350 degree oven maybe 20 minutes. Since the squash was already cooked, of course, this 350 action was just to get things heated through good.
BUT WAIT A MINUTE…this post is supposed to be about how to cook a roast beef!! I got so full of looove about the squash that I got sidetracked!! But let’s quickly finish the menu first.
Brown-n-serve rolls. Not scratch, but you just didn’t serve biscuits, hoecake, or cornbread with roast beef. Sometimes Mimi would get inspired and make some what she called “angel biscuits” which were a delicious quick yeast bread, but, more often than not, it was good old brown-n-serve rolls.
Waldorf salad or congealed grapefruit salad. This is where my younger sister and I pleasantly have a difference of opinion. Younger sister says…if we had strawberry shortcake for dessert we never had Waldorf salad. Well, I just don’t know if I agree with that or not. Must ask older sister and see what she says.
Strawberry shortcake. Sometimes we called it that, sometimes we said when we were done eating (that’s some strong vernacular talk there) “go get the pound cake and strawberries and whipped cream out for dessert”.
So, let’s see…before the roast beef cooking lesson, let’s recap what recipes need to be discussed in later posts:
- white rice (really very easy—just have to watch the sticking)
- green beans and new potatoes
- squash (see the above “how-to” when got sidetracked)
- brown-n-serve rolls (go to store, buy, read directions)
- angel biscuits (now we’re talking)
- Waldorf salad
- congealed grapefruit salad
- strawberry shortcake
ROAST BEEF COOKING DIRECTIONS, FINALLY
Mimi always bought a rump roast (and I always just hated having to hear that word or even say it and when I got older and knew that touching raw meat was just part of life and if I went to the grocery store I might have to ask the meat guy do you have any rump roasts if I didn’t see any in the meat counter and that would remind everybody within hearing distance of “rumps” like your “hiney” and it could just potentially be so embarrassing or awkward…I did LOTS of over-thinking in my earlier years).
And I swear on a stack of Bibles that it’s not the word “rump” that made me switch to buying a sirloin tip roast for my roast beef cookings; a sirloin tip just seems tenderer to me somehow.
So, you can get a rump roast, a sirloin tip roast, maybe even a chuck roast (ummm…maybe not—remember this is not a pot roast we’re cooking here)—one that costs about $15, which at this writing amounts to 3-4 pounds of beef.
Sometimes I rinse it, sometimes not, just depends on the mood of the moment…but just be sure if there’s a string around the roast to take it off. Pat the roast a little dry if you rinsed it.
You will pepper, but NOT SALT, the roast rather vigorously—a switch from Mimi’s roast would be using coarsely ground black pepper, not the fine fly-speck kind of black pepper she used. Pepper rather lackadaisically, but vigorously, on all sides (primarily the top and bottom, with a little casual shake on the sides).
Have a cast iron dutch oven getting good and hot on the stove eye. You want the cast iron hot enough so that when the beef hits the iron it will start searing.
Sear it on one side ‘til you’ve got almost a little char action going on. You don’t want the heat to be low enough and the time spent searing in the dutch oven short enough that the meat is just unappetizingly middling-tan looking. When the one side is seared sufficiently, turn over and sear the other side, then kind of fool around with searing the sides in a desultory fashion.
Have the oven ready at 325- 350 degrees.
Put the lid on the dutch oven, stick it in the oven on a middle or lower-middle rack. No water necessary AT THIS POINT.
I like to cook a roast this size somewhere between 3 and 4 hours. The meat wrapper often states “cook 20 minutes to the pound” but I-Gad!! that wouldn’t be but an hour to an hour and a half. Horrifying!! The thing won’t be done right is the only way to say it!! But then again, I am frequently accused by my older sister of cooking meat until it’s Son of Hockey Puck, to which I say “I’m sorry”…which in this family means no you’re NOT sorry one bit. I repeat to my sisters…”I’m sorry, but I just like to make sure the meat is well-done”.
It would be good to state at this point that I freely admit I’m not the greatest meat cook and have certainly overcooked meat before…we’ll never die of trichinosis in this household…but this roast is PERFECT when cooked 3-4 hours.
So, the roast is in the oven, and some of you may be wondering “well, is it going to STICK without any LIQUID??”
Answer—no, not in the beginning. The beef will start to exude its own juices for a while, but you’ll need to start checking it maybe after 45 minutes or so to see if you need to throw a little water in (the pan juices will start to get thick and syrupy and start gumming up and reducing way too much). You will add water several times during the cooking of the roast—maybe three times. Amount of water?? Maybe ½ cup at a time—or a little more. No need to turn the roast over but you can if you want to.
So, the clock is ticking…you put the roast in around 2:00 and it’s getting to be 5:00 now (this would be a weekday supper roast, not a Sunday dinner roast—more on that later***). You may be thinking “surely it’s done by now”.
Well, stick a fork in it and see if it seems tender.
Oftentimes you might feel like…well, the fork’s telling me just a little more time in the oven. So basically there’s a good chance you’re going to cook it almost 4 hours.
When the roast is done (extremely tender), take it out of oven and let the dutch oven sit on a cold stove eye to kind of rest after all its hard work. You can read cooking articles about how the meat continues to cook, let it rest in its juices, something about the grain, etc etc, but basically just know that 1) it’s just about too hot to eat straight out of the oven and 2) after cooling a little bit, the flavor is not as “hot wet meat” if that makes any sense. My father, a beyond-wonderful man, preferred to eat his fried chicken cold, because he said when hot it was like eating hot wet chicken. Perfectly understandable, so treat the roast beef cooling time similarly to the fried chicken.
So now you’re left with the gravy quandary. Lord Jesus!! Gravy can be tricky!! Hmmm—could I be trying to STALL here and perform a DELAY TACTIC of sorts, since sometimes MY gravy comes out rather hit or miss??
Possibly. First, take the roast out of the dutch oven.
Look at the pan juices, think positive, and ask yourself “do I need to add just a little water, not so much that it turns watery, but just enough to stretch out those juices?”. That would be your pan juice gravy. All that’s needed then is to heat up the juices just a little to account for the water you’ve added, if any.
For a thicker gravy, you’ll want to start a stove eye to heating up, place the dutch oven on it, put just a little sprinkle of plain flour (White Lily) in the juices, and start stirring on medium to medium-high heat. Add a little more water, then add a little more flour, stirring all the while. Repeat ‘til you think there’s enough. Some people use cornstarch to thicken the gravy, but Mimi always used flour and never had any problem.
Sometimes in a fit of desperation if things aren’t going right (i.e. gravy is lumpy with flour lumps), it’s a good idea to stir up the flour in a little cold water BEFORE you add flour/water to the gravy. Why it works sometimes to just throw some flour in and sometimes it doesn’t work is a mystery. Probably the safe thing to do is to use the flour/water mix first, then add to juices.
Mimi could stretch gravy with flour and water ‘til you thought you had made a pot roast instead of the seared roast there was so much gravy; she just had the knack. And her gravy never misbehaved (got lumpy), no matter which way she added the flour. So irritating that it always worked for her and sometimes doesn’t for me. Another one of those cooking mysteries that can lead one to butt their head against the wall.
Either of these gravies is just MADE for putting on white rice. Gravy is optional on the roast beef…it just depends on if you prefer the purity of the meat sans gravy.
And that’s the end of the roast beef recipe.
*** When Mimi cooked roast for Sunday dinner (dinner being the meal after the 11:00 church service, which ended a little after 12:00), she would put the roast on in the morning before Sunday School, have the beans and potatoes cooked and turned off before leaving the house, cook the rice and the squash after church, and the salads and dessert were made the day before. The roast would therefore be cooking all during church time. The house never caught fire.
HATE POINT: it’s hard to find anything to hate here, except maybe the brown-n-serve rolls
LOVE POINT: families enjoying traditions like a roast beef Sunday dinner so that years later, after death separates us, the memories still comfort, and the adult children and grandchildren realize how blessed they were to have parents and grandparents like Mimi and Papa
You all are getting some lagniappe here, lagniappe meaning (in case there are some readers out there who haven’t heard that word) a bonus…the bonus being a good recipe, a word you might not hear very often, and a little family reminiscing. 🙂
Now, I would hazard that many people know about lagniappe, but how many are familiar with the word “foundered”?
My father used this word a LOT and we, the daughters, still use the word today when the situation calls for it. So, what does it mean?
The way Daddy used the word “foundered” is this way:
“I ate so much of that fried fish and those hushpuppies that I got foundered.” Or, “if you keep eating that watermelon you’re going to get foundered on it.”
The meaning of the word “foundered” can probably be gleaned by the context in the above sentences. Simply put, “foundered” means you ate so much (often of a rich food) that you just feel blah, uncomfortable, kind of queasy, blechhh. You usually don’t end up throwing up or anything, you just feel like “I sure wish I hadn’t made such a pig of myself and kept on eating like a hog at the trough”. Probably the best cure for foundering is a ginger ale, maybe a Coke. After being foundered, next time you ate something later on in the day, it would probably be just some saltines, or soda crackers, as Daddy usually called them.
Well, being the driven and inquisitive person that I am, I thought “hmmmm…this word is so familiar to me, but I wonder if it’s in the dictionary?” And, wonder of wonders, it is.
founder: to disable (an animal) especially by excessive feeding
Since Daddy was a farmer and farmed crops and had cows and pigs (cattle and hogs? I vacillate between the two), this might be the source for him of using this word in referring to human overeating.
Or maybe it was a word that was common anyway in this rural area back in the 1920s and 1930s when he was growing up. Whatever, if we’re sitting around stuffing toasted pecans or boiled peanuts in our mouths like somebody’s going to take them away from us, one of the sisters will usually look at the other and say “you better quit eating so much, you’re gone get foundered, and it’ll be your own fault.” No sympathy here!!
Well, why don’t we just mosey on to the sweet bread recipe referenced in the post title? And, because I’ve spent so much time explaining “foundered”, let’s just present the recipe without any more yip-yap, as I say. Just a warning, though…if you eat too much of it and get foundered, it’s your own fault. Man! I got some Mrs. Hate-ness going on there! 🙂
SWEET OLIVE OIL QUICK BREAD
- 2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- pinch salt
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- 3/4 cup milk
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup unsulfured sultana raisins
- grated zest of 1 lemon
- unsalted butter for loaf pan
- 1/4 cup pine nuts
Preheat oven to 350°F.
In a mixing bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir in the sugar. Add the eggs, milk, and olive oil, and beat well.
Toss the raisins in a little flour to coat them lightly. Add the raisins and lemon zest to the flour and egg mixture and stir to distribute evenly.
Butter and flour a loaf pan. Transfer the batter into the pan and smooth the surface. Sprinkle the top with pine nuts. Bake for 55 mintues, or until a thin skewer inserted in the center comes out dry. Let cool for a few minutes. Unmold and cool on a rack.
(www.epicurious.com from Desserts and Sweet Snacks: Rustic, Italian Style by Viana La Place)
I mix this bread by hand using a whisk (don’t over beat, no need to use mixer, just mix lightly) and use Bertolli extra light tasting olive oil, not extra-virgin olive oil. I’ve also substituted currants or dried cherries for the raisins/skipped the pine nuts or used almonds, and it’s really good if you sprinkle the top of loaf generously with powdered sugar when it comes out of the oven.
Foundered…you’ve been warned.
There’s cornbread, and then there’s hoecake.
Mrs. Hate will not wax eloquently about cornbread, because it’s been done so often before and usually in such an overdone (to her) manner that those writings should suffice. She does, however, reserve the right to write (that sounds sort of linguistically funny) about cornbread at some future date as the spirit moves her.
So, now that cornbread has been summarily dismissed, let’s talk about hoecake.
And this hoecake is Mrs. Hate’s mother’s and grandmother’s style of hoecake. You’ll need:
brown paper grocery bags
Dixie Lily stone ground cornmeal is such a great little cornmeal. That yellow thick paper-y bag, that steel ring noosing the bag top that confounded Mrs. Hate so much when she was little with those bitten-to-the-nub fingernails—but then Mrs. Hate was pretty much interested in cooking only Toll House chocolate chip cookies and 1-2-3-4 cakes, so her inability to show that steel ring who was boss (i.e. get the bag open) did not bother her too much. Hoecakes were getting a little too close to vegetables and meats, the cooking of which just did not intrigue her at this stage in her life.
Another post can delve into the meat/vegetable cooking and the lack of interest; let’s just say it had a LOT to do with having to touch raw meat.
So, back to that bread of the gods and of people with good sense…hoecake.
You’ll need a Pyrex measuring cup, preferably a 4- or 8-cup.. Mrs. Hate’s not playing here—this cup is INTEGRAL to a good hoecake.
Let’s have some fun (depends on the readers’ ideas of fun) and just throw out the scratch concept of this recipe.
Throw some of that Dixie Lily cornmeal (plain) in the Pyrex cup. For help for those readers who don’t want to fly by the seat of their cooking pants, let’s say…hmmmm…close to 2 cups.
Add a goodly pinch of salt—goodly. And it’s just plain old table salt, know what I mean? Not sea salt, not kosher salt, not gourmet salt flakes.
Add enough water (from the tap is fine) to make it really runny—the fork you’re using to stir with can tell you when it’s the right consistency. If your fork isn’t telling you that, either you’ve got the wrong fork, or you’re not listening hard enough.
Confession here: it’s 6.00 a.m. Mrs. Hate time, so she’s not exactly in the kitchen stirring up some hoecake at this hour. However, she IS thinking “do I take pity on the reader and try to nail down that amount of water to use?” So, a web search finds that one suggested proportion of cornmeal to water is: 2 cups cornmeal/3.5 cups water. Personally, that sounds like a LOT of water to Mrs. Hate, but she just cannot start up the hoecake cooking at this moment. Let your sense of touch and sight be your guide. Start out—cautiously—with maybe 1 cup of water and go from there. It’s better to add more water to a batter that’s too stiff than add more cornmeal to a batter that’s too runny. Why is this so? If you went down the route of adding more cornmeal, you might end up having so much batter that you could Feed the Five Thousand, one of Mrs. Hate’s favorite phrases. (Matthew 14:13-21)
NOW comes the artistic part. Pray for guidance and creativity and a calm, yet strong spirit (these are true words here, not fluff words—you’ve got to be on your game here).
You’ve got your spider on the stove eye. Now, a reader might wonder “what the heck’s a spider?”. In Mrs. Hate’s world, a spider is a flat skillet, with just a miniscule edge around it, while a skillet has sides. It goes without saying it needs to be seasoned cast iron (search for “how to season cast iron” at this point if you’re unsure/confused/didn’t grow up with/didn’t inherit good old skillets and spiders). Which brings up ANOTHER point (there sure are a lot of points to cover). You will be so blessed if you inherit your spider. If no inheritance coming your way, try some junk shops or something similar, or buy a new one and season it yourself. Good luck.
This spider from Lodge Cookware is the closest Mrs. Hate’s seen to her spider:
Pour a thin layer of bacon grease—left over from when you had a bacon craving—on the spider and start heating things up. Start out pretty hot (near the top of the dial; perhaps yours says “high”) and then lower just a touch—or more. You’ll want the hoecake mixture to sizzle when it hits the hot grease (hoecake cooking will start to get EXTREMELY artistic here).
Hold that Pyrex cup up kind of high off the spider (and the hoecake mixture most likely will have thickened, so let your fork tell you how much more water to add—a splash or so—to make it perfectly runny…but you don’t want it to be watery).
Splash down a goodly pour of hoecake mixture. The height at which you hold the Pyrex, the thinness of the mixture, and the resulting force of the splash is what makes these hoecakes perfection (lacy edged). Now, “goodly” perversely means a SMALL enough amount so that your spider will hold three, at the most four, hoecakes. There are recipes out there that say “cover the skillet with the batter and make one big hoecake” but NO NO NO that’s not the Mrs. Hate way. You want to make maybe six or seven spider’s worth of hoecake at three to four hoecakes per spider because your family and/or guests will be eating them as fast as you make them—and that is flat the truth and it will happen. If you’re making them right—a delicate lacy edge,a thin, firm, tender middle, and nicely golden—they are…someone please invent a better, a stronger, word than addictive.
Back to reality.
You’ve poured out, say, three hoecakes, and things are happening pretty quick now.
Get a thin metal spatula and start poking around up under the happiest hoecake edge and see if it’s firm enough to flip. You’re talking maybe a minute of cooking on this first side before turning the hoecake AND you will be twiddling with the heat AND twiddling with adding more grease as needed to keep hoecakes from sticking. Practice is the word of the hour here.
So, you’ve flipped it, you’ll cook it a little more, and the art is almost complete.
Put those hoecakes to drain on the brown paper bags. Using a paper towel to drain the grease would be so…yucky…blechhhh. You NEED that slick brown paper to make the grease behave and drain correctly so that the hoecakes will remain happy and crispy and tasty. Paper towels just make the hoecakes sad and soggy and pitiful. That heat and that grease and that steam hitting that waffly, limp paper towel? Nightmarish!!! You may, up to this point, have cooked a perfect hoecake, but if you drain them on a paper towel, your efforts will go south quick. (Mrs. Hate hates using that phrase, being Southern and all, but it is necessary here.)
If you’ve cooked them right, don’t worry about getting to sit down and eat with the folks. You’ll pretty much be standing there cooking more hoecake and will generally join the table when everyone else is about half finished eating. Mrs. Hate saw her mother do that often. Her mother was a saint, a giver, and creative to the core.
HATE POINT: not having hoecake to eat with field peas and okra and mashed potatoes and sliced tomatoes
LOVE POINT: a childhood filled with eating like this with vegetables from the garden and loving parents who were the best
Mrs. Hate says “Yowza, baby” on that title!!
But truly, that is exactly what is deemed an important factor in delicious egg salad, according to The New Best Recipe: All-New Edition, 2nd Edition, pages 121-122.
I came to egg salad late in life, in that I’m not particularly what I’d call “wrapped up” in eating eggs. Deviled eggs are good most any time, every month or so an omelette, or maybe a fried egg, fried ’til it begs for the torture to end, with lots of mustard and cheese on Sunbeam bread and then grilled, is something I might have a craving for once every ten years, but other than that, I’m not an egg fiend.
One day last year, however, I thought “you know, why not be brave, get over the perceived eggy-ness of egg salad, and just make the stuff”.
Here’s what happened…I didn’t use a recipe because I thought it would be so easy to just add a little mayonnaise and some (yuk) sweet pickle relish (which I really pretty much loathe, but seems to be de rigeur in egg-type recipes in the South) and whatever else seemed appropriate and mash it all together.
No matter how many times I tried, the darn stuff never tasted worth a flip. I’m not even sure if some days it tasted better than others; the whole experience was just puzzling and nightmarish and therefore I’ve blocked it.
Salvation came the day I was flipping through The New Best Recipe: All-New Edition. The recipe called for capers, not sweet pickle relish (YES!!), some grainy mustard (yum), some other things I would leave out due to family peculiarities (Mrs. Hate…ever considerate), and this very important statement:
“Eggs diced into small cubes (just under 1/2″) gave the salad the full mouth feel we had been seeking.”
With apologies to a certain blogger (the throw-down here 🙂 )…oh shoot, might as well say it’s Toby at Plate Fodder…who said “The finer you get the eggs, the better your salad will be”, I respectfully disagree.
THIS was part of what had been missing for me…the mouth feel!! Makes perfect sense!! Not too big of a chunk, because then you might think of little baby chicks running around enjoying life and then you’d gag, but not too fine, because then it might coat your tongue like a cross between pureed baby/elder food and something the cat couldn’t digest.
I’ve made this egg salad plenty of times since The Discovery of the Perfect Egg Salad Recipe, Complete with Full Mouth Feel, and I’m not tired of it yet. Just keep in mind that my version uses only:
One day I’ll probably get around to adding a few of the things I leave out of the basic recipe, but that would be when the celery- and onion-haters in this household go somewhere for a day or two, and I’m not seeing that happening any time soon. Plus, I refuse to make separate little bowls for each according to his taste; I mean, isn’t celery innocuous enough so that if it were finely chopped into flea-sized pieces it could cause no harm?? The answer here from the other household members is No. Celery is an abomination.
And now, for your gustatory pleasure, the recipe.
CLASSIC EGG SALAD
- 6 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and diced
- 1/4 cup mayonnaise
- 2 TBLSP minced red onion
- 1 TBLSP minced fresh parsley leaves
- 1/2 medium celery rib, chopped fine
- 2 tsp Dijon mustard
- 2 tsp juice from 1 lemon
- 1/4 tsp salt
- ground black pepper
**note: I add 2 TBLSP capers (1 of 4 recipe variations for egg salad in The New Best Recipe) and have never chopped or rinsed them as recipe states; I also salt to taste after mixing all together
Mix all ingredients together in medium bowl.
Makes about 2 1/2 cups
Now I’m wondering…is there such a thing on WordPress as a definitive smack-down throw-down recipe contest for certain foods?? Where there’s an entry deadline and voting and comments and blahblahblah etc etc etc?? This is called “Mrs. Hate’s mind is wandering”, because I’m a believer in everybody has their own taste buds, what’s sauce for the goose may not be sauce for the gander, one man’s jicama is another man’s bile, and so on and so forth. Therefore, contests are just one of those things that may exist in part to satisfy the gladiator urge in us to WIN!! Or, if we’re sitting on the sidelines all fat and happy (metaphorically speaking), we want to BACK a winner.
Whoa Nelly…I think it’s time to rein my wandering mind in and close with the famous statement by Rodney King: “can’t we just all get along?”.
Radishes and scallions and dill and curry and cilantro and anchovies and bacon and shallots and watercress. All getting along together in the four variations of Classic Egg Salad.
Hated not to share with folks what the other variations included, but “not ganna” type out all the combinations and permutations!! Unless someone requests!! Then I’ll be glad to do it!! Just writing these sentences to enjoy using exclamation points!!
Lawzy lawzy!! How many patients of Mrs. Hate sprang back to life after eating one of her pimento cheese sandwiches!! Sometimes hospital food just wasn’t what the patient wanted or needed…wanted in that people GENERALLY get tired of eating the same thing over and over, and needed in that pimento cheese is just flat-out comfort food, and folks need comforting when they’re feeling down.
I was so fortunate to work in a hospital setting where, as I would tell folks, “if it’s okay with the doctor and nurses and okay with the patient’s family and okay with the patient” then pimento cheese (or other home-cooked foods) is coming.
Then I would further assure the patient and all concerned that I tied a big linen dish towel, like a do-rag, over my wild tresses so that the food being prepared would be “hair-free”. That’s almost as important as having clean hands.
Is this TMI (too much information)?? “I’m sorry”, but my hair sheds at the drop of a hat, and there’s nothing more unappetizing than someone else’s hair in your food.
Mrs. Hate and her washed-clean hands and do-ragged hair now present the recipe for pimento cheese. And it can be eaten plain with soda crackers, stuffed into celery, or made into sandwiches; let your imagination be the limit.
- sharp cheddar cheese
- medium cheddar cheese
- diced pimentos, drained
- mayonnaise (Duke’s)
- cayenne pepper
Grate the cheese (a food processor works great for this)…use one and that’s half the battle of making pimento cheese.
Mix together the cheese, pimentos, mayonnaise, and dashes of cayenne pepper to taste.
If making sandwiches, it’s hard to beat white bread for pimento cheese. Sunbeam is the classic in Mrs. Hate’s mind and what she ate all growing up.
And ONCE AGAIN all the proportions are to the cook’s taste!! If you mix it up with love and pretend like you are making it for hospital patients who are just miserable and restless and depressed and bored and hurting and worried and all the other feelings that are normal when one is in the hospital, the pimento cheese will be JUST RIGHT. You will have given of your heart and soul when making it, and therefore it will turn out perfect.
HATE POINT: storebought pimento cheese in the little round flat plastic containers where the mixture is smushed into a paste
LOVE POINT: food processors when useful
Mrs. Hate looooves biscuits. You can’t say it any plainer than that.
How do I love thee, O Biscuit?
Let me count the ways:
- biscuits with butter
- biscuits with blackberry jelly
- biscuits with crabapple jelly
- biscuits with fig preserves
- biscuits with honey
- biscuits with Flowing Gold syrup
- biscuits with pan sausage
- biscuits with country ham
- biscuits leftover, halved, buttered, and put under broiler the next day
And then, of course, you’ve got throwing in some stale biscuits when making your dressing at Thanksgiving and Christmas AND, every now and then, playing around with turning them into a sort of biscuit pudding.
Picture a small country town in South Georgia circa 1962. There’s a farm—not too big, not too little—with a maid (who now would be referred to as a housekeeper)—not too skinny, not too fat (and this description is important for reasons discussed later)—wearing a white uniform. There will never be a better biscuit maker than Matt, point said.
Mrs. Hate remembers Matt as representing security, stability, love, kindness—all attributes we all need to possess, and our possession begins by having them demonstrated to us by others. Matt was a part of the nascency of these attributes in Mrs. Hate; her talent in biscuit-making was perfection, but her kindness and love superseded even biscuits. Love and kindness are eternal, the eating of a biscuit temporal. But the memories of those biscuits and the loving hands that made them…goodness gracious, what memories…
Now, as all good cooks have the talent of making things looks easy (in other words, things you THINK are so simple, but in reality there’s a knack to it so that sometimes you end up banging your head against the wall and say “why can’t I just COOK this and make it turn out right? there’s ONLY THREE LITTLE INGREDIENTS!!! Mrs. Hate’s getting worked up a little here in case you couldn’t tell), Matt didn’t disappoint in making biscuit-making look easy.
So what are the three little ingredients for Matt’s biscuits that can make strong women cry—and then headbutt the wall??
White Lily self-rising flour
buttermilk (whole please, not fat-free)
alas…no image of Land O’Lakes whole buttermilk could be found,
so just imagine your local grocery store’s buttermilk pictured here
**sidebar** of course, it’s much more traditional to use plain (all-purpose) White Lily flour and add your baking powder and salt, but MY MAMA said it was okay to use self-rising flour, and MY MAMA was as Old South scratch cooking as there could be. R.I.P. Mimi—we still talk about you, dream about you, wonder about you, analyze you.
So, back to the biscuits.
Now Matt could make biscuits without measuring…of course!! (headbutt time on the coolness and savoir faire of no measuring)
She would pour the flour into a what we called dough bowl, which was an old (again, of course!! wasn’t EVERYTHING old in Mrs. Hate’s childhood??) wooden bowl with dimpled gouges here and there. The gouges sure didn’t come from biscuit making, because all of that’s “by hand”, but probably just came from handling and slamming the bowl around when throwing it in the cabinet. (“Throwing” is showing up more and more in these little stories—one would think there was a lot of VIOLENCE and PASSION and SOUTHERN GOTHIC-NESS going on in the household, but no, it was just a busy little place.)
So, back to the biscuits for the second time.
**second sidebar** the buttermilk should be cold (don’t get it out beforehand to come to room temperature like you would generally do with cake-making), and IMPORTANT NOTE: always keep the Crisco in the refrigerator…you want it to be cold for biscuit making, and refrigeration also keeps it from going a little rancid.
Spoon in some Crisco (shortening) and get those little fingertips working. You want to just riffff the Crisco into the flour with a delicate touch of thumb rolling the Crisco over the fingertips, primarily the index and middle fingers, with a little ring finger action for extra riffff. Little finger not really necessary. Think on that statement.
You will have MAGICALLY known how much Crisco was necessary. If your magic levels are low on biscuit-making day, let’s say a couple of big spoonfuls (a little over 1/4 cup) of Crisco—the size of spoon you dish up vegetables with—and the flour (backtracking here) should be maybe 2 cups would do’ya.
And, if you’re a voracious, insatiable, manic, lunatic-crazy cookbook reader, surely you will have read all through the years about “work the shortening into the flour mixture until there are pea-sized lumps, but they don’t have to all be exactly the same size, you need some variation for flakiness blahblahblah”. All that is true. Plus (and often you will read this) you don’t want to overwork the dough; toughness results. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but toughness should not be in the heart of a biscuit.
Okay, and moving right along…
Get the buttermilk out of the refrigerator (whole, remember—the thought of low-fat buttermilk makes Mrs. Hate hate), shake it up good (so all the yummy fat is distributed), and pour in enough (about 1 cup) to make a slightly sticky dough when stirred with a fork (there’s that magic fork again which, after having tended to the hoecakes, is now tending to the biscuits—that fork earns its keep in this kitchen!!). And some folks even have special forks treasured for biscuit making and other cooking odds and ends…Mrs. Hate has HEARD of this and even seen a PICTURE of this…and the fork just looks like an old broke-down fork with maybe a tine or two missing. Will wonders never cease!!
So, you’ve stirred the dough, it’s sticky (searching for comparable analogy here—is that a somewhat redundant pairing of words?—and failing miserably), and now time to get a little creative like you did with the hoecakes.
Get the dough board out (not bowl), flour it with a handful of flour and swoop it around on the board, throw the dough on the board, dust your hands with flour, and lightly, gently knead for a few turns. So pretty when it’s done right. It goes from a sticky and slighty damp-ish looking mess to an immaculately smooth ball with a dull flour finish, if you do it right…just saying. Just thinking about that smooth dough ball takes Mrs. Hate back back back to that time in her childhood when she and her parents and her sisters and Matt were healthy and energetic and young.
Rolling pin or pat out the dough?? Let’s end up with a rolling pin, with a little flour dusted on it. Put your dough ball on the floured board, pat it with your hands a little to get the thing started, then lightly press/roll with pin.
The dough needs to be in the neighborhood of ⅜” thick. You can go a little more or less thick depending on your vision of a perfect biscuit. Personal preference is perfectly proper here (looove that alliteration…if any reader has seen Brideshead Revisited—the one with Jeremy Irons and Anthony Andrews—the Anthony Blanche character was a m-m-m-master of stuttering alliteration).
Cut the biscuits out. A 2-3” biscuit cutter is recommended. However, in a pinch, one could take an old (Good Lordamercy, were Mrs. Hate’s folks packrats with old stuff or WHAT?!?!?!?) jelly jar, place it on the dough, and use a sharp knife tip to cut around the jar rim. Eureka!!! Biscuits!!!
Place the biscuits—all touching, please, all cozy and nestled next to each other—in a cast iron SKILLET, not a SPIDER (see hoecake post). Or, entirely okay to put the biscuits in old aluminum pie plate or even a 9×13 Pyrex dish. Some people like to spritz the pie plate or Pyrex with a little Pam—hmmmm on that, as Matt sure didn’t use any of that Pam stuff back in 1962. And please be advised here that a biscuit pan is kind of whatever, but cornbread is really only made in an iron skillet. Sometimes at holidays a Pyrex dish is okay for cornbread because the sad truth is it’s going to be crumbled up for dressing anyway, but for eating cornbread on its own, you really, really need an iron skillet to develop the crispy cornbread crust…another post, another day, and another alliteration.
You’re looking at probably a dozen biscuits here, maybe fewer. Just depending.
An oven temperature of 500 degrees sounds mighty high, but it works.
And before oven-time, some people melt some butter in a bowl (confession: microwave) and use fingertips (why bother using a brush?) to slide some butter around on the top of raw biscuit.
Handy Tip: it would behoove you to always have some Land O’Lakes butter on hand, and unsalted is really all you need—most of the time, like 99.9% of the time.
Almost done, you hanging-in-there readers you!!
Take the biscuits out when golden-y brown on top (ten-ish minutes or so).
And as good as they are same-morning/dinner/supper made, they are equally as delicious next morning prepared this way:
Split them, put a little softened butter on cut surface, put on cookie sheet with tin foil on it (or you can get all free-spirited and just put them on whatever…skillet, cookie sheet, old roasting tray, it’s okay), have that oven on BROIL, place in oven with door kind of cracked open and check verrrry frequently—it won’t take long. You just want them lightly toastified with a little crunchy thing going on. Heavenly.
And why was it important to describe Matt as being not too skinny and not too fat??
Matt, that precious angel on Earth, developed stomach cancer. Mrs. Hate’s mother and Matt were very close, and MHM (trying out this acronym here for brevity and typing efficiency) talked so long and so hard to Matt about going to the doctor, but Matt was a Jehovah’s Witness, and there are lots of Witness beliefs about medical procedures, blood transfusions, etcetera. No matter how much Matt loved MHM, she just couldn’t bring herself to go to the doctor.
So the wonderful Matt got cancer-skinny, but with a swollen stomach. In the saddest of ways, she was both too skinny and too fat. However, she was still perfect, of course, because love and kindness exist no matter our physical condition.
HATE POINT: canned biscuits
LOVE POINT: Matt and the memory of her sweet face
Mrs. Hate would say “this was the straw that broke the camel’s back”, but that camel’s back was broke a long time ago.
Furthermore, according to most any food-related article one has read over the past, say, ten years, a bar of chocolate or, heck, anything chocolate-related is just as sleazy and trashy as that carrot cake cookie.
What on earth is Mrs. Hate going on about here? Is this what she meant by saying “there will be diatribes”?
Well, yes. And it all started with her looking at a catalogue before tossing it in the trash. RIght there on page 17 was the decadent carrot cake cookie, tempting one to pay good money for its dissipated, deviant self.
The problem is that the word “decadent”, defined in Merriam-Webster as “having low morals”, is constantly being used to describe particular items of food, primarily those of a sweet nature. To be fair, way down at number three on the Merriam-Webster list of ranked meanings is the definition “characterized or appealing to self-indulgence”; Mrs. Hate guesses that, depending on your eating habits, eating a carrot cake cookie might be self-indulgent, but that’s going down another rabbit trail. Back to the number one definition of decadent.
Mrs. Hate feels that the word decadent is more so along the lines of Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart who said “I can’t define pornography, but I know it when I see it.” More importantly, if you grew up in a moral family, you knew that even a whiff of decadence was not something that would go over real well with the folks. But at least everyone was in unspoken agreement that decadency had to do with a HUMAN oh-my-gosh.
When, how, why—Mrs. Hate might start sputtering here—WHO on earth decided it was linguistically appropriate to start using the word DECADENT when describing poor old helpless cookies, candies, cakes, and other such sweets?
There’s probably no answer to this question; the word just started slowly infiltrating the culinary world, and now we toss the word around cavalierly and without thinking about the true meaning of the word. (Not to mention once everybody and their brother starts using a word overmuch, then it becomes laughably trite—one of Mrs. Hate’s major pet peeves.)
Why not refer to the carrot cake cookie as “debauched”, “depraved”, or “dissolute”? Those are all synonyms for “decadent”. Nope, “decadent” will refuse to give up the glory; she’s trashy like that.
Mrs. Hate can only hope that one day there will be a grand revolt against using this word to describe food, and said word will be used to describe those activities that are best left unsaid and in private.