Friday, January 16, 2009

Comfort Food Weekend

Sometimes the weather is such that all you want to do is stay inside, point and laugh at your neighbor who is outside shoveling snow, and make some good food that fills you up and warms the cockles. I learned to love cooking when I was growing up from my mom, and the go-to guide for such dishes has been my mom's cookbook, a collection of some of my favorite recipes that mom would make growing up. She made this book for Lisa and gave it to her as a gift at her wedding shower. It's been used more than any other cookbook I have. So as a long, cold weekend at home loomed, I sat down and made up a list of 3-4 meals that I could make & chew on for the weekend, and then for lunches the rest of the week.

Kicking it off for a Saturday lunch watching basketball was one of my all-time favorites, Zuccini Casserole. People probably don't go out of their way to buy up this particular vegetable, but it's been a staple in my family for as long as I can remember, whether it was a gigantic one fresh from the garden, where we would bread some slices and fry them up, or smaller, thinner zuccini for a recipe like this. I've been eating it for as long as I can remember, and it's been one of those recipes that has never gotten old to me. Creamy, crunchy, beefy, cheesy goodness on a plate. I perfect kickoff to comfort food weekend.

Next up was a dish that I had made one other time, and fell in love with. All of us have our own interpretations of what Goulash should look and taste like. If it's anything like my mom's, it probably consists of some macaroni noodles, some ground beef, maybe some tomatoes and tomato soup, and whatever else you could throw in the pot. My new favorite take on Goulash is more of a traditional Hungarian variety, which is more of a stew than it is anything else. I make it with potatoes, instead of noodles. Typically the smaller, more flavorful sizes of potatoes work the best. Cut up some round steak, some carrots, onion, add plenty of Hungarian Paprika, and finish it with some cream and a dollop of sour cream on top. I can't rave about this stuff enough.

Morning came, and I had some leftover potatoes from the night before, so I had to start inventing something. I diced the potatoes up, boiled them and began working on some sort of country-style hash. I was envisioning one of those skillet breakfasts that you can get at a Perkin's or Denny's, I guess, minus the giant soup ladle of hollandaise sauce. Onion, bell pepper, and a little mushrooms & garlic, would definitely be in the mix, with some cayenne pepper and thyme for a little kick. Then I took two chicken breasts & diced them up pretty fine, sauteed, and added a rinsed can of black beans. Voila....A hash is born. a sprinkle of shredded co-Jack cheese, a couple of eggs over medium on top, with a sprinkling of fresh tomato, and there you go. A damn good pile of Sunday breakfast love, if I do say so my damn self.

I skipped one Sunday dinner, and we moved on to the evening, with the Grand Finale....the classic ham ball dinner. This recipe has been used in every potluck, church, and Boy Scout dinner function that I can remember. I'm sure this is universal recipe in every small town, regardless of what church denomination you choose. The beauty of a pan of these, glistening in their deliciously sweet glaze, is enough to make any fully-grown carnivore swoon. Perfect accompanyments would include mashed potatoes and green beans. Dinner roll optional.

So there you have it. Obviously it wasn't a weekend of calorie counting, but portion control was excercised. Okay, that's complete bullshit. I ate it all like a I was one year-old with zero regard for whatever shirt or floor I was spilling on.

While a post on comfort food seems borderline Martha Stewart, I will refrain from going completely over the top and providing recipes. (Sorry, Karen!!) You know where to find me if you're really in need, though.


supermom said...

I was gonna say, you can't be posting pics of delicous food w/ out recipes. so, not fair. I am dying for some ham balls/ham loaf. i need to take that one on. my grandma used to make the best!

ok, so, i remember one of your mom's recipes from youth group, way back in the day. it was something like cheesy sloppy joes or something like that. those were stinking delicious! did she include that in your recipe book?

Jessica said...

LONG LIVE HAM BALLS!! My mom used to make those..yum.

Anonymous said...

Looks like you went for the traditional Troop 242 tomato based sauce. I prefer the pinapple juice, brown sugar, and vinegar glaze but I'll eat the hell out of either one. I'm planning on making ham balls next weekend. Bob brought me a 3 pound package of Fareway ham loaf mix over Christmas. I'm going throw them in the smoker for an hour or so. I figured it couldn't hurt. I'll let you know how they turn out.


Anonymous said...

I never even heard of ham balls until I moved to SW Iowa. They are the best!!!

Anonymous said...

My mom actually makes ham balls for Christmas Eve! Love them!

Shannon Doner

Michael said...

What the f*** are ham balls? I assume the name says it all but I guess I missed that culinary delicacy.
It does all look delicious though.

Your tags are awesome:
Great Bowel Movements
Onsetting Diabetes

Yoshi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Yoshi said...

I LOVE Ham Balls. I do prefer then non tomato based sauce. I especially like them the next day as a sandwich slice em up and warm them up in that sweet and sour nectar and put on a fresh Dahl's Bun and you gots your self some good eatin

Anonymous said...

Don't feel bad, Mike. I have no earthly idea what a hamball is. From what I can gather from the people that have commented, it's Southwest Iowa/Asian cuisine.


Anonymous said...

They sure as hell don't know what they are down here in KC. I asked for the mix at the grocery store when I moved down here and they looked at me like I had a third testicle. They don't know what they're missig!


Anonymous said...

Yes, I don't know how to spell missing. That too is a Southwest Iowa thing.


Dixon said...

Thad, I'm sure there would be some textural issue with you, if you actually tried one.

I'm actually surprised at the ham ball reaction. I wrongly assumed they were common knowledge. Fascinating.

Cindy said...

No recipe? I have a killer recipe for ham balls, served in my Mom's restaurant in Malvern in the 70's. There was never a ham ball left in the place by 12:30. The lunch crowd would swoop in and gobble them up, it was a sight, I tell ya. They also consumed 12 doz. donuts, 6 pans of cinnamon rolls and 6-8 fresh made pies everyday. I never did understand why the town folk didn't weigh 500# and waddle when they walked.