Food is a time machine.
One sniff, or taste, and you’re Marty McFlyin’ it.
My mom is always a lot of fun in the kitchen. She has her go-to recipes, but she’s always into trying a new one. She once made something using Coke, and boy were we excited!
I can remember her making potato pancakes (one of my favorites), but she called them potato “croquettes”. The new name was to fool my stepdad who hated potato “pancakes”. I can remember trying to convince her that she could call them what she wanted, but they’d still be “potato pancakes”. My stepdad didn’t eat them anyway.
Her pot roast is spectacular. When I moved to Arkansas, she sent me a care package with onion soup mix, a can of veggies, cream of mushroom soup, and a gift card to buy the meat (it wouldn’t do well in the mail) so I could make it.
Her mulligan stew is fantastic. I’ll write about that when it gets cooler.
Last time I was home, she gave me a bunch of recipe cards. Some of them were hers, and some were my grandmother’s. I’m not sure what I love more, the instructions or the fact that they’re written in their handwriting.
That’s another dish I made when I was alone in Arkansas.
I made them the other night, too. Ironically, she called me as I was getting them ready for their trip to the oven.
She always uses bone-in chops, but I had boneless.
You salt and pepper both sides of the meat.
Then, squiggle (that’s a technical culinary term) some ketchup across the chop. On top of that, sprinkle some brown sugar across the meat. Top that with a squirt of lemon juice (I used my man, the Meyer), and then top off each chop with 2 thin slices of onion.
If you use bone-in, do 350 for 30 minutes covered and 30 minutes uncovered.
You get a moist chop (the lemon juice helps break down the meat), that’s bathed in this sweet sauce cut just a bit by the zing of the onion.
The farm down the street grows sweet corn. The signs for it taunt me every day.
I will tell you, though, this corn had more silk in it than Beyonce’s weave. It was a bit of a pain to prepare.
My partner in cuisine crime always tells me about how his grandmother would go to a nearby farm, buy tons of corn, and then spend all day shucking it to make creamed corn. He said there would be corn in the curtains! Shucking is no laughing matter.
To make it easier on me, I flipped a bowl upside down and put it on a big plate. I held the corn onto the bowl flat-side down, and then shaved off the kernels. You want to do the tips, or even half of the kernels. Yes, it looked like the Publisher’s Clearing House people came by with confetti cannons loaded with niblets. But, it could’ve been worse. The plate caught most of it.
Cutting the kernels off at the 1/4 or 1/2 way mark reserves a good bit of the pulp, or milk, that’s naturally in the corn. This is where you get your “cream”. You don’t need the kind that comes in a carton, but you can certainly use it if you’d like.
Here’s what else you’ll need:
2 slices of bacon
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon of butter
1/2 an onion, chopped (the other half went onto my pork chops!)
12 sage leaves, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon of cumin
1/3 cup of milk
2 tablespoons of yellow corn meal
In a pan, I cooked the bacon over medium-high heat. Once it’s crispy, remove the bacon and lower the pan to medium. To the bacon grease, add the onion, garlic, and butter.
Let that dance around for about a minute, any longer and the garlic will burn and become bitter.
Then, add your corn kernels, stir, and cook for 3 or 4 minutes.
To that, add the corn milk, sage, and cumin (this gives you a hint of smokiness). Stir.
Add the milk and corn meal. Stir, and turn to low.
I use 2% milk, which makes this healthier. The corn meal is a thickener that also gives you some texture.
Let this cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Again, the longer it sits, the creamier it gets.
This is a thick creamed corn, and I love it.
My version gives you a hearty pudding of sorts that’s smoky and homey, thanks to the sage.
To round out the dinner, we had roasted sweet potatoes. I like to roll mine in olive oil and season them with salt, pepper, garlic powder, cayenne, and cinnamon. This is an explosion of sensations. The peppers counterbalance the natural candy characteristics of the potato. The cinnamon takes you back to that “sweet potato casserole” that graced the table of every pot luck or family gathering you’ve visited.
Once they’re out of the oven, I serve them with a drizzle of honey and Sriracha (Thai chili sauce).
Once again, you’re sending your tongue through a tasty tug-o-war.
This is a plate of comfort food. Mostly because it feels like a big hug from the people who helped shape us into the eaters we are today.
The curtain-coating grandmother made a ton of creamed corn every summer and froze it. That’s my next goal, as long as the farmer doesn’t run out of his bargain bounty of yellow yummyness!
Tip: If you have a bundt pan (metal, mine is silicon – which doesn’t work), use that when you cut the kernels off the cob for a salad or creamed corn. Put the pointy end of the cob into the opening in the tubular center of the pan. Then, shave down the cob. The kernals fall into the pan, while the opening keeps the cob in place.