Meatload?

Meatload is not a typo. It’s a real thing, I swear. Well, it’s a real thing at my house, where I periodically have to unload the fridge and hide its contents in a meal that is tasty and that, itself, will make leftovers suitable for lunches at least two days into the future. It’s usually just meat, filler, and flavourings – I’ve used leftover mashed potatoes, stale bread soaked in milk, limp carrots and half a squishy zucchini grated. It’s always juicy, and it always makes excellent sandwiches. Wondering how to pass off the remnants of your fridge as quality food? Oh, so simple!

Meatload (an approximate recipe)

  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1 lb. ground pork
  • 1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese (if it’s all dried out and crappy because your Nick left it out on the counter overnight, all the better … you’re not going to use it for anything else anyway!)
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup grated carrot (about three carrots, or, whatever you have left over in the bag)
  • 1/2 cup grated zucchini (or however much you have – I’ve found that more never hurts)
  • 1 small finely chopped onion (if you’re using a food processor to grate the other things, use it here too)
  • 3 cloves finely minced garlic
  • 1 tbsp. barbecue sauce (plus 1/4 cup if barbecuing)
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsbp. chili powder

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Dump all your ingredients into a single bowl. Mash together with your hands until it’s thoroughly mixed together. Form a loaf that’s of equal thickness the whole way around. Place on a baking sheet and bake it, covered, for 30 to 40 minutes. 3o minutes? Oh, yes. The thing about meatload is that you finish it on the barbecue. Don’t have a barbecue? Sucks to be you. Cook it for 60 minutes then, but leave it uncovered, and periodically baste it with the pan juices.

Have a barbecue? Yay! Your life has meaning. Once the oven buzzer screeches, pull the ‘load out and let it rest for a few minutes. Light the barbecue, and transfer the whole meatload to the barbecue rack. I like to do this slightly away from the heat, because I don’t want to burn it before the inside is totally cooked. Give it another ten minutes on the barbecue, with the lid on.

Go back inside and get some sliced bread or buns. Bring them outside and set them up on the top rack of the barbecue so that they can toast and get all smokey while your meat cooks. At this point, before the meatload is completely done, paint it lightly on all sides with barbecue sauce. Give it another few minutes per side with the sauce.

Serve the meatload sliced on your delicious toasty bread with a little mayonnaise, grainy mustard, sliced tomatoes, lettuce, or whatever you’ve got in your crisper. Voilà! Easy tasty dinner, and lunch for the next day, in about an hour and using stuff you already have on hand.

Dutch Babies: Good to Eat

Nick asked me the other night to tell him my favourite thing to eat. Choose one thing? Who am I to say that a beautifully roasted duck breast and a chewy, buttery lobster tail aren’t equally worthy, or that peanut butter cookies, wonton soup, Filet-o-Fish sandwiches, or beet carpaccio aren’t equal and each distinguished in their own right? I couldn’t pick one. But, if I had to pick a favourite thing to eat in the morning, it would be Toad in the Hole – Yorkshire pudding with sausages and onions baked in, all fluffy and crispy and meaty. Yorkshire pudding on its own is pretty fantastic.

So Nick got me thinking about my favourite things, and among my favourite things: Yorkshire pudding. Right. I believe we established that. A few weeks ago, we made a brunch date with two lovely friends, Aimee and Evani, and so while planning a mid-day stat-holiday feast, visions of puffed batter were dancing about in my head.

I had two savoury dishes on the menu already – tortilla with cucumber and avocado salsa, and “potato stuff,” which is a genius of a thing that comes from every kitchen of every person I’ve ever met’s mother (1 can Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup, 1 cup sour cream, 2 cups grated orange cheddar cheese – don’t use white, it turns out gross-looking, and most of a bag of hashbrowns, stirred together and baked covered in a Corningware dish for 30 minutes at 450°F).  So, no Toad.

Ooh! I forgot to mention – I bought some lovely fresh free-range happy-UBC-farm-chicken eggs the other day, so I had another reason to make something Yorkshire-puddingy.

Anyway, so I thought – why not add a bit of sugar and top them with a warm raspberry-lemon compote and way too much whipped cream? It turns out such a thing already exists and has a name (with or without any version or variation of the compote or anything else) – and it’s a fairly awesome name at that – who doesn’t love joking about eating babies?! “I can’t think of a better use for them!” “Hahaha!” Ahem. You want the recipe? Of course you do. It’s quite simple/excellent/fun to make fun of babies.

I scraped a little bit of vanilla bean into mine, because I have some (though, since Nick tossed the lid to the container during a mad clean-freak sweep of the kitchen, they may all dehydrate before long). You can use a teaspoon-or-so of vanilla extract if you’ve got it. Almond extract or a little maple syrup would also probably be quite tasty.

Dutch Babies

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 tbsp. granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 vanilla bean
  • Butter

Preheat your oven to 450°F. Butter six ramekins and place them on a baking sheet, and toss them into the oven.

In a single bowl, combine your flour, milk, eggs, sugar, salt, and vanilla. You used the butter to grease your ramekins, remember? Don’t worry. You won’t need it again. Work quickly, whipping everything together – make sure you don’t leave lumps. If your vanilla bean refuses to spread out and act normal, go in manually – use your fingers to separate the blobbies – that’s what they’ll look like: little black blobs, sort of like frogs’ eggs, but less gross.

When your batter is ready, pull the ramekins out of the oven and divvy the batter up between them. This recipe makes just enough for six. When the batter’s in, put it all back into the oven and set the timer for 30 minutes. Monitor their cooking via the oven light: You are not allowed to open the oven door until they are done. They will go flat, and then your brunch guests will not be as impressed.

When they come out of the oven, don’t wait too long to serve them. Drizzle them with a bit of sauce, and serve with whipped cream. For my raspberry sauce, I used two cups of frozen raspberries and the zest and juice of one lemon, reduced until the mixture was thick and nearly jammy in texture – I started them in a pot over medium-low heat about an hour before I had to serve everything, and didn’t watch them too closely, just stirred them occasionally.

I was quite pleased with the way these turned out – I think the eggs were really what made them. The yolks were a fantastic golden colour, and imbued the Babies with a very springy yellow hue. I wish I had a camera to show you! I will get one soon, I promise. And then I’ll make them again, and post pictures, and you’ll be all, “wow, those are lovely. It’s a good thing she’s a baker and not a breeder, because her real life Dutch babies (well, half-Dutch, which is funny, because she’d totally have gone Dutch on the genes for those whippersnappers) would probably not be nearly as good-looking.”

I wonder if it’s necessary to mention that brunch means you can get drunk during the day without everyone shouting “ALCOHOLIC!” and pointing at you. Nap time!

UPDATE: Toad in the Hole is shown on This is why you’re fat. Goddamn it.

I’m probably dying. Let them eat cake.

I’m hot. I’m cold. My fingernails are blue. My head hurts. I’m nauseated. And, if you’re Nick, nauseous. I have burst capillaries all over my face, and my bangs are unkempt. Probably, I am dying. David left a message this afternoon requesting a cake recipe, so hopefully this one will suffice – Devil’s Food Cake, simple/awesome, and, let me tell you, quite a thing to muster in this perilous state. So now I’m thinking of cake – which I will make again when I am not teetering on the brink of my own demise. Next week, I think, or for my birthday, which is Sunday. It would be tragic if I didn’t survive until then. For me. It would be tragic for me.

Nick crossed his fingers when I made him promise that he wouldn’t remarry after I’m gone.

Devil’s Food Cake

  • 2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 4 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk, at room temperature (if you don’t have buttermilk, sour milk is fine – one teaspoon lemon juice or vinegar for every cup of fresh milk)

Preheat an oven to 350°F.

Lightly butter the bottoms of two 9-inch round cake pans and line with parchment paper. Lightly butter the paper and the sides of the pans and dust with flour.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt; set aside.

In another large bowl, beat the butter until smooth. Add the brown sugar and continue beating until fluffy. Add the vanilla and the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat together with the flour, and add the buttermilk/sour milk slowly.

Divide the batter between the prepared pans and spread it out evenly. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cake comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer the pans to a wire rack and let cool for 15 minutes. Let the cake layers cool completely if you’re going to frost this. Of course you are. You can find a recipe for that here.

So, right. If I die, please remember me fondly when eating my cake. If I do not die, I’ll be in an eating mood again soon, at which point you are more than welcome to invite me over for cake and cocktails. I’m going to lie on the bathroom floor now.

Update: I’m still probably dying. But I’ve made it this far, so I’ll probably outwit death yet. And then, with one successful outwitting behind me, I’ll be unstoppable. Oh, I was going to tell you about Koreans and their fantastic meat. If you’re lucky, I’ll survive the day to report back tomorrow.

Another meat fest, now featuring potatoes au gratin!

Yesterday, Nick bought a barbecue, which I think means that “we” got a barbecue, so I may be out of luck for a birthday present. I think this decision, which has been long in the works, was largely influenced by a burger on a cooking show we saw on Friday that involved two hamburger patties smooshed together, but not before being stuffed with a handful of cheddar cheese and some chopped bacon. Apparently, an improved version of this will be on the menu tonight, with Nick “doing the cooking,” which mostly means that I’ll assemble and prepare all the food, but Nick will man the fire and flip things and bask in all the praise. I’m hoping that Nick isn’t planning on “doing the cooking” for my birthday next weekend …

Being something of an attention whore, and not content to let Nick take all the glory for the feast, I’m planning some sumptuous sides, in particular Jeffrey Steingarten’s potatoes au gratin dauphinoise, the recipe he detailed in It Must Have Been Something I Ate (required reading). Steingarten attests that a true gratin contains no cheese; these should take on a cheesy taste through the cooking process. And my, they do! I add bacon to mine, because anytime I see a recipe containing half a cup of butter and a cup and a half of cream, I figure it’s probably going to be a contributing factor in my inevitable coronary, so what the hell, right?

I’ve made these in both a glass pan and an enameled cast iron pan, and I liked the cast iron better, which is what Jeffrey Steingarten advises – it makes for a crispier bottom. Butter the pan thoroughly, on all sides.

Potatoes au Gratin Dauphinoise á la Jeffrey Steingarten

  • 1/2 cup of butter
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 large garlic clove, crushed
  • 1/2 tsp. white pepper
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 lbs thinly-sliced potatoes
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 5 slices bacon, chopped (optional)

Using a good dollop of the butter, grease the inside of your pan on all sides. Preheat oven to 425°F.

In a pan on your stove, bring the milk, salt, pepper, garlic clove, and nutmeg to a boil. Remove from heat and turn off the element.

Line your pan with potatoes and bacon (if you choose … but I don’t know why you wouldn’t).

Put your pot of milk and spices back on the stove – bring it to a boil once more. When it’s come to a boil, pull the clove of garlic out, and pour the mixture over the potatoes. Bake, covered, for 15 minutes.

Bring the cream to a boil. Remove from heat, and turn off element.

When the potatoes come out of the oven, bring the cream to a boil once again. Pour the boiled cream over the potatoes, and dot the whole thing on the top with the remaining butter.

Bake, uncovered, for 20-25 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

The last time I made these, they were perfectly crispy on the top and bottom, and delectably creamy on the inside. I figure that eating them caused me to gain eight pounds. Since we’re having these again tonight, with burgers stuffed with cheese and meat, I bet I’ll be adorably chubby by bedtime. Also, am wondering where to buy those pants with the adjustable waistband.

Pumpernickel for Grace

Grace asked if I had any recipes for pumpernickel bread, and, as I am the proud owner of The Fannie Farmer Baking Book – edited by The Marion Cunningham, circa 1984, and dedicated to James Beard – the answer was, of course, “I have two!” But one of them contains “instant grain beverage,” which is kind of annoying since I don’t know what that is. Beer? That’s all I can think of. So, here’s the better recipe! In blog-form, which means forever!

I’ve never actually made this recipe, but if Grace makes it, the result will be beyond excellent, and more than worthy of The Marion Cunningham’s Glorious Praise.

Pumpernickel Bread

(makes two free-form round loaves)

This bread is described as “A good pumpernickel with a thick crust and a fine, moist crumb.” The recipe comes from page 476 of The Fannie Farmer Baking Book (1984). BTW, if you don’t own this book, it’s pretty comprehensive and well worth buying – you’ll get a ton of really great recipes out of it, the kind you’ll use over and over again.

  • 2 1/2 cups potato-cooking water
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons yellow cornmeal
  • 1/4 cup dark molasses
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter
  • 2 packages dry yeast
  • 1 cup mashed potato
  • 1 tbsp. salt
  • 3 cups rye flour
  • 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp. caraway seeds

Glaze:

  • 1 egg yolk, mixed with two tablespoons of water.

Bring the potato water to a boil. In a large mixing bowl, stir together 1/2 cup of the cornmeal, the molasses, brown sugar, and the butter. Pour the boiling potato water over all and stir until well blended. Let stand until comfortably warm when you plunge your finger deep into the mixture.

Sprinkle the yeast over the potato mixture, and let stand until dissolved and fluffy. Beat in the mashed potato, salt, rye flour, two cups of the all-purpose flour, and the caraway seeds. Add enough all-purpose flour to make a manageable dough, then turn out on to a lightly-floured surface and knead for a few minutes. Let rest for ten minutes.

Resume kneading for about ten minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic, sprinkling enough all-purpose flour to keep the dough from becoming too sticky. Transfer the dough to a large greased bowl, cover with greased plastic wrap, and let rise until the dough has doubled in bulk.

Punch the dough down and shape into two round loaves. Sprinkle a baking sheet with the remaining two tablespoons of cornmeal, and place the loaves on it with a few inches space between them. Cover loosely (greased plastic), and let rise again, until double in bulk again. Brush the tops of the risen loaves with the egg-yolk glaze. Bake in a a preheated 375°F oven for 30 minutes, brush again with the glaze, and bake for another 15 minutes. Remove from the baking sheet, and let the loaves cool on racks. Invite your friend Emily over for drinks and fresh-baked bread with butter.

So … call me?