I haven’t always done these posts for authors – there has been a webcomic artist, and an editor, and… and today I’m cooking to highlight the work of a reviewer. I’d call him a book critic except that’s a shallow description of what he is and what he does – because he doesn’t critique in public. Instead, with warmth and humor, he spins a tale about each book he reads. His goal, if I can be so bold as to put a name to it, is to encourage. I suspect that Pat worries about running out of the good stuff to read, so he has made it his mission in life to make sure that authors get the praise they deserve so they will write another book.
And I for one have been delighted to have his words on a few cold days. But it wasn’t that I was thinking of when I asked him for a meal for ETWYRT. What I was thinking of was his love for his wife, his family, and his friendship. He may not write fiction, but his blog is well worth reading, as are his reviews. I’m going to send you to Papa Pat Rambles, but there’s something you, my readers, can do that will make him happy. When you follow a link to one of his reviews, click that you found it helpful. He says that helps him help the authors he reviews.
This meal is ¾ homage to my grandmother and mother, and ¼ homage to being lazy. Both of them were famous cooks, and they cooked everything from scratch. The meal consists of lace bread, chili, and peach cobbler.
Cedar’s note: When I opened Pat’s email and read this I started to laugh. Pat and my First Reader could be brothers of the soul. This is exactly the meal request I’d get from my dear man if I asked what he wanted for dinner on a chilly evening.
CHILI: this is something my mother made, but I have no idea what recipe she used, or if she used one at all.
- 2 pounds of cube steak;
- 2 pounds of ground beef;
- four onions;
- four sticks of celery;
- four one pound cans of spicy chili beans;
- two one pound cans of spicy black beans;
- three 28 ounce cans of diced or crushed tomatoes;
- one 28 ounce can of RoTel diced tomatoes and green chilies;
- spices to taste.
I cook this in an Oster roaster that’s big enough to cook a turkey in, but any big kettle or stockpot would work.
Stick the cube steak in the freezer until it’s slightly frozen; that will make it easier to cut.
Put all the (opened) cans of beans and tomatoes into your cook pot on medium heat.
Dice the onions and the celery, and dump them in the pot.
Brown and drain the ground beef, and stir it into the pot.
Remove the cube steak from the freezer. Slice it into pieces about the size of the end joint on your little finger. Brown the pieces, and stir them into the pot. The purpose of the cube steak pieces is to give added texture to the chili.
Add seasoning to your personal taste. I use garlic, curry, chili pepper, and a bit of vinegar.
Cook it on low to medium heat until the celery and onions are soft.
Serve it with lace bread.
Cedar’s note: I cut this recipe down for the two of us. Way down. Like… maybe a third of what he’s listed here. I don’t know, but I’m guessing Pat comes from a large family. There’s only two of us to eat this up! Also, I didn’t add the curry powder. It still made a 12″ dutch oven full. I finished mine in the oven to keep it from sticking, but this is a perfect meal for the slow cooker.
DUMP PEACH COBBLER: my grandmother was famous for her fruit cobblers. We have spent many hours out in the country picking blackberries. You have to watch for rattlesnakes; they don’t eat blackberries, but birds do, and the rattlesnakes eat them.
- 1 cup Bisquick;
- 1 cup milk;
- 1 cup sugar;
- 1/2 cup butter melted;
- one 29 ounce can of sliced peaches, drained
You can make this in a crock pot if you want to, but here’s how to do it in a baking dish: heat oven to 375; stir together the Bisquick, milk, and butter into the dish. Mix the sugar and the peaches together, and dump them in the dish. Bake for 1 hour.
Cedar’s note: I did modify this just a little. Extrapolating from Pat’s comments on berries, I deduced that the one cup sugar was for unsweetened berries, and I had peaches in heavy syrup. I cut the sugar in half. As I discovered at the last moment we were out of milk, cream went in the bowl instead. It worked!
LACE BREAD: this is the only from-scratch recipe I’m sending you. I didn’t know there was any other kind of cornbread until I went into the army.
In a cast iron skillet, cook four pieces of bacon. Leave the skillet well-lubricated, and save the bacon grease, because that’s what you’re going to cook the bread in. You may do as you wish with the bacon.
In a mixing bowl, combine 1 cup of cornmeal, 1 1/3 cup water, 1/3 cup bacon grease (you can substitute oil if you must), a tablespoon of flour, and a teaspoon of salt. You’ll have to keep stirring this mixture, or the cornmeal will settle to the bottom.
Drop a tablespoon of the mixture onto the hot skillet. Ideally, you will see bubbles all the way through the cake is it cooks. When it is crispy on the edges, then flip it.
The goal is a thin, flat, pancake, crispy on the edges. I’ve always had to experiment to get the right consistency, by adding water and more bacon drippings to the mix, and almost always I have the heat too low at first, and the lace bread disintegrates. It’s still good to eat though.
I usually ask the First Reader’s opinion on a meal. But when we’d settled into this one, I looked at him, a spoon in one hand and lace cake in the other. He had an expression of bliss on his face. What do you think?