J.D.'s Kitchen - February 2002

Swiss Steak
Tater (Potato) Pancakes
Old Fashioned Butterscotch Pudding

Howdy, Howdy, Howdy!

Boy, is it cold here on the mountain this morning! There was a heavy frost last night and about daylight the wind came howling out of the north, like a Banshee, around the house. Iíve heard the word "Banshee" used all my natural born days, but I just realized that I didnít really know what it was or referred to, sooo, turning to my 6" thick dictionary, hereís what I found out: "Banshee: In Gaelic folklore, a super natural being, commonly supposed by the superstitious among the Irish and Scotch peasantry to take the shape of an old woman and to foretell death by mournful singing or wailing outside a dwelling. The Banshee superstition is peculiarly Gaelic." I donít think Iíll use that word any more. (Not that Iím superstitious mind you, but I do have a considerable number of Irish forefathers in my lineage.) From now on I think Iíll use an old Mountain Manís description of howling winds; "The wind sounds like a Catamount howling." (Catamount was the old time mountain menís term for the mountain lion.) Now those I do have howling around here from time to time! Iíd much rather have one of them howling outside my window than some old woman rantiní and raving and foretelling impending doom! If need be I can shoot the lion, but how in the world would you scare off an old, wailing apparition of a woman, when I donít have a resident banjo picker to go out and start pickiní his banjo! (Works any time on varmints!) The banjo picker that comes to mind who would probably be most effective is my pal Cuziní Al Knoth, and he lives at least four hours traveling time from me. By the time he got here and tried to tune his banjo, who knows what may have happened to me, so Iíll just leave the Banshees be and stick with my Catamounts. The wind is howling outside like a Catamount folks!

Well, thatís enough said about haints and lions. Come on into the kitchen here this morning where its nice and warm, pour yourself a big cup of real cowboy coffee and pull up a chair by the fire. Weíll swap some "vittles fixinís," as my daddy used to say.

This is the time of year when I love to cook up a big roast for supper and fix some smashed taters and gravy with hot biscuits to go with it. Or maybe a roasted chicken with dressing and roast vegetables. What they call "comfort food" now days. Well folks, Iíve been getting real comfortable here so far this winter! One of my all time favorite comfort foods is one that mom used to fix a lot in the wintertime and thatís Swiss Steak. A big, deep, skillet full of Swiss Steak and a big bowl of mashed potatoes was my idea of heaven back when I was a growing teenager with a bottomless stomach. (My dad always said clothing me was a drop in the bucket compared to my feed bill!) I have several versions of Swiss Steak recipes, but this is one of my favorites. Serve this dish with a nice salad, some crusty French bread and maybe a nice glass of red wine and it donít get no more comfortable than that!

Swiss Steak

1/4-cup flour
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 1/2 to 2 lbs. Beef round steak, trimmed
2 TBSP cooking oil
1 cup chopped celery
1/2 lb. Fresh mushrooms, sliced
1-cup water
1 clove garlic, minced
1 TBSP steak sauce (brand of your choice)

Combine flour, salt and pepper. Cut steak into serving size pieces and dredge in flour mixture. Brown steak in oil. Drain and place in a 2 1/2 quart casserole. Top with celery, onion and mushrooms. Combine water, garlic and steak sauce and pour over the top. Cover and bake for 1 1/2 hours at 350). Makes 6 servings.

This makes a wonderful meal that is easy to fix, and if you whip up a bunch of biscuits or cornbread too, why you just pop that in the oven 15 to 30 minutes before the steak is done and supperís all done on time in one fell swoop! Of course if you make your biscuits or cornbread with Martha White products*, you know theyíll come out perfect every time. Sometimes youíll get a piece of round steak that turns out on the tough side, so to avoid that happening any more. I always ask the butcher to run it through the tenderizer a couple of times. Melts in your mouth every time.

Now, as every red blooded American boy knows, when you eat meat youíve just got to have some "taters!" As my olí pickiní pardner Vern Williams says: "I have never met a tater I didnít like!" Now I like taters just about any way you can fix Ďem; boiled, fried, smashed, baked, scalloped, etc. You cook Ďem and Iíll eat Ďem, or Iíll cook Ďem and weíll both eat Ďem! One of my favorite ways to have them is to make potato pancakes. Some folks use mashed potatoes to make pancakes with, and theyíre good too. But my favorite potato pancakes are made with shredded potatoes. Theyíre easier to handle and cook and have a consistency you can "sink your teeth into" to use one of my dadís sayings. These cook up nice and crispy on the outside and go perfect with Swiss Steak or any other meat dish. Slather them with gravy, get upon the sink top and do about a one and a half gainer right in the middle of them and buddy, youíre in tater heaven!

Tater (Potato) Pancakes

4 large potatoes, peeled and shredded
1 egg, beaten
3 TBSP flour
1 TBSP grated onion
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
Cooking oil

Shred the potatoes and rinse in cold water in a colander. Drain well. Place in a large bowl. Add everything but oil and mix well. Heat 1/4 inch of oil in a heavy skillet. Drop by large spoonfuls into the hot oil and flatten to form pancakes. Fry to golden brown on both sides. Drain on paper towels and serve hot. Makes 6 servings.

These are what real tater pancakes are all about. They go well with any meal. When you fix these for breakfast along with some poached eggs, Hollandaise sauce, sausage and toast or biscuits, why your family and friends will praise you for days and days, or at least until you fix them again.

Since youíve got the oven all heated up fixing yourself a big mess of "comfortable" Swiss Steak, you might as well mix up a real comfortable old-fashioned dessert too. It doesnít take that long and if youíre a singe person like myself, why youíve just solved your late night "I wish I had something sweet to eat," problem for the next week or so! One of my all time favorite desserts when I was growing up was a Butterscotch pudding that my mother used to make. Over the years Iíve tried several different recipes for this pudding but they all seemed to come up short of that rich, creamy taste I remembered so well until I found this one. I cut it out of a newspaper some years ago and stuffed it in one of my many recipes holders (brown paper bags). I ran across it last winter, while attempting to write all the recipes in that particular bag down on cards. (I got about half of Ďem done.) So I wrote this one down, and finally fixed it last December, one cold, snowy day. As the gold miner exclaimed, "Eureka! Iíve found it!" Thatís right folks, this oneís got that taste I remember from back in the 1940s. What a wonderful thing to be able to experience part of my youth again! Hereís how to make some:

Old Fashioned Butterscotch Pudding

3/4-cup sugar
1/4-cup water
2 cups whipping cream
1-cup whole milk
1/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
6 egg yolks, lightly beaten
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. salt

Place sugar in large heavy saucepan; pour water evenly over sugar. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until sugar is dissolved. Increase heat to medium-high; cook without stirring until mixture turns golden amber, about 8 minutes. Remove caramel from heat. Meanwhile, stir together cream, milk and brown sugar in heavy-bottomed saucepan ove
Posted By:  Charlene Sims

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