Sunday, November 1, 2009

Comfort Food Sunday

I had a quiet day today. I thought I would get up early and go out for a walk along the river, but I slept too late and woke up with a headache (which seems to have been caused by caffeine withdrawal; all the soda I drank this week was orange and grape, and had none, so I had a headache all week), so I decided to stay in. I finished a book, reorganized some bookshelves, did a couple of loads of laundry, and made some comfort food.

I started with Sunday brunch, and decided that I would make a childhood favorite, Mom's Welsh rarebit. I've been craving it for a couple weeks, so I email mom this week for the recipe:

Mom's Welsh Rarebit

2 TBLS butter
2-3 cups milk
Salt, pepper, onion powder
Shredded orange sharp cheddar cheese
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

Start with your basic roux- a couple of tablespoons of butter melted over medium heat. To 1/4 cup flour, add salt, pepper and onion powder and add dry mix slowly to the butter to pull it to a thick consistency. Let this cook about a minute. Gradually add milk to make white gravy. Bring this to a gentle boil to thicken. Add milk if too thick. Add cheese and let cook until all cheese is melted. Add Worcestershire and serve over toast or in a fondue with crusty pieces of bread.

That seemed really easy, but then I remembered the Cheese Danish Incident and my suspicions about mom leaving things out of recipes, and I gave it a closer, more suspicious read, and something jumped out at me. Nice try, sneaky mommy, but I've caught you this time!

I e-mailed back: "How much cheese? Like a cup? Two cups?"

"Oh, ooops. About 1 - 1 1/2 cups"

I imagine her sitting at the computer, muttering, "Curses! Foiled!" while typing that, so I couldn't resist throwing in an extra jab about how we need to work on ricecakes while I'm home because mine still don't come out like hers. I'm on to these tricks now, and she won't be able to sabotage while I'm right there in the kitchen.

The Welsh rarebit came out really well, just like I remember from when I was little:

welsh rarebit (1)

welsh rarebit (2)

The only problem was on my end, not with the recipe, and it's the same problem I run into every time I make a roux: I start off well, but then I add the flour too fast and it gets all clumpy. I'm getting better, but I need a lot more practice. Since I'm not a big gravy eater or thick sauce maker, though, I rarely make a roux, so my progress is terribly slow. Also, my sauce is a lot thicker than mom's, because I added two cups of cheese.

I really like cheese.

For dinner, I decided to make hot dogs and to try out the recipe I saw in Food Network Magazine's November issue for the Deen Brothers' baked hushpuppies. I have always loved hushpuppies, and they are pretty much the only thing I will eat at Long John Silver's. My parents used to love going there when I was younger, and they gave up on trying to make me eat things I didn't like by the age of ten or so (that "Mommy Dearest" trick where you make the kid sit at the table until they eat whatever it is didn't work, as I am as stubborn as my parents are), so they would order their fish and I would eat a dozen hushpuppies and be happy, if slightly malnourished.

I never make hushpuppies at home, though, because you need a deep fryer for that. I know that living in the south I should probably have one, but I feel fat enough already. Having a deep fryer seems to me like the last step before giving up and moving into floral muumuu/"I wash myself with a rag on a stick" territory, so I continue to resist as if not owning this one appliance will somehow make a difference. Besides, we all know that if I owned one it would only be a matter of time before I battered and deep fried a candy bar, and that's just a kitchen disaster waiting to happen given my track record. This recipe seemed like a good idea, though, since it didn't need a fryer, so I gave it a try:

no-fry baked hushpuppies

My tiny hushpuppies, made in a mini-muffin pan and artfully arranged on an abstract ketchup drizzle (the hot dogs, meanwhile, were sliced and dumped in a pile on the plate right after I took that picture), look just like the ones in the magazine, and they taste like hushpuppies should taste. Overall, though, I have to give them three out of five stars, because the lack of frying prevents them from having that thick, crispy outer coating that good hushpuppies always have.

On the other hand, I won't have to wear a floral muumuu to work tomorrow, so maybe it's worth the sacrifice.

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