Tuesday, December 16

Things Fall Apart

I don't mean that in the tragic Chinua Achebe way or in a more minor you're running late, fall on some ice, rip your pants, and everything makes you want to cry way either. I'm thinking of a gentle unwinding, a decrease of items on your "to-do" list. The satisfaction of things becoming simpler, like sloughing off dead skin or a cookie crumbling as you dunk it in hot chocolate. These are the disintegrations I have in mind.

My stomach also has a specific idea of things falling apart. It is specifically thinking of my mom's recipe for a pork roast slow-cooked in soy sauce, herbs, and garlic that gently loosens and makes delicious meat-heap sandwiches. With my normal eloquence and flowery language I've dubbed this salty, herby, tender mess "crock-pot meat."

As things in Mexico fall apart (exams, grades, moving, packing, dressing as a cowgirl for a Christmas parade and riding on a skittish horse in skirt. . .) and I move closer to my vacation in Iowa (Tomorrow! Tomorrow!!!), I've been thinking of crock-pot meat. My mom has exerted all effort (conscious or not) to reinforce my association of this recipe with coming home. My first trip home after going away to college: crock-pot meat. Trips back to Iowa from Louisville: crock-pot meat. Coming home for Christmas after moving far away to Mexico: crock-pot meat? :)

Even if you don't have a daughter you want to welcome home to below-freezing temperatures from a warm, distant land (ahem), pick up a roast, throw a few things together, let it do its thing. Very little effort, but a bit of foresight since it takes 8-10 hours, will supply a simple hearty meal that is very appealing amidst all the elaborate holiday fare. Don't be daunted by making a whole pork (or beef) roast either. It keeps well, either in the fridge or freezer and is equally delicious when reheated.

Crock-Pot Meat

3-4 lb beef or pork roast
1 1/2 cups water
3/4 cup soy sauce
bay leaves
3 cloves garlic
1 Tbl thyme
1 Tbl rosemary
Cook on low in crock pot 8-10 hours*

* Think of all the things you can accomplish in this span of time while the meat is gently falling apart and soaking up that salty goodness.

I'm hoping to put up some photos and recipes as I nosh through the holiday season, but it is possible that it may be delayed until the New Year. If that is the case, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!! I hope everyone has safe travels and delicious stuff to look forward too. Feliz Navidad!

Tuesday, December 9

Joyce to the World

This week is hectic already and is only going to become more so as we progress. I'm scattered, tired, a wee bit stressed, and a whoa bit caffeinated. I was trying to think of something I'd eaten or made that I wanted to write about, but my thoughts kept deteriorating into a manic stream of consciousness. . . .egg and bacon sandwiches were good no no too much about breakfast its tiresome tired need another cup of coffee someone just finished it off and I can't believe how #$#%#$ weird crazies in the office I just want to go home and stuff myself with sushi and mulligatawny myself how do you explain reflexive pronouns to students when they don't understand possessive adjectives or even subject pronouns I can't wait until exams are finished Ill sit by the fire and use the oven to make cookies I'm awfully tired I wish I had a blanket and an obese family-sized jar of Nutella under my desk I don't want to go sign my new lease today and go to the bank those lousy financial bastards then Im going to need to pack up all my stuff not tonight Im having Spanish practice with allison maybe we'll go to Meet I could eat their fajitas again those were so good. . . .
See how exhausting that is? Ugh. You have my old roommate, Roxie, to thank for this venture, since we were just reminiscing about how she subjected me to the book on tape version of Ulysses back in college. Yes, it was as gross as it sounds.
My exam prepping, stressing, and giving, moving, and hopefully general tenseness of the body should all be over by this weekend. So next week I will hopefully have a less Joycean blog and return the simple joys and delights of stomach and kitchen with plenty of superlative descriptions. Which reminds me, I have some superlatives and comparatives to pound into youths heads. . . . please excuse me

Wednesday, December 3

Leftover Thanks

O.K. Thanksgiving is done. But one of the best parts is still leftover. . . .get it?

I feel like "leftovers" isn't an adequate term. I mean it is what it is, but it sounds so blah. Truthfully, they can be, but I'm thinking of the glory of Thanksgiving leftovers. I want a word that encapsulates the mashed potatoes that are reinvented with sour cream and cheddar or those delicious scraps of turkey transformed into the most glorious of sandwiches.

Ahh sandwiches. Sandwiches are the pinnacle of all that is delicious and simple for me. I want a holiday where the traditional food is sandwiches. All different types of sandwiches. Everyone has to make up a new sandwich and bring it. Or everyone brings separate pieces and the holiday is spent concocting new and delicious sandwich combinations.

Until I've fully developed that holiday, however, the tradition of Thanksgiving turkey sandwiches is the closest I've got. They are also the pinnacle of reinventing leftovers. A few simple steps, a few quality items, a few scraps of the demolished turkey and you have a phoenix rising from the ashes, but better, because it's a sandwich.

I didn't have leftover turkey this year, but my spicy chickens from across the street endured a late night plucking and supplied a sturdy foundation for a couple sandwichings.

So, if you still have a few scraps of that turkey around, or tucked some away in the freezer, get it out. I've concocted a recipe to mimic my sandwich de las sobras. Don't have your sandwich be a thoughtless, half-hearted jumble. Give the sandwich its due attention. It deserves our thoughts, our respect, our thanks.

makes 4 sandwiches
I was so thrilled with these sandwiches, I double-blogged today in hopes that I would catch you with some turkey scraps searching for meaning in this crazy world. . . .

3 C of cooked shredded turkey (or chicken)
2 Tbsp olive oil
5 Tbsp paprika
1 tsp cayenne pepper
4 crusty rolls
4 oz Manchego cheese, 8 slices
2 C shredded green cabbage
1/2 C fresh cilantro
2 Roma tomatoes, sliced
mayonnaise (if desired)

Heat olive oil in skillet over medium-low heat. Add turkey or chicken and toss to lightly coat with olive oil. Sprinkle with paprika and cayenne. Cook until thoroughly heated. Halve rolls and lightly toast. Place two slices of Manchego on bottom half of each roll. On each roll, top cheese with 3/4 C of the warm turkey. Toss the cabbage and cilantro together and divide between the sandwiches. Place several tomato slices on cabbage. Lightly spread mayonnaise on top half of roll. Place top half on to the tomatoes. Satisfy.

The Non-traditional Tradition

Thanksgiving has become a weird holiday for me. It used to always involve going to the lodge at Camp Wakonda with my extended family, avoiding relatives that I rarely saw with my siblings and first cousins, trying to stuff as many of my Grandma's butterhorns down my throat as humanly possible, hiking back to a cave to look for the gold of Jesse James, and playing the loudest most ridiculous games of Pit. It was pretty fantastic.

Recent years, however, I have not made it back for this tradition. In college, I worked at a clothing store and had to be present for Black Friday, I took the opportunity of a week off and went to Barcelona with my friend Katie, I studied abroad in Greece, and my traditional Thanksgivings were replaced by hordes of shoppers and The Mediterranean.

Post-college I found out what a rarity it is to have a week off for Thanksgiving. Due to distance and time constraints, the family gathering was out yet again. Several of my friends from college were in a similar situation, so we formed our own little Thanksgiving. One year in Chicago was hosted by my friends Jeff and Jake and catered wonderfully by my friend Katie, whose previous cooking experience consisted of almost setting our apartment on fire making patatas bravas for her Spanish class. Heaped with wine, Katie's grade school songs, and video confessionals of our doubts of the chef's abilities, we had a fantastic holiday--no fires, delicious food.

Last year, the four of us reunited in Louisville and were joined by my friends Madhu and Emily. Traditional fare, an abundance of wine, multiple games of Celebrity (with Madhu consistently ignoring the rules), karaoke, and horse racing dominated the holiday. Thoroughly lovely, maybe excluding the wine-dreidel-drinking game we devised in a fit of ill-conceived creativity.

My tradition has become doing something nontraditional. Luckily, this is much easier than keeping with tradition.

Most traditional Thanksgiving elements were out this year, because of the oven-absence and limited time. These limitations didn't hinder me. I'm not one to skip celebrating a holiday, even if the outcome has minimal resemblance to general associations.

Chili-rubbed, roasted chickens were procured, partially for their resemblance to a turkey, but in larger part because the smell and sight of these crimson fowl roasting across the street from my apartment had been tormenting me for weeks. Also, the friendly proprietress agreed to have them warm and waiting for us when we returned from work. And people say Thanksgiving preparations are stressful. Pshaw.
The birds were fetched, some rice was sent along, a vat of my potato soup was prepared, carrots and squash were sautéed, and our lovely compañera, Flor, brought lovely, golden flan for dessert. To round out the Oaxacan and Mexican elements, mezcal and tequila were abundantly supplied.
There was feasting, there was music, there was a general fowl and potato induced ebullience. It was thoroughly delicious. And while I miss my old traditions, family, and friends, I am very thankful for non-traditions, new friends, and to be in Mexico. (I was avoiding turning mawkish as long as possible, I swear, but I find it is inevitable when talking of Thanksgiving.)