Friday, February 15, 2013

Lemon Smothered Chops

One day I had a gift certificate for books and spent it on whims.  Sometimes I just pick a likely-looking cookbook based on its cover or a brief description and buy it, just because it intrigues me.  That is how I got this book,

ISBN 0-8070-0964-4

The Historical Cookbook of the American Negro
"The classic yearlong celebration of black heritage from
Emancipation Proclamation Breakfast Cake to Wandering Pilgrim's Stew".

It was published by the National Council of Negro Women, Inc. in 1958 and this is a reprint from 2000.  The idea for the book originated with its editor, Sue Bailey Thurman, who "proposed developing the cookbook as a means of stimulating awareness and appreciation our [the American Negro] history. ... Knowing the positive potential happenings around food, Mrs. Thurman designed the cookbook around the birthdays of persons and events in the calendar year, rather than the traditional groupings of recipes.  She called it a 'palatable' approach to history."  (page vii, in the foreword to the reprint edition).  Here is a short biography of Mrs. Thurman:

The recipe (page 47) that attracted my attention was designed for Mother's Day,  May 1946, in honor of Mrs. Emma C. Clement who was chosen as "Mother of the Year". 

Lemon Smothered Chops

2 pounds lamb chops, cut thick -- put in large covered skillet or chicken fryer. 

Cover top of meat closely with --

2 unpeeled lemons, sliced
1 large sweet onion, cut in rings
1 green pepper, cut in rings
1 teaspoon salt

Pour over all:
2 cups tomato juice.

Dot with flakes of fat cut from meat or butter.  Cover and cook on top of stove 1-1/2 hours or until done.  Lift onto a hot platter, being careful to keep lemon, onion and pepper slices in place.  The meat cooked like this way acquires a chicken texture and color, while the lemon, onion, pepper and tomato make a delicious sauce accompaniment.

I couldn't get two pounds of lamb chops so I settled for 1.5 pounds.  They were thickly cut.

I will admit now that I am not a fan of green peppers.  I stayed true to the recipe by using them but the rings were intentionally kept small to minimize their influence.

Putting the lemon, onion, and pepper rings over the top of the chops (each chop got its own set) made a very pretty sight.  I picked out the lemon seeds!  Then I sprinkled the salt on top.

I used the full 2 cups of tomato juice, making sure each chop got doused and the extra going around the chops, and then dotted each chop stack with a few flakes of butter.

The recipe just says to cook them for 1-1/2 hours, so I set the heat under the pan to medium until the tomato juice started to bubble and then I turned the heat down to low.  I checked in on the chops a few times and everything looked like it was cooking nicely and slowly as intended.

When the timer rang, I decided it was done and dished two chops out onto my plate.

As is, without any sauce or side dishes

The Verdict:  I will call it a success because nothing went wrong.  However, it is not going to be a dish I repeat.  The lamb chops were small and so the rings of lemon, onion, and pepper covered them.  This is not a problem visually but I think the flavors were out of proportion.  Boy, am I glad I used little pepper rings.

The meat was tender and flavorful.  I tried it alone and I tried it with the toppings.  What I found was that eating the lemon rind was too strong and I couldn't taste anything else.  Maybe it should have been a thinner slice!  So what I liked was a piece of meat with a bit of pepper and onion with it and before I put it in my mouth I rubbed it into the lemon slice.  That was good, even with the pepper, whose flavor was definitely muted from the long cooking.

I visualize this as being served with a big bowl of fluffy white rice and the tomato sauce from the pan served alongside to moisten everything.  If you happen to like the cooked green pepper - tomato flavor combination, then you might like this dish.  I found it okay but not exciting.

This idea of covering the meat with the flavors and simmering in the tomato sauce is a good one for pork chops, I think.  But I will leave out the green peppers.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Hash with Dropped Eggs

Today I was in a "Rufus Estes" mood, after looking back on my first blog post in January 2012.  I wanted to do something like a main course and it needed to be something I wouldn't normally do.

ISBN 0-486-43764-7

I chose "Hash with Dropped Eggs" on page 18.  The mental image I got of the eggs on top of the whole thing tickled my fancy, so here it is.

Mince or grind cold cooked meat and add two-thirds as much cold chopped vegetables.  The best proportions of vegetables are half potato and one-quarter each of beets and carrots.  Put a little gravy stock or hot water with butter melted in it, into a saucepan, turn in the meat and vegetables and heat, stirring all the time.  Season with salt, pepper, and a little onion juice if liked.  Turn into a buttered baking dish, smooth over, and set in the oven to brown.  Take up and press little depressions in the top, and drop an egg into each.  Set back into the oven until the egg is set, but not cooked hard.  Serve in the same dish.

I used smoked pork shoulder and minced it.  I didn't have a lot of it, so I added more vegetables than he suggested in order to make a significant layer in the dish.  He doesn't say it, but the vegetables also have to be cooked.  I used potatoes, beets, and carrots as mentioned and to get the onion juice, I grated an onion on my microplane grater until I had about 2 teaspoons of onion mush.

Much of the meat is under the veggies.

It was hard to guess how much water with melted butter to use, so I guessed about 1 cup.  That was too much, I think, because the mix was liquidy when I put it into the dish.  As I expected, the beets turned everything pink!  It is not bad and kind of cute, actually.

I put it into a hot oven, 400 degrees F, in order to brown it.  It smelled good!

After 20 minutes I checked it -- it was bubbly and just starting to brown, so I left it in for another 7 minutes.  That was just right.

To make the depressions, I pressed with the bottom a small bowl.  I couldn't press deeply as the hash wouldn't let me but I got enough that the eggs sat where I put them.  I noticed the whites started to cook a little as soon as they hit the hot surface.

I had no idea how long it takes eggs to set in the oven, but after 7 minutes the white was set and the yolk looked like a "sunny-side up" egg.  That is the way I like them (I love hot, runny yolks!) so I pulled it out of the oven.  If you like them firmer, you could probably leave them in for 10 minutes but be aware the eggs continue to cook after the dish is out of the oven.

Visually very appealing

The Verdict:
Success!  I really liked the flavor of this.  It was hearty, stick-to-your-ribs, with an old-fashioned touch that is a blend of the veggies and the meat and the pepper/onion/salt.  The egg adds a nice touch, especially when the yolk broke and ran all over the hash.  I like beets but some people don't, so use veggies you like cooked.  I think chopped, cooked onions or even mushrooms would be good.

The dropped eggs looked exactly as I envisioned and I was pleased.  The beets cooked to a dark red, not pink, and it almost looked like the mixture had ketchup in it.

I do think I should have used about 1/2 cup of water with butter (or gravy, if you make that choice) but I wouldn't use much less or the hash would risk being dry.

When I went back for seconds (!), the hash was thicker (I guess it had soaked up some of the liquid) and the egg more firmly cooked.  Still very tasty!

This recipe is obviously designed to use up leftovers -- hash dishes usually are.  I didn't have the meat and veggies already cooked, so I popped them all into the oven and baked them, getting this done a few hours before I started the recipe so everything had a chance to cook and then cool.  The meat in one dish, covered, and the veggies in a tray.  That worked well and smelled heavenly. I ended up using one potato and one beet and all the carrots you see in the picture.  Next time I think I will use more meat.  He doesn't specify what kind, so I think this would be good with just about any kind.

I would say this serves 4 with other food (like sourdough bread and a tossed green salad) or 2 as is.  I considered each serving as having one egg on it.  I used a wide spoon to scoop it out so as not to break the egg.