I can still picture it -- Grandma bringing dishes of fried chicken, mashed potatoes, home made gravy, and peas to the table and everyone blessing the meal with a prayer before digging into the tantalizing dishes placed before them. Sometimes, for lunch, we'd take a picnic out to my grandfather who was out tilling the fields. We'd find a nice shady tree and dine on potato salad, sandwiches made from a variety of things, and lemonade or cold ice tea all spread out before us on a blanket. Images such as this dance in my head as I write this column, reminding me of all the good meals we can discuss in the future.
So, here is what I have planned for discussion. Home Cookin' will be about meals that can bring your family together at meal time, are easy to prepare (most of the time) and are wholesome. Meals don't have to be a big production to be good -- often the most basic meals can be memorable if shared with friends and family. Since families come from all parts of the world, I will try to share some family recipes here -- mine, my friends', and even yours if you wish to send them to me.
Remember that no recipe is set in stone. Home Cookin' is all about trying out new things and new ideas and making each and every one your own by tailoring it to your family's tastes.That having been said, on with the show, so to speak. Our first meal -- one of my favorites on a cold winter day -- is Grandma's Potato Soup. Some call this classic Cream of Potato and the way we fix it is much creamier than most. This soup will warm your insides from the top of your head to the tips of your toes! But, before I present the recipes, let me share a few tips about them.
Grandma was fond of serving this creamy soup with toast and butter, but I've found it goes great with cornbread also. To save time, I often make the cornbread from an instant mix and have found that it's just as good as making it from scratch, but I like to add just a couple of tablespoons more milk than the package calls for to help keep it moist.
Once you've got your cornbread batter mixed, set it aside in its baking dish while your oven heats up and peel the potatoes for the soup. I like to use 5 or 6 large potatoes, then peel and cut them up into pieces no bigger than 1 inch x 1 inch (like you would for potato salad). Put those in a pan with a medium sized yellow onion that you've diced, cover them with water and boil like you would for mashed potatoes.
Once your oven is preheated, bake the cornbread for 20-30 minutes until the cornbread is golden brown on top and you can poke a tooth pick in the center and it comes out clean. The extra couple tablespoons of milk should help to keep the cornbread moist and delicious. Once it's baked, set that aside on the stove top to keep it warm until you're ready to serve it.
Check the potatoes after about 20 minutes of boiling -- if they are soft, then you are ready to go on to the next step. Add 1 can of pet milk (or if you don't have pet milk [evaporated milk], you can try milk powder, or drain the water off the potatoes and use regular milk, simmering and stirring it so that it doesn't scorch on the bottom) to your potatoes (leaving the water on them or you can drain a little off for thicker soup). Drop about a tablespoon of butter or margarine into the soup and add a dash of salt and pepper. Let that simmer for another 15 minutes and it should be ready to serve. One variation on the same soup would be to mash the potatoes slightly after you have boiled them before adding the milk and then slowly stir in the milk. Also, if you like thicker soups, you can add a bit of cornstarch (about one teaspoon) whisked or shaken into about a half of a cup of milk, then add that to the soup with the pet milk.
One way to serve the soup would be in a cup or bowl in the traditional manner. One variation that my family likes is to spoon it over the cornbread. My grandma always served this soup with toast and butter or jam. Oyster crackers, saltines, just about any kind of cracker, or rolls would also be good with this, as it is a basic soup. Sometimes, for a little embellishment, I've added shredded cheese to the bowls as I serve the soup. Ham chunks or bacon bits would also add a bit more flavor. For a little more color, you might want to add some broccoli or green and red peppers. Chives might be tasty but I have not tried them myself. Bread bowls could also possibly be used to serve this soup in, letting the soup soak into the bread just a little, although I think that they might get a bit too soggy.
Serve this meal on a cold winter evening and your family will come running to the table. Don't be afraid to experiment a little and see what brings out the flavors in this soup. Create your own family memories of cozy meals served in a warm kitchen, and your family will treasure them for a lifetime. Enjoy!
- 5 or 6 large potatoes -- cut up and peeled if you like
- 1 medium onion -- diced
- 1 can of pet milk (Evaporated Milk) or regular milk to taste
- 1 T. butter
- Salt and pepper to taste
Peel and cut up the potatoes and onion, then boil as if you would for mashed potatoes -- about 20 minutes. Once the potatoes are soft, add one can of pet milk. If you don't have pet milk, use enough regular milk to generously cover the potatoes, but drain the potatoes before adding the milk. Add the butter and simmer until the milk is warm and the butter is melted -- about 15 minutes. Serve using any of the methods discussed above or choose another method of your own.
- Yields: 4-6 servings
- Preparation Time: 45 minutes
- 1/4 c. shortening
- 1/4 c. sugar
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1 egg
- 1 c. buttermilk
- 1/2 tsp. baking soda
- 1 c. flour -- unsifted
- 1/2 c. yellow cornmeal
- 4 tsp. baking powder
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Cream the shortening and sugar; add the salt and egg. Add the buttermilk and beat until smooth. Sift the dry ingredients together; add alternately with the buttermilk mixture.
Turn the batter into a greased 8x8x2-inch pan. Bake at 400 degress for 20 minutes. Cool in the pan for 5 to 10 minutes. Cut into squares and serve hot. Note: Sour milk could be substituted for the buttermilk.
- Yields: 16 servings
- Preparation Time: 40 minutes