Wednesday, January 6, 2010

I could stew over this for days...

There I was, holding the bowl with my left hand while I used my right hand to turn the mixture over repeatedly until the ingredients were thoroughly blended, until there were no spots of rosemary or flour, but rather the mixture was one coherent pinkish-brownish hue.  I tried hard not to think about those big brown animals that dotted the Dakota plains and how the mixture in my bowl used to be part of one. 

I let a little memory float past of a family vacation we took while I was in the 5th grade and, using my 110 camera, I took dozens of pictures of the wild Buffalo we saw as we made our way to Wall Drug, the Badlands, and Mount Rushmore.  Those animals were about the most exciting thing on the trip, apparently.  And, those were the days of not knowing, of course, whether any of your photos would turn out – and I was anxious to make sure I got at least one good shot of those peculiar animals that weren’t quite like cows and certainly were no horse. (What did we ever do before digital cameras?)

I shook off the visual of those big brown animals with matted, dangling hair, and steeled myself to finish the task at hand.  I had to take this meat-flour-egg-herb-salt-sorghum-millet mixture and roll it into little balls in my hands. 

This is just meat, I told myself.


Rich in protein. 

And then I thought of what my mother would say if she were inside my head right now – “Lauren, stop being so silly,” I could hear her say.  But, the truth is, I still get squeamish about cooking meat.

For a number of years post college, I was what I called a “flexitarian” – meaning, mostly a vegetarian unless someone else was doing the cooking.  Even then, I mostly felt more comfortable eating sans animals.  I think it’s something about it’s former living state, a good amount of something about livestock living conditions, something about bacteria, and probably mostly delusional.  But, if you had asked me 5 years ago to cook you up some buffalo meatballs I would have called you delusional (or maybe something worse!).

Since the gluten free diagnosis, however, curiosity and my love of good food override the squeamishness.  It’s like how curiosity and my love of travel override my fear of flying.  I know there is something wonderful waiting for me on the other side. 

And this – this buffalo adventure – was well worth it.  It was amazing, in fact.  It was the kind of meal that I suddenly want to make for everyone I know, to tell everyone I know, and share with all of you.  It’s the kind of meal that will make me feel like a culinary genius for months.

Buffalo meatball stew
You will want to have all of your ingredients prepped and at-the-ready while making this (no chopping onions while the meatballs are browning), and it will feel as easy as pie. 

For the meatballs, mix the following together in a bowl until one consistent mixture:
1 pound ground buffalo
1 ¼ tsp rosemary
1 tsp sea salt
Freshly cracked black pepper
¼ cup GF flour or bread crumbs (I used 1/8 cup sorghum flour
1/8 cup millet flour)
1 egg

Pull small bits of the mixture and roll between your hands to make balls about 1 inch across.

Have the following ready for the stew:
1 medium onion, chopped
½ pound mushrooms, sliced
4 to 5 smallish boiling potatoes, diced into large-ish bite-size pieces
4 cups mushroom broth
1 tablespoon potato starch
¼ to ½ tsp ground mustard (to taste)
freshly cracked black pepper

Crème fraiche (or pure sour cream) for garnishing

Heat some olive oil in a large stock pot over medium to medium-high heat.  Toss in the meatballs and brown on all sides (be a bit patient so they don’t fall apart on you – make sure they brown well on one side before trying to turn them). 

Toss in the mushrooms and onion and stir for about a minute.  Reduce heat to low and cover.  Heat cook until onion and mushrooms are tender, stirring occasionally.

Add the potato starch and stir.  Bring heat back up to medium-high.  Add mushroom broth, mustard, pepper, and potatoes.  Stir to mix.

Bring the mixture to a boil for about a minute, then reduce heat to simmer and let simmer uncovered for 30-45 minutes or more, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are soft and the liquid has reduced some.  If liquid begins to reduce too much for your liking, you can always put the cover back on.

Serve with a dollop of crème fraiche.


Friday, January 1, 2010

Magic cookie bars and New Year's day Pork roast

We returned yesterday to Portland after a week in Minneapolis visiting with family and friends.  We thought we had left the snow behind, but we were surprised to see a small layer of white coating the lawns in our neighborhood.  Apparently, the rest of Portland had been surprised as well.

During our stay in Minneapolis, about a foot of snow fell in 24 hours and everyone shrugged their shoulders and thought, "Meh... where's the big snowstorm they were forecasting?" while driving to their holiday destinations.  This made reading about Portland's unexpected 4-inch snowfall Tuesday night seem pretty silly.  Then again, Minneapolis expects snow and is prepared.  But... it makes me think... in each of the past 5 years I've lived here, it has snowed at least a little during the winter (or iced) and each time, everyone freaks out and the city shuts down.  Shouldn't Portland also expect snow and be prepared?

In any case, the lawns were covered in feet of snow in Minneapolis as we baked some holiday treats on Christmas day morning. And family braved the snow-coated roads to meet at my parents' house for an evening of watching the twins (my nephews are twin boys about 2 1/2 years old and they are adorable!) play with their new toys, tackling a new 1000-piece puzzle, and good food.

My mom and I put together some gluten-free magic cookie bars and a made-from-scratch gluten-free version of her famous cheesy potatoes (you know, the ones with hash browns, tons of cheese, and usually a can of condensed cream-of-mushroom soup?). I made the "condensed soup" from 1 and 1/4 cups milk, 1/4 cup chicken broth,  2 tbs of potato starch, some sauted onion and a bit of pepper, garlic and salt.  All you do is mix the milk and the potato starch in a bowl or measuring cup and add to sauted onion and heat, while stirring, with other ingredients until thick.  It was a huge success.

The cookies, too, were just as I had remembered them.  We used a package of Pamela's shortbread cookies and about a half cup each of coconut and millet flours in place of the graham cracker crumbs.  My mom whirred them in the food processor until they were a coarse crumble and we mixed in the flours and the butter, pressing the mixture into the baking dish.  We then followed the traditional recipe, sans nuts.  They indeed disappeared quickly... like magic. (they are still a bit warm in these photos - you can see the chocolate chips are a bit melty!)

Today we are spending the day watching the weather oscillate between sunbursts and rain showers while the delicious smell from the pork roast in the crock pot tortures us.  We will be ringing in the new year with pork, which is supposed to symbolize progress in the new year, and is one of our favorite things lately to do in the crock pot.

This morning, Ben chopped and onion, three large carrots, and three medium potatoes and placed them in the bottom of the pot.  Then he chopped a couple cloves of garlic (rubbing the meat with one of the cloves), placed the meat on the veggies, and sprinkled everything with the garlic bits, some fresh ground pepper, mustard powder, and rosemary. If you have a crock pot, you need to try this - cook for about 10-12 hours on low.  If you do not have a crock pot, you need to get one and try this!

I can't hardly wait until dinner...

Best wishes to all for a happy new year and may your year be filled with many wonderful new flavors, food, and recipes :)