Monday, February 1, 2010

Hopping John

On New Year's Day, you're supposed to have black eye peas and ham. So, Hopping John is a perfect delivery method.

Many years ago (like, 15), I'd tried the Treebeards recipe, but substituted turkey ham instead of regular pork ham, in an attempt to make it healthier. Blech. I had tried it at least twice that I remember and it was a dry mess.

I decided to give the Treebeards recipe another try, still with the turkey ham, this year. I'll be damned if it didn't turn out to be just about the best, least guilt-inducing comfort food ever.

A few things made the difference this time. First, saute the hell out of the veggies/aromatics, using olive oil instead of butter. Go for a deep rich brown carmelization on them, not just softened. Also, add an extra tablespoon or so of the oil to make up for the fat you're losing from the pork ham. Then, take absolutely seriously the "until tender" instruction regarding the beans. I ended up cooking them for a full hour longer, tasting them every 10 minutes. Totally worked. Score.

Smoked Gouda and Chipotle Grits

I've had a fondness for cheese grits since I was a kid, when my mom would make them by adding Velveeta (I think) to grits and add slices of hot dogs (it was the seventies). Even in the south, this was apparently a little bit weird - I remember taking them to school in sixth or seventh grade for a pot luck and getting weird-ass looks. But, damn, they were tasty.

This fine recipe was a new addition to Christmas dinner this year, replacing a Treebeards recipe for which I seemed to lose the touch. This past weekend was about relaxing, guilt-free, until the paper comes back with red marks for revisions. Comfort food was in order.

The first batch tasted mind-blowingly good. The second, merely excellent. The big difference was the taste of the gouda, which came through much better in the Christmas batch. Saturday's batch, not so much. I end up adding a little salt and about 8 oz of a mild cheddar to punch up the flavor. It's still really, really good.

The lesson here appears to be to get the strongest flavored gouda you can find, though I have no idea how you would know until you got the cheese home.

And we're back...

I finally kicked all the rust of my mental gears and finished the first full draft of my master's thesis paper. It should be relatively smooth sailing from here. In the two years I was "working" on it (mostly having anxiety about it, really), I did manage to crank out chapters for two books on pop culture and philosophy, so it wasn't a total waste.

Over the next few weeks, I'll be making updates to fix broken links to the recipes that occurred when I switched hosting providers. If you try to get at one and it isn't working, let me know and I'll bump it up to the top of the list for you.