Dark Days Week 3: Comfort food (part 1)

It’s Part 1 because I am sure this won’t be our first display of cozy comfort food this winter.

My mom often made something she called Swiss steak, which I remember fondly. I was afraid that when I went to find a recipe, her version would be nothing like the canonical Swiss steak, but actually something with variations that moved it beyond recognition as Swiss steak — and therefore that every time I spoke highly of the dish in the past, I was either talking about something that didn’t exist, or leading people astray to a dish that was not tasty.

I should have realized that something with only like three fundamental ingredients is not only very hard to screw up, but also absolutely invites and encourages variations. So I went with memory, the Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook recipe, a phone call to my mom, a version published by one of Accidental Hedonist’s guest bloggers, and my current ideas of what tastes good.

Starting with two top round steaks, originally from On the Lamb Farm in Arlington, most recently from the freezer (one from last year’s cow, shame), I cut them into pieces and dredged them in flour (organic, non-local) spiked with salt, pepper, cayenne, and Hungarian paprika (from a great local spice store) and seared in canola (organic) and then olive (non-organic) oil when the canola ran out. After removing the steaks from the pan, I added two sliced onions from Laughing Crow Farm here on Bainbridge, and then after that cooked partway, several cloves of chopped garlic, also from Laughing Crow. When the onions and garlic were soft, I dumped in a quart jar of home-canned, homegrown tomatoes, as well as a couple bags/half jars of homegrown tomato product (some pizza sauce, some roasted and frozen) that I found in the freezer when I was looking for the meat. In went a splash of wine, an ice cube of homemade beef stock, an ice cube of homegrown oregano and another of parsley, and a bay leaf from the farmers’ market. Turned it up to simmer and left it until the meat was fork-tender (about a hour and a quarter).

Soupy mashed potato disaster recovery plan
Soupy mashed potato disaster recovery plan

Garth set out to make mashed potatoes (potatoes from Laughing Crow) but added too much milk (from Fresh Breeze, within 150 miles) so quickly added one of our eggs and some organic flour to make a batter for fried potato pancakes.

I quickly steamed some market green beans — also found while on freezer investigation — then drizzled with organic bottled lemon juice and served with a pat of organic, non-homemade butter.

Some brown stuff on a plate, with green beans

Some brown stuff on a plate, with green beans. AKA Swiss steak (foreground) and potato pancakes (background).

While the meat was cooking, I made Anna’s simple plum torte with home-canned, homegrown Italian prunes, canned according to Food in Jars’ recipe, in honey (local, bought at Pike Place Market). The prunes weren’t solid when they came out, so instead of halved plums arranged on top of the torte, there is a sort of a thick smear of chunky jammy prunes across the whole thing. I ain’t arguing though; it tastes fantastic.

  5 comments for “Dark Days Week 3: Comfort food (part 1)

  1. December 7, 2009 at 10:21 pm

    That looks a bit like my grandmother’s brisket recipe, only I think she used carrots instead of tomatoes.

  2. December 8, 2009 at 5:53 am

    Winter just seems made for comfort food. I love potato cakes – I don’t use eggs in mine, just going with the starchiness of the mashed potato itself and adding whatever spices seem good. The crispy outside, yum.

  3. December 9, 2009 at 8:21 pm

    The Swiss steak sounds delicious; I’ll have to try that with some of our On the Lamb beef. Tonight we’re eating chili – just about my favorite comfort food dinner – made with that beef.

  4. December 9, 2009 at 11:02 pm

    Swiss steak is the only thing my dad ever cooked when I was a kid and we loved it! Thanks for reminding me about it – I’ll have to add it to the rotation.

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