March 17, 2011

things i should have taught my children, but didn't

when i read a recipe for chinese food, it will often preface that the vegetables (not including the garlic and ginger) should be cut up in about the same size to insure that it all cooks up at the same time and it just looks more appetizing.

i think that this is good advice and it can also be used for other recipes, too. for instance, when i make a corn salad or a pea salad, i like my ingredients to be about the same size as the peas or corn especially things like celery and onion. same with salsa, i think it looks nicer when the pieces are uniformly sized. AND when it looks nicer, it tastes better. it really does.

there are exceptions to the rule. like, for saint patrick's day, i like to make corned beef with potatoes, carrots and cabbage and the cabbage must be cut in nice big wedges so it stays together, but not so much the rest of the ingredients.

the way i make spaghetti sauce with ground beef, italian sausage, onion, celery, carrots and mushrooms, i like it all to be diced really small, so it blends in with the ground beef and sausage, but sometimes i like the mushrooms to be bigger.

but i never taught my children how to make a decision on when things should be uniformly cut. yes, a lot of recipes will indicate the size as in small dice or cubed, but a lot of the time, it really isn't mentioned that each ingredient that is cubed should be the same size cube. do you think that i am being picky?

take for instance meatloaf. i LOVE meatloaf and have the best recipe for it. i am sure people like to see the vegetables used in meatloaf to be seen, but i like it when it all blends in together. i must admit that i sometimes will not eat the big pieces of onion or bell pepper chunks when it is in meatloaf. i don't know why, but i am very particular about that.

it kind of reminds me of the episode of 'friends' where monica makes several dishes of mashed potatoes: smooth, lumpy and lumpy with carrots and peas in it.

anyway.....the best recipe for meatloaf is from Marion Cunningham's The Supper Book. i have her breakfast book, too (her last word on nutmeg muffins are to die for). here is the recipe:

2 T butter                                                                                               3 cloves garlic, minced or garlic pressed
1 lg onion, finely chopped                                                                 (i usually use the cuisinart & whirr it with the bread
2 - 3 medium carrots, finely chopped                                                while i am making the bread crumbs)
2 - 3 celery stalks, finely chopped                                                    11/4 c fresh bread crumbs
(i use my trusty cuisinart for this...must be finely chopped)        salt, at least 1 t, or to taste
1 lb ground beef (round or chuck - i used extra lean)                    pepper to taste
2 boneless pork chops (about 1/2lb), ground                                  3/4 t nutmeg (secret ingredient)
(i just get ground pork)                                                                        1/8 t cayenne pepper
1 1/2 t Worcestershire sauce                                                               1/4 c tomato ketchup (it says that...not just ketchup....
2/3 c water                                                                                              i thought all ketchup was with tomatoes)

preheat oven to 350.
melt butter in large skillet. add onion, carrots and celery, and over medium-low heat, cook until softened, stirring often, about 5-6 minutes.
in large bowl, add beef, pork, sauteed vegetables and all the other ingredients. mix thoroughly with your hands. gently pat meatloaf into an oval-shaped mound in an 11"x7" baking dish. (if pressed together too firmly, the meatloaf won't remain moist and tender.) bake for 45-50 minutes.

since i like ketchup on top of my meatloaf, i squirt it on about 15-20 minutes before it is ready. according to the preface, Marion Cunningham likes to bake a few potatoes, carrots and onions in the pan with the meatloaf. i have to have mashed potatoes (smooth, not lumpy and especially not with peas and carrots).

(why does ketchup look so shiny when photographed?)

always make enough for leftover meatloaf sandwiches the next day which are better without visible chunks in it.

so...children, most recipes look, taste and cook better when the ingredients are cut in the same size. this is not an "always" case, but one should care about how the food will look as well as taste. and that is something i didn't teach my children but should have.

also to daughter michelle who hates meatloaf, but married a meatloaf-loving man...........ha ha ;-)

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