By Vesna Vuynovich Kovach
Column: Steal This Recipe
Unpublished (Until I can find someone to go for the Steal This Recipe concept)
How long is a sprig of thyme, and how much to use if you only have dried? How much salt is in a pinch? Where, exactly, is the liquid supposed to come up to relative to the line on your thick glass measuring cup, and what angle should you be looking at it from? Who cares?
This column is not about following instructions slavishly, running back and forth from your kitchen counter to the magazine page to check to see if you’re “doing it right.” It’s about enjoyment. What? You don’t have all of the listed foodstuffs on hand? Substitute something else! Ingredient X makes you gag? Leave it out! You, yes you, can create unique family favorites that bear the stamp of your own creativity and individual personality. Get in your kitchen and get cooking. Take notes, if you’re inclined to repeat – or fine-tune – your performance. Steal this recipe and make it your own!
Here’s a succulent dish I served up for dinner two nights ago, alongside Smashed Yukon Gold Potatoes. (Wash potatoes. Boil. Add butter, milk, salt, pepper. Smash. Serve. Steal this recipe.) The pork makes for a loaf with a spring, almost, to it, compared to the tender sensibility of the All-American supper standard. Flavor-wise, a hearty, complex outcome. Plays out like a happy marriage of sausage and meat loaf.
The leftovers have been just awesome: the next night, my husband, Don, broke up a hunk, sans the Italianate sauce, into some generously juicy remains of Chinese takeout Beef with Broccoli and tossed it together in a cast-iron pan. Brocco-tastic! (Extra tip: three years ago we threw out our nukulator. Reheating became more scrumptious, instantly. And no more ugly, uncleanable, burn scars etched into our tuppies.)
Try it out and see how you like it. If you come up with a variation that’s really good, let me know!
Two-Meats Loaf with Savory Red Sauce
1 pound ground chuck
1 pound ground pork
About a cup of bread crumbs
About a cup of milk
1 teaspoon salt
Several grindings black pepper
Mix everything together and bake it at 350° F. Heavens, don’t measure anything if you can possibly avoid it. Cover with savory red sauce (below), or add the sauce at the table. If you use the kind of pan you would bake lasagna in, it’ll be ready in 50 minutes. If you use two loaf pans, it’ll be ready in an hour and a half.
Got some bread going stale in the fridge? A brick of cold rice from the other night? A couple of corn muffins no one’s ever going to eat? By all means, crumble those in rather than the bread crumbs. Whatever you use, I recommend you soak this element in the milk for at least 15 minutes, to give the starch granules a chance to absorb the liquid and yield a more tender result.
Why those herbs in particular? I had some partial packs of them in the freezer that I was tired of looking at. (You do keep your fresh herbs in the freezer so they don’t get wilty, slimy and, ultimately, wasted, don’t you? Yes?) Please, use any seasonings you like, fresh or otherwise. Knock yourself out.
Savory Red Sauce
Dice an onion, a green pepper, and a clove of garlic. Sweat (like sauté, only less hot) over medium-low heat. Empty a 24-ounce can of whole tomatoes into a bowl and crush them between your fingers, and add to the pan. Add 1 teaspoon sugar, a dash of balsamic vinegar, and ½ teaspoon salt, black olives (break ’em twixt your fingers) and perhaps some paprika and cayenne. Simmer and season until you like it. What, you only have diced tomatoes in the pantry? Or stewed? Or pre-seasoned? Use them, and God bless. No green pepper on hand? OK, forget it. For extra fantasticness, rummage in your fridge for some leftover cooked veggies, and add those. (Confession: mine included half a chopped-up chicken dog. Mmmm, extra yummy bits.)
Open a jar of your favorite pasta sauce. Heat. Use. Bon appetit.