Saturday, October 11, 2008

Lazy Saturdays

Its Saturday! And I'm feeling decidedly lazy.

The season is definately turning. Misty is at home making Pumpkin Bread (I'll have to have her add some pics when its done), and I am out of town at my second home feeling the chill of the season start to really set in. Would you believe it got below 50 last night?!? I was shocked. The last time I looked it was full on summer, and here we are heading into the very height of fall it seems.

I've never been big on cold weather. Usually because its associated with lack of sunlight. I'll be the first to admit being a night owl, but I do require at least *some* sunlight to get me through. And in winter there never seems to be enough of it.

So today for dinner I am making comfort food. It helps being here, and not at home, since the only person at home who really likes my style of comfort food is my son. :-) Comfort food for me comes directly from my grandfather. He was born in 1931 in the midst of the Great Depression, something all of us are hoping we're not going back into. But I learned a lot of my cooking from him, and also many habits he was raised with--habits culturally ingrained by being raised in a poor family during troubled times.

Everyone knows what skillet meals are. Hamburger helper has made them pretty popular. But at 2.00 and more a box with barely 2-3 real servings, they're not really all that cost effective. The following is a recipe for Fried Macaroni - a staple comfort food for my family. Its ultimately customizable, makes enough to feed a family of 4 about 2 meals, and it can be doubled up fairly easily. When my husband goes out to sea, I've been known to live off it. It's inexpensive, tasty, and with a little creativity, the same base meal can be changed to suit whatever you are in the mood for. This is how I most commonly make it.

Fried Macaroni - From the Kitchen of Alfred Muncey 1931 - 2003


1lb macaroni (elbows or small seashells work best - I prefer shells)
1 large bottle of Tomato Juice
1 can of corn
Worcestsire Sauce
Tabasco Sauce
Italian Seasoning


Boil Macaroni till its Al Dente. You don't want it cooked soft, it should still have a bit of firmness to the noodles - for small shells, about 6 minute boil time.

Rinse well after boiling, and put it in the fridge to cool. It fries best when its cold, however, room temp will work. If you over cook the macaroni, or fry it starting warm, it will not crisp as well, and will have a tendency to fall apart. This is wholly aesthetic and does not affect the taste.

After the macaroni is cool:

Pre-heat a Cast Iron Skillet with a small amount - 3-5tbsp - of oil (I've never tried this in anything else. There were actually family squabbles over who was to inherit my grandfathers cookware. For him, there was no other cookware but well seasoned cast iron, and he had his for many years). The skillet is ready when a drop of cold water will skitter across the surface. You don't want it overly hot though, or your macaroni will burn instead of browning.

After the skillet is pre-heated, add the cold macaroni. The trick to frying macaroni, is not to fuss with it. Every 2-4 minutes you'll want to use a metal spatula to turn the macaroni in chunks. You are looking for a fairly good brown, crispy texture, and the frying should cause multiple noodles to stick together in chunks.

After the macaroni is browned (about 15-20 min, turning every 2-5 depending on how crispy you want it--some of us fight over who gets the crispy parts), pour enough tomato juice in the skillet to cover the macaroni and allow it to cook down. At this time you can also add other things to the meal - corn, ground beef (or other meat), shredded cheese, etc. Its only limited by what you have on hand (my preference is just to add the corn). Season to taste at this time. We like Worcestsire Sauce, a bit of Tabasco, and Italian Seasoning.

After the juice is absorbed into the macaroni, brown again, turning every 2-3 minutes, for about 10 minutes, or until it reaches your desired crisp texture.

In a separate pot, while you are browning the macaroni the second time, gently warm the remaining tomato juice. You can add more seasoning to this. Muncey always used Worcestsire Sauce and Italian seasoning. *Do Not* Allow the tomato juice to boil. Keep it on very low heat and allow it to simmer slowly until it is hot.

To serve, divvy up the macaroni into bowls, cover with warm tomato juice, season to taste.

I've been told its a bit like Tomato Soup meets Chicken Noodle. I've also been told its one of the weirdest meals a person has ever tasted. Its probably an acquired thing. I grew up on it though, and it always makes me think of my grandfather and childhood.

I'll post pics later when I start cooking :) In the meantime, what's your favorite comfort food?

No comments: