Making Rubbed Sage

Here’s the Rub

Supermarket Sage can be a sorry thing, with as many stems as leaves. A high quality rubbed Sage like this can get pricey, and usually can only be found via mail order. So I grabbed the Sage by the leaves and made my own.

Sage “Berggarten”

I clipped these leaves of Berggarten with a small pair of pruners, but scissors will work just as well. The leaves of this cultivar are large and strong of flavor. Clipping individual leaves is tedious, but spring growth is about a month away, and I want as many leaves for the fall as possible–think cornbread dressing for Thanksgiving. Then entire branches will be sacrificed, and I can clip off all those stems while sitting, and enjoying a beverage.

Our convection oven has a pre-programmed dehydration setting, which is 120 degrees F for six hours. That is perfect for this many leaves, and I left plenty of room to avoid crowding. The same setting could be used for any oven.

Rubbing is simple. Add a handful of leaves into the palm of your non-dominant hand, and commence rubbing the dried leaves between two fingers of your dominant hand. Collect them in your palm, and funnel them into a spice jar. This amount of leaves made one third of a standard spice jar, as pictured.

I leave mine uncovered for a week or so to make certain they are perfectly dried. Then it is into the spice cabinet, next to some ground sage. That’s when you notice that this is like a whole different herb.

A Great French Style Salad Dressing

I bought a bottle of Walnut Oil to use as a food safe wood finish. The wonderful smell got to me, and I had to splurge and make some salad dressing with it. It will be difficult to use any other dressing, after tasting this.

Recipe

3 tablespoons Walnut Oil

1 tablespoon Red Wine Vinegar

1 tablespoon Dijon Mustard

Honey to taste

Salt and Pepper

Fresh Herbs–Basil, Parsley, and/or Oregano

Simply whisk all of these together, taste it, try not to salivate, and you’re done. This is plenty for two salads.

If you spill some Walnut oil on your cutting board, no worries–it’s the finest food safe finish around, and it will just make your kitchen small better. It is a bit pricey, and imagine this moocher’s reaction when he found the same amount of oil for $1 cheaper at–audible gasp–Whole Foods.

Shirred Eggs with Ham

Health Food

Everyone has a recipe like this, but add real eggs and real ham, along with fresh herbs, and you have a real breakfast, or an anytime dish for two, for that matter. Cut directly to the chase, with two ramekins/custard cups.

Ingredients

1 tablespoon melted butter

2 Eggs (or more)

Cream

Diced Ham

Diced Onion or Shallot

Toppings: Grated Cheese and Chives

Cook this in a bain-marie, a hot water bath, a method which allegedly was invented by an alchemist named Mary. How she got in all that hot water we’ll never know. I crank up the stove to 550 F. This can also be cooked on the stove top.

How much cream, ham, and onion? Fairly small quantities, but let your conscience and doctor guide you. The cheese makes this a gooey work of art. It’s done when the cream bubbles.

Tomatoes, in season, make this the best egg dish imaginable-wild cherry tomatoes are the best, cooked whole in the dish. Complaining about having your favorite fruit being out of season is as old as ancient music. Oh, snap, that’s the title to a great satirical poem by Ezra Pound.

Ancient Music

Winter is icummen in,
Lhude sing Goddamm.
Raineth drop and staineth slop,
And how the wind doth ramm!
Sing: Goddamm.

Skiddeth bus and sloppeth us,
An ague hath my ham.
Freezeth river, turneth liver,
Damn you, sing: Goddamm.

Goddamm, Goddamm, ’tis why I am, Goddamm,
So ‘gainst the winter’s balm.

Sing goddamm, damm, sing Goddamm.
Sing goddamm, sing goddamm, DAMM.

Comment: Tomatoes, come back, we love you.

Grillades with Mushroom Brown Sauce

Accidentally Making Great Food

If you do the right thing, Karma will treat you right. MJ and I have given away so many eggs that we are getting free food in return. Long live bartering.

Case in point was the cooler full of locally grown beef that one brother-in-law gave us, and the cow was grown by yet another brother-in-law. In the pile of meat were a couple of packs of cube steak, something I had never eaten before, and usually associated with greasy spoon diners. Then I read on the interwebs that good quality cube steak is really round steak that has been pounded flat for tenderizing. This was of the best quality, and I immediately thought: Grillades.

Turning round steak into a Grillade is the classic Southern way of turning inexpensive meat into a thing a beauty, and is sometimes referred to as fried meat a la Creole. I adapted the recipe for Grillades with Gravy from the latest reprint of the Picayune’s Creole Cook Book, and the result was unbelievably good.

Ingredients

1 tablespoon Bacon Fat (Grandmother Lilian’s trick)

1/2 Onion, chopped

1 clove Garlic, diced

1 tablespoon Flour

4 inch squares of pounded Round Steak, seasoned highly with Salt and Pepper

6 large Mushrooms, sliced, and sauteed in Bacon Fat, Lard, Butter, or Oil

Water

The recipe in the cook book uses tomatoes instead of mushrooms, but we won’t have good fresh tomatoes here for a while, and I had bunches of shrooms. Begin by cooking the onion in the bacon fat for about a minute. When they begin to soften, add the garlic. Cook until you can smell the garlic but DO NOT burn it.

Add the flour, and begin the basis for a brown roux, aka a gravy. Stir regularly, as a roux is also known as “Creole Napalm.” When you get to a brown color to your liking, add the Grillades to the top of the roux, along with the mushrooms. Add the water and stir. Mine looked like this.

Simmer Time!

That’s my favorite heavy cast iron skillet. Close it about 7/8 of the way with an equally heavy cast iron lid. Stir regularly, because even with the stove set at the lowest setting, this sauce will stick and burn, and the dish is ruined. Add more water when the gravy begins to thicken excessively. Simmer a minimum of thirty minutes, though we just cook ours until it is completely tender. This cooked forty or forty five minutes.

Serve over Louisiana, or any other good, rice, and garnish with chopped parsley, unless you enjoy food that is just really brown. That was served on one of Grandmother Lilian’s Tennessee made plates. Leftovers made the best steak and biscuit with gravy, the next morning, in history.

Grillades. It’s what’s for supper.

Sage “Berggarten”

If it does this in Six Months . . . ?

Due to the ever increasing vagaries of our climate, no doubt caused by Anthropogenic Climate Disruption (the technical term for Global Warming), our herb gardening is now confined to containers. We have one sage plant that is at least ten years old, and it has to be root bound like nobody’s business. Then I saw this plant, with the German name of Berggarten (Mountain Garden), at our local plant seller. That made it a done deal.

Yikes! I planted it in this giant Mexican terra cotta container with a white Martagon lily, and the sage began growing like it was trying to escape back to the mountains of Deutschland. (I probably should add that the plant is in fact named after one of the gardens of Herrenhausen Palace in Hanover, Lower Saxony, which is not on a mountain). The interwebs descriptions call the plant “compact.” Draw your own conclusion.

Fortunately, the taste of this plant equals its magnitude. No holiday around here is complete without some cornbread dressing that tastes of sage as much as it does of cornbread. I can see a serious herb drying project in my near future.

Julia Child’s Olive Oil Mayonnaise

Yes, that is Mellow Yellow Mayo

Having made a decent regular mayo with peanut oil, I decided to up my game and make a version that Julia Child made. She actually has more than a dozen recipes in the classic Mastering the Art of French cooking, so I had to pick and choose. I just went with a version of the first one.

Ingredients

2 Egg Yolks

2 Tablespoons Lemon Juice

1/4 teaspoon Salt

1/4 teaspoon dry mustard

1 cup Olive Oil (approximately)

I made this in our ancient Kitchenaid Stand Mixer, which is well into its thirties. Add the yolks first, and whisk for a couple of minutes. Add everything else but the oil, and mix for a few seconds to incorporate those. Then comes the only tricky part.

Crank up the machine again, and whisk in the oil very slowly at the beginning, barely a drop at a time. Make sure that an emulsification is forming before you add more. Once chemistry begins to happen, add the oil more quickly. When the stuff looks like mayo, it’s done. Throw it in a jar, and store in the fridge.

Olive oil makes a very strong tasting mayo that makes a superb salad dressing. The amount of oil needed is actually dependent on the size of the egg yolks used, so there will be some variation. I do have one of the simplest pseudo French Dressing recipes in history, which I made with this. It was delicious.

Ingredients

Olive oil mayo

Ketchup

Sweet Pickle Relish

That’s it. Vary the proportions any way you like. I go three mayos to one ketchup, and relish to taste. Additions can include onions, herbs, vinegar, pepper, honey, sugar, and anything else you desire. This is a perfect recipe for people who are in their salad years.

Mouli Parsmint, aka Herb Shredder

Hot day for Shredding

When it’s eighty nine degrees F at noon, you wander around in your air conditioned kitchen looking at all the various weirdness you have collected over the years. Hanging on our wall was an honest to god French made herb shredder, a Mouli Parsmint. It’s actually something of a bad mother.

It may resemble a wheelbarrow, but this thing can shred some leaves. Put in some herbs, and crank it up.

The French, They are so Clever

It also pops open, so it can be cleaned. I really should make more pesto every year.

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