Not the Turkey You Were Looking For

For Thanksgiving this year, I was unfortunately unable to secure the turkey I was looking forward to cooking and consuming. Instead, I wound up scrounging in the kitchen to come up with a passable meal. I think this one counts as a win.
IMG_0471We had a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon from the Wine for Dummies collection to start with, that my partner found in, of all places, a dollar store (but not for a buck). It had a lovely, dark color, a somewhat fruity nose, and a delightfully full-bodied tartness.

IMG_0476In the chest freezer I found a pound each of ground buffalo and lamb. When mixed with the right spices (onion, garlic, and white pepper) and with a bit of red wine, this became what is affectionately known as a BAM loaf. With all the ingredients thoroughly mixed by hand, it went into a 300F oven for about two hours.

IMG_0475Then there were the sweet potatoes. they were peeled and washed rather than simply baked whole. We played with spiral cutting them, the spirals becoming “butterflies” and the leftover chunks going into a pan to roast. We seasoned with garlic, cinnamon and seasoned salt. While the chunks cooked to a turn, the spiral butterflies did not bake so well. I think we will try deep frying them next time.

IMG_0481In a heating skillet we dropped some butter and minced garlic with white pepper. Once it was browned a bit in went some sliced crimini, fresh baby spinach leaves, and a couple of tablespoons of red wine. Stir, heat to wilting stage, and serve!

 

 

 

 
IMG_0487The plate turned out attractively, and everything passed the discriminating taste testing. Voila!

— Ann Cathey

Manager Markdowns Make Magnificent Meals

My partner in food and I went grocery shopping today, and wound up finding a lot of interesting items on clearance. We typically go to as many as five local groceries to find things we like. Fortunately, those five stores are all within a 2-3 mile strip along the north loop in Conroe.

To some people “manager markdown”,  “quick sale” or “clearance” marked on food items means the food is nasty or is beyond saving. Not so! For vegetables and fruits, they have not “gone bad”, but are no longer attractive in one way or another. For meat, it means you must either cook it when you get home or freeze it. Meat cannot legally be sold here in the United States if it is aged past human consumption, according to several grocery butchers I have spoken with.

On this week’s shopping adventure, we caught some interesting items in the mark downs at several stores that happened to lend themselves nicely to a single meal.

It all got started with a bottle of inexpensive Winking Owl Merlot at our first stop. I wasn’t sure what we would do with it, but I cook with red wines frequently. That made the bottle a good investment.

DSC_0204We still had no dinner plan while shopping at the second store. This rapidly changed when we found a two and half pound package of boneless pork loin backribs marked down for quick sale. Half of this was put into the freezer after we got home for later use.

This was followed by a package of “gourmet blend” mushrooms, crimini, shiitake and oyster, marked down at another store. I thoroughly enjoy crimini and shiitake, though do not recall having oyster mushrooms before. My partner told me he trusted my judgement as I reached for some tiny, “three-color” cipollini onions and he picked up a small bunch of fresh, thin, tops-on carrots.

Upon arriving home, everything was cleaned and cut appropriately. We loaded the carrots into the bottom of a crock-pot. Next in went the meat. I stuffed some roasted garlic (also bought on clearance and stored in my freezer last month) into the cuts in the top of the meat. The finely sliced onions were sprinkled on next. The mushrooms were already cleaned and broken down into smaller pieces, so they were sprinkled over everything else. A half-bottle of wine was poured over everything, gently so as not to disturb the layers. A sprinkle of Herbes de Province and the pot was sealed and allowed to work it’s magic.

DSC_0203We had to wait several hours while the dish cooked, but we were able to distract ourselves with some lovely Boar’s Head Edam, also found on clearance today. The cheese was served at room temperature with “woven” wheat crackers. It took the edge off while we waited on our meal.

DSC_0208Finally, the wait was over. The delicious aroma of the cooking pork had filtered through most of the house, teasing us with anticipation. I almost burned myself in my haste to get that pot open and get at the treasure inside.

The meat was cooked through, as I insist on with pork, and the carrots were firm without being crunchy. My mouth was watering in anticipation as we plated up.

DSC_0211Dinner was served up with some leftover fingerling potatoes roasted in butter, garlic and dill from the night before. The saltiness of the potatoes was a good contrast to the sweetness of the carrots and mushrooms.

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Keeping your eyes peeled at the grocery for mark downs can lead to some interesting meals in the kitchen. Give it a try and see if you don’t manage to save a few bucks and find some new favorites!

— Ann Cathey