This has been the kind of day that only North Texas can deliver—cold, wet, gloomy, not quite freezing, not cold enough for lovely snow. I grew up in Chicago and lived four years in northeast Missouri—the icebox corner of the state—but that kind of clean cold and dirty snow doesn’t compare with the bone-chilling damp we had today. I sat at my computer in my all-purpose gray sweater (I really need to relinquish it long enough to send it to the cleaners, but this time of year I wear it every day). A lap robe over my knees, both of my heat units working—I usually only use one. And it was still chilly. Looking out the window did not brighten my mood, and once again I longed for a fireplace. But I worked and got quite a bit done, a good start on locating pictures for the Alamo book.
Last night, we had ham, black-eyed peas, cornbread, and company. A more subdued evening than the night before, though the guests had also been there for New Year’s Eve. Dinner was delicious—I ordered a pre-cooked, pre-sliced ham from Central Market and cooked a big pot of dried peas. I’d forgotten how much work that is. Christian brought me the dried peas and a piece of salt pork (I would have rather had a ham hock, but I gather the stores were a mess and supplies running out. A friend reported that Central Market was a zoo).
So I made do with what we had—and fought to get that tough skin off the salt pork. Wanted to use chicken broth, which meant I had to make it from the concentrate I keep in the fridge—six cups is a lot as you spoon out the concentrate and finally put it in boiling water. And then chopping an onion—I wore my special onion glasses, but it’s still a chore. At least I can do it without crying. Megan gave me these some time ago, and I have since gifted a lot of my cooking friends with them. I think they’re lifesavers.
Tonight, a friend and I mutually cancelled our dinner date—too cold, too wet, too risky. So I made scalloped potatoes with ham and scallions—okay, I didn’t have an onion and figured I could substitute scallions. All my adult life, I’ve struggled with scalloped potatoes—they were too runny, they were undercooked. My Colin loved them, but I never got them quite right. Tonight, I cheated and used cream of mushroom soup, cooked them in the toaster/oven, for two hours, and they were great—soft, tender, with a nice browned crust. I’ll blog about them on the Gourmet on a Hot Plate blog, along with the super recipe Christian used for corn bread. You begin with a mix and add sugar, sour cream, etc.—so delicious. Watch for it all at http://www.gourmetonahotplate.blogspot.com in a few days.
So now we are into the routine, the holidays behind us, the government shutdown unfortunately not. It’s either a time of boundless enthusiasm and optimism for the new year—or a time when you think, “Ho, hum, here we go again.” I prefer to choose the boundless optimism. And tonight, my Christmas lights still cheer me. We’ll leave the decorations up until Epiphany, then have yet another party to mark the date.