Peasant food? Doesn’t matter, if it’s tasty


Some foods aren’t worth making if you don’t make a huge amount.

Most of those kinds of dishes were originally peasant-type dishes. Peasants traditionally have very little money. They do, however, have one great resource: time. So, these recipes are labor-intensive and take a long time to cook.

That’s why you’ll very rarely see a recipe for beef stew for two, or a yield of 1½ cups of all-day-cooked Sunday gravy, or spaghetti sauce. The recipe for coq au vin, a red wine soaked French chicken stew, starts with a whole chicken.

Pink sauce (not the popular sauce with vodka and cream), is a recipe I invented years ago and has become a family favorite and The Kid’s birthday dinner each year. It’s a rich, salmon-colored sauce with mushrooms, Italian sausage and meatballs.

It’s labor intensive with ingredients that aren’t always easy to find. When I make it, I cook it all day in a giant Le Cruset that I borrow from The Kid. The Kid declares, “It would taste good on an old tennis shoe”.

As well as making a vat of it, I make three times the meatballs I need and freeze them for later use.

I love barbecued meatballs. I put them in a casserole dish and spoon old-school red bbq sauce over them. Then I cover it with a heavy snowfall of the sharpest of cheddar cheeses. I bake them until everything is sticky with sauce and gooey with cheese.

I think they’re delicious.

Unfortunately, Petey does not.

We were at a potluck a while back and had, for the first time, coconut rice. Cooking rice with coconut milk makes it silky, unctuous and delicious. We both loved it, and I decided to recreate it at home.

The night I made it the first time, I decided to stud it with the meatballs from the last batch of our old time fave, pink sauce.

So, so good.

Thanks for your time.

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Coconut Rice with Meatballs

Basic Meatballs

1 pound ground pork

1 pound ground veal


5 slices white bread, broken into small pieces

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 small onion, diced

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 cup fresh parsley, chopped

1 teaspoon fresh thyme

2-3 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

1/4 cup Marsala wine

1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

1/2 cup dairy of your choice, or enough to make the bread mixture the consistency of loose mashed potatoes

Salt and pepper to taste

In a large bowl, add all of the panade ingredients except for the milk. Mix together by mashing and stirring.

Pour in dairy, a couple of tablespoons at a time, continuing to mash and stir until desired consistency. Let it sit for 30 minutes so the bread can absorb all the liquid.

Preheat oven to 325°.

Break up meat into pieces about the size of Scuppernong grapes and put into bowl with panade. Breaking the meat up means you won’t have to work it as much which makes the finished product rubbery, rather than silky.

Gently fold everything together just until it’s lightly mixed, you want to see small bits of panade peeking out here and there.

Scoop out about 2 tablespoons of the meat mixture, and roll into a ball. Lay on a rimmed cookie sheet with cooling rack on top. Continue until all the meat has been rolled — about 36-ish.

Bake for about 12 minutes. After cooking, leave on rack until they are totally cool. Keep aside 10-12, then lay the rest on a plate or tray and freeze. When they’re frozen divide and put them into freezer bags which you’ve labeled with name and date.

Coconut Rice

1 3/4 cup uncooked long-grain white rice

1-13.5 ounce can of coconut milk (not coconut cream or cream of coconut; this is a sweetened product used for making piña colodas. Although I’ll bet using it for rice pudding would be banging.)

2 cups chicken stock

Salt and pepper

Put stock and coconut milk into a heavy-bottomed pot with a lid (the coconut milk will have solids, use them all). Bring to a boil over medium heat, add rice and stir. Gently put in the meatballs. Cover.

Cook on medium-low for 16-18 minutes and check for doneness. You’re looking for almost all the liquid to be cooked out the rice to be cooked through — there is no al dente in rice.

When it’s done, let sit, covered while you make the asparagus.

Sauteed Asparagus

1 pound asparagus, washed and trimmed to bite-size pieces

1 tablespoon water

3 tablespoons butter

Salt and pepper

Put everything a skillet, cover, and turn on medium. Cook 2-3 minutes until veg is tender-crisp. Uncover and let the water cook out. Turn heat up to medium-high and cook another minute or two until there’s a little color on the asparagus.

Plate rice and meatballs into a shallow bowl and put the asparagus on top. Serves 4.



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