Flash in the Pan 

The big greasy

Nothing gets me drunk faster than meat.

Consider some grilled sirloin slabs off Steve’s cow, a family farm-raised bovine named Wendell, served in their thin pink pudding—tender slices with nice chunks of glistening hot fat attached. I eat a piece of that and I must sip some red wine.

When chewed and swallowed with meat, wine becomes part of the food. The mouthful is ruled by the balance of flavors, earthy acidic fruit mixing with lusty chunks of flesh.

Carving up an elk recently, I kept a pile of choice bits of trimmings to the side, which I browned quickly in a pan of hot local safflower oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper. I then opened a bottle of wine to allow co-munching of wine and meat. 

As much as the wine was for flavor, it was also a celebration of the hunt. When I take a sip and chew, I can float above the splattered stovetop and revisit the forest where I found this beautiful creature, not to mention how I carried out 300 pounds of meat and hide. Take another sip. Another chew. Continue chewing and sipping with my O-face on.

Hunting down wild proteins is only one example of heroism in food procurement. All efforts to build your stash of personally procured foodstuffs—be it gathering, growing, giving, bartering, dumpster diving, gleaning, U-picking, preserving, what have you—are heroic as well. And they all should be commemorated as reverently as I do after bagging the wild beast.

Not all meals, however, call for getting hammered. Take breakfast. But just because it’s the first meal of the day doesn’t mean it should be any less of a celebration. 

I brew a pot of morning vino, also known as coffee, and fry up a big greasy breakfast. While the wine and meat sequence is a simple affair, like the clear tone of a bell, the big greasy breakfast is a complex symphony of food particles from many sources. And like its alcohol-containing cousins, morning vino becomes part of the meal, adding its acidic and bitter terroir to each co-munched bite.

In addition to being served with the morning vino, three things must be in place for a big greasy breakfast: bacon, eggs and potatoes. The big greasy trinity is rooted in the menus of 10,000 breakfast joints, coffee shops and greasy spoon diners across the land, and bolstered by steak and eggs, huevos rancheros, frittatas, tofu scramble, eggs Benedict and Florentine, etc.

The big greasy trinity came about by what our pioneering and homesteading forefathers survived on in winter. If you had a root cellar full of potatoes, some pork bellies salted away and some chickens that felt like laying, you could have a big greasy breakfast all year round.

And if you don’t have potatoes, then substitute another earthy, nutrient-rich, grease-carrying vegetal material. It could be squash, greens or other roots like carrots or turnips. It could be Brussels sprouts or broccoli, fresh in summertime, frozen in winter.

The egg cannot be substituted. You either have it or you wish you did. But you can have a fine big greasy breakfast without it. This winter my girls are only laying about an egg a day, which means me and Shorty can only eat eggs once or twice a week. (I find nearly all store-bought eggs to be gross.)

We used to do fancy things like curried scrambled eggs (with a scoop of Patak’s hot curry paste beaten in) and served with broccoli, blanched and frozen from last year.

Now we just scramble the eggs plain in safflower oil with salt and pepper, kind of like how I pan-fry meat. Maybe I’ll pan fry the broccoli florets in water and oil first before adding the eggs, and serve it on the side of whatever else is for breakfast. 

The third unit of the big greasy trinity, bacon, fills two distinct roles at once: fat and protein.

These grease and protein duties can be split among other ingredients as well. For example, you could pour some safflower oil in a hot pan and fry some leftover turkey. Let it fry slowly and get nice and crispy. Then push it to the side of the pan and add some chopped garlic and onions, preferably homegrown for maximum celebration. When the garlic and onions are about to brown, stir in some leftover squash. Stir-fry. When the stuff at the bottom of the pan starts to burn, pour in some wine or sherry. It will steam and hiss, and all the yummy brown stuff on the pan that was a heartbeat away from burning will float off the bottom and get stirred into the food. This is called deglazing and, besides being a nice cameo of the evening vino, is one of the most important skills of big greasy pansmanship.

This big greasy breakfast didn’t include bacon, egg or potatoes, but it’s still big and greasy. Serve it in warm tortillas, topped with homemade salsa, pickled peppers and perhaps a dollop of mayonnaise. Co-munch and wash down with coffee, unless it’s time to start drinking wine.

Ask Ari: Canned meat

A few weeks ago I teased you with a reference to a recipe for pressure canning meat as a storage method. I got more mail in response to canned meat than from anything I’ve written since before chickens were legalized. Everyone wanted to know how to make canned meat.

Here goes: You need a pressure canner with a dial that goes up to 15 pounds of pressure. Pack chunks of meat, the tougher the better, into sterile pint jars with one teaspoon of salt. Add water to jars, work around the jars with a butter knife or chopstick to get bubbles out, and then fill again with water, covering the meat and leaving a half-inch of headspace. Screw on sterile lids and rings and pressure can for 75 minutes at 15 pounds. Turn off heat and let it cool.  Then remove your jars of meat, which can store up to a year safely in cold
storage.

In addition to that basic recipe there are many variations. Adding bacon or oil to the jars gives it a nice richness. Onions add nice flavor. Some people add garlic but I don’t—too pungent. It’s worth experimenting with your favorite spices in smaller pint jars.

Here are my favorite recipes:

—Red chile, oregano, bacon, onion, salt, pepper.

—Roasted green chile, bacon, onion, salt, pepper.

—Packed in mayonnaise instead of water.

—White port instead of water, with black pepper and oyster sauce.

—Garam masala, an Indian spice mix, salt, onion.

Remember that canned meat should be heated before serving. Flavored jars need nothing added, unflavored jars can be heated with garlic, onions, etc. The stuff is really versatile, good in tacos, on toast or, of course, with a big greasy breakfast.

Send your food and garden queries to flash@flashinthepan.net.
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