In which I mention that friend that wanted to be mentioned…
I have this friend that has an amazing German heritage. Her family speaks German and sometimes when trying to talk “secretly” in front of people they will speak in German. Her grandma forgets that I understand German also, which is why I found out that her grandma lost her teeth on the way to the birthday party. “Ich habe meine Zahne verloren!” She exclaimed upon entering. I tried to stifle my giggle, but tend to have a very expressive face.
I wish I had made this dish when she was coming over, but instead I made it when my brother was here. We also have amazing German heritage, but our celebration of the culture has a lot more to do with sausages and beer than it does language. (That might also be the Wisconsin background. It’s pretty indistinguishable, really.) Regardless, it’s an excuse we didn’t even need to eat brats and sauerkraut.
You are going to have to excuse these terrible pictures. They are from the time where I was still learning how to use the basics of my camera.
The sauerkraut here is not something you do in a hurry, regardless of what the recipe says. To get it to the point where I felt it was done, it took at least a half hour, maybe longer. Maybe their idea of a hurry was different than mine? I mean, they are making Jell-O salads that take all day. These are not things that a working mom can do on a limited schedule.
Ok, so taste. Have you had a French choucroute garnie? Because it’s like that. I’m sure that doesn’t help a lot of you. Here’s what Wikipedia says about it. If you don’t feel like clicking over, it’s sauerkraut, sausages, potatoes, onions, and beer all cooked together for a nice long time and best served with mustard (not the yellow stuff, the good stuff). The long cooking time mellows the bite of the sauerkraut and everything sort of melts into each other. This has amazing similarities to that dish, but much quicker. It’s kind of like sauerkraut for beginners.
When you have time to make this “in a hurry” dish, you may want to put on your leiderhosen, put on some polka, make some spaetzle, and indulge. Even if it wasn’t my brother’s favorite, I thought it was pretty darn good.
When I was young, the idea of potatoes au gratin really appealed to me. They just sounded so special and fancy. Scalloped potatoes were a regular thing at our house and there were au gratin potato chips, but I don’t recall them being a regular part of our menu. They may have been, but I don’t remember it. (Sorry, mom.)
Potatoes and cheese are classic. Switzerland has raclette (which I have eaten in Switzerland). Canada has poutine (which I have not eaten in Canada, but I assume I will at some point.) Sports bars have potato skins. Diners offer cheese with hashbrowns. One time I made chipotle potatoes au gratin and they were amazing. I’m not sure I’ve ever had a potato and cheese combination that I didn’t like. These Skillet Potatoes were no exception.
Maybe these potatoes were so ooey-gooey delicious because we use Weyauwega cheese almost exclusively. Seriously, there is nothing better. It’s the cheese I grew up eating, so maybe that’s part of it, but it is really good cheese. They are even distributing cheese curds to Texas now. My friend called to ask if they were legit. Yep. They are the real thing. (This makes it sounds like an advertisement. It’s not, I just really love Weyauwega cheese.)
Boiling the potatoes with the onions mellows the onions and just leaves the flavor. The small amount of water used to boil the potatoes means the potatoes don’t need to be drained and the starch from them helps to thicken the cheesy sauce. These are not the best au gratin potatoes I’ve ever had in my life. They aren’t steakhouse worthy, but you know, for something that is ready in 30 minutes or less, it’s a pretty decent side dish for any night of the week.
In which I compare cottage cheese to the Captain and Tennille.
Last night as I was driving home in the rain, Casey Kasem was counting down the top 40 hits from 1976. I can sing along with most of Saturday at the 70’s, but there are songs that baffle me as to how they even got popular. As I was pulling up to the house, Captain and Tennille started crooning “Muskrat Love“. How did that become a hit? It’s worse than “Angie Baby“. I guess some things just make sense at the time, even if they lose relevance as the years go past. Kind of like Peach Cottage Cheese Loaf.Now you have to understand, there is only one person at my house that likes cottage cheese, so we were already prejudiced against this recipe. Then we are going to add in some mayonnaise and gelatin…How could this not be a winning dish?I had to look up what “creamed cottage cheese” was. Basically, it’s the cottage cheese anyone can get at any grocery store in the US. It has liquid in it as opposed to being dry. It’s so common, they don’t label it that way and you’d probably have to go to a specialty store to find non-creamed cottage cheese. (Or make it yourself).
This recipe did not “loaf”. I don’t know where I went wrong in following the directions, but the gelatin did not hold this recipe into a discernible loaf. I managed to get it to hold together long enough for pictures, but the neat slices I imagined didn’t happen. The whole thing got scraped into a bowl and served that way.Everyone was required to take a taste of the vomit-like concoction because that’s the way we do things. We try ingredients we don’t like in a variety of ways in case there is a way that we do like that ingredient. It worked with beets, mustard, brussel sprouts, and other things. The rule at our house is if you say you don’t like it without trying it, you need to eat twice as much as I would normally expect you to eat to try something. We aren’t talking huge amounts here. It’s not like I make anyone eat a double full portion, it’s more like 2 teaspoons full instead of 1 teaspoon full. The kids prefer to have control over their serving sizes, so they agree to the terms. It works for us and lessens the amount of whining at the table.
As we expected before we started the meal. No one really cared for this marvelous creation. Even the person that “liked” it couldn’t really eat more than a couple of servings over the course of a week.
This recipe, like “Muskrat Love”, should probably stay back in the time period from whence it came. It’s sometimes better to just leave things in the past. But if you insist on doing things your own way, maybe you should try the pineapple variation.
In which I explain about potatoes.
I get this sort of arrogance when it comes to cooking. I use recipes as references only and feel like I can do it better than the recipe writer. That, somehow, I can improve upon the original intention of the dish. With a dish like simple old-fashioned potato salad, it seems a shame to not add bacon or pesto or sprinkle the top with paprika. Liven it up somehow. But this recipe doesn’t call for any of that.
My arrogance extends to my cooking methods. I spent a lot of time with my grandparents last summer. At the beginning of summer they announced they were moving into an assisted living facility in Duluth, about 5 hours away from me. Their decision to move so far away broke me a bit. I spent as much of the summer with them as I possibly could to try to help them get things squared away and just to spend some time with them before it became more difficult for me to do so. When I was up there once, my mom, grandma and I were all in the kitchen together cooking dinner. I cut some potatoes and got them into a pan to boil them for potato salad or something. I started to add water and was immediately scolded by my grandma for using too much water. Apparently, I had been doing it wrong for nearly 30 years, according to grandma. “There is no need to waste so much water, just put a little water in the pan and let those potatoes steam.” My mom stated that she always used a lot of water, but then used the potato water for other things like soups or breads. That was the same summer I was informed that I was middle-aged and reminded that I don’t know everything even if I walk around like a know-it-all. I think about that every time I boil potatoes now and never put too much water in unless I have plans for the extra water.
When I was prepping this recipe, I realized that the can of evaporated milk I thought I had was actually sweetened condensed milk. This is where smart phones are handy. I learned that evaporated milk can actually be made in at least two ways. You can actually reduce about 2 ¼ cups of milk on the stove top until it’s 1 cup, or the much faster way is to make double strength milk from milk powder. I tried the first, but realized that it was going to take much longer than I felt like I had. I pulled the milk and will use it to make cocoa for the kids later.
Most delis have at least three varieties of potato salad on hand at all times because potato salad can be so many things. In the book Consuming Passions by Michael Lee West, she dedicates an entire chapter to potato salad. Her mother has very definite ideas as to what potato salad should be and what it should not be. My opinions on it are not nearly as strong as hers. However, I do like my potato salad to have enough crunch and enough ingredients in it that not every bite is exactly the same. And this is that sort of potato salad. It’s classic, the eggs provide a nice texture. It’s the perfect kind of mushy without being sludge. It’s sweet and would be great with fried chicken or BBQ meats. It tastes like summer.
Cole slaw is something we all grow up with. It’s usually mayo based, or vinegar based and not that interesting. Occasionally you get cole slaw that is amazing for some reason, like at Bismarck’s Bar and Grill where they add bacon. But normally, it’s something we eat as a side dish because of tradition more than anything else. Cabbage is cheap. It is mostly used the cut the richness of fatty foods. (See what I did there? Cheap Cabbage/Rich food? I’m hilarious.) I’m not sure I’ve ever heard someone exclaim “Cole Slaw! That’s my favorite!”
This isn’t cole slaw. It is a cabbage salad. It was John’s favorite part of the meal. He said it was the only part of the meal he didn’t think he’d get sick of eating as leftovers. I thought that perhaps the onion rings were a little much. I am not sure if I would’ve preferred them to be thinner slices or chopped more, but they were too much.
But it’s not memorable. I wrote up the first part of this when we first had the salad. A few days and a few recipes later, I can’t even remember what the salad tasted like. It was good, it was fine, it wasn’t worth having it the second day if there were other options. And it kind of sucks for the salad.
Actually, thinking back, this would probably be a great accompaniment to grilled food. There are hot days where a nice cold cabbage salad is the perfect thing to go with a nice pork shoulder, rubbed with onion and herb paste and slow roasted on the grill all day long. Or BBQ chicken. Nice and moist and falling off the bone. That tang of the barbecue sauce. But this salad is never going to be the star of the show. It’s always going to be a member of the chorus. It might get a line or two in a major production, but it’s ultimately going to back to its waitressing gig to wait for the big break that will never come. I mean, come on. It’s still just cabbage salad.