Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Secret ingredient...

When I was a kid, my Grandmother was the BEST cook I knew. She made amazing, downhome, Southern meals like chicken and brown gravy with rice. She had a mad chile and no meal was complete without cornbread. Yum! For those of you who don't know, I was born and raised in South Texas...San Antonio area.

My Dad was the next best cook...he took after his mom. ;) Dad's best included Chicken and Dumplings, weenies and red gravy with rice and the most amazing cornbread dressing, served usually only on holidays. I remember helping Dad roll out the dumplings and cut them into strips. And my favorite thing to do when he made the dressing was to crumble to cornbread. I loved helping my dad in the kitchen. But the ONE thing my dad was best at was gravy. It didn't matter what kind...although I preferred his cream gravy, especially when combined with mom's homemade biscuits. Mmmmmm!

Unfortunatley, in my early adult years, I didn't channel my father or my grandmother when it came to my cooking. Thankfully, over time practice and determination have helped improve my cooking skills. I LOVE to browse cookbooks and online galleries for recipes and try something new. I also really enjoy trying to re-create my favorite restaurant meals. Gravy was something I REALLY wanted to learn how to make but I struggled with it immensely. Until the last year or so. I FINALLY got down the process and now, I make gravy often. Brown, chicken, and yummy country cream gravy.

Meatloaf is something my mom made for us alot growing up. I was never one of those kids who disliked meatloaf, or broccoli or brussel sprouts for that matter. I ate just about anything. My mom always made it with tomato sauce in the meatloaf and on top. It was good and sometimes I make it like that but I prefer mine with brown gravy. That's Seth's favorite way too. The other night I made a meatloaf and for the most part, I made it just like I always do...2 lbs ground beef, 2 eggs, a 1/2 cup or so Italian bread crumbs, a 1/4 cup or so of water then some salt, pepper, seasoning salt and garlic salt to taste. This time, though, I added in ONE more ingredient. Cumin. Yep, ground cumin powder. I LOVE the smoky flavor and the smell of cumin. Honestly, it reminds me of my grandmother. I remember that smell in her home when I was a kid. Of course, then I had no idea what it was but now, I can't get enough of it. It may sound like an odd spice to add to a meatloaf but let me tell you it was the BEST! It is now my secret meatloaf ingredient. Okay, not so secret since I told you but secret to me. :) And, I have another secret too. When you make your brown gravy, after you've added your liquid and you have the desired consistency, add in a tblsp or so of Kitchen Bouquet. It's a dark smoky liquid that can be found on the aisle usually with barbeque sauce at the store. It darkens the color of the gravy but also adds a bit of flavor as well. It also goes into my pinto beans. ;) So, there you have it. Two secrets from my kitchen to yours.


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