A Bit Too Much Stroganoff, and Far Too Much Pie

Made some beef stroganoff Saturday and it was not bad. One of Mr. S’s Top Ten Meals, for sure, and right up there on my list, too. He’s been away in Chicago giving a talk on Cognitive Dissonance and How to Be Fair In An Unfair World, and rolled in just in time to eat. There was salad, too, with beets (he’s not a fan but I am) and blue cheese, a pan full of brown butter carrots, and for dessert, his favorite candy replicated: Almond Roca Bars. “A triumph, my dear!” he said, as he sipped his coffee. “A triumph.” Straight out of “A Christmas Carol.” Sigh. And then he leaned over and smiled, “And I don’t feel crapulous. Not in the least.”

Sometimes I have to look up words Mr. S uses (that’s a whole other story), and I found Webster’s defines “crapulous” as one “marked by intemperance, especially in eating or drinking.” Which means Mr. S didn’t overeat to the point of feeling sick. Which is a good thing. I’ve always been a fan of moderation, and don’t find myself feeling crapulous much in my life. Though I must say I did get there with TV and the news a couple months back. Just too much. So I shut ‘er all down and it’s done my spirit good. No TV apart from my National Geographic shows and an occasional episode of “Law and Order.” (Shh.) Sometimes there’s a documentary which I feel compelled to watch (stories about advances in Alzheimer’s treatment or music as a form of therapy or great white sharks), and the weather on the local news is always a must, but lately I’ve taken to listening to music, or the wind outside, or silence. No newspapers, even, for the time being.

A person can get caught up in swirls here and there. News flashes. Breaking news. Gossip. Rumors. Reports. The Latest. Bah. It’s important to be informed, of course. But consider your sources, consider your prime directive, consider a stretch of quiet. Not everything happening out there is worth much attention, and frankly, if I’m gonna get to a point of feeling “crapulous,” let it be from walking out in the cold a bit too long, or drinking too much coffee at a cafe with a friend, or a bit too much stroganoff and far too much pie after a couple hours of shoveling snow..

Turn off your TV, just for awhile. Give it a week, or maybe a month. Listen to the winter birds, or Mozart, or your children. Listen to your partner telling about the day. Listen to your cat purring, the rope clanging on the flagpole, your heart.

Here’s one for the recipe box. Just plain delicious, and one of the simplest comfort foods this side of the Canadian border. Serve it with some good bread, cooked beets on the side, and a full glass of red red wine.

Beef Stroganoff

12 ounces boneless beef sirloin steak
18 ounce sour cream
2 T flour
½ cup water
2 tsp instant beef bouillon granules
¼ tsp black pepper
2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
½ cup chopped onion (1 medium)
1 clove garlic, minced
2 T butter
2-3 T cooking sherry or white wine
2 cups hot cooked noodles

If desired, partially freeze beef for easier slicing. Trim fat from meat. Thinly slice meat across the grain into bite-size strips. In a small bowl stir together sour cream and flour. Stir in water, bouillon granules, and pepper; set aside.
In a large skillet cook and stir the meat, mushrooms, onion, and garlic in hot butter over medium-high heat for 5 minutes or until desired doneness. Drain off fat.

Stir sour cream mixture into skillet. Add sherry. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly. Cook and stir for 1 minute more. Serve over noodles.

Makes 4 servings.

A Fever and Chills

Made some hot Russian tea on Saturday, and it was not bad. It was day four of feeling of feeling ill in a way that left me flopped on the couch like a sack of beans on the couch, wrapped in a soft white blanket, sipping grapefruit juice and fading in and out of sleep. Started with a fever and chills, then an inability to keep my balance or stay awake for a whole episode of 20/20, then a stretch of ache and tired that kept me in the house for four days, Mr. S is out of town, speaking in Seattle on the importance of storytelling later in life, so I’ve been on my own where a menu is concerned and I did pretty dang well. Malto-O-Meal wins the prize for Best Food When You Feel Like Crap, and I was blessed to have a few friends visit with Potato Leek Soup and homemade macaroni and cheese and some praline pecan ice cream that disappeared faster than spit on a skillet.

I’m feelin’ a bit like me again, and this being day seven, it’s about time. Hard to say what it was I had, and truth is it doesn’t much matter. I talked to myself this morning when I woke at a normal hour, and turned on the radio, made up some stuffed chicken parmesan to bake later in the week, and didn’t think more than one fleeting thought of lying down and napping on the couch by the fire.

I get a lot out of doing things. “Getting’ ‘er done!” Mr. S often hollers when I’m cleaning the house from top to bottom. “You’re a machine,” he says, as I fold load number four of sheets. And it’s true. I enjoy being busy. And what is most unenjoyable about being sick is that I can’t do much at all. Except lie there and think. Which, now that I mention it, is rather enjoyable. All curled up and warm, no one hollering for help, the fire crackling near my feet, and the creakings of the house in the bitter winter cold.

Got a few phone calls during those blurry days. I didn’t answer most of ‘em. One was Mr. S, though, and he said something about planning a trip somewhere, and asked where I’d like to have dinner this weekend. “Scotch eggs,” I remember saying, “and fried potatoes.” And I remember someone else, the sweeter voice of a friend, saying gently through the phone, “When you’re an oak most of the time, it’s okay to be the wind now and then.”
Well, now. That felt like a blessing to me. And it was. Pass it on.

I’m a fan of pasta.
A pasta fan am I.
Cook this one up and serve it ‘round,
And someone will tell you how awesome you are.
And you’ll simply have to accept it.
That’s my poem for today.

Stuffed Chicken Parmesan

3 chicken breasts, boneless and skinless
Salt, to taste
1 cup mozzarella
2 cups flour
6 eggs, beaten
2 cups bread crumbs
1 cup oil, for frying
3 cups tomato sauce (or your favorite spaghetti sauce)
½ cup Parmesan
2 T basil
½ tsp garlic salt
Pinch of cayenne

Cut a pocket into each chicken breast and stuff each evenly with the mozzarella cheese
and press the edges of the chicken together to seal the pocket.

Separate the flour, eggs, and bread crumbs into 3 separate bowls. Being careful to keep the chicken from opening, roll the stuffed chicken in the flour, shaking off the excess.
Dip the floured chicken into the egg, then the bread crumbs, coating evenly.

Heat the oil in a large pan over medium heat. Fry chicken until golden brown on both sides. Place ⅔ of the tomato sauce evenly on the bottom of a baking dish. Place the chicken on top. Top with the rest of the tomato sauce, then sprinkle the parmesan, garlic salt, cayenne and basil on top. Bake for 20-30 minutes at 350.