Wednesday, July 14, 2010

guest post: His Momma

[This guest post is courtesy of my mother-in-law, who just happens to be one of my favorite people in the world, and also one of my favorite cooks. If you know her or have been lucky enough to eat at her table, I imagine she's among your favorites, too. And after reading this you'll see that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. Or the bacon grease doesn't fall far from the bacon, is more like it, though my mother-in-law has been known to eat a piece of fruit, whereas my husband has not. And don't let her fool you: This woman can cook both Southern delicacies such as Oklahoma Ham Loaf and haute cuisine. Oklahomans: Please don't get mad that I just excluded ham loaf from the haute cuisine category.]

In Praise of…..

It is with fear in my heart that I sit down to add my writing to the esteemed group who have been tapped to write guest posts for the “summer bl*g.” I love my daughter-in-law, and as much as I love her, I love her blog…the humor, the pictures, and the tasty recipes. In fact, it is the highlight of my day when she posts, and the cloud that covers the sun when she doesn’t. Her culinary friends and family are erudite and sophisticated in their cooking, eating, and conversations about food, and the idea that I need to match them…intimidating. So, methinks, what do I have that is unique? Immediately I knew. BACON FAT!

I grew up in Oklahoma. It is the land of fresh vegetables, cooked until the grayness appears, and fresh slaughtered meats, fried. There is no real way to cook without bacon fat if this is your point of origin. My grandparents, in the small Oklahoma town where they lived, often rushed to the aid of a family whose home had been “burned out.” As I think of it, I have no idea why so many houses burned. It was a very small town; how many houses could there have been, really? But, it seems they often did burn (perhaps owing to liquor, which was illegal and therefore plentiful), and the neighbors rallied to provide the necessities. Ubiquitous among the clothes, blankets, and furniture, was a Crisco can of bacon grease. This was when the can was metal and did not bear the marks of either butter flavor or “do not fill with hot liquid.” Truth was, if one was to cook in those parts, one could not without an adequate supply of bacon grease. So, this flavor pervades my youth….and truthfully, my early years of marriage. I am here today to bring to you the wonders of bacon grease. Let me list its uses:

• Rubbed on the outside of potato skins before baking, it imparts a wonderful flavor and crisp skin
• Green beans sautéed in bacon fat before parboiling, with a bit of sugar added—sublime
• Biscuits, dipped in liquid bacon fact before baking—heaven
• And the ultimate Southern delicacy...CHICKEN FRIED STEAK WITH CREAM GRAVY

(To those of you who have just turned away in disgust I say, “Ye of little faith.” That is also what they say in Oklahoma at “dinner on the grounds” of the local Methodist church, but that is another story for another day.)

Here is the recipe. You must follow it faithfully for the proper results, a mélange of crispy coating and creamy white sauce. In fancy restaurants they laud the meat used, but the truth is that it makes no difference what the meat is once you encase it with coating, fry it up, and cover it with a blanket of white. In my family, cube steaks were the meat of the day.

Season the meat well (no chicken or veggie substitutes allowed) with season-salt and pepper. Mix flour in a separate bowl with more salt and pepper. (When you consider the cholesterol, think nothing of the sodium.) In another bowl, mix several eggs with whole milk, quantities being commensurate with the amount of meat.

In a cast iron skillet of good size heat a generous amount of bacon fat, say halfway up the side of the pan. (Oh, please, do not whine to me about where you get that much bacon fat. If you are eating this, you are having bacon for breakfast every morning and pouring the fat into your own Crisco can.) The grease (not oil, grease) should be hot enough to start to sizzle when the meat enters it, but not so hot that it burns rather than cooks.

Author's note: If you think I am cooking this so I can take a picture to show you, you are out of your mind. If I make it, I eat it. Therefore, these must suffice.

Well-seasoned cast iron skillet

One of perhaps six packages of bacon you will need to produce the quantity of bacon fat necessary. Note, I have eaten some of it...and don’t touch my Crisco can!

Dip each piece of meat in the flour mixture, then egg mixture, then back into the flour. There is no shaking here, as you want a thick coating to absorb every delicious molecule of bacony goodness possible. Into the hot fat each piece goes, but do not crowd. The temperature must remain level, and the coating must remain surrounded by grease in order to achieve the perfect golden crust.

After all the meat has been fried, the gravy must be made. DO NOT SKIP THIS PART. Any fool can fry meat. Pour off all the bacon fat but 2 to 3 tablespoons. (You can save this delicious grease, made even tastier by the beef juices, for another round of steak or Southern fried chicken.) Add some of the seasoned flour, enough to make a roux. (If you do not know how much this is, you should not be making this.) Stir it around until thoroughly mixed and beginning to bubble. Slowly add whole milk, stirring constantly until it is a creamy consistency. Too much milk and you have “race-horse” gravy; too little milk and you have a thick paste. Let it bubble for a few minutes until the floury flavor is gone. Pepper well and pour over the meat upon serving. It is good accompanied by mashed potatoes, fresh spring onions, sliced tomatoes still warm from the garden, and the green beans I mentioned previously. If you must, some biscuits to soak up the extra gravy will be acceptable, though in my part of Oklahoma, Wonder bread would do.

That’s it. I need to go and take a statin now.


  1. His Momma - All I can really say is that you were clearly raised right. Yer people know what to do after a house had burned to the ground and they taught you how to make this wonderful dish.

    I have been hearing about this fried meat (chicken) from our blog mistress for years. I'm so glad to have a blog post about it so I may attempt it.

    You know some stuff, plain and simple.

  2. This is fascinating and wonderful. I wish that you had also included something about how to butcher a pig or even a chicken. I wonder... you say no chickens or veggies substituted for the meat to be fried, and your heart of hearts seems to be thinking of beef as the only way forward. My recipe book is pretty full for the next couple weeks, but when I do make this, what other meats could I use? Could I fry bacon or pork chops in the bacon grease, or is that like connecting two positive battery terminals together. What does tofu taste like when it's fried in bacon fat?

  3. Wow, does this bring back memories. Our Crisco can of bacon grease was in northern Florida, but it was just as essential. Of course, since this was before air-conditioning and the house remained open to all those little critters that swarm and crawl around the moss-laden jungles of north Florida, the bacon grease can always contained a little extra protein. Still completely delicious. I'm thinking my hearty immune system was developed by seasoning every meal from that can of warm (from the hot air, not the stove) bacon grease.
    Can you please, please with butter and sugar, post your recipe for biscuits?? I just brought back 15 pounds of White Lily flour from Florida but really need His Momma's proportions and techniques!

  4. Geez His Momma - you even make a namby-pamby vegetarian boy like me consider taking up bacon just so I can then take up fried meat (and bacon fat dipped biscuits, and bacon fat rubbed potatoes, and. . .an appointment with a good cardiologist.)

    And Jshu - I'm just sayin, though I am certain that there are very few things which would not be improved by being rubbed with, dipped in, coated, or fried in bacon fat, you're messing with the start of a possible second civil war by even placing bacon fat and tofu in the same sentence. Even a non meat eater such as myself knows that's just a waste of good pig grease! Watch out, Ebiddie and His Momma know where you live!

  5. Oh my. I keep calling myself a vegetarian, but bacon makes a liar out of me every time.


  6. I appreciate all the support for bacon grease, the openness of the readership in traveling down new food byways, dangerous though they may be, and the scientific entry touting the protein possibilities if you live in the south. What I do not understand is the reference to Tofu. Is that in the soft underbelly of the cow or pig? Bl*mistress, if you live in central Oklahoma, ham loaf IS haute cuisine.

  7. Wow, what a great GuestBlog. It will be hard to match, His Momma, as you have set the bar high for those of us who come after.

    Anyway, it brought back a mental picture of my mother's white enamel (gas) stove in her Ohio kitchen, and a pair of big brushed aluminum salt & pepper shakers sitting on the back (appropriately initialed, of course), alongside a really big matching canister with a close-fitting lid. Although I can't recall the letter or word on it, what she used it for was... you guessed it, bacon grease. Every day. This is because my dad enjoyed a breakfast every morning of his life (after he came home from WWII, where powdered eggs reconstituted with who-knows-what were the morning fare) of two sunnyside-up cackleberries (as he called them) fried in the fat left in the skillet after his 3 slices of bacon were crunchy-done.
    Well, that's not exactly true, because he did not have that breakfast the last week of his life when he was bedridden. Due to a stroke. Let this serve as a gentle caution to enjoy bacon-fried anything in moderation, say 3 times per week.
    Does this rather lengthy comment count as a guest post, oh Bl** Mistress?
    SueShu (who can't figure out how to post a comment with a verifiable credential...)

  8. Rubbing potatoes with bacon grease before baking is pure genius, His Momma. Pure, evil genius. Also, I think that "Any fool can fry meat" should be this bl*g's new subtitle: "Gruel For Dinner: Any Fool Can Fry Meat."

    She raised her son right, too, Mojie. If your house ever burns down, he'll be right there with a Crisco can of bacon grease.

    I'm not surprised your recipe book is full, jshu. This being the height of summer I'm sure your freezer runneth over with peas and corn just waiting to be mixed with powdered cheese and pasta.

    Brilliant idea, EBids, re: the biscuit recipe. I'm pretty sure I can get it out of her.

    William and DED, I eat bacon and still consider myself a vegetarian. An ovo-lacto-porko vegetarian.

    That's quite the moral to the story, SueShu! I will definitely limit my servings of bacon grease to three per week (and remind me to tell you sometime about the yachtsman's former coworker who snuck bacon in the bathroom at work after his heart attack). Also, I think "cackleberry" might be the funniest word I've ever heard.

  9. I have just read this for the THIRD time. I love it! Also, if you think hearing "crakleberry" is funny, try singing it. Just saying.

  10. I hope that medical schools are producing an ample crop of cardiologists to deal with those souls that indulge in this kind of cooking.

  11. His Momma isn't revealing all. The recipe I got from her for the green beans involved immersing them in bacon fat and "boiling the grody" out of them" them (3-4 HOURS). None of this parboiling stuff. The hiker-biker, who is virtuous about what he eats, never knew. I can't make them anymore because we used to use to collect the bacon fat in a Folgers can (much bigger than a Crisco can) and now we use coffee that comes in a bag.

  12. Jshu - as I am sure you are aware with your jet setting lifestyle - the Szechuan delicacy Mapo Doufu depends on the mystical interplay of Tofu and Pork. See, in Asia tofu is a grown up food - one to be mixed with all sorts of dead animals. I have even seen pork and tofu mixed into a spring roll wrapped with pig skin and yuba (tofu skin!). Oh the irony. Anyhow, when you are out of the summers harvest of frozen vegetables and mac 'n' cheese, head to 1012 East cap. I will make you my version of Mapo Doufu that uses...wait for it...BACON. Yes, call me trendy but I like to make a mexico meets china world cup version of the dish substituting chipotle for the XO chile sauce and bacon added to the pork. SMOKEY. Thanks Blog Mistress for this opportunity to talk to my good friend and neighbor, Jshu...if thats really your name. I love this blog - and Mark Bittman. And I shall lurk no longer and comment. Wait, is that going to far.

  13. Larry, could you please start a bl*g? You're WAY more qualified than I am. I suggest calling it "The Mystical Interplay of Tofu and Pork." Please? And if you make Mapo Doufu without inviting me, I will be very, very upset. Tofu and bacon are two of my favorite things.