Beans. Cornbread. Green leaves.
You know that food doesn’t become comforting unless it is served up with reliable predictability, right? Thus, turkey gravy and sugar-butter slathered sweet potato casserole are comforting at Thanksgiving; mayo-rich tomato basil pie is comforting at the end of summer; a Fiesta Ware tea cup of ice-cream is comforting at any time; and even beans and their music are comforting because they come at least once a week.
Over the course of making beans, cornbread, and salad over and over and over again, my family has become attached to a meal that satisfies both their hearts and bodies.
I’ve cooked this food many times and gotten better at it over the years. I hope that you do the same. Cook something for your family so often that it becomes reliably tasty and have some fun with it.
And now, despite my typical glee at poking fun of pretentious menus and recipe titles, I’m going to sell this meal to you like a Southern Food Bistro Restauranteur™:
Savory Slow-Simmered Brown Beans With Petit Jean Ham Bone
Jalepeno, Corn, and Sharp-Cheddar Stuffed Buttermilk Cornbread
Autumn Harvest Spicy Greens with Tarragon and Mint and Dijon Garlic Honey Dressing
I started the beans around noonish during a break from homeschool.
I poured two pounds of rinsed, el-cheapo Walmart brand pinto beans and water into the dented 6 qt. Revere Ware dutch oven we received for our wedding from loving relatives and which has seen more meals than I can count and which will be passed on to a future generation because it isn’t Teflon.
I brought the water and beans to a simmer, put on the lid, added more water when needed; seasoned with salt and black pepper closer to supper time when the beans were tender. At some point in the afternoon I remembered that I had a frozen ham bone left over from Jackson’s graduation party in May and I threw that in. Generally speaking, though, our beans are meatless because pinto beans have a luscious flavor even with mere salt and pepper.
Our family’s cornbread recipe comes down to us from the back of the Aunt Jemima Corn Meal bag. I don’t know of a better basic recipe. I make mine in a cast iron skillet. I think you should, too.
This night I cleaned out the fridge and added some exciting things–spicy peppers that a local backyard gardener had given to a friend who didn’t know what to do with them, who gave them to me, who put them in the fridge unloved until they were on the verge of perishing, and then I had pity on them; a partial bag of frozen corn the kids had raided to do some experimental ramen noodle creations; a half-brick of cheddar remaining from the lake picnic, grated; the sad stubs of almost forgotten green and red salsas; an extra egg; milk spiked with a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar to make buttermilk; and
an entire stick of melted butter.
Quinn asked me if I set the timer when I put it in the oven. I didn’t. I just kept checking it and took it out when it looked beautiful.
After I put in the cornbread, and after the rain, I ran outside to harvest the kale, arugula and butter lettuce that has managed somehow to survive our hot, dry September. Tarragon and mint jumped into my lettuce basket. I told the family I did the best I could removing the pine needles and caterpillar caviar but they should be on guard.
The dressing I whisked up as Ed politely requested that the children come to supper. He is so polite. I just holler. The dressing was an almost-Ceasar: mayo, Kroger Brand Real French Dijon mustard, extra virgin olive oil, apple cider vinegar, honey, and minced garlic.
Those are not recipes, I know, but that’s what happened. And it was good.
Please come eat beans with us. If you come regularly enough, it will become your comfort food, too.