Saturday, May 23, 2009

FAMILY RECIPES

When I mentioned cooking Family Recipes with my son on his MD visit, I got to thinking about several things that are sort of unusual to most people, and one recipe that I don't believe is made by anyone else---what I dubbed "Redneck Gazpacho" when Kim was coming to visit.

My first MIL made it and it was always called "Stuffed Tomatoes." She said it was from the "Maynard side" and had begun when Mayonnaise was a brand-new invention, and had to be made by hand, way before the family had electricity, or indeed, any appliance to ease the effort. And how on Earth word of such a gourmet preparation reached all the way from Careme to the hills and hollers of rural Mississippi in 1880 is a mystery past my solving.

Maw always hollowed out the prettiest, well-matched tomatoes for her presentation; she'd stuff them just so and round the tops carefully, to make them into perfect orbs balanced amongst the parsley on a pretty plate. They were among the several recipes she referred to as "Preacher Food," and certainly the intent was elegant, if not the title.

And I can remember that teenage SIL and BIL would take several apiece, eat all the contents with a spoon, and leave the forlorn little pink shells for the chickens. And hollowing out all those tomatoes was not really fun work, so I began peeling them, mushing the whole bunch and chopping them with a handy little hand-chopper in a bowl, and going from there---despite my leanings toward gussying up certain dishes, this one just caused too much work and too much waste. Besides, it's really pretty, all pink and creamy in a cut-glass compote.

And last month when I made it as "Gazpacho," it was WAY early in the season, so I threw a couple of boxes of washed grape tomatoes into the blender, one box at a time, with a little mayo, gave them a whirl til pureed, skins and all, and then added the other ingredients. I also halved the amount of crackers to keep the consistency more like soup, and crushed them almost into powder, by putting them in a heavy gallon Ziploc and doing a little dance-and-grind across them with a bottle til they were dust.

So---a simple, old-timey, carbs-and-cholesterol-be-darned recipe, easy to make, and one of the stellar "Things In Dishes" in the Family Repertoire:

STUFFED TOMATOES:

Six or eight good-sized tomatoes---shape doesn't matter in this case
A sleeve of saltines, crushed, with lots of small bits, not powder
A good spoon-clop of mayo (Blue Plate or Duke's make it authentic, but NEVER Miracle Whip!!)
1/2 lb. bacon, fried or microwaved---save the drippings
S&P to taste, but AFTER the bacon is added

Peel tomatoes and chop fine as possible, or smush them with your immaculately-sterile fingers, into an almost-puree, with some small bits left for color. Stir in mayo, then start adding crackers; stir well, and watch for consistency---it should be thick, but not dry. You may not need to add all the crackers, depending on size of tomatoes.

Crumble bacon and stir it in, along with however much of the drippings you care to---all is good, if you like a good bacon flavor, but it's to your taste.

Taste, and then salt and pepper to taste. Store in fridge for several hours, then stir well just before serving, or stuffing into a quarter-cut tomato for a salad plate, or put an ice cream scoop onto lettuce or sliced tomatoes.

Once Daddy said, "I'll bet this would REALLY be good if you put in some bell pepper." It wasn't---changed it completely, and totally eclipsed the amalgam of those perfectly-matched flavors.

This recipe has been in the family for more than a hundred years, and tastes like a creamy BLT. Delicious for a Summer Lunch alongside Chicken Salad, or for a dinner side salad, and pretty enough for company.

Anyone else have an odd Family Recipe that nobody else makes? I love hearing about traditions that maybe no one else has.


7 comments:

Bev said...

Wonder what it would taste like on a burger? I've never heard of anyone else's family making Scotch Chips before..that's one of our "from long ago" recipes. p.s. glad you are back and feeling better.

racheld said...

Thanks, Bev!!

Could you elaborate on the Scotch Chips? Sounds like something fried, and that's gotta be good, right?

Kouign Aman said...

Its soooo good to be reading your voice again!

I hardly cook anything my parents do/did.
My husband's family has a recipe for a chocolate pudding cake that comes from his grandma. Its cake on top, pudding in the bottom, all made in one pan. Maybe that?

racheld said...

It's good to HAVE a voice again, without hacking!! Thanks.

Would it be anything like the "Ugly Cake" that we made so often in the 70's/80's, with the cake batter poured into the buttered pan, and then the chocolate/sugar/hot water poured on top to sink and make a sauce beneath? It was scrumptious with ice cream.

shookjc said...

I can vouch for this stuff - it was amazing and I'm glad to have a recipe!

racheld said...

Glad you liked it, Jess---my Sis said she went right out and got the ingredients, as well. It's really tasty in Summer, when you have lots of tomatoes in the garden.

~~louise~~ said...

What a blend of memories, Rachel. Thanks for "bringing" your family recipe to the picnic. It sure was a hit!