Guest blogger Michael Noble returns once again, this time to regale us with a tale of Salisbury steak. This ought to be interesting…
Funny thing about me and food: I get a craving for something and, of course, it won’t be readily available right then and there. What to do?
Well, over the last 15 years or so, I bite the bullet, look up whatever it is I’m craving, and figure out how to make it from scratch.
Some of my previous attempts?
Off the top of my head: Eggnog. Macaroni and cheese. Shepherd’s pie. Almond roca. Mushroom soup. Custard pie. Fresh whipped cream. (No, not all were successes the first time around. I’ve since tweaked a couple of them during later attempts and made them work to my satisfaction. The really interesting one was my custard pie; it came out perfectly the first time I made it. The second time it didn’t work so well for whatever reason. As the saying goes: They can’t all be gems.)
Now… I’m well aware every single one of those items mentioned is easily procured if you simply jump into the car and head over to the local grocery store. But I’m not the sort of person who takes the easy road in such situations. I’d much rather go a’huntin’, get some hands-on learning in and gain the experience and satisfaction of doing it myself.
Last week one of those “situations” raised its head and its name was Salisbury steak. For whatever reason, the dish cropped up somehow, somewhere (I believe I saw a picture in a magazine) and I started salivating at the very thought of it. A little strange, I know… but a craving is a craving.
So, I went looking for a recipe. My intention was to make Salisbury steak to enjoy with The Golden Globes awards broadcast Sunday evening.
“Sunday night? I’m making Salisbury steak for dinner. I’m craving it for some reason,” I announced. “That work?”
“Knock yourself out,” I was told.
I found a recipe that fit my needs – it just so happened to be a slow cooker recipe – and, to my delight, I discovered I had all the ingredients at hand necessary to make the dish. Well… almost.
There was one item I lacked: A particular gravy mix. But I knew there were a few extra containers of brown gravy languishing in the pantry from the holidays. I figured I could doctor some to the point of edibility. (Despite the fact it was a name brand product, rarely does something that comes from a jar “work” in a recipe from scratch. Whipping it up fresh is usually preferable.)
Now… Let’s talk about my experience with Salisbury steak for a moment. Honestly, it had been a long, long time since I last had it. Truth be told, the memory of it was probably a lot more delectable in my mind than in reality. I did remember someone making it in the past and it being a taste delight at the time. Other than that? My Salisbury steak memories consisted of my mother tossing frozen TV dinners in the oven for us kids. Hey… We liked those TV dinners. They came with interesting potatoes and strangely attractive vegetables. The fried chicken was pretty damned good. And the desserts were always a surprise treat, too. (What did we know? We were young, culinarily-inexperienced, impressionable kids.) But I remember… I remember the Salisbury steak dinners were one of my favorites.
It was meat (and, as a kid, I loved meat) but a different kind of meat. It was weird meat is what it was… but kids dig “weird.” Of course, what I liked as a kid didn’t always translate over to adulthood. I foggily recall having one of those dinners with about 20 years nestled between the last experience and it wasn’t what I remembered. In fact, it was pretty much inedible. Adulthood will do that to your taste buds, you know. Thankfully.
So, why I was all hot and bothered to reacquaint myself with Salisbury steak was a bit of a mystery. But I figured I could make it from scratch head and shoulders above what could be peeled back and exposed from beneath a thin layer of aluminum foil straight out of the oven, all hot and bubbly and oozing over into the other segments of that hot metal tray.
Sunday came and I got to work. I seasoned and formed the hamburger meat with CBS Sunday Morning speaking to me in the background. And then I browned the patties and drained the grease, wrapped them up and tucked them snugly away in the fridge for later disposition. Later, as the afternoon got on, I added the remainder of the ingredients into the crock pot, placed the patties at its bottom, covered all, and switched the pot to its lowest setting. In four hours, there would be Salisbury delight wafting in the air.
As the time got nearer, I made mashed potatoes and fried up Delicata squash to compliment the meal. With those condiments complete, I switched off the crock pot and lifted the lid.
The aroma that arose from the pot was appealing, comforting, beefy. I could hardly wait to dig in.
The table set, the food served, I began. That first taste was Salisbury steak, all right. But nothing I’d ever quite tasted previously. Yes… the hot, smothered flavors were there from my youth but there was a distinctive taste I couldn’t quite put my finger on. It wasn’t off-putting by any stretch of the imagination, but it wasn’t anything I readily recalled, either.
I struck up a conversation after a few bites, “Remember Clifton’s Cafeteria in the mall when we were kids? How it had those long lines of cafeteria offerings, all the senior citizens milling about trying to decide what to put on their plates? I’m getting that sort of vibe from this. Not in a bad way, more in a comforting way. It brings back those memories…”
“No… it’s not bad at all. And it does bring back memories, all right,” came the response. “And, since you opened the door and started critiquing, I’ll throw in my two cents: It kind of reminds me of those TV dinners I had as a kid. There weren’t any I remember ever really liking. Sorry.”
Huh. Guess me and my nostalgia and my memories will be revisiting Salisbury steak all by our lonesomes next time around…
Thanks, Michael. I’m feeling an odd craving for a TV dinner right now. You can read more by Michael at hotchka.com.
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