Monday, December 5, 2011

a nod to mimee

Geez, Louise, I've got some catching up to do. I've done lots of cooking since that last post this summer, but a new job has left me little time for blogging. Beyond my own cooking, I did a daring amount of eating on a trip to France and Italy in September, and I plan to record that here, too. It was the best kind of vacation: I had ice cream or gelato nearly every day and sometimes twice.

A Speculoos-flavored cone in Paris. It's ice cream made out of cookies!

But let's start with my most recent kitchen marathon: Thanksgiving! I spent the day at my brother's house, and I brought Parker House rolls, a bourbon pumpkin pie with pecan streusel and a cranberry family favorite. In the kitchen the day before the holiday, I thought about how magazines love to refer to recipes "just like Grandma used to make," hinting at such comforting quilted blankies as tradition and Old World simplicity. But I have to say, that comparison never has rung true for me about my North Texas-bred, non-cookie-baking grandmother.

Sweet as she was, Mimee, my mom's mom, was not much of a cook. Like most women of her generation, she did cook nearly every meal for her household; they just didn't taste very good, to be honest. Still, she sustained four children and her husband and even sewed all of her children's clothes until they were in high school. At that point, my mom and her sisters begged to have store-bought clothes with tags! — like seemingly everyone else in Fort Worth in the '60s. Mimee responded by ordering a box of cloth labels embroidered with "Mr. Fine of Dallas" — a real brand? I might never know — and stitching them into the necks of their shirts and dresses. No one can say she wasn't resourceful.

Mimee's father owned a bakery. I bet he made great rolls. I used this recipe.

She had her charms, too. One of my favorite of my grandmother's idiosyncrasies was the way she adapted to the invention of the answering machine. She left messages at our house as though she were leaving my mom a note, signing it aloud at the end: "Mother."

This was a SUPER boozy pie. It was more mellow and much better eaten cold. It came from here.

The best thing I can say about eating at Mimee's house is that she was very generous with ice cream. She would stock up on neopolitan from the Braum's down the street when we'd visit from Austin. Otherwise, she made tuna sandwiches that were too wet and served cottage cheese alongside everything. Along with green bell peppers, cottage cheese is one of the few foods I still absolutely can't stand.

But in my opinion Mimee had one shining recipe, a cranberry side she brought to our family's Thanksgiving table every year. It was one of those totally outdated fruit concoctions with Jell-O (flavor: anything red) as the main ingredient, but we all loved it. She made a similar dish with green Jell-O, pineapple, pecans and cottage cheese like the one at Luby's, but the Thanksgiving one was blessedly free of curdy dairy products.

I don't have Mimee's original recipe, and I don't know where she came across it. So the past few Thanksgivings, I've been making a reimagined version that cuts the Jell-O but keeps the freshness. It's uncooked and really quick. It's also something I do by feel each time without a recipe to follow. So this year only after I'd puckered the mouths of Miguel's family with a too-tart version I brought to an early Thanksgiving dinner the weekend before — I wrote down the measurements of the correctly sweetened version I brought over to my brother's. It's a keeper.

A Nod to Mimee Cranberry Relish
Seems to serve any size group of Thanksgiving guests; with all the other food around, most people take only a few spoonfuls.

12-ounce bag of fresh cranberries
two medium-sized juicy oranges
1/4 cup sugar

Rinse the cranberries in a small colander and toss them into a food processor. Zest one orange over the cranberries. Squeeze in the juice of the oranges, add the lid and let the food processor go until it's pretty much just stirring the tiny bits of slightly liquified berries. Pour it into a bowl, stir in the sugar and taste it. Add in a tablespoon more of sugar if needed. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

No comments:

Post a Comment