November signals the return of always-fantastic perennial flavors to our menu, including the blast of refreshment and satisfaction that is Dark Chocolate Peppermint. For this delicious reason alone, D.C.P. makes this one of my favorite times of year. Which got me to thinking about the three other main things I love about this time of year:
The End of Daylight Saving Time.
I’ve lived in Ohio for a long time now, but I grew up in Indiana where until a few years ago Hoosiers didn’t ever change the clocks. As a Hoosier ex-pat in Ohio, I kid you not, it took me years to adjust to pushing the clocks ahead in the middle of the stupid night. Now, of course, I’m used to seeing the sun finally set at 10 p.m. in June. But on the first day the clocks are turned back in November, hands down, that is my favorite single day of the year. It’s my Christmas, Black Friday, Boxing Day, Thanksgiving, and New Year’s Day rolled into one giant turducken of a holiday. It’s my day to make promises to myself, to reboot, to re-evaluate . . . and to catch up on the records I’ve been meaning to listen to.
Listening to Records.
To me, there’s not a better way or place to listen to music than by myself while driving a car with sealed windows and a loud stereo. But one year during the early 2000′s, I and two friends held album listening parties in our homes every Wednesday evening for 12 straight months. The host cooked, chose an album, and sent invitations. There was no talking while a side of an album played.
At the time, I wrote about music for The Columbus Dispatch, so I was regularly sent pre-releases of CDs. But we rarely tucked into anything new after the night we aborted a new Pearl Jam CD four songs in and ended up listening to George Jones’ I Am What I Am. Instead, we chose relics. Vinyl. Not to go all CDs-suck-you’ve-gotta-hear-it-on-vinyl-man, but there is something much more warm and rewarding about the experience of unsheathing a record from a beautifully designed sleeve, putting the record on the platter, and hearing the music when it involves a needle and wax.
Classic rock, rock, jazz, folk, country — we listened to a variety, much as my wife Michelle and I did during this past Turn Back the Clock weekend. The playlist included: Buck Owens (I’ve Got a Tiger by the Tail), Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn (Lead Me On), Marty Robbins (Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs), Steely Dan (The Royal Scam), Television (The Blow-Up), Aerosmith (Get Your Wings), the Rolling Stones (Through the Past Darkly (Big Hits-Vol. 2)), Alice Coltrane (Journey in Satchidananda), Rod Stewart (Foolish Behaviour), Lou Reed (Rock and Roll Heart), Divine Fits (A Thing Call Divine Fits), and Little Richard (The Original) — and it all sounded great while we cooked a week’s worth of food.
During summer months and into fall, my cooking tends to involve three things: 1) tossing beans and lettuce in tortillas, 2) hard boiling eggs, and 3) shredding chicken from grocery store rotisserie birds, mixing it with Duke’s mayo (always Duke’s!), and putting it between two pieces of crusty bread. When the sun is up and the weather is warm it’s hard to spend much time near a stove. It’s not so much the heat and sunlight, it’s just that there’s just too damn much to experience outside.
But this time of year, cooking is a pleasure. Big, one-pot dishes are the go-to’s: curries, stews, roasted vegetables and meats, soups–anything that fogs up all the windows, fills the place with savory aromas, and lasts for more than one meal is what’s up. Here’s something I make about every other week from now through Easter, something I call Low Hoosier Boil. I love Low Hoosier Boil because it’s delicious as all hell and requires zero grace in the kitchen.
Also, I get to use macro-brewed beer as a main ingredient, which reminds me of my grandma who used to bake bread with Miller High Life (the beer immortalized in these Errol Morris commercials). The brand of beer you choose is your decision, but go with a thin lager. The thin ones do the spices good in this stew. I’ve been going with see-through Coors only because I like the current novelty container, which looks like a 16-ounce hair spray bottle and comes with a screw-on cap in case you don’t drink all 16 ounces and want to save it for the next day and take it with you on a hike in the woods or something. Hilarious.
Low Hoosier Boil goes with rice (any kind), noodles (Asian to Amish), potatoes (mashed or roasted Yukon Gold are best), and quinoa (if the doctor says so). If you don’t eat anything that runs blood, sub chickpeas for meat.
Here’s how to make Low Hoosier Boil:
- Dutch oven
- Heat-proof spatula or flathead wooden spatula
- Can opener
- Olive oil
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 1 red, orange, or yellow bell pepper, chopped
- Garlic (however much you like)
- 1.5 pounds meat (turkey breast; chicken breast; stew beef) cut into cubes or 1 14.5-ounce can chickpeas
- Cumin, turmeric, salt, dried oregano, and red chili powder to taste
- 1/3 stick butter (unsalted)
- 1 6-ounce can tomato paste (no salt added if you can find it)
- 16 ounces lager (preferably see-through domestic)
- 4 14.5-ounce cans diced tomatoes (no salt added); this time of year use canned tomatoes
- Fresh cracked black pepper to taste
- 1 sprig fresh chopped parsley
- Set a burner to medium-high heat and heat the olive oil in the Dutch oven.
- Add onion, bell pepper, and the eyeballed amounts of spices (cumin, turmeric, salt, oregano, and chili powder). Stir for 2-3 minutes until everything is covered, glistening, and beginning to soften.
- Add smashed and diced garlic. Stir for 2-3 minutes and don’t let it burn.
- Add the tomato paste and stir (add more oil if necessary to avoid scorching).
- Add meat (or chick peas) and stir to incorporate for 1-2 minutes.
- Add the butter and stir it until it’s fully melted.
- Add half of one tall boy to the pot and stir to incorporate. Let the mixture boil for a bit, stirring occasionally. Then add the rest of the beer (or finish it off yourself), stir, turn over whatever record you’re listening to, and grab yourself a drink. I usually go with something with a little more heft at this point, typically a pale ale, or when friends are near the stove to share it, something from our pals at Rockmill or Seventh Son.
- Add the diced tomatoes, stir it all together, and let it go for 5-7 minutes or so.
- Turn heat to low and let simmer for 60 to 80 minutes. Taste along the way, adding salt and pepper to taste.
- Garnish with parsley.
- Dish it up in bowls with a side of whatever grains or starch you like and clear the palate after dinner with Dark Chocolate Peppermint ice cream or whatever flavor you prefer.