Troll Cave

The Care and Feeding of Barbarians

Last night we had corned beef for dinner, and we had a fair amount left over, but not overly much. I decided to make a gravy much along the lines of the old timer’s favorite, chipped beef on toast. After peeling 6 lbs. of potatoes with the two youngest barbarians, I started on the gravy.

I generally improvise my gravies, but a good rule of thumb is about 1 TB flour for every TB butter, and for every TB of butter, a 1/2 a cup of milk. Today, I used a stick of butter, a heaping half cup of flour, and somewhere over 5 cups of milk (I thinned out the gravy more after I added the meat; it looked to thick to my eye).

You melt the butter, add the flour, and cook until it’s bubbly and starting to brown. That’s technically called making a roux, but most people here can’t even pronounce that word, never mind know how to use it.

Next, you’re technically supposed to add the liquid (here, I used milk, but it can be broth) slowly, mixing well after each addition. We just dump all the liquid in at once. Since the flour has been coated with the butter, it won’t lump up. (It may seem so at first, because the butter will harden in the cold milk; but once the butter melts again, you’ll have a smooth thick sauce.)

Cook and stir until thick. If you sit there and babysit it, you can have the heat on high the whole way, but if you keep turning your back, doing other things, and generally not stirring constantly, you should have the heat on lower.

The corned beef gets trimed of excess fat, and cut into small pieces. Then it gets uncerimoniously dumped into the gravy. Because the corned beef is already so salty, I don’t make this gravy with broth, which usually has large amounts of salt itself. But I did add very generous amounts of freshly ground pepper.

When the potatoes are done cooking (I use a pressure cooker, 15 lbs. pressure, 2 cups of water, and 10 minutes cooking time after the weight begins to rattle. You can also just boil them, but I feel they’re more watery and flavorless that way.), they need to be mashed. Always add the butter first, or you will have very glue-y potatoes. I had my minion use a stick of butter. Mash the potatoes with the butter until you are satisfied with the lumps or lack thereof. Then splash in as much milk as you desire, and just briefly mash that in to mix. You can use salt (usually) or pepper (not so usually) as you desire, but in the case of this particular meal, I felt the corned beef supplied all the salt that was needed.

The resulting mess is a very good way to use up corned beef. The gravy is soothing and ever-so-slightly sweet, and counter-balances the salty meat. It is warm, it sticks to your ribs, it has sufficient amounts of protein and starch, and tastes good to boot. The youngest male barbarian made noises about how he thought leftover corn beef is better shredded and cooked in scrambled eggs, but he was quickly drowned out and shouted down by other barbarians who much preferred the gravy and potatoes to scrambled eggs.

If you don’t happen to have enough potatoes on hand, or perhaps don’t care for them, or the work, or the time, you can always use toast instead. This is generally frowned upon for two reasons by my barbarians. For one thing, the toast will get soggy, and that is gross. For the other thing, there is only one toaster, with only two slots, and many, many more barbarians.

Posted in How to Stretch | 2 Comments »

2 Responses

  1. abigail Says:

    You have a minion?


  2. The Troll Says:

    Sort of. It’s actually more like pressing them into service. I can usually draft a begrudging assistant or two, for the duration of the meal preparation. Nothing formal or long term, but “minion” sounds better. . .

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