Let’s Cook: Autumn Days with Marsala
Have you heard the good news? Marsala has been recognized in quite a few places about our hamlet. It was a fortunate day for this writer when strolling by a fence and there was Marsala. Wow! Are you aware that it is nurturing and fulfilling? Plus, it appears very hearty and the talk around the John Deere combine is that Marsala is equally appealing to men and women. Oh, Marsala where have you been all these years? Rugby’s claim to fame is “the geographical center of North America” but with the countless appearances of Marsala, Rugby might well be on the way to being the center of Marsala Passion!
Just in case you are not aware, Marsala is the Pantone Color of the Year for 2015. Some people remember every winning move of the Rugby Panthers, some brag about the Minot State Beavers, others boast about the NDSU Bison, but in the Repnow home we are a bit more quaint. We look forward to seeing the Pantone color of the year, and how it is going to play out it our lives.
For example, recently someone asked Lydia about her newly decorated bedroom. Her response, “It has two shades of lavender and the Pantone color of year for 2014: radiant orchid.” The corners on the mouth of the listener went up! Lydia just made a colorful, in fact, vibrant, touchdown!
The description of Marsala 18-1438: “a naturally robust and earthy wine red, Marsala enriches our minds, bodies, and souls.” My first views of Marsala brought to mind the lobby walls of the former Rose Theater in downtown Underwood. Grant and Marcella Roseth, who operated the Rose Theater, had the lobby walls painted in a deep shade of red/wine rose. I am sure they were second cousins to Marsala.
Marsala has been around now for several months, but it is that personal experience that connects us to color of the year. Color experts forecasted that Marsala would translate easily to fashion, beauty, industrial design, and would make a big splash with home furnishing and interiors. I have not seen much of Marsala in these venues in Rugby. No, Marsala is missing most lips and nails in Rugby. However, she has had an obsession with the fall foliage.
She has been seen in a passionate embrace with the crimson hues of the early maples and she has been mingling with the cozy cottonwoods of Ellery Park-not to mention her taking a shine to those scarlet horse-chestnut leaves on Third Street SE! I ponder to think where she would scoot next if the sky turned into a violet haze. Do you think the folks at Pantone should be informed how she has been caring on with our deciduous neighbors?
We are currently enjoying the most gorgeous Persian rug that nature creates each fall. New splendid patterns are featured each day as brilliant leaves are woven into streets, distant fields and water puddles. Marsala may be making a fashion statement in footwear, lipstick, furniture, and maybe even on a vintage Volkswagen van. But on the prairie land, she comes in purest form as her color appears in the muteness and vibrancy of autumn as nature changes robes. Take time to walk just before the sunset hour and see how often Marsala reveals herself in the tilted light that intensifies her hue. I can assure her wondrous display will leave you nothing to wine about.
As the sun is setting earlier each day and we feel that frostiness in the air, it reminds us of the coming winter evenings of drawn drapes, cozy homes, a book at hand, and the inviting aroma from a well-prepared kitchen meal.
While living in Massachusetts, I had the chance to experience this dish many times. Here is a recipe I received from a chef at the Northampton Hotel in Northampton. In keeping with the tone of Marsala, this recipe does have wine! It does take patience when making this dish as not to rush the cooking. Once you have mastered this dish, you and your gathered guests will lose yourself in its charms.
1 tablespoon lard
1 cup of diced salt pork or bacon
3 pounds of seasoned round beef cut into small pieces
20 or so small white onions
6 to 8 small carrots (cut into small inch pieces)
2 chopped shallots
1 crushed clove of garlic
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups red wine
1 cup beef stock
1 bouquet garni (composed of 1 large bay leaf, 1 spring of thyme, 6 sprigs of fresh parsley, 2 sprigs of celery tops tied together with kitchen string)
pound of sliced mushrooms
Place lard and salt pork, or bacon, in a heavy Dutch oven and cook gently over a low flame, stirring often until salt pork becomes cracklings or bacon is crisp. Remove the meat and keep hot. Take three pounds of beef, which has been seasoned with salt and pepper and browned well on all sides in the fat from the first meat. Add onions, carrots and continue to cook until they take on color. Drain off all fat, add chopped shallots, garlic, and two tablespoons of all-purpose flour and blend well.
Next, add wine and beef stock. This should cover the meat-if not, add more stock. Add bouquet garni and bring to a gentle boil; cover and let simmer for two hours or until meat is tender. Cook the mushrooms in 2 to 3 tablespoons of butter.
Once the meat mixture is done cooking, transfer it to a heat platter. Do this by using a straining ladle leaving the sauce in the pan, then add the cracklings or bacon and mushrooms and keep hot.
If the stew has been cooked very gently, the sauce should be just right and ready to use. If it has become too thick by fast cooking, add a little hot beef stock, taste for seasoning, and strain it over the meat. Sprinkle with parsley and serve at once with plain boiled potatoes or plain boiled noodles.
Buttermilk Corn Bread
This is an easy bread to serve with this tasty beef dish, and it is greatly enhanced when spread with a bit of dill butter.
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
teaspoon of salt
teaspoon of baking soda
1 cup of buttermilk
2 eggs slightly beaten
cup of butter melted and cool
In a large bowl sift together the flour, corn meal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add to this the buttermilk, eggs, butter and stir the batter until it is just combined. Pour the batter into a well buttered 8-inch square baking pan and bake in a preheated oven at 425 degrees for 35 minutes on the center rack, or until it is golden.
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