Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Chucks Challenge

I went to the library with a group of friends recently. We had lots of fun just hanging out, and then took a nice walk. When me and a young friend realized we had almost identical shoes on, we both thought it would be fun to see how many of you can identify the real All Stars, and the knock-offs.

Now for something completely different...

A few friends have requested my recipe for that most wonderful of comfort foods that hails from many villages in Africa. It is basically rice cooked with veggies and whatever kind of meat you may have. One of my favorite authors, Neil Peart, fondly dubbed the dish, "Rice With Junk on it." Mr. Peart is not only a fine writer, but also the fantastic drummer from the Canadian band known as Rush. What these three guys have accomplished in music is amazing, and Neil's books are as great as his insightful lyric writing and percussion skills. His website is pretty cool too--check out the "Bubba's Bar and Grill" section of his website, he's quite the foodie!

The dish in question is merely an adaptation of a meal frequently described in Peart's book, The Masked Rider: Cycling in West Africa. In the book, Peart tells many a tale of his travel group, and some of the parts I liked best were the passages he wrote about the food he ate while on his journey. Rice with junk on it was the name given to a common dish he was served after exhausting days on the bike trail. As far as I know, no 'official' recipe exists for it, which makes it all the more appealing. Kinda goes with the spirit of cooking I love to embrace. Take what you have, and make it mouthwatering.

So, for Mr. Peart, here is my version of Rice with junk on it. Thank you sir, for writing about this fun dish.

In a big skillet or pot, pour a few tablespoons of olive oil. Add one pound of meat, your choice. Grass-fed beef is nice, either ground, chunks, or strips. Chicken works well too. I suppose you could use a pile of bacon or proscuitto if you are feeling fancy and your cholesterol count allows. Throw in some chopped onion or garlic if you like. Add some savory spices, like cracked pepper, or perhaps some oregano or marjoram. Cook the meat until it is browned. Strain off the fat if you wish, and add one cup of rice, and two cups of water or broth. At this point you can add veggies, but if you do, make sure you keep an eye on it so that you can add more liquid if it looks like it's getting too dry. Let the water come to a boil, cover the pot with a lid, and lower the heat until the flame is very low. Let it sit that way for about thirty minutes, and then turn off the heat. Let it rest five minutes, and voila! Rice with junk on it. Elegant, simple and most importantly, yummy.

This pairs great with a fresh green salad and a good helping of Rush music. You can also make it in the crock pot if you wish. Just throw all the ingredients into the crock and let it simmer on low for a good long while. We have this at least once a month.

To close, here is my little ditty called "Crock-pot prayer", from way back when I first became a mama, first published in that little zine that smacks of literary brilliance, Hip MaMa. Read this one to the cadence of the "this is my rifle' prayer as spoken en masse in the movie "Full Metal Jacket" when the soldiers are going to bed. 

Crock-Pot Prayer
This is my crock-pot.
 There are many like it, but this one is mine. My crock-pot is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it as I must master my life. Without me, my crock-pot is useless. Without my crock-pot, I am useless. I must cut my vegetables true, I must use the temperature gague correctly, or eat fast food, which is trying to kill my family. If we are to eat dinner at all in this house, I must cook crock-pot meals-I will!

Before God, I swear this creed-my crock pot and myself are defenders of good nutrition, we are masters of our enemy-junk food. We are the saviours of my life. So be it, until there is no enemy, but peace and quiet and time enough to do everything  that I must do in 24 hours a day and still get dinner on the table before 10 o'clock at night. AMEN!

Eat well, have fun, love lots!

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