Most of us have at least one or two "fond memories" (which may be code for: burned into the brain traumas) of Mother in the kitchen -- whether she was a gourmet cook or a baked-beans-in-a-can afficionado.
My own mom was no great whiz at the stove. We ate a lot of canned weenies and beanies during the week -- she let my Dad do most of the weekend dinners and Sunday breakfasts. But there are a few things she made that I really loved. Like after the first snowfall, she'd go out and get a bowl of fresh snow and make sno-cones for us. She loved to make pineapple upsidedown cake and brownies with walnuts. She had a great recipe for pork chops in tomato sauce that's a meal I still make today: totally easy and really delicious. And for special occasions she made the best pot de creme I've ever tasted, served in beautiful gold-rimmed tiny porcelain cups (she still sometimes makes this, if I beg her). She also religiously watched every single episode of Julia Child's "The French Chef" on an old black and white portable TV we kept in the kitchen. Not that she ever tried her hand at cassoulet.
As for worst memories? One time she didn't have any eggs or real milk, so she tried making pancakes in the morning with just flour and powdered milk and water. They were so bad they made my little sister cry.
Below, a couple of my mom's recipes (the good ones). We'd love to hear some of yours. Or tell us what foods your Mom cooked that you really loved. It'll be good practice -- on Sunday, you can tell her.
Makes four servings.
Go outside and get a bowl of freshly fallen snow.
With an ice cream scoop, place one ball in each of four cups.
Drizzle with condensed milk, thinned with a little water, to which you have added a drop or two of vanilla flavoring.
[alternately: sprinkle with sugar in which a vanilla bean has been buried for a month or two.]
June's Italian Style Pork Chops
4 pork chops
two cloves garlic
one 28 oz can tomatoes
Preheat oven to 350.
Season four pork chops with salt and pepper on each side and rub with olive oil. Heat a cast iron pan until very hot and sear chops on both sides so you get a nice carmelized crust on each side -- they don't have to be cooked all the way through. Set aside.
Make the tomato sauce. Thinly slice onion and chop garlic. Heat a couple of tbsp of olive oil in a heavy non-reactive pan. Add onions and garlic and saute over medium heat about 5 minutes, taking care not to burn garlic. Add chopped thyme and stir. Add can of tomatoes with their juice, either squeezing tomatoes in your hand first or mushing them up with a spoon after adding. Season with salt and pepper and cook down until it has thickened a little.
Place chops and their juice in an ovenproof dish, in a single layer. Pour the tomato sauce over the chops so that they are submerged in sauce. Cover with foil and bake for about 30 minutes (depending on thickness of chops).
When chops are done, remove to plates, sprinkle with chopped fresh basil, and serve with rice.
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