Like so many others, our family has been getting ready to go back to school. But unlike years before, this year was very different. Both of our children were leaving for college, and we were planning our last family meal together.
My husband says that I have a flair for the dramatic, and this would NOT actually be “our last family meal,” but as mom and the family cook, I felt like this was a big step. Children grow up and change and that is the way it is supposed to be. If you have had a child to go off to college, you know they are different when they come home. Different in many ways that are good, and maybe a few that are not so good. Meals in our house will be different, (I am already working on my article entitled “Cooking for 2”) but now was the time to celebrate.
Family meals have been a big part of our lives. Not always perfect, and sometimes even in the car, we always tried to make meal time a priority. I like to cook so most of our food was homemade. However, if you do not like to cook or do not have time to cook, do not give up on family meal time. It is important to try to gather each day at some point.
I can remember many people talking about the “good old days of lockdown” when families would gather around the table. Our schedules were cleared, and we only had family dinner time to entertain us. Many people told me that the family meal time became something to look forward to during lockdown. Families stayed together, cooked together, and talked together enjoying table fellowship. Running around had temporarily ceased for the time.
I realize we all needed to get back to our normal lives, but I hope you have been able to set aside one day a week for a family meal. Whether it is taco Tuesday or breakfast for dinner on a Sunday evening, please make it a priority. Before you know it, you will be preparing your last family meal.
This menu is quite an indulgent one. There is no way to say it nicely, these recipes are very bad for you. Sometimes I need a little “bad” to celebrate the “good!”
Country Fried Steak with Milk Gravy
If you are going to eat country fried steak then go “all in” and cook it in some bacon grease. Yes, I still save my bacon grease for occasions such as county fried steak or fried green tomatoes. Please understand that I am not suggesting you eat this meal very often but it is worthy of an occasional indulgence.
4 tenderized cubed steaks (can substitute tenderized deer steak)
38 (or about one sleeve) crackers, finely crushed
1¼ cup all-purpose flour, divided
1 t. salt
1 t. pepper
½ t. red pepper
½ t. baking power
4¾ cup milk, divided
2 large eggs, beaten
Salt/pepper to taste
Bacon grease or cooking oil
Season steaks with salt and pepper. Combine crackers, 1 cup flour, salt, pepper, red pepper, and baking powder. Whisk together ¾ cup milk and eggs.
Dredge steak in cracker mixture, then milk and egg, then cracker mixture again. Allow steaks to rest for a few minutes while you heat grease or oil in a large skillet. Cook steaks in hot oil for two to three minutes, turn over and cook another two to three minutes until golden brown. Remove steak and keep warm in a 325° oven. Carefully drain most of the oil, saving all the reserved bits.
In a large bowl, whisk together remaining 4 cups of milk, ½ cup flour, 1 t. salt and 1 t. pepper. Add to reserve drippings and cook, whisking constantly over medium-high heat until thickened.
Serve over steaks and mashed potatoes.
Whipped Mashed Potatoes
6 large baking potatoes, cleaned, peeled, and cut into 1-inch pieces
4 T. butter
1 cup milk
Salt and pepper to taste
Boil the potatoes in salted water for about 15 minutes until potatoes are fork tender. Drain and return the potatoes to the pan. Add butter and about 1 cup of milk to the hot potatoes. Using a mixer or electric beaters, whip the potatoes until light and fluffy adding additional milk if necessary. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Green Bean Bundles
2 cans of whole green beans (I have used fresh and frozen, but prefer the canned.)
1/2-pound thin sliced bacon, cut in half
Divide green beans into small bundles of about six to eight each and wrap in bacon. Secure with toothpick if needed. Put all bundles in an oven proof casserole dish.
Green Bean Sauce:
3 T. butter
3 T. tarragon vinegar
½ t. salt
1 t. paprika
1 T. freshly chopped parsley
1 t. onion juice or 1 t. freshly grated onion
Combine all sauce ingredients in a small sauce pan and heat until butter is melted and thoroughly mixed. Pour over the green bean bundles. Bake in a 375° oven for 15 to 20 minutes. If bacon is not brown put under the broiler until bacon is crispy.
Frank’s World Famous Biscuits
The biscuit recipe is one of my favorites and is Frank Latham’s recipe. Mr. Latham used to run a restaurant in downtown Jackson. I have always loved his biscuit recipe because when he ran for city council years ago, he printed the recipe on his political flyers in the shape of a biscuit! So fun. I still have the campaign card.
2 cups flour
1 t. salt
1 T. baking powder
½ cup shortening
¾ cup milk
Carefully cut in shortening with all dry ingredients and then pour in mix. Mix with your hands until combined. Press out dough on a floured surface to about ¾ inch thick. Cut and bake 400° for about 12-15 minutes.
Homemade Angel Food Cake
With such a heavy meal, a light dessert is in order. I grew up eating angel food cake and it was often my selected birthday cake. My mom would make the box cake and I would request no icing. The box cake is delicious and I still make it occasionally, but angel food cake from scratch is another level. It is spongy and light with great flavor. I still like it plain (no-icing) but would never reject the addition of buttercream icing. Enjoy.
2 cups superfine sugar (To make: process about 2½ cups of regular sugar in a food processor for about 30 seconds, then measure out 2 cups.)
13 cups sifted cake flour
1½ cups egg whites at room temperature, about 10 to 12 eggs (yolks reserved for buttercream icing)
¾ t. kosher salt
1½ t. cream of tartar
1 t. vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350°. Combine ½ cup of the sugar with the flour and sift them together several times. Set aside.
Put all egg whites, salt, and cream of tartar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment and beat on high speed until the eggs form medium peaks. Should take about one minute. With mixer running, add the remaining 1 1/2 cups sugar by sprinkling it over the beaten egg whites. Beat on high speed for a few minutes until thick and shiny. Add the vanilla and continue to whisk and all very thick, about one more minute. Scrape the beaten egg whites into a large bowl.
Sift about 1/4 of the flour mixture over the egg whites and fold it very carefully into the batter with a rubber spatula. Continue adding the flour in small amounts and folding until all is incorporated.
Pour the batter into an ungreased 10-inch tube pan and smooth the top. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes until it springs back.
Remove the cake from the oven and invert the pan on a cooling rack. When cake is completely cool use a thin flexible knife around the edge and remove it from the pan. You can serve the cake plain, with chocolate glaze, scoop of ice cream or with the buttercream recipe as follows.
French Buttercream Icing
1 cup butter, softened
5 egg yolks
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons water
3 teaspoons vanilla
Beat egg yolks in a stand mixer with a whisk attachment until light and creamy.
In a very small saucepan, combine water and sugar and heat on low until sugar dissolves. Then increase temperature and cook until mixture comes to 240° on a candy thermometer or thread stage.
With mixer running on slow, slowly pour sugar and water mixture into the yolks. Be sure to do this very slowly so that you do not scramble the eggs. Increase mixer speed and scrape bottom and sides of bowl. Beat until the bowl is cooled slightly.
Add in butter 1 tablespoon at a time until all is incorporated. Then add in vanilla and mix until creamy and spreadable.