Heirloom family recipes are always so precious. The cheeseball recipe card all greasy from spilled mayo and "illustrated" with dried cheese. The much dog-eared cookie recipe. I just love old, much-loved recipes so I was quite touched when my brand new mother-in-law gave me a short stack of Family Recipes in 2013.
That is until she'd left and I really looked at them.
It was one of those "Ummmmmmmm" moments when you've got to say something negative...but you're not sure how your spouse will take it.
Oh, I know what you're thinking. Ramen? Dried ramen!?! That's not cooking! That's 30¢, broke-as-a-joke, college dorm food that insults dedicated ramen chefs making it fresh in Kyoto every day.
Hey! Stick with me here. I wanna go to Hokkaido for the fresh ramen as much as the next gal but even dried American ramen is better than no ramen.
Would you believe that I'd never had ramen until my husband, Michael Thompson, introduced me to it last year!? Yes, at the ripe old age of thirty-eight, I fell madly in love with Maruchan Ramen. It became my default, never-let-me-down comfort food for a quick breakfast, lunch, supper or a midnight snack.
But...something was missing. Even with the Oriental flavor packet, it hinted at greater things and I was determined that our ramen would be not just a quick, easy and cheap meal, but delicious, nutritious and satisfying as well.
You know you're onto something when your local cropduster pilot can't say enough about your homemade Amish-recipe bread. "It is truly some of the best bread I have ever had," he wrote after tasting the bread I sold from my little roadside stand in 2017.
We don't fight about much in the Thompson household...except scrambled eggs. I know, right!?! A scrambled egg is a scrambled egg is a scrambled egg. How could there be room for disagreement?
Oh, but there is, Dear Friend. There is!
Michael loves biscuits.
I suck at making biscuits.
You see the problem.
Actually, biscuits and Michael go way back. He first learned to love them in the military where the best breakfast at Fort Benning was what Charles Emerson Winchester III so delicately called "Chateaubriand on a Shingle."
What is life without sauces? It would be a very sad, bland thing indeed to go through life without the rich, savory goodnesses we pour over our food or dip our food into.
I'd like to say this article is about the French Mother Sauces but it isn't. Not yet. That article is still en route.
No, this is about two dipping sauces that go spectacularly with the eggrolls we learned how to make in my article Eggrolls for Alysse.
In the Thompson household, an eggroll feed requires the making of no less than two sauces. I love Vietnamese fish while Michael is partial to homemade hot sweet-and-sour sauce.
When my favorite two Michelin star celebrity chef, Michel Roux Jr, was asked what he would choose for his last meal on Planet Earth, he included French Fries ("chips") in the menu.
Yeah. Me too.
But not just any ol' French Fries. Non, non, non mon cher! Properly made French Fries. (Hint: Tearing open a plastic bag doesn't appear anywhere in this recipe!)
Tell me if this sounds familiar. It's Wednesday evening. Hump day. You're tired and pissed at your boss but still determined to make a delicious homemade meal for your family. Let's say, oh, maybe a nice juicy pork roast redolent of rosemary with roasted vegetables.
Then you realize...damn! I forgot to take the roast out of the freezer to thaw before work. So the whole sear-and-stick-garlic-cloves-in-slits thing isn't going to work out so well. If you slam it in the oven still frozen, well! Ever heard a pig cry? And then there's all the vegetable prep to do. Ugh.
So it's frozen pizza for supper...again. Not that the kids will mind.
Gravy has always been Michael's speciality. His kids loved coming over for visitation because Dad made gravy. I've had his gravy. It's so good I'd have pretended to be a 4th Thompson Child just to sneak into visitation to have his gravy!
But it's so much more fun to give culinary things a fancy French name and gravy falls in the French Mother Sauces category of Béchamel pronounced "besh-uh-mell." Basically a béchamel is a dairy-based sauce thickened with flour and flavored with meat juices, drippings, herbs, etc.
"You should write about eggrolls," my step-daughter, Alysse, said, "I'd love to have your recipe."
And sleepless in Minnesota at 5 o'clock on a Sunday morning seems as good a time as any to oblige.
Are these "authentic" Chinese eggrolls? Authentic Vietnamese eggrolls?
Not on your tintype!
But they're a heckuva lot better than any cabbage-filled restaurant eggroll!
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