It has been one hell of a week here in Boston. Bombings set off on Monday, our noble Marathon violently marred, death and dismemberment brought home to children and other innocents, and terror injected into our Beantown lifeblood like intravenous drugs designed to heighten anxiety and stress. Last night and all of today has been all about police action, high emergency, and triage; one cop has been killed, others are seriously injured, shootouts have exploded and explosions have been hurled, and there has been an unprecedented complete and total lockdown of 6 different communities — including mine — within our fair borders. We have been held captive all week in a true siege perilous, literally and figuratively: this most ancient seat of our young nation is undeniably under attack. I worry about my neighbors, I worry about my Harvard kids, I worry about my friends. I worry about this boy, this fresh-faced, nice looking, by-all-accounts good boy who is hiding among us somewhere… waiting, maybe? Planning, maybe? Or scared and alone and hurt? I can’t not care; he looks so much like he could be one of my students. My little haven, my home, is 5 blocks away in one direction from the merciless fatal shooting of MIT policeman Sean Collier, and 5 blocks away in another direction from the merciful release of the carjacking victim which the news is, at this time (6:57pm EST), still surprisingly silent about. Needless to say, Clayton and I have stayed safely indoors, and totally glued to the TV, waiting until our beloved neighborhood is safe again.
Luckily, we had a dozen eggs and a handful of random items in the fridge to make both lunch and dinner, since we’ve been locked indoors and all stores are closed anyway. But after an onion & bacon omelet with cheddar grits for breakfast, I wanted something a little more vegetable for dinner. My pantry isn’t fully stocked, but I do try to keep some basics on hand, like canned beans and tomatoes and stock and stuff. I found a few carrots in the fridge, some just-about-to-turn-rubbery small colored potatoes, I had 1/2 an onion, and bacon is always welcome more than once a day anyway – so I came up with this skillet: Potato bacon hash, carrot studded tomato sauce, with baked egg, melted farmhouse cheddar, and garlic Texas toast for dipping. Super hot, *really* comforting, and served in a cast-iron skillet heavy enough to use as a weapon to beat back terrorists: just what we needed to feel safe and satisfied after a surreal day.
8-10 small potatoes (these are purple, red, and creamer)
1 can peeled tomatoes
1/2 onion, diced
1 cup diced carrots
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup red wine
1/2 cup EVOO
4 sliced bacon
4 tbs butter
4 thick slices of toast
garlic powder, sea salt, cracked black pepper, crushed red pepper, oregano
I start by dicing my onion, carrot…
… and garlic.
I throw them in a hot pan with a glug of EVOO to sauteI add a dash of salt, pepper, and oregano, and cook on medium heat until just translucent — about 4 minutes.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: San Marzano canned tomatoes are the best. I crack me a can.
And dump all the contents into the pan with the aromatics.
Then I add my wine and about 1/2 cup of EVOO.
I set the heat on low, cover the pan, and let my sauce cook for about 30 minutes until thickened. At some point, since I’m anxious watching the news unfold, I end up breaking down the tomatoes into smaller pieces. Meaning, I just sort of stand there stabbing at them with my wooden spatula, splattering my clothes since my eyes are riveted on the TV. After the 30 minutes, I remove the lid and let the liquid start to boil off, to make a nice, thick, chunky sauce.
On one of my back burners, I boiled my potatoes in salted water for about 15 minutes, or until I was able to pierce them easily with a knife. I drained and cooled them, and have now cut them into small pieces.
I get my two small skillets nice and hot on my burners, and I fry off two slices of chopped bacon in each. I add a LOT of cracked black pepper to each pan, too – just ‘cuz.
Once my bacon is nice and crisp, and all the fat has rendered and is sizzling, I split my potato pieces evenly between the two pans, laying them in a single layer across the surface, to let them sear for a couple minutes. After they’ve crisped on the hot edge, I stir gently to flip, and sear again. I do this for about 8 minutes, stirring every once in a while so that the pulpy cuts of potato can crisp and brown against the iron heat.
When the home fries/hash browned potatoes are perfectly crisped, I push them to one side of each pan.
On the other side, I layer my nicely thickened chunky tomato sauce. Sort of a yin-yang thing.
I’ve shaved several nice thin sheets of cheddar off the block, which I layer on top of my potatoes and tomatoes.
And in a well between them all, I crack a single egg. My oven is preheated to 400 degrees, and I throw the pans onto the bottom most shelf, and let them bake for about 7 minutes — until the egg whites have just set, and the cheese is melted and bubbling.
Since I started writing this post 20 minutes ago, there has been another volley of gunshots, and the media is hopeful that that heralds a resolution to today’s drama. There hasn’t been any movement in hours; but now something seems to be happening. This blog is as much to show off my cooking as it is to remind me of my life, like a diary; each meal brings me back to a moment in my past in ways no other experience can do. Tonight’s meal was heartwarming, comforting, true homestyle, delicious, and filling — as many of my meals have been; but, given the historic events unfurling within hearing distance of my humble little condo, I doubt I could ever forget it, even if I hadn’t written it down. But I felt a need to share – and if I could have made this for every one of my local peeps, waiting like me for news that the suspect has been caught, and that all is safe (more or less) – I would have. These pictures, and this insignificant story, are my small way of sharing.
Stay safe, my dear readers. Lolita out.