Saturday, November 15, 2008

Cookin' It Old Skool

I occasionally become obsessed. Usually with a type of food or a process.

I am on a never ending hunt for the perfect macaroni and cheese recipe. I have tried many and have not found the *perfect* one yet. We have been through a LOT of cheese.

My latest obsession is doing things the old fashioned way. I recently ran across an article on Benton's Smoky Mountain Hams in a national magazine. Benton's cures hams and bacon the old fashioned way - smoked in a smokehouse and then aged for 8-10 months. Their meats are used by famous chefs at famous restaurants all over the country. And they can be ordered over the internet. But they happen to be in my back yard.

So I took a little road trip yesterday down to Madisonville, Tennessee about a 40 minute drive from where I live. They have been in business since 1947 but things look about the same as they did in 1973 when Mr. Benton bought the business and moved it to this location. It is one room with a white board on the wall with the strong smell of the wood smoke used to cure the meat hanging in the back room. Look at the white board, tell 'em what you want and they cut it for you. I asked for 3 country ham steaks and 2 lbs. of bacon. I had to resist getting some bologna. For those of you not from the mountains, thick country bologna on saltine crackers is like hillbilly crack.
This morning, I got out the iron skillets. To cook country ham, pour some coffee in the skillet, toss in a spoonful of brown sugar, throw in the ham steak and cover it to let it steam for a while on medium-high heat. Once the coffee cooks down, take the lid off and turn it several times to let the coffee/brown sugar cook down and caramalize on the ham.

I also cooked some of the bacon. It is thick and smoky, almost chewy. Yum.
I whipped up some homemade buscuits and then made ham biscuits and bacon biscuits and poured myself some fresh coffee. I am a happy girl.

Is it healthy? No, not terribly. Is it good? Absolutely. And I fed my obsession for old fashioned processes - iron skillets, homemade biscuits, smoked meats from someone that shares that passion for doing things the old way.

Now, let me get back to my blackberry, cell phone, and DVR.


marsha said...

Great!! Now I'm hungry.
My sister in-law makes the best homemade macaroni and cheese. I think she uses 3 or 4 different kind of cheeses. One of these days I'm gonna ask her for the recipe.

Tere said...

marsha - If you decide to ask, please share! I tried another recipe tonight. It was good but it wasn't IT.