National Coffee Day

I am not a coffee snob.  I am actually not much of a snob about anything food or beverage-related.  I like main stream coffee that comes in a can.  As a matter of fact, Mrs. Olson had me drinking Folgers for many years, not because that was my Mom’s name but because Mrs. Olson said it was the “richest kind” and she said it in a way you had to believe her.

I like percolated coffee, instant coffee, Norwegian boiled coffee (including adding egg whites to clarify it), French pressed coffee, dripped coffee, sometimes even cream in my coffee (in my seventh or eighth cup), iced coffee (definitely with cream), rewarmed day old coffee and even (when I am working around the house) still in the mug room temperature coffee that has evaporated a bit, as long as nothing is floating in it.

I also like good coffee.  By good coffee I mean strong, dark and richly-roasted coffee.  French roast is good coffee.  I love being in the coffee isle when someone is grinding good coffee.  Good coffee costs more.  So does buying good coffee at a coffee shop.  I often look at the prices of coffee drinks and think “I could buy a whole can of coffee for that much money.”  So I sit there and watch while my friends enjoy their good coffee and then go do just that.

What I do not like is flavored coffee.  It never tastes as good as it smells.  The aroma does not transfer from the nostrils to the tastebuds.  If I want flavor in my coffee, I add Tia Maria, Frangelico, or twice the recommended amount of Irish Cream (so I can taste it).

I like to cook with coffee–as an ingredient (not just cook while drinking coffee; I like that, too).  Coffee is delicious in many desserts.  Tiramisu comes to mind immediately, of course.  I also made a delicious coffee sauce for “pot” brownies for an event I did at the Monona Public Library, where I was asked to prepare a couple dishes inspired from reading books.  In one book (Light It Up by Nick Petrie–here’s my blog about it), the main character ate almost nothing, but drank what he called “combat coffee,” so I came up with the idea of making a cold coffee sauce.  (If you want to know more, read my blog!)

Coffee is also good in some savory dishes.  It makes a wonderful addition to my version of Cowpuncher Stew.  Cowpuncher is a slang term for cowboy.  I ran across this recipe back in the last century when I was doing a kid’s American Cuisine Cooking Camp in McLean, VA.  It was in the Better Homes and Garden American Heritage Cookbook.  It is an old chuckwagon recipe that I tweaked a bit to make it work for the camp.  I can just imagine how good it would have tasted cooked over an open fire after a long day in the saddle.  But now that I think about it, I probably would have been the one asked to make the stew and then been stuck at the chuckwagon while everyone else got to horse around.

You can use stew meat for this recipe (see Method below).  I have also made it with venison and had great results.  As with any stew, this one gets better when you chill it overnight and rewarm for dinner the next day.  These days I would serve it with a fresh green salad with Blue Cheese Dressing, buttered Cream Biscuits on the side and a nice hot cup of coffee.

Cowpuncher Stew

1 tablespoon oil
1 pound ground beef or stew meat**
1 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, pasted,
1 cup chopped tomatoes
2 tablespoons molasses
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon thyme
Pinch of teaspoon cayenne
¼ cup flour
1 cup coffee
1-2 cups chicken stock
1 cup diced carrots
2 cups diced potatoes
Salt and pepper to taste

Method:  Heat the oil in a heavy stew pot over medium high heat.  Add the beef and onions to the pot, season with salt and pepper.  Cook stirring occasionally until browned all over.  Drain any excess fat if necessary.  Add the garlic and tomatoes.  Cook five minutes stirring occasionally.  Add the molasses, Worcestershire sauce, oregano, thyme, cayenne and flour.  Stir very well.  Add the coffee, stock, carrots and potatoes.  Stir well and season again with salt and pepper.  Cook until the potatoes are tender.  Adjust the seasoning if necessary.  Serve hot.

**If using stew meat, searing the meat in a very hot pan or pot with a little oil will give it flavor.  Searing it in batches would give you a better chance of getting a nice caramelized surface, rather than sweating the meat.  Add onions and cook with the beef chunks until the onions have softened a bit.  Continue with the recipe.

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