Tag Archives: gravy

Groovy Gravy

January 12, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

UPDATE (Jan. 12, 2017) : After the publication of the January/February issue of Encounter Magazine, Cask Republic announced that it would no longer sell poutine.

“We realize that the food aspect, especially the poutine, was not financially viable,” says Ryan Frickel, co-owner of Cask Republic. Snacks will soon be available, and the bar allows patrons to bring in food from several area restaurants.

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Foodies generally regard the 1950s as the nadir of 20th century cuisine in North America. It brought us TV dinners, jello salads, and tuna casseroles. However, it also brought us a Canadian dish that, depending on your disposition, is either a trinity of salty, starchy, fatty goodness, or a cardiologist’s dream for stirring up new business (in truth, it’s probably both).

Poutine is, essentially, french fries topped with gravy and cheese curds. Like the Reuben sandwich, there’s been a few claims to its origin, but the general consensus is that it came from rural Quebec in the late 1950s. It’s a prominent staple for restaurants downtown (Block 16) as well as Benson (1912, Benson Brewery). For the Cask Republic bar in Dundee, it’s their primary focus.

Co-owners Ryan Frickel and Craig Lundin opened Cask Republic this past summer in the former home of the popular French Bulldog restaurant. Frickel came to the decision to focus on poutine after eating it in Benson last year. Frickel says there have been poutine-focused eateries sprouting up on the West and East coasts for the past few years. Frickel wanted to be the first in Nebraska to have such an eatery.

“Who doesn’t like meat and potatoes in Nebraska?” Frickel says.

poutine1For their version of poutine, the Cask Republic double-fries their french fries to get them crispy enough to withstand the heavy coating of gravy. Their beef gravy (they also have chicken and vegetarian variations) is a combination of homemade beef stock, spices, herbs like rosemary, and some chicken. Finally, their cheese curds, served at room temperature, top the dish. When you bite into one of the curds, it should sound faintly like a dog toy.

“If it’s not squeaky, then people in the poutine world get super pissed off,” Frickel says.

Like other greasy spoon staples such as hamburgers and hash browns, there have been plenty of high-end takes on poutine. 1912 has a variation that includes duck. Block 16’s gravy incorporates a red wine reduction. The Cask Republic has poutines that include burnt ends, and even “seasonal” poutines, including turkey for the holidays. Still, focusing your menu on dish that’s basically french fries and gravy is risky. Frickel, however, compares poutine to other dishes that are now commonplace around Omaha.

“[We] kind of likened it to sushi, where 20 years ago, people in Omaha either didn’t know what sushi was or never tried it. But on the coast, it was starting to explode,” Frickel says.

Of course, if you’re going to clog your arteries with starch, cheese, and gravy, you might as well go all out and wash it down with a brew. That’s where beer comes in at Cask Republic. Frickel and minority- owner Alex Gunhus are both beer enthusiasts; they traveled to breweries throughout the United States to come up with their beer menu. Frickel says he eventually wants to build his own brewery inside the Cask Republic.

“There’s nothing like that in the Dundee area, which blows my mind,” Frickel says. “We want to be the first to do that.”

Visit facebook.com/caskrepublic for more information.

Hunting Fall Oyster Mushrooms

October 7, 2016 by
Photography by Doug Meigs

Fall is the season when local woodland wanderers stock cellars with oyster mushrooms. These fungi are no secret to Nebraska mushroom hunters. The white-to-tan fan-shaped, or oyster-shell shaped, mushrooms sprout from the sides of trees and logs. Given the right conditions, they will even pop through snowmelt. A single find is often bountiful; a good haul of oyster mushrooms can exceed 20 pounds. They can be dried, pickled, or canned. They pair well with nearly every dish. Oyster mushrooms make an extra-special stuffing for your Thanksgiving guests.

Chris Wright is a mycologist with special interest in oyster mushrooms. Wright has a Ph.D. in plant, soil, and microbial sciences and is the executive director of Midwest American Mycological Information. He researches how oyster mushrooms break down biopollutants.

Patrick McGee approaches a tree laden with oyster mushrooms.

Patrick McGee approaches a tree laden with oyster mushrooms.

Wright also regularly finds and eats wild oyster mushrooms. He points out three species of these mushrooms in the Midwest region: Pleurotus ostreatus (the predominant species), Pleurotus populinus (characterized by a white to pink fan), and Pleurotus pulmonarius (the so-called lung-shaped oyster). They are not difficult to identify. Wright says decurrent gills (those running down the stalk) are a distinguishing characteristic of oyster mushrooms. The fungi also have a white to lilac spore print on paper. Wright says it is difficult to mistake something poisonous for oyster mushrooms; however, there is one poisonous look-alike that mushroom hunters should be aware of—Pleurocyubella porrigens.

When asked where to find oyster mushrooms, Wright says, “Look in the woods or on your supermarket shelf.” He also says oyster mushrooms are saprotrophic—they recycle nutrients locked up in woody matter, i.e., “They are a wood rot fungus.”

Oyster mushrooms can be found on ash, aspen, cottonwood, and poplar trees. They will push through the bark of trees after a cold rain. They can sometimes be found in public parks and in neighborhoods, especially on freshly cut trees. Sustainable harvesting requires removal of only the fruiting body and allowing some mushrooms to remain for reproduction.

Wild or domestic, they’ve become a popular commodity. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, from 2015 to 2016, the nation’s oyster mushroom production measured roughly 3,749 tons. In 2016, the total value of oyster mushroom sales surpassed $36 million. Whether you buy them or find them, Wright says they all smell “mushroomy.”

“It is a mild smell. Not a strong odor,” he says. “They will pick up the flavor of what’s cooking—garlic, etc.”

He says they have a relatively soft texture and are a nice complement to stir fry or steak. Wright thinks that wild oyster mushrooms differ from commercial mushrooms.

Wild oyster mushrooms grow in a great variety of hues, like a fall bouquet. They smell like rainfall—a trait that cannot be substituted. They are biochemically unique and may play a role in cleaning our planet. Native to the Great Plains, they are delicious and easy to find during this time of year.

Visit midwestmycology.org/Mushrooms/Species%20listed/Pleurotus%20species.html for more information. 

Disclaimer: Some varieties of wild mushrooms are poisonous, even deadly. If you choose to harvest or eat wild mushrooms, do so at your own risk.

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oystermushrooms1

Thanksgiving on the Rocks

November 25, 2013 by

I love to cook, but the Thanksgiving production in my kitchen has lost its luster. On top of that, I’m not great at cooking gigantor birds, I don’t like stuffing, and it’s physically and emotionally impossible for me to make gravy. There, I said it.

My life changed a few years ago when I discovered a Thanksgiving secret. So let’s just keep this one between us, okay? Most grocery stores offer delicious pre-made turkey dinners. I saw this “secret” advertised in the newspaper. Most include a turkey with stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, and cranberry relish. (Try buying your Thanksgiving grocery list for under a $100). Some also offer other sides you can choose from. But since I love to cook to relieve stress, not induce it, I get the dinner and make a couple of our favorite sides—usually green bean casserole and pumpkin pie.

Last year, I called a pal who had her in-laws in town on Thanksgiving Day. I could hear the sweat dripping from her head, pots clanking, kids screaming—and I’m pretty sure she cussed out her husband for being in the kitchen. When I mentioned the pre-cooked turkey dinner and that I just had to heat it up, her response was a shriek. “YOU CAN DO THAT?!” Yes, you can.

Here’s what you do. You secretly order the turkey dinner, pick it up, stash it, dish it on your china, and your family is none the wiser. You save money, everyone eats, and you don’t have the annual meltdown in the kitchen this year because all of the yelling about how the football game muffled the sound of the oven timers, and now the turkey is overcooked and the pie is burned. There’s not enough whipped cream to fix a burnt pie. Trust me, I’ve tried. You get none of that shame, and all of the glory with the pre-cooked dinner. We’ll all just keep it to ourselves, and go from there.

By the way, when you have time, money, and hands freed up from all that cooking, you can do some or all of these:

  • Serve dinners to the less fortunate.
  • Donate money for dinners to the Food Bank, Together, or other local agencies committed to fighting hunger.
  • Play with your kids.
  • Go for a run or workout before you eat (because you don’t have to tend to all that stuff in the kitchen).
  • Spend the rest of your Thanksgiving budget on Black Friday, or better yet, a nice bottle of wine.
  • When’s the last time you watched the entire parade?

 

Read more of Murrell’s stories at momontherocks.com.

Biscuits and Sausage Gravy

September 24, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Ingredients:

  • 1 (16oz) can refrigerated jumbo buttermilk biscuits
  • 1 (9.6oz) package Jimmy Dean® Original Hearty Pork Sausage Crumbles (or sausage crumbles of your choice)
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 2½ cups milk
  • salt
  • ground black pepper

Instructions:

  • Bake biscuits according to package directions.
  • Meanwhile, cook sausage, milk, and flour in large skillet over medium heat 5-6 minutes or until mixture comes to a boil and thickens, stirring constantly.
  • Reduce skillet heat to medium-low and simmer for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
  • Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Pour over cooked biscuits.

Source: allrecipes.com