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Are you tiring a bit of the Food TV Recipe Syndrome as I am? By that comment, I mean all the redundant routines of olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, white wine, chicken breast, balsamic vinegar, etc. I love all those things but after a time, one’s food can tend to take on the same flavors at every meal, regardless of what you’ve fixed. So, I fell back on my home cooking basics on this one and melded a recipe of my mother’s with what we now know are American ethnic food themes. The end product: a great-tasting one-dish meal, any leftovers from which will disappear quickly. I hate wasting food, don’t you? The central idea of this dish, which I have meticulously preserved, as I mentioned, originated with my own mother, Mary L. Crabtree, who frequently served this family favorite to us during the 1950s and ‘60s…. Slumgullion. Some say Slumgullion has an Irish origin, some would say it’s Italian. The truth is that American Slumgullion is most likely a fusion of both. Slumgullion in its genesis was generically defined as a “watery stew” – that certainly does not describe, in the least, what my mom prepared for us. In fact, this particular Slumgullion doesn’t resemble a stew at all – it’s more akin to a form of Johnny Marzetti, only better, in my opinion, and prepared on the stovetop instead of in the oven. Mom’s recipe was both delicious and hearty. And I should mention at this point that my family came directly from multiple generations of native Appalachians, and so, mom’s recipe was inexpensive, used common local ingredients and, was very filling, all of which represent Appalachian cooking caveats and additionally, necessary for us to stay within a tight family budget. This recipe, as I have listed it, takes my mother’s dish and incorporates it with a slight fusion influence of Cajun, Italian-American, midwestern, Tex-Mex and, of course, Appalachian fare. All but the Cajun facet are immediately apparent – a second look, though, will reveal the Cajun Holy Trinity of cooking: sautéed onions, celery, and green bell pepper. And if you think that I’ve gotten a bit wordy with the description of, and basis for, this recipe, it’s because I want you to know how much research and testing I’ve put into it – it’s not something that was simply “thrown together”. Great thought was given to these ingredients, and many more which did not really benefit the dish and, thus, the dubious ingredients were eliminated from the recipe, a process which is often painful for any chef. But no one would have laughed harder at my efforts and description here than my own mom – because my mom DID throw things together and they always came out great. She was a natural-born chef but she was also a humble woman and would have demurred had you addressed her by that title. I would caution everyone who tries this one to not shortcut the method, (e.g., shocking the cooked pasta in cold water), or you might end up with Slumgullion Mush. And dee514’s Italian Spices are integral to the dish – since they work great in pretty much anything Italian, (lasagna, spaghetti, etc.), make up a batch and you’ll be very glad for it! To summarize this tome of a recipe description, I’ll state that I tried to do the same thing with this recipe as Dvorak did with classical music when he wrote his New World Symphony (No. 9), if you are familiar with that notable piece. If not, give that monumental symphony a listen as you savor the robust flavor of Fusion Slumgullion along with some buttered white bread. As a final note, do not for a minute believe that this recipe will result in anything sophisticated because it’s just plain good eatin’, folks! Enjoy, my friends!
- 1 1⁄2 lbs ground chuck, browned and drained
- 16 ounces macaroni noodles, dry weight
- 10 ounces condensed tomato soup
- 30 ounces chicken broth, canned
- 15 ounces diced tomatoes, canned, with juice
- 2 large celery ribs, diced
- 2 medium onions, chopped
- 1 large green bell pepper, diced
- 1⁄2 cup parmesan cheese, freshly grated
- 3 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
- 1⁄2 teaspoon seasoning salt
- 1⁄2 teaspoon ground black pepper, from a can
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 6 ounces tomato paste
- 2 teaspoons Italian spices (see directions)
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 5 quarts water
- In a large skillet, over medium-high heat, pour in the olive oil and sautee the onion, bell pepper, and celery until it begins to get tender, (about 12 minutes), then set it off the heat.
- In a large cooking pot, over high heat, boil the dried pasta, uncovered, in the 5 quarts of water and one teaspoon of the kosher salt until it reaches slight tenderness, (au dente). It is best to get the water boiling before adding in the pasta. Once the pasta boils, it should take about 10-12 minutes to achieve the desired tenderness but you must check it frequently by tasting it near the end of the cooking time. Once it is done, drain it and "shock" the pasta in ice cold water and then re-drain it. This keeps the pasta from becoming mushy later on.
- In a large cooking pot, over low heat, Mix together the browned and drained burger, the cooked (cooled) macaroni pasta and, the sauteed onion/pepper/celery. Add the chicken stock right away and bring to a low boil.
- Add all other ingredients, herbs, and spices -- bring the ingredients back to a low boil, (stirring carefully -- I use a large wooden spoon), and then reduce the heat to a low simmer and allow the blend to cook, covered, over very low heat, for about 30 minutes, until all flavors have integrated.
- Serve hot with buttered, sliced bread on the side.
- NOTE: Due mostly to the pasta and the tomatoes, this recipe uses a lot of salt -- if you are concerned about the saltiness of the dish, reserve one teaspoon of the kosher salt until the very end of cooking and add it as you think it is needed.
- Italian Spices Recipe (from dee514): 2 tablespoons dried basil, 2 tablespoons dried marjoram, 1 tablespoon garlic powder, 1 tablespoon dried oregano, 1 tablespoon dried thyme, 1 tablespoon dried rosemary, and 1 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes. Pulverize this blend a bit in a mortar and pestle or in a clean coffee grinder.