"My little brother had not eaten voluntarily in over three years. " -RalphieI don't remember much about fourth grade, but third grade was a big year for me. I had a teacher who I really adored, but she was absent most of the year due to a brain tumor. We often had this substitute who had a slight speech impediment. She once asked me to go down to the principle's office and say, "My teacher feels faint" which I dutiful accomplished even though I had no idea what "faint" was and suspected it might be a practical joke. I was pretty surprised to see the principle's secretary jump out of her skin and race upstairs once the message was delivered. I remember thinking, "Ooo! She's in trouble nowwww!" At home, we were hosting a German exchange student who was eating us out of house and home, as teenage boys tend to do. He introduced me to Nutella and Toblerone chocolate, so I named my pet turtle after him. I met one of my best friends (shout out to SMP!). And most importantly, I was introduced to the best movie ever made: A Christmas Story. I still cannot believe we were shown that in school! Do you have any idea how often they say "damn" and "sons of bitches" and "hell" in that movie?! That is curse words for a third grader! I loved it! It did not take me long to find "A Christmas Story" on TV and record it (good ole VHS) and then subject newly obtained best friend to many a sleep-overs in which the main event was watching this movie over and over and over... (Do you remember how long it took to rewind an entire movie?)
Ever since I first laid my eyes on that glorious movie I was smitten with the idea of a meal of meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and red cabbage - everything covered in a thick brown gravy. In the movie, Ralphie's mother, being a stay-at-home-mother, slow cooks this same meal every single day for their family dinners. Ralphie (the main character) complains about being served red cabbage daily and his younger brother, Randy, simply refuses to eat. My own mother, being somewhat adventuresome and health-conscious (not to mention not of German-heritage), never delivering "A Christmas Story" meal to my own satisfaction. I have had no choice, other than to attempt to recreate this meal to the best of my ability. Granted "A Christmas Story" lacks recipes, a gross oversight on the part of the development crew (and it's only flaw), and the minor fact we do not eat MEATloaf... I did what I could. The results were everything I imagined and then some. And you maybe wondering, "why is she doing this in July?" Good point. We got a gorgeous head of red cabbage in our CSA box and doing anything else with it seemed like such a waste.
A Christmas Story Lentil-loaf
1 tbsp butter
1 tsp olive oil
2 stalks of chard, finely chopped
1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 (15 oz) can of lentils
1 (15 oz) can of red kidney beans
1 carrot grated
1 cup of bread crumbs
1/2 cup grated mature cheddar cheese
2 tbsp ketchup
1/2 tsp of each of the following: cumin, coriander, ground chipotle pepper
Grease a 2lbs loaf pan and preheat your oven to 350°F.
In a pan, saute the chard (starting with the stems and adding the leaves after the stems have softened slightly), onion, and garlic in the butter and olive oil. Once soft, but not browned, remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.
In a food processor, add the lentils and kidney beans (rinsed and drained), the chard/onion/garlic mixture and egg. Process until smooth. Add the rest of the ingredients and process until well mixed.
Spoon the mixture into the prepared loaf pan and level the surface. Bake for one hour. Let the loaf sit for about 15-20 minutes in the pan to firm before removing. Slice and serve.
Ralphie's Favorite Red Cabbage
1 stick of butter
2 yellow onions sliced in rings or half rings
1 head of red cabbage (anyone else think it should be called "purple cabbage"?)
1 cup of chunky applesauce
3 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 cup vegetable broth
Core, slice or shred the cabbage.
In a huge (staying true to the movie, otherwise, use your dutch oven) heavy bottom stock pot, soften the onion in the butter.
Add the cabbage and applesauce and vinegar.
When the cabbage softens, add the broth. Simmer on low for about an hour, or until the Old Man (Ralphie's Pops) comes home from work and is ready to eat. ;)