If you’ve driven through more than three states in a day or so — let alone seven in five days — your arrival home is best celebrated with a skillet dinner. One pot, preferably cast iron which doesn’t even really need to be cleaned in the traditional sense, and as many herbs and other green things as one can find.
Mixed with roughage of any other sort.
It can cure the inertia a body feels after days and days of hurling thru space in a car.
After a recent trip through the south — marked by seven days of fried food, gallons of bourbon and barely a vegetable that wasn’t sweet pickled — I was sluggish enough in every sense of the word to crave a greenalicious skillet dinner.
My preferred method of skillet dinner begins with some kind of whole grain, which I pressure cook in quantity and then store in the freezer in individual servings. That way, it’s easy to dump a packet of cooked goodness into a cast iron pan slicked with butter when one needs to eat more than they need to think.
While the grains, in this case oat groats, were defrosting/sauteeing/crisping, I went to the front of the house and grabbed a stick of rhubarb and the whole of the available parsley — note to self, plant more parsley because really, no one should buy parsley between Mid-March and the first days of December. Or, in some years, later. And at the next available moment after this meal, I will have to buy parsley.
A quick snip of the available chivey selections, a few mint leaves since I always try to add in mint leaves to keep the plant from overtaking the world, and some sprigs of thyme and tarragon rounded out the haul.
The rhubarb got chunked up and added to the oats. Rhubarb is something I treat as an acid more than anything else. It definitely makes it easier to use in season than tackling a whole pie or fussing with some chunky sweet quick jam for pancakes or biscuits. Though I will admit to a now yearly batch of rhubarb pickle and a few ice cube trays of frozen, sugared pulp for sodas.
The herbs got dumped a big bowl of water on my way out the back door. Green garlic, lots of bulky leafy things like chard and arugula, and some cilantro. Unfortunately it is still not the end of the cilantro season and there is still entirely too much. At least the chervil is gone. No one should overplant chervil and cilantro while underplanting parsley. This year, I did.
Then I grabbed the eggs from the hen house. I swear the chickens missed me. Though I can describe why I know. But there was a particularly large egg awaiting, a sure sign of a double yolker — which is a sure sign of something, right?
By the time I got back inside, the skillet was ready for an egg, which I plopped into a bit of a hole I dug into the oat groats. The theory of Toad in the Hole can be applied to many different pans of food. You learn this along with other adaptations of marvelous egg theorems if you have too many chickens in your backyard.
Then I added the backyard garlic and greens and front yard ones in the Vitamix, dripping with water, and added some olive oil, salt, and pepper, I quick buzz on lowish, not too much and it was done. It is important to note that when you make a batch of this kind of green for this kind of purpose, you wanna leave lots of bits whole and chunky. You’ll appreciate the near wholeness of more than some of the greens; it makes the eating feel a little more virtuous, it seems.
By the time that was done, I returned to the skillet and grated some aged Cheddar cheese on top of the egg, covered the whole mess with another skillet that was perched on the stove and waited until the cheese melted. Off heat, top the whole mess with the herby green sludge. (Yes, it is sludge.) I had about a cup’s worth. Maybe more. More is good.
Like every skillet dinner, I ate it all out of the pan, maybe with some hot sauce. Maybe not. That depends on how jagged I feel. How bruised and battered my emotions are from the hotels and bad coffee and erratic snacks that I pretend are meals.
I didn’t add any hot sauce after this trip.
And then the dogs, overtired from days of hyper vigilance while at the kennel, joined me for a twelve-hour dead-to-the-world kind of sleep.
It can be good to be home. But I am not sure I’ll recover until I have another skillet meal and get the laundry done. And maybe sleep another night at home.