Last Friday was Veteran’s Day. I wanted to have this post finished by then, but last week was just one of those weeks. For one thing we’ve been experiencing an unseasonably gorgeous November here in Montana so every minute of free-time was spent out of doors enjoying the nice weather. The other reason for me missing my self-imposed deadline was the extent to which I volunteered myself last week. I won’t bore you with the details. I’ll just say this: it was chaotic, my house is a mess and if my laundry pile grows any taller I’ll need to hire a Sherpa to take me to the top, BUT everything that needed to be accomplished was accomplished. And, at the end of the day (week) it was all very rewarding.
It’s not uncommon to find me with too many irons in the fire. Since leaving the Marine Corps, I’ve been nurturing my overwhelming desire to serve my family and my community in many other (less rigorous and, consequently, far less lucrative) capacities. I am immensely grateful for the opportunity to continue serving in these new capacities after the Marine Corps. I’m also immensely grateful that none of these projects require me to wear my hair in a tight bun.
There was absolutely nothing remarkable about my military service. That’s not to say I’m not proud of my service; on the contrary, I’m quite proud of it, but that doesn’t make it remarkable. My job was administrative in nature. I sat at a desk, typed memos, answered phones, and fought brutal battles…with our Xerox machine. Throughout my first three years in the Marine Corps, Tim lived several hours away from me (and my family lived several hours beyond that) so my Marines became my family. They made me proud most days, they infuriated me on a few occasions, but I always loved them. Though it’s been several years since I’ve spoken to most of them, I think of them often and I still love them.
Last Friday, I thought about and missed those young Marines more than usual. I want to personally say THANK YOU to my Marines and all Veterans, past and present, who have humbly and nobly gone into harm’s way to preserve the freedom that we enjoy today. Thank you to those who have sacrificed so much, to those who have sacrificed everything, and to the families who provide their steadfast love and support day after day, year after year.
Several weeks ago, a friend that I met while stationed in Hawaii asked me for a way to make corn a little more exciting for her Thanksgiving spread. I was thrilled with the request and immediately thought of Cindy Pawlcyn’s summer succotash from the Mustards Grill Napa Valley Cookbook. And here’s why: Around month five of a seven month deployment to Afghanistan I received Pawlycn’s book in a dusty beat up box. It seemed a little silly at first (what was I going to cook? Sand?), but as I paged through the book I realized what a source of comfort her words and her photos were for me. That book provided some serious nourishment. Late at night, when my work was as done as it could be, I would shake out my sandy boots, let my hair down, open Mustards, and imagine myself cooking her recipes for loved ones back home. Not only is Cindy a fabulous author, cook, and restaurateur, but she also managed to uplift at least one young Marine from several thousand miles away.
I’ve made several of her recipes since returning home from that deployment 5 1/2 years ago and they’ve all been even more impressive than I imagined they would be. But the first time I opened her book, I opened it to page 172–Summer Succotash. It’s the most stunning photo of corn lightheartedly mingling with tender yet crisp looking beans and bright red bell pepper confetti. It’s perfect. And I’ll never forget the feeling of comfort it provided me in a war zone.
After Katie asked for corn, I studied the recipe for a couple of days and decided that, while perfect as written, it was a bit too summery for a Thanksgiving feast. Corn is already pushing the limits of unseasonal, so the green beans, scallions, zucchini, and bell peppers made it a definite no-go. After replacing the summery vegetables with sauteed diced sweet potatoes, thinly sliced red onions, shaved Brussels sprouts, and a few additional modifications, a delightful little fall-inspired succotash was born. We’ll call that mission accomplished. You can use any combination of seasonal vegetables along with the corn; you could substitute butter for the olive oil and add a splash of cream (to make it more like Cindy’s) but whatever you do, DO NOT skip the corn stock. It’s what makes the recipe. The recipe I included for corn stock is not the same one that the Mustards cookbook calls for, but it won’t let you down.
P.S. I’m not getting paid for you to click the link leading you to Pawlcyn’s book on Amazon, I just included it because I think everyone should own a copy 😉
P.P.S. In this recipe for chocolate sourdough cinnamon rolls, I referred to Norman Rockwell as Normal Rockwell. That was a typo, and it’s fixed now. Sorry about that!
- Corn Stock:
- 6 Corn cobs, kernels removed
- 6 cups Water
- 3 sprigs Flat leaf parsley
- 3 Basil leaves
- 1 Dried bay leaf
- 1 scant teaspoon Kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon Pink peppercorns (or 5-6 regular peppercorns)
- 2½ tablespoons Olive oil
- ½ Large sweet potato, peeled and cut into small dice (about twice the size of a kernel of corn)
- ⅛ Large red onion, very thinly sliced
- Kernels from 6 ears of corn
- 5 Large Brussels sprouts
- ½ cup Corn stock
- Kosher salt and black pepper
- Fresh herbs for garnish
- To make the stock, remove corn kernels from the cobs and set them aside. Combine the bare cobs and all other stock ingredients in a large pot set over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat to medium-low/low and simmer for 45 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool for about 45 minutes. Meanwhile prepare the vegetables, placing them in separate bowls (see photo).
- After the stock has cooled, remove the cobs and strain the rest through a fine mesh strainer. Discard solids.
- To make the succotash, place a large skillet over medium high heat. Add olive oil and allow it to heat up for about 30 seconds. Add the diced sweet potatoes and cook for two minutes, stirring often. Add the onions and cook for 1 minute. Add corn and Brussels sprouts, cook for 3 minutes. Add corn stock and allow the succotash to simmer for 2-3 minutes or until the vegetables are tender but still lively. Season with about ¼ teaspoon salt and ⅛ teaspoon pepper, more or less to taste. Garnish with fresh herbs if desired (I used parsley).