We recently moved from Florida to Colorado, where my husband is originally from. In fact, we moved back to the same city where he grew up—into the same house he lived from when he was 6 weeks old to 18 years and heading off to college.
That’s right. We’ve moved in with his parents while we work on getting a new venture off the ground.
There are of course struggles adjusting to our new situation, but on the whole the joys and blessings far outweigh them. (Sophie has written thoughtfully on living with family, and I second it all!)
Coming from a background of moving a lot, I am kind of smitten with how Noah’s family has been in the same house for nearly thirty years. I love knowing that this spot on the wall is where a little sister once smeared cookie dough, that the rusting bikes leaning against the fence were ridden joyfully up and down the street two decades ago, that the plastic alligator my 2yo unearthed while digging in the sand pit out back has been missing for 10 years. I love sitting on the front porch hearing my father-in-law give the history of the neighborhood. I love it all.
We’ve been here, just south of Denver, for about a month and a half now. I arrived with the two little girls a week ahead of Noah; he finished up his work and then drove the car in one shot from Florida to Colorado. I remember checking in when he was driving through north Texas, and he said his surroundings were like a Willa Cather novel. (Death Come To the Archbishop is what he said was called to mind.)
That put me into a pioneering attitude. filled with an ethos of moving from the fast-paced east coast to the slower rhyhm of the West. Adventuring out to start a new life for ourselves. And I don’t know if it’s the power of suggestion, our change in circumstances, or just a plain fact, but life does seem a bit more simple, a bit more peaceful here.
...and all that to say: I’ve been cooking more of the Blanchard family favorites—simple hearty “Western” fare (see the smothered burritos I blogged about before)—so it seemed like a good time to share one of the all-time favorites (and one that’s grown on me, especially for a quick and comforting weeknight dinner.)
Just a quick note on the recipe: below is how I make this family dish, but I received some flack from the family over the burritos recipe for unorthodox additions, like rice. The recipe below is basically as simple as it gets, so I don’t think I’ve strayed too far from tradition here...but you never know...!
Another note: there is disagreement about whether this is called “beef gravy” or “hamburger gravy,” and whether it should be spooned over potatoes or rice. Beef gravy sounds slightly more attractive to me, and obviously it is better on potatoes. (Although “hamburger gravy over rice” does have a certain ring to it...)
oh yes, another note. This is rarely served with a vegetable. It’s just a meat and potatoes kind of meal.
beef gravy over mashed potatoes
1 1/2 pounds potatoes, any variety (russet is our usual)
1 - 1 1/2 pounds ground beef (preferably 80/20 or 90/10)
1 tablespoon oil
1/4 cup flour
3/4 cup milk, divided
1/2 stick (2 oz) butter
salt and pepper
Wash and peel potatoes, cut into 1-2 inch cubes, and place in a large pot. Fill pot with cold water until it reaches roughly 2 inches above the potatoes. Sprinkle generously with salt, then set over high heat and boil until soft, where a fork can easily poke through.
Meanwhile, heat the oil over medium high heat in a large skillet with sides (or a Dutch oven). When the oil is hot, add in the ground beef. Break into a few large clumps, but avoiding stirring. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. When brown on the bottom, gently flip the beef and break the clumps down a little bit more. Continue until evenly browned and just cooked through.
When the beef is cooked, turn down the burner to medium low. Depending on how much grease is in the bottom of the pan, you may want to drain some off, leaving about 2 tablespoons. Sprinkle flour over the beef and stir until evenly coated, about 1-2 minutes. Slowly pour in 2 cups of water and 1/4 cup milk, stirring constantly until mixed. Cook on low heat until the mixture thickens into gravy. Salt and pepper to taste.
When the potatoes are done, drain off the water and return them to the pot. Mash in butter and remaining 1/2 cup milk. Salt and pepper to taste.
To serve: spoon out a heap of mashed potatoes onto a plate, hollow out a well, and ladle in some beef gravy. Enjoy!