May is Beef Month, and I’m all about bringing the beef. While I’d be hard-pressed to think of a beef dish I’ve ever tried and didn’t like, there are certain ones that bring back fond memories.
The Gladiola Festival has always been a big part of my life. In my 20-something years on this Earth, I’ve only missed it twice — once because I was living in California, and once because I was freshly-relocated to Kansas City. I may miss it again this year…that’s to be determined yet. But, the culinary highlight of Glad Fest (which is saying something, because it’s always a very food-filled festival) is, for me, the bits ‘n fixin’s.
At the Flea Market that happens on the Saturday and Sunday of Glad Fest at the Island Park, there’s a food cart that shows up every year. It’s unassuming, smaller than most, and has a rustic chuck wagon feel to it. It’s a stark contrast to the lit up carnival-style carts that surround it with deep-fried everything and foods on sticks that aren’t typically served on sticks. I’m not even sure what the cart itself is called, but they serve it: bits ‘n fixin’s.
When my older brother left for the military, he taught himself out to make this masterpiece to make up for missing Gladiola Festival. Then, he taught me. This “recipe” isn’t an exact science, at all — more of a folklore of food that isn’t really taught, but FELT.
You start with beef.
The first thing you do is you take that magical cut of mouth-watering beef and you cube it. These are the “bits” in bits ‘n fixin’s. You don’t want the cubes to be too big, less than an inch or so. Then, you take red-skinned potatoes (yes, they must be red-skinned). You cube them suckers up, too. You cube ’em up real good. Then, you take some green bell pepper, and you hull them, and you cut them into less-than-an-inch pieces, too. Then you take some onion, and you cut those up.
You heat up a cast iron skillet. (You use anything but cast iron and I will come find you and grab you by the collar and shake you. There may be crying involved and it just won’t be pretty.) (Legally, I think I need to add a disclaimer that that is a joke and not a real threat.)
Now, this is where things go from “amazing” to “HOLY WOW AWESOME, BATMAN.” You take butter (or margarine, whichever floats your boat) and you put a lot of it into that skillet. Then you add your sirloin, potatoes, onion, and green bell peppers and you add them to your awesome buttery cast iron skillet.
Then, you season it. Our combo goes as follows:
Obviously you can do whatever you want here, but this is the mix that my brother uses and it’s dynamite. Seriously, years of childhood memories and family gatherings during the Glad Fest are running through my mind as I think about this.
Anyways, you cook your bits ‘n fixin’s in that hot skillet until the meat is done to your liking and the potatoes are soft. The onions and peppers will work with the butter to give the potatoes and meat a nice flavorful sort of buttery glaze.
Scoop servings into bowls and use dinner rolls (white, or whole grain for some added nutrition) to sop up juices. It’s amazing. It’s wonderful. It’s comfort food, but wholesome and hearty. And if you ever need something easy to take out to a bunch of hungry farmers during a busy season, it’s a big hit. (Be sure to bring proper eating utensils — paper bowls and disposable silverware are a must!) It’s also great for camping trips, because cast iron and camping go together like…uh, bits ‘n fixin’s. Yeah. It also stores well as leftovers and reheats easily. It’s like, the meal of kings. Not that kings are likely to reheat leftovers in the microwave…I think…
- Sirloin steak (as much as you dang-well please)
- Red-skinned potatoes (as much as you dang-well please, but be sensitive to the beef-potato ratio)
- Green bell peppers (see “Red-skinned potatoes”)
- Onion (see “Green bell peppers”)
- Butter or margarine (LOTS OF IT)
- Cilantro, parsley, basil, garlic, salt, pepper, and/or whatever seasonings you deem worthy of this meal of kings
And because I love Glad Fest, and my family, and don’t have any pics on hand of bits ‘n fixin’s, here’s some other photos: