I have a problem, and Bob’s Red Mill is my enabler.
I don’t know what it’s like in other parts of the country, but here, just miles from the Bob’s Red Mill headquarters, their products fill the shelves at most grocery stores. So whenever I see a recipe calling for, say, barley flour, or graham flour, or medium grind cornmeal (medium, mind you), it’s all too easy to run by the store and drop a few bucks on the tempting little packages. Which results in our downstairs freezer being full of half-used packages of virtually every kind of grain or starchy plant known to mankind.
But this also means that when I come across a cracker recipe that I really want to make for dinner, and it calls for millet flour, there’s a good chance I have some millet flour lying around.
I was excited about this recipe because it calls for something else unusual that I happened to have lying around: beef drippings (or specifically, oxtail drippings). I’m starting to learn that the diversity of uses for any given animal product is rather different from your average vegetable. Sure, you can cook up those chard stems and save your leek tops for broth, but from one pot of oxtail we’ve now had three meals: first the meat, then the stock, and now the fat.
I don’t want to say that on an individual level it’s inherently more ethical to abide by a “nose to tail” mentality and that everyone should learn how to utilize all the parts of an animal–for many it’s not possible, and for many others not practical. But I do think that in whatever ways we can we should attempt to tighten up those nutrient feedback loops as locally as possible. Instead of tossing out all those vegetable trimmings in the city compost, do you have neighbors with chickens who might use it for feed? Instead of sending out your tree prunings to be wood-chipped, are there any local artisans who might turn the bigger branches into furniture? What resources are we letting slip out of our grasp into thin air just by not paying attention?
You could easily make these crackers vegetarian by using butter in the dough and omitting the anchovy from the topping. The flavor of the topping is somewhat mild, so you can serve these with any sort of strongly-flavored dip.
Adapted from The Handmade Loaf by Dan Lepard
2 C white flour
1/3 C millet flour
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
5 T beef drippings, lard, or unsalted butter
2 T unsalted butter
8-10 anchovies, chopped
1 small clove garlic, minced
Preheat the oven to 400°. Combine the flours, salt, and baking soda in a medium mixing bowl. Cut in the drippings or butter, rubbing with your fingers until the mixture resembles bread crumbs. Add water, a little at a time, working in with a fork until you have a soft, smooth dough.
On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out as thinly as possible. Cut out crackers with a 2″ biscuit cutter and lay on a parchment-lined cookie sheet (they can be pretty snug on the sheet, as they won’t spread much).
Combine the butter, anchovies, and garlic in a small saute pan and heat until butter just begins to sizzle. Using a pastry brush, coat the top of each cracker with the flavored butter. Bake about 20 minutes, or until crackers are just beginning to color (you may need to rotate the pan halfway through if your oven heats unevenly).
Makes about 70 crackers.