28 February 2009

Appalachian Home Cooking

Mark F. Sohn is a culinary historian who specializes in Appalachian food and culture. Appalachian Home Cooking is part cookbook, but more importantly, it is a history of the foods and traditions that make up the unique cooking of the mountains of Appalachia. This is one of those books you want to read even if you never make a recipe. Since I moved to West Virginia, I have spent a lot of time reading about the foodways of this geographic area. Mark Sohn is a font of information.

Sausage gravy is one of the great treasures and pleasures of Appalachia cooking. In the hills it was a way to make a small amount of meat feed a houseful of folks. Like everything else that is simple and comforting, the chances to screw it up are immense! Sohn, in his recipe, cautions against producing a "gooey blob."

Now, before you turn your little "Gossip Girl" nose up at the thought of sausage gravy, ask yourself what you would do if I offered you a recipe for Saussion a Béchamel ?

White Sausage Gravy

1/4 pound pork sausage
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Step 1 In a large cast iron skillet over medium heat, fry the sausage, breaking it into small pieces. When the sausage is no longer pink, add the flour. Stir to moisten. The grease from the sausage must absorb all the flour. Add oil if the flour remains dry.

Step 2 Whisk in the milk, salt and pepper. When the milk boils, reduce the heat and simmer I minute or until the mixture is as thick as pancake batter.

Step 3 If the gravy is not thick, continue to cook over low heat 5 to 15 minutes, stirring every tow minutes. Remove from the heat and reheat before serving. If the gravy gets too thick – you do not want a gooey blob – add mild, water, or heavy cream.
For more information on Appalachian cooking check out Mark Sohn's website: www.marksohn.com.

All right, now for the "lighter side" of sausage gravy. Bob Evans, sausage king and family food marvel can't bear to think of you doing without his sausage gravy. But what to do if there is no time in you busy schedule? What do you if there is no Bob Evans Restaurant close by? How will you find sausage gravy? The folks at Bob Evans wouldn't let you down.

Yes indeed, they have invented a sausage gravy dispenser. While you tend to find them only at the very finest roadside establishments, I'm keeping my fingers crossed that by Christmas, the home model will be available.

27 February 2009

Serena, Food and Stories

Serena Bass is a Londoner who caterers in New York. Her book, Serena, Food & Stories features fun recipes and chatty banter that’s tons of fun. It really wouldn’t matter if she served cat food on toast, this cookbook would be great fun. Fortunately for us, there is no cat food, just hip fun food with entertaining tips to match.

“We use these muffins as the bribe of choice to get the sanitation men to move our extra garbage, bloody butchers to move their carnage, and the super next door to hose down our sidewalk when we can’t be bothered.”
“As self-help books keep reminding us, “no one is thinking of you,” but they may very well be thinking about your food.”

She name drops from dogs to duchesses, from Julia Child to Elizabeth David without the slightest pretense.

What better recipe to give you than her recipe for Pimm’s Cup. Serena says, “Unless you have a fast drinking crowd, don’t make too much at once, as it’s nice to keep the ginger ale sparkling.

Pimm’s Cup

2 ounces Pimm’s No.1
2 ounces Tanquery Gin
6 ounces ginger ale
Slices of orange and lemon
Cucumber peel
Sprigs of fresh mint.

Keep the Pimm’s, gin and ginger ale well chilled. Mix everything together and serve over ice, with some fruit, cucumber, and mint in each glass. Multiply the ingredients proportionately if you want to fill a punch bowl or a pitcher.

Now get out there and throw a party! And if you don’t have a good story, steal one of Serena’s

26 February 2009

La Terra Fortunata

“There are people everywhere who form a Fourth World, or a diaspora of their own…. They can be Christians or Hindus or Muslims or Jews or pagans or atheists. They can be young or old, men or women, soldiers or pacifists, rich or poor. They may be patriots, but they are never chauvinists…. When you are among them you know you will not be mocked or resented, because they will not care about your race, your faith, your sex or your nationality…. They are exiles in their own communities, because they are always in a minority, but they form a mighty nation, if they only knew it. It is the nation of nowhere, and I have come to think that its natural capital is Trieste.”


Trieste is one of my favorite cities. It reminds me in a many ways of New Orleans. Both sit on the water, both have wonderful seafood, and both have a schizophrenic history. Trieste is part Italian, part Germanic, part East European and as Jan Morris points out, "the capital of nowhere".

La Terra Fortunata by Fred Plotkin looks at the history and food of the Friuli-Venezia Giulia, the northern most province of Italy, the Italy of Trieste.

This recipe is one of those recipes you read and think -- no way. Then you run across someone who makes it and you reluctantly take a bite. From that moment on, you can't believe you never make it for yourself. Be forewarned, this is one of those dishes that tempts you to grab a gigantic bowl and spoon. Well, a little goes a long way. Serve it with a sweet pork roast or a plain roasted chicken.

Penne con Ricotta e Cannella

Pinch of salt
1 pound penne
12 ounces fresh ricotta
2 teaspoons freshly ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon sugar

Set a large pot of cold water to boil. When it reaches a full boil, add a pinch of salt. When the water returns to a boil, add the penne and cook until al dente, according to the package instructions. One minute before the penne is supposed to be done, test one and decide for yourself how much more cooking you need.
While the pasta is cooking, prepare the sauce. Put the cheese into a large bowl (big enough to contain the hot pasta). Stir the cheese with a wooden or plastic spoon for a minute to make it more creamy. Add the cinnamon and stir in well. Taste for sweetness and, if you wish, stingily add a little sugar and cinnamon. Add one tablespoon water from the pasta pot and stir into the cheese to make it creamier. You might wish the sauce to be even creamier, in which case you should then stir in another tablespoon hot water.
Once the pasta is cooked, drain in a colander but leave a little hot water clinging to the penne. Transfer to the ricotta sauce, toss well and serve immediately.

25 February 2009

Living and Eating

In today's New York Times Food Section, I saw that the visionary, minimalist architect, John Pawson has created a new line of cookware. In these harsh economic times it is good to know that there are those who are optimistic about our economy. Pawson's 8.5 quart stockpot is $420!

If you don't have $420, pick up a copy of Living & Eating, his book with British cookbook writer Annie Bell. The book is a “cookbook manifesto” embodying Pawson’s stark minimalism in an edible format. The backdrop for Bell’s recipes is John Pawson’s kitchen, where a utilitarian table and chairs sit in a narrow, unadorned room with a glass wall. Outside, a similar table and benches echo the interior. The only evidence of that the room might be a kitchen is the large, arched faucet, curving above a long flat counter.

In the world of “dream kitchens” this is not mine! It is cold and stark and totally uninviting. The counterpoint to Pawson’s bleak vision is Annie Bell’s cooking. Her recipes share Pawson’s sleek minimalism but are never cold and uninviting. On the contrary, the simple dishes Bell presents are clean and inviting.

Olive Oil Roasted Chicken

Extra virgin olive oil
3 1/2 pound oven-ready chicken (preferably free-range)
Sea salt, black pepper
Few thyme sprigs
1 garlic clove, peeled and smashed
1/2 onion
4 tablespoons white wine
4 tablespoons chicken stock or water

Preheat oven to 425. Pour some olive oil into the palm of your hand and generously coat the chicken skin. Season the bird inside and out. Put the thyme and garlic and onion into the cavity. Place in a roasting pan and bake for 50-55 minutes until the skin is golden and the juices run clear when the thigh is pierced with a skewer.

Transfer the chicken to a warm plate, tipping any juices inside the bird into the roasting pan. Turn the oven off and let the chicken rest inside the door ajar for 15 minutes. Skim off the fat from the roasting juices, then add the wine. Simmer to reduce by about half, scraping all the sticky bits. Add the stock or water and simmer for a minute, then check the seasoning. Carve the chicken and serve with the gravy.

I like to add a sprig of rosemary and a few potatoes so I have a side for my chicken. disregard recipes that would have you roast a chicken in a medium oven. Crank it up to at least 400 degrees for a juicy and crispy bird.

24 February 2009

The Atlanta Exposition Cookbook

In 1895 Mrs. Henry Lumpkin Wilson compiled recipes and household tips into a souvenir for the women who visited the Cotton States and International Exposition in Atlanta. Commemorative cookbooks are commonplace now, with many church and school groups compiling member’s favorite recipes into fundraising opportunities. It’s hard to realize that cookbooks at the turn of the century were rare. Most Southern women were acquainted with Catharine Beecher’s Domestic Receipt Book, however, the Atlanta Exposition cookbook was published before the Boston Cooking-School Cookbook of Fannie Farmer.

This reprint offers a glimpse into kitchens past, featuring pigeon, terrapin, and tongue. The directions offer such favorite Southern cooking instructions as, “Cook till done.” Most recipes offer little or no instruction as to how to actually assemble the food, which is not such a problem for soup, but can be frustrating for cakes!

One recipe that needs no measurements belongs to Mrs. S. C. Ferrell:

Recipe For Making A Happy Home

One ounce each system, frugality and industry, one ounce each gentleness, patience and forbearance, six ounces Paul’s Christian charity, that covers a multitude of failures. These ingredients thoroughly kneaded with the salt of good common sense, flavored with the “grace of nature and art,” music and flowers will make a paradise of a desert, a palace of a hovel.
It's not terrapin, but it may be easier to find. And then again, maybe not!

23 February 2009

Old Southern Reciepts

Old Southern Reciepts by Mary Pretlow was written in 1930. It is a plain old Southern cookbook, filled with quaint recipes, featuring some often vague cooking instructions, in a long, run-on sentence structure. It has a nice squirrel recipe and more punch combinations than you will ever need. More punch combinations than I will ever need.

While search for recipes, I came across something I love to make, but never had a name for. Now I do.

Egg Pilau

2 cups rice
2 teaspoonfuls salt
1/3 cup cream
1/2 teaspoonful pepper
4 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup butter
6 eggs

Cook the rice in the chicken broth in a covered kettle for about 25 minutes. Have the eggs slightly beaten, with cream, salt and pepper added and when the rice has absorbed the chicken broth (about 25 minutes) add the eggs and the butter, stir well and remove from fire.

This is one of my favorite “leftover” recipes. While my love of grits knows no bounds, I am also a big fan of rice. Other than “Krispies,” however, Americans rarely eat rice for breakfast, but it is a staple for breakfast in many Asian countries. When I have leftover rice, I often make this pilau for breakfast. Here’s how I do it.

Take the leftover rice and place it in a small, covered saucepan. Add a little milk or cream and heat the rice t over a low flame. I don’t bother with the butter, but feel free to add it if you want. When the rice is hot, add an egg or two into the rice and cover with the lid, allowing the eggs to poach in the steam. When the yolks are set, but still a bit runny, spoon into a bowl.

It’s not grits, but it makes a tasty, quiet breakfast sans snap, crackle and popping.

22 February 2009

Molto Italiano

Mario Batalli is my favorite "Iron Chef". He’s not always my favorite cookbook author. Molto Italiano is jam packed with easy and fun recipes to translate high end Italian restaurant cooking into great home cooked recipes. I was looking for a recipe for meatballs. I know they are just hunks of ground meat, but there are millions of different recipes and I was looking for ideas. Mario’s Neapolitan Meatballs were the kind I was looking for. I was stuck in a snowstorm and I didn’t have all the ingredients – I thought. But after checking the freezer, I was in great shape. Here are some tips for cooking when snowed in…

My friend Ann (not to be confused with my friend Anne) always stops by my favorite bakery before she comes out to Lucindaville and brings lovely French baguettes. Here’s what happens:
We never eat all the baguettes. In my opinion, baguettes have about a 12 hour window from the time they come out of the oven to the time they are ingested. After that they become problematic.
Day One: I feel badly that we didn’t eat them all.
Day Two: I think I might try to eat them, but they are just too dry.
Day Three: They are so hard that they are considered lethal weapons in 8 states.
Day Four: I’m depressed that I let beautiful baguettes go to waste. Ah, but I never let them go to waste.
Day Five: I blitz them in the Cuisinart and make bread crumbs. Then I tuck the crumbs into the freezer for later use, or in this case -- a snow day!

The same thing can happen with Parmesan or Romano. You buy a lovely piece of hard cheese that costs a bit more than your mother’s engagement rings. It starts getting moved around in the fridge, it comes unwrapped, you forget about it, and then it migrates back to the front -- now a dry, hard lump. Again, you don’t want to waste it… so just put it in the Cuisinart, grind it up and stick it in the freezer.

I use a lot of pine nuts, and they will become rancid quickly due to the high oil content. After I open a bag, I freeze any leftover pine nuts.

So with my meat, eggs and spices, I grabbed my frozen bread crumbs, cheese and nuts and the meatballs were under way.

Check out Mario's recipe.

Neapolitan Meatballs
Polpette alla Napoletana

3 cups 1 inch cubes of day old bread
1 1/4 pounds of ground beef
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
3 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano
1/4 cup finely chopped Italian parsley
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 extra-virgin olive oil

1. In a shallow bowl, soak the bread cubes in water to cover for 20 minutes. Drain the bread cubes and squeeze out the excess moisture.
2. In a large bowl, combine the bread, beef, eggs, garlic, pecorino, parsley, pine nuts, salt, and pepper and mix with your hands until just blended. With wet hands, form the mixture into 12 –15 large meatballs.
3. In a large heavy-bottomed skillet, heat the olive oil over high heat until almost smoking. Ass the meatballs, working in batches if necessary to avoid overcrowding the pan, and cook, turning occasionally, until deep golden brown on all sides, about 10 minutes per batch. Remove from heat.
I made my favorite bucatinni, a spicy red sauce and Mario Meatballs. It was a great evening.

21 February 2009

Jennifer Paterson’s Feast Days

Jennifer Patterson is known to most Americans as half of the Two Fat Ladies. She loved Elizabeth David as I do. She once “acted” in a Derek Jarman film, fittingly playing a member of the banquet feast in Caravaggio. In England, she is known for her columns in The Spectator. Jennifer Paterson’s Feast Days is a collection of those writings.

Patterson died several years ago refusing to quit smoking, drinking champagne or eating foie gras.

Patterson would have been a great Sweet Potato Queen! She has a recipe for Banoffi pie which is made with a sweet crust, bananas, a coffee cream and yes --- Danger Pudding! She recommends boiling the can of milk for 5 hours! She says, “it is vital to top up the pan of boiling water frequently, otherwise the tins will explode, causing grave risk to life, limb, and kitchen ceilings.” And she implores, “Please, Please do not make this pudding if you are absent-minded – think of the explosion.” I love a cook who is as worried about the kitchen as they are bout life and limb. I sympathize. Imagine how horrible it would be to survive exploding can shrapnel and hot toffee only to find out your preserving pan and Cuisinart were destroyed in the explosion! Remember, Lucinda says: "DON'T TRY IT!

Here is a rich (would I have chosen anything else) old-fashioned recipe for crab gratin. I can’t imagine this dish as a course during a meal. It seems a much better “dip” for an appetizer.

Crab Gratin

1 lb of mixed crab meat (frozen or fresh)
4 oz. unsalted butter
3/4 pint of double cream
2 tablespoons of medium sherry
freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 onion
parsley, salt, pepper

Chop the onion quite finely, fry gently in the butter until soft. Using a largish frying pan, pour in the cream, simmer carefully until the quantity is reduced by half (the large frying pan facilitates this operation), add the sherry, season with fresh ground pepper and a drop or so of Tabasco if you like. Be careful with the salt, remembering the cheese to come. Put the crab meat (defrosted if frozen) into a nice, ovenproof gratin dish, smooth it down evenly and cover with the hot cream sauce: sprinkle with about two tablespoons of the Parmesan cheese. Place in a hot preheated oven and brown quickly.

My friend and fellow card shark, Celia goes home to Oregon every year. When she and her daughter, Catherine, return they are always bearing gifts, including freshly canned crab meat. I like to make the gratin in a deep dish as it facilitates dipping!

20 February 2009

The Sweet Potato Queens’ Book of Love

In 1982, Jackson Mississippi threw it’s first, unsanctioned and little appreciated St. Patrick’s Day Parade. It was thrown on March 17, St. Patrick’s Day. Jill Conner Brown volunteered to be in the parade. She would be the Sweet Potato Queen -- she a few other gals. No one really cared about St. Patrick, but the Queens were a hit. After that, in true Southern fashion, the Jackson, Mississippi St. Patrick’s Day Parade was moved to a Saturday close to St. Patrick’s Day. Why, because they’re Southern and there’s a bit of drinking and as Brown will tell you, “we are more concerned with the convenience afforded by a Saturday parade.”

The Sweet Potato Queens' Book of Love by Jill Conner Brown is not technically a cookbook, but it does have some of the signature dishes of Sweet Potato Queendom… the more fat and chocolate the better. As a child, the founder of the Jackson, Mississippi St. Patrick’s Day Parade was given an entire can of sweetened condensed milk to eat for his birthday and he waited all year to get it.

Here is a signature dish featuring sweetened condensed milk.

Danger Pudding

To make Danger Pudding, you take your can, and without opening it, you boil it for an hour or so. Now, the people who make sweetened condensed milk are hip to this, and they say flat-out you shouldn’t do this, ever. They feel so strongly about it, they actually print this warning right on the label: “Danger! Do not heat unopened can!’ So be forewarned: You’re risking your life and assorted kitchen parts by doing it. In my opinion, however, it’s worth the hazard.

The reason Eagle Brand puts that warning on the side is so that when, in the unlikely event, a can of heated , sweetened condensed milk does explode in your kitchen and you are maimed by shrapnel and molten toffee, you cannot blame Eagle Brands and sue their ass off. In the spirit of this litigiousness let me tell you right now --- don’t even try this! No matter how incredibly yummy it might be.

19 February 2009

Beyond Nose to Tail

Not everything Fergus Henderson cooks in offal. There are salads, sides and sweets. So, Henderson and his crew wrote Beyond Nose to Tail.

In the last few months, I have made several slow cooked, whole onions. Some people think taking the humble onion and cooking it like it’s a Christmas Turkey is a grave waste of time. They would, of course, be wrong. A long baked onion becomes a rich, sweet and succulent side dish or as Henderson calls them -- Orbs of Joy.

Orbs of Joy

Peel some red onions but keep them whole. Put in an oven dish and add chicken stock until they are almost covered. Braise them in a medium oven. As they cook, the stock around them will reduce slightly, giving your onions a slightly singed and caramelized exterior and a pale pink and totally giving interior. Truly an orb of joy.

I whole heartedly agree.

18 February 2009

Nose To Tail Eating

Fergus Henderson opened St. John’s Restaurant in London with a simple philosophy, eat the entire animal: ears, tongue, tail as we say in the South, everything but the squeal. He called his simple philosophy, Nose to Tail eating, so it was only fitting that the phrase became the title of his cookbook. The cookbook, found mostly in Henderson’s Restaurant, quickly sold out and became a holy grail for anyone fond of offal. Luckily it was soon reprinted.

Several years ago, I went to St. John’s for my birthday. I had hoped for the Lamb’s Tongue and Turnips with Bacon, but it wasn’t on the menu. Too bad. Still, the rest of the dinner was amazing from the Roast Bone Marrow and Parsley Salad to the Eccels Cake for dessert,

I picked a rather simple, offal-less recipe from Nose To Tail Eating for mussels. I chose it because it a wonderfully simple way to cook mussels and a great addition to any family barbecue.

Grilled Mussels On A Barbecue

4 kg mussels, cleaned
2 healthy handfuls of curly parsley, finely chopped
2 healthy handfuls of picked celery leaves, finely chopped


Juice of two lemons
4 cloves of garlic, finely crushed
1teaspoon young soft thyme leaves, chopped
400 ml extra-virgin olive oil
sea salt and pepper

Get your barbecue to that perfect glowing moment (preferably using wood with a good history, as I am sure this helps the flavour) and simply throw your mussels on the griddle. The joy of this is they now simply cook in their own juices.

As soon as they open, scoop them up into an appropriate bowl, add the dressing, parsley and celery leaves and toss thoroughly. Eat while hot.

What a great way to start or even end a barbecue. By the way, no one loves cooking gadget more than me, but lately I've been seeing a lot of contraptions to set on a grill to individually hold your mollusks. Seriously, we eat way more than any little rack can handle so please, try to refrain from this purchase. You'll thank me later.

17 February 2009

Totally Garlic Cookbook

Celestial Arts in Berkley did a series of small cookbooks. The gimmick --the cookbooks were cut in the shape of the main ingredient. The Totally Garlic Cookbook looks like a big head of garlic.

I was skeptical about such a cookbook. It’s clever, but there are no pictures of the food and in such a small format, how good can the recipes be? Well, pretty good, yet pretty basic. Still, they are great little books to tuck in a gift box. Add The Totally Garlic Cookbook, a bottle of olive oil, several bunches of garlic and a nice sea salt and you have a smashing hostess gift.

Here’s a recipe wroth the cost of the book.

Lemon-Garlic Sorbet.

I cup sugar
1 head roasted garlic, peeled
Skin one small lemon
Dash of salt
3 cups water
2/3 cup lemon juice

In a food processor, combine sugar, roasted garlic, lemon skin, and salt. Process until skin is finely chopped. Transfer to a saucepan and add water. Heat just until sugar dissolves. Cool, then add lemon juice. Cover and chill. Process in ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s directions. Store, tightly covered, in freezer.

The roasted garlic adds a sweet complexity to the tart lemons. Be brave, give it a try. I wouldn't lie to you.

16 February 2009

Good Old Grits Cookbook

"The Southerner’s devotion to grits is really meant for grits-and-gravy, grits-and-ham, grits-and-sausage, grits-and-eggs, grits-with-meat-and-cheese, and so on ad infinitum"
Turner Catledge
New York Times

I cook grits ad infinitum. Good Old Grits Cookbook by Bill Neal &David Perry is a basic primer on grits. The definitive, multi-volume collection of grits recipes is yet to be compiled.

I got a call the other day from my fellow Alabamian, Harry Lowe who told me he had cooked grits as a side for his dinner. He credited me with the inspiration since I had cooked both ox tail with cheese grits and steak & grits for him.

I am not terribly opposed to quick cook grits, but really, no instant grits!! The best grits to cook are stone-ground, but they have a short shelf life. They need to be refrigerated or frozen as the natural oil from the germ is distributed through the grits and will turn them rancid. I have never managed to keep any grits long enough to go rancid, but I’ve heard it can happen.

Even thought you add the water at one time, cooking stone-ground grits is similar to cooking risotto in that you need to cook about 40 minutes and you need to allow all the water to be absorbed into the grain.

Basic Boiled Grits

Old recipes always direct you to first “wash” the grits. Even today most modern stone-ground grits need rinsing to separate the last remains of the hull or chaff from the kernel. Simply cover the grits with cold water. The meal will sink to the bottom, and the chaff will float to the surface where it can be skimmed off with a kitchen strainer.

1 cup stone-ground
4 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1. Pour the grits into a large bowl and cover with cold water. Skim off the chaff as it floats to the surface. Stir the grits about and skim again until all the chaff has been removed. Drain the grits in a sieve.
2. Bring 4 cups of water to a boil in a medium sized saucepan. Add the salt and slowly stir in the grits. Cook at a simmer, stirring frequently, until the grits are done -- they should be quite creamy – about 40 minutes.
3. Remove the grits from the heat and stir in the butter.

After you get the hang of cooking grits, the sky’s the limit. Add cheese, there are about 500 different kinds of cheese so you have 500 recipes right there!

15 February 2009

Jamie At Home

I’ve watched Jamie Oliver since he was “naked”. I love the way he works with food. He likes to cook with a wreckless abandon that is infectious. Of course there is always someone standing by to parcel out the exact amounts while he is throwing recipes together. I once bought a copy of one of his books and the woman at the counter said she didn’t like him. She objected to the very abandon that I love, and of course she thought he talked "funny.”

Since I have a lot of venison this year, I have been interested in venison recipes. Oliver’s new book, Jamie at Home, is built around his garden and the vegetables and game from the English hedgerows. As always, a television show accompanied the book. Recently the Food Network has been airing the show at 7:30 am. Last week he made his venison stroganoff. Unlike the recipe in his book, on the show, he made the venison with a single large chicken in woods mushroom. He cooks with a flexibly that makes him great.

I had the venison, but I didn’t have “mixed, exciting, robust mushrooms.” All I had were dried mushrooms, but I rehydrated a cup and they worked fine. I left off the parsley, as I had none. If Jamie had been in West Virginia, he would have probably done the same. Everything came together just fine. In his recipe he calls for a white rice to serve under the stroganoff. I’m sure you can make rice so I omitted that part of the recipe.

Wild Mushroom and Venison Stroganoff for Two Lucky People

extra virgin olive oil
1 medium red onion, peeled and finely chopper
1 clove of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
300 g venison loin, fat and sinews removed, trimmed and sliced into finger-sized pieces
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon of paprika
250 g mixed ,exciting, robust mushrooms wiped clean, torn into bite sized pieces
small bunch of fresh flat leafed parsley, leaves picked and roughly chopped, stalks finely chopped
a knob of butter
a good splash of brandy
zest of 1/2 lemon
150 ml crème fraiche or sour cream
a few gherkins sliced

Heat a large frying pan on medium heat and pour in a glug of extra virgin olive oil. Add the onions and garlic and cook for 10 minutes until softened and golden. Remove from the heat and spoon the onions and garlic out of the pan on to a plate. Keep to one side.

Season the meat well with salt pepper and the paprika. Rub and massage these flavourings into the meat. Place the frying pan back on the high heat and pour in some more olive oil. Add the mushrooms and fry for a few minutes until they start to brown. Then add the meat and fry for a minute or two before adding the parsley stalks and the cooked and onion and garlic. Toss and add the butter and brandy.

You don’t have to set light to the hot brandy, but flaming does give an interesting flavour so I always like to do this. Once the flames die down, or after a couple of minutes of simmering, stir in the lemon zest and all but 1 tablespoon of the crème fraiche and season to taste. Continue simmering for a few minutes. Any longer than this and the meat will toughen up – it doesn’t need long, as it has been cut up so small.

Serve your fluffy rice on one big plate and your stroganoff on another. Simply spoon the remaining crème fraiche over the stroganoff, then sprinkle over the sliced gherkins

Since Jamie wasn't with me, I had leftovers, so I guess my recipe was Dried Mushroom and Venison Stroganoff for One Lucky Person, Twice!

14 February 2009

The French Market

The French Market is the second cookbook by Joanne Harris and Fran Warde. Harris, the acclaimed novelist, is also quite the cookbook author. Turns out, she is a bit of a philanthropist, too. Her proceeds from the cookbooks go to support Medecins Sans Frontieres, a non-profit international medical organization that provides emergency medical relief to victims of war, disasters and epidemics.

Looking at the beautifully photographs in these books is almost like being in France. I lied, there is nothing like actually being in France but sitting in snowy West Virginia, it’s as close as I am going to get this week. Besides, today is Valentine's Day, so I'm allowed to pretend I'm in Paris.

Here is her recipe for the quintessentially French Puy lentils. These small, dark green lentils are fine alone or a perfect starch for chicken or pork.

Lentilles Du Puy

4 tablespoons olive oil
2 red onions, sliced
2 cloves of garlic, crushed, peeled, and chopped
400g can chopped tomatoes
1 bay leaf
4 sprigs oregano
2 sprigs rosemary
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
400g Puy lentils
500 ml red wine
200 ml water

Heat the oven to 350. Heat the oil in a large, ovenproof pan. Add the onions and garlic and sauté for 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, bay leaf, oregano, rosemary, seasonings, lentils, red wine and water. Mix well, bring to the boil, then place in the oven and bake for 30 minutes. Check and stir, then return to the oven for a further 30 minutes. By now the wine should be evaporated, allowing the Puy lentils to absorb the rich flavors.

Now if only we were in Paris!

13 February 2009

The French Kitchen

Joanne Harris is a fine novelist. She wrote the very popular novel, Chocolat . Many people don’t realize that she is also the author of a couple of French cookbooks. The cookbooks offer the same vivid imagination that she brings to her novels. Written with Fran Warde,The French Kitchen and The French Market are splendidly beautiful. The recipes are simple and straight forward and cooked in the same assured calm that Harris brings to fiction.

There is great desert recipe for Soupe aux Cerises, in French, literally, cherry soup. The French are big on calling things “soup” that aren’t quite soups as we might think of them. Don’t expect to see this sitting in the Campbell’s aisle at the store. The French also love their bread and have no qualms about using bread as a basis for a dessert. If you are not in possession of a really great baguette, you can try this with a pound cake. At the Lucindaville blog, we posted a recipe for a beet cake with dried cherries. Slice the cake in two, cut out some rounds with a biscuit cutter and toast that for the base for a fancier dessert. I confess to cheating with this desert. I found a beautiful jar of pitted German cherries and I substituted them for the fresh cherries. I simmered them just enough to burn off the alcohol, about four minutes. If you use a "cake" base instead of the toast, the sugar is not needed.

Braised Cherries with Spiced Toasts

1 pound pitted cherries
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon kirsch
3 ounces butter
10 slices baguette
2 ounces sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 tablespoon flour

Place the cherries, sugar and kirsch in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes.

Heat the butter in a frying pan and fry the slices of baguette on each side until golden.

Remove the bread, dust with sugar and cinnamon, and place in the bottom of a serving dish. When the cherries are soft and cooked, remove from the juice and pile on to the bread.

Blend the flour with a little water and, using a balloon whisk, quickly mix this into the warm cherry juice. Gently bring to the boil. The mixture will thicken slightly, becoming velvety. Pour over the bread and cherries and serve.

Cook this sweet soup and settle in with one of Joanne Harris' novels. Fine, I cheated with the jarred cherries, go ahead and pop in the DVD and "watch" her novel!

12 February 2009

They Can’t Ration These

The news these days has been filled with job loss and crashing stocks. I pulled out a lovely reprint of a book first published in 1940 in Britain. The book was written during the height of rationing brought on by the war and while we are not yet rationing, there might just be some things we can learn in They Can't Ration These by Vicomte de Mauduit.

In his preface he states:
The object of this book is to show where to seek and how to use Nature’s larder, which in times of peace and plenty people overlook and ignore.

The Vicomte was quite a guy. He was a cavalry officer, and aviator in World War I, an engineer in Egypt and a cookbook author. During World War II he was believed to have been captured by the Nazi and to have died in Germany. He ignore’s nothing that we might need to know in those (and these) sparse times. We are told how to make soap, how to use horse-radish to “cure “ freckles, and how to find wild bird eggs. There are an array of nifty recipes for hedgehog, squirrel, frogs and various other small winged creatures from Rooks to starlings. As for their eggs, be warned:

When Handling Eggs

If you suffer from a cut on the hands, be careful when breaking eggs that the cut is not in contact with the white, and in all cases if your fingers have been in contact with the white of eggs do not rub your eyes. The white of the eggs, or albumen, is equal in chemicals to the venom of the rattlesnake.
Who knew? It seems a bit odd that I can eat the eggs but not get the whites in my eyes.

Some of the recipes are so unencumbered, they seem to the modern reader to be comical. Truth be told, as someone who cooks a lot, I rather like these bare boned recipes!

Baked Bream

Clean, wash and wipe the fish, then wrap it in a buttered paper and bake in a moderate oven for about half an hour.

This lovely reprint of They Can’t Ration These was done by Persephone Books in London. Each of their reprints are done in simple grey card stock with endpapers taken from old wallpapers and textiles. For the Vicomte's book they chose "October" from a a fabric designed by Alma Ramsey-Hosking. Using the same inventiveness needed to persevere in 1940's rationing, Ramsey-Hosking's fabric was printed at her kitchen table using potato prints and paint on sugar paper. If you are unfamiliar with Persephone Books, take a look at their web site or visit them in London and linger.

11 February 2009

The French Chef

On February 11, 1963, Julia child took to the airways of WGBH in Boston with The French Chef. It would not be hyperbole to state that airing The French Chef changed culinary history in America.

From a simple omelet to the exceeding complicated bouillabaisse, Child faced every task with effervescence and aplomb. The recipes from her PBS show were collected in her cookbook, The French Chef. Her recipe for bouillabaisse comes with a lengthy discussion of what fish one should use. The Marseillaise battle cry is: No rascasse -- No bouillabaisse! It's the culinary equivalent of Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité.

Since rascasse is virtually unavailable in America, authentic bouillabaisse is in question. Julia Child outlined her feelings in her 2006 book, My Life in France.

" the telling flavor of bouillabaisse comes from two things: the Provençal soup base - garlic, onions, tomatoes, olive oil, fennel, saffron, thyme, bay, and usually a bit of dried orange peel - and, of course, the fish - lean (non-oily), firm-fleshed, soft-fleshed, gelatinous, and shellfish."
Without the discussion on fish, here is her recipe from The French Chef Cookbook:

Bouillabaisse a la Marseillaise

The Soup Base

1 cup sliced yellow onions
3/4 cup sliced leeks, white part only; or 1/2 cup more onions
1/2 cup of olive oil
A heavy 8-quart kettle or casserole
2 to 3 cups chopped fresh tomatoes, or 1 1/4 cups drained canned tomatoes, or ¼ cup tomato paste
4 cloves mashed garlic

Cook the onions and leeks slowly in the olive oil for 5 minutes without browning.

Stir in the tomatoes and garlic, and cook 5 minutes more.

2½ quarts water
6 parsley sprigs
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp thyme or basil
1/8 tsp fennel
2 big pinches of saffron
2-inch piece or 1/2 teaspoon dried orange peel
1/8 tsp pepper
1 Tb salt (none if using clam juice)
3 to 4 lbs. fish heads, bones, and trimmings including shellfish remains; or, 1 quart clam juice and 1 1/2 quarts of water, and no salt

Add the water, herbs, seasoning, and fish or clam juice to the kettle. Bring to boil, skim, and cook, uncovered, at the slow boil for 30 to 40 minutes. Strain, correct seasoning. Set aside, uncovered, until cool if you are not finishing the bouillabaisse immediately, then refrigerate.

Cooking the Bouillabaisse

The soup base
6 to 8 lbs. assorted lean fish, and shellfish if you wish, selected and according to directions at beginning of recipe

Bring the soup base to a rapid boil in the kettle about 20 minutes before serving. Add lobsters, crabs, and firm-fleshed fish. Bring quickly back to the boil and boil rapidly, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Then add the tender-fleshed fish, and the clams, mussels, and scallops. Bring back to the boil again for 5 minutes. Do not overcook.


A hot platter
A soup tureen or soup casserole
Rounds of toasted French bread
1/3 cup roughly chopped fresh parsley

Immediately lift out the fish and arrange on the platter. Carefully taste soup for seasoning, place 6 to 8 slices of bread in the tureen, and pour in the soup. Spoon a ladleful of soup over the fish, and sprinkle parsley over both fish and soup. Serve immediately.

At the table, each guest is served or helps himself to both fish and soup, placing them in a large soup plate. Eat the bouillabaisse with a large soup spoon and fork, helped along with additional pieces of French bread. If you wish to serve wine, you have a choice of rosé, a strong dry white wine such as Côtes du Rhône or Riesling, or a light, young red such as Beaujolais or domestic Mountain Red.

Bon Anniversaire to The French Chef.

10 February 2009

Good Food From France

H.P Pellaprat was the head chef and teacher at the Cordon Bleu Cooking School in Paris for thirty years. He tried to adapt the famous and professional recipes he taught to chefs for the home cook. The problem with Pellaprat’s concept is that his recipes ended up being simplified to the point that they fail to be instructive.

Good Food From France was published in 1950. It is hard to imagine in 2009 just how strange French cuisine was when Truman was President. In today's kitchen, a cook could pick up a copy of Pellaprat's book and follow along with his recipes, but in 1950, it would have been more difficult. It would be another eleven years before Julia Child’s Mastering The Art Of French Cooking was published. Then another 2 years after that before Child took to air waves to show America how to prepare French cuisine.

Here is a simple recipe from Pellaprat for a Crème Chantilly.

Sweet Whipped Cream

Whip heavy cream until it is almost stiff. Sweeten with confectioner’s sugar, allowing 3/4 cup of sugar to a pint of cream. Flavor with 1 teaspoon of vanilla. Keep in the refrigerator until ready to use.

While we have a great variety of milk in the USA, 1%, 2%, skim, or vitamin D it all seems to be a watered down whole milk. Where as every little village in France offers cream, heavy cream, double cream, crème fraîche, in most of the USA it is Half and Half or Whipping Cream, but in many places, you can find Heavy Cream. There are variations in the butter fat content. Roughly:

Half and Half 10.5 %
Light Cream AKA Coffee Cream or Table Cream 18 -30 %
Whipping Cream 30 -36%
Heavy Cream 36 -42%
Whipped "desert topping" 0% -- it's all vegetable oil, do not under any circumstances buy this stuff!!

I prefer to use Heavy Cream. It won't be as stiff as whipping cream, but is a much lovelier texture for me. I am not that fond of cloying sweetness so 3/4 cup of sugar is way too much for two cups of cream. Generally, I us 1 tablespoon of sugar for every cup of cream. Instead of vanilla, try adding a teaspoon of spirits. With cream for berries or citrus, I use Cointreau. For chocolate, I am partial to Jack Daniels.

While Pellaprat taught chefs, it took Julia Child to teach home cooks how to make really “Good Food From France”.

09 February 2009

The Gardener’s Community Cookbook

Smith & Hawken gathered a bunch of garden recipes together on a stack of 3 X 5 cards. The list began to grow as stacks of recipes often do and before long, they had a cookbook. Smith & Hawken: The Gardeners' Community Cookbook by Victoria Wise gathered recipes far and wide. Famous chefs and gardeners like Alice Waters, Thomas Keller and Barbara Damrosch added their recipes. It is fun to see what gardener's around the country do with a ton of zucchini!

Me, I lean toward the alcoholic. Limoncello is a fairly straight forward recipe. You need lemons, vodka, sugar and several months of very little work to produce a fine aperitif.

Limoncello de Malibu

6 large thick-skinned lemons, scrubbed
4 cups 100 proof vodka
1 2/3 cups sugar
2 2/3 cups spring or distilled water

1. peel the zest off the lemons with a vegetable peeler, reserving the rest of the fruit for another use. Place the zest in a 1 gallon jar or bottle fitted with a lid. Pour in the vodka and cap the jar. Set aside in a cool, dark place for at least 3 weeks, giving the jar a shake from time to time.

2. Combine the sugar and water in a large pot and bring to a boil. Simmer briskly for 5 minutes, until slightly thickened. Remove from heat, cool completely, and add to the jar with the vodka (see Note below). Recap the jar and again set aside in a cool dark place for at least one month or up to 6 weeks before using.

3. To serve, pour a small amount of the limoncello over ice and enjoy.

Note: You can remove the lemon zest or not before adding the sugar syrup to the vodka. With the zest left in, the limoncello will have more of a citrus bite.
I use a slightly different recipe. I put the lemon peel, vodka and sugar together in an infuser and shake. Why waste water? If you keep the peel in, your best bet is to use a jar with a spigot. An old sun tea jar will work. But if you plan to make limoncello or other infused liquor a habit I suggest you splurge on a nice glass infuser.

I get mine at Infused Vodka. They are very helpful and their jars are great! Another tip, just stick the finished limoncello in the freezer. Again, why waste all that water on ice.


08 February 2009

Essential Beeton

Isabella Beeton is arguably the first in a long line of domestic superstars. Between 1859 and 1861, Mrs. Beeton published 24 issues of the English Woman’s Domestic Magazine. In 1861 those magazines were compiled into her opus, Beeton’s Household Management. Before the decade ended, 2 million copies of the book had been sold. Her book has been printed and reprinted in dozens of forms. A recent “best of” edition, Essential Beeton was published in 2004

Among her “Golden Rules” for the kitchen:

Leave nothing dirty, clean and clear as you go.

A good cook wastes nothing

Stew boiled is stew spoiled

Boil fish quickly, meat slowly

This winter, my friends and I lamented the fact that we cannot find decent suet for mincemeat or for a lovely suet crust. Suet is the hard fat around the kidneys. I’m sure if you live in New York City or in a small town with a proper butcher you may be able to find just the suet you need. If not, you can only imagine how fine this crust can be.

Suet Crust, for pie or pudding

Ingredients.--To every lb. of flour allow 5 to 6 oz. of beef suet, 1/2 pint of water.

MODE.—Free the suet from the skin and shreds; chop it extremely fine and rub it well into the flour; work the whole to a smooth paste with the above proportion of water; roll it out, and it is ready for use. This crust is quite rich enough for ordinary purposes but when a better one is desired use from 1/2 to 3/4 lbs. of suet to every pound of flour. Some cooks for rich crusts, pound the suet in a mortar, with a small quantity of butter. It should then be laid on the paste in small pieces, the same as for puff-crust and will be exceeding nice for hit tarts. 5oz. of suet to every lb. of flour will make a good crust; and even 1/4 lb. will answer very well for children, or where a crust is wanted very plain.

Isabella Beeton and the "invention" of her book is a wonderful story. There are several biographies of Beeton but this is the best: The Short Life and Long Times of Mrs. Beeton: The First Domestic Goddess by Kathryn Hughes.

If you are thinking of making this crust without the suet --Don't. Lard or any other type of fat is not a acceptable. Alas, there is simply no substitute for suet, so befriend a butcher or no steak and kidney pie for you.

07 February 2009

Peperonata and other Italian Dishes

In Britain, Penguin published a series called Penguin 60’s. They are small paperbacks culled from books previously published by Penguin. The books run about 60 pages and cost 60p, about $1. Peperonata and other Italian Dishes by Elizabeth David collects some basic recipes from her many cookery books.

David was one of the first cooks to stress the need for fresh ingredients, and simple preparations. A friend of mine who was an editor for Vogue traveled with David to Italy after WWII. England had suffered under rationing for so long and David was thrilled to be out in the Italian countryside. She would yell at the driver to stop the car for no reason, bolt out and begin picking fresh herbs, or collecting wild onions, or garlic.

Yesterday, we pulled the last of the turnips from the 2008 garden. I thought of this recipe as they sat on the table.

Navoni all’Agliata
(turnips with Garlic sauce)

A Genoese dish. Blanch the peeled turnips in boiling slated water for 5 minutes. Cut them in quarters and put them in to stew gently in a small heavy pan with plenty of olive oil and season them with salt. Prepare the agliata by pounding two or three cloves of garlic in a mortar and add in a little vinegar. When the turnips are cooked, add this mixture to the turnips; stir well so that the garlic sauce is well amalgamated with the oil, add a little parsley and serve.
Elizabeth David understood fresh ingredients and simple preparations long before they became fashion. If you don't own one of her cookbooks, you are missing out on a great cook and a greater writer.

06 February 2009

Roald Dahl’s Revolting Recipes

Roald Dahl was the a great writer. The fact that most of his books are considered "children's" books is really irrelevant. The wickedly mischievous Dahl loved the gory side of life.

Toward the end of that life, Dahl was helping his wife, Felicity, assemble a book of recipes that became Memories and Food at Gipsy House. While they were assembling the recipes, Felicity suggested that Dahl compile a children’s cookbook based on the foods he invented for his characters. He demurred, believing it to be far to daunting to a man in failing health.

Some time later, Felicity found a list of every food mentioned in Dahl’s books, from Willy Wonka to James and Giant Peach. After his death, several revolting cookbooks grew from his list. Roald Dahls Revolting Recipes is one of them. The recipes are as deliciously wicked as Dahl's words. This recipe from James and The Giant Peach will help you and your children make wasp stings on toast.

Crispy Wasp Stings On A Piece Of Buttered Toast

You Will Need:

small round cookie cutter
baking sheet

Buttered Toast:

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
4 slices white bread

Wasp Stings

2 1/2 ounces shredded coconut
1/4 cup sifted confectioners sugar
3 teaspoons honey
grated zest (yellow skin only) of a quarter of a lemon

1. Work the butter and cinnamon together until thoroughly mixed.
2. Toast the bread. Cut four disks out of each slice and set aside.
3. Spread 2 ounces of the shredded coconut onto a baking sheet and sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar.
4. Place under a hot broiler until the sugar begins to caramelize (it will happen very quickly), then with a spatula turn the coconut over and caramelize the underside.
5. Transfer to a bowl, add the honey and lemon zest and mix well.
6. Add the remaining coconut.
7. Spread the cinnamon butter on the toast disks and top with the crisp wasp stings.

Quentin Blake ccontinued his tradition of illustrating Roald Dahl.

If you have a budding cook in the family, put this book in their hands and enjoy the mayhem.

05 February 2009

Bistro Cooking At Home

Gordon Hamersley trained with Wolfgang Puck at Ma Maison. After a year in France, he went to Boston and opened Hamersley’s Bistro. Bistro Cooking at Home offers the home cook a way to re-create the earthy, simple food found in dark bistros with crisp white tablecloths. There is a good mix of traditional offerings with new and delightful takes on old classics. The directions are written to be painfully simple, often repeating themselves to insure the reader understands. If you are a good cook, this detailed repetition, might get a bit old, but if you have never seared foie gras, or pounded paillards, this book will guide you through the process easily.

Chicken Paillards with Lemon and Capers

2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
About 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, for dusting
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 tablespoon capers, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup chicken broth
2 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley

Place each chicken breast half between 2 pieces of plastic wrap on a work surface. Leave some room for the breasts to increase in size by half again. Using the flat side of a kitchen mallet or a meat mallet, pound the chicken until it’s about 1/4 inch thick.

Put the flour on a plate near the stove. Heat the oil and about 1/2 tablespoon of the butter in a large sauté pan until very hot. Sprinkle the chicken breasts with salt and pepper. Coat both sides if the breasts with flour, shake off any excess flour and immediately put the chicken in the hot pan.

Cook the chicken for about 2 minutes, increasing the heat if necessary to brown nicely. Turn the chicken over and cook until done, about another minute or two. Transfer the chicken to serving plates and keep it warm.

Add the shallot to the pan and cook it for about 1 minute. Add the capers, lemon juice, and chicken broth. Cook over high heat until slightly thickened. Add the other 1/2 tablespoon butter for a slightly richer sauce. Add the chopped parsley to the sauce and pour the sauce over the chicken breasts.

Capers can come in a brine or packed in salt, either method does require rinsing. Otherwise the sauce will be way to salty. If you don't have a mallet, try using a rolling pin to pound the breasts into paillards.

04 February 2009

She Cooks To Conquer

Here's a throw back to the Fabulous Fifties! She Cooks To Conquer by Robert H. Leob, Jr. and illustrated by Laura Jean Allen is a fully illustrated guide to cooking for your man. Or more specifically, cooking to GET your man. And if that man is a Classics scholar who just loves reading The Odyssey, you are in luck.

Loeb divides women into two groups, Eves and Circes. Here's the difference:

Eve is the gal who snared her Adam.
Circe is the miss who wants to be a "madam."
That would of course be a 50's "Mrs." madam and not a New York Governor's "madam."

Some of the recipes include: Canape Apollo, Fruit Cup Cyclops, Toast Tithonus, Zeus Soup and...

Pommes Polyphemus

OK, it's a baked potato! But a Fabulous Fifties Baked Potato! Now stop reading this blog and get out there an find a husband.
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