31 December 2009

Champagne: The Spirit of Celebration

Chronicle Books has always has an affinity for design. One of their most beautiful books, in my opinion, is their book on champagne by Sara Slavin and Karl Petzke.

Champagne: The Spirit of Celebration is one heavy paper with lovely striped endpapers. There is a grand mix of vintage images and crisp modern photos. The recipes form a handful of vibrant, sensuous dishes for any table. It is a rare combination, a handsomely bound book that is also a grand little cookbook.

As you can tell, I’m a big fan of risotto as a festive entrée. This is one of my all-time favorite recipes. I have gone back to it year after year and it always impresses.

Champagne Risotto with Wild Mushrooms

4 cups beef broth
3 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 pound wild mushrooms (morel, shiitake, etc.), stemmed and sliced
2 tablespoons finely minced shallots
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
1 1/4 cup champagne
1/4 cup half and half
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped

Heat broth to a simmer and let simmer until later. Meanwhile, in a medium-sized sauté pan, melt 2 tablespoons of butter. When the butter begins to foam, add the mushrooms and sauté for 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside. Place the remaining butter in a large heavy-bottomed sauce pan and sauté the shallots until soft, about 1 to 2 minutes. Add the rice and stir for 1 minute to coat with the butter-shallot mixture. Add 1 cap of the champagne, reserving 1/4 cup. Stir until champagne is completely absorbed.

Begin to add simmering broth 1/2 cup at a time, stirring frequently, but waiting until the broth is absorbed before adding more. After 18 to 20 minutes the rice should be tender but still firm. Stir in remaining 1/4 cup of champagne, mushrooms, half and half, cheese, and parsley. Serve immediately.

There are several wonderful histories of champagne. Patrick Forbes’ Champagne: The Wine, The Land and The People is an older book, but one of the best I have ever read on the history of both the drink and those who make it.

For this eve of a New Year, raise a glass of champagne or a bowl of risotto and toast the year to come.

30 December 2009


"Charlie Chaplin has sold a 1,000-word excerpt from
his autobiography to the soviet newspaper
Izvestia for nine pounds of caviar."

New York Times, September 22, 1964

Susan Friedland has a broad and bold take on Caviar. Her first book was about Ribs, and frankly, I simply adore a girl who loves her ribs and caviar.

While her book features a basic history of caviar, her recipes feature caviar as an ingredient as well as an expensive garnish. She includes several recipes for caviar substitute, many Russian, as she tells us while the Russians love caviar, they also know how to fake it. She features several types of roe in her recipes, including the dried mullet roe botarga.

As the holidays are winding down, I find there is nothing more comforting than a lovely risotto.

Caviar Risotto

1 cup bottled clam juice
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
4-5 tablespoons minced onions
1 1/2 cup arborio rice
1/2 cup aquavit, dry vermouth, or dry white wine
1 cup heavy cream
6 tablespoons salmon caviar

1. In a saucepan. Mix the clam juice and 4 cups of water and bring to a simmer.
2. Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan and sauté the onion slowly in it, stirring from time to time. The onion should be soft but not browned.
3. Add the rice and stir to coat with butter and onion. Raise the heat and pour in the aquavit or wine. Boil off the alcohol, stirring constantly.
4. Lower the heat, add 1 cup of the simmering liquid, and keep stirring until all the liquid is absorbed. Add another cup of simmering liquid and stir until that’s absorbed. Keep adding the liquid until the rice is creamy and still firm. Toward the end of the cooking time, add the simmering liquid in smaller quantities; never stop stirring or the rice will stick and burn. After the last of the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is virtually done, add the heavy cream, stirring to combine. Turn off the heat and cover the pan with a folded dish towel. Let sit for 2 or 3 minutes. Gently sir in the caviar and serve immediately.

If you have an interest in caviar and want to learn more about this ancient fish story, Inga Saffron’s book, Caviar, is a detailed history of how a food eaten by peasants was transformed into the indulgence of the Tsars.

And our final word on caviar comes from a shaken but not stirred James Bond:

“The trouble always is,’ he explained to Vesper, ‘not how to get
enough caviar, but how to get enough toast with it.”

29 December 2009

Caviar: A True Delicacy

“There is more simplicity in the man who eats caviar on impulse than in the man
who eats grape-nuts on principal.”

G.K. Chesterton

Susie Boeckmann and Natalie Rebeiz-Nielsen both work in the caviar business. It wasn’t a huge leap for them to conspire on a slim book about the subject, Caviar: A True Delicacy. Caviar is in the same publishing series as Shirly Line’s book, A Passion For Oysters. It takes the same slim format with a bit of history followed buy a few recipes.

The authors, being closely associated with the trade seem to view caviar in very pure form. The recipes rend to be recipes dressed with a bit of caviar. But remember, it is the New Year so splurge.

If I had to choose between caviar and quail's eggs, I am afraid I would go with the quail's eggs. Here a combination of both.

Caviar with Quail’s Eggs

3 quail eggs
1 teaspoon finely chopped chives
1-2 tablespoons fromage frais or sour cream
pinch of ground pepper
triangles of hot toast
3 teaspoons caviar
2 thin wedges of lemon to garnish

Bring a saucepan of water to the boil. Put in the quail’s eggs into a wire basket, lower the basket into the water and boil for 2 minutes.

Drain the eggs and immediately cool them under cold running water. Drain again and gently tap the eggs all around to break the shells. Peel carefully and set aside to cool completely.

Stir the chives into the fromage frais or sour cream with a pitch of pepper. Just before serving arrange the eggs and toast triangles on individual plates. Spoon the fromage frais or sour cream mixture over the eggs to coat. Place he caviar and lemon wedges on the plate and serve.

The recipe says it serves 1. Tell me what could be lovelier than ringing in the New Year quite alone with lovely champagne and quail’s eggs and caviar.

I’m an only child – it sounds delightful to me. Go ahead and multiply the recipe for all your company if you must.

28 December 2009

A Passion For Oysters

We have found ways to use our holiday leftovers and now we are heading into the festive New Year. What a great time to look at wonderful, celebratory recipes.

I have a passion for oysters. I ate my fist raw oysters as a child in a dark and dreamy restaurant whose walls were covered in red damask. It was a dinner with my parents and a long lost friend of my Fathers. His friend had a flashy Jaguar fitted with a television in the back seat and a lovely son slight older than I. The son and I road in the back of the Jaguar watching television. At the restaurant, we ordered raw oysters and I was convinced that they were the finest food known to man… and attractive boys.

Later that year, we were visiting my godparents on the Mississippi coast. I was absolutely mad to have raw oysters again. In the bright sunlight, in the middle of the afternoon, alone with my parents, I must confess that the oysters had lost a bit of their charm. But soon I recovered and raw oysters are a favorite.

Shirly Line wrote A Passion For Oysters. The slim book is written for the British market, offering detailed descriptions of “British Oysters.” There are obligatory oyster “facts” and lovely recipes.

This simple recipe is a British favorite. It is accompanied by this “fun fact.”

It would seem that Lord Cavendish, the former owner of Burlington House, built the Burlington Arcade. Far from being a merely architectural creation, the Arcade had an expressed purpose – to keep passers-by from throwing oyster shell into his garden.

Oysters on Toast

oysters, as many as you like
25-40 g/1 to 1 1/2 oz unsalted butter, per 12 oysters
2 slices of bread, or more or less as desired
lemon wedges (optional)

Open the oysters, reserving the liquor. Melt the butter in a frying pan and toss in the oysters. Stir-fry for no more than 40 seconds, depending on the size of the oysters. Do not overcook. Toast the bread. Using a slotted spoon, remove the oysters from the pan and pile them on the toast. Pour the reserved oyster liquor into the pan, swirling it into the butter. Pour over the oysters and enjoy. A lemon wedge adds a little extra je ne sais quoi, but it is the perfect compliment to any oyster.

A great amuse-bouche for the New Year, but remember, don’t throw the shells into anyone’s garden.

27 December 2009

Beard on Pasta

Christmas is over and you are stuck with leftovers. Well, if you cooked turkey you probably do. And here is the quintessential leftover turkey recipe. Tetrazzini!!

This is from none other than James Beard. Beard put variations of this recipe in several of his books, including Beard on Pasta. It was in his casserole book, his book on American cooking, even in a House & Garden article.

Tetrazzini got its name from Italian opera star Luisa Tetrazzini. In the most authentic story, the dish was invented by Ernest Arbogast, chef at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco in the early 1900’s. Tetrazzini was a long-time resident and she was fond of the rich spaghetti dish that bears her name.

Turkey Tetrazzini

3 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, chopped into small pieces, plus more for greasing the pan

3 tablespoons flour

1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups turkey stock or canned chicken broth

1/2 pound spaghetti

1 red bell pepper, julienned



1/4 cup dry sherry

1/2 cup heavy cream

1 pound roast turkey meat, chopped (about 2 cups)

1/4 cup bread crumbs

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for the pasta and preheat the broiler. Butter an 8x8-inch baking dish.

Melt 3 tablespoons of the butter over low heat in heavy saucepan. Stir in the flour. Continue stirring until the mixture turns a light golden color, about 5 minutes (it should sizzle a bit).

Gradually whisk in 1 1/4 cups stock until incorporated. Bring to a simmer then cook for 5 minutes, whisking occasionally.

Meanwhile, begin cooking the pasta to al dente. In a small saucepan, melt the remaining 1/2 tablespoon butter. Add the chopped pepper and saute until tender, about 4-5 minutes.

Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

Add sherry to the sauce and simmer briefly to cook off the raw alcohol flavor. Stir in the cream and season to taste with salt, pepper. Add the turkey meat and cooked peppers to the sauce and keep over very low heat to warm the turkey while you drain the pasta. At this point, you can thin the sauce with another 1/4 cup or so stock, if needed.

Place the pasta in the prepared baking dish. Pour the sauce over and sprinkle with bread crumbs and Parmesan. Place under the broiler until browned, about 5 minutes.

Put on some Lakmé and give this a try.

26 December 2009


Christmas is over.

The problem with Christmas on Friday is guests feel they should just spend the whole weekend. If they insist, have them take down decorations, or shovel snow, seriously, put them to work!

It they decide to head on home and you have a moment to breath, take this opportunity to sit quietly and rehash the holiday festivities with a simple aperitif and an olive or two. Georgeanne Brennan has a lovely book called Aperitif. Like all of her books, they are simple and gorgeous. It really doesn’t matter if you ever make a recipe from her books; you simply want to look and them and crawl inside.

It is a little late to have you make your own aperitif, so grab one you like from the bar; a nice sherry, Dubonnet, Campari, or my favorite, Lillet.

Now try one of these simple snacks.

In the Mediterranean they have a tiny clam called tellines, which are about the size of your thumbnail. They are a favorite accompaniment to an aperitif. Look for the smallest clams or mussels you can find.

Garlic Sautéed Clams

1 pound small clams or mussels
1/4 cup olive oil
4cloves garlic, minced
1/4 minced fresh parsley

Wash the clams thoroughly under running water to remove and grit, sand or dirt. Discard any that do not close when touched. Clean the mussels in the same way, plus, using scissors, clip any beards that are evident. Rough dry the shellfish with a towel.
In a skillet large enough to hold all the clams or mussels at one time in a near-single layer, warm the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and sauté for a minute or two, stirring, but do not let the garlic brown. Add the clams or mussels to the pan and turn them with a wooden spoon, coating them with the olive oil. Sprinkle on the parsley and cook, shaking the pan and stirring, just until the shells open, 2 to 3 minutes. Serve immediately.

Or try this one.

Dried Figs with Bacon and Fresh Goat Cheese

12 dried figs as Mission
1/4 pound fresh goat cheese, divided into 12 equal portions
2 or 3 slices bacon, cut into 2-inch-long pieces, to total 12

Preheat the broiler. Make a lengthwise slit in each fig. Tuck a portion of cheese into each slit, then wrap with a piece of bacon and secure closed with a toothpick.

Arrange on a broiler pan and slip into the broiler. Broil, turning once, just until bacon is browned and barley crisped.

Sit quietly, and enjoy the silence. Only 364 days till Christmas!

25 December 2009

Merry Christmas

from all creatures great and small here at Doe Run Farm,

we wish you a very

Happy Holiday.

24 December 2009

Ruth & Skitch Henderson’s Christmas in the Country

I like to buy cookbooks. I know, you are shocked to find that I like to buy cookbooks. There are a few “antique” cookbooks I covet, but they are usually out of my price range. So I am always on the lookout for books in my price range. On any given day, I generally have about $5 in my pocket and that is the magical cookbook range. Show me a cookbook in good shape, with a reasonable jacket that is priced under $5 and I will generally add it to my collection. Sometimes these books simply make a pass through and some of them are cherished possessions.

Last summer I picked up a lovely copy of Ruth & Skitch Henderson’s Christmas in the Country. I thought it would make a nice "Famous Food Friday" segment at Lucindaville, as Henderson was the conductor of the New York Pops. The book came complete with its own CD accompaniment, and next to cookbooks I love tunes, so this was a two-fer. Later I found that this particular copy was also a “Presentation” copy, inscribed by Ruth and Skitch to a couple who obviously were unimpressed because they never played the CD and dumped the book at a used bookstore. Lucky for me.

Ruth and Skitch Henderson on their wedding day

It being summer and all, I didn’t spend a lot of time with the book. With Christmas approaching, I pulled it out. Ruth & Skitch Henderson’s Christmas in the Country is one of the best Christmas cookbooks out there; in fact it is a really great cookbook on its own. Grant it, there are a lot of family stories, and some crafts, but there are really great recipes and tons of photo’s of lovely table settings. And there is a CD. Who knew!

Well, now you do!

Ruth Henderson describes fond memories of Saint Nicholas Day. On December 6, children made their Christmas list, rolled it up and placed it in one of their shoes. The shoe was placed at the foot of the bed or outside the bedroom door. They left Santa a snack and in the morning, if the list was gone and replaced with candy, you might have your list fulfilled, but if you found coal or a switch well, Christmas could be bleak.

The tradition was continued at the Henderson household, featuring a party for neighbors. Ruth always served a German drink called Glühwein.

Glow Wine

1 750 ml bottle red wine
5 whole cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
1/4 cup sugar
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Zest 1/2 lemon
1/4 cup dark rum (optional)
6 cinnamon sticks for garnish

Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan. Heat to simmering; do not boil. Strain if you want to (we don’t) and keep warm. To serve, ladle into mugs and add cinnamon stick to each mug.

Give it a try.

Here's Skitch with Carol of the Bells.

Happy Christmas Eve

23 December 2009

Southern Living Christmas Cookbook

Every year or two, Southern Living puts out another Christmas Cookbook. In 2008 they published Southern Living Christmas Cookbook: All-New Ultimate Holiday Entertaining Guide. It is filled with a lot of recipes that feature canned soup, like the one below and they have a certain inconsistency in recipes. On Amazon, several people complained that the recipes didn't work and the timing was off. That may be the case in one or two recipes, but if you cook several recipes and they seem to all be off, then I would suggest that it is far more likely that your oven is calibrated wrong. Instead of buying a cookbook you might want to buy an oven thermometer.

Still, if you want an easy, general Christmas book, Southern Living keeps churning them out.

I make a variation of this recipe in a large pan and love it. My recipe features NO mushroom soup, just milk. I am certain you can eliminate the canned soup by just adding a bit more milk. Though in individual coffee mugs this should be a sow-stopper.

Mini Sausage-and-Egg Casseroles

1 1/2-oz. sourdough bread slices, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
Vegetable cooking spray
1 (12-oz.) package pork sausage
2 1/2 cups 2% reduced-fat milk
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 (10 3/4-oz.) can cream of mushroom soup
1 cup (4 oz.) shredded sharp Cheddar cheese

1. Divide bread cubes evenly among 10 (8- to 10-oz.) ovenproof coffee mugs coated with cooking spray, placing in bottom of mugs.Top evenly with sausage which has been cooked in a nonstick skillet until browned and then, crumbled. Whisk together 2 1/2 cups milk, eggs, and Dijon mustard. Pour evenly over bread mixture in mugs.

2. Whisk together buttermilk and cream of mushroom soup. Spoon over bread mixture in mugs; sprinkle with Cheddar cheese. Place coffee mugs on a baking sheet.

3. Bake at 350° for 25 to 30 minutes or until casseroles are set and puffed. Serve immediately.

Note: Unbaked mugs of casserole can be covered with plastic wrap, then foil, and frozen up to 1 month. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator. Bake as directed.

This is such a "Southern" suggestion, to wrap them and freeze them for a month! Seriously, it takes longer to thaw them than to make the recipe from scratch. Southerner women are notorious for keeping a casserole in the freezer "just in case someone dies."

Don't freeze them, (unless you are anticipating someones demise in the near future)bake them today.

22 December 2009

Sarah Raven's Complete Christmas

Sarah Raven is a noted British writer of food and gardens. I am always pestering my friend, Sandra, to order me something from her gardening a catalogue and ship it "over the pond" as they say. Raven has written several wildly popular cookery books and a lovely book on growing a cutting garden. She is married to Vita Sackville-West's grandson, Adam Nicholson. Her daughters should not only have green thumbs but green toes!

She has assembled a fine book for Christmas entertaining. She takes the event in stride and lays out a system of planning so one can actually have a good time over the holidays. Of course, as I have mentioned before, taking on a trusted genre and keeping it at the same time traditional and fresh is a colossal pain. Raven has tried valiantly, but there are those detractors who say the book is just no "English" enough. Bah Humbug!

Here is a lovely, light dessert that is just what one needs after a roasted goose.

Blood Orange and Pink Grapefruit Sorbet with Limoncello

juice of 5 blood oranges (should give about 500ml juice)
juice of 2 pink grapefruits (should give about 300ml juice)
150g sugar
limoncello, to serve

Scrub and dry the fruit and, using a zester, remove the zest of the oranges. Dissolve the sugar in 200ml water in a small saucepan over a low heat. Add half the orange zest and bring to the boil for 2-3 minutes. Allow to cool and strain.

Squeeze the juice from all the oranges and grapefruits and combine it with the cold syrup and reserved, uncooked zest.

Pour into an ice-cream maker. Freeze/churn for 20-25 minutes and pack into a plastic container. Freeze for at least an hour before serving. If you haven't got a machine, pour into a plastic food container and freeze for 2 hours. Take out of the freezer and stir with a fork. Return to the freezer and repeat this process twice, stirring at two-hourly intervals.

Allow the sorbet 20-25 minutes in the fridge to soften slightly before serving. Put 2 scoops per person into a glass and pour a little limoncello over each one.

Divine! Simply divine.

Any book by Sarah Raven is a welcome gift, under the tree or for any occasion. Adam Nicholson is a fine writer, too.

21 December 2009

The Eve of Seven Fishes

If there was a Christmas tradition we would most like to steal and make a part of our Christmas tradition it would have to be the Feast of the Seven Fishes. Largely an Italian celebration, the feast is consumed on Christmas Eve. La Vigilia (The Vigil) or La Festa dei sette Pesci (The Feast of the Seven Fishes) is thought to commemorate the waiting of the Virgin Mary as she anticipates the birth of Christ.

As with most traditions, there are different ideas of how the number "7" was settled upon. Most likely it refers to the seven sacraments of Catholicism. It is the number for perfection, days of the week, and if you combine the Trinity and the symbols for earth you get "7", and God on earth.

So the tradition involves a seven course meal of fish on Christmas Eve. I'm there. And some celebrations actually include 13 dishes, one for each of the 12 disciples and Christ. Either way, it seems a fine tradition.

Robert A. Germano was so taken by the tradition and realizing that he was getting a bit older and need to pass on the family tradition, he published a book of memories and recipes about the subject: The Eve of Seven Fishes.

In addition to the fish dishes, it features many of the traditional sides, because fish for dessert is over the top even for Italians. Here is his recipe for bread -- well, man does not live by fish alone. And this bread is a bit, well, see for yourself.

Greased Bread Peasant Style

Pancetta (Italian Bacon) - 1 pound
Patate (Potatoes) - 5 medium
Cipolla (Onion) - 1 large
Peperone Marinate (Marinated Peppers) - 1 pint
Olio di Oliva (Olive Oil) - 3 tablespoons
Sale (Salt) - To Taste
Caldi del Pepe (Hot Pepper Flakes) - To Taste
Pane (Italian Bread) - 1 loaf

Cut Italian Bacon into thick slices and sauté in olive oil. Boil sliced potatoes until tender and add to the bacon. Add chopped onion, pickled pepper that have been cut julienne style, salt and the hot pepper flakes. Cook over low heat until all ingredients are heated through. Using a slotted spoon, scoop out the mixture on to individual plates. Pull the Italian Bread apart into large pieces and dip into the remaining oil to flavor and serve.

With this bread one might be tempted to forego the fish!

Check out Robert's site, The Eve of Seven Fishes.

20 December 2009

Nigella Christmas

For me, food is fun and sensuous and entertaining and no one bathes in that ethos more than Nigella Lawson. Unlike many food presenters who seem to spend more on syrup of ipecac than on butter, Nigella cooks and eats. I'd be happy in her kitchen. Here's her favorite Christmas "jam".

Actually it is a chilli jam, so stay away from the toast soldiers and try it with cheese or as a side to a nice roasted meat.

Chilli Jam

150g long fresh red chillies, each deseeded and cut into about 4 pieces.
150g red peppers, cored, deseeded and cut into rough chunks
1kg jam sugar
600ml cider vinegar
6 x 250ml sealable jars, with vinegar-proof lid, such as Kilner jar or re-usable pickle jar

1. Sterilize your jars and leave to cool.
2. Put the cut-up chillies into a food processor and pulse until they are finely chopped. Add the chunks of red pepper and pulse again until you have a vibrantly red-flecked processor bowl.
3. Dissolve the sugar in the vinegar in a wide, medium-sized pan over a low heat without stirring.
4. Scrape the chilli-pepper mixture out of the bowl and add to the pan. Bring the pan to the boil, then leave it at a rollicking boil for 10 minutes.
5. Take the pan off the heat and allow it cool. The liquid will become more syrupy, then from syrup to viscous and from viscous to jelly-like as it cools.
6. After about 40 minutes, or once the red flecks are more or less evenly dispersed in the jelly (as the liquid firms up, the hints of chilli and pepper start being suspended in it rather than floating on it), ladle into your jars. If you want to stir gently at this stage, it will do no harm. Then seal tightly.

Remember, Nigella's British so they have a more relaxed style of canning procedures.

I love a chilli jam. I make mine with habaneros, so it is molten. And for those of you who worry about my addiction to cookbooks, take a gander at Nigella's library.

Granted she lives in London and has a billionaire husband and I live in West Virginia and have a cat, but still...

I could work there.

19 December 2009

The Gingerbread Architect

I laughed recently when I saw a ginger ale commercial that pointed to the fact that "ginger ale" was made with "ginger." It seems rather obvious doesn't it? The commercial had all the marking of a ad derived from a "Focus Group." Speaking of "ginger"...

I love this book on gingerbread houses. I am going to offer up full disclosure here and tell you I wouldn't make a gingerbread house if you paid me. OK, if you paid me I might give it a try. Still, I love cooking AND architecture, so of course I love this book. IT was written by, yes, and architect, Susan Matheson and a pastry chef, Lauren Chattman.

Some people have criticised this book because the "house plans" were not elaborate enough. Seriously, folk, no one is actually moving in.

OK, as I said before, I am not going to build a gingerbread house, but I will eat the gingerbread, which in case you didn't know, is made with... ginger. So here is their gingerbread recipe. If you want plans and icing and other building supplies, do buy a copy of the book.

Gingerbread Dough

Makes 3 1/2 pounds

1 cup each: shortening, sugar

2 teaspoons each: baking powder, ground ginger

1 teaspoon each: baking soda, salt, ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1 cup dark (not light or blackstrap) molasses

2 large eggs

2 tablespoons white vinegar

5 cups flour

Combine shortening and sugar in the bowl of electric mixer; beat on medium high speed until fluffy. Add baking powder, ginger, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, cloves. Beat until incorporated.

Add molasses, eggs and vinegar; beat until smooth. Add flour, 1 cup at a time; mix on low until smooth. Scrape dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap; press into a rough square. Wrap tightly; refrigerate at least 3 hours and up to 3 days.

When you're ready to shape and bake the gingerbread, follow the directions given for the particular house you are making.

Note: This dough is perfect for gingerbread houses; it is too tough, though, for cookies. A large stand mixer will accommodate one batch of dough. If your mixer is smaller and less powerful, you may have to make two half recipes.

What? It is too tough to eat! Well fine. Here is my Great- Aunt Mamie's Gingerbread recipe so you can have something to snack on while you are building the Taj Mahal.


1 cup sifted all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 egg
5 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1/2 cup molasses
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup melted butter or shortening

Sift together the flour, salt, soda, and spices.

In a mixing bowl, combine egg, sugar, molasses, buttermilk, and melted butter and mix.

Gradually add sifted dry ingredients, mixing until blended.

Pour batter into a greased and floured 8-inch or 9-inch square pan and bake at 350 F for about 30 minutes.

18 December 2009

REPOST -- Chatsworth Cookery Book

AGAIN, PHONE, ELECTRIC...PRAY FOR SPRING. In the meantime, this is still one of my favorite cookbooks and the recipe for “Darling Budd” Terrine never loses its charm, nor do the Mitfords...

They say you always want what you don’t have.

As an only child, I was always fascinated by large families. Show me a house full of sisters and I’m hooked. It started with Little Women. I followed Alcott with books written by all the Bronte sisters, even The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte!

If you are going to talk about sister acts, without a doubt, the best of all time? The Mitford Sisters. Who could resist them? Writers, Nazi’s, Fascists, farmers and fasionistas. No to mention the cool nicknames. The youngest, Deborah, was Debo to her family but to the rest of the world she was the Duchess of Devonshire.

Deborah's sisters: Jessica, Nancy, Diana, Unity & Pamela

In 2003 Deborah Mitford wrote a cookbook,Duchess of Devonshire's Chatsworth Cookery Book. In true Mitford fashion, her chefs wrote the book, but it was the regal Duchess who graced its cover. Included in the book is a charming terrine that is one of my favorite Christmas gifts. Each year I make several small terrines and give them as gifts with a jar of Confiture de Noel.

The pate is called “Darling Budd” terrine. It was named for Margaret Budd whose husband served in the Royal Air Force with Pamela Mitford’s husband. The two families came to Chatsworth for many Christmases. It was during one of those Christmas visits that Darling Budd gave Debo her recipe. It was so popular, the Duchess had it made in bulk and sold at the Farm Shop at Chatsworth.

“Darling Budd” Terrine

1 lb. pork belly, coarsely chopped
8 oz. best pork sausage meat
a small glass of red wine
8 oz. chicken livers, cleaned and chopped
8 oz. bacon, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
12 juniper berries
1 t. chopped thyme
4 oz. streaky bacon rashers

Preheat oven to 350

Mix together all the ingredients except the bacon rashers and place in a buttered, earthenware terrine mould. Cover the top with the streaky bacon. Cover the mould with a lid or foil, stand it in a roasting tin and pour enough boiling water to come halfway up the sides of the mould. Cook in the oven for 1 1/2 hours, removing the lid after an hour to allow the surface of the pate to colour. Check the water level in the roasting tin at the same time. Once cooked, take out of the oven and allow it to cool before refrigerating overnight.

I like to line the terrine with the strips (rashers) of bacon.

If you are engrossed by the Mitford Sisters, and not just with my terrine, there is a great biography by Mary Lovell entitled The Sisters: The Saga of the Mitford Family. Diana Mitford's daughter-in law, Charlotte Mosley, has edited several collections of the letters between the sisters. Over the course of 80 years, they wrote approximately 12,000 letters to each other. Imagine what they could have done with Facebook!

17 December 2009

REPOST -- The Twelve Days of Christmas


Twelve Days of Christmas by Suzanne Huntley is a charming, narrow book filled with seasonal recipes. They run the gamut from traditional partridge and an orange glazed sweet potatoes to a Mexican Christmas Eve Salad, of mixed fruit with a light mayonnaise sauce.

The Twelve Days of Christmas offers two versions of a traditional eggnog, one with only yolks and one with the whole eggs. Huntley says that most old Colonial recipes use only the yolks. They also preferred a blend of both whiskey and rum. I prefer Jack Daniels and a shot of Jeremiah Weed!

This is the recipe including the whole eggs and serves about 25.

Eggnog with Whole Egg

10 egg yolks
10 egg whites, beaten until stiff
1/2 pound confectioners sugar
2 pints spirits
1 pint heavy cream, whipped
3 cups cold milk

Beat the egg yolks until light. Add the sugar and beat until dissolved. Add the spirits slowly while continuing to beat. (The spirits can bee all rum, either light or dark; all bourbon; or part of each in any proportion that pleases you.) Let it stand for 5 to 10 minutes; then add the milk and chill for a couple of hours. Just before serving, fold in the egg whites and whipped cream and beat thoroughly. Serve in punch cups with a sprinkle of nutmeg.

This recipe is easily halved or doubled, depending upon your entertaining needs. I don't like to "beat thoroughly" as Huntley suggests. After you have beaten the eggs, sugar and spirits and allowed it to mellow you can then fold in the egg whites. The recipe is a bit unclear as to the egg whites. You want to beat them until fluffy right before you serve the eggnog, folding them in at the last minute. Top with the whipped cream and grate a bit of nutmeg over the top.

16 December 2009


The problem with "regional" cookbooks is always the same. The reader wants the regional recipes, but they have also seen all those regional recipes. You either get the same book over and over, or a book that is not true to the region. Walking the line between those two points is a tough one. Fortunately, for anyone with a sweet tooth, David Guas has managed to walk that thin line, hell, he has managed to skip over it with a somersault or two.

For years he was the executive Pastry Chef of DC Coast and its sister restaurants and was named Pastry Chef of the Year in Washington. Bon Appétit magazine named him a "Dessert Star." His book, DamGoodSweet, can make you a dessert star.

This recipe is a perfect example of taking a Southern classic, Sweet Potato Pie and transforming it into some that is the same and wildly different.

Sweet Potato Tarte Tatin

One 11-by-14-inch sheet all-butter store-bought puff pastry dough, defrosted

3/4 cup sugar, plus 1 tablespoon for the pastry

1/4 cup water

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 16 pieces

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 pounds (2 or 3 same-size) sweet potatoes, peeled and cut crosswise into 1/8-inch-thick rounds

1 large egg

1 tablespoon milk

Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Have a 10- or 12-inch cast-iron skillet at hand.

Place the sheet of puff pastry dough on a clean work surface and cut out a 10- or 12-inch round, depending on the size skillet you’re using (roll out if necessary to smooth over any creases). Set the round onto the prepared baking sheet. Prick the pastry all over with a fork and refrigerate until ready to use.

Place 3/4 cup of sugar in a small saucepan and cover with the water. Gently stir with a spoon to make sure all of the sugar is wet (it should have the consistency of wet sand), partially cover and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook undisturbed for 3 to 4 minutes, until the mixture is clear and producing syrupy-looking medium-size bubbles.

Uncover and cook until the syrup is a light amber or butterscotch color and its temperature reaches 320 degrees. Turn off the heat; the sugar will continue to cook in the pan. Once the temperature reaches 350 degrees (this will take only a few minutes), whisk in the butter, one piece at a time, waiting until each addition is completely incorporated before adding the next. Add the vanilla extract and the salt, stirring to combine. Pour the caramel into the cast-iron skillet.

Cover the caramel with the sweet potato slices, starting in the center and overlapping in a spiraling outward circle as you go. Top with the chilled puff pastry dough round.

Combine the egg and the milk in a liquid measuring cup; use the mixture to brush over the pastry, and then sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon sugar. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until the edges are deep amber and the pastry is puffed and golden.

Let cool for 10 minutes before inverting onto a large plate. (Make sure the diameter of the plate is larger than 10 inches!) Cut into wedges and serve warm.

You will never see sweet potatoes in the same light.

15 December 2009


Stéphane Reynard is one of my favorite chefs. He is French and he loves pork, like most Southerners he eats everything but the squeal. He has that rare combination of cooking food that is at the same time sophisticated and homey.

His latest book, Rôtis, is subtitled, roasts for every day of the week. It is a glorious roasted extravaganza, with beef, pork, rabbit, chicken with fish on Friday and casseroles of leftovers on Sunday. The dishes bear Reynard’s signature style of simplicity with just the right touch to elevate the meat to a classic meal.

At the end, he offers up a series of side dishes where vegetables get their just desserts. It is one of those rare cookbooks where I want to make EVERYTHING in the book. Seriously -- everything. Trust me, some of my favorite cookbooks have three or four recipes that I go back to time and time again, but rarely do I find a book that is so appealing.

I want to offer up a recipe, but every time I start to copy one, I think, “Wait, and there is that wonderful monkfish, or the pork in mustard sauce, of the roasted fruit and vegetables…”

I solved my dilemma with the luck of the draw. Here is the recipe I opened the book pages to:

Pintade Rôtis au Chou
Roast Guinea Fowl with Cabbage

1 guinea fowl
1 savoy cabbage
100 g (3 1/2 oz) butter
200g (7 oz) piece smoked streaky bacon, diced
3 Toulouse sausages, sliced
6 garlic cloves
4 onions, peeled
160 ml (5 1/4 fl oz) white wine

Preheat oven to 200 C (400 F/Gas 6).

Separate the cabbage leaves by removing the central rib. Cook the leaves in large saucepan boiling water.

Heat the butter in a flameproof casserole dish. Add the guinea fowl and brown on both sides over high heat, then roast uncovers for 30 minutes.

Transfer the dish onto the stovetop. Add the bacon, sausage, garlic and onions, and brown over low heat. Add the cabbage, then the white wine.

Reduce the oven temperature to 160 C (315 F/ Gas 2-3). Cover the casserole dish and return to the oven for 1 hour, checking regularly that the cabbage isn’t sticking. Season with salt and pepper before serving.

What a treat. If you don’t own a book of Stéphane Reynard’s, you owe it to yourself to pick one up.

14 December 2009

English Country House Cooking

Fortune Stanley came into possession of two lovely collections of recipes. One came from the cook to several stately homes and the other from her family, specifically and aunt who had actually lived in a stately home.

Mrs. Isabelle Menzies was the daughter of the head forester who worked on the estates of the late Duke of Montrose. She was encouraged to take up cookery and grew quite good at her task. Mrs. Guy Bearing was Fortune Stanely’s aunt who collected and edited the family’s recipes.

Armed with these recipes, Stanly set out to a book, which was titled, English Country House Cooking. The book was a way to gather recipes from the grand days of Country House living and bring them to the home cook who probably didn’t need to cook for 20 or 30.

Mrs. Menzies had been in the employ of Mrs. Ronnie Greville, who loved fine food. When she ate at grand establishments such as the Ritz and found a dish she especially liked, she would arrange for Mrs. Menzies to learn the way it was prepared. This exposed Mrs. Menzies to a wide range of cooking styles that was unusual for someone in her position. Eventually Mrs. Menzies came to work for Fortune Stanley’s family and she began teaching the 9 year-old to cook.

Drawing on this wealth of cooking expertise, Stanley gathered a diverse cookbook. One can see these recipes laid out on grand dinning tables and with the help of this cookbook, on your dining table.

Poacher’s Rabbit

1 rabbit
2-3 onions
1/4 pound mushrooms
tarragon vinegar
1/2 pint stock
2-3 potatoes
4 rasher bacon

Cut the rabbit into serving pieces and soak in salted water overnight; dry the pieces and roll in seasoned flour. Make layers in a buttered casserole: rabbit, chopped onion and mushrooms, rabbit, more onions and mushrooms and finely a layer of thinly sliced potatoes. Sprinkle with about 4 teaspoonful of tarragon vinegar and a good 1/2 pint stock; finish with the bacon rashers. Cover and cook in a moderate oven for about 2 hours; about 20 minutes before the end, remover the cover and allow the rashers to brown.

Next time you are in a grocery store, see if you can poach yourself a rabbit and give this a try.

13 December 2009

Clementine Paddleford’s Cook Young Cookbook

Here is another of the great Clementine Paddleford’s cookbooks, Clementine Paddleford’s Cook Young Cookbook. By the time she compiled this book she was falling out of fashion in the culinary world. As the food editor of This Week magazine, however she had access to a vast network of readers.

Felling somewhat dated in her own life, Paddleford writes in her introduction:
"Young is the world. Young is everything – fashion, recreation, reading, travel – and certainly food. High-spirited, high-geared young people are the trail blazers… cooking from “scratch” is no longer the brag thing…Now women put together three meals a day in about 90 minutes. Two decades ago it took five hours."
She wrote those words at the beginning of the “Swinging Sixties” trying to do for food what Marry Quant did for fashion. The experiment was a bit of a failure. While she received over 50,000 recipes from across the country, the book ended up being a glorified community cookbook, full of canned soups and vegetables.

Here is a typical example.

Chicken Pie Casserole

1 can (10 1/2 ounces) condensed cream of chicken soup, undiluted
1 cup milk
2 cans (5 1/2 ounces each) boned chicken or turkey
1 package (12 ounces) corn muffin mix

In a saucepan, blend together the soup and milk. Heat until bubbly. Turn into 9X9X2- inch pan. Add chicken, distributing pieces evenly. Meanwhile, prepare the corn muffin mix according to package directions. Spread over chicken mixture. Bake at 425F. about 20 minutes or until brown. If desired, accompany with hot gravy made by combining and heating 1 can (10 1/2 ounces) condensed cream of chicken soup and 1 cup milk.

Not a vegetable in site – not even a canned one! Well, as you can see, this may be a quick recipe, but it is hardly “young” and “trail blazing.“ However, if you are having a nostalgic longing for the 60’s, or if you are looking for a collection of retro recipes with a truly authentic flavor (albeit a canned flavor) then drag out your mini skirt and cook up some of these fine recipes.

12 December 2009

My Dinner Party Book

"One of the things Duchesses frequently do is entertain. Some find it a terrible trial, and, to be honest, aren't very good at it. I am fortunate in that I love entertaining and without sounding conceited some say that I am quite good at it!"
Margaret, Duchess of Argyll

Cecil Beaton's drawing of Margaret

For over thirty years the Duchess of Argyll entertained many of the rich and famous, the poor and famous and the rich- and-not-that famous. Like many of those with landed English homes, the Duchess' Georgian house in Mayfair with its pine panelled dining room and long Italian walnut table were sold. The Duchess kept detailed diaries of her many dinner parties, each bound in red leather and kept close at hand to remember the events and to know what worked well and what didn't.

More than recipes, the idea of keeping a detailed "entertaining" diary is a grand one. If you have even one party a year, it is well worth the trouble to compile your notes, guests, foods, wines even a snapshot of the table settings for further review. Start NOW! Don't worry yourself with the ones that got away.

Some of the best of her parties were collected in, My Dinner Party Book, a combination cookbook, entertaining treatise, etiquette manual with a bit of gossip thrown in.

In honor of all those "royals" she entertained, here is her recipe for...

Crown of Lamb

Ask your butcher to prepare a crown of lamb from two pieces of best end of neck, each with about six cutlets. He will need to be given a little notice for this. Make sure the crown is secure with string and skewers. Place in a roasting tin. fill the center with foil so the crown keeps its shape during cooking and twist some foil around the exposed bones to prevent burning. Spread the meat with a little dripping, sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast for 30 minutes per lb plus 30 minutes at 350F (180C, gas mark 4). After cooking, remove all the foil and hang little cutlet frills on the end of the bones. The centre of the crown can be stuffed with sausagemeat, sage and onion stuffing or any other good stuffing before cooking. Alternatively, it can be filled with small vegetables just before cooking.

Wether you are throwing a cocktail party or full blown dinner dance, Margaret, Duchess of Argyll can give you a hand in your preparations. And she makes stylish socks, too.

At the opening of David Hick's shop in New York.
Lord Louis Mountbatten, Margaret, Hicks, Pamela Hicks

11 December 2009

Earth to Table

You can never have too many cookbooks. That’s my story and I am sticking with it. A while back home before dark suggested that I take a look at Earth to Table. What can I say; I rarely turn down a cookbook suggestion. I looked it up and was immediately entranced. The cover featured four of my favorite things: a chicken, a potpie, fresh radishes and a rustic fruit tart.

I realize, at some point, these big cookbooks with pictures of heirloom tomatoes are going to fall out of fashion. In twenty years, when someone picks up a cookbook featuring those heirloom tomatoes pictures, it will immediately date it to the early 2000’s, but I don't mind a bit of dating.

Jeff Crump and Bettina Schormann wanted at restaurant that got its produce form a farm. They found ManoRun Farm and began cooking at Ancaster Old Mill producing a menu from what the farm provided. It’s not profoundly new. Crump has worked with both Alice Waters and Heston Blumenthal.

One of the differences with this book and many of the other “we cook form our farm books” is the process Crump brings to his writing. Interspersed between the recipes are thoughtful interviews with like-minded chefs and farmers. While not everyone can have a restaurant sitting in the middle of three acres of farmland, they offer several ways to begin a more localized approach to eating like: source a single product, join a CSA or plant a garden. In the meantime, make muffins.

Apple Cider Muffins

1 cup white sugar
1 cup dark brown sugar
3/4 cup grapeseed or vegetable oil
3 large eggs
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp kosher salt
1tsp ground cinnamon
1 cup pure apple cider
3/4 cups sour cream
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 medium apples, peeled and grated (ideally crisp baking apples, Granny Smiths or Mutsus)

Preheat oven to 350F. Butter and flour 12-cup muffin tin. In a medium bowl, whisk together white sugar, brown sugar and oil. Add eggs and whisk to combine.
In another bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. In a third bowl, whisk together apple cider, sour cream and vanilla.
In 3 additions, add flour mixture and apple cider mixture to sugar mixture, folding with a spatula to combine. Fold in apples then pour batter into muffin cups. Fill the cups about 3/4 of the way to the top. Bake, turning halfway, until the muffins spring back tot he touch, 20 to 25 minutes.
Remove from oven and cool on a rack.

Thanks again to home before dark for this suggestion.

10 December 2009

Recipes from a Chateau in Champagne

Outside of Epernay, France in the heart of champagne country sits the chateau Saran. It is owned by the champagne firm, Moët and Chandon. The chateau was originally a vendangeoir when it was acquired by the Moët family at the end of the eighteenth century. They used it as a hunting lodge. In the 1920’s additions were made and Saran became a summer residence. In the mid 1950’s, Saran was turned into country house to provide hospitality for agents, wine merchants, restaurateurs and journalists.

After thirty years of serving wonderful food, Robin McDouall, once a food editor at Harper’s Bazaar and Shelia Bush a publisher at Gollancz got together and collected many of the recipes for the dishes served at Saran into Recipes from a Chateau in Champagne. It is no big surprise that many of the recipes in this book feature champagne as an ingredient, like this one.

Poulet Etuvé au Champagne
(Chicken Cooked in Champagne)

1 chicken 3-3 1/2 lb
2 tbs oil
4 tbs (1/2 stick) butter
12 button onions (small white)
2 tbs marc de champagne or Calvados
2 tbs cognac
1/2 bottle non-vintage champagne
2 tbs flour
generous 1/2 cup heavy cream or crème fraîche
1 truffle (optional)
salt, pepper

Cut the chicken into joints (8 pieces) and sauté them in a fireproof casserole in the oil and half the butter until they are golden. Add the onions and turn together for a minute. Set fire to the marc or Calvados and the cognac, add them and douse the flame with the champagne. Season. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes or until the chicken is tender. Lift the joints out of the casserole, remove the skin and keep the joints warm.
Strain the cooking liquor and return to the casserole. Work the remaining butter and the flour into a beurre manié and stir into the cooking liquid over a gentle heat. When it has thickened add the cream, and the chopped truffle if you are using one. Add the chicken and simmer for the a few minutes. Arrange on a dish and serve with rice.

If perchance you don’t get invited to Saran for dinner, try this recipe. Or just buy yourself a nice bottle of Moët.

09 December 2009

The Vicar’s Wife’s Cook Book

In 2007, Waitrose Food Illustrated magazine and Fourth Estate publishing ran a recipe competition. The winner would win a book contract. Nigel Slater wrote the article calling on cooks to give him a run for his money.

The winner was Elisa Beynon, a mother of two and the wife of a Vicar. Nigel Slater is running!

Beynon says:

“If you don’t like being around food, it isn’t the best idea in the world to marry a vicar…”

Beynon admits she wasn’t much of a cook as a young girl, but once she married the vicar, she found the kitchen to be a place of wonder. Her food is easy to make and familiar without being tired and rehashed. She lacks any pretense and still provides the goods in such recipes as Welsh Girl’s Sausages or My Hairdressers Pasta. Elisa Beynon is the real deal. She may have written this book as the winner of a contest, but I am sure that more will follow. She’s a kinder, gentler, poorer Nigella Lawson.

Turnips and Leeks with Honey, Coriander and Soy

2 tablespoons olive oil
30 g. butter
12 large turnips, cut into 2 cm cubes
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
2 teaspoons coriander seeds, crushed
3 leeks, cleaned and chopped into 2 cm lengths
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
1 tablespoon runny honey
salt and pepper

Heat the oil and butter in a large pan and toss in the turnips, stirring so that they are evenly coated in the hot fat. Cook the turnips for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, then add the garlic and coriander seeds. When the turnips are virtually soft, add the leeks and put a lid on the pan.

Cook for around 8 minutes more – you want the leeks to be soft, not crispy. Finally, add the soy sauce and honey and stir to coat the vegetables. Season, but don’t go wild with the salt, as the soy sauce is quite salty anyway.

Make these tasty turnips and track down a copy of The Vicar’s Wife’s Cook Book.

08 December 2009

The Plaza Hotel Cookbook

On October 1, 1907 the Plaza Hotel opened. Articles abounded about this architectural beauty.

The kitchen at the Plaza was over an acre, filled with giant cookers and thousands of copper pots. The first chef at the Plaza was Eugene Laperruque, who had been the chef to the Rothschilds and later the executive chef at Delmonico’s.

In 1965 there was a massive blackout up and down the East Coast wreaking havoc with restaurants in New York, but not The Plaza. The gas stoves continued working, candles were lit and service continued as diners sat in the darkness eating roast beef, hot rolls and soufflés but no ice cream.

In 1972 Eve Brown collected the various recipes that made dining at The Plaza famous. In The Plaza Hotel Cookbook, along with simple recipes, Brown has provided several menus from events held at the Plaza.

When I was a kid, I love pear salad. A canned pear half on a lettuce leaf with a spoon of mayonnaise and some grated cheddar cheese sprinkled on top. I thought it to be quite charming. Here is the proper way to make such s salad.

Pear Coronation Salad
A Plaza Favorite

1 large ripe pear (Bosc or Bartlett)
Lemon juice
1/4 cup crumbled Roquefort cheese
1/3 cup whipped cream
Leaf or Boston lettuce
2 tablespoons Bar-le-duc

Halve, core and peel pear. Sprinkle pear halves with lemon juice.

Combine crumbled cheese and 2 tablespoons whipped cream to make a mixture of molding consistency. Fill the pear cavity with mixture and press halves together to restore whole pear shape.

Place pear on a salad plate lined with leaf or Boston lettuce.

Fold Bar-le-duc into the remaining whipped cream and spoon over salad.

This delicious salad is something to write home about.

07 December 2009

White Fruitcake

We began our cookbook week with one of the most famous fruitcake recipes so, it is only fitting we close with one, Eudora Welty's White Fruitcake. The first real printing of Welty's recipe was not so much a cookbook as a piece of ephemera, as we say in the book biz. In 1980, a limited edition Christmas card was send out from Albondocani Press and Ampersand Books and Welty.

The origins of the recipe come from The Jackson Cookbook, a collection of local recipes featuring an introduction by Welty. The cookbook contained a white fruitcake recipe by Mrs. Mosal, submitted by her daughter. Welty said,
"I make Mrs. Mosal's White Fruitcake every Christmas, having got it from my mother, who got it from Mrs. Mosal, and I often think to make a friend's fine recipe is to celebrate her once more."
Welty was never really much of cook owing to her mother's somewhat lacking recipes. She never included directions and when Welty questioned her method, her mother replied,
"any cook worth her salt would know, given a list of ingredients, what to do with them."
The recipe is included in several books including Southern Cakes by Nancie McDermott.

You will find that what Mrs. Welty lacked in directions, Miss Eudora greatly makes up for in this recipe.

White Fruitcake

1 1/2 cups butter
2 cups sugar
6 eggs, separated
4 cups flour, sifted before measuring
flour for fruit and nuts
2 tsp. baking powder
pinch of salt
1 pound pecan meats (halves, preferably)
1 pound crystallized cherries, half green, half red
1 pound crystallized pineapple, clear
some citron or lemon peel if desired
1 cup bourbon
1 tsp. vanilla
nutmeg if desired

Make the cake several weeks ahead of Christmas of you can.
The recipe makes three-medium-sized cakes or one large and one small. Prepare the pans -- the sort with a chimney or tube -- by greasing them well with Crisco and then lining them carefully with three layers of waxed paper, all greased as well.
Prepare the fruit and nuts ahead. Cut the pineapple in thin slivers and the cherries in half. Break up the pecan meats, reserving a handful or so shapely halves to decorate the tops of the cakes. Put in separate bowls, dusting the fruit and nuts lightly in sifting of flour, to keep the from clustering together in the batter.
In a very large wide mixing bowl ( a salad bowl or even a dishpan will serve) cream the butter very light, then beat in the sugar until all is smooth and creamy. Sift in the flour, with the baking powder and salt added, a little at a time, alternating with the unbeaten egg yolks added one at a time. When all this is creamy, add the floured fruits and nuts, gradually, scattering the lightly into the batter, stirring all the while, and add the bourbon in alteration little by little. Lastly, whip the eggwhites into peaks and fold in.
St the oven ow, about 250. Pour the batter into the cake-pans, remembering that they will rise. Decorate the tops with nuts. Bake for three hours or more, until they spring back to the touch and a straw inserted at the center comes out clean and dry. (if the top browns too soon, lay a sheet of foil lightly over.) When done, the cake should be a warm golden color.
When they've cooled enough yo handle, run a spatula around the sides of each cake, cover the pan with a big plate , turn the pan over and slip the cake out. Cover the cake with another plate and turn rightside up. When cool, the cake can be wrapped in cloth or foil and stored in a tightly fitted tin box.
From time to time before Christmas you may improve it with a little more bourbon, dribbled over the top to be absorbed ans so ripen the cake before cutting. This cake will keep for a good white, in or out of the refrigerator.


06 December 2009

Fruitcake: Memories of Truman Capote & Sook

After compiling Sook’s recipes, Marie Rudisill, compiled a fruitcake cookbook, Fruitcake: Memories of Truman Capote & Sook. Clearly, the publisher wanted you to remember her connection to her cousin and while this does have Sook’s recipe, it has a wide assortment of other fruitcakes.

In her book Rudisill states:

Fruitcake, to Southerners, is a birthright.

While I would argue that the fruit makes a fruitcake, Rudisill says it is the flour. OF course, there is only ONE flour for Southern baking, White Lily. After 125 years in the South, White Lily was bought by Smuckers and the milling was moved out of the South. The moving of White Lily was tantamount to firing on Fort Sumter or burning Atlanta. It was a cruel blow. White Lily has never been the same! I still have a lone bag of White Lily milled in Knoxville, Tennessee and I cannot bear to open use it as it would constitute the end of an era. (And after two years, it a bit stale. Still, I’m not using it.)

One of the oldest Southern fruitcakes is the 1866 Fruitcake, most commonly known as the Lee Fruitcake.

Marie Rudisill discovered a copy of this recipe folded up inside a copy of A Life of General Robert E. Lee by John Estes Cook. It was in the dresser drawer of Bud Faulk who was an ardent Civil War collector. There was also a rattlesnake skin. It seems Bud had rattlesnake that lived for years in his dresser and when he died, so did the rattlesnake. Rudisill swears that every time she visited Bud’s cemetery, she would fine a rattlesnake coiled on his grave.

Lee Fruitcake

1/2 cup candied lemon peel
1/2 cup sliced candied orange peel
1 1/2 cups finely cut citron
1 1/2 cups candied pineapple
1 cup candied cherries
1 1/4 cup dark seeded raisins
1 1/4 cup white raisins
1 cup chopped California walnuts
1 cup chopped pecans
1/4 cup sifted enriched flour
1 cup butter
2 cups brown sugar
4 eggs
2 1/2 cups enriched flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon all spice
1teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cloves
3/4 cup grape juice

Combine the peels, fruits, nuts; sprinkle with 1/4 cup of flour and mix well.
Thoroughly cream butter and sugar. Add eggs and beat well. Sift together 2 cups of flour, the baking powder, salt and spices; add alternately with grape juice. Pour the batter over the floured mixture of peel, fruit and nuts. Pour into a large tube pan until 3/4 full. Do not flatten batter. Bake in a very slow oven at 250F for about 5 hours. Remove from pan and pack in air tight tin with a double layer of cheesecloth soaked in bourbon.
Bake at least three months before Christmas. Do not let the cake dry out and keep lacing it with bourbon.

Notice it says you need to bake it three months in advance, so you have an out on this one. Truth is, you can bake it and eat it right away, but soaking for 12 weeks in bourbon can’t be all bad.

05 December 2009

Elizabeth David's Christmas

I love Elizabeth David, but I can’t name a single one of her childhood neighbors. During her lifetime, she never completed a proposed Christmas book of recipes. Years after her death, he long time editor, Jill Norman, pulled out her notes for the project, and arranged it into book form.

The fruitcake in Elizabeth David’s Christmas collection was a surprise to me. It is an old Southern scripture cake. The origins of these cakes go back to the mid-1800’s. They were popular among women as a way to pass on not only baking, but a robust lesson on the Bible. In order to make the cake, one must first read the Bible verses to find the ingredients. No one knows the true origin of this cake, but I love to think of Elizabeth David mixing one up.
A Christmas Recipe for an Old Testament Cake

4-1/2 cups of 1 Kings IV 22
1 ½ lb of Judges V 25
2 cups of Jeremiah VI 20
2 cups of 1 Sam. XXX 12
2 cups of Numbers XVII 8
2 cups of Nahum III, 12
2 teaspoons of 1 Sam. XIV 25
Season to taste with 2 Chron. IX 9
Six Jeremiah XVII 11
1 1/2 cups Judges IV 19
2 teaspoons of Amos IV 5
A pinch of Leviticus II 13

Directions Proverbs XXIII 14

Bake 1 to 2 hours

SOLUTION: Operative words in each verse:

Fine flour
Sweet cane
Ripe figs

I did so want to make you grab your Old Testament and find the key, but Elizabeth was such a sport. Now get thee to the kitchen.
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