31 January 2011

Dinner On A Toothpick

Dinner on a Toothpick is a guide to feeding 4 to 40 without forks. Since the Superbowl is at hand, this little gem from 1971 is filled with bites to skewer on a toothpick, so an easy guide for appetizers.

Written by Josephine Camille and Gail Johnson this little book is meant to be an introduction to “casual dining” or more specifically a way to serve up a cocktail buffet. It does seem a bit curious that there has been so much recent interest in cocktails but not so much in cocktail snacks.

Dinner on a Toothpick is chocked full of balls. Beet balls, olive balls, bourbon balls and of course meatballs. There is nothing earth shattering about the appetizers featured in the book. It does have a nifty chart in rear of the book that features a chart for every appetizer in the book listing among other things whether it is hot or cold, hearty or secondary, bland or spicy and whether it could be made in advance.

Since balls are easily skewered and since everyone likes a little dessert, her is how to make bourbon balls.

Bourbon Balls

1 cup vanilla wafers, rolled fine
2 jiggers bourbon
2 tablespoons cocoa
1 cup pecans or walnuts, finely chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons white corn syrup
powdered sugar

Mix all the ingredients and form into small balls. Roll in powdered sugar. May be stored in a jar in the refrigerator.

How easy is that?

20 January 2011

Purefoy Hotel

We did a post on the famous Purefoy Hotel Cookbook. I once read this from a book dealer: Frankly, I'm not quite sure how this book became one of the most sought-after cookbooks in America, but it is! So true.

People are often asking me if they can buy my copy. Some people collect the various editions and every time I mention it, I get e-mails from people.

Recently I got an e-mail from Alan Anderson. He told me his parents always stopped in at the Purefoy twice a year. He wrote:

"My mother's recipe book is very well used, dog eared would be an understatement. There is a menu she kept in the book."
He sent me a copy of his mother's old menu from the Purefoy that she had kept tucked in her copy of The Purefoy Hotel Cookbook.

There is no better reason to do a blog.

Thanks, Mr. Anderson

14 January 2011

Southern Ground

I love Southern Ground. Now I know you know I love Southern cookbooks. And you probably know I love tunes, especially that Americana/y’alternative rooted in the South. Southern Ground is a cookbook written by a fave band, the Zac Brown Band.

Now Zac can sing and he can cook.

I love Southern Ground for another reason – it is a great and unusual design. Instead of heading out to a mainstream publisher, they chose a different route. Printed on heavy card stock, every double page spread features pictures and writings by the band and a recipe. Each recipe is printed on a white 3 x 5 recipe card tucked into a glassine envelope. It’s the kind of book a mainstream publisher would dismiss as a hassle.

The recipes are standard Southern fare, greens, Brunswick Stew, deviled eggs, stewed okra and of course…

Sharp Cheddar Pimento Cheese

1 lb sharp cheddar cheese, medium grated
1/2 bunch green onions, chopped
1 (4oz) can roasted red pepper, dices
3/4 cup prepared mayonnaise
6 oz cream cheese, room temperature

Grate sharp cheddar cheese into a large bowl.
Add all ingredients and mix well. You won’t need salt because of the sharp cheddar has enough.

The best news...this is Volume 1. Check out a copy at the Zac Brown Band web site.

12 January 2011

High On The Hog

To say that Jessica B. Harris writes “cookbooks” would be a grievous understatement. She does write cookbooks but she a masterful practitioner of culinary history. There is that derogatory adage which states those who can do and those who can’t teach. Jessica B. Harris can both cook and teach.

Here new book was receiving accolades even before it was officially published. High on the Hog is a narrative of African American foods history told from one table to another.

It is easy to forget that the African Diaspora brought with it many of the foodways that most people think of as truly American. When looking at one of America’s earliest and most influential cookbooks, 1824’s Mary Randolph’s The Virginia House-wife, featured ingredients that simply hadn’t existed in America a hundred years earlier such as field peas and okra. It would be three years later when the first African-American published a book with recipes, Robert Roberts’ The House Servant’s Directory.

It would be inconceivable to think that there is a person interested in American cuisine and Southern cuisine especially, that wouldn’t benefit from a careful reading of Jessica B. Harris’ High On The Hog.

Though there are only a few recipes in her book, this one from her Grandma Harris is sure to be a winner.

Grandma Harris’s Greens

4 pounds of mixed collard, mustard, and turnip greens
8 strips of bacon
6 cups water
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

For serving:
Hot sauce
Chopped onions
Balsamic vinegar

Wash the greens well, picking them over to remove any brown spots or blemishes, then drain them well, cut out the thick central stems, and tear the greens into bite-size pieces. Place the bacon strips in a large, heavy saucepan and cook them over medium heat until they are translucent and the bottom of the pan is covered with the rendered bacon fat. Add the greens to the water and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low and continue to cook, covered, until the greens are tender – about 2 hours. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve the greens hot, accompanied by hot sauce, chopped onions, and vinegar.

Harris notes that some cooks added a pinch of sugar but not her Grandma. Bless her heart, my Great-Aunt Mamie, who was in charge of cooking the greens in our house would never add sugar, either.

07 January 2011

Eating Royally

Finally Prince William decided to make an honest woman out of Kate Middleton whom we now speak of as "Catherine" which begs the question why hasn't she been "Cate" all these years?

Since there is renewed interest in those pesky Windsors, our Famous Food Friday is William's mom, Princess Diana. It seems her personal chef, Darren McGrady, penned a cookbook featuring Diana's favorite dishes entitled Eating Royally.

McGrady began working at Buckingham Palace where he tells us that working for the Queen is a live-in job. You get housing, health care, clothing, six weeks of vacation, long-term employment and really crappy pay.

When he first went to Balmoral (brilliantly portrayed in the movie The Queen, he was preforming poorly at the vegetable station. The Head Chef came over.

"Right, Now let me show you how to prepare the Queen's carrots." He then took three very large carrots, peeled, trimmed and topped them. He then sliced them length wise and in half so that each carrot was of equal length. The carrots were then placed in a white paper bag and the bag was folded shut. "There," he said, "That's how to do it."

"But Chef," I asked, now totally bewildered, "aren't they a bit large and don't we need to cook them?"

"Large?" His eyebrows shot up. "Of course not. They will be fine for the horses. And don't ever cut them any shorter than that of she will blame up when the damn horses bite her fingers."

So let that be a lesson to you.

The cookbook reflects the Windsor's dinning habits which means you are looking at recipes that reflect the style of the 1950's. There is a lot of mayonnaise, cold fish terrines and desserts. Meat, potatoes and peas. There is not a sous-vide machine in site.

Here is a fine example of cooking for Royalty. It is a rather "simple" recipe for lemonade, a popular drink served after boarding the Britannia.

Lemon Refresher

4 1/2 cups of sugar
2 tablespoons Epsom salts
3 teaspoons citric acid
3 teaspoons tartatic acid
6 lemons, juice and zest
5 cups water

Place the sugar, Epsom salts, citric acid, tartaric acid, lemon juice, and zest in a bowl and whisk them together. Bring 5 cups of water to a boil and pour over the lemon mix, whisking until combined. Refrigerate until cold and decant into screw-top bottles. To serve, dilute 1/4 cup of the lemon refresher with 2 cups of water over ice or to taste.

McGrady assures us that Princess Diana was a bit more relaxed than the rest of the clan. Unfortunately, the food was pretty much the same.

As he waited for Diana to return home from vacation, he saw on television, like most of the world, that his boss, the Princess would not be retuning. Mohammed Al Fayed promised jobs to any member of the Princess' staff who wanted one. Prince Charles asked McGrady to be his personal chef, but he felt Diana would have felt betrayed, so he left the royal kitchen.

This may not be the best cookbook to actually cook from, but the stories of the kitchens is rather fascinating.

05 January 2011

Absinthe Cocktails

Man or Woman does not live by bread or pasta alone. Every now and then you need a stiff drink. And I do mean stiff. So grab a bottle of the newly legal old green fairy, absinthe.

What does one do with this bottle?

Grab a copy of Absinthe Cocktails by Kate Simon with lovely drink photos by Lara Ferroni. Simon who is an editor at Imbibe magazine (hey there are magazines for everything which makes me think you haven't read this month's Modern Ferret, but I digress...). Simon has great contacts with bartenders around the globe so the book features many new spins on absinthe. In addition, it lists all those faves of years gone by like the Corpse Reviver #2.

Here's a spin on the very lady-like Grasshopper from Jackson Cannon at Boston’s Eastern Standard.

Absinthe and Old Lace

1 ounce dry gin
1/2 ounce absinthe verte
1/2 ounce green crème de menthe (Jackson likes Bourdeaux-made Marie Brizard’s)
1/2 ounce simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water)
1/2 ounce half-and-half
1 egg white

Garnish: 1 dash BittermensXocolatl Mole Bitters or shaved bittersweet chocolate

Fill a stemmed glass with ice and let sit to chill. In a shaker, combine the ingredients and shake without ice to blend. Add ice and shake until chilled. Discard the ice from the stemmed glass, shaking out any excess water. Strain the contents of the shaker into the chilled glass. Garnish.

Having been very fascinated by the deadly absinthe, I am glad to see a drink book offering up many new ideas. If there is a problem, its that the book offers up particular brands of absinthe, vermouth, bitters, gins, until you kind of lose track of what it is you are trying to make. It may not bother some people but it left me distracted. Chronicle Books published this volume and they just love these small, focused, lavishly illustrated tomes. And so do I.

Remember, it's always "after 5" somewhere.

02 January 2011

Happy New Year

Teddy Watches the Ball Drop in Times Square

maybe not...

Happy New Year
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