24 May 2012

Cross Creek Cookery

Cross Creek Cookery is one of my favorite cookbooks.  It is that great combination of recipes and stories about them.  It was written by the Pulitzer Prize winning author, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings.  She complied it shortly after writing a novel of the same name.  In fact, like many a Southern cookbooks, most of the recipes in Cross Creek Cookery actually belong to Idella Parker, who was Rawlings maid for ten years.  Parker wrote of their time together in a memoir entitled, Idella: Marjorie Rawlings Perfect Maid.   I believe she still lives in Florida and is 98 year-old, now.

Miss Idella at the stove.

Rawlings bought a 72-acre orange grove in a little Florida town named Cross Creek.   Since she was a child, Rawlings had wanted to be a writer.  She became acquainted with the legendary editor, Maxwell Perkins.  She sent him several historical novels and chatty letters about life in Cross Creek.  Perkins finally told her that her novels sucked but the stories about Cross Creek were wonderful and advised her to white about where she was.

She headed Perkins' advice.  Her most famous novel, The Yearling, grew out of a tale about a boy, his father and a young deer he raised.  It was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1939.  Not everyone in Florida liked the way they were portrayed by Rawlings.  One woman threatened to horse whip Rawlings until she was dead and another sued her for libel.

I adore this recipe for Mother's Jellied Chicken.   It fits perfectly into the Molly Hollifield Jones Dinner we wrote about at Lucindaville.  Harry Lowe and I always laugh, however, as we are pretty sure Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings' mama never made this dish nor did Rawlings.  That job usually fell to Miss Idella.

Mother’s Jellied Chicken

Boil a whole, dressed chicken, about three and one-half pounds, in enough water to cover, until very tender.  Remove the chicken and boil the liquor down to one quart.  Cut the meat in small pieces, cutting across the grain to give square or rectangular pieces rather than shredded fragments.  Discard any portions of the skin that may be too coarse.  Season the meat lightly with salt and pepper.  To the quart of hot stock, add two tablespoons of gelatin soaked in two tablespoons of cold water, one tablespoon Worcestershire sauce, and more salt to taste.  Strain the stock over the chicken, mix lightly but thoroughly, and put into a fancy mould or into a long deep rectangular loaf tin.  Cool, and chill in ice box until set.  Serve on lettuce with mayonnaise on the side.  Serves eight generously.

In her rich commentary, Rawlings goes on to further describe the dish stating:

The secret of the goodness of this jellied chicken is its very simplicity.  I have had jellied chicken fixed up with an assortment of celery, cucumber, carrots, hard-boiled eggs and green peppers and pimentos and what-not.  All these alien and dressy ingredients destroy the melting flavor.

 My recommendation is to serve it up with a little horseradish sauce, to give it a kick.  

UPDATE:  Check out our mould of Queen Elizabeth in Mother's Jellied Chicken.

22 May 2012

A Girl and Her Pig

We couldn't wait till April Bloomfield's book came out.  When we heard she was writing a cookbook, we haunted Amazon until it got a publication date, then we kept waiting.  When the cover surfaced, we knew this would be a keeper.  (Ironically, the book has been trashed on Amazon BECAUSE of the cover.  It seems people are outraged about the pig.  Seriously, people, where do you think pork comes from if not the pig and no one is out there condemning every single barbecue book out there.  So pork is OK as long as we don't have to see where it comes from?  How stupid...but I digress...)

Bloomfiled was trained by Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers of the famed River Cafe.  They are famous for their "simple" fare.   The irony is some of their most famous dishes are way complicated.   That may be the mantra for Bloomfiled's book.  In an attempt to make her "simple" food accessible to the general public the direction are beyond complicated.   Her summer Tomato Soup consists of tomatoes and olive oil with some salt, garlic and basil.  There are two pages of directions.  You can only guess how long the recipe for her Beef and Bayley Hazen Pie is... four pages, not counting the page with the picture of the pie.  The thing is, in 2010, the Australian magazine, Gourmet Traveller published Bloomfiled's recipe for Beef, Stilton and Suet Pie (basically an identical recipe) without all the pomp and circumstance. 

The recipes in this book are fantastic, don't let this (or the vegan marauders at Amazon derail you from getting this book), but be forewarned.   When you look at the directions to any recipe, take a moment to breath.  The directions feature all of Bloomfield's attention to exacting detail extrapolated.

Roasted vegetables are a favorite.  Carrots, parsnips, fennel with some olive oil, garlic and salt.   In this book it is rocket science.  In fact the following recipe is from a magazine and not from her book.  Slightly different amounts, and far less instruction... and this recipe has a lot of instruction for roasted veg...

Roasted Veg

4 large fennel bulbs, outer layer removed, stalks discarded, and fronds reserved
4 small skin-on red onions, roots trimmed but ends intact, halved lengthwise
4 medium parsnips, peeled, topped, and tailed
6 medium carrots, peeled, topped, and tailed
1/2–3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
14 skin-on garlic cloves, separated
Maldon salt

 Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Trim the root end of the fennel, removing any brown bits but keeping the end intact. Halve the fennel bulbs lengthwise. Ideally, the parsnips and carrots will be about the same size, but if the top portion is much thicker than the others, lop off this portion and halve it lengthwise.

Heat half the oil in a large heavy-bottomed sauté pan set over high heat until it’s hot—rippling, crackling, and smoking a little—about 5 minutes. Carefully add half the vegetables, with the cut sides of the onion and fennel facing downward, and let them sizzle. As they slowly brown, you’ll smell the sweetness as the vegetables’ sugars emerge. Once the undersides are golden brown (about 10 minutes), transfer the vegetables, brown side up, to a large heavy-bottomed roasting pan. Repeat with the remaining oil and vegetables.

Sprinkle plenty of Maldon salt over the vegetables in the roasting pan, crushing it between your fingers. Don’t stir, because you don’t want the vegetables to lose the salt. Scatter the garlic within the pan, and pop it into the oven.

Cook the vegetables, gently turning them over occasionally. Continue cooking until you can easily slide a knife into and out of the vegetables (40 to 50 minutes). You’re not aiming for crispy vegetables.

Arrange the vegetables and garlic on a large platter, then spoon on some of the sweet oil left in the pan. Sprinkle on a handful of chopped fennel fronds, and a little more salt, if you fancy it.

April Bloomfiled's stories about her life and food are wonderful.  The photo's are great.   The instructions are EXACTING and we mean exacting.   Which is nice if you are reading a cookbook.  To cook from this book, read the recipe, read it again and then just cook.

16 May 2012

The Edgewater Sandwich Book

Everyone knows the story of the sandwich.  Once upon a time...   

The Earl of Sandwich was a big old gambler and could not be persuaded to leave the card table for the dinner table.  He instructed his cook to slap his meat between to slices of bread so he could eat and gamble simultaneously.  Here, necessity was the mother of invention.

Sine then, the sandwich has been a staple in our diet and once we eat anything, of course, someone writes a cookbook about it.  Arnold Shircliffe wrote The Edgewater Sandwich Book in 1930 for the Hotel Monthly Handbook series.  Hotel Monthly did a series of books that were long and narrow, presumably to tuck into a Chef’s vest pocket.  (Though I couldn’t name a chef that has a vest pocket these days.)  Arnold Shircliffe was quite the collector of all things food.  For many years he worked at the Edgewater Beach Hotel in Chicago.

The Edgewater Sandwich Book features a dedication to the founder of the sandwich, the famous Earl, whose picture graces the frontispiece of the book.

These little Hotel Monthly books have become quite collectible.  Like so many of these little books, they are filled with recipes that are a bit vague.  Well, perhaps not vague to a chef, they are still just sandwiches.  Really, a ham and cheese open face sandwich is a ham and cheese open face sandwich. If the “recipe” calls for strawberry jam, then just add it.

The little book has hundreds of sandwich recipes and a special chapter for canapés and for compound butters and spreads for sandwiches.

There are ham, roast beef, veal, pig’s feet, rabbit, even squirrel sandwiches which one makes the same way as one would make a rabbit sandwich.  

Rabbit Sandwich

Rabbit, bread, butter, lettuce, bacon

Sauté the leg or loin of rabbit, then smother until tender.  Allow to cool, then cut in thin slices.  Arrange them on thin slices of buttered bread.  Season, press on leaf of lettuce, a strip of grilled bacon and upper slice.  Trim and cut in two diagonally.

Not only are there a plethora of meaty fillings there are also vegetable, nuts and fruit fillings.  Apples are of course, a logical choice for sandwich fillings, but prunes are a new one.

Prune Sandwich-I

Prunes, lemon juice, lettuce, mayonnaise, bread

Mix together six large prunes, chopped, two teaspoons lemon juice and one-third head lettuce, chopped fine.  Spread with butter and mayonnaise on slices of plain bread.  Press on upper slice and cut in desired shapes.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Prune Sandwich-II.  It calls for a whole wheat bread and Oregon prunes which are supposed to be tart.   For the truly bold there is something called the cannibal, an open faced sandwich of beef tartar.

Cannibal Sandwich

Spread thin slices of bread with finely ground or chopped raw beef, without tissues and sinews, mixed with a little finely chopped onion, and seasoned.  This is an open sandwich and the layer of meat should be about the same thickness as the bread.  Sprinkle with chopped chives and criss-cross with fork times to give a decorative appearance.

 Lord knows there is nothing worse than a Cannibal Sandwich that has not been decorated with fork tines.  This is one of those collectible titles that is a charming piece of history, but is probably not for everyone.  Though without this gem, I would have never thought of a pig’s foot sandwich or a cannibal sandwich, either.

15 May 2012

The Farm

Seriously, that whole farm-to-table idea has gotten so twee.  Everyone with a fourth-floor walk up and a can of compost envisions themselves a farmer.   And I applaud it, I do.  Now if you are looking for an authentic farm experience, give Ian Knauer's The Farm a try.   Knauer worked as a recipe tester for Gourmet for many years but people began to notice that his recipes were often to better than the ones he was being asked to test.

Truth be told, he also spent a lot time on the farm... an actual farm in the Pennsylvania countryside.   Like many people, Knauer packed up and moved from the idyllic countryside to find fame and fortune in the big city.  The big city is just that --big; and a city.   Knauer conned his sisters into heading back to their childhood haunts to work the family farm for a year.  The nostalgia of garden tomatoes proved too much to pass up.

Knaur takes the reader though a year in his family garden.  It has memories and history and some great food.  There are a lot of cool recipes in this book, but this is the kind of cake we love.   It is a recipe from Ian's grandmother, whose farm was thick with black walnuts.  

Black Walnut Cake

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup black or English walnut pieces
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/3 cups buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 350°F, with a rack in the middle. Butter and flour a 9-inch-square cake pan.

Whisk together the flour, walnuts, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.
Beat together the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition, then beat in the vanilla. Add the flour mixture and the buttermilk alternately in batches, beginning and ending with the flour mixture and mixing until just combined.

Pour the batter into the cake pan and smooth the top. Bake until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 45 to 55 minutes. Cool in the pan on a rack for 1 hour. Invert the cake over a cake plate and serve.
I love to watch Ian Knauer on Unique Eats.   Rumor has it he might have a new show this year on NBC Sports.  He used to have a fine blog, but I guess writing a cookbook took him away from all that.  Ian, honey, please keep linking your info to your blog.

11 May 2012

Cooking In A Castle

My friend, Anne, recently sent me home with French cookbook entitled Cooking In A Castle by William Kaufman.  It's a tough job, traveling around France, visiting castles and eating their food, but someone has to do it.  (Why isn't it me?)

The book is chocked full of pictures of castles, but nary a morsel of food.  Still, it offers up some interesting recipes.  It seems that in France, as in much or the world, owning a castle is not cracked up to what it used to be.  One must keep up the building and grounds without loyal subjects who face the guillotine if they do not obey.  So many of these later day chateau owners have become defacto hoteliers to keep the lights on.

The book, published in 1965, offers up a Red Devil Cake.  This version of a Red Velvet Cake is usually found in books about the American South, not the South of France, but there it is in all its glory, illustrating that the history of our popular red cake is not as unique or as Southern as we think. 

Today's recipe is from the Cahteau de Cheronnac.  Its major claim to fame is that at one time (when this book was written) it was owned by Lily Fayol, chanteuse extraordinaire.

As summer is creeping up on us, I am always on the lookout for tomato recipes.  This recipe for a Tomato Pie has my mind spinning with all the different ways I can make (improve) it.

Tomato Pie

Pastry for one pie crust
6 large, firm tomatoes, sliced
1/3 to 1/2 cup butter
Salt, pepper, curry powder

Cut a 14 inch circle of aluminium foil; place on baking sheet and flour lightly.  Roll out pastry into a 14-inch circle; flute edges if desired.  Bake in a 425 F. oven for 10 minutes; remove.  Sprinkle tomato slices lightly with salt, pepper and curry powder.  Dredge in flour.  Melt butter in a large skillet.  Fry quickly on both sides until brown and crisp.  Place tomato slices on top of the pastry side by side. Bake in 350 F. oven 12 to 15 minutes.

This looks like a definite summer staple.

09 May 2012

Hominy Grill Recipes

Yes boys and girls, vacation made me stupid.  So I have been lax in my postings and I apologize.  But I did get some cool offerings as I ate my way across Charleston and Savannah.  So let us begin.   Stopped in at the fabulous Hominy Grill.   (If you did not see my posting at Lucindaville, I left on my vacation with a bunch of newfangled photo apps that I did not make the best of.  Like old Polaroids, most every picture I took sucked.  But since one no longer has the limitation of the cost of printing actual film... there are a plethora of BAD pictures to go around.)

The Hominy Grill is known for its Big Ugly Biscuit.  It involves a large biscuit, a large piece of fried chicken stuffed into the biscuit.  A scoop of cheese on top of the chicken.  Finally and ladle of sausage gravy to add a certain lightness to the mix!   How good is that!

Pretty darn good.  Along with the food one can get t-shirts, mugs and a small cookbook.   While the Big Ugly Biscuit is not in the cookbook, the actual biscuit recipe is included.    But the best thing in the cookbook is their chocolate pudding recipe.

It seems that Alton Brown showed up about a year ago and no one noticed him.  Then the Food Network did one of their "Best Thing I Ever Ate" shows about chocolate and Brown said the best chocolate he ever ate was the chocolate pudding at Hominy Grill.  It tasted he said, "like sucking the soul out of a little chocolate Easter bunny."

Chocolate Pudding

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1/2 cup sugar
6 egg yolks
4 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Chop chocolate, reserve in bowl.

Whisk 1/4 cup sugar into egg yolks. Mix rest of sugar with cream & vanilla in saucepan, bring to a boil. Pour a little hot cream into bowl with egg yolks for smoothness and then pour the remainder over chocolate, stir with spatula until smooth. Add egg mixture and salt, then train into a pitcher.

Refrigerate until cool.

Pour into 2/3 cup ramekins, place ramekins into a shallow baking pan half filled with water & cook for about an hour.

Chill for at least 3 hours before serving.

I was told, the chef's secret is using not just any bittersweet chocolate but using Callebaut chocolate.  Well, it was quite the experience.  Here's Alton with a bit of extraneous stuff from the show.

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