26 January 2013

Cooking Out Of Doors

 It is a cold day here in Lucindaville.  And we are not alone, it is a cold day pretty much everywhere.  (Please do not email us and tell us that YOU are in Hawaii and it is 84 and balmy.  We are happy for you but really, keep it to yourself.)   The cold has prompted us to think about picnics!   So we pulled out a vintage charmer:  Cooking Out Of Doors by Molly Graham.  This 1960 British cookbook offers up a cavalcade of al fresco dining options.

But remember, it is the sixties, in fact the first sixty, so some of the ideas are a bit...  like these sandwich suggestions

Cream Cheese and Gherkin

Spread cream cheese on thickly and top with thinly sliced gherkins.


Ham and Crushed Pineapple

Chop up some ham or gammon and spread on bread with butter.  Add a layer of well-drained, tinned crushed pineapple.

Here's and idea for a caravan holiday:

Braised Tinned Tongues

large tin lamb tongues
a little water

Set the children to preparing any vegetables you have.  These should include a large onion and a large potato each for the family.  Open the tin of tongues and separate them.  Put the tongues into a casserole and put sliced vegetables on top.  Add a little water and salt and pepper.  Put into a moderate oven until the vegetables are cooked, about 1 hour.  

If very venturesome, make a sauce to go with dish.
 Correct me if I am wrong but if you are eating canned tongue you have probably crossed over into the "venturesome" category already!   Which led me to wonder -- Can one still buy canned lamb tongues?  The answer is yes, especially if one lives in New Zealand.

Fortunately there are several drink recipes.  One will be needing several drinks before the canned lamb tongue casserole.   Here is one beloved by the British Navy.

Pink Gin

Take a cocktail glass and into it a drop of Angostura Bitters.  Twist round so that this coats the glass then pour away and surplus.  Add a measure of gin.   the drink will be pale pink.

Well, I am heading home to hunker down by the fire...and picnic another day.

24 January 2013

Menus From History

With the Presidential Inauguration being fresh in our minds, we have been thinking a lot about historical menus.  A glance at the Obama menu juxtaposed against the menu served at Lincoln's second Inauguration say as much about the changes in our country as do shifting politics.  Lincoln had four types of beef, three of veal, four poultry dishes not counting the quail and pheasant served as game.  

Menus are a great way to view history.  Which brings us to Menus From History.  Janet Clarkson is a food historian of great breath.  Her blog, The Old Foodie, is a daily dissertation on all things culinary.  Menus From History is a two-volume work published by the very scholalrly Greenwood Press and has a bent toward libraries.  If you love food or culinary history it should find its way to your library.

Menus From History is an exhaustive compilation of menus and recipes for every day of the year.  September 23, 1387  is the Feast for King Richard II.  May 10,1806 is the dinner between Chief Nez Perce and Lewis and Clark.  There are Royal Dinners, Inaugurations, prison dinners, and Titanic dinners.  Bread is broken with the rich, the famous and the ordinary.  Pick a day -- any day and you will be transported.

Today, January 24 is the anniversary of the day the Gourmet Society "went Arctic."   In 1937 at Cavanagh's in New York, the Gourmet Society feasted on Eskimo Fare.   According to the New York Times, the members  "trifled" with Eskimo fare by eating reindeer loin,  noting that "blubber and vintage fish" appeared only in speeches.

The menu:

Lynnhaven Bay Oyster Cocktail
Hearts of Celery  Queen Olives
Bisque of Soft Clams
Broiled Loin of Alaska Reindeer
Current Jelly  Fresh Mushrooms
New String Beans, Julienne
Candied Sweet Potatoes
Green Vegetable Salad
Cavanagh Dressing
Apple Pudding
Hard and Brandy Sauce
Cafe, Demi-Tasse
(Two Wines)

If you have ever run across old menus, you will notice that while you might be given a listing of the food offered up, the menu does not include the recipes.  For every menu Janet Clarkson uncovered, recipes had to be matched up.  Clarkson goes to great lengths to keep the recipes as historically accurate as the menus.  For this menu, she chose an oyster cocktail from a collection of church recipes from 1900.

Oyster Cocktail

One dessertspoonful tomato sauce, one shake of tabasco, a sprinkle of horse radish, about half a dozen oysters, and the same on top.  Serve in small tumblers on a plate with pounded ice around them and with oyster biscuits.

The real problem with these two volumes is their totally addictive nature.  You can't just read one entry.  You just keep reading.   Each entry has history and bibliography.   The Gourmet Society's Candied Sweet Potatoes lead you to February 1, 1928 to the Broadway Association Dinner for the Dodge Brothers Electric Sign.  And the Dodge Brothers take us to the 1919 and the 50th Anniversary of the Heinz Company on December 20th where one finds a recipe for candied sweet potatoes.

If there is a single complaint about this work it is the prohibitive request for twice as much ephemera.  There are plenty of  black and white illustrations, but we are gluttons for more -- more photos, more menu card, more color!  (All of this would push Menus From History to three volumes and triple the price, but ...)  OK, maybe just one more thing...there are hundreds of texts referenced, but there is no full bibliography... so there are four volumes!

This is really a pitiful attempt to even encapsulate this work.  You will never look at a party the same way.   Tomorrow?  Burns Night.

23 January 2013

Ways With Food

If ever one was in Palm Beach from the 1950's on,  the person with the best "Ways With Food" was none other than Harriet Healy.  Healy taught the rich and famous a thing or two about food.  Her reputation as a cook with a flair for entertaining grew.  She was an American hostess who imparted a casual hand to entertaining that motivated generations of women.

Healy was the "go to" for fashionable feasts in Palm Beach.  Trained at the Cordon Bleu, her reputation grew out a series of cooking classes she offered at Au Bon Gout, her gourmet food and accessory shop.  Though Healy is a name that may not be familiar today, she was regularly mentioned with such culinary giants as Craig Claiborne, Pierre Franey, Julia Child, and James Beard.   According to Craig Claiborne her kitchen was one of the most stylish and well equipped in Palm Beach.  For more info on that kitchen check out this post from The Peak of Chic.

Healy published sever spiral bound cookbooks based on her classes at Au Bon Gout and in the early 1060's she edited the Palm Beach Garden Cookbook, a collection of recipes from the Palm Beach Garden Club.  In 1982 she published Ways With Food.   The cookbook is a product of its time.  There is much Campbell's soup and lots of mayonnaise.  In fact, Healy advises that a cook not bother to use homemade stock when using curry powder.  Here is her recipe for a cold lemon soup.  It is like a Greek soup, she says but with no cooking!

Cold Lemon Soup

1 can Campbell's cream of chicken soup
1 cup cream
1 cup chicken stock
3 tablespoons finely chopped mint leaves
Juice of 2 lemons

Strain soup, add the cream, chicken stock, finely chopped mint leaves and lemon juice.  Soup must be served ice-cold.

If you do not have chicken stock, the soup is still good thinned with cream and milk.  The soup must not be too thick.  Soup cups may be decorated with parsley -- this is more effective on glass cups.
I was very interested in recipe for Souffle Crackers, a recipe that called for soaking Uneeda Crackers in water for 8 minutes, then broiling them till brown.  Alas, Uneeda Crackers no longer exist!

While the recipes might seem a bit dated, one thin that is not is Healy's taste in kitchen ware. Au Bon Gout was the place to buy Dodie Thayer china with its unmistakable leafy patterns.  IT was a popular purchase for everyone from Jackie Kennedy to C.Z. Guest.  The late Brooke Astor had a collection of 218 pieces including  a tureen, cover and stand, a large salad bowl, a circular serving dish, a circular platter, four oval platters in three sizes, a trefoil condiment dish, forty-one dinner plates, thirty dessert plates, fourteen side plates, thirteen salad plates, eight shallow circular bowls, eight small bowls, a coffee pot and cover, a milk jug, a cream jug, nineteen coffee cups and saucers, four tall vases, six small bud vases, eight candlesticks, four salts and six small ladles, six pepper shakers and fifteen butter pads, impressed marks.   Estimated to sell between $ 9,000 and $15,000, the lot sold for a whopping $74,500.

C .Z. Guest's tables set with Dodie Thayer

22 January 2013

Not A Cookbook -- Inaugural Luncheon

Niagara Falls by Ferdinand Richardt

 Menu with Recipes and Wine



  • Tierce Finger Lakes Dry Riesling (2010)
  • Korbel Natural, Special Inaugural Cuvée California Champagne
  • Bedell Cellars Merlot (2009)

10 January 2013

Fire In My Belly

It is no big surprise that I watch Top Chef.  Frankly, I find most of the chefs that compete, total tools.  OK, I do know that conflict makes for good television, so much of what we see is edited to make the contestants look as slimy as possible.   That being said, there have been really only a handful of contestants that I really, really loved.  Kevin Gillespie was one of them.   I was so glad to find out that his stint on Top Chef had landed him a cookbook deal.  Fire In My Belly has been on my wish list since it was first announced.

It did not disappoint.  The cookbook is what a real cookbook should be, an extension of the cook who put together the recipes.  Gillespie has stated that the cookbook is the most personal thing he has ever done.  In fact he has said he surprised even himself when he read through the book and realized how many personal stories he offered up.

Fire In My Belly offers up such chapter headings as "Foods that I thought I Hated" and "Food + Fire = Delicious."   While Gillespie's food is fun and inviting, it bears a truly authentic look at the South.  Not the precious, overly sentimentalized South, nor the reality television stupider-than-thou trend.  Giellespie recently articulated his position to Eater:

"There are so many people who think the entire South is Gone with the Wind, and the reality is that that's not true at all. My family is from the mountains, and that Appalachian culture is very, very different than the plantation culture of the Deep South. They're both Southerners, they both hold the right to claim themselves as such, but they're very different worlds, and I guess I felt it was time to showcase the other world a little bit more because it's more my personality, it's more of who I am."

The world of Kevin Gillespie is filled with family, history, and a really great meal.   Here is a favorite:

Woodfire Grill's Sage-Battered Mushrooms with Cheddar Fonduta

10 oz. of large cluster Oyster mushrooms
8 oz. sharp white cheddar cheese
1 ½ cups heavy cream
white pepper, a couple grinds
Canola oil for frying
½ cup of Cornstarch
½ cup all-purpose flour
1 Tb. Of fresh sage leaves, chiffonade
1 tsp. of rubbed sage
1 cup of cold soda or seltzer water
1/3 cup Candied garlic syrup

1.     Trim the tough root ends from the mushrooms , leaving the clusters as intact as possible. Set aside.
2.     Cut the cheese into ½ inch chunks and place in microwave safe bowl. Loosely cover with wax paper or parchment paper and microwave on 50% power until the cheese softens but doesn’t completely melt, about 30 seconds.
3.     In a 2-quart saucepan bring the cream to a boil over medium-high heat. Stir in the cheese, a couple of grinds of white pepper and a small pinch of salt until everything looks smooth. Keep the fonduta warm until you’re ready to serve it. If you need to hold it for more than an hour, it keeps warm best in a double boiler.
4.     Heat the oil in a deep fryer to 350 degrees F. Place a cooling rack over a baking sheet.
5.     In a large bowl, whisk together the cornstarch, flour, fresh sage and dried sage. Add a few ice cubes to the club soda and swirl to chill. Remove the ice cubes and whisk the club soda into the cornstarch mixture to form a smooth batter, working with one mushroom cluster at a time, dip and swirl the cluster in the batter to completely coat the mushrooms. Let excess batter drip away, then drop the clusters, one by one, into the fryer and fry until crispy, about 2 minutes. Using a spider strainer or tongs, transfer the fried mushrooms to the rack and immediately sprinkle with salt.
6.     For each plate, spoon one-quarter of the fondue in the center, drizzle with the garlic syrup, then mound one-quarter of the fried mushrooms on top.

For candied garlic syrup: (makes 1 ¼ cup)
1 cup sugar
1 cup cider vinegar
3 whole heads of garlic, each clove peeled and trimmed (approx. 30 cloves total)

In small nonreactive saucepan, stir together the sugar and vinegar and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and cut the heat down to low; cook until garlic is golden brown and soft, about 30 minutes. Store the garlic in the syrup mixture, covered, in the refrigerator.

As Eater noted, Gillespie recently left the Woodfire Grill to start his own restaurant from the ground up.  Gunshow is set to show off his rough and rustic Southern cuisine.  We can't wait.

09 January 2013

Not a Cookbook-- Pasta By Design


When is large tome about pasta NOT a cookbook?  When it is Pasta By Design.  I was a huge fan of the The Geometry of Pasta, so imagine my surprise when I got it for Christmas.   White The Geometry of Pasta was an actual cookbook, Pasta By Design is an architectural survey of the contours and construction of pasta.  It is pasta as object, delineated by the mathematical mind of an architect.

According the publisher Thames & Hudson:

"The pasta family tree reveals unexpected relationships between pasta shapes, their usage and common DNA. Architect George L. Legendre has profiled 92 different kinds of pasta, classifying them into types using ‘phylogeny’ (the study of relatedness among natural forms).
Each spread is devoted to a single pasta, and explains its geographical origin, its process of manufacture and its etymology – alongside suggestions for minute-perfect preparation.
Next the shape is rendered as an equation and as a diagram that shows every distinctive scrunch, ridge and crimp with loving precision. "

George L. Legendre is a London architect who obviously finds math and equations in everyday objects.   After seeing bowl after bowl of pasta, the forms and fractals proved to be just too interesting to merely eat.  The mathematical pursuit began.

Complemented by the photographs by Stefano Graziani, one can honestly say that you will never look at that bowl of ziti in the same way.

07 January 2013

The Meatball Shop Cookbook

Yes, Virginia, Christmas was a windfall of cookbooks.  So let us get started.

The Meatball Shop Cookbook was one of those titles that was featured everywhere.  We resisted it on numerous occasions.  After being bombarded with American Express commercials and and commenting every time one came on the television, "I don't have that cookbook," someone decided I needed it.  There it was under the Christmas tree.  Earlier in the year I received a grinder for my Kitchenaid mixer, so now there is nothing stopping me from making mounds of meatballs.

Meatballs abound -- pork, beef, lamb, and fish.  Fish meatballs?  There are tips for making the balls like scooping them with and ice cream scoop to keep them consistent.   (Really, is there a more useful kitchen tool that the lowly ice cream scoop?)

With all those meatballs floating around it is only fitting and proper that there be sauce.  Again, there are sauces for every meatball and the sauces prove to be quite interchangeable.

According to the authors, Daniel Holzman and Michael “Meatball Mike” Chernow, man does not live by meatballs alone.   There is a fair amount of veg included in this homage to round balls of mixed meat.  As you know, we are partial to our carrots.  We just love roasting our carrots with a fruit accompaniment.  It is also widely known that we do not eat nuts in our food.  So while we often roast carrots with prunes, we never use walnuts.   (Frankly, we are hoping that many of our diners do not view this post as they will inevitably raise the issue of nuts in food and demand walnuts in their carrots from now on...but I digress.)

 Here with a non-meatball recipe from The Meatball Shop Cookbook.

Honey-Roasted Carrots with  Prunes, Walnuts, and Mint

for the carrots

8 large carrots Cut into 3 X 1-inch pieces
(like thick-cut french fries)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup honey

for the topping

1/4 cup chopped pitted prunes
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
1/4 cup chopped toasted walnuts
1/2 teaspoon salt
squeeze of fresh lemon juice

 Preheat the oven to 450°F.

Toss the carrots with the olive oil in a large bowl, and coat thoroughly. Add the salt and toss to coat.
Combine the honey and 1/2 cup warm water in a small bowl and stir until thoroughly mixed.
Lay the carrots out on a large rimmed baking sheet or roasting pan so that they are evenly spaced and do not touch one another. Drizzle with the honey mixture and put the carrots in the oven to roast.

 Roast until all of the water has evaporated and the carrots are soft and beginning to brown, 35 to 40minutes.

While the carrots are roasting, prepare the topping. Mix the prunes and olive oil in a small bowl. Work the mixture so that the prunes are thoroughly coated and not sticking together. Add mint, walnuts, salt, and lemon juice and mix thoroughly to combine.

 Remove the carrots from the oven and arrange them on a serving dish. Spoon the topping over the carrots and serve.
I do so hate it when judgement is flawed.  Like meatballs themselves, this book is filled with fun and frolic and it should have graced our bookshelf long ago.   Now, thankfully, it does.

02 January 2013

French Farmhouse Cookbook

We have checked our log of cookbook entries and simply cannot believe that we have never featured Susan Loomis' French Farmhouse Cookbook.  What were we thinking?   Clearly, we were not thinking.  Over at Lucindaville we featured our favorite holiday planned-over, an after Christmas eggs Benedict that is made with leftover dressing, giblet gravy and a poached egg or if one is so inclined, our favorite confit de gésiers

J.W. wanted to know our recipe for gizzard confit and the one we love to use is from the French Farmhouse Cookbook.  This cookbook is often described as the French cookbook to buy if you are in the market a truly authentic French cookbook.  One that presents recipes that a French family would actually eat every day.  That seems to be the best description one could provide. 

This is a rather old-fashioned cookbook in the sense that is offers no photos of the food.  While there are lovely line drawings, the food is left up to one's own imagination.  Still, this is the go-to French cookbook on my shelves that house thousands of French cookbooks.

With out further ado...

Confit de Gésiers. 

2 pounds chicken gizzards, cleaned and well rinsed
1/4 cup coarse sea salt
10 sprigs fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried
3 imported bay leaves
4 pounds pork fat cut in 1-inch pieces or lard
2 small onions, each pierced with one whole clove
1 teaspoon allspice berries

1.  Place the gizzards in a large bowl.  Add the salt, half the thyme, and one of the bay leaves, and mix until well  combined and the salt is evenly distributed.  Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours.

2.  Rinse the gizzards well by placing them in a bowl and filling the bowl with water.  Drain the gizzards, then repeat the procedure at least 4 times, to make sure you remove all the surface salt.  Pat gizzards dry.

3. Place the pork fat or lard in a large heavy saucepan over medium-high heat.  When it is two-thirds melted, add the gizzards, onions, remaining herbs, and allspice berries, stirring and pushing them down into the fat.  Lower the heat s the fat is simmering slowly.  Cook, uncovered, until the gizzards are tender, about 2 1/2 hours, stirring them occasionally and pushing any beneath the surface of fat so they cook evenly, adjusting the heat if necessary.

4. When the gizzards are cooked, remove the pan from the heat and let them cool in the fat until nearly congealed.  Transfer the gizzards and the fat  to a bowl or an earthenware or glass container and let them cool completely. Either eat them immediately, or store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks, covered with fat and aluminum foil.

5. Remove the gizzards from the fat and warm them gently in a saucepan over low heat.  Use a slotted spoon to remove them from the pan.

We are lucky enough to have several old cheese crocks that have hinged lids to lock in the gizzard goodness.   Also, we never use just plain aluminum foil on food products.  We used to use parchment lined foil that was designed for sandwich shops.  Now the good folks at Reynolds have introduced this parchment lined foil to the supermarket shelf.   Buy it --  it is wonderful.   If you are out there looking for a really good French cookbook that an actual French person in your exact shoes would cook from,  the French Farmhouse Cookbook is a safe bet.                                                                              
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