20 June 2013

Bootstraps and Biscuits

Today is West Virginia's Sesquicentennial.   In honor of 150 years of existence, we choose Bootstraps and Biscuits by Anna Lee Robe-Terry.  Ms. Robe-Terry was a nurse for many years and celebrated the her rural West Virginia heritage.  Her book features 300 recipes from the rolling hills of West Virginia.    Long before foraging became the darling pastime of Brooklyn hipsters, country folk foraged out of sheer necessity.   Some more necessary than others.

"In 1976, I found myself with a disabling illness.  Pretty soon my job, home, car and furniture was all gone.  I kept three pieces of jewelry that has a special meaning to me and they got stolen.   My insurance company went bankrupt.  I was left with nothing and sick to boot.  My nursing career helped me in that department and my childhood experiences helped too.  I had a very small income.  If the world gives you wild grapes you make jam and that is about what I did."
Bootstraps and Biscuits is a testament to all that is wild and wonderful about West Virginia.  From day lilies and lamb's quarters to squirrel and woodchuck, one can feel the mountain breeze.  Here is a simple and unadorned recipe for one of the state's most odiferous culinary contributions.

Pickled Ramps

Clean a quantity of ramps.  I like to cut off the tops and freeze those.The white bulb part is then added to equal parts sugar and vinegar.Heat while stirring. Place in a jar. Seal.  Place in the refrigerator about two weeks.  If you  make more than one jar, you will need to process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes.

In West Virginia, not so very long ago, eating ramps held a stigma.  Now they are popping up on menus in New York City.  For an interesting look at this trend toward revisionist nostalgia read Courtney Balesti in the Oxford American.

18 June 2013

Creole Feast


I loved in New Orleans for a year and gained 40 pounds!   I am holding this guy personally responsible.  He and a host of others who made literally EVERYTHING on the plate great.  Recently, Saveur compiled a list of great New Orleans cookbooks and Creole Feast made their list.  

The book was published in the late 1970's and featured some of the most iconic chefs and restaurants of the day.  Some, like Leah Chase from Dookey Chase are still cooking.  Some restaurants, like Corinne Dunbar's are long since closed.  Flipping through the photos, one finds that all the featured master chefs are African-American.   Nathanial Burton lists one of the attributes of Creole cooking as, "The Black hand in the pot." 

There have been many Creole cookbooks written and many of them translate into an overdone "chefyness" of long lists of hard to find ingredients.  This may come from a profound lack of authenticity in the cook.  Recently, Leah Chase was on television showing a classically trained chef how to make Gumbo z'Herbes.   She was throwing ingredients into the pot and he stopped and asked her an exact amount and she just laughed.

I was pleasantly surprised at how simple most of the recipes are in Creole Feast.  This may indeed be because each of these chefs know exactly how make the dish with the careful finesse that the general public just might not have.  

Speaking of Leah Chase, here is a recipe for one of my most favorite things, crawfish étouffée.  As much as I cook, I never make crawfish étouffée because the recipes seem way to complicated.  But his one seems right up my alley.

Crawfish Étouffée

1 cup butter
5 cups crawfish tails, cleaned
1 tablespoon fat from head of crawfish
Salt and pepper to taste
Water as necessary

Melt butter in a saucepan and add crawfish. Let cook until all the juices have evaporated.  Add fat from crawfish heads.  Add the salt and pepper and just enough water to make a thick but soupy mixture.  Cook slowly for half an hour.  Serve over steamed rice.

We can make that! 

Creole Feast has gotten to be a rather pricey book these days, so I you find a reasonably cheap copy, grab it.

14 June 2013

The Kentucky Bourbon Cookbook

 It's  National Bourbon Day.  Check out our post at Lucindaville for fun facts and a bit of history.

We feel that there is really no food that cannot be improved with a shot of bourbon.   Tossed in the recipe and on the side as well.  Really we don't care.   Since it is national bourbon day, we are offering a shout out to Albert Schmid who wrote The Kentucky Bourbon Cookbook It received the 2010 Gourmand World Cookbook Award for Best Book for Cooking with Drinks in the World and (yes, AND) the Best Book for Cooking with Wines, Beers and Spirits in the USA.  

It has drinks and cool recipes all featuring bourbon.  So really, it is a kind of no-brainer.  There is this famous recipe for breakfast.
The Most Famous of All Kentucky Breakfasts

1 steak
1 quart bourbon whiskey
1 man
1 dog

The man throws the steak to the dog and drinks the bourbon.

A chef and a jokester!

What is on the menu?  The best candy/cookie/balls on the planet...

Kentucky Bourbon Balls

1 cup fine graham cracker crumbs
1 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup chopped pecans
2 tablespoons cocoa
2 tablespoons honey
1/4 cup Kentucky bourbon
1 cup superfine sugar

Combine the graham cracker crumbs, confectioners' sugar, vanilla, pecans and cocoa and mix well.  Add honey and bourbon and mix well.  Shape into 3/4 inch balls and coat with superfine sugar.

There is something about storing them, but just eat them all up.

Happy National Bourbon Day.
Blog Widget by LinkWithin