26 March 2015

The Shed

A friend has been watching a show on Netflix and when I asked how it was, she paused a moment and said, "It's one of those shows that would make you say that you are glad to be an only child." I am a dyed-in-the-wool only child! But if there was a point to having siblings, it might be best demonstrated in The Shed.

The Shed began life in the toney recesses of London's Notting Hill. Let's back up.  Actually The Shed began on a ski lift, Christmas 2011.  It grew from the fertile minds of the Gladwin brothers, Richard, Oliver, and Gregory.  The Gladwin's parents moved the trio of brothers to a small winery, where the boys roamed the fields and helped out in the family catering business.  The wine from the winery was served in several restaurants that their father ran.  Down on the farm, the boys saw the importance of seasonal eating.

On the ski lift they envisioned The Shed to be a seasonal restaurant highlighting British produce. With a winery, farm, foraged, food background, the boys didn't wander far.   Gregory began with some sheep and now runs a 450 acre farm, producing most of the meat served at the shed.  Oliver worked with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall at River Cottage. Richard entered the hospitality trade.  Together, their individual talents produced a winning atmosphere at The Shed. It probably wouldn't have happened if any one of them had been an only child!

After The Shed, the restaurant there was The Shed The Cookbook. While it may be a bit hard to find woodcock and wild rabbit here in the US of A, there are fine substitutes.  Ollie proves to be a very inventive chef.  While The Shed might look like all those other tedious farm-to-table cookbooks, this one will make you sit up and take notice.  There is a focaccia, but this one has rhubarb and white sesame, there are bread sticks wrapped in lardo to dip in the hazelnut pesto, a salad with duck livers and sultanas, just to name a few.

Here is a fresh take on a braised beef.

Sticky Beef Shin with Cauliflower Couscous and Preserved Lemons

2kg beef shin, cut into 8cm pieces with the bone left in
350ml red wine
1 litre vegetable or beef stock
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
4 shallots, finely diced
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp ground coriander
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves, chopped

For the preserved lemons
4 lemons, cut in half lengthways, then sliced into 5mm half-moons
100g caster sugar
40g table salt
3 sprigs thyme

For the cauliflower couscous

1 large cauliflower
100g unsalted butter
2 tbsp sunflower seeds
2 tbsp raisins, soaked in 1 tbsp hot water
1 red chilli, finely diced
3 sprigs tarragon, leaves removed and finely chopped

Preheat the oven to 120C/gas mark ½.

Season the beef shin with salt and freshly ground black pepper, and place it in a deep roasting tin with the wine, stock, garlic, shallots, spices and thyme. Cover the tin with a layer of greaseproof paper and a tight-fitting lid or foil. Transfer to the oven and braise for six hours, until the beef is moist and tender and the flesh is falling off the bones.

Meanwhile, prepare the preserved lemons. Put the lemon slices, sugar, salt and thyme in a small ceramic ovenproof dish. Cover with a lid and place in the oven alongside the beef for six hours.

Just before you are about to serve, prepare the cauliflower by grating the heads on the largest holes of a box grater – the result will resemble couscous. Put the butter in a large saucepan and stir over a moderate heat until it starts to brown, but not burn. Remove the pan from the heat and toss in the sunflower seeds and cauliflower, stirring to coat them in the hot butter. Finally stir in the soaked raisins, chilli and tarragon. Cover with the lid to keep warm while you finish the beef.

Transfer the pieces of braised meat to a chopping board and use two forks to pick the flesh off the bones in long strands. Remove the lemons from the oven and drain.

To serve, arrange a bed of cauliflower couscous on each plate, pile strands of beef shin on top, and finish with a scattering of preserved lemon slices. 

This is one shed you will want spend some time hanging in.

20 March 2015

The Favorite Egg Recipes of Claudette Colbert and Fred MacMurray

You know that we are especially fond of egg cookbooks and of celebrity recipes. This Famous Food Friday, we have both. The Favorite Egg Recipes of Claudette Colbert and Fred MacMurray was published in a booklet form by the National Egg Board as an advertising compliment to their movie, "The Egg and I." (Yes, Virginia, we are willing to concede that these recipes are probably not the actual recipes of Fred and Claudette, but we are happy to overlook such notions.)

In 1947, Claudette Colbert and Fred MacMurray stared in "The Egg and I." The movie was based on Betty MacDonald's book of the same name. It was a wildly popular account of her life as a young bride on a chicken farm. When I say The Egg and I was a popular book, I mean that in less than a year it sold a million copies! The film rights were quickly sold and in 1947 the book became a movie with Claudette Colbert and Fred MacMurray.
In addition to Colbert and MacMurray, the film co-stared Marjorie Main and Percy Kilbride as Ma and Pa Kettle. (The co-stars have nothing to do with egg recipes, but I am a huge fan of Ma and Pa Kettle) Main was nominated for an Academy Award for best Supporting Actress but she lost to Celeste Holm in "Gentleman's Agreement." (It is so hard to win for comedy!) After all the publicity, practically everyone involved with the book was sued.  According to the folks down on the farm, old Mrs. MacDonald portrayed them negatively and they wanted monetary gains for being made to look foolish! And they did indeed get paid, but enough about them.

The Favorite Egg Recipes of Claudette Colbert and Fred MacMurray features introductions by the two stars, a recipe from each bearing their names, and a handful of additional egg recipes. What do they say about the egg?

According to Colbert:

"The egg is really one of the greatest boons to womankind, ranking with the sewing machine, the electric washer, the permanent wave and the right to vote."

According to MacMurray:

"The egg, for my money, is the best friend of any man ever trapped in the kitchen."

I love eggs as much as the next person, but I am not sure I would equate them with voting rights.  What a difference seventy years makes. Well we are still eating eggs, still voting, and still drinking. Of course, today we are drinking alcohol. In 1947 such drinking, especially endorsed by the family friendly National Egg Board, was frowned upon. Here is an eggy julep for you, in the truest sense of a sweet, flavored drink, as opposed to the kind that most often feature a good shot of bourbon.

Egg and I Julep

3 eggs, beaten
3/4 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 cups orange juice, strained
1/3 cup lemon juice, strained
Crushed ice, club soda

Blend eggs, sugar and salt. Add fruit juices. Shake or beat until sugar is dissolved. pour over finely cracked ice to fill tall glasses 1/2 full. Add club soda slowly. Stir. Serve promptly.

Feel free to add a big ol' glug of bourbon! 

17 March 2015

Irish Pantry

On this Saint Patty's Day we offer up the Irish Pantry. Noel McMeel gets right to the point in his tasty book:

"To me, the Irish pantry is a treasure trove of wholesome, tasty delights with some keeping properties, where on any day of the week you're sure to find such snacks and treats as pastries we call cutting cakes, or some lovely potted meat to spread onto a crispy, homemade cracker to enjoy with a cup of tea."

No Irish stew. but homemade Irish Cream!  Indeed, there are lovely potted meats and crispy crackers with rye, blue cheese, garlic, and flax. There are scones, and cakes, and breads and even the barm brack which gave me such fits over at Lucindaville. There are infusions, pickles, candies, spices, and sauces, oh my.

It think that titling this book Irish Pantry might have done it a huge disservice.  Well, maybe not in Ireland, but here in the US.  This book fits right in with burgeoning collection of canning and preserving books that are flying off the cookbook shelves. Alas, it doesn't clearly scream out canning book, and to be sure it so much more.

Most canning books offer up preserves, but this book features a slew of items to actually eat with those preserves. This book is stuffed to the gills with great gift-giving ideas.  There is not a single recipe in here that a friend or neighbor wouldn't simple adore seeing cross their own threshold. A Madeira cake, a jar of pickled pearl onions, coffee syrup, or graham crackers, and the list goes on.

According to McMeel:

"At the risk of sounding proud, I'm going to tell you that this is my best recipe. No one could ever compete against it, and I challenge anyone in Scotland to do better. It was handed down to me by the kitchen artists and wizards before me. I love it straight as it is. . .buttery and rich. But you can gild the lily if you like, with any flavoring that strikes your fancy."

The Rock's Shortbread

3½ cups/ 450 grams cups all-purpose flour
1½ cups/230 grams cups cornmeal
1 pound (4 sticks) 450 grams unsalted butter, at room temperature
1¼ cups/ 230 grams granulated sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 F/175 C. Place all the ingredients in a mixing bowl and stir with a spoon until they have come together. Roll out and cut into rounds or fingers.
Transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, and chill for 20 minutes. Transfer to your hot oven, and bake for 15 to 20 minutes until pale golden. Let cool on a cooling rack and serve at room temperature, or store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

If you keep a pantry this book will help you keep it well stocked. Canners and urban homesteaders, give this one a second look.

16 March 2015

Paul Richard's Pastry Book

Another from our golden oldie selection that was published in 1948.  Paul Richard's Pastry Book is from the collection of publications published by the Hotel Monthly Press and meant to aid restaurant chefs.  Many of their publications were slim volumes meant to be stuffed in a jacket pocket for quick reference.  As with baking, as opposed to cooking, there are far more exacting rules, so the pastry book is larger and more detailed.

Still most of the recipes require a great deal of "know how" before attempting them.  Take this simple pie recipe for instance:

Banana Pie

Peel and slice the bananas very thin; add sugar, a little fresh butter, the juice of some oranges or lemons, and a pinch of allspice; or flavor with some good rum. Bake with a full crust, or with a meringue cover.

How easy is that? 

Since this book was meant for the trade, there are very revealing statistics for pricing out your pastry. 

A bride's cake should sell for somewhere between  $3 to $20.

A groom's cake from $5 to $25. 

Ice cream will run you 60 cents a quart.

A quart of lobster salad should be priced at $2.50.

Soft shelled crabs at $3.00 per dozen. 

We haven't quite figured out why there is a discussion of the prices for crabs and lobster salad in a pastry book.  Among the recipes for Charlottes, Bismarks, and Creme de Noyeau, there is a fine ant repellent.

Clearly, being in the hotel business was a bit more than making cupcakes.

While these old cookbooks probably don't have a lot to offer the modern cook, they are great historical references and a lot of fun.  Just imagine cracking open Eric Ripert's next book and finding a recipe for ant repellent!

14 March 2015

Southern Pies

 Recently, I was at a Southern Foodways Alliance event and among the cool people I got to meet was Nancie McDermott.  I have several of her cookbooks and it was a joy to meet her, live and in person!  So in honor of National Pi Day, what better cookbook to write about than McDermott's Southern Pies.  Not to be confused with her equally fun Southern Cakes, which will need to get its own day.

Allow me to confess that given a choice of pie or cake, I am definitely in the cake camp, but again, it is Pi Day!  

Want proof that it's a Southern pie book?  Ask yourself how many pie books have a good recipe for the quintessentially Southern chess pie?  Now ask yourself how many pie books have multiple chess pie recipes?  Now  the lofty etymology of the name "chess pie" is that it was a pie one took into the drawing room to play chess.  None other than James Beard said the pie got its name because it held well in a pie "chest."  But most folks say the name came from Southerner's who said, "Why honey its jes pie." McDermott gives us classic, chocolate, buttermilk, and lemon, plus a variation or two.

 The list of Southern ingredients stuffed into this book for make pies include: green tomatoes, scuppernongs, peanuts, peanut butter, pecans, peaches, and the aforementioned buttermilk.  The people associated with the pies are a Who's Who of Southern cooking: Dr. George Washington Carver, Leah Chase, Nathalie Dupree, and Bill Smith.  Bill Smith came to Chapel Hill's Crook's Corner when Bill Neal owned the place.  He never left.  This is his take on Southern pie.

Bill Smith's Sweet Potato Pie
Pastry for a 9-inch single-crust pie (store bought or basic crust)

Pie Filling:
2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups mashed, cooked sweet potatoes (about 2 pounds)
2 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup sweetened condensed milk
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1/4 teaspoon lemon extract or vanilla extract (I used vanilla)

1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9-inch pie pan with crust and then crimp the edges decoratively.

2. In a small bowl, combine flour cinnamon, allspice, cloves, baking powder, and salt and use a fork to stir them together well.

3. Place the sweet potatoes in a medium bowl and beat them well, using an electric mixer at medium speed or a whisk or big wooden spoon. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

4. Add the sugar and beat to incorporate it completely into the sweet potato-egg mixture. Add the spice mixture, milk, butter, and extract, and beat at low speed to combine everything evenly and well.

5. Pour the filling into the piecrust and place it on the lowest rack of the oven. Bake until the edges puff up and the center is fairly firm, wiggling only a little when you gently nudge the pan, 40 to 50 minutes.

6. Place the pie on a cooling rack or a folded kitchen towel and let cool to room temperature.

Nancie McDermott's Southern Pie, like Southern Cakes before it, is the best kind of cookbook, because it is not just a collection of recipes, but a collection of stories, a collection of our history with tasty pie at the end.  And who doesn't love history when there is pie at the end?  While Pi Day rolls around only once in century, Pie Day is any day you want it to be.  Add this cookbook to your collection and everyday will be Pie Day!
Did we mention the Southern Foodways Alliance and Bill Smith?  Check out this Gravy podcast with Smith's cool list of tunes.

Happy Pi Day, y'all!
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