Wednesday, July 12, 2017

"The Gay Cookbook" - Italian Meat Sauce - Gay Pride 2017

Date I made this recipe:  June 24, 2017 –  (Gay) Pride Festival

The Gay Cookbook – The Complete Compendium of Campy Cuisine and Menus for Men...or What Have You by Chef Lou Rand Hogan
Published by Sherbourne Press, Inc.
© MCMLXV (1965)
Recipe – Italian [Meat] Sauce – p. 45-50

I wish I could tell you that I absolutely planned to use this cookbook during Gay Pride week in Minneapolis but that is not what happened.  Instead, I was on the hunt for another book when I spotted this one and coincidentally, it was Pride week/weekend and so how perfect!

I cannot recall exactly when or where I purchased this cookbook , but the minute I saw it, I knew I had to have it.  Had. To.  I had to have this because of the cover art which is adorable ("Campy cartoons by David Costain") and because it was old – 1965.  And then there's the "tag line:" "the complete compendium of campy cuisine and menus for men...or what have you."  Could I pass that up?  No. 

You should also know that once upon a time, "gay" was the term used to describe someone's personality i.e. "he/she is so gay [happy, fun, or good spirited], or to indicate that a good time was had by all as in "Oh, we had a gay old time at the Frost's function this past weekend."

If not for the cover art and the tag line, I might have thought this book referred to that kind of "gay" but one look most certainly suggests not and that is all fine by me.  Sadly, I did not have a gay old time cooking from this book. Did not.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with writing a book in "narrative" form i.e. story-telling, but there is something wrong with recipe instructions being written in the same vein.  The recipe I made, for example, started on page 45, ended on page 50, and was pretty much one solid block of text and so I had to parse each and every sentence to figure out ingredients, cooking times, and whatnot.

And for this folks, I'm going to have to "ding" them which is to say "deduct points."  Not that I award points, but you get my drift.

And I have to tell you that every single recipe was like this and so I almost put the book aside for another day (i.e. after I'm dead) but no.  No.  I fortuitously found the book and so I soldiered on but nobody said I had to be "gay" about it!

Your chapter and food choices are as follows:
  • Chapter One – Canapés, Hors D'Oeuvres and Aphrodisiacs (This is a long title for only 9 recipes, one of which is not a recipe at all as it was for sherry: To prepare sherry, open the bottle and pour!)
  • Chapter Two – Soups...That Juicy Stuff (Apparently that saying comes from Shakespeare's Two Gentlemen from Verona.  There are four recipes here.  Four.)
  • Chapter Three – Salad and Dressings; including Le French
  • Chapter Four – Chili, Curries, Spaghetti Sauces and Other Blood Tinglers
  • Chapter Five – The Shell Game; Oysters, Lobsters, Shrimp and What To Do With Clams
  • Chapter Six – That Tired Old Fish (By which the author means the usual suspects – sole, trout, salmon, cod)
  • Chapter Seven – What To Do With A Tough Cut Of Meat (There are many recipes here for stews and braised meats and roasts and the like.)
  • Chapter Eight – Chicken Queens, Chicken A La King and Our Other Feathered Friends
  • Chapter Nine – Sauces, Gravies and Other Brownish Delights
  • Chapter 10 – Vegetables; Plain and Fancy
  • Chapter 11 – Loose Ends; Including Potatoes and Other Weight Lifters
  • Chapter 12 – In Your Oven! (As you would imagine, this is the cookie, cake, other category)
  • Chapter 13 – Drunks and Drinks

After much consideration and much skimming of the narrative to suss out potential recipes, I settled on the very long recipe for Italian Meat Sauce.  Six pages long, in fact.  Six pages long in teeny, tiny print.  I felt like I was editing a short story!  The first four pages are all about the basic sauce and then if that wasn't bad enough, the guy added two more pages about how to turn your basic sauce into a meat sauce.  Surprisingly, this recipe did not call for any wine which is sometimes used in Italian sauce cooking, but I decided that I needed a drink and so I had one!

Now then, time for true confession:  I was so done in by the time I got done with the basic sauce that I had no patience to deal with the meat portion of our program and so did this instead:  I fried up the last bit of Trader Joe's Bacon Bits and Pieces and added that straight to the sauce without following a single direction for the meat sauce.  Not only did the sauce taste good with that addition but I saved myself several hours in the process.

Also?  The full recipe was supposed to make about 3 quarts (12 cups) and although the author froze some of it, we don't freeze in this household and so I cut the recipe way, way down.  We are a small family of two, not 22.  Sheesh.

Here then, is my best attempt to filter the ridiculously long and involved instructions and the ingredients I used.  Please note that I cut this recipe into 4ths and still had plenty left over for more servings, so for the first and maybe last time ever, I'll do the math for you so that you don't end up with 3 quarts/12 cups on your hand because you never know, you may hate it and then where would you be?  With a freezer full of spaghetti sauce, that's where!

Italian [Meat] Sauce – Ann's Notes: The revised amounts, shown below, likely made 3 cups of sauce instead of the 12 the recipe called for.  That should be enough for about 4 servings, depending on how much sauce is used per serving.
  • ¼ cup celery
  • ¾ cups chopped onions
  • 1/16 cup chopped garlic (Ann's Note:  I think I chopped one large clove of garlic and threw that in.)
  • 1/16 cup (optional) grated carrots
  • ¼ cup chopped Leeks (optional) (Ann's Note:  I added the carrots but left out the leeks.)
  • ½ cup chopped green pepper
  • A few small mushrooms (optional) sliced
  • 1 large can "standard tomatoes" (Ann's Note:  I used a 14 ½-ounce can of diced tomatoes)
  • 1 small can tomato puree (Ann's Note:  I didn't have puree on hand but I had tomato paste and so I mixed some paste (maybe 1-2 T) with some water and used that instead.  I just now noticed that the author said some cooks like to use this instead of puree.  Count me as one of them!)
  • 4 cups stock or water (Ann's Note: Eyeball this.  I think I added a bit more water later.  Or maybe it was wine?  I was too stressed out to keep track!)
  • 1/16 cup mixed Italian herbs (Ann's Note:  If you have "Italian Seasoning" mix on hand, just use that.  If you don't then mix together some basil, oregano, rosemary leaves, tarragon, a half a bay leaf and if desired, some whole cloves.  Or—just use whatever floats your boat!)
  • 3 chilis tepenos (Ann's Note:  I have no idea what a chili tepenos is but I left it out as it is better to be safe than sorry.  If you want a little heat, throw in some dried red pepper flakes.)
For the meat sauce (Ann's Note:  I did not make this portion of the recipe but these are the amounts to use if you are making 3 quarts.  If you aren't making 3 quarts, cut this way, way down.)
  • Salt, pepper, oil, flour, MSG
  • 1 can sliced mushrooms (optional)
  • 2 lbs. (good) ground meat (or more)  (Ann's Note: I know what the author meant by "good" ground beef but I laughed anyway.)
  • 3 cans consommé
 Okay then, sorry for all the notes but hopefully this will help you get set up. I think I just eyeballed a lot of things because I could and you can too!

As to the instructions, here, to the best of my ability are the instructions, parsed for your reading enjoyment.

1. Finely chop all the vegetables you plan to use. 

2. If you want, wrap up your seasonings in a cheese cloth, simmer the mixture with them and then throw the seasonings away.  Or, you could do what I did which is to add them to the sauce, sans cloth or other protective covering because it is the only way I know. 

Then, and I am not kidding, a page and a half later, we get to how to actually put the thing together.  "We" (the author uses the royal "We" all the time) will make this as simple as possible – moving on...

3. Put some fat or oil in a heavy pot, add the fresh vegetables, cover and cook for a few minutes then add the prepared vegetables (canned mushrooms), then your ground beef (if you are using it), then the tomatoes, salt, sugar, herbs and bring it all slowly to a boil. 

If you are using ground beef, sauté your vegetables first, brown the meat and then add the tomatoes, salt, sugar, and herbs. 

4. Regardless of whether you made this with meat or went meat-less, reduce the heat to simmer and cook 1-2 hours, stirringly occasionally.  Add more broth or water if the sauce starts to stick.

Ann's Note:  Since I used bacon instead of ground beef, I cooked my bacon, then added it (bacon bits only, not the fat) to the pot after the sauce mixture had been cooking about a half an hour.  I think my sauce was pretty much done after about an hour but I let it go a bit longer to let the flavors settle in.   

If making the meat sauce:
Skim off the fat that rises to the surface while cooking and reserve it.  Add some flour to the fat then cook that mixture in a small pan over medium heat until you have a dryish paste or mash. 

Add some tomato sauce from the pan then add that mixture back into your pot and continue cooking.

Ann's Note: "We" use this as a thickening measure so if you want to skip it, my guess is you can but you'll still want to skim the grease from the sauce so it's not a big greasy mess.

If you wish, you can add canned mushrooms, some salt or MSG, and continue to simmer until you're satisfied that it is done and the flavors are incorporated.

Now then, was that hard?  No! This concludes my tutorial about how you go about parsing a recipe so that it can work for you.  As I said, we loved the finish product and now that I know what's involved, this sucker is a snap!  The best thing though, was that it was tasty.  "We" (our author) noted that the carrot tends to make the sauce sweeter but I think that's true if you were to make the full recipe using ½ cup grated carrots.  Here, I grated one carrot and that was that!

Sunday, July 9, 2017

"Cooking With Spirits" - Martinis In Suspension (Jell-O) for National Martini Day 2017

Date I made this recipe:  June 19, 2017  - National Martini Day

Cooking With Spirits by Ruth Vendley Neumann
Published by Reilly & Lee
© 1961
Purchased at Curious Book Shop, East Lansing, MI
Recipe:  Martinis In Suspension – p. 52

I am a gal who knows what she wants and what she wants in a beverage when out for dinner and drinks is simple:  a dry gin martini, up, with (preferably) pimento-stuffed olives.  The choice of gin depends on where I am and what's available, but favorites include, in order of "toxicity," Tanqueray, Hendricks, Blue Coat (made on the east coast) and local favorite Gunner Ghost which is really paint thinner in disguise.  Gunner Ghost is 114 proof or 57% alcohol – whoa! I save that one for special occasions.  Bombay Sapphire used to be my absolute "go to" for years and years until a few years ago when I started getting headaches every single time I drank it.  It didn't seem to matter if I ate or not, or whether I drank copious amounts of water which I did.  I suspect it has one "botanical" too many as I have sensitivity to those things; "Nature" is not my friend.

And call me picky, but a proper martini is not a proper martini unless and until I see a toothpick skewered with small pimento-stuffed olives resting in the gin bath.  I will accept large green olives sans pimento but rather reluctantly, and I will also accept green olives with pits (as served in a few favorite restaurants) but small pimento is what I grew up with and I want what I want.

Furthermore, and I've said this before:  gorgonzola-stuffed olives are an abomination and are completely and totally unacceptable and yes, I will make the server return to the bar to fetch me a proper martini.  This hasn't happened in a while which is good, but there was a time when these olives were all the rage in martinis  No.  I am also not fond of a lemon twist in my drink and it's gin, not vodka, period, end of story.

Now the good people associated with the National Martini Day (if they exist—they may not) did not give any guidance to what kind of a martini to make but I have no doubt they envisioned everyone the world over, even expats, making the standard, liquid version.  Could I have made a liquid martini?  In my sleep!  In fact, I enjoy a martini every day during the cocktail hour.  It's just how I roll.  I thought though, that it would be more fun to cook something with gin, and so selected Cooking with Spirits to do the job and it did it admirably.   Fifty-two pages in, I found this spectacular dish -  Martinis In Suspension – and we were ready to roll.

Do we not love this title? Translated, this 1961 recipe for Martinis In Suspension is really an early attempt at a Jell-O shot only fancier. And the Jell-O comes with olives – how sophisticated!  I hear the applause of the good people associated with National Martini Day – if they exist – golf clapping at the brilliance of it all!
Not only does this concoction have a great name but the recipe is ridiculously simple:  mix a little lemon gelatin with unflavored gelatin, add your desired mix of gin and vermouth and when that mixture is slightly chilled, insert your skewered olives.   You can, if you want, make a salad garnish to surround the upturned martini glass (ingredients and directions below) but nah—we concentrated our efforts on making sure the mixture itself was sound and it was, and we loved it.  In fact, I may have to repeat this dish every year because when something works, it works.

Now if you like gin but would rather not make the suspended martinis, consider also "Stuffed Celery" (p. 23) with blue cheese and gin, and "Cold Curried Shrimp" (p. 29), also containing gin.  There are likely more gin recipes that followed but once I found what I didn't know I was looking for, I stopped!

If gin is not to your liking, be not afraid because this book has a ton of recipes from soup to nuts made with everything from beer to bourbon and beyond.  Had I not been so singularly-focused, I saw many recipes that likely would have been fantastic. 

The only downside or challenge if you will to this book is that you won't be able to look up a spirit by name (e.g. vodka [recipes] or brandy [recipes]) as neither the table of contents nor the index breaks things out by spirit.  Instead, here are your Table of Content choices :
  • Spirited Coffee 'Round the World
  • Spirited Appetizers and Cocktail Dips
  • Spirited Soups
  • Spirited Salads and Salad Dressings
  • Spirited Fish and Shellfish
  • Spirited Meats
  • Spirited Relishes and "Window Dressings" for Meats and Fishes
  • Spirited Poultry
  • Spirited Egg and Cheese Dishes
  • Spirited Pasta and Rice
  • Spirited Vegetables and Vegetable Casseroles
  • Spirited Sauces and Gravies for Meats, Fish, Poultry, and Vegetables
  • Spirited Breads, Waffles, Pancakes and Popovers
  • Spirited Cakes, Frostings, and Fillings
  • Spirited Pies, Cobblers, and Tarts
  • Spirited Desserts (Gelatin and Refrigerator Desserts; Custards and Puddings; Dessert Sauces)
  • Spirited Fruits for Cocktails and Desserts
  • Cookies and Confections

Now then readers, did you spot an error in the above list?  Note that every chapter titled begins with the word "Spirited" except for Cookies and Confections.  I thought that was hilarious and so of course I had to double-check and am quiet relieved to tell you that cookies and confections are indeed loaded with booze.  In fact, page 199 contains a recipe for "Cognac Butter Cookies," and I think we can all agree that cognac is a spirit, no?  (A very good spirit!).  Two words: editorial error!

If I used this cookbook again, in addition to the above-mentioned cookies, I might make  also "Mexican Arroz Con Pollo with Beer and Tequila" (p. 121), "Cheese and Mushroom Soufflé" made with Dry Sherry (p. 127), or a "Sweet Potato Casserole" with Curacao (p. 157) because they all sounded delicious.  Frankly, most of the book sounded delicious.  Potentially deadly perhaps, but delicious and who doesn't like "delicious?"  That said, do remember that this is adult Jell-O so perhaps it's best if you eat this after the kiddies have gone to bed?  Even then, be warned that these pack a punch!

This concludes my National Martini Day 2017 cookbook and recipe review report.   I almost missed the whole thing (a childhood friend tipped me off), but then again, every day in my house is martini day so there you go!

Martinis In Suspension (Gin and Vermouth) with a Garnish – serves 4
For the Martinis In Suspension
1 T. unflavored gelatin
1 T lemon gelatin
1/8 tsp. salt
1 tsp. granulated sugar
¾ cup of your favorite martini mix (or ½ cup gin and ¼ cup dry vermouth)*
1 cup boiling water
1 T. lemon juice
Stuffed green olives
For the Salad Garnish
3 cups very finely shredded cabbage
2 T. white vinegar
¼ cup dry vermouth
2 T. granulated sugar, or more, to taste
1 tsp. salt
White pepper to taste
Few dashes of Tabasco
Small stuffed olives

*Ann's Note:  Oh dear god, ¼ cup dry vermouth, what?  No.  No properly made martini on this planet contains that much vermouth ever.  Since I made a half recipe, I added "some" vermouth for good measure, emphasis on "some" as in about an eyedropper full.  But that is my martini preference not yours, so if you want to add that much vermouth, by all means do it.

Combined gelatins, salt, and sugar, then dissolve them in martini mixture.  Add boiling water and lemon juice and mix thoroughly.  Pour into very lightly buttered cocktail glasses (for easy removal at serving time).  When aspic has partly thickened, press a stuffed olive into each glass so that it will remain suspended part way down.  Ann's Note:  "One" olive?  Surely, they jest!  So. Not. Happening.  I put about four olives on a toothpick and stuck that into the mixture instead and it looked exactly as a martini should only it was made of Jell-O. 

Chill until very firm.  To service, run a thin sharp knife around molds, then unmold each in the center of a salad plate; leave the glasses in place, upside down in the center of the plate.  Encircle each inverted martini with a ring of the following:

To Make the Salad Garnish
Marinate the cabbage in a mixture of all other ingredients, except olives.  Drain thoroughly, then make a wreath of it around the martini glasses.  Garnish here and there with the stuffed cocktail olives. Have these martini salads in place as guests are seated.  Then, when the oh's and ah's begin to subside, remove glasses.  This makes for a really dramatic presentation of your edible martinis.

By the way, and for the first time ever - the finished product!  I've had those plastic martini glasses for decades now - aren't they fun?

Sunday, July 2, 2017

"Secret Ingredients - The Magical Process of Combining Flavors" - Roasted Sirloin of Beef with Five Onions - for Iron Chef Gauntlet

Date I made this recipe – June 24, 2017 – Iron Chef America returns and a Father's Day do-over

Secret Ingredients – The Magical Process of Combining Flavors by Michael Roberts
Published by Bantam Books
ISBN: 0-553-05320-5; copyright 1988
Purchased at Magers & Quinn, Independent Booksellers, Minneapolis
Recipe:  Roasted Sirloin of Beef with Five Onions – p. 155

Before I get too deep into this blog post, let me get this off my chest:  aaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrggggggggggggggggghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!

There, I feel so much better!

Here's the deal:  I set this cookbook aside while watching the return of Iron Chef Gauntlet on the Food Network because how perfect, right, and was all set and ready to roll in a timely manner until I was not ready to roll in a timely manner because things happened.  For the record, this series aired in May.  We are now nearing the end of June and by the time I post this, it will be early July.  You do the math.

If you read my Father's Day post, you'll know that I erred big time in making a pasta dish instead of burgers and it has bugged me ever since.  So for "redemption," I thought I should finally getting around to making the dish I selected for an Iron Chef post – "Roasted Sirloin of Beef with Five Onions," and I did but it didn't quite work (or redeem me) as I intended and now I have to deal with the fact that I botched both Father's Day – twice! – and Iron Chef. Rats.

By the way, let me just say that I thought the show I was watching was the Next Iron Chef, but no, that's a different series:  same format, different title.  There is also Iron Chef America but this was not that.  This was Iron Chef Gauntlet,[1] not to be confused with "Iron Chef Hands Tied Behind My Back," or "Iron Chef Blindfolded," or any Iron Chef-titled series, real or imagined to which I say "Come on Food Network.  Come on.  These are variations of the same thing so let's keep it simple out there m'kay?"

At any rate, the premise of ALL Iron Chef shows is that two chefs (or two chefs with teams of minions) compete against each other making several dishes from the "Secret Ingredient." The reveal of the secret ingredients makes me laugh every time as it is so dramatic, and yet sometimes it makes me almost hurl because of the ingredient is so egregious. [2] Although the cheftestants don't always make a dessert with a secret ingredient, some do, and I am sorry, there is no world out there in which "fish" and "dessert go together."[3]  Not happening.

The secret ingredient for my own private (and singular) Iron Chef competition, taken from today's cookbook, Secret Ingredients was "Battle...Meat."

Well, okay, nothing like a broad category, so I decided that the five onions in my dish – Roasted Sirloin of Beef with Five Onions - were way more interesting than "meat" and so I changed the battle to Battle...Onions!  I can do that.  It's my blog.  Also?  My late fathered loved sirloin and loved onions so this to me was the perfect Father's Day redemption recipe.  (There might even be an "Iron Chef Redemption" show although I can't be sure.  What I do know is that some cheftestants who were eliminated on a previous episode sometimes do come back for redemption.  This is not that story.)

We were lucky enough to enjoy plenty of sirloin steak dinners in our house, but only if it was on sale.  My mother always did her homework and studied the Munising News when it came out on Wednesdays as if she was a librarian at the Library of Congress. (She actually did a stint as a librarian before she was married.)  Then with the sales price firmly in her head, she went to whatever grocery store out of three featured the sale on steak and ordered up.  Suffice it to say that the local butchers became very familiar with my mom and knew to cut her a beautiful 2-inch thick piece of sirloin. "On sale" sirloin.  If it wasn't on sale, we didn't have it, the end. (She also often applied this reasoning to clothing which drove my dad crazy because he could afford her clothes and told her constantly "If you like it, buy it."  Yes, well, my mother wasn't buying any of that argument, clothes or no clothes, steak or no steak!)

As these things go, while mom might have purchased the steak, dad was in charge of cooking it because that's what dads did back then.  My dad's preferred method of cooking was the broiler and to see him in action was seeing a master at work.  He was so good, he could have easily worked in any steak house in America

If my dad had his way, every steak would be cooked to rare as in "practically mooing" as in "Why bother to even put it under the flame?"  My mother didn't roll like that.  My mother feared that we would all die someday from eating raw meat and so insisted that he cook hers to medium.

To his credit, my father never cried about this abomination against nature (his words) but he came close.  My brother and I redeemed ourselves though by asking for rare steak (we still do when dining out), but dad compromised and gave it to us medium-rare lest my mother keep him up all night over how her children were going to get sick and die from eating "raw" (rare) meat.  Never mind that none of us ever got sick from our parents' cooking (we wouldn't dare) but these are the things that mothers stressed about besides the current price of steak.

This recipe eschews a broiler for an oven, and roasting instead of broiling and I should have taken that as a sign and run away from this recipe because roasting the meat requires a thicker cut than I purchased and could afford.[4]  In fact, the first directions are to "...sear the meat on both sides very well and then place it in the oven" and I'm not going to lie – I should have stopped right then and there.  Right then and there.  Seared meat is the equivalent of rare meat (according to the Gospel of Lou Verme) but I didn't stop there and like a good soldier, followed directions to the letter.  Well, almost the letter.

This recipe called for a 2 ½ - 3 pound piece of sirloin and hahahahahaha...are they kidding?  Not at current market prices.  The roasting time for that amount of meat was 30-40 minutes but I knew that was too long for my little (but pricey) steak so I cut it down to about 15 minutes and also got out a trusty meat thermometer so I could double-check.  The recipe said to cook until rare to medium-rare, approximately 130-135°. 

So I took the meat out of the oven, and even took it out a few minutes early and...140.  The meat's temperature was at 140°. Crap!  Crap, crap, crap!  I kept an eye on it but you know what, steaks are tricky; one second too long and it's all over but the crying.   Keep in mind that steak continues to cook while resting and I knew as soon as I starting cutting it (after letting it rest), I was screwed; it started pink but ended up brown. 

Now, would the medium (and brown) meat have satisfied my mother?  Naturally!  My dad?  Well, this is when I let out one great big "argh," which, when my father did it, sounded just Chewbacca, the Wookie (from Star Wars) and it is funny, but it is not a good sound.[5] It is the sound of pain, crushing disappointment, and overdone meat!  And I have to say it, but damn, I was mad!  Had my father taught me nothing?  I am not worth Obi-[Lou]-Wan Kenobi.  I am not worthy.

As to onions, this recipe called for a yellow onion, a leek, a red onion, scallions, and chives.  The yellow onions and leeks were to be sautéed but the red onion, scallions, and chives were added as garnish.

Now, I like red onion but not raw and so I sautéed the red onion with the yellow onion and the leek, and then at the very last minute, threw in the scallions and the chives and let them cook for about a minute and the result was pretty good.

In my opinion though, all the onions could have all benefitted from longer cooking times, particularly the leeks as they remained crunchy and I hated that.  If I made this again (assuming I raise enough money for my sirloin budget), I would sauté the hell out of the three key onions until they were almost caramelized and then still throw in the scallions and chives just to soften them up for a bit.

Needless to say, I did not redeem myself for my late father, nor did I pass an Iron Chef test and dammit all, I was so ready, was I not? (!)  Exactly! Next time around, I'm going to "study" and then look out!

As to alternatives to the beef "secret" ingredient, you can also select a dish from more overly-broad categories such as:
  • Soups
  • Salads
  • Raw, Marinated, and Cured First Courses
  • Pancakes, Fritters, and Croquettes
  • Sausages
  • One-Dish Meals
  • Quick Stews
  • Meats
  • Poultry
  • Fish and Seafood
  • Vegetables and Side Dishes
  • Desserts
  • Kitchen Pantry (Stocks, Dips, Condiments)

There's also a chapter titled "Pep Talk to the Reader" which I skipped (bad decision) but which I am pretty sure did not contain the directive "for best results, ensure that your steak is as thick as a wedge-heel sandal!"

Here then, is the "Secret Ingredient Sirloin" with Five Onions.

Roasted Sirloin of Beef with Five Onions – serves 4 to 6
1 tablespoon salad oil
2 ½ - to 3-pound New York sirloin
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium leek, white part only, finely sliced
1 small yellow onion, finely diced (about ½ cup)
1 ½ cups veal stock or 1 ½ cups canned low-sodium beef broth
24 chives, finely minced
4 scallions, finely minced
½ small red onion, finely diced(about ½ cup)

Ann's Note:  what follows below is how the author wants you to cook the sirloin, but as I advised above, I don't think I would roast it at all as you are unlikely to get a piece of steak thick enough to withstand roasting.  Instead, I would broil the meat and/or sear the meat a little longer than required until you achieve the steak doneness that you want, and then move on to the onion mixture.

Preheat the oven to 425°F.  Heat the oil in a 12-inch ovenproof skillet or small roasting pan over high heat.  When the oil is very hot, sear the meat very well on both sides.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and place in the oven.  Roast 30 to 40 minutes for rare to medium-rare, turning once.

Meanwhile, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in a 1-quart saucepan over low heat, add the leek and the yellow onion, and cook gently, without letting them color, for 8 minutes.  Add the veal stock (beef stock), raise the heat to high, and cook until liquid reduces and thickens enough to coat the back of the spoon.  Remove from heat and whisk in the remaining butter.

Remove the steak from oven when cooked to desired doneness and let rest on a carving board for 5 minutes before carving.  Slice the steak against the grain into ½-inch thick slices, arrange on a platter, and spoon the sauce over it.  Garnish with the chives, scallions, and red onion.  Ann's Note:  I decided to cook all the onions as I wasn't that fond of them raw, particularly the red onion.  My recommendation is to cook the yellow and red onions and the leek until almost caramelized and then add the chives and scallions and cook them for about 1 minutes.

[1] On this season's Iron Chef Gauntlet (was there another season?), Chicagoan [chef] Stephanie Izard beat out several highly-talent chefs for the chance to become an Iron Chef.  Once she won all her cheftestant rounds against fellow chefs of similar caliber, Stephanie had to compete in three separate rounds against current Iron Chefs Morimoto, Flay (Bobby) and Symon (Michael) in order to become a true Iron Chef.  Spoiler alert:  she did, she is!  Stephanie also won Top Chef, season 4.  She is a one to watch.  Another one to watch is fellow Chicagoan, Sarah Grueneberg, top chef at Monteverde in Chicago.  This year, Sarah walked away with a coveted James Beard Award as the Best Chef: Great Lakes.  Even though she lost to Stephanie, she was mighty impressive and I need to eat at her restaurant, STAT!
[2] You cannot tell me that some of the cheftestants don't have the same reaction as I do. You cannot tell me that.  Oh sure, they act all giddy and jump up and down about having to use fish fins or eel eggs as a secret ingredient but I know this is not so.  I know it.
[3] Ibid.  Which is to say "ditto."
[4] I paid nearly $12.00 for a one-pound piece of sirloin that wasn't the correct thickness – yikes!
[5] After Star Wars came out, I noticed the startling similarities between Chewbacca and my dad when they were upset about something.  Chewy raised his arm when he bellowed and so did dad plus, they both made a similar sound.  My dad was not at all upset about this comparison which was a good thing because I teased him about it until the day he died.  He'd always chuckle and say "Yeah, you're right!"

Sunday, June 25, 2017

"Rachael Ray Top 30 30-Minute Meals - Guy Food" - Triple-A Pasta: Spinach Pasta with Asparagus, Artichoke, and Arugula - Father's Day 2017

Date I made this recipe:  June 18, 2017 – Father's Day

Rachael Ray Top 30 30-Minute Meals – Guy Food by Rachael Ray
Published by Lake Isle Press, Inc.
© 2005
Purchased at Arc's Value Village Thrift Stores, Richfield, MN
Recipe:  Triple-A Pasta:  Spinach Pasta with Asparagus, Artichoke, and Arugula – p. 30-31

So today is Father's Day and I thought I was all set and ready to go with a recipe from this Rachael Ray cookbook, Guy Food, when I changed my mind and made something else instead.

Note to self:  Should have stuck with the original plan, Stan!

When I bought this cookbook, I flagged the recipe for "Outside-In Bacon Cheeseburgers with Green Onion Mayo."  My dad loved rare burgers and steaks and this was not a rare burger.  Still, I though this was something he would have enjoyed so I put the book aside and then was all set to prepare a shopping list when I hesitated and as the saying goes "(S)He who hesitates is lost."

Translation:  I made a boo-boo. 

Andy and I have inadvertently been consuming a lot of meat lately and I thought I should perhaps lighten things up just this once, particularly since I made a beef stew the day before.  And so I veered instead toward the pasta recipe, especially since it contained asparagus; my dad loved asparagus.

And it was "fine" as in "nothing to write home to father about" and this bummed me out.  Further, this is not what I am used to with a Rachael Ray recipe.  Yes, the gal's perkiness drives me up the wall, but her recipes have usually been spot on.  This one leaned toward being bland. I don't "do" bland.  Worse, the lemon zest took over the dish and so all we tasted was lemon which was not a bad flavor but not what I expected.   Frankly, the entire time I was making it, I wanted to kick it up a notch with something but as always, made the recipe as written and then pondered options thereafter.

Options 1:  some red pepper flakes.  Options 2: other Italian spices that would go well with asparagus, arugula and artichokes.  Option 3:  I briefly contemplated using fresh artichokes but didn't because I've never made them before and they take some time to prep.  Frankly, I don't think the [canned] artichokes did much for the recipe.  Option 4: add some poached chicken breasts.  Option 5: load it up with some shredded Parmesan cheese?

That day, I went with Option 5 plus I added more salt and pepper and that brought the flavor up a bit (as did overnight refrigeration of the leftovers) but harrumph, I still want more from this dish like maybe an Alfredo sauce.  Or maybe more white wine?  Couldn't hurt, might help!

Now the burger (which I stupidly passed up) was not the only item of interest as there were recipes for "Manly Manny's Chili," "Blackened Chicken Pizza," "Grilled Mahi-Mahi Fillets," and "Tenderloin Steaks with Gorgonzola," all of which sounded good but since I had decided to reroute with the pasta, pasta it was.  Like I said, it wasn't bad but I think there's some tweaking to be done to turn this from just "meh" into "mah-ve-lous!"

As to next year's Father's Day, I'm going back to meat, final answer!

Triple-A Pasta:  Spinach Pasta with Asparagus, Artichoke, and Arugula – serves 4
12 ounces spinach fettuccine, dried or fresh, cooked until al dente
Extra-virgin olive oil, a drizzle
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large or 2 medium shallots, finely chopped
½ cup white wine
1 pound thin fresh asparagus spears, trimmed and cut on angle into bite-size pieces
1 cup broth, chicken or vegetable
1 can (14 ounces) artichoke hearts in water, drained and chopped
24 leaves fresh arugula, torn or coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons zest from 1 large lemon (grate skin, not the white part)
Coarse salt and black pepper, to taste
A handful chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, to garnish

Drain pasta well and drizzle with oil to keep from sticking.  Set aside.

Heat a large, deep skillet over medium heat.  Add butter and olive oil to pan and heat until butter is melted.  Add shallots and sauté, 3 minutes.  Add wine and reduce liquid by half, about 2 minutes more.  Add asparagus bits, cover, and cook, 3 or 4 minutes.  Then uncover, adding broth and artichokes to pan.  Heat artichokes through and add cooked pasta.  Sprinkle with arugula.  Toss ingredients until arugula wilts.  Season with lemon zest, salt and pepper, and parsley, to taste.

Serve immediately with crusty bread.  Fresh sliced melon makes a simple and wonderful accompaniment to this meal.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

"The Watergate Cookbook" - CREEP Stew (CREEP was the Committee to Re-Elect the President - Richard Nixon) - Made for the 45th anniversary of the Watergate break-in

Date I made this recipe:  June 27, 2017 – 45th anniversary of the Watergate Break In

The Watergate Cookbook (Or, Who's in the Soup?) by The Committee to Write the Cookbook
Published by The New Lone Star Press
© 1973
Purchased at St. Croix Booksellers, Stillwater, MN
Recipe:  CREEP Stew – p. 37

Let's start out with some definitions that will be important for you to know as you move forward through this cookbook blog post:

  • CREEP [stew]:  Committee to Re-Elect the President, not to be confused with the authors who formed the Committee to Write the Cookbook.
  •  The President in Question:  Richard Milhous Nixon, aka "Tricky Dick."
  •  Watergate: Wikipedia's definition of Watergate is "a major political scandal that occurred in the United States in the 1970's, following a break-in at the Democratic National Committee (DNC) headquarters at the Watergate office complex on June 17, 1972, and President Nixon's administration's attempted cover-up of its involvement."  Personally, I think saying "major" scandal is and understatement was Watergate was a monumental event that changed this country.
 In the interest of fair warning, prepare to be schooled on all things Watergate.  In fact, think of this as an episode of Jeopardy where every category is named "Watergate" or and episode of Who Wants to be a Millionaire where every question that comes up is Watergate-related.  Feel free to phone a friend! (By the way, one of my favorite episodes of Cheers was when Cliff Clavin appeared on Jeopardy and every category was that postman's dream.)

There were many memorable (and sometimes sad) events of my youth:  JFK's assassination, MLK's assassination, Bobby Kennedy's assassination, Woodstock, Kent State, the Vietnam War and Watergate.  The Senate Watergate Committee hearings, held after evidence showed that Nixon's administration was heavily involved in the above-referenced break-in, were compelling such that I spent hours and hours in front of the TV set with my mother, watching and learning about all that had taken place.

My mom was a housewife, or if you'd rather, a "stay-at-home-mom," who did her ironing in the afternoon, usually watching several soap operas while she did so. Yes, I said "ironing."  I know it's a foreign term for some of you but my mom ironed everything from my dad's undershirts and handkerchiefs because that was what women back then did.  They ironed and sometimes starched the hell out of everything because it was important to them that we all looked good. These days, I break out my iron once, maybe twice a year just to keep the cobwebs off.

Now then, my mom was not exactly a soap opera fan but it helped break up the monotony of ironing so why not? And then all three networks (only three back then) began interrupting our regularly-scheduled programming to broadcast the hearings and well, those hearings were better than the soaps and so it was a win-win for all.

And so there we were, glued to the set which is something considering it was summer and therefore nice out.  Neither one of us had a particular interest in government affairs before this,  but watching almost all of Nixon's administration testify to wrong-doings and cover-ups were just too much to pass up.  To this day, I can still see my mom gasping with incredulity over what she was hearing: "Oh Ann Mar-ieee, can you believe this?"  Nope, couldn't.

And now, let's talk about what happened and what brought us to the interruption of our regularly-scheduled soaps.  I've tried to be as brief as possible as the event timeline was pretty long and pretty involved with lots and lots of players.  You should know that Nixon's presidency and the Vietnam War coincided as that will play out in our story, starting with the item that kicked everything off:  the Pentagon Papers.

In 1971, psychiatrist Daniel Ellsberg, a former defense analyst who came to oppose the war, leaked what became known as the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times.  These papers contained information about the DOD's (Department of Defense) secret activities in the Vietnam War.  Months later, White House operatives broke into Ellsberg's office to "plug the leaks," [of classified information] earning them the nickname, "White House Plumbers." 

A year later, several individuals were arrested for trying to electronically bug the offices of the DNC (Democratic National Committee) located in the Watergate Hotel. Nixon planned to use that information to take down the Democratic party in the next election (1972). These individuals were tied to CREEP, The Committee to Re-Elect the President and today's stew is named for them!  Nixon was re-elected in November of 1972 but this proved to be the beginning of the end for him, especially after the Senate formed the Senate Watergate Committee and then broadcast their investigative hearings.

Eventually, most of Nixon's aides were arrested and charged with all kinds of illegal activity connected with the President's quest for re-election.  In fact, if you were alive back then, you might know this song - "The CREEP" also known as "Haldeman, Ehrlichman, Mitchell, and Dean" and I shall talk about all these men in a moment but first, let me tell you that I bought that 45 when it came out and wish I still had it as it would be a collector's item.  As my dad would always say "Story of my life, a day late and a dollar short."

Now then, here's what you need to know about Haldeman, Ehlichman, Mitchell and Dean (And by the way, the song is really catchy—listen to it!).

  • H.R. Haldeman – Nixon's Chief of Staff – served 18 months for conspiracy, obstruction of justice and perjury.

  • John Ehrlichman – counsel and Assistant to the President for Domestic Affairs – also spent 18 months in prison for the same crimes as Haldeman.

  • John Mitchell – Nixon's Attorney General.  His wife, Martha, was probably more well-known than he was as she was quite the colorful character who spoke out about a lot of things including the state of affairs in the Beltway.  John served 19 months for various crimes.

  • John Dean – This man captured my attention and the nation's as he was essentially the man who brought Nixon down.  Dean was Nixon's White House Counsel who became the key witness for the prosecution in the hearings.  I must confess that most of my time was spent watching him testify as he was just a golden boy – young and handsome with his beautiful wife, Maureen (Mo), by his side.  His testimony before the Senate Watergate Committee was compelling.

So these were the key players in this saga but I would be remiss in my duty as a blogger if I did not mention Rose Mary Wood's, Nixon's secretary, not because she was involved in this per se, but because of the way she accidentally/on purpose erased five minutes of an 18.5 minute gap in a Nixon recording.  Her excuse was rather preposterous, earning the act a press nickname, the "Rose Mary Stretch."  Please Google this so you can see what I am talking about as it was hilarious and quite unbelievable, even to a teenager.

So everybody testified and after the Senate was done with hearings, the evidence was passed on to the House Judiciary Committee who then passed the first of three articles of impeachment for obstruction of justice.  Nixon resigned before the full House voted on impeachment, the first president ever to do so, and Vice President Gerald R. Ford became president.  Ford then pardoned Nixon and that set off another firestorm as many felt cheated out of full resolution of this issue.  After watching the hearings for weeks, I can say honestly that  now I know how a jury feels after a plea deal is announced after weeks of listening to testimony.

This concludes a not-so-brief history of Watergate.  In 1976, the movie All The President's Men came out starring Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman as Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, and it took us through the investigation of the cover-up of the Watergate break in, the introduction of Deep Throat (an informant) whose identify was only made public about a decade ago, and who gave Woodward and Bernstein the valuable advice to "follow the money," (the garage scene still creeps me out), and the ultimate fall of the House of Nixon.  It remains one of my favorite movies.

This very tongue-in-cheek cookbook was written by a group of friends who formed the Committee to Write the Cookbook in response to the Watergate scandal.  Many of the recipes are named for key players in the Watergate scandal, mostly from Nixon's "side" but with a few other's thrown in for good measure.  Once again, I had my trusty phone by my side as I was perusing this book so I could look up all the names listed (and there were several), and although it took a while, I considered it a good historical refresher after 45 years!

Since the Table of Contents is vast, and my "who's who" explanations go long, I'm going to talk about the recipe now and then if you are interested, you can read up on all the players at the end of the blog. I recommend it because I love history, plus it makes for great cocktail party conversation, but if you don't wish to, that's okay. 

Despite some pretty hilariously-named recipes, I kept it simple and went with CREEP (Committee to Re-Elect the President) Stew.  It was a great stew although I wish I would have seen at the beginning the tiny little note that said all recipes serve 5-7 people as I would have cut the recipe in half.  Good thing we like leftovers.

Although I don't normally change up too much with a recipe, I did in this case.  First, instead of buying and dealing with small, white onions, I bought one whole white onion and diced it up instead.   I also eliminated the mushrooms as the Cub [grocery store] I was at is a smaller store and didn't sell mushrooms by the each and I didn't want an entire packet.

Also gone was the meat glaze because Cub didn't have what I was looking for and besides, only a tiny amount was required, and I ditched the small amount of tomato puree required in favor of a small amount of tomato paste that I "cut" with some beef broth.

As to the directive to "flame" the brandy, I was using a deep stew pot and didn't want to risk burning myself again with that directive so I skipped it and let the mixture simmer in the brandy the entire time.  Talk about delicious!

So here you go, one recipe for CREEP Stew and a whole education about the 45th anniversary of the Watergate Break-In.  My, how time has flown!  Once again, let me remind you Jeopardy and Who Wants to Be A Millionaire fans as well as history and politics buffs, that drinks and details are being served on the lido deck.  Kidding.  Once again, let me remind you all that recipe [name]samples from the Table of Contents and commentary can be found at the end of the recipe recap.

CREEP Stew – serves 5-7
4 large white mushrooms
3 T. butter
3 T. oil
1 ½ lbs top sirloin
¼ cup brandy
12 white onions
6 carrots, sliced
6 small parsnips
1 celery heart quartered
1 zucchini sliced
½ tsp tomato puree
1 tsp meat glaze
3 T. flour
1 ½ cup stock
¼ cup red wine
1 bay leaf

Cut the meat up into stew pieces. Brown the meat in butter and oil and pour in the brandy, then flame.  Remove the meat. Add onions, carrots, parsnips, celery to the oil and brown slightly.  Remove vegetables, set aside.  Add the mushrooms and zucchini and cook 3 t0 5 minutes, remove and set aside.  Put the meat back in the pot and add the tomato puree, glaze and flour, stock, red wine and bay leaf.  Cook additional 20 to 30 minutes.  Add mushrooms and zucchini just before serving.  Season to taste.

And now for our Table of Contents
  • Soups includes:
    • "Nixon's Perfectly Clear Consommé" (Nixon was known for saying "Let me be perfectly clear" when he was not, in fact, clear. Nixon also said "I am not a crook" and well sure, it was a defense, but not a winning one.)
    • "Liddy's Clam-Up Chowder" (G. Gordon Liddy was a Nixon "henchman" as dubbed by the press.)
  • Green and Leafy includes:
    • "Haldeman's Cold Crew Cut Platter" (H. R. Haldeman was known for his military-style crew cut.  He was one of Nixon's key "henchmen.")
    • Margruder's Dandy Ly-in Salad (Jeb Magruder was another "henchman.")
  • Waterfriends includes:
    • "Rebozo's Key West Red Snapper" (Bebe Rebozo was Nixon friend and confidant who lived in Key Biscane, Florida.  I recall a lot of discussion about "Bebe Rebozo's yacht" and I thought at the time that it might be nice to have a yacht but probably not the greatest thing to be Bebe Rebozo!)
    • "C-aught I-n the A-ct" (subtitled "something smells fishy') fish fillets; the CIA was also involved in pre-Watergate shenanigans.
  • As For the Birds includes:
    • "[John] Mitchell's Cooked Goose with Stuffing" – ha! (Mitchell was the Attorney General of the United States.)
    • "Muskie's Pigeon Pie" (Edmund Muskie from Maine was a U.S. Senator and later, Secretary of State under Jimmy Carter.  Muskie was a Democratic front-runner in the 1972 election primaries until the release of The Canuk Letter disparaging Muskie by CREEP.  Need I tell you the election did not go well for him?)
  • Cover-Up Dishes includes:
    • "Cox's In-Peach Chicken" (Archibald Cox was a Special Prosecutor who was fired during the Watergate scandal by Richard Nixon.)
    • "CREEP (Committee to Re-Elect the President) Stew," today's featured dish.)
  • Double Entrees includes"
    • "Martha's [Mitchell's] Sweet and Sour Tongue" (ha!)
    • "Baker's Shake and Bake" (Tennessee Republican, Senator Howard Baker, was Vice Chair of the Senate Watergate Committee. He is best known for asking "What did the president know, and when did he know it?"  By the way, when looking up Howard Baker, I was reminded that Fred Thompson, who most of you know from Law & Order, was also on the committee as the second senator from Tennessee.)
  • Accomplicements includes:
    • "Richardson's Boston Baked Beans" (Elliot Richardson served several positions in Nixon's cabinet.  When he served as the U.S. Attorney General, he resigned rather than obey Nixon's order to fire Special Prosecutor, Archibald Cox.)
    • "Hunt's Stewed Tomatoes"  (E. Howard Hunt served in the CIA and was one of the "plumbers" during the Watergate break-in and yikes, we share the same birthday month and year!)
  • Rolling in the Dough includes:
    • "Nixon's Hot Crossed Wire Buns with Tapping (icing)" (This is self-explanatory.)
    • "Vesco's Off-Shore Sour Dough Bread" (Robert Vesco was investigated for, and charged with embezzlement, after some money he helped himself to ended up in Nixon's CREEP funds.  After fleeing the country, Vesco resisted extradition back to the U.S. and even got Costa Rica to pass a law – Vesco's law – preventing extradition.  He was also a drug smuggler.  What a guy!)
  • Heavies includes:
    • "Segretti Spaghetti" (Donald Segretti was a political operative for CREEP – Committee to Re-Elect the President.)
    • "Hunt's Hush Puppies"  (As stated above, E. Howard Hunt was the worst kind of plumber!)
  • Just Desserts includes:
    • "Odle's Strudel" (Robert Odle was the former Director of CREEP and was the first to testify to the committee's organizational structure.)
    • "Ziegler's Zabaione" (Ron Ziegler was Nixon's White House Press Secretary.)
  • Hearty Sandwiches includes:
    • "Russo's Pentagon Pizzas" (Anthony Russo was a reporter who reported on the CIA's systematic torture of enemy combatants during the Vietnam War.)
    • "Baldwin's Hoo-Joe Franks in Bacon" (Alfred Baldwin was a former FBI agent who monitored the electronic bugs planted in DNC headquarters.)
  • Wake-Er Uppers includes:
    • "Reisner's Rice Pudding" (Robert Reisner was Jeb Magruder's assistant. I chuckled when I read that he "successfully hid from the FBI investigators" and so his testimony could not be included in a Justice Department report. Not that this is funny, you understand, and yet it is.)
    • "Strachan's Breakfast for Champions" (Gordon C. Strachan was H.R. Haldeman's assistant; Haldeman was Chief of Staff.)
  • Tidbits to Wet Your Appetite includes:
    • "Kleindienst Curry Dip" (Richard Kleindienst was Nixon's Attorney General for less than a year.  He also pled guilty to a crime in a peripheral scandal.)
    • "Montoya's Refried Beans" (Joseph Montoya was a Democrat from New Mexico who served on the Senate Watergate Committee.)
  • In the Drink includes:
    • "Inouye's Hawaiian Punch" (Daniel Inouye (D) from Hawaii also served on the Senate Watergate Committee.)
    • "Sloans' Fifths" (Hugh Sloan, Jr. was CREEPS's treasurer. After learning about the "plumbers," Sloan resigned and became a trusted source for Woodward and Bernstein's Washington Post articles.")

There!  Don't you feel too cool for school?  I do.  Although I knew several of the people listed above, I still looked up all names listed and as you can see, it is vast.  I only wish the cookbook authors would have compiled such a list for the back of the book as that would have saved my big, long, and involved trip down memory lane.

On a related note, I mentioned much earlier that the Vietnam War was part of my childhood, and just like Watergate, I was glued to the set every night waiting for updates.  The U.S. pulled out all troops in 1975 and I watched the airlift of American personnel and Vietnamese refugees unfold on TV.  At any rate, someone on Facebook today posted a Vietnam War Quiz that only 2% of the population gets right, and also a quiz to see if you could distinguish facts and events from WWI and WWII.  I did really well in the W's quiz and I'll have you know that I got 87% right on my Vietnam War quiz ("You scored 87% You are a General!")!  I minored in History in college and also grew up with the Vietnam War so there you go.