Thursday, December 28, 2006

"Cucina & Famiglia" - Beef Tenderloin accompanied by Artichoke Mashed Potatoes and Orange Cookies

Date I made these recipes: Christmas Day, 2006

Cucina & Famiglia – Two Italian Families Share Their Stories, Recipes, and Traditions by Joan Tropiano Tucci and Gianni Scappin with Mimi Shanley Taft. Foreward by Stanley Tucci
Published by: William Morrow & Company, Inc.
ISBN: 0-688-15902-8

Recipes: Filetto Di Bue Al Prosciutto – Beef Tenderloin with Prosciutto – p. 194, accompanied by Pure Di Patate Ai Carciofini - Mashed Potatoes and Artichokes – p. 274, and Biscotti Casarecci Del Ponticello – Ponticello’s Orange Cookies – p. 294

If you read my blog from Christmas Eve, you’ll know that I had a very difficult time deciding on what to make for my holiday dinner. This cookbook was in my stack of cookbooks under consideration, and as if by magic, it opened to the Beef Tenderloin recipe and right then and there I decided – beef. We were having beef. Granted, it was Italian-style beef, but it was just what I was craving at the moment.

Now, if you don’t know, beef tenderloin is rather expensive, as in $25 a pound, but it was worth every morsel. At least this time when I bought the meat, I didn’t have sticker shock like I did a few years ago when I decided to make beef tenderloin for 6 friends for our holiday dinner. I about fainted when the butcher handed me the package and I sheepishly asked if he could recommend something else that wasn’t quite so expensive. He graciously took the meat back and pointed out some nice pork for my inspection. Lesson learned: know thy meat prices!

So anyway, beef it was. The authors kindly pointed out that the mashed potato recipe on p. 274 would make a lovely accompaniment and they were right on the money. At the last minute, I decided to make the orange cookies to go along with my homemade cordials for dessert, and they remind me of the almond cookies, made by famous baker “Stella D’Oro” (a commercial bakery -, that I ate by the carton when I was a kid. My grandma, Vita, liked to dip them in her coffee in the morning. These are much smaller than the almond cookies but just as delicious.

For those of you who don’t recognize the cookbook author’s names, Stanley Tucci, who wrote the foreword, is an actor who was recently seen in the movie, The Devil Wears Prada. Long before that, however, he played Secondo in one of my favorite movies, Big Night. (By the way, Tony Shalhoub, who now plays Monk on the TV show of the same name, played the older brother, Primo.) Foodies, run, don’t walk, to get your copy today.

Anyway…Stanley’s mother, Joan Tropiano Tucci, teamed up with friend, Gianni Scappin to present these wonderful recipes from Calabria (Joan’s family) and Veneto (Gianni’s). Mimi Shanley Taft added her cookbook expertise to the project. It’s a fun read (I’m a sucker for family history and photos) so while you’re waiting for the beef tenderloin to finish, take a moment to salivate over the rest of the recipes in this book.

Filetto Di Bue Al Prosciutto – Beef Tenderloin with Prosciutto
Note: the ingredients below are for 6-8 servings. I cut the recipe in half to serve 2.

2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil (whoops, I used olive oil!)
1 large carrot, halved lengthwise and cut into 2-inch pieces
1 medium-size onion, quartered
2 celery stalks, halved lengthwise and cut into 2-inch pieces
One 2 ½ to 3 pound beef tenderloin or Chateaubriand
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon roughly chopped fresh rosemary leaves (or, if you are like me and sick of buying fresh herbs that end of turning brown in your fridge, use dried)
1 tablespoon roughly chopped fresh sage leaves (again, I used dry)
12 very thin slices prosciutto
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
½ cup dry red wine
1 cup chicken broth

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Grease a small roasting or baking pan – one that will hold the beef snugly – with the oil.

Arrange the carrot, onion, and celery on the bottom of the prepared pan. Place a wire rack in the pan and set aside. Note: Our small roasting pan was too small for the wire rack so we used a larger one and it worked just fine. We nestled the tenderloin, which we bought in ½ pieces, right next to each other and all was well. They seemed to get along nicely.

Rub the beef all over with the mustard. Sprinkle the rosemary, sage and salt and pepper to taste all over the beef. Place 6 to 8 slices of the prosciutto up and over, and use the remaining slices of prosciutto to completely enclose the beef. Secure the prosciutto around the beef by gently tying the roast with butcher’s string. I didn’t have the string but didn’t need it as the prosciutto adhered to the beef without any difficulties.

Place the roast on the rack and cook in the oven until browned on top, about 15 minutes. Turn the roast and continue cooking until browned and medium rare, about 15 minutes more (an internal thermometer should register about 130 degrees for medium-rare beef). Transfer the meat to a platter and set aside to rest for 10 minutes before removing and discarding the string. Carve into 1-inch-thick slices.

Although I cut the recipe in half in terms of ingredients, you will still need to cook the meat for the times listed above. If you don’t have a meat thermometer, you need to get one for this recipe or you’ll have a hard time knowing when the meat is done. I like medium-rare to rare meet and the timing was perfect.

I did not have the time to make the gravy that accompanied this recipe but here it is should you want to make it:

After removing the beef and wire rack, set the roasting pan over high heat (or transfer the contents to a wide saucepan). Stir in 1 tablespoon of flour, ½ cup of red wine and 1 cup chicken broth. Bring to a boil and cook, stirring constantly, to slightly thicken the juices in the pan, about 5 minutes. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve and spoon over the sliced roast.

Pure Di Patate Ai Carciofini – Mashed Potatoes and Artichokes – serves 4
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ cup chopped shallots
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley leaves
½ pound artichoke bottoms or hearts, cut into 1/2 – inch pieces (you can also use canned artichoke hearts or bottoms)
½ teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups water
2 ½ pounds Idaho potatoes, peeled
1 clove garlic, peeled
¾ cup milk, warmed
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter, softened

Unlike the beef, I made the entire recipe of this dish because, well face it, mashed potatoes are infinitely cheaper than beef tenderloin. Besides that, I just loved mashed potatoes.

Warm the olive oil in a small sauté pan set over medium-high heat. Add the shallots, chopped garlic and parsley and cook, stirring until the shallots soften, about 5 minutes. Stir in the artichokes and thyme, then season with salt and pepper. Add the water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until all of the liquid has been absorbed and the artichokes are tender, about 12 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Now, let me take a moment to talk about the “12 minute” reduction of the liquid. Maybe it was me, or maybe it was the heat level I selected, or maybe it was because I used canned artichokes, or maybe it was because I was under the gun to finish this dish in time for my husband to have a lovely meal before he had to make an airport run to pick up his mom, but this stuff just wouldn’t reduce. And so for one, brief, shinning moment, I felt the panic that the contestants on Bravo’s Top Chef show feel when they have 15 minutes to start and finish a dish. I swear to you, I was about sweating buckets. So…I recommend that you either plan for more time for the reduction or you crank the heat to reduce that water or you’re going to be in trouble, I guarantee it. I finally resorted to pouring out the water that just wouldn’t reduce and called it a day. (We won’t even talk about my nightmares of ruining $25 dollars worth of meat.)

But once you get that all under control…place the potatoes in a large pot of salted water. Add the whole garlic clove and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer the potatoes until tender when pierced with a fork, about 20 minutes. Drain the potatoes, discard the garlic, and return the potatoes to the pot. Heat the potatoes over low heat to remove any excess moisture (about 1 minute). Remove from the heat and add the milk (which I microwaved to make it “warm”) and butter. Use a potato masher or electric mixer set on low to incorporate all of the ingredients, leaving the mixture slightly chunky. Stir in the artichokes, season with salt and pepper and serve.

Biscotti Casarecci Del Ponticello – Ponticello’s Orange Cookies – about 48 cookies
4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons baking powder
Pinch of Kosher salt
2 large eggs
1 cup sugar
½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1 teaspoon pure orange extract
½ cup milk

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line several baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside. Or, do as I do and run to my favorite cooking store, Cooks at Crocus Hill at 3:30 on Christmas Eve to buy a Silpat baking mat. (Don’t ask my why I always wait until I’m in the throes of cooking to decide these things.) Silpat sheets are made of silicone and therefore allow you to reuse the same baking pan without having to resort to parchment paper and several baking sheets. If they’re good enough for Martha Stewart (who sang their praises years ago), they’re good enough for you.

In a medium-size bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat together the eggs and sugar with an electric mixer (or KitchenAid). Add the butter and beat just to combine. Gradually beat the flour mixture into the egg mixture. Pour the orange extract into the milk, and with the mixer running, gradually add the milk to the batter. The dough will come together to form a ball.

Turn the dough out onto the work surface. Flatten it into a disk shape and cut into quarters. Roll each quarter into a log about 1 inch in diameter. Cut each log into ½-inch-thick slices, and place them 1 inch apart on the prepared baking sheets. Bake until lightly golden brown, about 18 minutes. Remove to a rack to cool completely. Store the cookies in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

Now, I am not really an anal person, but I sometimes have difficulties judging widths and lengths and so to make sure the cookies were neither overly big or overly small, I pulled out a mini tape measure that my husband gave me years ago that I carry in my purse. My husband, besides being practical, was sick of me trying to determine whether a piece of furniture I saw in a store would fit in our house. Furniture in house, cookies on baking sheet – same thing! (Naturally, I used this when he wasn’t looking or he would have just snorted).

You should know that these cookies have a subtle orange taste, so if you’re expecting a burst of orange flavor, you’ll be out of luck. You should also know that unlike other cookies, these cookies retain the shape and size that you cut them into before baking so if you’re expecting super huge cookies, you’re out of luck on that, too. Instead, you’ll get these lovely bite-size cookies that make it easy for you to eat several more than you should at a time. Sure, you can try storing them for two weeks as directed but I wouldn’t get my hopes up if I were you.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

"Lidia's Italian Table" by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich - Christmas Eve Dinner - Bow Tie Pasta with Sausage and Leeks

Date I made this recipe: December 24, 2006

Lidia’s Italian Table by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich
Published by: William Morrow & Company, Inc.
ISBN – 0-688-15410-7

Recipe: Bow Ties with Sausage and Leek Sauce (Farfalle ai Porri e Salsicce) – p. 136

People, you might think that having a huge cookbook collection would make it easy for me to select recipes for this year’s Christmas holiday, but you would be wrong.

Every day for the last two weeks, I pulled books off my shelf trying to figure out what on earth to make. Part of the problem is that I like to cook something I’m in the mood for at that moment, but given that grocery stores are closed on Christmas Day, that put the kibosh on fulfilling a last-minute craving. For once, and for all, I had to commit to cooking something even if I was nearly incapacitated by the thought.

Several dishes were considered – roast chicken, roast turkey, veal roast, pot roast, enchiladas (I don’t know why) – you name it, I have a recipe for it. I could have gone national (food from the northeast, mid-Atlantic, south, Midwest, west…) or international – “Siamese Cookery” (an actual title), Africa or Europe. I could have acknowledged Hanukah by cooking from several Jewish cookbooks, but finally decided to end the torture by following my family tradition by cooking Italian food on Christmas Eve (I’m half Sicilian).

Many Italians and Italian Americans make a meal of seven fishes on Christmas Eve but since I grew up far away from the east coast where most fish and seafood was unavailable, we went for the pasta approach. My family typically enjoyed spaghetti with meatballs or just spaghetti with tomato sauce for those times when the Catholic Church decided we could not eat meat during the holiday.

Now, I could have followed suit and made spaghetti and meatballs but I decided to forego that in favor of making a dish from the recipe collection so that I could blog about it. But therein was my next problem – whose food, out of all the Italian cookbooks I owned, would I deem worthy enough to serve up that night?

Like most people of ethnic backgrounds, somebody else’s version of Italian cooking never measures up to what I experienced as a child. And so for years, not only did I rarely dine out in an Italian restaurant (I don’t even think I tasted cream sauce until I was in my mid-thirties) but I was a real snob about cooking out of the Italian cookbooks I collected. As far as I was concerned, they were just there for the show.

And then along came Lidia and blew that snobbery all to hell.

Lidia Bastianich is a restaurant and cookbook maven who came to the US from the Istria region of Italy. Istria started out being part of Austria, then Italy, then Yugoslavia after WWII, and is now part of Croatia. Lidia’s cooking is Italian-based with bits of eastern European influence cropping up here and there.

Lidia started cooking from the moment she landed in the United States and never looked back. Her cooking show, Lidia’s Family Table, is featured on PBS, and I love to watch her, her children and her mother cook up these sumptuous dishes. I especially love to watch Lidia and her mother affectionately “go at it” in the kitchen as it reminds me of my grandma Vita and my aunt Rose’s relationship around food and cooking.

I actually met Lidia in 2002 when she came to a local Barnes and Noble to sign her latest book. At that time, Lidia was still a well-kept secret and one was still able to get a reservation at one of her New York restaurants. Inspired by hearing her talk about food and her restaurants, my husband and I took our New York friends to one of her restaurants, Becco, when we went to New York a couple of weeks later during our annual “pilgrimage” (or, as I call it, my cookbook buying trips). (Lidia even told me to tell the reservationists that “Lidia sent me” when I called in which I thought was just lovely.)

Let’s just say that dinner at Becco was memorable not only for the food, but for the “incident” that occurred while we were there.

All was well during the first half of the meal. We had an appetizer and then decided to go with a sampler plate of three pastas, one of which was pasta with wild boar sauce that was just out of this world. In any other instance, “wild boar” and “me eating it” would not have gone together but this time, I threw caution to the wind.

For the main course that evening, I had Joe’s Grilled Veal Chop (Lidia’s son, Joe, and his friend, chef Mario Batali, often collaborate on restaurants and other food adventures) and was floored by the enormous size of the chop. It was like Dino, the Dinosaur’s, bone from the TV show, The Flintstones. Still, I managed to pack it all away…or shall I say, shoveled it all away?

You see, people, the friends we dined with hired, in my humble opinion, the babysitter from hell, who all but demanded our return before the clock struck 11 so she could hightail it home to the Bronx before she turned into a pumpkin. And as often happens, the reservation got backed up so that by the time we actually sat down to eat, we maybe had an hour, tops. We were doing just fine through the appetizer and pasta but whoa, Nelly, when the entrées came, we were out of the gates, wolfing down food faster than a hummingbird pumps its wings. To this day, I still get a knot in my stomach when I think about eating so quickly. One of these days, my husband and I are going back to pick up where we left off, sans anybody’s idea of a babysitter!

Getting back to the meal, dessert, as you may imagine, was out of the question. Our poor server tried everything to make sure we had a dessert which, silly us, we coveted at the beginning of our food service, but it was not to be. We flagged him over while still inhaling dinner to get the check and the poor guy practically put it on a flaming arrow to get it to us so we could exit, stage left, leaving a huge “guilt money” tip behind.

When we arrived back at my friend’s apartment the babysitter was there practically tapping her foot and blew out the door to a chorus of apologies from our friends (“We are not worthy. Please forgive us. We’ll never eat out again”). We won’t go into what my husband and I thought of the babysitter but I will say she made the evening memorable in more ways than she could have imagined.

Now, Lidia’s Bow Ties with Sausage and Leek Sauce was likely not one of the three pastas we sampled, but, and this is just a suggestion, it should be. This recipe is a far cry from my usual “red-sauce or bust” mantra but it’s very good, very easy and contains many of my favorite ingredients – leeks, peas and most importantly, Italian sausage.

Lidia ends her TV show by saying “Tutti a tavola a mangiare” (Everybody to the table to eat), but in my family (the rogue Sicilians), we like shortcuts; somebody yells “A mangia!” and we all come running. You’ll come running as well for this recipe, I guarantee it.

Bow Ties with Sausage and Leek Sauce – Serves 6

6 quarts salted water
2 large leeks (about 1 pound)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 sweet (a/k/a mild) Italian sausages (about 6 ounces), casing removed
1 tablespoon minced shallots
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 c. young peas, blanched in boiling water for 2 minutes, or defrosted and drained frozen baby peas
1 c. chicken stock (p. 80 of her book) or canned low-sodium chicken broth
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 pound bow-tie pasta (farfalle)
½ freshly grated Parmigian-Reggiano cheese, plus more for serving, if you like

Note: Lidia’s directions start with putting the water on to boil but since I had a feeling the sauce would take me longer to make than the pasta, I made the sauce first. It’s up to you.

Bring the salted water to a boil. Cover the pot to speed up the boiling time.

Meanwhile, prepare the leeks: Cut off and discard the top third of the rough green portion and the root ends. Remove any brown or wilted outer layers. Slice the remaining green and white parts into ½-inch-thick rounds. Rinse the leek slices in several changes of cold water, swishing them around to remove all soil and grit.

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Crumble the sausage meat into the skillet and cook, breaking up the lumps, until golden, about 5 minutes. Add the leeks to the skillet and cook, stirring, until wilted, about 5 minutes. Stir in the shallots and cook for 1 minute. Add 1 tablespoon (note, the recipe calls for 2 tablespoons total but you reserve the other tablespoon for later) of the butter, the peas, and stock. Heat to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer gently for 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, cover the skillet, and set aside.

Note: One thing you might want to do is separate the leek strands when cooking. I thought that they cooked a little bit better that way, but that might just be me. Also, if you can’t find prepared sausages in your grocery store, look for bulk sausage. I used bulk as my store didn’t have the sausages in casing and it worked out fine.

In the meantime, stir the bow ties into the boiling water. When the water returns to a boil, uncover the pot. Cook the pasta, stirring occasionally, until al dente (tender, but firm), about 12 minutes. Drain the bow ties well and return them to the pot over low heat.

Add the sausage and leek sauce to the pasta and toss well until the pasta is coated. Remove the pot from the heat, add the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter and the grated cheese, and toss well. Serve immediately, passing additional grated cheese on the side, if you like. (Note: I like!).

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

"Buffy's Cookbook" & "Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Cookbook" - Baked Bean Casserole and Scalloped Potatotes and Hot Dogs

Buffy’s Cookbook by Jody Cameron of Celebrity Kitchen
Published by: Berkely Publishing Company
© 1971

Recipe: Baked Bean Casserole Dish – p. 141

For those of you who don’t know, Buffy was a character from the TV show Family Affair that aired from 1966 to 1971. The premise of the show was this: Bachelor engineer, Uncle Bill, suddenly found his NY apartment invaded by his niece, Cissy, and six-year old fraternal twins, Buffy and Jody, after their parents died. Although Uncle Bill adapted well, let’s just say his manservant, Mr. French, was a bit dismayed to find himself playing instant nanny to the kids.

People, I loved this show. I thought it was just too cool to be living in a New York apartment at that age along with a butler to do everything for you! And then there were the clothes -- when the young actress, who played Buffy, Anissa Jones, was featured in a magazine photo spread wearing white go-go boots, well, I just had to have them. Of course, this meant that I never got them, not that I didn't covet them through my pre-teen years.

And do you know, although my pre-teen years are long (and I mean long) behind me, as I was preparing this recipe, all of a sudden the theme song, dormant for 40 years, suddenly popped into my head. This from the woman who cannot locate her car keys for neither love nor money.

And speaking of locate, it was by sheer luck that I saw this book when I did. I was staring up at my cookbook shelf while on hold with someone about an internet problem (my computer is by my cookbooks) and I spied this book which was almost eclipsed by some of the larger books nearby. I completely forgot until then that I had it, but since I yanked it from it’s hiding place, I thought the least I could do is cook from it.

Now obviously, Buffy, at age six, is not going to make gourmet dinners (nor is her ghost-writer) so finding something that was a little more complicated than “put the bread in the toaster” was challenging. Nonetheless, I spied this recipe and was off and running.

By the way, I was disappointed when I discovered there was not one recipe for Mr. French’s French toast. Not one. How could they not include it?

I’ve reprinted this recipe exactly as it was shown in the book which is why you’ll see “utensils,” “what you will need” and “how to do it.” I thought it was pretty cute.

Baked Bean Casserole Dish – Serves 4

1 ½ quart casserole dish
Can opener
Measuring cup
Measuring spoons

What you will need:
2 cans (16 ounces each) baked beans (mine were 21 ounces)
2 tomatoes
½ c. potato chips, crumbled
1 slice American cheese
1 T margarine (butter)

How to do it:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Grease casserole dish with margarine (butter)
Open canned beans (with the aforementioned can opener). Pour ONE can of beans into casserole dish.
Slice tomatoes into thin slices; cut cheese slices into strips
Place the slices from 1 tomato on top of beans. Sprinkle half of the potato chips on top. Now we do the whole thing over again: Pour second can of beans over the layer of potato chips. Place the slices of second tomato over beans. Sprinkle the rest of the potato chips on top layer of tomato slices.
Place cheese strips over the potato chips. Bake in over for 25 minutes.

Frankly (and by the way, franks are involved in the next dish to follow), I didn’t think the tomatoes added anything to the dish so I’d probably use ketchup the next time around. It might also be that tomatoes aren’t in season right now but I still think ketchup is better.

And speaking of tomatoes, can we talk about the instructions to “slice tomatoes into thin slices?” Buffy is six. I can’t see Buffy thinly slicing anything at age six. I can’t even thinly slice tomatoes (well, I can, but they’re not very pretty) and I am definitely not six. I’m just saying I’d rethink that instruction if I were you.

I also didn’t use the slice of American cheese as directed because my husband threw me a horrified look when I mentioned it was in the recipe. I took that to mean that we should instead use a slice of the Cheddar cheese that was already in our refrigerator rather than buy processed “cheese” slices that would remain unopened and unused because that’s not the type of cheese we tend to keep in our house. (Yes, you can call us cheese snobs.) Whatever makes him happy….

Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Cookbook by Murray Handwerker
Published by: Grosset & Dunlap
© 1968

Recipe: Scalloped Potato Hot Dog Casserole

Once upon a time, Nathan’s hot dogs were a well kept secret to those living in New York. Nathan’s Hot Dogs was one of the original stands on Coney Island, where people queued up by the thousands to get one of Nathan’s Famous. ( Nathan’s is still “famous” for its hot dog eating contests; this year’s winner ate 53.75 hotdogs in 12 minutes. Oy!

Over the past few years, Nathan’s spread its wings and set up shop in Minneapolis’ Mall of America. Although I haven’t stopped in, I’m guessing that they probably sell the hot dogs cooked (I may be going out on a limb here, but I don’t think so) whereas I needed them to be raw. I could have mail ordered the dogs to be sent to me but that was too expensive so I substituted Oscar Mayer for Nathan’s. I know, I should be ashamed of myself, but there it is. If you’re lucky enough to be able to buy Nathan’s in your area, then by all means, stay true to the recipe. The rest of us will have to use our imagination.

Speaking of imagination, some of the recipes in this book were quite…imaginative! I really wanted to make Hot Dogs a Go Go (who doesn’t love that name?) but it called for 24 hot dogs and there was no way I was cooking that many dogs for two people. I’m thinking you’ll probably thank me for sparing you Minted Kabobs (I hate mint but regardless…ew!), Peanut Butter Hot Dogs (which was listed in the Kid’s section but…double ew!), as well as Hot Dog Eggplant Casserole.

So instead, I settled on Scalloped Potato Hot Dog Casserole as it sounded good and it was a good dish to pair with Buffy’s Baked Bean Casserole dish. When I was younger, my mom often served us meatloaf, scalloped potatoes (sans hot dogs) and baked beans for dinner. To this day, it’s one of my favorite comfort food meals.

Scalloped Potato Hot Dog Casserole – serves 4
6 hot dogs
3 large onions, sliced very thin
4 ½ cups potatoes, sliced thin
2 teaspoons salt
3 T butter or margarine
2 T flour
1 teaspoon salt
Pepper to taste
¼ teaspoon paprika
2 cups milk
2 T parsley, minced
3 think slices Cheddar cheese

Cook the onions and potatoes in one inch of boiling water to which 2 teaspoons salt have been added. After boiling 5 minutes, drain.

Okay, I’m one instruction in and I already have “issues.” I couldn’t quite see how one inch of water was going to appropriately cook 4 ½ cups of potatoes and 3 large, sliced onions, so I added a bit more water to the pot.

The next problem was the “boil 5 minutes instruction.” After boiling 5 minutes, the potatoes were very soft, almost mushy, but the onions were not. If I were you, I would consider boiling the two items separately to make sure they are evenly cooked. I’m just not a big fan of crunchy onions.

Back to the instructions…Melt the butter in the top of a double boiler. If you don’t have a double boiler, boil a small amount of water in a pan and then place another pan on top of the first pan so that the boiling water “cooks” your ingredients. The top pan should be the same size, if not slightly larger, than the pan below. Stir in the flour, 1 teaspoon salt, pepper, paprika and milk. Stirring constantly, cook until smooth and thick (about 5 minutes). In a 2-quarter casserole, arrange one-third of the potato-onion mixture topped with half the hot dogs, cut into halves lengthwise, and minced parsley. (You might want to consider cutting the halves in halves as well as it makes them easier to get the hot dogs out of the bowl). Pour on one-third of the sauce. Repeat in two more layers. Arrange the slices of cheese on top, and bake for 25 minutes in a 400 degree oven.

Just so you know, I topped the dish with the last layer of hot dogs and when I pulled it out of the oven, all the hot dogs were curled up in a semi-fetal position. It actually didn’t look that bad, but I’m sure that was not the intended effect. Alas, a food stylist, I am not.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

"Hors D'Oeuvre and Canapes" (Beard) & "Quick & Easy Recipes: Appetizers" & "The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook" (Garten) & "Feast" (Lawson) - 4 appetizers

Date I made these recipes: December 16, 2006 and December 31, 2005

Hors D’Oeuvre and Canapes by James Beard
Published by M. Barrows and Company, Inc.
© 1940 (my version is the 9th printing, December, 1953)

Recipe: Roquefort Spread – p. 83

Okay, a show of hands…how many of you know what a hors d’oeuvre is but don’t know how to spell it? Exactly. So people, let’s just call a hors d’oeuvre what it really is – an appetizer – so we can all relax and get on with life. (And note: thinking of it as a “horse do-vers” doesn’t help with the spelling as so many Home-Ec teachers promised)

For those of you who don’t know, James Beard was the male version of Julia Child. He authored many a cookbook in his day, Hors D’Oeuvre and Canapes being his first, and had such a profound effect on the culinary world that his former home in Manhattan is now a shrine that houses the James Beard Foundation. His name is also attached to one of the most prestigious awards an author can ever achieve – The James Beard Foundation Awards - for excellence in several cook book categories.

Despite its difficult-to-spell name, the appetizers in the book are fairly easy and straightforward which seems to be a hallmark of Beard’s cooking career. I do, however, have to take issue with the man on one of his instructions: “Force one-half pound of Roquefort cheese through a fine sieve with one-quarter pound of butter and the same quantity of cream cheese.”

Hmmm….I was perplexed because the type of sieve in my kitchen is so fine that I didn’t think that anything would actually get through it. The visual image of how to do this also escaped me. But I am nothing if not resourceful, so instead of using a sieve, I broke up the Roquefort cheese in my Cuisinart and then creamed the cheese, butter and cream cheese in my KitchenAid as I would a cake batter. Note that the color of the cheese changed from its distinctive blue and white to mostly blue which was slightly unappetizing but don’t worry, the flavor stayed the same. (All I could think of was that the cheese would turn the color blue as the soup featured in the movie, Bridget Jones’ Diary, but it never even got close. Whew!)

This recipe was a hit at the dinner party I recently attended, and a friend commented that she liked it because although she likes blue cheese, she doesn’t LOVE blue cheese and the other ingredients in the spread provided a nice balance.

Roquefort Spread
½ pound Roquefort cheese
¼ pound butter
¼ pound cream cheese
½ tsp dry mustard
2 T Cognac
(Note: Beard listed variations including adding a tablespoon of chopped chives or two tablespoons of chopped, raw mushroom after the dish is creamed. He indicated that if you substitute these ingredients, use the spread at once.)

Force one-half pound of Roquefort cheese through a fine sieve with one-quarter pound of butter and the same quantity of cream cheese (or break up the cheese by lightly pulsing in a food processor). Cream the cheeses then add one-half teaspoonful of dry mustard and two tablespoonfuls of Cognac. This may be stored in a glass jar or stone crock and kept for a couple of weeks.

Although Beard doesn’t suggest it, I would bring the cheese spread to room temperature before serving to make it easier to spread. I used crackers rather than bread and also think that was a good idea as even warm, the spread managed to crack a few crackers, hahahaha….

Quick & Easy Recipes: Appetizers – Food Writers’ Favorites
Edited by Barbara Gibbs Ostmann and Jane Baker
Published by: Dial Publishing Company
ISBN: 0-911479-05-8

Recipe: Horseradish Cream for Asparagus Roll-Ups – p. 31
Submitted by Constance Hay, Free-Lance Food Writer, Columbia, MD

If you love horseradish, as I do, you’re going to love this recipe. It’s very easy to make and the author notes that it can be used to accompany meats and even fish. The recipe says you can use roast beef or ham but I’ve always associated horseradish sauce with beef so I went with the beef.

There are several types of horseradish out on the market but I went with a creamy concoction rather than some of the chunkier brands that are out there – your preference. How much you add is also a matter of taste. I went with the full amount (4 tablespoons) although had I any of my maternal grandmother’s homemade horseradish on hand, I doubt I would have used even a tablespoon full. Let’s just say it took the hair off your chest…if you had hair on your chest…not that I did, but you get my drift…. She died many years ago but the woman knew her way around the kitchen and definitely knew how to make some mean horseradish sauce from scratch.

And so before I get too welled up here (from the memories or the horseradish cream I’m eating as we speak)…

Horseradish Cream for Asparagus Roll-Ups
1 pound cooked asparagus (fresh or canned)
1 pound thinly sliced roast beef or cooked ham
1 c. heavy cream
Juice of 1 lemon
2-4 tablespoons prepared horseradish, to taste
1 tsp salt
Cayenne pepper, to taste

Wrap each asparagus spear with a slice of roast beef or ham. Arrange on a platter. Note: the asparagus I bought was on the thin side, it being December, so rather than include a scrawny piece of asparagus in a huge slice of roast beef, I wrapped 5 per bundle. I used up most of my asparagus and all of the beef and the portion size was perfect. I also bought just asparagus tips since that’s the part I like best, anyway.

In a large mixing bowl, combine cream, lemon juice, horseradish, salt and cayenne. Beat on high speed of electric mixer until cream forms stiff peaks. Serve the cream with the roll-ups.

I made this recipe the night before to let the flavors combine and it was just fine but I’m not sure I’d make it any earlier than that or the whipped cream might start breaking down.

This makes 2 cups.

The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook by Ina Garten
Published by: Clarkson Potter/Publishers ( or
ISBN: 0-609-60219-5

Pan-fried onion dip – p. 53

I made this appetizer for a New Year’s party last year (2005) and never mind the champagne, bring on this dip! All four of us at this dinner party took a bite at the same time, paused and gave each other that “oh my god, this is wonderful” look, and then proceeded to inhale the entire thing without saying another word. Bowl scrapping may or may not have taken place.

And I’ve got to tell you people, I was relieved because the previous year’s appetizers just didn’t work out as I planned (which is not to say we didn’t eat them because we’ll eat just about anything but we didn’t enjoy them as much as this dip). So, thank you, Ina, thank you! (By the way, I’ve met Ina and had her sign my cookbooks, and she is just a wonderful lady. If you haven’t seen her show, The Barefoot Contessa, on the Food Network, tune in right now. I mean it!)

Pan-friend onion dip
2 large yellow onions
4 T unsalted butter
¼ c. vegetable oil
¼ tsp ground cayenne
1 tsp kosher salt
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
½ c. sour cream
½ cup good mayonnaise (Or, as the TV commercial used to say, “Bring out the Hellmann’s and bring out the best.”)

Cut the onions in half, then slice them into 1/8-inch-thick half-rounds. (You will have about 3 cups of onions).

I would go one step further than Ina and cut the rounds in half, otherwise, some of the onion pieces can get rather long and a bit more difficult to eat. But that’s just one woman’s opinion.

Heat the butter and oil in a large sauté pan on medium heat. Add the onions, cayenne, salt and pepper and sauté for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 more minutes, until the onions are browned and caramelized. Allow the onions to cool.

Place the cream cheese, sour cream, and mayonnaise in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment and beat until smooth. Add the onions and mix well. Taste for seasonings. Serve at room temperature. Makes 2 cups (which is hardly enough once you taste how positively delicious this is).

Ina suggests serving this dip with homemade potato chips, fresh vegetables or crackers. I didn’t quite picture myself making homemade chips so I went with crackers.

Feast – Food to Celebrate Life by Nigella Lawson
Published by Hyperion Books –
ISBN: 1-4013-0136-3

Recipe: Parma Ham Bundles – p. 393

In addition to Ina Garten’s onion dip, I also made these ham bundles for the same dinner and they were also inhaled.

I love watching Nigella on her cooking shows because the woman just loves food and loves to eat, and given how obesity-trans fat-no foi gras obsessed we are, it’s a nice change of pace. Good food is meant to be enjoyed so enjoy this recipe. I know I did!

Parma Ham Bundles
14 oz sliced Parma ham (not sliced ultra-thinly)
1 ½ c. dried mission figs or other dried figs (get more if you do like I do – one fig for the recipe, one for me, one for the recipe, one for me….)
½ c. mild soft goat’s cheese

Cut or tear each slice of Parma ham into two or three strips. Scissor each fig in half (you may need to quarter them if they’re really large) and spread a teaspoon of goat’s cheese onto the cut half of the fig. Place the piece of fig cheese-side down on to the center of a strip of ham and then make it into a bundle. Sit each bulging pink parcel so that the darkness of the fig is hidden plate-side down. Makes 25

As good as Nigella’s instructions are, here’s how I ended up doing them:

Most ham slices yielded only two strips and I used a knife to cut them as it was the easiest method for me.

Scissoring each fig was fraught with problems, namely sticky scissor blades, so I cut them with my knife, and yes, I probably am slightly knife-obsessed.

Spreading the goat cheese onto the cut half of the fig was also a “no-go.” The cheese kept falling off so I spread the goat cheese, but not without some difficulty, on the ham slice itself. That seemed to be the easiest way to go.

And because I ate many of the figs that were supposed to go into the recipe, let’s just say that a yield of 25 bundles is a little high. Be thinking 15 and you’ll probably be on the mark. Make that 10….

Monday, December 11, 2006

"Political Palate Ticklers" & "SCEF Recipes - A Radical Cookbook" - Noodle Casserole Supreme and Carrots Vichy

Date I made these recipes: December 10, 2006

Political Palate Ticklers Compiled by South Washington County DFL
© sometime between 1963 and 1967

Recipe: Noodle Casserole Supreme – p. 49

SCEF Recipes – A Radical Cookbook
Published by Southern Conference Educational Fund
© 1973

Recipe: Carrots Vichy submitted by Yvonne Pappenheim – p. 27

In yesterday’s blog, I noted how I uncovered a few more election/politically-oriented cookbooks to add to my “Election Day” postings. I swear to you, this is the last of them. In fact, as I’m sitting here, I’m not quite sure how these ended up here in the first place although I think that they probably came from my mother-in-law’s collection which makes sense since she used to be very active in DFL politics.

At any rate, last night’s main dish was called Noodle Casserole Supreme submitted by Mrs. Eugene McCarthy (and a big shout out to her for using “casserole” instead of “hot dish”). As with some of the other Election Day postings, you probably need a brief history lesson:

Eugene McCarthy, Democrat, was a Minnesota Senator who made an unsuccessful presidential run in 1968. For those of you who were alive at the time, the ’68 convention in Chicago was one of the most contentious conventions of all times. The Vietnam War was raging, Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy had been assassinated, the party was divided and things got so bad in Chicago that Mayor Daly called in the troops to try to restore order. Of course, he only made chaos out of chaos, but that’s another story for another day.

At any rate, Mrs. Eugene McCarthy, otherwise known as Abigail, submitted this recipe for this cookbook which also includes recipes from then Senator Hubert Humphrey, Governor Karl Rolvaag and Attorney General Walter Mondale.

I decided to make this recipe because it seemed fairly straightforward and it also, as you will see, is glorified lasagna only done in casserole form. And while it was very easy to make, it was not without its problems.

First, let’s talk about the sugar to tomato ratio that comes into play with most “pasta” sauces. For most tomato-based sauces, you need sugar to cut the acidity and tartness of the tomato. How much is a matter of opinion.

In my family, we have the equivalent of the Three Bear’s sauce: Aunt Rose’s recipe (the true Sicilian in the family) has the least amount of sugar, followed by my mother’s (non-Sicilian), and further followed by my Aunt Martha’s (non-Sicilian) which has the most. It’s all of matter of taste, but my taste buds were waiting for Aunt Rose’s sauce but got Aunt Martha’s instead. Were I to make this recipe again, I would cut back on the sugar (maybe 1 tablespoon instead of two) for better balance.
Second, let’s talk about the “filling.” This recipe called for cottage cheese with chives and I was please to find that such a thing still existed in grocery shopping land. The cottage cheese I bought, however, had cottage cheese, chives and onions. And here, Houston, we had a problem.

I debated whether or not to just add chives to plain cottage chives or whether to go with the cottage cheese I found. I decided on the cottage cheese, chives and onions ready-made mixture and people, it was not the best choice. The onions in the mixture are raw and crunchy and just did not go with the nicely sautéed onions called for in the actual recipe. Between the sugar and the onions, I did not enjoy this dish but I wouldn’t call it an all-out failure, I would just adjust things differently the next time. Except, sadly, there cannot be a next time as I must continue on through the rest of my cookbooks so as to finish cooking my way through my collection before I’m to old to start the oven!

Noodle Casserole Supreme
8 oz. package wide noodles
3 T butter
1 c. chopped onion
1 can (17 oz.) whole tomatoes. (Note: I broke these up a bit before adding them to the mix as directed).
1 T Worcestershire sauce
2 T sugar (I’d recommend using a lot less unless you like very sweet sauce)
1 c. cottage cheese and chives (as noted above, I don’t recommend using a cottage cheese/chive/onion mix. If you can’t find just cottage cheese and chives, buy chives, snip them into small pieces and add to plain cottage cheese)
1 c. sour cream
¼ c. Parmesan cheese

Cook noodles as directed on package; put in greased casserole (2 qt.). In saucepan, melt butter, add onion and cook over medium heat until tender. Stir in tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce and sugar; bring to a boil. Remove from heat and stir in cottage cheese and sour cream. Mix with noodles in casserole; sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Bake in a 350 oven for 25 to 30 minutes. Serves 8.

As an accompaniment to the casserole, I made Carrots Vichy from the SCEF (Southern Conference Educational Fund) cookbook. The subtitle of the book is “A Radical Cookbook” and in a way it was. The recipes were reminiscent of the natural food movement of the 60’s and 70’s and I had a hard time deciding on something to make that didn’t involve a recipe that would leave me healthier but still hungry during this cold winter month. (I know I will kick myself later for not making Bambi’s Tuna Casserole, I just know it). The carrots seemed like a good compromise.

Carrots Vichy
1 T shortening or margarine (I used butter)
6 carrots, sliced (I did not use, nor do I recommend, baby-cut carrots)
1 large onion (the recipe didn’t say so I chopped the onions)
2 T sugar

Heat fat and brown the onion. Add the carrots and remaining ingredients. Cover and cook slowly 1 hour or more. Mix from time to time.

Okay…first order of business…I hate recipes that just assume I know what the author wants. “Carrots sliced”…how thick? “1 large onion”…chopped, sliced, diced…what?! I need to know these things.

So I improvised and all was well until the onions started to caramelize. I had the heat as low as possible and mixed (i.e. stirred) as directed but they still cooked too quickly. I recommend checking them after about a half hour rather than an hour or you risk having really cooked, possibly burned, carrots.

And then there’s the sugar problem. Again, maybe it’s just me, but two tablespoons of sugar is too much for the 6 carrots, especially since carrots are sweet by nature. I’d taste test as I went along. But other than the sugar fix I got between both recipes, the carrots were good and I would make them again, with modifications.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

"Kitchen Kapers" by DFL Women of Minnesota - Crab-Chicken Casserole

Date I made this recipe: December 6, 2006

Kitchen Kapers – DFL Women
Compiled by the Members and Friends of the Olmsted County DFL Women of Minnesota
© 1988

Recipe: Crab-Chicken Casserole - p. 48 - Submitted by Sally Blanton

So there I was, hot on the trail of the next items to make for the blog (appetizers for an upcoming party) and…oh, prunes (as my mom would say). I discovered three other “political” cookbooks that I should have made for my Election Day blog. Oh well, there’s no time like the present.

If you’ve ever seen the movie, Babette’s Feast, you’ll be able to relate to the visual of this next recipe. Babette, a French servant, moves to Norway in the late 1800’s to take care of two elderly spinster sisters. When she arrives, the landscape is white, the people are…well, white and the food is white. Babette soon changes all this when she cooks the sisters and their friends the feast of the century. (For those of you who collect “cooking” movies, this is a MUST!)

At any rate, Minnesota has quite the large Norwegian population, and when I first moved here, the running joke about the “native” food was how white it was – white fish covered with white sauce, white lefse (a Norwegian version of a crepe), white potatoes…you get the picture.

Times have changed and Minnesota now boasts quite the large Vietnamese, Hmong, Hispanic and Somalian populations, just to name a few, and the food is no longer white. But every once in a while, you find a recipe, like the one below, that resurrects the image of Babette’s Feast, pre-Babette. Except for the mushrooms (which very well could be white if I didn’t use canned), everything is white – the chicken, the milk, the onion, the crabmeat (particularly since I bought a can of all white meat crabmeat) and the saltines. I resisted the urge to throw some parsley at the thing for color but it was mighty difficult. (I also thought about bagging the Swiss cheese – white, of course – which I thought was overkill, but decided to stay true to the recipe).

Image aside, this is a recipe that I’m sure would meet with Babette’s approval.

Crab-Chicken Casserole
4 whole or 8 halved chicken breast, skinned, boned and halved lengthwise
3 T. butter
¼ c. flour
¾ c. milk
¾ c. chicken broth
1/3 c. dry white wine
¼ c. chopped onion
1 T. butter
1 (7 ½ oz) can crabmeat, drained and flaked
1 (4 oz.) can drained, chopped mushrooms
½ c. coarsely crumbled saltine crackers
½ tsp. salt
Dash of pepper
1 c. Swiss cheese

Pound chicken pieces lightly, working from center out, with meat mallet to make cutlet about 1/8-inch thick. In a saucepan, melt 3 tablespoons of the butter then blend in flour. Add milk, chicken broth, and wine all at once. Cook and stir till thickened and bubbly. Set aside.

Let me just say a quick word about my meat mallet. Most of you probably have the very slim, very sleek, metal mallet found in today’s cooking stores. Not me. I inherited my maternal grandmother’s wooden mallet, with a huge mallet head the size of brick and with teeth carved out on two sides to really bite into the meat. It looks positively medieval but it always did the trick. At least it did until I made this recipe when the mallet head came loose and almost flew through my kitchen window. Sadly, I must now retire the meat mallet to a place of honor in my utensil holder and must shop for a new one. Sigh.

Okay…back to the recipe…

In a skillet, cook onion in the remaining tablespoon of butter until tender, not brown. Stir in crab, mushrooms, cracker crumbs, salt and pepper. Stir in 2 tablespoons of sauce. Alternately layer chicken and crab mixture in baking dish. Pour remaining sauce over all. Bake, covered, at 350 until chicken is tender, about 1 hour. Uncover, sprinkle with the Swiss cheese, and bake until cheese melts (about 2 minutes longer).

And now a quick word about the layering concept described above. I wouldn’t do it if I were you. I have my choice of a long, glass lasagna pan or a shorter, glass cake pan. I chose the shorter in an attempt to stay true to the directions, but seriously, people, it was a big mess and looked like one great big white blob when I put it in the oven. If I were to do this over again, I would do one long row of chicken, add the crab mixture on top of that and then pour the white sauce but that’s just my sense of esthetics.

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

"Jane Brody's Good Food Gourmet" by Jane Brody - Pumpkin Soup Parmesan

Date I made this recipe: November 30, 2006

Jane Brody’s Good Food Gourmet by Jane Brody
Published by: W. W. Norton
© 1990

Recipe: Pumpkin Soup Parmesan – p. 95

After my success with the Sarma Hot Dish, I thought I’d keep rolling right along and so selected Pumpkin Soup Parmesan for my next cooking endeavor. Well, maybe it was me, or maybe it was me and the ingredients, or me and my palate, but Jane, Jane, Jane, I can’t help but feel that I failed you. The soup just didn’t generate the taste sensation I was anticipating and I was hugely disappointed. Actually, beyond disappointed - I was crushed.

So let’s review where I might have gone astray.

First, this recipe calls for 2 pounds of pumpkin that are then simmered in chicken broth. Well, okay, confession number one: I didn’t use actual pumpkin slices because, unbeknownst to me, pumpkin is not available after Halloween. Or they weren’t available to my local grocery store chain. At any rate, I thought that pumpkin puree would do so I bought a can similar in weight to what I should have cooked on the stove top. This might have been my first mistake. I should note that I was in a burning hurry the day I shopped and so while there might have been actual pumpkins available at other stores, I’ll never know because I had to get home.

Confession number two: the recipe called for 3 tablespoons of Marsala, but again, given my burning hurry, I didn’t go buy Marsala and really, aside from this dish and perhaps Veal Marsala, exactly when does one use a bottle of this liquor, hmm? So, I was being fast and cheap but I thought that I could substitute a little Sherry for the Marsala and who would be the wiser? Well, now that I’m confessing this to you, I guess you’ll be a little wiser, but I digress.

So, I cut my onion, peeled and cut my potatoes add the broth, the water, the rosemary (Dried, not fresh because seriously, can we talk about how many times we’ve purchased a whole packet of herbs just to use one, lousy sprig. I was having none of this.), the pumpkin puree and followed the directions to bring to a boil and then simmer until the pumpkin (operative word) is tender. I went with “when the potatoes are tender.” But folks, when I tasted the soup at this point, I felt even then that it was lacking in…well, flavor. But surely this would change when I added the remaining ingredients.

Or not. I added the Parmesan. I added the white pepper, the nutmeg and the sherry that was substituting for the Marsala and…no. Just no.

So I tried more variations. Perhaps some black pepper, perhaps some more sherry (with a little for me on the side) and perhaps some more nutmeg but no, no, no! Nothing worked.

So I decided that perhaps an overnight stay in my refrigerator would do the trick but alas, no.

It’s not often that I come unglued by a recipe but this is Jane Brody we’re talking about. Jane Brody, as in “Jane Brody’s Nutrition Book,” Jane Brody. Could it be that this recipe was meant to be healthy but not necessarily tasty? Was I unfairly likening this soup to Butternut Squash soup which is oh-so-sweet and flavorful?

People, I have no idea but you very well may have. (I know my hairstylist did) Or, for that matter, Jane Brody herself may have just the answser. So Jane, please forgive me for what I did to your soup but…HELP! Where did I go wrong? What shall I do? It was the pumpkin puree, wasn’t it? I knew it…..

I also knew that as much as I would love to, I could not give Jane or another recipe from her book another chance or I would break my own rules of only cooking one recipe from one book at a time (so as to get through my 800 plus cookbook collection before I die). That doesn’t mean I won’t welcome cards or letters telling me the errors of my way or even similar experiences with this very same soup and what you did to make it Super (no pun intended) Duper Good!

Pumpkin Soup Parmesan
2 pounds pumpkin, peeled, seeded, and cut into ½-inch pieces
1 ½ pounds baking potatoes (e.g. Idaho), peeled and cut into ½-inch pieces
1 medium onion, peeled and coarsely chopped (2/3 cup)
3 c. chicken broth
1 c. water
1 sprig rosemary or ¼ teaspoon crumbled dried rosemary (I used the dried rosemary)
Salt to taste (optional)
1/3 c. Parmesan cheese (preferably freshly grated)
3 T. dry Marsala
¼ teaspoon freshly group white pepper (Hmmm…mine was not freshly ground. I wonder if that’s it?!)
¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg (Again, went with not freshly ground variety).

In a large, heavy saucepan, combine the pumpkin, potatoes, onion, broth, water, rosemary, and salt (if desired. I desired, but it still didn’t help). Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat, cover the pan, and simmer the ingredients for 30 minutes or until the pumpkin is tender. Discard the rosemary sprig, if you used one.

Puree the soup in batches in a blender and return the puree to the saucepan. Heat the soup to a simmer and add the Parmesan, Marsala, pepper and nutmeg. Adjust the seasonings before serving the soup.

"Always on Sunday - Eleanor Ostman's Best Tested Recipes" by Eleanor Ostman (MN food writer) - Sarma Hot Dish (stuffed cabbage done in a casserole)

Date I made the recipe: November 29, 2006

Always on Sunday – Eleanor Ostman’s Best Tested Recipes by Eleanor Ostman
Published by: Sunday Press
ISBN 09662614-0-2
© 1998

Recipe: Sarma Hot Dish – p. 222

Given that I live in Minneapolis, I read the Minneapolis Star Tribune (“Strib” for short) newspaper every day. I was vaguely aware that our sister city, St. Paul, had a newspaper as well, the St. Paul Pioneer Press (“Presspatch”) but that was the extent of my knowledge. Too bad I didn’t catch on sooner.

For 30 years, Eleanor Ostman wrote a Sunday Tested Recipes column in the Pioneer Press and this book, published in 1998, was a compilation of all these recipes. As a food writer, Eleanor traveled far and wide, meeting famous people like Julia Child and Paul Newman (Lucky Eleanor got to meet The Man when she judged a Newman’s Own cooking contest), yet when I met her at the book signing, she impressed me as somebody who could easily have been my next door neighbor – warm, welcoming (perhaps a little shy at the attention) and very down to earth.

This “hot dish” is very down to earth as well. Sarma is basically a cabbage roll and the recipe hails from southeastern Europe (Croatia, Bulgaria and the like). Many of the residents of what we in Minnesota refer to as The Iron Range (known for its iron ore mines) hail from that area as well. It’s eastern European comfort food and I am all about comfort food, no matter what form it takes.

This hot dish recipe eliminates the need for you to cook the cabbage leaves and then wrap the meat mixture inside to form a cabbage roll which is the traditional method of making this dish. I am all about shortcuts as well. If you saw a previous blog, I love using a Zyliss® chopper whenever a recipe calls for chopping foods. You’ll thank me for the hot tip when you read that you have to chop an entire small head of cabbage for the recipe.

By the way, every time I look at this book on my shelf and see the title Always on Sunday, I can’t help but think of the song “Never on a Sunday,” from the movie “Never on a Sunday,” released in 1960, staring famous Greek actress Melina Mercouri. I can’t remember all of the lyrics but I do remember singing “…never on a Sunday, a Sunday, a Sunday… (add remaining lyrics here).” I’ve never seen the movie but the theme song certainly stayed with me for years and years and…well, years. God, I feel old all of a sudden…..

Sarma Hot Dish
6 – 8 slices bacon, chopped
1 ½ pounds ground beef (or ham, but I used ground beef)
1 medium onion, chopped
Salt and pepper
Garlic (optional. I didn’t use it because I wasn’t sure how much to use)
1 small head cabbage, chopped
1 c. long-grain rice
2 c. sauerkraut and juice
1 quart tomato juice
1 can tomato soup

Fry bacon until crisp then remove from pan. Add beef or ham and onion (Note: 8 slices of bacon generated a lot of grease that was then absorbed by the ground beef and onion. If you’re concerned about the grease, you might want to drain your pan first.) Add salt and pepper (and garlic, if you wish) to taste.

Grease a large casserole with butter. Line the casserole bottom and sides with chopped cabbage. Add the rice and bacon to the meat mixture and spoon it into the casserole. Top with most of the sauerkraut (reserve some to put on top right before baking) and juice. Mix tomato juice and tomato soup and pour over the meat mixture. (Note: I used the largest casserole dish I had and not only did I not have enough room to add all of the tomato juice/soup mixture but it bubbled over while cooking. Either hold back a bit or buy a bigger casserole dish!). Top (if you have room) with a think layer of cabbage and remaining kraut.

Bake, covered, in a 350 degree oven for 2-2 ½ hours. (Note: ours cooked for 2 and it was fine).

Eleanor notes that you should check to see if there is enough liquid for the rice to absorb as it cooks. If there is excess liquid, remove during the last 20 minutes. As I said, in my case, the cup (of soup) runeth over but everything was still moist and meaty.

"Giada's Family Dinners" by Giada De Laurentiis - Turkey with herbes de Provence and citrus plus Ciabatta stuffing

Dear reader, you can probably tell that I'm just now loading all my previously-made recipes into this blog, but the fact that I'm up to Thanksgiving and it's only December 6 is a good thing! You know what they say about the road to hell....

Date I made the recipes: November 23, 2006 – Thanksgiving Day

Giada’s Family Dinners by Giada De Laurentiis
Published by: Clarkson Potter Publishers
ISBN: 030723827X

Recipes: Turkey with herbes de Provence and Citrus – p. 190-92 and Ciabatta Stuffing with Chestnuts and Pancetta p. 193

Okay, first the confessions. My husband saw Giada making this on her show, Everyday Italian, on the Food Network (I ask you, is there a better channel on the planet?) and had to have these recipes for his family Thanksgiving. Since his mom was doing the shopping (we did the cooking), he emailed his mom a link to the website ( so she could pull the recipes straight from the website rather than have us provider her with photocopies from the book. It’s much easier to splash stuff on a photocopy than the actual book, trust me.

And then there’s the matter of the ingredients. My sister-in-law actually got the turkey started since we arrived later in the day, but didn’t use the herbes de Provence since the local grocery story didn’t carry them. Giada, we apologize, but the recipe actually was fantastic either way. (Note: if you can’t find herbes de Provence, you can always, if you are ambitious – which I am not – make up your own mix. Just Google “herbes de Provence” to find out more).

And then there was the little matter of the chestnuts for the stuffing. I honestly think that my sister-in-law had a senior moment at the grocery store because she’s actually a good cook yet left the store without chestnuts (she couldn’t find them) and instead bought two cans of water chestnuts. Giada, I know what you’re thinking but they actually worked out okay. (And to the rest of you, water chestnuts are NOT “chestnut” chestnuts. They are tuber vegetables that resemble regular chestnuts in shape and coloring. Let me just say how much I LOVE Google!)

And yet another confession: my mother-in-law bought a turkey with one of those pop up timers which are usually useless, as was proven in this case, because the thing never popped. We left our meat thermometer at home so had to resort to the old “put a knife in the thigh and if the juices run clear, it’s done” test and the meat was just fine. But seriously folks, those pop ups usually tell you when the meat is overdone rather than “nice and juicy” done. If you have to go with it, then fine, but I’d invest in a meat thermometer if I were you.

And finally, as happens every year, somebody uses up an ingredient/forgets to buy an ingredient for one of the dishes. This year, all the rosemary went into the turkey leaving not a crumb for the stuffing or for a roast pork recipe that we made from Cook’s Country newsletter. No matter. Everything came out okay.

But if I might share one little story: My mother-in-law doesn’t really like to cook much but one year, got on the detail of making the turkey and stuffing (with recipes we provided) and used up all the broth rather than leaving a good portion of it behind for my carrot dill soup. When the time came to make the soup, she innocently asked if she could just drain a can of Campbell’s Chicken Noodle soup and use that for the broth. Uh no. She also had 40 year old bouillon cubes and those got a “no” as well. Finally, my husband and brother-in-law got in the car, went to a Tom Thumb market, got the broth and saved the day. I still laugh about that story every year.

Turkey with Herbes de Provence and Citrus (8-10 servings)
1 14 to 15 pound turkey, neck and giblets reserved
1 orange, cut into wedges
1 lemon, cut into wedges
1 onion, cut into wedges
6 fresh rosemary sprigs
6 fresh oregano sprigs
7 T unsalted butter
2 T herbes De Provence (or not!)
1 T olive oil
1 ½ tsp salt, plus more to taste
1 ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
6 c. canned reduced-sodium chicken broth
1/3 c. all-purpose flour

To make the turkey: position the rack in the lowest third of the oven and preheat the oven to 400F. Rinse the turkey and pat it dry with paper towels.

Note: One year, some friends and I spent the holiday at my friend’s family cabin in Wisconsin. Most of the group got up early to make the bird, something they had never cooked before, and so I was quite pleased to awaken to the smell of a browning turkey in the oven. But when I asked them if they had any trouble taking out the giblets and neck and/or rinsing the bird, they looked at my like I was psycho. It seems they did not know that you need to take that packet out of the bird before cooking and the rinse cycle was totally lost on them. So, approximately one hour into the cooking cycle, I took the bird out of the oven, took the packet out, rinsed it most thoroughly and put it in to finish. Of course the bird was fine but I have to admit to eating very little of it as the whole thought of not removing the packet (nor rinsing) just had “salmonella” written all over it. I am so my mother’s daughter.

Place the (thoroughly rinsed and de-packeted) turkey on a rack set inside a large roasting pan. Stuff the orange and lemon wedges, onion and 2 springs each of the fresh herbs into the main turkey cavity. Using kitchen twine (or, in our case, the metal drumstick holder that came with the bird), tie the legs together to hold the shape of the turkey.

In a small saucepan, stir 2 T of the butter, the herbes de Provence (or not!), oil and 1 ½ teaspoons each of the salt and pepper over medium heat just until the butter melts. Rub the butter mixture all over the turkey and between the turkey breast and the skin. Place the turkey neck and giblets in the roasting pan. (The turkey can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before roasting).

Cover the turkey breast with foil and roast for 20 minutes. Pour 3 cups of the broth into the pan and stir to scrape up any brown bits on the bottom of the pan around the turkey. Add the remaining sprigs of fresh herbs to the pan juices. Return the pan to the oven and roast the turkey for 40 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350F and discard the foil. Pour 1 cup of broth into the pan. Continue roasting the turkey, basting occasionally with pan juices, until an instant-read meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh registers 160F (not the method we used) or (the method we did use) until the juices run clear when the thickest part of the thigh is pierced with a skewer, about 1 hour 30 minutes longer.

Transfer the turkey to a platter and tent with foil. Let stand for 30 minutes while you prepare the gravy. (Note, we didn’t bring the gravy recipe but my brother-in-law is our resident gravy expert and he made one that worked just fine).

Despite the missing ingredients, this recipe was delicious and we probably would have made a soup out of the carcass had not my sister-in-law’s overly-helpful guest thrown the carcass in the garbage before I could stop him. I mean, who does that??!! That’s practically criminal behavior on a day such as this. Next year, I’m staying close to the stove during the cleanup portion of our program.

Ciabatta stuffing with chestnuts and pancetta
Notes: Ciabatta is an Italian bread that is increasingly found in more and more grocery stores but if you can’t find it, use country-style white bread. Pancetta is basically a thicker version of our American bacon only it’s not cured, smoked, honeyed or otherwise altered. Giada says you can use regular bacon if you’d like but we used Pancetta.

6 T (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for baking dish
8 oz. thinly sliced pancetta or bacon, cut into ¼-inch dice
2 large onions, finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
3 celery stalks, finely chopped
2 T chopped fresh rosemary
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 (7.4 oz) jars roasted peeled whole chestnuts, coarsely broken
1 pound day-old Ciabatta or other country-style white bread, cut into 3/4-inch cubes (about 12 cups)
2/3 c. freshly grated parmesan cheese
¼ c. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 c. canned reduced-sodium chicken broth, or more as needed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 large eggs, beaten to blend (Note: do not do as I did when I read this instruction and interpret it as “beaten to death.” I must have had criminal law on the brain that day…)

Preheat the oven to 350F. Butter a 15 x 10 x 2-inch glass baking dish. Melt 2 T of the butter in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the pancetta and sauté until crisp and golden, about 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the pancetta to a large bowl. Melt the remaining 4 T of butter in the same skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion, carrots, celery, rosemary and garlic. Sauté until the onions are very tender, about 12 minutes. Gently stir in the chestnuts. Transfer the onion mixture to the large bowl with the pancetta. Add the bread, Parmesan cheese and parsley and toss to coat. Add enough broth to the stuffing mixture to moisten. Season the stuffing to taste with salt and pepper. Mix in the eggs.

Transfer the stuffing to the prepared dish. Covered with buttered foil, buttered side down, and bake until the stuffing is heated through, about 30 minutes. Uncover and continue baking until the top is crisp and golden, about 15 minutes longer.

And now, a word about the size of bread cubes. When I was growing up, we didn’t have any of the artisan breads that are out there today so when we cubed the bread, the cubes were always rather small because the loves were small…and white. You had white bread or you didn’t have bread, it was that easy. (I actually begged my mother to buy Wonder Bread, because it was so fun to squish, but she wasn’t having any of that, at all).

But artisan breads are fun to rip and so the bread chunks tend to be rather large. I am not a fan of large,“chunky” dressing/stuffing cubes. I’m just saying. I want a nice, mushy ball of stuffing when the day is through but it’s your call. My husband, who was in charge of “cubing” the bread, ignored the instruction to cut it into cubes and ripped the heck out of the loaf. Naturally, the cubes were gigantic. (Think ice cube proportions). We had a discussion afterwards and I’m pretty comfortable that he will not make the same “error” again.

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

"DFL Fabulous Foods" (MN) & "A Taste of Justice" (MN lawyers) & "The White House Cookbook - 1894" & "The President's Cookbook " (Cannon) -various

DFL Fabulous Foods from the 5th District by Margaret Macneale, District Chair and Bill Davis, Associate Chair (spiral bound)
© 1983
5th District DFL

Recipe: Doorknocker Hotdish Supreme submitted by Kathie Anderson (a/k/a Tater Tot Casserole) – p. D12

Okay, for those of you who are not familiar with Minnesota-speak, here are a few translations:

DFL: DFL is the acronym for Democratic Farm Labor which is really the Democratic Party, just in disguise. Confused the heck out of me when I first moved here, let me tell you.

Hotdish or Hot Dish: Hotdish is the Minnesota term for Casserole. Personally, I think it’s rather oxymoronic to call a hot dish a Hotdish, don’t you? Eh, what can you do? And yet, for years and years, Byerly’s grocery story, famous everywhere for having chandeliers over the frozen food section, carpeting on the floors and various and sundry “fancy schmancy” things to entice all of us shoppers inside, called their casseroles “Hot Dish.” I hate to say, but I always took perverse pleasure in asking for a small container of a particular casserole when at the deli counter.

So what does this have to do with today’s recipe? Well, just like “DFL” and Hotdish,” “Doorknocker Hotdish Supreme” is a fancy name for “Tater Tot Casserole.” For the life of me, I don’t recall ever having this growing up in Michigan, but here in Minnesota, this dish is practically in the Hotdish Hall of Fame (if there is such a thing and I suspect there is).

This recipe was problematic because it is meant to serve 18-20 doorknockers (oh, by the way, doorknockers are the people who go door-to-door to ask for your vote for the party they represent on Election Day. Some people have metal door knockers on their front door but that’s a different story for a different day). Although I figured I could easily cut the ground beef in half (it called for 3-3 ½ pounds of ground beef), I wasn’t sure what to do about the other ingredients – same amount, cut in half, eliminate altogether?

So I did what any transplanted Minnesotan would do: I checked with Byerly’s.

Now, I’ve got to tell you, folks, I was more than disappointed when I looked up the recipe on Byerly’s website as the name changed (to protect the innocent?) from Tater Tot Casserole to “Beef N Tater Hot Dish.” (the address that will pop up is Lund’s stores bought Byerly’s several years ago). What the heck is this world coming to? This dish is known throughout the state as “Tater Tot Hot Dish.” Even Byerly’s sells it as “Tater Total Hot Dish.” So now all of a sudden we get all fancy schmancy (like the frozen food section) and call it “Beef N Tater (don’t get me started on the ‘N) Hot Dish?” Listen, Byerly’s, there are very proper Lutheran Church basement ladies rolling around in their graves right now over such a cavalier name for such a revered casserole. I’d rethink things if I were you.

Anyway…Byerly’s used 1 ½ pounds ground beef and a full (16 ounce) package of frozen vegetables for their recipe so I figured if it was good enough for Byerly’s, it was good enough for me. I did not, however, follow their lead and use 3 cans of soup (chicken gumbo, cream of mushroom and chicken rice) as I thought that was soup overkill. I realize I could go to Hot Dish Hell for that, but I’m willing to take the risk.
Doorknocker Hotdish Supreme (Note: To feed approximately four people, use these ingredients as follows):
1 ½ pound ground beef
1 package onion soup mix
1 package (16 ounces) frozen missed vegetables
1 can mushroom soup diluted by ½ can of water (or not, see below)
Frozen tater tots (use 1 large package)

To serve 18-20, use 3 ½ pounds ground beef but keep the rest of the recipe the same (not that I made that much but that’s what’s written).

The directions also left a bit to be desired: “Brown ground beef, mix with all other ingredients.” I mixed half the onion soup mix in with the ground beef while browning and then put all but about a quarter of the rest of the package in when I mixed everything together. Byerly’s recipe used ½ c. chopped onion and you could probably do the same but I stuck with the ingredients in this recipe.

For a creamier, soupier dish, I’d probably skip the ½ can of water. The recipe was good but it was a little on the dry side. A little water is good, maybe even a little milk, but ½ can is too much.

Also, the traditional way to make this dish is to put the tater tots on top but here, she called for them to be mixed in. It’s your choice but I don’t want the casserole gods coming after me so I put them on top.

However you end up mixing up this recipe, bake it at 350 for one hour and then get out there and knock some doors, for heaven’s sake!

A Taste of Justice – All District Legal Education Presents A Collection of Favorite Recipes of Minnesota Lawyers to Benefit the Learning Center for Homeless Families by All District Legal Education
© 2001

Recipe: Andrea’s Cream of Celery Soup submitted by Andrea George, Esq., Office of the Federal Defender – p. 143

So I’m sitting here, minding my own business, thumbing through the pages of this book and I come across this recipe. I’m embarrassed to say that for a minute there, I thought “Andrea George. Andrea George. Why is this name familiar?”

Perhaps because she was my Criminal Procedure professor at law school a mere 3 years ago?


Before I tell you about the recipe, let me tell you about Andrea as she is not your mother’s federal defender.

To start with, Andrea’s hair went down past her butt and she wore the largest hoop earrings I’ve ever seen AND she totally pulled off the look. She was a year younger than me (hate her) and totally hip, totally now, totally wow. She wowed us on the first day by memorizing the first names of our entire class (about 60 people or so). People, I can’t even remember where I put my car keys most days and there she goes and memorizes names. Sheesh. I must admit, I liked being called “Ann” after two years of “Ms. Verme” (or variations thereof) and “Andrea” seemed to suit her just fine.

She was a total panic in class, using real-life stories to highlight the criminal process. (And yes, folks, most criminals are stupid but that’s beside the point). My favorite day came when we were talking about the Miranda warning. (Miranda is the “you have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford one, one will be appointed for you” spiel the police give you when you are taken into custody.) She told us that when you ask for an attorney, it must be unequivocal so the police know to stop questioning you, along the lines of “I want an attorney, g’ damnit!” (I can guarantee you that my entire class will use that line if ever taken into custody, we loved it that much!)

Andrea rarely called on me but the day she did, I was having a particularly bad day and said so. When she said “Ann, are you feeling intelligent today?” I responded with “Intelligent, no. Stressed, yes.” In any other class, that answer would have resulted in me being grilled like a cheese sandwich about some point of law for the entire class period, but not with Andrea. She just accepted that answer and moved on. (My other favorite professor was Carol Swanson who taught my corporations class. She’d ask a “yes” or “no” question and if you got it wrong, she’d say “Oh so close. You had a 50-50 chance of getting it right!”)

Andrea’s class was so much fun that when it came time to answer a Criminal Procedure essay on the Bar exam, I actually cracked my knuckles and cackled because I knew the material forwards and backwards, all because of her. It’s not many people that will tell you that they actually enjoyed answering a question on any exam, bar or otherwise. I tip my Minnesota attorney license to her.

And so speaking of enjoyable, Andrea’s recipe was most tasty and we enjoyed every drop. I didn’t realize until I got started (shame on me for not reading the directions) that it only made two servings so if you’re thinking of serving 18-20 like the Doorknocker Casserole (a/k/a Tater Tot Casserole), you may need to contact Andrea for further advice. Just remember, don’t be unequivocal. State what you need: “I need to know if this recipe can be quadrupled, g’damnit,” and you’ll be fine.

Andrea’s Cream of Celery Soup
2 T butter
3 large stalks celery, chopped
½ tsp curry powder
1 c. chicken broth
2 tsp minced fresh parsley
1 c. milk
Salt and pepper to taste
2 T whipping cream (for serving)
2 T toasted slivered almonds (garnish)

In a medium pan, melt butter over low heat. Add celery and curry and cook about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. (As a note, Chef Ann Willan likes to peel celery with a peeler to reduce the stringiness. I used that method here and liked it). Stir in broth and parsley and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce to low heat, cover and simmer 20 minutes. Blend in milk, salt and pepper. Transfer soup to blender and mix until almost smooth. Return to pan and warm through over low heat. Stir in cream and almonds just before serving.

Okay. All went very well until we came to the blender portion of our program. I have always put off getting a blender because I never felt we needed one until now since we had a Cuisine and a Kitchen Aid, but if you’re on the fence about one, buy it now. This recipe would have been a lot smoother with a blender as the Cuisinart just didn’t smooth out the celery like I hoped it would. Besides, you can always make Margaritas in the blender in the off season.

Andrea also notes that the soup is best when made a day ahead and refrigerated. I found that the curry flavor (which I like) really came out when I did that. If you don’t want the curry flavor, you might want to eat it that day.

The White House Cook Book by Mrs. F.L. Gillette and Huge Ziemann, Steward of the White House
Published by: The Werner Company
© 1887 by F.L. Gillette and © 1894 by the Werner Company

Recipe: Scalloped Cheese – p. 197

Oh, people. This cook book was almost my undoing. There were ingredients that were new to me, unclear directions, unclear oven temperatures – you name it, I found it. As an example, there’s a recipe for “Slip” which is (and I quote) “Slip is bonny-clabber without its acidity…” I knew that. (Okay, admit it. You were thinking that laundry directions got in here by accident as in “How to wash your slip” or “Psst, your slip is showing?”)

And then there was a recipe requiring “sweet milk.” Google will tell you that “sweet milk” is regular milk, as opposed to butter milk which is not sweet. Apparently calling it just “milk” was way too easy.

I also had a very difficult time selecting something that didn’t involve actually finding the chicken/bull/fish, etc. and killing it yourself for dinner. And don’t get me wrong, it’s not necessarily because I have issues with hunting, fishing, etc. or even that I have issues with eating meat. I’m just following my motto of “Why do something yourself when you can pay others to do it for you?” Seriously, this is why grocery stores exist!

So when I stumbled upon the Scalloped Cheese recipe and read “Any person who is fond of cheese could not fail to favor this recipe” I thought I was as good as gold.

Not so.

I was doing great until I came upon the instruction “Bake it in a hot oven as you would cook a bread pudding.”

Riiiight. Luckily, one of the many cookbooks I have in my collection is the Joy of Cooking so I consulted it, found that bread pudding cooks at 350 for 75 minutes and that was that. One should also put the bread pudding pan into a larger pan filled with water as bread pudding cooks in a “water bath.” The hot water helps keep the pudding creamy. I’m glad I found what “hot oven” means as I was picturing a fire burning stove and Lord knows where I’d find that in this day and age!

Okay, so. There I was, armed with all the ingredients and an oven temperature and off I went. To make this recipe, you need:

Scalloped Cheese
3 slices of bread, trimmed
¼ pound of cheese
Four eggs
3 c. milk
Butter for the bread

Take three slices of bread, well-buttered, first cutting off the brown outside crust. Grate fine a quarter of a pound of any kind of good cheese (as opposed to bad cheese?! We used cheddar); lay the bread in layers in a buttered baking-dish, sprinkle over it the grated cheese, some salt and pepper to taste. Mix four well-beaten eggs with three cups of milk; pour it over the bread and cheese. Bake it in a hot oven as you would cook a bread pudding. This makes an ample dish for four people.

So far, so good EXCEPT when we pulled it out of the oven and cut into it, it was all watery. I don’t know about cooking enough to know what ingredient might have triggered the water flow so if any of you do, let me in on your secret. At first, I suspected the milk as today’s milk seems much more watery to me than the whole milk they likely used back in the day (and probably directly from the cow to you), and then the cheese since cheese can often generate liquid when being melted. Other than that, the dish was good although it tasted more like an egg casserole than scalloped cheese. Maybe that’s what they called egg casserole back in 1894? Oh those wacky White House chefs!

The President’s Cookbook by Poppy Cannon and Patricia Brooks
Published by: Funk & Wagnalls, A Division of Reader’s Digest Books, Inc. (and also famous for their Funk & Wagnalls Dictionary when I was growing up).
© 1968

Recipe: Capitolade of Chicken – p. 66 – from the recipes of Thomas Jefferson while at his home in Monticello, VA. (Note: the chapter is titled: A Gourmet in the White House, appropriately named since Jefferson introduced many new foods to the American palate).

Most of you know who Thomas Jefferson is but many of you may not know Poppy Cannon. Although Poppy died in 1975, hers was a name I recall hearing way back when I first started collecting cookbooks. Poppy authored many cookbooks in her day and was a former food editor of The Ladies Home Journal.

History buffs may also know of Poppy as she was the second wife of NAACP leader, Walter Francis White and their marriage (she was white and Jewish, he was black) caused a major scandal in the black community.

But regardless, Poppy’s cookbooks are interesting peeks into American life and the recipes, a snapshot on food of the times. The recipe below is no exception.

Capitolade of Chicken
2 T butter
2 T chopped onion
1 T finely chopped shallots
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 c. sliced mushrooms
1 T flour
1/3 c. white wine
1 c. soup stock/chicken broth or leftover chicken gravy
2 c. chicken, diced
Parsley (for garnish, if desired)
Toast slices or rice

One of the things that drives me nuts about a recipe, and this one is no exception, is to list all the ingredients without the amount required, for example, butter, onion, shallots, but then include the amounts in the recipe instructions itself; “melt two tablespoons butter, cook 2 tablespoons chopped onion, etc.” I want a shopping list ready to roll when I go to the store and don’t want to have to mine the recipe for the amounts I need.

Okay, little rant…back to the recipe.

Melt 2 T butter in skillet. Cook 2 T chopped onion in the butter until yellowed. Stir in 1 T finely chopped shallots, 1 clove crushed garlic and 1 c. sliced mushrooms. Cook over low heat for 5 minutes, or until lightly browned.

Stir in 1 T flour and keep stirring until smooth. Add 1/3 c. wine and 1 c. soup stock/chicken broth or gravy. Cook slowly until the sauce begins bubbling. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Add 2 cups diced chicken and stir into sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve over toast with chopped parsley on top. Serves 4-6.

As for variations, the recipe calls for leftover chicken but since I didn’t have any leftover chicken, I poached some chicken breasts and cut them up and the results were fine. Although I followed the “serve over toast” directive on the first day, I used rice with the leftovers and the dish tasted even better.

"Five Star Favorites - Recipes from friends of Mamie and Ike" & "The First Ladies Cook Book" - Applesauce Meatballs and Clove Cake

Date I made these recipes: Sunday, November 5, 2006

Five Star Favorites – Recipes from friends of Mamie and Ike
Published by: Golden Press – New York
© 1974
Recipe submitted by Mrs. Robert S. Callender of Indian Wells, CA

The First Ladies Cook Book – Favorite Recipes of all the Presidents of The United States
© 1969 (or, as they say in Roman numerals – MCMLXIX)
Recipe from the collection of Theodore Roosevelt
Tuesday, November 7, 2006, was the day of mid-term elections in the United States. In honor of that event, I pulled out six cookbooks from my collection having to do with the Presidents, their First Ladies and/or law and elections in general. I honestly didn’t realize I had so many and let me tell you, some of them were a real challenge to cook with as you will see below.

But first, a history lesson.

Some of you are probably asking yourselves “Mamie and Ike Who??” And so to enlighten you: Dwight David (Ike) Eisenhower (a/k/a Dwight D. Eisenhower) was the United State’s Supreme Commander of the Allied forces in Europe during WWII as well as a five-star general (thus the title of the book). Back in the day, women loved a man in uniform and so it should be no surprise that he came back from WWII (and the Korean War) as the man of the hour, ran for President on the Republican ticket (many a woman was photographed with a “We Like Ike” sign) and won. Ike was the 34th President of the United States and served from 1953-1961 when the glamour boy of the day, Jack Kennedy, bounced him out and the Camelot years started, spearheaded by the equally glamorous Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy.

Alas, Mamie Doud Eisenhower, Ike’s First Lady was no glamorpous (I seem to recall many a discussion about her hairstyle – a sort of Audrey Hepburn imitation sans Audrey, you know?). But in her heyday, Mamie was the hostess with the mostest and she and Ike seemed to know everyone as evidenced by all the famous people who submitted recipes to the cookbook.

I have absolutely no idea (although I did a Google check) who Robert S. Callendar is nor do I know who Mrs. Robert S. Callendar is but it matters not to me as it’s all about the recipe and this recipe is damned good.

Applesauce Meatballs - Five Star Favorites – p. 56
1 egg
½ c. milk
1 ½ c. packaged season stuffing croutons
1 ½ lb ground beef
2/3 c. applesauce
3 T. finely chopped onion
1 ½ tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
¼ tsp sage
1 can (10-3/4 oz) condensed tomato soup
½ c. water

Okay, this recipe starts out fairly easily. Beat the egg with the milk, add that mixture to the croutons and let stand about 5 minutes. No issues there.

Next we go to the instructions “beat until smooth and fluffy.” Hmmm. Okay, I put the contents in my Cuisinart, let them whirl around for a minute or so and voila! Smooth and fluffy it was! (Just so you know, they didn’t have Cuisinarts back in the 50’s so no wonder the instructions were vague. But now you know so no excuses, people!)

Mix together the croutons, beef, applesauce, onion, salt, pepper and sage. Do not do as I did which is to say I mixed all but the salt and pepper, rolled them all out, realized my mistake and threw all the meatballs back in the bowl for re-mixing. Duh.

Once again, the quantity of the meat required by the recipe was problematic. I found myself staring at the packaged ground beef options in the meat section of my grocery store and cursing the fact that there were absolutely no 1.5 pound packages to be had. No problem, I thought, I’ll just buy two packages of almost 2 pounds and just use it all. What would it hurt?

Well, people, it hurt. Here’s the problem: You will not have enough tomato sauce (made with the tomato soup listed above) if you make almost 2 pounds of meat. To compensate, I had to divide my tomato sauce (to which you add the ½ cup water and then stir) between two baking dishes. While the whole thing was incredibly flavorful, the soup mixture looked a little anemic and not as pretty as it could have been.

But what was lacking in appearance was more than made up in taste. These meatballs are Yummy! The applesauce (and for convenience sake, I used two lunch-sized containers from an apple-sauce six pack) made the meat as moist as it could be. And even better was the fact that my leftover sage from a few week’s ago was still fresh enough to use in the dish. It doesn’t get any better than this. And wouldn’t you know that me, “Miss Never Eats Leftovers,” is still working on the meatballs 4 days later. Of course, this is due, in part, to having made way too many meatballs but that’s beside the point.

Clove CakeThe First Ladies Cook Book – p. 166

So...history time again. Theodore (Teddy) Roosevelt was Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s (FDR’s) cousin and the 26th President of the United States. Unlike his cousin, Franklin, Teddy was a Republican, something that I, somewhat of a history buff, managed to overlook for several years. (Don’t even get me started on how confusing it was to my teenage mind to learn that Abraham Lincoln was also a Republican but that was back in the day when Republicans were really Democrats and Democrats were really Republicans.)

Some of you may or may not know that the Teddy Bear was named after Teddy. Since it doesn’t have anything to do with the recipe, I’ll let you read about that on your own, but I’m thinking that both Teddy and the bear would enjoy this sweet treat!

Clove Cake
½ c. butter
½ c. milk
½ c. molasses
2 c. flour
2 eggs, whole
3 c. seedless raisins
1 tsp baking soda, mixed into the molasses
½ teaspoon cloves
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon allspice
1 ½ teaspoons nutmeg
Butter for decoration (optional)
½ pound crystallized ginger (optional)

Okay, those of you who bake know the golden rule: butter, milk and eggs should be at room temperature. I know this rule, I know this rule, I know this rule…but I was in a hurry so I bent the rule. I had the ingredients out for maybe five minutes, maybe 10 but no longer than that and so let me just say that before you knew it, my Kitchen Aid was spitting out egg yolk like a volcano because the butter was too cold to incorporate the egg properly. It was not pretty. (We won't even talk about what happened when I opened the can of tomato soup.)

To force the issue, I took out a wooden spoon and smoothed out the butter until it was soft and also let it sit a bit so that it would come up to temperature. The second beating went much better than the first.

Next, sift together the flour and the spices. Again, I say unto you to think before acting. I have several sifters but decided to use the Martha (Stewart) method and put it through a fine sieve rather than a sifter with a handle like my grandmother’s. Well, all well and good I say unless the amount of flour you are sifting exceeds the size of the sieve.

Now that I was completely covered with eggs, milk and flour, it was time to add the raisins. Let me say a word about raisins.

I had some leftover seedless raisins in my house that turned out to be boulders in comparison to the itty bitty organic seedless raisins I purchased at Whole Foods, my local grocery store. Out of the three cups needed, I’d say a good two were the boulder size and the other cup was pebble sized.

The result was that this cake really should be renamed Raisin Cake instead of Clove Cake because all that you can see are the raisins and while very yummy, it does seem like overkill.

Anyway, once you’ve mixed all the ingredients, bake in a greased 8-inch tube pan at 350 for 45-55 minutes. Naturally, I have something to say about that.

I have two “tube” pans at home. One is a Bundt pan, and I can tell you, since I measured, it is not 8 inches, and one is what I would call an Angel Food Cake pan that IS 8 inches. I measured them using a little measuring tape on a key ring my husband bought me years ago after I kept guestimating the size of furniture pieces I considered buying. I cannot tell you how convenient it is.

Anyway…and then there’s the amount of baking time. I say to pull the cake after 45 minutes on the dot and test for doneness because by the time I got to it at about 50 minutes, it was bordering on being too dry. I’m still eating it but I think you’d achieve better results by checking. I also think that a lovely dollop of whipped cream would taste nice on this, but that’s just me.