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.” http://www.byerlys.com/ (the address that will pop up is http://www.lundsandbyerlys.com/. 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.

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