Sunday, April 29, 2007

"Dine In Route 66 Cookbook" - Scenic Salisbury Steak

Date I made this recipe: April 25, 2007

Dine In Route 66 Cookbook distributed by Smith-Southwestern Inc.
Published by Terrell Publishing Co.
© 1996

Recipe: Scenic Salisbury Steak – p. 24

If you’re been reading my blog so far (which you’ve all been doing, right?), you’ll know that I tend to have a story for everything and they tend to be a little long in the telling, but hopefully always interesting. So let’s get to “How I chose a Route 66 recipe.”

I don’t think I’ve mentioned that I’ve been a proud member of the Calhoun-Isles Community Band for 14 years now ( but I have. I play the clarinet (or so some say…I didn’t learn how to play the instrument until 16 years ago), have sometimes played my alto saxophone (which I learned how to play 14 years ago) and most recently have been a vocalist for a small off-shoot group, the Calhoun-Isles Dixieland Jazz Combo. The Dixieland group performs at what would be the intermission portion of our band concerts (the whole band is 60 members strong and growing) to give a break to the rest of our players. Of course, we don’t get a break but that’s beside the point.

So anyway…I started out singing old Dixieland tunes such as Basin Street Blues, Tin Roof Blues, When My Sugar Walks Down the Street, and then we added some Gershwin favorites such as Summertime, The Man I Love and The Lady is A Tramp. And we had, and continue to have, a great time doing this.

This year, though, our conductor wanted to find some pieces for me to do with the entire ensemble, not just the eight people in the Dixieland Combo, and so he found a couple of pieces to try out. One song, But Not For Me, was written for the entire band with either solo voice or solo clarinet and so that worked out just great. But the other piece is more of a challenge. We’re playing musical selections from the movie, Cars, and are trying to figure out if vocals will even work with it because it’s not written for vocal accompaniment.

One of the tunes featured on the Cars soundtrack is Route 66. Just a hint, but this is where you should have had an “Ah ha” moment as to why I cooked out of a Route 66 cookbook.

But before we get to the book, let me tell you about the song. Route 66 was written by Bobby Troup who, with his wife, Julie London, a fabulous torch singer from the 50’s and 60’s, both starred in the TV show Emergency which ran from 1972 to 1978. Bobby played Dr. Joe Early, his wife played Nurse Dixie McCall (I just loved that name!) and who could forget hunky Randolph Mantooth as Firefighter John Gage? At any rate, I was addicted to this show and even toyed with becoming Dixie McCall (the nurse, not the actress) when I grew up, a hilarious thought given I just don’t have any aptitude for science, which is why I became any attorney, but that’s another story.

So the fact that I watched the TV show and later learned that Bobby wrote the song made me want to make a Route 66 dish shortly after our Tuesday night band rehearsal where we tried out the medley for the first time. Singing along to Route 66 would probably be okay, singing along to Our Town by James Taylor (from the soundtrack) is possible but somehow I can’t see myself, nor could my band, singing Life Is A Highway, (also from the soundtrack) by the band Rascal Flatts. When our conductor mentioned it, everybody, including me, started howling. It’s a hip piece for a traditional concert band to play and I’m thinking that at the very least, I’d need a wardrobe change to something more rock oriented, but we’ll see how it goes.

Getting back to Julie, Bobby and Randolph, I should mention that I do not have a Julie London CD nor did Julie London ever record her husband’s hit (go figure), but I do have a version of Route 66 sung by the late Rosemary Clooney who many of us will remember, not for her singing (which was great) but because she was George Clooney’s aunt. And how fitting is it that George went on to star in the TV show ER, another doctor/emergency team TV show? Too bad the hospital wasn’t located on Route 66. But anyway….

The second reason I wanted to make this dish was because Route 66, as you learn in the lyrics, goes through Gallup, New Mexico and my brother and sister-in-law, both physicians, worked in Gallup for several years. (“You see Amarillo, Gallup, New Mexico…”) I’m pretty sure I bought this cookbook when I visited them one Christmas. (And by the by, somebody could have warned me in advance that Gallup is in the mountains and therefore was NOT the balmy 60ish degree weather I was hoping for. I know my cook books but geography is another story).

And so, between Bobby Troup and Gallup, New Mexico, I was all pumped up to make this recipe and I’m glad I did. It gave me the comfort food component of days gone by and made me think of all the family vacations we made along Route 66 when I was a kid, in an un-air conditioned car (too expensive back then) checking out all the mom and pop places along the way. I did indeed, “get my kicks on Route 66.”

Scenic Salisbury Steak

1 ½ pounds ground beef
1 ½ tablespoons finely chopped onion
¼ cup bread crumbs
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 egg
2 tablespoons milk
1 can cream of mushroom soup
¼ cup mayonnaise
½ soup can water
1 small onion, sliced
¼ cup chopped green pepper
10 whole mushrooms, sliced
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 large carrot, shredded

Mix together ground beef, chopped onion, bread crumbs, pepper, egg and milk. Form into patties and brown on both sides in a skillet. Mix together soup, mayonnaise and water until smooth. Pour soup mixture over the patties to coat them well. Place onion, green pepper, mushrooms and tomatoes on top. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Turn patties over and baste patties; cook 30 minutes more.

Now, if you read through what I just typed, you’ll notice, as did I went making this recipe, that they don’t tell you want to do with the shredded carrot. It was only after careful examination of the accompanying photo that I realized it should have gone on top of the patties along with the sliced onion, green pepper, mushrooms and tomatoes. I left it off and the recipe survived just fine without it.

Monday, April 23, 2007

"Madhur Jaffrey's A Taste of the Far East" by Madhur Jaffrey - Chicken Roasted with Gingered Soy Sauce

Madhur Jaffrey’s A Taste of the Far East by Madhur Jaffrey (Cookbook of the Year – The James Bear Awards)
Published by: Carol Southern Books New York
ISBN: 0-517-59548-6

Recipe: Chicken Roasted with Gingered Soy Sauce – p. 90

Okay, here’s my story and I’m sticking to it: The other day a friend and I ate lunch at a local Indian restaurant.

Okay, that’s only part of the story. When I got home that day, my craving for Indian food continued but alas, I only had one Indian cookbook in my collection – Curries and Bugles – A Cookbook of the British Raj and the recipes in there just didn’t satisfy my craving, quite possibly because half the recipes were British in nature, left over from the British occupation days. (I mean really people, does a recipe for "Bloody Mary shellfish mould" scream “Indian food” to you? I thought not.)

Anyway, what I did have was one of Madhur Jaffrey’s cookbooks. For those who don’t know, Madhur Jaffrey is the doyenne of Indian cooking. She’s written tons of cookbooks about Indian cooking, owns Dawat, an Indian restaurant in Manhattan which I’ve eaten at (well, okay, it was a catered buffet luncheon, but still...), and was on NPR’s The Splendid Table radio broadcast a few weeks ago.

And yet, the cookbook that I owned was her cookbook about Far East cooking – go figure.

My husband and I have made the roasted chicken recipe several times now and it’s delicious. The chicken is really moist and the flavors blend nicely for a rich, but not overpowering, flavor.

Madhur says this recipe hails from Malaysia which has nothing in common with India except that they both end in “ia” but if you’re trying to feed a yen for Indian food without actually having a recipe at your disposal (details, details) this isn’t a bad way to go.

Chicken Roasted with Gingered Soy Sauce – Serves 4
1 medium-sized onion, peeled and coarsely chopped (85g/3 oz)
3 cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 ½ inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped (4 cm)
3 ½ lb chicken (1.5 kg)
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar – use a mild vinegar, such as Japanese vinegar (or cider vinegar)
3 tablespoons Chinese dark soy sauce
2 ½ tablespoons sugar
¾ teaspoon salt

Put the onion, garlic and ginger into the container of an electric blender. (We used our Cuisinart). Blend, adding just as much water as you need to make the machine do its work. Put the chicken in a roasting pan. Rub half of the onion-garlic-ginger mixture all over the chicken, inside and out, and leave for 1 hour. Put the remaining paste in a bowl. Add the oil, vinegar, soy sauce, sugar, salt and 6 tablespoons water. Mix.

Preheat the oven to 350 Fahrenheit, 180 Celsius. Pour as much of the soy sauce mixture into the cavity of the chicken as it will hold easily. (Madhur notes that she raises the tail end of the chicken slightly by putting the neck under it so that the liquid will stay in but I have no recollection of whether we did that or not). Bake the chicken for 25 minutes, basting it every now and then with the sauce in the bowl. Now put all the remaining sauce around the chicken. Keep basting it for another 50 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. If the sauce in the pan begins to dry out and get scorched, add 1 tablespoon or so of water to the pan and scrape it quickly.

Friday, April 13, 2007

"Lost Recipes - Meals to Share with Friends and Family" by Marion Cunningham - Ham and Bean Soup

Date I made this recipe: April 12, 2007

Lost Recipes – Meals to Share with Friends and Family by Marion Cunningham, author of The Fannie Farmer Cookbook
Published by: Alfred A. Knopf
ISBN: 0-375-41198-4
© 2003
Recipe: Ham and Bean Soup – p. 22

People, many of us talk about cooking as a form of therapy for the body, mind and soul. In this case, with this particular recipe, we’re basically talking “therapy therapy” as in I needed to exercise demons regarding the lunch selections during my grade school years at Sacred Heart Catholic School.

For some inexplicable reason, the same ladies who cooked delectable lunches for the nuns and the parish priest (and I should know this since I was a student server…and sometime sampler of their food), were completely and utterly unable to create delectable lunches for what had to be no more than 200 students every day.

As an example, spaghetti and sauce (we were way too early in the game to call macaroni “pasta”) consisted of watery noodles with an equally watery sauce consisting of blobs of tomatoes, salt and pepper. All soups, and I mean all soups, consisted of some sort of legume (again, no such thing as a tomato bisque in our day), carrots, onions and celery (if we were lucky) and water. Lots and lots of water.

And so people, corn soup consisted of group up corn that sank to the bottom of the bowl…and water. Pea soup consisted of ground up peas…and water. Bean soup, the most hideous of the group consisted of beans…and water.

Now, I don’t know about your grade school dining experience, but when I was growing up, there were children starving in Africa and China every day and so there was no such thing as a) not taking the lunch presented or b) not finishing every morsel. I should note that this was the 60’s during Vatican II (the Catholic Church’s version of the Hippie Movement) which sent the whole church into a tizzy. My nuns started with the full-blown uniform (those huge, hanging rosary beads were used as bolos to take down wayward children) and ended up in polyester street clothes sporting ridiculously short hair and a permanent mark on their foreheads where the veil used to be. So…there were issues.

And so if a student opted for hot lunch that day, that child received the gloppy excuse for macaroni and tomato sauce, period, no discussion.

Similarly, there were dire, and I mean dire, consequences, for not finishing the meal. You think Oliver Twist or Jane Eyre had it bad? Hardly. If Sister Rita Celeste (a name we hissed when we said it) saw that you weren’t finishing your meal, she force fed you until you practically choked it. I will never forget one poor second grader in my brother’s class who couldn’t finish her meal. My God, she was wailing and crying as Sister force-fed her until finally sister finally gave up (something she rarely did) and stormed away (on her broomstick, or maybe that wooden paddle she used). Since I worked in the lunchroom, I went over, took the bowl and told the poor thing to scram. Older students, like me, quickly learned to flush the contents we couldn’t and wouldn’t eat in the nearby bathroom in order to avoid a similar fate.

And so, as I said, it was time to exercise some demons, and when I spied Marion Cunningham’s recipe for Ham and Bean soup, I decided it was time. I also needed to get rid of some Easter ham so the whole thing worked out well.

I must admit to raising the eyebrows when I saw that the recipe contained only onion, ham, beans…and water, but the addition of the Dijon mustard closed the deal. And, no pun intended, thank God for that!

Ham and Bean Soup – serves 4
1 pound (about 2 cups) Great Northern Beans, soaked overnight and drained (yields 6 cups)
2 to 3 onions, chopped (about 2 ½ cups)
2 cups cut-up ham or smoked pork butt
¼ cup Dijon mustard (or to taste)
Salt and pepper to taste

Put the beans, onions and ham pieces in a large soup pot. Pour in enough cold water to cover the beans by 1 ½ inches and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat to simmer, removing any scum that rises to the surface. Simmer for about 2 hours, or until the beans are tender. Add more water if needed.

Stir in the mustard, then season with salt and pepper to taste. Skim off any fat that rises to the top and serve.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

"The Cramped Quarters Cookbook" & "Soul Food" - Glazed Ham A L'Orange and Macaroni and Cheese (Ham Dinner - part 2)

Date I made these recipes: Easter Sunday (April 8, 2007)

The Cramped Quarters Cookbook – The Art of Dining Elegantly No Matter How Little Space You Have by Bob Reinhart and Dick Woods
Published by: David McKay Company
© 1973
Recipe: Glazed Ham A L’Orange – p. 80-81

Soul Food – Recipes and Reflections from African-American Churches by Joyce White
Published by: HarperCollins Publishers
ISBN: 0-06-018716-6
© 1998
Recipe: Macaroni and Cheese – p. 86-87

People, I don’t want to sound like a lush, but the fact that the glaze for today’s ham recipe had brandy in it did a lot to recommend the recipe to me. That, and the fact that I only needed to buy a 3-4 pound ham. The recipe said to use canned ham but there were plenty of smaller hams available for the taking that didn’t involve a can opener.

But first, let’s talk about the name – The Cramped Quarters Cookbook. Not that I want to brag, but when we were first married, my husband and I cooked some delectable dinners in a kitchen so small that it made NY kitchens, famous for being tiny, look like cocktail lounges. Two people were almost two people too many in our kitchen. We had no counter space whatsoever (and so had to figure out how to create one), a tiny Frigidaire refrigerator with a shoebox of a freezer and a handle that looked like it belonged on a Vegas slot machine, and a teeny tiny stove with teeny tiny burners that looked like it belonged in a Winnebago. So I know all about “Cramped Quarter Cooking.”

This recipe really doesn’t reflect cooking in cramped quarters because there’s not a lot of slicing, dicing, sashaying or otherwise going on in closed quarters but it tasted great and didn’t require a lot of effort.

If you don’t want to add the required brandy (or, in my case, Courvoisier because that’s what I had in stock), I’m sure the recipe will turn out just fine. But let’s just say that it was way more flavorful with it included!

Turning out attention to the Macaroni and Cheese recipe…I never, ever grew up with macaroni and cheese, not even the Kraft kind, so why on earth I was obsessing about having “mac and cheese” with my ham is beyond me. Nonetheless, I had to have it. So I consulted my whole battery of southern cookbooks as there is hardly a one without a recipe for macaroni and cheese, and decided on Joyce White’s recipe because it had mustard and cayenne pepper, ingredients that I like and that appear from time to time in recipes deemed to be “the best macaroni and cheese.” So, what the heck, who am I to argue with macaroni and cheese greatness?! I think you’ll like this recipe. It says “serves 4” but seriously, after I got through with it, it was really me and…me.

Glazed Ham A L’Orange – serves 6
3-4 lb. canned ham
1 6-oz. can frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
1 cup dark pancake syrup
1 tsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. dry mustard
2 tbsp. brandy
¼ tsp. ground ginger
Whole cloves
1 1-lb can home-style peach halves, drained (I didn’t use these as they were only “garnish”)

The directions say to preheat oven to 325 and bake the ham for 1.25 hours but the instructions for my ham said to heat oven to 275 and cook the ham for 15 minutes per pound, in my case, 48 minutes. I’d follow along with your package directions.

While the ham is baking, combine in a small saucepan all the other ingredients except for the cloves and peaches. Heat and set aside.

Remove ham from the pan and pour off and discard the drippings (my ham didn’t have any). Score top of ham and insert cloves. Place the peach halves around the base of the ham. Brush half the orange sauce over the ham and peaches and return to oven. Bake 15 to 20 minutes, basting often. Reheat remaining sauce and pass at table.

Macaroni and Cheese – serves 4
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
½ pound uncooked elbow macaroni
1 finely chopped onion
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons spicy mustard
1 ½ tablespoons flour
2 cups milk
2 cups grated sharp Cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Oil a 1 ½-quart ovenproof casserole and set aside.

Fill a large stockpot with at least 6 quarts of water. Add one tablespoon of the vegetable oil to the water, so as to keep the macaroni from sticking together during cooking. Place the pot on high heat and bring to a rolling boil.

Add the macaroni and cook for the length of time specified on the package, making sure not to overcook the pasta. Drain immediately and rinse the pasta with cold, running water. Set aside.

Heat the remaining oil in a large skillet. Add the onion and sauté over medium-low heat for 4 or 5 minutes or until tender and translucent. NOTE: watch these onions like a hawk. I turned my back on the pan and in mere seconds, my beautiful, finely chopped onion pieces were incinerated. I threw the lot out and started again.

Stir in the nutmeg, cayenne, black pepper, salt, mustard and flour and sauté 3 or 4 minutes longer.

Let’s pause a minute and talk about the above instruction. The few times I’ve been told to add flour to an onion mixture, the whole thing ended up being a whole big blob of near-glue. I’m never sure if this is what’s supposed to happen or not and so I feel it’s rather silly to continue to sauté a flour blob for 3-4 more minutes, but that’s just me. I did it, but I’m not sure what I gained from the exercise.

Add the milk and 1 cup of cheese. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring the sauce to a gentle boil. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring, for about 10 minutes longer or until the sauce thickens.

And so another note: I did as directed but thought the sauce had a rather grainy look and texture to it. It could have been it looked that way because of the pepper flecks…or it could be that I did something wrong. If you experienced mac and cheese makers have any idea, please let me know.

Remove the sauce from the heat and stir in the well-drained macaroni. Pour the mixture into the oiled baking dish. Sprinkle the macaroni with the remaining cheese.

Place the dish on the middle shelf of the hot oven and bake for 18-20 minutes or until hot and bubbly and the cheese is melted.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

"Cocktail Supper Cookbook" - Ham Baked In Ginger Ale (Ham Dinner-part 1)

Cocktail Supper Cookbook by Marion W. Flexner
Published by: Bramhall House, New York
© 1955

Recipe: Ham Baked in Ginger Ale

Well, I love cocktails and I love supper (although we called our nightly meal “dinner” in my house) so it stands to reason that I love this cookbook. Actually, it’s the Ham Baked in Ginger Ale recipe that I love.

I’ve made this dish over and over and over but usually for more than 2 people (this serves 12-20) so instead of making it again for Easter (tomorrow), I’m just going to post it for your reading enjoyment. I’ll make a different ham recipe tomorrow that will be easier on my refrigerator space and my budget (Can we talk about the price of ham these days?! I didn’t realize I’d need a small bank loan just to buy even a measly little ham).

I’ve seen tons of variations of ham recipes using a bubbly liquid other than ginger ale – champagne, 7UP, Doctor Pepper, Coke – so if you don’t like Ginger Ale, you could probably substitute something else. If I had it my way, I’d use Vernors Ginger Ale which is famous in my home state of Michigan but hard to find it here in Minnesota; I usually buy something generic and it does the trick. Vernors has quite the bite so I’m sure I’m missing out on a tangier ham than I otherwise get but it’s the price I have to pay for leaving home territory.

Ham Baked in Ginger Ale (12 to 20 servings)
12- to 16-pound tenderized ham
1 quart ginger ale or champagne
1 quart water
1 pint Grandma’s brand molasses
Whole cloves
Powdered cloves
2 or 3 tablespoons prepared mustard
1 cup dark brown sugar

Wipe ham with damp cloth, place in roaster (I use a Dutch oven). Pour over ginger ale or champagne, water and molasses. Cover and bake in a moderate oven, 350 degrees, 15 minutes per pound. If liquid evaporates, add more water. Turn ham every hour using spoons to avoid piercing it.

When tender, remove from pan, cut fat into diamonds (but not through to meat), stick with cloves, sprinkle powdered cloves over, and spread with mustard and brown sugar. Place ham in a cold broiler then turn on heat and cook until sugar melts and bubbles. Prepare a day ahead if desired, but do not glaze until near serving time.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

"The Israeli Cookbook" - Passover Minas of Many Kinds

Date I made this recipe: April 2, 2007

The Israeli Cookbook – What’s Cooking in Israel’s Melting Pot by Molly Lyons Bar-David
Published by Crown Publisher’s, Inc.
© 1964

Recipe: Minas of Many Kinds – p. 123

A few weeks ago, when I was exploring South American and African cooking, I pulled out this cook. Given that Monday, April 2, was Passover I made a recipe from this book.

This book is rather interesting in that it features recipes for all Jewish holidays: Shavuot, Purim, Yom Kippur, and the like. For some reason, Passover recipes were few and far between in this book but I finally settled on the recipe for Minas.

The author didn’t explain what minas are except to say that they are popular in Turkey, but when assembled, they resemble lasagna only made with matzo layers.

The author listed four types of minas (hence the title “Minas of Many Kinds”) and I made two: potato type and spinach or chard type.

The potato type was my favorite but if I made the spinach type again, I’d add some spices as that dish turned out to be pretty bland. All in all, salt and pepper should be liberally sprinkled on any of the minas you make as none of the ingredients provide that flavor you’re going to want. (And I’m not even a salt person).

Potato Type Mina – serves 4
1 cup hot oil
4 matzos
3 large boiled potatoes
1 cup grated yellow cheese (Note: I wasn’t sure what to use here so I went with cheddar)
4 eggs, beaten
Salt and pepper to taste

Spinach or Chard Type Mina – serves 4
1 cup hot oil
4 matzos
2 pounds spinach, boiled (Note: I used frozen spinach)
1 cup cottage cheese
¼ cup grated yellow cheese
4 eggs, beaten
Salt and pepper to taste

No matter which mina you make, put ½ cup of the hot oil in a casserole. Dip the matzos in water and line the bottom of the casserole with 2 of them. The basic material for the filling is chopped or sliced or cubed and is always precooked, whether it is the leek bulb, spinach or chicken (but the cheese, of course, is not cooked).

On the bottom layer of the matzos put the basic ingredient and top with the grated cheese (except for the meat mina which you top with the herbs). Cover with the remaining water-dipped matzos and pour the beaten eggs over. Grate a little yellow cheese on top. Put into a 400 degree oven and after 10 minutes, pour on the remaining hot oil. Bake until done (about 30 minutes). Pour off the oil. Cut into serving pieces. This can be eaten hot or cold, but it is best hot and fresh.

Some final notes, I cut these into lasagna-sized strips to serve and that seemed to work well. I also poured off a lot of oil so be prepared! Finally, I love when instructions say “bake until done.” If she didn’t give a time (30 minutes), I wouldn’t know what “done” was. Oh well, the perils of older recipe books!