Thursday, July 5, 2007

"Home Cookin' with Dave's (Letterman) Mom" & "June Roth's Let's Have A Brunch Cookbook" - breakfast items

Date I made these recipes: June 30, 2007

Home Cookin’ with Dave’s Mom by Dave’s (Letterman) Mom, Dorothy with Jess Cagle. Foreword by David Letterman
Published by: Pocket Books
ISBN: 0-671-00060-8
© 1996
Recipe: Judy’s Breakfast Casserole – p. 134

June Roth’s Let’s Have A Brunch Cookbook by June Roth
Published by: Essandess Special Edition
© 1971
Recipe: Cinnamon-Raisin Brunch Bread – p. 101

The Breakfast Book by Marion Cunningham
Published by: Wings Books
ISBN: 0-517-18726-4
© 1987
Recipe: Baked Pineapple – p. 176

This past weekend, I invited a friend and her husband over for brunch. Initially, I was going to make all my recipes from Marion Cunningham’s book, but then with days to go, I changed my mind (and as it’s a woman’s prerogative to do so, that’s how I ended up with three recipes).

Marion’s book was great but it didn’t include a recipe for a strata and once I decided that I wanted something like a strata to “anchor” the brunch, I was on a new hunt for a dish and a new cookbook.

Home Cookin’ with Dave's Mom seemed to be a good place to find a strata-type recipe for my brunch and it did not disappoint. Within seconds, I located the breakfast casserole and actually, it worked out even better than a strata. It didn’t need to be made 24 hours in advance and it included all my favorite breakfast items – sausage, hash browns, eggs and cheese, into one dish. Perfect!

Also perfect was the witty writing by Dave’s mom, Dorothy Letterman. If any of you caught her broadcasts from Lillehammer, Norway during the 1994 Olympics, you’ll know that she is quite hilarious herself, almost funnier at times than son, Dave. One night, she quite effectively put David (always David, never Dave) in his place; when Letterman kept asking his mom about one of the star athletes at the Olympics (it might have been speed skater, Dan Jansen), Dorothy smiled at David and said in a somewhat exasperated voice “There are other athletes, David.” And that was that!

Although that story is not in the book, I think you’ll have fun reading about Dave, his siblings and his adorable mother. Oh, and the recipe really rocks as well!

The next cookbook I used was June Roth’s Let’s Have A Brunch Cookbook. I acquired this book a few years ago, put it away, and almost forgot about it until this past weekend when I spotted it on the shelf above my computer. That would have been a tragedy as I completely forgot about the note written inside the cover, under the price, that said “Good Lord, What is that on the cover?”

Once I saw that, it all came rushing back to me. I bought this book from a little retro store on Snelling Avenue in St. Paul, and happened to go into the store just as the owner was putting it out for display. I should add that the owner was also gasping (or maybe it was gagging) about the photo on the front cover and that’s what prompted her to write the note inside the book. I hated to tell her, but that photo, that “what is that thing?” is what drew me to the book in the first place. I mean, anyone can have a brunch book, but a brunch book with a “that” on the front cover? Well, that was something else entirely.

Lucky for us, “that” was explained on the dust cover: “Pictured on the cover is June’s Seagoing Shrimp Salad from the Bon Voyage Brunch in the Special Occasion section. A true work of art (a less elaborate version is pictured with the brunch on page 88), this is just one of the many beautiful, as well as appetizing, dishes offered in this volume.”

Okay, you will likely not be able to tell this from the teeny photo included on this blog but the phrase “true work of art” does not go with the cover photo, not at all. Instead, the front cover looks like two layers of canned ham with shrimp serving as ears and a nose, sort of resembling Neptune only done by some contemporary artist with a vision that none of us could quite see.

To satisfy my curiosity of what a “less elaborate” version looks like, I turned to page 88 and have to admit that the less elaborate version is far less scary than the front cover, possibly because it’s in black and white. That being said, black and white did not reduce the terror I experienced at seeing a Ham Mousse mould on page 66, nor did it in any way, shape or form, help me with the photo of Chicken n’ Ham “Birthday Cake” (complete with candles, I kid you not) on page 54.

In fact, dear reader, most of June’s Brunch Book was pretty scary and most of the recipes are not what we would ever consider serving for a brunch. But hey, this book was written in those wild 70’s when anything is possible.

Lucky for June and the book, I found the recipe for Cinnamon-Raisin Brunch Bread which was not scary in the least and was actually pretty tasty. All I can say is – Whew!”

Finally, the third recipe book I used, The Breakfast Book, included the simplest recipe of them all – Baked Pineapple, requiring only one pineapple and a half cup of brown sugar. Nothing scary about that, thank God. After my June experience, I was not sure I ever wanted to cook again. This restored my faith in humanity…and pineapple.

Judy’s Breakfast Casserole – makes 10 servings
1 2-pound bag Ore-Ida hash brown potatoes, thawed
½ teaspoon salt
½ pound mild sausage (I used bulk breakfast sausage from Whole Foods)
1 small onion, chopped
½ pound shredded Swiss cheese
5 eggs
1 13-ounce can evaporated milk
¼ teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

Grease a 9x13-inch baking dish. Press potatoes in the bottom and on sides. Sprinkle with salt and brown lightly in the oven. In a medium skillet, brown sausage and onion and drain. Spread over potato crust. Sprinkle with cheese. In another bowl, beat together remaining ingredients and pour onto the crust. Bake at 425 degrees (400 degrees if using a glass dish) for 20-25 minutes.

Cinnamon-Raisin Brunch Bread – makes 8-10 servings
1 cup sifted all-purpose flour
2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup whole bran cereal
¾ cup milk
½ cup soft shortening
½ cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup seedless raisins
½ cup chopped nuts
2 tablespoons sugar (for topping)
¼ teaspoon cinnamon (for topping)

Sift together flour, baking powder, salt and 1 teaspoon cinnamon; set aside. (NOTE: do not do as I did the first time I made this which is to misread baking “powder” for baking “soda.” That batch ended up in the garbage. Measure twice, cut once; read twice, use correct ingredient once.

Combine cereal and milk; let stand until most of the moisture is absorbed. Measure shortening, ½ cup sugar, and eggs into a mixing bowl. Beat until light and fluffy. Stir in cereal mixture, raisins, and nuts. Add sifted dry ingredients, stirring until combined. Spread in greased 9-inch layer cake pan. Mix 2 tablespoons sugar and ¼ teaspoon cinnamon for topping; sprinkle evenly over brunch bread. (Note: 2 tablespoons of sugar seemed awfully excessive; try half the sugar instead)

Bake in 375 oven for 30 minutes, or until lightly browned. Serve warm, cut in wedges.

Baked Pineapple – 10 servings
1 fresh medium pineapple
½ cup brown sugar

Remove the rind and eyes from the pineapple. Cut the fruit into quarters lengthwise and remove the core from each wedge. Cut each quarter in half lengthwise. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon brown sugar over each slice. Place the slices on a baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes in a preheated 325 degree oven. Serve warm.

Note: Since I didn’t know how many pineapple pieces I’d have after my cutting, it seemed silly to sprinkle 1 tablespoon over each slice so instead, I sprinkled the brown sugar over the entire baking sheet. Seemed to work out just fine.

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