Tuesday, August 25, 2009

"Hawaii Cookbook and Backyard Luau" - Steamed Pork Patties

Date I made this recipe: August 23, 2009

Hawaii Cookbook and Backyard Luau – The First Completely New Hawaiian Cookbook in 25 Years by Elizabeth Ahn Toupin, Introduction by James A. Michener
Published by: Silvermine Publishers, Inc.
© 1964, 1967
Recipe: Steamed Pork Patties

Well folks, on the 21st of August, Hawaii celebrated 50 years of statehood. Hard to believe that it hasn’t always been a state but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a popular tourist attraction even back then.

After exploring several possibilities, I decided on Steamed Pork Patties. These are really meant to be an appetizer but we accompanied them by a salad and all was fine…well, almost.

These turned out to be (to my palate) pretty darned salty. I tasted the sherry and the salt and little else. So my advice is to go with the ½ tablespoon of soy sauce (and I even used low-sodium!) and cut the additional teaspoon called for in the recipe and see how that works. (I also nixed the monosodium glutamate—does anyone even use that anymore?).

The other problem I initially had was that 1 tablespoon of cornstarch and ½ egg are not enough to bind the patties and so I kept adding cornstarch (approximately 3 tablespoons total) until it looked like the mixture would hang together a little bit better and then I stuck the bowl in the freezer for 10 minutes to seal the deal.

Finally, I would definitely serve with a sweet-sour sauce (or some kind of sauce) to add a little zip to the dish.

But other than all that, the dish was easy to make and I would probably do it again, sans the salt.

As to the introduction written by James A. Michener, those of my generation will know him as the author of the book, Hawaii, as well as several other books chronicling the evolution of Hawaii (and Africa – The Covenant - and outer space – titled, go figure, Space - and….). Michener leaves no detail behind and honest to God started one book by talking about a speck of dust that eventually turned into civilization. At any rate, Michener’s book, Hawaii, was made into a movie by the same name and from what I understand it.was.horrible. But if you want to really understand a particular culture, Michener’s your guy.

Happy Birthday, Hawaii! Aloha!

Steamed Pork Patties – Serves 6(May be prepared ahead)
1/3 pound fresh shrimp, finely chopped
½ pound pork, ground
1 tablespoon cornstarch (you’ll probably need more)
1 tablespoon sherry
½ tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon salt (I’d advise leaving this out)
½ teaspoon monosodium glutamate
½ egg, beaten (to make this easier on myself, I put one egg in a measuring cup, whisked it to blend and then poured half of it into the meat mixture).

Combined all the ingredients. Shape into 1 ½ inch rounds, ½ inch thick. Place in a serving dish. Set dish on a bowl and place in pot over 1 inch of hot water. Cover and steam for 20 minutes.

Serve with apricot hors d’oeuvre or spicy or sweet-sour sauce.

To prepare ahead: Follow instructions for making and steaming pork patties. Cool and refrigerate. Remove fat. Reheat by steaming for 5-10 minutes.

Monday, August 17, 2009

"The French Chef Cookbook" by Julia Child - Salad Nicoise

Date I made this recipe: August 16, 2009

The French Chef Cookbook by Julia Child, Drawings and Photographs by Paul Child
Published by: Alfred A. Knopf
© 1961 (1963, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1968)
Recipe: Salad Nicoise – p. 17 (plus Sauce Vinaigrette – p. 5 and French Potato Salad – p. 16)
Note: these recipes are all from Julia Child’s TV show, The French Chef

I don’t know about you, but I’m about ready to start a petition to rename August “Julia Child month” because our beloved Julia is all over the airwaves and in the press.

On August 7th, the movie Julie and Julia, based upon two books – My Life in France by Julia Child and Julie and Julia by Julie Powell - was released and though I haven’t seen it yet, I’ve lost track of the number of friends telling me “You would love it.”

Then on August 15th those of us in the know celebrated what would have been Julia’s 97th birthday (she died on August 13, just two days shy of her 92nd birthday).

So this dish is a birthday homage to the great lady who turned the culinary world on its ear. And I have to tell you that as was Julia’s style, making this seemingly simple salad turned out to be a rather long series of steps to get to the goal line.

Before I get into the recipe, I have to recount (again) the tale of purchasing Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Julia’s culinary contribution to the world. It goes like this: There I was, minding my own business, happily shopping for cookbooks at Joan Hendricks bookstore in New York, when I spied a couple of copies of Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Believe it or don’t, up until then, I had trouble finding a copy. There were two books on the shelf, one that was close to being a first edition and reasonably priced and another that was a second printing (and therefore less desirable to collectors like me). The second-printing book was priced at $200 (and yes, that was for one book) and that’s because it was signed by both Julia and Paul Child.

So I hemmed and hawed about what to do—buy the stack of books in my hand that probably totaled $200 or go for what’s behind the curtain and plop all my money down for this one, solitary book? Joan was clearly cheering for me to buy the $200 book but I just couldn’t justify spending that much money on one book when I had others that sounded more interesting (I mean, I ask you—would you have passed up Jack Knife Cookery? I didn’t think so.)

And so I walked away from the $200 book. And Julia Child passed away two weeks later. #$%@!!!!! You’ve gotta know that the book probably sold for double that amount but so it goes. I still think I made the right decision just as I’m sure Joan made sure that book went to a good home. As for me, I walked away with a Julia Child book, just not the one that cost me a quarter of my mortgage and that made me happy.

So to the recipe -- it was okay but not great and that was a disappointment. Julia used way (and I mean way) more vinaigrette than I was comfortable with, such that the potato salad and overall salad was just swimming in oil. So my biggest advice to those who want to recreate this recipe is to start small – I’m talking tablespoon by tablespoon – until you get the result you want. When I made the potato salad, there was so much oil in it from the vinaigrette that I had to use a slotted spoon to transfer the salad to another bowl and then back again. And then she called for vinaigrette on the lettuce…and then again once the dish was made. If you ask me, too much of a good thing is still too much.

Plan on this recipe taking just a bit to pull together because you must cook the potatoes and the beans and then slice and dice and whisk and…well, you’ll be busy. It took considerably less time than when I made her Boeuf Bourgignon (we’re talking hours and hours of work for that one) but you’re still in the kitchen for quite some time.

Sauce Vinaigrette – for about ½ cup, enough for salad for 6 (Ann’s Note: it made just shy of a ½ cup. You will need ½ cup alone for the potato salad and then another ¾ to 1 cup for the salad itself (although as I said, this is overkill).
1 to 2 T excellent wine vinegar or a combination of vinegar and lemon juice
1/8 tsp salt
¼ tsp dry mustard
6 to 8 T best-quality olive oil, salad oil or a combination of both
Big pinch of freshly ground pepper
Optional: ½ T minced shallots or scallions and/or ¼ tsp dried herbs, such as tarragon or basil

Either beat the vinegar, salt and mustard in a bowl until dissolved, then beat in the oil and season with the pepper and herbs, or place all ingredients in a screw-top jar and shake vigorously for 30 seconds to blend thoroughly. Taste carefully for seasoning.

Pommes de Terre a L’Huile (French Potato Salad) – for about 6 cups
Note: again, I would season as I went along. 2 T chicken bouillon is a lot of bouillon. The dish wasn’t salty but it sure could have been. I also used less of the shallots and parsley than called for as 2 (and 3) tablespoons seemed like way too much. You’d be wise to use more than 2 lbs of potatoes.

8 to 10 medium “boiling” potatoes (about 2 lbs)
2 Tb dry white wine or dry white vermouth
2 T chicken bouillon
½ cup of the vinaigrette
2 T minced shallots or scallions
3 T minced parsley

Boil or steam the potatoes in their jackets until just tender. Peel and slice while still warm. Toss gently in the mixing bowl with the wine and bouillon, and after several minutes, toss again. When liquid has been absorbed by the potatoes, toss with the vinaigrette, shallots or scallions and parsley.

Salad Nicoise for 6 to 8 people
3 cups previously cooked green beans in a bowl
3 quartered tomatoes in a bowl
¾ to 1 cup vinaigrette (I’m telling you, just say “no!”)
1 head Boston lettuce, separated, washed and dried
3 cups cold French potato salad
½ cup pitted black olives, preferably the dry Mediterranean type
3 hard-boiled eggs, cold, peeled and quartered
12 canned anchovy fillets, drained, either flat or rolled with capers
About 1 cup (8 ounces) canned tuna, drained

Just before serving, season beans and tomatoes with several spoonfuls of the dressing. Toss the lettuce leaves in the salad bowl with ¼ cup of the vinaigrette and places leaves about bowl. (Again with the vinaigrette!) Arrange potatoes in bottom of bowl, decorate with the beans and tomatoes, interspersing them with a design of tuna, olives, eggs and anchovies. Pour remaining dressing over salad (!!!!), sprinkle with herbs, and serve.

Note: I’ve had Salad Nicoise several times when in France and never did I see this much dressing but if you cut back, this is one rockin’ summer salad!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

"Sunset Potluck Cookbook" - Dark Chocolate Chewy Brownies

Date I made this recipe: August 1, 2009

Sunset Potluck Cookbook – Pride & Joy Recipes You Can Take To The Party by the editors of Sunset Magazine
Published by: Lane Publishing Co.
ISBN: 0-376-02545-X © 1988
Recipe: Dark Chocolate Chewy Brownies - p. 90

I am told these brownies were really good. The reason I say “I was told” is because allergy season has kicked it (it is August, you know) and I really can’t taste much of anything. Phooey. I hate this time of year.

It’s been bad enough that the weather has been sub-par as far as summer goes (cold, cold, clouds, rain, cold, clouds, rain) but to have the pollen come out and slap you upside the head until the first hard frost comes is really too much to bear. All I can say is that the pharmaceutical companies are having at happy dance at my expense.

Anyway…today was the day that Arlene hosted the Ladies’ Lunch and I really wanted to make up for what I considered to be my lousy entry when Vicki hosted the group. We don’t always meet at each other’s home but Arlene and her husband had just moved to a new apartment and last year Vicki wanted to show off her old home (she has since moved) and so there it is. Of course, I’ll be hosting the next one in October and after that I say it’s time to make reservations instead of recipes.

Even though I pulled this cookbook off the shelf some time ago, I was still undecided on what to make right up until liftoff. In the running was an Amaretto Cheesecake but it just took too long to make so brownies it was!

This is one ridiculously simple recipe but very chewy and moist and chocolaty…or so I’m told.

Dark Chocolate Chewy Brownies – makes 12-18 servings

1 cup (1/2 lb – or two sticks) butter or margarine, cut into chunks
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate
2 2/3 cups sugar
4 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup slivered almonds or chopped walnuts

Combine butter and chocolate into a 3-4 to 4-quart pan and place over low heat. When ingredients begin to soften, stir until blended; remove from heat. Add sugar, eggs, and vanilla; beat with an electric mixer until smooth. Blend in flour. Spread in a greased 9- by 13-inch baking pan; sprinkle with nuts.

Bake in a 350 oven just until edges feel firm and center springs back when gently pressed (25 to 30 minutes). Let cool in pan on a wire rack. Cut into bars. (Note: when I say I waited until nearly liftoff, I meant it: These bars were pretty darned warm when I cut into them to take them to Arlene’s. The pan wasn’t necessarily pretty but the taste was great…or so I’m told).