Tuesday, August 30, 2011

"It's a Picnic!" & "Summertime Food" - Barbecued Frankfurters and Black Beans with Anchos

Date I made these recipes: August 29, 2011

It’s A Picnic! by Nancy Fair McIntyre
Published by: Gramercy Publishing Company
© 1969
Recipe: Barbecued Hot Dogs – p. 8

Summertime Food by Miriam Ungerer
Published by: Random House
© 1966, 1989
Recipe: Black Beans with Anchos – p. 215

This week is State Fair week here in Minnesota and if my friend, Dan, is correct (and I think he is), then temperatures will drop on or around Labor Day, heralding the (unofficial) start of fall in Minnesota.

When I whined last year about how the temperatures were 100 degrees one day and then 70 the next, Dan pointed out this weather phenomena to me. I wasn’t quite convinced until this year when sure enough, in a span of a few days, we’ve gone from 86 and humid to today’s balmy temperature of 69. I.am.freezing.

This (low temperature) weather makes me ornery. Really, really ornery! And sad because I love summer and hate to see the end of hot weather, a great tan, being outdoors (in an urban setting, of course!) and summertime food. Not that there’s a timer on when one should stop making summer salads and barbecues, but my friends, our days seem to be numbered.

And so this is why, in an effort to keep the dream alive, I made these two summertime foods. Sure, I still have Labor Day left but we could have snow by then and I don’t want to take any chances.

I am happy to report that the barbecued franks were pretty tasty albeit a little salty for my taste. Could have been the hot dog or it could have been the ingredients, I don’t know. Sadly, I can’t recall the last time I had a hot dog—last year maybe? This makes me feel so, well, un-American all of a sudden! Must fix that.

As to the beans, well, I am unhappy to report that they were a complete failure. Not a minor failure, a complete bomb. And I’m scratching my head to understand why.

My husband pointed out that for whatever reason I’ve never had good luck with black beans. Whether it’s because they are hardier than other beans or not, I don’t know. What I do know is that I followed the directions to the letter – and then some – and they were still inedible.

As directed, I soaked the beans overnight. Actually, it was more like a night and a half. And then I cooked the beans and celery for an hour and then added the rest of the ingredients and cooked for two more hours. And…nothing. So I kept them on the stove longer, adding water so they wouldn’t burn and still nothing. So I put them in the microwave at various intervals, adding water again so they wouldn’t burn and nothing. Nothing plus nothing plus nothing equals nothing.

Finally after what seemed a bazillion hours after I started, I pulled over the garbage can and dumped the beans into the waste basket. Good thing I made only half a recipe as I hate to waste food but not only were the beans not done but there wasn’t any flavor to the beans.

I remain mystified.

And so, dear reader, we had hot dogs for dinner and that was that.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to find my long underwear.

Barbecued Hot Dogs – serving size not noted although hint, you will use 6 frankfurters!
6 frankfurters
¼ cup chopped onions
2 Tbsp salad oil
2 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp dry mustard
½ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
1 tsp paprika
6 Tbsp chili sauce
6 Tbsp water
3 Tbsp vinegar
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
Dash Tabasco

Saute the onions in the salad oil. (Ann’s note – I think 2 Tbsp oil is too much for a ¼ cup of onions but that’s just me.) Add all the rest of the ingredients and simmer for 15 minutes. Score the frankfurters and marinate them in the sauce a couple of hours.

Black Beans with Anchos – serves 6 to 8
1 pound dried black (turtle) beans
2 dried ancho chili peppers (Ann’s note: dried anchos are really dried poblanos. If you don’t see anchos in the grocery store, but do see poblanos, use that as a substitute.)
1 or 2 stalks celery
3 small strips smoked country bacon (also known as “speck”)
1 cup mined onion
2 or 3 cloves garlic, minced
Salt to taste
Coarsely ground black pepper to taste

Pick over, rinse, and soak the beans in cold water to cover overnight. (Or bring to a boil, simmer one minute, turn off heat, and let soak for 1 hour before proceeding.) Drain.

Wash the anchos, split them and discard the stems and seeds. Pour on just enough boiling water to cover them, weight them under it, and leave to soak for an hour. Then puree them along with their soaking water.

Cover the beans and celery with fresh water, bring to a boil, and let simmer for 1 hour. Do NOT add salt. Add the bacon. Saute the onion and garlic in a little oil and add them to the beans along with salt and coarsely ground pepper to taste.

Continue to simmer the beans until tender, which usually takes about 2 hours, sometimes less. (Ann’s note: Ha! Liar, liar, pants on fire!) It’s a good idea to bake them for the latter hour because they’ll be less apt to stick. Black beans should be a little soupy; the juice cooks to a dark, thick pot liquor treasured by most bean fanciers.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

"Honorable Hibachi" & "The All-Color Cookbook"- Barbecued Chicken and an American Salad

Date I made these recipes: August 21, 2011

Honorable Hibachi by Kathryn Popper
Published by: Simon and Schuster
© 1965
Recipe: Barbecued Chicken – p. 123-124

The All-Color Cookbook – illustrated in full color – Edited by Eileen Turner
Published by: Octopus Books Limited, London
Recipe: American Salad – p. 22

Some people are very good at taking what seem to be disparate ingredients and turning them into an outstanding dish. (In fact, to see that in action, watch Food Network’s Chopped). I am not one of these people. But I am pretty good at tying together cookbooks and recipes that don’t seem like they work into an overall-themed dinner. Like tonight’s dinner. I will tie these two items together, just wait for it.

So first we are going to talk about hibachi grills and then we are going to switch gears to talk about a salad that I think is perfect for tonight’s The Glee Project finale.

Now, I can’t honestly say I’ve seen too many hibachis in modern-day cooking stores, but when I was a kid, this is the only grill we used in my household and my dad was famous for his hibachi barbecued chicken. So it was a no-brainer for me to make the Barbecued Chicken recipe from this book.

No doubt my dad got his inspiration to use the grill after spending time in Japan in WWII, first on Iwo Jima and later on Okinawa. Given how Japanese houses don’t have a lot of space, this thing is the ticket.

To me, the most fabulous feature about this grill, though, was its portability. It weighs about as much as a beverage cooler and that’s how our hibachi logged endless miles to a beach just down the hill from my house. We should have put an odometer on that thing as there was hardly a summer’s day that we didn’t go down to Sand Point Beach to have a picnic.

Once at the beach, Dad would fire up the little grill, mom would pull out a thermos of ice-cold lemonade and life was good.

At home, dad usually cooked on Sunday and he’d set the hibachi up on the step nearest our back door and cook away, slathering the chicken with his version of “doctored-up” BBQ sauce. Yum-my!

So when I found this book at an estate sale last year, I snapped it up, thinking that I might make something for dad out of this book as he would surely get a kick out of it. Alas, he died before I could do that and so today’s recipe is in his honor. I actually have my dad’s BBQ sauce recipe in my family cookbook but this one worked out just as well.

As to my The Glee Project tie-in, I will proudly admit that I was in Glee club in school (in actuality, it was a class rather than an extra-curricular activity). It was an all-girls glee club – guys did not join glee clubs back then - and we most certainly did not do anything close to show-choir performances made famous on the TV show, Glee. And maybe this was a good thing?

At any rate, I was also in an after-school group called Music Makers, and one December, both groups performed in a holiday concert along with the junior and senior high band and my dad came to see the production.

So I’m standing next to Florence (Flo) who was just a panic and we sang this song involving roses. (I don’t recall that we ever sang holiday music for the holiday concert—go figure). And during rehearsals, our instructor wanted us to over-enunciate the word “roses” to make it stand out more. And of course, Flo and I overdid the entire thing, causing everyone to laugh, including our instructor.

Anyway, we’re singing away, nailing every song we sing and we then came to the “roses” song and both Flo and I struggled to keep it together during this piece. And we made, it, just barely, and there was much rejoicing. But I could see my dad trying to keep from laughing as well (he sat up front) and afterwards he congratulated us for pulling it off. By the way, dad was no slouch in the singing department, either. In high school, he played Captain Corcoran in a production of the H.M.S. Pinafore and in college he was in the mixed chorus at Michigan State University.

And so anyway, not only am I a fan of Glee (well, this season was a little wonky but still fun) but also the new hit show that aired this summer on the Oxygen Network, The Glee Project, where contestants vie to land a seven-arc spot on Glee.

When I came up with this convoluted idea to make two disparate recipes for one themed meal, it was with the knowledge that I had The All-Color Cookbook in my collection. What cracks me up is this book was so named because all the photos in the book were in color. Well there’s an idea. At any rate, in my mind All-Color = True Colors = a song performed by both New Directions on Glee, and most recently by the contestants in The Glee Project. And since the finale of the show was yesterday, I decided this colorful salad would be the perfect accompaniment to my dad’s memorial hibachi chicken. And it was!

And that’s how I tied the Honorable Hibachi cookbook and my dad to The Glee Project, True Colors and The All-Color Cookbook. Ta da! “Hello? Ryan Murphy…?”

Before I get to the recipes, I have a few notes to pass on to you. First, in the interest of true confessions (not to be confused with True Colors), I have to admit I don’t own a hibachi and the one my father used is sadly long gone. But we made do with a gas grill and then just to make sure the chicken was done, we microwaved it for a couple of minutes. (To my father’s chagrin, when my mother was on chicken detail, she always overcooked the chicken, not wanting us all to die from salmonella poisoning.) I thought about making enough BBQ sauce to put on the chicken after the fact but didn’t but if I made this recipe again (and I would), I would reverse that decision.

As to the salad, it was pretty colorful as written but I decided it had too much red (peppers and tomatoes) and so cooked some carrots and threw those in.

Barbecued Chicken – serves 8 (Note: allow 2-3 hours to marinate the chicken)
1, 3-pound broiler-fryer, cut into 8 pieces
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup lime or lemon juice
1 tsp grated lime rind
½ clove pressed garlic
1 tsp chili powder
½ tsp salt
3 drops Tabasco sauce
1 small onion, grated (Has anybody figured out how to grate an onion without making a supreme mess because I sure haven’t.)
¼ tsp black pepper
3 Tbsps catsup

Mix marinade ingredients well and pour over chicken pieces in a non-metal bowl. Cover and refrigerate for 2 to 3 hours, turning pieces occasionally. (Oops. I guess I forgot that part!) Remove bowl to room temperature ½ hour before cooking. (And apparently forgot this step as well—not that it mattered).

To use a hibachi: oil hibachi grill and adjust to highest level over high bed of glowing coals. Drain excess marinade from chicken pieces and place them on grill. Baste often with marinade and turn frequently to brown evenly. Grill until tender and thoroughly cooked. This will take from 30 to 45 minutes, depending on size and tenderness of chicken and variation in bed of coals. As coals burn down, adjust grill to lower level.

To use a gas grill: We skipped all of the above and grilled the chicken for about 30 minutes (despite the fact that the breasts were gargantuan) and then microwaved them for about 4 minutes to make sure they were cooked through.

American Salad – serves 4 (a/k/a True Colors Salad)
(Note: since this book was published in England, they listed both Metric/Imperial and American measurements. Nice touch.)
1 cup cooked sliced green beans
½ cup cooked or canned and drained sweet corn (Note: I used two cobs of fresh sweet corn, took off the kernels and boiled the kernels for about a minute. Fabulous!)
½ red pepper, diced
½ cup sliced raw mushrooms
2 tomatoes, sliced
½ cup cooked sliced carrots (my addition)
French dressing
1 small onion, if desired, for garnish
Black olives, if desired, for garnish

Ann’s Note: I had a friend over for dinner and since I wasn’t sure she would like raw onions, I thinly sliced the onions and boiled them for about 2 minutes. The flavor wasn’t as strong as a raw onion and they still kept their crunch.

Mix all the ingredients in a dish and toss in the French dressing. Garnish with black olives and thin slices of raw onions. Serve with cold chicken (or in my case, hot chicken) or turkey.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

"Cookin' with Coolio" - Sweet Chocolate Potato Pie

Date I made this recipe: August 5, 2011

Cookin’ with Coolio – 5 Star Meals at a 1 Star Price by Coolio, The Ghetto Gourmet
Published by: Simon and Shuster/Atria Paperback
ISBN: 978-1-4391-1761-3

Recipe: Sweet Chocolate Potato Pie – p. 186-187

So Monday was Coolio’s birthday. Y’all know Coolio, right? He’s a gansta! Actually, he’s a gansta, hip hop and G-funk artist who was born Artis Leon Ivey, Jr. on August 1, 1963.

If you’ve seen the movie, Clueless, (and why wouldn’t you – it’s cute!) then you’ll know Coolio from the soundtrack song, Rollin’ with My Homies. He’s perhaps better known for his breakout hit, Gangsta’s Paradise. Oh yeah, I keep up.

At any rate, so there I was, checking out cookbooks at Borders one day, and holy cow, who knew Coolio wrote a cookbook? So I had to have it figuring it would come in handy one day and sure enough, this Monday I read that it was his birthday and so “Way to use that cookbook for your blog, Ann!”

Now I am no prude, but I could not, in good conscience, make some of the recipes because reprinting them would have caused my eyes, and yours, to burn out. Let’s just say this book is definitely full of gangsta language. Um, lots of it.

So by default, I baked Coolio a pie (instead of a cake) for his birthday as it was about the cleanest one I could reproduce for public viewing. (That being said, his book is a hoot.) And I was intrigued by the sweet potato and chocolate combination so there it is. There’s always a reason I choose a recipe.

Sadly, I can’t say the pie did much for me and part of it could be due to operator error. For whatever reason (perhaps it was the high humidity the day I made it), the pie filling just didn’t seem right. Not that I’ve ever made a sweet potato pie, but I guess I was expecting a dense filling and instead it was kind of runny. And the butter didn’t really incorporate into the filling, either and that was a puzzlement.

But I baked it anyway, hoping for the best, but in the end, I just couldn’t taste the chocolate. And chocolate was the main ingredient that tripped this cook’s trigger enough to make it. Instead, the spices were almost overwhelming. Still, we’re eating it so it’s not like it was a total waste but I really wanted to nail this sucka for Coolio for his B-Day, you know what I’m sayin’?

So maybe you all can play around with it and see if you get better results. Or maybe wait until Christmas dinner when Coolio intended it to be served. Cooler weather (okay, in these parts, really cooler weather) might just help the filling set up better.

Sweet Chocolate Potato Pie - serves 8-10
One 1-pound sweet potato
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup chocolate milk
2 eggs
1 dime bag ground nutmeg*
1 dime bag ground cinnamon*
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
One 9-inch pie crust, unbaked (Note: I’ve never used these before and was annoyed to find that they come in packs of two. I didn’t want two, I only wanted one! So now I need to find another pie to bake…eventually. And sure, you can argue that at least I'm prepared for the next pie but that's not the point!).

*Dime bags – street slang for the dollar amount of drugs one is buying. As an example, pot used to come in nickel bags ($5 a bag) or dime bags ($10 a bag). Not that I have any experience with this stuff but I did go to college in the 70’s so….For your purposes, Coolio explains that a dime bag or “dahym bag” is a tablespoon. After making this pie, I’d say use a tablespoon if you really want a spicy pie (like pumpkin only with sweet potatoes) and use less if you want less spice. I could have used even less and been fine.

Boil the sweet potato(s) whole for 40-50 minutes, or until done. Don’t undress its sexy sweetness, so make sure to keep it in its skin.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Run cold water over the sweet potato, then slowly and seductively remove the skin.

Now, break apart the sweet potato into a bowl. Knead it slowly, gently, like you’re making love to this hot potato. (I can assure you my mother would not have reprinted this last instruction! And quite possibly never made this pie but that’s another story for another day.)

Add the butter and mix well with a hand mixer.

Stir in both sugars, the chocolate milk, eggs, nutmeg, cinnamon, and vanilla extract. Beat on medium speed until the mixture is smooth.

Once you’ve beaten that mixture (“into submission,” adds Coolio), pour it into your unbaked pie crust.

Bake for 55 to 60 minutes.

Make sure you don’t get too excited and serve your pie too soon. Let it chill out for 10 minutes, then serve it up.