Saturday, November 12, 2011

"Favorite Recipes Presents: Medley of Meats - A Cookbook with a Musical Flair" - Drummer's Dumplings and Round Steak (for 11-11-11 & Spinal Tap)

Date I made this recipe: November 11, 2011 (11-11-11)

Favorite Recipes® Presents: Medley of MEATS – A Cookbook with A Musical Flair by Mary Jane Blount (Editor) and Nicky Beaulieu (Project Manager)
Published by: Favorite Recipe Press
© 1977
Recipe: Drummer’s Dumplings and Round Steak – p. 30

So yes, today is Veteran’s Day and I salute all those who have served and are currently serving our country. But since I’ve previously observed Veteran’s Day in this blog, it’s time to move so that we may pay homage to Nigel Tufnel, the daffiest “rock star” ever born.

Who is Nigel Tufnel, you ask? Well kiddies, Nigel (as played by actor Christopher Guest) was the “star” of the 1984 movie, This is Spinal Tap. And Nigel had a thing about the number 11, specifically as it related to amplifiers.

The plot of This is Spinal Tap, centers around a documentary/rockumentary film maker Marty DiBergi, played by actor Rob Reiner, who is following the comeback of a British rock band, Spinal Tap, as they tour America. Band mates Nigel Tufnel, David St. Hubbins, played by Michael McKean, and Derek Smalls, played by Harry Shearer, are more than happy to share their insights and musical talents with Marty. And guest stars Fran Drescher and Paul Schaffer (among others) just add to the fun and frivolity.

All these rock stars are a little bit off their nut, but none more so than Nigel. In the most hilarious scene in the movie (next to "Stonehedge"), Nigel explains to Marty how their amplifiers (as opposed to other band’s amplifiers) “go to 11.”

Nigel: “If you can see, the numbers all go to 11. Look right across the board – 11, 11, 11….”

Marty: “Amps go up to 10. Does that mean it’s louder? Is it any louder?”

Nigel: “Well, it’s one louder, isn’t it? It’s not 10…”

Marty: “Why don’t you make 10 louder and make 10 be the top number?”

Nigel stops chawing his gum for about a nanosecond, contemplates the request but then responds with “These go to 11.”

Reader, I’m telling you, every time I see the scene, I just die laughing. And you know right away if someone has seen the movie because anytime someone mentions something like “On a scale of 1-10…,” a fan always responds with “These go to 11.” And you either get it or you don’t. (And if you don’t, then you need to see the movie. Right now!)

Also paying homage to Nigel on 11-11-11 was my favorite local radio station, The Current. All day long, they played music celebrating Spinal Tap and Nigel and Nigel’s infamous 11-11-11. In fact, as early as Monday, they started reminding listeners to tune in to be part of the celebration. I love this station. (And a big shout out to DJ Mary Lucia who just rocked the afternoon for me with her playlist. I about head banged myself out of my car a few times on my way to and from the grocery store.)

My husband gets credit for reminding me way early on in the year about the significance of 11-11-11 but finding a cookbook to go with a Spinal Tap-theme was darned difficult. I looked through the few British cookbooks that I had and didn’t really find anything that spoke to me so that was disappointing (By the way, you have no idea how popular the fish, haddock, is to the British population until you’ve looked at a couple of British cookbooks. It seemed like every other recipe contained haddock. But alas, folks, I don’t “do” fish so I had to find something else.)

This left only one book that is musical in nature - Favorite Recipes® Presents: Medley of MEATS, A Cookbook with a Musical Flair – which I had not yet used for my blog. Let me assure you folks that this book was most certainly not intended to pay homage to a rock group as all the artwork inside is of marching band members, pom pom girls and majorettes. (The artwork is from the 70’s and it is hilarious) Okay, actually, there is a drawing of what appears to be a blue grass band on p. 6 and to me, that’s close enough. I did a lot better with today’s recipe: Drummer’s Dumplings and Round Steak; sure guitars are okay, but you need someone to set the beat, am I right?

I often run recipes by my husband to see what floats his boat and he selected this recipe despite the requirement of three cans of soup. “You do realize it will be very salty, right?” I asked. “Well, just buy low-sodium soup.”

I’m here to tell you folks, that I found plenty of no-fat or low-fat canned soups but I could not find, despite the enormous selection available to me, low-sodium soup. So I’m just warning you right now that this dish may make you feel like you’re eating a salt lick. I didn’t notice it so much but I did try to limit my recipe intake just to be on the safe side.

And on a scale of 1-10 for a recipe, I’d say this went to 11. It was tasty, not too salty and filling. About the only thing I’d add were I to make this over again, would be carrots and maybe potatoes to make it more like a stew. And while I’m not a fan of canned vegetables, there’s something about canned peas that just makes me happy.

So go ahead, crank your radio up to 11 and get going. And happy 11-11-11, Nigel!

Drummer’s Dumplings and Round Steak - serving size not indicated
1 2-lb round steak, cubed (I substituted beef stew meat)
1 chopped onion
1 bay leaf
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 can onion soup (I used Campbell’s French onion soup)
1 can cream of celery soup
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 4-oz can mushrooms, drained
1 1/3 c. flour (1/3 for the “stew,” and 1 cup for the dumplings)
1 No. 3 can green peas, drained (*see Note below)
1 egg
1/3 c. milk
2 tbsp oil
1 ½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt (I had to ponder this one for a moment as the soups provided an off-the-charts amount)
Dash of sage (optional—I used it)
2 tbsp minced fresh parsley

*Note: I know I have old community and church cookbooks that explain how many ounces are in a No. 3 (or 2 or 4) can, but rather than look through them, I thought I’d use the internet. To my surprise, there were only about three links that discussed how much was in a can. The best I could come up with was 33 ounces or 4 cups. Well, that’s a lot of peas, people. I decided to use two 15-oz cans and we were swimming in peas. I bet you could get away with just one can if you wanted.

Place steak cubes in a 9 x 9-inch casserole. Combine onion, bay leaf, soups, Worcestershire sauce, mushrooms and 1/3 cup flour. Pour the soup mixture over steak cubes; cover. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 2 hours. Stir well; add peas.

Beat egg, milk and oil together until blended. Sift remaining 1 cup flour, baking powder, salt and sage together. Stir into egg mixture until moistened. Fold in parsley. Drop batter by spoonfuls over casserole; cover. Bake at 400 degrees for 25 minutes longer or until dumplings are done.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

"Larousse Gastronomique" & "As Always, Julia" & "The Hour" - Chicken Sautee a la Bourguignonne

Date I made this recipe: November 6, 2011

Larousse Gastronomique – The Encyclopedia of Food, Wine & Cookery by Prosper Montagne - Introduction by A. Escoffier and PH. Gilbert; Edited by Charlotte Turgeon and Nina Froud (The First American Edition)
Published by: Crown Publishers, Inc.
© 1961
Recipe: Chicken saut̩ a la bourguignonne or matelote Рp. 262

Additional reading:
As Always, Julia – The Letters of Julia Child & Avis DeVoto – edited by Joan Reardon
Published by: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
ISBN: 978-0-547-41771-4
No recipe

The Hour by Bernard DeVoto
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company
© 1948, 1949, 1951
No recipe

Were it not for Julia Child, I would likely not have pulled Larousse Gastronomique off the shelf any time soon, especially since it weighs a ton and sits on my highest bookshelf, such that I need to stand on a chair to reach it. That would have been a shame because it’s a fun book to peruse.

So how did I come to cook from this book? Well, it was all because “Larousse” was mentioned in a very entertaining read, As Always, Julia.

In 1951, Julia Child was residing in Paris with her husband, Paul Child when she read an article about kitchen knifes published in Harper’s Magazine, written by Bernard DeVoto. When Julia wrote a fan letter to Bernard, his wife, Avis, answered. Bernard was a very busy writer and often left correspondence to Avis.

When Avis responded on behalf of Bernard, it triggered a correspondence between the women that lasted until Avis’ death in 1989.

Besides becoming a good friend of Julia’s, Avis championed Julia Child’s soon-to-be masterpiece, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. When Houghton Mifflin dropped the ball on the manuscript, Avis, who worked in publishing, brought the book to the attention of Alfred A. Knopf publishing and the rest as they say is history (or “l’histoire” if you’re French).

I have to tell you that reading the correspondence between these two ladies during this tense time of “will they/won’t they publish this?” was riveting. Without Avis, I doubt this book would have been published. Avis was also instrumental in securing Judith Jones, then an up-and-coming editor to review and test the recipes. Judith has gone on to achieve fame in her own right, and I enjoyed her recently published The Pleasures of Cooking for One. I tell you what, between these three women, they propelled home cooking and French cooking and really, all kinds of cooking, to the forefront and never looked back. They are my heroes.

A hero of a different nature though, is Avis’ husband, Bernard, who wrote the article that triggered the eventual publishing of Julia’s book. Bernard already had quite the name for himself but his book, The Hour, a book about the cocktail hour, cemented his friendship with Paul Child forever. And wouldn’t you know I happen to have that book on my bookshelf as well. (And who knew that one day I’d be able to tie all these books together?!)

Neither the As Always, Julia book nor The Hour have recipes per se but Bernard talks a lot about my favorite drink, the martini:

“There are only two cocktails. One can be described straightforwardly. It is a slug of whiskey and it is an honest drink…With the other cocktail we reach a fine and noble art, and we reach too the wars over the gospel that have parted brothers, wrecked marriages, and made enemies of friends.”

He goes on to talk about there is a misconception that women cannot make a good martini: “For instance there is a widespread notion that women cannot make martinis, just as some islanders believe that they can cast an evil spell on the tribal fishnets. This is a vagrant item of male egotism: the art of the martini is not a sex-linked character. Of men and women alike it requires only intelligence and care—oh, perhaps some additional inborn spiritual fineness…”

For the record, my dad taught me how to make martinis and was always impressed when I made them even better than he did. So what Bernard says is true: women rock the cocktail world.

Bernard totally wins me over though, when he talks about other drinks that while popular, are not cocktails. And he makes it clear as clear can be that “A martini, I repeat, is made of gin and vermouth. Dry vermouth.” Amen to that! He scoffs at Gibsons (p. 39), a drink made of gin and an olive and on p. 61 gives us all a worthwhile reminder: “Remember always that the three abominations are: (1) rum, (2) any other sweet drink, and (3) any mixed drink except one made of gin and dry vermouth in the ratio I have given.

I could wax on about this book but I do need to get to the recipe at some point (And no, I haven’t forgotten) but I tell you what, you need to read Bernard’s book. It starts slowly but after 30 odd pages, he just nails the art of the cocktail. And he’s funny in a dry whit sort of way-kind of like my martinis!

So anyway, okay, back to earth and to today’s recipe.

When Avis asked Julia for some casserole recipes with a French flair, Julia initially responded that she couldn’t think of any but then went on to say that she found some in “Larousse.” And that prompted me to pull the book from the shelf and see if I couldn’t find the recipes. Well—between the first and last copyrights, some pages must have changed or the version changed because the page numbers that Julia cited were not the pages with the recipes. So shoot.

But actually, that was all okay because Larousse Gastronomique is an encyclopedia (I had forgotten) and it was a blast to look through the recipes and definitions and whatnot, all from A-Z. There were food I had never heard of, photos and maps and all kinds of diagrams regarding food and utensils and everything in between.

Seeing as how Julia recommended some chicken casserole recipes to Avis, I was bent on finding one that worked (and let’s face it, making a calves’ head meal or something with eel was just not going to happen). And people, you have no idea what a challenge that was.

For starters, there are about 25 pages of chicken recipes. Each recipe is about a paragraph long, and unfortunately for me (and for you), the “main” chicken recipe isn’t so much a recipe as a description and you have to go back to the beginning of the chicken section to find it. And then it offered up no clues whatsoever, not to cooking time, not to chicken size. Nothing.

So then I read through all the little recipes but eliminated a good portion of them because they required that I make an additional sauce of some sort like tomato sauce or brown gravy. And just like the chicken recipe itself, the sauce recipes weren’t any clearer so I ditched those recipes tout de suite

This left with me tonight’s chicken dish. And so my hubby and I went to the grocery store where we reenacted a scene from one of my favorite episodes from I Love Lucy where Lucy’s mother is coming to LA for a visit but she doesn’t reveal any details in the telegram she sent (which was addressed to Micky Micado. Lucy’s mother did not like Ricky.)

Lucy: “Well, at least she wrote us a wire and told us she’s arriving at 9:30.”
Ricky: “Hooray for mother. AM or PM?”
Lucy: “She doesn’t say.”
Ricky: “What day?”
Lucy: “She doesn’t say.”
Ricky: “What airline?”
Lucy: “She doesn’t say.”
Ricky: “What happened to that woman’s brain?”
Lucy: “She doesn’t say.”
(From: I Love Lucy, California Here We Come episodes, The Hedda Hopper Story. Thanks to for providing the dialogue.)

Anyway, so Andy and I went to the grocery store:

Andy: “So what size chicken do you need?”
Me: “It doesn’t say.”
Andy: “Well, does it need to be boneless or not?”
Me: “It doesn’t say.”
Andy: “Well, do we need a whole chicken?”
Me: “It doesn’t say.”
Andy: “Well how long do you cook it for?”
Me: “It doesn’t say.”

So I bought a couple pounds of chicken breasts with ribs, hoped for the best and commenced firing:

Step 1 – “Fry in butter 4 slices bacon…” Okay—how much butter? It didn’t say. So I used about 4-5 tablespoons and that seemed to work. And then you add blanched onions and raw mushrooms. So far, I managed that just fine.

Step 2 – “Drain this mixture and brown quickly in the same fat a chicken cut into pieces in the ‘ordinary way.’” Okay – define “ordinary way” because it sounds like we’re talking about a whole chicken cut up into parts although again, it doesn’t say.

Step 3 - “When the chicken is half-cooked…” Okay, stop right there. How would I know when the chicken is “half-cooked?” Because like everything else with this recipe it doesn’t say!! So for this portion of our program, I thought about a chicken recipe I made really early on for this blog where you put the chicken in a pot, (no oil or butter required, just the chicken) covered it and cooked it on high heat for about 45 minutes. So I went that route and the chicken was perfectly tender. Score one for me!

Step 4 – “Take the chicken out and garnish. Dilute the juices in the pan with 1 cup of red wine, boil down to half and thicken with a tablespoon of butter worked together with flour. Strain.”

Here’s where the thing almost derailed: there just weren’t juices left to dilute in the pan and so I added butter…and then more butter…and then more butter. And then after cooking down the red wine (and butter), I added the tablespoon of butter and flour (At last, we have a measurement) but didn’t know how much flour to add to the butter. I ended up using about a teaspoon of flour to one tablespoon of butter.

Well. The butter/flour mixture sat like a blob in the pan so I had to whisk it to get the huge lumps out and then I tasted it and “yech.” And I mean “yech.” It was so sour I almost spit it out. So to save it, I added sugar in small increments until it wasn’t so awful. (Well, it awful but infinitely more edible).

In the end, the chicken was good, the onion/bacon/mushroom mixture was good, but the gravy was forgettable. Next time around, I’d either add the wine straight to the chicken or I’d drink it and call it a day. If I were you, I’d lean heavily toward drinking! (And throw in a martini to boot, compliments of Bernard DeVoto!)

I served this chicken with wide noodles and green beans. As to what side dishes Larousse recommends well…it doesn’t say.

Chicken sauté a la bourguignonne or matelote – serving size…it doesn’t say
4 slices bacon
12 small onions (pearl onions)
12 small raw mushrooms
1 cup red wine

Fry in butter 4 slices of lean bacon cut in a big dice and blanched. Add 12 small onions, blanched; cook till golden and add 12 small raw mushrooms. (A note about blanching: to blanch means that you cook items for a very short time period in boiling water and then you place the items in a cold water bath to stop the cooking. I couldn’t really find a definitive time to blanch items on the internet so I went with about a minute. My guess it was probably less but since it didn’t say….

Drain this mixture and brown quickly in the same fat a chicken cut into pieces in the ordinary way. When the chicken is half-cooked, put the garnish back in the pan, cover and cook for 15 minutes.

Take out chicken and garnish. Dilute the juices in the pan with 1 cup of red wine, boil down to half and thicken with a tablespoon of butter worked together with flour. Strain.

Set the chicken on a dish, surrounded with its garnish and pour the sauce over it.