Wednesday, February 29, 2012

"Piggly Wiggly Daily Health Menu" - American Chop Suey

Date I made this recipe: February 26, 2012

Piggly Wiggly Daily Health Menus by Arthur Leslie Wyman, M.C.A.
Published by: Wyman Food Service
© 1927
Recipe: American Chop Suey – p. 373

The last few weeks have been all about competitions, from movies to singing to grocery bagging - yup, grocery bagging.

I was all set to torture myself trying to find something to make for the Academy Awards when James Lileks, columnist for the StarTribune, (Minneapolis newspaper) found it for me. What a guy!

Lileks, also the author of The Gallery of Regrettable Food, writes a hilarious column in the “Strib,” and on February 17, he reported that we have a new national (grocery) bagging champion, one Stephanie Teteak from a Piggly Wiggly in Appleton, WI. (Congratulations, Stephanie!)

Before I go any further, let me say this about that: my husband remains proud of his teen-year’s service as a grocery bagger at a local grocery store. Late-night host,David Letterman, also a proud grocery bagger, annually features the winner of this prestigious contest. This honor is not to be scoffed at; bagging is hard work! (And not to brag but meet me sometime at the Rainbow Grocery store at Midway where I will impress you with my own bagging skills – self taught!)

Sure, in this year’s Oscar race, you had Meryl Streep v. Viola Davis and George Clooney v. Jean Dujardin (The Artist) but these are rank amateurs compared to grocery baggers, am I right, or am I right?

So when James did me the favor of talking about grocery baggers, I promptly threw all other Oscar night recipe hopefuls aside and went straight for my Piggly Wiggly cookbook. I am nothing if not prepared for these occasions.

You wouldn’t think it by looking at this book but it is huge in terms of the number of recipes listed. The author provides a breakfast, lunch and dinner menu for each day of the year and on average lists seven recipes for each day. That’s a lot of cooking, folks!

As you might imagine, it took me a while to go through this book to find something to serve. And to my surprise, I found that while many recipes seemed sorely lacking in spices, there was almost an overload of recipes featuring curry. Maybe it’s just me but I didn’t think curry was used much in 1927 cooking. I learn something new every day.

Speaking of learning, and before I get to more about the Piggly Wiggly cookbook, this past Saturday, a friend and I went to a Show Choir Competition – my first one ever – and boy did I learn a lot! (Why we went to a show choir competition is neither here nor there and is a story best told over cocktails!) This thing was nothing like the glee club competitions I was in while in high school; we were sorely lacking in costumes, dancing (and prancing), elaborate sets and men! I realize that times have changed but even the TV show, Glee, did not prepare me for what I observed, and that is that costumes have gotten pretty skimpy over the years. In fact, I almost had a retina-burning moment when some Catholic school girls dressed in an outfit that I can only describe as “Project Runway – Street Walker’s Edition.” I mean, Holy Mother of God – bright red, plastic (made to look like leather), skimpy and form-fitting? Across America, nuns are turning over in their graves!

At any rate, the competition was…enlightening…and I want to shout out to my favorite school group of the day – Southside Sensation – from South St. Paul High School in South St. Paul, MN. Although they didn’t place in the competition, they were the first group that made me sit up and take notice. And as an aside, ladies of Southside Sensation, may I just thank you profusely for NOT curling your hair? I’d had quite enough of the “Irish” hair experience by the end of the day, thank you very much.

Okay, back to Piggly Wiggly and James Lileks and grocery bagging competitions and recipes…after hours of serious review and contemplation, I selected the American Chop Suey recipe featured today. I warned my husband that this may be a letdown because the ingredients were skimpy and hardly anything to write home to mother about—pork, onion, celery, soy sauce and molasses. But you know what? This turned out to be pretty tasty and provided me with a nostalgic moment of ordering something similar to this dish when I first started getting Chinese take-out. Maybe Grauman’s Chinese Theatre-style take out (to tie it in with the Oscars, don’t you know)?

By the way, to bring the entire theme full circle, I just read an article in a local business magazine about Minnesota’s own, Jeno Paulucci, who made a fortune from selling brand-name foods such as Jeno’s Pizza Rolls and, wait for it, Chun King Chinese food. Coincidence? I think not! (Okay, one other factoid and then I’m done – one of the teams competing in the show choir competition was Totino-Grace High School. This school was named, in part, after Jim and Rose Tortino who owned Totino’s frozen pizza, a favorite in these parts.)

Okay, who wants some grocery-bagging American Chop Suey?!

American Chop Suey – serving size not listed
2 pounds lean pork cut in a dice (these days, grocery stores feature “chop suey” meat that is all chopped and ready to go)
1 cup chopped onion
2 cups thinly sliced white celery (I used green seeing as how I’ve never heard of white celery)
2 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons soyu (soy) sauce
One cup hot meat stock or water
2 tablespoons molasses
Dried mushrooms soaked in water or one small can mushrooms (optional)

For the chop suey place in a saucepan two pounds of lean pork cut in dice and two tablespoons of butter; stir over a hot fire until the meat is browned; add two cups of thinly sliced white celery and one cup of chopped onions, stir and cook three minutes.

Add four tablespoons soyu sauce and one cup of hot meat stock or water; mix well, stir in two tablespoons of molasses and simmer slowly for one hour.

Just before removing from the fire add two cups of cooked noodles, heat and serve in a border of steamed rice. Dried mushrooms soaked in warm water and added at the time the meat stock is added are a nice addition.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

"LEAH CHASE: Listen, I Say Like This" - Chicken (and shrimp) Creole - Mardis Gras 2012

Date I made this recipe: February 21, 2012 – Mardi Gras

LEAH CHASE: Listen, I Say Like This by Carol Allen
Published by: Pelican Publishing Company
ISBN: 1-58980-048-6
Recipe: Chicken Creole – p. 62

Well, today is Fat Tuesday and that means it is Mardi Gras time again – time to let the good times roll! And it wouldn’t be Mardis Gras without a Creole recipe, right? And who better to advise on such matters than Leah Chase?

So who is Leah Chase, you ask? Well this fine New Orleans native, 89 years young, is now synonymous with New Orleans’ dining and Creole food. Leah’s husband’s family ran a small, family restaurant in New Orleans – Dooky Chase Restaurant – and after Leah married Edgar (Dooky) Chase II she started lending a hand (and her family recipes) to the business. Pretty soon, the restaurant earned a reputation as being one of the nation’s (and New Orleans’s) finest and most popular Creole restaurants. “Miss Chase” also had an affinity for African-American artists and their artwork now adorns the walls of her restaurant.

And then in 2005, Hurricane Katrina, roared through the Gulf Coast and life in the infamous 5th Ward where the restaurant is located would never be the same. Leah and her family spent over a year trying to get back into the restaurant and when she finally reopened, there was much rejoicing – seriously. There are sadly places in New Orleans that never recovered but happily Dooky Chase Restaurant is not one of them.

Leah’s book, which is more biography than cookbook, was published in 2002. I bought the book while in New York at Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks (book store) in 2005 and I’m racking my brain to figure out if that was before or after Katrina. Either way, it’s a spooky coincidence. I do know that I keep a notebook filled with the names of older cookbooks that I want to find and purchase and Leah’s book was on my list a long time before Hurricane Katrina hit. It’s an interesting read so don’t be put off by the fact that there are very few recipes. I’d like to believe she culled the best ones just for us!

This Chicken Creole (and shrimp) recipe yields six servings and I’d say that was six generous servings. But it was mighty tasty so what do I care if I’m eating it for a month? Fat Tuesday is only the start of Mardi Gras and I intend to enjoy it and this recipe to the fullest!

Chicken Creole (with shrimp) – serves 6

6 5-oz boneless and skinless chicken breasts
1 tbsp salt
½ tsp white pepper
¼ cup vegetable oil
1 cup onions, chopped
½ cup green peppers, chopped
2 cups whole tomatoes with liquid
2 cups water
2 cloves garlic, mashed and chopped
½ tsp ground thyme (or 2 sprigs fresh)
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
12 small whole okra
1 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 tbsp parsley, chopped

Season chicken with 1 teaspoon salt and the white pepper. In large skillet or chicken fryer, heat the vegetable oil. Place seasoned chicken in hot oil, turning as it cooks (about 6 minutes). Lower heat. Remove chicken and set aside.

Saute onions in skillet until they are clear. Add the green peppers; stir and cook for 3 or 4 minutes. Add whole tomatoes, mashing them as you stir them into the onion mixture. Add water, garlic, thyme, cayenne pepper and remaining salt. Let sauce cook on high heat for 4 minutes.

Lower heat; return chicken to sauce. Add okra and cook for 10 minutes until okra are just tender. Add shrimp; let cook until shrimp turn pink (about 5 minutes). Add parsley. Serve over buttered rice.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

"Cosmo Cookery" & "Fashionable Food" - French Chicken & White Chocolate Brownies - Valentine's Day

Date I made these recipes: February 13, 2012

Cosmo Cookery – Gourmet Meals from the First Drink to the Last Kiss by Helen Gurley Brown
Published by: Cosmopolitan Books
© 1971
Recipe: French Chicken (part of Dinner [Menu] Number 39 – p. 139-141

Fashionable Food – Seven Decades of Food Fads by Sylvia Lovegren
Published by: Macmillan
ISBN: 0-02-57505-9
Recipe: White Chocolate Brownies – p. 396-397 (from the 80’s)

And I thought I was being so smart…

Today, Tuesday, is Valentine’s Day but I am usually busy on Tuesday nights so I made these dishes the night before.

So wouldn’t you know, the very thing I am “busy” with on Tuesday, my community band rehearsal, was called off for tonight. Naturally, I found this out this morning. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, my husband usually goes out for dinner with his mother on Tuesday while I am at rehearsal. So I guess this last-minute change of my plans means leftovers in front of the TV while watching Glee? (All by myself). Happy Valentine’s Day!!

And in another “I thought I was being so smart moment,” I thought I locked and loaded on the perfect cookbook to use for a Valentine’s Day meal - Venus in the Kitchen. So a few weeks ago, I pulled out the book and ye gads, people. Call me crazy but I don’t think “eels” is an especially romantic dish – Valentine’s Day or no Valentine’s Day! It only got worse: "Sturgeon in Anchovy Sauce," Brains (never, never, never),Kidneys and whatnot. Even dessert didn’t impress: Marmalade of Carnations? I’m amazed I didn’t just throw the book out in the trash but what I did do was relegate it to the back of my “must cook from” list! With over 1,300 books in my collection, the odds of it seeing the light of day anytime soon are slim to none. And I plan to keep it that way!

And this is how Cosmo Cookery ended up substituting for Venus in the Kitchen, because if anyone knows about love…and sex (and sex AND sex)…it would be Cosmopolitan magazine! Cosmopolitan (“Cosmo” to those in the know) premiered in the late 60’s and set the “ladies” magazine world on its ear. My mother considered it far too racy for me to read and so I didn’t purchase an issue until I got to college. I mean talk about apples and oranges – my mother’s favorite magazines (Good Housekeeping, Ladies Home Journal) talked about housekeeping and tips for whitening your husband’s dress shirts and ways to save household money. Cosmo, on the other hand, got caught up in the women’s movement and talked about equality (bedroom and boardroom) and women’s careers and how to feel better about your body. Is it any wonder that reading Cosmo was akin to reading porn?

One of the driving forces behind Cosmo’s popularity was editor-in-chief, Helen Gurley Brown. Helen also edited today’s featured cookbook. Although Helen’s husband, David Brown, was a pretty well-known movie producer, (Jaws, Driving Miss Daisy) it was Helen who captured the headlines. Helen got the ball rolling by publishing her first book at age 40 – Sex and the Single Girl - and after that, there was no looking back at Cosmo where she remained at the helm for 32 years. In my next life, I wouldn’t mind being Helen.

So thanks to Helen, I had tonight’s entrĂ©e – French Chicken. As to dessert, I didn’t have any concrete plans until I watched The Chew, on ABC. The Chew is a relatively new talk show/cooking show, featuring the following celebrities: host, Clinton Kelly, from TLC’s What Not to Wear, chefs Mario Battali (Food Network), Michael Symon (Food Network) and Carla Hall (Bravo's Top Chef) and health-guru, Daphne Oz, Doctor Oz’ (from the Oprah show) daughter.

All in all, the show is okay, (some days it is interesting, some days it is rather routine) but what really caught my attention was that last week’s homage to the food and fads of the decades, starting on Monday with the 50’s and ending on Friday with the 90’s. Well, I had just the book for that – Fashionable Food!

I bought this cookbook eons ago and it was a fun read. Sylvia Lovegren does a great job of combining food history with recipes (and photos); these types of “cookbooks” are my favorite because I always learn something when reading.

So here’s what I learned: White Chocolate Brownies were popular in the 90’s. I also learned (independent of the book) that white chocolate isn’t really “chocolate” in the truest sense of the word; according to Wikipedia, it’s a chocolate derivative. And when making these brownies, here’s something else I learned: never melt the butter and white chocolate chips in a Teflon pan! The mixture separated and it looked most unappealing. It never occurred to me to use a straight-up saucepan but there it is—live and learn.

I also learned that I don’t really like the taste or smell of white chocolate (and this makes sense because it’s really fake chocolate). But my husband thought the brownies were tasty and on Valentine’s Day, his is the only opinion that counts.

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!

French Chicken – serves 2 (as part of Dinner Number 39)

Dinner Menu Number 39 (*the French chicken recipe is the only recipe given in its entirety)
Whiskey Sour
Chilled Pate
French Chicken with Buttered Noodles, Cooked Artichoke Hearts, Tomato Salad and Butterflake Rolls
Lime Sherbet

For the chicken:

1 broiler chicken, split in half
Salt, pepper
½ stick plus 3 tbsp. butter
¼ c. brandy
½ c. heavy cream
3 tbsp. port wine
¼ lb. mushrooms, sliced

(NOTE: This dish is meant to be made the day before dinner, refrigerated and reheated. I skipped that step.)

Season chicken pieces with salt and pepper. Saute chicken, then remove it and hot butter to serving-baking casserole. Pour brandy over, ignite and let flame die down.

Put covered casserole into 350 oven, and bake until almost tender, about ¾ hour.

Remove the chicken from casserole, add cream and port wine, stirring and cooking gently on top of stove over low heat to make a sauce. Replace chicken; allow to cool. Saute sliced mushrooms in 3 tbsp. butter for 5 minutes, then add to casserole. Cover and refrigerate.

The next day, take the chicken casserole out of the refrigerator, and let it come to room temperature. Bake, covered, in preheated 350 oven for 15-20 minutes. While it is heating, cook the noodles and the artichoke hearts.

NOTE: Since I cooked this dish and ate it all in one sitting, I baked the chicken for 75 minutes at 350. Then I removed the chicken, poured the brandy sauce into a separate saucepan along with the cream and the port, and then stirred it on low to make the sauce. I can’t say as this jelled in the way that I wanted it to but such is life. It was still tasty even though it didn’t get an “A” for eye-appealing!

White Chocolate Brownies – makes 16 squares

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
8 ounces white chocolate chips
2 large eggs
½ cup sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose unbleached flour
½ teaspoon salt
8 ounces semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350. Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Remove from the heat and add half the white chocolate, stirring until melted. In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs until frothy, then gradually add the sugar, beating until thick and pale lemon colored, about 3 minutes. Stir the melted chocolate mixture and vanilla into the eggs.

Sift the flour with the salt and mix into the egg mixture until just combined. Stir in the semisweet chocolate and remaining white chocolate chips. Pour the batter into a buttered and floured 8-inch-square pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool in the pan on a wire rack.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

"The Pioneer Woman Cooks" - Simple, Perfect Chili

Date I made this recipe: February 5, 2012 (Super Bowl Sunday)

The Pioneer Woman Cooks – Recipes from an Accidental Country Girl by Ree Drummond
Published by: William Morrow
ISBN: 978-0-06-165819-8
Recipe: Simple, Perfect Chili – p. 82-83

Today is Super Bowl Sunday and as a lifelong Packers fan, I can’t say I’m all that impressed with today’s teams – the New England Patriots and the New York Giants. The Giants, after all, beat my Packers (in one of the most surreal Packers games ever), knocking them out of the playoffs with a huge thud. And yet, I didn’t want the Patriots to win and they did not in fact win and so life was pretty good.

But even though I didn’t give a rip about the game (and to prove it, I watched Law & Order reruns all night!), I do care about celebrating the Super Bowl with “Super Bowl” food and so this chili recipe came in darned handy!

When this cookbook came out a few years ago, I put it on my “Looks Interesting” list and thought it would be a while before I bought it, but a friend of mine got it for me as a hostess gift for my annual holiday party. (Thank you, Nan!). I’m a sucker for a good story and lots of photographs and this had them both.

And then last year, the book was made into a TV show on the Food NetworkThe Pioneer Woman - and now every week or so, I get to see Ree Drummond actually make these delicious recipes.

I should tell you though, that I almost didn’t watch her show. Color me jealous (because I am) but when the Food Network advertised it, they stated that something like millions of people read her blog. What?? I can guarantee that millions of people don’t even know mine exists!

So of course she turned that hit blog into a hit book that is now a hit TV series featuring Ree and her handsome husband, “Marlboro Man,” and her adorable kids and her dogs and her cattle and her second kitchen that she has to drive to in order to get there as it’s in another building on the ranch. My kitchen, although not the smallest I’ve cooked in, is at the back end of my house—no driving needed. During a typical Minnesota winter, this is a good thing! (By the way, my husband's nickname is "Dude" and he is also handsome. He does not however, round up steer for a living.)

So I had every reason not to watch her show, right, except I tuned in to the first episode “just to see” and I actually like it. And when I read that she chose to do her own hair and makeup rather than get up early to have it done for her, I grudgingly decided to keep watching. You’ve got to respect a female television personality who wants to do her own thing!

Out of all the shows that I’ve watched so far, my only complaint is about the last one I viewed on February 4th. Call me crazy, but I do not want to see kids holding up bottles of pond water while she’s trying to make something - ew! (The kids’ science project was to collect water samples.)

And out of all the recipes in this book (complete with step-by-step photo instructions), I had a hard time choosing one as they all looked fantastic. But nothing says “Super Bowl” like a good chili and so that was that!

Ree gives you the option to add beans, jalapenos and tomatoes with chili to the recipe. I used beans (pinto and kidney), skipped the jalapeno and added tomatoes without green chilies since I am a northern Midwestern gal and I don’t “do” tongue-searing food. I’m happy to report that it was all good – every last bite of it!

As for my Packers, they’ll be back. In fact, during the 70’s and 80’s, that was the team mantra: “The Pack Will Be Back!” (True fans know to add the word “someday” to the end of that sentence!)

By the way, Ree met her husband while on a stop home on her way to Chicago where she intended to apply to law school. As a “second-career” attorney who went back to law school after years in the workplace, let me just commend your husband for stopping you from doing something foolish by proposing!. A law degree ain’t cheap and in today’s economic market, it’s hard for many attorneys to find work. But everybody needs cookbooks, right? You done good, Pioneer Woman!

Simple, Perfect Chili – makes 6 servings
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 teaspoon ground oregano
1 tablespoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 pounds ground beef
One 8-ounce can tomato sauce
1 teaspoon salt
¼ cup masa (corn flour, found in the Mexican food section of many supermarkets) (Ann’s note: I got mine at a co-op and measured out only what I needed – sweet!)
Optional ingredients:
1 can pinto beans, drained
1 can kidney beans, drained
1 jalapeno, seeded and finely diced
1 can diced tomatoes and chilies (the author recommends Rotel brand)
For serving:
Shredded cheddar cheese
Chopped onion

Begin by measuring the spices: chopped garlic, oregano, cumin, cayenne and chili powder.

Place the ground beef in a large pot and throw in the garlic. Cook until the beef is brown and then drain. (Ann’s note: I had myself an Oprah “Ah Ha!” moment in the kitchen. I put a colander over an empty pot and threw in all the browned ground beef. Well this was just slick as all get-out and eliminated the need to drain the beef spoonful by spoonful. I am a GENIUS!)

Pour the tomato sauce into the beef mixed, followed by the spices and the salt. Stir together well, cover, and reduce the heat to low. Cover the pot and simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. If the mixture becomes overly dry, add in ½ cup of water at a time as needed. (Ann’s note: water was needed if I didn’t want to scorch the bottom of my pan!)

After an hour, place the masa in a small bowl, add ½ cup water and stir together with a fork. Dump the masa mixture into the chili. Stir together well. Taste, adjust the seasonings, and add more masa paste and/or water to get the chili to your preferred consistency, or to add more corn flavor.

Add the beans, jalapeno, and tomatoes if desired. Simmer for 10 minutes.

Serve with shredded cheddar, chopped onion, and Fritos.

Ree’s Helpful Hint: To freeze the chili, allow it to cool completely, then place it in 1-cup portions in freezer bags. Flatten the bags for easy storage in the freezer.