Friday, September 23, 2016

"New York Cookbook" by Molly O'Neill (chicken soup) & "New York In A Dozen Dishes" by Robert Sietsema (Black-and-White Cookie) - in honor of 9/11

Date I made these recipes:  Sunday, September 11, 2016—15 Year Anniversary of 9/11

New York Cookbook (From Pelham Bay to Park Avenue, Firehouses to 4* Restaurants, Neighborhood Gourmets and the Great Chefs) by Molly O'Neill
Published by Workman Publishing, New York
ISBN: 1-56305-337-3; © 1992
Purchased at Aardvark Books, San Francisco, CA
Recipe:  New York Penicillin (a/k/a Chicken Soup) – p. 47-48.  Recipe from Guardian Angel founder, Curtis Sliwa, whose aunt Marie Stacey created this recipe.

New York in a Dozen Dishes by Robert Sietsema
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
ISBN:  978-0-544-45431-6; © 2015
Purchased at Barnes and Noble – Used Books – Roseville, MN
Recipe:  The Black-and-White Cookie – p. 279

Has it been that long?

Has it really been 15 years since 9/11 happened?

Every year since then, I have tried to observe that day in my blog by cooking from my New York cookbook collection.  I try to find foods that represent New York and provide "comfort" at the same time.  I think I nailed it this year with recipes for New York Penicillin i.e. Chicken Soup and Black-and-White Cookies.

I also try, every year, to articulate something about that horrible, horrible day and this year have just been at a loss. I have written and rewritten and rewritten again and only now have I decided that "it" will do. 

This year's anniversary folks, number 15, is significant because it coincides with my first year in law school.  Fifteen years ago on 9/11, I was three weeks into my 1L (first year law) classes when the planes crashed in NYC and Washington D.C. and then later, Pennsylvania.  I was also only a couple of weeks away from my 43rd birthday.  It's now been fifteen years since I thought that going to law school was a "good idea."  It has not necessarily been a good idea, partly because the world started to collapse that day when those towers fell and the economy went into a freefall as well.  It wasn't a good time to be in any career, much less the new one of law.

It has been fifteen years since the world, and especially all of us in law school, got a look at how law and order (also the name of one of my favorite TV show), became lawlessness and disorder on the grandest of scale.  Fifteen years since those towers, never architecturally interesting to me, fell in a city that I loved.

I have always loved New York and always will. Our family road trips back east to see my grandmother (my dad was born and raised on the east coast) informed my youth.  My first "road trip" into the city was actually to Queens for the New York World's Fair when I was six.  We frequently took trips into the city to sightsee and to visit my dad's aunts, uncles and cousins in the Burroughs.  I gorged on all the Italian/Sicilian food they made for our visits.

This love affair of mine never wavered, not in the 70's when New York wasn't the safest place, and not in the 80's when I came "this close" to moving there.  9/11 changed nothing for me except that it made me love New York and New Yorkers even more.  People tend to think of New Yorkers as harsh, rude, and disconnected people who care nothing about their neighbors and who have no time for other people's "problems."  I'm here to tell you that image is wrong.  I'm here to remind you that we saw otherwise on that day and every day thereafter.  New York is nothing but resilient, always has been, always will be.  New Yorkers cope, and one of the ways they cope is through food.

New Yorkers love food and they should because there is hardly a world cuisine that goes unnoticed or uncooked in NYC.  Some foods, like Vietnamese (versus Chinese) have been slow to trend in NYC (unlike here in MN where you can find Vietnamese foods all over the place) but once New York latches on to a food item, it never gives up and (almost) never looks back. 

Food trends are like that, too.  Once something catches on, it seems to have a toehold on us, like freshly-made pasta or soup stock made from scratch.

Two foods that are now considered "quintessential" New York foods are today's recipes:  New York Penicillin a/k/a Chicken Soup and the Black-And-White Cookie.  Neither are trendy, neither represent previously unknown cuisines, but they are there and they exist because it must be so.  If you know nothing about New York, you need to know about these items as they are staples.  They are the dishes we can always count on, even when the world turns upside down.

Cookbook author, Molly O'Neill tells us all about New York food in her 500 page tome – New York Cookbook -  a book that took her five years to write.   I jest when I say it took me about that long to read it, but only slightly.  Over the years, I've pulled it off then shelf, flagged some recipes, then put it back, rinse and repeat.  I could just never decide as there were so damned many awesome recipes to be sampled.

This time though, I pulled it off the shelf and stuck with it.  This time though, I noticed a photo on the inside cover that I never paid much attention to before:  The Twin Towers. When this book was published in 1992, nobody on this earth could fathom that nearly 20 years later, those towers would no longer exist.

I took this as a sign that I was meant to cook from this book on this anniversary date.   And I also took as a sign the fact that this time around, the book fell open to the chicken soup recipe.  It's not for nothing that chicken soup, in whatever form it takes, is the world's "feel better" soup.  And today, I wanted to feel slightly better.

But if you're not in the mood or if you want more from NYC than just soup, then fear not, for this book has everything else you might need:  "Nibbles, Noshes, and Appetizing [bites];" "Soups for Sipping, Slurping, Supper;" "To Bake an Honest Loaf," or "The Meat of the Matter" – you name it, it's in there.  In fact, the reason it takes a while to "read" is because the author shares so many stories of famous food stores and restaurants and people – not all celebrities of course, but the people of NYC.  I love it.

But if this 500-page work is too much to handle, then consider getting your hands on Robert Sietsema's New York in a Dozen Dishes.  Like a lot of New Yorkers, Sietsema gets right to the point:  there are 12 dishes of merit in this city, so there, deal with it.

While generally, I agreed with the author on a good half of the recipes included in this book (so much smaller than Molly's.  So much), we are going to have to agree to disagree on his inclusion of Cuy, an Ecuadorian favorite.  I shall not tell you what it is as I want you to read the rest of this blog, but let me just say that if curious, Google it...and then be prepared to look away (and quickly!).  And please keep in mind that many countries enjoy foods that we would never consider.  It is not a stretch for me to say that 99.9% of you will not consider this food item at all and would raise an eyebrow on it being in this book.  Count me in on that 99.9% club!

Happily, Sietsema also discusses some favorites like "Pizza," "Egg Foo Young," and Pastrami.  We shall quibble about "Fried Chicken" and "Barbecued Brisket" as in my opinion these have been slow in coming to New York (Jewish brisket though, is another story), and I will tell you for a fact that Minneapolis and St. Paul have a total lock and load on "Pho," a Vietnamese noodle soup (pronounced "Fuh").  In fact, I have to say that I was surprised to see it included here.  Up until a few years ago, my New York friend Susan, who lived in Minneapolis for five years (which is how I got to know her), bemoaned the fact that she couldn't find any place in Manhattan that served Pho, at least not the pho like we have here, and I totally agreed with her as we were pressed to find Vietnamese food at all.  And now it's included in the "Dozen Dishes" category, say what?

I tell you what folks, if you come to Minneapolis or St. Paul, we are hopping on the Green Line, our light rail system, and are taking the train to a section of St. Paul called Little Mekong.  And that is where you will have pho like it's meant to be made.  St. Paul is especially rife with Vietnamese immigrants who came to the Twin Cities as refugees during the Vietnam War, and with a little help, a good number of them have started their own restaurants.  Restaurants that serve awesome pho.  Awesome.  New York may excel at a number of things, but I refuse to believe that pho is one of them!
Side note:  I'm starving but even though I am surrounded by some great Vietnamese restaurants, we are not NY and most don't deliver and of course it's raining out and so how to fix this sudden pho craving? ;)

Although the Black-and-White cookie is not among the "dozen dishes" (gross oversight, that), the author at least made it a baker's dozen by including a recipe in the back of the book.  (All recipes are accompanied by a narrative of how they came to be popular and also where to "buy" them in NYC) It's the least he could do because this cookie,  this basic cookie, dressed up with white and black frosting, is a New York original.  A New York original that is as essential to New Yorkers as a yellow cab or, be still my heart, a subway train that is actually running, never mind running on schedule!  (We can all dream...)

If you have any doubt, then you should go find the full episode or clip from Jerry Seinfeld's show – Seinfeld - where he and Elaine discuss the Black-And-White Cookie:  "If people would just look to the cookie, all our problems would be solved.  Look to the cookie, Elaine, look to the cookie."

So folks take a minute to "look to the cookie," and look at (and make, of course) the chicken soup and your outlook will change and it will be for the better.

I love New York.  Always have, always will.

New York Penicillin (a/k/a Chicken Soup) – Makes 3 quarts (12 cups) broth – Ann's Note:  set aside 2-4 hours to simmer.
4 quarts cold water
1 chicken (4 to 5 pounds), quartered
2 chicken feet, or 4 chicken wings, or 1 turkey wing
1 clove garlic, peeled and bruised (Ann's Note:  to bruise, smack one side of the garlic with a flat side of your knife.)
1 onion, peeled
2 carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 ribs celery, cut into 1-inch pieces
½ bunch fresh parsley, tied together with string and rinsed
1 bay leaf
1 ½ teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon black peppercorns

Pour the cold water into a large pot.  Add the chicken, garlic, onion, carrots, celery, parsley, bay leaf, salt and peppercorns and slowly bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer for 4 hours, skimming frequently. (The soup can be strained at this point to use in the recipes that follow, both in this chapter and throughout the book.)

Strain the soup.  Discard the onion, parsley, bay leaf, and peppercorns but reserve the other vegetables.  Remove the chicken, skin and debone it, and reserve the meat.  Return the chicken stock, chicken meat, carrots, celery, and garlic to the pot and bring back to a simmer; season with additional salt or pepper, to taste.

Serve the soup in big bowls over pastina, rice, or spaghettini.  (Ann's Note:  I used dumpling noodles.)  The soup's curative powers are released only when the vegetables are mashed together in the bowl.  Use a fork for mashing.  Use a big spoon for eating.  You'll feel better soon.

Black-and-White Cookies – makes 8 four-inch cookies
For the cookies:
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for greasing
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup cake flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
½ vanilla bean, slit lengthwise, seeds scraped from the pod, or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup milk
For the icing:
2 cups confectioners' sugar
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 to 3 tablespoons water
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

Preheat the oven to 375F.  Grease a baking sheet with butter.  Sift the flours, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl; whisk to combine.

In a stand mixer on medium speed, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add in the egg and scraped vanilla seeds or the extract, and mix well to combine.  Reduce the speed to low, add half of the flour mixture, then the milk, then the rest of the flour mixture, mixing to just combine after each addition. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl one last time.

Spoon 1/3-cup mounds of dough onto the greased baking sheet, 1 ½ inches apart (8 should fit on a standard baking sheet, but use a second sheet if necessary).  With wet hands press down gently on each mound to flatten slightly.  Bake until the edges of the cookies are set and light golden brown, 16 to 18 minutes.  Allow the cookies to cool on the sheet slightly before removing them to a wire rack to cool completely before icing.

To make the icing, stir together the confectioners' sugar, corn syrup, vanilla extract, and 2 tablespoons water until smooth, adding more water a teaspoon at a time to make a smooth, spreadable icing.  Transfer half the icing to another bowl and whisk in the cocoa, adding more water, ½ teaspoon at a time, to achieve a similar consistency as the white icing.

To frost, spread the vanilla icing over half of the flat surface of each cookie, letting the excess drip off.  Let the vanilla icing set for 15 minutes, then spread chocolate chip icing onto the other half of the cookie.  Let the icing set for an hour before eating.  Store the cookies in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

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