Saturday, May 22, 2010

Asparagus Vinaigrette

Since it is still asparagus time, we can knock off asparagus recipes .Even though I basically feel like asparagus is best eaten after being lightly boiled, this one is okay. It's fast and makes a change from lightly boiled asparagus. It's also good in hot weather, or warm weather, when you may not necessarily want hot food. It also made a change for us because we had been eating what my mother used to call cold party. Meatballs, except we thought we had a lot more, and can't find them, which is fairly ominous, and lots and lots of chicken casserole in sort of a cream sauce with julienned vegetables about the size and consistancy of spaghetti over them. We also have a lot of vegetarian egg rolls which are crammed into the freezer. So asparagus was a welcome change, and I didn't make any headway with the cookbook.
If you want to follow the recipe faithfully, make sure you have a hard boiled egg on hand. I just left it out.

Asparagus Vinaigrette

2 pounds fresh young asparagus spears
cooked and well drained
3 tablespoons wine vinegar
2 tablespo0ns lemon juice
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon sugar (up Nawth, I say, up Nawth we don't put sugar in our vinaigrette sauce, and neither did I
salt and freshly ground blacj pepper
1 hard-cooked egg roughly chopped
2 sweet gerkins finely chopped

  1. Arrange the asapargus spears in one layer in a shallow baking dish
  2. In a jar or small container with a tight-fitting lid, combine the vinegar, lemon juice and vegetable and olive oils, salt and pepper, shake to mix well. Pour dressing over asparagus and refrigerate for at least an hour.
  3. Arrange the asparagus on a vegetable platter. Sprinkle with the eggs and pickel.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Cape Cod Lobster Roll

Even though half of my genes hale from New York City and before that, Ireland and France, I am a good example of New England frugality. Most of my clothes are more than five years old. I save what my husband calls chicken asses to make soup. I never take taxis.
But this week, I engaged in some real, genuine, bank balance blowing extravagance. I offered to make lobster rolls for the engagement party. As has been mentioned, my husband is allergic to shellfish. Ergo, lobster rolls would never be on the family dinner table, and I have to look for other outlets. What transpired was a combination of a computation error, the uncertainty of how much meat your average lobster contains, plus, possibly a desire on the part of the fish store to sell as many lobsters as possible to the rookie cookie.
I ordered them last Saturday, and when the woman told me how much it would be for six pounds of lobster meat, I nearly fell on the floor. We're talking one fourth of my bi weekly paycheck here. I gamely handed over my ATM card, and announced when we got home that we would be eating out of the pantry for the next two weeks. We had already ordered the buns, since in the District of Columbia, you don't find buns that open at the top. Our buns open on the side. I had suggested that one of my son's friends from Boston bring them down in their luggage, but that idea was vetoed. We ordered 50, the idea being we could cut them in half, and it would be an hors d'oeuvre.
On Friday, I went to pick them up. As I was waiting for the bus, one of the parents invited me to their apartment for a cold drink. "Quando?" I inquired. "Ahora," was the answer. Yeah, I can do that, I said. I can come now. So I spent a lovely hour conversing in my rotten Spanish and occasionally asking my third grader to bail me out when I couldn't say what I wanted. Then, I had to wait half an hour for the L2 bus. The L2 bus runs up Connecticut Avenue, which is a major traffic artery. Its buses must lead lonely little lives, because they long for the company of their fellows. They dawdle on street corners waiting for their buddy buses to come along, and then they happily skip up Connecticut wheel in wheel as we riders sit steaming at the stops.
At that point, it was 5:00 and I had neither my phone nor the knowledge of when the fish store closed.
So I decided to stay on the bus and get the lobsters without passing go at my house, where there may or may not have been a car. It turned out the fish store closes at 7:30.
"Where your car?" asked the Korean fish store owner.
"At my house."
"You need car. We drive you."
So the owner's sister drove me in her brand new Honda and carried the huge heavy box up to the front door, which I appreciated. Then, I had to find house room for those suckers in the refrigerator. I did some quick rearranging, threw away the cranberry sauce that had been taking up space since Thanksgiving, and tried to fit the box into the empty space. No dice. So then, I removed the individual, foil wrapped corpses and stacked them like bricks on the shelf. It looked like a lobster wall.
The next order of business was removing the meat from the lobsters. The fish store had cooked them and split them for me so I was spared the ordeal of chasing them around the kitchen floor, immersing them in boiling water, etc. etc. I consulted The Joy of Cooking, which had a useful disquisition on lobsters, eating them, taking the meat out, as well as a non pc joke about what the cannibal has to say about lobsters. The end had a great line. "At this point we commend you to the finger bowl."
So, laboriously, I began taking the meat out. I quickly decided that the whole head part could just be chucked into the garbage bag residing in the sink. Claws, arms, tail, toss. The volume of meat in the bread bowl, since emptied of punch, grew bigger and bigger. The lobsters were enormous. Huge spotted claws, thick bristly heads. There was a lot of chat in Joy of Cooking about tomally and other stuff and how you could eat it. I decided that if it looked disgusting, I didn't want to eat it, nor would I make anyone else eat it.
About two hours and seven lobsters later, I wearily turned the picking process over to my son, and went to bed. The next morning I began all over again with chopping up the meat into "bite-size" pieces. There were probably ten pounds of meat at the end.
I didn't want to actually assemble the things until just before the party started, because I felt they would be soggy. So, at 5:00 with the serving person trying to maneuver around me I started heating up the buns to put them together. She politely watched this process for a few minutes, and then, around 5:25 , with the guests coming at 6:00, she announced, "I'll do the rest of this." and I went and took a shower.
At least a quarter of the guests were from New England, so presumably they knew what they were talking about when they said the lobster rolls were as good as ones you would get in a restaurant. So they were a pretty major success, even though we still ended up with a couple of pounds of lobster salad after all the guests left.

Cape Cod Lobster Roll

(This recipe makes enough for 8 people. Probably not too many of you want the recipe for 50.)

8 frankfurter buns
1/4 cup butter, melted
3 cups, about one and one half pounds to two pounds) cooked lobster meat, cut into bite-size pieces
1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup minced heart of celery
1 small clove garlic, finely minced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil or one half teaspoon dried basil
1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
1/4 cup finely chopped scallions, including green part
Tabasco sauce to taste
Lemon juice to taste
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Stuffed olives, parsley sprigs or lobster claws for garnish
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Split the buns and arrange them, split side up, on a baking dish. Brush them with the butter and bake until lightly browned. Remove from the oven and set aside.
  3. Combine the lobster, mayonnaise, celery, garlic, basil, parsley, scallions, Tabasco, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Blend well.
  4. Spoon equal parts of the filling into each of the split buns and serve garnished with stuffed olives, parsley sprigs, or lobster claws.

Fisherman's Swizzle

This was the week of the engagement party. As mentioned in this space before, my son, the lawyer to be (next week is the graduation party,) is getting married, to an incredibly nice, generous, funny, etc. etc. woman. So, we gave them a party.
As also mentioned, I have to be on the lookout for opportunities to make stuff from The NYTHC because otherwise, it won't get eaten. This seemed like an opportunity to make one of the beverages since we aren't a family of punch drinkers. Actually, we don't drink hard liquor much at all, unless I have a mai tai attack. So this is the story of how Fisherman's Swizzle came to be, and is even now being spread across the land. Actually, I kind of doubt that it's being spread across the land right now, because it is 7:00 am and most people who experienced it last night are sleeping off its effects. The bartender wanted the recipe, so he may spread it around.
Now, I have finally, in my declining years, learned a thing or two about parties. Number one, it is better to start earlier and get things all ready than it is to loll around and then at the last minute be frantically trying to both clean and cook.
So, Thursday afternoon, after having spent the day shepherding a bunch of alternately sullen, perky and manic third grade girls around the Museum of American History, I decided to stop off at Giant for the non alcoholic contents of the Swizzle, having already bought the booze last Saturday when I still had a few bucks in my checking account. This recipe has a somewhat intimidating beginning. Squeeze the juice of 12 lemons and 36 oranges into a punch bowl. Huh? Okay. So I gamely proceeded to buy four large and heavy bags of oranges and two smaller bags of lemons, and some assorted other stuff, and cram them into my Trader Joe's bag. The District of Columbia is pretty pc in its government, and we have a bag law. You're supposed to bring your bags to the store, and a lot of people do. The citrus explosion didn't quite fit, however, so I was pretty laiden down when I went back out to the bus stop feeling like I was about to fill the Christmas stockings of an orphanage.
I lugged my burden on and off the bus, and up the hill to my house. After dinner, I started squeezing. At the party, various people gave me advice on gadgets I should have had, like the squeezer that works by pulling a lever, and the electric squeezer. Unfortunately, all I had was a little metal cone shaped thing that you stick the fruit on and twist. And twist. And twist.
As I squoze (past tense of the verb to squeeze) my mind wandered. Who were these fishermen? Since this wasn't a hot drink, I suspected they were not commercial fishermen, coming back from a stormy night on the Grand Banks with their boats laiden with cod. Were they sport fishermen? Did they have servants? Who the hell squeezed all these Goddamn oranges for their drinks? Their long suffering wives? And why swizzle? What means swizzle?
Finally, about 10:30 at night, I got it all squeezed, and decided, for reasons of preservation, to add the liquor to the juice swirling decoratively in my bread bowl. I dumped in 7 cups of assorted alcohol, and the sugar (less than the recipe called for, and not confectioners, because I didn't have confectioners), and took a taste. As you shall see, when you read the recipe, the last ingredient is soda water, that cuts some of the effect of undiluted booze. I took my first half glass straight, and cut the second with soda water. I went to bed feeling distinctly odd.
The swizzle was a huge success. It received advance publicity from two of Thomas's friends, who came over Saturday morning to help clean up the house. Around 3:00, they decided that this swizzle had better be tastetested. After a couple of glasses, they started planning a pirate theme and talking about how to erect a plank out a second floor window. Then, they texted all their friends, so people came in the door asking for the swizzle.

Fisherman's Swizzle

12 lemons
36 oranges
2 pounds confectioners' sugar (I used 2 cups of regular sugar)
2 cups cognac
2 cups peach brandy
3 cups Jamaica rum
4 quarts club soda

  1. Squeeze juice from the lemons and oranges into a punch bowl. Add the confectioners' sugar and stir until it dissolves.
  2. Add the congnac, peach brandy and rum.
  3. Just before serving, add the club soda and ice. (We kept it in pitchers and the bartender added the soda as he poured the punch. This is a little dicy if you don't have a bartender. You'll have your guests falling down drunk in no time.)

Makes two gallons.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Creamed Chicken and Mushrooms

This was one of those recipes that lurked in the back of my head. "I know there's a recipe for creamed chicken that I haven't made in there somewhere." Well, there was. I even correctly remembered it contained cream and bought some. What I didn't remember until it was either too late or I was too tired to go to the store was, the second half of the title, to whit, the mushrooms. I made creamed chicken and mushrooms sans mushrooms.
I haven't made much stuff from this cookbook in the last couple of weeks due to a lack of what my son used to call hot diggity dog. This expression stemmed from my habit of exclaiming, when I found a check in the mail when I was a poor freelance writer and stay at home mom, "Hot diggity dog!" Once he learned to talk, he heard me and inquired, "We get hot diggity dog?" Well, the hot diggity dog has been a little thin on the ground, so I've been dedicating myself to making sure we eat up what is in our vast and disorganized pantry, and our less vast but equally disorganized freezer.
The chicken breast was in the freezer; I bought the cream, and all the other stuff except the mushrooms was in the kitchen. There was a quarter of a small bag of rice hiding somewhere in the refrigerator, and I forget what we had as a vegetable. Net cost of meal, $2.85 for cream. Disorganization index, down one chicken breast. Actually, we were down more than that, since my husband eyed what I thought was a chicken breast that I had taken out of the freezer and announced with distaste that it was what he likes to refer to as a chicken ass. The chicken ass was left to defrost with the hastily removed chicken breast, and then got deposited in the alley trashcan. (In the past, when I had more energy and not as much grumpiness, I bought whole chickens and cut them into serving pieces. The chicken ass went into the freezer, and eventually got made into soup when I was feeling particularly poor.

Creamed Chicken and Mushrooms

3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots (I used onion and a good deal more than 2 tablespoons)
4 mushrooms chopped
3 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons dry sherry
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup heavy cream
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 cups diced chicken

  1. Melt the butter and saute the shallots in it until tender. Add the mushrooms and cook two minutes longer.
  2. Spinkle with the flour and cook, stirring two minutes.
  3. Stir in the sherry, broth and cream and bring the sauce to a boil, stirring until the sauce thickens. Season with salt, pepper, and the nutmeg.

Makes three cups, or about 2 servings.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Things You Won't See This Year

I actually should have entitled this "Thing you won't see this year," because it is right now, singular. I missed the boat on dandelion greens. They are now way too acid because the dandelion flowers are in bloom, or so says a woman at the Dupont Circle Sunday farmers market, who carries them when they are in season. So, no dandelion greens and no fried dandelion flowers. Especially no fried dandelion flowers because, one cannot wash them, because they close if you do. So, obviously, no dandelion flowers will be harvested in the District of Columbia, unless some reader (!) comes forward with a source of dog-free, pesticide free dandelions.
This cookbook isn't that ethnic. Or possibly, the late 60s when Hewitt was compiling the recipes, frowned on things that were too ethnic, or too poor, or, as my children would say, too ghetto. I refer to ramps, which are a kind of wild leek, popular in West Virginia, and possibly the mountains of Virginia. I had heard of them, and in fact read about them in the pages of The Washington Post food section. But there ain't no recipes for ramps in The New York Times Heritage Cookbook.
I also want to categorically state that you won't see a post about making snapping turtle soup after killing the snapping turtle. At least, I hope you won't. Lobsters, I can deal with, and in fact, stay tune because in two weeks, I'm going to make 50 lobster rolls for the engagement party of my son and his fiancee. So, we'll see how cooking x number of lobsters, chasing them around the kitchen, etc, goes. But, snapping turtles are an entirely different item. I vividly remember my father killing a snapping turtle by beating it to death with a crowbar. He didn't like them. I believe, but am not sure that he lost a dog to a snapping turtle, or a friend of his did. Also, I'm not sure that even the new local eaters in DC would be willing to try snapping turtle.