Sunday, October 31, 2010

Salade de Champignons

A great many of the New England-Middle States vegetable recipes as yet uncooked are, as I have mentioned before, sort of regional misfits, like clam salad. I can imagine serving, and even eating, clam salad, as part of a summer potluck (where nobody has to be polite and eat it if the very idea appalls) but not at a dinner party where the food ought to in some way go together.
So Salade de Champignons, or mushroom salad for us Anglophones, was one of the few obvious choices. This is easy, and very good. I recommend making it the day before, which gives the dressing a chance to penetrate the mushrooms.
People seemed to like it.
The party was fun. We invited two sets of old friends from our kids' days in elementary school. One of the husbands couldn't come, but his wife did and kept up an entertaining flow of conversation. Unfortunately, either I was distracted by the serving, or I just can't remember stuff very well, but the actual facts eluded me. Her daughter had been a friend of our daughter, so when I related to our daughter that Marcella, her friend, was now living in London, our daughter wanted to know where.
I was able to tell her that Marcella had been living in Bethnal Green, which is in East London, but found it too expensive and moved to some neighborhood without a tube stop.
"Well. where'd she move to?" Daughter inquired impatiently.
"Ummm," I said.
My husband said he thought the neighborhood began with a k. I said I thought it was Stanford Something.
"Stanford Brook?" Daughter, who spent three years in London, asked incredulously. "That has a tube stop. It was right near me."
"You can't remember anything, Mom," she snarled.
Anyway, the food was good, and half way through dinner, I hissed at the husband who was able to come, and we sneaked off for a peek at the World Series, where the Rangers were actually winning Game 3.

Salade de Champignons

1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 pound mushrooms, sliced

1. Place the lemon juice, mustard, salt and pepper in a bowl. With a wire whisk, gradually whisk in the oil. Mixture will become the consistency of mayonnaise.
2. Add the mushrooms, toss and chill.
Makes 3 servings.

Baked Striped Bass

On Saturday, after making the pie, and eating pancakes with the Boy Scouts from Troop 100, I went to the fish store to buy the striped bass. I do not have a lot of experience with cooking fish, so I was startled by the amount of blood and gore involved when one buys a whole fish. Thank God I said yes when the fish man asked me if he should clean it. It looked like Slaughter on Elm Street by the time he was finished.
The recipe called for not only a whole striped bass, but also a pound of shrimp, so there was Slaughter on Elm Street to my bank balance as well. They obligingly bagged up the carcass and the shrimp in ice and handed it to me. I didn't actually get to it until around 6:30 when I took out the shrimp and realized that it had to be peeled.
At that point, Son and his fiance came in, on their way to a Halloween party. I felt like saying, "Hey, pull up a chair and peel some shrimp." I desisted when I saw her in black with a 40s veil and long purple gloves and him in a Justin Beiber wig that made him look like he had a raccoon sitting on his head.
I was still cooking when our friends walked in the door.
This is a good recipe. Some observations. Get the fish boned too. I didn't. A larger fish does not require more stuffing, so don't get a pound and a half of shrimp for a six pound bass. If you can, get the shrimp peeled, or do it when you get home so you don't have to do it at 6:30. Also, make sure the fish is fully cooked.

Baked Striped Bass

1 four-pound striped bass
1/4 cup diced salt pork or butter
2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
1 pound shrimp, shelled, deveined and roughly chopped
1/2 cup fine soft bread crumbs
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1/4 teaspoon thyme
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons melted butter
2 tablespoons lemon juice

1. Clean the fish, but leave the head on. (The fish store didn't. If you dislike your dinner looking at you, take it off.)
2. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
3. Cook the salt pork, if used, in a skillet until the bits are crisp. Remove salt pork bits and reserve. Add the shallots to the drippings and cook until tender but not browned.
4. Add the mushrooms and shrimp and cook quickly until shrimp turn pink and mushrooms wilt, about five minutes. Add the breadcrumbs, parsley, thyme, salt, pepper and reserved pork bits. Stuff the fish with the mixture and secure with skewers or sew to close. (I didn't sew or skewer, and there was a lot of stuffing left over. I just left it in the pan.)
5. Place the fish in a greased baking dish. Brush with the melted butter, season with salt and pepper and sprinkle the lemon juice over all.
6. Bake about thirty-five minutes, or until fish flakes easily.
Makes four servings.

Squash-Apple Pie

This is a picture of two halves of an acorn squash, being steamed in my patented handy-dandy steaming method. I put a metal colander upside down in my stew pot, add two inches of water, and put the squash on top. Cover, turn on the gas, and let things boil for 10 to 15 minutes until you can stick a fork through the squash. Once you have your cooked squash, you are ready to proceed to the pie. I made this pie at the beginning of a marathon day of cooking for a dinner party. I polished off four recipes and was still cooking at 7:15 when the guests came.

Since I bought the pie crust, and steamed the squash the night before, the pie was the easiest part. It went into the oven in less than 15 minutes and I moved on to cleaning the kitchen floor. The recipe does not specify what kind of squash you can use. Pumpkin would work as well as acorn squash, and probably you could use Hubbard squash as well. What you get has the signature taste of pumpkin pie, although it has different ingredients.

Squash-Apple Pie
1 cup cooked, mashed and sieved squash
1 cup thick, tart applesauce (I used unsweetened applesauce.)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
1/2 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 unbaked ten-inch pie shell with stand-up edge

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

2. Place the squash (which, by the way, you can just mash with a fork. Don't worry about sieving it.) and applesauce in a bowl. Stir in the salt, brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, mace and cloves.

3. Combine the eggs and cream and add to the squash mixture. Pour into the pie shell. Bake twenty minutes. Reduce oven heat to 350 degrees and bake twenty to twenty five minutes longer. (a knife inserted into filling should come out clean. Cool and chill

Makes eight servings.

Tomato Sauce

Here is a picture of the completed ravioli with the tomato sauce over it. I was actually too frazzled by the time I got around to making the tomato sauce to remember to take a picture of the process. It is not easy to cook and photograph at the same time, since one has to stop and wipe one's hands, (and one's brow) each time the camera is used.
There is nothing special about making the tomato sauce. If you want to undertake this whole project, I would suggest making the tomato sauce ahead of time. We did not.
Tomato Sauce
1/4 cup olive oil
1 large onion finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped (If you like more, and who doesn't, go for it.)
1 two-pound-thirteen ounce can Italian plum tomatoes
1 six ounce can tomato paste
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon basil
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Sautee the onion and garlic in the oil until tender but not browned.
2. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, salt, pepper, bay leaf, and basil. Bring to a boil and simmer for twenty minutes.
3. Add the thyme and oregano and let simmer five minutes longer.
Makes about one quart, or plenty for all the ravioli you can churn out.


The pasta went relatively easily because my husband took over. We hadn't made our own pasta for years, but when we had, back before we had kids, he did it. And he did it again, Tuesday night. This recipe uses the "make a well in the flour and break the eggs into the well" method.
Well, what we both have to say about the well method is, forget it. Olvidate, as they say in Spanish.
Use a food processor, and very little water. Put in a tablespoon at a time, and as soon as you can get it to hold together, stop. My husband says, think pie crust dough. And, if you are making the full recipe, make it in two batches. Luckily, I did that, because I ruined the first batch with too much water.
Here follows not Hewlett's recipe, but ours, adapted for a food processor. This is a picture of my husband rolling the dough through the pasta machine.


6 cups flour

1 tablespoon salt

6 eggs

1. Place half the flour, salt and eggs into a food processor. Buzz the mixture until everything is mixed together. At this stage, it's kind of like oatmeal. Then add water a tablespoon at a time. As soon as the dough holds together, stop. If the dough is sticky, it will gum up the pasta machine, and you will have to throw the dough away.

2. Repeat for the second half of the ingrediants, if you need that much.

3. Pass one-sixth of the dough through the pasta machine at its widest setting several times, folding the dough in thirds as it lengthens for successive rollings. This is kind of like kneading the dough. Set the machine at number two or three for the final rolling to make the ravioli dough.

Makes enough for six dozen ravioli.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Ravioli a la Romana

Tonight I made ravioli, something I have never done before, and I polished off three recipes out of the book. This is a picture of my husband crimping the edges of the filled raviolis with a fork so the filling stays inside.
Ravioli is a challenging dish. It is not technical and fussy like Julia Childs' throw away and start over French sauces, but it does have many steps. Two pairs of hands and a lot of time are recommended if you want to take this on. I did it after school one evening, and was so wiped out by the time we had ravioli and sauce that I couldn't even get it together to make salad. Also strongly recommended is a food processor. In fact, I would say, don't try this unless you have a food processor and probably a pasta machine too.
Since there are so many steps, I'm going to try to include more pictures. Two weeks ago, my daughter and I went to Pennsylvania to visit a friend of hers. We came back with a basket of apples, and the next night made apple caramel jam from a blog she reads called The Simple Dollar. ( This is mainly a personal finance blog, but the author is interested in cooking. The recipe was a revelation. He had pictures for every step of the jam making process, which, if you have followed my explanations of making jam, can be tortured.
Ravioli is a "Day before," kind of recipe. In fact, one wonders if Hewlett actually edited this recipe. However, the recipe does not clearly state that one does need to start the process the day before. It just presents a beef pot roast braised in red wine as something everyone has in their refrigerator.
However, last weekend, when I was making Down East Haddock Chowder, I braised the pot roast, having read through the recipe ahead of time !!!
Wikipedia, my all purpose source for random information, says that braising is a combination of using dry heat and moist heat to cook things, usually meat. Since we weren't going to eat the meat as a pot roast, I skipped the step one and went straight to step two, and simmered the meat in an airline sized bottle of red wine in a crockpot. I didn't want to open a bottle of drinking wine unless I had to, but the airline size was fine.
The next step is to grind up the meat. The instructions say to use the finest blade of a meat grinder. Now, a meat grinder used to be a staple of the 40s, 50s and 60s kitchen. I had one when I set up housekeeping in 1970. It was made out of cast iron or cast aluminum, had a funnel shaped top, and sort of a screw thing that forced the meat against the blades when you turned the handle. It lived in its box in the depths of the kitchen cabinets, and you took it out when you needed to grind meat. I remember we had it in our old house on 12th Street.
Somewhere in the depths of time between 12th Street and now, it got replaced by that marvel of kitchen technology, the food processor. So don't worry about the meat grinder.
It appears that one cannot add multiple pictures to one post. And since I don't want to confuse the issue further by creating multiple posts for one recipe, you won't see more pictures until I learn how to do it. Sigh.
Having braised your pot roast and ground it up in the food processor, you are in a position to move to the actual recipe.
What I found was, this recipe makes an insane amount of ravioli. We had enough for five hungry people, with three servings of ravioli and a ton of ground meat left over. I would cut the amount of meat in half, and possibly the pasta too.
Ravioli a la Romana
1 large Bermuda onion, finely chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 pounds fresh spinach, chopped or two packages frozen chopped spinach
1/2 cup pine nuts (optional)
1/2 pound ricotta cheese
1 egg
freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 three pound beef pot roast, braised with onion and red wine, put through the finest blade of a meat grinder (See beginning of blog.)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 recipe pasta
4 cups home made tomato sauce
1. Saute the onion in the oil until tender and golden. Add the spinach and cook until spinach is cooked and mixture is dry. Pass through the finest blade of the meat grinder (food processor) with the pine nuts.
2. Mix together the ricotta, egg and one-quarter cup Parmesan. In a large bowl, combine the meat, spinach mixture and cheese mixture and mix well. Season with salt and pepper. Form into two inch balls.
3. Line a ravioli tin with pasta dough. (You don't need a ravioli tin. You can lay your dough out on a piece of wax paper and cut it with a knife.)
4. Cut the dough into rectangles 4 inches long and two inches square. Put a tablespoon of the filling near one end. Then fold the dough over the filling and crimp the edges with a fork, as is shown in the picture.
5. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
6. Cook the ravioli in small batches, in large kettle of boiling salted water, about ten minutes. Drain. (As far as I'm concerned, you can skip the next step of baking it. Just pour on the sauce and take it to the table.If you do that, skip steps 5 and 6)
6. Arrange the ravioli in a shallow casserole. Spoon the sauce over. If desired, sprinkle with three-quarters of a cup of Parmesan cheese. Bake about 15 minutes.
Yield, six dozen ravioli, nine to ten servings.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Down-East Haddock Chowder

Down-East Haddock Chowder is like Rhode Island Fish Chowder. It calls for pilot crackers. Now, I learned something from the Rhode Island Fish Chowder experience. I learned that these things are not a garnish, they are an integral part of the recipe, whatever they are. Now R.I.F.C. gives the bewildered, and non down east cook (What's the opposite of Down East? Up West?) options. It mentions cream crackers. I know what cream crackers are. And because of this useful piece of knowledge, I was able to substitute oyster crackers for the mysterious pilot cracker.
This time, no substitutes were offered but I figured oyster crackers would do okay, and remembered to buy them when I went to the market on Saturday afternoon. Another obstacle presented itself at the fish market, where I went first. They had no haddock.
"We don't have it," said the Saturday guy behind the counter.
"Well, do you ever get it?" I inquired, having learned from the smoked haddock experience that what the Saturday guy behind the counter says isn't necessarily the final word on the issue.
"Only sometimes."
Then I decided what the hell, cod could substitute for haddock, so I bought cod. The store did not have anything remotely resembling oyster crackers, or the mysterious pilot cracker. What it does have is a whole aisle of Thai condiments, but, why not, since the owners seem to be from Thailand, or somewhere else in Southeast Asia. I got the oyster crackers at Safeway along with everything else.
I decided to start the chowder after I got home from the grocery store, even though we were going to a play (The Pirates of Penzance, by Gilbert and Sullivan) that night. I got it done and even had time to walk the dog, also named Haddock, so we could eat before we left. Now, the recipe calls for 3 cups of milk and three large pilot crackers crumbled. Since I had no idea what that was, or how much, I went with two cups of milk and two cups of oyster crackers. The crackers absorb liquid and make a sort of glutinous, but tasty, mass in the chowder.
Today, as I sat down at the computer, I consulted Wikipedia on the subject of pilot crackers and found out some interesting stuff. Crown Pilot Crackers were the oldest crackers produced by Nabisco, originally dating to 1792. They were used in "historical recipes" for stuffing and chowder. Nabisco discontinued the production of pilot crackers in 1996, sparking massive protests in New England, and eventually an episode on CBS Sunday Morning News. This prompted Nabisco to gear up for more cracker production. Unfortunately, the interest in pilot crackers dwindled over time, and Nabisco dropped them again in 2008.
They continue to be produced other places, such as Hawaii, and seem to be popular with backpackers and survivalists. Mountain House, a place that makes backpacker meals, sells them by mail. Again, according to Wikipedia, the Australian military refers to them as ANZAC wafers. So, now we know what pilot crackers are, and why you can't buy them in stores.

Down-East Haddock (or cod) Chowder

1/3 cup diced salt pork
1 onion, finely chopped
3 potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 pounds haddock fillets, cut into strips or cubes
1 quart water
1 rib celery with leaves, chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/8 teaspoon mace
3 cups milk
3 large pilot crackers, crumbled (See blog text for info on the pilot cracker.)

1. Cook the salt pork in a kettle until crisp. Remove the pieces and reserve.
2. In the fat remaining in the kettle, saute the onion until tender but not browned. Add the potatoes, fish, water, celery, salt, pepper and mace. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer gently until potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes.
3. Stir in the milk, crackers and reserved pork pieces and heat to boiling.
Makes about six servings.

Grandma's Squash Bake

Tuesday night I decided to break out of the tyranny of New England recipes and make Grandmother's Squash Bake from Idaho. The remaining recipes in the vegetable section of the Northeast section are somewhat....weird. Weird, or unable to be cooked at this time of year, like sauteed dandelion flowers. Or not something you just eat for dinner, like creamed horseradish. So, I got an acorn squash and made half the recipe. One of the squash options is Hubbard squash. Hubbard squash was a remanant of my childhood. One of the high points of the year was the Great Barrington Fair in September, right after school started. It had horse racing, which tied up the traffic on Route 7 on both sides of the town, and carnival rides and games and agricultural exhibits. Of course, the carnival rides were the main attraction, but I also liked the argricultural exhibits, the cows, with their ribbons and portable milking machines, the sheep, with their wool clipped close so you could run your fingers through it, the odd looking chickens and the canned and baked goods.
Then, there were the vegetables. One of the exhibit buildings had a series of large display cases where groups like the Grange laid out diaramas of vegetables, huge sunbursts of corn and squash and tomatoes. I remember the pale green, bumpy Hubbard squashes and wondered what they tasted like. I still don't know. But Grandmother's Squash Bake is a good recipe made with acorn squash. A note. It says to press the squash flesh through a colander. I just kind of minced it with a fork and it turned out fine.

Grandmother's Squash Bake

1/2 cup butter
1 large Hubbard Squash, butternut squash or two large acorn squash
1/2 cup heavy cream, scalded
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
2. Melt three tablespoons of the butter. Cut the squash in half and remove the seeds. Cut squash in pieces if very large. Place in a roasting pan. Brush cut surfaces with the melted butter. Bake forty minutes, or until tender.
3. Scoop out the squash flesh and press through a colander. Beat pulp with the remaining ingredients and turn into a greased baking dish or casserole. Bake 20 minutes or until top is browned.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Escarole Soup

Escarole, I remember from my childhood, as being some sort of lettuce. So, no doubt, when I saw this recipe, I thought, What ho? Lettuce soup? No thanks. Think of it as more of a green, like turnip greens or spinach, or any other green leafy item one might put in soup. This recipe has two parts. First, you make the soup stock. This takes five pounds of marrow bones and a couple of hours of boiling.
I got the marrow bones at Whole Foods. I don't like going there because I always spend way more money there than I intend. I go in for three items and end up spending $75. because I decide I simply must have some of their $10 a pound St. Andre cheese. Five pounds of marrow bones ran approximately $18. They sat in the refrigerator for five days until I decided I had better do something with them before I had $18 worth of spoiled marrow bones.
The broth is pretty easy to make. You throw the bones and a can of tomato paste into your largest pot along with 8 cups of water and boil. The recipe makes no mention of this but a health conscious person will skim the not inconsiderable amount of fat off the broth before he/she makes the soup. Marrow is, after all, fat. Skimming the fat involves taking the bones out of the pot and putting the pot in the refrigerator over night. I left the cooling bones in a bowl on the counter, where my son the lawyer inspected them the next day and inquired, "Is there a reason for this?"
I made the soup in two shifts because I planned to finish it the next night, but when the next night rolled around I sank wearily into a chair and plumped for take out. My husband actually made the soup the next night after I got as far as chopping up the escarole and staggered into a chair, moaning with pain. It's very tasty, a good cold weather soup.

Escarole Soup

5 pounds soup bones with marrow
1 six ounce can tomato paste
8 cups water
3 1/2 teaspoons salt
3/4 pound ground chuck
1/4 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
1 egg lightly beaten
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1 pound chopped escarole
1 cup diced onions
1 cup diced celery
1 cup diced potatoes
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

1. Place the soup bones, tomato paste, water and two and one half teaspoons of the salt in a four quart saucepan. Cover and simmer one hour.
2. Combine the chuck, garlic, egg, pepper, cheese and remaining salt. Shape into three-quarter inch balls. Add to hot soup and simmer ten minutes longer. Add the vegetables and simmer thirty minutes longer or until vegetables are tender. Remove bones and serve soup hot with chopped parsley sprinkled over the top.
Makes eight servings.

Sour Cream Pie

This pie actually is, in the words of the cliche, as easy as pie. It has a graham cracker crust, which the recipe says make from scratch, and I say, hell, no, buy it at the store. Aside from the crust, it has four ingredients. Mix it, pour it, bake for five minutes, and chill it. Dessert done. This was the last dish we had at the dinner party back on October 2.
The energy level around here is at new lows. I alternate between walking without the cane, and hobbling on it like a grandma. One minute, I feel fine, and the next, I'm clinging to the walls in horrible pain. No one seems to have any idea what's going on here. I probably need to go to the pool more. I haven't been for two weeks, since last weekend we went to Boston to see my New York cousin's sister, and hang out. The last time I saw my doctor, he said I should go to the gym six to seven times a week. I nodded wearily, refraining from pointing out that I already was getting up at 5:30 and going to bed at 11:30 without having any opportunity to go to the gym.
My husband, who was very good about taking up the slack when I first got hurt, contracted a cold with a hacking cough that makes everyone around him recoil in horror. So things like cooking, cleaning and even picking up things off the floor have fallen by the wayside.
But the dinner party worked out fine, thanks to the maid service, and this dessert is definitely a keeper.

Sour Cream Pie

1 3/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup melted butter
1/2 cup plus one teaspoon sugar
1/4 pound cream cheese
1 cup sour cream
1 cup blueberries

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Combine the cracker crumbs, butter and one-quarter cup of the sugar. Line a nine-inch pie plate with the mixture and press down firmly. Bake eight to ten minutes, or until lightly browned.
3. Mix together the cream cheese, sour cream and one-quarter cup of the remaining sugar. Pour into pie shell. Top with blueberries and sprinkle with remaining sugar. Bake five minutes. Cool and chill. Makes six servings.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Tossed Salad with Honey Dressing

This is one of those surprisingly good recipes. I don't exactly expect some of these to be bad, but when the ingredients are what I would call peculiar, such as honey in salad dressing, I am surprised when I get a burst of flavor in my mouth. We made this for the dinner party, back on October 2, which just goes to show how backed up this blog is. Part of the blame can be laid at the feet of the baseball playoffs. I almost never watch TV. However, when the baseball playoffs start, I park myself in front of the television for at least an hour a night. I rarely have the time or patience to watch an entire game., but I often watch a couple of innings.
Because of its assortment of vegetables, this is a colorful, crunchy salad. The honey blends with the oil and vinegar and does one of those things that Tweeter feed chefs try to replicate.

Tossed Salad with Honey Dressing

1 medium-size head leaf lettuce or romaine lettuce, washed, drained and crisped
1/4 head red cabbage, finely shredded
1 cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced
1 bunch scallions, including some green part chopped
1/3 cup finely diced celery
1/3 cup finely diced carrot
1/2 clove garlic finely chopped
1 teaspoon oregano
1 tablespoon finely grated onion
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Honey dressing
1/2 cup oil
1/4 cup vinegar
1/4 cup honey

1. To prepare salad, break the lettuce into a salad bowl. Add the cabbage, cucumber, scallions, celery, and carrot. Toss.
2. Sprinkle with the garlic, oregano, grated onion, salt and pepper.
3. To prepare honey dressing, combine the oil, vinegar and honey. Mix well. Pour over salad and toss.
Serves 8.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Crab-Stuffed Chicken

This is unbelievably good. When it was cooking, our mouths were all watering. Son the lawyer, who had a date with his fiancee and the Notre Dame-Boston College game, was sorry he couldn't stay and eat with us.
I think it must have been the sherry. When I was 22 I went to Europe for six months. I learned various things, including not to shoot one's mouth off in a letter to one's olders and betters, because one will never hear the end of it. One of the best things I learned in Madrid in a whole series of little bars around the Plaza Mayor was to drink sherry. My mother used to put sherry in soup and other things. I remember one Christmas Eve when the adults had Lobster Thermadore. We could smell the sherry in the sauce. The sherry gave a wonderful rich smell to the sauce.
The title of the recipe is somewhat misleading. I'm always complaining about the names of these recipes. Since it involves chicken quarters, the chicken is not stuffed. It's actually chicken lying in a bed of crab stuffing. Those of you who think stuffing is complicated and messy, think no more. Just make the stuffing, bake the chicken for 35 minutes, then fill the pan with stuffing and put the chicken on top.
This seems to be a recipe from the days when Nature's Bounty really was nature's bounty. Crabs filled the Chesapeake Bay. If you wanted to try a new recipe, you threw out the crab pot at the end of the dock, and hoisted it a couple of hours later, full of struggling crabs. Crab was cheap. Well, I don't know if it's a result of the BP oil spill or what, but crab is not cheap. It's mindblowing to realize that one has dropped $20 on the stuffing for dinner. Makes me feel like Daddy Warbucks.
This calls for two chickens to feed four people. The cookbook says "two and a half to three pound chickens." That was before chickens started pumping iron and taking steroids to look like Mark McGuire. The smallest chicken available was five pounds, a young chicken. So two of today's chickens are plenty to feed six people.
This has to bake for 70 minutes, so plan accordingly.

Crab Stuffed Chicken

1/4 cup plus two tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons Hungarian sweet paprika
2 two-and-one-half-pound to three-pound chickens, split
1/2 pound of mushrooms, sliced
1/4 cup dry sherry1/8 ta
1/4 cup catchup
1 tablespoon chopped parsley

3 slices stale white bread cut into very small pieces (A small box of Stovetop Stuffing did nicely, since I would have had to have bought white bread and let it sit around for weeks in order for it to get stale.)
5 tablespoons heavy cream
12 ounces crab meat, picked over to remove bits of shell and cartilage
1/4 cup melted butter
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon salt (Don't use so much. It doesn't need it.)
1 teaspoon prepared mustard
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/4 teaspoon marjoram
1/4 teaspoon sage

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. To prepare chicken, mix two tablespoons of the butter with the salt, pepper and paprika. Rub the chicken pieces with the mixture and place, skin side up, wings tuckedunder, in a single layer in a baking dish. Bake 35 minutes.
3. Heat remaining butter and saute the mushrooms in it. Add the sherry, catchup and parsley. Soon one tablespoon butter mixture over each chicken half and bake 10 minutes longer.
4. Meanwhile, to prepare stuffing, combine the ingredients in a bowl.
5. Turn chicken pieces over and stuff with crab stuffing. Spoon remaining butter mushroom mixture over all and bake thirty minutes lonver, or until chicken is tender.

Curried Flan Appetizer

On Saturday, we had an all cookbook dinner party. It was excellent. And, surprisingly, it contained a minimum amount of shellfish. It's almost getting to the point where all there is left to cook is shellfish, but not quite. The party was for my old friend Mindi, who used to teach at my school. I probably had lunch with her every day for four years. Then she left to work part-time, and, except for ESL meetings I never see her. So, finally, we got coordinated, her with her babysitter, and me with a dinner. Two very old friends from college, David and Marilyn, came too. We talked about time travel and trends in forensic science and Harry Potter. It was great.
Curried Flan is not what at least I would think of as flan. To me, flan is a caramel dessert. This is sort of curried egg salad pate. Spread on pumpernickel it's delicious, can be made in advance and altogether is something you should try, unless, of course, you hate egg salad.
I made this Friday evening after dinner, to appease my husband's need for organization and having things ready ahead of time. I advise putting the onion, celery, broth gelatin mixture in a metal bowl and cooling it in a bowl of ice. Otherwise, it takes forever to cool, and just jells along the edges.

Curried Flan Appetizer

1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 rib celery, finely chopped
1 1/2 tablespoon butter
2 to 3 teaspoons curry powder, or to taste
5 teaspoons unflavored gelatin (I think this is two packets.)
2 1/4 cups chicken broth
1 cup mayonnaise
4 hardcooked eggs, chopped
1/4 cup chopped salted almonds (optional)
2 tablespoons chopped parsley (optional)
Pumpernickel or crackers

1. Saute the onion and celery in the butter until tender. Sprinkle with the curry powder and cook, stirring, one minute.
2. Soak the gelatin in one-quarter cup of the broth. Heat the remaining broth to boiling, add softened gelatin and stir into the curry mixture. Bring to a boil, stirring.
3. Cool and chill the mixture until it begins to thicken. Blend in the mayonnaise, eggs, almonds and parsley if desired. Pour mixture into a cold wet mold and chill until firm. Unmold and serve as spread with pumpernickel or crackers.
Makes one dozen servings.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Cold Chicken Breasts

On Tuesday, I bethought myself of all the leftover chicken breasts from the clambake. Out of consideration for my husband, who get home around 7:30 when he's early and more like 8:00 or 8:30 the rest of the time, I decided I could start cooking again. I wrote him a note asking him to boil the chicken breasts and save the water, because I hadn't exactly read the recipe for this dish, but I suspected it had jellied chicken broth on it.
I got home from physical therapy and found son-the-lawyer who had been asking me to help him figure out how to clean his room. I recalled a co-worker who once suggested I clean off my desk with a flamethrower. In son's case, an earth mover would be more to the purpose. Therapy always leaves me wrung out and unable to walk, so I staggered upstairs, collapsed in his desk chair and spent an hour saying, "What about this? What about that?" At the end of the hour, his rug had reappeared and his desktop had nothing but the box containing a leather briefcase he received for graduation. Two enormous bags of assorted trash had been hauled out to the alley. It was nothing short of a miracle.
Revived by having two bedrooms that looked like persons lived in them, rather than the more unruly faction of the Russian Army, I went back downstairs to attack this recipe. Once I looked at it, I was relieved to learn that the chicken breasts were coated with mayonnaise mixed with gelatin, not jellied chicken broth, and that the recipe could actually be completed and eaten for that night's dinner, not the following night's.
This is a dish that could well be served at a summer dinner party. The cook is supposed to decorate the chicken with all manner of bits, artfully placed to look like flowers, etc. I sliced rounds of a leak and plunked them in a row on top of the coated chicken breast and let that be the end of it. One of these days, I'm going to have to buckle down and apply myself to food decoration. Yeah.
Starting with chilled chicken breasts, I was able to finish this in less than an hour, stick it in the refrigerator to chill some more, and eat it in about an hour and a half. You make the mayonnaise in the blender, add gelatin, and spread it on the chicken. Decorate with sliced olives, leaks, truffles, etc, and voila. It's probably the last of the hot weather dishes for this year.

Cold Chicken Breasts

3 whole chicken breasts, halved
1 carrot, diced
1 rib celery, diced
10 peppercorns
1 bay leaf
3 sprigs parsley
1 onion, chopped
1/2 teaspoon thyme
freshly ground pepper
2 egg yolks
1 tablespoon tarragon vinegar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
cayenne pepper
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
1/4 cup heavy cream
ripe olives or truffles
Green leek leaves
4 tomatoes, peeled and sliced
one red onion, sliced and separated into rings
1/3 cup French dressing

1. Day before, place the chicken breasts in a large skillet with the carrot, celery, one teaspoon salt, the peppercorns, bay leaf, parsley onion and thyme. Add water to three-quarters cover the breasts.
2. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer very gently ten to fifteen minutes, or until chicken is tender. Chill overnight, still in the broth.
3. Next day, remove skin and bones from breasts, but keep meat in whole pieces. Season with salt and pepper.
4. Place the egg yolks, vinegar, lemon juice, mustard and salt and cayenne to taste in an electric blender with one quarter cup of olive oil. Blend at high speed, gradually adding remaining olive oil and the vegetable oil in a continuous stream.
5. Soak the gelatin in one-quarter cup water and dissolve while stirring over gentle heat. Add gelatin to mayonnaise in blender and continue blending while adding enough cream to give a spreading consistency.
6. With a spatula or spoon, coat chicken pieces with mayonnaise and decorate immediately with olives or truffles, pimentos and leek greens. Chill.
7. Combine the tomatoes and onion rings. Pour the dressing over and chill.
8. To serve, place tomato mixture on a platter and top with chicken breasts. Garnish with watercress.
Makes 6 servings.