Monday, January 31, 2011

Corned Beef Hash

Corned beef hash was one of my most favoritest childhood foods. I must have been desperate for anything smacking the least little bit of rebellion or novelty or doing things out of their appointed order. One of the prime attractions of corned beef hash was the fact that it was topped with fried eggs! For dinner!!I still like it, even though for some reason we don't have it all that much. For one thing, it requires not eating all the corned beef, which requires more discipline than my family had for a long time. When Son was at home and we ate meat, the corned beef disappeared in short order. I made the New England boiled dinner late last spring, but due to the disappearing corned beef principle, we didn't have enough corned beef left over to make the hash. This time, I had to tell my husband he was not to eat the left over corned beef because I needed it for hash.
One can use canned corned beef to make this dish, but real corned beef is better. I have taken canned corned beef on camping trips and made corned beef hash, but, like I said, real is better. So, even though I made the New England boiled dinner late last spring, we didn't have enough corned beef left over to make the hash. Last week, we had it all over again so we could make hash.
This is a perfectly straightforward recipe. Cut the potatoes up first and then cook them. You won't have to cook them nearly as long, for one thing. For another, you won't have a disintegrating potato exterior and a crunchy, undercooked potato interior to cope with. Saint Patrick's Day is coming up in another month, and there will be plenty of corned beef in the meat section, so go for hash!

Corned Beef Hash

3 cups finely diced cooked corned beef
2 cups finely diced cooked potatoes
3 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup finely chopped onions
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
peanut oil
Catchup (optional) (Optional? Hell, no! Obligatory!)

1. Combine the corned beef and potatoes in a mixing bowl.
2. Melt the butter and cook the onions in it until thoroughly wilted. Add onions to the corned beef mixture. Add the Worcestershire, salt and pepper and blend lightly.
3. Brush a skillet with oil and spoon the corned beef mixture into the skillet, pressing down to cover the bottom fully. Cook over moderate heat until well browned at the bottom.
4. Serve with catchup if desired. (Don't forget the eggs!)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Cape Cod Clam Chowder

My daughter's friend has been begging me to make clam chowder. Since I was planning my birthday party, I figured it would be a good time. The big issue was the clams. Where to buy same? On Friday, we had son and fiancee over to dinner. I had planned to make clam cakes, and so went to the fish store. Fish store did not have clams in containers, or more accurately, the only containers the clams came in were shells. So clam cakes were thrown to the winds in favor of what ended up to be half of two recipes, so I didn't get any credit for that meal.
The birthday party was Sunday. Saturday, I went around to Whole Foods, where amazingly enough, they had clams in plastic containers. Clams are also a very reasonably priced shellfish. Now, this recipe for clam chowder is one of those "Day before..." recipes. The cook is supposed to put in everything but the milk the day before, to make what Hewitt refers to as the base. However there were problems. Also on Saturday, we hosted a church potluck of folks from my husband's church. So, because I was cooking for that, I could not make the base ahead of time as required in the recipe.
It seemed like it turned out fine anyhow. It is an easy recipe. Modern food packing technology makes it unnecessary to grind the clams in the no-longer-owned meat grinder. They are chopped when they are packed. It was a great party too.
In case the idea of a medium sized onion sends you into a tizzy, think of balls. Small onions are the size of ping pong balls. Medium onions are between a ping pong ball and a baseball. Large onions are the size of a softball. Also, since the recipe calls for 24 clams, you may wish to know how that translates to packaged clams. I put in a pound of clams, and that seemed to be fine.

Cape Cod Clam Chowder

1/2 pound bacon, finely diced
2 medium sized onions, finely chopped
3 cups diced potatoes (this is about 6 medium potatoes, chopped up)
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon basil
2 cups boiling water
24 chowder clams (preferably large quahogs) ground, liquor and all, through medium blade of food grinder. (See introduction to recipe.)
1 quart of milk

1. Saute the bacon and onions in a large kettle until onions are tender and golden. Pour off excess fat. (There may not be any excess fat. I had to add vegetable oil in order to get the onions to saute.)
2. To the kettle, add the potatoes, salt, oregano, basil and water and let simmer until potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes.
3. Add the clams. This is the base. (See note to prepare chowder.)
Note: Next day, add to base one quart of milk, two tablespoons butter and salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Heat.
Makes about 8 servings.

Baked Fresh Shrimp with Feta Cheese

I made this for the my husband's church potluck, being as how my husband is allergic to shellfish, and I have to seize every opportunity to serve it when he's not going to be the only one eating it. The potluck people tend toward the older end of the spectrum. There are two families with school age children. Somehow it is agreed that these events are adults only, which, now that my kids are adults themselves, is fine with me. I haven't heard any objections from the families with children, either. Anyhow, they are a pleasant group of people, and over the years, we have had some fascinating discussions.
One year, a man and his wife who were retired Foreign Service officers were part of our group. He was an expert in the Arab world, and told a hilarious story about driving his American station wagon through the streets of Cairo and being mistaken for a taxi driver. The story makes more sense when it is explained that all taxis in Cairo are yellow, like the man's car. Anyhow, the would be passenger got in and asked to be taken to the main mosque.
"I'm the chief consul at the American Embassy," our friend thought to himself. "I can take this guy to the main mosque."
A few minutes later, it became obvious to the passenger that he was not in a Cairo taxi. He became very quiet and then asked our friend if he could get out now. The man leaped out into traffic and fled, no doubt convinced he had narrowly avoided being kidnapped.
Well, anyway, about the shrimp. What takes the longest in preparing this dish is peeling the shrimp. There is also the question of what it is supposed to look like. The recipe says to bake the ingredients for ten minutes, until it starts to bubble. I set the timer and took it out after ten minutes. Because the shrimp is obscured by the tomato on top, I didn't see any bubbling.Nor did I get a gander at the consistency of the casserole. It turned out to be much more liquidy than I would have expected. Given the ingredients, I expected something like a quiche, a semi-solid cream and egg mixture with shrimp embedded in it.
Because the recipe as given in the NYTHC only serves 3 to 4, I had to double the recipe, which may have made for a slower cooking time. I would advise lifting up the tomato slices and inspecting what lies beneath, If it is not bubbling or starting to set, put it in for another five minutes. This is kind of bland, given that feta cheese is a flavorful cheese. However, if you are looking for a new way to cook shrimp, this is worth a try.

Baked Fresh Shrimp with Feta Cheese

12 shrimp, shelled and deveined
2 tablespoons butter
1 egg
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
Tabasco sauce to taste
1 large tomato peeled and sliced
juice of half a lemon
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
finely ground black pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Cook the shrimp in the butter on both sides just until shrimp turn pink. Transfer them to a small baking dish and discard the butter.
3. Combine the egg and cream and beat with a fork until blended. Add the cheese and continue mixing. Add the Tabasco and pour the mixture over the shrimp. Arrange the tomato slices on top and bake until cheese mixture starts bubbling, about ten minutes.
4. Sprinkle the lemon juice on top and sprinkle with the parsley. Serve immediately with pepper.
Makes three to four servings.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Baked Beans II

I got curious. Why baked beans from Boston? What is the connection? As the old saying goes, "Here's to dear old Boston, the land of the bean and the cod. Where the Lowells speak only to Cabots, and the Cabots speak only to God." (Actually it was a toast, given in 1910 at a Holy Cross Alumni reunion.) I get the cod part. But why beans?
Thanks to the Internet, we can all know. The beans came from the Waumpanoag people of Cape Cod, who grew them with squash and corn and passed them on to the Pilgrims. The Pilgrims, being strict Calvinists, kept the Sabbath. That means they did no work, not even cooking. So, the they and their descendants made baked beans on Saturday and baked them Saturday night along with brown bread. When folks got home from church on Sunday, their dinner was still hot in the oven. According to the website, the good burghers of Boston ate brown bread and beans on Sunday well into the 1930s.
You wouldn't know it from my family. Although in the 18th century, many of the men in my family were ministers, by the mid 19th century, they seemed a distinctly secular bunch with nary a bean in the kitchen. My great grandfather was a Bostonian and a captain of industry. He was on the board of the Boston Public Library and had a large house on Beacon Hill. In his memoirs, he did discuss going to church. He was a member of the Episcopal Church. His son, my grandfather, was considerably less illustrious, and in fact, when I asked my aunt, his daughter, if he ever worked, she recalled that he was president of his class. Guess where? Clue: It starts with H.
My father never set foot in church except for weddings and funerals. His idea of the Sabbath was a day in which he could take a nap after lunch. In his defense, he worked damn hard during the week. Being a dairy farmer was no picnic.
As for beans, we never ate them. I remember encountering them at a Fourth of July buffet at the local country club and being entranced. Could we have them, I begged my mother. She bought a couple of cans and let me eat them in the kitchen, with my brother, who was too young to eat with the adults.
These baked beans, one recipe among several in the cookbook, are relatively easy to make. Baked Beans I, the recipe which precedes it, requires the beans to be baked for six to eight hours. Another recipe, Beanhole Beans, requires the cook to dig a hole in the backyard and make a fire in it, and then bury the beans with hot rocks. These beans are pretty simple. You are supposed to soak the beans. Usually, I do soak beans, because it cuts down on the cooking time. This time, I wanted to make the beans, and I didn't have them the night before, so I couldn't soak them. But, I just boiled them for a couple of hours, and they softened up just fine.

Baked Beans II

1/2 pound salt pork, cut into squares
1 pound dried white Michigan or pea beans
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup unsulphured molasses
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon salt
1 onion, studded with two whole cloves

1. Day before, place the salt pork and beans in a large mixing bowl and add water to cover to the depth of one inch. Let stand overnight.
2. Next day, drain beans and pork and pour into a three-quart saucepan. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Simmer, partially covered, one hour.
3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
4. Discard the onion and pour the beans into an earthenware crock or bean pot. Cover and bake two and one-half hours. Look at the beans occasionally and if they are cooking too fast, reduce the oven heat. They should bubble nicely.
Makes six servings.

Split Pea Soup

This recipe presents certain difficulties in the way of quantities, namely that of water. I put the split peas in a kettle, which as we all know, vary in size, and then I put in enough water to cover the hambone, which was probably about a gallon. The soup turned out possibly a little less thick than anticipated, although, plenty thick enough. So, how much water should you put in? I would start with 8 cups, which is half a gallon. Then you can add more water if you wish.
Now, I don't know what pea and bean packers have done to peas and beans since the 1960s, but you don't have to soak peas and beans overnight anymore. You especially don't have to soak peas overnight. So, my advice is to omit step 1, especially if you forgot about it the day before. This makes a good standard split pea soup. I haven't made split pea soup in several years, maybe 20, but then I didn't put it through the blender. It came out thicker. In fact when I put the leftovers in the refrigerator, it solidified, and had to be scooped into a pan and diluted with milk. This soup does not solidify.
The only difficulty in making the soup is obtaining the ham bone. Hams seem to be larger than I remember them being. When I did make split pea soup, pre children it was just for me and my husband, so we weren't feeding a crowd with these hams. But the smallest ham with a bone that I could lay my hands on at Safeway was a good 8 or 9 pounds, and we ate it for a couple of weeks before we got to the ham bone stage. But, it's a good winter soup and easy to make. I recommend it for anyone stuck in the house during a snow storm. Just make sure you have a ham bone ready.

Split Pea Soup

2 cups dried yellow split peas
cold water
1 ham bone
2 ribs celery, chopped
1 carrot, studded with two whole cloves
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 large potato, diced
boiling water if necessary

1. Day before, pick over and wash the peas. Cover with cold water and let soak overnight. (See introduction.)
2. Next day, drain the peas and place in a kettle with fresh water to cover. Add the ham bone, celery, onion studded with cloves, carrot, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer two hours or until peas are tender. Add the potato and cook thirty minutes longer.
3. Run the soup through an electric blender (making sure not to fill the blender too full and paint your kitchen walls with soup.) Adjust consitency with boiling water if soup is too thick. Check seasoning.
Makes 8 servings.

Friday, January 7, 2011

No Fail Pie Crust

Now, one would think that a recipe with a title like No Fail Pie Crust would be just the thing for the pie crust impaired Berkshire Farmer, right? Well, not exactly. It was too wet, and stuck to the wax paper, and had to be sort of draped over the souffle dish I used as a pie pan. My husband says, in terms of taste it was excellent. There are several things that might be responsible. If any pie crust expert out there happens to be reading this, and has ideas, I would love to hear their thoughts.
1. I used the food processor. These recipes are pre-food processor recipes. Does the food processor do something weird to the consistency of pie crust dough? My New York aunt, who was a pie crust champion, always used the food processor. Who knows?
2. I used King Arthur White whole wheat flour. It's like pale tan whole wheat. I bought it because there was no King Arthur white at Safeway. Is that the wrong kind of flour for pie crusts?
If you want to use this recipe, I would advise putting in the water by the tablespoonful until you like the consistency of the dough. Let's assume you have never made a pie before and have no idea what I'm talking about. Dough should stick together, but if you add too much water the dough gets sticky, instead of cohesive. When the dough is sticky, it sticks to the rolling pin, the wax paper (don't try to make pie crust without wax paper), the counter and you. It's a mess. So add water in small amounts, gradually.

No-Fail Pie Crust

3 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup plus two tablespoons shortening
1 egg
1/3 cup water
1 tablespoon vinegar

1. Sift the flour, salt and baking powder into a bowl. With a pastry blender or the finger tips, blend the shortening into the flour until mixture resembles coarse oatmeal.
2. Beat the egg, water and vinegar together and stir into the flour mixture. The dough may be used immediately or held refrigerated for two days.
Makes enough for three pie shells or one large ten-inch two-crust pie.

Hot Clam and Tomato Broth

This is one of those recipes that has to be kind of slipped into the menu. My husband and I observed that consumption of tomato juice must have plummeted drastically in the years since Hewlett published this cookbook. My family used to have tomato juice in place of soup at least once a week in the warmer months. It used to show up on menus as an appetizer. Now, people don't serve soup before the main course at an ordinary family dinner. And God help the restaurant that served tomato juice as an appetizer. They would be flayed by the food critics.
Which is all to explain why this has to be slipped in. Also, as has been mentioned before, my husband is allergic to shellfish, so there has to be a stray group of guinea pigs around to try this stuff on.
Daughter's birthday party provided just such a set of guinea pigs. My husband and I hosted a somewhat raucous dinner party with four of her friends, her brother and his fiancee and us. I served the hot clam and tomato broth in the living room in demi-tasse cups to expose people to it in small amounts. It doesn't help that this stuff is now marketed as "Clamato Juice" and/or mixed with Bud Light to get something that sounded like it was spelled Chelato. Daughter said, "Clamato? No thank you."
Her friend Laura took over dolloping sour cream into the cups. (It was supposed to be whipped cream, but I didn't read the recipe first.) Laura loved it. Everyone else was polite about it. I would say, on a cold night, it's something that could be offered as an appetizer. Serve it hot.
Buying the clam juice was a hoot. I went to Whole Foods, where often buying off beat ingredients turns out to be an unrewarding effort. This time I was in luck. The first person I asked knew what I wanted, and walked to a shelf in the fish department, which turned out not to contain it. She asked a stylish looking young man, who walked down the aisle muttering, "Clahm juice, clahm juice." He located the "Clahm juice" in short order.

Hot Clam and Tomato Broth

1 1/2 cups fresh or bottled clam broth
1 1/2 cups tomato juice
juice of half a lemon
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
4 tablespoons whipped cream
2 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley or chives

1. Combine the broth and tomato juice in a saucepan and bring just to a simmer. Add the lemon juice, pepper and Worcestershire.
2. Pour the broth into four hot cups and top each serving with whipped cream. Garnish the cream with the parsley or chives.
Four servings.

Hancock Shaker Village's Sister Clymena's Chicken Pie

I wonder if, at the time Hewlett got this recipe, there were still Shakers at Hancock Shaker Village. Hancock Shaker Village is in the Berkshires, in Hancock in fact. It's an interesting place to visit. All the buildings are intact and the people who run it do things like breeding the cattle back to obtain the 19th century breeds. This was not a place we visited as children. In fact, other than Mount Everett, where we went for a picnic every summer, we didn't visit anyplace in Berkshire County. My sister got taken to New York City for plays, but I, insular little tyke that I was, decided that if she liked the theatre, I, by God, would not like it. So, since I didn't like what I had never seen, I missed out on the great theatrical productions of the 1960s like My Fair Lady and The Sound of Music.
Once I got my driver's license and a car, I went all over Berkshire County, aided and abetted by my boyfriend, who was hot to see historic houses, go to the theatre and see all the places he had read about. We went to Shaker Village. I remember talking to a woman who did cooking demonstrations. She cooked on a wood stove and gauged the heat by sticking her hand in the oven. She said at the beginning, she made the stove way too hot and burned everything, but after a while, she got a sense of what was the right temperature. The Shakers ate very well, she said. Even if they abstained from sex, they didn't abstain in other areas. This recipe proves that Sister Clymena did all right by her contemporaries, who, when they chowed down at those long tables, ate a very good pie.
I made this on a weeknight. I would advise cooking the chicken and pulling it off the bones ahead of time. I just cooked it, pulled it and baked it, which meant we ate late. We do not, or did not, three days ago, own a pie plate that doesn't have an ominous looking crack in it. So I made it in a souffle dish and just draped the pastry over it. The pastry is a whole other story, which you may read about in the post No Fail Pastry. I have no idea what chervil is, or where they sell it.

Hancock Shaker Village's Sister Clymena's Chicken Pie

2 three pound chickens, quartered
2 cups water
3 eggs well beaten
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 small onion, minced
4 sprigs parsley minced
4 sprigs chervil, minced
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Pastry for a deep two-crust ten inch pie

1. Place the chickens in a kettle and add the water. Cover, bring to a boil and simmer thirty minutes. Remove meat from bones, but leave in large pieces. Discard bones and skin. Reserve chicken liquid. Place chicken meat in a bowl.
2. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
3. Combine the eggs and cream. Add the onions, parsley chervil, salt and pepper. Add enough hot chicken liquid to cream and egg mixture to cover chicken pieces. Combine chicken and sauce.
4. Butter a deep ten-inch pie dish well and line bottom and sides with rolled out pastry. Fill with chicken mixture and cover with top crust, cutting small vents for steam. Bake one half hour.
Makes four to six servings.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Crisp Rutabaga Salad

Crisp Rutabaga Salad is one of those dishes that, if it had had a different name, would have been made a lot sooner. I confess being shy of the lowly rutabaga, and the lowly parsnip as well. Although parsnips are really good if you french fry them. However, I digress.
This salad is a perfectly ordinary green salad that contains 1/2 cup of grated rutabaga. A friend who came to dinner on New Year's Day asked if it was jimaica. It could have been carrots or grated apple, or any of those crunchy veggies or fruits we put in salad. It has no "root mousse" taste. It is unremarkable in every way.
Rutabagas were developed in the 17th century in Sweden, and therefore are known as "swedes" in the U.K. Wikipedia sternly instructs us that they are not the same as manglewurtzels, which are some kind of beet. If one continues one's researches on Wikipedia, we learn of the International Rutabaga Curling contest, which takes place on the last day of the Ithaca, N.Y. farmer's market. It got started in 1997, when farmers, wanting to stay warm, began rolling various types of produce down the aisles of the market. "Even frozen chickens were utilized," says Wikipedia in a shocked tone.
I made this on New Year's Day, to go with a baked ham that will soon become split pea soup.
Crisp Rutabaga Salad
1/2 cup grated raw rutabaga
1/2 thinly sliced celery
2 scallions, including green part, chopped
2 radishes, sliced paper-thin
3 cups shredded romaine lettuce
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon basil
1. Combine the rutabaga, celery, scallions, radishes and romaine in a bowl and chill well.
2. Combine the remaining ingredients in a jar and shake. Chill. Toss the salad with the dressing just before serving.
Makes four servings.