Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Mushrooms with Cream

Mushrooms with cream was the second vegetable served at the birthday party, along with the dandelion greens and the veal roast. The recipe says that after adding the cream to the mushrooms, the cook is supposed to simmer the resultant mess until the sauce is thickened and reduced. I simmered for about ten minutes, but no apparent thickening took place, so I said, to hell with it. Here's where some idea of time would come in handy. Perhaps in the 60s everybody just knew these things, but today, even experienced cooks like me aren't too clear on this stuff. It doesn't have to be thicker, but probably thickening would intensify the taste.

Mushrooms with Cream

1/4 cup butter
1/2 pound medium-size mushrooms sliced or quartered
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 teaspoon chopped fresh dill or one-half teaspoon dried dill
1/2 cup heavy cream

1. Heat the butter in a skillet with the cover and when butter is melted, add the mushrooms. Cover and cook over medium heat, stirring or shaking the pan, about one minute.
2. Add salt, pepper and the dill. Cover and cook five minutes. Add the cream and simmer, uncovered, until the sauce is thickened and reduced somewhat. Taste and correct the seasonings with more salt, pepper or dill if desired.
Serves four.

Dandelion Greens and Bacon Dressing

I had wanted to make this for a while, but there was a question about source of supply. My cousin Cricket offered her vast lawns (full of dandelions, I guess) as a dog-free place to get dandelions. They are also available for purchase at a farmers' market, but they only grow in early spring and last year I missed the boat. Well, it turns out you can buy dandelion greens at Whole Foods, so I did. They are surprisingly tasty.
As a child, I used to eat, pull apart or smell all kinds of things. I don't remember specifically eating dandelions, but I do remember yanking the stems apart and watching the white, milky liquid ooze out. I remember their smell. Perhaps farmers are breeding dandelions for a less pronounced taste these days. Who knows? But these make a perfectly acceptable salad.
We ate them at the birthday party. The guests seemed to like them.

Dandelion Greens and Bacon Dressing

4 slices bacon, diced
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 egg lightly beaten
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1 cup light cream
4 cups dandelion greens
1 hard cooked egg, chopped

1. Cook the bacon until crisp. Reserve drippings and bacon.
2. Combine the sugar, salt and cornstarch. Mix well. Gradually stir in the egg, vinegar and cream.
3. Pour into the bacon mixture and cook, stirring, until mixture thickens. Pour over the greens and garnish with the egg.
Serves 6.

Roast Veal with Plums

Lincoln's Birthday is also the birthday of Son the lawyer (and Federal employee), but daughter was out of town, so we celebrated his birthday on Monday of President's Day. This wasn't a terrific choice because the weather folks were calling for dire happenings, sleet, snow, rain, ice and something called "Wintry mix," which always reminds me of either mixed nuts, or some kind of paint. Threatened bad weather meant his mother-in-law to be couldn't come and that was too bad. But, Jake, his law school buddy and duck hunter came, and we had a good time.

I had been wanting to make Roast Veal with Plums for some time. One hurdle was the canned plums "in heavy syrup." Alas, canned plums were unfamiliar to such emporiums of consumable s goods such as Safeway, Giant and Whole Foods.

As usual, Internet to the rescue! I googled whole plums in heavy syrup and discovered that they were to be purchased at ...Wegman's! The Washington area now has its own Wegman's, deep in the heart of Prince George's County. Well, as a person who used to work in Prince George's County and appreciated its down to earth weirdness, I say it's about time that PG has something that no one else has. Daughter and her friend love Wegman's so she was dispatched to buy plums and did.

The meat was also a potential hurdle. I suspect Safeway, or at least our Safeway, has fired all its butchers. There are guys who cut up meat, but they can't do anything special for you. Safeway does have veal, but it's the scallops, that come already cut up in a Styrofoam dish. I did not think a rolled boned leg of veal would be available there. Whole Foods came through with the meat. So by Sunday I had both the plums and the meat and was ready to go to work on Monday after a depressing stint looking for a mother of the groom outfit.

This is a good recipe. We had all the ingredients, down to a cup of Rhine wine. (We didn't have fresh dill, but we had dried and it was fine. ) I did not go through the last step of putting all the vegetables and juice through a food mill. The meat course is the one I take the least time with. I want to put it in the oven, take it out and serve it. I don't want to monkey around with the meat after it's cooked. It proved to be excellent.

Roast Veal with Plums

1 three-and -one-half pound rolled boned leg of veal, tied (reserve bones) (unless you have a real butcher, you probably won't get bones)
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 clove garlic crushed
4 slices lean bacon
1 one pound can dark plums in heavy syrup
1 onion, sliced
2 carrots, quartered
1 bunch fresh dill weed pulled into small twigs
1 cup Rhine wine

Roast Veal with Plums

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
2. Season the roast with salt and pepper and rub with the garlic. Lay the bacon over the top and secure with string. Place the roast, seam side up in a shallow roasting pan.
3. Drain the plums, reserving the syrup. Place the plums, veal bones, onions, carrots, celery and dill around the roast.
4. Combine the plum syrup and wine. Roast the meat, uncovered, thirty minutes, basting frequently with the plum-wine syrup.
5. Turn the meat, seam side down, and continue roasting and basting well about two hours longer , covering with an aluminum foil tent if roast begins to brown too much.
6. Remove the roast to a warm platter. Strain the juices. Pass the vegetables and plums through a sieve or food mill and add to the strained juices. Heat, season with salt and pepper and serve with roast.
Serves 4-6.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Fried Onions and Apples

Fried onions and apples was the favorite dish of Alamanzo Wilder. For those of you who led literarily deprived childhoods, and don't know who Alamanzo was, he was the husband of Laura Ingalls Wilder, the author of the Little House Books. I adored the Little House Books when I was a child, and I still adore them as an adult. One winter, on Sunday afternoons, I read the whole series all the way through to my kids, and when we finally finished The Happy Golden Years, her last book, we started over again with Little House in the Big Woods.
Alamanzo shows up first as a child in Farmer Boy. I read that book so many times, I had practically committed it to memory. Partly it must have been because Alamanzo was a boy, and I had no interest whatever in being a girl in those years. Partly it was because of the food. The characters ate the most fantastic amount of food. "Shiny, quivering slices of ham, great bowls of fluffy mashed potatoes, mashed pumpkin, pickles, bread and butter, and pie." My mother, who had also grown up with the Little House Books, said they needed that much food to keep warm.
Anyhow, I made the fried onions and apples to take to the monthly potluck organized by my husband's church. The members started these dinner circles about seven or eight years ago, with the aim of getting to know people better. The members are almost always a fascinating group of people and a very good time is had by all.
This time, the hostess was making sort of paella, with pasta instead of rice. My husband said the onions and apples would go fine with that, so I made it. I only have 29 recipes left in the Northeast section for vegetables, etc. Many of them are distinctly idiosyncratic, such as sauteed dandelion flowers, and a concoction called Samp and Beans, which is navy beans, salt pork, an onion and two cans of coarse pearl hominy.
So I was grateful for the normality of fried apples and onions, and so was the hostess, who liked it so much she kept an extra helping to eat later.

Fried Onions and Apples

1/3 cup diced salt pork
4 tart apples (I used Granny Smith.)
2 large onions, thinly sliced and separated into rings.
1/4 cup water, approximately

1. Cook the salt pork in a heavy skillet until crisp. Remove bits (of salt pork) and reserve.
2. Core the apples, leave skin on and slice into one-half-inch rings. Place in the fat remaining in the skillet. Scatter the onion rings over the apples. Cook five minutes. Add one-quarter cup water, cover and cook until appleas and onions are tender, adding more water during cooking if necessary. Sprinkle with reserved pork bits. Makes six servings.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Mushrooms with Fennel

I made mushrooms with fennel for Valentine's Day, along with a pork roast and spinach salad. My husband is somewhat old fashioned. He is very good about remembering holidays, bringing flowers for our anniversary, etc. etc. Valentine's Day was on Monday, and he had been out of town all weekend. So I decided he deserved to have dinner made for him. I left him a note to that effect on the white board in our kitchen, along with instructions to call me with his cousin's address in New York City.
Cousin had left her exercise clothes at our house, so I determined I would send them back to her. I only have two lunch periods a week where I have enough time to go to the Post Office, stand in line, and watch the other patrons go up to the counter and slowly transact their complicated business. When I got to the Post Office and entered the long line in back of a woman who had her window washing equipment with her, I hadn't heard from him. He also seemed to be between home and office and not answering his cell phone. Luckily, Cousin is a person of sufficient standing that her work address shows up when her name is googled on a cell phone. So I was saved the torture of having to go back to the Post Office another day.
My husband likes pork, so I bought a pork roast and used a recipe from The Blueberry Hill Farm Cookbook, a cookbook from the 60s full of anecdotes about taking fried egg sandwiches on early morning hikes. The cook embeds slivers of garlic into the roast, and then places it on a bed of thinly sliced potatoes and onions in the roasting pan. Then, add about half a cup to a cup of water, and put into a 350 degree oven.
This dish consists of onion, fennel, and mushrooms sauteed in butter with a cream sauce. It takes all of 15 minutes to prepare.
We ate in the dining room with the candles lit. He brought me a red Valentine's candy heart, and truffles from See's Candy of California. This was actually one Valentine's Day where I got goodies from my students, which I deeply appreciated, but did not expect. The parents at my school are largely hard working immigrants, or equally hard working native born people of low income. In the past, I have gotten cards, and one year, a parent bought me a mug with hearts on it for Valentine's Day. This year, two children brought me and my co-worker candy and one child bought a rose! Who knew?

Mushrooms with Fennel

5 tablespoons butter
1 small onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup fennel root, diced
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 1/2 pounds mushrooms, sliced
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons chopped fennel leaves
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons sour cream

1. Melt four tablespoons of the butter. Saute the onion and fennel root in the butter until wilted and tender, but not browned. Add the parsley and mushrooms. Cook until mushrooms are tender and most of the liquid has evaporated, about five minutes.
2. Melt the remaining butter in a small pan and blend in the flour. Gradually stir in the milk, bring to a boil and simmer, stirring constantly, one minute. Add the fennel leaves and pour over the mushroom mixture. Stir.
3. Bring to a boil and season with salt and pepper. Blend together the egg yolk and sour cream, and stir into the mushroom mixture. Reheat but do not allow to boil. Makes six servings.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Fresh Tuna Fra Diavolo

I believe this was the first time I have ever cooked fresh tuna. My son, who discovered the joys of sushi, prefers it raw or lightly seared. Thinking about it, he might be right. Son and fiance came over to have dinner and talk about the wedding. They had sample invitations for our perusal. We perused. My husband offered his opinion. I really didn't have one. There was one invitation with a hanging sign on it that my husband said looked like a real estate sign. I agreed that the real estate sign one really was not the ticket.
The tuna, like all fish, came with sticker shock. Forty-five dollars is a lot for two pounds of fish and some corn chips. It would have been more if I had read the recipe carefully and included the 8 cherrystone clams that were clearly listed among the ingredients. But if I had done that, my husband couldn't have eaten it, which would have been mean. So, it all worked out.
The sauce was sort of like salsa, chopped bits of vegetables in a liquid, especially if one left out the two egg yolks that were called for on the following page. It was a nice complement to the tuna. In my opinion, the tuna was overdone. The recipe says to simmer it for 15 minutes or until it flakes. I would recommend trying it after 10 minutes and remembering that in these enlightened days, tuna does not have to flake.

Fresh Tuna Fra Diavolo

2 pounds fresh tuna fish
cold salted water
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 cup finely diced carrot
1/2 cup finely diced celery
1 cup sliced mushrooms
6 anchovy fillets, finely chopped
8 cherrystone clams, well scrubbed
1/4 cup tomato sauce
1/4 teaspoon oregano
/4 teaspoon thyme
1 bay leaf
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
3/4 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup fish stock or clam juice
2 egg yolks
juice of one lemon
chopped parsley

1. Soak the tuna overnight in cold salted water, draining and replacing the water as often as practical. (Since I bought the tuna the evening that we ate it, it wasn't practical to do this at all. Perhaps someone can tell us all via the comments why it is necessary.
2. Next day, heat the oil in a large heavy saucepan and saute the onion carrot, celery and mushrooms in it until lightly browned. Beat in the anchovies until well blended. (This is an odd instruction. Anchovies are not eggs. You can't beat them in.)
3. Towel dry the tuna and brown on both sides in the pan.
4. Add the clams in their shells, the tomato sauce, oregano, thyme, bay leaf, salt and pepper. Stir. Add the wine and stock or clam juice.
5. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer slowly about fifteen minutes, or until fish flakes easily. Remove the fish to a warm platter. Strain the stock remaining and return to the pan.
6. Mix the egg yolks with the lemon juice. Add a little of the hot stock to the mixture, return to the pan and stir until sauces thicken slightly. Do not boil. Pour over fish. Garnish with chopped parsley. Makes 4 servings.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Pennsylvania Chicken Pot Pie

This is a different kind of pot pie. If you are imagining the flaky crust and steaming creamy interior that used to be on the Swanson's boxes, this ain't it. This is chicken, broth and homemade noodles. It is very good and the leftovers can be dressed up in several different tasty ways. But, my husband, who was expecting the crust, was disappointed. Even so, he made the noodles with the pasta maker. One of these days, I have to knuckle down and learn how to make pasta. But that day hasn't come yet.
The recipe said to cut the chicken into serving pieces. I, however, had a whole chicken that I wanted to begin cooking as soon as possible. It could be cut into serving pieces once cooked. So I popped it into a pot, put it on low heat and took the dog for his evening walk. Every time I do this, I imagine that the house will burn down in my absence. Luckily, this has not come to pass. The recipe called for 2 ribs of celery and 2 carrots. I had one rather dubious carrot that I threw in and no celery. Thinking quickly because the dog wanted to go out, I threw in an extra onion. It seemed to work just fine.
After an hour, during which my husband came home and whipped out the noodles, the chicken was done. I picked it off the bones, chopped it up and put it back in the pot with the chunky noodles. Anyone who reads the recipe will notice that the recipe says paper thin. Our noodles were not paper thin. But they were good, and not too time consuming if the cook boiled the chicken the day before.

Pennsylvania Chicken Pot Pie

1 five pound chicken, cut into serving pieces



12 peppercorns

2 ribs celery, chopped

2 carrots, quartered

1 onion

2 cups flour

4 egg yolks

4 to 6 tablespoons hot water

1. Place the chicken in a kettle. Add water to cover, salt to taste, the peppercorns, celery, carrots and onion. Simmer until chicken is thoroughly tender, about one and one-quarter hours.

2. Strain the broth and pour it into a clean kettle. Simmer while preparing the remaining ingredients.

3. Remove the chicken from the bones. Discard the bones and skin. Cut the chicken into bite sized pieces.

4. Sift the flour and one-half teaspoon salt together onto a board. Make a well in the center and put the egg yolks in it. Gradually work the egg yolks into the flour until a stiff dough is formed, adding the hot water as necessary. Knead until smooth, about five minutes.

5. Cut the dough in half and roll each half until paper thin. Cut the dough into noodles about one-inch wide.

6 Add the chicken to the simmering broth and add the noodles, a few at a time. Continue boiling until noodles are done, about five minutes. Makes 8 to one dozen servings.