Monday, December 26, 2011
The cooking scene Christmas afternoon was something of a zoo. The goose was smoking away in the oven, and the guests were having a fine time in the living room, while Bob and I stirred, sauteed and chopped in the kitchen. I lost count of the number of cups of milk, sprayed milk all over the wall while using the blender and searched frantically for herbs we didn't have.
Bob prefers a more organized presentation of dinner, and was none too happy to be cooking through all the predinner merriment, issuing from the living room. "We should have started at 2 o'clock," he hissed. I had nothing to say to that.
The guests were polite about it, and ate it. However, if you want to make fresh corn soup, wait until you can get fresh corn.
Fresh Corn Soup
3 ears corn, kernels removed and cobs scraped to get out the milk
1/2 cup chicken broth or water
1 sprig thyme or one-quarter teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon celery seeds crushed
1 sprig marjoram or one-eighth teaspoon dried marjoram
1 leaf basil or one-eighth teaspoon basil
8 cups hot milk
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon sugar
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon dry sherry
1. Place the kernels and milk from the cobs in a heavy saucepan and add the broth or water. Cook three minutes, taking care not to scorch the corn.
2. Place cooked corn, the thyme, salt, celery seeds, marjoram, basil and hot milk in an electric blender and blend until smooth.
3. Strain into a saucepan and add the butter, sugar, salt and pepper. Heat gently on direct heat or over hot water to boiling, but do not boil.
4. Stir in the sherry and serve. Serves 4.
"That's it, " I said to my brother. "I'm not standing in that line. Plan B."
A woman behind the Union Meat counter heard me and said there was another poultry place further down the market.
"Do they have goose?" I asked.
"I don't know, but they don't have a line."
That was enough for me. We went further into the market and found a second poultry stand, manned by cheerful Korean poultry men. They sold me their last goose, with serious injunctions to cook it at 350 degrees for four hours. With glee, my brother and I headed back to the car loaded down with our goose, a bunch of flowers for my husband's arrangements and some deli meat.
Christmas morning was refreshingly relaxed. My daughter arrived around 11:30 and the yms around 3:00. We had time to stuff the stockings and wrap the last minute presents without having to get up too early. After breakfast we drove down to the Mall to look at the state Christmas trees. At 3:00 we were back home and I put the goose in the oven.
My husband, who knows a thing or two, advised me to put a tent of tin foil over the goose to keep the oven from being liberally coated with grease. Initially, I didn't listen to him, and smoke began pouring out of the oven right away. Luckily, the temperature was in the low 50s, so we were able to open all the windows without freezing to death.
I quickly pulled the goose out of the oven and crowned it with a tent of tin foil. Smoke abatement 101. Goose is a wonderful food. It has this lovely rich smell which not only permeated the house but wafted out, perhaps through the open windows, perhaps through the oven vent, so the arriving guests could smell it before they entered the house.
The cooking for Christmas dinner was somewhat fraught. We ended up making two rice dishes, and soup, and cooking straight through to dinner. We didn't even have time to change our clothes before it was time to eat. My son, who was extremely helpful in matters such as filling the water glasses and opening the wine, kept wandering into the kitchen and announcing that people were hungry, so we didn't feel like taking 15 more minutes to change.
Luckily, about 15 minutes before the goose was scheduled to come out, I thought, let's have a look at this. It was brown and crispy looking and the meat had shrunken down the drumsticks. Yikes! We pulled it out of the oven, and it was just right. Goose is dark meat all over, and extremely fatty. We poured a quart jar of fat off the roasting pan.
I had opted for a vegetarian non shellfish stuffing, which I made separately. We did not bother with all the gravy instructions. Goose seemed to be popular with the guests.
1 seven-to-nine-pound goose (reserve giblets)
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 recipe oyster stuffing (we used apple celery stuffing)
1 bay leaf
1 rib celery with leaves
3 tablespoons flour
gravy coloring and flavoring
crab apples or range slices
1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
2. Wash and clean the goose inside and outside. Wipe dry. Burn off any hairs that remain. Season the cavity with salt and pepper.
3. Using the desired stuffing, stuff the cavity three-quarters full. Put any leftover stuffing under the neck skin. Truss the bird and place on a rack in a shallow roasting pan. Roast ten minutes.
4. Reduce the oven heat to 325 degrees and continue to roast twenty to twenty-five minutes a pound, removing fat as it accumulates.
5. Meanwhile, wash the gizzard, neck and heart (the liver goes into the stuffing or is sauteed and seasoned as a delicacy) and place in a saucepan with the onion, bay leaf, celery, salt, pepper and water to cover. Bring to a boil and simmer several hours.
6. Strain liquid. If desired, chop some of the giblet meat.
7. Transfer the cooked goose to a warm platter. Pour off all but three tablespoons goose fat from the roasting pan. Sprinkle fat in pan with the flour. Cook, stirring, two minutes. Stir in three to four cups strained liquid and the chopped giblet meat. Cook, stirring, until gravy thickens. Season with salt and pepper and add gravy coloring and flavoring (Kitchen Bouquet) if desired.
8. Garnish goose platter with crab apples or orange slices. Serve gravy separately. Makes six servings. (a 12 pound goose served 9 with quite a bit left over.)
Sunday, December 25, 2011
This brought on some astonished questions as to whether Tony was real. I didn't feel like getting into the issue of a legend with first graders, so I said, well, it's called pannetone so, it was probably made by a man named Tony.
On the 22nd, I got down to business, and trimmed the tree my son and daughter in law and I had bought in Mount Airy the Saturday before. Son and I dragged the ornaments and the lights down from the attic, hung them on the tree and put up the outdoor Christmas lights. My daughter came over later and we all had dinner together for the first time since September. We worked out our Christmas routine to accommodate the yms. We would have Christmas Eve lunch and go to church Christmas Eve afternoon. That meant I had a chance of staying awake in church, which at midnight mass, I am unable to do.
All of which explains why I was prospecting through Safeway for glaced fruit on Christmas Eve prior to making Christmas cake. I fully expected to find it, since it had been there before Thanksgiving, when I made Lizzies for the church bake sale. Well, supermarkets have a season the same way farms do, and the glaced fruit that was there in profusion in mid November had disappeared by December 24. I guess people make their fruitcakes in November. All I was able to buy were the walnuts, the golden raisins and the maraschino cherries.
However, I had planned to make Christmas cake last Christmas, and had gotten caught in the time crunch, so I was not dismayed. We had had the same no glaced fruit experience at Whole Foods, where the staff member we talked to said, "People ask us all the time for that, but we don't have it" a definite grrr inducing response. At that time, I bought dried, sugared papaya and dried, sugared pineapple, which lurked in the closet for 12 months.
When I got home from the supermarket I trotted out the dried fruits and substituted them in the recipe for the glaced fruits. Since I didn't have the green glaced cherries, I put in the full ten ounce jar of maraschino cherries. Normally I avoid maraschino cherries like the plague, ever since the 70s when I heard that red dye number 2 caused cancer in rats. However, when you are leaving half the ingredients out, it pays to put in the ones you can get.
I also took special care to grease the bundt pan and then lay baking parchment over it and grease that, as it said to do in the directions. If you don't do that, the cake sticks to the inside of the bundt pan and makes a complete mess. I had some baking parchment from some other baking project. It's available in the supermarkets. Don't try to make this cake without it.
When I came to put it in the oven, I realized that I was running very late. The cake is meant to bake for three hours at 250 degrees. I didn't have three hours, so I cranked up the oven temperature to 300 degrees and set the timer for two hours. It worked fine.
As I was reading over the recipe, I discovered I had left out a cup of brown sugar. This is not such a bad thing, as the resulting cake was acceptably sweet but not too sweet. Anyhow, the cake turned out moist, flavorful and not too dense. We ate it for dessert and then again on Christmas day, as we sat around waiting for my daughter to come for Christmas breakfast.
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon lemon extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup green glaced cherries chopped
3/4 cup drained maraschino cherries, chopped
1 cup chopped mixed glaced fruits
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.
2. Beat the shortening, butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Beat in the vanilla, lemon and almond extracts.
3. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Reserve one=half cup of the flour mixture and stir remainder into better alternately with the milk.
4. Mix together the raisins, glaced cherries, maraschino cherries, mixed fruits and nuts. Toss with reserved flour mixture and stir into batter.
5. Grease a nine-inch tube pan with removable bottom, line with unglazed brown paper or parchment paper and grease again. Spoon batter into pan.
6. Bake three hours or until the cake tests done. Cool thirty minutes in the pan, remove and finish cooling on a rack. Makes 14 servings.
Saturday, December 17, 2011
When I turned to the page, I saw a poignant note next to another recipe, Cheese Balls, made almost exactly 20 years ago, in November, 1991 "for the superintendent." I remember that event exactly. It was a reception mounted by the PTAs of the Ward III schools to meet the new superintendent, Frank Smith. Parents were urged to bring food for the buffet table. So bearing my cheese balls, my husband and I hopefully trekked up to the high school to meet the man who was supposed to halt the inexorable slide of the DC Public Schools into not only mediocrity but downright disaster. Long story short, as my daughter's friend Crista likes to say, he didn't. The schools actually got worse, and Frank Smith was followed by a succession of other superintendents, including a former army general, (Julius Becton), a superintendent who had retired from Montgomery County, ( Paul Vance) and a shy, retiring man named Clifford Janney until we got the famous Michelle Rhee, who actually was able to pull us out of the morass.
So seeing the note by the cheese ball recipe made me sad.
The recipe for the dip, which is covered with yellowing spots from the cheese balls, is a typical Southern recipe. It contains, for example, three tablespoons of sugar and pimentos. I doubled the recipe, but left the sugar alone. That seemed to work well. At 5:00 am, I set to work, mashing cream cheese, chopping onions and green peppers, and cooking the egg, vinegar and sugar in a double boiler. I packed the whole thing into two Chinese food containers and went to work on planning for that day's lessons. It tasted good, but I didn't get any feedback on whether or not people liked it. The food table was overwhelmed by vegetable trays from the supermarkets, so people had lots of stuff to dip in the dip.
Pat's Favorite Dip
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
3 tablespoons sugar
1 eight ounce package cream cheese, softened
3 tablespoons finely chopped onions
3 tablespoons chopped pimento
3 tablespoons chopped green pepper
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1. Put the egg, vinegar and sugar in the top of a double boiler and cook over hot water, stirring until thick.
2. Stir in the remaining ingredients and cool. Chill and serve with fresh raw vegetables. Makes two cups.
Thursday, December 15, 2011
Crackus is kind of like Welsh Rarebit, Mississippi style. I have been able to find no information on this recipe on the Internet, so this may be a recipe unique to TNYTHC. It contains a substance of my childhood, chipped beef, which, amazingly is still sold in the 21st Century. We used to eat creamed chipped beef on toast at Center School in Sheffield, Massachusetts, and also at Indian Mountain School in Lakeville, Connecticut, proof that private school is no guarantee of good cooking.
I never particularly knew what it was. It was just some white food with stuff floating around in the white that we were given to eat. Since I was a child who literally ate nearly everything that was put in front of me, I ate it. Even today, I have a hard time understanding my students, who will leave a good, cooked on site lunch uneaten even when they are hungry, rather than eat some strange food. I was held out as an example by Mrs. Curtiss, whose children were, and still are, notoriously picky eaters. Frankie's response was, "And look at how fat Annie is."
Anyhow, this is a simple dish to prepare, and if you like cheese, you'll like crackus. The only tricky things are A. Buying dried beef, and B. Boiling the egg ahead of time. Safeway has dried beef, at least in DC. Anyone who is remotely organized can remember to hard boil an egg, and if you don't, you can hard boil it in a few minutes.
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup milk
2 1/2 cups canned tomatoes, chopped with their liquid
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
3/4 pound sharp Cheddar cheese grated
1 small jar dried chipped beef
2 hard cooked eggs chopped
4 cups cooked rice
1. Melt the butter and blend in the flour. Gradually stir in the milk and tomatoes. Bring to a boil, stirring.
2. Add the mustard and stir in the cheese until it melts.
3. Fold in the beef and hard-cooked eggs and reheat, but do not boil. Serve over rice. Makes four servings.
Sunday, December 11, 2011
I decided to make Homemade Lollipops or hard candies as a gift to my co-workers. On my way home from my riding lesson, I stopped off at Williams Sonoma and bought a candy thermometer and candy flavorings, as well as a lot of high priced (but good quality) other stuff, like a mini muffin pan for $30.00. The clerks have obviously been trained to butter up the customers. When they asked me what I was going to make and I told them, they chorused, "You're so creative!"
Well, creative or not, I should have followed the directions a little better. Williams Sonoma did not have lollipop sticks, so I used cupcake papers. "Don't we have to grease them?" my daughter, who was helping me, inquired.
"Oh, no," I said, blithely. "you can just peel the muffin papers right off."
Well, that was wrong, and I still have a plateful of candy in muffin papers sitting on a counter a week later. The candy sticks to the paper, and has to be scraped off with a knife after a thorough wetting.
It tastes okay. I suggest, as well as greasing your muffin papers, to put in about twice as much flavoring as the recipe calls for. Otherwise, you get a very slight lemon taste, barely noticeable. Another tip, don't use a plastic measuring spoon to spoon the hot candy syrup out into the muffin cups. It will melt. Also when the recipe says spoon quickly, do it. The syrup hardens fast and you will get little threads of sugar syrup all over your muffin pan or cookie sheet.
Amazingly, the sugar syrup does not stick to the bottom of the pot when you are attempting to clean it. Just fill the pot with water and let it sit. The syrup will dissolve.
Homemade Lollipops or Hard Candies
2 cups sugar
2/3cup light corn syrup
1 cup water
1/2 teaspoon oil of lemon or other concentrated flavor
skewers or ice cream sticks for lollipops
1. Place the sugar, syrup and water in a pan. Heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Continue to cook, without stirring, until syrup reaches 310 degrees on a candy thermometer. Keep the pan clear of crystals by washing down the sides once or twice with a brush dipped into water.
2. Remove from the heat, add the flavoring and colored and spoon quickly, one teaspoon at a time, onto a greased baking sheet. Immediately place a skewer or stick in position before the candy sets. Alternately, the syrup may be poured into lightly greased tiny muffin cups to give round candies.
3. Remove the lollipops or round candies as soon as they are set. Wrap in clear plastic wrap. Makes about 24.
The weekend was somewhat frenetic. Saturday wasn't too bad. I went riding and to the grocery store. Then our daughter dropped by and we ended up going out to dinner after buying the church Christmas tree at Whole Foods and dropping it off at the church. We got home about 9:30, and I started hard boiling eggs and making hard candy, of which later.
Sunday, I had volunteered to work at the church, receiving presents dropped off for adopted families. Rafts of gaily wrapped boxes came in, to be taped together and prominently labeled with the child's name. The volume was incredible. No gift cards for these people. One family dropped off a bicycle.
After that, I came home to hors d'oeurves land. First came the deviled eggs. Deviled eggs have a long association for me. Every November, my parents would drive to New Haven to see either the Harvard-Yale game, which, in cringe inducing Harvard lingo was known as "The (pronounced Thee) Game." As if there was no other. Or the Princeton-Yale game, because the Harvard-Yale game was played in Cambridge in alternate years, and my mother refused to drive to Boston.
Like most of the stuff my parents did, this was a ritual, from the argument over which house they always parked at to what was eaten at the picnic. The picnic, which, it goes without saying, included cocktails, Manhattans, I think, consisted of soup, made from one can of Campbell's cream of potato soup and one can of Campbell's cream of onion soup and a dash of curry powder, deviled eggs and fried chicken.
Football games, to me, were something you put on a dress and your school coat for, and where you watched adults laugh at the jokes at the halftime show. In 1962, when my parents went to both games because my sister went to boarding school in the Boston area, John F. Kennedy actually turned up at The Game, at the end of the Cuban Missile Crisis. My mother noted that when it came time to sing the national anthem, "Everybody sang!"
After the eggs came the baked clams. The recipe calls for 24 cherry stone or little neck clams, which are supposed to yield two-thirds of a cup of clams. A visit to The Fishery yielded 24 tiny clams, which produced around a quarter to a third of a cup. So, with small clams, the recipe has more stuffing and not a lot of clams. I minced and chopped and ground away. Finally, about 4:30, all was ready, and we carried our donations around the block to the party. They will well received by the multitudes.
24 cherry stone or little neck clams
1/4 cup water
3 slices bacon cut into small cubes
1/2 pound mushrooms, caps and all, finely minced
1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
1/8 pound Gruyere cheese, Swiss cheese or Fontina cheese
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
1 small clove garlic, finely minced
3/4 cup fine soft bread crumbs
1/3 cup finely minced heart of celery
3 tablespoons dry white wine
1 egg yolk
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
2. Wash the clams well and place in a kettle. Add the water, cover and steam until clams open. Remove the clams and let them cool. Take the clams from the shells and chop on a flat surface. There should be about two-thirds cup chopped clams. Set aside. Reserve twenty-four shells for filling.
3. Cook the bacon in a large saucepan until bits are crisp. Do not burn. Remove the bacon bits and reserve. Pour off all but two tablespoons of fat from the saucepan. Add the mushrooms to the fast in the saucepan. Add the shallot and cook, stirring until mushrooms are wilted. Let cool.
4. Chop the Gruyere, Swiss or Fontina cheese into tiny cubes. Add with the parsley, garlic, bread crumbs, celery, wine and egg yolks to the mushroom mixture. Add salt, pepper and the reserved clams.
5. Fill reserved clam shells with the mixture and sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese and reserved bacon bits. Bake ten minutes or longer, and until filling is bubbly and golden brown. Serve hot. Makes six servings.
Sunday, December 4, 2011
This is a picture of the pie before the crust went on.
I asked my daughter what I should do. She suggested the Internet. I typed in butcher shops DC and got a list. On Friday we had teacher training at a renovated school in Anacostia. During the break, I went down to the end of the classroom and started calling. The first place I called was Wagshalls, a fancy deli and grocery store in AU Park. They normally had sweetbreads but they were out. The butcher suggested Union Meats on Capitol Hill. Bingo.
Saturday morning I normally go riding. I get up at 6:00 and drive out to Poolesville, have my lesson at 9:00 and drive back. This Saturday morning, I had moved my lesson to 2:00 because one of my co-workers had invited my daughter and me to a church tea on Capitol Hill. We could get the sweetbreads after the tea.
The tea turned out to be a wonderful occasion. Women in their 20s and 30s chatted animatedly over plates of cucumber sandwiches, scones and cookies. A group of women sang Christmas songs. Each table was decorated differently by the women who sponsored it. It was a warm winter day when we left. The Victorian houses of Capitol Hill were decked with wreaths. Inside the houses we could see Christmas trees set up in the bay windows.
Eastern Market suffered a terrible fire a few years ago. The city had it rebuilt almost exactly the way it was. On Saturday morning it was full of shoppers and vendors lined up outside the building, selling gloves, Christmas trees and winter vegetables. Union Meats had a huge counter running halfway down the building with red shirted butchers waiting on customers. Union Meats is the butcher shop of my dreams. Veal knuckles, veal shin, even pigs' heads. Head cheese here we come!
I left head cheese for another day and bought the sweetbreads and two chickens from the poultry vendor across the aisle. The next day, I prepared to deal with them. Sweetbreads, according to Wikkipedia, are the thymus or pituitary gland of the calf. They are covered with a membrane which must be removed. For once, Hewlitt tells us how to cope with them.
The recipe is long but not especially complicated. The invention of ready made rolled up pie crust makes putting the crust on a matter of minutes. I may never make pie crust again.
Elegant Chicken Pie
1 three pound chicken
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cloves
6 tablespoons butter
1 carrot sliced
2 small white onions
1 pair sweetbreads
1/2 cup diced cooked ham
1/4 pound mushrooms sliced
juice of half a lemon
3 tablespoons cognac
3 tablespoons port wine
2 cups heavy cream
1 tablespoon foie gras
Rich pie pastry for one 10-inch crust
1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
2. Sprinkle the chicken inside and outside with salt and pepper. Add the nutmeg, cloves and cinnamon to the inside of the chicken.
3. Heat half of the butter in a large oven proof skillet. Add the chicken and turn to coat on all sides with butter. Let the chicken rest on one side. Add the giblets, carrot and onions and roast fifteen minutes basting often with a large spoon. Turn chicken to the other side and roast fifteen minutes, basting. Turn chicken on its back and continue roasting and basting about thirty minutes or until done. Leave chicken in the skillet while completing the dish.
4. Meanwhile soak the sweetbreads one hour and drain. Place sweetbreads in a saucepan and add salted water to cover. bring to a boil. Simmer five minutes and drain. Rinse under cold running water. Trim or pare away the skin and tubes of the sweetbreads. Slice the sweetbreads.
5. Heat remaining butter in another skillet and add sweetbread slices . Cook, turning occasionally, about two minutes. Add the ham, mushrooms and lemon juice. Cook, stirring gently once in a while, about five minutes.
6. Cut chicken into serving pieces and place in the bottom of a deep baking dish. Add the cognac and port wine to the juices in the skillet in which chicken cooked. Bring to a boil and stir to dissolve. Add salt to taste and all but two tablespoons of cream. Strain this into a saucepan and add sweetbread mixture. Simmer three to four minutes.
7. Blend remaining cream with the foie gras and add to the saucepan. Pour this sauce over chicken and cover the dish with the rolled-out pastry. Bake fifteen minutes or until the crust is a rich golden brown. Makes six servings.
Saturday, December 3, 2011
For once, Hewlitt gives us some guidance in the form of a note which explains, presumably for the New Yorkers who read her column, the differences between the various types of greens eaten in the South. "In many Southern homes the greens are cooked for several hours before serving," she says.
Well, I didn't cook the greens for several hours, more like about 15 minutes. Kale is a lot like spinach. It keeps well, better than spinach, and we have been dipping into the bag all week to put in soup, spaghetti, and to eat plain with the salt pork.
Mustard Greens, Turnip Greens and Collard Greens
3 pounds mustard greens, turnip greens or collard greens
1/2 pound salt pork
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1. Trim the greens and discard hard stems. Wash the greens in several changes of cold water. Put greens in a large pot. If the greens are young and tender, they may be cooked in the water that clings to their leaves. Or add two cups of water to the kettle. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil.
2. Simmer just until greens are tender or cook them one hour or longer. Traditionally the greens are served with corn bread. Makes 6 to 8 servings.