Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Spit-roasted Saddle of Venison

Before I tell you all about the venison, I want to send out a thank you to Heidi Kenney, who mentioned     the always fantastic Fraiser's Cheaters on the Christmas cookie page of her blog, So far, this has generated 58 hits. Amazing.
We had the venison on Christmas night. I ran it to earth at Eastern Market, when I went up there to buy the ingredients for the Danish Liver Pate. I asked one of the butchers at Union Meats about venison, also deer liver, which is needed for Deer Liver Pate. Deer liver does not seem to be available locally, unless you happen to know someone with a 30-06. Union Meats does not carry venison, but when I turned around and surveyed the poultry place across the aisle, I saw a small cooler off to the side labeled venison.
Be warned. Venison is not cheap. This particular piece cost $27 a pound.  But, hell, Christmas comes but once a year, so into my shopping bag went three pounds of frozen venison. I had wanted to make Venison Supreme, which appears in the New England section. Imagine my disappointment when at some point on the 23rd, I actually looked at the recipe for Venison Supreme and discovered it was covered in pastry.  Pastry, not being gluten free, was nixed and I moved on to the South, where I discovered this recipe from the great state of Tennessee.
I must confess, I did not use a spit, not having one easily to hand. It was more oven roasted.  I also didn't have juniper berries, which used to be sold  by Spice Islands. Or crushed sage, or fresh rosemary.  However, it all came out fine, regardless. We had a terrific Christmas dinner, which was much less complicated than the one the year  before. Christmas afternoon was spent dismembering a pumpkin for pumpkin soup. For dessert, we had a  store bought plum pudding. When I told my husband that I could have made one, he pointed out that I always said I hated plum pudding. I didn't see what that had to do with it. I could  have knocked off another recipe. But no.
But even without the fresh rosemary, the crushed sage and the juniper berries, the venison was good. I advise all of you carnivores to try it next fall.

Spit Roasted Saddle of Venison

1/2 cup wine vinegar
2 carrots coarsely chopped
1 onion chopped
3 sprigs parsley
1 clove garlic, crushed
10 juniper berries
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon crushed sage
1 five-pound to six-pound saddle of young venison
1 bottle dry red wine
 salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
cranberry and horseradish sauce    

1. Day before, combine the vinegar, carrots, onions, parsley, garlic, juniper  berries, rosemary, and sage.  Bring just to a boil and pour the mixture over the venison.   Add the wine, salt and pepper and let stand overnight.
2. Next day, drain the venison and wipe it dry, reserving marinade. Sprinkle venison with salt and pepper. Place on a spit and roast, basting with the marinade, until dark brown on the surface and rare within. This will require about thirty minutes to one hour, depending on size of venison and proximity to the heat. Serve with cranberry and horseradish sauce.  Serves ten to 12.

Carrot Tzimmes

Tzimmes is an eastern European recipe for honey baked carrots, according to  The Yiddish word "meren" means carrots and to increase. Carrots symbolize our hope that we increase our good deeds in the coming year. Some tzimmes recipes add prunes, sweet potatoes or even meat to the sweet carrots.
I had read of tzimmes somewhere, possibly in a book by Philip Roth. I knew it was a Jewish dish. I didn't know it was served for Rosh Hashona.
We had it for Christmas Eve for no particular reason except that I had a lot of carrots and all the rest of the ingredients. Christmas Eve in our house has always followed a pattern set down by my parents back in the early 1950s in the Berkshires. We had a semi special dinner. Then, we went into the library. This, in itself was special, because we normally sat in the living room. However, on Christmas Eve, the tree had been set up with all the presents around it, and to add to the suspense, the door was closed until lunchtime on Christmas day.
My mother sat on the sofa and chose one of the five enormous, crumbling Bibles that sat on the shelf next to the floor, and read Saint Luke. "There went out in the days of Caesar Augustus a decree that all the world shall be taxed...." It was very solemn, and living on a farm, I had a clear mental picture of Mary and Joseph and the manger, and the animals all around. In my mind, the manger was in the red barn on the Curtiss's property.
Then, my father read The Night Before Christmas by Clement Clark Moore and the atmosphere changed dramatically. When he got to "... Away to the window I flew like a flash, Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash," he gave a realistic imitation of being sick, much to our childish, teenagerish and young adultish delight. After that, we all simmered down again, and he read The Tailor of Gloucester, by Beatrix Potter. When my father read the Beatrix Potter books, he read every page. "Copyright 1903 by Frederick Warne and Company, Copyright renewed 1931," he intoned.  Then, we hung up our stockings.
That, as far as I was concerned, was what one did on Christmas Eve. When our children were born, we did that for Christmas Eve, every year except the year that we went to London to visit our daughter and ate takeout Chinese food while lying on the bed in our hotel room. However, when children grow up and get married, allowances have to be made.  So this year, things were kind of confused. My brother George was going to come from Arlington some time in the afternoon. My daughter, who had just gotten home from London, had gone off to visit a friend with a vague promise of coming back before we went to church at 5:00. The young marrieds were coming from Alexandria around 3:00 "to spend time with us."
What with having to use the Volvo, now driven by the yms, to pick up George at the Metro in a filthy driving rain, and my daughter saying she would meet us at church, we ended up reading a Revised Standard (unacceptable) version of the Christmas story and having my son read The Night Before Christmas off his cell phone. A total ham, just like his grandfather, he pretended to barf when he got to "...and threw up the sash."
And after early church, I made tzimmes. Apparently it traditionally is served with beef brisket. I served it with a very rich spinach and cheese casserole.
Carrot Tzimmes
10 to 12 medium-size carrots, diced
1 tablespoon chicken fat or kosher shortening (I used Crisco.)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup raisins
1/4 teaspoon ginger
3 tablespoons water
1. cook the carrots in the fat in a skillet for one minute, stirring constantly.
2. Add the remaining ingredients, bring to a boil and simmer, covered until tender, about fifteen minutes. Evaporate any liquid remaining by boiling. Makes 6 servings.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Flourless Oatmeal Lace Cookies (Gluten Free)

I lifted, and altered this recipe from a website called My cousin, Marie-Noel, had made some before we came to visit her in Boston a couple of weeks ago. Marie-Noel was supposed to send me the recipe, but we had to resort to the internet.
The alteration came when I doubled the recipe. My aging brain sometimes has trouble with this. I ended up quadrupling the amount of brown sugar by mistake. As you might imagine, the resulting dough was extremely dry, like sand. When I finally figured out what I had done, I decided to double the double, but not put in any more sugar. I added two more eggs, and then decided to see what the cookies would be like before I added more of the other ingredients.
They were fantastic!!! Now, I have to say, I was liberally scarfing down the dough, so my sense of sweetness might have been overwhelmed. People who had not just eaten a cup of dough containing a huge amount of sugar may find them sickeningly sweet.  I served them at the party and everyone seemed to love them.

Flourless Oatmeal Lace Cookies

A delicately crisp, old-fashioned cookie tasting of butter and brown sugar. Gluten-free too.


■2 1/2 cups rolled oats (old-fashioned or quick-cook, not instant)

■1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted

■1 cup firmly packed brown sugar (double for super sweet, delicious cookies)

■1 egg, lightly beaten (2 if you double the sugar)

■1/4 teaspoon salt (if using unsalted butter)


1.Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease baking sheets very well or line with parchment paper.

2.Mix ingredients together in a large bowl. Drop by teaspoonfuls on prepared baking sheets, forming rough circles. Leave space in between for cookies to spread.

3.Bake 9-12 minutes, until cookies spread out and cookies are golden brown. Cool a few minutes before removing. If cookies are difficult to remove even when cool, bake for another minute or two.

Makes about 3 1/2 dozen cookies.

Baked Stuffed Clams

This weekend was party time. Son and daughter-in-law had their Christmas party at their new house in Alexandria on Saturday, and we had ours on Sunday. Son asked for stuffed eggs (of course) and baked clams. Luckily, the cookbook obliged with a second baked stuffed clams recipe, so I didn't have to insist on, say, Pickled Venison Heart.
Having been well trained in taking food to picnics and on camping trips, I packed the clams, the stuffing and the shells into three separate containers. During the party I put the whole shebang together in their kitchen, which became sort of an old persons' hangout, as my friends came in to talk to me while I was stuffing clams.
I bought the clams that were available, which were littlenecks. Littlenecks, as indicated by their name, are little. As a result, I ended up with way more stuffing than shells to stuff. If all  you can find are littlenecks, cut the amount of bread crumbs in half and buy more clams.
Son and daughter-in-law's friends grabbed hot clams eagerly off the platter as I sidled through the crowd offering them to all and sundry. If you have friends who like seafood, these are a good bet.

Baked Stuffed Clams

12 medium-size cherrystone clams, well scrubbed
2 tablespoons water
rock salt (option)
2 tablespoons butter
2 shallots, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 cups soft bread crumbs
1/4 cup finely chopped celery
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1/2 teaspoon basil
1/2 teaspoon oregano
2 tablespoons freshly graded Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon dry white wine
freshly ground black pepper to taste
8 slices bacon, each cut into thirds

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Place the clams and water in a pan. Cover and steam until clams just open, about eight minutes. Reserve broth. Remove clams from shells and chop finely. Wash all shell halves and set in a shallow baking pan. Bury in rock salt if it is available.
3. Melt the butter in a skillet and saute the shallots and garlic in it until tender but not browned. Stir in the bread crumbs, celery, parsley, basil, oregano, cheese, oil, wine and pepper. Mix well.
4. Stir in enough of the reserved clam broth to moisten the stuffing but not to make it soggy.
5. Distribute the chopped clams among the twenty four shells. Top with bread crumb mixture and then a piece of bacon. Bake ten minutes and then brown under the broiler. Makes 4 servings.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Danish Liver Pate

I wanted to make deer liver pate, to continue chipping away at the chapter on the Northeast. Sadly, there was no deer liver in the market, not even for ready money, as Oscar Wilde said. I made a bit of an effort, calling my two standbys, Wagshalls in American University Park and Union Meats at Eastern Market. The Wagshalls man actually called around for me, but the answer was still no.
So I went with Danish Liver Pate from Minnesota. I rode up to Capital Hill on one of the Bikeshare bikes, missing every light along Massachusetts Avenue. One would think that now that I am retired, I would have more opportunity for exercise, but this does not always seem to be the case. I had called Union Meats before I left. The voice I talked to assured me they had pork liver, and pork fat as well.
Well, when I finally arrived at Eastern Market, puffing hard, it appeared that there was no more pork fat. The butcher waiting on me was able to find a tiny amount, maybe half a cup when I was supposed to have half a pound. I also bought half a pound of boneless pork. It turned out when I got home (on the train this time. There is such a thing as too much exercise.) I had confused my recipe with the recipe before it, which is Holiday Folk Fair Danish Liver Paste, which needed three quarters of a pound of ground pork.
The pork liver was frozen, so I put it in the refrigerator to defrost. The next day, after putting up the outdoor lights in the morning, I went to work on the pate. After preheating the oven, the first set of directions say to grind the liver, pork fat, onion and anchovies together three times. I want to warn you all out there in cooking land, this is not a recipe to be undertaken by the squeamish. Just opening the bag the liver was in resulted in a bloody mess. The grinding was equally unattractive.
During the making of the meat balls, Bob had discovered we still had the old meat grinder. I took the grinder out, set it up and commenced grinding. Or possibly mushing. The grinder quickly got clogged up with connective tissues, and the grinding was a slow and messy business. It took well over an hour and a sore back to grind the meat.
Then it was onto the next step, making the roux to hold the whole thing together. I wanted to make the pate gluten free, so I used Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free Flour, my old standby. Alas, Bob's is not good for roux. I let the milk, flour, butter mixture heat up for a good twenty minutes, but it was not thick. (Even though there is no guidance about how thick is thick, I have made enough white sauce to know that something the consistency of heavy cream is not thick enough.) So I gave up on gluten free and added two tablespoons of butter and flour mashed together. After another ten minutes, I had something the consistency of cream of wheat, which was what I wanted.
Then it was on to mix everything together and put it in the oven. Now, the directions given for starting the pate in a pan on the top of the stove and then moving the whole thing into the oven seems like it would result in a scalding.
I boiled the water in the electric kettle, put the pate pan into a cake pan, and put the whole affair into the oven. Then, I poured boiling water into the cake pan, which was already securely in the oven. The pate was well received by the guests at the party. This is a relatively easy recipe if you are a novice pate maker. Then you can move on to layers, pate wrapped in fat, etc. etc. etc.

Danish Liver Pate

1 pound pork liver
3/4 pound pork fat
1 onion, quartered
4 flat anchovies
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups milk
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon salt or to taste
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Grind the liver, pork fat, onion and anchovies together three times.
3. Melt the butter in a saucepan and, using a wire whisk, stir in the flour. Add the milk, stirring rapidly with the whisk. Cook, stirring, until sauce is thickened and smooth. Cool slightly and add the sauce to the liver mixture. Beat in the remaining ingredients and pour the mixture into a loaf pan. Set the loaf pan in a shallow pan of water and bring the water to a boil on top of the stove. Place in the oven and bake one and one-quarter hours. Cool. Serve sliced. Makes 8 or more servings.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Beer Soup

Beer Soup is a classic example of using up things in the refrigerator. I had every single thing, down to the beer (a bottle of Dos Equies left over from the summer). I had a mason jar of chicken broth from the freezer that I really don't remember making, but there is still quite a bit in there. So dinner on Monday was beer soup and latkes, with a tip of the hat to Hanukkah.
This soup hails from the great (kind of) state of Wisconsin, and I suspect it is of Bohemian or Czech origin. In a hilarious Arts Beat post for the New York Times web edition of February 29, 2008, Jennifer Schuessler uncovered the origins of beer soup as a German breakfast drink. She quotes another author who speculates that coffee actually woke up Western Europe and gave it the kick in the pants necessary to start the industrial revolution. Before coffee, everyone had a beer buzz on at 9 am.
This soup is a little different than the beer soup of the 17th Century and has less beer.  It is easy to make and the beer gives it a minor sparkle. It is not gluten free because I did not use gluten free beer. I did use Bob's Red Mill Gluten free flour for the tablespoon of flour. In fact, the hardest thing about this soup is the hardest thing about any soup I make in the blender, viz, how to get the soup off the wall after I filled the blender too full. Carbon 14 dating of our kitchen wall would prove to be an interesting anthropological study on soups of the 20th Century.
This has to cook an hour and then be run through the blender, so it would probably not be most people's first choice for an after work dinner. But, you could easily make it on the weekend and eat it during the week.

Beer Soup

3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons finely chopped onion ( I used half an onion.)
4 cups finely shreeded green cabbage
1 tablespoon flour
2 cups chicken broth
2 cups strong ale
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 cup hot milk
chunks of dark rye bread

1. Melt the butter in a large heavy saucepan and add the onion and cabbage. Saute, stirring occasionally, until the onion and cabbage becone translucent looking.
2. Sprinkle with the flour, stir and cook one minute. stir in the broth, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Cover and simmer one hour.
3. Puree the mixture in an electric blender or rub through a sieve. Return to the pan. Add the hot milk and heat. Serve with the bread. Serves four.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Cocktail Meat Balls (Gluten Free)

It's party gear up time! We are having an open house next Sunday. Hence, much cooking in advance. I came home this afternoon from riding to find the old metal meat grinder, which I thought had long since bit the dust, firmly screwed to the counter, and a bowl of ground pork sitting underneath it. Bob had started making the meatballs in vast quantities. He did the shopping and discovered that ground pork was almost twice the price of chops, so he bought chops and was grinding the meat.
These are easy to do ahead of time, since you can get to the browning stage and stick them in the freezer, letting the steaming in beef broth wait to another day. We mixed and rolled and browned for the rest of the afternoon. You will note that the recipe calls for two-thirds of a cup of cracker crumbs. If you want gluten free, you can either use the marvelously untasty Glutino crackers, or you can buy gluten free stuffing mix at Whole Foods and put that in the blender, or, you can blenderize gluten free bread. I used a fourth option, and mixed in ground almonds, available at Trader Joes and by mail from King Arthur Flour. It seemed to work fine.
This is a basic meatball recipe. Nothing in it indicates its Midwestern roots. It's easy, and if I was writing this recipe, I would say, put in a large onion.

Cocktail Meat Balls

1 pound ground lean pork
1 pound ground lean beef, round
2 eggs lightly beaten
2/3 cup cracker crumbs (see introduction for gluten free options)
1 small onion finely chopped
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/4 cup butter
1 cup beef broth
1 tablespoon flour (use Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free Flour if you want gluten free.)

1. Combine the pork, beef, eggs, cracker crumbs, onion, nutmeg, allspice, pepper, salt and sugar in a bowl. Mix well.
2. Form into one-half-inch balls. Melt the butter in a skillet and fry the balls in it, a few at a time, until browned on all sides.
3. Drain off excess fat. Return balls to skillet and add one-quarter cup of the broth. Cover skillet and steam the balls ten minutes.
4. Blend the four with the remaining broth. Add to skillet and bring to a boil, stirring. Makes four dozen.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Veronica's Christmas Cookies

We are having a party next Saturday night.   Since I have more time, and less money, we are making a collective effort to make food ahead of time. Today, I came home from doing the Mary's Center family Christmas shopping with my brother, and in a  burst of energy decided to crank out the cookies.
These are standard roll out, cookie cutter cookies. They don't have to be chilled for hours. When I went to the drawer that houses the aluminum foil, wax paper, etc., I discovered a miracle product that had been lurking in my kitchen unrecognized for probably a couple of years.
The miracle produce is If You Care Silicone Coated Parchment  Baking Paper. Being silicone coated means the cook doesn't have to grease it. It is perfect for rolling out dough. I rarely am successful rolling out dough. It sticks,  breaks up, and is way too sticky because I always feel the dough is too dry  and won't coalesce. This time, even though the dough was not coalescing, I was careful to add only about a quarter of a cup of milk to the dough.  It worked  beautifully.
I climbed up on the little black stool  my father-in-law made for my husband when he was a child and dug out the cookie cutters. Our cookie cutters are somewhat idiosyncratic. I found a Santa Claus, a pig, a rabbit and a  bell. Now, Santa Claus and the bell are seasonal. The pig was for my son, who announced when he was about three that he was Baby Pig. "I have trotters," he announced. "I have snout. I have curly tail." The rabbit was for my husband whose private nickname, for reasons better not divulged, is Bunnies.
I rolled and cut and rolled and cut.  Half  way through, I examined the recipe again and started decorating the pigs with a wreath of candied cherry around their necks. The bunnies got red eyes , and Santa got a red tip on the end of his hat. These are cute and easy. Pay close attention to the amount of flour you add. I may have been too generous. I found that they needed to  bake for 12 minutes to be lightly browned.   

Veronica's Christmas Cookies

1 cup butter
1 cup shortening
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 egg
1 tablespoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon lemon extract
5 1/2 cups flour
 1 teaspoon slat
1 teaspoon  baking powder
 chopped candied cherries or citron peel 

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
2. Cream the butter, shortening and sugar together until fluffy.  Beat in the egg, vanilla and lemon extract.
3. Sift together the flour, salt and baking powder and add to the creamed mixture. Stir with a spoon or with the hand to incorporate the flour.
4. The dough can be rolled out immediately or chilled for a short period and then rolled.
5.Roll out one-sixth of the dough at a time on a lightly floured board (or  If  You Care Parchment Baking Paper)   to one-quarter-inch thickness . Cut with small, fancy cookie cutters, and place on a  lightly greased baking sheet. Decorate each cookie with a piece of candied cherry or citron peel.
6. Bake ten minutes, or until lightly browned. Cool on a rack . Store in an airtight tin or jar. The cookies will keep a week to ten days. Makes about 350 one inch cookies (These are extremely tiny cookies.   Most cookie cutters will make larger cookies.)                                                                                      \\

Blue Ribbon Maple Syrup Fudge

I have been meaning to make this since last year, when I bought the maple syrup.   But, last year, I didn't have any reason to make it. A couple of weeks ago,  Bob suggested having a holiday open    house.  Yahoo, an opportunity to make all kinds of stuff.   So one afternoon, I got to work. I was a demon candy maker as a child. Unfortunately, none of it turned out as it was supposed to. I remember sinister looking lakes of  gravelly fudge, non hardening taffy that refused to solidify so it could be pulled.  I do remember being told that my fudge was gravelly because I used granulated sugar rather than confectioners' sugar, so I was relieved that this fudge contained no sugar at all.
I was also  proud that I was in possession of a candy thermometer, rather an expensive candy thermometer at that, since the directions required  boiling the mixture until it reached 234 degrees Fahrenheit. I poured the maple syrup, corn syrup   and cream into a saucepan, lit the burner and turned to the drawer where the thermometer lay. When the candy mixture boiled,  I put the thermometer in the pot and pressed the on  button. Nothing.  Since I wanted to make the candy then and not after going out in search of new  batteries, I  pressed ahead. The recipe said " Boil until a small amount of the mixture forms a soft ball in cold water."  Okay,. I put three ice cubes into a cup of water and  poured a tablespoonful of boiling candy into the ice water. It formed a scummy foam on top of the cup.
The fudge continued to boil. I poured again. Scum again. After 20 minutes, the boiling candy finally coalesced in the bottom of the cup, forming, yes! a soft  ball of candy!.I poured it into a buttered pan. Here's a piece of advice. The recipe says a 8  by 8 by 2 inch pan. I would use a slightly smaller pan for thicker fudge.  Also,greasing the pan, which I did do, does not necessarily keep the fudge from sticking. I would try something I just discovered, If You  Care Silicone Coated Parchment Baking Paper. I bought it  because  some recipe called for  baking paper. It  is the greatest thing for rolling out dough. Nothing sticks to it.
You will not read too many commercial plugs in this column, but this stuff is great. If you plan to make cookies, or  pie, or anything that needs not to stick to the pan, the counter, the rolling pin or you, buy this stuff! This is excellent, non-grainy fudge.

Blue Ribbon Maple Syrup Fudge     

2 cups maple syrup
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
3/4  cup light cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 coarsely chopped walnuts or butternuts

1. Combine the maple syrup,  corn syrup and cream in a heavy saucepan. 
2. Place over moderate heat. (On my gas stove, I figured that was a bout 4.) and stir until mixture begins to boil. Continue boiling, without stirring, until a small amount of the mixture forms a soft ball in cold water (234 degrees on a candy thermometer.)
3. Remove pan from heat and let cool, without stirring, until lukewarm (120 to 110 degrees). Beat the mixture until it thickens and loses its gloss.
4. Add the vanilla and nuts and pour into a  buttered 8-by-8- by-2 inch   pan. When cool, cut into squares. Makes a bout twenty-five one-and-one-half-inch squares.



Friday, November 23, 2012

Scallops Mayonnaise

We are great fans of scallops in this house.  It is one of my husband's lasting griefs that he can no  longer eat them. We still remember fondly a trip to Nova Scotia in 1976 where we ate Digby Bay scallops, the signature scallops of the Maritimes, virtually every night.  On the way to the ferry, we saw a sign for Digby  Bay, and pulled off with glad cries, hastening to the local coffee shop where we  wolfed down a plate of fried scallops before saying good bye to Canada and its seafood.
This is a nice appetizer for Thanksgiving or at any other time. Probably it's more of a summer dish,  but no one complained. I almost forgot to buy  them through a complicated set of circumstances and various markets. In order to avoid the stampeding masses in the market on Wednesday  before Thanksgiving, I  did my shopping at Safeway on Tuesday. But,  Safeway doesn't carry scallops. I intended to go to the Fishery, my local fish market, but, on Wednesday, my intention had escaped my memory. Wednesday morning, I went to yoga to limber up my joints for the next day's cooking marathon, and then to Whole Foods, where I had to buy some pate for  Bob and my daughter-in-law, who had expressed a no scallops preference.
Cruising by the seething mobs of Thanksgiving shoppers, my eyes lit on the fish counter. Ohmigod. The scallops. Appetizer disaster averted.
This whole recipe takes about 15 minutes, and could easily be made the night before. Be careful not to overcook the scallops.

Scallops Mayonnaise

1 pound scallops
salt to taste
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon horseradish
1 teaspoon mustard,  preferably Dijon or Dusseldorf
3 tablespoons finely chopped scallions including the green part
2 tablespoons finely chopped stuffed green olives
Tabasco sauce to taste

1.   If bay scallops (the little ones) are used, leave them whole; if sea scallops are used, cut them in half.  Place in a saucepan with water to barely cover. Add salt.  Bring to a boil and simmer three to five minutes. Do not overcook or scallops will be tough. Drain and chill well.
2. Combine the remaining ingredients. Serve scallops with mayonnaise dressing.
Makes four generous servings.

Baked Bourbon Spiced Sweet Potatoes

  These sweet potatoes, from the great bourbon producing state of Tennessee, are a departure from the mashed sweet potatoes covered with marshmallows that have been traditional.  But, in this house, we're all adults, and some of us like bourbon  better than marshmallows. Besides the bourbon, this recipe has several high quality ingredients that never fail to please, such as  butter, heavy cream and sugar. So how can  you go wrong?
As I write this, a guest on the NPR program Splendid Table, is denouncing the Farm Bill and its possible role in contributing to obesity. Okay.  This is not an everyday kind of dish. It's a once a year kind of a dish. If  you want to cook a nutritious sweet potato dish, you can cut them into fries,  brush them with oil and  bake them. Those are full of vitamin A and probably have one- twentieth of the calories of this  recipe.  But we're talking about Thanksgiving here.
One good thing about this recipe is, the sweet potatoes are baked,  as advertised in the title.  You can put them in the oven with the turkey and go out for a walk to clear your head of  turkey fumes before dinner. Then, the crisp skins break open, and you can just scrape the potato out with a spoon. It's practically mashed already, and much easier to deal with than boiled sweet potatoes. I would add the caveat that, if your traditional Thanksgiving dinner contains mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes, four servings will probably be more than enough for eight or nine diners. Also  if you don't usually drink hard liquor, get a half pint bottle of  bourbon. You'll use it up faster.

 Baked Bourbon Sweet Potatoes

4 sweet potatoes
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter
2 eggs, lightly beaten
 1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 cup raisins
1/4 cup  bourbon

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
2. Scrub the potatoes and bake until tender, about forty minutes. peel and mash into a bowl.
3. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well. Turn into a greased casserole and bake until heated through, about ten minutes (or more) .  
Makes four servings.

Whole Cranberry Conserve

In the New England section, as one would expect, there are no fewer than three cranberry  sauce-ish recipes. Conserve is technically an old fashioned word for what we would call jam. So this cranberry concoction is a little stiffer than cranberry sauce.
Now, in my house, the occupants or former occupants, have grown past the idea that cranberries have to come in a certain form and any other form is unacceptable. So basically, nobody noticed. Mind  you, there was a time when I bought cranberry jelly for one member of the household, and  made cranberry sauce for the rest of us.  So, if  you are considering this recipe for Thanksgiving, consider your audience.
The recipe says to use a darning needle and pierce each  cranberry.  As old fashioned as I am in many ways, I do not have a darning needle, and never did. So, I rummaged around in the drawer that contains cooking implements and odd junk, and found these mini skewers, that were excellent for piercing the cranberries.  Don't get hung  up on the darning needle.  The picture at left should  be helpful in showing you what the recipe is talking about.
I  sat and pierced for about ten minutes  until I had two cups of cranberries. (  I made half the recipe.)  Bob asked me why the cranberries had to be pierced. My answer, one I concocted long ago when playing  adventure computer games where the player had to actually type in the directions was, "because directions say so." He thought about it for a second and said, "oh, so they don't explode."
This conserve/jam takes about thirty minutes and seems somewhat more tart than the canned stuff, which is probably a good thing for most of us.

Whole Cranberry Conserve

4 cups cranberries                                             
2 cups water
2 cups sugar
juice of one lemon
grated rind of one orange

1. Use a darning needle and run it through each cranberry, piercing the stem end first. (The stem end has a little tiny circle.)
2. Combine the water and sugar and simmer ten minutes to make syrup. Add cranberries, the lemon juice and orange rind and cook over high heat twenty minutes or  until syrup thickens and sheets from spoon in two streams. These are canning directions if you want to make this as jam.  Pour into hot sterilized jars.
  Pour in two thin layers of melted paraffin over. Cool , cover and store in a cool, dark, dry place.  
Makes  four to five eight ounce jars.                         


Flaky Rolls

Thanksgiving morning started with the rolls. We weren't having guests come until 5:00, in part to give the yms time with my co-mother-in-law. But at 9 am, I  began dissolving yeast and scalding milk. I am renowned in my family for serving meals late. Bob complains that no matter what time he comes home, we always eat after 8:30. This time, I actually counted up the number of hours that the dough had to chill, rest, etc. and came up with four. Thus the  dissolving and scalding at such an early  hour.
Flaky rolls are like puff pastry.  The cook rolls out the dough into a rectangle! (As if.)  Then, the cook  divides the dough into three parts, butters the center, folds the edges over the center, butters the edges and  presses the dough to seal. Then comes a succession of hours chilling in the refrigerator, rolling out into a rectangle and folding it up and putting it  back into the refrigerator.
Honestly, if you have never  baked any kind of a yeast  bread  before, I would not choose this to start with. But, if you really want  to, make a test batch before your big day to see how it goes. And make sure you have wax paper. Always the wax paper.
I was permanently scared off  puff pastry or anything reassembling it in the least bit when I was about 12 or 13. My parents  had gone off to something; a wedding? a funeral?  on a hot summer day and given me strict instructions not to heat up the kitchen.  I looked through one of my mother's three cookbooks--I think it must have been The Settlement Cookbook, and  found this recipe for puff pastry. It had the same basic instructions, roll out the dough, spread it with butter, chill it, roll it out again, fold it up, chill it. I had no idea how to roll out dough, or that I had picked the worst possible day for my culinary adventure, since high temperatures make dough sticky and unforgiving.
The dough stuck to everything--to the rolling pin, to the counter, to the table, and to me. I ended up balling up the dough around the  slimy butter and sticking it back in the refrigerator as the oven heated the kitchen to about 400 degrees Fahrenheit. My father, who always hated hot weather, was furious when he got home sweating in his suit and tie.
     As a result, I turned the page on flaky rolls for 30  years.  But one's baked goods do improve with experience, and I had had lots of experience, enough to fill in the blanks in the instructions. I  understood, for example, that  when the instructions say "knead  until the dough is smooth and elastic,"  that takes at least five minutes. Then   when it said to roll the dough out into a rectangle, I needed to  put the dough on a sheet of wax paper sprinkled with flour, because, if  I just put it on plain wax paper without the flour, the dough would stick to the wax paper like  billy-o, and have to be peeled off with a knife or a spatula.
I thought I had left plenty of time to  produce the rolls. Indeed I had, if only I had more than one oven. Bob, who has taken charge of the turkey in the last couple of years after discovering the spatchcocking process ,  pointed  out that we couldn't cook  both the turkey and the rolls simultaneously since the rolls had to bake at 475 degrees  and the turkey at 350 degrees. Oh.
"The turkey won't be ready until after 5:00," he said. I didn't say anything, mainly because I couldn't remember what time I had invited people for. It was either 4:00 or 5:00. I have been known to call my guests and ask them what time they were invited to come.
At 2:00,  while the dough was undergoing its last chilling, I drove off to Arlington to pick up my brother George. He normally takes Metro, but I didn't want to trust to Metro's Sunday/Thanksgiving schedule. When I got back, Bob was rolling out sections of dough, cutting the sections into triangles and rolling  the triangles into crescents.
The  rolls came out of the oven forty minutes later. Gluten or no gluten, I grabbed one off the cookie sheet and  ate it in all its hot, flaky, buttery goodness. It was worth the effort.

Flaky Rolls

1 package of active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
2 1/2 cups white flour
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup scalded milk, cooled to lukewarm
1 cup plus one tablespoon butter
1 egg  yolk
2 tablespoons heavy cream

1. Dissolve the yeast in warm water.
2 . Put the flour and salt in a  bowl and make a well in the center. Into this, pour the cooled milk, the dissolved or softened yeast and one tablespoon of the  butter.
3. Blend well and knead until smooth and elastic.   (This takes between five and ten minutes.)  (If you have never kneaded dough, or want technique tips, look on You tube.)
4. Refrigerate dough on bottom shelf of the refrigerator  ( is this an old recipe or what?) 15 minutes. Roll out on a floured sheet of wax paper into a 12-by-18-inch rectangle.
5. Soften the remaining  butter. (If you're smart, you will put  your pound of butter on top of the stove when you start dissolving the yeast and scalding the milk. So then it will be soft when you need it.) Score the dough rectangle into thirds and spread half the softened butter over the center third. Fold one end of the dough over the  butter. On this spread the remaining  butter. Fold the other end over this and press the edges to seal.
6. Put a 24 inch sheet of wax paper over the dough. With a rolling pin, roll out the dough to a 12- by-18-inch rectangle.  Fold in thirds as  before. Wrap dough  in wax paper and chill one hour.
 7. Roll dough into 12-18-inch rectangle, fold in thirds wrap in wax paper and refrigerate two hours.
8. Roll out dough to one-eighth-inch thickness in a  12- by-18-inch rectangle. Cut into six-inch squares and then cut each square into four triangles. Starting with the wide end, roll t he triangles, then bend into crescents. Place on a  buttered  baking sheet.
9.  Cover with wax paper and refrigerate thirty minutes or longer.
10.  Preheat the oven to 475 degrees.
11.  Blend the egg yolk with the cream and brush over the crescents. Bake five minutes and reduce oven heat to 400 degrees. Bake until crescents are golden, a bout ten minutes longer.
Makes 24.      

Thanksgiving Overview

Thanksgiving in cookbook land is all about the side dishes.  I used the recipe for Roast Turkey sometime in the 70s, before I started putting dates next to the recipes.  This year, I mined the cookbook for four separate recipes, not counting the mince pie, made from green tomato mincemeat that I canned in October.  We had Scallops Mayonnaise,  Whole Cranberry Conserve, Baked  Bourbon Spiced Sweet Potatoes, and Flaky Rolls.                                                                  
When the kids were growing up, we had soup as a starter. Last year, when I decided that there would  be deviation from soup, I had to clear it with my son, who seems to get worked up about these things more than other people. People
 Scallops were okay with him. My daughter-in-law, always polite and charming, said she didn't like scallops but he could have hers. So scallops it was.
I was particularly  proud of the flaky rolls. They were a tribute to following directions. They came out exactly as they should.  I  grabbed one off the cookie sheet and ate it warm. Nobody  had seconds  but their plates looked like they had been licked.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             

Baked Custard (Gluten Free)

Michaela, Bob's old boss, came to dinner Wednesday night. We had corned  beef and  Brussels sprouts for dinner, so I was looking for something light  and easy, not to say gluten free, for dessert. It being the night  before Thanksgiving, it  did not seem like the time for pies.
 I have to say, baked custard is sort of a namby-pamby dessert. It doesn't have much flavor. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, it was known as invalid food. Mothers fed it to sick children.
The recipe calls for scalded milk. You scald milk  by heating it slowly, until a ring of tiny bubbles form around the side of the pan. The website,  says scalding milk "infuses it with flavor," so the cook can scald milk with vanilla beans, mint leaves or other herbs and spices. Scalding also speeds up the cooking process. If you run across a bread recipe that tells you to scald the milk, you should follow the directions, as scalding milk deactivates the whey proteins in the milk, which can keep the dough from rising properly. (Make sure the milk has cooled somewhat, otherwise when you mix it into the eggs, they will cook.
  I asked Bob to bring home some raspberries, and he inventively made a raspberry sauce in the blender. What you see in the picture is the raspberry sauce. Custard is a very pale yellow.   The cooking time seemed to be off. Hewitt says twenty-five to thirty minutes. It seemed more like 40  to 50 minutes before it solidified.

Baked Custard

3 eggs, lightly beaten
1/3 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups milk, scalded
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Beat the eggs with the sugar, salt and vanilla. Stir in the milk. (Make sure it has a chance to cool.) Pour into a baking dish or casserole that has been greased on the bottom. Sprinkle with the nutmeg. Set baking dish or casserole in a pan of hot water and bake twenty-five to thirty minutes, or until a knife inserted in custard comes out clean. Makes four servings.

Red Beans and Rice II

As   you might expect , red beans and rice is from Louisiana.  It is "one of the  most famous dishes in Louisiana," says Hewlett. Humph. I think crawfish etouffe is more famous myself. Or seafood gumbo. However,  I was into cheap last week, before Thanksgiving, so we had red beans and rice. Bob  eyed  the ham hocks in the  beans with disfavor. "Why are we having this again?"  he inquired, meaning the ham hocks. I said we weren't having ham hocks alone again, we were having red beans and rice, which happened to contain ham hocks. The last time we had ham hocks, just a couple of weeks ago, he had reminisced about his Aunt  Hortense, (yes, that was her name, and she was a lovely old lady,)  and how she used to make ham hocks with beans. Turned out it was green beans. Oh.
The alternative for ham hocks is  bacon drippings. It occurs to me that some of  you may  not even know what  bacon drippings are. Bacon drippings are the fat that cooks off when  bacon is fried. It seems like bacon used to  be fattier, because we had a coffee can of  bacon drippings sitting next to our stove when I was growing up. My parents ate eggs and bacon every morning for breakfast, but that was only bacon from 4 slices. It seemed like those cans filled up pretty fast. When they were full, my mother put them into the freezer and put them on top of the bird feeder when the weather got cold. One year, we had starlings in the bird feeder. The starlings flung wads of fat at the house and messed up the aluminum siding. 
 The recipe says to soak the beans overnight. I soaked them for a couple of hours and they were fine. Oh yeah. Hewitt says the  beans are "not kidney beans as many suppose. " She doesn't say what they are, but they ain't kidney beans. Thanks, Jean, old girl. However, it is okay to                             use kidney beans.  Make sure you start dinner in time to let the beans boil for an hour and a half.
 Also, it says to use three cups of water, which would have left the ham hocks high and dry. I used twice as much water to submerge the ham hocks  so they would cook properly, and ended up draining a lot of the water off at the end.    I also threw in some crumbled hot red peppers that a neighbor gave me from his garden. The ingredients sort of stew together and make a  sauce for the beans. It's a very acceptable dinner on a cool night, accompanied by a salad.

Red Beans and Rice II

1  cup dried red  beans, soaked overnight
3 cups water
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
 3 tablespoons bacon drippings or one small ham hock
1 small onion, studded with two whole cloves (I chopped up the onion)
1 clove of garlic, finely minced
 1 rib celery, chopped
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
1 bay leaf,  broken into pieces
1 cup rice, cooked according to package directions

1. Drain the beans and place in a heavy kettle with the water, salt, pepper, and bacon drippings or ham hock.  Bring to a boil and simmer one and one-half hours. Add the onion, garlic, celery, parsley and  bay leaf and cook one hour longer.
2. Serve on hot rice.
Makes f our servings.               


Wednesday, November 14, 2012


Nobody likes fruitcake, right? Sixties talk show host Johnny Carson once called it 'the worst gift. There's only one fruitcake in the whole world, and people keep sending it to each other."   In fact, I don't like it myself. So, why make it?
Well, it's in the cookbook, so here we go. I had thought of making this for the Appalachian Trail hikers when I was in Massachusetts, figuring that they would eat anything. I am glad I didn't because it has a set of ingredients that are A. hard to find and B.  that would then become leftovers, and would require dragging back to DC. But when my husband's church announced that they needed donations for the hospitality hour for their annual celebration in honor of their patron saint, I leapt at the chance. it was time for some major foisting.
 If you want to make fruitcake, this is the season for buying the ingredients. Red and green maraschino cherries have a very short shelf life these days. The supermarkets are out of them by mid December. Also, who knows about things like Brazil nuts?
I handled the ingredient issue by sitting down at the computer and ordering everything I could from This may be a giant corporation for all I know, but the story they tell customers is they grew from a little family nut stand started by grandpa. They ship fast, I'll tell you that. You no sooner order than their box is on your doorstep, without having to pay for next day shipping. I ordered English walnuts, glazed diced orange peel, pitted dates and....Brazil nuts. In the shell. It says so, right here on my receipt. Did I check that and say, Oh, my God, I don't want these in the shell? I did not.
So, when I sat down to make the fruitcake and opened the bag of Brazil nuts, I was horrified to discover them in their enormously hard, triangular shells. So, I went to look for the hammer. Our basement is in more than the usual disarray, due to a dispute we are having with the District of Columbia. We want to install geothermal heating, and some bureaucrat at the DC Department of Consumer Affairs seems hellbent on making sure we do not. So stuff is everywhere, and I could only find a skinny little hammer designed to hammer those skinny little nails used in making picture frames.
 I wrapped the nuts in a dishtowel and began whacking away. I discovered that once I was able to penetrate the diamond like shell of these damn things, the meat still had to be picked out of the remaining shell. It was an arduous task. Then, I had Brazil nut pieces and finally some whole Brazil nuts, but they were still coated with the skin of the nut. Unlike peanuts, the skin does not just slough off.
How to get the skin off? I tried boiling the nuts, which worked sort of, and then scraped the skin off with my fingernails. Fun.
An hour later, I was ready to open the next bag and begin making the fruitcake. Basically, it's all measure, dump and mix. I did one thing by mistake which increased the flavorfulness of the fruitcake. I didn't check the size of the aperture on the vanilla bottle and dumped in at least two teaspoons of vanilla. You do that too. It made the cake taste better.
If you have never made fruitcake before, be prepared for having a lot of fruit (and nuts) and very little cake. The recipe does warn you about this. It says, "Resulting mixture will be stiff." That's what that means. Also, if, like I did, you find that you have too much batter for one loaf pan, prepare both loaf pans at the same time, stir the batter really well, and ladle the batter into them at the same time. What little actual batter there is has a tendency to trickle down to the bottom of the bowl, leaving the fruit on top with a light glaze of batter. My second loaf was more cake like than my first.
I was pleased to discover, when I finally took my unloved creation out of the oven, that it tasted good. (This recipe does not call for rum, which I consider a good thing.)
You may be wondering why this woman is railing on about waxed paper. Well, waxed paper is not mentioned until step 4. At that point many of us would find ourselves with a bowl of fruitcake batter and no time to run out and buy waxed paper. And, thusly, would just decide to do without it. Big mistake. Unless you want to have to dynamite your cake out of the pan, buy waxed paper.
So, if you want to try this, make it for an open house or something, so those that like it can eat it, and those that think they hate it will miss out. And buy waxed paper. And shelled Brazil nuts.


1 1/2 cups shelled Brazil nuts, left whole
1 1/2 cups walnut  halves
1 eight ounce package pitted dates, left whole
2/3 cup chopped candied orange peel
1/2 cup red maraschino cherries drained
1/2 cup green maraschino cherries, drained
1/2 cup raisins
3/4 cup flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
1 teaspoon (or more) vanilla

1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
2. Mix together the Brazil nuts, walnut halves, dates, orange peel, red cherries, green cherries and raisins. Sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt and sprinkle it over the fruit mixture.
3. Beat the eggs until light and fluffy, add vanilla and combine with fruit mixture. Resulting mixture will be stiff.
4. The baking utensil(s) to be used should be greased, lined with unglazed brown paper, parchment paper or wax paper and greased again. (Skip this step at your peril.) Spoon the fruitcake mixture into a prepared 9-by-5-by-3-inch loaf pan or one and one half quart mold or into two prepared one pound coffee cans.
5. Bake loaf one and three-quarter hours and other tins two hours. Cool cake in baking utensil ten minutes; then loosen and finish cooling on a rack. Makes 14 servings.

Cheese Custard (Gluten Free)

Cheese Custard is something like Strata, that all-purpose egg, bread and cheese dish. The bread has been replaced by saltines, or in my case, gluten free crackers.  Otherwise, it is pretty similar. I made it last night while I was cleaning out son's room. First, I put all the ingredients into a baking dish. Then I let them sit while I cleaned. The recipe says to let it sit for 30 minutes. I let mine sit for nigh onto three hours. No ill effects. The point is, if you have a few minutes before the kids come home from school, you can put this together then, put it in the oven 40 minutes or so before you want to eat and eat it at 7:00.
 Son and daughter-in-law have moved to Alexandria, and Bob is on a mission to clean out his room so it can be used for something other than storing furniture. My job was to put all the items on top of the bureau in boxes so the bureau could be removed to the first floor, a way station for the donation truck which is supposed to come Friday.
I assembled a box and began loading it up. There were two china mugs which I kind of felt didn't really belong to son since they weren't imprinted with the name of a law school or some organization that hired lawyers, like the IRS.. There was a boomerang on a stand. That was his. There were several bottles of cologne. There was about $5.00 in change. I responsibly put that into a plastic bag and deposited it in the box.
 I went through a period in my life when every time I needed bus fare (before I finally succumbed and bought a Smart Card that I could load money onto) I would go into son's  room and pick $1.50  in change off the top of the bureau. But, since I'm not working, those days are gone. (Also, he doesn't live at home anymore, so the supply of change is not renewable. )
Around 8:10, Bob called from work. He sounded exhausted, so I offered to pick him up at Metro. I went downstairs and put the assembled cheese custard into the oven. When we got home at 8:50, I looked in the oven, expecting the cheese custard to be done. It was not. Bob took the dish out, stirred it up and put it back in the oven at 350 for ten more minutes. Then it was done. So be warned about the time.
For you gluten free enthusiasts, I bought Glutino crackers, which is what Safeway carries. They are okay for the purposes of making cheese custard. For the purposes of eating, they are pretty much like cardboard. So, if you are new at this gluten free stuff, don't think these will taste like Ritz crackers, which is what they are designed to look like.
This is a good, cheap, basic dinner that takes no skill to assemble and tastes good on a cold night. Serve it with a salad.

Cheese Custard

12 saltine crackers (or gluten free crackers if needed)
1 cup grated Cheddar cheese
3 eggs lightly beaten
2 cups milk
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1. Place the crackers in the bottom of a greased one-quart casserole. Sprinkle with the cheese. Combine the eggs, milk, butter and cayenne and pour over. Let stand 30 minutes (or more, if you want).
2. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
3. Bake ten minutes, lower the oven heat to 275 degrees and bake about twenty minutes longer, or until custard is set. (My advice is to start it at 400 degrees and then lower the heat to 350.)
Makes four servings.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Ham Hocks

Ham hocks are a humble dish. In Spanish, one would call them cucina sin adorno, or unadorned cooking.  If you have never seen or eaten them, they are shaped like miniature hams, wider at the top than at the bottom. The ones I got had been smoked, and like hams, still  had the skin attached. Inside they have a little meat and many tendons. Anatomically, they are akin to the pig's ankles. They are a staple in southern cooking, and also are popular in German cooking.
Bob and I had this for dinner Wednesday night. I went to yoga, and around 4:00 I put the ham hocks into the slow cooker, with instructions to Bob to take them out and boil them for 15 to 20 minutes if he got home before I did. He got home before I did even though I hustled into my clothes after yoga and out to the street, where there were no buses, not in the bus turn around up the street, and not trundling up Connecticut Avenue. I walked home which took about 20 minutes, and no buses passed me at all. We were supposed to have a second storm Wednesday night, but all that fell on me was a few sprinkles.
The recipe says to cook the vegetables for fifteen minutes. My advice is to cook the carrots and potatoes for fifteen minutes and the cabbage for five to seven minutes. Our cabbage was limp and overcooked. This is certainly an easy dish. Anyone can boil their dinner.
I didn't experiment with ways to add more flavor. Boiling is easy, but it does not result in a flavorful dish. One might try boiling everything in chicken broth rather than water, or adding soup cubes to the boiling water. Bay leaves might improve the situation. Use your ingenuity.

Ham Hocks

4 ham hocks
2 teaspoons salt
3 carrots quartered
3 onions sliced
3 potatoes sliced
1/4 large head cabbage, cut into four wedges

1. Place the hocks in a Dutch oven or casserole. Cover with water and add the salt. Bring to a boil and simmer, covered, one and one-half to two hours or until tender.
2. Add the remaining ingredients and cook, covered, fifteen minutes longer, or until vegetables are tender. Makes four servings.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Lobster Thermidor

Thermidor was one of the summer months  of the French Revolutionary calendar.   It is also the name of an extremely delicious lobster dish. When I was a child, I remember  my mother serving this once on Christmas Eve, when it was traditional for Catholics to eat fish. At that time I turned up my nose at it because it had sherry in it.
"It has liquor in it," I whined.
Thank God for taste  buds growing up, I say. There are few dishes more delicious than those flavored with sherry and cream. I served this for our Saturday dinner party. Probably because of the storm, it was expensive, a little more than $25 per lobster.
One thing that speeded things up was ordering the lobsters precooked from the Fishery, my local fish store. If  you live in New England, you can probably order steamed lobsters at the supermarket.  Down here in what used to be called the Middle Atlantic states, it depends. It doesn't hurt to ask if your supermarket steams lobsters, but I wouldn't count on it, myself.
Once you get the lobster meat dug out of the lobster, this is not a difficult dish to prepare.  It has only four steps and most of the verbs are "add."The cook is just pouring stuff into a pan and stirring it. But, the cook does have to pay careful attention to the heat. Keep the burner low so the lobster does not get tough, and the cream does not curdle.  Otherwise, if your budget runs to lobster, go for this. For seven people, I ordered four lobsters.  I told the fish store I wanted 1 and 1/2 pound lobsters, but, as usual, they told me "they were a little bigger."  That was plenty of lobster meat. I think three lobsters would have been skimpy. Otherwise I increased the recipe ingredients by one and a half.
The dinner party guests were most impressed. "Why are we having lobster?" one inquired. As in, "What's the occasion?" The occasion is knocking off the lobster recipes. We had a wonderful dinner, talking nonstop about books.

Lobster Thermidor

1/4 cup butter
2 cups cubed cooked lobster meat
2 tablespoons Cognac
3 tablespoons dry sherry
1 cup heavy cream, scalded
3 egg yolks beaten
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1. Melt the butter, add the lobster meat and cook three minutes. Shake the pan or stir while cooking.
2. Add the cognac and sherry.
3. Pour the cream over the egg yolks and add to lobster mixture. Reheat, stirring until mixture thickens, but do not allow to boil.
4. Season with salt, pepper and cayenne. Makes two servings.

Honey Souffle (Gluten Free)

                                                                                  This gluten free, dairy free dessert was the last course at our Saturday dinner party.  It was created by a guest chef, my husband, because I was too busy talking to our guests.  I came into the kitchen to fill some one's glass and Bob was sifting gluten free flour into the egg yolks.
"I thought we'd better get this started," he said.
 He has a much better sense of time than I do. At dinner parties, we no longer eat at nine, but this was something that had to be done after the guests had arrived, but could not be left too late.
 The original recipe called for flour, but Bob added the same amount of  Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free flour. It seems to be a kosher recipe, as it calls for kosher margarine. I confess, I did not check to see if the margarine was kosher. Most stuff is, like seltzer water. Kosher hot dogs say they are kosher. Well, I don't keep kosher, so it doesn't matter to me so much.  Those who do keep kosher know which margarines are kosher.
Like the Lobster Thermidor, the recipe comes from the north east, New York to be specific. It came out more like a steamed pudding and less like a souffle. It was still good. Bob put in a teaspoon of nutmeg and two teaspoons of grated lemon rind and doubled the recipe since we had eight people at dinner.

Honey Souffle

4 eggs separated
2 tablespoons flour (use gluten free flour if needed)
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
3/4 cup confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoons cream sherry or sweet red or white wine
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup unsalted, soft kosher pareve margarine, melted
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
2 tablespoons finely ground almonds

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Beat the egg yolks until light and creamy. Sift the flour, nutmeg and confectioners' sugar together and stir into the yolks.
3. Add the wine. Mix the honey and margarine together and add slowly to the egg mixture. Add the lemon rind and beat until smooth.
4. Beat the egg whites until stiff but not dry and fold into honey mixture. Pour into an ungreased one and one half quart souffle dish. Sprinkle with the almonds.
5. Place dish in a shallow pan of hot water and bake thirty to forty minutes. Makes four servings.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Pear Soup

This is a good autumn soup from the great state of Montana. I made it for a dinner party we had Saturday night one week after Hurricane Sandy, and three days before the election. Making it is quite simple. The cook does need to allow about an hour to cook the barley. The recipe says to soak the barley which is supposed to lessen the cooking time. I did not bother. The barley took the same amount of time  to cook as predicted in the recipe after soaking.
The recipe seemed somewhat  bland to me. I    considered adding curry powder, but was talked out of it by my husband, Bob.  The guests seemed to like it  as is, sans curry powder.
If you cook the barley ahead of time,  it takes about ten minutes to assemble the rest of the soup, and 15 to 20 minutes to simmer it  until the pears are tender.

Pear Soup

1/2 c up pearl barley
lightly salted water
4 cups milk
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
 2 unripe green pears, peeled, cored and diced
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons sugar

1. Day before, cover the  barley with the water and let soak overnight. Next day, transfer to a saucepan and cook until barley is tender, about one hour. Drain.
2.  Place barley, the  milk and baking soda in a pan and bring to a boil. Add the pears and cook until tender. Add the salt and pepper.
Makes four servings.     

Friday, October 26, 2012

Eggplant and Chicken Liver Casserole

Longtime readers will know that eggplant is vegetable non grata in my house, or at least with my husband Bob. So, in order to make all the recipes in the cookbook, I have to foist some of  them on other eaters. This one was really a foisting. I have to say, this is not a good recipe. If you are particularly fond of both eggplant and chicken livers, you might improve this recipe by adding onions and garlic. The way it is, eh, I wouldn't bother.
It did have one benefit, that of bringing chicken livers into the house, where they could be fed to our elderly corgi, who is, I fear, not long for this world. He had essentially stopped eating, but chicken livers piqued his appetite, and now he is eating two meals a day.
I made the casserole for a potluck lunch that was to take place after an equestrian games event at the stable where the horse boards. If the idea of playing games on horseback seems weird, it's pretty common in England where they call it a gymkhana.  Usually, I believe children do it, but here, it was just a bunch of women having fun with their horses.
My horse is usually not Mr. Cooperative. He does certain things well, and other things he does not do. He does not like to go on trail rides. He is a dressage horse. He belongs in the ring. I didn't think he would play games, but he went along with it pretty well. In something called the carrot race, where the horse is supposed to trot after its rider, who is brandishing a carrot, he did not run out of the ring and back to his stable. He actually trotted after the carrot.
He did not kick the bejesus out of my partner's horse during the ribbon race, where two riders had to ride side by side, each holding the end of a piece of crepe paper.
When it came time to eat, one woman had brought an excellent cheese dip and crackers, some one else brought chips and salsa, and I brought the casserole. Most people left some on their plates. It wasn't great.  I gave the leftovers to Anna, the woman who runs the stable, for her workers, who are living in her house while their burned out trailer is being replaced.

Eggplant and Chicken Liver Casserole

2 medium size eggplants
Boiling salted water
5 tablespoons butter
1/2 pound chicken livers
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 pound mushrooms, thinly sliced
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, or to taste
cayenne pepper to taste
3/4 cup soft bread crumbs
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1. Trim off and discard the ends of the eggplants. Cut the eggplants into one-inch cubes. Barely cover with boiling salted water and simmer until tender, about ten minutes. (About 20 minutes is more like it.) Drain in a colander. Empty the eggplant into a mixing bowl and mash with a fork.
2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
3. Heat two tablespoons of the butter in a skillet. Add the chicken livers and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook livers until brown on all sides, then chop livers in the skillet. Add them to the eggplant.
4. Heat two tablespoons of the remaining butter in the same skillet. Add the mushrooms, sprinkle with salt and pepper and cook until mushrooms are wilted. Add them to the eggplant mixture.
5. Stir in the eggs, beating thoroughly. Add the parsley, cream, nutmeg, cayenne, and all but two tablespoons of the bread crumbs. Add all but two tablespoons of the cheese. Mix well and pour the mixture into a one quart casserole.
6. Sprinkle with the remaining bread crumbs and cheese and dot with the remaining butter.  Bake twenty-five to thirty minutes. Makes six to eight servings.

Florida Keys Red Snapper

Saturday evening, I made something from the cookbook just for the two of us. Bob doesn't mind fish as long as it isn't shellfish, so I settled on this. The down side is, this dish is not gluten free. I imagine that somewhere it is possible to find gluten free breadcrumbs, but I don't know where.
My fish store, The Fishery, in Chevy Chase, DC didn't have a whole red snapper, which was all to the good, since it would have been way too much for the two of us. I bought a piece and perched the stuffing and toppings on top.
It does not involve a lot of finicky heating and stirring, or folding, or any of those arduous cooking tasks where you are not sure what the finished product is going to look like, or is even supposed to look like. Basically, you make stuffing, stuff the fish, put various sliced fruits and vegetables on top, wrap it in aluminum foil and bake it. We took a break from baseball, since the Tigers had signed, sealed and delivered the Yankees on Thursday night, and the Giants were overcoming jetlag to go after the Cardinals on Sunday night.

Florida Keys Red Snapper

1 three-pound to four pound red snapper
Peanut oil or vegetable oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/4 cup finely chopped celery
1/4 cup finely chopped green pepper
2 scallions, including green part, chopped
2 cups toasted soft bread crumbs
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
1/4 cup coarsely chopped toasted almonds
6 thin tomato slices
6 thin onion slices
6 thin orange slices
6 thin lime slices
juice of half a lime

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Rub the fish lightly with oil and sprinkle inside and outside with salt and pepper.
3. Melt the butter and cook the chopped onions, celery, green pepper, and scallions in it until onion is wilted. Stir in the bread crumbs, parsley and almonds. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stuff the fish with the mixture and tie with string.
4. Place the fish on a length of aluminum foil and add alternating, slightly overlapping slices of tomato, onion, orange and lime. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and lime juice. Bring up the edges of the foil and secure it envelope style. Bake thirty minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork. Makes four to six servings.

Rum Walnut Pie (Gluten Free)

As I mentioned in the recipe for chicken spaghetti, Rum Walnut Pie, whether gluten free or not, is a time consuming recipe. I told myself I wanted to get it done by 1:30 or thereabouts, so the pie would have plenty of time to set. I ended up finishing it around 4:00. But, nonetheless, it set nicely, and did not have to be slopped out of the pan with a spoon.
If you readers are thinking that rum and walnuts are a dispiriting combination, never fear, it also contains chocolate!
Most of the time consumingness lay in step 5. "Heat over simmering water until the mixture thickens and just coats the back of the spoon." Hmmm. Well, I heated and stirred, (because if you leave egg mixtures in a double boiler and don't stir them, you end up with scrambled eggs) and heated and stirred. After 45 minutes of this sweaty business, I finally decided that the mixture was fractionally thicker.
My husband stepped in with soothing words and whisked it for a while, off the heat, which made it thicker. Someday, I would like to take a course in the chemistry of cooking.
To make this gluten free, I used almonds, and, I confess, the walnuts that were supposed to go in the filling. I carefully bought almonds, but failed to notice that they were roasted and salted, not raw. So, I ran the handful of raw almonds from the cupboard through the food processor, and, when it didn't look like enough, I tossed in the half a cup of walnut pits I had for the filling. (After the fact, I learned that one can buy gluten free almond meal from Trader Joes.)
From there, I added the 1/4 cup melted butter and two tablespoons sugar called for in the recipe and pressed it into a pie pan. I baked it for ten minutes as called for, and then labored away on the filling. This is an excellent dessert for the hot months, which seem now to be stretching from April to October, instead of June to September, the way it used to be.
The other aspect of this pie that takes lots of time is that it is two-tone. The cook makes the filling without the chocolate, lets it chill for an unspecified amount of time (15 minutes is good),  adds the whipped egg whites and whipped cream and puts half of it into the pie shell. Then, she/he mixes the cocoa powder and walnuts with the rest of it, lets it chill for another unspecified while, and then spoons that into the pie shell, giving a layered effect. A word to the wise: while all this chilling is going on, set a timer. It is very easy to  sit down for what you think is going to be five minutes to watch the ball game, and three innings later find you have a bowlful of jelled mixture that won't combine with anything.

Run Walnut Pie

Pie Crust
2/3 cup graham cracker crumbs (or almond meal or finely chopped almonds)
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup grated for very finely chopped (in food processor) walnuts
1/4 cup melted butter

1/2 cup sugar
1 envelope plus one teaspoon unflavored gelatin
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups milk or light cream
3 eggs separated
3 tablespoons dark rum
1/2 cup heavy cream whipped
2 tablespoons cocoa powder (three is better)
3 tablespoons hot water
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts
whipped cream and walnut halves for garnish (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. To prepare pie crust, combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, walnuts and melted butter. Mix well and press over the bottom and sides of a nine-inch pie plate to form a crust.
3. Bake ten minutes. Cool and chill.
4. To prepare filling, combine one-quarter cup of the sugar, the gelatin and salt in the top of a double boiler. Stir in the milk or cream. Beat the egg yolks lightly and stir in.
5. Heat over simmering water until the mixture thickens and just coats the back of a spoon. (This will probably take somewhere in the neighborhood of 45 minutes.) Remove from heat and stir in the rum.
6. Cool and chill until mixture starts to thicken.
7. Beat the egg whites until stiff and gradually beat in the remaining sugar. Fold into the chilling filling. Fold in the whipped cream. Turn one cup of mixture into the chilled crust.
8. Mix the cocoa powder with the water, cool slightly and fold into remaining pie filling along with the chopped walnuts. Chill in bowl until filling starts to set. Spoon over the white filling in the pie shell and chill until firm, at least four hours.
9. If desired, garnish with whipped cream and walnut halves before serving.
Serves 6.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Chicken Spaghetti

Chicken Spaghetti is from Mississippi, which explains why you are told to put Cheddar cheese on it. My family found this weird. "Cheddar cheese on spaghetti?" they exclaimed with their Northern noses in the air. They also all liked it and asked for seconds. So there.
I made it for the yms who have patiently eaten their way through my fish servings for two years or more. I'm not entirely sure my daughter-in-law likes fish. But, since she is the politest person on the planet, she would never, ever say so.  My son loves spaghetti. On his birthday, growing up when he could have asked for anything at all to eat, he used to request spaghetti. I used to think that was weird. When I was growing up, and was going back to school, I always asked for standing rib roast of beef for what I thought of as the condemned man's last meal. In the family, we referred to it as "noble sight" because the Fanny Farmer cookbook had a picture of a standing rib roast next to the recipe for Yorkshire pudding. Underneath were the words, "A standing rib roast is a noble sight." But, he likes spaghetti.
This is one of those long recipes. I started cooking around 12:30 and didn't finish until 6:00 in between sneaking peeks at the Tigers-Yankees game. Even though we're all in mourning around here for the Nationals' ninth inning collapse on Friday night, I couldn't resist the opportunity to watch the Yankees get taken to the cleaners.
I have to care about one of the teams in order to get into the baseball playoffs. Either it's because I have been to their stadium, or because they haven't won the World Series in a long time, or because they have a cool mascot. (Remember the Rally Monkey the Angles had on their scoreboard in 2002? I like October baseball as theatre.)
I used to be a Yankees fan in the 90s when they were cool. But after they won their 46th million World Series and fired Joe Torre, they were no longer cool, they were the Evil Empire. Then I became a Red Sox fan. Then they won the World Series twice in four years, broke their curse and became less fun. I'm glad they won the World Series, but fans stopped doing completely insane things like dredging ponds that Babe Ruth may or may not have thrown a piano into in 1923. I mean, I ask you. It probably costs several thousand dollars to dredge a pond. And if that man did find a piano, what difference would it have made to the Red Sox? So now I'm rooting for Detroit to win the World Series.
 I would not suggest serving chicken spaghetti with Rum Walnut pie unless you are exceptionally well organized and make the pie the night before. Sunday was a smack down beautiful fall day,  just the thing for a walk on the C & O Canal, or to Starbucks, or what have you. But I got to experience it through trips to the trash cans in the alley where we hauled out moldy boxes of wet carpet tile that had been lurking in the furnace room for years.
I'm not complaining, mind you. I like cooking. I like having people to dinner. But it did take a lot of time.
Chicken spaghetti is kind of like spaghetti lasagna. You make a roux to mix the tomato sauce into, along with sauteed onions, peppers and mushrooms. There are just a lot of steps involved, and the same thing with Rum Walnut pie. So if you are wedded to this menu, try to do things ahead, like cook the chicken.  One does not have to make the entire amount. I cut the recipe in half and had leftovers for Bob's lunch.

Chicken Spaghetti

2 three-pound chickens
2 whole ribs celery
1 carrot, cut into rounds
2 sprigs parsley
1 onion, studded with two whole cloves
salt to taste
12 peppercorns
8 tablespoons butter
2 green peppers, cored, seeded and chopped
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 ribs celery, finely chopped
1/2 pound mushrooms, sliced
5 tablespoons flour (I used Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free Flour)
1 cup heavy cream
2 cups tomato sauce
2 pounds spaghetti
2 cups freshly grated sharp Cheddar cheese
French bread
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1. Place the chickens in a heavy kettle and add the whole celery ribs, carrot, parsley and onion studded with cloves. Add water to cover, salt and peppercorns. Bring the mixture to a boil and simmer until chickens are tender, about forty-five minutes to one hour. Remove the chickens from the broth and when they are cool enough to handle, remove the meat from the bones. Discard bones and skin and reserve the meat, keeping it covered. Meanwhile, continue cooking the chicken broth until it is reduced and has more body. (Every so often, taste the broth. Broth with "more body" will have more flavor.)
2. Melt half the butter in a skillet and cook the peppers, chopped onion and chopped celery in it until vegetables are nearly tender. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring, until mushrooms give up their juices. (Mushrooms will kind of sweat while cooking.) Continue cooking until most of the liquid is evaporated and the vegetables are tender. Reserve until ready to use.
3. Melt the remaining butter in a saucepan and add the flour, stirring it with a wire whisk. When blended, add two cups of the hot chicken broth and cook, stirring vigorously with the whisk until the mixture is thickened and smooth. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, five to fifteen minutes. Add the cream, blend well, and return to a boil. Add the tomato sauce. Combine the sauce, chicken and mushroom mixture. The sauce should have a medium thickness. To thin it, add a little broth.
4. Cook the spaghetti according to package directions until it is nearly, but not thoroughly cooked.(The spaghetti will cook slightly when it is reheated in the sauce.) Drain the spaghetti.
5. Use a roasting pan or other large cooking utensil and pour in a layer of sauce and a layer of spaghetti. sprinkle with the Cheddar cheese. Continue making layers until all the sauce, spaghetti and Cheddar cheese are used, ending with a layer of cheese. This dish may be made in advance to this point.
6. If spaghetti is allowed to stand, it will absorb much of the sauce and it may be necessary to add more chicken broth. The spaghetti should be amply steeped in sauce, but not runny.
7. When ready to serve, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
8. Place the pan in the oven and heat spaghetti and sauce until hot and bubbling, but do not overcook. Serve on hot plates with loaves of French bread and grated Parmesan cheese. Makes one dozen to 15 servings.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Cider Apples (Gluten Free)

This  is a terrific fall dessert, easy, tasty and healthy to boot. It's just the thing to serve the family on a cold, windy evening after you have returned from the apple orchard/pumpkin patch with a huge bag of apples and a bottle of cider. Must have cider. It calls for 1/4 cup grenadine syrup.
According to Wikipedia, my all purpose reference source, grenadine is a non-alcoholic syrup that used to be made with pomegranate juice, sugar and water. Now it's made with evil, high-fructose corn syrup, and a bunch of chemicals, so as far as I'm concerned, you can just leave it out. That's what I did because I forgot to buy some, but hey, it was a good move.
You may want to know what barely tender means and how would you know when the apples are barely tender. The point is, you don't want the apples to get mushy. So stick an apple slice with a knife before you put it in the cider to see how it feels. You want it to be just a little softer than that. So stick the knife in after the apples have been poaching for three or four minutes. They should allow the knife to go in somewhat more easily.

Cider Apples

4 cups cider
6 whole cloves
1 two inch piece cinnamon stick
2 slices fresh ginger root
6 apples, peeled, cored and cut into three-quarter-inch slices
1/4 cup grenadine syrup
1 1/2 teaspoons arrowroot

1. Combine the cider, cloves, cinnamon stick and ginger root in a saucepan, bring to a boil and simmer fifteen minutes. (If you prefer sweet desserts, one half cup sugar, or more to taste, can be added to the cider mixture.)
2. Add the apple slices and poach until barely tender. Remove apple slices to a serving dish and keep warm.
 3. Add the grenadine to the cider syrup and boil to reduce the quantity by half. (If you aren't using grenadine, you honestly can leave this step out. The syrup will be a little less syrupy, but, so what?) Strain the syrup, measure it and then thicken with one and one-half teaspoons arrowroot mixed with a little cold water for each cup of the syrup. Pour over the apples. Serves six.