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.