Sunday, January 27, 2013

Clam Biscuits

If you come from clam land, clam biscuits may seem normal. But not to me. Now, before anyone points out that I am, in fact, from Massachusetts, I would remind you that I am the Berkshire Farmer. It's not possible to get any further from clams and still stay in Massachusetts than Berkshire County, where I grew up.
We did go to Eastern Long Island a couple of times when I was very young, to visit my great aunts and uncle. But the food that I associated with that visit was butterballs, which I ate like candy, not bothering to spread them on my bread. There was also afternoon tea, with a silver tea service, in which children were allowed to partake. The memory of that tea was so strong that I concocted a myth that the tea itself was some special blend, like Black Current. When I asked my parents about this years later, they chuckled and said, "It was Lipton."
However, in general, the beach was some sort of Shangri-la, an Eden without cows or tractors, where mystical beings called teenagers ate magic foods like chicken in a basket at a snack bar. Even though Cape Cod was only three hours from our house, I never made it there until I went to college. My parents vacationed in Vermont in the fall and later, after they had sent us kids off to boarding school, in Mexico in the wintertime.
So, that is why clam biscuits are not part of my culinary repertoire. Given, too, that my husband is allergic to shellfish, and I cannot eat foods containing gluten, you can see that clam biscuits had to wait for the church hospitality hour to make their debut in my kitchen. They seemed to be a popular item. There were only two left out of 20, as I doubled the recipe.
The recipe is just basic biscuits, with two teaspoons of chopped clams in the middle. I found them somewhat dry, because in the days when I could eat such things, I would slather my biscuits with butter or jam. But the congregation snapped them up quickly enough. Next time, Quahog Popovers!

Clam Biscuits

2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup lard (I used shortening. Lard is not easy to find.)
1 cup milk, approximately
1 cup clams, drained and chopped
2 tablespoons butter
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
2. Sift the flour, baking soda, cream of tartar and salt into a bowl. With the finger tips or a pastry blender, work in the lard. (Keep chopping at the shortening with the pastry blender, until the lumps become smaller than a pea.
3. Add enough milk to make a soft dough. Turn out onto a floured board and knead thirty seconds. Flatten with the hands (or you can use a rolling pin) to one-half-inch thickness and cut into two-inch rounds. (Use a small glass to cut out the rounds.)
4. Place two teaspoons of the clams on half of biscuits. Top with dot of the butter, salt and pepper. Moisten edges of biscuits and top with second biscuit. Press to seal. Place on agreased baking sheet and bake fifteen to twenty minutes, or until done and golden.
Makes eight.

Ham and Egg Canapes

Ham and Egg Canapes hail from Virginia. Buy those plastic encased slices of Smithfield ham to use as the ham here. You will be glad you did. Now, I have to say, this recipe was a jumping off point. I am noticing as I write it up that I didn't even read the last step, which says to separate the hard boiled yolks from the whites, run them through a sieve, separately and then sprinkle the ham first with sieved egg white and then with sieved egg yolk. Hmm. Sounds like a lot of work.
I ground up the ham in the food processor and then mixed it with mayonnaise and chopped pickles. For those of you who would like a more exact measurement than "a dollop," for a cup of ground ham, put in 2 tablespoons of mayonnaise and the same of chopped pickles or pickle relish.
I had wanted to use gluten free bread so I could eat these too. I am usually confined to the veggies and dip at  church hospitality hour since everything else has flour in it. My husband cut up most of a baguette and told me to use that. Frankly, using a biscuit cutter, which I don't have, even though I do make biscuits, seems like a lot of work. So, I used thin slices of French bread, and so, couldn't eat these. I did taste the ham. They're good. I know what French bread with ham salad tastes like. We just sliced the  hard boiled eggs and laid them on top of the ham. I commend this to anyone who wants to make something that looks semi-fancy to pass at a cocktail party or school auction or whathave you.

Ham and Egg Canapes

4 slices white bread (or French bread, or little squares of pumpernickel)
Melted butter
1 cup ground baked Virginia or country ham
2 hard cooked eggs

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
2. Using a small biscuit cutter, cut each slice of bread into four rounds. Brush generously with melted butter and place on a baking sheet. Bake, turning once, until golden brown. ( I didn't bother with this step.)
3. Spoon one tablespoon of ham onto each round of toast and return to the oven just to heat through.
4. Meanwhile, split the eggs in half. Press the whites through a sieve or ricer. Press the yolks through another. Sprinkle the canapes first with white of egg, then with yolk. Dust with paprika and serve hot.
Makes sixteen.

Brown Bread I

Brown Bread, or as it is more commonly known, Boston Brown Bread, was always a mystery to me, growing up. How could bread come in a can? It stayed a mystery because my mother, always resolutely opposed to any kind of ethnic food, never bought it. Our bread was Arnold's White Bread, plain and simple. Even the "New England" restaurants we went to did not serve it. They served cornbread. When I went to college and started baking my own bread, well, that was whole wheat bread, because of the article I read some time in the early 70s about the pernicious effects of white flour on the body.
After I made brown bread, and tried it, even though it is not gluten free, I found it quite tasty and easy to make. A minute's research on the Internet gives us the why as well as the how. The Pilgrims came from England, where farmers grew wheat. They called it corn, but never mind that. When they got to New England, they discovered that the soil, and the climate, absent the Gulf Stream, were not really conducive to good wheat crops. The Indians taught them how to grow corn, as we all know from elementary school projects about Thanksgiving.
So inventive Pilgrim cooks came up with a bread that used less wheat flour and more corn. (Some brown bread recipes use rye flour too, but this one does not.) In addition. the early settlers lived in wattle and daub houses without brick chimneys or real fireplaces. Their houses lacked anything like an oven, so bread had to be made by steaming in a kettle like an English pudding. The Pilgrims and early settlers made their bread in crocks. We make it in cans.
Don't agonize over what kind of can to use. I did, for no reason whatsoever. I even advertised on our neighborhood listserv for clean, 40 ounce cans. Surprise. I didn't get any offers. My husband bought a two pound can of red kidney beans on a foray to Safeway, and I made enough vegetarian chili to last us for a week. What I ended up using, however, was not my large empty bean can, but two 20-ounce tomato cans that I emptied to make the chili. They worked fine, and the bread slid out of the can in one piece, looking beautiful.
The occasion for BBB was the church's hospitality hour. When one lives in a two person household where one person is gluten intolerant, and the other person is limiting his carb intake, there just isn't a whole lot of call for two loaves of bread. I can report that the 11:15 congregants snapped the stuff up and reminisced about how they used to eat it as children. A huge hit, along with the Ham and Egg Canapes and the Clam Biscuits. Sorry to report, the Fruit Candy was not such a hit. People took some, but they did not come back around for more helpings.
The idea of steaming a food in a can may seem tricky, but it is not. I poured the batter into the can, filling it about two-thirds full, covered it with tinfoil, poured two or three inches of water into the pot and left it to steam for two hours.
The hesitant cook could do worse than start a bread making career with BBB. One does not have to knead it, let it rise, or do any of the things that make bread baking fraught with indecision. You just mix up the batter, fit the tin foil over the top of the can, and steam away. As long as the water doesn't boil away, you can't really burn it.
About the buttermilk. I actually bought buttermilk to make this, but you can always put a teaspoonful of vinegar into two cups of milk, which makes it sour.

Brown Bread I

3/4 cup graham (whole wheat) flour
3/4 cup yellow corn meal
3/4 cup flour (white)
3/4 cup dry bread crumbs
3/4 cup molasses
2 cups sour milk or buttermilk
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt

1. Grease two coffee tins (or large cans that contained tomato sauce or beans) each with a one quart (32 ounces) capacity. Or use other one-quart utensils suitable for steaming. (Whatever those might be.)
2. Combine all the ingredients in a mixing bowl and pour the batter into the prepared tins. The tins should be about two-thirds full. Cover with aluminum foil.
3. Steam in a closed steamer (stockpot) two hours. Makes two loaves.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Fruit Candy for Passover (Gluten Free)

One of the bigger problems of a project like this is, what to do with the stuff you make, especially when it doesn't sound particularly good.  One of the best answers is social occasions with a buffet. People who like what you have made can eat all they want, people who don't  like it can leave it alone. And so I signed up to provide food for the hospitality hour at what used to be just my husband's church, but now seems to be mine as well. Buffets permit the designer to sneak odd dishes in. For that reason, Saturday afternoon found me making fruit candy for Passover.
I have a theory that desserts are the least culturally transferable food. I developed this concept early,  at age 15, when I went to San Francisco to visit my uncle Bill and go skiing. I had an extra day while his children were still in school before we left for the mountains. Uncle Bill and his wife blithely packed me off to take the bus downtown and visit Chinatown and Fisherman's Wharf. Chinatown was full of Chinese bakeries with delicious-looking cookies in the windows. I promptly bought some and found them not to be delicious at all.
This is not to say that fruit candy is not delicious. It just didn't sound delicious. It's the kind of thing that, if you used to eat it after Passover dinner at Grandma Harriet's, you will yearn for. However, those of us who grew up in the firmly WASP confines of Berkshire county in the 1950s may not instantly see the virtues of it.
This is a concoction that should not be made without a food processor. The instructions say grind the fruit, which would be a hellish task. Buzz  it in the food processor. Even with the food processor, the dried fruit forms a sticky mass that  adheres  to the hands, the counter and everything else.
About the Elite chocolate. The recipe says it is available at Macy's and Gimble's Passover shops. Well, Gimble's is no more, and the Macy's in the DC area don't have Passover shops. However, Elite chocolate is available at Rodman's Drugs on Wisconsin Avenue in DC. It is probably available at other idiosyncratic stores, and stores selling Kosher products.
I have a confession to make. Instead of making the candied orange and grapefruit peel called for in the recipe, I used candied citron, which is an odd looking citrus fruit. I had bought the stuff for a recipe that I didn't get to, so, into the bowl it went. Recipe websites say one may substitute candied orange peel for citron, so I figured it would work the other way around too.
 This  recipe does not  mention wax paper, but you'd better get some if you don't want a layer of sticky dried, chopped fruit permanently adorning your counter. The instructions say, mix the fruit and chocolate and roll it into logs. Prepare to have your hands thickly covered  by fruit and chocolate, so you will have to lick it off.
I have to say, the logs also look somewhat suggestive. Once this glutinous mass is rolled into logs, the cook is told to chop off inch long pieces and roll them into balls. Since they are said to improve with time, I expect them to fly off the buffet table on Sunday.

Fruit Candy for Passover

1/2 pound pitted prunes
1/4 pound golden raisins
1/2 pound dried apricots
1/4 pound candied orange peel
1/4 pound candied grapefruit peel
1/4 pound Elite bittersweet chocolate melted
1 tablespoon brandy

1. Grind together (food process together) the prunes, raisins, apricots, orange peel and grapefruit peel. Add the chocolate and brandy and work with the hands to mix.
2. Roll into logs (having first put wax paper down on the counter), cut one-inch slices and roll into balls. Roll in sugar and store in a dry place. This candy lasts indefinitely and improves with age. Makes 2 pounds.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Galatoise Polonaise

Galatoise Polonaise is a mystery. It seems to be one of the few subjects upon which the Internet is silent.  Now, Polonaise means Polish in French. It is also a cooking term that refers to a vegetable dish garnished with breadcrumbs. However, this dish is not a vegetable dish, nor is it garnished with breadcrumbs. I inquired on where one may ask about dishes and recipes. If I get an answer before I finish this, I will share it with you. Perhaps some of you folks out there who are reading the blog may see fit to comment yourselves? Yes?
I think, but cannot confirm this on the Internet, that a galatine is something with layers. In his famous New York Times Cookbook, Craig Clairborne included a recipe for galatine of turkey. This insanely complicated dish involved skinning the turkey and stuffing the skin with various ingredients. Wikipedia confirms this.
Anyway, back to galatoise, which, first of all, requires an enormous pot, bigger than the one I had. I ended up having to leave off about a quarter of the ingredients, including all the cabbage because there was no room in the pot. This is sort of a layered stew, where the cook puts in a succession of what Bob thought were improbable ingredients including mushrooms and apples, (he thought they were improbable together.)
I have been looking for an excuse to make this for months. I virtually begged my son and daughter-in-law to have a tailgate party so I could bring this. No luck. Then, a friend's mother and mother-in-law died in the same week, and I thought I could bring this concoction to them as the New England requisite dish of food that neighbors bring when there is a death in the family. Bob talked me out of it. "A lot of people don't like sauerkraut," he said.
Then, we were invited to a friend's Inauguration party. Aha, thought I. This is definitely the kind of thing that needs to be served at a buffet. That way, those who like it can eat it, and the rest of the guests don't have to push it around their plates in a dispiriting way. My friend Mary Alice kindly allowed me to bring it, and now, it is upstairs cooling, having been taken out of the oven to await transport to the party.
Flash forward to the party. I try galatoise. In cooking, large quantities of liquids are released and  blend together in a piquant sauce.  The sauerkraut seems to have changed its texture and become smoother. This is a good dish, flavored by the various ingredients.  At least one of the guests at the party, a man named  Bill, absolutely raved about it. I was not in the room with the food, so I could not observe the reactions of other eaters.
Making it is a production. The cook has to fry the bacon, slice the pork, onions, frankfurters, olives, tomatoes, mushrooms, apples and cabbage. Then,  all this has to be stacked up in the pot in layers.  However, on the up side, he/she does not have a lot of fancy, fiddly cooking to cope with. Just pile it all in the pot, pour over the tomato juice and pop it in the oven while you read the New York Times.
If you like pork with sauerkraut and stew-y foods, and giving a tailgate or Super Bowl party for a large group of people, this is a good choice. It is hearty without being heavy and will stick to your ribs on a cold night.

Galatoise Polonaise

1/2 pound thin-sliced lean bacon, cooked  until crisp
1 pound fresh lean boneless pork, cut into thin slices
1/2 pound smoked ham, sliced
1/2 pound frankfurters, sliced
1 pound mushrooms, sliced
1 eight-ounce  bottle pitted stuffed green olives, sliced
3 to 4 tomatoes, sliced
1 1/2 teaspoon sugar
1  pound sauerkraut, rinsed and drained
2 juicy apples, peeled, cored and sliced
4 white onions, thinly sliced
1 small head cabbage, sliced, parboiled in salt water five minutes,
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 bay leaves crumbled
2 cups tomato juice
1/2 cup butter

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
2. Make an assembly line of the following ingredients; the bacon, pork, ham, frankfurters, mushrooms, olives, tomatoes, sugar, sauerkraut, apples, onions and cabbage. Starting with one-third of the bacon slices, make alternate layers of the ingredients in a four-quart to five-quart  baking dish, leaving plenty of cabbage and tomato slices for the next-to-last layer and a few bacon slices to top everything. As galatoise is being assembled, season each layer lightly with salt and pepper and sprinkle with  bits of crumbled bay leaves.
3. Pour the tomato juice over all, dot with the  butter, cover dish and bake one and three-quarter hours. Remove the cover, to brown galatoise lightly and bake fifteen minutes longer. Serve topped with sour cream and mustard sauce. Makes about 12 servings.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Cabbage Casserole (Gluten Free)

This dish is from the great state of North Carolina. I found the cabbage somewhat chewy. I would either reduce the heat and cook the dish for longer, or let it sit in the boiling water for longer. Other than that, there is not a whole lot more I can tell  you about it. It's a standard, somewhat bland casserole.

Cabbage Casserole

3 cups shredded cabbage
boiling water
1 cup shredded celery
3/4 cup soft breadcrumbs (I used a slice of gluten free bread buzzed in the blender.)
1 cup milk
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 egg lightly beaten     
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
2. Place the cabbage in a saucepan and cover with boiling water. Let stand about five minutes, Drain and blend cabbage with the celery.
3. Make a layer of the vegetables in a greased one-and-one-half-quart casserole. Sprinkle with a third of the bread crumbs. Make another layer of vegetables, another of crumbs and another of vegetables. Sprinkle each layer lightly with salt and pepper.
4. Blend the milk, cream and egg; strain over the casserole. Sprinkle with remaining crumbs and dot with butter. Sprinkle with the cheese. Bake fifteen  minutes. Serves four.


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Bean Porridge (Gluten free)

Bean Porridge is amazingly universal. Recipes on the Internet come from all over the world including Nigeria, Korea and the Dutch Antilles. According to Brook Dojny, in her book New England Home Cooking, 350 recipes from Town and Country, Land and Sea, in early New Hampshire, bean porridge was cooked in huge kettles, which were then set outside to freeze. The settlers took the kettles into the New Hampshire wilderness where they cleared land all winter. They broke hunks of frozen porridge off the mass in the kettle and heated it up. Bean porridge seems to be an early frozen food.
Since most of us are not settlers in New Hampshire or anywhere else, I encourage you to think of this as soup. It makes an excellent soup, but frankly, trying to serve it for breakfast in my house would make for problems.
The most important ingredient is the meat broth. The recipe says it is traditional to use  broth left over from cooking corned beef. It is  more than traditional, it is essential.  So, if you want to make this, the day before, get yourself a hunk of corned beef and simmer it according to the directions. Have a wonderful corned beef dinner and save the broth for bean porridge.
One more thing. The directions tell you to mix the flour and cornmeal together and make a paste with cold water. Unless you want to have intractable yellow lumps in your porridge/soup, don't do it. If you have ever made polenta, or Italian cornmeal mush, you know that you should sprinkle very small amounts on the surface of the water. If you do that, the cornmeal will incorporate smoothly into the water. without lumps.

Bean Porridge

1/2 cup dried kidney beans
1 quart meat broth (from cooking corned beef is traditional)
1 tablespoon yellow corn meal
1 tablespoon flour (I used Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free flour)
salt to taste
2 cups milk (I left this out.)

1. Day before, wash beans, cover with water and let soak overnight. Next morning, place beans and soaking water in saucepan and cook thirty minutes, or until beans start to become tender.
2. Drain off water. Add the broth to beans and cook until they are very tender. Mash slightly to thicken mixture.
3. Mix the corn meal and flour together and then make a paste with a little cold water. (Bad idea. Sprinkle it on the surface of the liquid instead.) Stir into the bean mixture and boil until mixture thickens. Season with salt.
4. Add the milk and reheat.
Serves six.