Friday, April 26, 2013

Sour Cream Pastry Turnovers

I made these for the second dinner party of the weekend. After the unexpected dinner party of Saturday night, my son and daughter-in-law called and said they would come to dinner on Sunday. Son had just gotten back from another European trip on behalf of the United States Government. Bob, my husband, had instructed him to bring back fancy chocolate from a specific chocolate shop so we were eagerly awaiting that.
I enjoy cooking, but spending the entire weekend cooking isn't that much fun. I kind of had trouble getting myself in gear. After church and lunch, I sat down with the Sunday papers. I don't know what it is about modern life. My parents got the New York Times and the New York Herald Tribune and read most of them. My mother sat down with the Times crossword puzzle around 10:30 every Sunday, and usually had it finished before lunch. I'm lucky if I read a couple of stories off the front page.
Bob kept politely prompting me to start the pastry, since it was supposed to chill for two hours. Finally, around 3 o'clock, I got to work.
Now, pastry is not my thing. I can never get it to hang together. Before I started this cooking marathon, I just used to add way too much water, make it into a mushy mass and then piece it into a pie pan. Sometime before I started this cooking blogging thing, I read a statement in Mastering the Art of French Cooking in which Julia Child said, basically, follow the directions. Don't whine and fuss when things don't come out right, follow the directions. I have tried to take these words to heart.
As you can see by the ingredients, the directions say nothing about water. The pastry is supposed to hang together using no more moistening than half a cup of sour cream. Well, I mixed it all together, and what I got was what the cookbook authors call "coarse oatmeal."-flour with flaky bits of butter and flour mixed in.  I put an ice cube into a tablespoon of water, because pastry directions always say add a small about of cold water. I put the tablespoonful of water into the coarse oatmeal-like pastry dough and mixed. It was not noticeably more together. Just before I was about to add a quarter of a cup of cold water, I remembered Julia. Okay, I would try it without the water. Obviously it must be possible somehow.
I laid down two sheets of waxed paper to roll the dough out on, and dumped the snowy, fragmented pile of dough onto the sheets, and laid a second pair of waxed paper sheets on top. I then began to roll out the dough with a rolling pin.
It actually worked. It was not entirely what you might think of as dough. It was a little flaky around the edges, but in general, it hung together. I rolled it out into the 18-by-9 inch rectangle as instructed, wrapped it in aluminum foil and put it in the refrigerator.
Two hours later, after washing the kitchen floor, which badly needed it, I went back to the pastry. I put down more waxed paper and started to roll it out. Now, I would advise cutting the refrigerated dough in half and rolling out each half individually. That way, the pastry chef would have space to roll the dough out to a thinner consistency.
My dough was too thick. The instructions say to make many small turnovers. I elected to make one large one per person. I put a small metal bowl on the dough, and cut around it with a knife. I ended up with five turnovers. Daughter-in-law got a second one. Some of the dough found its way into my mouth as well.
I filled the dough circles with the apple slices, sugar and cinnamon. Note that the apples do not have to be cooked. They cook inside the turnovers. They were well received, and I braved inflammation to eat one myself. I should have taken more care to seal the edges with a fork, but I didn't. There was a certain amount of leakage, but it was okay.

Sour Cream Pastry Turnovers

2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup butter
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
4 tart green apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
1/4 cup butter

1. To prepare pastry, sift the flour and salt into a bowl. With a pastry blender or two knives, cut in the butter until mixture resembles course oatmeal. Mix in the sugar and sour cream.
2. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured pastry cloth or board into an approximate 18-by-9-inch rectangle. Fold lengthwise into three. (What I interpret this to mean is, fold it like a business letter going into a business envelope.) Wrap in aluminum foil and chill two hours.
3. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
4. To prepare filling, combine the flour, sugar and cinnamon and toss with the apples.
5. Roll out the chilled pastry to one-eighth-inch-thickness on a lightly floured pastry cloth or board. (Or use waxed paper.) Cut into four-and-one-half-inch rounds.
6. Place a tablespoon or two of apple mixture in the middle of each round. Dot with the butter. Moisten the edges of each round, fold over and pinch with a fork to seal.
7. Place on an ungreased baking sheet and bake twenty minutes, or until golden and done. Makes one dozen to fourteen.

Clam-Stuffed Baked Rock Fish (Striped Bass) Gluten Free

For the main course for our dinner with the yms, I skipped the Northeast and went to the South. What's left in the Northeast for meat is mostly game and something called jellied veal, which I plan to make when the weather gets hot. In the fish department, what's left is mainly all shellfish recipes. Bob is getting testy about not being able to eat what the rest of the guests eat, so I avoided the two recipes for clam pie, the clam souffle and the gefilte fish, which is not shell fish. On the first page of the fish section of the South, I discovered Clam-Stuffed Baked Rock Fish (Striped Bass.) The stuffing could be served separately, Bob could eat the fish. It was all good.
I went to our neighborhood fish store, The Fishery, to get the striped bass. I had the fish guy gut it, chop off the head and tail and take off the scales with something that looked like a curry comb for a horse. I was pretty sure we had a can of clams left over from my other adventures in shellfish, but I had to find it. The closet in our kitchen where we keep canned goods, etc, is jammed with Trader Joe's Pickles, Trader Joe's
Mustard, boxes of pasta that we no longer eat because it isn't gluten free, etc. etc. I moved cans of tomatoes, bags of rice and bottles of vinegar around to no avail. Finally, Bob waded in and discovered the canned clams.
The stuffing is nothing special. It has all the same ingredients as turkey stuffing for Thanksgiving, except for the clams. I used gluten free bread to make the recipe gluten free. (At Thanksgiving, you can get gluten free stuffing at Whole Foods.) I put the stuffing into a small baking dish and covered it with aluminum foil before putting it in the oven. The fish got two slices of bacon laid over it. I did not make gashes and fit the bacon in the gashes. Intellectually, I understand what the author is talking about here, but I can't really picture it. If you can, send us a picture when you make this.
Aside from Bob asking plaintively what he was going to eat when he saw the clam stuffing, everything was fine. He snapped out of his deprived routine and made  excellent rice pilaf. Daughter-in-law was impressed. "Two sides!" she said.
"Hey, we're all about the sides," I replied.
As seafood recipes go, this one is fairly cheap. I think I paid around $38 for a four  pound fish, sufficient to serve five people. Beats crab all hollow. This is no more difficult than your Thanksgiving turkey and looks impressive. If you want to move away from eating meat, but are concerned about putting pressure on the fisheries,  striped bass (rock fish) are rated best choice, according to the Monterrey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch. There are large populations of the fish.

Clam-Stuffed Baked Rock Fish (Striped Bass)

1 eight pound or two four-pound rock fish, heads and tails removed
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup butter
1 onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped green pepper
1 rib celery, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
2 cups shucked soft-shelled clams with liquor (clam juice)
1 teaspoon plus one tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon oregano (I used more)
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
8 slices stale white bread, finely cubed (I used gluten free bread.)
8 slices bacon.

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Season the fish inside and outside with salt and pepper.
3. Melt half the butter and saute the onion, green pepper, celery and garlic in it until tender. Add the clams and liquor and cook until edges of clams just curl.
4. Add one teaspoon of the lemon juice, the oregano, parsley, bread and salt and pepper to taste.
5. Stuff the cavity of the fish with the stuffing. Sew or skewer to close. Make gashes on top of fish and fit the bacon in the gashes. Set fish in a greased baking dish.
6. Sprinkle with remaining lemon juice and dot with remaining butter.
7. Bake about one and one-quarter hours for an eight-pound fish and forty-five minutes for two four-pounders, or until fish flakes. Makes eight servings.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Roast Young Capon with Wild Rice and Almond Stuffing

A capon is a castrated rooster. It used to be available in the supermarket when I was a child. Now, apparently, you have to go someplace like Eastern Market in DC, or a "heritage poultry producer" to get one. I just went with the Purdue Oven-Stuffer-Roaster. Capons are more juicy and tender than regular poultry. They are not aggressive, so they are a real addition to the chicken yard. Although I hate to plug part of the agribusiness industrial complex, Oven-Stuffer-Roasters are pretty tender and juicy themselves.
As far as the wild rice, I don't know where ours came from. Bob dug it out of the depths of our pantry. I do my best to clear the pantry out, either by outright throwing things away that are way beyond the pull date, or by eating them. But it's a losing battle. I imagine you can get wild rice at Whole Foods or your local health food store.
If this dish catches your fancy, you should know a couple of things. A. Wild rice takes forever to cook, at least an hour. One cooks it like regular rice, in boiling water. (B) Capons, and Oven-Stuffer-Roasters are big. They take longer to cook. So if you want to eat at 7:00 or 7:30, start the wild rice around 3:30.
This recipe would be a good option for Easter dinner, or even Thanksgiving if you had only a few guests. It is time consuming, but is not fussy. You stuff the chicken, put it in the oven and set the timer. We had it for an unexpected dinner party on Saturday night. I had invited my brother to come over and see Bob's photos of Italy. Then Bob invited three more friends, so I had to jump to and make appetizers and dessert.
I kind of blitzed out on the fact that wild rice takes forever to cook, and didn't put the chicken in the oven until around 6:00. I cranked the heat up to 400 degrees. We ate around 8:30, which made Bob nervous. If I had had any intention of taking the chicken out early, it was quashed by Tim, who inquired what the meat thermometer had to say, and announced at 7:45 that the indicator had not reached the required temperature for poultry.
At 8:30, after the oysters in cream, the temperature inside the chicken had reached 180 degrees as required and we ate. The guests were all compliments and we had leftover chicken to make creamed chicken Parmesan. Yum.

Roast Young Capon with Wild Rice and Almond Stuffing

1 five-pound to six-pound capon
8 tablespoons butter
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1 large onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup finely diced green pepper
1/2 cup finely diced celery
1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
2 cups cooked wild rice
1/2 cup toasted almonds
1/4 teaspoon ground sage
1/4 teaspoon thyme

1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
2. Rub the capon inside and outside with two tablespoons of the butter. Sprinkle inside with salt and pepper.
3. Heat four tablespoons of the butter in a skillet and cook the garlic, onion, green pepper and celery in it, stirring, until onion is translucent.
4. In a separate skillet, cook the mushrooms in remaining butter until mushrooms are wilted.
5. Combine the wild rice, onion mixture, mushrooms, almonds, sage and thyme. Add salt and pepper. Stuff the capon with the mixture. Truss capon.
6. Place the capon, breast side up, on a rack in the roasting pan and place in the oven. Immediately reduce the oven heat to 350 degrees. Bake capon, basting frequently with pan juices, twenty to twenty-five minutes to the pound. Six servings.

Cazuela (A Casserole Pudding) Gluten Free

Cazuela means cooking pot in Spanish, according to Wikkipedia. Recipes seem to be for a kind of chicken stew using squash or pumpkin, cooked in the pot. Apparently, this kind of cazuela is a Chilean speciality. If the searcher uses his or her brains and puts in Puerto Rican dessert, one discovers almost the identical recipe that appears in the NYT Heritage Cookbook. The brains come in where we make some connections, as I used to say at school. The recipe sounds Spanish, and is from New York. Who spoke Spanish in New York in the 50s and 50s? The Puerto Ricans.  So, rather than a stew with squash or pumpkin, you have a dessert of squash or pumpkin.
One of the lessons of this blog activity is, things that have been overlooked can be really good, like cazuela, the dessert.
Over the years. I looked at the first couple of lines of the recipe and turned the page. Canned pureed sweet potatoes and canned pureed pumpkin. Meh. But we are getting down to the wire. I was not going to make, for example, plum pudding. It is also a somewhat stick to the ribs kind of dessert, not something for the hot months. Although it has been warming up in recent days Saturday, it turned cold again, so I figured cazuela would be a perfect dessert for our unexpected dinner party.
If you are reading this, you may be scratching your head and saying, "Canned pumpkin? You can't get canned pumpkin in April."  Correct, gentle reader. But you can get butternut squash, used as a substitute for pumpkin by a gentleman who runs a wonderful Afgani restaurant in the Virginia suburbs. And, if he can use it, so can I!
Saturday afternoon after riding and lunch, I went to the fish store for Sunday night's dinner, and the oysters, and thence to Safeway for the rest of the Saturday meal. When I got home, I set the butternut squash to steaming, using a metal bowl turned upside down in a saucepan. The squash rested on the bowl and steamed nicely.
In a leisurely sort of way, I made the dessert and put it in the oven, then, around five o'clock,  turned my attention to the main course, which was chicken stuffed with wild rice.
Wild rice? Holy shit. Wild rice takes hours to cook. I should have started it along with the butternut squash. Also, the chicken, which was a Perdue Oven-Stuffer-Roaster, not a capon, but basically the same thing, was a hefty little number, weighing in at some five pounds. The instructions said cook for 25 minutes per pound. We wouldn't eat until after 9. Well, we ate the main course around 8:30, which was remarked on by my brother, the rest of the guests being too polite to mention it. I turned up the oven to 400 degrees and speeded up the cooking.
Back to the cazuela. I cut the recipe in half because we did not need to serve ten people. One butternut squash and a large can of sweet potatoes did the trick. This is definitely a dish made for the Cuisineart.The directions say put the cooked pumpkin and potatoes through a "food ricer." I have only the vaguest idea what that might be. Use the Cuisineart.
 Buzz up the sweet potatoes and the squash and mix all the rest in. It has a sweet taste because of the sugar and the coconut milk. Because the spices are infused rather than just added, the seasoning is
rather, shall we say, subtle. In the future, if I ever made this again, and I might if I had leftover sweet potatoes and canned pumpkin, I would just add the powdered spices and zap it up a bit.
  This recipe requires parchment paper. Parchment paper is stuff that comes on a roll, like wax paper, and is used occasionally for baking. You can get it in the aisle along with the aluminum foil, plastic wrap and wax paper. That is, of course, if you don't have plantain leaves, having not returned from the islands recently.

This is what a baking pan lined with parchment paper should
look like.


4 cups pureed fresh or canned sweet potatoes
4 cups canned pureed pumpkin or pureed fresh pumpkin
1 cup coconut milk
1/4 cup butter
3 eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup flour (I used rice flour, which is gluten free.)
1/2 cup water
1 small piece fresh ginger, mashed or one-half teaspoon dried ginger
1 four-inch-long stick cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon aniseed
5 cloves

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Combine the pureed potatoes and pureed pumpkin with the coconut milk, butter, eggs, sugar, salt and flour. Blend well.
3. Combine the remaining ingredients  in a saucepan and bring the boil. Simmer five minutes and strain into pumpkin mixture. Blend well.
4. Butter an earthenware casserole or baking dish. Line it with plantain leaves that have been rinsed and dried or with parchment paper. Butter leaves or paper generously. Pour in pumpkin mixture and fold leaves or paper over the top.
5. Bake about one and one-half hours. Let cool completely before unmolding. Remove leaves or paper and serve. Makes then servings.

Oysters in Cream

Saturday night we had what I would call an unexpected dinner party. Bob and I got back from Italy on Monday, just in time for all the Boston Marathon news. I invited my brother, George, to come over on Saturday night and look at our pictures. I was imagining a kickback evening with basic meat and vegetables dinner and the pix. Bob invited three other friends of ours, Tim, Nancy and Kathleen. Lovely people, but definitely upped the ante.
Since I am going back across the Atlantic in mid-May, I figured if the blog's momentum was to be kept going, I had better knuckle down. In deference to Bob's shellfish allergy, I chose a seafood appetizer, oysters in cream, so Bob could eat pate and the rest of the meal.
Oysters in cream is really good. Now, anything in cream is really good. Old shoes in cream, mudpies in cream, yum yum. And oysters are good. But oysters in cream, delicious, easy and relatively, for a seafood dish, inexpensive. The author expects us to open the oysters and cook them on their shells. Much easier to get a jar of oysters, and cook them in a little ramekin, which looks like a souffle dish for Peter Rabbit. Put three oysters in each ramekin. A 16 ounce jar provided enough oysters for five people.
The result was salty, creamy, and Parmesan cheesy and took all of ten minutes to prepare.

Oysters in Cream

24 oysters
Rock salt (You don't need the rock salt if you use the ramekins.)
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup melted butter

1. Open the oysters (See instructions about jars.) and remove from shell. Wash twenty-four half shells and place an oyster in each. Set in a shallow baking pan filled with rock salt.
2. Pour two teaspoons cream over each oyster. Sprinkle each with two teaspoons cheese and one teaspoon melted butter. Broil under a preheated broiler just until the oyster edges curl and the cheese is lightly browned. Makes six servings.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Hollandaise Sauce

Bob insisted there be Hollandaise  at our Easter dinner. We had ham, Bob's wonderful Gruyere potatoes, and asparagus. I was a little surprised. I don't make Hollandaise all that much. My mother used to make sauce Bernaise, which I called Bayonnaise sauce (sort of like mayonnaise, I guess) every time we had steak.  It was one of the first things my sister  and I learned to cook, and I made it in a little saucepan.
I  do remember my mother serving Hollandaise with a  dish we called jellied eggs, or in the case of my father, who had a taste for whimsy, "jerried eggs."  This was a summer lunch dish. One took a small baking dish, put a lightly poached  egg into it and then poured Campbell's consume from the the can over the egg.Then,  you put it in the refrigerator until the consume jelled. It was served over cold ham  and lettuce.  It made for a more decorative dish if you used an egg poacher and didn't just drop the egg into boiling water.
We loved it, but my husband has a low opinion of jellied consume. He calls it "beef jello". There is a famous family story that originated when my husband, who was then my boyfriend, came to visit my family at the farm. It was summer, and we had jellied consume as a first course.  Bob did not eat his, something that was just  not done in  my house.
 When we finished the soup and my brother George got up to take the soup dishes out, George noticed this, and remarked, probably with some subdued outrage, "Bob didn't eat his soup."
"Maybe he didn't like it," my mother replied. 
George probably doesn't remember this, but that statement probably made as much sense to him as if my  mother had said, "It might rain in Houston on  Thursday." In our house, like and eat had little to do with each other.
So we don't have beef jello in our house.
When I acquired my own kitchen, I  did not make Bernaise sauce, or Hollandaise sauce,  but I did know how to separate eggs, thanks to the sauce  brothers. In case  you are trying to sort out these two egg based sauces, Hollandaise is made with eggs, butter and lemon juice. It's the sauce  you ate over Eggs Benedict last weekend when your cousin Sally came to town. Bernaise sauce is made with eggs, butter and vinegar. It is served occasionally over steak.
Anyhow, it is fairly easy to make as long as  you take the instructions on low heat seriously. If you put the heat up too high, it does something called curdle. The eggs get cooked instead of blending with the butter. There are other recipes, some in this blog,(look in April, 2010) for Hollandaise that call for making it in a blender. That's easiest of all.

Hollandaise Sauce  

8 egg yolks
6 tablespoons hot water
4 tablespoons lemon juice
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste 
1 cup butter             

1. In a saucepan, beat the egg yolks with a wire whisk until they are thick and pale. Add the water, lemon juice, salt and pepper and beat viorously.
 2. In another saucepan,  heat the butter just to bubbling.  Pour it slowly into the egg yolk mixture, beating rapidly.
3. Place the sauce over very low heat and cook,  stirring constantly, until sauce is properly thickened. Do not overcook  or sauce with curdle. (To restore slightly curdled sauce, add two tablespoons cold light c ream and beat quickly, off the heat.) Makes one and one half cups.