Sunday, November 30, 2014

Vivian's Corn Bread

The Southern section of the New York Times Heritage Cookbook has no less than twelve recipes for cornbread, so I wasn't about to pass up the opportunity to serve it at Thanksgiving. My son, in the sharing spirit of the day, brought excellent pumpkin biscuits that I passed with the soup, so many guests gave the corn bread a pass.
Actually, they were wise. This corn bread is way too dry. If you don't have time to hunt through all the millions of recipes on line, you can easily rescue this one from dryness by following my instructions, which doubles the milk. That would make it much better. Other than that, it's an okay recipe, not dramatically different from the recipe I used to make in The Joy of Cooking.

Vivian's Corn Bread

2 cups yellow corn meal
1 cup flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
2 cups milk
2 tablespoons shortening or melted butter

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
2 Sift together the corn meal, flour and baking powder into a mixing bowl. Stir in the eggs, salt, sugar, milk and shortening or butter. Pour into greased nine-inch square pan.
3. Bake twenty to twenty-five minutes or until bread is firm in the center. Makes six servings.

Orange Glazed Sweet Potatoes (Gluten Free)

 It seems to be a Thanksgiving tradition to have two kinds of potatoes at our dinner, white mashed and sweet. I am actually not sure how this thing got started. It may have been when the kids were younger and requested mashed sweet potatoes topped with marshmallows, which, although schmaltzy, are really good. The cookbook continues to provide me with sweet potato recipes, so this is an opportunity to make them. My husband, Bob, does not care for sweet potatoes, so they do not usually appear at our table.
As sweet potato dishes go, this one is okay. Note that the sweet potatoes are supposed to be mostly cooked before you orange glaze them. (I didn't.) In fact, in a spectacular failure to read the recipe I neglected to buy orange juice when I went to the supermarket on Tuesday. So around 1:00 on Thursday, halfway through the four hour cooking marathon, I took Watson, the corgi, out to CVS to buy a bottle of orange juice. So, to make your Thanksgiving, or whatever, go more smoothly, be sure to buy orange juice and precook the sweet potatoes. Unless you want to get out of the kitchen for a few minutes and walk the dog.
The recipe author envisioned serving the potatoes whole. I sliced them, which seems like a better strategy when dealing with several side dishes. People may take what they want and leave the rest. I also only put in the brown sugar. It was plenty sweet.

Orange-Glazed Sweet Potatoes

6 medium sized yams or sweet potatoes, scrubbed and boiled or baked until barely tender and peeled. (Peel these first. If you cook them first, you risk burned fingers.)
1 cup orange juice
2 teaspoons grated orange rind
1 tablespoon cornstarch
3 tablespoons melted butter
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Place the already cooked yams or sweet potatoes in  greased shallow baking dish. Combine the remaining ingredients in a small pan an bring to a boil, stirring. Pour over the potatoes and bake thirty minutes, basting occasionally. Makes six servings.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Salsa Cruda

I made salsa cruda on Wednesday night when Bob made an extremely delicious pork taco dish out of a single pork chop. This is definitely a recipe enhanced by the existence of the Cuisinart. Saves all that fine chopping. It took all of five minutes. Do not, by the way, put whole vegetables into the Cuisinart. Chop them roughly, even the garlic clove.
I used jalapeno peppers from our garden instead of the canned chilies. I also suggest a whole teaspoon of ground coriander and a large pinch, maybe a teaspoon worth of pinch of oregano.
One must be judicious in the use of the Cuisinart. Don't buzz too much, or you wind up with soup. I was trying for a more textured salsa.  It worked out well.
The editors of this cookbook, if they existed at all, translated Salsa Cruda into Cold Crude Sauce. Cruda means raw, dimwits. Couldn't you have gotten a Spanish English dictionary and learned that for yourselves?

Salsa Cruda

1 onion, finely minced (See introduction.)
1 clove garlic, finely minced
2 ripe tomatoes, or two cups Italian plum tomatoes chopped
1 four ounce can whole medium-hot green chilies, chopped
or 1 jalapeno pepper, roughly chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
pinch of oregano
salt to taste
cider vinegar or olive oil to taste

Combine all ingredients and refrigerate until ready to use serve with meat or poultry, or do as they do in Guadalajara and spread it on a tortilla, roll up the tortilla and eat as a snack or something to round out the meal. Makes about three cups.

Mincemeat Pumpkin Pie

A week or so before Thanksgiving, I was leafing through the cookbook, and discovered, lo and behold, that I had actually not made all the pumpkin pie recipes. There was this little gem, from Oregon, lurking in the back of the book. Not only that, but I had, sitting in the back of my refrigerator, a jar of homemade mincemeat, left over from last year's mincemeat marathon. So, since my husband Bob specifically requested pumpkin pie here was a way of knocking off a recipe.
It is an incredibly easy recipe as well. You dump the mincemeat in the bottom of the premade pie shell, mix up the rest of the ingredients, pour and bake. I was able to made the pie on Monday evening and place it on the table on the day after the turkey marathon. This can backfire. I made the pecan pie Friday night. We were going out, and the pie wasn't done so I set the oven timer for 15 minutes and went out the door..
When we got back at 9:30, a "very thoroughly cooked pie" was sitting on the stove. We investigated it later in the weekend and found it to be cement-like in texture, so I made another one and watched the oven myself.
Bob found the pie under seasoned. If you like a more spicy pumpkin pie, you could double the cinnamon, and add 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves. Unfortunately, it did not seem to be to every one's taste. We found a couple of half eaten pieces in the living room, as well as a plate containing all the mincemeat, carefully picked out. I ate it Friday night at leftovers fest. Seemed fine to me.  Well, it might be an acquired taste.

Mincemeat-Pumpkin Pie

1 1/2 cups mincemeat
1 unbaked nine-inch pie shell, chilled
1 cup mashed cooked (canned) pumpkin
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 eggs lightly beaten
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup milk

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
2. Place the mincemeat in the bottom of the pie shell.
3. Using a rotary beater, combine the remaining ingredients. Pour over mincemeat. Bake thirty-five to forty minutes or until set. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature.
Makes six servings.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Really Fantastic Green Tomato Relish

While I was leafing through the cookbook looking for dessert recipes I came across a couple of recipes for green tomato pie. That didn't quite work because of the oven, but it gave me an idea. Look at the chutneys and relishes. There it was, Green Tomato Relish.
This is not any Green Tomato Relish. This relish made me want to rush out and buy hot dogs on Saturday night, just so I could eat the relish with the hot dogs. The fact that I had already had dinner was of no consequence. This relish is amazing as topping for cheese and crackers. This relish is so good, you want to eat it with a spoon. If you can still find green tomatoes in your local farmers market, you should make this relish right now.
This is green tomato season. Farmers pick the tomatoes that are left on the vines, ripe or not. Some people ripen them on the window sill. I use them to can.
The last tomatoes of 2014

On November 13, the first frost of the season was forecast. I went out to the garden to see what we had that might be harvested. We had an amazing crop of green tomatoes, which I picked, as well as quite a respectable number of hot peppers. That took care of the tomatoes. I walked up to Bethesda to the Women's Farm Market in search of the peppers and onions called for in the recipe.
The farmer had a basket of  "smaller" peppers, half green, half red  and large sweet onions. I was perplexed as to quantities. The recipe called for 15 green tomatoes, which I had, and 36 red and green peppers. Even the smaller peppers were pretty large by the standards of the 1960s , so I reasoned that 15 peppers would be enough to make the full amount of the recipe. This may have been somewhat faulty reasoning, but it seemed to work out in the end.
The friendly farmer sold me the peppers, onions and a pound of Brussels sprouts, and gave me a large paper shopping bag from Whole Foods to cart it home in. No sooner had I walked out of the market that I noticed that the handle was torn, and would certainly not last the two mile walk home. I loaded as many peppers into my too small carry bag as it would take, thus reducing the weight on the paper bag,  and took the bus back to Friendship Heights. There I went to Giant to buy the rest of the ingredients, white vinegar and sugar, as well as a plastic bag to carry everything home in.
Once home, I started chopping. The tomatoes had to be chopped and then sprinkled with salt, after which they had to sit for an hour. Then came cutting up the peppers into "large cubes". This is a time consuming process that had to be interrupted when Bob and I went to church for the cabaret that a choir member stages every few months. The parish hall is transformed into a night club and singers in sparkly outfits sing torch songs.
I got back to the relish Saturday afternoon. This is a recipe that is greatly enhanced by a Cuisinart. The directions say, run the onions and vegetables through a food grinder. The Cuisinart, judiciously used, results in relish of a perfect consistency. Pulse, scrape and check. Don't just buzz, or you will have soup.  Another item that speeds things up is the tea ball.  The directions say to sew the spices into a cheesecloth bag.  I dumped the cloves and celery seed into the tea ball, and put the two cinnamon sticks into the relish, to be fished out prior to canning.
This recipe results in a perfect sweet/sour balance of flavors, and slightly crunchy relish. Many times my canned goods end up gathering dust at the back of the closet in the kitchen, but this one will be used up, I know it.

Really Fantastic Green Tomato Relish

12 green tomatoes cored
1/3 cup coarse salt
24 green peppers
6 red sweet peppers
12 large sweet onions
1 gallon boiling water
4 cups white vinegar
3 cups sugar
1 tablespoon whole cloves
2 tablespoons stick cinnamon pieces
1 teaspoon celery seed

1. Chop the tomatoes and sprinkle with the salt. Let stand one hour. Drain.
2. Core and seed green and red peppers and trim away the white veins. Cut peppers into large cubes. Put peppers and the onions through a food chopper. (Cuisinart, please.) Add half the water and drain immediately in a colander.
3. Add the remaining water and let stand ten minutes. Drain.
4. Add the vinegar and sugar. Tie the cloves, stick cinnamon and celery seeds in a cheesecloth bag and add it. (Use a tea ball.) Bring the mixture to a boil and simmer, uncovered, exactly thirty minutes. Discard the spice bag.
5. Pour the relish into hot sterilized jars and seal in a boiling water bath for fifteen minutes, beginning the timing after the water is boiling. Remove from the boiling water allow to cool and store in a cool, dark, dry place. Makes about six quarts.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Sweet Potato Pone (Gluten Free)

Our son and daughter-in-law came to dinner Thursday night. I decided to make lasagna because we had enough lasagna noodles to make at least two pans of lasagna. Also, they like lasagna. Dessert was a close call. I was going to make apple crumble, which I  had made in the distant past and so would not result in a post. Then I started paging through the cookbook and discovered this. Easy, tasty, and as it happens, leaving a half sweet potato to make sweet potato quesadillas.
After walking to the grocery store, which I do nowadays in order to get in fitbit steps, I began boiling water for the lasagna noodles  and grating sweet potato. It has to bake for three hours, so, I got it in at 4:30.
By 6:30, we needed the oven for the lasagna. Bob examined the pone, which was still in a largely liquid state, and suggested we leave it in as we turned the oven up to 350 degrees for the pasta. That was what we did. It turned out soft and sweet. It would have been better if I had started it later, because it is a dish best served warm.
This is a good fall dessert. It has all the fall flavors, molasses, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger. Put it in the oven and forget about it. (Don't forget to set the timer, however!)

Sweet Potato Pone

2 cups grated raw sweet potatoes
1 egg beaten
1/2 cup unsulphered molasses
3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons melted butter
grated rind of one orange
2 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon grated fresh or ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
heavy cream or ice cream

1. Preheat the oven to 275 degrees.
2. Combine all the ingredients and pour into a one and one half quart baking dish. Bake three hours. Serve warm with heavy cream or ice cream. Makes six servings.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Okra Ham Soup

Okra Ham Soup is a summer recipe. I just squeaked under the line of what was possible with fresh produce. On Friday, my husband Bob and I went to the acupuncturist in Bethesda, and afterwards, took a turn through the Bethesda Women's Farm Market. This throwback to the 1940s is a small, shed-like building surrounded by Bethesda's nine or ten story office buildings. It contains relatively few actual farmers. I think there might be two or three. There is a woman who sells arsenal chocolate, a man who sells hand turned wooden bowls, a woman who sells Indian food, etc. You get the picture.
We stopped at the farmer, where I noticed okra. A week ago, I had bought a ham for this very recipe, which called for a ham bone. A person who shall remain nameless had gone all efficient and discarded the ham bone, but we won't talk about that. We still had the ham, and Mr. Farmer had the okra.
I bought the okra and Friday night, I went to work on the soup. It does not do to let okra lie around in  your refrigerator. I have done this, and I can tell you what happens. It becomes slimy. I sliced the okra, used salt pork instead of bacon because we didn't have any bacon, and a can of petite diced tomatoes. Then I got to the lima beans. I thought maybe we had limas lurking in the bowels of the freezer, but no such luck. I finished off the soup sans limas , using frozen corn, but fresh thyme from the garden.
Saturday morning, I set off with my shopping bag and Watson the corgi to run down lima beans at the farmers' market on Connecticut Avenue. For this late in the year, the farmers, who were mainly Latino, had quite an array of produce, tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, kale, and a bunch of other stuff. as well as yummy looking and smelling El Salvadorian food, eggs and farm baked bread. One guy had beans in the shell that may have been limas. At least he said they were.  They might have been broad beans. He said his beans were the last for the season, so I bought all of them.
I got them home and settled down to shell beans and listen to the famous National Public Radio news quiz program, Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me. My calculations required a half cup of limas, but I ended up with less than a quarter of a cup. What the heck. They went in the soup.
The result was smoky and rich, excellent over rice, a great fall dinner. Southerners seem to like hot soup in hot weather, but I prefer it when the weather changes.

Okra Ham Soup

2 pounds okra, finely sliced. (frozen okra can be used)
1 tablespoon bacon drippings
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 ham bone (or a cup of diced ham)
6 tomatoes, peeled and chopped, or four cups canned
1 cup fresh butter or lima beans
1 small sprig thyme or one-half teaspoon dried thyme
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
water or chicken broth if necessary
1 1/2 corn kernels, cut from cob
3 cups hot cooked rice

1. Cook the okra quickly in a skillet with the bacon drippings and vinegar until okra loses its slimy consistency, stirring constantly.
2. Transfer to a kettle and add  the ham bone, tomatoes, beans and thyme. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and simmer until meat on bone is very tender. Remove bone. Chop ham and return to kettle. Check consistency and, if too thick, add water or chicken broth.
3. Add corn kernels to soup. Cook three minutes. Serve over the rice.
Makes six servings.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Baked Hominy and Tomatoes (Gluten Free)

This dish is actually made from hominy grits, not whole hominy as the title might lead one to expect. Hominy grits make a very tasty, versatile side dish. Dress them up with lots of cheese, and maybe canned tomatoes, and you can't go wrong. I decided to serve ham because the yms like ham, and because I needed a ham bone for a soup recipe. Hominy casseroles go well with ham, and everybody likes cheese.
The only potentially tricky element to this recipe is estimating the correct amount of uncooked grits you need to produce the three cups of cooked grits needed for the recipe. I listened to some helpful advice from a kitchen elf and made a monumental amount of grits, three times what was necessary.  Grits are like rice. You use half of the uncooked produce to make the correct amount of cooked produce. To get three cups of cooked grits, cook one and a half cups of raw grits in three cups of water.
My husband Bob and I had been at church working on the rummage sale, so we did not prepare ahead of time. This is an easy recipe, but it does take time, about 20 minutes to cook the grits, and 45 minutes to bake the casserole. We ended up eating just as the World Series came on. Like I said, grits, cheese and tomatoes--you can't go wrong.

Baked Hominy and Tomatoes

3 cups canned or homecooked hominy grits
1 tablespoon butter
2 cups canned tomatoes or tomato puree
1/4 cup grated sharp Cheddar cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
2. Combine the hominy, butter, tomatoes, and cheese. Add the salt and pepper and pour into an oiled baking dish or casserole.
3. Bake about forty-five minutes.
Makes eight servings.

Fried Oysters (Gluten Free)

Last Sunday, I returned from an almost three month long sojourn in the United Kingdom where I either dined on reheatable Indian food from Tesco or vegetarian dishes from my daughter's student vegetarian cookbook. Having a desire to see the rest of the family we invited son and daughter in law (and grandbaby to be) over for dinner. After a couple of at cross purposes text messages, we ascertained that, yes, daughter-in-law did like fried oysters so they went on the menu.
The South section has about a million oyster recipes, so I figured I had better strike where the striking was good. This meant that Bob, my shellfish adverse husband, would have to eat something else as an appetizer. He is not generally crazy about this, but went along.
I bought a jar of oysters from the Fishery, our local fish store. If you have ever tried to open oysters, you will know that this was a wise move. For years, I had a scar on my left hand from where the knife I was holding slipped off the oyster into the bottom of my index finger.
Step one says to dry the oysters on paper towels. Our paper towel supply was depleted, so I just did the best with the few squares we had that I could. If you want to make fried oysters, I  suggest you lay in a supply of paper towels for the evening. It also pays to read the recipe all the way through because I  did not notice until this moment that the oysters were supposed to be dipped in beaten egg and cornmeal twice and then let stand for twenty minutes. I dipped once and fried immediately.
It would take a more discerning palate than mine to tell the difference. However, Julia Child says follow the recipe, so don't cut corners the way I did.

Fried Oysters

12 large plump oysters ( ours came in a jar.)
1 egg
2 tablespoons water
 yellow corn meal
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
fat for deep frying
lemon wedges

1. Drain the oysters and dry on paper towels.
2. Beat the egg with water. Dip the oysters one at a time in the egg, then in corm meal seasoned with salt and pepper. Dip them in egg again, then again in corn meal. Let stand thirty minutes.
3. Preheat the fat to 375 degrees. Fry the oysters until until corn meal is golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Serve with lemon wedges.
Makes two to four servings.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Shrimp Paste (Gluten Free)

Having left a certain number of seafood dishes as yet unmade in the Northeast section, I moved on to the South. I selected Shrimp Paste because it looked easy.  Bob wasn't terribly happy about it, but he went along. At times like this, I usually buy him some kind of pate. At the last minute, when I was serving the appetizer, I forgot what I had done with the pate. Luckily, I was able to whisk it out of a shopping bag and set it on a plate in time for any potential hurt feelings to be assuaged.
Shrimp Paste is easy. Buy cooked shrimp, readily available in the supermarkets, run it through the food processor, mix it with  soft butter (soft is key), onion juice, (I used minced onion, not knowing how to procure onion juice,) ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, etc, mold into a loaf pan and chill.
Verdict? It's kind of bland. There was a good deal left on plates, although Alex, the eight year old, ate his without complaining. The cook could jazz this up with liberal applications of Tabasco sauce, horseradish or possibly shrimp cocktail sauce instead of ketchup. If you want to use shrimp cocktail sauce, add it slowly and taste the result to make sure things don't get too spicy. However, if you are serving people who A. eat shellfish, but B. have timid little palates, this might be just the thing.

Shrimp Paste

2 pounds shrimp, cooked, shelled and deveined
6 tablespoons softened butter
3/4 cup ketchup
1 teaspoon onion juice, or one tablespoon minced onion
1 1/2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
Juice of one lemon
salt to taste
Tabasco sauce to taste

1. Put shrimp through a meat grinder twice, using the finest blade. Modern translation. Run it through the food processor twice.
2. Cream the butter using a fork, add shrimp and the remaining ingredients except lettuce and mayonnaise. Blend with a wooden spoon until mixture is the consistency of mayonnaise. Mold with hands into a loaf and press into a six-cup loaf pan. Refrigerate six hours. Unmold and slice in one-quarter inch slices. Serve on lettue with mayonnaise. Makes six to eight servings.

Grilled Pig in a Blanket

When my son the lawyer was in college and was a big aficionado of steak houses, we used to joke that his favorite restaurant was the All Meat Meat House. Well, pig in a blanket is definitely a dish that would be on the menu at the fictitious All Meat Meat House. Readers should know it has nothing to do with hot dogs wrapped in bacon, dough or any other substance. No hot dogs period.
Pig in a Blanket is a pork loin wrapped with a sheet flank steak or round steak, sliced into rounds and grilled on the barbecue. My son would have loved it. I did not cook it for him and his wife, however, but for Mary and Bill,  and Joe and Katherine, old friends of ours who came to dinner. Joe and Katherine brought their 8 year old son, Alex, who has had the good taste to grow up to be a baseball fan. He brought along his collection of baseball cards for me to admire.
This is an easy main course to prepare, except for the grilling. I always have issues with the barbecue. Like many Americans, I once assumed that more was better in the charcoal department. Just load on those briquettes and go to town.  What you get in that case is charred, leather-like meat. Then, I became a Girl Scout leader. The Girl Scouts are the repositories of much terrific information, how to put up a tent, how to make a fire, how to grow into adulthood without becoming a teen queen, but for my money, the best piece of information is, that every charcoal briquette generates 25 degrees of heat. Of course, then, you have to give the meat time to grill.
So, in theory, one can precisely set the temperature of the grill by putting in the number of briquettes multiplied by 25 that results in the temperature at which you want to cook your food. So, if you want to "set" the grill at 350 degrees, you put in 14 briquettes, because 25 X 14 = 350. Well, that doesn't take into account the time taken up with drinking beer and chatting while the charcoal burns down, so your setting is somewhere around 200 degrees by the time you actually are ready to put the meat on. That is what happened to me. I took the top off the grill and was chagrined to find my 15 or so briquettes vastly reduced in size and covered with ash.
So, throwing Girl Scout training out the window, I crumpled some newspaper and put it on top of the smoldering briquettes and tossed another handful of briquettes on top of it. Don't try this at home, boys and girls. The newspaper flared up and sent charred fragments flying through the air, but it did ignite the new briquettes. When I finally took the meat out, it was probably somewhat more rare than indicated, but no one rejected it, or got sick in the intervening days.
The guests really liked Grilled Pig in a Blanket. If you want to make it, I advise putting in 15 to 20 briquettes, watching them closely to catch the moment when they are lit, but not burned down, and putting the meat on the grill at that point. Give yourself about 45 minutes to grill the meat, checking it at intervals. Don't get wrapped up in the conversation and forget to check.  If you have a gas grill, just set it at 350 or 375 degrees. If you have a crew of meat eaters, it will be a popular dish.

Grilled Pig in a Blanket

1 length of pork tenderloin, about eleven inches long
1 thin sheet flank or round steak, about 7 by 11 inches (about three pounds)
olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper.
juice of one lemon
1/4 pound butter, melted
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
mushrooms au beurre

1. If pork tenderloin is not available, trim out the eyes of six small pork chops. If the tenderloin is used, wrap it carefully in the steak. Skewer with six skewers equally spaced. Slice between the skewers to provide six servings. Or, if the chops are used, roll each piece of meat with a length of steak trimmed to fit.
2. Place the meat on a grill over hot coals. When seared on one side, turn and brush the top of each serving with oil. Sprinkle the seared side with salt and pepper.
3. When the meat is cooked through, transfer to a hot serving platter. Squeeze half the lemon juice over meat. Squeeze the remaining juice into the butter and stir in the parsley.
4. Spoon the hot butter sauce over the meat and serve immediately. Garnish with mushrooms au beurre. Serves six.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Mango Chutney

Last week, I began to feel that I had better crank up recipe production or give up the blog. My hits were shrinking. I had churned out a pathetic number of posts for this year. Not good. Summer is always a good time for canning, so I looked through the Miscellaneous section of the cookbook to search out some relish or pickle or something. To my glee, I ran across Mango Chutney.
When I was growing up, mango chutney was one of the most exotic foods that came across my radar. Now, if you have read this blog at all, you will know that there were no exotic foods served on the farm in the Berkshires in the 50s and 60s. Baked beans were an exotic food (and not served on the farm.) But every so often, after we had leg of lamb, my mother would take the left over lamb and make curry. Bland curry, but curry nonetheless. Of course, curry requires chutney.
The chutney came in a bottle with an exotic looking label. It was imported from India and my recollection is that it was called Soonji Patterji Major Grey's chutney. Please don't be offended, all you hundreds of readers from the subcontinent. Just correct my spelling, if you would. I used to read the ingredients out loud at the dinner table. I didn't even know what mangoes were, but they sure sounded exotic and different.
Wikipedia tells us that Major Grey, the supposed inventor of the chutney of the same name, probably never existed. Wikipedia did not tell us if chutney was invented by the white man, or was original to India. Chutney was exceedingly popular in the US, I can tell you that. There are no fewer than three recipes in the southern section of the cookbook, lime chutney, peach chutney and mango chutney  New England boasts apple chutney, and so on.  Much chutney.
So last Friday, I went out and bought the ingredients for two preserve thingys, mango chutney and peach melon conserve. A week later, I got down to business with the mangoes. The recipe says that the mangoes should be firm and underripe. Out of the four mangoes, three were still firm. One was definitely ripe and slippery with juice.  I ended up ditching the ripe mango and cutting up the other three. Something that everyone may not know about mangoes is  mangoes have a seed, to which the flesh clings like grim death. When one cuts up a peach into slices, the slices come away from the seed and the cook is left with neat segments. Not so with the mango. You have to cut pieces off the sides and then cut them into strips.
The other piece of info that might come in handy regarding the ingredients is about green ginger. Green ginger seems to be just regular ginger root, with a light green tinge. Also, about the cheesecloth bag. Somewhere, hidden away in a drawer, we might have some cheesecloth. However, it is much easier to put your mustard seeds in a tea ball and throw said tea ball into the chutney to be fished out at the end of the process. No special trip to the hardware store to buy cheesecloth, no hours spent constructing a cheesecloth bag. Works for me.
It took about an hour to assemble the ingredients in a stainless steel pot and begin boiling them. I doubled the recipe because three to four pints is not many after all the work of making the chutney. The directions say to simmer 30 minutes or until the syrup is thick and fruit is clear. I simmered for about 45 minutes. The fruit became translucent, but the syrup never became thick. Don't know what to tell you here. Just be aware that after 45 minutes, your syrup is unlikely to become thick. I went with watery syrup. It's not as good as Soonji Patterji, but it was pretty good.
If you are canning your chutney, you must immerse the jars and lids in a boiling water bath to sterilize them. When the chutney is done carefully ladle it into the hot jars. Using tongs, put on the lids and rings, and submerge back into the boiling water bath. Leave the jars in the boiling water for fifteen minutes. Then remove them and put them on the counter to cool.

Mango Chutney

1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
2 cups malt vinegar or cider vinegar
1 pound (about 2 to three) underripe mangoes, peeled and sliced
1/2 pound currents (one cup)
1/2 pound raisins
1/2 pound blanched almonds
1/3 cup sliced green ginger or one half cup chopped preserved ginger
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 tablespoon salt
1/2 tablespoon white mustard seeds, tied in a cheesecloth bag or tea ball
1/2 cup chopped onion
12 cup chopped green pepper
1 teaspoon chopped hot chili pepper or red pepper flakes

1.  Combine the sugar and vinegar and bring to a boil.
2. Stir in the remaining ingredients and simmer thirty minutes, or until syrup is thick and fruit is clear. Discard the spice bag, or tea ball. Ladle the chutney into hot sterilized jars and seal. Cool and store in a cool dark dry place. Makes three to four pints.

Hot Chicken Salad (Gluten Free)

Hot Chicken Salad comes from the Midwest section of the cookbook. It is a dish that one would expect to find at a hot dish supper. We're not talking grand cuisine here. It's simple, fast and amazingly tasty. Of course, I would say that because I consider mayonnaise, one of its chief ingredients, one of the major food groups.
I made this for dinner for the two of us, and we polished  the whole thing off. No leftovers here. The mayonnaise, the croutons and the grated cheddar cheese all blend into an unctuous soothing mouthful.  I served hot chicken salad with the first green beans to come out of the garden. A great dinner, in spite of the fact that I sat down in the middle of the oregano patch as I was cutting some tarragon. My husband Bob had to come pull me out.
If the cook can get it together to poach a chicken breast in the morning, the prep time on this dish is not more than 10 minutes, and the cooking time is 15, so Hot Chicken Salad is a genuine half hour dinner dish. To make it gluten free, use squares of toasted gluten free bread, or gluten free croutons.

Hot Chicken Salad

2 cups diced cooked chicken
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon grated onion
2 cups diced celery
1 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1/2 cup grated sharp Cheddar Cheese
1/2 cup buttered croutons

1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
2. Mix together all the ingredients except the cheese and croutons and turn into a greased baking dish.
3. Combine the cheese and croutons and sprinkle over top. Bake fifteen minutes. Makes four servings.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Fannie Farmer's Watermelon Pickle

Even though pickled watermelon rind is a quintessential American food, appearing in Laura Ingalls Wilder's Farmer Boy, The New York Times Heritage Cookbook does not have a recipe for it. Go figure. However, since a half watermelon had been lurking in our crisper since June 2, and both my husband and Laura, who lives in our basement, go nuts over pickled watermelon rind, I decided to put the rind to good use.
Canning seems to have increased in popularity among the younger foodies out there, so there should be an audience for this. As pickle recipes go, it is moderately time consuming. The rind needs to soak for three hours if you add lime water (more on this later) and all the cutting, peeling, and boiling takes about three more hours. It also requires a fairly substantial outlay of cash on canning equipment. You will need a canning kettle for the boiling water bath, equipped with a rack so the jars are not sitting on the bottom of the kettle, and jars, lids and rings. These things are now available at your local hardware store. If you make the expenditure, you will be able to enjoy canning vegetables, fruits, jams and pickles for the rest of your life.
I chose this particular recipe, among several out there, including one in the always popular Joy of Cooking, because it did not call for hard to find ingredients such as oil of cloves and oil of cinnamon. The Fannie Farmer Cookbooks were a staple in our house when I was growing up. My mother had the 1941 edition when she embarked upon her married life and actually had to learn how to cook. I used to pour over the menu section, drooling over such highlights of entertaining as the smorgasbord, the young children's party and the buffet. By the time I cleaned out my parents' house, 20 years after their deaths, the 1941 edition had virtually crumbled into oblivion. I did keep my sister's copy, the 1965 edition, its pages slightly singed from the time she fell asleep and burned up the cabinets in her New York apartment. This recipe comes from that cookbook.
Watermelon pickle is the original "Use it up, wear it out, make it last or do without," recipe in the spirit of the Depression. The cook is making use of a part of the fruit that would ordinarily be thrown away. I wanted to use up the half watermelon, but as I looked at it, and at the recipe, I decided that one half watermelon would not be enough. So, Thursday, after yoga, I found myself in the odd position of buying a food product so I would have enough material so as not to let leftovers go to waste. I lugged my new watermelon home on the bus, along with two pounds of sugar and two quarts of white vinegar.
After lunch, I started cutting, peeling and boiling. For some reason, this recipe, along with many others written before 2000 suggests that the cook boil the watermelon rind and then peel it. That always seems dumb to me. I find it easier to peel vegetables first, and then boil them. For one thing, it is easier to peel a cold vegetable than a hot vegetable. You need a good peeler to peel watermelons. The peel is tough. Remember to peel away from you. I forgot this elementary safety tip and took a hunk of skin the size of a navy bean off my left thumb. Blood began flowing everywhere. I wrapped my thumb up in a kitchen towel and went back to work. It was a moderately serious injury. By dinnertime, there was a collection of bloody towels worthy of Sweeny Todd lying at the foot of the basement stairs.

By four o'clock, I had cut up my left over watermelon and half a new watermelon, boiled it, cut what was left of the watermelon fruit off the rind, and put it to soak in lime water, or its modern equivalent. Last week, when I was looking into making watermelon pickle, but decided I wasn't up to canning, my husband Bob came back from the hardware store with a jar of something called Pickle Crisp Granules. This is the chemical calcium chloride. Lime is actually calcium oxide. The label on the jar of granules says it works three times faster than pickling lime. So, if I had read the directions, I would have had to soak the rind only one hour instead of three. But, I didn't read the directions. Pickle Crisp Granules are available at your hardware store, and possibly at your local supermarket if you live in an area that does a lot of canning. I don't expect much from my supermarket.
While the rind is soaking, make the pickling syrup. Fannie's quantities turned out not to be sufficient for an entire melon, so I am increasing the proportions by one-fourth. The result is spicy, not too sweet, and a beautiful, translucent gold. Bob pronounced the finished pickles up to standard.

Watermelon Pickle

Rind of one watermelon, about the size of a basketball

Pickling Syrup

5 cups white vinegar
1 1/4 cups water
5 cups sugar
1 tablespoon whole cloves
1 1/2 sticks of cinnamon
1 tablespoon allspice berries

Put all the ingredients of the syrup in a large saucepan and boil until the sugar dissolves. (About five minutes.)

1. Cut the watermelon in the traditional crescent shaped slices, remove the flesh of the melon, and peel the rind. Cut the rind into six inch pieces and boil it for five minutes. Scrape the remaining melon flesh off the rind, and cut the pieces into cubes.
2. Cover the cubes with water in which Pickle Crisp Granules have been dissolved and soak for one hour.
3. Meanwhile, make the pickling syrup, wash your jars and sterilize them and the lids and rings in the boiling water bath kettle.
4. Drain the melon rind, rinse it off, and cover with fresh water. Simmer until the melon rind is tender.
5. Drain off the water, and cover the melon rind with the pickling syrup. Simmer until the rind is clear (translucent, really) and the syrup thick, adding water if necessary.
Note: My rind became translucent after about 40 minutes of simmering, but the syrup did not thicken. I just went ahead and canned the pickles at that point.
6. Pack the hot pickles and syrup in the hot, sterilized jars. Put on the lids and rings, and submerge the filled jars in the boiling water bath. The pickles should stay in the boiling water for 15 minutes.
7. Lift the hot jars out of the boiling water bath with the rack and leave them to cool.
Makes seven pints.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Apricot Pie

Our daughter's barbecue was a two pie occasion due to my husband's feelings about rhubarb. (See Rum Rhubarb Pie) I figure if we have enough people to warrant extra desserts, go for it. We actually ended up with three pies, because one of the guests brought lemon meringue pie. I chose apricot pie because June is apricot season. They are in the supermarket briefly now, more or less for the month of June, and then that's it.
Apricot pie is pretty easy if one avails oneself of what the British call mod cons. (Modern conveniences.) The chief mod con in this pie is premade graham cracker crust, which does away with the need to crush crackers, baste them with butter and press them into a pie crust shape.
So my advice is to skip all that stuff about the crust, and get a premade one. You will be happier, and no one will be able to tell the difference. The overall pie is sweet, but tangy, due to the grated lemon rind. If you like lemon flavoring, use more. To peel the tiny apricots, drop them in boiling water and leave them there for two minutes.
This pie involves several tricky judgment calls. First, there is cook until mixture thickens. (How long, for God's sake?) Next is, cool until mixture starts to set. Well, if you misjudge this one, you get a pie with a funny consistency, like it has jello cubes of filling floating in an egg white mixture. So, my expert advice is, don't make this when you are distracted. Give it your full attention, especially, the cool until mixture starts to set part. You want to prod the mixture every five minutes or so to see if it is starting to set, or jell.
About the cook until mixture thickens part, I did not spend long minutes over the stove, mainly because I didn't have those long minutes. I wanted to go to bed. I cooked the mixture in a double boiler, which is a metal or glass bowl sitting over a saucepan of boiling water, for around ten minutes, and figured "Close enough for government work." I say this a lot when I don't want to do whatever it is I am doing any longer.  It is somewhat hard to judge thickness, because the apricot pulp makes the filling seem thick. Ten minutes should be okay.
 The guests enjoyed the pie. Definitely a worthwhile effort.

Apricot Pie

Graham Cracker crust
16 graham crackers, crushed
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
 1/4 cup melted butter
3 eggs, separated
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups apricot pulp made by skinning and pitting ripe fruit and blending in an electric blender
1/4 teaspoon graded lemon rind
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
1/4 cup cold water
6 ripe apricot, peeled and halved
whipping cream

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
2. To prepare crust, combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, cinnamon and melted butter and mix well. Press into the bottom and sides of a nine-inch pie plate.
3. Bake eight minutes. Cool.
4. To prepare filling, beat the egg yolks with one-half cup of the sugar until light and fluffy. Add the apricot pulp, lemon rind and salt and place in the top of a double boiler.
5. Heat, stirring, until mixture thickens. Soak the gelatin in the water and add to the hot mixture. Stir to melt gelatin. Cool until mixture starts to set. (Watch like a hawk, here.)
6. Beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in the remaining sugar and fold into the cooled apricot mixture.
7. Pour into the cooled shell and chill. Garnish with the apricot halves and whipped cream.
Makes six servings.

Sour Cream Potato Salad (Gluten Free)

I am, as I mentioned last week, a purist as to the kind of potato salad I like. My dream potato salad is mayonnaise based, with celery and hard boiled egg mixed in. Drizzling a little vinegar over the cooling potatoes helps.  Most important is the texture. The salad should hold its shape when scooped out with an ice cream scoop. I still haven't found a recipe for DPS. When I go to make potato salad without a recipe, I get something that tastes alright, but has totally the wrong texture. Clumps of boiled potatoes, whether drizzled in vinegar or not, swimming in mayonnaise, are no substitute for the real thing,
Well, I am happy to announce to all you readers, who seem to be slowly crawling back in your tens, that Sour Cream Potato Salad is as close as I have come to making a potato salad of the proper texture. Obviously, given the title, it is not mayonnaise based. But assuming you are an African American, or perhaps a Midwesterner, this potato salad is pretty close to the kind of thing your grandmother used to make for church picnics. (If you want to dispute this, I wish you would. I would love to get a debate going on potato salad recipes.)
I made this for the barbecue hosted by my daughter during her week long return from the UK. Given that considerate guests had brought a big tub of supermarket potato salad and we only had around 14 people, this potato salad seemed pretty popular.
Since the salad contains hard boiled eggs, the cook is well advised to do his or her hardboiling in advance. Boil them eggs the night before and set them aside to cool. You could make the whole salad the night before and have time to sit down and sip a glass of wine before the guests gather, since the instructions say to chill for several hours before you put on the sour cream and flavorings. I was busy making pies so I made the potato salad after church for a 2:00 barbecue. The fact that I did not chill the potatoes for several hours with only the French dressing did not seem to affect the taste.
One more thing. Peel and dice the potatoes before you boil them, not the other way around. You cut down on cooking time and avoid burnt fingers that occur when you try to peel hot potatoes.

Sour Cream Potato Salad

4 cups hot cooked and diced potatoes
1/4 cup homemade French dressing (Scroll down to find recipe.)
1 cup chopped celery
2 tablespoons chopped scallions, including green part
1/4 cup chopped sweet red pepper
2 tablespoons chopped dill pickle or sweet pickle
3 hard-cooked eggs, sliced
1 tablespoon Dusseldorf mustard (I used Gray Poupon.)
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup sour cream

1. Place the potatoes in a bowl, pour the dressing over and toss. Refrigerate several hours.
2. Add the celery, scallions, red pepper, pickle, and eggs to potatoes. Combine remaining ingredients and stir into the salad. Chill at least one hour before serving. Makes four to six servings.

 Southern California French Dressing

1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
1/4 cup olive oil
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Cayenne pepper to taste

Combine the lemon juice, Worcestershire and Tabasco. Beat in the oil and add the remaining ingredients.  Makes about one-third cup.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Rum Rhubarb Chess Pie

Chess pies are custard-based pies, "the essence of Southern cooking," says Southern Living. Nobody seems to know why this pie is called chess pie. Perhaps it was served to some gentlemen who were playing chess. Perhaps not. Perhaps because it was very sweet, it was stored in chests, and the t in chest got lost in the Southern drawl, and the pies moved from being chest pies to chess pies. Really, nobody, or at least the editors of Southern Living, knows.
We do know that they are good and relatively easy to make. This particular pie contains rhubarb, as the title would indicate. Rhubarb originated in China, according to Wikipedia, and moved west on the Silk Road during the Middle Ages. It was used as a laxative, and was highly prized by traders. It came to the United States around 1820 to New England. It was known as pie plant because it was so often used in pies.
Rhubarb by itself is quite bitter. It comprises the long, pinkish stalks of the rhubarb plant, kind of like burdock.  It is usually stewed with sugar. Stewed rhubarb is either eaten as is, or is made into a pie filling. It seems to have passed out of usage in New England sometime in the 1950s or 60s. I remember being served stewed rhubarb at Center School in Sheffield, Ma. sometime between 1956 and 1960. I  also remember pointedly not eating it. I was a pretty tolerant child when it came to food, but if I didn't know what it was, and it didn't smell good, I wouldn't eat it.
However, rhubarb seems to have made something of a comeback with the blossoming of the farm to table movement. I bought mine at the Bethesda Women's Farm Market in downtown Bethesda. Sometimes it is available at Safeway or Whole Foods, and sometimes not. It is a seasonal vegetable, available in the spring. Wikipedia says it is grown in greenhouses which makes it available all around the calendar, but this does not seem to be true, at least in this area. Readers who have more familiarity with rhubarb, please write in and tell us your memories of it.
I made the pie for a Sunday barbecue requested by my daughter who had come back from the UK for a week. I had to make two pies because my husband Bob despises rhubarb in all its forms. His mother used to serve it stewed and it was "stringy and disgusting." We actually ended up with three pies, Rum Rhubarb Chess Pie, Apricot Pie and a lemon meringue pie brought by Allison, one of my daughter's friends from Girl Scouts.
This pie is easy, as pies go. I never used to consider pie particularly easy because I had problems with pastry. (I still do have problems with pastry. Hence, I am one of the world's biggest advocates for refrigerator pastry.) But this one, with its unbaked pie shell from the freezer case and its baked pie filling that does not require endless stirring and cooking over a double boiler, is pretty much a cinch. The rhubarb really does not have much taste. The raw rhubarb is just cut up and mixed in with the other ingredients. The rum and nutmeg predominate in flavorings. If you want to try a new vegetable in a neutral setting, go for it.

Rum Rhubarb Chess Pie

2 tablespoons butter
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
2 eggs separated
1 cup rhubarb, cut into one half inch lengths.
3/4 cup plus two tablespoons milk
2 tablespoons dark rum
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 partially cooked nine-inch pie shell from the freezer case

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a mixing bowl and using an electric beater, cream together the butter and sugar. Beat in the flour and then the egg yolks. Stir in the rhubarb, milk, rum, salt and nutmeg.
3. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff and fold them into the rhubarb mixture. Pour this into the pie shell and bake 45 minutes. Let cool before serving. Makes six to eight servings.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

French Potato Salad (Gluten Free)

I have firm opinions about potato salad. It should be firm. An ice cream scoop of potato salad should hold its shape. It should be eggy and scattered with chopped celery. A sprinkling of vinegar over the cooked potatoes helps pick up the flavor. Unfortunately, I have been unable to produce such a potato salad. The people who can produce it seem to be primarily African American cooks. A friend of mine had an African American household employee who used to give us containers of potato salad to take on our campouts in the fields. Even though we had a full menu of main course, vegetables, potatoes baked in the coals and sometimes even soup, I insisted that we take Minnie's potato salad.
I ran into it again 25 years later at a picnic I organized for a group of people at my primarily African American church. We had all been either confirmed or baptized together, and I wanted us to have a social event. I remember exclaiming over some potato salad, "Wow. This is delicious. It's just like my friend's .....mother, used to make." Major embarrassment avoided in the nick of time.
This recipe is not for that kind of potato salad. This is naked potato salad. It has a wine based dressing, and a sprinkling of herbs. No mayonnaise, no celery, no green onions. Nonetheless, it is not without charm. The dressing brings out the flavor of the potatoes, which are especially good served with cold beets in French dressing. It is lighter than mayonnaise based potato salad.
I served it last Saturday night when my son and daughter-in-law came over for a barbeque. Son is barbeque king. Their backyard, slightly larger than a postage stamp, contains a grill that would serve the survivors of a shipwreck to float several hundred miles to their rescue. He immediately took over the grilling of the boneless pork shoulder strips. I had already made the potato salad since it had to chill.
The biggest issue in this dish is the Pernod or Ricard used to flavor the potatoes. Pernod and Ricard (pronounced Ree-kard) are anise, or licorice flavored drinks from France, known as aperitifs. I am pretty much on board with all of French culture, especially its cuisine, but the rage for the aperitif escapes me. The idea is great. Everyone sits down before dinner, has a drink and perhaps cheese and crackers and talks over their day. It's what they drink that I don't like. In my somewhat limited experience, aperatifs might be wine, but generally are not. They are, shall we say, wines made from something other than grapes. They have an unusual taste.
According to the Pernod Ricard corporate website, Pernod is known in the south of France for its thirst quenching properties. It tastes alright. I like some other licorice flavored drinks, such as ouzo from Greece and Sambucca from Italy. It's major problem is, 1. We don't drink it, and 2. It is expensive.
With the dog in tow, I went to my little neighborhood liquor store, which is run by some tired looking Chinese gentlemen  and asked them for a small bottle of Pernod. He brought out a standard size bottle. Together with a bottle of Bulgarian wine he talked me into buying (Hint: don't) the bill came to $53. I told the proprietor to put the Pernod back on the shelf and took the dog six blocks north to the larger liquor store across the street from Starbucks. It turned out that Pernod costs around $40 a bottle, whether you buy it at tiny Sheffield Liquors or great big Circle Liquors. With a sigh of resignation, I paid Circle Liquors and trotted home with my coffee and my expensive bottle of aperitif.
My son and his wife were polite about the naked potato salad. They ate it, but did not wolf it down in the quantities consumed this Sunday at our barbeque for our daughter. (Any wolfing would have been done by my son. Daughter-in-law does not wolf.) If you find traditional potato salad heavy but enjoy cold potatoes, this dish might be for you.

French Potato Salad

8 medium sized potatoes
boiling salted water
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Pernod, Ricard or other anise-flavored liqueur
2 tablespoons beef broth
1/4 cup white wine
1/2 tablespoon chopped tarragon
3 tablespoons chopped parsley
1/2 cup oil

1. Cook the potatoes in boiling salted water until tender but still firm.
2. Peel the potatoes while still warm and cut into slices one-quarter-inch thick. Place in a salad bowl.
3. In another bowl, combine the salt, pepper, vinegar, Pernod broth and wine. Mix until the salt dissolves.
4. Add the tarragon, parsley and oil and mix well. Pour over the potatoes and toss gently but thoroughly until all the liquid is absorbed. Makes four to six servings.

Trifle Pudding

Trifle Pudding is one of three trifle recipes in the Southern section of the cookbook. Was a time when trifle was beloved of southern hostesses. This is a day before kind of a recipe, since it has a couple of steps and has to chill.  The novice cook would be advised to practice before trying this one at a dinner. The base is custard, mixed with whipped cream in a bowl lined with ladyfingers and almond macaroons.
 Call me an old fart, but I would hazard a guess that many cooks today have no idea what custard is, let alone have made any. British readers, assuming there are any, know about custard sauce, which I suspect is made from a dry mix, but nobody in America even eats custard anymore.
Custard is a dessert made from eggs, sugar and milk. In the 1920s, 30s and even into the 40s, it was fed to small children and the elderly. It was supposed to be nutritious and easy to digest. The nutritious part was probably true. Milk contains vitamin D and calcium. Eggs contain protein. As far as the easy to digest part, I can't say, never having had any issues with digestion. When I was a kid, homemade custard was supplanted by Jello Pudding and Pie Mix. My mother had neither the time nor the inclination to stand over a stove stirring a custard for her little children. Beechnut baby food for her.
Irma Rombauer Becker devotes half a page in The Joy of Cooking to custard.  There are two kinds, baked and cooked on top of the stove. Becker suggests always cooking top of the stove custards in a double boiler, a metal or glass mixing bowl set in a saucepan over boiling water. This method prevents the custard from cooking too quickly and scrambling the eggs. Becker, who is usually above the unexplained clichés of cooking (cook until done) (Huh?), uses a phrase that sets my teeth on edge, "cook until the mixture coats the back of a spoon." Well, this is completely unhelpful, given the fact that many custard based pie mixtures coat the back of a spoon as soon as they are placed on the stove. In my experience, these mixtures have to be cooked at a low heat (3.5 on a gas stove) for ten to twenty minutes. And yes, stirring constantly is necessary if you don't want to have a pan full of orange-flavored scrambled eggs. Stirring over low heat results in the creamy consistency we love in chilled pies.
My advice to a novice cook, or even someone who has plenty of cooking experience but has never made a custard before is to invest in a dozen eggs and make custard before attempting a fancy dessert for a party. Make it, eat it, and see how it turned out. If it isn't the way you want it, (watery, perhaps) try again and turn the heat down.
Once  you have gotten past the custard, you have the ingredients. I got all the unusual ingredients at my local unusual store, Rodmans, on Wisconsin Avenue in DC, a combination gourmet food shop and electronics store. Almond macaroons are also known as amaretti, and can be purchased on the internet at Apparently there are two different kinds of ladyfingers in the world of cuisine, hard and soft. Hard come from Italy. They cannot be split in half, so if you get those, just smear the jelly on the outside of the ladyfingers. Soft are baked here. I have never noticed soft ladyfingers in my local Safeway. If one looks on the internet, apparently they are available at Walmart.  That is not really a good reason to shop at Walmart, in my opinion, but what the hell.
   The amaretti and the ladyfingers are sprinkled with dry sherry. Sherry is a wine from Spain that is a rich brown in color with a sophisticated taste. Do not, under any circumstances, buy cooking sherry. That is sold in the grocery store and has salt in it to make it undrinkable. You don't want salt in your fancy dessert, now do you? Go to the liquor store and invest $18 on a decent bottle of sherry, like Dry Sack or Gonzalez Byas. Then, when the weather gets cool in the fall, sit down in the evening and pour yourself a glass of sherry. You will be glad you did. One does not drink it with ice.
If you don't drink, leave it out. That is preferable to cooking sherry.
I churned this out in the morning for dinner with our friends, Rich and Mary Alice. They seemed to like it, and I sure did.

Trifle Pudding

1/2 cup blanched almonds
1/4 pound (four ounces) candied cherries
1/4 pound ladyfingers
1/4 cup tart currant or beach plum jelly
1/2 pound almond macaroons (amaretti)
1/4 cup dry sherry
1 1/2 teaspoons corn starch
1 1/2 cups milk
2 large eggs
4 tablespoons sugar
2 cups heavy cream

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Place the almonds on a baking sheet and bake until they are toasted, stirring occasionally. Do not let them burn. Turn off oven and let almonds cool.
3. Chop the almonds and chop the candied cherries.
4. Split each ladyfinger in half and smear the split side with jelly. Arranged layers of jelly-smeared ladyfingers and the macaroons over bottom and side of a round glass mixing bowl. Sprinkle with the sherry.
5. Place the cornstarch in a saucepan and gradually add the milk, stirring with a wire whisk. Beat the eggs and add them along with half the sugar. Bring gently to a boil, stirring constantly, to make a custard. Do not cook over high heat or too long or the custard will curdle. Let cool and fold in chopped cherries.
6. Whip the cream and, before it is stiff, beat in the remaining sugar. Fold the whipped cream into the custard and pour the mixture into the prepared bowl. Chill. When ready to serve, sprinkle with chopped almonds.
Makes six servings.

Chilled Red Snapper Appetizer (Gluten Free)

The red snapper fillet simmering on the stove.
Chilled Red Snapper Appetizer is what it says it is. Red snapper, poached in the aforementioned court bouillon, chilled, with a wonderful eggy, mayonnaise sauce lived up with scallions, (or in my case, chives) capers, etc. It is easy to make, but definitely a morning of recipe. Having made the court bouillon and hard boiled the eggs the night before, I poached my snapper in the big frying pan Friday morning, covered it with plastic wrap and set it in the refrigerator to chill. Friday afternoon, I made the sauce and put the fish on lettuce leaves on salad plates which went back in the refrigerator to await the guests.
I invited Mary Alice and Rich to dinner because we were going to see a play together, and I at least was broke and not up for another restaurant dinner. We ate outside, on our newly rebuilt terrace. The garden, where my husband Bob has been sweating every afternoon, looked great. The peonies were blooming and the vegetable garden was amazingly free of weeds.  The red snapper, as well as the rest of the dinner, was a real hit.
The novice cook could easily reproduce this dish and impress the hell out of his or her guests. The only thing to watch is the cooking time on the fish. Poach means to cook in water, like poached eggs. This time, you poach the fish in the court bouillon. Simmer means boiling gently, with a few bubbles, not dozens. The directions say poach about 15 minutes, so set the timer as soon as you put the fish on the stove and light the burner. On a gas stove, set the dial for the number 4 or between 3 and 4. On an electric stove, start with low heat, and see if things start bubbling. If they don't, turn it up to medium heat. You will know when the fish is done when you can flake a piece off the main bit with a fork.
It helps if you have a wide spatula to get the fish out of the pan.
There is nothing special about the sauce. Other than boiling the eggs, the sauce is not cooked so there is nothing to worry about.
There is one more thing, how much fish to buy. I found that a pound and a quarter was more than enough to feed four people. The two pounds this recipe called for would feed at least eight. So, since snapper is not cheap, cut back accordingly.

Chilled Red Snapper Appetizer

2 pounds red snapper fillets (see narrative.)
4 cups court bouillon (See previous entry.)
4 hard-cooked eggs
1 tablespoon dry mustard
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup finely chopped scallions, including green part
1/3 cup drained capers
2 teaspoons Creole mustard, or to taste. (If unavailable use Dusseldorf mustard and add Tabasco sauce to taste.) (I used French mustard. For some reason Dusseldorf mustard seems to be the  go to condiment of "adventurous" cooks of the 50s and 60s. I have actually never seen it in the store.)
Lettuce leaves

1. Simmer the snapper in the court bouillon until fish flakes, about fifteen minutes. Cool the fish, bone and skin. Chill.
2. Mash the yolks of three of the eggs and add the dry mustard, lemon juice and salt.
3. Add the mayonnaise, scallions, capers and Creole mustard. Chop or sieve the whites of three of the eggs and stir in.
4. Arrange the chilled fish on the lettuce leaves and spoon the sauce over. Garnish with remaining egg, cut into slices.
Makes four servings.

Court Bouillion

The Berkshire Farmer is very impressed with the
size of the fish head
Court bouillon is fish consume, or fish broth, if you will. It always seemed to me like one of those immensely complicated and exotic dishes that populated Craig Clairborne's iconic New York Times Cookbook. It needs fish heads and fish bones and other items not readily obtainable in the 21st Century. So you think. Or, more correctly, so I thought.
Well, wrong. Court bouillon is neither exotic nor complicated. You just throw all the ingredients into a pot and simmer. Even though this recipe calls for stuff like cheesecloth, which I have sometimes, don't bother with that. You can, as I said, just throw all the ingredients into a pot and strain the soup through a colander.
Fish heads are obtainable no further away than your local fish store, or at least my local fish store, the Fishery, on Connecticut Avenue. I zoomed up there on Thursday evening, 20 minutes before we were supposed to leave for the theatre to buy the red snapper required for Chilled Red Snapper Appetizer. After the man behind the counter handed me my pound and a quarter of snapper, I tentatively inquired after fish heads.
"What kind do you want?" he asked. I thought, you mean there's a selection? I asked for two red snapper heads, assuming that red snapper were the size of trout. Imagine my astonishment when he came out with two fish heads each larger than our dog's head, individually frozen in plastic bags. We have a corgi, which is not a terribly large dog, but he would make a good size fish. The heads glared through glassy, frozen eyes and the mouths looked like beaks.
"One's fine," I said weakly.
I carried my booty home and stuffed it into the refrigerator so we could leave for the play. At 11:00 pm when we wandered back into the house,  I started taking stuff out to begin the court bouillon. The court bouillon was to poach the red snapper in. We were having our old friends, Rich and Mary Alice to dinner on Friday night, so I wanted to get this sucker done before I went to bed on Thursday.
I quickly identified one major problem, viz. that the fish head was too big for the small stockpot. It had been a while since I had done any serious large scale soup cooking, but I remembered my large stock pot, stainless steel, nine inches high and 11 inches in diameter, lurking up in the cabinet over the refrigerator. I hauled out the little black stool built by my father in law back in the depths of time, and hooked the pot out with the handle of a wooden spoon.
The recipe called for four cups of water. Given the size of the pot and the size of the fish head, I put in six cups of water, feeling sure that the amount of fish product on the head would more than compensate for the extra water. The recipe is also full of finicky details such as sprinkling thyme on the celery stalk, covering it with the bay leaf and tying the whole thing up in a bundle. Well, this ain't Escoffier, I can tell you that. I just threw it all in the pot as it came out of its component spice jars, and drained it the following morning in the colander.
The directions say to simmer the broth for twenty-five minutes. Given that the fish head, which is floating around on Facebook as "our new pet," was frozen solid, I simmered for 45 minutes, turned it off and went to bed.

The next morning I awoke to a rich, salty, essence of fish broth in my pot. Also a shapeless, floppy fish head that I rapidly discarded in the trash can in the alley. Don't put fish leavings in your trash can. You might have to move, or fumigate at the very least. So, the mysterious and exotic court bouillon is a piece of cake.

Court Bouillon

1 cup white wine
4 cups water (or six, depending on the size of the fish head)
bones and head of snapper or other white fish ( I skipped the bones.)
6 peppercorns, bruised (I imagine this means tapped gently with a hammer. I skipped the bruising.)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 small onion
1/2 rib celery
1/4 teaspoon thyme
1/2 bay leaf (Be serious. Whoever heard of half a bay leaf? Put in the whole thing!)
2 sprigs parsley

1. Place the wine, water, fish bones and head, peppercorns, salt and onion in a saucepan. (Or stockpot, depending on the size of the fish head.) Sprinkle the inside of the celery with the thyme, cover with the bay leaf and parsley sprigs and tie into a bundle. (See narrative.) Add bundle to the pan.
2. Bring to a boil and simmer twenty-five minutes. Strain through a double thickness of cheesecloth (or a colander.) Makes about one quart.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Clam Pie

The mini clam pies before baking (and eventual ruin.)
On Saturday I finally made one of the three clam pie recipes in the Northeast section of the cookbook. Honestly, if you were writing a cookbook, would you put in three recipes for clam pie, none of them dramatically different? I wouldn't.
The occasion was a good-bye party for Emily Guthrie, the wonderful, funny, ebullient assistant rector of  Saint Margaret's Episcopal Church. The Hospitality Committee sent out a request for party food.  While a pie wouldn't serve many, if one standard pie were made into tiny hors d'oeuvres there would be a good showing.
I always use refrigerator pie crust for these recipes. I cut the recipe for the filling in half, mainly because I only had two cans of clams.  broke out my mini muffin tin which holds 24 mini muffins and, after carefully oiling each cup, cut out two inch circles of refrigerator pie crust with a cookie cutter. I filled each little pie shell with a tablespoonful of filling, and sealed it with a smaller circle of dough. (Did I mention I made the filling?) When I made the filling, I doubled the herbs and cut the total recipe in half. Don't stint on the herbs. They make a big difference.
Then, it came time to bake my mini pies in their mini muffin pan. Well, herein lay the problem. The box of premade dough said to bake pies at 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Genius Berkshire Farmer figured that since the pies were small, they should be baked at a lower temperature, to whit, 350 degrees. It turned out that particular reasoning was like finding a correlation between children's shoe size and their spelling ability. (Children with bigger feet spell better because they are older. Older children read and write more proficiently than younger children because they have more years of school, not because of their shoe size.)
Underbaking the dough meant that it stuck to the muffin tin, big time. I got about five of them out of twenty four. The rest of the mini pies crumbled miserably, or the top crust came off leaving a sad little crumbling cup of dough. At that point it was 4:30, and the party started at 6:00.
Swearing grimly, I jumped in the car and headed for 1. Starbucks, and 2. Safeway to buy coffee and more dough.
When I got back home, my husband, Bob,  began cutting out two inch rounds of dough, filling them with the leftover filling, and folding them into half moon clam pies. Working at top speed, we laid them out on the cookie sheet and whisked them into the oven. We were able to make about 25 more half moons, which looked like empanadas, before we decided we had enough.  Otherwise the party would be over by the time we got there.
When we pulled up at church, we encountered our son and his wife strolling down the street headed to the party. I sent Bob in and went off to park, no easy task because on this lovely April evening everyone in the neighborhood was either having a party or going to a party. The Cambodian Embassy seemed to be having a real hoe down with party goers in black tie and fancy party dresses. Legal parking, always a trial, was virtually nonexistent. I parked illegally next to a stop sign and legged it back three blocks to the party.
By the time I got there, my clam pies were almost gone. Either it was because they were so delicious that no one could resist them, or it was because people, such as my daughter-in-law, thought they were empanadas. Anyhow, they were consumed.
If you like the idea of clams in pastry, but aren't sure about a big doughy slice of clams mixed with cracker crumbs and egg, make it as an hors d'oeuvre. If you use refrigerator pastry, follow the directions re baking temperature, and butter your muffin cups well. Good luck.

Clam Pie

4 cups ground clams with their liquor (If you use canned clams, liquor is the liquid in the can.)
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup cracker crumbs (Panko breadcrumbs work well too.)
1/8 teaspoon marjoram (Be serious, double the herbs.)
1/8 teaspoon thyme (Ditto)
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup milk
Pastry for a two crust ten inch pie
2 tablespoons butter

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. (/That's right, 425 degrees. Do not turn down the oven.)
2. In a bowl, mix together the clams, egg crumbs, marjoram, thyme, salt, pepper and milk.
3. Line a ten-inch pie plate with the pastry,. Pour in the clam filling, dot with butter and top with remaining pastry. Make a steam hole and bake fifteen minutes. Reduce oven heat to 350 degrees and continue baking forty five minutes longer. Makes six servings, or 50-60 half moon clam pies.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Sesame Date Pie

Easter Saturday was a busy time. In the morning, I went to Saint Margaret's Church with my husband Bob to help decorate the sanctuary for Easter. Being about as creative, artistically speaking, as a rock, I get the jobs that involve manual labor, unpacking the spring flowers and filling the votive candles with liquid wax. Bob arranges them so the pulpit looks like it is sitting on a small hill dotted with hydrangeas and other colorful blossoms.
At noon, I sped off to Nationals Stadium with my friend Pat to see my first baseball game of the season. The Nats played valiantly, but alas, lost, 4-3.
So it was, that when I finally got home and began work on the pie for Easter lunch, I was tired. This dessert had already undergone one transformation. It was going to be Rum Rhubarb pie, but neither Safeway nor Whole Foods had any rhubarb.  I plumped for Sesame Date Pie, except I didn't remember the sesame part, and used a premade pie shell. So, what I ended up with was Sesame Date Pie minus the sesame.
 Anyhow, this is definitely a day before recipe. The timing is finicky and it has to jell. The cook is much better off getting down to business the night before. As I said, I used a premade pie shell. The sesame seeds are supposed to be incorporated into the pie dough. I can't say anything about the directions for the pastry since I didn't make it.
This is one of those double boiler recipes that have useful directions like "heat mixture until the gelatin and sugar are dissolved (easy) and mixture coats the back of a spoon" (#%&!) Not a helpful direction, in my book. I put the gelatin and water in the double boiler and added the milk, egg yolks and sugar. Recipes involving milk, eggs and a double boiler require pretty constant stirring to make sure the eggs don't cook. You can tell that the gelatin and sugar are dissolved when you no longer hear them scratching on the bottom of the bowl when you stir. Coating the back of the spoon is an entirely different matter. I cooked and stirred for 25 minutes before the mixture seemed to have thickened and was coating anything.
Then, the recipe says to add the vanilla and the rum or cognac and chill "until the mixture starts to thicken" This means keeping a close eye on the mixture because  one does not want it to harden. I left the bowl in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. The mixture was a little thicker than I would have liked, plus it continued to harden even after it was taken out of the frig. So, if you want a pie that looks like the picture on the box of pudding and pie filling, watch it like a hawk.
The pie that I started at 6:00 finally went into the refrigerator for the last time at 9:00 when I sat down and fell asleep in front of Inspector Lewis on PBS. I was too tired to make the mini clam pies I intended to make for the Easter hospitality hour. Anyhow, make this pie the night before you want to serve it and use the timer.
Dates are not something I am naturally drawn to. In fact, it is hard for me to understand the appeal of the things at all, but the pie turned out fine, and the guests seemed to like it. Only my husband ate the alternative dessert provided when I thought I was making rhubarb pie.

Sesame Date Pie

1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup shortening
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon sesame seeds, lightly toasted
3 tablespoons cold water, approximately
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
1/4 cup cold water
1 cup less two tablespoons milk
2 eggs separated
6 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons run or cognac
3/4 cup heavy cream, whipped,
1 cup pitted fresh dates, finely chopped (The dates I bought at Whole Foods were dried.)
whole dates

1. To prepare pastry, place the flour, salt, shortening and butter in a bowl. With a pastry blender or the finger tips, blend the fat into the flour until mixture  resembles coarse oatmeal.
2. Using a fork, stir in the sesame seeds and water to make a dough. Wrap the dough in wax paper and chill briefly, about fifteen minutes.
3. Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured board or pastry cloth and fit into a nine-inch pie plate. Decorate the edge and chill shell fifteen minutes.
4. Meanwhile preheat the oven to 425 degrees,
5. Prick pie shell with a fork. Bake twenty to twenty-five minutes or until baked and golden. Cool.
6. To prepare filling, soak the gelatin in the water in the top of a double boiler. Beat the milk with the egg yolks and add with four tablespoons of the sugar and the salt.
7. Heat mixture over hot water until gelatin and sugar are dissolved and mixture coats the back of the spoon. (I had the gas on 4, which is medium heat, and cooked it for twenty five minutes. Stir it regularly.) Remove from heat. Stir in the vanilla and the run or cognac. Chill, stirring occasionally, until mixture starts to thicken. (about 20 to 25 minutes).
8. Fold in the whipped cream and chopped dates.
9. Beat the egg whites until frothy.  Gradually beat in the remaining two tablespoons of sugar. (That means sprinkle it in a little at a time as you beat.)Beat until mixture is stiff. Fold into date mixture. Pile into pie shell. Chill well. Garnish with whole dates before serving. Makes six servings.

Dirty Rice (Gluten Free)

Dirty Rice, from Louisiana, is described in one of Hewitt's rare notes as a jambalaya. Well, I don't know about that- My ever present source, Wikipedia, says that there are two kinds of jambalaya, creole jambalaya and Cajun jambalaya. Both of these dishes contain what the Wikipedia writer refers to as "the Trinity," onions, celery and green or red peppers. Dirty Rice ain't got no red peppers or celery, so what do you say about that?
I say, cooking was so boring in Hewitt's time that the New Orleans matrons who gave her their recipes probably thought that red peppers and celery were "common" or made the dish "too rich." To compare this to a jambalaya is like Calvin Trillin, one of the more hilarious writers in print, talking about being invited  to see a trio of white dentists playing what was supposedly Dixieland Jazz. (If you want to track down this reference yourself, it was either in American Fried or Alice, Let's Eat.)
My son requested a ham for Easter dinner. Bob ordered one from Edwards of Surrey, Va. These are terrific, authentic smoked hams, and are even semi local. I prefer to truck up to Eastern Market to Union Meat. Bob prefers to order things and be done with it.
I decided dirty rice would go well with the ham and would probably be okay with the less adventurous eaters around the table. I had to leave one of the ingredients out from the git go. The recipe calls for a quarter of a pound of chicken gizzards. These are not particularly easy to find. One Christmas, when I was making a concerted effort to track down gizzards for pate, I finally ran them to earth at Safeway after inquiring at several specialty shops. If I had gone to the Eastern Market, I probably could have found them there, but I left shopping until Friday afternoon, and Safeway was without them.
I made the rice after we got home from Easter Sunday services. The directions didn't exactly work, especially not in the time allowed by the two family schedule of my son and his wife and her mother. We are lucky that all the families live within an hour of each other, but it does mean that meals have to be served on time because half the guests have to go on to some other event.
The recipe says the cook is to simmer the rice for exactly 15 minutes. Then, one sautés everything else in a saucepan and adds it all to the partially cooked rice and broth. The resulting semi-soup is then baked at 350 degrees for 15 more minutes. If you follow these directions, what  you have is still soupy rice with chicken livers, etc.  floating in it.. Bob plunked the baking dish on top of a burner and jacked up the flame until most of the liquid was absorbed. The result was delicious, but somewhat ...gummy.
If I was truly an inspiring cook, I would make this again, experimenting until I achieved the desired effect before I wrote about it. But, I never promised you readers a rose garden, only a strange tour through mid-twentieth century American cooking. I leave the experimenting to you.
Personally, if I were to make this again, I would cook the rice longer to begin with, and definitely bake it longer, at least half an hour.
How does this taste? Good, but somewhat bland for our twenty-first century taste buds. Try to use bacon fat. I didn't have any and so used cooking oil. Bacon fat would add richness.

Dirty Rice

2 cups uncooked rice
6 cups chicken broth
1 bay leaf
1 cup finely chopped onions
2 tablespoons bacon drippings
1/4 pound chicken livers
1/4 pound chicken gizzards
1 clove garlic
3/4 cup finely chopped scallions, including the green part
1/2 cup finely chopped parsley
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Place the rice in a one-and-one-half-quart saucepan and add four cups broth and the bay leaf. Cover, bring to boil and simmer exactly fifteen minutes.
3. Cook the onions in the blackened drippings until almost brown Chop the livers and gizzards fine and add them. Cook, stirring, until brown. Add the garlic, onions and parsley. Season with salt and pepper and add the remaining broth. Combine the partially cooked rice and the chicken giblet mixture and pour all into a baking pan. Dot with butter and bake fifteen minutes. (See notes)
Makes six servings.


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Sausage with Cream Gravy and Biscuits

This is a real Southern recipe, popular in the 1950s and 60s. Actually, I either ate, or was given the opportunity to eat, biscuits with cream gravy in 2004 when I was hiking on the Appalachian trail in Virginia. So it is still around. However, unless you have been diagnosed as actually lacking in cholesterol, I wouldn't advise eating this more than, say, once every ten years, although it is tasty in a heavy way.
Pick a biscuit recipe, or get those refrigerator dough biscuits available in the grocery store. I made my own, using a recipe from the cookbook. The recipe said to knead the dough and then roll it into a long tube. Cut rounds off the tube and place them on a baking dish. Well, my tube was flat, and the edges didn't meet, so my daughter's friend Laura pointed out that my biscuits looked like snails. They were still edible.
I fried the Bob Evans sausage and made the gravy. I did not use a cup of water and I also used less flour, probably around 1/4 of a cup. The reason for using less flour is, sausage has much less fat nowadays. The instructions say to remove all but one third cup of fat. Well, I don't think my pound of Bob Evans sausage generated even one quarter cup of fat.
 Two cups of heavy cream make a thick sauce. Salt and pepper punch things up a bit so use a lot of both. If we went away from the dinner table groaning a bit, it was to be expected. I would serve this to a group of Appalachian Trail maintainers, or other people who had spent the day engaged in heavy manual labor. They could burn it off.

Sausage with Cream Gravy and Biscuits

1 1/2 pounds sausage meat
1/3 cup flour
1 cup water
2 cups evaporated milk or heavy cream
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
6 hot biscuits, split

1. Shape the sausage into twelve patties and fry in a heavy skillet until brown and thoroughly cooked. Remove patties and keep warm.
2. Remove all but one-third cup of fat. (See introduction.) from skillet. Sprinkle the flour over fat in skillet and mix. Gradually add the water, stirring constantly.
3 Stir in the milk or cream. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, stirring. Return patties to skillet and reheat.
4. Serve on top of the biscuits. Makes six servings.