Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Fruited Eggnog Pudding (Gluten Free)

Fruited Eggnog Pudding is definitely a day before recipe. It is not hard, but it takes time, as well as an impressive collection of liquor. It has to chill so the cook is much better off making it the evening before the dinner party, thereby ensuring peace of mind on that issue
I made it on Saturday afternoon for Sunday night's dinner, the same dinner that I made the grits balls for.
I was delighted to be using up several stray ingredients, such as dried fruit, left over from fruitcake making, chopped walnuts, just sitting in the refrigerator, golden raisins, (I used regular old brown.) and the booze. What I didn't do was check on the gelatin. When came time to dissolve the gelatin so it could be added to the eggs, etc., I was horrified to see that I only had one envelope when the recipe called for three. However, the time was getting on for 4 o'clock and I had to meet my husband Bob at 4:30, so I just said to hell with it and used one. Result, pudding less stand up than it would have been with three envelopes of gelatin.
I found the recipe contained many imponderables. For example, it says to beat the egg yolks until they are "very thick." and lemon yellow. How thick is very thick? Do the eggs have to look exactly like a lemon? I beat the yolks for about 5 minutes. They did thicken and showed the tracks of the beaters, but were not lemon yellow, mostly, I believe due to the fact that I use organic eggs. The yolks of organic eggs are a much deeper yellow than the yolks of non organic eggs. The color did lighten somewhat. I think 5 minutes is enough.
"Gradually beat in the sugar." What does that mean? Basically, it means not to dump the whole 3/4 cup into the egg yolks at the same time. You could spoon the sugar in, a couple of tablespoons at a time and beat for the count of 30 if you are a perfectionist.
It says use a nine cup mold that has been "lightly oiled." What is a nine cup mold and how does one lightly oil same? Well, in the 30s, 40s and 50s, molded salads and desserts were all the rage.

The molds of the past looked like this, a tin-lined melon mold. I used a large red bowl. To lightly oil it, I took a clean paper towel and soaked it with vegetable oil. I then rubbed the inside of the bowl with the oily paper towel. Since I did not have three envelopes of gelatin, it didn't matter anyway, since the pudding was somewhat soupy, and not as stand-up as it should have been.
Don't worry about  not having a mold, but if you would like one many of different sizes, types and designs are available on e-bay.
I also discovered one more shortage in the cooking process. The recipe calls for a cup of bourbon. We had about half a cup. Since we don't drink hard liquor much anymore, I was disinclined to go out and buy a fresh bottle of bourbon. Altogether, what I had added up to one and 1/4 cups of hard liquor, so I figured that would be enough. It was. In case you are not much of a drinker, but want to make this dessert, you can always buy little bottles, pints, or half pints for cooking.
The dessert turned out well. It may have been too much in a meal that started in the living room with deep friend grits balls, went on to roast beef with Bob's special potatoes and broccoli soufflé, salad, and finally the dessert. The guests seemed to like it even if they were stuffed like geese.

Fruited Eggnog Pudding

1 cup chopped mixed candied fruits
1/4 cup roughly chopped pecans or walnuts
2 tablespoons golden raisins
1/4 cup cognac
12 egg yolks,
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup dark rum (Light rum works just as well if that is all you have.)
3 envelopes unflavored gelatin
1/2 cup cold water
1 cup bourbon
2 cups heavy cream, whipped
2 tablespoons vanilla
Whipped cream for garnish
pieces of candied cherries

1. Soak the mixed fruits, nuts and raisins in the cognac,
2. Beat the eggs until very thick, lemon colored and smooth. Gradually beat in the sugar.
3. Add the rum and beat in well. Chill the mixture until it is at refrigerator temperature, about 40 minutes.
4. Soak the gelatin in the water. Heat to dissolve the gelatin. Add the bourbon and stir into the chilled egg mixture quickly and thoroughly.
5.  Fold in the whipped cream and vanilla and continue stirring until the mixture begins to thicken.  Fold in the soaked fruit and nut mixture and pour into a nine-cup mold, which has been rinsed with cold water or lightly oiled.
6.  Chill  at least five hours or overnight. Unmold and decorate with whipped cream and candied cherries.
Makes about 12 servings.
Note: If a nine-cup mold is not available,  divide the mixture between a six-cup mold and a three cup mold. When ready to serve, unmold and place one atop the other.

Deep-Fried Grits Balls (Gluten Free)

On Sunday, my son and daughter-in-law came over for dinner with her father and stepmother to be and my brother . I inquired about their fondness for shellfish, and was told that they liked shrimp, but daughter-in-law didn't. Okay. Drop the shellfish recipe idea and go with side dishes and appetizers.  I figured with 7 people, we could serve a hot appetizer. Hence the deep-fried grits balls.
I also had (or thought I had) all the ingredients. I definitely had grits, although I had to dig through the closet for them. I had seen a huge block of cheddar cheese in the refrigerator just the day before, I bought a bag of gluten free breadcrumbs at Whole Foods, (and then found another bag down in the bowels of the closet after I took the vacuum cleaner out to suck up the dog hair on the rug.) I bought two dozen eggs for the dessert, so I had eggs. All set.
I even realized that this is, while not a day before recipe, a couple of hours before kind of recipe. The grits had to be cooked and cooled, which I did around 3:00. But, as usual, there's a slip between the cup and the lip, or something to that effect.
About boiling grits. Any kind of ground corn, which is what grits are, clumps up in boiling water if you just dump them in. The directions say add them slowly. What that means is, maybe add a couple of tablespoons at a time, and stir them into the water. You don't have to measure, but that is what I mean by a small amount.
Then it was time for assembly of the grits balls. I opened the refrigerator for the huge block of cheddar cheese, and found it gone! Quel horreur! I asked Bob, my husband, if we had any cheese. He said no. I hadn't told him I needed some, and he had used it all with the broccoli soufflé. At this point it was around 5:30 and the guests were coming at 6. I did not want to run off to the grocery store. Innovation took hold. I grabbed the medium block of Monterrey jack cheese and used that.
If the cook does not mind cooking while the guests are getting settled, these are not a difficult hors d"oeuvre  There is a relatively short list of ingredients which one mashes all together and forms into balls. The balls are then dipped in beaten egg and finally the gluten-free bread crumbs.
The balls are dropped in hot oil and fried until brown. The cooking takes about fifteen to twenty minutes. One easily could assemble the grits balls in the morning,  pop them into the fryer before the guests arrive and keep them warm in the oven.
How do you know when the oil is hot enough? We actually had a discussion about this while munching on the grits balls. I used my 40 year old electric frying pan, which has a thermometer on the dial. If you are lacking such a piece of equipment, here's what to do. Drop a small piece of grits ball into the hot fat. If it starts bubbling and browning right away, the fat is hot enough. If not, it's not hot enough.
These were very well received. My daughter-in-law said they tasted like deep fried macaroni and cheese. "What are these?" she inquired. "Deep fried grits balls," I replied. "Are we in the Southern section of the cookbook?" she asked. "Sure enough, honey child," said I.
The flavoring is a little off. It calls for nutmeg and cayenne pepper. If I ever make these again, which I probably won't unless my son asks me to, I will definitely use cheddar cheese, because the Monterrey Jack  was a little bland, and lose the nutmeg. Nutmeg isn't bad, it just didn't seem to belong there.

Deep Fried Grits Balls

2 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup quick cooking (or non quick cooking) grits
1 cup grated cheddar cheese or Gruyere cheese
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 1/2 teaspoons peanut oil (and 3-4 cups peanut oil for frying)
1 1/2 cup breadcrumbs (I used gluten free breadcrumbs)
1. Bring the water to a  boil and add salt.When water is boiling, add the grits slowly. Return to a boil and cook over direct heat, stirring occasionally,  two and a half to five minutes. Chill the grits.
2. Mash grits with a fork and stir in the cheese, cayenne, nutmeg and pepper, With hands, shape into approximately forty balls.  (Mine were probably too big.)  beat the eggs and oil together. Dip balls in mixture, then roll in the bread crumbs.
Fry in hot fat (375 degrees) about two minutes, or until golden brown.
Makes forty grits balls.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Passover Cheese Blintzes

This is the last Passover recipe in the New England section of the cookbook,   Apparently Hewlett didn't run into any Jews in other sections of the country when compiling her recipes. I made it for dessert when the young marrieds came over.  Last year, when I was tackling Passover baking recipes, I was amazed and pleased by how good they were. I was expecting them to be heavy, but they were not at all. Having said this, this is not one of the better recipes, in my opinion.
First of all there were some issues producing the pancakes. I was delighted to learn the Matzoh cake meal was still good. It took me so long to find it last year that if I had had to run around looking for a fresh container, I never would have made this recipe.
Maybe one of you reading this, who has had more experience with blintzes than I have, could offer some suggestions. I made the batter and filling before we sat down to dinner, so I could pull off the dessert quickly. When I went to make the pancakes, the batter seemed too thick, so I added a half a cup of water.
The pancakes came out brittle. When I went to roll them up around the filling, they cracked. They stuck to the paper towel I turned them out on. Now, one reason might have been my interpretation of the instructions. It said, turn the pancake browned side up onto a towel. I interpreted that to mean paper towel. Bad interpretation. The other recipe for cheese blintzes, (June, 2013) which I neglected to read until this minute, said turn it out on a sheet of waxed paper. That worked out much better. So use waxed paper.
Also, the filling seemed sloppy and did not have much flavor. The other recipe said add vanilla to the filling. That turned out really well. I put in a couple of teaspoons of sugar and a full lemon's worth of grated lemon rind. I would suggest draining the cottage cheese so the filling doesn't ooze out.
Everyone was really nice about it, but the blintzes turned out like a train wreck. The pancake packages came apart and the filling oozed out. I couldn't really brown them because they didn't stay together. So, be warned. This takes a more experienced hand with blintzes than I have.

Passover Cheese Blintzes

3 eggs
3/4 cup matzoh cake flour
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt

1 pound cottage cheese
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar

1. Beat together the eggs, flour and water to make a thin batter. Add the salt. Pour about three tablespoons batter onto a buttered griddle or skillet, spreading as thinly as possible by tilting the pan. Fry until brown and turn out, browned sided up, onto a towel (sheet of waxed paper.)
2. To prepare filling, combine the cottage cheese, egg, salt, and sugar. Spread one tablespoon of mixture on surface of each blintz. Tuck in the ends and roll up.
3. Brown the blintzes in butter and serve hot. Makes about ten.

Potato Stuffing or Filling (Gluten Free)

Last Monday, our son and daughter-in-law came to dinner. It's kind of funny. Every couple of weeks or so, our son calls up, sort of to check in on the old folks, and announces that they will come to dinner. They are extremely considerate. When I was in and out of the hospital for my hip replacement operation, they brought dinner no less than three times, on top of a busy work schedule. But anyway, they were here, and I used the opportunity to check off two of the dwindling number of recipes in the New England section of the cookbook.
The last time I was at Safeway, they had an amazing, buy one, get one free offer involving those giant roasting chickens that Purdue used to call oven stuffer roasters. I had actually forgotten about them because Bob has been doing most of the cooking lately. For some reason, I took something down to the freezer and found it stuffed with two huge chickens. I had been toying with the idea of corned beef and cabbage for dinner, since I love corned beef and cabbage, but seeing the chickens brought me back to my senses.
I remembered the Potato Stuffing and decided to go with that, although I did not use it to stuff the chicken. Cooking was kind of a rush, because I had tutoring before and did not get home until 5:45. Bob had put the chicken in while I was explaining the mysteries of decimals to my tutee. I had to clean up the kitchen and start cooking. He had also considerately boiled three potatoes for the mashed potatoes.
I was able to make the stuffing gluten free by using gluten free bread as the bread cubes. Everyone,  my daughter-in-law particularly, spoke highly of the result. She said she wanted to dive right in to it. This is a woman who really likes potatoes in virtually any form. However, I found it kind of blah, meaning lacking in flavor.  I added garlic powder to pep things up, but if I was going to make it again, I would add a chopped onion sautéed in butter.
Now that I think about it, using it to stuff the chicken would definitely add flavoring. But I would still add a chopped onion. This is an easy recipe to make, so if you have some left over mashed potatoes, or a few boiled potatoes, it would be a way to quickly dress up roast chicken.

Potato Stuffing or Filling

2 cups mashed potatoes
2 eggs lightly beaten
2 tablespoons butter
2 cups tiny white bread cubes
1/2 teaspoon marjoram
1/2 teaspoon thyme
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 cup milk

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Beat the potatoes with the eggs. Heat the butter in a skillet and brown the bread cubes in it. Sprinkle with the marjoram, thyme, salt and pepper and stir into potato mixture.
3. Add the milk and mix well. Turn into a greased baking dish and bake forty-five minutes. Or use to stuff a five pound chicken.  Makes four servings.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Lane Cake Filling

If the Lane Cake layers are nothing more than layers of plain, white cake, the filling is something else again. Filling is the proper term. This is not icing in any sense of the word. If, like me, you think of a proper cake coated with thick, smooth, swirly, pure chocolate mixed with butter , you are in for an eye-opener. The filling is beaten and lightly cooked egg yolks beaten with sugar, orange rind, bourbon, pecans, shredded coconut raisins and glace cherries (or in my case, the kind of candied fruit sold at Christmas for those of us who wanted to make fruitcake.)
The filling is lumpy, crunchy, and a taste thrill. Making it is not particularly difficult, but the cook does have to be careful. The directions say to mix the egg yolks, sugar and grated orange rind in a double boiler, and cook gently until the sugar dissolves, and, the mixture thickens to coat the back of the spoon. Well, that's fine, but, the second you stick the spoon into the unbeaten egg yolks, they coat the back of the spoon, so this is not a helpful direction. It took me about ten minutes of constant stirring to dissolve the sugar. The sensible novice cook may ask, "When will I know the sugar is dissolved?" Well, I lick the spoon every couple of minutes, and when the residue is not crunching in my teeth, I figure the sugar is dissolved.
I did not feel that the eggs were thick enough, especially after I added the 1/3 cup bourbon. By then, it was too late. My advice is to keep stirring at medium heat, which for a gas stove is about 4, and see what the eggs are like after 15 minutes.  You don't want scrambled eggs, so do not let the egg mixture boil.
The final mixture was liquidy in a sticky sort of a way.  It oozed out from between the layers, but wasn't really a problem. The candied fruit looked like jewels embedded in the coconut, pecan mixture. The bourbon made it really good.
The guests at the Mardi Gras potluck seemed to like it too, except for one person who left theirs on the piano bench. A successful production.

Lane Cake Filling

8 egg yolks
1 1/4 cups sugar
grated rind of one orange
1/3 cup bourbon
1/2 teaspoon mace
1 1/4 cup pecans, chopped
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup shredded coconut
1 cup raisins
1 cup glace cherries, quartered (or one cup of  candied fruit)

1. Mix together the egg yolks, sugar and orange rind in a heavy pan or in the top of a double boiler.
2. Stirring constantly, cook the mixture over medium heat until the sugar dissolves and the mixture thickens to coat the back of the spoon. Do not allow the mixture to boil or the egg yolks will be scrambled.
3. Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining ingredients. Cool before using to fill and top a three-layer cake. Makes about one quart of filling.


Sunday, March 2, 2014

Lane Cake Layers

I made the Lane Cake for a Mardi Gras themed potluck dinner. Now, I confess, Lane Cake has little or nothing to do with Mardi Gras. It is from Alabama, which, hey, is the state next to Louisiana. On the other hand  the New York Times Heritage Cookbook had no recipe for King Cake, which is that fat, gaudy confection with little crowns or coins in it, for sale at Whole Foods and other emporia before Mardi Gras.
It turns out that Lane Cake has a long and respectable history as a Southern dessert, first appearing at the Columbus County Fair in Columbus, Ga. in 1898. It is named for its creator, Ms. Emma Rylander Lane. Lane Cake also appears in To Kill a Mockingbird, one of the greatest books about the American South ever written.
 I never pass up an opportunity to cross a recipe off my list, so at 6:30 Saturday morning, I was downstairs, waiting for the butter to soften for my Lane Cake layers and cleaning up the kitchen.
Lane Cake is a white layer cake. The only step that is a little unusual in the cannon of cake baking is the baker incorporates 8 beaten egg whites into the batter. Prior to adding the egg whites, the batter has the consistency of, say, ... the red clay of the Texas Hill Country. It adheres to the beaters and climbs up the stem of the beaters until the mixer makes a tired, groaning noise that makes the cook fear for its life. The life of the mixer, not the life of the cook, that is.
Since I couldn't figure out how this unbatterlike batter would be transformed into a cake, I poured 1/4 cup of milk into the bowl, scraped the stuff off the beaters and tried again. The result was more like batter. Then, I remembered the egg whites.
One small piece of advice. If you are separating more than two or three eggs, I advise the three bowl method. One large bowl for all the egg whites, and two small bowls, one for the yolks, and one for the white of the egg you are currently separating. Assuming there is no egg yolk in the white, you dump that into the big bowl and move on. If there is egg yolk in one white, you can chuck it, and not have wasted 3 or 5 or 7 perfectly good egg whites.
The addition of the eight beaten egg whites resulted in a soft, shiny batter that poured easily into the pans.
It came out 25 minutes later, tasty looking a golden brown. I removed the cake from the cake pans a few minutes later and put the cakes on wire racks to cool.
While the layers were cooling, Bob and I took all the old florescent mercury containing light bulbs that had been secreted all over the kitchen and basement and the old TV and drove up to Northeast DC to recycle them. A triumph for the environment, as well as for cake.

Lane Cake

1 cup butter
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 1/4 cups flour
3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
8 egg whites, beaten until stiff but not dry.

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
2. Grease and flour three nine-inch layer pans.
3. Beat the butter and sugar together until very light and creamy. Beat in the vanilla. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt twice.
4. Stir the flour mixture alternately with the milk into the batter. Stir in one-quarter of the egg whites. Fold in remaining egg whites until just mixed. Spoon into the prepared pans and bake twenty to twenty-five minutes. Cool in the pans for ten minutes , then turn out onto racks for further cooking.