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 saut├ęs 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.

Salmon with Avocado (Gluten Free)

Looking back to the days when I posted ten to twelve recipes a month on the blog, I realized that I was able to do so because Bob and I ate this stuff for dinner. So, Friday, I went through the cookbook looking for fish recipes that my dear husband would eat. Basically, he eats any kind of fish that is not shellfish. I settled on the salmon with avocado sounded good, and looked relatively easy.
What we have here is broiled salmon spread with a mild guacamole. Quick and easy, but not something to set the culinary world on fire.  Bob liked it. Laura liked it. It's something mildly different than just plain broiled salmon. If you wanted to make it more exciting, I would advise more garlic as a contrast to the mild tasting salmon.
If all the fans of avocado meatloaf are wondering, the recipe comes from Washington State, not Southern California.  So it probably wasn't in the mythical avocados for every occasion cookbook that I imagined the avocado growers wives publishing in 1948.

Salmon with Avocado

1 salmon fillet (about two pounds)
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons butter
3 ripe avocados peeled and seeded
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
3 sprigs parsley
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 clove garlic chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 lemon

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
2. Place the salmon flat, skin side down, in a baking dish. Sprinkle with salt and black pepper and dot with the butter. Place in the oven and bake exactly twenty minutes. Remove the salmon from the oven and pour off any liquid that has accumulated. Carefully transfer the salmon to a hot serving platter.
3. Meanwhile, combine the avocados, red pepper, parsley sprigs, onion, lemon juice, garlic and salt and pepper. Puree in an electric blender, stirring down with a rubber spatula as necessary. When blended, spoon the mixture over the hot salmon. Sprinkle with the parsley.
4. Trim the lemon and slice thinly. cut each slice in half. Use the garnish the dish. Makes six to eight servings.