Monday, February 18, 2008

"The Casserole Cookbook" by James Beard & "The Seducer's Cookbook" by Mimi Sheraton - Veal and Noodles and Apple-Pecan Tart

Date I made these recipes: February 17, 2008

The Casserole Cookbook by Jim Beard (as in the legendary James Beard)
Published by: The Bobbs-Merril Company, Inc.
© 1955
Recipe: Veal and Noodles – p. 25

The Seducer’s Cookbook by Mimi Sheraton
Published by: Random House
© 1962, 1963
Recipe: Apple-Pecan Tart - p. 58-59

Valentine’s Day this year found me working days and my husband working nights. I left him cupcakes and a card for when he came home and he left me cookies and a card for when I woke up. It was actually kind of fun—sort of like Santa coming only in February.

So dinner had to wait until the weekend when we were both home. I don’t know why I pulled out Jim Beard’s Casserole book but I just did although I’ll argue that a veal casserole is slightly more romantic than say, tater tot casserole.

As to dessert, I thought the Seducer’s Cookbook by Mimi Sheraton would be a good place to look for a recipe although the chapter it came from - How to Get Him to Marry You - is a moot point seeing as how we already passed Go on that almost 17 years ago. Recipes in this section, however, were a far better choice than The Gay Divorcee and Can’t We Be Friends.

On the “how cosmic is that?” front, I had just finished making out a shopping list that included Damson Plum Jam when a neighbor popped over to check out our kitchen (we remodeled years ago and she wanted to see what we had done). As I was showing her the panty, I opened the door and danged if right there, front and center, was a jar of Damson Plum Jam, given to us by friends who now live in Maine. I was meant to make this tart!

As to the recipes themselves, they were good but not great, certainly not the level of a seductive meal. I never anticipated the difficulty in finding a simple veal cutlet in a city of this size but we went to a couple of stores before finally settling on veal stew meat. I cut down some of the pieces so as to make them stretch as buying three pounds of veal was out of the question at $12.00 a pound. So we had ourselves noodles and veal instead of veal and noodles! Were I to do this recipe again, I would also substitute small, white onions with diced onions as the white onions tend to run on the large size and therefore get picked out of the recipe.

As to the tart, it was good although I thought the topping was a little heavy for the thinly sliced apples resting below it but it didn’t affect the taste at all. I forgot to buy pecans but my husband is not a big fan of nuts so it all worked out in the end.

Veal and Noodles - Serves 8
1 pound noodles
1 pound small white onions (or substitute sliced or diced onions)
1 can condensed chicken broth
1 can white wine
1 package frozen peas
**note, I had to double the broth and wine in order to make the 2 cups necessary to finish the dish
3 pounds veal (I used 1.5 pounds)
Flour for coating the veal
Dry mustard, thyme, marjoram, salt and pepper to season the veal
Grated lemon rind, enough to coat veal slices
6 tablespoons butter
6 tablespoons flour
2 cups milk

Cook the noodles in boiling salted water about 9 minutes until tender, not mushy. Peel 1 pound small white onions and boil until tender in 1 can condensed chicken broth and an equal amount of white wine. Skim out onions, reserving broth (note, you will need 2 cups by the time you are done; if you fall short, add broth and/or wine to the pan).

Dredge well 3 pounds of veal, sliced very thin, in flour seasoned with dry mustard, thyme, marjoram, salt and pepper. Brown the veal well in fat in a skillet. When browned and drained on absorbent paper, sprinkle each slice with grated lemon rind. Cook 1 package of frozen peas according to instructions.

In a large, shallow casserole place layers of veal, noodles, onions and peas.

Melt 6 tablespoons of butter in top of a double-boiler then blend in 6 tablespoons of flour. Add 2 cups of milk and 2 cups of the onion broth. Stir constantly until creamy smooth. Salt and pepper to taste. Pour this mixture over the layers in casserole and bake at 375 until bubbly – about 45 minutes.

Apple-Pecan Tart - serving size not given
4 apples (firm but not too sour)
3 tablespoons butter
½ cup Damson Plum Jam
1 tablespoon rum
3 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup sugar
2 egg yolks
½ lemon rind, finely grated
1 tablespoon flour
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
2 cups breadcrumbs, preferably made from light pumpernickel
1/3 cup finely ground pecans
2 egg whites

Peel, quarter and core apples and slice into thin lengths. Put 1 ½ tablespoons butter into a 10” skillet and when it bubbles, add half the apple slices. Saute until apples are golden brown on both sides and are firm but tender. Put them into a buttered 8” baking dish about 1 ½” to 2” deep. Add another 1 ½ tablespoons butter to the skillet, sauté the remaining apple slices and put them into the baking dish when they are done.

Rub the jam through a sieve into the skillet and add the rum. Cook slowly for 4 or 5 minutes so that the jam melts, but be careful that it does not scorch. Add this mixture to the apples and turn it through them gently.

Cream 3 tablespoons butter with the sugar in a mixing bowl, add yolks, lemon rind, cinnamon and flour and mix lightly before adding breadcrumbs and ground nuts. Add salt to the egg whites, beat until stiff, and fold into egg-crumb mixture. (Pet peeve: how MUCH salt? She doesn’t say so I threw in a very small amount. I would have liked to have known what effect this would have on the mixture but alas, it will remain a mystery).

Spoon mixture onto apples and spread evenly over them with a spatula. Bake in 325 oven for 40-50 minutes or until the topping is a deep golden brown.

This tart is best made a day in advance and kept in the refrigerator overnight. Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar before serving and/or whipped cream.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

"Louisiana Real & Rustic" by Emeril Lagasse and Marcelle Bienvenu - Red Beans and Rice

Date I made this recipe: February 5, 2008 (Mardi Gras’ Fat Tuesday)

Louisiana Real & Rustic by Emeril Lagasse and Marcelle Bienvenu
Published by: William Morrow and Company
ISBN: 0-688-12721-5
Recipe: Red Beans and Rice – p. 226-227

“Laissez Les Bon Temps Roulez, “ Mes Amis – Let the Good Times Roll, My Friends!

Today is Fat Tuesday for those cities, such as New Orleans, celebrating Mardi Gras (which means…Fat Tuesday!). Mardi Gras kicks off Lent and Fat Tuesday is a day of feasting and revelry before serious fasting (typically for members of the Catholic Church) begins. I’m all about feasting and am all about New Orleans, a city I visited a couple of times prior to the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina. It is a testament to the resiliency of New Orleans and a love of celebration amidst devastation that the residents continued to have their Mardi Gras celebration before the city could even grasp what exactly happened. Talk about being down but not out.

Although not a native of New Orleans, Emeril Lagasse has come to embody New Orleans cooking. I first saw him years ago on PBS with Julia Child. He did a crawfish boil that made my mouth water. Years passed and then Bam! There he was on the Food Network, cooking his way through several different TV shows and several different cuisines. For a while, I suffered from Emeril overkill (much the same as the current Food Network Queen, Rachel Ray), but eventually I grew to really like the guy, so much so that I spent over 3 hours in line several years ago waiting to meet him and have him sign my cookbooks. Emeril looked exhausted having likely come from who know what city, but he stayed until the last person came through. I have a lot of respect for a guy like that.

Although I have several New Orleans cookbooks, most of them featured fish and seafood (plus the elusive crawfish—like I’m gonna find that in this state in the winter!) and while I love that food, I opted for something simpler and something that is really the essence of Louisiana and New Orleans cooking – Red Beans and Rice. It is such a staple in that state that famed trumpet player, Louis Armstrong, used to sign his letters “Red Beans and Ricely Yours.”

And so although this dish was traditionally a Monday dish (Monday was wash day and “when the laundry was done, so were the beans), I couldn’t resist making this New Orleans treat for Fat Tuesday.

So put on some Louis Armstrong, or even Louis Prima (Jump Jive an’ Wail, Oh Marie and I’m Just a Gigolo) who is also from New Orleans, or even (more contemporary) Harry Connick, Jr. and Laissez Les Bon Temps Roulez!

Red Beans and Rice – 8 servings
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup chopped onions
½ cup chopped celery
1 teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon cayenne
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried thyme
4 bay leaves
1 pound boiled ham, cut into 1/2 –inch cubes
6 ounces smoked sausage, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch slices (1 cup) (Note: I used up some leftover Kielbasa from the Beet Borscht recipe a few weeks ago)
1 pound dried beans, rinsed and sorted over, soaked overnight and drained
3 tablespoons chopped garlic (or “chawped gawlik” as Emeril would say)
8 to 10 cups water
Steamed rice

Heat the oil in a large heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. Saute the onions, bell peppers, bell peppers, celery, salt, cayenne, black pepper and thyme for about 5 minutes. Add the bay leaves, ham, and sausage and sauté for 5 to 6 minutes. Add the beans, garlic, and enough water to cover the contents in the pot. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, for about 2 hours. Add more water if the mixture becomes dry and thick.

Use a wooden spoon to mash about half of the mixture against the side of the pot. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, for about 1 ½ hours, or until the mixture is creamy and the beans are soft. Add more water if it becomes too thick. The mixture should be soupy, but not watery.

Remove the bay leaves and serve over steamed rice.

Monday, February 4, 2008

"Spirit of the West - Cooking from Ranch House and Range" - Vaquero Chicken Stew

Date I made this recipe: February 3, 2008 (Super Bowl Sunday!)

Spirit of the West – Cooking from Ranch House and Range by Beverly Cox and Martin Jacobs (The IACP Cookbook Awards Winner)
Published by: Stewart, Tabori & Chang New York
ISBN: 1-58479-197-7
Recipe: Vaquero Chicken Stew – p. 42

As if the southwest of the United States didn’t have a lot going for it already what with great winter temperatures and beautiful scenery, now Glendale, Arizona has the honor of hosting what has to be one of the best Super Bowls ever – the defeat of the 18-0 New England Patriots by the underdog New York Giants. It was a total nail-biter --as in… the Giants scored with just over two minutes to go, the Pats took possession and with 25 seconds to go, almost looked like they would pull out a touchdown to go ahead and, of course, complete a perfect season…but the Giants won 17-14. You couldn’t ask for a better game.

In anticipation of the game, I started thinking about doing something special for Super Bowl Sunday. At first, I thought about chili but that seemed so….well, standard fare for a big game and I wanted something else, something fun and unique but that could be done by game time so I didn’t miss any of the commercials. Oh yeah, and the game J
(By the way, my favorite commercial was one for Honda involving a car, a pig and a crab. It was hilarious and aired just before the game started).

Now, I could have made a dish from many of my New England cookbooks, or I could have made a dish from one of my many New York cookbooks to “honor” today’s contestants but I didn’t. (Confession: despite the fact that they beat my Packers to advance to the Super Bowl, I still favored the Giants). Instead, I split the difference and made this delightful vaquero (cowboy) stew from a cookbook showcasing food of the West/Southwest. The authors indicate that Miguel Gamez brought his family to Arizona in the mid-1800’s and that this dish was described to the authors by Julie Gamez, who is married to Ramon Gamez, Miguel’s grandson. I love recipes that travel through time and are handed down through the generations.

As to the chicken, I tend to like white meat so I bought what turned out to be three huge chicken breasts and after they were cooked, I shredded the meat and put it back in the pot. I think it’s easier to deal with that than several pieces of chicken but that is just my preference.

Vaquero Chicken Stew – Serves 4 to 6
3 ½ to 4 pound chicken, cut into 8 to 10 serving pieces
4 garlic cloves, peeled
1 teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon cumin seed or ¾ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon peppercorns or ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ teaspoon dried Mexican oregano leaves
1 (14 ½ -ounce) can stewed tomatoes and green chiles, Mexican-style, Spanish-style, or Rotel
2 large red potatoes, peeled and diced
2 large carrots, peeled and diced
1 small onion, peeled and chopped
½ cup olive oil
1 cup uncooked long-grain rice
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro (if desired)
2 limes, cut into wedges (if desired)

Place the chicken and 2 quarts of water in a large, heavy pot. Bring to a boil and skim off any foam from the top.

Meanwhile, with a mortar as pestle, grind the garlic with the salt, cumin, peppercorns, and oregano. Add the seasoning mixture to the pot and stir in tomatoes, potatoes, carrots and onion. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, for about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the rice and cook, stirring often, until very lightly browned but not burned, 5 to 8 minutes. Pour the rice into a strainer placed over a bowl and reserve the oil for another use. Stir the drained rice into the stew and continue to simmer, covered, until the rice is cooked, about 30 minutes. Spoon the stew into large bowls and serve sprinkled with cilantro and lime juice, if desired.

Note: I have a perverse sense of humor and so the line “reserve the oil for another use” cracked me up—I mean, technically, this would require me to find a recipe for rice oil and I’m thinking that might be rather difficult. But if you like to conserve oil, then by all means, go for it.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

"Williams-Sonoma Kitchen Library: Soups; Chicken; Potatoes" - Potato Leek Soup, Rosemary Chicken with Potatoes and Cheese Potato Gratin

Date I made these recipes: January 30, 2008

Williams-Sonoma Kitchen Library Soups by Chuck Williams (General Editor) and Norman Kolpas (Recipes)
Published by: Time Life Books
ISBN: 0-7835-0250-8
Recipe: Leek and Potato Soup – p. 54

Williams-Sonoma Kitchen Library Chicken by Chuck Williams (General Editor) and Emalee Chapman (Recipes)
Published by: Time Life Books
ISBN: 0-7835-0225-7
Recipe: Rosemary Chicken and Potatoes – p. 77

Williams-Sonoma Kitchen Library Potatoes by Chuck Williams (General Editor) and Diane Rossen Worthington (Recipes)
Published by: Time Life Books
ISBN: 0-7835-0275-3
Recipe: Cheese Potato Gratin – p. 59

Okay, before I get to the recipes, let me rant just a little bit about the weather (Yes, again!). How is it people, that we started the week on Monday at 45 degrees (that’s above zero), and by Wednesday, the day I made these recipes, we were at -14 below? I mean…how is that possible???

So I guess timing was everything when I decided to use up some potatoes we had on hand to make soup, potato gratin and roast chicken—all perfect cold weather foods.

I’ve had these three Williams-Sonoma books for years and as I leafed through them, I was pretty sure I made recipes from all three before, but since I didn’t make them for purposes of writing for my blog, I decided to start over.

The only disappointment (to me, not my husband) was the leek and potato soup. It was just missing something, some ingredient that I couldn’t put my finger (or spoon) on. Maybe it was missing an herb, maybe I should have added cream but I didn’t have an “Oh Wow!” moment when I tasted it.

On the other hand, I had to stop myself from eating the entire dish of potato gratin before my husband got home, it was just that good! (You know how that starts—it’s out of the oven and you decide that you have to just “sample” a potato slice, a small one, of course…and then have another and so on and so forth until you have almost snarfed the entire thing) We are blue cheese freaks in this house so we had no trouble whatsoever adding gorgonzola to add some zing to what otherwise would have been an average potato gratin.

The chicken recipe was no slouch, either, as the lemon rub made the chicken very moist and flavorful.

On Saturday, the day I am writing this, the weather is now a sane 28 degrees above zero. The potato gratin is gone, baby, gone to my husband’s great disappointment. We have some shreds of chicken left (not much) and still some soup to go through. And life is good.

Leek and Potato Soup – Serves 8-10
¼ cup unsalted butter
2 lb leeks, white portions only, trimmed, carefully washed and thinly sliced
6 cups chicken stock, vegetable stock or water
2 lb baking potatoes, peeled, quartered lengthwise and thinly sliced
Salt and white pepper
2 tablespoons finely chopped chives (for garnish)

In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the leeks and sauté just until they begin to soften, 3-5 minutes. Add the stock and potatoes, bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer until the potatoes are very tender, about 20 minutes.

Season to taste with salt and white pepper. Laddle into warmed bowls and garnish with chives.

If you wish, puree the soup then stir in about 1 cup cream and gently rewarm. You might also consider topping the hot soup with shredded Swiss or Cheddar cheese.

Rosemary Chicken with Potatoes – Serves 4
1 chicken, about 3 ½ pounds
1 lemon, cut in half
6 fresh rosemary sprigs
4 russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch cubes
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons dried rosemary
1 teaspoon dried thyme
½ cup chicken stock
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat your oven to 350. Trim any excess fat from the chicken. Rub inside and out with a lemon half. Place 2 rosemary sprigs in the cavity and tuck 1 rosemary sprig under each wing. Place the chicken on its side in a roasting pan and surround with the potatoes. Melt the butter in a small pan and stir in the oil. Brush the butter mixture evenly over the chicken and potatoes and then sprinkle with the dried rosemary and thyme.

Place chicken in the oven and roast for 30 minutes. Turn the chicken so its rests on the opposite side. Add the stock to the pan and baste the chicken with the pan juices. Roast for another 30 minutes. Turn the chicken breast-side up, baste with the pan juices and season to taste with salt and pepper. Roast until the chicken is tender, another 20-30 minutes.

Transfer the chicken to a warmed platter and surround with the potatoes. Garnish with the 2 remaining rosemary sprigs. Serve the pan juices in a bowl on the side. Carve the chicken at the table.

Cheese Potato Gratin – Serves 6-8
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted, plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into small pieces
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme
¼ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
1 cup crumbled Gorgonzola
3 pounds white, red, yellow-fleshed or baking potatoes, peeled and cut into slices ¼ inch thick
1 ½ cups half-and-half (Note: I already had cream in my refigerator so I made my own half-and-half; just add milk in equal parts to your cream and there it is).
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Preheat an oven to 375. Brush a 10-inch baking dish with 2-inch sides with melted butter.

In a small bowl, stir together the garlic, basil, thyme, salt, white pepper and Gorgonzola.

Layer one-third of the potatoes in the bottom of the prepared dish. Sprinkle one-third of the herb-cheese mixture over the top. Repeat the layers once and then top with the remaining potatoes. Pour the half-and-half evenly over the potatoes and sprinkle the remaining herb-cheese mixture evenly over the top. Dot with the butter pieces. Butter a piece of aluminum foil large enough to cover the dish and place it, buttered side down, on the dish.

Bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and continue to bake until the top is brown and crusty and the potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork, 30-40 minutes longer. During the last 30-40 minutes of baking, baste occasionally with the liquid that forms in the dish from the half-and-half and cheese. (Doing this will make the potatoes softer). Sprinkle with the parsley and serve immediately.