Monday, March 31, 2008

"Cook, My Darling Daughter" - Chicken Sauteed with Brandy

Date I made this recipe: March 30, 2008

Cook, My Darling Daughter by Mildred O. Knopf
Published by: Alfred A. Knopf
© 1959
Recipe: Chicken Sauteed with Brandy – p. 137-138

Continuing on with my theme of “I Remember Mama” for my mother who recently passed away, I pulled this cookbook off the shelf, dusted it off and went on my next recipe search. Although several caught my eye, this one hit the jackpot because all I had to buy was chicken and some cream – sweet! As my husband said “We should be able to come in at under $10 on this one!” (By the way, film buffs, I Remember Mama was a film produced in 1948 about the adventures of a Norwegian immigrant family led by their pennywise mother, Mama (naturally!). The film later became a radio show and then a sitcom starring Barbara Bel Geddes (Mama Ewing from the TV show, Dallas) and Irene Dunn who was in the original film).

Not content to stop with those little bits of trivia, I also looked up Mildred O. Knopf and found out that she was married to motion-picture and television producer, Edwin H. Knopf, a brother of Alfred A. Knopf, publishing magnate in New York City. It doesn’t hurt to have an “in” in publishing, does it?! In Mildred’s bio it says that she was “for many years a well-known hostess in the motion-picture colony (don’t you just love that word?) in southern California.” The “darling daughter” she referred to is daughter Wendy and letters to Wendy are sprinkled throughout the book. Nice touch.

Speaking of nice touches, the book is inscribed “Happy Birthday! Happy Cooking!! Love, Mother & Dad.” Some lucky recipient received this book in 1962 and I hope she enjoyed looking through it and cooking from it as much as I did.

As to the recipe, the instructions do not say to make it the night before and then refrigerate it, but I found that the brandy and Madeira added more zip to the recipe after an overnight stay that wasn’t there when eating it hot off the grill so to speak. Were I to make this recipe again, I think I’d play around with the flavors a little more and substitute Calvados (distilled apple cider made in France) or even pear brandy to round out the flavorings. The recommended beverages were fine but I think the recipe suffered a little from blandness of taste that even the addition of salt and pepper didn’t resolve.

So speaking of brandies and Madeiras and whatnot, my mother was basically a teetotaler but on occasion, she would add brandy to something she was making, always concerned, of course, that it wouldn’t burn off like the recipe said it would. Not to worry, though, mom was always stone sober during cleanup after an excellent meal. She became totally enamored with my homemade cordials, such that she frequently poured them over her nightly ice cream and I say if you have to make exceptions, then pairing alcohol with food seems just the way to go!

Chicken Sauteed with Brandy – Serves 3 to 4
1 frying chicken (we used boneless breasts that weighed almost 3 pounds)
2 ounces sweet butter (4 tablespoons or ½ stick)
6 ounces fresh mushrooms
1/3 cup brandy
¼ cup Madeira or sherry wine
1 cup whipping cream
1 teaspoon sweet butter
Freshly ground pepper

Cut 1 tender, plump frying chicken into 6 pieces. Very lightly dredge with flour.

Melt 2 ounces sweet butter in a casserole or deep stewing pan. Allow the butter to heat until it foams, then brown the chicken on both sides, a few pieces at a time so they brown but do not steam. Place the casserole in a preheated 325 degree oven, basting the chicken with the butter. After a few minutes add 6 ounces fresh mushrooms, thinly sliced. Cook for about 10 minutes or until the mushrooms begin to color. Add 1/3 cup brandy and ¼ cup Madeira or sherry wine and continue to cook another 10 to 15 minutes, or until the chicken is tender.

Add 1 cup heavy cream, mixing it with the juices, using a wooden spoon and swirling the pan in a rotating movement. Pour the gravy over the chicken several times. Leave uncovered and cook 5 minutes more. If the gravy is too liquid, remove the chicken to a warm platter and put into a slightly warm oven while you boil the gravy a few minutes, until thickened. Add 1 teaspoon sweet butter, swirl it into the sauce, and season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper. Return the chicken to the casserole and baste with the sauce. Serve hot. (Note: I served this with noodles (or similar starch) and green beans as mom likely would have done.)

MILDRED’S NOTE: When serving do not let stand uncovered for any length of time (for instance, during a party, between the first and second helpings), as a slight “skin” forms on top which is unappetizing. When through serving the first time, or while waiting for people to come to the table, keep covered with a casserole lid.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

"A Gracious Plenty" by John T. Edge & "At Grandmother's Table" & "The Church Ladies' Divine Desserts" - ham loaf, potatoes and dessert

Date I made these recipes: March 23, 2008 (Easter Sunday)

A Gracious Plenty – Recipes and Recollections from the American South by John T. Edge for the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi
Published by: G. P. Putnam’s Sons
ISBN: 0-399-14534-6 © 1999
Recipe: Ham Loaf - taken from the book Virginia Celebrates written by the Council of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Richmond, Virginia– p. 178-179

At Grandmother’s Table – Women Write about Food, Life, and the Enduring Bond between Grandmothers and Granddaughters – edited by Ellen Perry Berkeley
Published by: Fairview Press Minneapolis
ISBN: 1-57749-096-7 © 2000
Recipe: Grandmother Rushmore’s Wednesday Casserole – submitted by Susan W. Rushmore for her grandmother, Bertha Jarrett Rushmore – 1884-1962 – p. 110

The Church Ladies' Divine Desserts – Heavenly Recipes and Sweet Recollections by Brenda Rhodes Miller
Published by: G. P. Putnam’s Sons
ISBN: 0-399-14780-2 © 2001
Recipe: Sweet Potato Cake submitted by Ms. Willette Bailey of Brooklyn, NY – p. 33-34

Growing up in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, you’d think I’d be used to snow falling on a major holiday and yet there I was, surprised as all get out that we had snow on the ground this Easter. I can’t tell you how many times growing up I had a perky little Easter bonnet displayed with a matching dress that was hidden under a winter coat. Phooey! Snow is also the reason that I really detest Halloween as what fun is it to dress up as some character when in the end, I always resembled Nanook of the North?!

Speaking of dressing up, in lieu of the standard ham recipe (my favorite recipe for ham was posted a while back), I decided to go for a ham loaf that was far more interesting and delicious and dresses up what can be boring ham into something fun. And then I dressed up the potatoes as well, using a potato casserole recipe that included diced ham and apple sauce. If you’re a person who ultimately merges all foods together on a plate (for me, mashed potatoes and peas always end up mushed together), you’ll like this recipe.

Finally, in lieu of sweet potatoes and ham, something we always had growing up (actually, canned yams that my mother doctored up), I made a sweet potato cake. The recipe came from The Church Ladies' Divine Desserts cookbook. Sure, it’s a little late in the game to ask for divine intervention for a warm Easter this year, but it’s never to late to open up the request line for next year!

Two of the recipes came from southern or southern-oriented cookbooks, the south being the one part of the region that has consistently had warm weather for Easter. Bet nobody down there ever had to suffer the indignity of winter coats paired with spring hats! Don't even get me started on patent leather shoes....

Ham Loaf – Makes two loafs serving 20 people (I made a half recipe)
2 pounds ground smoked ham
2 pounds fresh uncooked pork
1 ½ cups fresh cracker crumbs
½ cup chopped onion
4 eggs, well beaten
1 ¼ teaspoon salt
2 cups milk
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley

8 ounces (1 cup plus 2 tablespoons) firmly packed brown sugar
½ cup apple cider vinegar
1 ½ tablespoons dry mustard

Mustard Sauce
½ cup mayonnaise
½ cup sour cream
½ cup prepared mustard
1 tablespoon minced chives
2 tablespoons or more horseradish

To make the ham loafs:

Preheat the oven to 350. Combine the ham and pork; set aside. Combine the cracker crumbs, onion, eggs, salt, milk and parsley in a large bowl. Add the meat mixture and mix thoroughly. Shape into 2 loaves and put into two 9x5x3-inch loaf pans. Bake 30 minutes. Remove the loaves from the oven, baste with glaze, and bake 1 hour longer. Remove the loaves from the pans. Serve 1 tablespoon Mustard Sauce on each slice of ham loaf. Serve the remaining sauce at the table.

To make the glaze:
Combine all ingredients for the glaze in a saucepan; boil for 1 minute before using to baste ham loaves.

To make the mustard sauce:

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl; mix well before serving.

Grandmother Rushmore’s Wednesday Casserole – Serves 4 to 6 people
5 large potatoes
3 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup diced ham (boiled or baked)
¾ cup applesauce
Milk or cream for glazing

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Peel and quarter the potatoes; boil them until tender. Mash them with a potato masher or electric mixer until smooth.

With a fork, beat in the butter, milk, salt and pepper. The potatoes should be slightly dry.

In a large casserole dish, layer half the mashed potatoes, then all of the ham and applesauce. Top with the rest of the potatoes, brush with milk or cream, and sprinkle with paprika. Bake uncovered for 40 minutes.

Sweet Potato Cake – makes 10 to 12 servings
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon cloves
2 cups sugar
1 cup peanut oil
4 large eggs, separated
1 ½ cups grated raw sweet potato
1 cup chopped pecans or sliced almonds
1/3 cup hot water
Powdered sugar (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350. Stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and voles in a large bowl; set aside. Combine the sugar and peanut oil in another large bowl. Beat in the egg yolks, one at a time. Add the grated sweet potato and chopped nuts. Add the dry ingredients alternatively with the hot water, mixing thoroughly. Beat the egg whites in a medium bowl until stiff peaks form. Fold into the sweet potato batter using a spatula. Pour the batter into a greased and floured 10-inch tube pan. Bake for 1 hour or until the cake springs back when touched and begins to leave the sides of the pan. Cool in the pan 10 minutes. Remove from the pan and cool completely. If desired, sprinkle with powdered sugar just before serving.

Note: Cake can be baked in a loan pan, sliced, and served with cream cheese.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

"Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook" & "Favorite Recipes - Munising Memorial Hospital Auxiliary" - Porcupine Meatballs and Coconut Honey Dessert

Date I made these recipes: March 4, 2008

Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book by the Test Kitchen of Better Homes and Garden
Published by: Meredith Corporation
© 1976
Recipe: Porcupine Meatballs – p. 42 (Chapter 2 – Barbecues and easy meals)

Favorite Recipes – Munising Memorial Hospital Auxiliary by members of the Munising Memorial Hospital Auxiliary
Published by: General Publishing and Binding, Iowa Falls, Iowa
© 1986
Recipe: Coconut Honey Dessert (submitted by Rose Marie Verme - my mom!) – p. 51

So you’ll notice it’s been a while since I posted a blog entry. I had every intention of doing something for Oscar night in late February but I couldn’t commit to any recipe from all my cookbooks. And so like most people, I thought “Well, next week.”

Well, Thursday of the following week rolled around and I got a phone call that changed my life. My mother had suffered a massive stroke and was not going to make it. Of course, she and my father lived in a small town in Michigan’s U.P. and that’s an eight-hour drive in the best of conditions. My husband and I made it as far as Wausau, WI that night (in a snowstorm) and made it to the hospital in Marquette, Michigan the next day. It was the longest trip of my life.

Sad to say, mom passed away on March 2nd. We were up at my dad’s for so long that every morning since we arrived back in our own home, I’ve awakened totally disoriented with my surroundings. It will take a while to adjust to the loss.

One thing I am not at a loss for, however, is my cookbooks, now totaling over 900 and I have my mother to thank for that. My mom gave me my very first cookbook, the Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook, when I moved into an apartment with three other women during my junior year at college. We cooked a lot that year and on Thanksgiving, we did an elaborate turkey dinner with all the fixings as noted on the “menu” you can see hanging on our refrigerator in the background of our group photo.

Cooking, however, did not always come naturally to my mom as she was the youngest of seven children in a house that contained a phenomenal cook – her mother, Mary Wollner Barr. What my grandma did with a pot roast is legendary and her wild mushroom soup (dried herbs and mushrooms were constantly hanging in the basement) was out of this world although it was the stinkiest soup on the planet. When a bunch of us cousins rode shotgun back to grandma’s to pick up the soup one year for Christmas, it being forgotten in the rush and all, we made one of my uncles who volunteered for this mission, drive with the windows down (in the middle of winter) until the soup was safely delivered unto the adults who were eagerly awaiting its triumphant return to the table. We were grateful that grandma’s other specialty, poppy seed nuts rolls (we called them Kolache rolls) were far less…fragrant!

But my mom needed a little help and so one of the gifts from her wedding in 1957 was the Better Homes and Gardens Cook Book—no “new” needed at that time. And she cooked from that book for the rest of her life. I am grateful that she had the wherewithal to give me the “new” version so that my roommates and I could eat high off the hog.

Mom also had help from my dad who liked to hunt and often brought home game birds and wild animals for mom to cook. He gave her some hints on how to prepare things but she pretty much figured things out on her own. Although mom hardly ever used cream of anything soup in our house, she managed to doctor up some wild birds with a can of cream of mushroom soup and for that I am eternally grateful.

Mom also became a pressure-cooker cook long before pressure cookers were in vogue. She always made beef stew and porcupine meatballs in the pressure cooker and both meals were quick and delicious. I made my porcupine meatballs the old-fashioned way in a skillet, on top of the stove, and it was good but not as moist as mom’s. By the way, one of the charities we are contributing to in memory of my mom is Susan G. Komen for the Cure. My mom was a 22-year, almost 23, breast cancer survivor. Wouldn’t you know, the can of Campbell’s Tomato Soup I used to make the meatball sauce had a pink and white label on it with the breast cancer ribbon logo. Campbell’s is donating a portion of the proceeds to fight cancer. I feel the hand of my mom in this one!

Mom’s only kitchen “misstep” if you will, and it was hilarious, was that after returning home from her honeymoon trip – three weeks in the southwest – she made my first-generation Sicilian father Chef Boyardee spaghetti. To this day, we think that is just one hilarious story. Although my grandma Verme lived a thousand miles away in New Jersey, she managed to teach my mom how to make really good sauce that could give many a chef, not just Boyardee, a run for his (or her) money.

In addition to cooking, cleaning and otherwise keeping a happy home, my mom was a member and former president of the Munising (Michigan) Memorial Hospital Auxiliary, authors of the second cookbook showcased in this week’s blog. The recipe I selected, Coconut Honey Dessert, was actually prompted by two of the Verme cousins who came to her funeral. They included a honey bear jar in the flowers they sent because my mother always called them (and everyone else) “honey.” She called me “sweetie” so I guess I had some kind of pull. This dish is just so representative of my mom – sugar and spice and everything nice. I hope you like it and the meatballs. They’re both comfort food at its best at a time when I need some comforting.

As a final note, inside the auxiliary cookbook that she gave to me in 1986, there’s a post-it note: “Hi Sweetie, Hope you’ll enjoy using some of these recipes. Love you, Mom”

I do indeed, mom, I do indeed.

Porcupine Meatballs – Makes 4 or 5 servings
1 pound ground beef
¼ cup uncooked long-grain rice
1 slightly beaten egg
1 tablespoon snipped parsley
2 tablespoons finely chopped onion
½ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 10 3/4 –ounce can condensed tomato soup
½ cup water
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Combine meat, rice, egg, parsley, onion, salt, pepper and ¼ cup condensed tomato soup. Mix thoroughly; shape in about 20 small balls and place in skillet. Mix remaining soup, water and Worcestershire sauce; pour over meatballs. Bring to boil; reduce heat; cover and simmer 35 to 40 minutes, stirring often.

Note: I don’t know why, but we always served these with mashed potatoes.

Coconut Honey Dessert – no serving size noted
¼ cup margarine or butter
1 c. coconut
1 ½ c. graham cracker crumbs
1 c. evaporated milk
1 c. boiling water
1 pkg. lemon Jell-O
½ c. honey
2 T. lemon juice

Melt butter or margarine, add coconut and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture is golden. Mix in graham cracker crumbs (I used a Cuisinart to pulverize my graham crackers) and press the mixture onto the bottom of an 8 inch square pan. Put evaporated milk in the refrigerator to chill. Pour boiling water over Jell-O and stir until dissolved. Add honey and lemon juice and cool in refrigerator until thick as raw egg whites (Note: about 40 minutes). Beat the chilled evaporated milk until it holds a shape. Then fold gently into the Jell-O mixture. Spoon over crumbs and chill until firm.