Monday, January 31, 2011

"The Mike Douglas Cookbook" - Mike Douglas' mother's Skillet Luau

Date I made this recipe: January 30, 2011

The Mike Douglas Cookbook – Recipes Made Famous on the Mike Douglas Television Show by Mike Douglas with Dan Morris
Published by: Funk & Wagnalls
Recipe: Mother Dowd’s (Mike Douglas’ mother) Skillet Luau – p. 123

People, my guess is that you are either in the crowd who recognized the name Mike Douglas right away or you aren’t. And so perhaps a history lesson is in order—television history, that is.

Mike Douglas was a talk show host in the 60’s and 70’s. Dick Cavett and Merv Griffin were also talk show hosts. Big time talk show hosts. Think “pre-Oprah.” Oh, and white. And uh…male.

At any rate, I watched a lot of TV during that time period but I have no recollection of watching any of these shows at my house. My friends’ homes, yes, but mine, no. Either we didn’t get them on the channels we had (for the longest time we only had one station – CBS) or my mother was watching something else. (That being said, my parents religiously watched The Tonight Show staring Johnny Carson on NBC but as the title indicates, that show was at night. It was a rite of passage to finally be allowed to stay up late to watch Johnny who came on in my area at 11:30 at night).

Still, you had to be living under a rock not to know who these three hosts were. Out of the three, only Dick Cavett is still alive and kicking and writing hilarious editorials for the New York Times. (And I mean hilarious…and educational. Things you never knew about a particular guest are now being revealed; it’s like reading the Enquirer only better. I mean, it is the New York Times after all!)

Anyway, the other day after reading one of Dick’s columns, I decided I was in the mood for some talk show-host fare and so went and retrieved Mike’s cookbook from the chef. Dick, if you read this and you have a cookbook, do tell—I promise to give you equal “air” time.

One of the things about Mike Douglas that I figured out is that “Dowd” was his real last name, as evidenced by recipes titled “Mother Dowd’s (whatever) that came from his mom’s collection. I think that’s sweet…and very telling of the time. Many a person referred to his or her mom or in-law back then as Mother “Smith” or Mother “Anderson” or Mother [Insert your last name here]. Actually, to this day, I still refer to one of my best friend’s moms as “Mother Erdman.”

And as it happens, we ended up making one of Mother Dowd’s dishes but not before perusing the likes of recipes submitted by: Sammy Davis, Jr., Kaye Ballard, Carol Burnett, Sebastian Cabot (Mr. French from the TV show, Family Affair), Louis Nye and a whole lot more. With the exception of Carol Burnett, some of you may be puzzled by these names and so if you acquire this cookbook, I urge you to start Googling these people and educate yourself on these late (for the most part), great actors.

Now it’s probably a good thing that Mike Douglas passed away before I wrote this because his mom’s recipe for skillet luau was okay but not great. In fact, the flavor profile was pretty flat. I’m thinking it would have been better with the addition of some onion and the substitution of the cream of chicken soup for a mixture of cornstarch and water. But that’s just me. I will tell you this – my kitchen still smells of curry (yet another dish to make in the summer!). Luckily, I like the smell of curry although all of a sudden I have this overwhelming desire to fly to India!

This recipe is a breeze to make so play with it a little and adjust the ingredients to see if you can hit the mark that I missed. And when you have a moment, go to YouTube and put in “Mike Douglas Show” or “Dick Cavett show” or “Merv Griffin” show and see how it’s done – masters, all of them!

Mother Dowd’s Skillet Luau – serves 3-4
½ green pepper, cut into ¼-inch strips
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tsps. curry powder
2 Tbs. butter
1 can cream of chicken soup, undiluted, about 10 ¼ ozs.
½ cup water
2 cups cooked chicken, ½-inch cubes
½ cup pineapple tidbits, drained
Toasted slivered almonds for garnish

Note: you can spend a buck or two (or three or four) and buy already-cooked and cut chicken or you can buy a package of boneless, skinless breasts and microwave them until done.

In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, saute pepper, garlic and curry in the butter over low heat until peppers are tender. Add remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil stirring constantly.

Serve over rice. Garnish with toasted slivered almonds.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

"Ralph's Italian Restaurant" - (Italian) Meatballs (from Ralph's Italian Restaurant in Philadelphia, PA)

Date I made this recipe: January 16, 2011

Ralph’s Italian Restaurant – 100 Years and 100 Recipes by Jimmy Rubino, Jr. with Ted Taylor
Published by: Xlibris Corporation
ISBN: 0-7833-2060-1; Copyright 2000
Recipe: Meatballs – p. 114

I’ve mentioned before that I watch the Food Network and Top Chef (on Bravo) pretty regularly and one of the newer shows on the Food Network that I like is Food Feuds, hosted by Chef Michael Symon. Make that Iron Chef Symon since he is also one of the Iron Chefs on another show I love, Iron Chef America.

Anyway…the premise of Food Feuds is that Michael travels to a city to decide once and for all which restaurant out of two makes the better (fill in the blank – cake, cupcakes, crab cakes, Philly cheese steaks, etc.). Michael goes to each restaurant, watches them make their product, gives them a list of criteria that he is looking for and then judges which one is better. As much as I adore Michael (who has the cutest laugh ever), I always feel sorry for the “loser.”

In one of the latest episodes, Italian Feud, two Italian restaurants, Ralph’s Italian Restaurant and Villa di Roma, both located in Philadelphia, went up against each other for the “best meatball” title. Villa won. And maybe Villa has a cookbook with their favorite recipes, including meatballs but alas, I do not have it.

But kids, I’ve said before that I have a cookbook for just about everything and would you believe, I have Ralph’s cookbook? And the meatball recipe was in it? And so of course I had to make it.

So let me give you a couple of “fair warnings” right off the bat: These meatballs are best made in the summer when you can vent your kitchen because my kitchen and mud room smelled like garlic oil for days and days. And speaking of garlic oil, this recipe calls for 5 cloves of garlic. I used 4 and I can still smell the garlic every time I open my refrigerator to get leftovers. (I’m half Sicilian but I must have missed out on the garlic gene along the way because I can tolerate it in small doses only and this was no small dose!).

Also, you will find people on both sides of the aisle debating about whether frying the meatballs or baking the meatballs is better. Ralph fries his meatballs (Villa di Roma bakes) and they get a lovely crunchy coating on the outside while still staying moist on the inside. But I’m kind of a baking gal myself and I quit frying the meatballs years ago at the direction of my Aunt Rose who knows everything there is to know about meatballs and more! So when Aunt Rose says “bake,” we bake! And I personally think the flavor is better but that is my palate.

Being particularly lazy the day I made the meatballs, I used a jar of sauce rather than defrost my own, homemade sauce that is still stuck in the freezer. If you want to save time, you can do that as well.

Meatballs – makes 12 to 15
½ loaf Italian bread
Water (enough to dampen the bread)
1 ½ lb. ground beef, veal and pork (mixed)
5 large garlic cloves (minced) – Warning, Warning, Warning! Use 5 cloves at your own risk!!)
½ cup Pecorino Romano cheese (grated)
1 tablespoon salt
¾ tablespoon black pepper
¼ cup fresh parsley (chopped)
4 cups vegetable oil

Soak bread in water, enough to dampen for 2 hours. Drain the bread of any excess water.

In a large bowl, mix all ingredients together with fingers, making sure everything is mixed very well.

Start to roll into meatballs a little bigger than the size of a golf ball. (Yet another reason to make these in the summer—my golf bag is a lot handier to get to in order to make the perfect golf ball meatball!). You should get about 12 to 15 meatballs.

Add 4 cups of oil to a medium size fry pan. Heat oil on medium flame. When oil is hot, add 6 or 7 meatballs to the pan. Make sure there is room between meatballs for even cooking. Cook on each side for about 3 minutes. Place meatballs on a brown paper bag to drain off the oil. (Ann’s note: your meatballs will be very brown but no worries—they are still moist and tasty).

1/27/11 - a reader posted a comment that in this episode, Ralph's baked their meatballs and Villa fried them. I knew I should have kept that episode on my DVR a while longer! The ingredients were also different than what is listed here. So thanks for the correction. Maybe Ralph eventually decided to go with the more healthy option of baking their meatballs?? Ann

Monday, January 10, 2011

"You're Cooking it Country" - Chicken Casserole (Loretta Lynn's)

Date I made this recipe: January 9, 2011

You’re Cooking it Country – My Favorite Recipes and Memories by Loretta Lynn
Published by: Rutledge Hill Press
ISBN: 1-4016-0179-0
Recipe: Chicken Casserole – p. 143

The beauty of having a large collection like mine is that I can pretty much pull a book to meet a theme at the drop of a hat. I may not have the exact thing, like this week’s book, but darned close.

So what inspired me to cook something from Loretta Lynn’s cookbook? Would you believe The Kennedy Center Honors that was broadcast on December 28th?

Now on the off chance you watched the Honors (and I do every year), then you might be scratching your head wondering why I singled out Loretta Lynn when she wasn’t even honored? Well, she wasn’t, but fellow country singer Merle Haggard was. And I don’t have a Merle Haggard cookbook (I’m not even sure he has one) but I did have Loretta’s so there it is.

And if you really must know, it wasn’t so much Merle himself who inspired me to cook “country” but rather some walks down memory lane I had that involved country music.

For whatever odd reason, you can pretty much drive through every state in the union and find country music playing on a radio station. And although the Upper Peninsula of Michigan where I’m from is miles and miles and miles from anywhere, much less Nashville, TN (considered the home of country music), my grade school and high school bus driver managed to find country music on the bus radio for the drive home.

Every day, around 3:00 or whenever school got out, we listened to the Beechnut Chewing Tobacco (pronounced “Tuh-back-a) Hour on the radio. I mean how hilarious is that? Might as well have been the Jack Daniels Alcohol Hour! (Now there’s a thought). And for those who are wondering how on earth a chewing tobacco commercial ended up on the radio, it’s because back then, those commercials were not only allowed but encouraged …and then the federal government decided that maybe marketing this stuff to young adults was a problem and so it stopped and phooey on that! But to this day, I can sing most of the old cigarette commercials and some of the ones for booze as well. We won’t go into the reasons why these are most memorable to me as we don’t have time.

Anyway, one of the commercials during that radio show was for Campho-Phenique. Every day, I’d hear the announcer say “Camp-ooooooooo-phenique” and knew that shortly I’d be hearing all about chiggers.

Yes, chiggers. Chiggers are little mites that reside in tall grasses and weeds and Campho-Phenique is just the product to treat them. As far as I knew, we did not have chiggers in the U.P. but if we did, then apparently Campho-Phenique was the solution. (Not that I know what it does, just that it exists!)

And so there I was, watching Merle get his accolade during the Kennedy Center Honors and I started thinking about Beechnut Chewing Tobacco and Campho-Phenique and chiggers and whatnot and I thought that cooking country would be kind of fun and so I found Loretta’s book and there you have it.

Now I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that despite listening to country music on the school bus radio, I am not a big fan of the music. But southern country (food) fare is another story (except for things like possum – recipe included in Loretta’s book – or squirrel or whatnot.). It wasn’t hard to find a recipe to cook out of this book and being in a comfort-food kind of mindset, I selected the chicken casserole. It had everything in it I love—chicken, cheese, rice and sour cream. Oh, and two kinds of canned cream soup (you’ve gotta have cream soup in a casserole. It’s the law). Sad to say, there wasn’t a vegetable in sight, green or otherwise, but heck, you can just microwave some frozen veggies and at them to your plate – instant balanced meal!

Chicken Casserole – makes 8 servings
6 large chicken breast, boiled and cut up
2 cups cooked rice
1 (10-ounce) can cream of chicken soup
1 (10-ounce) can cream of mushroom soup
8 ounces sour cream
¼ cup white cooking wine
1 egg, beaten
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
3 cups cracker crumbs (Ritz works the best)
1 stick butter, cut into small pieces

Preheat the oven to 350. In a large bowl combine the chicken, rice, chicken soup, mushroom soup, sour cream, wine and egg. Pour the mixture into a buttered 13 x 9-inch casserole dish. Sprinkle the cheese over the casserole and top with the cracker crumbs. Arrange the butter on top. Sprinkle with paprika. Bake for 40 minutes.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

"Cook's Country Best Lost Suppers" - Horseradish Beef Stew

Date I made this recipe: December 30th and December 31st, 2010

Cook’s Country Best Lost Suppers from the editors at America’s Test Kitchen
Published by: America’s Test Kitchen
ISBN: 13: 978-1-933615-44-8
Recipe: Horseradish Beef Stew – p. 59

It’s hard to believe that another year is coming to a close. (Actually, the phrase I like to use it "Well, there's another year shot to hell.") I don’t know where the time went.

My family came into town again this year to help ring in the New Year and I wanted something that wasn’t too involved or complicated and that would satisfy my dad’s cravings for meat and potatoes. My dad has a pretty evolved palate but at the end of the day, the man likes his beef. Dad also likes horseradish and so this recipe, with its 2 cups of horseradish, is perfect.

I only have two very small complaints about this recipe: first, I personally hate when recipes tell me what size pieces to cut (“1 ½-inch cubes, “1-inch pieces…”). Are you like me? Do you want to pull out a tape measure for accuracy? (Believe it or don’t, I have a tape measure in my kitchen that I use to measure cake pans. I wasn’t in the mood to take it out to measure potatoes and carrots so there it sat/sits! It’s the littlest things that drive me nuts.

Second, my vegetables were still a little crisp after the 1 ½ hours of final cooking time. If this were anyone but America’s Test Kitchen, I would cut them some slack but people, the “Test” in the title says it all—these people regularly test recipes for a living. So either my oven was just being ornery that day or they need a “do-over.” Just saying…

Since this stew was pretty hearty, I accompanied it with a tossed green salad and bread…and then threw in some ice cream for dessert…and oh what the heck, some cookies (from The Finnish Bistro down the road). Hey, it’s New Year’s Eve – we’re allowed!

Here’s hoping you all have a great year!

Horseradish Beef Stew – serves 8
4 pounds boneless beef chuck-eye roast, trimmed and cut into 1 ½-inch cubes
Salt and pepper
¼ cup vegetable oil
2 onions, minced
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 ½ cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 ½ cups low-sodium beef broth
2 (8-ounce) jars prepared horseradish (I used creamy horseradish)
1 teaspoon dill seed
1 ½ pounds red potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 pound carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
4 large Portobello mushroom caps, cut into ½-inch pieces
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

Adjust oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 325 degrees.

Pat the beef dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until just smoking. Add half of the beef and cook until well browned on all sides, about 8 minutes, turning as needed. Transfer the beef to a bowl. Return the pot to medium-high heat and repeat with 1 tablespoon more oil and the remaining beef.

Heat 1 tablespoon more oil in the pot over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onions and ¼ teaspoon salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the flour and cook for 1 minute. Slowly whisk in the broths, scraping up any browned bits. Stir in the horseradish and dill seed.

Return the beef, along with any accumulated juices, to the pot. Bring to a simmer, cover and transfer the pot to the oven. Cook for 50 minutes, then stir in the potatoes and carrots. Cover and continue to cook until the meat is tender, 1 to 1 ½ hours longer.

Meanwhile, heat 1 ½ teaspoons more oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add half of the mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until they have released their juices and are brown around the edges, 7 to 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste and transfer the mushrooms to a bowl. Repeat with the remaining 1 ½ teaspoons oil and the remaining mushrooms.

Stir the parsley into the stew and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve, sprinkling individual portions with the mushrooms.