Monday, March 26, 2012

"The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook" - Pineapple Glazed Ham & Potatoes Au Gratin

Date I made these recipes: March 25, 2012 (Mad Men Season 5 premier)

The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook by Judy Gelman and Peter Zheutlin
Published by: Smart Pop
ISBN: 978-193666141-1
Recipes: Pineapple-Glazed Ham in honor of Season 4, Episode 1 “Public Relations” and Julie Child’s Potatoes Au Gratin in honor of Season 1, Episode 2 “Ladies’ Room”

Finally, after 17 months off, Mad Men is back. It’s back! Oh how I have missed it. I mean, weren’t we all on the edge of our seats wondering about Joan’s baby and Don and Megan’s engagement and all kinds of various and sundry revolving stories? I know I was. Aside from a TV show here and there, I can’t think of any other show I have wanted to watch more than Mad Men.

This hero worship is probably due to the fact that I grew up in the 60’s. I was in Kindergarten when President Kennedy was shot (I called him President “Keninney”) and held on for the ride in 1968 when everything seemed to be going to hell in a handbasket. In between, I managed to somehow survive Catholic grade school and Vatican II, secondhand smoke, loud cocktail parties thrown by my parents (where I got to sip from my dad’s martini and please, spare me the lecture) and the gamut of 60’s fashion. In fact, one of the more hilarious scenes from Mad Men has Betty chastising Sally for running around with a dry-cleaning bag on her head because Betty didn’t want the clothing in them wrinkled. While I’m pretty sure my mother would have been more concerned than Betty about my potential death by asphyxiation, I also know my mom’s desire for smartly pressed clothes and so who’s to say I, too, wouldn’t have heard “Ann Marie Verme, you’re ruining the clothes!”

The thing I, and others, love about this show is the attention to detail. When I watch this production, I feel as if I was right back in the 60’s, girdles and all! Many women were horrified that pregnant women smoked cigarettes and drank alcohol but as my friend, Mary, said on many occasions “Oh my God, my mother smoked like a chimney and drank like a fish with all of us kids!” And that was absolutely true; the fact that you were pregnant was immaterial.

Smoking was allowed everywhere, and I mean everywhere, even hospitals (can you imagine?!) In fact, my favorite “toy” growing up was the huge ashtray in our local bank. It was filled with sand and my brother and I used to move the cigarette butts through the sand like we were driving a truck—at least until my mother said “Stop that!” Spoilsport.

For many women of the 60’s, the “available” positions were teachers, nurses, secretaries or stay-at-home housewives. My mother stayed at home (because my dad wanted her to) and hosted coffee klatches with her female friends, grocery shopped, cleaned the house, took care of me and my brother and countless other things and was still expected to have dinner ready and on the table by 6. And it wasn’t that my dad was a hard-ass, far from it. It’s just that more women stayed home because it was expected of them and that was that. Dinner was, of course, preceded with my dad’s wind-down-from-a-tough-day martini.

So speaking of cocktails, this cookbook has a ton of popular 60’s cocktail recipes, many of which I have sampled in bars and restaurants over the past few decades, but I decided to pay homage by making a couple of food recipes instead. Besides, at precisely 8 bells Central Standard Time, I had my own cocktail of choice, a martini, at hand, ready for the start of our two-hour adventure. (By the way, the authors suggest adding 1/8 ounce of vermouth to the gin. Nonsense! That’s overkill.)

As to the food, the recipes all sounded delicious but I just had to make the ham recipe in honor of the hilarious episode from last season, Season 4, where Pete and Peggy have to come up with an advertisement for the fictitious Sugarberry canned ham. (That said the recipe for “Trudy’s Flying Roast Chicken with Stuffing” recipe came in a close second—talk about another hilarious moment in Mad Men history when Peter sent his wife Trudy’s roast chicken over the balcony in a fit of pique!)

Okay, back to the ham, in this episode, Pete and Peggy struggle to make their ham client happy. After much consideration, they come up with a “sure-fired” way to get their female grocery-buying public’s attention and that is to stage an in-store fight where two women argue over who is going home with a Sugarberry ham. The idea was, of course, to make Sugarberry ham the only ham that women would want to make. But naturally, the two “housewives” hired for the promotion get into a major fight, all hell breaks loose and that pretty much put the kibosh on that! Tell you what though I can’t look at a canned ham anymore without cracking up laughing. (And for the record, of course the ham I made today is a canned ham. If Matthew Weiner can pay attention to details, so can I!).

As to the potatoes, well, ham and potatoes just go together, right, so I broke my own little rule of only making one recipe per cookbook and made the au gratin potatoes as well. This was the first time I’ve ever seen them made with Swiss cheese but then again, this is an adaptation of a Julie Child recipe so that made sense. The texture of this is more like an omelet due to the addition of eggs, but I found myself really liking it. Still, Julia Child aside, I’m really more of a cheddar cheese gal myself when it comes to au gratin potatoes.

So there we were – martinis in hand, ham on the plate, potatoes nearby, and Mad Men commenced. Ah, life is good!

Pineapple-Glazed Ham (adapted from The New Good Housekeeping Cookbook (Hearst 1963)) – Yield: 1 ham
1 ham (in keeping with the episode, canned ham is best!)
1 cup pineapple juice, or reserved juice from pineapple can
¾ cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 15-ounce can pineapple slices
Maraschino cherries, optional

Cook ham according to instructions on the package. Remove ham from oven 45 minutes before it is done cooking and remove rind. Score ham, if you wish, by cutting it in long diagonal slashes in one direction and then crossing those cuts with diagonal slashes in the opposite direction to create a diamond pattern. Increase oven temperature to 400F.

Combine pineapple juice, brown sugar, and mustard in a small saucepan. Cook over low heat until thickened and clear. Spread on ham. Use toothpicks to fasten pineapple slices to ham and place maraschino cherries inside the pineapple rings. Return to oven for 20 minutes or until pineapple is glazed.

Place fully cooked ham on a serving platter and let rest for 15 minutes before carving into thin slices.

Ann’s Notes: My canned ham only took an hour to cook but I was still in a burning hurry to get done in time for Mad Men’s 8:00 (CST) start so….I didn’t wait until the pineapple juice, brown sugar and mustard became a paste but instead just poured it over the ham and shoved it in the oven. But I did take a moment to arrange the pineapple slices on top of my perfectly flat canned ham! Needless to say, I didn’t bother to score the ham since there was nothing to score—no rind, no fuss, no muss, no bother!

Potatoes au Gratin (adapted from Gratin De Pommes De Terre Aux Anchois – Gratin of Potatoes, Onions and Anchovies), Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child (Knopf, 1961))

2 tablespoons butter; plus 1 tablespoon for top
1 cup minced onions
½ pound raw potatoes (about 2-3 large potatoes) (Ann’s note: today’s baking potatoes are HUGE so weigh them in the grocery store if at all possible lest you end up with more potatoes than needed like I did.). Peel and dice the potatoes into 1/2-inch cubes
3 eggs
1 ½ cups whipping cream, half-and-half, cream or milk
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
½ cup grated Swiss cheese

Place butter in a skillet and melt over low heat. Cook onions slowly in butter for 5 minutes or so, until tender but not browned.

Preheat oven to 375F. Drop potatoes in boiling salted water and cook for 6-8 minutes, or until barely cooked. Drain thoroughly.

Butter a 3-4 cup baking dish. Spread half of the potatoes in the bottom and then the cooked onion and, finally, the remaining potatoes.

Beat eggs with whipping cream, and add salt and pepper. Stir. Pour eggs and cream over the potatoes and shake the dish to send the liquid to the bottom.

*May be cook in individual serving crocks if desired.

Friday, March 16, 2012

"Barbecuing the Weber Covered Way" & "The Book of Salads" - California Burgers & Hearts of Palm and Avocado Salad

Date I made these recipes: March 14, 2012

Barbecuing the Weber® Covered Way, edited by Carol D. Brent and Betty A. Huges
Published for the Weber-Stephen Products Company by trp (Tested Recipes Publishers, Inc.)
© 1972
Recipe: California Burgers – p. 33

The Book of Salads by Sonia Uvezian
Published by: 101 Productions
© 1977 – ISBN: 0-89286-126-6 495
Recipe: Hearts of Palm and Avocado Salad – p. 39 with Garlic French Dressing – p. 138

Kids, we are living in an alternate weather universe. At this time of year, the general weather “MO” is snow (and more snow), or snow and slush, or snow and ice but most certainly not sun and 68 degree temperatures! Not that I’m complaining but this blast of weather good fortune means that I had to put away my usual and customary soup, stew and crockpot cookbooks and start digging for springtime and summertime fun recipes.

Enter Barbecuing the Weber® Covered Way and the succinctly named The Book of Salads, because if anything signals the arrival of warm weather it is barbecuing and fresh vegetables. (That said, just because it’s “Springtime in the Rockies” doesn’t mean that truly fresh vegetables are forthcoming but you get my drift).

Now, truth be told, we don’t have a Weber® Kettle grill, covered or otherwise, but the book is nice enough to tell us how to grill with gas. Of course, the intention was that we would use a Webe®r Kettle gas grill but details, details. (By the way, the current equivalent of a gas round-top Weber® Kettle – the Q 300 Series – kind of resembles Rosie the robot from the TV show, The Jetsons. Just put an apron on that puppy and….)

Since my man is the grill-master in this house, I handed him the cookbook and told him to have at it with the recipe selection. He wisely chose the California Burgers, topped with fresh guacamole. Both recipes were easy to make and fun to eat! Note that we could have made an entire roast suckling pig, but oh darn, our grill isn’t big enough to hold such a thing and so we downgraded to burgers.

As to the salad selection, this book is pretty comprehensive with recipes for green salads, vegetable salads (including potato salad and cole slaw), fruit salads, meat salads and even – be still my heart – molded salads. But I was stuck on making a green salad and the one that I liked the best used avocados and so why not kill two birds with one stone?

So burgers and salad it was and we enjoyed munching on both on a spectacular sunny and warm day in March. This gives new meaning to the term “March Madness,” no?

By the way, both of today’s cookbooks were purchased from one of my favorite stores in the Twin Cities – Arc’s Value Village (in four locations!). Arc Greater Twin Cities is an organization that provides advocacy and support for individuals with developmental disabilities and the Value Village thrift stores generate much-needed revenue to support programs and services for these individuals. And woo-hoo for me, their stores consistently stock cool and inexpensive cookbooks to add to my collection. The last time I went to a store, it was a 50% off day and yours truly walked about with 12 cookbooks. Score!

California burgers – Yield: 6 to 8 burgers
2 pounds ground sirloin or ground beef (I bought just over a pound and it made 4 burgers)
1 avocado
¼ cup finely diced fresh tomato
2 tablespoons finely chopped green onion
2 teaspoons lemon juice (I used a little less)
Salt and pepper to taste

Prepare burgers. The authors suggested using their basic recipe for either Steak Burgers or Budget Burgers (p. 32). The Steak Burger recipe calls for 2 pounds ground chuck, round or sirloin tip, 3 tablespoons finely chopped onion, 2 teaspoons salt and ¼ teaspoon black pepper. The Budget burgers recipe calls for all of the above plus ¾ cup uncooked rolled oats and ½ cup tomato juice or milk. We decided to keep it simple and just season our burgers with salt and pepper.

Cook burgers to desire doneness; suggested times are 3 minutes per side for rare, 4 minutes per side for medium and 5 minutes per side for well done.

In the meantime, peel and mash ½ avocado; fold in ¼ cup finely diced fresh tomato, 2 tablespoons finely chopped green onion, 2 teaspoons lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. (Ann’s note: I recommend adding the lemon juice to taste as well.). Slice remaining avocado crosswise. Place patties on bottoms of toasted buns; top with avocado mixture. Garnish each burger with an avocado slice; cover with bun top.

Hearts of Palm and Avocado Salad with Garlic French Dressing – serves 6
½ head romaine lettuce, torn into bite-size pieces
½ head escarole, torn into bite-size pieces
1 16-ounce can hearts of palm, drained and cut crosswise into thin slices
2 avocados, peeled, pitted and sliced
3 scallions, thinly sliced, including 2 inches of the green tops
¼ cup pimiento-stuffed olives
Pimiento strips
Hard-cooked egg slices (optional)
½ cup Garlic French Dressing, page 138
¼ teaspoon crushed dried tarragon

Garlic French Dressing (Vinaigrette) – makes about ½ cup
2 tablespoons wine vinegar
¼ teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
6 to 8 tablespoons olive oil
1 small clove garlic, crushed

For the salad:
Place the greens in a salad bowl and toss together. Arrange all the remaining ingredients except the dressing and tarragon in a decorative pattern over the greens. (Ann’s note: Yeah, right.) Combine the dressing and tarragon and pour over the salad. Toss at table.

To make the dressing:
Place all the ingredients in a covered jar and shake vigorously until blended. Or combine the vinegar, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Stir well to dissolve the salt, then gradually beat in the oil. Add the crushed garlic clove (if desired – I didn’t).

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

"Chicken and Egg" - Chicken Udon Noodle Soup

Date I made this recipe: March 4, 2012

Chicken and Egg by Janice Cole
Published by: Chronicle Books
ISBN: 978-0-8118-7045-0
Recipe: Chicken Udon Noodle Soup – p. 227

My husband has often amused me by saying he can always tell the very second he catches a cold. He said it just “hits him” and then he is off and running toward the drug store. Just call me “Doubting Thomas” (check your Bible) because I always replied that he was being ridiculous. Clearly then, I am a supportive wife.

Yes, well. So there I was, running errands on Saturday when all of a sudden, I just felt a chill come on and within seconds, my throat was scratchy and I was miserable for the rest of the day. I just couldn’t get warm and by the time I went to bed, I had gargled several times with Listerine. You should know that I almost never (knock wood) get sick so this was especially irritating, particularly since it hit me just like it always hits him. I hate it when that happens.

On Sunday, I was feeling slightly better but was in the mood for chicken soup and so went looking for recipes; that turned out to be easier said than done. Why is it every time I get a craving for something like tuna casserole or tater tot casserole is takes me days to find something?

I finally found a few recipes but none that floated my boat and was almost going to hang it up when I saw my recently-purchased Chicken and Egg book and there was much rejoicing.

Author Janice Cole, is a local gal who writes about raising chickens in her backyard in St. Paul, MN. I quite enjoyed reading about the adventures of her three favorite chickens, Lulu, Cleo, and Roxanne, and just had to set aside the images of those little darlings while reading her delicious-sounding recipes.

Cole’s book comes at a time when urban chicken-raising is gaining in popularity. A neighbor of ours, three houses down, has a couple of hens in the backyard. We’ve heard them exactly once in all the time they’ve been there while we were out in the alley and that’s a good thing. Another friend writes about her adventures in chicken-raising on Facebook. By the way, in case you didn’t know, most cities have ordinances disallowing the keeping of roosters for good reason – they crow. A friend of mine who lives in St. Paul complained one year about hearing a rooster crowing at dawn-o-clock in the morning. Turns out a neighbor kept a rooster in a dog crate in their back yard; Animal Control removed said rooster from the premises and the neighborhood finally got a good night’s sleep.

When my dad was three years old his family moved from lower Manhattan to a chicken farm in rural New Jersey. We often talked about how my grandmother rued the day that she told my grandfather about this property since all her family lived in the city and she was stuck cleaning chicken coops on a daily basis. I agree that this was not a fair trade.

I don’t have many memories of the farm since it was sold just after my grandpa died when I was pretty young, but I do remember going into the chicken coops with my grandma to get the eggs. Oddly enough, I managed to do okay with the smell although how I would have fared when I was older was anyone’s guess. Let’s just say I’m a city gal at heart. But I am intrigued by the desire to return to simpler times when people grew their own food and raised their own meat and dairy.

Although I thought it would be hard to select a recipe from Cole’s cookbook as they all looked good, my overwhelming need for chicken noodle soup or some sort made it quite simple – it was Udon noodle soup or bust!

I love all types of Asian noodles, especially the thicker Udon noodles, and so we hightailed it to Asian Noodles in South Minneapolis to pick up what we needed for the recipe. They remodeled since we were last there and so dumb me was walking around the Chinese noodle aisle forever until a clerk showed me that the Japanese noodles were moved to a different section. There had to be eight different kinds of Udon noodles alone and so I selected the package size closest to what I needed for the recipe (6 ounces). Most of the package directions were in Japanese and so it was great that Cole gave a cooking time. (I accessed the website address written on the package (in English) only to find the website was “Japanese only.” This was not helpful. A friend suggested I should have tried a translation program as who knows what I would have come up with for instructions: “Take wheelbarrow and put on top of iron. Add one ton of grass seed….”)

And so I set about making this soup and had to chuckle because what seemed so easy to make turned out to take way more time than I intended. First I had to poach the chicken and that took a while (she said 8-10 minutes but it was more like 20), then I had to heat the broth and then add ingredients to it in increments. Then I had to cook the noodles. And just as I got the thing all set and ready to go, my brother and sister-in-law called and the next thing you know, “old Jed’s a millionaire” and I missed the entire episode of The Amazing Race and half of The Good Wife. (NOTE: DVR’s are a good thing.)

But folks, trust me when I tell you that when I finally got around to eating this soup, it was delicious and felt instantly restorative. That “cold” may have hit me within seconds but it went out just as fast. And the best benefit is that I have yummy leftovers! An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure during cold and flu season and maybe that’s what the author had in mind when she included this recipe in the “Late Winter” section of her book.

Chicken Udon Noodle Soup - serves 4

4 eggs (hardboiled, for garnish)
6 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
3 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
1 ½ tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons mirin (Mirin is similar to a rice wine and can be found in Asian markets and in some grocery stores)
½ cup finely diced carrot
1 ¾ cups shredded poached chicken
1 cup sliced napa cabbage (1/2 inch thick)
8 shiitake mushroom caps, sliced
½ cup diagonally sliced green onions (green part only)
6 ounces udon noodles (The author notes that this recipe is based on dried noodles although fresh noodles can be substituted. Udon noodles are thick noodles made from wheat.)

Notes: I didn’t use the hardboiled eggs as my husband doesn’t like them. And in the interest of full disclosure, rather than buy the huge napa cabbage found in my grocery stores, I pulled a few leaves off until I had enough from the recipe. And I couldn’t find shitake mushrooms at a price I was comfortable with so I went with canned instead and that worked for us.

To make the eggs, put the eggs in a small saucepan and add enough hot water to just cover. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and gently boil for 6 minutes, reducing the heat if necessary to maintain a very gentle boil. Put the eggs in a bowl of ice water until cool enough to handle. Peel under running water and quarter the eggs.

To poach the chicken (p. 33), fill a medium skillet with water. Add a couple of onion slices, 1 bay leaf, ¼ teaspoon of dried thyme, and 5 dill stems, if available. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, add 1 large boneless, skinless chicken breast half (about 10 ounces), reduce the heat, and simmer for 8 to 10 minutes until no longer pink in the center. Remove from the liquid and cool completely. Shred into bite-sized pieces. If you’re poaching chicken breast for another recipe, omit the dill. (Ann’s note, I wasn’t sure how the spices would work in the recipe so I omitted them all and just poached the chicken all by itself.)

Pour the broth into a large saucepan, add the ginger, soy sauce, and mirin and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 3 minutes. Add the carrot and simmer for 3 minutes. Add the chicken, cabbage and mushrooms. Return to a simmer and gently simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in the green onions.

Meanwhile, cook the noodles in a large pot of boiling salted water for 8 minutes or until al dente and drain.

To serve, pile the noodles in a mound in the center of each bowl. Pour the soup over the noodles and arrange the eggs around the noodles.