Monday, April 23, 2012

"Beyond Burlap" - (Earth Day) Idaho-Iowa Corn and Potato Chowder

Date I made this recipe:  April 21, 2012 (Earth Day)

Beyond Burlap – Idaho’s Famous Potato Recipes by Junior League of Boise
Published by:  Favorite Recipes© Press
ISBN:  0-913743-97-6
Recipe:  Idaho-Iowa Corn and Potato Chowder – p. 83

Well Happy Earth Day, everyone!  Although I stand firmly by my life motto that “Nature is not your friend,” I am not so heartless that I can’t participate in “ED” nor wish you a happy one at that.

As to recipes, my first thought was something vegetarian since we were celebrating Mother Earth (not that meat isn’t important, it is) but I don’t have that many vegetarian cookbooks and the ones I do have didn’t send me flying with the recipe selection.  Besides, many vegetarian cookbooks use meat substitutes whereas I was looking for something from the earth. If one is going to participate in Earth Day, one must do it right!

So hooray for my Idaho potato recipe book because nothing says “earth” to me like a lovely potato.  Out of all the things my father grew in my garden growing up, naturally I loved potatoes, if only because going to the barrel (used as a root cellar) in the middle of winter to get one was so much fun.  Call it the culinary version of “dumpster diving!”

Now, I could have taken the easy way out of all of this by making something like a stuffed baked potato but come on, bacon bits do not exist in nature, am I right, and so that felt wrong to me.  And while there was a recipe for Cinnamon Rolls made with mashed potatoes, the guilt of making something so sinful on Earth Day would have kept me up at night.

In the end, it came down to a toss-up between potato leek soup and this recipe for corn and potato chowder, with the chowder winning out because it had chicken and bacon in it, something my husband would like.  (Well me too, now that you asked!).  Since whatever meal I make for the blog normally constitutes our Sunday dinner, I wanted it to be a little heartier than normal.

The other tipping point to making this chowder instead of the soup was that this recipe celebrates the best of Idaho and Iowa- potatoes and corn - and what could be wrong about that?!  Sure, it’s a little early in the season for fresh corn but fear not, shoppers!  My local Rainbow Foods had canned corn on sale for $.58 cents per can – score!!  Okay, it’s not as fresh but it’s not like it didn’t come originally from the ground so it works.

So before I provide you with the recipe for this yummy concoction, let me leave you with one of the potato tips that were scattered throughout the book, this one a Beauty Tip:  “To darken your hair; comb warm or cooled potato water from boiled potatoes through your hair.”  And here I was laying into bottles and bottles of Clairol….

Idaho-Iowa Corn and Potato Chowder – yield:  6 to 8 servings
3 slices bacon, diced
1 pound chicken (diced)
¾ cup chopped onion
¾ cup chopped celery
4 cups whole kernel corn
4 cups chicken broth
2 cups cubed potatoes
Salt to taste
1 cup whipping cream
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
Pepper to taste

Brown the bacon in a heavy saucepan.  Remove the bacon to a paper towel and drain the saucepan, reserving 2 tablespoons drippings.  (Ann’s Note; is it me, or do others find it hard to come up with the required amount of drippings for many recipes these days due to lack of fat on meat?  Even this bacon failed to yield 2 tablespoons so I added butter!)

Cut the chicken into cubs.  Add the chicken, onion and celery to the drippings in the saucepan.  Cook for 10 to 15 minutes or until the chicken and vegetables are tender, stirring constantly.

Combine 2 cups of the corn and 1 cup of the chicken broth in a blender container; process until smooth.

Add the pureed corn, the remaining broth, the remaining corn, potatoes and salt to the chicken mixture.  Bring to a boil and reduce the heat.  Simmer for 30 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.

Stir in the cream and parsley.  Simmer for 5 minutes.  Add the bacon, salt and pepper.  Ladle into soup bowls.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

"Egg Cookery" - (Easter) Meatballs with Lemon Sauce & Spinach and Feta Pie

Date I made these recipes: April 8, 2012 (Easter Sunday)

Egg Cookery by Lou Seibert Pappas
Published by: 101 Productions
ISBN: 0-912238-80-1; © 1976
Recipes: Meatballs with Lemon Sauce, p-114 and Spinach and Feta Pie, p-90

Well, by the time I got around to writing this, Easter came and went. But in what I consider a fluke, these recipes will get you primed for the Greek Orthodox Easter which is this coming Sunday, April 15. You’re welcome!

Given that I made ham and potatoes two weeks ago for the Mad Men premier, I was not inclined to make ham again. Well, this posed a problem because I don’t like lamb and that was the only alternative meat for Easter if ham was not on the table. Hahaha…get it? “On the table?”

At any rate, I was watching an episode of The Chew, a cooking/talk show and they were all coloring Easter eggs. Well duh, people. Eggs! That was it! I could make an egg dish for Easter!

So I pulled out my handy-dandy Egg Cookery book and found the recipe for Spinach and Feta Pie. And if it was just me who was eating it, that’s all I would have made but being somewhat of a typical guy, my husband wanted something else and so he selected the Meatballs with Lemon Sauce recipe. This came about because the suggested accompaniment for the pie was “kefthethes,” a vinegar-glazed Greek meatball. Since we didn’t have that recipe, we went for the meatballs with lemon sauce.

As between the pie and the meatballs, the spinach pie was the hands down winner. It was rich without being too overpowering and it was loaded with good-for-you ingredients like spinach and feta (goat cheese is a good thing!) and eggs (naturally—thus the name of the book).

The pie was easy to prepare and once I got it in the oven, all I had to do was set the timer and file my fingernails.

Not so the meatballs and the lemon sauce. The meatballs were rather messy to make (“roll in flour” – what?) and didn’t bind together well. I had tons of “escaped” rice all over my pan such that it looked like I was making rice soup. For the record, I was not.

The lemon sauce was a nightmare to make. In the blink of an eye, it went from a runny, non-thickened sauce to a scrambled egg paste. My husband, “Iron Stomach Andy,” was game for eating it but I promptly threw it out and started over.

Alas, the second batch fared no better as the cornstarch started to form lumps too early on in the process. Lumps are fine for gravy, but not for a lemon sauce. The taste was fine, although a little light on the lemon but I used it sparingly. And that’s too bad because the meatballs were a little bland. I think a bit more oregano is in order.

I will say that this cookbook ran the gamut of recipes – from appetizers to soups to sweets so finding something to make from it wasn’t the problem. These recipes did not take too much time and that is critical to me on a Sunday afternoon (Easter or no Easter) when I need to get things ready to roll by the time the Good Wife and Mad Men come on. This Sunday, the Masters (golf tournament) wrapped up late throwing the entire CBS Sunday lineup a good hour behind schedule so it was a good thing that the Good Wife wasn’t on this week. (By the way, CBS, so far we Good Wife fans have had to endure late-running football games, basketball games and now golf tournaments. Can Greco-Roman wrestling be far behind?).

So enjoy the toggle between Easter and Greek Easter everyone!

Meatballs with Lemon Sauce – Makes 6 servings
1 pound lean ground beef
½ pound lean ground veal
2 tablespoons each chopped onion and parsley
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon crumbled dried oregano
Freshly ground pepper
¼ cup long-grain rice
2 cups rich beef stock
2 eggs
1 tablespoon cornstarch
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Mix together the beef, veal, onion, parsley, garlic, salt, oregano, pepper and rice and ¼ cup of the beef stock. Shape mixture into 1-1/4-inch balls and roll in flour. Heat remaining broth to boiling, add meatballs, cover and simmer 35 minutes or until rice is tender. Beat eggs until blended, then beat in cornstarch and lemon juice. Pour some of the broth from the meat into the egg-lemon mixture, return to the pan and cook and stir until thickened. Serve accompanied with hot pita bread if desired.

Spinach and Feta Pie – makes 6 servings
Vinegar-Egg Pastry, page 85, or your favorite pastry (Note: I used a frozen pie shell)
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
½ cup plain yogurt
½ cup milk
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
½ teaspoon each salt and crumbled dried tarragon
Dash ground nutmeg
2 pounds spinach, chopped, cooked and drained
½ cup crumbled feta cheese
1 tablespoon butter, melted
Dijon-style mustard (to spread on pastry)

First prepare pastry-lined pan and spread with a thin coating of mustard.

Beat together eggs and egg yolks until blended and mix in yogurt, milk, parsley, salt, tarragon, nutmeg, spinach and feta. Spoon into the pastry-lined pan and drizzle top with melted butter. Bake in 400 degree oven for 10 minutes; reduce heat to 350 and bake 25 minutes longer or until set. Let pie cool 5 minutes before cutting.