Friday, November 14, 2014

"Elsie's Cookbook by Elsie the Cow [Elsie is the Borden Company's mascot] - Carrot and Potato Soup

Date I made this recipe:  November 9, 2014

Elsie's Cookbook (Elsie is the Borden brand mascot) by Elsie the Cow with the aid of Harry Botsford
Published by:  The Bond Wheelwright Company
© 1952
Purchased at Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks, NYC
Recipe:  Carrot and Potato Soup – p. 39-40

Faithful readers of advice columnist, Dear Abby, might recall that she often left a confidential message to a reader along the lines of "Confidential to [Sleepless in Seattle] Yes, the path you indicated you wanted to take is the right one.  Good luck to you."  I have to tell you that I always wanted the back story:  "What was the path?  Why is it right?  Why are you leaving us these encrypted messages, Abby?"  These things were unclear.  This did not deter me from being a faithful reader though and I enjoyed her column all the years that it ran, "encrypted" "Confidential to..." messages or not.  Her regular columns were hilarious.  Abby did not beat around the bush.

By the way, here's some interesting factoids about Dear Abby:  this column, which ran (officially) from 1955 to 2000, was penned by Pauline Phillips.  "Dear Abby" was her alter ego.  Pauline Phillips was married to Ed (Mort) Phillips from Minneapolis, helped build Ed Phillips and Sons, a liquor distribution company, now known as Phillips Distributing Company.  "Abby's" twin sister, Esther, also wrote an advice column called "Ask Ann Landers."  My local newspaper ran "Dear Abby" so I grew up as an Abby person although I did manage to peruse an article or two of "Ask Ann Landers" if the newspaper I was reading at the time carried it.

So for today's cookbook selection, I give you "Confidential to 'MM in Minneapolis'"
This cookbook was used to honor your recent purchase at Friday night's
Maiden Minnesota event.  Moo."

And that's all I'm going to say about that!  So let's talk Elsie the Cow.

Elsie the Cow was created in 1936 as the Borden company mascot/spokesperson.  Per Wikipedia, Elmer the Bull was created in 1940 as Elsie's mate but then later went on to become the mascot for Elmer's Glue.  At the time, Elmer's Glue [company] was a chemical subsidiary of Borden.  (I used to love to pour Elmer's all over my fingertips and then peel off the glue and look at the fingertip markings.  Which may sound odd to grownups but as a youngster, it was rather fun.)

I have to tell you, the cartoon drawings in this cookbook are delightful and hilarious.  I mean, look at the cover:  Elmer is wearing an apron, peeling potatoes and does not look at all happy about it.  Poor Elmer.  Methinks he should just accept his fate as a kitchen mate and be done with it.

Elsie's "no nonsense" approach carried over to the kitchen in the form of recipes that are just "straight up," stick-to-the-ribs kind of fare that were representative of the times (1952).  Nothing is overly-spicy, nothing contains a lot of unmanageable ingredients or steps and everything is pretty easy to make.  The downside is that many dishes looked bland or potentially bland to this cook's palate.  And so I made a few adjustments to my soup to ensure a better outcome.

It should be noted that not only are the ingredients in this book relatively simple, but there is a surprising lack of recipes featuring Borden's products and when a recipe does so, like this soup recipe, it just says "evaporated milk," without referring to Borden's.  This is a far cry from today's brand-name cookbooks that read like a mystery basket on the TV show "Chopped:"  And for your entree, you MUST USE..."Borden's evaporated milk..."  I find that refreshing.

So now that I've let the cat out of the bag when it comes to today's soup ingredients, let me just share a few other tidbits about the recipe:

Instead of using all water, as directed, I used half water and half chicken broth to give the soup more flavor.  I also use whole milk because I like it and can buy it in small containers.  And since I've been "burned" once before by pureeing a soup recipe that I think would have been better "whole," I did not puree this soup as directed.  And this made for a slightly thicker soup than I wanted so I should have added more milk – whole or evaporated – to thin it to my liking but I didn't.  But that's just my preference, not yours.

And finally, for those of you who are waiting for my usual and customary winter weather bitch, here you go: It's 19 degrees outside.  Winter as we know it has not yet arrived (December 21st is the solstice) but there is snow on the group and the outside temperature has gotten a little frosty.  We will not discuss how my attitude has gotten frosty as well.  At any rate, it's a perfect time of year for soup featuring Elsie's Borden products.  Enjoy.

Carrot and Potato Soup – makes 4-6 servings
1 ½ tablespoons bacon or vegetable fat
3 medium potatoes, diced
4 medium carrots, diced
2 medium onions, sliced thin
2 cups water
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup milk
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon butter
2 drops Tabasco sauce
½ cup evaporated milk (Hint:  Borden's evaporated milk might be nice here!)
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
Croutons (for garnish)

Melt the fat in frying pan; add vegetables and cook for 5 minutes over low heat.  Put in 1 ½ cups of the water and cook until vegetables are mushy.  Sift flour on surface of liquid and stir until blended.  Pour in remaining ½ cup water and the milk.  Season to waste with salt, pepper, and paprika.  Simmer 10 minutes.  Press through a sieve, add butter and Tabasco sauce and return to low heat.  (Ann's Note:  I skipped this step as I like my potato soup to be on the chunky side.) Bring to a boil and stir in evaporated milk.  Pour into a large tureen, sprinkle top with parsley and drop in a lot of croutons.  Serve piping hot.  Ann's Note:  I added grated cheese and it was delicious!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

"American Cooking 'in der Kuche' - In English - In German" and "Best of German Cooking

Date I made these recipe:  November 2, 2014 (late-breaking Oktoberfest)

American Cooking "In der Kuche" – 850 Recipes In English – In German by Sadie Summers
Published by:  William Frick Publishers
© 1952
Purchased at Bloomington (Police) Crime Prevention Association used book sale
Recipe: Sauerbraten – p. 225

Best of German Cooking by Edda Meyer-Berkhout
Published by HP Books
© 1984 (2nd printing)
Purchased at Goodwill Stores
Recipe:  Beet Salad – p. 104

Oktoberfest:  It came, it saw, it went.  At least it did in Germany.  In Germany,  Oktoberfest runs from late September through the first weekend in October, which is a little puzzling given the name, right?  So I threw caution to the wind and decided that my "Oktoberfest" would run until the month's end.  I can do these things because well, it's my blog and I'll Oktoberfest if I want to!

And I would have come in under my own self-imposed deadline of October 31, 2014, had I not wanted to make one of my favorite things – Sauerbraten.  And for this recipe, you must (and fair warning here) marinade the meat four days in advance of cooking.  So with tax, license and waiting, I finally made this on November 2nd.  Well—it's the thought that counts, right?

Now, you should know that observing Oktoberfest is not something I normally do, even though my maternal grandfather's family was German (last name was "Barr," converted from the original "Beer" – for real)  It might be because I don't like beer which is almost inexcusable in life and during Oktoberfest but such is life.  My husband though, likes beer and so he drank mine.  I could have had some German wine, I suppose, except my familiarity with German wine is limited to the following:  Riesling. And I'm not a big fan of Riesling so that was out. Instead, I had a martini which paired well with the sauerbraten and beets and if it didn't, who cares?  Besides, having a martini is just another way to get "pickled" – just like our beef and beats recipes!

Prior to moving to Minnesota, I thought this state was the land of the Scandinavians but I soon learned that there are far more people with German ancestry in their backgrounds than Scandinavian so go figure.  Many Germans came here to become farmers, a profession to which I do not aspire but admire those who did.  Neighboring states of North and South Dakota, Wisconsin, Iowa and Nebraska also have high populations (in terms of percentage of population that is German).  Yet when it comes to sheer numbers (as in number of people who are German/German ancestry), the California leads the way. Huh.

In terms of German language skills, I have none or next to none.  My mother's parents came from Austria-Hungary and mostly spoke a Slavic dialect but used Hungarian and a smattering of German when they wanted to talk about something private their children were present.  I think that's pretty cool.

I've only been to Germany once and of course, walked away with a few hilarious stories, most of them owing to the fact that during our brief visit, we managed to encounter people who didn't speak much English.  This was surprising because we were under the impression that most German's spoke English.  Let me sum up the reality for you: "Nein!" 

So story #1:  where Ann and Andy land in Frankfurt, then traveled to Dresden to spend the night.  We didn't have reservations but planned, like we often did, to get hotel names at the train station where there's usually a tourist bureau.  Trouble was, nobody at the train station seemed to understand English and so this was a problem!  But we will credit them for realizing that we needed assistance so they called someone.  And this is "gut" (good)! Well, we waited and waited for this "someone" only to have a little man come flying by us beckoning us to follow him and so we did and we ran like bunnies to our hotel for the night – the Red Cross.  Hahahahahaha...  But you know, it was clean, it was inexpensive and it was fine.  And, as these things go, some friends of ours ended up in the same situation in Dresden and also stayed at the Red Cross which we redubbed the Red Cross Hotel.

Story #2: where Ann is touring a museum located just outside Frankfurt and wants to make a pit stop at the bathroom before leaving.  I was once again astonished to find that the museum guides did not know the English word "bathroom" or other variations thereof and so in the end I had to pantomime what I needed.  So ridiculous. (And of course, the restroom was a million miles away from where I was.)

Story #3: where Ann and Andy wanted to go into a small convenience store only to find out that it closed at 4:30.  In fact, all stores back then (1995) closed at 4:30, period, end of discussion.  Huh.  Did not see that coming.  This almost made me twitch.  It's not like I'm addicted to late-night shopping but 4:30 might as well be dawn o'clock as it came so early.

Story #4:  where Ann and Andy eat dinner just outside Frankfurt and once again, the server didn't know English.  So when I asked her (in English, natch) what a particular item was, she had a hard time telling us so we started guessing.  "Chicken?  "Nein."  "Beef?"  "Nein."  Then there was a pause and she said "Pig."  Okay, then...pork it is.

Story #5:  where Ann tries to order a cup of hot water so she can make tea.  In romance languages, the sentence structure is always a noun followed by the adjective so, for example, agua caliente is Spanish for "hot water."  But again, this was not helpful in Germany as I soon learned:  "Waser heiss?"  "Waser heiss?"  Crickets.  So Andy suggested I try the opposite:  "Heiss Waser?"  Ding, ding, ding – correct!  It would figure that the Germans would put the adjective in front of the noun just like we do here – bastards! ;)  (By the way, in college I took a linguistics class and found that German words account for the basis of a lot of our American ones.)

So that's all I've got about travels to Germany.  Except I may have picked up a wee bottle of kirsch (a cherry-flavored brandy) to commemorate the occasion because when in Rome...Frankfurt...

As to German food, I've always loved Sauerbraten but since it takes so long to make, I always passed on that recipe.  But not today, kids, not today.  And then because I like pickled beets, I threw in the beet salad for a delicious meal.  I thought about making spaetzel, a popular German dumpling, but decided that would likely mean even more work in the kitchen and so I boiled some dumpling noodles instead.

And so onto the cookbooks!  The first cookbook, American Cooking "In der Kuche," had quite the selection of recipes, many of which were authentic German although every once in a while, some American dish would creep in, like a recipe for a Zombie (cocktail).  I passed on that but not without think of the irony of seeing that recipe in this book so close to Halloween.

And then there was a recipe for Peanut Butter Bread, which I have to say is a new one for me.  I love the German name for this dish though:  Erdnussbutter-Kuchen.  In fact, half the fun of reading through this cookbook was seeing the German translations and the German names.  That said, I was pretty much determined to make the sauerbraten and  so didn't spend as much time perusing the cookbook like I normally do.

What I really loved about the Best of German Cooking book was that photos accompanied each recipe and so thankfully, I was able to eliminate any plate that contained fish as I am not fond of fish.  So goodbye to "Pickled Herring" (I'm sorry but... "ew") and "Herring Fillets with Green Beans."  "Fish salad" was also off the table. And since I had already selected a meat dish from the other German cookbook, and since this cookbook didn't contain a competing sauerbraten recipe – what?, I settled on beet salad.  I know, I know – some of you think beets are the "ruddest" food ever, but we love them.  And we loved this dinner.  Just remember though, that you have to marinade the beef for four days  and to plan on an hour or more for the beets to marinade.  Please note too, that the cooking time for this roast is 3 to 4 hours so sit back, relax, have a beer (or other adult beverage) and maybe take in an NFL football game...or 12.

"Zum Whol! "  To your health!

Sauerbraten – Serving size not given but estimate at least four generous servings
For the marinade
4 pounds round or rump of beef
Salt and pepper
1 ½ cups vinegar
1 cup water
4 bay leaves
1 teaspoon peppercorn
12 whole cloves
1 teaspoon mustard seed
To cook the roast
¼ cup fat
6 carrots, cut into strips
2 onions, sliced
4 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon sugar
12 ginger snaps – finely crumbled

Wipe the meat with a damp cloth and sprinkle thoroughly with salt and pepper.  Combine the vinegar, water, by leaves, peppercorn, cloves and mustard seed in a large deep bowl and set beef in this mixture.  (This must be done 4 days before serving).  Cover and let stand in refrigerator, turning the meat each day.  At the end of this marinating period, drain meat, place in a Dutch oven or deep kettle and brown well on all sides in the hot fat.  Strain the vinegar mixture and add to meat along with the strips of carrots and 2 sliced onions. 

Cover pot tightly and simmer until meat is tender – 3 to 4 hours.  Remove meat to heated platter, slicing before serving if you wish.  (Ann's Note:  If I "wish?"  As opposed to what – tearing off chunks?  This cracked me up.)  Strain liquid and reserve.

To make the gravy for this dish, place the flour, sugar and finely crumbled gingersnaps in kettle or Dutch oven.  Slowly add the liquid and simmer until thickened and hot, stirring constantly. (Ann's Note:  this made for a pretty thick gravy.  To make a thinner gravy, add hot broth or hot water incrementally until you achieve your desired thickness/thinness.)  Pour some of this gravy over the meat and serve the rest separately. 

Ann's Note:  They didn't say what to do with the onion and carrots that simmered along with the beef so we ate them.  Why not?

Beet Salad – makes 4 servings
1 lb small beets
1 piece fresh horseradish root of 1 tablespoon prepared horseradish
1 onion
5 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 to 5 tablespoons vinegar
½ teaspoon cumin or caraway seeds
Salt and pepper
Pinch of sugar
½ teaspoon mustard seeds, crushed, if desired
Chopped fresh parsley (for garnish)
1 bay leaf (for garnish)

Wash beets thoroughly but do not remove leaves and roots.  Boil in plenty of water 30 to 50 minutes, depending on size.  When beets are tender, plunge into cold water.  Let stand to cool.  Trim beet roots and tops.  Peel and dice or thinly slice beets.  Peel horseradish root; finely grate.  Finely chop or thinly slice onion. 

In a small bowl, combine beets, grated horseradish (or prepared horseradish), and onion.

In a small bowl, combine oil, vinegar, cumin or caraway seeds, salt, pepper, sugar and mustard seeds, if desired.  Pour dressing over beet mixture.  Garnish with parsley and bay leaf.  Let stand 1 hour before serving.  This salad will keep well up to 7 days if covered and refrigerated.  Serve at room temperature.

Ann's mini rant:  I was almost out of white vinegar and my grocery aisle choices were abysmal.  I had to buy either a big-ass bottle of vinegar that I would probably not use up in my lifetime or buy a small plastic bottle of the stuff.  The problem with the plastic bottle is that it looked like a water bottle and there was no way I was mixing up the water bottles I keep on my counter when cooking with that thing.  But—it was the size I wanted so I bought it and when I got home, transferred it into the existing glass bottle.  Hard to confuse that with a plastic water bottle, right?