Wednesday, April 20, 2016

"Tables of Contents - Recollections and Recipes from The New York Public Library's Benefit Dinners" by Eleanor Graves and Ralph Graves - Arroz con Pollo for National Library Week

Date I made this recipe:  April 18, 2016 – belated observance of National Library Week

Tables of Contents – Recollections and Recipes from The New York Public Library's Benefit Dinners by Eleanor Graves and Ralph Graves
Published by:  Crown Publishers, Inc.
ISBN: 0-517-59093-X; © 1993
Purchased at Barnes and Noble Used Books – Roseville, MN
Recipe:  Arroz con Pollo (Chicken and Rice) – p. 72 – from the Mambo-themed fundraising dinner hosted by Deborah and Peter Krulewitch, Gillian Jolis, and Andrew Goldstein

I love books.  I love libraries.  I like books about libraries.  I love library books.

I love cookbooks so much that I have a huge collection, better than most public libraries and many of them were, somewhat hilariously, acquired at used library books sales. 

I also love New York.  And I love the lions named Patience and Fortitude gracing the front of the New York Public Library located at 5th Ave and 42nd Street.  Not that the other New York Public library branches are not nice – I've stepped inside a few – but this is the best, especially if you like architecture...and lions.  (To read more about the lions, go to this website:   

So when I read that last week (April 10-16) was National Library Week, well then kids, I knew I had just the cookbook – Tables of Content - published in 1993, recapping all kinds of dinner party benefits hosted by some of New York City's best and most importantly, wealthy library patrons.  Although the Twin Cities libraries have their own fundraiser (St. Paul's is called Opus and Olives), I think New York has probably had a lock and load on this gig for a long, long time. 

I've often said that cookbooks are a snapshot into people, cultures, time and space and the "Who's Who" from this 1993 cookbook is vastly different from the modern day's "2016 Who's Who" list.  Still, the one thing that never changes is that the people who attend these events have money and usually prestige as well.  I have neither so suffice it to say that I cannot afford to live in NYC, never mind attend a single one of these events.

In fact, and I hate to say this, looking through this cookbook is rather depressing.  My little abode here in Minneapolis is nothing like the huge apartments these folks own that are big enough to house the Queen Mary never mind host these "intimate" gatherings of 100 or so people.  I don't have "people" nor do I have money to hire "people," and I sure don't have evening wear such as displayed here on these pages.  Not that I don't have a evening gown or two in my closet, I do, but not one that came from say, Barneys New York (I stopped in one time and looked just for fun but most things were out of my price range...not that I have a price range) or a Vera Wang original. (Does it count if I've walked by her store several times?)  That said, I had a gown made by Kristen, The Dressmaker, that I wore when I was gala chair for the 2008 Arc Greater Twin Cities fundraising gala.  (Arc is a nonprofit agency providing advocacy and support to people with developmental and intellectual disabilities and their families.)  The dress may not have had that NY "sniff sniff" factor (i.e. turned up nose) but it was a fabulous dress, designed based on a drawing of a 1950's dress of similar design and it was in the color purple, one of my favorite colors.  So take that Park Avenue!

This cookbook is all about benefit dinner "themes" and so each chapter contains a recap with some recipes from the menu du jour.  The late actress, Elaine Stritch, was a notable guest at the "Dinner at the Round Table" fundraiser, while author and humorist, Calvin Trillin and his late wife, Alice (subject of his hilarious book, Alice, Let's Eat), hosted the "Pretty Decent Chinese Takeout" event.  All the food at this party came from Chinatown restaurants in takeout boxes, natch. Love.

"A Literary Feast" featured dishes from famous books such as Babette's Feast by Isak Dinesen (Loved. That. Movie.) and Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce.  "The Moderns" featured dishes named after famous modern artists such as Georgia O'Keefe and Man Ray and my theme dinner – Mambo – centered on the book, The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love by Oscar Hijelous. 

Incredible edibles on that menu featured "Spiced Crab Cake with Papaya Chutney," "Sausage Empanadas," "Sweet Plantain Soup," "Rum Mousse" – alas, recipes not included, and "Arroz con Pollo" (Chicken and Rice) and "Black Beans with Tomato and Onions" – recipes were included.  And although I almost always make black beans when I make arroz con pollo, this time around I made just the chicken and rice and that was plenty.  The repast at this library benefit was accompanied by a mambo exhibition done by trained professionals and then after that, anyone could join in.  Sounds like my kind of party!

Unlike most of the chicken and rice recipes I've made in the past, this recipe calls for you to cook the rice separate from the chicken so that was new.  And not that this is a spicy dish but I was surprised that what little spice was used – cayenne pepper, paprika and bay leaf – was used in the marinade and that was it.  The dish was delicious but I was expecting more.  That said, arroz con pollo is one of those dishes that varies by country or region in the same way that other dishes, such as pasta sauce, vary by country, region and family.

I was also intrigued by the "dry rub" marinade of chicken, onions, cayenne pepper, paprika and bay leaf.  I couldn't help but think we were missing a liquid like olive oil or juice or something.  And no mention was made about oil or even butter for browning the chicken.  Finally, the recipe calls for boneless chicken breasts but said nothing about getting "skinless" as well.  I used boneless, skinless chicken breasts and that was fine and frankly, if I'm at a dinner party, I do not want to deal with chicken skin so I think my method was better but as always, it would have been nice to know.

Once the marinating time is over, you prepare the rice, then prepare the chicken and then serve it up, one of top of the other and top it with strips of red pepper (and chopped parsley if desired).  Done, done and done!

For the curious, the last several pages of this book (p. 172-179) list all the volunteer hosts and hostesses for these shindigs, starting in 1983 and ending in 1993.  Honestly, I felt like I should genuflect or something because there are some big names.  And for the sake of the New York Public Library and libraries everywhere, let's hope they gave big money to keep these institutions afloat.  Say what you will about e-Books, but you can't exactly cozy up to a smart phone on a rainy day, getting absorbed in the yarn in front of you, and it goes without saying that you cannot dog-ear the last page you read on a phone. 

Long live libraries!

Arroz con Pollo (Chicken and Rice) – serves 6 to 8
Ann's Note:  you need to marinate the chicken for at least four hours or overnight if possible.

4 boneless chicken breasts, cut in quarters (Ann's Note:  it doesn't say whether or not to use boneless, skinless, breasts but I did.  Also, you may want to cut the chicken into smaller pieces.)
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 large onions, diced (Ann's Note:  divided)
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 bay leaf
½ teaspoon paprika
3 tablespoons olive oil
¼ teaspoon saffron
2 cups white rice
4 cups chicken broth
Salt to taste
2 cups white wine
*2 cups peeled, seeded, and diced plum tomatoes (Ann's Note:  see directions below for peeling tomatoes)
1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 10-ounce package frozen peas
1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut in strips (garnish)
Chopped parsley (garnish)

*To peel tomatoes, cut an "x" in the top and bottom of the tomato.  Place in boiling water for about a minute or until skin starts to peel back.  Place tomatoes in cold water/ice water bath, then peel and seed.

Marinate the chicken breasts with the garlic, half the diced onion, cayenne pepper, bay leaf, and paprika for at least for hours, or overnight if possible.

In a large saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat.  Add the saffron.  Sauté about a minute, then add the rice and sauté until all the rice is separated.  Add the chicken broth, lower the heat, and let it simmer until all the broth is gone. (Ann's Note:  about 20 minutes or longer.)  The rice should be cooked by then; if not, add about ½ cup hot water and let it cook off.  Salt to taste.

In a large saucepan over medium heat, sauté the chicken breasts (2 or 3 at a time) for about 5 minutes on each side, or until they are light brown.  Set aside in the same saucepan.  Sauté the remaining diced onions for 5 minutes, or until translucent.  Then return the chicken breasts to the pan, add the white wine, chopped tomatoes, and green pepper, and let it cook for 10 to 15 minutes. Ann's Note:  because today's chicken breasts are of the gargantuan variety, I suggest cutting the quarters down into bite-size pieces so they cook better.  You may also need to cook them longer than 15 minutes to ensure the pieces are done.  Add the frozen peas and cook for an additional 5 minutes.

Place the chicken breasts on top of a bed of rice in a large serving bowl.  Garnish with the strips of red pepper and the chopped parsley.

Monday, April 18, 2016

"Roadfood Sandwiches" by Jane & Michael Stern - Grilled Gruyere with Braised Leeks on Multigrain Bread for National Grilled Cheese Day!

Date I made this recipe:  April 12, 2016 – National Grilled Cheese Day!

Roadfood Sandwiches – Recipes and Lore from Our Favorite Shops Coast to Coast by Jane & Michael Stern, authors of the best-selling Roadfood
Published by:  Houghton Mifflin Company
ISBN:  13: 978-0-618-72898-5; © 2007
Purchased at Powell's Books -  Chicago
Recipe:  Grilled Gruyere with Braised Leeks on Multigrain Bread from Clementine, Los Angeles, California by chef/owner Annie Milar who hails from Minnesota!

Folks, April 12th is National Grilled Cheese Day (who knew?) and I did my part by making this delicious grilled cheese sandwich.  I like to be all in on these things, you know?

And this cookbook – Roadfood Sandwiches by Jane and Michael Stern - who many of you may know from their stints on the radio show, The Splendid Table, were just the couple to tell us all about sandwiches and sandwich lore and the places that produced these wonderful delights.

I was beyond excited to look through this book because I've been to many of the places listed, I've eaten some of the sandwiches mentioned, and I came "this close" to shaking hands with the Sterns when they came to Minneapolis one in advance of our Minnesota State Fair and gave a talk at the downtown Minneapolis library.  The talk, hosted by Lynne Rossetto Kasper (also host of The Splendid Table), took place over the lunch hour and alas, I had to leave before the program ended.  They are more hilarious in person than they are on the air (Jane is an absolute stitch) and we could have listened to them for our.

Although the Sterns are food reporters more than they are chefs, I think of them as culinary royalty.  Their first book, Roadfood, is considered a classic for showcasing great eats at great and sometimes out of the way places.  Now what I say next will shock you – it shocked me – but it turns out I do not have a copy of that book.  Say what?  The scary thing is that I thought I did.  I mean, I keep all the Sterns books together on my shelves but I looked at the shelves and then looked at my cookbook catalog

Well this will be rectified immediately, never mind that the book is now woefully out of date (1977) such that the places mentioned might be long-gone; collectors don't care about such matters.

Happily, I can report that I DO own the following*: 
  • Goodfood (1983) – (Not a cookbook)
  • Square Meals (1985) –see post from December 31, 2008 where I made their Cheese Ball – p. 257-258
  • Real American Food (1986) –see post from July 5, 2009, where I made their "Queen of Chilis" recipe on p. 244
  • A Taste of America (1988)
  • American Gourmet (1991)
  • Eat Your Way Across the USA (1997) (Not a cookbook)
  • Two for the Road:  Our Love Affair with American Food (2006)
  • Roadfood Sandwiches:  Recipes and Lore from Our Favorite Shops Coast to Coast (2007) (see today's featured recipe – Grilled Gruyere with Braised Leeks on Multigrain Bread)
*Note:  not all the Sterns books contain recipes. 

Now usually when I peruse a book, fixin' to make something from it, I jot down page numbers of recipes that sound good.  Here though, I jotted down random notes about some of the sandwiches listed and places they and I have visited.  And I applaud that their table of contents made it so easy for me to do that as they listed all sandwiches in alphabetical order by sandwich name, then noted the place where they had the sandwich or the place best known for the sandwich and the city and state.  So this book is one-part travel guide and one-part cookbook.  Who can argue with that?

So notes on places I've eaten:

Katz's (delicatessen), New York, New York.  Katz's "Chopped Liver Sandwich" (p. 44) is the recipe of note in this book and I wrote down "Of course" when I saw that because it makes sense; many delis live and die by their chopped liver.  That said, I had the pastrami when I was there and it was delish!  And movie buffs will know right off the bat that Katz's was where an infamous scene from the movie When Harry Met Sally took place.  I won't ruin it for you if you are about the only person on the planet who has not seen that movie.  (And for the record, that is not my favorite scene.  It was funny, but there were others that made me laugh longer and louder.  To each his/her own.)

Ann Sather, Chicago, Illinois.  I did not partake of the featured sandwich, "Debbie's Hot Pork Roast" (p. 63) because the menu is Ann's is so good and so overwhelming that I hardly knew which way to turn.  Next time around, this is what I will have and my stomach will just have to deal with the fact that I did not feed it a turkey dinner.  Or a cinnamon roll.  Or a .....

Mother's, New Orleans Louisiana.  Although my mother was a good cook, she wasn't "Mother's" of New Orleans and so did not specialize in home-cooked Louisiana favorites such as Red Beans and Rice, Shrimp Creole, or Po' Boys.  I cannot recall what we ate at Mother's, I just recall it was good.  "Ferdi's Special" is a sandwich of sliced ham, beef, mayo, mustard, cabbage (or pickles) and beef debris in gravy (debris is the bits and pieces left in the beef roast pan).  Yum! (I'm thinking road trip!)

Hell's Kitchen, Minneapolis, Minnesota.  "Oh hell" is what I usually utter when I eat here because it's so hard to decide on something.  Although they are best known for their Lemon Ricotta pancakes, you can get other delicious breakfast, lunch or dinner items, including this delectable-sounding "Ham and Pear Crisp Sandwich" (p. 106).  Hell's Kitchen owner, Mitch Omer, passed away this December but he wrote a cookbook a few years ago that you might want to check out:  Damn Good Food. It's on my "on deck" list to cook from shortly. (If you visit Hell's Kitchen, be sure to stop by their Angel Food Bakery next door.  I love their play on names.)

"Loosemeats" (p. 137) is a sandwich known and loved across Northwest Iowa and although the Sterns did not include a specific place to stop, you should check out a Maid-Rite establishment in northern Iowa.  A loosemeat sandwich is like a Sloppy Joe and it is delicious.  This sandwich was also featured recently in a storyline for the TV show, The Good Wife and it was pretty hilarious (Season 7, episode 11 – "Iowa")

Michigan's Upper Peninsula's (my home territory) famous taste treat – Pasty – is noted on p. 165 and although I would never call it a sandwich, the Sterns did so that's good enough for me.  "Pasties," like "Loosemeats," are available everywhere and anywhere in the U.P. so the Sterns didn't include a specific restaurant.  Although this shop was not in my hometown when I was growing up, my parents liked to stop at Muldoon's Pasties and Gifts on Highway M-28.  I've had a couple from there and they are indeed delicious.

Also in Michigan although it's the part the people in the U.P. refer to as "downstate" is Zingerman's Deli in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  Zingerman's is half fancy food store, half deli, and they have built a brand that is now recognized cross-country.  The Sterns featured "Rodger's Big Picnic (Asparagus and Mushroom) Sandwich" (p. 192).  I opted for the more traditional brisket sandwich and have to confess that I wasn't enamored with it or the price (the place can be expensive) but the experience was great so it was a trade-off.

So those are places I've been and you should check them out, too.  But I also made notes on some of the sandwiches listed, some of which also triggered fond memories:

"Baked Beans on Brown Bread" (p. 15) from Massachusetts.  Turns out this was one of Julia Child's favorite "go-to" sandwiches when she was tired of eating gourmet.  I recall seeing it in a few of my Boston cookbooks although I never made it.  There's time though folks, there's time.

"Beef on Weck" (p. 18) – One of my husband's favorite restaurants used to be BW3 which stood for "Buffalo Wild Wings and Weck," the precursor to modern-day chain, Buffalo Wild Wings.  One of the sandwiches they served was a beef on "weck," short for kummelweck (roll).  The sandwich, and the bread, originated in western New York state and my brother and sister-in-law live in Rochester so they've eaten them a lot (although not necessarily at Buffalo Wild Wings).  So one day, the four of us were having dinner at a Buffalo Wild Wings (I think we were in Ohio attending a family wedding) when Andy started talking about the beef sandwich at the former BW3 and when he said it stood for Buffalo Wild Wings, my brother said "and weck?," referring to the original name.  It took me a minute, but yes, Tom - "and weck."   (Sadly, the chain does not serve beef on weck anymore.  Shame, that.)

"Chicken Vesuvio" (sandwich) from Harry Caray's restaurant in Chicago, Illinois.  I've passed this restaurant a million times while in Chicago and have never stopped (mostly because it is so crowded) but one of these days I will and when I do, this is the sandwich I'm going to have.  For those of you who don't know, Harry Caray, may he rest in peace, was an announcer for the Chicago Cubs baseball team and an enthusiastic one at that.  Among his many memorable sayings, the one that stands out the most is "Holy Cow!" If you have a hankering to hear that phrase used in a broadcast, go to YouTube.

"Chow Mein" (p. 48) – Talk about your retro sandwiches!  I remember seeing recipes for it and hearing about it but I've never eaten it.  Perhaps it's time?  This is basically a chow mein casserole on a bun and believe it or not, it sounds pretty good.  But then again, I grew up eating this casserole so....

Although I could probably comment on each and every sandwich, let's wrap up the road food reminiscing to get to an upscale version of an old standard and today's featured sandwich:  grilled cheese.

Back in the day (my day), a grilled cheese sandwich with Campbell's Tomato Soup was the winning ticket, especially on a rainy Saturday.  At the time, "fancy" cheese was no where on the radar so the cheese was either American slices (say what you will, but they melt well) or Velveeta.  But now folks, now that grocery stores everywhere carry a billion and two kinds of cheese, now we can make ours with Gruyere.  How exciting!  And topped with braised leeks – even better!  And made by a Minnesota transplant to LA, Annie Milar, who owns and operates the Clementine restaurant that produced this wonderfully yummy sandwich. Just the ticket!

So I say if you plan to observe next year's National Grilled Cheese Day, put this recipe in your tickler file so that you have it at the ready. Meanwhile, who cares if the big day has come and gone because what, you need a reason to eat a grilled cheese?

Grilled Gruyere with Braised Leeks on Multigrain Bread – makes 4 sandwiches
Ann's Note:  Reserve about an hour to braise the leeks
2 medium leeks
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
½ cup water
Grated zest and juice of ½ lemon
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
Scant ½ teaspoon salt
Pinch of freshly ground pepper
Butter for spreading
8 slices dense multigrain bread
10 ounces Gruyere cheese, thinly sliced
Dijon mustard

To braise the leeks, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Trim off the root end of the leeks.  Slice them lengthwise and remove any tough, dark green portions by cutting away from the rot end on an angle and peeling them off.  Clean the leeks thoroughly under running water to remove any dirt.  Pat dry.

Heat a large skillet and add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil.  When the oil is hot, carefully place the leeks in the pan, cut side down.  Cook for a few minutes, just until they are golden brown on one side.  Remove the leeks and arrange them cut side up in a casserole dish.  Add the water, lemon juice, and remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil.  Sprinkle the lemon zest, thyme, salt, and pepper over the top.  Cover tightly with aluminum foil and place in the oven.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes.  Then remove the foil and bake uncovered for another 20 minutes.  The liquid will reduce and the leeks will caramelize.  Let them cool.  (The leeks can be braised up to 2 days ahead, covered, and refrigerated.)

To assemble the sandwiches, thoroughly butter 1 side of each slice of bread and arrange the slices butter side down.  Divide the cheese evenly among the bread slices.  Cut the braised leeks diagonally into 2-inch lengths and arrange them on 4 of the cheese-topped slices of bread.  On each of the other 4 slices, spread about 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard over the cheese (use more or less according to your taste and the strength of your mustard).  Place the 2 slices together to make ach sandwich. (The sandwiches can be assembled up to 1 day ahead and refrigerated, wrapped tightly in plastic.)

Place a batch of sandwiches in a large skillet over low heat.  When they are brown and crispy on one side, flip them over and cook until brown and crispy on the other side, about 10 minutes per side.  Keep warm in the oven while you cook the remaining sandwiches.  Cut in half and serve.

Friday, April 15, 2016

"The Mountain Biker's Cookbook by Jill Smith-Gould" - Sausage-Beef Stew

Date I made this recipe:  April 10, 2016

The Mountain Biker's Cookbook written and compiled by Jill Smith-Gould
Published by:  Velo Press
ISBN:  1-884737-23-4; © 1997
Purchased at Bloomington Crime Prevention Association's annual sale
Recipe:  Sausage-Beef Stew – p. 48 by Chrissy Reden, Milton, Ontario (profile p. 92)

"Wind is an artificial hill and yesterday, it was a mountain."

Thus saith my husband, Andy Martin, after an absolutely grueling bike ride with some friends around Ames, Iowa this past Saturday.

Andy is a member of the Minnesota Randonneurs, a group of long-distance bicycling enthusiasts who take great pleasure and pride in participating in day-long rides.  This past Saturday, the Iowa Randonneurs group kicked off the spring season with a 125-mile bike ride around Ames, Iowa, home of Iowa State University.

And so it came to pass that Friday night, we motored our way down I35W to Mason City where we spent an overnight with friends, Doug and Emily.  Although both of them ride bikes, Doug and Andy like to do the long-hauls and since the ride started at 8 a.m. in Ames, requiring them to leave by 6 a.m. to get there on time, we gladly let them.  We are such accommodating spouses, I cannot tell you.

The weather in Minneapolis when we left was probably a sign of the apocalypse to come as it was windy as all get out with periodic snow showers to boot.  Seriously—one minute, it was clear and the next minute, it looked like someone split open a bean bag chair and threw the contents in the air.

When we arrived at Doug and Emily's, the wind velocity was nearly (Dorothy) Gale-force (I reference the Wizard of Oz) and we felt the need to batten down the hatches even if we weren't in Kansas or Oklahoma where the "wind comes sweeping down the plain."

And it continued to sweep down the plain, or at least the cornfields of Iowa, into the next morning and throughout the entire day.  And by the time the ride was done, in most cases a couple hours later than anticipated, the guys and gals who participated were all done in.  Most felt like they biked standing up which is what you'd feel if you were pushing against a major headwind from the north all day.

Although I suppose one could do these randonneur rides on a mountain bike, it is usual and customary to use a "regular" bike which is to say a "touring" bike, as opposed to a racing bike.  And Andy has a mountain bike but who would of thought that he would need it in Iowa which is pretty much hill-less?  Answer:  nobody.  (PS—I must have show-tunes on the brain because as soon as I re-read "hill-less," I thought of Professor Harold Hill's character from The Music Man.  The Music Man's writer, Meredith Wilson, is from Mason City, Iowa which is where we spent an overnight.  Anyway, now I have a hankering to listen to that soundtrack Which. I. Love.  "Oh-o the Wells Fargo Wagon is a comin' down the street, oh please let it be for meeeee.....")

So as Andy said after the fact, wind creates an artificial hill and by Saturday morning, it created a monster mountain.  By mile 50, all participants (about 20 in all) were spent and every mile thereafter was sheer torture.  When Doug called Emily in early afternoon, he stated that this ride was worse than another one he and Andy completed in Wisconsin a few years back called, appropriately and hilariously, Arcadia's Brute. During that ride, they climbed hill after hill after hill in Wisconsin (who knew it Wisconsin was hilly) and swore never to do that ride again.  But there they were, on a worse ride than that, all because of the wind.  ("They call the wind Maria – pronounced 'Mariah.'"  Yes, folks, another show tune – Paint Your Wagon.)

But when Emily inquired as to whether or not we should hit the road in our car to pick them up, Doug said "WE ARE FINISHING THIS RACE!!!!"  leaving us in no uncertain terms that the elements would not have the best of them that day – or any day bwahahahahaha.... 

Meanwhile, Andy's ride was no picnic and he probably could have finished had not his knee started aching somewhere around mile 50.  By the time he got to mile 100, he was screaming in pain and so when he got to one of the checkpoints – a bar called the Flat Tire Lounge (ha!)- he propped up his knee, ordered a beer, and called for reinforcements.  Poor guy.  But if he bailed out on the ride, at least he did so in a bar where he could ask for, and was granted, a bag of ice for his knee.

So that concludes the story of the guy's wild "What the hell, Mother Nature?" randonneur ride, the first ride of (ahem) spring.

 Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Emily and I had a leisurely day.  After getting coffee at a local coffee shop, we hit the road in a car (what are we nuts) for Ames.  Unfortunately, the wind was again whipping across I-35W making it seem at times like we were stuck in place.  And even though Emily filled up the tank before we left, the wind sucked out any decent gas mileage, that bastard!

When we got to Ames, we took a leisurely tour of ISU's campus, a place last visited by me circa 1985 (some friends are alums) and strolled into some of the buildings, partly to get out of the wind, and partly just to see the sights.  As is the case in the Midwest, when spring (or something akin to spring) makes its presence known, building facility management has a hard time keeping up with the usual and customary yo-yo temperatures (freezing one day, balmy the next) and the buildings we were in were saunas.  And so we spent the afternoon taking off jackets, putting them on, rinse and repeat.  Still, this was better than being on the open road, amiright?

And after our leisurely tour of all that was Iowa State (we also saw Ames' high school prom get underway at the Union - awwww), we shopped and strolled in downtown Ames.  And what a cute downtown it was!  Unfortunately, most stores closed at 5 so we didn't get much of a chance to peek in, but we managed to stop at three of note:    Ali Cakes for a "tide-us-over" snack of cookies and cupcakes; Random Goods, a store selling used and vintage apparel and knick knacks (I found a fabulous wooden tray and coasters from Puerto Rico, circa 1970?) and Chocolaterie Stam where, inexplicably, an adorable older man in his 80's was playing a grand piano of "pop standards" (songs sung by Sinatra, Ella, Bing, etc.) while shoppers perused then purchased their chocolate.  He even let me select a song from his song list and then played it beautifully, his fingers dancing across the keys.  The last time I was near a piano, my fingers danced because I was dusting. ;) 

And so this concludes the guy's biking (and cursing) portion of our program and Emily and my takin'-life-easy moment in Ames.  Guess who had the better time?

And with that, we hit the road, and as we were driving back to Minneapolis, I recalled that I had a mountain bike cookbook in my collection and since we now know that wind creates artificial hills and mountains decided to find it and cook from it for Sunday dinner.

As these things go, sometimes it takes me forever to settle on a book, never mind a recipe, for this blog but this time it took me mere seconds to settle on a "winning" recipe – Sausage-Beef Stew.  I ran it by Andy who said it sounded good (and it was) and so while off to do a few (low-impact) errands, we stopped and shopped for groceries and I came home and put this together.  Of course, this type of meal is best made before the ride to prime the muscles and carbo load but we didn't have time and frankly, I think it was a tasty reward for a job well done (past tense).

As to this cookbook, author Jill Smith-Gould, pictured on the cover seated at an elegantly appointed table in her muddied and dirty mountain biker gear, is a professional mountain biker who apparently also enjoys cooking.  I can get behind that.  Some of the recipes in this book are hers while others were submitted by mountain biker brethren.  As you might imagine, these are fairly nutritious recipes, perfect for an amateur or professional athlete both pre- and post-event and speak to vegetarians as well as meat eaters. Recipes range from "Veggies and Main Courses;" "Pasta and Pizzas;" "Baked Goods;" and Miscellaneous that includes soups, salads, breakfast items, sauces and dips and "Quickies" i.e. food made in a hurry (so as best to get back on the race course).

So hmm, what to choose, what to choose?  Many of these sounded great such as "Awesome Veggie Enchiladas" (p. 33), "One-Dish Chicken Pilaf," "Ratatouille Bake" (p. 44), or even "Sweet & Sour Chicken" (p. 49).  Several pasta and pizza dishes also sounded good and the Baked Good section was mighty tempting!  Still, I tend to like to make a main dish, especially on a Sunday night, and so went with the stew.

Also included in this cookbook were profiles and photos of mountain bike racers, the recipes they submitted, and an section about nutritious eating. 

Not included in this cookbook?  Serving sizes!  I looked and looked and looked but there's either some secret handshake section that I missed or we're supposed to guess.  And if you read my blog, you know how I feel about guessing!

But guess I did and seeing that the recipe called for six Italian sausages and 1 pound of stew meat, I decided to halve the recipe as that sounded like a lot of meat for two people, never mind the rest of the ingredients.  As it turned out, we had a decent amount of leftovers so half this dish could probably serve four unless you are a mountain biker in which case...I have no idea!

Still, even though I decided to halve the meat, I was at a loss for what to do with the two green peppers included in the recipe ingredient list.  The recipe instructions said "...add green pepper" and I was pretty sure they did not intend for me to just throw a whole green pepper into the pot so I diced it into medium-sized dices.  You should do the same with the potatoes and (if used) turnip or sweet potatoes as you won't find direction beyond "peel and cut."  I ask you:  how is that helpful?

My version of this dish then, was composed of three Italian sausages, one-half pound of stew meat, 2 regular potatoes, 1 sweet potato (I skipped the turnip) and half of everything else.  This bakes in the oven for a little over an hour and it was great and oddly rejuvenating but then it would be given that our get-out-of-Iowa Saturday dinner consisted of a sandwich on the run from Jimmy John's (subway/sandwich take-out)! Andy took the recipe-submitter and mountain bike racer, Chrissy Redden's serving suggestion to pair this with crusty bread and beer to heart (we skipped the salad) and was a fairly happy, if not sore, camper come Sunday night. 

With all that, you'd think the man would wait a while before hoping on a bike again, right?  Oh no, in addition to riding to work this week, he's back in the saddle for another group ride on Saturday, April 16th.  Here we go again.  I keep trying to remind my man  that Nature is NOT your friend (my life motto) but he's not having any of it.

This then concludes our post-bike (mountain or wind-created mountain) bike repast or, as I posted on Facebook "Yesterday In Iowa."

Sausage-Beef Stew – serving size not given but estimates are serves 4 if you make the  full recipe below and 2 if you halve it (still with leftovers)
6 sweet Italian sausages
1 lb stewing beef, cut in 1" cubes
1 large onion, sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 medium green peppers (Ann's Note:  diced)
4 potatoes, peeled and cut (Ann's Note: cut into a large dice)
Turnip or sweet potato (optional) (Ann's Note:  cut into a large dice)
2 cans red kidney beans
1 tsp basil
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
2 beef bouillon cubes in 1 cup boiling water
Beer (optional)

Brown sausages well.  Cut each link into thirds and place in 3-quart casserole dish.

Brown beef cubes in same frying pan or skillet.  (Ann's Note:  the next instruction is to cook the onion and garlic but it didn't say if I should leave the beef in the pan or not.  I decided "Not.")

Cook onion and garlic until tender, add green pepper and cook one minute longer.

Turn into casserole dish.  Add potatoes, drained kidney beans, and, if desired, turnip/sweet potatoes.  Sprinkle with seasonings and mix lightly.  Add bouillon mixture.

Cover and bake at 350F for 1 hour 15 minutes, or until beef and potatoes are tender.

Add beer for an interesting flavor!  (Ann's Note:   Andy said he'd rather drink a beer than include it in the recipe so we made is sans that "interesting" flavor.)

Ann's Note:  I had some celery that I wanted to use up so I sautéed it with the onion, garlic and green pepper.  You could probably do that with other vegetables if you wanted.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

"White Trash Cooking" - Sloppy Joe's on Corn Bread

Date I made this recipe:  April 2, 2016

White Trash Cooking by Ernest Matthew Mickler
Published by:  The Jargon Society/10 Ten Speed Press
ISBN:  0-89815-189-9; © 1986
Purchased at Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks- NYC
Recipe:  Sloppy Joe's on Cornbread – p. 35

There's nothing more fun than enjoying 60 degrees one day and then 30's (with wind gusts) the next, right?  Spring weather can be so fickle.

And so when the temperatures dipped, I trotted out my usual cookbook suspects – soups, stews, and casseroles - hoping to make something warm to get me through this cold snap.

But then I realized I was playing it too safe and that I had so many more interesting cookbooks in my vast collection to use that I needed to break out of the mold.

So I looked through a couple of shelves and pulled White Trash Cooking just because I could.

Typically, when folks learn about my cookbook collection, they usually ask if I have certain cookbooks in my collection.  Like there's some sort of rule for collecting but alas,  there is not.  Although several people – book publishers, chefs and those involved in culinary arts or writing, will suggest things that you must have, each collector's collection tends to run to their taste.  Mine tends to run toward interesting covers, interesting (sometimes hilarious) titles and out of print books.  Still, I have been somewhat predictable when it comes to expectations:  "Do you have Irma Rombauer's The Joy of Cooking?"  "Yes."  "Julia Child?"  Of course.  "Betty Crocker?"  People please—is the Pope named Francis?

Some though, get creative:  "Do you have Peg Braken's I Hate to Cook?  (Always asked by someone who hates to cook, co figure.) "Yes."

And then several years ago, when this book was popular, I got asked – all the time – "Do you have White Trash Cooking?" and believe it or not, the answer was "No."

"No?"  "That's right.  No."

It's not that I didn't want the book, it was just that at the time, I was on the hunt for more elusive books than that.

Finally, in July 2011, I was in NYC at my favorite cookbook book store – Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks – when I saw it and bought it.  When in Rome... Still, note that I bought the book in 2011 but just now got around to using it.  Timing is sometimes everything.

Now you may be asking yourself how the heck a Sloppy Joe recipe got itself included in a "white trash cookbook" and trust me, I asked myself the same thing.  I mean, it wasn't like I was lacking in opportunity to cook something white trashy like "Mock Cooter (turtle) Soup" (I don't do turtles, mock or otherwise) or "Mary Linder's Washday Soup" or even "Big Mamma's Cracklin Corn Pone," but none of these spoke to me (some for good reason!).  Instead, I went for a favorite of mine and many – Sloppy Joes.  I'm not sure why, I just know that I wanted it. (By the way, you know this book is southern by the recipe names:  most of them have two, such as "Edna Rae's Smothered Potatoes," or "Netty Irene's Macaroni & Cheese."  Bless.)

This recipe differs from other S.J. recipes though, because it is served over cornbread. Perhaps this is what pushes it into the "white trash" category?  For your convenience, there are a couple of cornbread recipes in this book.  But I wasn't exactly in the mood to make S.J.'s and cornbread too, and so I opted to buy already-prepared cornbread from Kowalski's Market.

Bad decision and here's why:  there are two kinds of cornbread in this world – sweet (sugar added) and not sweet (no sugar added).  I misread the label and thought I was buying "not sweet" (I really should have known better but was in a hurry) and let me tell you, sweet cornbread does not go with Sloppy Joe mix.  Does not.  So if you make this dish, take the time to bake non-sweetened cornbread; you'll thank me later. Although now that I think about it, it would have been nice had the cookbook author mentioned the cornbread issue for all of us who live north of the Mason-Dixon line and are not always familiar with such things.

It would been nice to also mention or at least elaborate on the can size of two ingredients listed:  1 "can" tomato puree or ketchup and 1 "No. 2" can Libby's tomatoes.  Thank goodness for smart phones because I Googled "No. 2 can" while at Target and found that it's 1 pound, 4 ounces or 2 ½ cups.  And then I guessed on the size of the "tomato" puree, deciding on a small can – 8 ounces or 1 cup – for this recipe.  It all turned out okay but dang, I hate guessing!

This cookbook  serves up a lot of southern favorites for every type of cooking category:  meats, vegetables, sandwiches, salads, desserts and the like.  There are four recipes alone for sweet pones (a type of cornbread), more than a few mentions of sweet potatoes, and of course, a recipe for Ice Tea South." As I mentioned above though, I think the jury is still out as to whether or not "Sloppy Joes" is a "white trash" recipe.  I mean, half the planet ate them growing and it remains one of my favorite "comfort food" meals. 

In fact, I've told this story before, but years ago when I was working on a project in downtown Minneapolis, I had a hankering for Sloppy Joes.  And unbelievable hankering as in "I need to have some right now!"

Now some of you may know, but others may not, that the vast majority of buildings in downtown Minneapolis (and also downtown Saint Paul) are connected by indoor walkways we call skyways.  Many small businesses, including restaurants, mostly quick serve, line these skyways that stretch for miles.

So when I got this hankering for Sloppy Joes, I asked around the office to see if anybody could think of a place that served them (they couldn't) and even called a few places, but alas nothing.  But then a miracle happened:  one day, weeks later, I was walking through one of the skyways and noticed a daily special signboard outside of The Brothers Deli (6th Street skyway) advertising Sloppy Joes.  I inquired whether or not this was a one time deal and was told they usually offer them every Wednesday.  I love Wednesdays!  I especially loved Sloppy Joes Wednesdays.  I was not necessarily in love though, with the weight I put on but that's another story for another day.

And now back to the cookbook...for those of you who love White Trash Cooking, please know that there is a White Trash Cooking II Recipes for Gatherin' and a 25th anniversary edition as well.  I have got to put White Trash Cooking II Recipes for Gatherin' on my acquisition list pronto because I'd sure hate to miss out on a great dish for all that gatherin' I do.

If you have a hankerin' for Sloppy Joe's on Corn Bread, here's a recipe for you (serves 6):
1 pound ground beef
½ cup chopped bell pepper
1 grated carrot
1 can tomato puree or ketchup (Ann's Note:  use a small, 8 ounce can)
1 teaspoon black pepper
¾ cup chopped onions
½ cup chopped celery
1 No. 2 can Libby's tomatoes (Ann's Note:  1 pound, 4 ounces or 2 ½ cups.  And by the way, I have no idea what type of tomatoes were called for so I used diced.  The result was a rather chucky mix so you might want to pulse them for a bit in a Cuisinart.)
¾ teaspoon salt
Cornbread (Ann's Note:)  Do NOT use cornbread containing sugar (for the record, damn that label print was tiny on the store-bought cornbread I used!).  You're looking for a sugar-free cornbread, such as you'd use for cornbread stuffing.   Google "Cornbread recipes without sugar."  If you own this cookbook, there are several recipes which should suffice.

Brown ground beef in big iron skillet.  Stir in onion, bell pepper, celery, and fry until brown.  Add carrot, tomatoes and puree.  Stir mixture well, season with salt and pepper.  Simmer for one hour and serve hot over hot-buttered cornbread.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

"Egg Cookery" and "Eggs I Have Known" - Ham and Eggs Oven Omelet and Chicken Armagnac (brandy)

Date I made these recipes:  March 27, 2016 – Easter Sunday

Egg Cookery – Omelets, Soufflés, Quiches, Crepes and Other Egg Dishes by Lou Seibert Pappas
Published by:  101 Productions San Francisco
ISBN:  0-912238-80-1; © 1976
Recipe:  Ham and Egg Oven Omelet – p. 69

Eggs I Have Known by Corrine Griffith
Published by:  Farr, Straus and Cudahy
© 1955
Purchased at:  Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks, NYC
Recipe:  Chicken Armagnac – p. 87

It's not that I like to be contrary, but every time a food holiday like Easter rolls around, I eschew ham (or for Thanksgiving, turkey) in favor of something different.  Something...not ham. 

And it's not like I don't like ham but it's difficult to make a ham for two people without generating a ton of leftovers to freeze.  We did that one year and about one year later, we were tossing ice-encrusted bags of ham in the garbage.  I hate wasting food.  (For the record, I have yet to find a refrigerator/freezer combination that doesn't make half the food in it look like it was stored in the North Pole.)

And then there's the age-old issue of having to make sides with the ham and that usually means pulling out several cookbooks (as if the ham recipe hunt isn't challenging enough) and after a few days of that, I just gave up and started looking for that elusive "something different."

"Something different" turned out to be two dishes, each one from a cookbook about eggs.  Easter may be about ham, but it is also about eggs.  I mean you've got your dyed Easter eggs, your chocolate Easter eggs and even your malted milk Easter eggs (my favorite).  So "eggs" it was.

The first cookbook I used, Egg Cookery, is as straight up as you can get.  There's a brief introduction but that's the last we really see of a narrative as all the pages after that are recipes, sans a lot of chit chat.  Instead, you get a wide variety of egg recipes for everything from hors d'Oeufs to entrees.  Me?  I like breakfast and as soon as I saw the recipe for a Ham and Egg Oven Omelet I chuckled because what could be better for Easter than ham and eggs?

[Breaking News:  To my horror, I discovered that I had already cooked from this cookbook for Easter 2012.  Noooooooo! My own self-imposed rule is that I cook only one recipe per book otherwise I'd never get through my collection.  (As if.)  But since I can't store all the cookbooks I've used, it was still on my shelf and so oh well.  Make this anyway because it's easy!]

I might have just stopped with this cookbook but my husband gave me a look suggesting he would not be satisfied with just breakfast, so I kept searching and at long last decided to make something from the cookbook, Eggs I Have Known.  But I tell you what, it wasn't easy because most of the recipes in this book had absolutely nothing to do with eggs.  Go figure.

Still, the title is a crack-up, is it not?  When I first saw this book at Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks in NYC 10 years ago, I just had to have it.  But when I got it home, I was rather disappointed to see traditional egg dishes (omelets, soufflés, etc.) were few and far between.  Instead, this reads like a regular cookbook i.e. with recipes from "soup to nuts" and that was disappointing.

And this is why in the last 10 years, I have done nothing but pick up the book, leaf through it for recipes, and then finding none of interest, put the book back on the shelf.  But this year I was determined to find something, anything, and so I went to the source ("to ask the horse" – Mr. Ed) and made a chicken dish to go with my egg breakfast.  And what do you know, the recipe I selected called for two egg yokes and so just like that, I went full circle on this Easter egg theme and all was well with the world.

So this all seemed like a good idea and so on Easter Saturday, I set off to find the key ingredient to Chicken Armagnac – jarred truffles. (Armagnac is a French brandy.)  And who knew until I set off on this adventure that there is a truffle "season" and unfortunately, Easter wasn't it.  Christmas, yes, Easter no. 

Lucky for me, one of my first stops was to a specialty food store, Golden Fig Fine Foods, located on Grand Ave in St. Paul, MN.  The store's owner, Laurie McCann Crowell, and I met at – of all things – a cookbook book club -  a club that met once a month circa 1998-2000, at the Barnes and Noble bookstore located in the Har Mar Shopping Center in St. Paul.  The store's community events person at the time persuaded local food reporter, Sue Zelickson, to moderate the club and together they brought in budding cookbook authors and chefs like Ina Garten, Lydia Bastianich and even – be still my heart – Alice Waters.

And every month, I plunked myself down to hear the speaker, sample a little something from the featured cookbook made by a local (and usually female) chef, chatted with my fellow cookbook-loving peeps and of course bought the cookbook.  Back then, I think my collection was maybe around 500ish; it now numbers over 2100 books.

The day that Ina Garten, a/k/a The Barefoot Contessa, was our featured speaker was the day I first chatted with Laurie.  Laurie was just getting her own line of foods going and had worked for Ina Garten back in the day when Ina had her own gourmet foods shop, well before she became famous on the Food Network.  Armed with her experience at Ina's, Laurie founded the Golden Fig Fine Foods line and then opened her own shop on Grand Avenue, and when I am in the mood for something different or for a hostess gift, I go to the store.  And I figured if anybody had jarred truffles, it would be her.

It turns out that no, she didn't have jarred truffles as she now tries to focus on Minnesota-made products, but she advised as to where I might look and how I might want to adapt the recipe.  But before we get to that, I have to tell you about what happened before we had that conversation because it was as enlightening as it was amusing.

So Laurie carries a few cookbooks and I started looking through one that I had also glanced briefly (and I mean briefly) at a few days before at Barnes and Noble.  The cookbook, Ina's Kitchen: Memories and Recipes from the Breakfast Queen, was written by Chicagoan Ina Pinkney, not to be confused with Ina Garten.

Just after I started looking at the cookbook, Laurie came up to me and said "That's a great cookbook.  Ina is really fun and the cookbook is great.  She ran a restaurant in Chicago for many years."

"She did?????," said I, somewhat incredulously because I thought she was referring to Ina Garten, not Ida Pinkney.  For the record, until Ina Garten came along, I had never, ever heard of anybody being named "Ina" and now there were two of them?

So Laurie went on chatting about the book and since I had once again barely cracked the thing open, I was most confused.  It was only after the fact that I a) figured out we were not talking about the same "Ina," and b) realized that I had eaten at Ina's Kitchen (now closed) in Chicago.  How do you like that?  My husband and I often visit friends in Chicago 10 years ago (wow, time flies), the four of us went there to eat.  And it was good.  Even better – and you all will love this – was that the restaurant was located near a flea market and it was there that I found one of my Holy Grail cookbooks, one that I had been searching out for years and years:  Vincent and Mary Price's A Treasury of Great Recipes.  Score!  I plunked down a considerable amount of money for the book but honestly, I probably would have paid double, it was that hard to find.  So in a round about way, thank you Ina Pinkney!

Moving on...I told Laurie I would consider the cookbook (and I will, but I had also purchased two new cookbooks that day so the budget was tight) and then I asked her if she carried jarred truffles.

We resume our story, already in progress.

Laurie said no but then suggested a few places to check.  But I had other errands to run and both of them would take me out of my way so instead, we discussed substitutes.  I was thinking of swapping Portobello mushrooms for truffles but Laurie said they weren't the right flavor profile.  Instead, after looking at the photocopy of the recipe I brought with me, she suggested that I use shitake and then suggested that I used dried shitake and then came up with another suggestion that really worked:  grind the dried shitake in a food processor and then add them, as directed, at the last minute.  Worked like a charm.  I need to bring her all my recipes.

As a final note, I bought the dried shitake at Whole Foods but not the Whole Foods closest to her store (and my house) on in St. Paul that we both agreed would be a "zoo" on Saturday, but rather the Whole Foods in downtown Minneapolis.  And although the price sticker on the dried mushroom shelf said $5.99 (as opposed to $18 dollars or more for jarred truffles), they rang up at $3.29.  Awesome!

So now you know and I know (and "Eggs I Have Known" know) that truffles enjoy a very short (and expensive) season and this is good knowledge to have.

You should also know that the Chicken Armagnac is basically chicken + booze +  a mushroom and shallot cream sauce. My guess is that you could leave out the brandy and you would be just fine.

And so it came to pass on Easter Sunday that we got our chicken and egg and ham fix on and it was fabulous.  Enjoy!

Ham and Eggs Oven Omelet – Makes 6 servings
8 eggs
1 cup milk
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ cup julienne-cut cooked ham
2 cups shredded Swiss cheese
¾ cup sourdough French bread cubes
2 tablespoons butter, melted

Beat eggs until blended and mix in milk, salt, nutmeg, ham and cheese.  Pour egg mixture into a buttered ovenproof baking dish about 9-1/2 inches in diameter.  Roll bread crumbs in melted butter to coat and scatter over the top.  Bake in a 350F oven for 35 to 40 minutes, or until golden brown and puffed.  Serve at once, cut in wedges.

Chicken Armagnac – serves 4
4 breasts of chicken
Salt and pepper
2 egg yolks
1 small jar truffles
4 ounces butter
6 or 8 peeled shallots, grated
6 ounces cream
3 ounces Armagnac brandy
Use only white meat of 4 chickens.  Put in a skillet with 4 ounces of butter to sauté.  Salt and pepper them and turn frequently.  Just as they have finished cooking, put into a skillet shallots peeled and chopped extremely fine.  Remove chicken and place in chafing dish in which there is a little melted butter.

Keep stirring shallots in skillet with butter and chicken juices.  When shallots are cooked, add slowly the yolks of two eggs and six ounces of cream beaten together.  Add truffles.  (Ann's Note:  or, if using dried mushrooms like the Shitake I used, crumble them in a food processor and the add them to the mixture.)  Stir constantly over low fire to blend butter with sauce.  When sauce is thick, set aside.  Pour three ounces of Armagnac over chicken in hot chafing dish.  Set ablaze.  When Armagnac is almost burned out, pour sauce over chicken.  Serve immediately.

Ann's Note:  I made some rice and some peas to accompany the chicken.