Wednesday, November 9, 2016

"The New American Sampler Cookbook" - Beef Stew and Apple Crisp from two former members of Congress - Election Day 2016

Date I made these recipes – November 8, 2016 – Election Day, USA!

The NEW American Sampler Cookbook, edited by Linda Bauer (recipes submitted by members of Congress)
Published by The Kent State University Press
ISBN: 0-87338-435-0; © 1991
Purchased at Kona Bay Books, Kona (Big Island) Hawaii – May 2016
Recipes:  Beef Stew submitted by Representative Beryl Anthony (D), Arkansas – p. 59 ; and Apple Crisp submitted by actor-turned-Representative Fred Grandy (R), Iowa – p. 248.  Fred played "Gopher" in the popular TV series, The Love Boat.

So tonight, after months and months and well, years really, of political ads and primaries and debates and whatnot, We, The People, will have voted for the 45th President of the United States (POTUS).  I know I am not alone in wanting this whole thing to be over.  O.V.E.R., over.

But I'm not here to talk politics per se because this isn't a political blog, it's a cookbook blog.  And of course I have a cookbook that fits the bill – The New (what happened to the "old?") American Sampler Cookbook.

This book, published in 1991, provides a bipartisan sample of recipes from then members of Congress as well as then President and Vice President of the United States, George H.W. Bush and Dan Quayle.  Even Guam, a U.S. territory, joined in.  All proceeds went to a charity that fights worldwide hunger.

This is one of those cookbooks that is just a straight-up book of recipes - no chit chat, no stories or anecdotes, just lots and lots of good things to eat.  The usual suspects in the Table of Contents are, of course, "Appetizers," "Salads," "Soups," "Stews," etc. all the way down to "Potpourri (Snacks, Sauces, Drinks)."  And heck, just for something completely different, there is a recipe for "Moose Swiss Steak" on page 125.  Take a guess at which state submitted that recipe?

So in terms of cookbooks, this one is pretty complete save for one thing that I desired that perhaps you don't:  party affiliations.  And the reason I wanted this was because I wanted to be fair and make a dish from each major party—Republican and Democrat (though there were a few Independents listed here as well).

Thank goodness for smart phones.  And so over the course of two evenings there I sat, watching TV shows and surfing the internet (multitasking!), looking up all the contributors to this cookbook to see who they were and what party they were with so I could cull the herd down to two.  This was no easy task but I'm no quitter!

To make my life easier though, I must confess that I defaced my own cookbook*.  Yup.  For the first time ever, I sat there with a pencil, noting a "D," "R," or "I," next to all the names listed in the back of the book.   And honestly, I think I can make a case that this is helpful information because if I didn't know a good portion of these names (25 years after publication), then it's likely the next cook book owner won't either.

I am nothing but fair.  And you are all more than welcome!

The most important thing to me about this cookbook though, is that it's a rare glimpse back in time when parties on both sides of the aisle worked together to achieve a common good.  "Those were the days, my friend, we thought they'd never end..." (They did.)

I must say, in looking through all the recipes, some members of Congress outdid themselves by submitting not one, not two, but several recipes for our dining enjoyment.  Although it's still early in our voting day (!), I'm going to go out on a limb and declare a winner:  [former] Senator Christopher Bond, Republican, Missouri, gave up 30 recipes and that is outstanding.  I didn't cook any of them, but that is an outstanding effort, especially for a charitable endeavor.

Hot on his heels was Senator Charles Grassley, Republican from Iowa with 15 recipes, the late Senator Spark Matsunaga, Democrat from Hawaii with 10, former Senator Steve Symms from Idaho with 7, and  former Representative Beverly Byron, Democrat from Maryland with 6.

Did you notice how even-handed I was with the runners up?  Two from each side!  Again, I am so fair!

But still folks, the challenge was to try to pair one dish from each party so that the flavors didn't clash, but as with politics and life, some did and thus were eliminated from the race. It took me a while, but I think that I hit the jackpot with these two dishes:  "Beef Stew," from Representative Beryl Anthony, D, Arkansas and "Apple Crisp," from Representative Fred Grandy, R, Iowa.

Now unless you live in Arkansas (and even then...), you may not know who Beryl Albert is but I know – I. Know. – that bells will ring for many of you when you see the name Fred Grandy because in addition to serving in the House of Representatives from 1993-1995, Fred played the beloved character "Gopher" on ABC's hit TV series, The Love Boat, which aired from 1977-1987.

Yes folks, just like actor/governor/President Ronald Reagan, our "Gopher" went to Washington.

I think we need to take a moment to talk about this, don't you?

First, let's talk about the TV show. When The Love Boat premiered (1977), I was a sophomore in college and had no time to watch TV, and yet, now that I have watched a number of reruns on cable, I'm amazed at how many seem familiar.  Perhaps I caught them in reruns even back then?  Highly possible.

Today's college students will likely be surprised to learn that back in the 70's, you'd be hard pressed to find a dorm room with a TV.  Monster stereos, sure, TV's no.  TV's were expensive.  And those who had one (black and white only, and absolutely no cable) were revered, such that many of us gathered (around the campfire, after leaving our covered wagons and horses....) around the TV set in said owner's dorm room to watch our favorite shows or at least try to.

And that's because, sad to say, reception in most dorm rooms was horrible causing us to the do the following (you would call them "hacks") in order to get a picture:  1) putting tin foil on the antennas (yes, antennas—look it up) to pick up a decent picture; 2) creating rabbit ears antennas out of bent clothing hangers to do the same, or 3) creating complicated furniture set-ups resembling cat trees so we could put the TV as close as possible to the window to get a better feed.  Nothing worked though, and if it worked, we more often got sound than we got a picture.  And sure, you can "listen" to something like the movie Gone with the Wind without a picture if need be, but did you want to?  No.  (This happened to us, I kid you not!)

Sound ridiculous?  You young'uns have no idea...

At any rate, here's the basic premise of The Love Boat:  a cruise ship, dubbed The Love Boat, sets sail ("set a course for adventure, your mind on a new romance" = big hint) each week, usually to Mexico, and is manned by Captain Merrill Stubbing (played by The Mary Tyler Moore Show alum, Gavin MacLeod) and his crew.  His crew – and I know you know this – consisted of Doc, the ship's doctor; Julie McCoy, your cruise director; Isaac, the bartender; (eventually) Captain Stubbing's daughter, Vicki, and of course, the Ship's Purser, Berle "Gopher" Smith, played by Fred Grandy of the "Apple Crisp Recipe" Grandys.  As I hope you can imagine by the title, love on the ship was in the air, all day, every day, for passengers and crew alike.  Let's just say Doc took a special interest in the female human body.  Ew.  Even as I write that, it seems creepy but I didn't create the character – a total ladies' man - I just report about it. 

According to Wikipedia, "Gopher's" job, that of a ship's purser, is to handle the ship's finances or, if you will "purse" strings.  Get it?!  And he (or she) does other administrative stuff as well.  But if you ask me – and you didn't – I think "Gopher" (and the rest of the crew) spent more time on misadventures on and off the ship than on handling the money, honey.  Every single week without fail, the crew of The Love Boat got themselves into situations only rivaled by the crew of the S. S. Minnow from the TV show, Gilligan's Island, and yet people loved it.  The plots (of both shows) were ridiculous but The Love Boat lasted 10 seasons and Gilligan's Island, three so they had staying power.

As an aside, were you like me, yelling suggestions at the TV about how to get off Gilligan's Island?  Thought so.

At any rate, according to Wikipedia, Fred had an interest in politics that preceded his time as an actor so it was perhaps a natural path for him once he took a break from acting.  He has since returned to TV, appearing on The Mindy Project.

And now that we got all that out of the way – the history of TV, life in college, The Love Boat, ridiculous plots, and actor, representative, and recipe contributor, Fred Grandy – we can turn our attention to the other side of the aisle – the Democrats and the "Beef Stew" recipe submitted by Representative Beryl Anthony of Arkansas.  Sadly, this recap does not involve a look through the TV years but I will try to make this as interesting as possible.

First though, let me point out the irony of featuring a dish from someone from Arkansas given that Hillary Clinton, a former resident and First Lady of Arkansas (and The White House) is now running for President. I did not plan this.

So, a brief history of Representative Beryl Anthony:  Beryl Anthony was born and raised in – I love this – El Dorado, Arkansas, before going on to get an undergraduate and graduate (law) degree from the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville.  Just after law school, he was Arkansas' Assistant Attorney General, then a local prosecuting attorney, and then went into private practice before running for Congress in 1979.  He served from 1979-1993 and thereafter, returned to private practice in Washington, D.C.  While in Congress though – and how ironic is this – he was a member of the Ways and Means Committee which deals with money in the form of taxation and revenue-raising measures. In other words, he was just like our purser friend, "Gopher!"

Coincidence?  I think not.

Now I would not be doing my due diligence here if I didn't warn you that while Fred's recipe for "Apple Crisp" takes a mere hour to make, you had best plan ahead (vote early and often!) when you make this beef stew as it requires 5 hours of cooking time in a slow oven (250F).  Happily, I made another recipe (fruitcake), which I will post about next month, that required the same cooking time and temp.  I am nothing if not good at multitasking!  And as soon as the stew and fruitcake were done, I popped in the apple crisp and we had ourselves a hearty election night dinner. The stew was delicious but warning – it produced mass quantities and I only made half a recipe.  The apple crisp is perhaps now one of my new favorites because the "crisp" ingredients are only used as toppings and not crust and toppings. Why, it's practically diet food!

This now concludes Election Night 2016.  Hilariously, and prophetically perhaps, we switched between election coverage and several episodes of Food Network's Chopped.

Only in America....

Beef Stew – makes 6 servings (Ann's Note:  requires 5 hours cooking time at 250.)
Ann's Note:  When I saw how much a half recipe made, I envisioned us eating this stew until the next election cycle but I am happy to report that we have just enough for two hearty (and I mean "hearty) servings as leftovers.

3-4 pounds lean stew meat (chuck roast is great) (Ann's Note:  I used chuck roast country ribs – no bone – and cut them into small pieces.  Delicious!)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 to 3 ribs of celery, cut in 1-inch lengths
5 carrots, cut in 1-inch lengths
2 or 3 onions, diced
5 potatoes, diced
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons minute tapioca
2 bay leaves
3 cups tomato juice
1 clove garlic, minced
½ cup red wine
2 cups frozen green peas
1 cup fresh mushrooms, sliced

Preheat oven to 250.  Sauté meat lightly in olive oil.  Place all ingredients in pot except frozen peas and mushrooms.  Seal pot with foil and put lid on.  Bake for 4 ½ hours at 250F.  Add peas and mushrooms and cook 30 minutes longer.

Apple Crisp – fills a 9-inch cake pan
4 cups apples
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 tablespoon lemon juice
½ cup water
1 cup sugar
¾ cup flour
½ cup margarine; softened (Ann's Note:  I used butter)

Peel and slice apples.  Coat a square, 9-inch cake pan with spray shortening.  Place apple slices in it and sprinkle with cinnamon and nutmeg.  Add lemon juice and water.  Mix sugar, flour, and margarine/butter until the combination crumbles.  Spread this over the fruit.  Bake uncovered for 1 hour at 350.  Serve with vanilla ice cream.

Friday, November 4, 2016

"Pumpkin - Not Just for Halloween and Thanksgiving!" - Pumpkin and Beet Ravioli with Fresh Herb Butter - Halloween 2016

Date I made this recipe:  October 31, 2016 – Halloween!

Pumpkin – Not Just for Halloween and Thanksgiving! – 40 Mouthwatering Recipes by Joanna Farrow
Published by Octopussybooks, USA and the UK
ISBN:  978-1-84601-478-9; copyright 2005 (published in Great Britain by Hamlyn) and 2014 by Spruce
Purchased at Half-Priced Books
Recipe:  Pumpkin and Beet Ravioli with Fresh Herb Butter – p. 13

Well, it's time for my least favorite holiday, Halloween, and time, I suppose, to make something with pumpkin.  Sigh.

It's not that I don't like pumpkin per se, it's just that I hate the bastardization of pumpkin spice. 

Come this time of year, you'd be hard-pressed to avoid pumpkin.  There are pumpkin-spiced candles, pumpkin-spiced wreaths, and a ton of pumpkin-spiced food starting with coffee, natch, and ending with pumpkin beer. 

And if it was just the pumpkin itself (as in the gourd) and not the spices, that might be one thing, but as always, the smell of fake spice is so overpowering that I get a headache.  I like to avoid headaches.

I am happy to report though, that this recipe has nothing to do with (fake) pumpkin spice.  Nothing.  No need to brace thyself for an overdose of cinnamon or nutmeg (not my favorite although I'll deal with it in very low doses) or "other."  Nope.  Just clean, fresh, pumpkin, beets and a few herbs.

That said, it's time to play true confessions:  I didn't use a pumpkin.  I know, right?  In my defense, I looked for baking pumpkins and found them in several stores but they were all too big.  And sure, I can freeze pumpkin (I looked it up), but I have no need for frozen pumpkin and besides, it takes up valuable space for items I might need to freeze.  Not that I freeze anything, but it's the principle of the thing.

Instead, I substituted a tiny squash (name already forgotten) that was the perfect amount for this dish.  And it was orange, although not "orange" orange like a pumpkin but hey, am I a color analyst?  No. 

This recipe also calls for a small beet and I know there are beet haters out there who might not make this recipe because of it, but I bet you can get by with using more pumpkin or substituting another squash or another vegetable. 

So I have to tell you that my shopping excursion for the items for these recipes was rather hilarious.  I shopped at Seward Coop and bought one tiny squash, pulled one tiny beet (just the right size) from a bunch of beets, and then pulled one tiny scallion from a bunch of scallions because I didn't need any more than that.  The cashier didn't bat an eyelash until she got to the one, lone scallion.  Then she paused and frowned and I said "The scallions were $.99 a bunch and if you want to charge me for the full thing, that's fine.  I just didn't want to waste food." 

"Nope, it's fine.  I'm just trying to figure out how to do this."

So she worked her magic on the scale and charged me a whole, whopping $.05. 

In addition to the Great Pumpkin Swap of 2016, I also cheated on the pasta dough for the ravioli, something the recipe told me to make by hand but instead, I went out and bought. Because honestly folks, I just didn't want to spend the time making it, then chilling it for 30 minutes and worse (to me, anyway), rolling out the dough with the tool of the devil -  a rolling pin.  I wouldn't go so far as to say I hate rolling pins, but then again, I often avoid using them like the plague as I never seem to get the dough right.  I had the same problem when my grandmother had me and my cousin, Mary Pat, attempt to spread pizza dough onto a pizza pan – by hand, no less.  Epic fail.  "Oh. You mean the dough shouldn't be full of holes, grandma?"

Had my husband been home at the time – a/k/a "The Pie Guy" he would have nailed the sucker but he wasn't.  And since we don't have a pasta attachment for our Kitchen Aid, I
simply motored over to a former workplace of mine, Broder's Cucina Italiana, and bought four sheets of already made and already "rolled" pasta.  As I am wont to say "Why do for yourself when you can pay others to do for you?"

So unless you are a master a pasta making, I recommend you seek out other ready-made alternatives and if it isn't fresh pasta sheets, then use won-ton wrappers.

With the need to make the pasta dough out of the way, dinner was easily put together.

Except...well, let's just say I took liberties with the next set of instructions to "finely grate the pumpkin and the beet."  Oh come on folks, why grate anything when you can just finely chop it in a Cuisinart?  Grating makes one prone to cooking injuries i.e. scraped knuckles and fingers.  Using a Cuisinart is a relatively safe activity with the same result.  It's a no brainer!

And so I "finely grated" my veggies in my mini Cuisinart and then put everything into my regular-size Cuisinart to smooth it out, and then Andy and I set to work on filling my pre-made ravioli pasta squares – ta da!

The only thing left to do was to make the herb butter and that was pretty easy although I have to say that I am also not a huge fan of tarragon and so would leave it out were I to make this recipe again.  I'm not sure what I would substitute – sage, maybe? – but that's another story for another day.

And so this is how I made something with pumpkin only not pumpkin and something that did not contain the evil empire of cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice, and life was good.  I had a strong hankering to use goat cheese in some way but didn't although we did sprinkle some fresh Parmesan cheese on top for a little added zest.  It was Halloween after all, so why not throw caution to the wind?

This concludes my pumpkin submission for our 2016 Halloween observance.  Until next year.

By the way, if you are like me and prefer a more savory pumpkin dish, consider these recipes:  "Beef and Pumpkin Curry" - p. 28; Pumpkin, Ricotta, and Spinach Tart - p. 25, or even "Mashed Pumpkin and Potatoes with Garlic Creme Fraiche - p. 12."  These constituted this year's "also ran" recipe considerations.

Pumpkin and Beet Ravioli – serves 4
Prep time:  30 minutes, plus chilling
If you make your own pasta dough
2 ½ cups pasta flour, plus extra for dusting
2 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons olive oil
¼ teaspoon salt
For the filling
9 oz pumpkin, peeled, seeded, and finely grated
1 small raw beet (about 3 ox), peeled and finely grated
1 garlic clove, crushed
Beaten egg white, for glazing
½ oz bunch of fresh herbs (chives, parsley, tarragon)
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
1 scallion, finely chopped
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon plus 2 teaspoons juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

If you make your own pasta: Place the flour on a work surface and make a well in the middle.  Break in the eggs, add the egg yolks, the oil, and salt.  Lightly whisk the eggs with a fork, gradually bringing in the flour, then use your fingers to mix into a soft dough, adding a tablespoon of cold water if the dough feels dry.  Once the dough is smooth and elastic, wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes.

Mix the grated pumpkin and beet with a little salt and pepper and the garlic until smooth.

Cut the pasta dough in half and roll each half on floured surface, each to a 13-inch square.  Brush one square with the egg white.  Place 25 teaspoons of the filling in five evenly spaced rows over the dough.  Lay the second sheet of dough on top, pressing between each mound of filling.  Use a sharp knife or pasty wheel to cut the ravioli into squares.

Discard any tough stalks from the herbs and chop finely.  Melt the butter in a small pan and add the herbs, scallion, lemon zest and juice, and salt and pepper.  Set aside.

Bring a large pan of salted water to a boil.  Drop the ravioli into the pan, bring back to a boil and cook for 3 minutes.  Ann's Note:  more like 7 minutes if you are using fresh pasta sheets.  Drain and arrange on warm plates.  Spoon over the herb butter and serve immediately.

"Churchill's Cookbook" - Pommes de Terre Normande (Potatoes w/onions and leeks) - an accidentally early birthday salute to Winston Churchill!

Date I made this recipe:  October 30, 2016 – a very early birthday celebration for Winston Churchill!

Churchill's Cookbook by Georgina Landemare (Churchill family cook); foreword by Lady Churchill
Published by Imperial War Museums (England)
978-1-904897-73-6; © 2015
Recipe:  Pommes de Terre Normande (Potatoes Normande) – p. 101

Okay, this is a fist.  Months ago, I wrote a note to self in my paper day planner (Yes, paper) for Sunday, October 30 to cook from Churchill's Cookbook to celebrate the man's birthday.  What I didn't see though, was my tiny little notation – "(11/30/1874)" which, as it turns out, is the man's birthday, not October 30th.

So I turned to November 30th and did I put a follow-up note there?  Of course not.

Well this puzzles. 

As you may have noticed in this blog, I try to keep up with observing food holidays and national holidays and international holidays and current events, but there are so many that I am often behind and sometimes have to pass up the opportunity.  Here though, I was ahead of the game.  That has almost never happened.

Perhaps it was my giddiness at finally finding this book which I saw once at Barnes and Noble downtown and then didn't see again at any other store for eons.  And naturally, I didn't get the title right so my search of Barnes online and in other stores yielded nothing.

I bet you some other collector hid it so I couldn't buy it.  (Only slightly kidding.)

And so today, I took to the internet to double-check the birthday information and...what the heck?  November 30?

Well, whatever.

I suppose we should get this out of the way first thing:  you all know who Winston Churchill is/was, don't you?  I imagine some of you are fuzzy on this detail, especially since his claim to fame was for his role as British Prime Minister during WWII, a war that ended 71 years ago.  (Another historical fact:  On December 7, 2016, we will observe the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.  Yowza.)

I think this calls for a walk down history lane, don't you?

Winston Leonard Churchill was born November (not to be confused with October) 30, 1874, in Blenheim Palace, England to the Lord Randolph Churchill (a son of the Duke of Marlborough), and Jeanette ("Jennie"), Lady Randolph Churchill, nee Jerome. (Per Wikipedia, Jennie would have been called "Lady Randolph," and not Lady Randolph Churchill.  Did we not just have a conversation about how funky the Brits are about titles and whatnot? And although I feel pretty comfortable discussing royal titles, I remain supremely confused about what the Brits call "peerage" i.e. [non-royal] titles.  There are hereditary titles that are passed down and then there are what they call "life peers" which are appointed and cannot be inherited.  Dear God....what, what?  Happily, Wikipedia contains more information about this topic so if it is of interest to you, have at it!)

Jennie Churchill was an American, born and raised in Brooklyn but met her future husband at a sailing regatta and was introduced to him by King Edward (who abdicated the throne to Queen Elizabeth's father).  The palace where Winston was born is now a historic home, is billed as a "country" house.  In the U.S., we'd call it a super mansion.  Oh the Brits—always so understated.

Winston became Britain's Prime Minister in 1940, just after the war started, and served until 1945 when it ended, and then again from 1951-1955.  Called "The Last Lion" (the lion is the national animal of the UK and defender of the realm), he rallied the Brits to victory over the Axis countries (Germany, Italy, etc.) and pretty much bloody well saved the day.

When talking to the nation (on radio) about the upcoming Battle of Britain, he uttered one of his most famous lines:  "Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duty.  And so bear ourselves that if the British empire and its Commonwealth lasts for a thousand year, men will still say "This was their finest hour."

Historical note: as these things go, this last phrase is oft repeated as "This was England's finest hour" and I have to say, I kind of like this incorrect phrase better than the original but it's a minor detail.  It's the delivery and the subdued passion and fervor that I love.  And is it me, or does anyone else think that Winston sounds an awful lot like fellow Brit, Alfred Hitchcock?

What separated Winston from the rest of the prime minister pack (and Alfred H.) though, was his iron resolve ("We shall never surrender") and his outstanding oratory skills. When he died, he was granted a state funeral, usually reserved for royalty.

The above just scratches the surface but suffice it to say, as a student of history (in high school and college where it was my second minor), I was always fascinated by him.  My husband though, has taken things one step further, has read countless books about the man, and is a font of information.  Biographies are one thing, but this cookbook belongs to my cookbook collection and shall never be surrendered!

As far as I can tell, this cookbook was compiled from the food/recipe diary of Georgina Landemare, the Churchill's long-time personal chef.  The foreword to this book was penned by Winston's wife of 56 years, Lady (Clementine) Churchill, who indicated that Georgina was pretty much indispensable to the family, particularly during his time at 10 Downing Street (or just "Number 10"), home of the British Prime Minister.  She also noted that when Landemare retired in 1954, she was at a loss and I imagine she was; Lady Churchill hailed from a aristocratic family and therefore likely had a [personal] cook her entire life.

In the foreword, Lady Churchill heaps praise on Georgina Landemare, saying her food was "distinguished."  Indeed, almost all the recipes in this book show a French influence, particularly today's dish, "Pommes de Terre Normande," "pommes" being the French word for potatoes.  There are 12 "pommes" recipes in this book, from potatoes with butter to potatoes with rashers (bacon) so have at it.

You probably know that the Brits refer to Dessert as "Puddings" (starting at page 105) and Cookies are "Biscuits" (starting at page 139) and there are plenty of those recipes as well.  Andy loves saying the word "Pudding" (Pink Floyd fans know that it's used in the song "The Wall" – "If you don't eat your meat, you can't have any pudding!"), and was very interested in having pudding until he looked at some of the recipes for actual pudding and saw the word "suet."

"SUET???????"  Yes, darling, suet.  Once upon a time, suet was melted and used as the base of puddings and from what I've read it made for a deliciously rich and creamy dessert.  "Tempting" as it was to try it, we passed.  (When I grew up, suet was something we put out for the birds!)

In the end, I just wanted something simple and so we made the potato recipe and it was great—after a fashion.  You'll see below how I tweaked it a bit, not that it would not have been delicious on its own merits but just because I could.  My blog, my rules!

Most of the recipes in this book are simple to make but do know that many recipes lack cooking temperatures and cooking times.  What I would do without the internet, I do not know.

I must say that I am rather disappointed that the book did not contain a "recipe" for a martini, purportedly one of Churchill's favorite drinks – mine, too!  Instead, I will share the story I have heard about Churchill which showcases my own philosophy about what constitutes a great dry martini:  According to legend, Churchill poured the gin and then looked across the room at the vermouth.

For those folks who have not read their martini primer, most martinis are made with gin and vermouth, the amount of which (vermouth) is subject of great, heated debates.  The more vermouth that is added to the gin, the "sweeter" the martini.  If you're like me and like a very dry martini – which is to say without vermouth – then you'll know what I mean when I say that gin is "just a concept."

At any rate, although the only narrative in this book is at the front, I liked paging through this cookbook and catching a glimpse into the dining life of Winston and Clementine Churchill. 

So Happy Early Heavenly Birthday, Dear Winston!

Pommes de Terre Normande – the cookbook version – serving size not listed but even a half a recipe served two generously
6 medium-size potatoes
2 onions
1 leek, white part only
2 oz butter
½ pint milk (1 cup)*
(Left out:  breadcrumbs that are browned in butter)
Ann's Additions:
¼ chicken broth/vegetable broth/water
¼ heavy cream
*1-2 cups milk.  A full recipe calls for ½ pint which is equal to 1 cup.  I made a half recipe which means I should have used ¼ pint or ½ cup milk but that wasn't enough so I used a full cup.

Peel and slice 6 medium-sized potatoes, 2 onions and the white part of a leek.  Melt 2 oz of butter and cook all together, season well, add about ½ pint of milk and transfer to a fireproof dish to finish cooking in the oven.  Finally sprinkle over some breadcrumbs which have been browned in butter.

Okay, I've got to tell you that this itty bitty simplistic-looking recipe was frustrating as hell.  First, "finish cooking in the oven"... at what temperature?  For how long?  I had to Google similar recipes but still ended up guessing, and so I'm going to recommend 40-60 minutes at 350F or, as I did, 40 minutes in the oven, 10 minutes in the microwave.

Second, what is the serving size (besides "a lot")?  A half recipe made an awful lot of potatoes; good thing we liked them.

Next, and in my (uninformed) opinion, the liquid called for in this in this dish (1/2 pint for a full recipe or 1 cup) was insufficient to cook the potatoes and so I made these adjustments.

  • I added about ¼ cup of chicken broth to the mixture while it was cooking in the skillet to keep everything from sticking and to help the potatoes cook faster.  If you don't want to use chicken broth, use vegetable broth or water.  I'm not sure this made a difference, but given that we don't know how long to finish cooking the potatoes in the oven, I wanted to help them along.
  • If you have heavy cream on hand like I did, add about ¼ cup (I loved what this did to the flavor.)
  • As to the milk, I added half a cup to the mixture while on the stove and then the other half to the mixture before I popped it in the oven.  I believe it kept the potatoes moist but I could be wrong on that.

I should note that I almost never futz with recipes, making them as written, but this time around, I just envisioned a mess on my hands if I didn't add some more liquid to the recipe.  I'm glad I did because the result was great – moist and flavorful potatoes that were perfectly cooked (if not a teensy, tiny bit overdone).  The leeks added a lot of flavor to the onions and potatoes, especially when I sautéed the mixture for quite some time before putting it in the oven.  And the cream also added a bit of punch but I added it only because I had it on hand.  Same with the chicken broth.

As to the bread crumbs, I bought one roll from the grocery store, ground it into crumbs in my mini food processor and then added a little over a tablespoon of butter to a sauté pan.  I think the amount it made was perfect for the size of this dish.

All in all, this dish was a winner and I'd make it again.  Maybe on Churchill's actual birthday? ;)