Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Clam Chowder

IT WAS A COLD AND GLOOMY DAY with freezing rain and I was thinking about food. Looking out the window, it looked magical with the tree branches sheathed in a layer of ice. But there was no way I was going slip sliding to the grocery store.

Fortunately, I keep a well stocked kitchen. Even though I was a little short on fresh foods, I did find a couple of cans of clams and a bottle of clam juice lurking in my pantry. I was well on the way to a creamy and cozy dinner. The recipe I used called for half and half which I did not have, but I always have cans of evaporated milk in the pantry. Evaporated milk makes a fantastic substitute for cream in recipes.

Clam Chowder
4 slices bacon
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
3 small potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 cup water
1 (8 oz.) bottle clam juice
1/4 tsp. white pepper
1/4 tsp. dried thyme
1/3 cup flour
2 cups half and half, divided
2 (6 1/2 oz,) chopped clams, undrained

In soup pan, cook bacon over medium heat until crisp. Remove to drain and set aside. Saute the celery and onion in the drippings in the pan until tender. Add garlic and cook for another minute. Stir in the potatoes, water, clam juice, pepper and thyme. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered for 15 - 20 minutes until the potatoes are tender.

In a small bowl, combine flour and 1 cup half and half until smooth. Gradually stir into the soup. Bring to a boil. Cook and stir for about 1 - 2 minutes until thickened.

Stir in clams and remaining half and half. Heat through but do not boil. Crumble the cooked bacon and sprinkle over each serving.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Sally Lunn Bread

MY LOVE OF VINTAGE RECIPES should come as no surprise to anyone. I have talked about it for years. Here is a short post I wrote about it a few years ago.

I have known Sally Lunn Bread all my life as a Southern recipe. I can remember ladies sitting around my Mother's kitchen table drinking coffee and eating warm slices of this bread with butter and honey or jam, while talking about what ladies talk about.

Sally Lunn bread is a slightly sweet brioche type bread. It is fantastic with pimiento cheese and makes delicious toast. It also freezes beautifully. This is a no knead recipe but it does require two 1-hour risings plus a 25 minute baking time, so allow plenty of time to make it. It is made in a tube pan or bundt pan. The craggy top crust is a result of a very thick and sticky dough and is a signature of this bread.

Sally Lunn Bread
1 package yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1 cup warm milk
1/2 cup softened butter
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp. salt
3 eggs
5 1/2 - 6 cups flour

In mixing bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Add the warm milk, butter, sugar, salt, eggs, and 3 cups flour. Beat until smooth. Stir in enough remaining flour to form a soft dough. Do not knead.

Place dough into a greased bowl, turning to grease the top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.

Stir the dough down and spoon into a greased and floured tube pan. Cover and let rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Bake at 400 degrees for 25 - 30 minutes until golden brown. Remove from pan onto a clean kitchen towel.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Vegetarian Cuban Picadillo

THERE IS SOMETHING ABOUT A DISH that has both briny, bitter olives and plump, sweet raisins that makes my palate very happy. Warming spices make the flavor almost perfect.

Cuban Picadillo is ordinarily made with ground meat. Because my husband and I have both been feeling squeamish about commercially produced ground beef lately, I decided to substitute lentils for the meat, which was perfect. The final result was absolutely scrumptious.

Vegetarian Cuban Picadillo
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 large potato, diced
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. oregano
2 bay leaves
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
1 (28 oz.) can whole tomatoes, undrained
1 1/2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
3 cups cooked lentils
1/2 cup Spanish olives
1/2 cup golden raisins
Salt and pepper to taste

Warm olive olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onions and bell pepper; cook and stir until tender. Add garlic and stir for a few seconds. Add diced potato and continue to saute for a few more minutes. Add cinnamon, cumin, oregano, bay leaves, and tomato paste. Stir to combine well. Add the whole tomatoes and break up with a wooden spoon. Stir in red wine vinegar. Add cooked lentils, olives, and raisins. Stir well and add salt and pepper to taste. Cover pan and simmer for about 30 minutes until everything is very tender.

Taste and correct seasonings.

Serve with rice.

Monday, December 31, 2018

Beef Bourguignon

MY HUSBAND AND I DECIDED to spend the afternoon in the kitchen making Beef Bourguignon,
He wanted to make it in honor of a beloved chef and I wanted to make it because I had never eaten it, much less cooked it, and felt that was a gaping hole in my culinary experience.

We wanted this to be authentic and were happy and willing to spend the time sourcing ingredients and cooking. I did a lot of reading about the history of this dish, and reviewing recipes. I also watched videos, including one of Julia Child herself making this.

Julia recommended serving the Beef Bourguignon with buttered and parslied new potatoes and French green beans (haricot vert). Ina recommended toasting slices of French bread and rubbing with a garlic clove to soak up the scrumptious gravy, so we did that too.

We were both very happy with the way this amazing dish turned out. It is easy to  see   taste why this has become a well loved classic. I can truly say this was the best meal I have ever eaten.

Beef Bourguinon

Preheat oven to 300 degrees

6 ounces bacon, cut into 1/2-inch slices
2 1/2 pounds beef chuck roast, cut into 2-inch chunks
1 pound carrots, sliced into chunks
2 yellow onions, sliced
2 teaspoons chopped garlic
1 bottle medium bodied dry red wine (we used Pinot Noir)
2 cups beef broth
1 Tablespoon tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
5 Tbsp. room temperature butter, divided
3 Tbsp. flour
1 pound fresh baby onions, peeled
1 pound fresh mushrooms, halved or quartered

In a large Dutch oven, cook the bacon for about 10 minutes, until lightly browned. Remove bacon to a plate.

While the bacon is cooking, dry the beef chunks very well. Salt and pepper generously.

Cook the beef in the fat in the pan, in batches, until well-browned on all sides. Place on plate with the bacon.

Place the carrots and onions in the pan, adding a little olive oil if needed. Add 1 tablespoon salt and 2 teaspoons pepper. Cook and stir for about 10 minutes until lightly browned. Add the garlic and cook for another minute.

Add the meat back to the pan with the vegetables. Add the wine, the beef broth, tomato paste,  and the thyme. Bring to a simmer, then cover with a tight fitting lid and place in oven for about 3 hours, until the meat and vegetables are very tender. Check after 2 hours.

Stir together 3 tablespoons butter with the flour, until smooth. When the stew comes out of the oven, stir in the mixture until smooth.

Saute mushroom, in remaining butter, for about 10 minutes until lightly browned. Add to the stew. Add the baby onions to the pan and cook until almost tender. Add them to the stew. Simmer, on top of the stove, for about 15 minutes. Season to taste.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Japanese Fruit Cake

I REMEMBER MY GRANDMOTHER MAKING this lovely celebration cake each year for the holidays. As a girl I thought this was the most impressive and beautiful cake I had ever seen! After my grandmother passed away, the cake stopped appearing at our holiday gatherings.

For years, I asked family members, especially some of the older aunts, if they had the recipe. I searched through old southern cookbooks.

Last summer, because she knows my interest in heirloom recipes, Mama gave me a cookbooklet she had found in some of her aunt's belongings. The booklet was published in 1952 by a community group in Chambers County, Alabama. Imagine my delight when I turned to the cake chapter and there was the recipe for Japanese Fruit Cake!

 I have no idea why this cake has such a mysterious name. I don't believe it is remotely Japanese and it is not a fruit cake in the traditional sense. The fruits in the cake are coconut, lemon, and raisins. There are two moist and fluffy yellow layers and two spice layers with pecans, raisins, cinnamon and allspice. The cake is topped with a luscious lemony coconut glaze.

I loved making this cake!

Japanese Fruit Cake
3 cups cake flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup chopped raisins
1 cup chopped pecans
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp. allspice
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously butter and flour four 8-inch cake pans.

Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. In another bowl, combine the chopped raisins, pecans, cinnamon, and allspice.

I mixing bowl, combine butter and sugar; beat with mixer to combine them well. Add eggs one and a time, beating after each addition, to make a smooth, fluffy mixture.

Stir the vanilla into the milk. Add about half the flour mixture, the half the milk, beating at low speed just until combined. Repeat with remaining flour mixture and milk.

Divide half the batter between 2 of the pans. Stir the raisin and spice mixture into the remaining batter. Divide this mixture between the remaining 2 pans. Set all 4 pans in the oven.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes, until the layers are golden brown, pulling away from the sides of the pans, and spring back when touched lightly in the center. Cool the cakes on wire racks for 10 minutes, and then turn them out onto the wire racks to cool completely, top side up.

Lemon Coconut Icing
1 cup water
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp. grated lemon zest
3 1/2 cups (approx.) frozen shredded coconut
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
1/2 cup water

In heavy, medium saucepan, bring 1 cup water to a boil over medium heat. Stir in the sugar, lemon juice and zest, and the coconut. Bring to a boil. Adjust heat to maintain a gentle boil, and cook for 7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir cornstarch into the 1/2 cup water, stir well and add to the pan, mixing to dissolve. Simmer for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring often, until thickened and clear. Transfer to a bowl and cool to room temperature, stirring from time to time.

To assemble the cake, place a plain layer, top side down, on a cake stand, or serving plate. Poke little holes all over and spread about one fourth of the icing over the layer, spreading all the way to the edges. Place a spice layer over the icing and spread another 1/4 of the icing. Continue layering with the remaining layers and icing. Place the last spice layer, right side up and pour all the remaining icing over the layer so that some of the icing cascades down the sides of the cake. Let stand for several hours, then cover and refrigerate overnight. Remove cake from refrigerator about 1 hour before serving.