30 October 2013

Biscuits and American Cookies

All week Celia Sacks has been taunting me with lovely copies of cookbooks by Ambrose Heath.  Some I do have and, alas, some I don't.   It seems only fitting and proper that we feature our newest Ambrose Heath.  As you know, The Home Entertaining Series is one of my favorites. 

The Home Entertaining Series featured small, slim volumes on everything from banana recipes to growing and using herbs. They were published in London by Herbert Jenkins in the 1940's and 50's.  Like many an old-fashioned cookbook, there is very little in the way of directions; no tidy list of amounts, no exact baking times, just enough info to get one in trouble.

Today's entry is Biscuits and American Cookies.  In true British form, American Cookies are an after thought in this books.  There is one recipe given that cam be used for drop, rolled, sliced or squared cookies, the last being actually a bar cookie.  To this basic recipe there are about twenty additions to make that American cookie almond, chocolate, nut, lemon, and on and on.  Heath points out that Americans have a desire for filled cookies; a cookie achieved by placing a filling of some jam or mincemeat on one cookie and topping it with the other.

We do love this rather straight forward approach to baking.  What better to serve with a biscuit than a glass of wine.  Or should we say what better to serve with wine than a biscuit.

Wine Biscuits

Rub half an ounce of butter in half a pound of flour sieved whit a pinch of salt, and mix to a stiff paste with cream.  Roll out half an inch thick, cut into three-inch rounds, roll these out again wafer-thin, and bake them in a quick oven watching them carefully, as they need little more than just crisping.

We do long for a modern cookbook with gentle guidance instead of rigid numbers.  We want to cook something that needs, "little more than just crisping."

25 October 2013

Pickles, Pigs & Whiskey

 If I see one more rail-thin chef with a radish tattooed on his ass and FOOD tattooed across his knuckles going after a piece of kindling with a pair of tweezers and removing a splinter of said kindling and setting on top of a dime-sized dollop of pond scum foam sitting in the center of plate the size of a old LP and telling me it's the entrée, I will freaking scream.

Don't get me wrong, I like a little pond scum foam as much as the next gastronaught, but at some point we just need something to eat.  Something like Pickles, Pigs & Whiskey.  Think about it...it's cold, rainy and all you have had today is coffee.  Would you choose Door #1 -- A musty, dry-aged kindling over a pond scum foam, gathered just his morning; or Door #2 --Barbecue and Bourbon?

Pickles, Pigs & Whiskey is the first book by Big Bad Chef, John Currence.  It's about damn time.  The subtitle claims that the book contains: Recipes From My Three Favorite Food Groups. Yes, this is a cookbook, but it also a look inside the mind of chef who really, really loves food and understands that food needs a lot of people around before it is actually, food.  It reads like a diary or perhaps a love letter to the South with some recipes thrown in.

One immediately knows one is in good hands when an iron skillet sits on the front of a cookbook.  Rest assured, no one in their right mind would ever put pond scum in grandma's iron skillet.  Full disclosure, many of these recipes are quite "chefy" in that there a lot of ingredients and several steps, but don't be discouraged.  For instance, the pickled deviled eggs; clearly, before one can devil them, one must indeed pickle them.  Don't despair.

Perhaps our favorite element of this book is the playlist.  Next to cookbooks, we love our tunes more than anything.  In Pickles, Pigs & Whiskey, not only does one get great recipes and fun-filled stories, but a huge playlist of really great music.  I am told that said playlist is available on Spotify, but I still don't really understand how Spoitfy works, but if you know, do head over there and check out the playlist.  In the meantime, when you find a recipe you want to make, don't forget to crank up the tunes.

One of our favorite tunes is Poncho and Lefty by Emmylou Harris.  It is the featured song for a nifty punch and you know what all the Federales say...

Bourbon Milk Punch

4 ounces whole milk
2 tablespoons half-and-half
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 ounces Buffalo Trace bourbon
4 teaspoons confectioners sugar
Freshly ground nutmeg, for garnish

Pour the milk, half-and-half, vanilla and bourbon over cracked ice in a cocktail shaker.  Spoon in the sugar and shake vigorously.  Pour into a large old-fashioned glass, sprinkle nutmeg over the top and serve.

Now get out there and buy this book.  And now, in honor of the Big Bad Chef, I am going to say something I have never, ever said before -- Hotty Toddy.

21 October 2013

Not A Cookbook -- The Ethicurean Videos

As you know, we have been raving about The Ethicurean Cookbook, our very favorite for this year.  Recently, they posted a video about the cookbook on YouTube.  They have a couple of other videos, too, so we thought we might just share them and encourage you (because "DEMAND" is probably too strong) to go out and buy a copy.

Some info about the book.

Another one.

I keep looking for my orchard, walled garden with a big ol' kitchen, but alas, none yet.  But a girl can dream...

18 October 2013

Great Baking Begins With White Lily Flour

About 10 years ago, I was heading back to DC from Alabama and I got stopped for speeding.  This would not be that unusual.  There would, however, be one thing to take into consideration.  I never came back from Alabama without a food-laden car.  It was as if there were no grocery stores in DC.  The policeman, simply didn't understand why I had 10 bags of White Lily Flour in my car.  He assumed the worst.  But after digging through the corn meal and the grits and cases of Tab, he sent me on my way with a mere warning.

A week or so later, a chef friend was in my kitchen surveying the bags of White Lily and asked, nonchalantly, if I might be opening a bakery.  Well, if I was to open a bakery, I would use nothing but White Lily Flour.  Of course, nowadays, White Lily Flour is produced in some Yankee wasteland.  I recently found an authentic bag of White Lily, milled in Knoxville.  It was about 6 years old, so I am not sure its Southern mojo was still intact, but I couldn't bear to toss out that bag.

Over the years, White Lily has put out several cookbooks.  Great Baking Begins With White Lily Flour is my favorite.  white Lily gets its prized baking characteristics from a soft, red wheat.   The flour is milled from only 100% pure winter wheat.  This soft winter wheat has a lower level of protein as well as a lower gluten content.  To accentuate the baking quality, White Lily uses a finer grind than most flours.  White Lily was always east to spot because the bags were a pinch larger due to the fine grind which made the flour weigh lass, so more was needed to make a full five pounds.

For White Lily, great baking requires specific attention to detail.  Here is the White Lily recipe for biscuits, with all the notations one would have learned at Mama's knee, spelled out.

Famous White Lily Biscuits

2 cups White Lily Self-Rising Flour
1/4 cup shortening
2/3 to 3/4 cup milk

Preheat oven to 500 degrees.  Place Flour in mixing bowl; ad shortening.  With a pastry blender or blending fork, cut shortening into flour until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Mixing by hand tends to soften the shortening making a sticky, difficult-to-handle dough.  Blending the fat completely with the flour or using a liquid shortening produces a mealy biscuit rather than a flaky, tender one.  Gently push the flour mixture to the edges of the bowl, making a well int he center.  Blend in the milk with a fork till dough leaves sides of bowl.  Too much milk makes the dough too sticky to handle: not enough milk makes the biscuits dry.  Do not overmix.

Turn dough onto lightly floured surface. Knead gently 10 to 12 strokes.  A short period of kneading develops biscuit structure and evenly distributes the moisture to make the biscuits more flaky.  On lightly floured surface pat or roll dough to slightly more than 1/2-inch thickness.  Cut with a 2- or 2 1/2 biscuit cutter, dipping cutter into flour between cuts.  Press the cutter straight down to get straight sided evenly shaped biscuits.  Be especially careful not to twist the cutter of flatten the cut edges.  Transfer cut biscuits to an ungreased baking sheet.  For crusty-sided biscuits place about 1 inch apart.  For soft-sided biscuits place biscuits with sides just touching.  Reroll scraps of dough and cut into biscuit shapes.  Bake in 500 oven for 6 to 8 minutes, or until golden.  (If sides touch, bake biscuits for 8 minutes; bake 6 to 7 minutes if sides f don't touch.)

That is how you bake biscuits.  Now go forth and get those biscuits in the oven.

15 October 2013

Play With Your Pumpkins

It is fall, even thought it might be 75 degrees out there!  But we feel we should be getting that "Fall" feeling rolling so her is a playful reminder.  Do you remember when carving a pumpkin was a simple task?  Now, one needs a dose of Michelangelo to pull off a decent pumpkin.

The pumpkin needs to be funny.

The pumpkin needs to be imaginative.

The pumpkin needs to be scary.

The pumpkin needs to be better than your neighbor's pumpkin.

Play With Your Pumpkins seems to be the start of this whole pumpkin carving craze.  It was first published in 1998 and frankly, now these pumpkins wouldn't even get you the top ten of pumpkin carving.  This year's pumpkin carving judge would take a look and say, "How quaint."  But there is hope. Instead of carving the pumpkins, just cook them up. 

Play With Your Pumpkins offers up a few nifty pumpkin dishes that will make you forget about carving them into anything but a pie.  Lousy at making crusts? Try this Middle Eastern dessert.

Bal Kabagi Tatlisi

2 lbs. pumpkin
2/3 cup sugar
2 tbs. water
2 cloves
1 cup walnuts, chopped

Cut the pumpkin into 1-inch cubes and place in a a shallow pan.  Sprinkle with sugar, add the water and cloves, and cover.  Cook over very low heat for about 30 minutes.  Cool in the pan.  Place in a serving dish and garnish with the walnuts.

Now that is playing with your pumpkin.

09 October 2013

Mange Tout

 Yeah, yeah, yeah, another French bistro cookbook; a squab here some asparagus there, been there done that.  Yes, Virginia, we are the repository of dozens of said cookbooks, but Mange Tout, is not one of them.  It is bistro cooking and there is really a twist.  The first twist is Bruno Loubet, himself.  Born in Bordeaux, Loubet moved to England and just a few years was awarded Young Chef of the Year by Good Food Guides.   He joined Raymond Blanc before opening a series of restaurants including L'Odeon in 1995.  In 2001 he uprooted his family and went down under for eight years.  In 2009, Loubet returned to London and opened Bistro Bruno Loubet.  The ever-entertaining critic, Giles Coren, wrote of the event:

"...chef Bruno Loubet’s return to Britain is the most exciting comeback since Jesus appeared on the road to Emmaus just hours after the Crucifixion and said, “It ain’t over till it’s over.” (Or am I thinking of Rocky VI there?)... This, I immediately decided, is what a bistro is supposed to be. This is what happens when a
major, major chef decides to do bacon and eggs, to roll up his sleeves and get his boots dirty. One immediately knows this fellow can perform at the absolutely top level but today is going to relax on his technique and enjoy himself. It’s Philip Roth on Twitter."
The cookbook is indeed filled with twists.  There is a traditional duck breast, but bathed and crisped in maple syrup with a walnut pesto.  There is pheasant, not hung for days, but thrown into a pan with potatoes and carrots like a common pot roast.  There are aubergines, but roasted with lime pickles and yogurt.

Think back a few posts and remember our love of Put An Egg On It, well Loubet does just that with these tasty little pancakes.

 Pea Pancakes and Poached Eggs with Balsamic Syrup

350g of frozen small peas
2tbs of cornflour
Salt and pepper
1 whole egg
Butter (optional)
100ml Balsamic vinegar
4 eggs
2tbs of chopped chives
3tbs of white wine vinegar
4tbs of extra virgin olive oil
100g of pea shoots

For the pancakes

Cook the peas in boiling salted water for a few minutes, then drain in a colander. Place the peas in a food processor; add the cornflour, eggs and seasoning and process to make a puree.

Using a spoon make little round pancakes (about 8mm thick) with the puree.

Heat up a non-stick frying pan with a film of olive oil and the butter. When the butter is foamy, cook the pancakes on both sides and then place on an oven dish.

For the eggs

Heat a pan with water, salt and white vinegar. Have a tray with a hot damp cloth on the side.

Break your eggs gently in little cups (coffee for example) then slowly pour the eggs in the simmering water, letting them slide onto the side of the pan, (it will only take a minute to cook them). Remove them gently with a draining spoon and place onto the damp cloth.

Loubet's latest restaurant gets a nod in the new Modern Farmer magazine, reviewed at Lucindaville.

03 October 2013

Love and Dishes


Sometimes restaurateurs are raconteurs.  A lot of the time.  This is true of Niccolo de Quattrociocchi.  The story goes, Nicky won $16,000 in Monte Carlo.  With that money he set sail for America, buying a stake in a restaurant, El Borracho.

El Borracho, despite its rather unfortunate name was a bastion of fine French cuisine.  With a bit of fine Italian cuisine thrown in. There was also a great bar.  Nicky brought his rakish charm with wild decorations and grand ideas.   There was the infamous "Kiss Room"  upholstered in lipstick print fabric and decorated with actual kisses from patrons.  The room was so popular it spawned a lipstick ad.

Each table at El Borracho held a bright yellow card which bore the following notice:

 "If you have enjoyed the dinner, the service, and the atmosphere of El Borracho, PLEASE DO NOT tell your friends as our seating capacity is limited. -- The Management." 

A natural born story teller, Quattrociocchi wrote of his many adventures and misadventures at El Borracho in Love and Dishes.  And what is a good story without food?  A few chapters of anecdotes is followed by over 200 recipes.  Nicky even offers up a bit of  restaurant etiquette in his Ten Commandments, that drag out to 23 commandments remaining as pertinent today as they were in the 1940's.

Tip quietly, discreetly.   The girl with you will know you don't kiss and tell.

If you feel romantic, don't neck in the restaurant.  There is a time, place, and a quiet room for things of that sort.

Also, don't be a sound effects eater. Chew with your mouth closed.
   While you are eating politely, this might just be the dish to try.

Champagne Hen

1 young hen
12 cup celery
1/2 cup mushrooms chopped
2 shallots chopped
1 cup champagne
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon tarragon
1.2 teaspoon gelatin

Stuff he hen with a dressing  made of celery, mushrooms, shallots and tarragon.  Allow the hen to stand for 12 hours, then place in an oven (325) 1 hour and baste with the champagne until tender.  Then place int he refrigerator to cool.  Reduce stock and season with paprika.  Add gelatin.  Pour mixture over hen and cool well before serving.
And lest you think Nicky was only interested in his guests, he also has a soft spot for cats and offered up this tale of his own Don Q.   It would seem that a nonunion cat sitter failed to live up to Don Q.'s  dietary standards.  The cat was so upset, Nicky was forced to take him to psychoanalyst.   Lest you worry about your cat, here is Nicky's cat menu.

Chopped, cooked chicken.
Chicken liver, raw or parboiled.
calf's liver, raw or parboiled.
Boiled shrimp.
Boiled lobster.
Any kind of fish, rainbow trout or fillet of sole preferred.
Sirloin or tenderloin of beef, very rare with a touch of garlic.
A drop or two of mineral oil every now and then.
Always mix a little chopped spinach or grated carrot with meals.
 In keeping with his theme, Niccolo de Quattrociocchi was often quoted as saying,

"A meal without wine is like love with out a kiss."  

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