30 January 2015

Requiescat in Pace -- Colleen McCullough

Colleen McCullough died on 29  January.   She was Australia's best selling author, a neurophysiologist, and for us, a cookbook author.  She was boisterous, witty, and more accomplished than most.  So it was quite shocking and in profoundly bad taste that The Australian began her obituary, not with her remarkable gifts, but by stating she was "plain" and "overweight."  Screw them!

Take a few moments to read our Famous Food Friday on Colleen McCullough from several years ago.

28 January 2015

The Great British Breakfast

There is a famous quote by Somerset Maugham about the British breakfast.  He said, "If you eat well in England, you must eat breakfast three time a day."  We are very fond of eating breakfast for dinner and while we do love pancakes at supper, the traditional British breakfast can top that.  While the actual items on the plate vary, breakfast usually consists of the following:

fried eggs
black or/and white pudding
baked beans

A nice marmalade on the table for extra toast is a must.  In fact, this edition of The Great British Breakfast was published in association with Frank Cooper, who most probably made the marmalade on the table.

Jan Read and Maite Manjon have written a good bit about wine, food and history, but in The Great British Breakfast they take a historical view of the English breakfast.  If there was a prime period of breakfast, it was during the nineteenth century when country houses were flourishing.  During the end of the century and into the very beginnings of the twentieth century, many cookbooks were published specifically for preparing breakfast.  Some ideas for a proper breakfast for gentlemen included a menu of:

Kedgeree of Cod
Devilled Pheasant
Broiled Ham
Mutton Chops
Eggs aux Fine Herbs

While men might never pass on a breakfast option, women were much more particular and required a lighter fare such as:

Broiled Salmon
Roast Larks

The Great British Breakfast is one of our favorite kinds of food books.  It has a bit of history, a bit of story, and some recipes all mixed together. While the English loved a scone, a slightly different version existed in Scotland.  While their potato scones featured boiled potatoes there was push for cooks to invest in a patented potato steamer.  Steamed or boiled, potatoes are the key.

Potato Scones
1 lb (450g) potatoes, peeled
1 teaspoon salt
1 oz (30g) butter or margarine
3-4 oz (80-110g) flour

Boil, drain and sieve the potatoes,  Add the salt and butter and knead into a stiff dough with as much flour as it will absorb.  Roll out to about 1/4-inch thick on a floured board, cut into triangles and prick with a fork.  Bake on a hot greased griddle for about five minutes each side until browned.

A far cry from the usual breakfast of  -- coffee!

26 January 2015

Food For The Greedy

An oldie goldie on this snowy day.  Not only is this book old, but it is a reprint of an even older version.  Why Nancy Shaw chose to title this cookbook Food for the Greedy is beyond me.  She states in her introduction:
The receipts which I have assembled in this small book are ones which I use regularly in my own home. I think that, at any rate, half of the receipts could not be met with elsewhere, as I have collected them for many years, from many people, in many lands.
They are indeed as strange mix of recipes culled from a lifetime of thinking about food.  The Cambridge Guide to Women's Writing in English posits that food writing or cookbooks, as one would think about them today, began in the 1920's.  During this period, society ladies began to organize their recipes into collections and they often wrote columns in local papers.  Cambridge is quick to point out that virtually none of these women could actually cook.  This was a trend that continued through the 1930's when Food for the Greedy was originally published.

The very first recipe in the book is for a dish called Potassium Soup.  This hardly sounds like a dish served for some greedy foodie. It also calls for canned okra.  I can honestly say that I have never seen canned okra, but, in my defense, I rarely spend time in the canned vegetable isle of the grocery.  I was so interested that I checked to see if there was still such a thing as canned okra.  To my surprise, there is indeed canned okra and now I feel obliged to buy a can for my own edification, but I digress...

Potassium Soup

Cut up small: 3 carrots, 2 onions, 1 large head of celery, 1/2 can of okra and one kernel of garlic, and place them in 2 quarts of water.  Boil for 17 minutes. Then add one handful of parsley and one green pepper, and boil again for 7 minutes.  Add a large tin of tomatoes and boil up again.  Strain through a sieve to the desired thickness.

American receipt, said to ensure longevity!

The "Okra" can be bought at good class grocers who stock less well known canned goods.

Well, it turns out that "Okra" can be bought at good class grocers who stock less well known canned goods or at Amazon.  Clearly, with the help of Amazon we can all be greedy!

25 January 2015

Death & Co

Death & Co is how I have been feeling lately, but I won't bore you with the details.  But I will try to start posting on a regular basis. 

So Death & Co was a Christmas gift.  Every year my friend, Ann, goes to my Amazon Wish List and buys me cookbooks.  But in the last few years, she has also gone a bit rogue by choosing an extra book she pick on her own.  This year, that book was Death & Co.

When I opened it, I told her that I was, indeed glad to get the book.  It had sold out at many bookstores shortly before Christmas and was quite a find.  Ann said proudly, "I know you like books about offal."   Now here was a dilemma.  Do I say but this is not a book about offal, it's a cocktail book?  Do I ignore the comment?  Does it matter?

Not really.  While Ann loves to eat, she is not a big cook, so it really didn't matter.  "It's a cocktail book," I said and Ann seemed pleased as she will drink cocktails but won't eat offal, so it was  kind of a "win/win" for both of us.

Death & Co is the cocktail book from the bar of the same name.  It has been that IT place to go in New York for grand chefs, hipster dudes, and other mere mortals.  The reason that there is so much respect for this bar is because they know their stuff.  David Kaplan, Alex Day, and Nick Fauchald have committed to paper the aesthetics of the bar. 

In the old days of cocktails, a gin and tonic was a gin and tonic.  Now days, there are hundreds of gins and more than a few different tonics.  (As the owner of over 15 gins and and a handful of tonic options, let me just say how happy I am about the proliferation of independent spirits, but I digress....) Today's world is filled with craft spirits, each having its own taste and flavor.  Add hundreds of new spirits to an equal number of new bitters and mixers and cocktails are exploding every where.

Death & Co like a good cocktail offers up a base of history, a bit of technique, a dash of science and mixes it together into a cocktail book that will stand the test of time.  Yes, fifty years from now, your grandchildren will be thumbing your old copy of Death & Co in their first apartment in Brooklyn...or probably Hoboken, as Brooklyn is already too expensive for you to live there!  The real question is how many of these specific "craft" spirits will still be here fifty years form now or even ten years from now?

My very favorite of all time gin, Veranda, had only a brief run over a decade ago in Vermont.  It was before every other disgruntled business owner opened a distillery.  It was before anyone ever mentioned craft spirits or cared that much about cocktails.  Still, it was sublime.  Then it was gone.  What makes Death & Co such a comprehensive work, its detail to specific ingredients, might just be the death of the book in the future.  So before we lose this wealth of glorious ingredients, get out there and have a drink.  While you may not be able to afford Brooklyn, you may be able to still drink one.


2 ounces Rittenhouse 100 Rye
3/4 ounce Dolin Dry Vermouth
1/4 ounce Amaro Ciociaro
1 teaspoon Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur

Stir all the ingredients over ice, then strain into a coupe.  No garnish

06 January 2015

Happy, happy...

Christmas, Holidays, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, New Year, Birthday whatever else there is out there...

(Sorry in advance as no one cares about others illnesses but... )Woke up Christmas Eve morning with a bit of a cough.  Escalated from there.  Still a bit puny.  How puny one might ask?  Well pictured above is my Christmas haul of new cookbooks. (Thanks Ann, for checking the Wish List and to Catherine for a surprise.) I finally got around to looking at them today!  Yes, today.

Needless to say, there will be much to write about in the coming year...
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