23 May 2016

Some Oyster Recipes

It seems that we start EVERY post by how much we like X Y or Z.  I know you have heard this exact phrase before with a different subject, but we do love little oyster books. Oysters are not everyone's cup of tea, so when a series of books has a volume featuring the oyster, the oyster book is often one of the hardest to find. And face it, there is nothing better than an oyster on the half-shell, so all the recipes in the world don't amount to a vast culinary exploration.  One of my favorite books is M. F. K. Fisher's  Consider the Oyster.  It is quite remarkable to me because there are numerous recipes for oyster stew.  Almost every recipe has exactly the same ingredients, and yet Fisher writes about them as if each one is unique.

Helen Evans Brown wrote a tiny book called Some Oyster Recipes.  The book was published by Ampersand Press in Pasadena, California. Ampersand Press published small editions of books that were more works of art than actual books.  Some Oyster Recipes is a scant 28 pages. Published in 1951, it was voted one of the 50 Books of the Year by the American Institute of Graphic Arts.

Helen Evans Brown was a noted food writer in the late 1940's and 50's. She was a leading proponent of West Coast and California cuisine until her untimely death in 1964. This appetizer is the height of elegance.

Oyster and Caviar Sandwich

This is for one of those festive moments when champagne is being served and you are in an expansive mood. Cut rounds of fresh bread, spread half with butter, half with caviar; dip small oysters in lemon juice, put in between tow slices (one of each), and press firmly together. The oyster should be smaller than the bread so that its existence is unexpected.  Serve these delectables very cold.

Ah, to be in an expansive mood!

10 May 2016


We love a good pie.  Let's rephrase -- no we do love a good pie.  We REALLY love a savory pie. In the U.S., we primarily think of pie as a sweet confection, but in Britain and many other places, the word "pie" evokes a savory concoction.  We love a good savory pie.  We love finding a book that expands our notion of pie. 

We saw a photo of one of Genevieve Taylor's pies at 1000 Cookbooks and we were smitten.  So we tracked down her book, Pie!. Then we realized this wasn't the first time we had run across Taylor.  Egg-lovers that we are, we also have a copy of her book, A Good EggPie! is part of series by Absolute Press. In addition to Pie!, Taylor has published Soup!, Stew!, and Mince!.  The titles offer up an idea of  Taylor's food philosophy. 

Taylor uses simple, readily available ingredients to construct pies that as tasty as they are lovely. Don't be too alarmed at what may seem like longs lists of ingredients and instructions.  Yes, some of the pies seem a bit complicated, but don't despair.  Take a breath and remember there is a crust, there is a filling, and there is cooking. 

Start with the crust.  Taylor gives specific and cogent instruction on making the various crusts. Her fillings for her pies explode with flavors. Yes, for you sweet lovers, there is a fine apple pie, a lovely lemon meringue, and more than a few tarts.  The book really shines with its savory options.  The traditional steak is there along side an ox cheek, oyster, and stout.  There are hand pies like Cornish pasties, but there are also vegetable options like squash and cumin yogurt, and pear and walnut with gorgonzola.  The is pork, game, fish, chicken, lamb along with lots of vegetable options.

Pie! has a great mix of options that will make you a star in your kitchen.  Here is a favorite.  It has beef and rich sweet potatoes that are spiked with a spicy horseradish.  We followed it with Taylor's recipes for making the shortcrust pastry.  In her introduction to her book, Taylor offers up the option to go ahead and use a store bought pastry.  That is one of our favorite shortcuts, so go ahead and cheat a bit. But whatever you do, grab a copy of this book.

Roast Beef, Sweet Potato, and Horseradish Pie

For the pie
2 tbsp olive oil
2 large onions, chopped
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary, leaves picked and roughly chopped
600g sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2cm chunks
300ml beef stock
300g cold roast beef, cut into bite-size pieces
2–3 tbsp grated horseradish (available in jars), or horseradish sauce for a milder flavour 
plain flour, for dusting
1 batch of Shortcrust Pastry (see page below for the pastry recipe)
salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the crumble topping
100g plain flour
50g butter, chilled and cut into little cubes
75g mature Cheddar cheese, grated 

To make the pie, put the oil into a large frying pan and set over a medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add the onions, along with the rosemary, and fry for 15–20 minutes or until lightly caramelised, stirring from time to time. Stir through the sweet potatoes and then pour in the stock, seasoning well with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Bring to the boil, then cover with a piece of damp greaseproof paper pressed down over the sweet potatoes, tucking it under snugly at the edges – this creates a steamy lid to help cook the sweet potatoes. Simmer until soft – this will take around 15 minutes, depending on the size of the chunks. 

Remove and discard the paper – the sweet potatoes should have absorbed most of the stock; if it is still quite liquid, then simmer, uncovered, for a few minutes. Remove from the heat, stir through the beef and horseradish and set aside to cool completely.

Once the filling is cold, preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/gas 6.

On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the pastry to a thickness of about 4mm (the pastry needs to be slightly thicker here as the filling is robust so it needs a sturdy crust to hold it in) and use it to line a 23cm springform cake tin, bringing it about 4cm up the sides of the tin. Spoon in the filling, levelling it out as you go.

For the crumble topping, lightly rub the flour and butter together in a mixing bowl. When the mixture resembles breadcrumbs, mix through the cheese and season well with salt and black pepper. Sprinkle the crumble mixture evenly over the pie filling, but don’t pat or press it down as you want to leave it light and airy. 

Bake in the oven for 40–45 minutes or until the pastry is cooked through and the crumble topping is crisp and golden. Remove from the oven, leave to cool for a few minutes, then slide a knife around the inside of the tin and release the springform. Carefully transfer the pie to a serving plate or wooden board and serve hot. Green vegetables on the side are a great accompaniment for this pie, and perhaps a little extra horseradish sauce for those who like things fiery.

Shortcrust pastry recipe
Makes about 325g
Takes 10 minutes to make (plus chilling)

180g plain white flour
a pinch of fine salt
90g cold butter, cut into small cubes
3–4 tbsp ice-cold water 

Food Processor Method
Put the flour and salt into the food processor and whizz briefly together to mix, then add the butter cubes and pulse briefly a dozen times or so until you have coarse crumbs. If you use the pulse function in very short, sharp bursts (rather than just leave it in the ‘on’ position) to rub the fat and flour together, then I think it works more like super fast fingers and there is less chance of overdoing it. Next, you trickle in the ice-cold water, whilst pulsing all the while, just until the mixture resembles rough lumps and looks a bit like overcooked and dry scrambled eggs. Add only as much water as you need. Don’t keep processing until the mixture comes together in a big ball as that will develop the gluten in the flour too much, so be sure to stop before you get to that stage. 

Tip the clumped crumbs onto a sheet of cling film and gently squeeze together into a ball without pressing too hard – little air gaps are a good thing and will add a lightness and crumbliness to the cooked shortcrust. Wrap and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before rolling out.

Traditional Rubbing-in (by hand) Method
The method is essentially the same, but your fingertips and thumbs work together to literally rub the flour, salt and butter together until you have coarse crumbs. Lifting your hands out of the bowl as you rub adds air. Then once again, add just enough cold water to bring the mixture together into clumps – I find a blunt table knife is best to use here, using it to stir and cut through the crumbed mixture as you mix. Again, tip the clumped crumbs onto a sheet of cling film and squeeze gently into a ball, then wrap and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before rolling out. 

Blog Widget by LinkWithin