Monday, January 6, 2014

Oven Fried Oysters: Cooking the Books

Every winter, my husband an I get together wtih two of our friends and we eat approximately a million oysters. We shuck one, we top it with some sauce (or not), and we slurp it down. Then we repeat it. A lot. There is wine, and for the pretense of virtue, there's water and bread. It is...Oyster Fest.

Yesterday, we had our sixth annual Oyster Fest. And, breaking with tradition somewhat, we actually planned to (gasp) cook some of the oysters. I know. I know. It's a strange course of action, but when one is staring down at hundreds of bivalves, one has to start thinking outside the boundaries of tradition. So, what's a wayward cookbook blogger to do? That's right: reach for Cook Book Presented by The Fishwives of Charleston Oregon.

Oven Fried Oysters

Drain oysters and dry thoroughly. Roll in buttered crumbs. Sprinkle with bacon fat and diced bacon (cooked until soft but not browned). Bake in hot oven (400) 15 to 20 minutes until nicely browned. Serve with lemon.

Millie Henkle

Well, okay then.

I did two batches of about 20 oysters each. There was no draining needed, as they were coming out of the shell not a can -- though I did reserve the liquor. I mixed up about a cup of seasoned breadcrumbs (to which I added a hearty amount of freshly ground black pepper and a big pinch of salt) with the melted fat rendered from the bacon (I had about a quarter cup). I figure this: why use butter when you've got bacon fat at hand? I mixed in fat until the crumbs were moistened and the mixture seemed uniformly sandy. One at a time, I patted oysters dry and chucked them in the bowl with the crumbs. I tossed them in the crumbs, and then spaced them out in a 9 x 13 baking dish. Then, I actually did sprinkled bacon over the top, trying to get at least a few pieces on each oyster. Since I'd used up the bacon fat, I saw no need to sprinkle on more bacon fat (though, hey, if you've got it, might as well).

15 minutes at 400°F got them nice and hot and not a bit rubbery. They likely could have gone a full 20, but I'm really opposed to rubbery oysters (which is why I never cook them in the first place). As they came out of the oven, I sprinkled on a big pinch of salt, even though more salt on oysters might seem like coals to Newcastle.

Friends, I'm here to tell you, these are good. We scarfed them down right quick -- eat them when they're hot. They are dreamy with a squeeze of lemon. They're also pretty darned amazing with a drop of chipotle Tabasco.

This recipe is a keeper. But really, did you expect the fishwives would steer us wrong?

Key Lime Pie: When It's Too Hot To Turn On The Oven, But You Need Dessert

So, I'm going to a dinner party tonight, and was asked to bring dessert. It's hotter than fuck out there, and sticky, and gross, and I really don't want to turn on the oven. The last time I supped with this group, I also brought dessert, and that, friends, was my near-famous strawberry shortcake with thyme and balsamic vinegar. Mmm. Mmm, yes, but it ruled out another shortcake option (which, face it, is one of the best options in this nasty-assed weather).

So, what to do? By the time I thought of a puff pastry tart, it was too late to buy and defrost puff pastry. (Note to self: buy puff pastry, put in freezer for just such an occasion.) (Additional note to self: you're 39 years old -- shouldn't you be able to type "occasion" properly the first time 'round?)

Long story short (too late), it came down to a chocolate ganache pie (only heat required: microwave for melting chocolate and butter, as long as you use a pre-done crumb crust), or the ultimate in no-bake goodness: Key Lime Pie.

And Key Lime Pie won the day. 2 crumb crusts, 4 egg yolks, 2 cans sweetened condensed milk, and a scant cup of key lime juice. Plus obscene amounts of whisking. No, really. Right now, I'm sitting barely clad right under the a/c because I'm sweating like a pig would sweat if a pig could sweat which they can't. I'm just saying. If offered a wallow, I'd consider saying "yes."

Anywho. I now have two pies setting up in the fridge. I'm not going to top it off with meringue, because, again, see the "no oven, damn it" stance of hot weather cookery. I will likely pick up some whipping cream on the way to the dinner, just because there's extra head room on the pies, and I like a pie that looks ample, not accommodating.

You're thinking to yourself at this point "Um....are those egg yolks raw?" Well...only as raw as the scallops in your ceviche are raw. The acid in the lime juice denatures the proteins in the eggs, "cooking" 'em. If you've a compromised immune system, you might want to shy away from this, but if you're okay with sushi or ceviche or delicious unpasteurized cheeses, you should be fine with this authentic tasty pie.

Scaled down version of the recipe (for those rare occasions where one pie is deemed enough):
Key Lime Pie
Based on bits and pieces of far too many recipes

2 egg yolks
1 14-oz can of sweetened condensed milk
1/4-1/2 cup key lime juice
1 9" graham cracker crumb crust pie shell

If you have a hand mixer, this'd be a good time to use it. Otherwise, this is a good recipe to work out your whisking arms. Whisk the egg yolks until they are very, very pale yellow and frothy. Add in the sweetened condensed milk, and whisk, whisk, whisk, whisk. You want to keep whisking until it is getting noticeably thickened -- when you pick the whisk up out of the goo, it should come off the whisk in sheets, not in drips. So, whisk some more. If you're using electrics, this'll be at about the 4 minute mark. If you're going by hand, it'll be longer. Whisk away, baby. On a really hot day, you might want to make sure you're sitting under an air conditioner, so you can stay cool.

Once your goo is thick, add in 1/4 cup of key lime juice (preferably fresh, but if your choice is between fresh NON-key limes or bottled key lime juice, go for the bottled). Stir, stir, stir until it's well incorporated. Then, dip your very clean pinky tip into the goo, and taste. Is it tart enough? Is it lime-y enough? If not, add more lime juice, up to another 1/4 cup (so, up to 1/2 cup total. No more, or I won't vouch for the setting-up-ability of the pie).

Pour into a prepared crumb crust, scraping all the gooey goodness out of the bowl and into the pie. Place gently in your fridge, and let it sit there for a good 4 hours before serving.

Garnishing options:
  • grated fresh lime zest
  • candied lime peel
  • fresh lime wheels
  • little dabs of whipped cream
  • great big globs of whipped cream
  • more Cool Whip than might strictly be considered healthy
  • meringue made from those 2 egg whites you have left over from separating out your yolks for this recipe (note: this would require turning on the oven)
You could use a ginger snap crust, if you want a ginger-lime pie. You could use a chocolate crumb crust for a black-bottom key lime pie. You could do away with crust completely and just let the goo set up in wee ramekins or custard dishes. I won't judge.

Guest Post: Drum Cake

Hello, all! I'm Kelly, Wendy's big sister, fellow book addict, and fledgling semi-foodie.

At the farmer's market in my home town today, I stopped at the Friends of the Library booth. Two cookbooks caught my eye and I didn't even try to resist. Both Betty Crocker, both from the last 50s, both only $0.25. As I dug out my quarters, the volunteer running the booth told me cookbooks were three for $0.50, so I quickly selected a third...sadly not vintage Betty Crocker, but that's a blog for another time.

The first find was Betty Crocker's Book Book for Boys and Girls. It's hardcover, spiral bound, first edition from 1957. Frankly, it's falling apart, but it's still charming nonetheless. Along with the step-by-step directions (packed with General Mills product placements) and illustrations, there are comments from the home testers. Here's one:
"Baking is as much fun as my chemistry set. And you can eat what you mix up." Eric
Golly, boys cooking - how modern and forward thinking! And chemistry sets...do today's kids even know what those are?

The book starts off with cakes. The first few recipes are exactly that - directions on how to bake cakes from scratch. But farther into the book, the Extra Special party cakes are more about assembly and decorating than about baking...well, that and product placement. This one in particular jumped out at me:

Drum Cake
To celebrate the Fourth of July - make a cake for the family picnic and decorate it for the holiday.

Bake cake in layers as directed on Betty Crocker Chocolate Devils Food Cake Mix package.

Frost cooled cake with Betty Crocker Fluffy White Frosting Mix.

The photograph on the opposite page is of the Drum Cake.

On sides of cake press striped peppermint candy sticks at angles into icing all around cake. Set a maraschino cherry at end of each stick. If you like, cross two candy sticks on top of cake for drumsticks.
See? More of a cake decorating idea than a recipe. The illustrations truly are necessary here:

Friday, April 13, 2012

Portland Punches: Selections from Portland Women's Exchange

One more punch post today -- this one is a round up of punch recipes from The Portland Woman's Exchange Cook Book. All these come in the chapter "Beverages for Invalids and Others." If you're feeling need of validation, pull up to the punch bowl.

Exchange Fruit Punch

1 doz. lemons.
3 oranges.
1/2 cup cherries.
1 1/2 cup sugar.
2 cups fruit juice (any kind).
Enough water to make 1 gallon.
Mrs. Gertrude Hall.
Just so you know, it was very hard to type periods at the end of each line there. I'm so used to the current convention of, well, no periods at the end of ingredients in recipes.

I'm pretty sure that this Gertrude Hall is the Gertrude Hall, who, at the ripe old age of 10, crossed the continent as a pioneer, and survived the Whitman massacre. If she is, she and her second husband, Owen Denny, were the people who introduced pheasants to Oregon. I say "if" because, well, they don't list her as Mrs. Gertrude Hall Denny, which is how most places reference her. Let's just imagine she's a survivor of the massacre...and that she makes a mean punch.
Fruit Punch
1 cup lemon juice.
2 cups sugar.
1 pt. fruit juice (made of currants, raspberries, strawberries--all sorts).
1 pineapple, grated.
2 quts. water (ice).
Mrs. Henry E. Jones
Also hard: typing "quts." instead of "qt".

I've never thought of grating a pineapple, but I'd imagine that is a handy way to get pineapple pulp. You know, if you can't just hop down to the store and buy a can of crushed pineapple.

I won't rat you out if you choose to go the crushed pineapple route. If you grate, though, I'd love to see pictures of the process.

There's a portrait of Mrs. Jones in the Smithsonian's collection. The inventory tag reads:
Mrs. Jones was the wife of Thomas A. Savier, an early Portland resident (1850), and after his death she married Dr. Henry E. Jones, an early Portland surgeon and first chief of staff of St. Vincent's Hospital.
And, just because we can, let's call her by her maiden name: she was born Mary Miller. Thanks for the recipe, Mary.

One more!
Laureate Mint Punch

Put into a punch bowl 1 cup granulated sugar; add the juice of 6 lemons and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Then add three lemons sliced very thin and set it in the ice chest until ready to serve. Then add 1 dozen sprays of mint and a quart or more of crushed ice. Stire well and pour from a height into it 2 or 3 bottles of imported ginger ale.
Mrs. H. D. Story.

That sounds refreshing! I'm not at all sure how big the bottles of ginger ale are, but I'm absolutely sure you don't have to splash out for imported stuff. How about we go with "add to taste" or "go for about a gallon of total volume"?

Punch Request: Fruit Punch Delight

I got a request for some non-alcoholic punches that didn't include fruit juice concentrates. Here's one from the Milwaukee Ward Relief Society Cookbook:

Fruit Punch Delight

2 c. strawberries
2 bananas
1 c. sugar
1 (20 oz.) can crushed pineapple (drained liquid reserved)
3/4 c. pineapple juice from crushed pineapple
1 qt. orange juice
1 1/2 c. water

Combine strawberries, bananas, pineapple and sugar in blender. Blend until well mixed. Combine with remaining ingredients and stir well. Chill and serve. Makes 3 quarts.

--Gertie Weilder, Pat Leake

Good golly, it's a fruit punch that uses actual fruit! 3 quarts isn't a whole bunch, though--I like to think of punch in terms of gallons.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Questionably Elegant Hostess Gifts; Cuban Diplomatic Bread Pudding

Hunger No MoreToday's recipe from Hunger No More: Food & Fellowship from the Episcopal Diocese of Washington is a great Washington sort of recipe. It didn't originate here, and it is all about places that you've probably never been, yet it wraps the familiar and mundane in so that it seems all sorts of...normal. Nothing could be more normal and dull than canned fruit cocktail, right?

Cuban Diplomatic Bread Pudding
International: Cuban

1/2 loaf of fresh Ciabatta bread (any bread without a hard crust), cut into small pieces
2 cups sugar
2 cups milk
4 Tbsp butter
4 eggs
2 Tbsp Grand Marnier
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 pinch nutmeg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
1/4 tsp of salt
1 cup canned fruit cocktail, drained

Preheat oven to 350F. Caramelize 1 cup of sugar in a shallow 9 inch square baking pan. Tip pan to cover sides, until sugar turns light amber brown. Do not let the sugar foam.

Pre-soak the bread slices in milk. Puree in blender and reserve. Combine the eggs, Grand Marnier, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, almond extract, and salt. Puree in blender and reserve. Pulse 1 cup of sugar with butter in the blender, and combine with egg mixture and puree. Combine with bread and milk mixture.

Put the fruit cocktail in the caramelized baking pan. Pour the batter in the pan. Place the pan in a large glass pan (Pyrex), pour hot water in the large glass pan halfway up the sides of the baking pan. (I prefer a large glass pan as you can monitor the water level from the oven door.) Place the pan in the oven, and bake the pudding for approximately 2 hours. Do not allow the water level to reach the bottom of the pan. You can tell it's done when a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Remove the pudding from the oven and allow it to cool on a wire rack. Turn the cooled pudding upside down onto a serving plate and refrigerate before serving.

Serves 10.

This recipe goes along with one of my favorite stories my grandmother used to tell when she made it. In her days in Cuba, a can of fruit cocktail was the most elegant hostess gift; not available in Cuba, it meant you had American connections. This dessert has become my father-in-law's favorite.

Ivonne Burgess
Christ Church, Durham

I'll admit it: I question the elegance of a can of fruit cocktail as a hostess gift. Though, hey, there have been times in my life where a can of Spaghettios would have been seen as a very clever and thoughtful gift indeed... I'll ponder this further.

I love a good bread pudding. They're highly adaptable creatures, and I'd be tempted when tinkering with this dish to do away with the water bath. Yes, yes, it makes the custard set up all smooth and perfect, but we threw caution to the wind over Thanksgiving and did cheesecakes sans water baths, and I'm feeling like tweaking the cooking gods' noses again. Nerds to the water bath!

Consider switching up the fruit here, unless you're making it for an elderly Cuban expat who will recall the fruit cocktail elegance with fondness. I'm thinking that a can of cling peaches would be good here. I imagine it would work with any canned-in-syrup fruit.

Christ Church makes St. Alban's look like a toddler. It was founded in 1661. Not a typo. It came in to being when Charles II was king in England. That, friends, is a very long time ago.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Regionals: Duck's Stuffed Ham

Hunger No MoreSometimes, I love having this blog. Turns out, the compiler of the Bachman Family Cookbook found this here blog, and commented. So, now I've met a cousin of some stripe (if we share a great grandparent as our closest common ancestor, we're, what...second cousins?), who works with the county museum back in North Dakota. There's tons of family stuff for me to rifle through, and it's a great feeling. It's not every day one learns more about one's great grandparents, ya know?

Today's Hunger No More: Food & Fellowship from the Episcopal Diocese of Washington recipe was a quick substitute. Originally, I was going to post Southern Maryland Stuffed Ham recipe, because there's a good bit of history included, but I just couldn't bring myself to write about people owning other people tonight. So, suffice to say, there's hundreds of years of history going on with this dish, and more than a little baggage going along with it.

Duck's Stuffed Ham

12 lb corned ham
3 lbs watercress
2 lbs kale
1 small head cabbage
4 onions
4 hard boiled eggs
salt to taste
black pepper to taste
red pepper to taste

Have the butcher debone ham and tie. Slit pockets in ham to hold stuffing, about 1 inch apart. Grind watercress, kale, cabbage, onions, and eggs together (a food processor makes this easy). Season stuffing to taste with salt, black pepper, and red pepper. Stuff into slits, pack them full. Put any leftover stuffing on top of ham. Sew into an old pillowcase or wrap with cheesecloth. Place in a kettle of cold water to cover. Bring to a boil and simmer 22 minutes per pound (a 12 pound ham takes 4 1/2 hours). Cool in liquid. When cool, remove and drain, then refrigerate.

This recipe is best prepared a day and a half ahead. This recipe was given to Lucille by her dear friend, "Duck" Shelton, who is now deceased. It was her mother's recipe.

Lucille Dyson
Recipes compiled by Episcopal Church Women
Christ Church, Port Tobacco

I can't say I've ever run across a recipe that called for stitching anything into a pillow case before. The other stuffed ham recipe sticks to cheesecloth, but as that one calls for a 20 pound ham, it's possible that there just weren't old pillowcases big enough.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Great Closing: Book Group Apple Cake

Hunger No MoreToday's recipe from Hunger No More: Food & Fellowship from the Episcopal Diocese of Washington is actually from my own church! St. Alban's has been serving DC as a free church for 157 years. (What's a free church, you may ask? Well, back in the day, most churches charged pew rent; St. Alban's never did, by design.)

There's a book group at St. A.'s, and, like book groups the world over, it's at least partially fueled by food.

Book Group Apple Cake

3 large apples, roughly diced
2 cups sugar (I mix white and brown)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup raisins (soaked in brandy is nice, for adults)
1/2 cup chopped, pecans (optional)
2 eggs, beaten
2 tsp vanilla
2 cups unbleached flour (replace 1/4 with wheat germ for added nutrition)
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
a few shakes of ground cloves
1 tsp salt

Mix chopped apples with sugars, then add oil, raisins and/or nuts, eggs and vanilla. Mix dry ingredients together and stir into moist mixture. Bake in a 9 inch square pan (or a tube pan) at 350F for one hour, or until done (test with a toothpick). Serves 12.

So named because our parish book group urged its inclusion in the cookbook. We don't know if the cake keeps well, since there's never any left.

Joyce Walker
St. Alban's, DC

To be honest, it's not the St. Alban's connection that made me include this recipe. No, it's the last sentence, the epic closing, that promise of cake so wonderful you'll never have a crumb left.

I dig a recipe with a promise.

I'll wager it keeps well -- so much of the cake is sugar and apples, it's just bound to be moist as all get out.

This week's daily reminder: you can order your own copy of Hunger No More and support feeding ministries in the DC area.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Father John's Christmas Biscotti

Hunger No MoreUsually, in a church cookbook, the recipes are from the laity. Hunger No More: Food & Fellowship from the Episcopal Diocese of Washington has its fair share of church lady (and church gent) contributions, but also a few gems from the clergy.

Father John's Christmas Biscotti

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cup sugar
4 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp grated lemon rind
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
5 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup shelled (unsalted) pistachios

Preheat the oven to 325F. Beat the butter at medium speed with a mixer or by hand until creamy. Gradually add sugar, beating well. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Add lemon rind and vanilla extract, mixing well. Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt (unless the pistachios are already salted) then add the dry mixture to the butter mixture. Beat just enough until the dry ingredients are moistened. Turn the dough on a lightly floured surfave and with floured hands mix in the dried cranberries and the pistachios.

Divide the dough in half or in quarters. Shape each portion into a log and place the logs on lightly greased baking sheets. Slightly flatten the logs and leave room for them to expand. Bake at 325F for 30 to 35 minutes, until golden brown. Let cool for 5 minutes then transfer the baked logs to a wire rack to cool completely.

Using a good serrated knife, with a gentle sawing motion, cut the logs diagonally into thin slices. Place the slices on ungreased baking sheets and bake for 10 minutes at 325F. Turn each slice over and bake the other side for 10 minutes. Makes 48.

Between parts, the dough or baked logs may be put in the refrigerator overnight. Any dried berries or nuts may be substituted. The biscotti keep well and may be frozen. Depending on the size of logs and slices, yield is 3 dozen to 5 dozen.

Many a sermon has been written over the years between the various steps of biscotti-baking. This recipe was a marked improvement over an earlier version that involved green food coloring, yileding a chartreuse and unappetizing cookie that looked like something out of Dr. Seuss. Sometimes packaged as "Father Beddingfield's Twice-Baked Biscuits," this and similar recipes have come in handy for church bazaars and fund raisers, not to mention pastoral calls.

John Beddingfield
All Souls, DC

So, the "Father John" part of the recipe is pretty clear -- this is Father John Beddingfield's recipe. The "biscotti" part is also straightforward -- the twice-baked cookie is a biscotti, plain and simple.

The "Christmas" part is a bit more suited for interpretation. Biscotti are a good addition to your Christmas cookie tray, to be sure. Nuts have long been a part of Christmasy food traditions, too. But I like to think it's the no-longer-a-part-of-the-recipe green food coloring that made this recipe a Christmas biscotti.

All Souls is tucked next to the National Zoo on Cathedral Avenue. It's one of 88 churches in the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, and, I'm kind of embarrassed to say it, but I don't think I've ever laid eyes on it. Why embarrassed? Well, it's all of two miles from my home, and you'd think I'd have noticed a pretty stone church near one of my favorite places in the town I've lived in for twenty one years. You'd think.

But no.

Remember: you can still order Hunger No More: Food & Fellowship from the Episcopal Diocese of Washington and help fund feeding ministries in the Washington, DC area.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Hunger No More, by the Episcopal Diocese of Washington; Homemade Egg Noodles

Hunger No MoreToday at St. Alban's, we had an Alternative Gift Fair to kick of Advent. One of the tables was for the diocese's hunger fund, which gets money out to feeding programs across the Washington area. I snatched up two copies, because, well, I loves me a church cookbook, and I also contributed a ton of recipes.

Hunger No More: Food & Fellowship from the Episcopal Diocese of Washington was edited by Kimberly Bujak, Lucy Chumbley, and Ann V. Talty, and came out just last month (October 2011). They call it "a cookbook that celebrates food, fellowship and the spirit of friendship and community that abides in the Diocese of Washington."

There's still time to order one if you're looking for a Christmas gift for your favorite cookbook lover--the books are $20 each, $12 of which is tax deductible.

Now, it's the week after Thanksgiving, and you might be in need of some leftovers help. If you've a mind to make turkey noodle casserole, why not try your hand at making your own noodles?

Homemade Egg Noodles

1 egg
cream
salt
flour

This recipe is over 100 years old and was told to me years ago in Colorado by my grandmother. First, you crack an egg into a medium-sized mixing bowl, saving half the egg shell. Measure cream into the saved half-shell and add the cream to the egg in the mixing bowl. Add a pinch of salt and stir with a fork. Add flour and stir until the dough forms a ball, then turn out onto a floured surface.

Roll out the dough to desired thickness and cut into strips. Grandmother used a sharp knife for this and I use a pizza cutting wheel. The raw noodles can be dried for a couple of hours at this point, but it's not absolutely necessary. Grandmother hung the raw noodles to dry on clean tea towels on the backs of her kitchen chairs.

Place the noodles into your pot of chicken soup and let them simmer for half an hour or more before serving. The flour on the noodles thickens the soup nicely.

Donna Courtney
St. Dunstan's

For your casserole needs, you'll want to be cooking these up on their own, not as part of soup. Though, heck, you can cook them in stock--extra flavor is a good thing. I wouldn't go a half hour of cooking time, though. You'll want to test for doneness often, as you don't want them falling to mush in the casserole dish.

A lot of the recipes in Hunger No More have little snippets of stories included, sharing how the dishes show up in the contributors' lives. I don't think I'll be typing out the 4 page recipe for sourdough bread, but knowing that it exists makes me happy -- I like a conversational tone in recipes.