Friday, April 29, 2011

Super Brandy Alexander

I do love gadgets – back when I had TV, whenever an infomercial came on, I’d be reaching for the phone before you could blink. (Where’s my credit card? So what if I don’t have a boat, I *need* that special boat cleaner!) Fortunately, I have a small kitchen, so I’ve quit buying just any old gimmick-y doo dad – but when I found a bunch of late 60s / early 70s kitchen gadgets at an estate sale (for MY price of $1 each!) I had to have them all. And the best of the bunch was the Popeil Brothers’ 1974 Whip-O-Matic, with Planetary Action. (Never mind that we have no idea what that is, it sounds So Good!)

This beauty came complete in its original box, with instructions and recipes! I read with glee that the Whip-O-Matic was perfect for making meringue, scrambled eggs “deluxe”, batter for crepes, (naturally) whipped cream, salad dressing, chocolate milk and, lo and behold, my favorite after-dinner drink: the Brandy Alexander.

Not just any Brandy Alexander, though. There were plenty of recipes for those in ordinary cocktail guides. (Including one called Alexander’s Sister Cocktail in the definitive Savoy Cocktail Book (1930) that features Crème de Menthe and bears this warning: “Ladies are advised to avoid this Cocktail as often as possible.”) This one, using the revolutionary Planetary Action so lovingly touted by the Popeil Brothers (this must have JUST pre-dated their split and the creation of brother Ron Popeil’s “RonCo”) was not ordinary but Super.

I will say that it was in fact super! But that comes as little surprise since I already knew I loved the drink. One issue I had was that the ice, though crushed, was NOT dissolving, and despite the completely safe, non-electric, rubber-tractioned bottom, I poured the mixture through a strainer just to remove the few big ice chunks left. The other issue is with the quantity – I think for two drinks, you really need to double the recipe, and even then they are dainty in size, though just right in taste. Whip one up (or use a regular cocktail shaker with strainer if you lack your own Whip-O-Matic) tonight and see for yourself!

NOTE: I just discovered that Tupperware makes a mighty similar item, their “Whip ‘n Prep Chef” which you can buy from my dear friend Karen Finlay, right here!

Super Brandy Alexander

1 oz. Brandy
1 oz. Crème de Cacao
1 oz. cream
6 oz. shaved or finely crushed ice

Whip until ice dissolves. Pour into cold cocktail glasses and top with groud nutmeg. Makes 2 generous size drinks.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Devilled Eggs 3 Ways

Well, good folks: the results are in! Of the three varieties of Devilled Eggs, (also known as Deviled Eggs, take your pick), the hands-down winner was none other than The Master of the Feast himself, James Beard! This pronouncement made official by yours truly and Celebrity Judge, Mr. Grant K. Gibson, Easter Sunday, 2011. I present all three recipes here, since they were all tasty. Make up a batch of each and YOU BE THE JUDGE!

Having been asked to make devilled eggs for Easter, and knowing there were to be 40 guests, I decided I had better make three different varieties – mostly so that I wouldn’t be bored out of my scull with the boiling, shelling and stuffing of 6 dozen eggs! I also must admit to skipping the sieve step – instead (hello! Child of the 1970s!) I ran the cooked egg yolks through the Cuisinart. Oh thank heavens for electricity! And for the French. Actually, the experiment turned out to be quite amusing, and we really did carefully evaluate the results. I should point out that each book I consulted offered several variations on devilled eggs, so it really was a difficult choice. Next year: three more! (And someone else to crack them all…)

I assumed from the get-go that the entry featuring bacon would be the winner, bacon being so hot these days. And in fact, the bacon-eggs flew off the trays, even before I had finished preparing them! Note: the bacon crumbles were too large to fit through my piping tube, so I had to abandon the lovely presentation for those. People didn’t seem to notice, as they were too busy gobbling. As Grant put it, though, the bacon mixture was “surprisingly not my favorite” – it was too sweet. (Catsup was the culprit there.) Next time: hot sauce instead! I was happy with the minced chives as a garnish, which did help to cut the sweetness a bit.

The curried eggs were quite good, and a very familiar taste, but I left off the parsley on those as I had previously used it to garnish the “plain” ones, and I felt the paprika sprinkle was perfect. They were really good and I would be proud to serve them any time. But….

James Beard’s were just THAT MUCH BETTER! As Grant said, “James Beard gets an A!” and I agree. His version is a basic deviled egg: not fancy, just perfect. It differs from my mother’s only in that she uses parsley only as a garnish (not part of the egg filling) and she omits the Worcestershire. I also added about ½ teaspoon of apple-cider vinegar when the mixture tasted too grassy (parsley) and that did it. These are the ones I will make over and over, and it pleases me to know that I must be doing “America’s Greatest Chef” proud!

James Beard “Hors d’Oeuvre and Canapes” (1940)

James Beard just can’t be beat, in writing (Historical quotes! The source of foreign words! Wit!) and in recipes, and this little book is a definitive resource for every possible detail of a cocktail party. Though written in 1940, his advice still seems fresh and sensible. “The cocktail party no longer means a bottle of gin, a can of sardines, and a package of potato chips from the corner grocery.” (!!) He also endorses what my grandmother always said, that no party was complete without deviled eggs: “No matter what else is served at a cocktail party, you will always find that a tray of stuffed eggs will be one of the most popular items. These disappear more rapidly than anything else.” Boy was he right: even as I was assembling the eggs on Easter, guests were snatching them right off the trays before they were garnished!

Deviled Eggs

Remove the yolks from 6 hard-cooked eggs and force them through a fine sieve. Add one teaspoonful of salt, one teaspoonful of dry mustard, one half teaspoonful of freshly ground, black pepper, one teaspoonful of Worcestershire Sauce, one and one half tablespoonfuls of chopped parsley, and at least a tablespoonful of mayonnaise. Beat well with a fork till the mixture forms a full paste, adding more mayonnaise if necessary. Fill the white halves, using a pastry tube, and garnish with chopped parsley or tiny strips of pimiento.

Peter Pauper Press with recipes by Edna Beilenson and decorations by Ruth McCrea “The ABC of Canapes” (1953)

I had to mention the decorations, because Peter Pauper Press was known as much, if not more, for its graphic design, than for the recipes, but it turns out that both are delightful, despite the vagueness of the quantity needed.

Eggs, Deviled with Bacon

To the mashed cooked yolks, add double the amount of crisply fried, crushed bacon. Moisten with catsup, a little mustard, and a little mayonnaise. Heap into halves of egg-whites.

Jules J. Bond “The eggs & cheese I love” (1978)

This cute little book offered probably the most comprehensive and step-by-step instructions, as well as a surprising number of creative recipes along with old standards. For a beginning cook, I would absolutely recommend this one, for the clarity as well as the good end result.

Curried Devilled Eggs
(for 4 to 5)

12 hard-boiled eggs (the smaller the better)
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1 tsp. curry powder (or, if available, curry paste)
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp. paprika
2 Tbsp. minced parsley

Shell eggs and cut lengthwise in half. Remove yolks and rub through a strainer, then blend with all other ingredients. Fill the egg halves. The best and easiest way to fill them is using a pastry bag with a star tube. Garnish each egg half with a sprinkle of parsley and paprika.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Marshmallow Pineapple-Lime Mold Salad (Jell-O #4)

I am a sucker for Jell-O. I am also a sucker for anything old, so imagine my delight when I was bequeathed the recipe card collection of a dear lady, Norma Finch (seen in photo with my dog, Rhubarb, expert canine beggar) and found it to contain NO LESS THAN 43 RECIPES for Jell-O!

Norma was an expert hostess who entertained weekly for nearly 70 years, often making elaborate dishes that were served on divine antique and mid-century platters and trays (some of which I also inherited). She carefully typed out her favorite recipes and kept them well-organized by type in her card box. She also swapped recipe cards with friends, as I discovered when sorting through them – here and there were cards written out by different hands, all signed. When I asked her son about the other ladies, he had stories about each one, often hilarious. Something about the friendships these cards represented still gives me chills, and makes me grateful to my own friends for the things we share.

Norma Finch, I am a woman after your own heart: I too have carefully written out my favorite recipes (I started doing this about age 8) and I too am happy to share them with friends. My blog entries are the modern equivalent (in my humble opinion) of your lovingly hand-typed cards, and I hope my friends value them as much as yours did. And so, in your honor, I have been going through the recipe cards and preparing one Jell-O mold every Easter.

This one was simple, without bizarre ingredients and with no surprises – that is, because I left out the mayonnaise! As I read the recipe, everything made sense and sounded good but that. Honestly: you have a perfectly good fruit and marshmallow Jell-O mold that you THEN PUT MAYO ON? There is a limit, people! (And by “people”, I mean the advertising executives of Kraft, who most obviously supplied the original recipe that Norma faithfully copied out, even including capitols on the name brands and omitting the brand “Jell-O”) So let’s be sensible and skip that part. I also skipped placing it on a bed of lettuce, favoring instead canned whipped cream and cherries to decorate the finished product, and it is quite yummy! Served on one of Norma’s own Depression Glass trays, I present Marshmallow Pineapple-Lime Mold Salad!

Marshmallow Pineapple-Lime Mold Salad

Dissolve 1 package lime gelatin dessert in 1 cup hot water. Drain the juice from 1 cup canned crushed pineapple and add water to make 1 cup of liquid. Add this liquid and 1 Tbsp lemon juice to the gelatin mixture. Chill until almost firm. Fold in the crushed pineapple and 2 cups of Kraft Miniature Marshmallows. Pour into a 1 quart mold. Chill until firm. Unmold onto a serving plate covered with lettuce. Serve with Kraft Mayonnaise or Miracle Whip Salad Dressing.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Tuna Ring (Jell-O #3)

It has long been an obsession of mine to research vintage Jell-O recipes, and when my great friend Karen started a Mid-Century Supper Club Pot Luck where participants are to re-create, in faithful detail, a vintage recipe and present it in corresponding vintage serve-ware, I though to myself: It must be Jell-O. But not just any Jell-O, because I frequently make plain Jell-O, fruit-added Jell-O, marshmallow Jell-O, even adding Jell-O to cake mix if I need a quick cake that tastes better than cake mix. But this event called for a new Jell-O experience, one that, regrettably, featured tuna fish.

Heck, if it was considered good enough to publish in a national cook book, how bad could it be? Um, bad. Fearfully bad, in fact. The sad thing is, it didn’t even look delightful, but was murky – a warning, perhaps, of what lurked inside! I took plain gelatin and added mayonnaise, chopped onions, celery and tuna fish. On purpose. And lovingly served it on a bed of lettuce. And I think I actually ate a bite! I know of one other person who did, but it was not actually a hit. But it was one of those things, you know, you just HAVE to do - once.

Sadly, not a single photograph exists of the concoction, so all I can do here is to reproduce the elegant full-color photo from the 1963 edition of Better Homes and Gardens “Lunches and Brunches”. This is a book full of fun photos of what sound like barely edible yet time-consuming recipes, all served on glorious mid-century table finery. Such contradiction! Such adventure!

Tuna Ring

1 envelope (1 Tbsp) unflavored gelatin
¼ cup cold water

1 can condensed tomato soup
1 3-ounce package cream cheese
1 cup salad dressing or mayonnaise
½ cup chopped celery
½ cup sliced stuffed green olives
¼ cup chopped green pepper
¼ cup sliced green onions
¼ cup chopped pimiento
2 hard-cooked eggs, chopped
2 6-ounce cans (2 cups) tuna, in chunks

Soften gelatin in cold water. Heat soup to boiling. Add gelatin; stir till dissolved. Add cream cheese, beat smooth with electric or rotary beater. Blend in salad dressing; stir in remaining ingredients. Pour into a 5-cup ring-mold; chill firm. To serve, garnish with greens (See picture page 45). Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Pork Chop Casserole / Buttered Carrots and Celery

1959’s “The Electric Cookbook” was “your complete guide to cooking electrically” and it sure is a good thing I have it, ‘cause in my apartment, I have an electric stove. Now, I was raised cooking with gas, and I greatly prefer it, but I’ll leave off that particular tirade for the moment, and be glad that as long as I must use an electric range, I have a guide. My guide, in fact, tells me that perhaps this whole “electricity” thing is gonna be huge: “For the homemaker, electricity takes the “work” out of housework…Tireless electric servants do most of the work, affording more time for the fun of creative cooking.”

SO! That explains how cooks in the 50s had so much time to come up with all the TOTALLY BIZARRE and INEDIBLE concoctions I encounter in vintage recipe books. Anyhow, there is something completely sensible about this book that I just love. Basically, you decide which electric appliance you are going to use (Roaster? Broiler? Electric Skillet?) and then the book presents an entire menu, all to be cooked at once, at the same temperature for the same amount of time. Genius!

And, happily, THIS RECIPE TASTES GOOD. And in fact, it is one I had been taught to make by the mother of an old boyfriend (by the way, moms always LOVED me because I wanted to learn all their recipes and hang out in the kitchen with them rather than trying to sneak off with the boyfriend or smoke cigarettes. OK, enough of the goody-goody show!). She called hers “White Trash Casserole”, and it was essentially the same thing, with the addition of sautéed onion and garlic added to the canned soup. I always add in sliced fresh mushrooms (sautéed), and organic “healthy” mushroom soup, when I’m not using Campbell’s for the whole “Andy Warhol” effect. So I already knew the pork chops would be yummy. But I had no idea the carrots and celery would – and it turns out that my daughter went bonkers over them and asked for them again the next night! There was a third element to the menu, but I ran out of time so I’ll have to try the Steamed Devil’s Food Pudding another time. Probably the next time I make these yummy pork chops!

Pork Chop Casserole

Temperature: 375
Time: 50 minites
Serves: 6

Preheat roaster to 375 degrees. Trim excess fat from 6 loin chops; salt and pepper; brown on both sides in skillet; place in meat dish. Combine 10 ½-ounce can cream of mushroom soup, ¼ cup water; pour over chops.

Buttered Carrots and Celery

Temperature: 375
Time: 50 minutes
Serves: 6

Peel 4 or 5 medium carrots; cut in lengthwise quarters. Cute celery in 2-inch pieces to make 1 ½ cups. Place vegetables in covered dish. Add ½ cup water, 1 teaspoon salt, and 2 tablespoons butter. Cover to cook.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Raspberry Roundup (Jell-O Part 2)

As many of you know, I LOVE Jell-O, so it was with delight that I received as a gift this handy-dandy 1980 General Foods “The Jell-O Gelatin Salad Selector” from my cousin Peggy. (Actually, Peggy sent me a whole box of old cookbooks from various family members, which was a real treasure-trove, and a story for another day) Give me any excuse to make Jell-O, and I’m thrilled!

The divine thing about this “pamphlet” (I’m somewhat at a loss as to what to call it, since it came to me as separated pages that may have been bound together in some way originally) is that each page begins with the type of meat dish you are planning: “Making Hamburger Tonight?” and then suggests a Jell-O salad o accompany it. If that one isn’t to your liking, just SPIN THE WHEEL and select another! And some of them even looked pretty good! No more 50s way-too-bizarre concoctions with shrimp, tuna, olives, onions, sour cream…. (as disgusting as that sounds, there are HUNDREDS of recipes for these “delights”)

I made this up happily the night before (one of the “things” about Jell-O – it is NOT spontaneous. No wonder it wasn’t popular in the 70s…) and l always love the suspense of the un-molding: will it turn out? YES it did! And it is even quite yummy – just the tart berry Jell-O mixed with applesauce. Of course it’s “great with any pork dish” – good old General Foods, they were right!

Raspberry Roundup

1 package (3 oz) Jell-O Brand Raspberry Flavor Gelatin
1 cup boiling water
1 cup applesauce
1 Tbsp. vinegar

Dissolve gelatin in boiling water. Add applesauce and vinegar and pour into 2-cup mold. Chill until firm, about 3 hours. Unmold. Garnish as desired. Makes 4 servings.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Chicken with Lemon and Herbs

Honestly, if I were stranded on a desert island with only one cookbook, The Silver Palate Cookbook (1979) would be it. Well, that is assuming there’s plenty of food around for me to cook, right? So I guess I mean a luxury desert island of sorts… you get the idea. This book was a big hit in the early 80s, and I ALWAYS find copies at thrift stores, and they are universally oil-splattered and well-loved like mine is! I grew up cooking from this cook book, and this is where many of my all-time favorite recipes come from, and this chicken dish would be at the very top of that list.

This was my first experience with cooking in foil pouches (or, as the French like to say, en papillote, though that is often done in parchment paper rather than foil) but in a pinch, this also works in a small casserole with a tight-fitting lid. I’ve even made these packets up for cooking over a fire! The herbs, fat, even the citrus can all be adjusted to your taste (prefer orange and ginger to lemon and garlic? Fine! Substitute olive oil for butter? Fine!), and it just never fails. Kids will eat it (I mark my daughter’s pouch with a Sharpie and use no garlic in hers), and you can even make up the pouches in the morning, put them in the fridge till you get home, and just bake them in time for dinner: quick and fabulous.

The mind literally boggles when I try to estimate how many times I have made this dish. If I estimate about twice a month since I began cooking at age 13, that would be 24 times a year for – oh, several years. Shoot, my calculator hasn’t got enough space in its memory to figure that! Let’s just say, I’ve made this a lot, and you will too after you try it!

Chicken with Lemon and Herbs

1 cup chopped fresh mint, dill and parsley in about equal proportions, or to taste
2 cloves garlic, minced
6 boned chicken breasts, skinned and halved, about 4 ½ pounds altogether
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 lemons
4 Tbsp sweet butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Mix herbs and garlic together in small bowl. Flatten chicken breasts by pressing them against the work surface with the palm of your hand. Arrange breast pieces on foil and season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle herb and garlic mixture over chicken breasts. Slice lemons and arrange 2 or 3 slices over each breast. Dot with butter and seal the packets. Set on a baking sheet. Set packets in the middle of the oven and bake for 30 minutes. Transfer to serving plates and allow guests to open packets at table. 6 portions