Maddie’s Best Ever Nut Bread

26 May 13 by

This is from the wonderful girl that was my first love many (many) years ago. She is right, this is pretty good stuff.

{Herself Sez: Himself has impeccable taste. Maddie is a sweetheart and VERY married for many years! :-)}

The internet is wonderful for finding and keeping in touch with people that you haven’t seen for nearly 50 years.

660 g sugar (3 cups)
190 g Crisco, plain (1 cup)
9 g vanilla (2 tsp)
4 ea eggs, large
630 g flour (4 1/2 cups)
11 g salt (2 tsp)
10 g baking soda (2 tsp)
((420
g water (1 3/4 cups) AND <<==
40 g buttermilk powder (1/4 cups)) <<== OR
2 cups
Buttermilk
160 g chopped walnuts (1 1/2 cups)

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

This method assumes a decent mixer like a Kitchenaid. You can mix by hand if you like.

Cream together shortening and sugar until light and fluffy. Mix in vanilla and eggs. Now those who have been paying attention know that I seldom use shortening, I usually use butter. This is one of the places that you do not want butter. You would not get much, if any, lift. Your nut bread would be very dense and heavy. I think the best way to handle the Crisco is to get the bars. You probably already know the best way to measure out of a can, but I’ll review for you. If you need a cup of water or butter or anything else of a like consistency, then take a two cup measure and put in a cup of water. Begin adding the shortening until the water rises to the two cup mark. Pour off the water and you have a cup of shortening. As the philosopher said: “Eureka!” Of course, it is much easier to just weigh things.

Add the buttermilk and mix briefly. Now things will be better if you have some real buttermilk. I don’t keep it around, but I do keep a good grade of baker’s buttermilk powder. You can get it from King Arthur or your grocery may carry some. Bob’s Red Mill is a decent brand. At any rate, either use the fresh buttermilk or the powder and water. You will get a slightly lighter loaf with real buttermilk.

Add the dry ingredients and mix until completely incorporated. Add walnuts and mix just enough to incorporate.

Pour into three greased 9x5x3 loaf pans. I do use unsalted butter for the lube, but you can use what you like.

Bake at 350°F for one hour. Cool on a rack.

Like any other nut bread, this works well naked, spread with butter, served with ice cream, whipped cream, or whatever. Also works nicely toasted. This stuff also freezes rather nicely.

{Herself Sez: Sorry about no pictures – have to take some next time Himself makes this bread!}

Leg of Lamb with Citrus Dressing

20 April 13 by

{{Herself Sez: With Pascha (Orthodox Easter) approaching on May 5, 2013, I’m posting (for Himself) one of his recipes for lamb – a traditional food for Pascha. Enjoy!}}

This is a rather good variation on the normal mint-sauce roast lamb. The basic roasting of a lamb leg is not something that varies a whole lot. The main difference here is the dressing. So – let’s roast a leg.

1 leg of lamb – around 3 lbs.
1 Tbs salt
1/2 Tbs freshly ground black pepper
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/2 cup olive oil
1 small orange, sliced
1 large lemon, sliced
1/2 tsp rosemary (or about 1 sprig fresh)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Grind up the salt, pepper, chopped garlic, and rosemary together with a mortar and pestle to make a rough-grained paste. Then rub the lamb all over with the spice mix. Rub gently with the olive oil, don’t rub off the spices. {If the olive oil is rubbed on first, and the spices rubbed on after that, as the roast heats up, about 90% of the spicing drips off. Also, the spices don’t have a chance to “sink into” the roast, giving up their flavor to the meat.} Place the lamb, fat side up, on a rack in a large baking pan and cover with orange and lemon slices secured by toothpicks. If you want a crustier outside then don’t cover with the orange and lemon slices. Baking time will vary, depending on your taste. Essentially, do it as you normally would if you have a preference. I use a thermometer and cook in a 375° oven until it is 155° internally. Let the meat rest for 10 minutes to reabsorb the juices and stabilize temperature – it will coast up to 160°, which is medium and very nice. Since I cook by temperature, not time, oven variation is not a big factor, but I do occasionally mis-time the roast and the rest of the meal. (About 25 min a pound – give or take).

Just before the roast is ready jam the dressing together. This stuff sounds weird, and the first taste is sometimes weird – but it has one of the nicest after-tastes ever. Be prepared with some mint sauce in case someone doesn’t like this – but I think that most will find it very nice.

1 zest of a small orange – or some dried orange peel
1 zest of a small lemon – or some dried lemon peel
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 clove garlic
1 Tbs chopped fresh oregano leaves – or 1 tsp dried
1 Tbs salt – sea salt is good
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Just dump all the dressing ingredients into a blender and make it smooth

Slice up the roast and serve it with the dressing. You can pour the dressing over the slices or serve it on the side in small bowls for dipping. I think you will enjoy this.

Roulade Delicious

20 April 13 by

It is time to revisit the good old roulade. I have written on these goodies before with the title Roll ‘Em Up – Beef. You can look that one up so I will not give all the discussion in that previous article.

 1  ea flank steak

So what you need is a nice flank steak. You can ask your butcher to run it through the tenderizing machine one in each direction. This should give you a thickness of about 1/4” and also enlarge and tenderize all at once. If you don’t do that just take a tenderizing mallet and keep whacking with the rough side until you get the aforementioned 1/4” thickness. Try not to knock holes in the beef while you are having fun.

Now you need a stuffing. I will give you a recent one that we liked. You are certainly welcome to use your own ideas and variations.

1 medium onion, chopped
1 large carrot OR several small ones, chopped (about 1/2 volume of onion)
2 ribs celery, chopped (about 1/2 volume of onion)
8 oz mushrooms, chopped
2-3 slices ham and/or prosciutto, chopped
unsalted butter
olive oil

Heat olive oil and unsalted butter in a heavy skillet until the butter stops foaming and just begins to color. Turn the heat down and gently sauté the onion for a couple of minutes. Add carrots and celery and continue sautéing for another minute or so. Add the mushrooms and continue the sauté for another couple of minutes. You may need a bit more  olive oil/butter.  Add the ham/prosciutto and keep cooking gently for one or two minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

1 cup beef broth, chicken broth, or vegetable broth
1/4 cup red wine
1/2 cup rice
salt
2-3 cloves garlic, chopped

Heat the broth in a saucepan. You can add ¼ cup of red wine to the liquid. That is good. Mix chopped garlic and salt and grind together with a mortar and pestle if you have them, or just use a cutting board and spoon to mash and stir if necessary. Add the garlic and salt mixture to the saucepan. Heat some olive oil/butter in a pan and, when the foaming stops, add in the rice and stir to get all the grains covered with lube. You only need medium heat for a minute or two. We use a rice mix with white, brown, and wild rice. Whatever you use, add it to the saucepan – be careful – if the broth is at or near boiling temp and you dump hot rice in it is going to boil up nicely. Sort of a sizzling rice effect. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes, remove from heat and let sit for 10 minutes. (Or whatever your rice requires.)

olive oil
unsalted butter
1/3 cup vermouth
1/3 cup beef broth

Heat the pan with the stuffing and add the rice to it. This would be a good time to taste and add whatever spices you like. Salt and pepper are just about always going to be needed. Others are optional. Spread the stuffing over the flattened flank steak. You may have some stuffing left over. That is fine. You can make some sandwiches with the goodie and some mayo or whatever later. Anyway, spread the stuffing, roll the steak and tie it up with butcher’s twine enough to hold it together. Be sure to secure the ends also. Get a heavy Dutch oven, lube with olive oil/butter. When the butter stops foaming and is golden start searing the roast. About 2 to 3 minutes for each side all the way around. Remove the roast, turn off the heat and add 1/3 cup of vermouth and 1/3 cup beef broth. Turn the heat back on, boil and whisk all the little pan goodies in. When the liquid is reduced by about half, add enough vegetable or chicken broth to get about 1/2” or so of liquid. Put in the roast and simmer, covered for 20 minutes per side.

3 Tbs butter
1/3 cup vermouth
1/3 cup beef broth
vegetable or chicken broth

While the roast rests (tented with foil on a cutting board) prepare the sauce. Add 1/3 cup vermouth and 1/3 cup broth to the liquid. Whisk while boiling rapidly. When reduced enough to start getting a bit thickish turn down the heat and add butter a tablespoon at a time, whisking each until melted and emulsified. Carve the roast, plate, and drizzle sauce over the slices. Serve immediately.

For those who wondered: the olive oil and butter combo does have a good reason. Yes, you could use either by itself, but the butter gives a sweeter, more intense taste than the olive oil alone. Olive oil raises the burning temp of the butter enough to make it practical as a sautéing medium and is healthier than butter alone. This is a very old and traditional medium and is very tasty and satisfactory. Oh yeah – we use unsalted butter so that we can control the amount of salt in the food and not get over-salting, which is not only unhealthy – but also tastes bad.

{{Herself sez: OMG! This is WONDERFUL! 5 Yummies! But not for Great Lent – or any other Orthodox fasting season.}}

Five-Spice Chicken

13 April 13 by

OK. I confess. I haven’t been much of a cackle fan over the years. I finally figured it out. 90% of the Americans who cook chickens just don’t take the time to do it right, and the majority of American chicken does not taste like chicken (funny, everything else is supposed to). Mostly American chickens don’t taste at all. Anyway, get free range birds that are not force grown when you can. The taste difference is rather dramatic. Even better – if you are somewhere that you can – raise your own and slaughter them when they are the proper age. We shall serve no bird before its time. (Does anyone else remember Orson Welles doing the wine commercials?) Anyway, Herself is a cackle connoisseur – or a yard-bird yokel, if you prefer, and has convinced me that all cackles are not bad. So now we cackle every now and then.

This is one of those things that can be done several different ways. The marinade can be muchly varied, but this is a very good basic. I’ll do some more elaborate marinades over the next couple of months.

1 Roasting hen – 5 or 6 pounds
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 shallots
1-1/2 Tbs sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp five-spice powder
1-1/2
Tbs
 Nước Mắm – Vietnamese fish sauce (1)
1-1/2 Tbs soy sauce (low sodium is good here)
1-1/2 Tbs dry sherry
Nước Chấm (1)
Horizontal Rotisserie Chicken

Horizontal Rotisserie Chicken

Mince the garlic, shallots, and sugar together. The best way to do this is a mortar and pestle, but you could use a food processor. Get the mix rather fine and add in the salt, pepper, and 5 spice powder and mix together well. Stir in the fish sauce, soy sauce, and sherry. A comment about soy sauce: if you use full sodium soy sauce cut the added salt by half or leave it out altogether – that stuff is salty. Gently slide your fingers between the skin and the meat as best you can without tearing the skin. Slip a good bit of the mix in and then rub the rest over the surface of the bird, working it in well. Let things soak at least 4 hours (or overnight) in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. You can use most any wine you like but the dry sherry is rather traditional Vietnamese.

You can do this three ways that are rather good:

  1. Rotisserie – on the spit for about 1-1/2 hours (my favorite)
  2. Vertical roaster in the oven at 450°F for about 15 minutes and then 350°F for about 1-1/4 hours
  3. Split the bird in half and cook on a grill over medium hot coals skin side down for about 15 minutes, flip and roast another 15 minutes.

No matter which method you use you are trying for done chicken – about 160°F with crisp skin. You will have blackish looking skin, BUT – it should be blackened from the Maillard reaction, not from burning. Let the bird sit for about 10 minutes. If you are using an indoor rotisserie then you can keep the spit turning with no heat. That keeps the juices in while they are being re-absorbed.

This goes nicely with a Nước Chấm (1) (2) dipping sauce. Rice is also handy, as is a side salad. The only disadvantage to this method is that the carcass shouldn’t be used for making soup or stock.

(1) Discussion of Nước Chấm and Nước Mắm is found HERE.

(2) Another discussion of Nước Chấm and Nước Mắm is found HERE.

Can She Bake a Cherry Pie, Billy Boy

13 April 13 by

Well, yeah, if she follows this recipe she can.

  —–Crust—–
1 pie Crust
1 pie Top (optional)
    —–Filling—–
675 g cherries, fresh or frozen (1-1/2 lb.)
160 g sugar (2/3 cup)
110 g water
30 g lemon juice (2 Tbs)
36 g cornstarch (4 Tbs)
1/4 tsp vanilla or almond extract (optional)
Slice of Cherry Pie

Slice of Cherry Pie

For the crust: Make (or buy) a single pie shell for an un-topped pie, or two shells for a covered pie. If you buy them they usually come 2 to a pack. That’s all a matter of what you like. I don’t care for covered pies, too much pastry. On the other side, herself does like them for some odd reason. So – follow what you like. If you make the crust do a quick pre-bake with a chain or some hard beans in the bottom shell. If using a store-bought crust this is not necessary.

For the filling: With fresh cherries be sure to wash, stem and pit. Take a taste and adjust the sugar if they are especially tart. This isn’t usually necessary if using the frozen jobbies, and they are already stemmed and pitted. Put the cherries, water, lemon juice, sugar and cornstarch into a pot big enough to allow some stirring room. Apply a reasonable amount of heat and stir often. Things will probably come to a boil if using fresh cherries. Frozen seem to thicken up before there is a real boil. Don’t worry about things starting up looking a little shy on water. Just keep a close eye on things. As usual, when fruit and sugar are involved with a little heat the liquid increases. Stir and heat until things thicken up a good bit and the cherries soften. Add the extract if you like.

Let the filling cool a little bit and spoon into the shell. Allow for a little expansion as things get hot. Also be aware that there will be just a little shrinkage as things cool back down after cooking. If you are going to put a lid on the pie now is the time. Slash or cut out some pretty shapes for steam vents or you will have a mess. Crimp the top in place. Whether topped or not, cover the edge with foil. (Actually I use a neat silicon edge protector.) Used to be you could tell who made which topped pie by the design in the top. The crimp pattern around the edge was also a good identifier.

Bake at 350°F for about 45 minutes, then pull the foil or edge protector off and bake for another 10 or 15 minutes untill the whole crust is a nice golden brown.

If you want a really glossy finish for any topped pie just brush the top with milk or cream and sprinkle lightly with sugar before baking.

Duck, You Sucker

30 January 13 by

Fesenjan

Persian (Iranian) Duck with Walnuts

1 duck, quartered
2 onions, sliced
10 oz ground walnuts
2-1/2 cups water
salt
pepper
4 Tbs pomegranate syrup
2 Tbs sugar
2 Tbs lemon juice

Remove all the excess fat from the duck and brown the quarters lightly in a large casserole. Lift out the duck and fry the onions until browned, then add the walnuts and 2 1/2 cups of water. Season with salt and pepper. Return the duck to the pan, and bring the sauce to the boil. Simmer for about an hour until the duck is almost tender. Stir the pomegranate syrup and sugar into the lemon juice. Skim as much fat as possible from the casserole and then stir in the juice mixture. Simmer for another 30 minutes until the sauce is quite dark. If the sauce is too thick, add a little more water.

Serve with rice.

Duck à l’Orange

1   5-6-pound   duckling
  salt and pepper, to taste
8   oz   chicken stock
1   Tbs   sugar
1   Tbs   champagne wine vinegar
2   Tbs   brandy
12   oz   orange juice
3   Tbs   lemon juice (1 lemon)
1   tsp   butter
4   oranges, peeled and sectioned
4   Tbs   orange zest, julienne
Canard à l'orange

Canard à l’orange (Photo credit: franziskas garten)

Prick the duck with a fork and rub well with salt and pepper.

Roast the duck at 400°F for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350°F and cook until done, approximately 45-60 minutes. Remove the duck from the roasting pan and hold in a warm place.

Degrease the roasting pan. Place the pan on the stove top and deglaze with the stock.

Melt the sugar and vinegar together in a saucepan and lightly caramelize the mixture.

Remove the caramelized sugar from the stove top and add the brandy.

Add the stock, pan drippings and juices to the pan of sugar and reduce until the sauce is slightly thickened, approximately 10 minutes. Monter au beurre. Strain and degrease the sauce.

Blanch the orange zest in boiling water.

Place the duck on a warm serving platter. Arrange the orange sections around it. Sprinkle the zest over the duck. Pour the sauce over the duck and serve additional sauce on the side.

Duck Breast with Red Rice, Chard and Apricot Mustard

 8   duck breasts, skin on
  salt and pepper, to taste
  3   oz   chard leaves, torn
  4   oz   butter
  1   pint   chicken stock
  2   quarts
  Red Rice, recipe follows, cooked
  3   Tbs   parsley, chopped
  1   cup   Apricot Mustard, recipe follows
  1   oz   sliced almonds, toasted
duck

duck (Photo credit: stu_spivack)

Score the skin of the duck breasts in a crosshatch pattern with a sharp knife. Season with salt and pepper and place the breasts skin side down in a rondeau. Without turning the breasts, cook them over low heat, rendering the fat from their skin, until the skin is golden brown and crisp, approximately 15 minutes. Turn the duck breasts in the pan and turn off the heat. Allow them to rest in the pan for 30 seconds. Then remove the breasts from the pan and allow them to rest in a warm place for 10 minutes.

Sauté the chard in 2 ounces (60 grams) of the butter until it wilts. Season with salt and pepper.

Bring the chicken stock to a boil. Add the cooked Red Rice and season with salt and pepper. Vigorously beat in the remaining butter and parsley and heat over moderate heat until the rice is hot, approximately 1 minute.

Slice the duck breasts and arrange on eight warm plates. Garnish with the wilted chard, brush the breasts with the

Sprinkle with almonds and serve with Red Rice on the side.

Red Rice

  1/2
  Tbs   butter
  2   Tbs   shallots, minced
  1/2   lb   red rice
  1   quart
  chicken stock
  1   bay leaves
  1   tsp   salt

In a heavy-bottomed pot, melt the butter and sweat the shallots, without coloring for approximately 10 minutes. Add the rice and stir to coat.

Add the chicken stock, bay leaves and salt and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until the liquid is absorbed,  approximately 20 minutes.

Spread the cooked rice on a sheet pan, remove the bay leaves and refrigerate.

Brioche

30 January 13 by
Brioche

Brioche (Photo credit: joana hard)

Brioche is supposed to be a difficult and intimidating bread. Well, I don’t see that unless you decide to do things the hard way. Like any other bread, brioche can be made pretty much by the numbers if you do things correctly.

This is the size for two small bread pans or one Pain de Mie pan.

520   g   bread flour
160
  g   high gluten flour
63   g   cold water
6   cold eggs
17
  g   salt
82   g   sugar
1   pkg   yeast
3   sticks
  cold butter
1   egg, beaten with a dollop of water

This stuff is not really bread. It is not really pastry either. It is a bridge between the two, and shares characteristics of both. It is rather magical the way it does. Those who are totally nuts might think about doing this by hand. Those who are sane will use a good mixer.

First rule – everything must be cold. This is not optional. You must refrigerate all ingredients overnight. This includes the flour, water, salt, sugar, and yeast. Also refrigerate the mixing bowl and dough hook. Only take things out as you need them. Work quickly and all will be well.

Mix everything except the butter on first speed until everything is incorporated, usually about 3 to 5 minutes. Mix on second speed 5 to 7 minutes until the dough is strong and tough.

Meanwhile beat the cold butter with a stick between sheets of plastic wrap until pliable (but still cold). Use a French style rolling pin (just a tapered stick), not an American, which has ball bearings. If you don’t have a good French rolling pin then use a cut off broomstick or something similar.

With the mixer still running toss in chunks of the butter. You can toss them in one after the other; you don’t have to wait for the preceding to incorporate. Another 8 minutes and the dough should be smooth, silky, slick, and deliciously buttery.

Turn it out into a lightly floured bowl and wrap with plastic wrap so that NO air gets to it. I do a wrap around the dough and then a layer across the top of the bowl secured by a large rubber band. Works well.

Rise for 1 hour. This is not going to double in size. Don’t panic, just fold it and keep on going. Rise for 2 hours, fold. Rise for 3 to 4 hours, fold and place in the refrigerator overnight. You will note that there were 3 rises, and between 6 and 7 hours rise before you put it in the refrigerator. The reason that the last one is 3 to 4 is that I won’t stay up an extra hour.

The next morning set it back on the counter and let it warm just enough so you can handle it. Fold, divide, shape it whatever you like and let it rise some more. You want about 50% of your form filled. Rise until 85% or a little more of the form is filled. Do an egg wash for anything but a Pain de Mie pan.

Bake at 375°F to 380°F. Time is dependent on the form. For a small bread loaf (this recipe makes two), you are looking at around 40 to 45 minutes. Set the pan on top of an airfoil cookie sheet in about the middle of the oven. If you don’t have an airfoil pan you can double stack just about any type of jelly pans. What you are doing is keeping the bottom from burning. Take a look at things somewhere around 20 minutes and if it is starting to get too brown tent with a bit of aluminum foil.

You really want to use a good digital insertion thermometer. That is really the best way to tell when it is done. 205°F is the target. It is not a good thump test type bread. When it is done properly it will be golden brown and smell wonderfully rich.

Last caution: Be very careful to not under bake this bread.

Spaghetti

13 January 13 by

I’m going to tell you that the greatest hoax in town is packaged spaghetti. The real stuff is so easy to make and so much more delicious that you will never want the packaged stuff again. Italian mamas knock this stuff out without blinking an eye. The big secret is that anyone can do it.

Here are the complex and arcane ingredients:

100 g
flour per person (4/5 Cup)
1 large egg per person

That’s all folks!

Some discussion about the flour. You can use all-purpose or Semolina (made from Durham wheat), or a mixture of the two. I like 50 g of each per person.

2013-01-12-AddSemolina

Adding Semolina flour to AP flour. Note processor container on scale, which has been tared.

Mixing is no big deal: the traditional is to make a bit of a mound of the flour on your counter, put a well in the middle, put the eggs in the well, and scramble with a fork. As you stir in more and more of the flour it will get to the point that it is too stiff for the fork and you should switch to your hands, kneading until all the flour is mixing in and the dough is smooth. An easier way for the lazy or old or puny (I’m getting to be all three): put the flour into a food processor and pulse a couple of times. This mixes and sifts the flour the easy way.

Add eggs - in this case, 2 - to the flours. Pulse to mix.

Add eggs – in this case, 2 – to the flours. Pulse to mix.

Add in the eggs and pulse around five or six times or until all is mixed together. You will have a crumbly sort of mixture which you dump onto the counter and knead a few times until the dough is formed.

There is argument here. Some favor making a ball, wrapping it in plastic wrap and refrigerating for a half hour. I don’t bother, I just get on to the rolling stage.

Knead until the dough holds together

Knead until the dough holds together

Rolling it out: You can use your favorite rolling pin or whatever technology you like to get a nice thin, pliable, dry dough. It will take you a bit of work to get the dough down to the 1/16” that you need. A test: with the dough rolled out near the edge of the counter put your mouth at the edge and blow air between the dough and the counter surface. If it flutters you have achieved thinness. Almost all Italian mamas seem to say that they do it this way. However, they sell a ton of pasta machines in Italy. As one commentator noted: The mamas say that they do it by hand, then hurry home to their machines. Look here – pasta machines go from $30 to thousands on Amazon. Then there are the powered machines. I got the $30 jobbie and it works just fine. The only caution is that your countertop must have enough of a lip to clamp the machine firmly. The Kitchenaid goes somewhere around $160 and, although I love Kitchenaid, I didn’t want to spend that much. A word of caution: do look on YouTube for various people using the rolling machines. Be aware that it takes a bit of practice before it is as easy as they make it look. You will probably cuss right salty the first time you try to use one.

[Herself Sez: more photos and a movie coming later.]

After you get the dough thin enough you can cut it up into strips. First off, whack the dough into reasonable lengths, a foot or so will do. If you are doing the hand thing or don’t have a cutter of the width you want, no big deal. Just roll up the dough or fold it loosely and cut strips with your knife. If you have a machine you probably have at least a spaghetti cutter and a linguini cutter. The more expensive jobs have all sorts of widths available. Be sure that you have the output going into a bowl or onto the counter and not the floor.

Look! Spaghetti!

Look! Spaghetti!

Sprinkle the strands with a bit of cornmeal and separate any strands that are sticking together. Cornmeal is used because when you cook it will drop to the bottom of the pot. If you use flour it will make a sticky mess when cooked.

There is no big secret to drying it. You can buy fancy drying racks or trees. No need. The mamas just have little mounds of pasta around the countertop drying for an hour or two.

When ready to cook use a big pot and lots of water – you already knew that. Use at least twice the salt you normally use.  Like a heaping tablespoon or more. The water should be like seawater. Don’t add the salt until the water is really boiling, just before adding the pasta. This is not like the dry stuff out of the box; it only takes a couple of minutes. Test at 1 minute intervals after coming back to the full boil. Drain thoroughly, and do not wash. Don’t add butter or oil to pasta if you are going to want a sauce to stick to it.

There are those who add salt to the dough. There are also those who add oil to the dough. I don’t, but try them sometime. About a 1/4 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of oil per serving for starters. Adjust to your liking from there.

I did a marinara gravy/sauce recipe somewhere previously. But here are a couple of simple ones:

Drizzle olive oil over the pasta, add some finely minced garlic and some shredded Parmesan. Get good Parmigiano-Reggiano if you can afford it. This is kind of a traditional Italian snack.

Another way: Sorta’ depends on what’s in the fridge and your mood.

Cook the spaghetti somewhere in here so that it is ready before the last step.

Some trinity: onion, celery, carrot, chopped. Mushrooms, rough chopped. Ham or beef or chicken or shrimp or scallops or whatever you’ve got, thin cut or rough cut, depending. Anchovy – be sure to get good stuff – a couple mushed up in their olive oil. Remove bones as needed.

We use the King Oscar anchovies, packed in olive oil. Heat the olive oil, mush them with the back of a spoon in the hot olive oil, then rub through a fine strainer with your fingers (carefully), which will leave the bones behind. A wonderful treat: take a nice cracker (I’ll teach you to make crackers another time), spread a bit of Philly Cheese and put just a dot of this anchovy paste. Much goodness. It may take a time or two before you know how you want the proportions. Too much of this or too little of that and they are terrible. Get it right and they are heavenly.

Lessee – back to the spaghetti. Sauté the trinity and the mushroom slowly and gently until nicely softened, but not brown. Toss in the garlic and, when it smells good – about 30 seconds or so, add the meat and anchovy. Stir gently or toss if you can. I’ve lost too much wrist strength to do the one handed jerk, toss and roll anymore, so I stir. When everything smells right add the previously cooked spaghetti and stir in some more olive oil or butter. Butter gives a smooth, sweet taste. Finish with salt and pepper as needed. You don’t always need either.

Someone who knows how can make spaghetti in less than ten minutes. Closer to 5 minutes after practice.

You’ll notice that I didn’t mention macaroni, rigatoni, and such. These are formed by extruding. Made with pretty much the same dough, and extruded through a machine with the proper forming plate. There are attachments for Kitchenaid and Cuisinart, but they are kind of pricey. There are also some manual machines that look (and work) a lot like a meat grinder. I get the sense that they are more trouble than they are worth, but you can check them out on Amazon and YouTube if you are interested. Mostly what I see on YouTube is industrial stuff.

It has been said that some of the poorest people in the world have some of the best food. This can be true. What can be cheaper and simpler than flour and an egg? Topped with olive oil, garlic, and a good local cheese this is about as cheap as it gets. Remember, no matter how expensive or status-y a cheese is – somewhere in the world it is just everyday cow, sheep, or goat juice that has gone bad.

Kielbasa

24 December 12 by

[Herself SEZ: The Ol’ Curmudgeon wants me to add the following CAUTION:

If you smoke sausage or keep it a long time you need to add cure: instacure or prague powder. About a teaspoon per 5 lbs. of meat will do it. Smoking is the perfect environment to grow certain types of bacteria that can make you very sick. If you add the cure you will be pretty safe.

Herself adds, this is to prevent severe food-borne illnesses – like botulism! Also, cook your homemade sausage to an internal temp of 178deg F and hold it there for 10 minutes. This will destroy the toxin which causes the poisoning.]

The people of the Middle East have a real thing about pigs. Unclean! Unclean! Is the cry of both Jew and Moslem. Notice that both groups come from the same neck of the woods. The reason they have problems with the porkers is actually rather practical, if you:

– keep your pigs in unclean conditions

– allow them to eat offal and rats (they’re as good a ratter as a cat)

– don’t have cold weather for slaughtering

– don’t have modern refrigeration

– don’t cook the meat done

You are probably going to have Trichinosis, a parasitic worm that encysts in the host. Gross! Yech! Not only can kill you, but also hurts! BTW – you can also get it from undercooked game.

However, when kept clean, properly fed, slaughtered in cool weather (not found in the Middle East), and properly refrigerated, the risk is non-existent. The noble pig is a staple of people of discrimination and good culinary taste around the world. Now, everyone except the Jews and Moslems has sausage recipes, but the two groups that have made the absolute most of the lovely creature are the Germans and Eastern Europeans. Volumes could be (and have been) written about the German and Eastern European pork recipes. There are umpteen thousand different sausage recipes.

Sausage, Swojska, Polish, kiełbasa

Sausage, Swojska, Polish, kiełbasa (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I must admit that my all-time favorite is kielbasa. Now there are a slew of variations on the word (and the recipe), all the way from the Czech to the Polish to the Ukrainian, generally the whole neck of the woods of Northern to Eastern Europe and on into Russia. Mostly we get wiejska kielbasa when we get it from an American supermarket. The Hillshire Farms u-shaped stuff comes to mind. Now this is pretty good. Just slice it into rounds about 1/4” thick and gently heat in a heavy skillet until it is light brown to dark brown on both sides. Just serve it up and chow down. However, if you have access to some sort of Eastern European market, try some of the variations, they’re just about all good. But, if you want to roll your own, here’s a starter:
.

4 lbs. Clean, tender pork – butt is fine, chunk it into pieces

1 lb. Fatback, chunk it up

1 lb. Beef – if you want tender, use veal, chuck for a rougher texture, chunk it up

1 1/2 tablespoons salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 tablespoon ground allspice

other spices to taste and to vary – try some marjoram for that traditional Polish taste

lots of garlic and pepper for the Krakow type

or any other spicing which suits

garlic is always good

brown sugar will give it a sweet taste

1/2 cup cold water

Sausage Casings

Pre-mix all the spices. Grind or mince the meat. Add the spices. Mix everything thoroughly. Stuff the sausages per directions of whatever stuffer you have.

If you’ve got the Kitchen-Aid mixer with the grinder and stuffer attachments then the whole process isn’t that hard. If you are really serious, there are good web sites for professional sausage stuffers. Traditional funnel about $10 (the hard way). Stuffer $75 to $100 (the easy way).

Remember, this isn’t what you get at the grocery in the bubble packs. That is pre-cooked. This is raw sausage and will take a bit longer to cook. Make sure you get it done. You can just fry it up and eat it. Bake it, broil it, boil it, smoke it. If you smoke it, fast smoking will wrinkle and shrink. If you smoke extra slow, the skin will toughen and you will get the kind of crunchy bite that is characteristic of Andouille sausage. You only need to smoke to 175°, the pork is fully done at that temp. The Germans do the sauerkraut thing. The Eastern Europeans frequently serve with horseradish. I like the purple horseradish, just take a slice of kielbasa and spread a little on. Heaven.

Now you know I’m not going to pass by the South, so here’s your Grandmother’s Southern Hot & Spicy Sausage Patties –

1 lb. ground or minced pork

2 tsp rubbed sage

1 tsp kosher salt

1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper

1/2 tsp ground marjoram

1/4 tsp ground thyme

1/4 tsp cloves

1/4 tsp mace

1/4 tsp red pepper flakes

1/4 tsp cinnamon

Mix is all up. Shape it into patties about ½” thick. Fry it up slowly. Get it done through. If this is too hot, back out 1 or more of the last 4 ingredients. I personally use a lighter touch with the sage, I’m more interested in a balanced taste. And I like a little sweet basil, if fresh.

And, of course, we can’t ignore Basic American Sausage:

4 lbs. Good pork butt

1 lb good bacon (optional)

1 cup minced onion

4 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 cup chopped parsley

1/4 cup sage

1 stick butter

1-1/4 tbsp kosher salt

1 tbsp fresh ground black pepper

1 tbsp marjoram

1 tbsp thyme

1 tbsp sweet basil

1 tbsp cayenne or red pepper flakes (optional)

Mix it all up. Stuff the casings. Enjoy. Twiddle the spices to suit yourself. Works well fried, grilled, smoked, cut up and used in various recipes.

Truthfully, just about any meat can be made into sausage. Deer sausage is popular with Southern hunters of the whitetail. Most of the spicing is optional. Even when you talk about sausage from a given area, every single cook has a different recipe. Many regional sausages get their distinctive flavor from slow smoking. The only thing that you can say for sure is that a sausage is totally up to the taste of the cook. You can’t even say that a sausage has a casing. Remember the Southern Patties? However, generally, a sausage has a casing, is usually ground or minced pork, and has various spices.

Lángos

24 December 12 by

[Once again, this is Herself, posting for Himself. Mainly, I forgot to log out and login under his ID.]

This is the plain lángos, similar to the fried breads that just about every culture has had at one time or another. Very near North American Indian fried bread. This is the HungarianCentral European – version. For more discussion see the Krumplis Lángos (potato lángos) recipe.

 450   g  flour (3 cups)
 1  pkg. yeast
 1  pinch   salt
 5  g  sugar (1 tsp)
 225   g  water (1 cup)
 10  g  unsalted soft butter (1 Tbs) 

Put everything in the mixer. 3 minutes first speed. 3 minutes second speed.

Put the dough ball into a greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise 1 hour.

Depending on what you want to do with this divide into somewhere between 4 and 16 pieces. Either pat it out or roll it out to about 1/8” thickness.

Fry in 375°F oil until golden brown. Turn and fry the other side. Let them drain on a paper towel. Hungarian style: rub with cut garlic and sprinkle with coarse ground salt.

Lángos with cheese and sour cream

Lángos with cheese and sour cream (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Also good for making pocket sandwiches, tearing and dipping cheese, spinach, or whatever kind of dip. Sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar, or honey, for a desert. Just spread butter or cream cheese or whatever for a nice bread side. Very versatile.


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