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Cooking in the movies

13 Nov

four seasons

We are on a weird nostalgic 1970s/80s California cooking and gourmet revolution kick. There’s a scene in Alan Alda’s The Four Seasons movie (1981) where the husbands in a group of married friends are cooking Chinese food for their wives at a cabin. They make a big show out of having packed proper woks, obsessively sourcing Asian eggplants and fresh ginger root. Rice noodle sticks explode into a cloud and the men are nearly smoked out of the kitchen trying to get the oil to a proper cooking temperature:

“The oil’s not hot enough. You cannot cook Chinese food properly unless the oil is 480 degrees. It’s a scientific fact.”

“Who said that, Einstein?”

“Newton. Isaac Newton, inventor of mu shu pork.”

The scene takes up only a few minutes of the movie but it has stuck with us all these years. Thanks daytime television. The group’s excitement and pleasure over their exotic creation of Chinese chicken salad, rice and eggplant makes us appreciate the exploding gourmet food trends and cooking craze of the 1970s and 80s. It makes us imagine the treasures to be found at Williams and Sonoma, New York’s Silver Palate, Berekely’s Chez Panisse, in the pages of Gourmet magazine, but especially inside Barbara Tropp’s China Moon Cafe:

STIR-FRIED SHRIMP WITH FENNEL, LEMON AND ANGEL-HAIR NOODLES

The shrimp and the marinade:

1 tablespoon egg white
2 teaspoons Chinese rice wine or quality dry Sherry
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 pound medium (25 to 30) shrimp, shelled and deveined

The sauce:
1 1/2 cups unsalted chicken stock
1/8 cup Chinese rice wine or quality dry Sherry
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons soy sauce 1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon Chinese chili sauce (Koon Yick Wah Kee brand recommended)
1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon cold water

The noodles:
1/3 pound Chinese egg noodles (or any thin, fresh pasta)
1 1/2 tablespoons chili oil
The minced zest from half a lemon

The vegetables:
3 1/2 tablespoons peanut oil
1 small yellow onion, cut into 1/4-inch-thick rings
1 medium red bell pepper, cut into 1/4-inch-thick strips
1 cup 1/4-inch-thick slices fennel bulb
4 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
4 teaspoons minced garlic
2 slim scallions, the green and the white part cut in very thin rounds
1/2 teaspoon dried hot pepper flakes
The julienned zest from half a lemon
2 teaspoons thinly sliced rings of hot fresh chili pepper, such as Fresno or Serrano (optional)
2 cups 1/2-inch-thick strips of Napa cabbage

The garnish: Fennel sprigs 2 scallions, the green and the white part cut in very thin rounds.

1. Mix together the ingredients for the marinade in a medium-sized bowl until thoroughly combined. Add the shrimp, toss so they are coated with the marinade, cover and refrigerate for 8 to 36 hours.

2. Whisk together all of the sauce ingredients, except the cornstarch and water, in a large bowl and reserve. Whisk together the cornstarch and water in a small bowl and reserve.

3. Bring four cups of water to a boil in a medium-sized saucepan over high heat, then remove from the heat and add the shrimp. Leave them in the hot water just until they turn pink, about 20 seconds. Drain and reserve.

4. Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Add the noodles and stir to separate, then cook until al dente. Drain, run under cold water to cool them and drain well. Toss in a large bowl with the chili oil and the minced lemon zest. Reserve.

5. Heat one tablespoon of the peanut oil in a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat until nearly smoking. Stir-fry the onions just until they turn golden at the edges, about one-and-a-half minutes. Add the bell peppers and stir-fry until they become slightly limp, about two-and-a-half minutes. Add the fennel and stir until it begins to turn limp but is still crisp, about three-and-a-half minutes. Transfer the vegetables to a plate and return the skillet to the heat.

6. Add the additional oil to the skillet and, when the oil is nearly smoking, add the ginger, garlic, scallions and hot chili-pepper flakes and lower the heat to medium so they foam without browning. Cook just until they release their fragrance, about 30 seconds. Add the lemon zest and the hot pepper slices, stir, then add the Napa cabbage and stir-fry until it becomes glossy and is slightly cooked, about 30 seconds. Add the cooked noodles and stir-fry just until they are hot, about two minutes, then add the cooked vegetables and toss until all of the ingredients are mixed. Increase the heat to high and add the sauce mixture. Cover and bring to a boil, then add the shrimp and toss until they are incorporated into the mixture. When the mixture returns to a simmer, add the cornstarch mixture and stir, then cook just until the sauce becomes glossy and slightly thickened, about one minute. Transfer to a serving platter or bowl, garnish with the fennel sprigs and scallion rings and serve immediately.

Yield: Four servings as a main course.

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Cooking with Joan Didion

13 Nov

Outtake: American writer Joan Didion prepares a meal in her Malibu kitchen

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PARSLEY SALAD 
Didion says this serves serves 35-40. I’m tempted to try it with kale and top it with toasted breadcrumbs like Una’s.
8 bunches Italian parsley
Blend 16 T olive oil with one head parsley until smooth
Blend in 4 T balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper
When ready to serve place parsley in 1 1/3 C grated parmesan in bowl, toss with dressing.

On March 27 2005 at 1:30 PM J & J have become just J. Joan had Q and Jerry and twenty seven others for Baked Ham, Alice Water’s coleslaw, and deviled eggs.

ALICE WATERS’ COLESLAW
1 medium cabbage (about 3 pounds), outer leaves removed
1 large jalapeno pepper
1/2 small red onion, cut in half through the stem, peeled and thinly sliced
1 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped
3 to 4 tablespoons fresh lime juice
3 to 4 teaspoons red wine vinegar
1/4 to 1/3 cup olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons Maldon or other sea salt or more to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper or more to taste
Large pinch of sugar or more to taste.

Quarter the cabbage through the core; cut out the core. Cut the quarters crosswise in half; finely shred, using a sharp knife. Place shredded cabbage in a very large bowl or pot (you will have about 5 1/2 quarts). Cut open the jalapeno, discard the seeds and dice it fine. Add diced jalapeno, onion and cilantro to the cabbage and toss to mix. Sprinkle with the lime juice, vinegar, oil, salt, pepper and sugar, and toss to coat.

Let slaw sit for 1 hour, tossing occasionally. Drain; taste and adjust seasonings. Wait another hour. Serve at room temperature.

Sunday Lunch April 8 2007. Joan and no J and no Q had twenty-two for chicken hash, yellow pepper, crab and mustard sauce, chocolates, brie.

DEVILED CRAB
For 1 pound of crabmeat:

Melt 4 T butter, sauté 1/4 tp 1/2 cup chopped celery and 3 chopped scallions. Stir in 1/2 t dry mustard, 1 T flour, cayenne and salt. Add 1 container heavy cream, thicken a bit, stir in crabmeat.

Pour into baking dish, finish with dried bread crumbs, Parmesan, and paprika. In oven 15 minutes, finish under broiler until brown.

 

 

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VODKA SAUCE
(for pound of pasta)

1 stick butter, 1 t red pepper flakes, 1 c vodka, 1 8-oz can tomato sauce, 1 tomato, 1 c heavy cream

 

PESTO
(for pound of pasta)
a cup and a half (about one ounce) of basil leaves, loosely packed
a handful of parsley leaves
1/8 ¼ cup pine nuts
several garlic cloves
a teaspoon of red pepper flakes
a quarter ½ cup olive oil

Blend together, gradually adding oil and then mixing in pepper flakes.

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Sausage gravy and biscuits

11 Oct

It may not be pretty, but a plate of biscuits swimming in sausage gravy is mighty fine.

As cozy as woolen socks on a winter morning or as life-bringing after an over-served summer night, it is pure southern comfort.

Go south and start with good biscuits, like Great Grandmother Ruth’s, taking care to use heavy cream and “not that slop from the supermarket:”

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Or head north with Grandma Nora’s:

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Just don’t let a feud errupt!

Our lazy gravy version is simple, as this dish should be. But we are icked out by the call for Bisquick mix. Surely a small amount of effort is justifiable.

1/2 lb Jimmy Dean sausage

2 tbsp flour

2 cups of milk

Crumble sausage and brown in a large skillet. Add flour and cook. Pour in milk and stir until the gravy thickens.

This New York Times version calls for twice as much sausage, so if you are partial to milky gravy, try the portions above. Some people add dashes of Worcestershire or a splash of morning coffee to give the gravy a less pallid colour.

Either way, keep things simple and you’ll agree: sausage gravy and biscuits are mighty fine.

 

1 pound bulk pork breakfast sausage (quality counts and skip the mild).

¼ cup all-purpose flour, or instant flour like Wondra

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste

2½ cups whole milk

Salt to taste

ground sage to taste (optional)

ground fennel to taste (optional)

ground red pepper to taste

Set a large, heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat and cook the sausage, breaking it up with a wooden spoon, until it is loose and no longer pink, approximately 10 minutes. Taste sausage and adjust seasonings — you may wish to add sage and fennel aggressively.

Sprinkle the flour and pepper over the sausage and cook, stirring constantly, until the flour has been absorbed by the fat and has gathered its flavors close, approximately 2 to 5 minutes.

Slowly stir in the milk and cook at a bare simmer until the gravy gets thick and the roux covers the back of a spoon. If it is too thick for your liking add more milk and stir. Check seasonings and serve over split or roughly crumbled biscuits.

 

Country Club Hamburgers

12 Aug

When we’re not obsessing over 1980s Seventeen Now You’re Cooking pages, we’re smitten with Better Homes and Gardens 1950s and 60s cookbooks.

And this artery-clogging, but super summery supper:

retro recipes, country club hamburgers, seventeen magazine recipes, better homes and gardens

And get a load of these “high-society franks.” Highly questionable, more like.burger 2

high society franks

Stuffed patties are a bit of work, but we are intrigued by the bacon collar and think these patties would be exceptional served sans buns and with a spectacular summer veg and herb salad.

Egads: what if you subbed in split, grilled kielbasa for the franks, swapped the pickle for sauerkraut topped with the same duchess potato topping. Very prairie! Photos to follow!

COUNTRY CLUB HAMBURGERS
Better Homes and Gardens Best Buffets 1963

2 lbs ground beef
Blue Cheese Filling (Note: another online version has doubled these amounts)
1 3-ounce package cream cheese, softened
1 tablespoon crumbled blue cheese
1 tablespoon finely chopped onion (we’ll grate and add juice)
1 teaspoon prepared horseradish
1 teaspoon prepared mustard

12 slices bacon, precooked slightly (we will look for the thinnest slices possible).
Salt
Pepper
6 large, well shaped mushrooms

Divide ground beef in 12 mounds. Flatten each between squares of waxed paper to 1/2 inch thickness.

For Blue-cheese filling, cream the cheeses together; stir in onion, horseradish, and mustard. Top half the patties with filling, leaving 1/2-inch margin for sealing.  Cover filling with remaining patties, sealing edges well.  Wrap edges of each burger with the bacon, using 2 slices and securing ends with toothpicks.  Broil 5 inches from heat about 6 minutes; sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Turn and broil about 5 minutes more or until done just the way you like them; season second side.

Flute the mushroom caps. While burgers are cooking, lightly brown mushrooms in butter (we’ll let them bubble away in our mini cast iron frying pan on the grill, maybe with a shot of brandy). Top each burger with a mushroom.

Makes 6 servings.

*If beef is lean, have 6 ounces of suet ground with this amount.  Burgers will be at their very best!

Crabbies

27 Dec

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Here’s another retro appie for the holidays.

Luscious little crab puffs. Or crab canape. Or crab toasties. Or crabby snacks. Officially known as Old English Crab Hors d’Oeuvre off the back of a jar of Kraft Old English Spread jar. Sweet Jesus, what is this jarred cheez, we ask? Processed, yes, but not Cheez Whiz. It is hard to source and has a cult following. We will try to reverse engineer for something more natural and gourmet. Stay tuned.

Make ahead and freeze. They only take 10 minutes to bake, so they’re perfect for unexpected guests.

As they cook, the butter in the spread melts into the English muffin so it toasts to a crispy golden brown.

We’re thinking these could benefit from a wee splash of sherry, Worchestershire or dash of Old Bay?

CRABBIES

1 can crab meat (also check seafood counter for backfin or “special” crab meat which is smaller and perfect for this.)
1 5 oz. jar of Kraft Old English Cheese
1 stick (1/4 lb) softened butter
1 1/2 Tbsp mayonnaise
1/2 Tbsp lemon juice
1/2 Tbsp Lawrys Seasoned Salt
2 tsp. garlic powder (I also see onion powder in some recipes)
chopped parsley

8-10 English muffins

Drain crabmeat and combine with the ingredients. Spread mixture on halved English muffins, spreading all the way to edges. Cut into quarters. Freeze. When ready to cook, bake at 400 for 10 or so minutes until bubbling and browned. (Or broil)

Hot Dish

21 Oct

enchilada casserole

Tried and true, secret family shame. An heirloom recipe. Practically health food when served with Special Cool Salad, a.k.a. Dorothy Lynch Meatless Taco Salad of diced tomatoes, kidney beans, grated cheddar, scallions, black olives marinated for 8-24 hours with French dressing before tossing with half a bag of Fritos corn chips and iceberg lettuce. Ulp.

ENCHILADA CASSEROLE

Brown a package of lean hamburger (up to 2 lbs), add 1 chopped white onion & 1 chopped green pepper.

Season with chilli, cumin, oregano leaves, salt & Montreal Steak Spice/pepper.  (A squirt of beef bouvril and a bit of water to the pan once everything is well on its way and the onions are translucent doesn’t hurt) Uncle Bob used to add a can of green chiles.

Add 1 can of chopped tomatoes (398 ml size) or salsa, or a can of enchilada sauce or Rotel, 2 cans of full fat/full salt/gross cream of chicken soup & 1 can of romano beans.  Let it bubble away for 5-10 minutes.

Cover the bottom of a casserole dish with half a bag of Frito corn chips (or enough to cover).

Pour hamburger mixture on top of chips.

Top with remaining corn chips, and shredded tex-mex cheese. Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes, but watch to make sure top doesn’t get too brown.)

Let cool for a bit so it firms up, then serve.

enchilada

DOROTHY LYNCH Meatless Taco Salad
1 cup DOROTHY LYNCH HOME STYLE DRESSING (catalina)
3-4 scallions or green onions, chopped
1 300-can kidney beans, drained
(Retain 1/4 cup juice)
Black olives, sliced
1 head lettuce, torn into small pieces
2-4 tomatoes, chopped
Shredded cheddar cheese
One-half package large corn chips (chips may be broken and tossed into salad or used as garnish)

Combine dressing, scallions, beans and olives. Refrigerate 8-24 hours to marinate. Before tossing with lettuce, pour off liquid and set aside. Toss lettuce, tomatoes, cheddar cheese and corn chips with kidney beans, onion and olive mixture. Pour dressing marinade over salad just before serving.

From the Best of Bridge

b-o-b

Kentucky Derby Feedbag

7 May

It is to our credit that we have managed to resist buying honey brown earthenware dishes (round, flat bottomed with a handle). Oh, yes, we’ve seen them on our vintage treasure hunts.

And we know damn well what they’re intended for: beautiful, bubbling Kentucky Hot Brown sandwiches.

Thanks to the delightful 2002 PBS documentary, Sandwiches That You Will Like, by Rick Sebak of WQED, we were quickly seduced by the romantic lore of this calorie-bomb.

In the 1920s, The Brown Hotel drew over 1,200 guests for its dinner dance. In the wee hours, booze-soaked, weary guests would stagger to the restaurant for pre-dawn eats. Bored with traditional ham and eggs, Chef Fred Schmidt created this divine mess.

We hold the Hot Brown in high esteem, in keeping with post-midnight fried chicken and waffles, chicken hash with hollandaise, and midnight cheese toasts (white wine soaked ham and cheese).

Next time you’re facing Thanksgiving leftovers, you can add Hot Browns to your repertoire. But we’re also thinking what a great New Year’s Eve snack this would make in miniature. Washed down with some bubbly, of course.

For purists, the hotel’s printable recipe is at bottom. Bobby Flay’s Bar Americain version here:

KENTUCKY HOT BROWN

Mornay sauce:

2 1/4 cups whole milk

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 cups shredded sharp white cheddar cheese (6 ounces)

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

Few dashes of hot sauce

Kosher salt

Pepper

 

Sandwiches:

16 slices of thick-cut bacon

2 tomatoes, cut into eight 1/4-inch-thick slices

1 tablespoon canola oil

Kosher salt

Pepper

Eight 1/2-inch-thick slices of day-old white sandwich bread

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces

2 pounds roast turkey breast, sliced 1/4 inch thick

1 1/2 cups shredded sharp white cheddar cheese (4 1/2 ounces)

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Chopped chives and chopped parsley, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 425°. Arrange the bacon on a rack set over a baking sheet. Cook until golden and crisp, about 30 minutes.

 

In a small saucepan, bring the milk to a simmer. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter. Add the flour and whisk over moderate heat for 1 minute. Gradually whisk in the hot milk and bring to a boil. Cook, whisking, until thickened, about 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in both cheeses until melted. Stir in the nutmeg and hot sauce and season with salt and pepper.

Preheat the broiler. Arrange the tomato slices on a baking sheet, drizzle with the oil and season with salt and pepper. Broil 
6 inches from the heat until lightly charred, 1 to 2 minutes per side; keep warm.

Arrange the bread on a foil-lined baking sheet and spread each slice with 1/2 tablespoon of the butter; season with salt and pepper. Broil until lightly toasted, about 
2 minutes. Flip the bread and toast for 
1 minute. Top each toast with some turkey and a slice of tomato. Spoon the sauce on top and sprinkle on both cheeses. Broil until the cheese is melted and golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer the sandwiches to plates and top with the bacon. Garnish with chopped chives and parsley and serve hot.

 

 

LEGENDARY HOT BROWN
Recipe courtesy Brown Hotel
(Makes Two Hot Browns):
• 2 oz. Whole Butter
• 2 oz. All Purpose Flour
• 1 Qt. Heavy Cream
• 1/2 Cup Pecorino Romano Cheese, Plus 1 Tablespoon for Garnish
• Salt & Pepper to Taste
• 14 oz. Sliced Roasted Turkey Breast
• 2 Slices of Texas Toast (Crust Trimmed)
• 4 slices of Crispy Bacon
• 2 Roma Tomatoes, Sliced in Half
• Paprika, Parsley
In a two-quart saucepan, melt butter and slowly whisk in flour until combined and forms a thick paste (roux). Continue to cook roux for two minutes over medium-low heat, stirring frequently. Whisk whipping cream into the roux and cook over medium heat until the cream begins to simmer, about 2-3 minutes. Remove sauce from heat and slowly whisk in Pecorino Romano cheese until the Mornay sauce is smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste.
For each Hot Brown, place one slice of toast in an oven safe dish and cover with 7 ounces of turkey. Take the two halves of Roma tomato and set them alongside the base of turkey and toast. Next, pour one half of the Mornay sauce to completely cover the dish. Sprinkle with additional Pecorino Romano cheese. Place entire dish under a broiler until cheese begins to brown and bubble. Remove from broiler, cross two pieces of crispy bacon on top, sprinkle with paprika and parsley, and serve immediately.