Suzi’s Blog

TBT Cookbook Review: Lost Recipes by Marion Cunningham

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When she died at age 90 in 2012, Marion Cunningham left a culinary legacy that might be matched but that could never be surpassed. A California native, she became an expert in that specific cuisine and support both California chefs and culinary movements for decades. Her greatest contribution was the rewriting, the update, the saving of the Fannie Farmer Cookbook in the 1970s. That classic was as stale as 80-year old bread. Marion brought it back to life and made it a must-have general cookbook for all of us.

In all, Marion wrote or collaborated on eight cookbooks. This one, Lost Recipes, was her last, in 2003 when he had turned 81. We should all be so active and cogent at that point in our lives.

Here, “lost” means no longer used. Marion bemoaned the trend towards simpler dishes or dishes not made at home at all but just brought home from the deli counter. The recipes here are for the home cook in the style she knew as a child and then post-World War 2. Moms stayed home. Moms cooked. Moms knew how to cook.

While these are recipes most moms could make fifty years ago, far fewer could make them now. But these are gems, a battery of recipes that you could depend on and use 7 days a week. This book just could be your “one and only” source of recipes. It has the breadth and depth to sustain you.

There are familiar things here, a simple potato salad and a basic meat loaf. But the pleasure of reading this book is seeing recipes, both simple and complex, that you just haven’t had for a few decades. Or never had at all.

You’ve surely had a wedge salad. There are alternative and one is given here: Wedges of Iceberg with White Cheddar and Chive Dressing. No bacon.

People used to serve relish as a side for most main courses and there is relish in this book, including the famous Fire and Ice, a combo of tomatoes and peppers and spices, that once graced every California tea room table.

We don’t eat rarebit much anymore. Oh, you don’t know what it is? Toast and melted cheese and more. It’s not grilled cheese sandwich at all. Here you’ll find the classic Welsh Rarebit but also a very California tomato one, too.

There is Chicken and Dumpling Soup where the recipe calls for feathery dumplings. Light and easy on the bite. Today, many home cooks make a dumpling that could double as a brick. These are better.

Of course, dessert was always on Marion’s mind. Here you’ll find a Brownstone Front Cake, made with brown sugar, and frosted with Burnt Sugar Icing. That’s a skill that few of us have today but the taste, once sampled, will never be forgotten. And there is the Hoosier Cake, from Oregon, which is delicate chocolate topped with Gravy Frosting. Don’t be concerned, the “gravy” here only means you start with milk. It’s actually sweet and light and would be terrible on mashed potatoes. But on a chocolate cake? Heavenly

Finally, you’ve had cinnamon rolls or sticky buns probably every month of your life. Well, I have. After going through countless recipes, Suzi knows that the recipe here for Sticky Buns using Marion’s Sweet Roll Dough, is simply the best recipe ever. You cannot surpass Marion’s perfected sweet tooth.

And, I guess that is true of most of the recipes here. Simple or complex, they represent the best of American cuisine when we cooked at home and cooked with skill and passion. Marion’s dream was for us to return to that style of cooking. A noble dream and one for you to embrace.

Oh, if you are not a Sticky Bun fan, you can use the same Sweet Roll dough and make Monkey Bread. Surely you must like one or the other. Yes, you can even like both. Marion would be flattered.

TBT Recipe: Twice Baked Potatoes with Caviar

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I first posted this a couple of years ago. For Valentine's Day, Suzi offered a meal with duck breast. Such a substantial main dish demands a great side dish. I know we think of baked potatoes as simple. But if you twice bake them, and add caviar, then the duck on your plate suddely has competiton!

Suzen and I love twice-baked potatoes because they give you the ability to layer in some much more flavor. Here, the first-baked potatoes have their insides scooped out and mashed with a healthy dose of butter, milk and egg white, then scented with shallot, lemon zest and nutmeg. The mixture, once passed through a food mill or ricer, is piped back into the potato shells for that second round of baking. Once out of the oven, the potatoes are topped with crème fraiche and caviar. The result is happy to the eye and to your mouth.

When you make this, and I hope you do, go easy on the lemon zest. Yes, you will taste it and it’s lovely but these are potatoes and not lemon pies!

Use large potatoes as we did. With the crème fraiche and caviar, a person only needs one half to be thoroughly satisfying. Especially when paired with that duck!


Twice Baked Potatoes with Caviar

Yield: serves 12

Ingredients:

  • 6 russet potatoes, scrubbed
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1large egg white, lightly beaten
  • 1 small shallot, finely minced
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
  • Salt to taste
  • Pinch of grated nutmeg
  • 1cup crème fraiche
  • 4 ounces caviar

Preparation:

Preheat the oven to 425°F for 20 minutes. Prick potatoes and bake until about 1 hour. Let potatoes cool, then halve lengthwise. Scoop out pulp in each half, taking care to leave about 1/8 inch worth of pulp with skin intact. Reduce the oven temperature to 400°F.

Meanwhile, press the pulp through a food mill or ricer set over a mixing bowl. Beat in the butter, milk, egg and egg white. Stir in the shallot and lemon zest; season with salt and nutmeg. Transfer the potato mixture to a pastry bag or tube fitted with a large star tip. Pipe into each potato half. Use the back of a teaspoon to press an indentation in the center of each swirl (large enough to hold sour cream garnished with caviar). Place the potato halves on a baking sheet and bake until golden (about 10 minutes). Transfer to serving plate and top each twice-baked potato with sour cream and garnish with caviar.

Source: Cooking by the Book with inputs from Wikipedia

Photo Information: Canon T2i, EFS 60mm Macro Lens, F/4.0 for 1/30th second at ISO‑200

 

Pork and Prune Meatballs with Mushroom Gravy and Parmesan Crumble

 

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In Toast Hash Roast Mash: Real Foods for Every Time of the Day, British Chef and Author Dan Doherty offers some “everyday” ideas that are hardly everyday food. It’s a book filled with recipes that combine a just a few things for rambunctious meals. Here is a decidedly British recipe: Pork and Prune Meatballs. You can make the meatballs in advance which means this dish can be readily assemble on a weeknight. Much more complicated meal than pizza. And decidedly more sophisticated.

Why does this recipe capture my imagination? Well, how often do you eat prunes? They actually taste pretty good, lovely sweetness and they are made for a marriage with pork. Gravy, of course, has appeal and mushroom gravy seems a tad extravagent. And then, you look at the picture and see the Parmesan Crumble, and this dish is irresistable.

Suzi is in Chicago, learning more about our lovely new Jenn-Air applicances. When she comes home later this week, I will have a lovely present for her: all these ingredients ready for her to make this dish for me. I really try to be a good husband.

For my full review of Toast Hash Roast Mash, here you are.


Pork and Prune Meatballs, Mushroom Gravy and Parmesan Crumble

Yield: serves 4

Ingredients:

For the meatballs:

  • Olive oil
  • ½ onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 fresh sage leaves, finely chopped 300g
  • 10 ½ ounces minced pork
  • 10 prunes, stoned and cut into ¼ inch pieces
  • A pinch of finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 ¾ ounces breadcrumbs

For the mushroom gravy:

  • Olive oil
  • ½ onion, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 sprig of fresh thyme
  • 3 ½ ounces button mushrooms, finely sliced
  • Sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 fluid ounces white wine
  • 7 fluid ounces chicken stock
  • 7 fluid ounces double cream

To serve:

  • 10 grams or ¼ ounce butter
  • 50 grams or 1 ¾ ounces breadcrumbs
  • 50 grams or 1 ¾ ounces Parmesan cheese
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Preparation:

To make the meatballs, heat a medium pan on a medium heat and add a splash of olive oil. Add the onions and garlic and cook for 3-4 minutes, taking care not to let them color. Season with salt and pepper and add the sage. Set aside to cool down.

Combine the minced pork, prunes, parsley, breadcrumbs and the 1 cooled onion mix in a mixing bowl. Roll the mixture into balls approximately 1 inch in diameter, and set aside.

Now make the sauce. Heat a splash of olive oil in a medium pan on a medium heat and add the onion, garlic, bay leaf and thyme. Cook for 3-4 minutes, taking care not to let them color. Add the mushrooms and cook for a further 5 minutes, or until all the juice has evaporated. Season with salt and pepper. Add the wine and reduce until almost dry, then add the stock and reduce by three-quarters. Add the cream and reduce by half.

Preheat your oven to 400°F.

Heat some olive oil in a frying pan over a medium heat and sear the meatballs until golden brown. When nicely browned, put them into an ovenproof dish, pour over the mushroom gravy and bake for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a small saucepan. Add the breadcrumb and cook on a low heat for 5-6 minutes, until golden. Add the Parmesan and cook for a further 2 minutes. When the meatballs are ready, scatter over the crumble and eat straight away.

 


Source: Toast Hash Roast Mash by Dan Doherty [Mitchell Beazley, 2016]