Sunday, March 1, 2015

Scottish Border Tart

A number of years ago I visited the quaint town of Solvang, California and, in the shop "Tartan-n-Things", I purchased a book titled Scottish Fare.  It is charming because it is filled with recipes with their Scottish names (like "Roastit Bubbly-Jock" and "Cullen Skink") along with some history, culture, and interesting facts about Scotland.

Published in 1983 by Norma and Gordon Latimer
I was in a dessert mood and the description of the Border Tart looked very appealing.

Border Tart  (page 62)

For the pastry:
1 cup plain flour
2 1/2 ounces butter
1 ounce sugar
1 egg yolk

For the filling:
2 ounces butter
2 ounces sugar
2 ounces self-rising flour
2 eggs
2 tablespoons raspberry jam
1/2 ounce flaked almonds
1 ounce ground almonds

(Note that the measurements are mostly by weight so get out your kitchen scale!)

I love my ceramic salt cellar!
Make up the pastry and roll out on floured board to line an 8 inch flan ring.  Keep the scraps and roll out to make strips for the lattice design on top of the tart.

To make the filling beat the sugar and butter together until the mixture becomes creamy.  Add the sifted flour and ground almonds. ** (See notes below.)  Spread a layer of jam over the bottom of the pastry and then add the filling.  Arrange a lattice design of pastry strips on top.  Cover with the flaked almonds.  Bake in moderate oven (350 degrees F) for 30 minutes.  15 minutes before the tart is cooked remove from oven and sprinkle over a layer of confectioner's sugar.  Return to oven.  Serve with fresh cream.

My Notes

**The recipe does not specify when to add the eggs to the filling.  I didn't notice this until after the tart was in the oven!  I would add them with the flour and almonds.

For the pastry, I mixed the flour and sugar, cut in the cold butter until the mixture looked crumbly, then added in the egg yolk.  Then I let the dough sit covered in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes to give the flour a chance to absorb the moisture.  It rolled out well.


It took three heaping tablespoons of raspberry jam to make an acceptable layer on the pastry.

Instead of self-rising flour, I mixed 3/4 teaspoon baking powder with 1/4 teaspoon salt then added enough all-purpose flour to make the mix weigh 2 ounces.   Then I blended it all together well.

Does this filling look dry to you?
My pan was a 7 inches by 10 inches rectangle and so it took the entire batch of pastry to cover it. That meant no lattice design on it, so I added extra flaked (actually toasted and slivered) almonds and it looked great.

Pretty!
I wasn't sure how thick a layer of confectioner's sugar to make so I kept it thin.

I took the pan out of the oven after 25 minutes of cooking as the crust was getting very brown.  I think I should have reduced the temperature to 325 degrees F since my pan was dark.

Still looks pretty.
The Verdict

I let the tart cool completely before tasting it.  I was concerned that the filling would be awful since it didn't have the eggs and it did look pretty dry when I spread it on top of the jam.  However I held out hope it would still taste good because the filling without eggs is very similar to a shortbread.

And yes, it did taste good!  It was a bit dry so I should have pulled it out of the oven sooner or baked it at a lower temperature.  But the flavor was lovely -- crunchy and nutty and not too sweet.  The raspberry jam was an excellent tart counterpoint to the more subtle crust and filling.

A very closeup cut-away view
Overall it was thin and that was just right.  My guest taster thought it especially tasty with a cup of coffee and I liked it with cold milk.  We did not put any cream on it.

So despite the lack of eggs in the filling, it was a success!

I would like to try it again with the eggs in the filling, just to see how much more they contribute to it.  I'll save that for the next post.



Sunday, February 15, 2015

Minutal Ex Praecoquis -- Ham and Apricot Ragout

I recently acquired The Roman Cookery of Apicius by John Edwards.  I already have some other cookbooks on the Roman Empire era but this one seemed more substantial and possibly more accessible for modern cooks.
ISBN 0-88179-008-7
What I like best about it is that it offers a translated version of ten of the books (chapters) of Apicius' work along with a modern adaptation for most of the recipes.  Some of the adaptations bothered me a little; for example Mr. Edwards suggests green beans, which to me is a New World bean.  I think the right substitution would be fava (broad) beans, which were used before Columbus brought back New World beans.

This book offers quite a few recipes that caught my interest, and this one fit in with what I already had in the house.

Original translation:

Minutal Ex Praecoquis

Into a cooking pot, put olive oil, stock, wine, dry chopped shallots, and a cooked leg of pork chopped into squares.  When these are cooked, grind pepper, cumin, dried mint, and aniseed [in a mortar].  [Over these seasonings] pour honey, stock, raisin wine, a little vinegar, and liquid from the ragout.  Blend.  [Cook.]  [Pour over the pork.] Add pitted apricots and heat until they are completely cooked.  [Add them to the ragout.] Break pasty into the dish to thicken it.  Sprinkle with pepper and serve.


Modern adaptation (given in two parts):

Ham and Apricot Ragout (page 93)

1 pound cooked ham, diced
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 cup pork stock
1/4 cup white wine
1/4 cup shallots, chopped


In a casserole, put ham, olive oil, stock, wine, and shallots.  Cook, covered, in the oven for 1 hour.

Tasty at this stage!
Sauce:
pinch each of whole pepper and cumin seed
1 sprig mint
pinch of aniseed
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 cup pork stock
1/4 cup sweet raisin wine or muscatel
1 teaspoon wine vinegar
1/4 cup casserole liquid
10 fresh apricots (or dried, presoaked in water)
flour
ground pepper


To make the sauce, in a mortar, grind pepper with cumin, mint, and aniseed.  Combine with honey, stock, sweet wine, vinegar, and liquid from the casserole.  Bring the sauce to a boil and add to the ragout for the last 15 minutes.

When ragout is nearly done, take the apricots, divide in half, and pit them.  Add them to the casserole and cook together for 5 minutes. Finish by thickening with flour.  Serve with a sprinkling of pepper.


My Notes

I had no pork stock so I used instant chicken broth.

The recipe did not specify the oven temperature so I decided on 275 degrees F.  It seemed like the purpose was to slowly cook the shallots and to allow the flavors to mingle.

The ham, shallots, and liquids in the casserole smelled wonderful while it was cooking!

I used dried mint as per the original recipe and guessed about how much a sprig would be when dried.

It was amazing to find out that, in my large collection of spices, I had no aniseed.  Fortunately fennel is a good substitute so I used that. (Thank you, Cook's Thesaurus!)

Try as I might I could not find muscatel or raisin wine locally, so I used moscato, a sweet, slightly sparkling white wine and just hoped it would taste right.

Apricots are not currently in season so I used 20 dried halves and soaked them while the casserole was in the oven.

After the casserole had cooked for an hour, I made the sauce and added it to the casserole.  Then I set the timer for 15 more minutes.

The dried apricots made me think I would need to cook them longer than the five minutes given for fresh ones, so I put them into the casserole in the last 5 minutes of sauce and checked them when the timer buzzed.  They did not appear very tender and, following Apicius' advice, put them in for another 30 minutes to make sure "they are completely cooked."

At the beginning of the apricot's 30 minutes, I mixed about 2 tablespoons of flour with a little of the casserole liquid until it made a smooth, thick batter.  Then I added it to the casserole to thicken the dish.

The Verdict

Success!

Very tasty -- the spices and mint blended together to make a savory sauce, the shallots were nearly melted into the sauce, the ham chunks were tender and flavorful.  The apricots were, surprisingly, a background accent.  I thought they would stand out more but they did a great job of accenting the ham and broth.

If (when!) I make it again, I would cut the apricots up into quarters just to increase the odds of getting a piece with each spoonful of ham.

My only mistake was using the instant chicken broth as it made the dish too salty for me.  My guest taster loved it as it was.  But I thoroughly enjoyed it both at dinner with a green salad, buttered sourdough bread, and red wine, and for lunch the next day with crackers.

I would make this again and plan better on the broth.  I recommend it with enthusiasm!

Yum.  Give it a try.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Aebelskivers -- Swedish Pancakes and a Kitchen Gadget!

A long time ago I had a friend named Joe K.  One neat thing about Joe was how much he admired his mother and her talents.  When he found out I liked to cook, he got me some of her favorite recipes, among which was aebelskivers, AKA Swedish pancakes.

The recipe is written in her hand and I cherish it and the others with it.  I have made them and loved them; the recipe cards are yellowed with age and stained with food splatters.

Page 1.  I think her name was Betty.
My house was filled with family and I wanted to make a fun breakfast for them all.  Then I realized my blog goal to use some interesting kitchen gadgets would be perfect for this:  to make aebelskivers, you need an aebelskiver pan.


Mine is cast iron.  I don't know how old it is; I probably got it from one of my grandparents and I recall that aebelskivers were a bit of a fad in the 1960s and 1970s, so that could be when they purchased it.

Aebelskivers are tasty like American pancakes but they are lighter and ball-shaped.  The pan allows that shape to happen.  They are good served with a dusting of powdered sugar, or syrup, or jam, and a little bit of soft butter.  A great start to a fun breakfast.

Aebelskivers
(makes 56 cakes)

6 eggs, separated
1 3/4 cup buttermilk
2 1/2 cup sifted flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking powder

Separate eggs.  Add cream of tartar to whites and best until stiff but not dry-looking.  

Sift flour (pre-measured), sugar, salt, and baking powder together.  

Beat egg yolks, buttermilk, and vanilla together.

Add liquid ingredients to flour mixture and beat until smooth.  Fold in egg whites carefully.

Heat aebelskiver pan over burner until drop of water dances on bottom of cup.  Brush cups with salad oil.  Spoon 1/2 full with batter.

Turn once, using fork and paring knife (some people use knitting needles).

When brown on both sides, remove to hold in oven at approximately 250 degrees F.  

Frequently refold batter, as whites tend to rise to top.

Batter's up!
My Notes

The directions are straight-forward and easy to follow.  That being said, it has been a long time since I made aebelskivers so I made some mistakes when cooking them:

  • I put too much oil in the cups.  Just brush them lightly.  You don't want oil puddles.
Do not do this at home.
  • I beat the egg whites too much -- they got dry-looking and that made keeping the aebelskivers in their ball shape difficult when turning them.  They kept deflating!  
Stop before this stage
or they will be too flat!
  • I had some issues getting the pan to heat evenly, which I don't recall ever happening before.  I'm not sure why.  What I did was put the aebelskiver pan over an inverted cast iron skillet so that the skillet evened out the heat.
This burned off all the seasoning on the skillet
The Verdict

Success!  Oh yes, they were tasty!  We all enjoyed them despite my blunders and I would do them again any time I had the opportunity to feed a crowd.

Just some of the batch
We did discuss what could be done if you wanted the aebelskivers but didn't have the special pan. We tried baking them in mini-muffin pans at 350 degrees F but the texture was not the same.  They were certainly edible and tasty but they weren't pancake-like.  I think they would make good quick breads, especially with a spoonful of jam in the middle.


We also tried cooking them like regular pancakes, and had good results.  The flavor and the texture were right; the only thing missing was the cute and interesting ball shape.  So this is how I would recommend cooking them if you want to give them a try but you don't have or want to buy the pan.



By the way, the other recipes in the set are Apple Pfankuchen, Pfeffernüsse, and Lebkuchen.  All quite yummy!

Friday, January 16, 2015

Historical Sourdough Part 2 -- Sourdough Tomato and Basil Bread

Last March I was given a batch of 200+ year old sourdough starter named "Melissa."

The story behind it was that an ancestor of the woman who gave it had created the starter and one of her descendants, Melissa, inherited it.  Melissa brought it with her as she walked from the East Coast of America to the West Coast with a covered wagon.  Her descendants have been using it since.

My daughter was home and we decided to play with the starter in different ways.  Not all of the recipes themselves were historical but they were very tasty.  See Historical Sourdough Part 1 for our first play time.

This time we got into my favorite bread machine cookbook, Great Bread Machine Baking by Marlene Brown.  I have had this book for years and have loved the various breads the recipes have yielded.  It has an entire chapter on sourdough.

ISBN 0-7607-1353-7

On page 131 is "Sourdough Tomato and Basil Bread:"

For a two-pound loaf.

3/4 cup warm water (80 degrees F)
1 cup sourdough starter, room temperature
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 ground black pepper
3 2/3 cups bread flour, unsifted
2 teaspoons active dry yeast or bread machine yeast
1/2 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, well drained and chopped *

* You can use dried tomatoes.  Simmer them in water for a few minutes to plump them up.  Drain well and chop.


1.  Measure all ingredients into the bread pan (except sun-dried tomatoes) according to the manufacturer's directions for your machine.  Measure sun-dried tomatoes to add at the beep or when manufacturer directs.  Set the CYCLE to sweet, LOAF SIZE to 2-pound, and CRUST SETTING to whatever you desire.

2.  After about 5 minutes of kneading, check the consistency of your dough.  If dough is not in a smooth round ball, open lid and with machine ON, add liquid a tablespoon at a time if too dry, or add flour a tablespoon at a time if too wet.

3.  Remove the bread promptly from the pan when the machine beeps or on completing the cycle.  Cool on rack before slicing.

My Notes

I use my bread machine to mix the dough and then I shape it by hand and bake it in my oven.  It is also fine to mix it by hand or use a mixer with a dough hook.  Do whatever you are comfortable with!

I used the non-oily tomatoes and I added a little bit of olive oil to the dough to make up for it.  I know, the recipe didn't call for it but I have made this once before a few years ago and noted that 1/2 teaspoon might be good.

The dough was beautiful when it came out of the machine.  I shaped it into two loaves at approximately one pound each.  Yes, I used my kitchen scale.  This doesn't happen too often with me.

After letting them rise about 45 minutes in a warm, draft-free place (the inside of my oven), I put the loaves on the counter and let them rise another 15 minutes while the oven heated to 350 degrees F.  I used that temperature because the pans were glass and they required a 25 degree F lower temperature than a metal pan.

The dough shall rise again
They baked for about 30 minutes, until thumping their tops made a hollow sound.  Also, the crust was nicely browned.  I immediately took the loaves out of the pans to cool on a rack.

The Verdict

The finished loaves were not particularly beautiful but their scent was rich with basil.  We ate one loaf completely before I remembered to take a picture.  The flavor was excellent -- the tomatoes had colored the dough and made the loaf brown inside, which was nice.  The basil was a highlight flavor and the tomatoes added a chewy element along with a light meaty taste.

Beautiful taste
A light toasting brought out the basil flavor even more.

It was good by itself, warm with a little butter, and a good sandwich base.  Success!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Historical Sourdough Part 1 -- Waffles and Popovers

Last March I was given a batch of 200+ year old sourdough starter named "Melissa."

The story behind it was that an ancestor of the woman who gave it had created the starter and one of her descendants, Melissa, inherited it.  Melissa brought it with her as she walked from the East Coast of America to the West Coast with a covered wagon.  Her descendants have been using it since.

Not only is using sourdough starter an historical cooking treat, but the starter itself is historical!

My daughter was home and we decided to play with the starter in different ways.  Not all of the recipes themselves were historical but they were very tasty.

I have to admit that I had neglected Melissa for a few months while she resided in the back of my refrigerator.  I was too busy to bake with her and didn't even think to feed her, so when I opened her container I found a grayish, tart-smelling liquid on top of the thicker batter.  It was not appealing and I thought I had ruined her.  However I recalled some reading that suggested to pour off the foul liquid and most of the batter, feed her well, and leave her on the counter to bubble.  She was sluggish at first.  For each of three days I let her bubble, poured off about half of the contents, fed her roughly equal parts of flour and warm water, and then let her bubble some more.  Her odor was getting more appealing.

Then I recalled the advice to use water in which a potato had been boiled.  I let it cool until it was comfortably warm and then mixed it in with more flour.  Wow!  Melissa started bubbling throughout and was no longer separating into the liquid and batter layers.  She smelled of the right kind of sour, making me willing to cook with her.

Beautiful
So my daughter and I started having some fun in the kitchen.  Our first recipe was for sourdough waffles, which I did not think to take pictures of or otherwise document.  (I chalk it up to the excitement of having my daughter home.)  I can give a link to the recipe, though.  Here it is:  King Arthur Flour Sourdough Waffle Recipe.  We had them for breakfast and stacked them with ham, Swiss cheese, a scrambled egg, and mayonnaise.  An open faced breakfast sandwich!  Yum.

Next we tried sourdough popovers.  The link to the recipe is here:  King Arthur Flour Sourdough Popovers Recipe.  You can see my daughter is a fan of the King Arthur Flour recipe collection.  She says they are all good and never had one fail.  This recipe I documented:

Sourdough Popovers

1 cup milk
3 large eggs
1/2 cup sourdough starter, fed or unfed
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour

Only five ingredients!
1) In the microwave or in a small saucepan, warm the milk until it feels just slightly warm to the touch.

2) Combine the milk with the eggs, sourdough starter and salt, then mix in the flour.  Don't overmix; a few small lumps are OK.  The batter should be thinner than a pancake batter, about the consistency of heavy cream.

A few small lumps exist









 





















3) Heat a muffin or popover pan in the oven while it's preheating to 450 degrees F.

4) Carefully remove the hot pan from the oven, and spray it thoroughly with non-stick pan spray, or brush it generously with oil or melted butter.  Quickly pour the batter into the cups, filling them almost to the top.  If you're using a muffin tin, fill cups all the way to the top.  Space the popovers around so there are empty cups among the full ones; this leaves more room for expansion.

Four fifths full?
5) Bake the popovers for 15 minutes, then reduce the oven heat to 375 degrees F and bake for an additional 15 to 20 minutes, until popovers are golden brown.

They smell good, too.
6) Remove the popovers from the oven and serve immediately.

Yield:  6 popovers.

Well, five popovers anyway.

Our Notes

This was easy to mix and took very little time.

We used a non-stick pan spray on a popover pan; I happened to have a spray that was designed for the high temperatures of grilling.

We used a ladle to put the batter in the cups but this was awkward and we spilled a little.  I would recommend trying something with a pouring spout, like a large, glass measuring cup.

We filled the cups nearly full but only got five popovers out of it.  I think we should have filled them each about 2/3 full to get six.

The Verdict

Success!  They were a beautiful golden brown and they slid out of the pan easily.

Their flavor was egg-y and a little sour from the sourdough starter.  They were chewy, with a good crust and full of holes, as they should be.  They had a good "pop."  Our guest taster is a fan of Yorkshire pudding and said these were very, very good.

We ate them hot with butter.  My daughter had one the next day, slightly warmed in the microwave oven, and thought it had fewer large air pockets.  That was the smallest one where the cup was only half full of batter.

Tomorrow I'll post the other adventure in sourdough baking.

Update:

We made them several times again over the next few weeks.  We mixed the batter in a large, glass measuring cup and it poured into the pans with a minimum of mess and drips.  It was also easier to get to six popovers, too.  It just took a bit of practice to judge the right quantity to put in the cups. Each and every batch popped well and was very tasty.

Batter fits nicely
Six achieved!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Happy New Year Four! Playing with Kitchen Toys

I am finding it hard to believe that I have completed three years of blogging.  When I first started I was skeptical that I could fulfill even one year, and yet here it is with over 13,300 page views from all over the world and this, the 87th post.  My blog is linked into Top Food Blogs at myTaste.com and into Tasty Query.  Each post goes on a Pinterest board, too.  All of these have helped make my fun more visible.  It would not have happened at all without my daughter's encouragement and computer support.  Thanks, Girlie!

One major change in my cooking is that my confidence level for playing with recipes or just creating my own dishes has risen considerably.  I have read enough and practiced enough that I have ideas and concepts that can guide me through judging when a flavor seems "right" and what sorts of items to combine for a tasty meal.  Not everything I try works out but my successes far outnumber the failures.  I have a wonderful sense of freedom in the kitchen.

On this, my first posting for a new year, I like to set some goals.  This year has two:  to continue to explore historical or traditional recipes from a variety of countries, hopefully with a greater emphasis in using vegetables; and to explore some old kitchen gadgets to see how they are used.  With those in mind, I present to you a gadget that has been in my possession for years, mostly in storage, and I had no idea what it was designed for.


Lid on.
Lid off.
It is made of metal, in shiny chrome, has metal feet on the bottom, a flat cooking surface in the center, a well around that, a handle, a lid, and a flange on the raised rim.  Every time I saw it I wondered about its use.

I decided to figure it out.  My major clue was the manufacturer's stamp on the bottom:

The manufacturer was the Everedy Company, Frederick, Maryland, USA
It is called the Bacon-Egger, Jr., and a quick look around the 'net showed me that they were for sale in 1956: see this ad in the Spokane Daily Chronicle.  I think I inherited it from my grandparents, so this time period seems reasonable.

The description in the ad says, "Fries bacon, keeps it hot till eggs are done."  Ah ha!  Now I know what to do!

It is used on the stove top and first I cook the bacon.

Four half pieces fit comfortably on it.
The lid is used to keep the bacon flat and the well catches the grease.

The holes in the lid let out steam.
I was ambitious and cooking for three people, so I tried several batches of bacon.  Once cooked, the bacon went on the flange where it stayed warm without cooking and drained extra grease.


The problem was the well filled with grease and I couldn't drain it without removing the pieces from the side.  That means the cooking area flooded, more steam came through the holes making it too hot to hold the knob, and little geysers of hot grease erupted from the lid edges.

My conclusion is that this was designed to cook enough bacon for one to two people with built-in portion control!

I tried cooking one egg in the grease flood but didn't really like how it turned out.  I cooked it over-easy and thought it was too coated in bacon fat.
Room for two!
So I removed the bacon to a plate, drained off the excess grease, returned the bacon to the flange, and cooked a second egg.  It was much better.  Yes, the bacon stayed warm.

The Verdict

Overall it worked well. Success!  The only other issue I found was that it had two "hot spots" on the cooking surface which tended to cook items on them faster than the rest of the surface.  You can see some scorching to the right and left of the egg in the picture above.  I just had to be aware of them and make sure to move the food items around while cooking.

It was easy to clean and easy to drain off the excess bacon fat.

If you are a bacon and eggs fan, this is a handy gadget to have.  I saw them for sale on eBay for about $5.  I also think it might be a good pan for cooking crepes, but I'm not sure if the well will be a help or a hindrance.

I looked up the Everedy Company on the history of Fredrick website and found this description:
The Everedy Company was founded as the Everedy Bottle Capper Company in May of 1920. It began with a factory building on East Street in 1922, producing a range of metal items for domestic use, including “Speedy-clean chrome cooling utensils, Everedy Door Hardware, Everedy Home Bottling Equipment, Evercraft Modern Gift Merchandise.” This larger complex was completed in 1942 and connected the East Street buildings to the new warehouses on E Church Street Extended. The total complex had nearly doubled in size and took advantage of this space by securing numerous World War II manufacturing contracts.  After the war the Everedy Company produced “Anti-Tank Mines, navy Anti-submarine floats, grenades, grenade adapters, rocket parts, bomb parts.”
Remnants of the company's location still exist:
The buildings of Everedy Square were once the home of the Everedy Company, where the Everedy Bottle Capper was invented and manufactured. The product met with national success following the enactment of Prohibition. Prospering for 50 years, The Everedy Company ultimately produced a line of kitchenware that is still used in many households today.
(Citation:  Everedy Square)

I even found a legal description of Everedy's wares on Trademarkia, showing the trademark was first in use in 1936.
METAL HOLLOW WARE FOR USE ON THE TOP OF STOVES-NAMELY, FRYING PANS, SKILLETS, AND COOKING PANS [ COMPRISING A CENTRAL FRYER PORTION SURROUNDED BY AN ANNULAR INCLINED LEDGE PORTION HAVING UP-STRUCK PROJECTIONS THEREON FOR SUPPORTING AND MAINTAINING STRIPS OF BACON THEREON WHILE EGGS ARE BEING FRIED IN THE CENTRAL PORTION, WHERE THE ANNULAR PORTION AND THE CENTRAL PORTION ARE CONNECTED BY AN ANNULAR GREASE-RECEIVING TROUGH AND WHERE THE TROUGH HAS SUPPORTING FEET THEREUNDER FOR MOUNTING THE METAL




Friday, December 19, 2014

Sweet Potato - Apple Soufflé

I like to reserve the final posting of the calendar year for a favorite recipe of mine, whether or not it is historical.  This one has been a favorite for over ten years and a great way to serve up sweet potatoes any time but particularly during the holidays.

It is from The Mount Vernon Cookbook, published by The Mount Vernon Ladies' Association of the Union, which I purchased in 1999 while visiting Mount Vernon.  At the time I thought it was a collection of historical recipes all from George Washington's era but now I see it more as a ladies' club collection with Virginia vibes.  This is not a complaint!  The few I have tried have been excellent.
ISBN 0-931917-13-1
On page 128 is the Sweet Potato - Apple Soufflé.  It serves 6 to 8 and is tasty without being sweet.

2 Tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 cups applesauce
1 Tablespoon grated orange rind
3 cups cooked, mashed sweet potatoes
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup melted butter
4 eggs, separated

Two more eggs joined the party later
Combine sugar and cinnamon.  Add to applesauce with orange rind.  Mix well.  Combine sweet potatoes, salt, applesauce mixture and butter.  Add beaten egg yolks.

All but the whites
Beat egg whites stiff and fold into applesauce-sweet potato mixture.

Whites gently folded in
Pile lightly into greased 3-quart casserole.  Bake in 400 degree oven for 45 minutes.  Serve immediately.

Ready to serve immediately
My Notes

Turn on the oven to preheat before you get started.  Get the eggs separated, too, so the whites can warm up a bit before you beat them.  I put the whites right into the bowl in which they will be beaten.

I either bake the sweet potatoes in the oven or cook them in the microwave.  This is done in advance so you can peel and mash them easily.

Start with a big bowl for the sugar and cinnamon and add everything to it in order.  That way you have enough room through to the end!

It is important to mix in stages as described.  This gives the sweet potatoes a chance to get very mashed and blended with the other ingredients.

The recipe calls for a 3-quart casserole but I have used a 2-quart without any problems.

I keep the oven door closed while it is cooking although I check it at about 40 minutes to make sure it doesn't get too brown.  The center might jiggle when it is still hot but the dish is cooked thoroughly when a knife blade inserted into the middle comes out clean.

The Verdict

Success!  This is a very light and tasty way to serve sweet potatoes.  The applesauce adds a bit of sweet and the orange peel is an excellent flavor complement.  The cinnamon is just enough to hint without competing for attention.

The texture is fluffy and delicate when hot. An excellent accompaniment to ham, turkey, or chicken and is even better with a side serving of cranberry sauce.

The leftovers are also very good cold.

I've made this with freshly grated orange zest, dried orange zest, and no orange at all.  They were all excellent!

Here's how I served the soufflé at my dinner, with a slice of spiral cut ham and a sauce of brown mustard mixed with bitter orange marmalade, mixed well and heated:

Along with a tossed green salad, delicious!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Layered Sauerkraut as Made in Kolozsvár -- Transylvania

My last post was on a dessert recipe from Paul Kovi's Transylvanian Cuisine:

ISBN 0-517-55698-7
After I made it I thought, "Only dessert?  I need a main course to go along with it!"  Strolling through the rest of the book brought me to a layered sauerkraut dish listed as "... one of the old, popular Transylvanian dishes.  It is mentioned in the very first gastronomic writings, such as Miklós Misztófalusy-Kis' book written in 1695."

Wow!  Historical, which means it is possible my grandfather could have tasted this dish.  Of course I had to give it a try.  I made a half of this recipe because that is what fit the amount of sauerkraut I already had in the house.

Kolozsvári Rakott Káposzta (page 150)

4 pounds sauerkraut, drained (some juice reserved)
3/4 cup rice
2 tablespoons rendered lard
1 cup beef broth
1 large onion, chopped
1 1/4 pounds lean minced pork
1 teaspoon paprika
10 ounces smoked sausage, sliced
1/2 cup sour cream and 1/2 cup heavy cream, mixed together
4 ounces sliced smoked bacon

More than enough for a half recipe
Heat the sauerkraut with some of its juice; when done, press out all the juice.

In a skillet, saute' the rice in 1 tablespoon lard until glossy.  Add broth, and cook until nearly done but still firm.

I called this "glossy."  The grains were white, not translucent
In another skillet, saute' the chopped onion for 5 minutes in the remaining 1 tablespoon lard.  Add the minced pork and brown it for 15 minutes, stirring the mixture with a fork.  Then remove from the heat and add paprika.


In a greased ovenproof casserole, place one third of the hot sauerkraut, half the rice, half the pork mixture, and one third of the sausage.  Sprinkle with half the sour cream mixtures.

The first layer before the sour cream sauce went on
Make another layer the same as above, then cover with the remaining sauerkraut.  Decorate the top with remaining sausage and the bacon.

Top with the remaining sour cream mixture.

Cover and bake in a preheated moderately hot oven for 15 to 20 minutes.


My Notes

I was aiming for a half recipe; it turns out I needed the full cup of broth (I used dissolved bullion) to get the rice cooked enough.  I also used a bit more than 5 ounces of sausage because I covered each layer with it, enough to make it look good and not stingy, so I used more than a third each time.

My healthy choice was vegetable shortening over lard.  *Sigh*  Sorry, Grandfather.

I noticed that when I mixed the sour cream and heavy cream until no more lumps appeared, the mixture got very thick, so "sprinkling" it was out of the question.  I spread it around with a spoon.

I had to guess what a "moderately hot oven" was; I chose 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  I didn't feel the dish was hot enough after 20 minutes, so I kept it in another 15 or so and that worked out well.

The Verdict

This was unexpectedly tasty.  I thought I would like it but the flavor combination was just ... something that danced on my taste buds and tingled, making me want to eat more and more.  My guest taster felt the same way.  I would describe it as slightly sour and salty from the 'kraut, chewy and meaty from all the pork, subtly spicy from the paprika, and creamy delicious from the sauce.

The only thing that bothered us was the bacon was not specified to be cooked before putting into the oven and it wasn't really cooked much even after 35 minutes.  We both felt a bit squeamish finding it that way in our portions.  Maybe it would have cooked better if my oven had been hotter or the sour cream sauce had been runnier.  Or perhaps the recipe was missing the instructions to cook the bacon in advance like all the other ingredients.

I want more!
Still, it was a resounding success.  I had the leftovers over the next few days and loved it all over again.  After I reheated it, I added a spoonful of sour cream just to gild the lily.  Another guest taster tried the leftovers and thought it was delightful.