Saturday, December 3, 2016

They Knew How To Cook 'Back in the day'

Do YOU know what the difference between ginger cakes, gingerbread, gingerbread biscuits, ginger cookies, gingersnaps or Pfeffernüsse cookies are?

Well today, it is easily understood what separates cakes from biscuits from cookies, but back during the heydey of family gatherings, holiday meals and the colonization of New England it was basically all the same.

Even to this day, the smell of spices classically represented in ginger-based desserts has a comforting effect on the soul. And with all the work our forebears maintained, they needed every bit of help they could find.

Here is an early recipe for Ginger Drop Cake but notice one thing, it has no ginger. An interesting omission.

"...take one cup each of sugar, mollasses lard and boiling water, one dab of soda half a dab of cream of tartar; stir in flour until it is thick as cake and sugar and salt."


From Sarah Hale, from The Good Housekeeper, 1841, we have Gingersnaps:



"Take a pound and a half of flour, and rub into it half a pound of butter; add half a pound of brown sugar and half a pint of molasses, two tablespoonfuls of cream, a tea-spoonful of pearlash, and ginger to the taste. Make in into a stiff paste, and roll it out thin. Put it on buttered tins, and bake in a moderate oven."

 
We can certainly thank the Germans for a certain New England "must have" during the Holidays, especially the Pensylvania Dutch. Pfeffernüsse cookies are the closest thing to the American gingersnap cookies but were originally baked according to whether or not a leavening agent was able to be procured.


If a housewife had no leavening agent, then small, super crispy cookies were made. But if pearlash was used then everyone had a high, soft, almost rounded cookie.


From The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Simple, 1747, by Hannah Glasse, we have the following recipe for Pfeffernüsse cookies:


"Take three pounds of flour, one pound of sugar, one pound of butter rubbed in very fine, two ounces of ginger beat fine, one large nutmeg grated, then take a pound of treacle, a quarter of a pint of cream, make them warm together, and make up the bread stiff; roll it out, and make it up into thin cakes, cut them out with a teacup, or small glass; or roll them out like nuts, and bake them on tin plates in a slack oven".


So as you can see, there was very little difference between any of these recipes. Here is my recipe for two different gingersnaps.

 
Soft and Puffy Gingersnap Cookies 
 
 

There are two different types of people. Those who love crispy, delicate gingersnaps(see NOTE) and those who love pillow soft, fluffy gingersnaps. Here are directions for both!. If you want darker cookies, use light or dark brown sugar in place of granulated in cookie dough. This recipe is foolproof and should be saved for many years to enjoy.

 

3/4 cup(1 1/2 sticks) butter or margarine, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar, divided
1 egg
1/3 cup molasses
2 1/4 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons each baking powder and cinnamon
2 teaspoons dried ginger *
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg


Cream the butter and 1 cup sugar in a large bowl until as smooth as possible with an electric mixer. Add egg and molasses and continue beating until well combined.

In a separate bowl, blend remaining ingredients and add to butter mixture slowly. After everything is beaten as smooth as possible with an electric mixer, cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour or until firm enough to handle without being too sticky.

Preheat oven to 350-degrees F. Pinch off enough dough to form a 2-inch ball, roll it between your palms and then roll in remainder of sugar. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Repeat with remaining dough, leaving at least 1-inch between cookies. Bake 14-16 minutes, or until puffed up and starting to show small cracks on top. Remove from oven to cool slightly before removing to wire racks to completely cool.


Make 24


* Because I think all gingersnap cookies should be well pronounced with the flavor of ginger, these cookies stand up to that mantra. If a less pungent taste of ginger is desired, cut the amount in half.

 


NOTE: For Crispy Gingersnaps, after mixing all ingredients, transfer dough to a work surface and roughly shape into an 8 to 10-inch log. Place this rough log into the center of a large piece of film wrap. Roll the dough in wrap, forming a more uniform log as you do so. Place in freezer at least 2 hours, or until firm. Remove from freezer, unwrap and cut into 1/2-inch slices. Coat each side with sugar and place on an ungreased cookie pan with about 2-inches between each cookie. Bake in a 350-degree F oven for 10-12 minutes, or until the bottom of each is darker then the tops, and the centers are firm. Remove to cool as directed above.

Friday, November 18, 2016

To The New York Yankees

I have always abhorred bullying in any manner. I remember as a child being bullied to no end and I have a soft spot in my heart for children who are bullied even today. It truly saddens me when I see it happen day in and day out, even online. So when I see that you folks filed an extension of time in order to determine if The Yankee Chef negatively impacts your brand, the very first thing that came to mind is the term bullying, trademark bullying to be precise.

I took the time to peruse the objections you have filed over the years and for the life of me, I do not understand how you think a TRUE Yankee would impact the New York Yankees. It completely and utterly boggles me. Why? Let me count the ways.....

 

First and foremost, I AM A YANKEE. My family have been Yankees since 1635!!!! If anyone thinks, even for a minute, that they can diminish my heritage in any manner simply because an entity has the money to frivolously own a group of people, they are mistaken. Not only because my family(as many thousands of others)have been Yankees longer than baseball has been around, but the word Yankee itself is in the dictionary. That reason ALONE precludes ANYONE from "owning" the name.

It is the exact same thing as if I were calling myself The Indian Chef. The Cleveland Indians would have zero standing to oppose my name. Other examples?

The Viking Chef, The Cowboy Chef, The Chief Chef, The Pirate Chef, The Athletic Chef(I kinda like that name, hahahaha), The National Chef........ do I really need to go on and on?

Please see my article(as well as ANY encyclopedic entry)on the term Yankee at:

 

http://theyankeechef.com/index.php/featured/45-articles-guides/article/64-300-year-old-riddle-solved

 

In the meantime, and without giving away too much, how about Yankee Candles, Yankee Magazine, Yankee Pacific, Yankee Spirits, Yankee Estate Sales....and the list goes on and on.

 

We have Yankee Swap Parties, Yankee ingenuity or even Yankeetown, Florida. This is a fraction of things with the word Yankee in the title.

 

Although I absolutely think you should protect your brand, please do not bully the small guy who is 100% entitled to be called The Yankee Chef, especially since I am a third generation CHEF who happens to be a Yankee and NOT a baseball player. Heck, and not to be mean spirited, but New Yorker's aren't even Yankees, and most probably are happy about that, LOL.

 

Regardless, take all the time you need, but don't prevent someone from calling themselves a Yankee. I have more of a footing to challenge YOU for calling yourselves Yankees than vice-versa, but that would never happen.



If all you need is a disclaimer, than I would be more than happy to provide one here on my site, although I think it is a little(okay, a LOT)foolish. How's this?

 

I am a Yankee, not a baseball player and my brand has nothing to do with baseball, stadiums, mascots, sports, sports teams or a league.

                                 It's Just That Simple!™

 

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Festive and Easy Cakes

As much as I hate to admit it, it IS time to think about Thanksgiving and Christmas. And with those shopping thoughts come eating thoughts. And with eating thoughts, come cooking thoughts. And with cooking thoughts, come "How can I make something different without spending a lot of time in the kitchen and at the same time, keep the budget in check?"

Well, the first thing that came to mind were cookies, to be honest. Sugar cookies and Snickerdoodles have graced New England tables for centuries but I really didn't want to go that route. So how about some recipes that encompasses cookies and cakes? PERFECT!!!!!!

 

Nutella Cookie Crunch Cake

 
I am hesitant about using the name Nutella because it IS a brand, but one taste of that deliciously creamy spread and I was hooked. It wasn't long before I made one of the best coffee cake-like desserts using this hazelnut spread. This recipe is a sugar cookie dough with an additional egg. You will adore the crispy topping, as will the super easy preparation.

 
Nonstick cooking spray
1 stick(1/2-cup) butter or margarine, softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon each baking powder and soda
1/2 cup hazelnut chocolate spread, melted
Topping:
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon melted butter

 
Grease a 9-inch cake pan with nonstick cooking spray; set aside. Preheat oven to 350-degrees F. In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar until very smooth with an electric mixer. Add eggs and vanilla, continuing to beat until smooth once again.

In another bowl, blend the flour with the baking powder and baking soda. Add to butter mixture and beat until well mixed. It will be thick. Transfer dough to prepared cake pan.

Microwave nutella for about 30 seconds, removing to stir until creamy and thinned out. If more time is needed for it to completely melt, heat in 15 second increments. Heavily drizzle over the top, running a butter knife into the batter, creating a somewhat marbling effect and slightly combining the nutella with batter.

Meanwhile for the topping, mix sugar, cinnamon and butter with a fork until evenly colored and blended. Sprinkle over the top of the cake and bake 24 minutes. The center will feel very doughy and undone, but that is the effect we want.

Remove from oven to cool before serving. Add additional melted nutella over the top if desired.

 

Doodle Pop Cake

 
Anyone remember the children's show Doodle Bops? My children love it! So this cake is now a standard in my home not only in title but because the flavor is reminiscent of a Snickerdoodle cookie as well, of which every child loves. A softly scented cake that can just be grabbed by a child's hands and eaten.....of course you may want to follow them with a vacuum.

 
Butter-flavored, nonstick cooking spray
1 stick(1/2-cup) butter or margarine, softened
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup pumpkin
1 egg
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Topping:
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon

 

Grease a 9-inch cake pan with nonstick cooking spray; set aside. Preheat oven to 350-degrees F. With an electric mixer, beat butter with brown sugar until blended well. Add pumpkin, egg and vanilla, continuing to beat until thoroughly mixed.

In a separate bowl, blend flour, spices and baking soda. Slowly add to batter, beating well.

Pour into prepared pan and bake 26-28 minutes, or until it springs back when touched in the center. Remove from oven and set aside while in pan.

Spray the top of the cake lightly with cooking spray while hot. In a small bowl, blend sugar and cinnamon for the topping and evenly sprinkle over the cake. Let cake cool to serve.

 

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Talk About Home!!!

 
 
I have often(probably TOO often)used the ambience of a restaurant as a measuring stick for whether or not I would return to a particular place. I even, and don't ask me how, use it to gauge how good the food is.



The Cod's Head in Boothbay Harbor, Maine entices you with this great quality and once you have plunked your butt into a chair, everything seems to fall into place perfectly.

Although the barbecue aspect of this restaurant is their driving force, it is the smiles you notice on everyones faces and the perfect dishes that come from the kitchen, and from the hands of cooks and servers, that made me continually return.

I know I should probably be talking about the sample Ronaldo and I enjoyed during the Harborfest, but if you don't let me indulge about the many other aspects of this "downtown" eating establishment, I honestly will not be able to write another review. Yeah, I hate not finishing one project before starting another!

Every year I visit Boothbay Harbor, I am compelled to return to this place. It was such a pleasure, first off, to have the master barbecue man show me exactly how they strut their stuff around the outdoor smoker. This is the perfect example of less is better. All they have is a small smoker on their back porch, yet their smoked, barbecued dishes rival ANY Southern pit I have tried, bar none!

Rarely can you find a Fish House and "pit" that is owned by a someone who also owns 2 others restaurants in the area and STILL keep the quality and same friendly staff on a level playing field at all times, but they remarkably have done so here.


                                                                        MINE OYSTER

Mine Oyster is one of the restaurants of which I will be posting about in the next week or so is just as memorable as the Boathouse Bistro.....both of which are a world apart from the Cod's Head, yet equally as culinarily significant.

This "family" not only won me over, but with a smile and a great attitude, they silently beckoned Ronaldo Linares and his family for breakfast the next morning. The ONLY reason I didn't go was pure laziness, I wanted to sleep in. What a mistake that was! For the next full day, all I kept hearing was how great the food was and how busy they were. Lesson learned.

The Boathouse Bistro

In closing, I just cannot say enough about how this place was truly a dining experience that made me feel at home and their uncomplicated, inexpensive and impressive portions continually beckon me every single time I go to Boothbay Harbor.

Well done my friends and if there were one restaurant I would feel comfortable going into at anytime of day without having to don a dress jacket and clean shoes, this would be it. And that is a feeling that stays with you even when you are long gone.

 
Ohhh....almost forgot to mention the sample during the Boothbay Harborfest. The Pulled Pork Slider.....O M freaking word......The tastiest mouthful of barbecued pork. I am so shocked they didn't kick Ronaldo and I out after our 3d and 4th mouthfuls, hahahaha. And when you tempt a Yankee with a Watermelon Mint Julep just as many times....both of us went away more than satisfied and quite willing to go back for more the second we exited. Bravo, bravo, bravo my friends......

 



Friday, October 14, 2016

A Cake With No History

Most recipes can be traced back, at least somewhat, to a particular era but not Dump Cake. The classic presentation(never thought I would use the word classic with dump)uses cherries and pineapple as the bottom layer and a type of vanilla cake mix poured, or dumped, on top and then baked. When it comes out of the oven, it resembles a cobbler in some ways and a grunt in other ways.

Some "authorities" ascribe this cake as being made during WWII while others say it stemmed from the late 1980s, when both parents began working, leaving little time to properly prepare dishes for their family once at home.

Regardless, I don't think it matters all that much because this is one of those recipes that is easy to make and the kids can have a go at it as well. And one more thing. Don't bother with premade cake mixes when you have everything you need right up in the cupboard.

 


Yankee Pumpkin Pie Dump Cake



This is one of those simple cakes that will be the most moist you can possibly make. When served straight from the oven, you will notice a puddle of deliciously fragrant cider pooling in the bottom of the pan. But when chilled completely, this cake explodes with flavor, with all this spiced liquid being absorbed into the cake, which is my way of enjoying it!

 

Nonstick cooking spray
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon each baking powder and cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup canned, pure pumpkin(NOT pumpkin pie-flavored)
4 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted
2 teaspoons vanilla
Topping:
1 cup crushed gingersnaps
1/4 cup small, diced papaya, frozen, fresh or canned *
1 1/2 cups boiling apple cider or juice
 

Preheat oven to 350-degrees F. Grease a 9-inch square pan with nonstick cooking spray; set aside. Dump flour, brown sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and nutmeg in a large bowl and mix well. Dump eggs, pumpkin, butter and vanilla in flour mixture and stir until just combined. Dump batter into prepared pan.

In a small bowl, mix ginger snaps with papaya and dump on top of cake batter, evening out. Dump boiling apple cider evenly over the top and bake 50 minutes, or until it bounces back in the center when touched.

Remove from oven to cool slightly before serving hot with ice cream if desired, or wait until it is thoroughly chilled before serving.

 

* Or use whatever fruit you have on hand, or none at all.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Hands Down the Best Lobster Roll

I was invited again this year to judge the prepared dishes offered by various restaurants in Boothbay Harbor during the Boothbay Harborfest and our culinary journey couldn't have started on better footing. I say OUR because I was accompanied by a true friend who is, himself, a celebrity chef from New Jersey, Ronaldo Linares.

We were BOTH blown away by the attention and friendliness of Tom Philbrick and his wife, at the Boothbay Lobster Wharf, in Boothbay Harbor, Maine.

 

We were very pleasantly surprised that the entire staff welcomed us without even knowing who we were. Both Ronaldo and I walked around, saying hi to people we didn't even know and on top of that, we were welcomed to take a peak behind the counters in order to watch how they cooked their fresh from the ocean lobster and steamers. We availed ourselves, some may say took advantage of the generosity provided, by walking through their on-site buildings and poking around the lobster tanks and fish market.

If either one of us ever dared to try this in any other place in the country, we would have been promptly thrown out and handcuffed. But because we were in Maine, downeast Maine, Boothbay Harbor....The Boothbay Lobster Wharf to be precise, we were treated as old friends. (Young friends I would like to say....Just once, let me relive my younger days, will ya?)

 

After taking advantage of their kindness, we were all set to do some sampling. And the word sample simply was not in their vocabulary. They introduced Ronaldo and me to simply the best lobster roll found(and devoured)anywhere!

For $20...hear me out....it was the largest, freshest, meatiest and most delicious lobster roll either of us has ever tasted, hands down!

It turned out great I might add because Ronaldo wanted to go have lunch after, but after relishing this treat, neither of us ate again for many hours.

You may say, and I understand, that our opinions may have been tainted because of our roll at the Harborfest, but I can assure you, that is the farthest from the truth. This was a monster of a sandwich! And what we both liked most about it was that it was simply freshly cooked lobster meat, IN LARGE CHUNKS, with mayonnaise...THAT IS IT!!!! When you pile this into a New England hot dog roll that has been buttered and grilled, you just blew us away. It was that simply grilled roll that still has Ronaldo talking about it.

Without rambling on and on(as I did when I posted about The Flagship Inn), I simply have to add that the Boothbay Lobster Wharf was a pleasure a full 360-degrees around, much like the scenery you get when you sit down either outside at their tables or opt to dine and drink inside their equally, casual tables.



Thank you my friends and we will see you again next year....or when I am hungry again.

 

 

It's Just That Simple!™

Sunday, October 2, 2016

2016 and The Flagship Inn.....(and everything else)

A vacation, or working trip, is truly defined by your initial reaction when walking into your home away from home. Not only does it set the tone for what lies ahead, but throughout your trip as well.

 
No matter what type of day you've had, when you enter your own domicile that is the substitute of your own home, you should be able to unwind without any cares what-so-ever. And The Flagship Inn is honestly the finest Inn I have ever had the privilege of staying at. And I truly mean that!

This has been my sanctuary for the past 3 years as I join Lori Reynolds on my rounds and book signings 
 during the Boothbay Harborfest every year. I walk into the office and ...BAM...they smile. That alone is worth the stay, but when they add friendly banter and a tone that reminds me of going to the back fence for a  neighborly chat, then I am all theirs!

I don't even know where to begin besides simply saying that the owner, Aaron, knows how to keep his guests happy, content and looked after. And this same sense of responsibility is ingrained in his staff, almost as if that was a prerequisite for hiring.

Putting the superbly, amicable disposition aside, the Inn is immaculately cleaned and as homey as you could possibly wish. Their repatronization rate must be off the charts!

And this is all readily noticed within the first hour of signing in. Wait until you wake up in the morning.

After brewing my own coffee while I was preparing for the day, I missed the comradery of my family so out the door I went. I walked roughly 300 feet to the 'breakfast building' out back, opened the door, and I was home. I was instantly greeted by 2 ladies who turned into my surrogate mothers for the morning. They beckoned me to 3 huge tables laden with food and beverages enough to feed everyone at the Inn a few times over.

You think a free continental breakfast is a draw to where you will be spending your vacation repose? Think of more.....MUCH MORE.

Not only was the staff friendly, but you could tell the Inn guests were just as friendly. This was because their day was beginning on their best foot forward, simply because of this breakfast treasure.

I could ramble on and on and still not cover just how child-friendly and wonderful the Flagship Inn is. The pool, playground, cleanliness, amenities (both on-grounds and within walking distance) and the honest to goodness care that is shown by all who works there harkens me there over and over again.

Forget about the other hotels in the area that charge well over three times the going rate at The Flagship Inn, I would rather pull up my chair right outside my room and admire what is surrounding me. And that would be the charm of it all.....

 

It's Just That Simple!™