Thursday, December 17, 2015

Chess Pie, Cheese Pie, Jes' Pie, Chest Pie....Which is it?

This is one of those times when the name of a dish is directly associated with its' origination. One of my favorite name 'justifications' is that it all began with the fact that these pies were kept in a chest, or pie safe, in the early years, hence the alteration of chest to chess. Although this makes the most sense and I love the idea of it, this is quickly discounted because ALL pies and pastries were kept in either a pie chest, safe, buttery, shelf or where-ever there was room to set it.



The other, rather simplistic and comical, explanation is that when someone was asked what kind of pie was being made or eaten, the retort was a short "jes' pie", or Chess Pie over time. As we all know, names are changed for any number of reasons through the generations, but this is an all too easy of an answer when there is no obvious answer.
This is a very old front of a pie safe with holes punched out for ventilation.
 
So that leaves us with one remaining name, Cheese Pie. To preface what I am about to explain, let me just say that I adore Southern cooking and all the pomp that goes with any dish that originates there. I have frequently denoted dishes that are said to have started in New England, but have since been proven to be truly Southern. Chess Pie is just not one of those dishes, although we can thoroughly thank them for popularizing it.



Back in the Puritan era of New England, the 'rich' households often made cheesecakes, although far different than what we are accustomed to today. A Robert May, and English chef, printed a cookbook in England called The Accomplisht Cook, 1665. In it, he gives a cheesecake recipe using the same ingredients and preparation method housewives of New England used in the 17th century. And bearing in mind that most of the original settlers in New England were English, it goes without saying this dessert followed. Cakes of all types were commonly made as soon as the Puritans arrived on these shores, including cheesecakes.

It wasn't until the mid-1700s that Chess Pies are even mentioned down South in any printed material, journal or otherwise.

There is one misunderstood theory as well. There was no cheese in a cheesecake prepared during this time. Lemon cheesecakes, and thusly Lemon Chess Pies, were identical in all aspects, including the omission of cheese, which didn't come until the mid-1700s. So why were they called Cheese Cakes? That is for another article.

Now to play devils advocate. Most of the Southern colonies weren't populated until after the New England colonies, so this should be taken into consideration as well. But be that as it may, cheese cakes were made before Chess Pies, although both recipes were identical in preparation from the beginning.

To make a long story short, Chess Pie was so named because cheese cake was baked in a pie tin(or coffyn as originally named) with a single pasty crust. Over time, the name cheese became chess(be it through misspelling or mispronunciation), which is quite easily understood. And going from the designation cake to pie is understood just as easily. After all, one look at a cheesecake and you may even think it should be called a pie.

One thing I have found peculiar, with no explanation at all, is the must-have addition of cornmeal to all chess pies. Since the very beginning, cornmeal, in any amount, is a staple in these pies. Many recipes through the years only put a token amount while others overdo it. Sure, it may have helped to thicken it many generations ago when ingredients were a little different, but today it really isn't needed. But I do add cornmeal to keep this dessert classic. I do, however, change it up a little in the Chocolate Chess Pie, as you have noticed. I use it as a base for the crust instead of the filling.
New England is the birthplace of both cheesecakes AND chess pies, but(as mentioned)the South truly deserves recognition for making the pie famous.

Here are 3 recipes for Chess Pies that I am sure will win you over, regardless of what side of the Mason-Dixon line you reside.

 



Chocolate Peanut Butter Chess Pie

Such a moist and filling Southern favorite. An indulgent pie that mimics the texture of a fudgy brownie with the taste of chocolate pudding and all served in a crispy, peanut butter crust. Treat yourself!

Crust:

1/2 cup cornmeal
1/4 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons peanut butter
4 tablespoons milk
Filling:
1 cup chocolate chips
6 tablespoons butter or margarine
6 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup cocoa
1 tablespoon constahch(haha, a little Yankee humor here-cornstarch rightfully)
4 egg whites
6 tablespoons milk

For the crust, combine cornmeal, flour and salt in a bowl and blend. Add peanut butter and mash it into the flour mixture with a fork. Add milk and continue blending with the fork until everything is blended. With you hands, gather dough into a ball that holds together. Place between 2 large sheets of film wrap and roll until it is large enough for your pie tin. After lining the pie tin, crimp edges if desired; set aside.

In a medium saucepan, add the chocolate chips and butter. Melt over low heat, stirring to combine. Remove from heat and set aside. Preheat oven to 325-degrees F. In a large bowl, mix sugar, cocoa and cornstarch together. Pour in the warm melted chocolate mixture and beat until thoroughly combined. Add egg whites and milk, beating on high speed until smooth. Pour into prepared crust and bake 30-32 minutes, or until firm when touched in the center. The pie will puff up when baking but settle down upon cooling. Remove from oven to cool slightly before serving warm or chill completely if desired.

 

Christmas Cranberry Chess Pie

Although this pie is perfectly fine without the addition of figs or dates, I wanted to add a little Christmas cheer with flavors we don't enjoy but once a year. This pie is the perfect "pantry pie", which is how they were kept many generations ago, sitting on the pantry shelf.

Crust:
2 cups crushed gingersnap cookies
3 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted
Filling:
4 tablespoons butter or margarine, room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cornmeal
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 cup whole-berry cranberry sauce
1/2 cup chopped figs or dates
3 eggs
1/4 cup milk

In a small bowl, mix the crushed cookies with melted butter. Transfer to a pie tin and press firmly on the bottom and sides; set aside.

Preheat oven to 325-degrees F. In a large bowl, with an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar together until creamy. Add cornmeal, cornstarch, eggs and milk. Continue beating until well mixed. Stir in the cranberry sauce and figs. Pour into prepared crust and bake 36-38 minutes, or until firm to the touch in the center. Remove from oven to enjoy warm or cool completely before serving.



Tangy Lemon Chess Pie

Some say that Chess Pie was originally made with lemons. So I upped the ante and added the flavor of lemon with juice and curd. Lemon curd is an intensely flavored 'preserve' type spread that is available in all supermarkets.

Crust:
2 cups crushed vanilla wafer cookies
3 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted
Filling:
4 tablespoons butter or margarine, room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon cornmeal
1 1/4 cups lemon curd
1/2 cup chopped figs, dates or raisins
1 tablespoon lemon juice
4 egg whites

In a small bowl, mix the crushed cookies with melted butter. Transfer to a pie tin and press firmly on the bottom and sides; set aside.

Preheat oven to 325-degrees F. In a large bowl, with an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar together until creamy. Add cornmeal, cornstarch, eggs, milk and lemon juice. Continue beating until well mixed. Stir in the lemon curd and chopped figs. Pour into prepared crust and bake 36-38 minutes, or until firm to the touch in the center. Remove from oven to enjoy warm or cool completely before serving.

 

May's recipe for Lumber Pie

Take some grated bread, and beef-suet cut into bits like great dice, and some cloves and mace, then some veal or capon minced small with beef suet, sweet herbs, fair sugar, the yolks of six eggs boil'd hard and cut in quarters, put them to the other ingredients, with some barberries, some yolks of raw eggs, and a little cream, work up all together and put it in the caul of veal like little sausages; then bake them in a dish, and being half baked have a pie made and dried in the oven ; put these puddings into it with some butter, verjuyce sugar, some dates on them, large mace, grapes, or barberries, and marrow being baked, serve it with a cut cover on it, and scrape sugar on it.

Robert May, The Accomplisht Cook, 1665.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Plum Pudding, Christmas Pudding, Hard Sauce.....

There is only one place in all of America that these words relate to during the Holiday season, and that is New England.

The preparation of any Christmas Pudding(aka Plum Pudding) always started on the first Sunday of Advent, universally referred to as 'Stir up Sunday' by our colonial ancestors. They were gently reminded by their minister, while attending Sunday meeting, when he began to preach, "Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people....". Nobody would ever have attempted to serve Christmas Pudding without letting it sit for at least 3 weeks in order for all the fruit flavors to mingle all together.

But even before the popularity of Plum Pudding, was the, now forgotten, Plum Soup. In the early days, Plum Pudding was slowly cooked and stirred much like mincemeat, but then bagged in muslim and set in a large copper kettle to simmer for hours on end. The richer folks would use elaborate plum pudding molds. Plum Soup was the still liquidy mixture before being bagged and steamed.

Another forgotten dish was Dumb Cake. As the men were dragging in the monstrous Yule log, the single girls of age in the household were busy making and baking this fruit-laden cake. They were forbidden to talk while preparing and baking it. Once made, baked and cooled, she would then stay up until midnight when her future husband was to walk into the kitchen and turn the cake.

The earliest example of Plum Pudding being served, that I can find, is when King Henry VIII served it during his reign, 1509-1547, but most assuredly it was made far before. It was made with true plums at that time as well, only deviating to raisins around 1700 here in New England.

By the mid 1700s in New England, Hunting Pudding was a popular type of boiled pudding. So named because it was often carried by the husbands as they spent days on end hunting for their Holiday feast.

Of course, one may think these types of puddings are too heavy(much like fruitcake), some may think too time consuming to prepare. Others will instantly think of all the fat and calories that must follow such a rich classic.

Well I have Yanked™ TWO great Christmas pudding recipes without upsetting the great balance of taste and texture for a dessert all of our New England ancestors enjoyed, and one we should embrace as well.



Old Fashioned Christmas Ginger Pudding with Bog Sauce
 
 

Such a fantastic Christmas Pudding, serve this delicious classic with a much lighter version of hard sauce below. Although traditional hard sauce has a ton of butter and powdered sugar, I think you will find the pudding is elevated in a delightfully fruity way using Bog Sauce instead.

1(10.5-ounce)empty coffee can, 1 quart measure
Oil to grease
3 tablespoons butter or margarine, room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup eggnog
1 1/4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon each baking powder and baking soda
1 cup ginger preserves, divided
Boiling water
Bog Sauce, recipe below
1/2 cup whole berry cranberry sauce

 
Use your can opener to remove any lip on the open end of the coffee can, keeping one end intact. Being very careful, place some oil on a napkin or paper towel and liberally grease the inside of the can; set aside. In a large bowl, beat butter, sugar and egg until creamy. Add eggnog and continue beating until smooth. In a separate, bowl, blend flour, baking powder and soda. Add to butter mixture and beat, on low, until smooth. Fold in half the preserves Transfer to prepared can, it should come halfway up. Gently tap the bottom on the counter to even out. Place a foil over the top, held by an elastic. If your coffee can came with a plastic lid, use this in place of the foil.

Place in crockpot, pour boiling water to come up about a third of the way, cover and turn the crockpot on high. "Steam" for 2 1/2 hours, or until it is firm in the center when you remove foil or lid. If you find the water boiling, simply reduce heat until it is just barely simmering.

Remove from water and let cool for a few minutes without removing lid or foil before transferring to refrigerator to completely cool while still in can. Open both ends and run a knife around the inside to loosen. Push pudding out with a flat-bottomed glass or tumbler. Slice pudding in any fashion you desire with warm Bog Sauce for dipping.
For the Bog Sauce, place remainder of preserves and cranberry sauce in a small saucepan and heat, stirring well.

Enough for 4 servings.

 
Note: If you would like to serve this warm, it is best to cool completely first, then remove from can. Then just simply microwave, covered with film wrap on a plate, until hot throughout.

 



Dark Chocolate Steamed Pudding  
 
 

A much lighter version of the infamous Plum Pudding of old, yet just as flavorful. Who says you need fancy molds and steamers to create a delicious steamed pudding? Not me!

1(10.5-ounce)empty coffee can, 1 quart measure
Oil to grease
3 tablespoons butter or margarine, room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg
3/4 cup plain yogurt
1 cup flour
1/4 cup cocoa
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons dark chocolate chips
Boiling water
Creamy Peppermint "Soft" Sauce, recipe below

 

Use your can opener to remove any lip on the open end of the coffee can, keeping one end intact. Being very careful, place some oil on a napkin or paper towel and liberally grease the inside of the can; set aside. In a large bowl, beat butter, sugar and egg until creamy. Add yogurt and continue beating until smooth. In a separate bowl, blend flour, cocoa baking powder and baking soda. Add to butter mixture and beat, on low, until smooth. Fold in chocolate chips Transfer to prepared can, it should come halfway up. Gently tap the bottom on the counter to even out. Place a foil over the top, held by an elastic. If your coffee can came with a plastic lid, use this in place of the foil.

Place in crockpot, pour boiling water to come up about a third of the way, cover and turn the crockpot on high. "Steam" for 2 1/2 hours, or until it is firm in the center when you remove foil or lid. If you find the water boiling, simply reduce heat until it is just barely simmering.

Remove from water and let cool for a few minutes without removing lid or foil before transferring to refrigerator to completely cool while still in can. Open both ends and run a knife around the inside to loosen. Push pudding out with a flat-bottomed glass or tumbler. Slice into desired sizes and serve with Creamy Peppermint "Soft" Sauce.

Place 1 cup Greek-style yogurt, 1/4 cup honey and 1 teaspoon peppermint, spearmint or mint extract to a bowl and beat until smooth.


Enough for 6(1-inch thick)slices

 

Note: If you would like to serve this warm, it is best to cool completely first, then remove from can. Then just simply microwave, covered with film wrap on a plate, until hot throughout.


FYI: According to a BBC news article from November, 2011, the world's oldest Plum Pudding was found intact 112 years after it was first made and canned. A woman from Poole, England says that it had been in her late husband's family for years with the message "For the Naval Brigade, In the Front, With Miss Weston's Best Christmas. New Year 1900, Wishes".
The lable on the can itself suggests "This pudding is ready for use by may be boiled for an hour if required hot." And if you are wondering, it is not edible because of the deterioration of the can. But nonetheless, quite remarkably well preseved. It is now being conserved at the Portsmouth(England)Historic Dockyard.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Making Wine Out of Vinegar



Brussel sprouts.....ugh! I know many of you think that way about these little green beebees and all too often, reminding you of why you don't eat cabbage. So in order to "re-acclimate" your taste buds, we need to rid this veggie of that aftertaste.

We don't merely want to mask the bitterness with a ton of fat and bacon, or to put layers of seasonings to it. We want to rid it of bitterness.

Relatively new in the flora department, brussel sprouts have only been cultivated, as such, for consumption since the early 1500s, but mentioned in the country of popularity, Belgium, 300 years earlier. The bitter taste of each 'bud' has been a bane to palates since that time, cooks offering their own solutions to make them more palatable.

The predominant reason for eating brussel sprouts, too many, is the outrageously beneficial properties, especially in the antioxidant department.

To begin with, when using brussel sprouts, make sure they are small, rock-hard little orbs. This means they are young with less of the bitter taste to deal with.

But if it is the flavor you savor, minus that bitterness, there is a new way of subduing, or even eliminating, this off-taste. It is the acidic compound known as thiocyanates that are released that is the issue. Certainly boiling them in water releases these compounds, reducing the unpopular flavor. But it is still obviously there.

There IS an alternative to severely cutting the bitter taste, almost eliminating it, and you will see it first here, by The Yankee Chef.

The key is substituting one ill-tasting acidic element with a sweet tasting acid. I like to use apple juice first and foremost. It is one of the highest acidic fruits, believe it or not, with the perfect flavor to transform brussel sprouts. The ph level in apples ais generally 3.3, which is almost equal to orange juice.

To start, always cut them in half first and cut off any visible stem. This not only helps to leach out some thiocyanates but also helps the sprout to absorb the good acid, apple juice in this case. If you want to experiment, use orange or cranberry juice, tamarind or even the top acidic fruit of all, a star fruit. A good reference would be the higher the Vitamin C level, the higher the acidic level will be.

So back to the preparation. After you have cut your brussel sprouts in half, place them in a pot of apple juice and let them soak for at least 2 hours, then boil them in the same juice for only 2 minutes, just enough to barely warm them through. Drain well and use in any preparation you desire.

Now for a great recipe that is packed with flavor, without masking the the overall taste. I have yet to taste any bitterness every time I use the above method or the recipe below. I highly suggest you stay away from frozen brussel sprouts. Freezing completely destroys the texture, almost to the point where they are soft the moment you thaw them.

Brussel Sprouts Amaro a Dolce

Simply meaning 'bitter to sweet' in Italian, these sprouts are absoltely the perfect accompaniment to any turkey, pork or Prime Rib you will be having on the table this Holiday season. You may even get the kids to try them. A beautifully arranged taste of New England with Italian accents.

 

1(12-ounce)bag fresh brussel sprouts(about 2 cups)
2 cups 100% apple juice
1-2 strips bacon, diced
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
Large pinch each ground cloves and red pepper flakes
1/2 cup apple jelly*
Dash apple cider vinegar

Prepare brussel sprouts by cuting off any protruding stem and cut each head in half. Place in a large bowl with apple juice, using more if needed to completely cover. Soak at least 2 hours at room temperature.

Preheat oven to 400-degrees F. Transfer brussel sprouts and juice to a large saucepan and boil 2 minutes. Immediately drain, discarding liquid; set sprouts aside. Place bacon in a large skillet over medium heat and cook until just done but not crisp. Remove from heat and discard fat. Add brussel sprouts; set aside. In a bowl, whisk together apple jelly, cloves, red pepper and vinegar. Pour into pan with brussel sprouts and toss to evenly coat. Transfer to an 8-inch pan and roast 40-50 minutes, or until browned on top. Half way through cooking, stir them well. If desired, place them under the broiler for a minute to brown even more. Remove from oven to serve immediately.

Makes 4(1/2-cup)servings

 

*Maple syrup is a nice substitute in this recipe as well

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Holiday Soup Shooters



Serving hot soup as shooters? Yup! I created these soups in order for uyou to be able to quickly, and simply, prepare them with minimal effort, but with extraordinary kick. Serve these in small shot glasses in order to correctly live up to the name, or ladle them in large bowls to savor even longer.


Mexican Caliente

Although a churro is a sweet, cinnamon snack throughout Central America, this soup is the perfect vehicle for a touch of churro-flavored vodka. For those of you who aren't keen on parsnips, you will enjoy this great flavored soup because of the abundance of other flavors working so well together.



1 tablespoon oil
1/4 cup minced onion
1 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 pound parsnips, peeled and sliced
1 apple, peeled cored and diced
2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup Smirnoff Cinnamon Churros Vodka*

 
Place oil in a large saucpan over medium heat. When hot, add onion and cook 4-6 minutes, or until softened. Stir in curry powder and parsnips. Continue cooking an additional 4 minutes, stirring frequently. Add apple and broth, bringing to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 15-20 minutes, or until parsnips are very tender. In batches if needed, transfer to a food processor or blender and pulse on high until as smooth as possible. Place back into pan and keep warm. . Remove from heat and evenly divide among cordial, appertif or shot glasses. Drizzle vodka into each glass and serve.

Makes about 3 1/2 cups total volume

*Or use any cinnamon flavored vodka or liqueur.

 

'Jacked' Oyster-Gouda Bisque
 
 

This is my favorite soup shooter. The smoked Gouda and oysters are satisfying to my primal instinct while the cider brings out the best Yankee in me. This entire preparation works perfectly together.

3 tablespoons butter or margarine
1/4 cup minced onion
3 tablespoons flour
2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup shredded smoked Gouda cheese
Salt and black pepper to taste
1/2 cup hard apple cider *
1(7-ounce)can smoked oysters, drained


In a large saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add onion and cook until softened, about 3-4 minutes. Add flour and stir until thickened and combined well. Add chicken broth and milk. Whisk well and continue cooking over medium heat until thickened and hot, about 4-5 minutes. Add cheese and continue stirring until cheese has completely melted. Remove from heat and blend in the oysters. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Divide among cordial, appertif or shot glasses and drizzle desired amoung of hard apple cider on top of each. Serve immediately.

Makes about 3 1/2 cups by volume.

*Or use Applejack liquor

 

Citrusy Spiked Butternut Soup

 

There is just something about the flavor of orange with squash that just seems natural. Enjoy this low fat soup that has so much working for it, I would be here babbling too long trying to explain it. It is the perfect soup to begin a Holiday meal.



1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup orange-flavored liqueur *
1 tablespoon oil
1/4 cup minced onion
1 carrot, peeled and sliced
1 small butternut squash, about 1 pound, peeled, seeded and diced
3 cups vegetable broth
1 bay leaf
Salt and black pepper to taste
1 cup plain yogurt
Sprinkle nutmeg

Add cranberries and liqueur to a bowl, cover with film wrap and microwave until liquid is hot, but not boiling. Remove to let sit for at least 1 hour before continuing with recipe.

Add oil to a large saucepan over medium high heat. When hot, add onion and cook until softened, about 3-4 minutes. Add carrot and continue to cook and stir an additional 5 minutes. Add squash, broth, bay leaf and salt and black pepper to taste. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer about 20 minutes, or until vegetables are quite soft.

In batches if needed, transfer to a food processor or blender, removing bay leaf. Pulse on high until as smooth as possible. Carefully strain soup back into pan and bring to scalding. Remove from heat and stir in plain yogurt. Evenly divide among cordial, appertif or shot glasses and place some soaked cranberries in the middle of each, sprinkling with nutmeg before serving.

* This was a tough decision but use whatever orange liqueur you enjoy the most. Here are a couple of ideas though. Cointreau, Grand Marnier(although Cognac dominates the flavor of this alcohol and will darken the color of the soup) Orange or Blue Curaçao and Triple sec are the top choices for this recipe.

 

Damn Pumpkin Shooters
 

A great touch to these shooters would be to sprinkle some Cinnamon Schnapps into each right before serving.

1 cup pumpkin ale
1/4 cup dried figs
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 cup skim milk
1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoon maple syrup
Salt and black pepper to taste

Warm the pumpkin ale in a large saucepan over low heat. Add figs and let simmer for 10 minutes. Remove figs from liquid; set aside. Add remainder of ingredients to ale and whisk well. Increase heat to medium and bring to scalding, stirring frequently.

When ready to serve, Add ale mixture and soaked raisins to a food processor or blender and puree until as smooth as possible. Transfer to soup, stir well and divide among cordial, appertif or shot glasses. Garnish with some chopped figs on top if desired.

 

 
Yuletide Chestnut Cheer
 

Named for Fra Angelico, who was a hermit known for his unique, liquor-based recipes, the hazelnut flavor of Frangelico goes perfectly with the chestnuts in this soup shooter. Second on Santa's list would be Amaretto. Be it almond or hazelnut, this soup is quintessentially Yuletide.

2 tablespoons butter or margarine
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic in oil
1 carrot, peeled and sliced
1 rib celery, sliced
1(24-ounce)can or jar chestnuts, drained
2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 cup apple juice
1/2 cup creme fraiche
Frangelico or Amaretto

In a large saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add garlic, carrots, celery and chestnuts. Cook, stirring often, for about 15 minutes, or until vegetables are starting to brown. Add broth and apple juice. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer 15-20 minutes, or until vegetables and chestnuts are completely tender. In batches, puree in a blender or food processor until as smooth as possible. Strain into another saucepan and stir in creme fraiche. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour into shot glassses and drizzle Frangelico or Amaretto into each glass. Serve immediately.

 

 

 




Thursday, November 12, 2015

Holiday(Anyday)Sweet Flavored Butters

These butters are great for toast, bagels or muffins and are equally at home melted over pancakes or waffles. Many chefs will tell you to use unsalted real butter for flavored butters, but that's foolish! I rather enjoy the slight salty with the sweet and I think you will as well. Listed from top to bottom, enjoy any of these sweet spreads anytime.



Salted Caramel Butter
 
This is where the salty nature of plain butter or margarine is perfect with caramel.

5 caramel candies
1/2 teaspoon maple syrup
1 stick(1/2 cup) butter or margarine, room temperature

Unwrap caramels and place in a bowl with maple syrup. Cover and microwave for 20-30 seconds, or until caramel is melted and it is slightly foaming. Be careful when removing the cover to stir, it will be extremely hot. Set aside to cool for about 10 minutes, or until room temperature. Place in refrigerator if desired to hasten cooling. Beat butter with caramel mixture until smooth and creamy. Transfer to a bowl, cover and refrigerate at least one hour before serving.

 

Pecan Fig Butter

This is a slightly tricky recipe, Not for the preparation, but because of the type of fig you can use. If using dried figs, pour boiling water over them and let sit for about 30 minutes to soften. Drain well, pushing out the liquid from each fig before continuing with recipe. If using fresh figs, follow the recipe below, but be forewarned. You will not use an entire fig for this recipe, So I guess you will just have to eat the remainder of the unused, sweet, delicious fig. You can also purchase jarred or canned figs as well. Simply squeeze the daylights out of them before continuing with recipe. Raisins can be successfully substituted here as well. Simply treat as dried figs.

1 fresh fig
1 stick(1/2 cup) butter or margarine, room temperature
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon chopped pecans

It is as easy as removing the stem, and peeling fig if desired before mashing with a sturdy fork and adding to a bowl with remainder of ingredients. Beat until as creamy as possible. Cover and refrigerate at least one hour before serving.




Apple Cinnamon Butter
What on earth could I possibly say about this butter that the title doesn't already? My favorite butter for everything from muffins to pork chops.

1 stick(1/2 cup) butter or margarine, room temperature
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup apple jelly, whisked smooth
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Place all ingredients in a bowl and beat until as creamy as possible. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour before serving.

 

Maple Cranberry Butter

Think you've had cranberry butter before? Wait till you try this one!

1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup apple juice or cider, boiling
1 stick(1/2 cup) butter or margarine, room temperature
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Pour boiling juice over cranberries and let soak for at least 30 minutes. Drain well, squeezing cranberries to remove as much liquid as possible. Place in a bowl with remainder of ingredients and beat until smooth and creamy. Cover and refrigerate at least one hour before serving.

 

Orange-Lemon Butter
Sunshine in the morning! Besides coffee,(and percolated coffee at that)the fresh taste of fruit first thing always brings a smile to my face.

1 stick(1/2 cup) butter or margarine, room temperature
3 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon grated orange peel
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel

Place everything in a bowl and beat until smooth and creamy. Cover and refrigerate at least one hour before serving.

Merry Berry Butter
And here is a present from me to you. Such a simple butter and one I didn't think of until after I took the picture. This way you won't be looking for that elusive 6th spoon in the image. I dare say there is not one type of jam, preserves or all-fruit that you can't use with this recipe. Just choose and mix!

1 stick(1/2 cup) butter or margarine, room temperature
3 tablespoons berry preserves
1 teaspoon vanilla, almond, rum or mint extract

Place everything in a bowl and beat until smooth and creamy. Cover and refrigerate at least one hour before serving.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Where's The Beef?

I remember having mincemeat so often during the Holiday season that I expect it every year now. Many of you will consider mincemeat an acquired taste, much like our beloved Moxie beverage here in Maine, while many of you will simply overlook this pie. Is it because of the word meat in the title? Maybe because there is no strong, and universal, agreement on exactly how to make mincemeat. It very well could be that suet is known to be a key ingredient in this pie filler since time immemorial. I lean toward that notion, which is a shame. Great mincemeat, that closely rivals the classic presentation, can be made without suet and meat.....and without butter that so many upscale celebrity chefs abide by.

Let me give you a quick rundown of mincemeat and then offer two recipes that will have you trying it either for the first time or all over again.

I could write and write about the origins of mincemeat and bore you to death as I explain this, because the true preparation of mincemeat goes back even further than any food historian would care to research, and it all began with a way of either preserving meat or using the lowly parts of the animal in some fashion.

I will skip to New England, where minced pies, or "coffyns", have been baked in a fire since we first set foot on this soil. I dare say that not many of us would care to relive the original recipe for mincemeat because it was more far savory than sweet. When you take suet, which is the fat of beef or mutton from around the kidneys, and stew it for hours on end until it completely melts, and throw in whatever ground, leftover meat you may have and add just enough fruit to taste, I don't believe many would enjoy this fat-laden dish.

Harpers Weekly, 1876
I will say, however, that the rich taste was broken up extremely well with ground cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg. These three spices, having been an integral part of mincemeat since the Crusaders, have kept their place in this dish because of their moral relationship with the three magi, hence the origin of Christmas. Mace was frequently added along with these three spices as well, it being a very popular spice for many generations, but sadly ill used today.

Here is a recipe from The Frugal Housewife, 1772:

"To Make Minced Meat Pie: Shred a pound of neats tongue parboiled, with two pounds of beef suet, five pippins, and a green lemon peel. Season it with an ounce of spice, a little salt, a pound of sugar, two pounds of currents, half a pint of sack, a little orange-flower water, the juice of three or four lemons, a quarter of a pound of citron, lemon and orange peel. Mix these together and fill the pies."

An age-old beloved custom is to always stir mincemeat, while cooking, in a clockwise direction. While is was slowly cooking in a large kettle over the fire, many households only allowed you to stir it just one time, allowing others to follow suit. Then when it was your turn again, you would give it another clockwise whirl.

 

My favorite painting. Shows such a devotion to what you have, as opposed to what you don't have.


It wasn't until well into the 19th century that homes were starting to exclude meat in mincemeat, but the suet stayed.

From a personal standpoint, I adore mincemeat in any form, but as time and knowledge of health issues increase, so does my attitude about this Holiday staple. As with fruitcake, I would love to get more people to enjoy something so honored and traditional as mincemeat. And I truly believe I accomplished this quest.

I would like to say just a quick word though. I am going to get email after email, I am afraid, because so many well known chefs are going to tell me that if I don't add suet to mincemeat, I MUST use butter. My answer is quite simple. WRONG!

Butter adds absolutely nothing, and I mean NOTHING, to mincemeat. They will tell me that it adds smoothness and richness. REALLY!?!? Let me laugh just for a second then I will continue.

First, we are talking about mincemeat here people. Mincemeat, no matter what you do, will never be smooth in texture or flavor. It is inherently salty/sweet and the last thing I want is a coating of fat on my tongue, traveling down my throat, only to end up in clumps in my arteries.

Secondly, meat in mincemeat. Although I love venison, mutton or whatever type of ground or chopped meat you may desire to add to this dish, I do prefer the overall sweetness of mincemeat as prepared below because it is, after all, a dessert.

You will notice the absence of sugar, be it granulated or brown. I don't believe I have ever found a recipe that didn't have added sugar in a mincemeat. You simply don't need it. The sweetness of all the fruit is plentiful, almost too much actually. That is why I often use Asian Pears instead of, even, tart apples, because they are less sweet.

As for the molasses. That is a true Yankee addition and has been since the 17th century in most households in rural parts of New England, where sugar was too expense to use.

For substitutions and notes, please refer to the end of the recipe.
 

Perfect Mincemeat
 
 

I can hear it now. "This is NOT mincemeat!" But you will be in for one heck of a surprise. Especially when the smell of this recipe starts drifting in every room of the house. If you closed your eyes, you could swear you were transported in our ancestors kitchen. If you have any children that have never had mincemeat, give this a shot.

When it has cooled sufficiently, simply place the recipe below in a pie shell, and top with another pie crust on top. Vent and bake for 40 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown. Remove to cool completely before serving. This mincemeat recipe can be used in any cookie, tart or Holiday recipe that requires mincemeat.

1 1/2 cups orange juice
1 cup orange marmalade
1 cup raisins or golden raisins
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup diced, dried apricots
2 tart apples, such as Granny Smith, Suncrisp, Delicious or Braeburn
3 tablespoons molasses
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon each salt, nutmeg and ginger
2 teaspoons rum extract

 
 
In a large saucepan, whisk orange juice and marmalade. Peel, core and chop apples and add to juice mixture along with remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring well. Reduce temperature to low and simmer 30 minutes, or until most of the liquid has evaporated. Stir, while helping to break up ingredients, often while simmering.

Remove from heat, transfer to bowl, stir in rum extract and cover to refrigerate for at least 24 hours before using.

Makes about 3-3 1/2 cups



Many purists will be having a field day when they see I am using orange juice instead of apple cider or apple juice in this recipe. There is no more of a purist when it comes to New England recipes, and keeping them alive, more so than I am. However, I simply had to add orange juice. Why? Because you must have something to offset the entire sweetness of this mincemeat. Using apple cider on top of apples was just too much of a good thing. But helping to break up the dominant flavor of apple, and add something that you will taste on the sides of your tongue, orange juice and marmalade gave that perfect tang, as did the cranberries.

Now speaking of the apples, when I began Yanking this recipe, the best mincemeat I ever tasted, I substituted the apples for........Asian Pears. Almost blasphemy, I know, but I have never tasted a better mincemeat. So why did I not say that in the original recipe? Well, tart apples were a great alternative, plus I abhor angry emails.

I will also relate that a superb substitute for the apricots would be prunes, citron, dates or figs. I chose apricots because they were much less sweet than the other ingredients listed above and helped to add more depth in flavor.

About the rum extract. It just wouldn't be true New England mincemeat without the addition of rum flavor. If desired, replace a quarter cup of the orange juice with a good, dark rum. For those of you who do not want to purchase rum extract, only to have the rest of the bottle sit in your cupboard till next year, use vanilla or almond extract.

Now about that second Mincemeat recipe that I alluded to earlier. For those of you who want meat in their mincemeat, here is a perfect substitution for meat. Bacon!!!

Simply cook and crumble 3-5 slices bacon and add it to saucepan when you begin to simmer. It helps to break up the sweetness, adds great flavor but also gives you the fat you may desire. If not, add a half pound of ground venison that has been cooked and drained well to all the other ingredients before simmering.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Whoopie Pies versus Gobs



You don't know how many times I have been asked to settle this, seemingly, unsolvable riddle. The riddle of who on earth was the first to make Whoopie Pies.....or Gobs. Even though New England is nationally known to be synonymous with Whoopie Pies, Pennsylvania has jsut as many followers and believers.

Let's discount, first, that Boston Whoopie Pies are in the running. Some have speculated that because of a particular type of this "Whoopie Pie-like", hand-held treat resembles a Whoopie Pie (but has a custard filling and melted chocolate drizzled over it) it is somehow the progenitor. This is dispelled and should receive no more attention from me.

Another idea that has been in the running is that the Whoopie Pie was originally invented by the same people who brought Marshmallow Fluff to our New England children's diet. Durkee-Mower, owners of Marshmallow Fluff even denies this assertion and goes on to say that they didnt even print a recipe for Whoopie Pies until the 70s. It is said that as early as 1920, fluff was sandwiched between 2 layers of chocolate cake and given out to publicize "fluffernutter". This is entirely without merit and will, also, be discounted in this conversation.

Even Pennsylvania foodlore expert William Weaver states that Whoopie Pies originated not from Maine OR Pennsylvania, but was actually invented in the 1800s as Wienerkrapgens.
As much as I hate to disparage a fellow food historian, and William is a learned man, he is mistaken. The biggest reason is because wienerkrapgens(or wiener krapgens) are almost a perfect replica of a filled doughnut, and it is classically deep fried. These Viennese pastries have always been cooked in oil and bear absolutely no resemblance to even the earliest Whoopie Pies.

Also written, and attested to, is that Whoopie Pies were an invention of the Berwick Cake Company and they were being mass produced  and sold as early as 1926. Even Nancy Griffin, author of Making Whoopies; The Official Whoopie Pie Book indicated that the Berwick Company of Roxbury, Massachusetts were the first to make Whoopie Pies. Although I admire my friend, she is ill-adviced......okay, not correct.

This assertion is undocumented and the bakery closed its doors in 1977 without ever officially declaring themselves the first purveyor of Whoopie Pies. It is not to say they didnt make them though. It is known that in 1931, they did make "Whoopee" Pies. Notice the spelling, which is an important link to the origin of the name, which I will mention shortly.

That leaves us with only 2 claimants, Maine and the Pennsylvania Dutch. I have a personal attachment to Maine(obviously) but also a profound and respectable attachment to the Amish of Pennsylvania. They are much like us here in New England and I have always adored their cooking, food and sense of family.

Let's get one thing clear before diving into the origin of Whoopie Pies. Why the word "pie" in something that obviously is NOT a pie? Could it be because they were named after  Moon Pies? Many have speculated, also, that Moon Pies, and their creators, should get top billing in the dilemma. Foolishness!

 
The Maine Story

Just because the Whoopie Pie is officially the Maine State "treat", that does not bolster our claim to be the originator. So with that said, lets move on.

It is thought that Labadie's Bakery of Lewiston, Maine were the originators of Whoopie Pies. Some estimates put the year at 1925 at the opening of Labadie's. It is also known that all original records were destroyed in a fire in the late 1960s. So, again, we are left to speculation, but the Labadie's Bakery does pronounce themselves as the originators of the Whoopie Pie.





The Pennsylvania Story



Preface: I can't believe that the term Gobs is now trademarked! It is like someone trademarking the words Whoopie Pies. To me, there is only one reason for trademarking the word Gobs.  Dutch Maid Bakery, of Johnstown, PA bought the patent rights, thusly the name, from the now defunct Harris-Boyer Bakery. In all fairness, I will say that the owner of the term Gob has not sued anyone and for that, I am appreciative. But it just doesn't sit well with me for a variety of moral reasons. I just don't believe anyone should 'own' such a special, and generational, treat. Again, kudos to Tim Yost(owner of the name)for allowing people to continue using the word Gobs. 
 



 
It has been handed down orally(much the same as Maine)that Amish women have been baking Gobs since the early 1920s and putting them in lunch boxes of farmers. When the farmer opened up their boxes, they quickly exclaimed "Whoopee!!" (the correct spelling of that exclamation), so the story goes.

Also another handed down item is that these filled cakes were originally called "hucklebucks" and "creamy turtles", although this author can find no mention of either as being the same as Gobs or Whoopie Pies.

It is proclaimed that the PA Dutch originally made Whoopie Pies with leftover cake batter and cooked on pie tins. We will get to the subject of that shortly.

Now to distinguish Whoopie Pies from Gobs, let me add that mostly in Western PA are these pies referred to as Gobs. But many insist that Gobs were either first made in the western area of PA or that Whoopie Pies were first made somewhere in the remainder of the state of Pennsylvania. Either way, they allude, Pennsylvania is the true originator.

Susan Kalcik, an archivist and folklorist with the Southwestern PA Heritage Preservation Commission in Johnstown, PA says emphatically that:

"Men went into the coal mines or steel mills and the little cake with the icing on the inside instead of on the outside served their purpose. I’m convinced that the name Gob is related to the coal mines. Lumps of coal refuse were called gob piles. These working people adapted the name to the dessert."
Candied Yam Gobs

Susan also says that Whoopie Pies can be traced back to medieval Germany when they were making a cake-like pasty with a filling. She is probably referring to what I have dispelled already, the wienerkrapgens.

 Well, now I am busting out of the seams to dispel these observations!

Sometimes a historian or researcher WANTS to dig deeper than everyone else or doesn't think their research query has a simple answer. I have often found myself in the very same spot. But more often than not, the answers are right in front of you. Something my father(the second Yankee Chef) always drilled into my head.

This hold true with the names Whoopie and Pie and Gob.

Now I know many dozens of you say that Whoopie Pies were named after Eddie Cantor when he was in Boston in 1927 doing the musical "Makin' Whoopee".

 
It is said that he tossed mini Whoopie Pies to the audience as a publicity stunt while singing that song. I find absolutely not one reference of this happening.....period! Not one newspaper article, story or recording substantiating this.

I must confess that I do beleive that the name Whoopie was uttered for this first time with regards to this treat as an expression of joy because at this time(and before and after)the term and spelling of Whoopee is used universally as an outburst of joy. It makes not only plausible sense, but logical as well. Be it by the adult farmers or I prefer to think it was the children who originated the word as it relates to the pies. The parents just running with it. If this was the case, however, it had to have been made many years before the actual treat was commercially made for sale. The name Whoopie Pie would have been very popular, or the bakery would not have made them for sale. This only makes marketing and monetary sense.

The word Pie. Why Pie? Well it sure wasn't because they were made in pie tins, which makes zero sense as a kitchen professional, chef and historian to boot. Thinking simply and logically, if I had leftover cake batter, the last pan I would bake little round cakes would be a pie tin. I would immediately grab a square baking sheet.

If you argue, "But it had to have been a pie tin because Whoopie Pies and Gobs are round!" My answer, "If you had enough leftover cake batter from making a cake to put in a pie tin, you have enough to put in a cake pan!". And thereby you would have a cake, not a Whoopie Pie! And remember, if someone was making a cake, they would have had frosting or icing on hand as well top fill these mini discs of cooked batter.

The word pie is easily explained as a direct link to our colonial past. Pies were always made with very VERY thick crusts. These thick crusts were made in order to hold the contents in without it spilling out and burning. Over time, the crusts became thinner and even hand-held pies were being made in many households, both in New England and Pennsylvania. I believe that Whoopie Pies were intentionally made AND named as such because of their resemblance to pies of old. Heck, even as late as the last quarter of the 19th century, pie crusts were thick and soft.

Now many will argue that the name pie was also used because most cooks used pie tins instead of cake tins. This assumption is false however. Certainly colonial era 'pans' used for making pies and cakes resembled our pie tins of today with very long handles or they resembled shallow Dutch ovens and spider pans, but that was many generations previous to the introduction of Whoopie Pies.

Maine Needham Gobs
 
Now the word Gob, which means(even according to a dictionary printed in 1920)a lump, small pile or mass. So a thick cake batter dropped onto a baking pan in 3 or 4 small dollops and baked would have obviously been referred to as "gobs" of batter, and certainly NOT gobs of coal!

I also believe that Gobs would have been higher and more dense than how we enjoy Whoopie Pies today. If I were to put myself in the shoes of someone making these 100 years ago, I would have added more flour to the batter before scooping little circles of leftover batter onto a cooking pan. Otherwise they would have spread out too much. So by adding more flour, you would have a higher, more dense cake to fill with frosting.*

So bottom line. I do believe that the treat that the basic concept of our Whoopie Pie was first made by...............the Amish. Sorry Mainers. I would have loved to have given Maine credit, but logic dictates otherwise. However, that is not to say that this Amish-made Whoopie Pie, in its entirety and prepared as we know them today, was first made by the Amish.

It wasn't until at least 1917 in Somerville, Massachusetts that Marshmallow Fluff was "invented". And as well all know, a Whoopie Pie is NOT a Whoopie Pie without fluff. And if anyone thinks that Pennsylvania was the first to make filling using fluff ahead of either Massachusetts or Maine, they would be mistaken. Geography in itself would dictate otherwise.

The Amish may have put together the first Gobs, or Whoopie Pies, but they would have used whatever frosting they were making at the time. Because they were in the process of making a cake anyway. Boiled icing would have been used, or maybe, JUST MAYBE, some type of buttercream frosting, but certainly not filling with fluff.

So I am sorry for all the confusion, but when nothing is available to bolster a claim, one needs to return to logic, common sense and the preponderance of the evidence, which is what I did. And because of this, my opinion needed to be explained as thoroughly as possible.

*Please see my recipes for Gobs at the theyankeechef.com

 

Sunday, October 4, 2015

A Gentle Giant

I am obliged to Christine Gilbert for these photos


There were few men in fact and fiction that could quite hold a stick to Maine's own Barnabus Coffin Beal. The only difference is that he was truly a living man, with the strength and only legends allude to.

A fisherman, lobsterman and a man who scooped up clams and oysters in order to sell and provide for his huge family. Born in 1836, he grew to become known as Tall Barney, with the strenght of an bear with the gentleness of a cub. One exploit set his name in the annals of history when he stopped in Rockland while out fishing one day. While on land, he was involved in an agument wheter any man present could lift a 1200-ound anchor laying on the dock. The men standing there tried but miserbaley failed. Someone asked Tall Barney to give it a try. Because he was never one to boast, he politely declined. Until, that is, someone bet him five dollars. It didn't take Barney long to realize that five dollars would go along way to feeding his brood back home in Jonesport, Maine.

The behemoth of a man walked over, bent over and lifted this anchor clean off the dock. Turing to his bettor, he was slightly taken aback when hewasn't paid. Never being a man with anger in his body, Barney bent back over again, raised that same anchor, walked to the edge of the wharf adn dropped it right through the bottom of the boat belonging to the man who had refused to pay.

'Tall Barney's' wife, Phoebe

His feats of strength were legendary in life, and the cause of his death. When out fishing , he would often haul his large dory up on the beach when through for the day, draggin it by the tow rope(or painter) all the way out of the water. One day in 1899, at the age of 63 years, he was dragging his boat out of the water at Pond island, Maine after a day of fishing. As he was almost clear of the water, and still a number of feet to go, he broke a blood vessel in his heart and died instantly.

You can read bout him in a poem by Alice Frost Lord, entitled "The Ballad of Tall Barney", publised in 1938 in the Lewiston, Maine Journal. I have only touched upon what is written about this gently giant and I urge you to read more of him.

 



Italian-Yankee Corn Cake

This perfectly sweetened cake creates its own type of crust around the edges that crisp up as it cools, transforming it into a toss between a cake and a pie actually. It is recommended to slice it into segments before refrigerating, otherwise the caramelized crust will be next to impossible to cut. Classical Italian Corn Cake uses almond extract, but vanilla works equally as well if desired.

 
 
Nonstick cooking spray
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon butter or margarine, melted
2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
2 cups small dice apple
2 tablespoons orange juice
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 cup cornmeal
3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup milk
1 egg, beaten
Juice from 1 lemon
3 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted
1/2 cup raisins or dried cranberries

 

Grease a 9-inch cake pan with nonstick cooking spray; set aside. Mix next 4 ingredients together until thoroughly combined; set aside. In a bowl, combine diced apple, orange juice and cinnamon; set aside. Preheat oven to 350-degrees F. In a medium-sized bowl, blend cornmeal, coconut flour, sugar and baking powder until well blended. Stir in the milk, egg, lemon juice and melted butter. It should be mixed just enough to wet all ingredients, leaving it somewhat lumpy. Fold in the raisins and transfer to prepared pan, leveling out the top. Evenly divide apple mixture, juice and all, on top of batter. Sprinkle topping mixture evenly over the apples and bake 36-38 minutes, or until the center of the cake is firm. Immediately remove from oven to cool slightly before serving hot, or cover and refrigerate to serve cold.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Second National Fall Foliage Week




Welcome to the second, official year of National Fall Foliage Week, which will be held every year on the last Sunday of each September, and lasting a week. I didn't create this Holiday for marketing purposes or even to sell anything. The sole premise behind this observation is to get families together and enjoy nature at its' most beautiful.

Dedicating not only a time in September when families came together for the harvest of the winter crop, but starting on the allocated day of rest, frolic and beauty that was, and is, Sunday. Even during the 17th and 18th centuries, the people of New England put down their items of labor, went to church and spent the remainder of Sundays in repose. Those sunset tinged leaves that blanket the country side are the perfect setting for family chatter as you trapse through the countryside or simply down any tree-lined street. It was a time to relax and find out about your sons or daughters love interests or the gossip spreading through town.

You can smell the cleansing of the air as the atmosphere briskly changes from a sweater to a coat. But above all, the autumnal colors reinvigorated family togetherness, much as it does today. Keeping this splendid time of year alive through a National Holiday/Observance means keeping our past alive and our families together. It is a day when we should all take a walk among those crimson and gold leaves, above us and below, smile and talk to your kids, loved ones or simply to rid yourself of stress. Better yet, gather the family and go apple picking. This is the perfect time of year for some freshly picked apples for baking, canning("putting up" as we say here in New England)or simply eating.

As every generation goes by, we find ourselves with less and less time to do these amazingly simple things. So maybe, just maybe, a little "kick in the pants"(much like my Dad humorously did to me as we walked in the colorful woods if I slowed my pace down)is what we need in order to observe what is truly important in our lives. Beauty, nature and family.

So take at least one day out of this week to take a walk on that path you trod as a child or under the vivid hues of the leafy umbrella that once beckoned our ancestors time of harvest. But don't forget to put that roast in the oven, along with a pie or two in order to keep that amazing, comforting feeling with you as long as possible.



Sunday, September 13, 2015

In A Nutshell



Probably the briefest post I have ever written. Here is the link to all the reviews I finally just finished from my trip to Boothbay Harbor a week ago. I thoroughly enjoyed my stay and only hope I am able to attend the Boothbay Harbor Fest for many more years to come.

http://theyankeechef.com/index.php/media-links/articles-guides/45-article

http://theyankeechef.com/index.php/menu-links/72-two-must-visits

 

Monday, September 7, 2015

Welcome Home to Boothbay Harbor

This is the first of many posts and articles I will be writing over the next couple of weeks about a region of Maine that will leave you with an everlasting impression, Boothbay Harbor!


I have been blessed with opportunities that come from my 'kitchen' in ways that the first and second Yankee Chefs(my grandfather and father respectively) were not privy to. Because of my first cookbook, The Yankee Chef, my site and blog, as well as the large and flattering audience that is reached by my online and hard copy presence, I have been sought after as a judge throughout the United States at many festivals and cooking competitions.

I travel extensively with appearances in one genre or another, but nothing is more special than coming home.

One of my greatest pleasures is paying it forward..If there is anything I can do to promote a cause(above and beyond breast cancer awareness), I am more than happy to oblige free of charge, especially when it comes to New England cuisine. I am always available and everyone knows that.

So when the Boothbay Harbor Festival contacts me each year, it really is a "no brainah" that I am on board. And with that unintended pun of a lead-in, let me tell you about a little blip on the map here in Maine that is fast becoming a port of adoration, Boothbay Harbor.

I have literally met thousands of people from just as many backgrounds all over America. But the most genuinely pleasureable and most 'open-armed' are those that stroll the ocean-tinged walkways of this peninsula.

For 2 years, I have yet to find someone who isn't quick on the smile, followed by a sincere greeting.

I have now visited every restaurant in a 5 mile span of the foot bridge that crosses the harbor, connecting East with West. Even in an unofficial capacity and without my pink chefs coat, I was welcomed just as kindly as if I had been there as a food reviewer or judge.

I have shopped, both window and physically, at almost all the shops and store fronts on both sides of this bridge and am constantly floored by the amicable nature of everyone, and I do mean everyone. No exageration needed when one talks of Boothbay Harbor.

No matter the weather, the season or if they woke up on the wrong side of the bed, their shining personalities peek through every cloud.

The Boothbay Harbor Fest is just the emulsion(pardon a kitchen reference here and there by the way)of all goodness and decency that human nature has to offer, all mixed up in a bowl and served hot.(Okay, I will stop with the poetics and puns).

This year, not only did I sample dozens of food items from just as many restaurants, but I was privileged to have been able to see the imagination and obvious knowledge that the local bartenders have when confronted with creating original drinks using Maine alcohol, namely Cold Rivers Blueberry Vodka. This was the most amazing tasting blueberry vodka I have ever had the pleasure of tasting. And when combined with the flair of Maine bartenders in Boothbay Harbor........'Nuff said!

I base most of my opinions on certain towns and the favorability levels on how children are accepted and greeted. This place was beyond words. Although my children will be accompanying me next year, I didn't bring them along this year. But I saw multitudes of youngsters enjoying themselves as much as their parents. And when it comes to feeding the little ones? I didn't come across any restaurant that didn't extend, let alone cater to, all ages. The food was unpretentious, super affordable, simply prepared yet ranking among the finest menus found in any upscale establishment.

The Boothbay Harbor Fest is at the top of my list of events to attend every single year, regardless of my capacity of involvement.
Lori and Steve, my hosts AND the coordinators of this fun event were truly and thoroughly involved(not to mention accessible by all those who needed guidance)and it is with a huge thank you that I extend to them, as well as everyone in this coastal Eden.

So to sum this region and festival up, let me review this in a nutshell.

1. The best food for seafarers and landlubbers alike is found at every turn of the corner, and all within walking distance to each other and shopping.

2. The friendliest and most appreciative people, shop owners and employees found anywhere, hands down!

3. Although it would be very easy for these world class chefs to be pretentious and serve food that is higher priced as well as having unintelligible 10-word names usually found in "la-tee-dah" restaurants, they all cook and present food that is simply prepared, explosive in flavor, admired by adults and relished by children and all priced so that you can still do some shopping.

4. The variety of shops found downtown is varied and are equally as non-pretentious. Believe it or not, I even found a part for my vehicle on a Sunday at the local marina.

5. The Scenery. Every single business is either on the water or within a few dozen foot steps. The smell of the ocean literally follows you from store front to shop. Fabulous!

 

In closing? I could go on and on but I would only be repeating what I have already said, but in more flattering terms.

If you are in Maine during Labor Day every year........

Come home to Boothbay Harbor
It's Just That Simple!
 
 

Sunday, August 30, 2015

It's That Time Of Year Again

Apple Season is now upon us here in New England and what better way to get the apple rolling than some original, Yankee recipes using our favorite orchard fruit? Having spent a few hours at Treworgy's Orchard here in Levant, Maine, I came away with some fantastic apples and I highly urge all to take a trip, even if you have to drive a little ways. This place is perfect if you have little ones. Check them out at http://treworgyorchards.com/. Check out their corn maze this year, such fun.


Without going on and on(much like I did in my previous post), let's start peeling. And if you have any questions about certain apples for any recipe you are preparing, simply ask them. They are the single friendliest people as well as 100% child friendly, which is the mitigating factor for me visiting year after year.

Crunchy Apple Crisp Bites

These little treats are perfect for that after school snack, sitting on the deck at twilight or curled up watching your favorite movie. The coating is a little tricky but by placing some of the oat mixture in the palm of your hand, then an apple piece, topped with more oats, simply squash together with both hands while rotating the apple a couple of times.


 
1/4 cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 teaspoon each cinnamon and nutmeg
1 tablespoon butter or margarine, melted
2 egg whites
1 firm apple, peeled, cored and quartered
Whipped topping

Preheat oven to 350-degrees F. In a shallow bowl, combine sugar, flour, oats, cinnamon and nutmeg. Add the butter and mix until all dry ingredients are moistened. Add egg whites to a shallow bowl and whisk well. Cut apple quarters into 4 evenly sized pieces, about an inch on all sides. Add a quarter of the apple slices into egg whites, stir to coat. Lifting out one apple piece at a time, shake excess egg white off and dip in oat mixture. Press dry coating into all sides of apple firmly and place on a dry baking sheet. Continue until all apples are coated. Bake 13-15 minutes, or until apple is softened when pressed and the coating has become crispy, turning over halfway through baking to brown on all sides. Remove from oven and serve warm with whipped topping for dipping.

Enough for 2



Spiced Wine-Poached Apples

My favorite vehicle for these poached apples is a simply grilled pork chops and unpretentious, freshly cooked green beans. But if I were to enjoy these wine-infused apples as a dessert, the answer is yet another simple presentation.....ladled hot over real vanilla bean ice cream.

2 firm, tart apples, such as Granny Smith
1 cup red wine *
2 tablespoons chopped, candied or crystallized ginger
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Peel, core and cut apples in 8 wedges each. Place apples in a large bowl, add remainder of ingredients and toss to combine well. Cover and refrigerate for one hour, stirring frequently. Transfer apple mixture to a large skillet over low heat. Once the wine is hot and slightly simmering, let apples cook until they are crisp tender, about 15-17 minutes. Remove apples with a slotted spoon to enjoy over your protein or ice cream.

*Red Bordeaux, red Beaujolais or Pinot Noir are highly recommended for this recipe.
 

Grilled Pork with Golden Cider Gravy



Although hard apple cider is less sweet(ordinarily)than non-alcoholic apple cider, you can substitute one for the other in this recipe. Simply add a pinch or two of salt over pork before cooking if desired. The hard apple cider, I might add, will tenderize the pork much more efficiently than ordinary cider.

1(12-ounce)bottle hard apple cider
2 tablespoons lemon juice
4(6-ounce)boneless pork chops
3 tablespoons butter or margarine, divided
2 tart apples, peeled, cored and cut into 10-12 wedges
1 cup cooked carrot slices
1/2 cup vegetable broth
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 teaspoons cornstarch
4 cups California style vegetables
 

In a large, shallow bowl, blend cider and lemon juice. Add pork chops, cover with film wrap and refrigerate at least 4 hours. Turn chops a couple times while marinating. Melt half the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add apple wedges and cook about 6-7 minutes, or until browned and almost completely tender. Remove pan from heat and set aside.

Meanwhile, remove pork from marinade onto a plate; set pork aside. Transfer marinade to a blender or food processor with the cooked carrots, vegetable broth, maple syrup and cornstarch. Pulse on high until as smooth as possible. Transfer to a saucepan and boil over medium-high heat until reduced by half. Add reduced marinade to skillet with cooked apples and bring to a simmer while cooking pork.

Add remainder of butter to a large skillet over medium heat and cook pork until no longer pink in the middle. Heat California-style vegetables until hot according to package directions. Serve 1 pork chop per person, topped with a quarter of the cooked apples in Golden Cider Gravy and equal amounts of vegetables.

 




Baked Sour Apple Piroshki



Okay, okay! I know I have repeatedly 'repeated' that I would not use alcohol in recipes because of my love of everyone(especially children)enjoying my recipes. But I had a weak moment and being a Yankee, I adore anything apple. So, because I thought our beloved Apple Jack liquor would be far too potent for this Russian street food, I chose the deliciously different apple liqueur. For those of you who do not want any alcohol, simply replace with melted, whisked apple jelly or even mint jelly.

1 cup warm apple juice
1/4 cup brown sugar, divided
1(.25-ounce)envelope dry yeast
2 cups diced, sweet apples
1/4 cup apple liqueur*
2 1/4 cups flour, divided
1 tablespoon oil
1 teaspoon salt
Nonstick cooking spray
1 egg, beaten

 In a large bowl, add apple juice, 2 tablespoons brown sugar and yeast. Stir well and let sit 10 minutes. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, add diced apples and enough water to cover. Over medium heat, cook until apples are crisp tender, about 5 minutes. Remove, strain, transfer to a bowl. Stir in apple liqueur and refrigerate until needed.

After 10 minutes, stir 2 cups flour, oil and salt in the yeast mixture. Using a wooden spoon, continue stirring until it begins leaving the side of the bowl. Loosely cover with a cloth and place in a warm spot to rise for about an hour, or until almost double in bulk. On a well floured work surface, empty dough and knead for 2-3 minutes, or until elastic feeling and it is no longer sticky. Divide into 12 equal pieces. Grease a baking pan with nonstick cooking spray; set aside. Remove cooked apples from refrigerator and stir in apple liqueur; set aside.

Flatten out a dough ball until it is about 3 inches in diameter. Place a tablespoon of apple mixture in the center and pinch until it is sealed. Place, sealed side down, on prepared baking pan. Repeat with remainder of dough and apple mixture, leaving 3 inches between each filled dough ball. Brush the top of each with beaten egg and place in cold oven. Turn heat to 350-degrees F and bake 30-32 minutes, or until lightly browned on top. The filling may ooze out on top, but that is fine. Remove from oven to a plate or rack to cool slightly before serving or cool completely.
This is just the beginning. A couple more trips to Treworgy's over the next couple weeks will certainly result in more Yanked recipes.