Monthly Archives: January 2016

Corn Chowder

Just kind of whipped this together… It went pretty nicely with grilled-cheese sandwiches.

Bacon (let your conscience be your guide. I used ~1/4#)
1# potatoes, 1/2″ dice
1 medium onion, 1/2″ dice
1 red pepper, 1/2″ dice
1/2# frozen corn
1C half & half
Salt & pepper to taste

Dice the bacon and put it in a soup kettle. Fry it until lightly brown. Drain excess fat.
Add onion and pepper. Cook until tender. [1]
Add potatoes, just cover with water. Bring to a boil, simmer until almost tender.
Add corn, bring to a simmer.
Add cream, season to taste[2], and server with Saltines or oyster crackers.

[1] At this stage, one could mix in 2T of flour and cook for two minutes for a thicker chowder
[2] Despite the bacon, it’s not at all salty.

I’ll be working on this over time.

Grandma’s Apple Crisp

I don’t know who “Grandma” is. Peg never, to my recollection, actually mentioned her. She’s talked about her Pap quite a lot, but I don’t think Peg ever met her Grandmother, at least not her maternal Grandmother. I understand her paternal Grandmother never made Apple Crisp to Peg’s knowledge.

Now, if the recipe had been called “Gram’s Apple Crisp” (and Peggy doesn’t know but maybe the computer autocorrected her…), I’d know it could be attributed to one Ruth Hamel, late of Franklin Maine, who might well be the best cook I’ve ever known. I’ve only eaten her food a few times, but I’ve gone through enough of her jelly and jam to make that proclamation. She was one rarely talented creature in the kitchen, and I was proud to call her “Gram” myself. Now if Gram wasn’t the best cook ever to walk the Earth, that mantle rests squarely on the shoulders of her daughter Teddy, and I’ve eaten a lot of Teddy’s cooking over the nearly 20 years I’ve known her.

So this recipe, whatever its provenance, reminded me on another level of my own Grandma Esther, who was my Dad’s stepmother. I never met his mother, missing her by something on the order of a decade. But I peeled these apples with a knife that is exactly like a couple of knives that my Mom got from Esther back in the 60’s. Not a terribly fancy knife, but it has a sharp, thin blade that is just perfect for sending Macintosh apples to their doom. I was using Cortlands, though, so the knife was just a bit too short for cutting through the center of the apple when quartering them. I peel apples just like my mother taught me – halve, then quarter each apple, then scoop out the core, turn it over and in three quick slices cut off the peel as close as you dare. If you miss a little bit, that’s OK. The peel is where the vitamins are.

Assemble your ingredients:
1 C brown sugar, packed (light or dark, it doesn’t matter)
1 C rolled oats
1 C flour
1/2 C (1 stick) butter, melted
3 C apples, peeled, cored, and sliced (Grandma apparently chopped them – I sliced them, and use Cortlands)

1/2 C granulated sugar
2 t cinnamon

Mix the sugar & cinnamon – set aside

Mix the brown sugar, rolled oats, flour, and butter until it forms a crumbly mixture in the bowl.
Lightly grease or butter an 8-inch baking pan

Evenly spread about half of the oat mixture into the pan.
Evenly spread the apples over the mixture. Sprinkle the sugar and cinnamon over the apples.
Top with the remaining mixture.

Bake in a preheated 350F oven for 40-45 minutes, until golden brown.

Personally, I’d serve it with ice cream in a few minutes.

Now, I screwed this recipe up, and it still came out good. I’m not one to carefully read instructions (my cross to bear, not yours), so I mixed all of the ingredients save the apples together, and put all of the mixture on top of the apples until I checked to see whether I was supposed to dot the thing with butter. Ooops. I also got to three cups of apples about halfway through the second Cortland, so I ended up with about four cups of sliced apples, not wanting to waste anything. Heaven forbid I waste half an apple. So I tried to mix some of the mixture down under the apples, but that left some of the apples exposed. But still, it turned out OK. I think it was a bit on the sweet side, so next time around I think I’ll cut the brown sugar by about half to see where that gets me. I’ll keep the apples at three cups, too.

Lobster Arancini

Each Christmas Eve for about the last decade, Peg and I head over to the house of our friends Jonathan and Karen. Karen is from an Italian-American family, and one Italian tradition for Christmas Eve is the Feast of the Seven Fishes. We don’t always make it to the full seven fishes, but I try to bring along a dish in the theme. I also try to compete with Karen and her three sisters, all of whom are excellent cooks.

My attempt this year was Lobster Arancini – golf-ball sized balls of risotto stuffed with a chunk of lobster meat, then rolled in bread crumbs and deep-fat fried. No, not really the healthiest of treats, but this happens only once a year. It may never happen again because these were a pain to make. But oh, were they good!

I made a double batch, but a single batch is probably manageable. For a single batch (and this follows pretty closely with Giada DiLaurentiis’s recipe, as her recipe came up in my research).

This recipe should make about 16 arancini, enough for 4 servings.

Risotto:
2 T butter
1/2 C finely chopped onion (or shallot)
1 C arborio rice
1/2 C white wine
3-4 C lobster stock (or chicken)
1 C grated Parmesan cheese
1 t salt
1 t pepper

Arancini:
2 C Panko bread crumbs
1 egg
8 ounces lobster meat, in 1/2″ cubes
vegetable oil

Heat the stock to a simmer. Melt the butter and gently saute the onions until translucent. Add the rice and cook for about five minutes. Then add the wine, and stir the rice until the wine is all absorbed. The start adding the stock, about 1/2 C at a time, stirring almost constantly until it is absorbed. After 3 cups of stock is absorbed, check to see whether the rice is tender (al dente). If not, add another 1/2 C of stock, and perhaps another, until the rice is done.

Stir in the Parmesan cheese, and let the risotto cool. You’re going to be handling it.

Beat the egg and combine that and 1/2 C of the bread crumbs with the risotto.

Take 2 T of the risotto mixture and form into a firm ball about 2″ in diameter. Make an indentation in the ball, insert a chunk of lobster, and form the risotto around the lobster to seal it completely. Coat the ball with the bread crumbs as you go, and when you have them all done, deep fry them in 350F oil until golden brown, about four minutes.

Drain on paper towels.

Progressive Scalloped Potatoes

We usually make a traditional recipe (Betty Crocker’s was the base recipe) scalloped potatoes, but I had an odd thought the other night and thought since Peg wasn’t home to pooh-pooh the idea, I went with it, and I was pleased with the results – to the extent that this is going to be my lunch for the coming week.

Heat your oven to 350F

2 # peeled potatoes, sliced thinly (1/8″ is ideal, but if you’re knife challenged, anything smaller than 1/4″ is OK. (Hint – take two slices off one side of the potato, then rest it on the flat side for easier slicing. Nobody cares how they look.
1 small onion, diced
1 cup cubed ham, sliced ham, chopped ham, whatever
2 C frozen kernel corn
3 C milk
4 T butter (divided 3 T & 1 T)
4 T flour
salt & pepper to taste

Slice the potatoes as thinly as you can
Dice or slice the ham into smaller-than-bite-size pieces
Dice the onion quite finely

Grease an 9×13 casserole with some of the 1 T butter
In a heavy skillet, melt the butter, add the onion, and saute until tender.
Add the flour and mix thoroughly, then cook the flour mixture (called a roux) for two minutes over medium heat.
Using a whisk, stir in the milk, continuing to stir completely until the mixture (now a Bechamel sauce) comes to a boil for two minutes and thickens. Take the sauce off of the heat.

Pour a thin layer of sauce into the casserole. Layer half of the potatoes in the casserole, and then layer half the ham and half the corn. Evenly distribute half of the sauce, then layer more potatoes, ham, corn, and sauce.

Dot with butter. Cover with foil, bake for 40 minutes. Uncover, bake for another 60-70 minutes until the potatoes are tender but not mushy.

Serve alone, or as a side for ham or anything else. Excellent as a hot picnic dish. Reheats well in the microwave, arguably with more flavor.

Kenda’s Crock Pot Macaroni & Cheese

This recipe comes from Kenda, Peg’s best friend (probably mine, too), and it gets rave reviews everywhere. We normally make a double batch. Peg has some notes. I have some footnotes.

8oz pkg elbow macaroni, cooked until still firm
12oz. can evaporated milk [1]
1 cup whole milk
1/4 cup butter, melted
2 large eggs, slightly beaten
4 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese, divided 3c/1c
1/4 to 1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. white pepper [2]
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese grated

In the slow cooker, combine lightly cooked macaroni, evaporated milk, whole milk, melted butter, eggs, 3 cups cheddar cheese, salt and pepper.
Top with remaining cheddar cheese and parmesan cheese. [3]
Cover. Cook on low 3 hours. Watch the pot – one pot’s “low” can burn
the outside and make it like rubber.[4]

Peg’s Note:

I doubled this recipe when I made it to take to a party.
It really doesn’t need the butter. It makes a very rich mac & cheese dish without the butter in it!!

John’s Note:
I once put 1/2tsp of ground mustard into a double batch, but there was no discernible difference. I was hoping for just a little more “zing”, thinking it would play off of the ham, ┬ábut didn’t go strong enough.

[1] Original recipe called for 13oz. Evaporated milk comes in 12 oz cans. Don’t kill yourself over detail if it’s not baking.
[2] Really, does anybody still have white pepper? Black pepper works just fine.
[3] Peg normally mixes the Parmesan in with the main ingredients.
[4] Ask John how he knows.

It reheats well in the microwave, too.!