Monday, February 10, 2014

CbsoP 15 Bean Soup and Ham Hocks with Treasured Alabama Recipes' Favorite Egg Bread

My father used to make soup with ham hocks when I was a kid, but I was always content to remain ignorant of what exactly these gnarly-looking swine pieces actually were. It turns out they're basically ankles; mostly skin, bone, cartilage, and a few tendrils of meat.


You're likely to encounter then, if at all, salted and smoked, so the one key thing to remember about cooking with them is too hold off on seasoning anything they're a part of until you can gauge how much saltiness they're likely to impart to the final product.


There are dozens, if not hundreds of multi-bean and ham soup recipes out there, including the ones on the back of pretty much every plastic bag of bean soup mix you can find. I decided to go with Jerry Russell's "15 Bean Soup with Smoked Ham Hocks" recipe from his site Cooking, by the seat of my Pants. It starts with sweating onions and garlic in some oil, adding the hocks after a decent interval.


The beans, water, and chicken stock then get added. The CbsoP recipe calls for simmering from 1.5 to 2 hours, but I found this to be far too little time - my larger beans were still tooth-crackingly hard. My Dutch oven ended up on the stove for more like 3 hours. This was actually an advantage, as the more time the ham hocks have to soften the more flavor they'll give up.


When the beans themselves are ready, get ready to scoop out the ham hocks and dig through the now-gelatinous masses for whatever bits of actual pork you can, slicing it off and adding to back to the soup. As with many bean soup recipes, CbsoP also calls for adding a large can of diced tomatoes, including the juice. After another 15-20 minutes of simmering, you're ready to serve.


The soup is a perfectly cromulent meal all to itself, but I decided, in honor of my father's historic preference, to supplement it with some corn bread. I skipped his personal favorite, the box of Jiffy corn muffin mix, and instead prepared the misleadingly-named "Favorite Egg Bread" from page 55 of Treasured Alabama Recipes. This is actually just cornbread made with buttermilk and shortening (and eggs) in a cast iron skillet, though I don't doubt it is a favorite of many who have eaten it.


Having cut myself a first slice out of the skillet, I realized it reminded me of a certain ravenous video game character, so I decided to add a strategically-placed bit of blackberry jam to create the illusion of an eye. Pac-Man Corn Bread, everyone.


This is one of those types of dishes that's inevitably described as being better the next day/week/geological era, so I had no qualms about consuming the final bowl several days after the initial preparation. Good to the last legume.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Purefoy Hotel Cook Book: Chicken Tetrazzini

A few months ago I received a copy the the Purefoy Hotel Cook Book (1971 Edition), a venerable volume of Southern cooking expertise first published in 1941 by Eva B. Purefoy of Talladega, Alabama.

True and tried!

Mrs. Purefoy, the proprietor of the eponymous hotel between 1916 and 1961, included a full array of recipes in addition to chapters on "Facts of Nutrition," "Culinary Secrets," and "Household Hints." After the hotel itself closed, she kept the memory of its hospitality and dining room alive with subsequent editions of the book.


This week's recipe is the first of two rather different ones Chicken Tetrazzini. It includes chicken breast meat, a cream sauce, sauteed diced vegetables and "fine noodles," which in this case I interpreted as narrow egg noodles. This one omits the two cups of shredded American cheese and bacon called for in the C.T. II formulation.


I've assembled my ingredients (minus the noodles), including chicken breasts lovingly arranged in a heart formation, and several selections from my friends at Giant supermarkets.


Despite being only a few lines long, this recipe has several moving parts. I elected to start with cooking the chicken in olive oil in my trusty cast iron skillet.


The recipe also directs one to "Make smooth cream sauce." No further guidance there. Given the ingredients listed, that's just butter, cream, and flour, right? Let's hope so. 


Once the chicken is done and the sauce is thickening, we toss the diced vegetables to saute into the same pan we cooked the chicken in. I increased the veg portions to over twice the volume originally called for to update the consistency. Seriously, 1 tablespoon of chopped onion for six portions? Let's try a whole onion, Mrs. Purefoy. You'll like it - I promise.


While the vegetables were cooking, we were also boiling the egg noodles. This recipe, and many similar ones, calls for the drained noodles to be plated and covered with the other ingredients and sauce in a beef stroganoff sort of arrangement. 


Since the various components were not all equally hot at the time they were ready, though, I decided to mix everything together. Once combined in a glorious melange, into a glass casserole dish they go. 


Cover with come breadcrumbs and stick in a 350 degree over for 15-20 minutes. Feel free to top with a few chunks of butter, as well.


Verdict: everything comes out steaming and bubbling and lovely. 

Thanks to Eva Brunson Purefoy, and Mr. Hyde, the next-generation hotelier to whom she sold the hotel in 1939. Mrs. Purefoy died in 1975, but her delicious food will serve us for many years hence.

UPDATE: Thanks also to Lucindaville, who featured the Purefoy Hotel Cook Book as "Cookbook of the Day" on September 10, 2009.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Game Night Guys Corn Casserole

This week's recipe comes to us from Brian Gregory of the Game Night Guys podcast. His version of this corn casserole is so popular, he is required by friends and family to bring one along with him to all festive occasions.


So here's what's in it: corn muffin mix, corn kernels, creamed corn, butter, eggs, sour cream, shredded cheese, and garlic. I added some cayenne and chili sauce (more on that later) to liven it up a bit.


Fortunately, the directions are simplicity itself. Other than melting the butter, prep consists of mixing everything together in a bowl. Check. I kept thinking as I was looking at this that it should have a half cup of milk or so, but I trusted the recipe and soldiered on.


Fully mixed together, I poured my ingredients into a glass casserole dish and applied my tribute to the guys of the Game Night Guys podcast, lovingly squeeze-lettered in Sriracha.


Having taken the necessary photo, I buried by spicy well wishes under a layer of cheese. And with that, we're ready for the over, set at 350 degrees.


And what a fine job that oven has done! Deliciously browned across the top and cooked throughout, the steaming corn casserole begs the hungry observer to risk immediate burned mouth trauma.


As always, I dive in for a corner piece. The final product is rich, full of corn flavor, and possessed of just the right moist texture. Prof. Scammington advises you to start stockpiling corn casserole ingredients immediately. Dare to prepare!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Taste Alabama Tradition II: Sausage-Wild Rice Casserole

It's time for another journey down South, this time to celebrate a new cookbook I received from a generous co-conspirator: Taste Alabama Tradition II, compiled by the Alabama Division of the American Cancer Society in 1991.


Today's recipe will highlight my lifelong affinity for comforting casserole classics. In this case, Sausage-Wild Rice Casserole.


As you can see, TAT2 features the spiral binding that is the unmistakable sign of a cookbook meant to actually be cooked from, and not merely to sit looking sophisticated on the shelf. Another good sign: the ingredient list starts with 1 pound of sausage.


The Bob Evans pork sausage (it was cheaper than Jimmy Dean) joins its brothers on the cutting board. I decided to slice my own mushrooms rather than use the kind in the can, switch from oleo to butter, and to upgrade the crunchy topping element from sliced almonds to Utz Red Hot potato chips. (Additional addition not pictured: green bell pepper, mostly for color.)


First, we start by boiling up the long grain and wild rice just as Uncle Ben would have intended. That'll take about 25 minutes, so we have time to wash and slice the mushrooms, onions, and green peppers.


Freshly rinsed of all woodland detritus, the mushrooms are ready for the board. But, as long as we're multitasking, we might as well get the sausage cooking in the skillet.


There's an excellent moment of happiness as the sausage first hits the hot cast iron and begins to sizzle. In fact, it's so good, you'll probably want to watch and listen to approximately 9 seconds of it.


And you get the idea with the rest of the ingredients - one by one they all arrived. The meat was browned; the onions, mushrooms, green peppers, and water chestnuts were sauteed; the rice was boiled and fluffed with fork, and a kind of a gravy was mixed. Eventually we reached the excited pool-party point in the evening: everybody in!


Upon stirring everything together at the same heat, it was time for our medley of friendly ingredients to evacuate to the safety of a glass casserole dish.


These tasty morsels are ready for their close-up. All that remains was about 45 minutes in the oven at 350 degrees...and one final step.


Before the final 10 minutes, our hot and bubbly dish receives a coating of crushed red hot potato chips. I didn't decide to make this chnage until the last minute, so it's a good thing there are two 7-11 locations each less than half a mile from my house.


Which brings us to the finished view of the evening's thing de résistance, the completed casserole. After letting it solidify briefly, the real task still lies before us: enthusiastic consumption.


During the process of ingredient-cooking and flavor-blending we sort of lost the visual accent of the green peppers, but rest assured they're in there and helping things along. Final verdict: a pork sausage and veggie success.

Special thanks to recipe contributor Martha Williams of Hale County.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Cooking the Hilo Woman's Club Cook Book: Mango Brown Betty

After the papaia pie success of recent days, it was inevitable that I would return to the Hilo Woman's Club Cook Book for another recipe.


I decided on the simple dessert made by generations of home economics students but with a Hawaiian twist: the Mango Brown Betty. Thanks to Miss Shizue Okamoto for the recipe!


Three of these mangoes were delivered via Peapod, while the fourth and their friend the lemon was procured from Los Amigos, the little grocery store near my house. These particular mangoes originated in Central America.


After some unphotographable wrangling with pits and skins, the slightly traumatized flesh was assembled into the bowl below.


And then it was time for ingredients from the cupboard. To make this, you'll need bread crumbs, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, lemon, and butter. The picture of the meatloaf on the front of the bread crumbs tube is merely a serving suggestion, of course. It is a good reminder, however, that when making desserts you should only use the plain, and not the Italian-seasoned, type of bread crumbs.


Layering is a good look for any season. Start with 2/3 cup of bread crumbs with 1/4 cup of melted butter and spread it in the bottom.


Take half of the mago and spread in a layer.


Cover with 1/4 cup of sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and lemon zest and juice.


Which yields this golden brown look of damp, sugary sweetness.


Pour over another layer and bread crumbs and repeat with another layer of everything else.


Cover with a third layer of bread crumbs and head off to the over for an hour at 350 degrees.


While the Mango Brown Betty is cooking, you may experience olfactory memories of cozy afternoons with your mother and/or grandmother, as the smell of buttery spiced fruit wafts through the house. 


When finished, the sugar and bread crumbs should have fused into a sweet crumbly matrix, giving some texture to the tender bits of mango sandwiched between. I paired mine with vanilla latte ice cream.


Serve with black coffee.


Monday, May 20, 2013

Cooking the Hilo Woman's Club Cook Book: Papaia Pie

I was looking for a cookbook with vintage charm that was exotic yet approachable. Something with character. I found the jackpot on eBay: The Hilo Woman's Club Cook Book (Sixth printing, October 1948).

First published in July 1937 by the Hilo Tribune-Herald.

The HWCCB has many recipes featuring familiar traditional Hawaiian ingredients like pineapple and coconut, but also less common delicacies like granadillo, pomelo, ohelo, poha, and breadfruit. Immediately, though, my eye was drawn to the section on "papaia", as papaya was apparently spelled back then. There were many options: baked papaia, Chinese orange and papaia marmalade, and three variations on pickled papaia.

Thanks for the recipe, Miss Ellen Pomeroy. Wherever you are, I hope there's plenty of ripe tropical fruit to cook with.

Pie, however, seem the way to go. Here's the brief version. Peel and seed a large papaya, cutting into 1-inch chunks.

Yes, the piece on the right kind of looks like half a chicken with a wing on the side. I promise you, no extreme genetic modifications were at play here.

Boil the pieces in a syrup of sugar and pineapple juice until soft. Remove pieces from syrup, set aside, proceed to thicken syrup with corn starch. Place papaya pieces in pie crust and cover with syrup, bake in a hot over for 25 minutes.


Interestingly, the art of making pie crusts was apparently so taken for granted among the women of Hilo in the 1940s that, even though the book contains many pie recipes, nowhere does it contain any pastry-making guidelines. You're on your own, haole.

I used a pie crust recipe from Land of Cotton and the glass holder from a Virgin of Guadalupe prayer candle to roll out the dough. Saints be praised!

Eventually, all of this should yield an actual pie. The final instructions before baking are to "put strips of pastry on top." I didn't have nearly enough dough left to make a proper lattice-top pie crust, so I made the Adidas logo instead.


The final result was some fairly good pie. The one deficiency was that even after coming out of the oven and cooling the filling was still slightly runny on top. A little additional corn starch in the syrup with no doubt fix that right up next time.


And just in case you were wondering, the Hilo Woman's Club is still around and "committed to assisting and educating its members in the areas of civic and personal interest." They celebrated their 90th anniversary recently, and their club house at 7 Lele Street is currently available for special events for a very reasonable rental fee.