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. 

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Cooking the Land of Cotton: Never Fail Cheese Soufflé

I've been excited ever since receiving my copy of the Land of Cotton cookbook, and having had a success with Asparagus Casserole, I decided to jump back in and try the Never Fail Cheese Soufflé on page 61.

This is a great recipe for you free-thinking bohemians who have chosen to embrace the (ovo-lacto) vegetarian lifestyle. For while it consists mainly of butter, eggs, cheddar cheese, and several slices of white bread, it lacks any actual meat. Considering that this is a Southern breakfast type of dish, the completely lack of bacon or pork sausage is suggestive of either someone with a radical political agenda or on a New Age diet.

All of these ingredients are fairly familiar and easy to source, but one thing bothered me. Wouldn't this turn out all looking a kind of bland yellow? A single dash of cayenne pepper would not be enough to lend much visual interest to eggs and cheese (and milk and bread that were to be covered in eggs and cheese). 

Enter my two colorful helpers: green onions and pimentos. The green onions are bright and add an oniony flavor that's always welcome in a recipe like this, and the pimentos fit just perfectly with the spirit of this cookbook. Together, they're a force with which to be reckoned.

See how festive that is? It looks like Christmastime down Mexico way.

Remember, good things come to those who layer their ingredients patiently. Also, make sure to cut off and discard the tough, indigestible crusts from the white bread. You don't want to give yourself indigestion.

Pro-tip: Cover the riotous fun of the colorful ingredients below with a layer of plain old cheddar cheese for an extra special surprise when serving at table. You're welcome.

If you can manage to restrain yourself from turning the mixture of six raw eggs and 3 cups of milk into some kind of bodybuilder protein shake, pour it over the layers of cheese and bread. Then it's off to an overnight nap of refrigerated bliss. When your baking dish awakes, it'll be time for an hour at 350 degrees.

Behold the baked cheese goodness. When I was first saw this recipe, I arrogantly assumed that it wouldn't be much of a real soufflé. A little heavy and ponderous by French cuisine standards, right? That'll teach me to condescend to cookbooks. Upon opening the oven at the end of cooking time, a towering puffy cloud of cooked cheese stood out above the rest of the dish. Amazing!

The final product was cooked throughout but still very moist with a little superheated liquid oozing on to the plate. If I had given the dish sufficient standing time out of the oven it would probably have been firmer, but that would have meant an extra five minutes without molten cheese and diced pimentos burning my mouth, and I was clearly not going to sit around the kitchen waiting for that.