Hello, Sports Fans (if you’re genuinely interested in moderate-extreme contact physical sports, get the hell off my blog now, please).
Well, here we are, and it’s past the middle of September, and my sad, ashamed self has not written a post for you all in ages. Over a month. If you would like my home address, so as to come beat me up, please send a brief e-mail message to me, subject titled, “How DARE You,” and I will be happy to forward my address to you, as quickly as possible. So, now that that’s settled, I would like to explain myself, in the most gastronomic, culinary way possible, and I assure you, I can.
Since my last post, I’ve been… Busy! I acquired myself a fancy job in a swanky restaurant downtown as 3rd, and then 2nd (!!!) station cook. I felt like I’d been run over by a Mac truck for the first week of my job, but eventually learned to cope with long and strenuous hours. Jon also got a job at an even fancier restaurant with Tapas and rich guys smoking Benson and Hedges out front on the patio. They also have live acoustic jazz musicians. Not to forget education, the great and powerful Oz, we started college. We are now Chef Training students, soon to be Culinary Management students. You should see the knives. Well worth the cheddah. Keeping up with the essence of being occupied and too busy to bloggggg, I recently was quite sick with the flu, not H1N1, despite Jon’s beliefs, ha, ha, ha… Which is partial inspiration for this post.
We’re 4 hours away from home. We have demanding jobs and courses at school. We miss our parents. We got sick (I’d also like to point out that it gets cold fast in Peterborough! It snows in October). What does that spell?! Not college spirit. COMFORT FOODS!!! Go team! Woo! ( I would also like to take the time to thank Paula Deen and Chumley’s pawn shop downtown for providing me with the newest instalment to my home cookbook library, and for providing Jon with a recipe for Chicken and Dumplings to make me during times of want and need). I don’t know about you, but for me, personally, comfort foods generally equate to Southern (U.S.A.), and family recipes. Which generally equates to “fuck caloric intake.” Capeche?
My Dad’s Pasta and Cauliflower
I don’t feel this recipe requires much of an anecdote, because it is simple and heartbreakingly delicious enough to speak for itself. Dad has been making this as long as I can remember, with few, if any changes. They make this dish all kinds of ways in Italy, but this is my dad’s version. He uses macaroni (quite traditional, actually), or shells. I like it with shells. P.S. Brokeass college kids – this is within your budget. Well within. It makes a lot. Doooo it.
1 head of fresh cauliflower (large?)
450 g elbow macaroni or shell pasta (Half of one of the large bags of pasta at the store. You know.)
3-4 Tbsp vegetable or canola oil (My dad feels olive oil is too strongly flavoured for this)
½- ¾ tsp salt, or to your tastes. I suggest quite a bit.
½ tsp FRESH cracked black pepper. Lots is key!
2-3 garlic cloves, minced finely (sauté in a little oil to mellow the sharpness, if you prefer)
Parmesan or Romano cheese, to taste. Go for about a ¼ cup prior to self-seasoning. Yeahhhh. I said it.
Cut cauliflower, or break into medium sized florets. Boil in well-salted water till tender, but not mushy. During that time, boil another pot of water for pasta, and cook for recommended time (although I will tell you now that my father DESPISES al dente pasta, and cooks his slightly longer, so I do it as well). When both cauliflower and pasta are cooked, strain in a colander and mix in a large serving bowl or one of the pots. Add remaining ingredients and mix well. Serve in gargantuan proportions for best results.
The Only Apple Pie You Should Eat
Nothing bugs me more than people who show up to an event or gathering, clad with a dried out, nasty apple pie from Sobey’s, or A&P or something. You know what I mean, when the apples are somehow still crunchy and white inside? That’s wrong. That’s sick and wrong. This pie is the only apple pie I will eat, no kidding around here. It’s a family recipe, passed down for about three generations, and I cannot argue with any of it (although I’ve made my own slight variation for necessity’s sake). My aunt Marie used to run a general store and successful bakery out of her home, where I spent a lot of my childhood (since my mom worked there too), and people used to be backed up the hill down the street from her store on Sunday afternoons, to get this pie, amongst some others. I must also mention my aunt Joanne’s holiday appearances of this pie. There’s something intensely special going on with them. I’m reluctantly sharing this with you, because I don’t want to see any more people showing up with bleached out apple pies. Screw lemon juice, and screw using only white sugar.
pastry for double-crust pie shells, ready (Here’s a good tip – use the recipe on a Crisco package, but substitute lard for shortening. Screw Crisco, also).
4-5 cups peeled and sliced apples (McIntosh are good)
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup white sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 Tbsp flour
1- 2 Tbsp butter
white sugar, for sprinkling (preferably not superfine)
milk or cream
Mix apples, white and brown sugar, cinnamon and Tbsp flour, till well combined. Place in pie crust and dot with butter. Place top pastry on, fluting edges with your thumb, and slit a few vent holes in the top of the crust. Mark with an “A,” (and I’m expecting you to do this). Brush top with a little milk or cream, all over with a pastry brush. Sprinkle (strategically, now!) cream or milk over top, and bake 15 minutes at 450 degrees (Fahrenheit) and then turn over down to 350 degrees, baking for ½ hour, or till dark golden and bubbly, and apples are soft.
For a different effect, when I ran out of lard (God forbid) one day, I decided to make a crumb top instead of a pastry top. To do this, mix 6 Tbsp butter, 1/3 cup rolled oats, ½ cup flour, a pinch of cinnamon and 1/3 cup sugar in a bowl, into a coarse crumble (as for apple crisp). Pour over top of apples in bottom pie shell, evenly. Bake at 375 degrees for about 40-45 minutes, till edges are bubbly and apples are soft.
This is a recipe for cornbread that’s a little different, and from what I hear, it’s originator was a little different too. In a good way (although I’ve been told some pretty funny stories too). My friend George Snow (as previously mentioned, see first several posts) gave me this recipe that he found one day, shortly after his grandmother, Elizabeth passed away. The Snows are from Virginia, or North Carolina, depending on how you want to look at it. That being said, you already know this is going to be amazing cornbread. I, humbly saying so, am a cornbread connoisseur. I have been searching high and low for the absolute most perfect cornbread recipe out there, since I was about 14 years old. Despite having my favourites, I still haven’t found it, but this one comes pretty close, untraditional as it is. The texture is not crumbly like most cornbreads, and for a Southern version, it’s very sweet. The yeast and large amount of buttermilk makes for a moist and rich cornbread, with an almost sponge-like texture. It’s great, and always stands out in my mind, no matter what.
2 Tbsp shortening
2 cups self-rising cornmeal (don’t panic! I’ll help you with this in a bit)
½ cup self-rising flour
¾ cup sugar|
1 ½ tsp active dry yeast
2 cups buttermilk
Pre-heat oven to 365 degrees. Melt shortening in a loaf pan in the oven. In separate bowl, combine cornmeal, flour and sugar. Sift together, and add yeast. Add buttermilk and mix well. Add shortening and stir to combine. Put mixture into loaf pan and bake for 45 minutes.
*** Okay, now if you’re not living in the South (as I am not), you’re probably going to have a hard time finding self-rising cornmeal, although some places do carry self-rising flour. In my case, here’s what I did. For three cups of self-rising cornmeal, (you’ll have one left over after this recipe) combine 1 tsp salt, 3 Tbsp baking powder and 2 and ¾ cups plus 2 Tbsp cornmeal. For the flour (for the half cup needed in this recipe), substitute ½ cup flour, 1 tsp baking powder and ¼ tsp salt). It’s a bit tricky but just be patient with your measurements.
Cream Chicken Hash
Oh, boy. Here we go. The favourite dish of Truman Capote. This is good stuff for comforts. It’s quite quick too. I think I was 15 or 16 when I made this.
2 large potatoes, peeled and cut into 1” cubes
4 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove minced garlic
1 tsp fresh thyme
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 cups cooked chicken, cut into small pieces
½ cup frozen green peas
1 cup chicken stock, heated
4 Tbsp heavy cream
salt and pepper
Put potatoes in a saucepan, covered with water and add about ½ tsp salt to season. Bring to a simmer and cook till just tender, about 10 minutes. Drain and reserve.
Heat butter in a heavy skillet till melted and foaming, add onion and cook, stirring often till onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, thyme, celery, and sprinkle with a little salt and pepper. Stir well to coat vegetables with butter and seasonings, then cook another 5 minutes. Add potato and chicken, peas and cream, and slowly stir in stock. Cook over medium heat till liquid is absorbed but still creamy. When all ingredients are cooked and potatoes are nicely browned, serve.
That is that. I have kittens and a sleeping husband to tend to now, so you go eat. Don’t forget to send those hate-filled letters now, folks!