Chocolate Mint Pie, Another Variation of Blum’s Famous Pie

chocolate mint pie

Let’s journey back to the mid-nineteen hundreds, with another variation of Blum’s coffee toffee pie.  My sister Maureen, who is a kitchen genius, created countless desserts, with this famous pie’s receipt as a basis; we served these in our family restaurant high in the Rocky Mountains, at the east entrance to Montana’s Glacier National Park, during its 50-plus years of operation.

While in San Francisco for my rare eye operation in the late 1960s, my bold mother asked Blum’s for their coffee toffee pie receipt (see 2017/08/21), which my sister expanded on over and over again; this exceptional mint pie is just one of the exquisite results of her ingenuity.  She made it with crème de menthe for the extensive dessert bar in our dining room; I, however, employ peppermint essential oil, which is healthier and more economical.

Many visitors arrive at my blog in search of information pertaining to Blum’s, which left its indelible mark on the history of San Francisco and American cuisine.  Before it closed in the 1970s, it was an upscale restaurant, serving exquisite desserts, candies, and lunch items.  I recall being fascinated with a pin-wheel sandwich there, which I saw with my one unbandaged, post-operative eye.  The swirling of white and dark bread was new and stunning to me back then.

The early ‘60s saw the ushering in of high-end cuisine for the growing middle class; this was introduced by Julia Child, teaching French cooking techniques; she became established in the kitchens of America, due to Jacqueline Kennedy’s placing a French chef in the White House.  This decade’s middle class had the money, as well as the developed acumen, to learn involved French cooking from Child, with all its vast richness-butter and more butter, cream, eggs, cognac.  1

My mother, however, was busy following Time-Life Books Foods of This World, creating foods of France and many other countries (see my 1960s French dinner, 2016/05/30).  This extensive sequel came out in 1968, as a result of the changes that Child had produced in the American palette.

Other food movements were rising along with this adoption of the gourmandise; one was the growth of fast food.  While we were spending three winters in Tucson in the early part of this decade, my parents took us kids out for hamburgers on their nights out with friends; we always preferred the burger at JB Big Boy-founded in 1961-over that of McDonald’s.  2

McDonald’s first opened its simple hamburger restaurant in 1948; nevertheless, it was with a building renovation in 1952 that they created the concept of fast food.  3  Likewise in 1962, their openness to change brought about fast seafood; this transpired when franchise owner Lou Groen creatively placed a Fillet-O-Fish sandwich on his Cincinnati menu.  He had a desperate need to increase his dwindling business, due to the meatless practices during the 40-day Lenten period, of the this Catholic-heavy population in southwest Ohio.  With this innovative addition being accepted by headquarters, a new era of experimentation and menu expansion took place for McDonald’s, as well as fast food as a whole.  4

Yet another trend in food was birthed in the 1960s; social unrest was on the rise, which my family was highly aware as we walked the streets of San Francisco, during my eye operation.  This brought about a generation devoted to Birkenstocks and bean sprouts that popularized vegetarianism and cooked-from-scratch foods.  (I, myself, produced much homemade granola in the late ’70s, during my personal reliving of the hippie movement.)  5

There seemed to be an apparent schism take place with the birthing of both gourmet and hippie food in America-while fast food was also growing ever predominant during these tumultuous years.  Nevertheless, all three of these food trends are still found to be thriving in our present day society, which has witnessed even greater diversity and imagination in its ever expanding movement of food, in the years leading to 2019.  American ailment, which was previously boring, is extremely exciting presently!  6

References:

  1. https://leitesculinaria.com/10348/writings-100-years-american-food.html
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/JB%27s_Restaurants
  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_McDonald%27
  4. https://www.thrillist.com/eat/nation/most-important-dishes-food-that-changed-america#slide24
  5. https://leitesculinaria.com/10348/writings-100-years-american-food.html
  6. Ibid.

Chocolate Mint Pie, a variation of Blum’s Coffe Toffee Pie  Yields: 1-10″ pie.  Total prep time: 1 1/2 hr, plus 1/2 hr for cooling/ active prep time: 1 1/4 hr/ baking time 15 min.

Note: this is best kept in the freezer for long-term use, cutting off pieces as needed; serve partially thawed for a favored ice cream-like texture.

1 c flour  (Bob’s Red Mill organic unbleached white flour is high quality.)

1/2 tsp salt  (Himalayan, pink, or Real Salt is critical for optimum health; an inexpensive fine grind Himalayan salt can be purchased at Costco.)

3/4 c butter, softened

1/4 c brown sugar, packed down  (Organic is best; available sometimes at Costco and always at Trader Joe’s.)

3/4 c walnuts, chopped fine

2 oz Baker’s unsweetened chocolate, plus extra for garnish

1 tbsp water

1 tsp vanilla extract

3/4 c cane sugar  (Organic is ideal, best buy is at Costco, also available in a smaller quantity at Trader Joe’s.)

2 lg eggs, at room temperature  (If sensitive to raw eggs, may use pasteurized eggs for extra safety, which are available at some grocery stores.)

Peppermint essential oil, or mint flavoring of your choice

2 c heavy whipping cream  (Must be heavy, to whip properly.)

1/2 c powdered sugar  (High quality organic is available at Trader’s.)

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Few drops of green food coloring

Ganache

1 c heavy whipping cream  (Organic is important for health; available for $3.29/pint at Trader’s.)

8 oz (1 1/3 c) semi-sweet chocolate chips  (Trader’s carries some of high quality.)

1 tsp vanilla extract

  1. baked pie crust

    Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

  2. Combine flour and salt; blend in a scant 1/4 c butter well with a fork until mealy in texture.
  3. Mix in brown sugar, chopped walnuts, and 1 oz chocolate, grated with a sharp knife.  Add water and vanilla; blend well.
  4. Butter a pie plate generously; press pie dough in a well-greased pan firmly with fingers. Bake for 18 minutes, or until light brown; begin cooling on a rack, for about 10 minutes, finish cooling in freezer (see photo above).
  5. Chill a bowl in the freezer for whipping the cream (the whipping of cream is greatly facilitated when utensils are ice-cold).
  6. Melt remaining 1 oz of chocolate over med/low heat, watching carefully as not to burn. Set aside and cool to room temperature.
  7. ganache

    Make ganache, by bringing 1 c heavy cream to a very low simmer, over med/low heat (should be very hot-steaming-not boiling).  Add 8 oz chocolate pieces and continue to cook, beating with a wire whisk, until mixture is glossy/shiny.  Remove from heat, add vanilla, set aside.  See photo.

  8. Check to make sure 1 oz melted chocolate (above) is still in liquid form; if hardened, gently add a little heat, being careful to melt it only, but not get it very warm. Beat 1/2 c butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer until creamy.  Gradually add 3/4 c cane sugar, beating well with each small addition.
  9. Add 1 egg-must be room temperature-mix on medium speed for 5 minutes.  (The following makes this preparation foolproof: it is important to have ingredients at room temperature, for if your kitchen is either really hot or cold, this mixture may curdle.  You can easily correct this: if it curdles or breaks because it is too hot, make the addition of the second egg a cold one, directly out of the refrigerator, to bring the filling back to its full volume.  If the

    filling

    butter/sugar/egg combination is too cold and curdles, warm the chocolate a little and mix this in before adding the second egg; then, follow the directions for beating.  Ideally when done, this should be like fluffy whipped butter or soft whipped cream, providing ingredients are room temperature, in a moderate kitchen.  In this way, you will never fail with this recipe!)

  10. Add second egg and beat for 5 more minutes, see above photo.
  11. Blend in cooled chocolate and several drops of peppermint essential oil, or to taste.
  12. Clean and place beaters in freezer for ease in whipping the cream.
  13. Fill the bottom of the cold pie crust with a layer of ganache, freeze ganache in shell for 10 minutes, see photo above. (May have to slightly warm ganache at this point, for easy pouring.)
  14. Meantime using frozen bowl and beaters, beat cream until it starts to thicken; add powdered sugar and several drops of peppermint essential oil, or to taste, and few drops of green food coloring.  Continue beating until stiff; set aside.
  15. Place filling on top of chilled ganache in pie shell; return to freezer for 30 minutes; see photo.
  16. Cover pie with whipped cream and garnish with drizzled ganache-may have to warm slightly for easy drizzling.  Top with chocolate curls, made with a sharp knife.
  17. May serve now, or freeze for future use.  When frozen, cover well with plastic wrap for storing; cut pieces as needed.  Serve partially thawed for optimum pleasure.

Quick Chicken Soup

quick chicken soup

Soup-cooking weather is drawing to a close here in Northwest America, but it is still prevalent in other parts of the world that are reached by my writings.  Here is a quick, delicious receipt, which includes broccoli or asparagus (see my last entry to access this spring vegetable, sautéed with leftover, browned milk solids from ghee).

Much romance surrounds chicken soup; this is often one of our favorites from “mom’s best”-which gently nudged us out of our sick beds.  My earliest recollection of this soup, however, was that of the Campbell’s variety during the 1950’s.

My recipe boasts of lots of garlic, which comes with an interesting history all its own.  According to Sarah Lohman in Eight Flavors, it wasn’t the heavy Italian immigration at the turn of the 20th century that gave our country its love for this plant; rather, its colorful history dates further back to the international influence of the French chef Marie Antoine Careme.  He started his impressive career as a kitchen boy, at the age of eight, shortly after being abandoned by his parents, during the early political upheavals of the French Revolution, in 1792. 1

This man changed Western cuisine.  He replaced the then heavy use of imported spices, employed in the food preparation of the upper class since medieval times, with an introduction of fresh herbs and flavorful plants-such as onions and garlic-which had hitherto solely been found in the poor man’s diet; only local herbs and garlic, however, were used by the lower class, where Carame went afar to gather various ingredients for his extravagant repasts.  Strong emphasis on onions, thyme, bay, basil, and garlic can be seen in Careme’s recipes.  His feasts-elaborate by our means-held a novel focus on freshness, flavor, and simplicity (compared to that of his predecessors).  He is remembered, along with La Varenne, as the founder of haute cuisine. 2

Careme has greatly influenced Western cooking; nevertheless, his impact on our country, at the beginning of the nineteenth century, was only brief.  Here our newly acquired taste for garlic can be seen in Mary Randolph’s Beef-a-la-Mode, found in The Virginia Housewife (1824), which called for two heads of it for a single pot roast. 3  Prior to that, garlic was eschewed on this continent, as represented in Amelia Simmon’s American Cookery, 1796, for she wrote: “Garliks, tho’ ufed by the French, are better adapted to the ufes of medicine than cookery”. 4  Just a generation after Randolph’s garlicky 1824 receipt, the use of this allium became minimal once again, as seen in numerous American cook books of that period. 5

At the turn of the 20th century, massive Italian immigration came to our soil, with Italian Americans representing 10 percent of the US population by 1920.  Neither their culture or food ways were easily assimilated back then; thus, their heavy use of garlic was disdained by main line America, due in part to our earlier aversion to it. 6

Lohman attributes the beginning of the reversal, of our revulsion to this plant, to the heavy influx of American artists living around Paris, following the World War I; nearly thirty million of these sojourners were there during the 1920’s and 30’s, including M.F.K. Fisher and Earnest Hemingway; this artistic population initiated the idolization of garlic in print, because of their exposure to the popular garlic-laden cooking of Provence, where fresh and simple techniques were the direct result of Careme’ influence a hundred years prior. 7

In 1945, the future American legend James Beard-renown cook, television personality, and author-was stationed in Provence; here his culinary techniques were formed and, with them, his passion for garlic.  Thus by his works, this flavorful plant was pushed even further forward in its comeback in the USA.  Note: when Beard was serving in France, we were consuming 4.5 million pounds of it a year; this brought on by the artists.  By 1956, 36 million pounds were being consumed annually, due in large part to Beard picking up the torch lit by Careme.  (Presently the average American consumes about 2 pounds of garlic in a twelve month period.) 8

Several decades hence in 1971, Alice Waters opened Chez Panisse in Berkley, where she brought even more life to what Careme and Beard had started, with her founding of the farm-to-table movement; here she emphasizes locally produced ingredients in her famous French/Italian cuisine, prepared with the simple, fresh, garlic-laden Provencal cooking techniques. 9

Today, unlike the turn of the 20th century, there is a mainstream acceptance of Italian American food with all its original heavy use of this plant; this phenomenon can be clearly seen in some of America’s highest-grossing food chains: the Olive Garden and Domino’s Pizza.  There is even a rise in garlic-themed festivals throughout our country, which tend to promote Italian American inspired classics, such as fettuccine Alfredo (a purely American dish unknown in Italy.)  Nevertheless, our country’s love for garlic doesn’t come from Italy, but rather from the revival of French cuisine and the origins of the farm-to-table movement, established on the innovations of Careme. 10

This pungent allium strongly impacts my soup; enjoy its many dimensions.

References:

  1. Sarah Lohman, Eight Flavors (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2016), p. 155.
  2. Ibid., pp. 149-179;  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haute_cuisine   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marie-Antoine_Car%C3%AAme  
  3. Sarah Lohman, Eight Flavors (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2016), pp.159.
  4. Amelia Simmons, American Cookery, 1796, (reprinted, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1965), p. 22.
  5. Sarah Lohman, Eight Flavors (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2016), pp. 159-160.
  6. Ibid., pp. 160-163.
  7. Ibid., pp.163-164.
  8. Ibid., pp. 153, 166.
  9. Ibid., pp. 166-169.
  10. Ibid., pp. 150,170, 171.

finished product

Quick Chicken Soup  Yields: 2 1/2 quarts.  Total prep time: 1 1/3 hr/  active prep time: 40 min/  cooking time: 40 min.

1 lb chicken tenderloins  (May substitute breasts or thighs.)

1 tbsp oil  (Avocado or coconut oil is best, as olive oil is carcinogenic when heated to high temperatures.)

1 lg onion, chopped

3 lg carrots, cut in small cubes

1 head of cauliflower, divided into florettes

1 1b asparagus, cut in bite-size pieces  (May use frozen broccoli instead.)

1-liter plus 15-oz can of chicken broth  (Bone broth is ideal; see Tortellini Soup, 2016/10/10, for easy instructions.)

6 extra lg cloves garlic, minced  (May use 3 cubes of frozen garlic from Trader Joe’s for easy prep.)

1 tbsp Herbes de Provence  (Trader’s has a great buy on these.)

1 c rice  (May substitute quinoa, which is diabetic friendly.)

1 tsp freshly ground pepper, or to taste

2 tsp salt, or to taste  (Himalayan, pink, or Real Salt is critical for optimum health; an inexpensive Himalayan salt is available in bulk at our local Winco.)

2 tsp Better Than Bouillon (chicken flavor), or to taste

  1. sweating onions

    Place chicken in a medium saucepan, cover barely with warm water to begin thawing process; if using frozen broccoli, set out to thaw.

  2. Heat oil in a saute pan, add chopped onions, and sweat-cook until translucent-as shown in photo.  Stir occasionally.  Set aside.
  3. Spray vegetables with a safe, effective, inexpensive vegetable spray (combine 97 % distilled white vinegar with 3% hydrogen peroxide); let sit for 3 minutes; rinse thoroughly.
  4. Bring chicken to a boil over medium heat, cook for 10 minutes, or until pink is nearly gone.  Remove tenderloins from cooking water, set both chicken and liquid aside to cool.
  5. Place 1 1/2-liters broth and 1 1/2 cups of water in a stock pot; cover and bring to a boil over medium heat.
  6. dividing cauliflower into florettes

    Chop carrots in small cubes; cut asparagus in bite-size pieces, by first removing tough ends.  Divide cauliflower into small florettes, by cutting small sections away from head; pare excess stem off these portions; then divide each of these sections into small florettes with the tip of a knife (see photo).

  7. Place vegetables and cooked onions in broth.
  8. Add to stock pot: garlic, Herbes de Provence, rice, pepper, and salt (only 2 tsp presently, as the Better Than Bouillon in step 8 will also add saltiness).  Cover and bring to a second boil over med/high heat; then, uncover, lower heat, and simmer for 35 minutes, or until rice is soft.
  9. When rice is finished cooking, cut chicken into bite-size pieces; add both poultry and its cooking liquid to soup.  Mix in Better Then Bouillon, and adjust seasonings to taste.
  10. Serve this light, healthy soup with pride; may freeze leftovers for unexpected company, or for a sick day.

Asparagus (with leftover milk solids from ghee)

sautéed asparagus with ghee

Not knowing any better, I loved canned asparagus in my youth, as canned vegetables dominated America in the mid-twentieth century.  At that time in my life, I was also enamored with Campbell’s tomato soup, when made with milk instead of water.  These foods spelled enchantment to my young, untutored palette.  Time provided exposure to more excellent options; I no longer like canned asparagus or Campbell’s soup.  Over the years, my taste buds have been disciplined to know the best; thus, I have acquired wisdom, which I humbly share with you.

With its 1795 beginnings, canning drastically reformed the world of nutrition, which started with a French confectioner’s inspiration.  This radical change in the culinary world came at a time that government saw upheaval as well, for the French revolutionaries were revolting against monarchies in Europe (for the history of canning refer to Bean, Corn, and Avocado Salad, 2017/10/02).

Originally, this manufacturing process provided armies with needed preservation of foods, but later its prevailing use distracted the American public, taking them away from healthier, tastier, fresh ailments; this occurred likewise in other cultures.  Canned goods monopolized the cooking of the common man; thus, the preparation of fresh fruits and vegetables was lost for a period.  Even canned meats were favored: Spam was popular in the U.S., while bully beef-minced corned beef in small amounts of gelatin-dominated the United Kingdom and mainland Europe.

Campbell’s is the best known name in the global soup-making industry.  In 1869, Philadelphia, fruit-wholesaler Joseph Campbell partnered with tinsmith-icebox-maker Abram Anderson to open Campbell Soup Company in Camden, N.J.; initially they packed fancy asparagus, small peas, tomatoes, minced meat, condiments, jellies, etc.

The year following its new 1896 partnership, the president of Joseph Campbell Preserve Company hired his 24-year old nephew John T. Dorrance, a brilliant research chemist.  This master of organic chemistry had received a doctorate from the University of Gootingen, having turned down faculty positions at this illustrious school, as well as at Columbia, Cornell, and Bryn Mawr.  Young Dorrance applied his ingenuity to his passionate vision for canned soups, for which he had learned the proper seasoning while working at famous Parisian restaurants.  With his vision of a double-strength “condensed” product, this youthful genius gave America its famous Campbell’s tomato soup.

My vivid, introduction to cooked, fresh spinach is sealed in my brain; it took place at my friend Dulcy’s home in Cut Bank, Montana in 1974.  This steamed dish, which her mother had adorned with hot butter and fresh-squeezed lemon, ignited a holy fire in me.  Exuberantly I tried to convince my mom to repeat this, but she refused, professing her hatred for spinach.  I now understand that her reaction came from an impression left by the nasty canned version, which so colored her sensory perception that she totally blocked out the heaven-sent fresh variety.

Both our palates and souls are thus influenced, absorbing either good or bad information, until we exercise our God-given authority over these perceptions.  Throughout our lifetime, events leave subtle marks on us in either adverse or positive ways, hence imbuing our imaginations with emotion, and consequently dictating our choices often.  We, however, can overcome our inhibitions by purposing to resist these impulses, repeatedly speaking words of life over our circumstances.  In this way, we mold new pathways in our brains.  This is true with all soulish imprints, both those brought by unpalatable foods as well as emotional wounds.  May we stand boldly, mastering all such patterns that limit us.

Here fresh asparagus is the piece de resistance, with which I employ the leftover remains of browned casein residue from simple ghee preparation (see Laban Bil Bayd, 2018/03/26, for easy instructions).  The flavor in butter is most highly concentrated in those milk proteins; therefore, when these are separated in the clarifying process, the very strength of its taste is isolated; browning intensifies this even further.  If you have never experienced a food enhanced with these nutty milk solids, be prepared for copious, mouth-watering sensations.

References:

James Trager, The Food Chronology (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1995), pp. 283, 345, 354.

http://www.qdg.org.uk/pages/1793-to-1802-103.php

http://www.referenceforbusiness.com/history/Ca-Ch/Campbell-Soup-Company.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bully_beef

https://www.taste.com.au/articles/bully-beef-part-of-australian-history/KYnke1FI

http://jamaicans.com/bullyb/

leftover milk solids from ghee preparation

Asparagus (with leftover milk solids from ghee)  Yields: 2-3 servings.  Total prep time: 15 min, when ghee is prepared ahead, which takes an additional 15 min.

1 lb fresh asparagus, or vegetable of your choice

1 1/2 tbsp of ghee  (See simple instructions at Laban Bil Bayd, 2018/03/26.)

Browned milk solids  (See these, leftover from ghee preparation, in saucepan in above photo.)

Salt, to taste  (Himalayan, pink, or Real Salt is critical for health; an inexpensive fine grind Himalayan salt is available at Costco.)

Freshly ground pepper, to taste

  1. cutting asparagus

    Spray asparagus with a safe, effective, inexpensive vegetable spray (combine 97% distilled white vinegar with 3% hydrogen peroxide); let sit for 3 minutes; rinse well.

  2. Dry spears with a towel.  Cut in bite-size pieces, first removing tough ends (see photo).
  3. preparing ghee for sauteing

    Melt ghee in frying pan, saving separated milk solids for finishing touch (see photo); test for readiness by placing a piece of asparagus in pan; when it sizzles, it is time to proceed.

  4. Add vegetable and sauté until desired doneness; do not overcook.
  5. Stir in browned milk solids; salt generously (see photo at top of recipe).  Be enraptured by this heavenly treat!

The Best Corned Beef

corned beef and cabbage

In Ireland, they do not celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with corned beef and cabbage, but rather lamb or bacon, on what has long been a religious holiday there. Why therefore does the rest of the world, in particular the U.S., count this dish synonymous with this day that has become so filled with frolic?  It was through numerous developments that the Irish immigrants in America adopted this tradition, with its roots which are actually Gaelic.

These immigrants first arrived here when fleeing the Great Famine, which was brought about by the European potato blight that desperately hit their homeland, starting in 1845.  They disembarked knowing only “about” the corn beef of their forefathers, and that differing greatly from what they began to eat in the U.S.

This dish has a complicated history.  Beef was originally not regarded as an option in the old country, but rather pork and bacon provided the rare meat at a meal (pig is still their favored animal to be bred only for food).  From ancient times on, the common Irishman regarded the cow as a work animal, consuming only its milk products, not its flesh; this latter was primarily reserved only for the wealthy few, and even for them, merely at celebrations and festivals.  Salting was their typical means of preserving meat.

When the English conquered this country in the 16th century, the cow turned into a food commodity.  Since the time of Roman invasion, the English have had a voracious appetite for beef, hence their need to outsource for this.  After their conquest of the Gaelic land, tens of thousands of live cattle were exported yearly across the Irish Sea, until the mid-17th century, when a series of Cattle Acts enacted by the English Parliament put a stop to this export; thus, providing the fuel that ignited the Irish corned beef industry.  These Cattle Acts left Ireland with an inundation of cows, bringing meat prices down, and making it affordable and abundant for their salted beef production, their means of preservation; thus, now even the peasant could consume this food.

It was around this time that the term corned beef became popular, because of the large size of salt crystals used to cure it, for they looked like a kernel of corn.  The word kernel is derived from the Old English crynel, meaning seed or kernel, a diminutive of corn.

Subsequently Ireland became known for its abundant, high quality salted beef, now called corned beef, which tasted more like salt than beef.  In addition to the overflow of cows due to the Cattle Acts, they also had access to the highest quality of imported salt, as their salt tax was one tenth that of England.  (In good corned beef, the quality of salt is almost as important as the cut of beef.)  The demand for this best-on-the-market, Irish corned beef soared in Europe and the Americas, spiking the price so high that the common Irishman could no longer afford to eat it; thus, the potato, which the English had introduced in the 1580’s, became their major food source in the Gaelic land.

This high, European and American demand for Irish salted beef continued until the end of the 18th century, when the North American colonies began producing their own; the glory days of Irish corned beef came to a close over the next 50 years; hence, the economy in Ireland was affected greatly.  This coupled with the Great Famine-brought by the European potato blight starting in 1845-resulted in great destruction in this land, as this plant disease completely destroyed the Irish food source.  As a result, about a million people sought refuge in America.  Being the land of plenty, they could now afford meat, a first in their lifetimes; that which they chose happened to be the affordable “corn beef”.  Here, however, it greatly differed from that of the corned or salted beef of their ancestors 200 years prior.

These immigrants settled in the urban centers of New York and Philadelphia, next to their Jewish neighbors, who had kosher butcher shops, where the Irish bought this product; the Jewish butchers used brisket, a kosher cut, for what they called corned beef.  Being a tougher cut, it called for the salting and cooking processes that rendered the extremely tender corn beef, with its exceptional flavors, such as we know today.  The Irish paired this with their beloved potato and the inexpensive vegetable cabbage.  This “Jewish” corned beef then became the celebratory meal for the American Irish on their religious holiday St. Patrick’s Day.  Time transformed this hallowed feast day into its present, grand celebration of Irish heritage.

Today this beef brisket-cut is generally cured or pickled by injecting seasoned brine (the brisket-cut comes from the area just above the front legs; it rests on top of the shank cut, which is immediately above these legs in the forefront).  Hence today most of our savory corned briskets never actually touch any salt grains, the size of corn kernels or otherwise, like that of the famous salted beef of old.

Though not the typical corned brisket of the former era, in The Hamilton Cookbook, 2017, Laura Kumin cites Richard Briggs’ 1792 recipe “To Stew a Brisket of Beef”, from The English Art of Cookery: “a pint of red wine, or strong beer, a half of pound of butter, a bunch of sweet herbs, three or four shallots, some pepper and half a nutmeg grated.”  Browned, boiled turnips were added at the end, after the liquor-or gravy-had been thickened with “burnt butter”.

The following is my sister’s modern recipe, which calls for braising, resulting in super tender morsels of meat.  Enjoy this effortless receipt, while wearing the green this year.

References:

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/is-corned-beef-really-irish-2839144/

http://www.foodandwine.com/fwx/food/complicated-irish-history-corned-beef

http://www.kitchenproject.com/history/CornedBeef.htm

Reay Tannahill, Food in History (New York: Three Rivers Press, 1988, 1973), pp. 289-291.

Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking (New York: Scribner, 2004, 1984), p. 175.

Laura Kumin, The Hamilton Cookbook (New York, Nashville: Post Hill Press, 2017), pp. 90, 91.

glazed meat

Corned Beef Brisket  Yields: 6-8 servings.  Total prep time: 7 1/4 hr for 3 1/2-lb brisket/  active prep time: 30 min/  cooking time: 7 hr (or 2 hr for each lb of meat).

3 1/2 lb corned beef brisket

1 lg yellow onion  (Organic vegetables are best.)

8 extra lg cloves garlic, or the equivalent

6-8 red or Yukon gold potatoes, cut in halves

1 1/2 lb green cabbage, cut in sixths or eighths, leaving root on

1-1 1/4 lb carrots, cut in large pieces

2 tsp salt  (Himalayan, pink, or Real Salt is critical for optimum health; an inexpensive, fine grind Himalayan salt is available in bulk at Costco.)

Yellow mustard

Brown sugar  (Organic is best; available at Trader Joe’s or Costco.)

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees; take veggies out of refrigerator to warm.
  2. preparation for initial braising

    Rub seasonings from spice packet on brisket.  Place in oven-proof stock pot with onions and garlic.  Barely submerge in water (see photo); cover with lid and braise for 1 hour in oven at 375 degrees; then, lower temperature to 325 degrees, if brisket is normal size of 3 1/2 to 4 lbs-if brisket is larger, only lower heat to 350.  Cook meat for 6 hours for 3 1/2 lbs.  The TOTAL cooking time should be determined by figuring 2 hrs per lb (this time includes that needed for the replacement of vegetables for the meat the last hour of cooking); thus, a total of 7 hours for a 3 1/2 lb brisket).

  3. 1 1/3 hour before serving, spray vegetables with an inexpensive, safe, effective vegetable spray (a mixture of 97% distilled white vinegar and 3% hydrogen peroxide); let sit 3 minutes; rinse really well.  Scrape carrots with a sharp knife (this preserves vitamins, as opposed to peeling); cut in halves or large pieces; peel the potatoes; if large, cut in halves.  Cut cabbage in sixths or eighths, leaving the root on, and set this aside separately.
  4. 1 hour before serving, remove brisket from braising water, place in a baking dish, covered with tin foil, and set aside.  This should be extremely tender; if not, put a little liquid in bottom of dish, cover well with foil, and place back in oven while veggies are cooking (see photo below).
  5. preparing brisket for further cooking if needed

    Turn the heat up to 375 degrees.  Add potatoes, carrots, and salt to hot broth, cover with additional water, and return to oven to cook until tender, checking periodically.  As vegetables are done, remove to a baking dish, with small amount of broth in bottom, cover with foil, and place in oven to keep warm.

  6. Add cabbage to pot 30 minutes before serving if you like it soft; for a crisper version, add 20 minutes before dinner.  (Be sure to check vegetables to see if cooked, remove to baking dish as needed, and return to oven to keep hot.)
  7. About 30 minutes before serving, prep the glaze, by generously spreading yellow mustard over brisket, sprinkle with brown sugar, and place in oven at 375 degrees.  Bake for about 15-20 minutes, or until it bubbles and glaze is formed (see photo at top of recipe).
  8. Cut meat, cover with foil, and place back in oven, if not ready to serve yet.  When all cooking is done, turn oven down to 200 degrees for keeping meal hot.
  9. To serve, place on platter or plates and surround with vegetables (see initial photo).  This dish is best accompanied with Irish Soda Bread, last week’s post.

Braised Celery

braised celery

Celery, along with only a few other vegetables, including broccoli, cauliflower, and brussel sprouts, is a relative newcomer to the world’s diet, where most common vegetables have been eaten since before recorded history.  This Apium graveolens is the mild, enlarged version of a thin-stalked, bitter Eurasian herb called smallage.

Wild celery is believed to have originated in the Mediterranean area.  Its woven garlands have been found in Egyptian tombs.  An archeological finding in Kastanas, Greece provides evidence that Apium graveolens was present there in the 9th century before Christ.  There is also great literary evidence establishing this, for selinon, which is believed to be the same as celery, is mentioned by Homer in both the Illiad and Odyssey (circa 850 B.C.).

Moving forward five centuries after Christ, this wild edible herb appears in Chinese writings; then following this, it is cited again in a 9th century A.D. poem, from either France or Italy.

Italians first bred this small, primitive plant in their gardens apparently in the 1500’s, using it for medicinal purposes only; other northern European countries also began growing it.  By 1623, a record of celeri in France, established it as being utilized as a food.  For the next 100 years, it was generally employed only to flavor dishes, though in France and Italy, its leaves and stalks were sometimes eaten accompanied with oil dressing.  By the end of this century, this vegetable had arrived in England.

The first evidences of improvement of this wild Apium were seen in late 17th and early 18th centuries in these northern European countries, resulting in selections with solid stems; this stalk celery, as it has been known, originally had a tendency to produce hallow stalks that were bitter and strong.  Years of domestication corrected this hallow characteristic; likewise, breeding countered the disagreeable flavors.  This latter development was achieved by choosing the cooler growing periods of late summer and fall-the plants were then kept into winter-as well as by employing blanching, a practice that pushes dirt up around the stalks’ bases, keeping the sunlight from turning the celery green.

We have two types of stalk celery varieties: the green or Pascal is popular in North America, while the yellow, also known as self-blanching, is preferred in Europe and the rest of the world.  Celeriac, celery root or knob celery, is also widely used in European countries, with a growing audience for it among trendy U.S. gourmets.  Chinese or leaf celery, which is also called smallage-of all the Apiums, this is the closest in form and flavor to the original Eurasian herb-is grown in Asia and the Mediterranean regions for its leaves and seeds; these are used for cooking and sometimes medicine.

In America, the presence of this vegetable was minor during colonial days, leaving no evidence as to which European group brought it here.  Nonetheless by 1806, four cultivated varieties were growing in the U.S., as is listed in the American Gardeners’ Calendar, printed that year.  After the mid-19th century, with further domestication having refined its taste and texture, Americans were eating it raw with salt, serving it in celery vases at the dinner table.

Organic celery tends to be on sale at our local Fred Meyer-Kroger-stores during any holiday.  Thus, having it on hand from a Christmas special, I created this exceptionally easy, delightful braised celery dish, for my annual, day-after-Christmas celebration with my long-time friend Janet.  We loved it; hope you will to.

References:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Celery

https://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/archives/parsons/publications/vegetabletravelers/celery.html

http://www.foodreference.com/html/celery-history.html

Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking (New York: Scribner, 1984, 2004), pp. 249, 315, 406.

finished product

Braised Celery  Yields: 4 servings.  Total prep time: 20 min/  active prep time: 10 min/  cooking time: 10 min.

1 1/4 lb celery  (Organic celery is relatively inexpensive.)

2 tbsp chilled butter, cut in small pieces

Salt and freshly ground pepper  (Himalayan or pink salt, such as Real Salt, is so important for optimum health; a Himalayan salt is available very cheaply in bulk, at our local Winco.)

1 tsp Herbes de Provence  (Trader Joe’s has a great deal on this dried herb.)

1/2 c broth  (May use chicken, vegetable, or a good beef broth.)

  1. preparation of celery

    Peel strings off celery with a potato peeler; spray with a safe, inexpensive, effective vegetable spray (combine 97% distilled white vinegar with 3% hydrogen peroxide); let sit 3 minutes; rinse really well.  Save leaves for garnish.

  2. Cut celery in 4-inch pieces; place in a single layer-the indented side up-in the bottom of a large sauté pan; dot with pieces of butter; salt and pepper generously; sprinkle top with Herbes de Provence.  (See photo above.)
  3. Pour broth over celery; bring to a boil over med/high heat; reduce heat to med/low; cook covered for 5 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile chop the leaves, to be used as an optional garnish.
  5. Remove cover, stir well, raise heat to medium, and cook for 4 minutes more (see photo below).
  6. Raise heat to med/high and cook liquids down, stirring constantly, until juices form a glaze, about 1 minute (see photo at top of recipe).
  7. celery while cooking

    Arrange in a serving dish, garnish with chopped leaves, and serve with pride!

Ahi Tuna, Peppered with Lemon Sauce

ahi tuna with lemon sauce

Ahi or yellowfin tuna is of the genus Thunnus and the species albacares; it is not to be confused with albacore or longfin tuna (Thunnus alalunga), even though the French use their word albacore for this yellowfin, while the Portuguese use albacora.  Note: the English albacore or longfin, of the species alalunga, is the basis for the United States tuna-canning industry.

Wikipedia sites the Hawaii Seafood Buyers Guide as stating that the enormous yellowfin tuna (with its Hawaiian name ahi) is popular in raw seafood dishes, especially sashimi, as well as being excellent for grilling, where it is often prepared seared rare.  Its buyers recognize two grades, “sashimi grade” and “other”, with variations of quality in “other”.

In sushi and sashimi, yellowfin or ahi is becoming a replacement for the near commercially extinct southern bluefin tuna (Thunnus maccoyii); presently the latter is probably the most valuable and prized fish worldwide.

On September 11, 2013, smithsonian.com referred to Japanese chefs as revering this bluefin like the Italians might a white truffle or the French oenophile might a bottle of 1945 Bordeaux.  It goes on to state that its high standing, along with that of the other tuna species such as the yellowfin and bigeye, has not always been recognized in Japan, for in the 19th century it was called neko-malagi, meaning “fish that even a cat would disdain”.  Indeed, this beef-red fish is smelly and strong-tasting.

The wide-spread acceptance, of this once essentially worthless seafood, is actually a product of a marketing scheme of the Japanese airline industry.  The story starts with the tuna sport fishing craze prevalent in the 1940’s, 50’s, and 60’s, along the Atlantic coast of the U.S. and Canada; these 400-plus-pound bluefins were being caught for fun, weighed, and photographed; then, they were either sent to landfills, sold for pet food, or thrown back into the ocean dead.

With the dawn of the 1970’s, Japanese cargo planes brought electronics to America; these same planes took advantage of the cheap New England tuna carcasses for their return flights.  Not wanting to go back empty, they ingeniously purchased these dirt-cheap bluefins, which in turn produced profits of thousands of dollars each in their homeland.

What made this country welcome this previously detested fish?  (The Smithsonian article qualifies bluefin as being not so good, with a tangy iron flavor and a texture that melts in your mouth, which amateurs love; this is opposed to the crunchier, more subtly flavored muscles tissues of animals like squid, clams, various jacks, flounder, and sea bream, which are highly favored by traditional sushi connoisseurs.)  The reasoning behind today’s widespread acceptance of bluefin can be traced back to the newly acquired taste for beef in Japan’s diet in the 70’s.  Concurrent with the electronic boom, this national appreciation for strong flavored beef brought about their subsequent open-mindedness to the dark, red flesh of tuna as well.

When I moved to Tokyo in 1980, I experienced this red meat wave; hence in 1982, after my return home, I was inspired to seek the approval of Montana governor Ted Schwiden, for my becoming an “ambassador” to this Oriental country; my proposal was to sell the then popular Montana beef, with my historical Montana dinner, entertaining our state’s clients overseas (see “About” for more on this).

This advancing beef rage in the Orient set the stage for the universal acceptance of bluefin, for it prepared Japan’s taste buds for the inundation of this tuna by their airlines; in turn, this rich, dark fish’s popularity then spread back across the ocean to America; and “by the 1990’s, the bluefin tuna was wanted almost desperately world-wide”, according to the Smithsonian.

Now it is facing commercial extinction, with yellowfin or ahi taking its place.  As the magazine states, traditional sushi sophisticates, however, do not always appreciate bluefin; some even consider it junk fish, as it was once known.  Yet the general public perhaps foolishly values this tuna, in a way which is extremely opposite to that of the mid 20th century, when it was sent to landfills along the Atlantic coast.

In America, we love to grill ahi tuna, the frequent substitute for bluefin, as well as serving it raw.  This outstanding receipt, which is prepared in minutes, affords a mouth-watering lemon sauce to compliment this firm fish.

References:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yellowfin_tuna

https://www.floridamuseum.ufl.edu/fish/discover/species-profiles/thunnus-albacares/

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/from-cat-food-to-sushi-counter-the-strange-rise-of-the-bluefin-tuna-5980010/

medium/rare ahi

Ahi Tuna, Peppered with Lemon Sauce  Yields: 3 servings.  Total prep time: 30 min, or less.  Note: for an even quicker 10 min preparation, do step 5 only, omitting the lemon sauce, as well as all the ingredients, except the tuna, seasonings, and 2 tbsp oil.  On the other hand, you may double the sauce, allowing easy leftovers for next week’s Swift Pasta and Fresh Spinach with Lemon Sauce (1/8/18).

2 tsp butter

2 tsp flour

3 tbsp fresh lemon juice  (2 small lemons needed; may add optional zest of half a lemon.)

3 tbsp shallots, chopped small

2 medium garlic cloves, minced  (For easy prep, substitute 1 cube frozen garlic from Trader Joe’s.)

1-1.5 lb ahi tuna steaks  (Economical,  frozen, wild-caught ahi is often available in 1 lb bags at our local Grocery Outlet; may also use 3 fresh steaks, which tend to be 1.5” thick; these take longer to cook, weighing more.)

1 1/4 tsp salt  (Real Salt, Himalayan, or pink salt is so important for optimum health; a Himalayan salt is available very inexpensively, in bulk at our local Winco.)

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

2 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper

2 tbsp oil  (Coconut or avocado is best for health, as olive oil is carcinogenic, when heated to high temperatures.)

1/2 c heavy whipping cream  (Must be heavy cream, or it will curdle.)

  1. Heat serving plates in oven, turned on warm.
  2. cooked roux

    Next prep roux, by melting butter in a small sauce pan over medium heat; mix in flour; while stirring constantly with a wire whisk, cook until moisture is absorbed,  about 1 minute; for this sauce color of roux shouldn’t change much (see photo); set aside.

  3. Juice lemons by first rolling them on counter, pressing down hard with hand; this loosens the meat for easy juicing; set measured juice aside.
  4. Mince garlic; chop shallots in small pieces; place in separate dishes.
  5. Rub tuna with salt, cayenne, and freshly ground pepper, which have been mixed together in a small dish.
  6. Heat oil in heavy-bottom frying pan, over medium/high heat.  Gently place steaks in hot oil and cook to desired doneness; set on warm plates in oven.  (Tuna steaks will vary in thickness; sear tuna until golden brown, turning only once; 5 oz steaks will need about 1 minute per side for medium/rare; fresh tuna, which is about 1.5” thick, takes about 2 minutes on each side for rare, while 2.5 min and 3 min per side respectively for medium/rare and medium.  DO NOT OVER COOK, or it will be extremely dry.)
  7. After putting cooked tuna in warm oven, turn heat down to medium under pan and deglaze it with 2 tbsp water, wine, or chicken or fish stock.  Cook minced shallots in hot juices, just until they turn translucent, about 1 minute; stir in garlic.
  8. lemon sauce

    Finish sauce by adding heavy cream, lemon juice, and optional zest to shallots/garlic.  Blend in roux, stirring continuously with a wire whisk, until sauce is thickened (see photo).

  9. Pour sauce over fish and serve immediately.  (For a quicker version, may omit the sauce and just serve seared ahi, by following step 6 only.)
  10. Enjoy this splendor, which is the fastest gourmet meal I know!

1880’s Ozark Honey-Oatmeal Cookies

Ozark honey-oatmeal cookies

My library holds many old cook books, some copyrighted in the 1800’s; I also have a number of facsimiles, exact reproductions of the originals.  These aren’t considered costly with collectors, but are highly valuable to me, with their precise historical evidence required for my work.

A number of these republications help me with my need for early U.S.A. food history.  For instance one illuminates the 18th century: American Cookery, by Amelia Simmons; this was the first truly U.S. cook book, with such strictly American dishes as Indian pudding, Indian slapjack (pancakes), and johnnycake (flat corn cakes).  All early cook books, that were published on our soil, prior to this 1796 publication, were actually reprints of English cook books, none of which contained American ingredients such as: cranberries, clams, cornmeal, shad (fish of the genus Alosa), terrapin (turtles), etc.  Interestingly, recipe books were not in demand in our young country, where rivaling colonial plantations jealously guarded their family’s treasured receipts, and rich city dwellers adhered to their individual Old World cooking traditions.

In a recent cooking class, I taught Ozark Honey-Oatmeal Cookies from one of my facsimiles: the Silver Dollar City Edition of Miss Parloa’s New Cook Book, by Maria Parloa, which Washburn-Crosby Co. published in Boston originally, in 1880.  Its facsimile was issued at an unknown date during the 20th century, by General Mills, the successor to Washburn-Crosby Co.  Access the fascinating history of Maria Parloa, her cook books, these two flour mills, and this period cuisine at my following entries: 1800’s Escalloped Salmon (2017/04/17), 1880’s Minced Cabbage (2017/04/24), and 1880’s Clam Chowder (2017/01/30).

These cookies call for shortening; its definition is fat used in cooking, made from animal, vegetable, or compound manufactured substances.  Examples of the latter are margarine, discovered in France in 1869, and Crisco, which is a hydrogenated vegetable oil, created in America in 1911; Crisco usually comes to mind when shortening is mentioned today.

The term shortening, however, first surfaced in the early half of 18th century; it is considered to be American.  As far as cook books are concerned, it appeared in several of Amelia Simmons’ recipes in American Cookery, 1796, such as johnnycake and “another plain cake”, though she doesn’t define the word.

In the April 6, 1892 edition, the New York Times promoted Cottolene, as a “New Shortening…a vegetable product far superior to anything else for shortening and frying purposes”.  This, the first hydrogenated vegetable oil, was primarily used as a cooking medium, in some households.

In June of 1911, Procter and Gamble began selling hydrogenated cottonseed oil, as Crisco (short for “crystallized cottonseed oil”); they discovered this shortening in their quest to generate a raw material for soap, through a technique that had its origins in 1897 France.  Because of an intense promotional campaign, it became the first popular national shortening product of its kind (this ingredient is extremely prevalent in 20th century recipes).  To this day, Crisco remains the best known brand for this item in the U.S.; there are other well-known brands in a number of other countries.

These Ozark Honey-Oatmeal Cookies allow for a healthy means to satisfy our sweet tooth, for they are made with such powerful foods as: organic oats, semi-sweet chocolate chips, organic raisins, unsweetened coconut flakes, pumpkin seeds, nuts, raw honey…In place of refined sugar, I use the healthy alternative coconut sugar.  The recipe from this 1880’s cook book calls for shortening, which probably referred to either butter or lard initially, though those baking from its facsimile, in the 20th century, would have used then popular Crisco; I leave this choice up to you.

This recipe is easy to make and is extremely good!  Enjoy.

References:

  1. Facsimile of Amelia Simmons, American Cookery, 1796 (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1965), pp. 57, 58.
  2. Silver Dollar City Edition of Maria Parloa, Miss Parloa’s New Cook Book (Minneapolis: Washburn-Crosby Co., 1880); this facsimile was reproduced by General Mills at an unknown date  in the 20th century.
  3. Esther B. Aresty, The Delectable Past (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1964), pp. 183-186.
  4. http://www.foodtimeline.org/shortening.html
  5. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shortening

mixing oatmeal into dough in stages

1880’s Ozark Honey-Oatmeal Cookies  Adapted from a recipe in General Mills’ 20th century Special Silver Dollar City Edition of Maria Parloa, Miss Parloa’s New Cook Book (Boston: Estes and Lauriat, 1880).  Yields: 4 1/2 dozen.  Total prep time: 1 hr.

1 3/4 cup flour  (May grind 1 1/3 cups organic hard red spring wheat berries-I choose this berry for its high protein content-this makes 2 cups of flour; BE SURE to remove 1/4 cup of flour, after it is ground, for the required 1 3/4 cup.)

1/2 cup butter, or shortening

1 1/4 cup sugar  (I use coconut sugar for its health benefits.)

2 large eggs

1/3 cup honey

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt  (Real Salt is important for health; available in nutrition center at local supermarket.)

2 cups oats  (Organic is only slightly more expensive; so much healthier.)

1/3 cup unsweetened coconut flakes  (Available inexpensively in bulk at our local Winco.)

1/3 cup pumpkin seeds

1/3 cup nuts, chopped

1/3 cup raisins  (Organic is important; available reasonably at Trader’s.)

1/2 cup chocolate chips  (High quality, semi-sweet chocolate chips are available at Trader Joe’s.)

Parchment paper, wax paper, and 2 cookie sheets

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. If grinding your own flour, begin to do so now.
  3. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar with a fork; beat in eggs, one at a time; blend in honey.
  4. placing dough on parchment paper

    Stir salt and baking soda into flour in another large bowl.  (May place these ingredients in a sealed gallon-size storage bag and shake vigorously.)

  5. Mix this flour mixture into the shortening/sugar/eggs; do not over beat the dough, as this makes cookies tough.
  6. Stir coconut, pumpkin seeds, nuts, chocolate chips, and raisins into this mixture, distributing evenly.
  7. Mix half the oats into this dough gently (see photo at top of recipe); add other half; stir with a large rubber spatula or spoon, just until blended.
  8. Using a teaspoon, drop dough 2 inches apart on parchment-paper-covered cookie sheet, shaping rounds roughly with fingers, as you go (see above photo).
  9. Place pan in preheated oven for about 9-10 minutes, or until golden brown.
  10. Meanwhile start a second pan, by shaping dough on another piece of parchment paper.
  11. When first pan is done, immediately start baking this second pan.
  12. cookies baked to perfection

    Cool baked cookies on cookie sheet for 2 minutes.  Remove and place them on a large piece of wax paper (see photo).

  13. Using a new piece of parchment paper, prepare the third pan of cookies, to be ready for the oven as soon as second batch is done; repeat until all the dough is used.  (Pans should be cool before spooning dough on them.)
  14. These freeze well, to have on hand for healthy snacks.