Beef Vinaigrette

beef vinaigrette on aspic

This is one of my all-time favorite recipes; I look forward to summers when I can indulge in it, for it is a cold dish.  I discovered this treat during my early catering days in Esther B. Aresty’s The Delectable Past, in which she shares the lost joys of the table gathered from her extensive collection of rare old cook books.  1

Aresty updates this delightful, historical receipt for her 1970’s kitchen, to which I have added my inspired touches.  She found this profound dish in Sarah Phillips’ The Ladies Handmaid, 1758, noting that it had limited circulation, and is unknown today to most bibliographers,

Phillips, this early English author, displays her magnetic personality in her recipe book.  In it she encourages her readers that it needs very few arguments to persuade people to prefer a good dinner to a bad one.  Her energetic approach to cooking is best revealed in her remarks on fish preparation: “Rip open the belly. Gut it. Strip it and hack it with a knife.”  2

This inspired, eighteenth century beef recipe is unparalleled, for it graces the best of our tables still today, pleasing without exception during the hot months!

We can learn much about the history of cook books from this receipt, by placing the book of its origin in proper historical perspective, demonstrating how the era it was from brought fine foods to the common man.

Prior to its time, cook books were prevailingly penned only by men in Europe.  Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)-known as Dr. Johnson-was an English lexicographer, critic, author, and conversationalist; he declared mid-century that women could spin very well, but they could not write a good book of cookery.  He, however, did not stop the tidal wave of female authors that were to overtake the writing of books on cooking in England.  This phenomenon actually began as early as 1714, with the advent of Mary Kettlby’s instructions for housewives-as well as cook maids at country inns-in A Collection of Above Three Hundred Receipts in Cookery, Physick and Surgery.  The momentum for feminine authorship merely grew over the years.  3

Cook books and Bibles share the distinction of being the earliest books printed.  Platina, a noted humanist and Vatican librarian, published the first cook book, De Honesta Voluptate, in 1475, just twenty years after the onset of printing with the Gutenberg Bible.  Germany, France, Spain, and England published cookery books shortly thereafter (prior to this, recipe collections were only handwritten).  These printed works could best be labeled “for a prince’s household”, though none were comparable to Platina’s De Honesta Volupate in magnitude, exemplifying the revival of the art of cooking during the Renaissance.  4

A long silence followed the first printing of an English cook book, The Boke of Cookery, 1500.  Change came when this silence was broken at the end of that century: detailed directions for elaborate food preparations were now addressed to the wives supervising better-class homes, rather than to chefs for noblemen, as was the previous precedent; all these books, however, were written by males during this Elizabethan period.  5

But a still greater change came later in the eighteenth century, when English women totally invaded what had previously been a man’s realm: British cook books were now being written by women, as well as being intended for feminine readership.  Prior to this, particularities concerning culinary preparation predominantly belonged to men in Europe: recipes were recorded by male chefs, who prepared these delicacies for nobility.

Writing for the chefs of noblemen in his book Le Cuisinier Francois, 1651, the Frenchman Francois Pierre de La Varenne was the first to publish what was to become a worldwide movement away from heavy medieval cuisine, with its influx of dense spices and almond pastes.  Here he emphasized the subtle accents of mushrooms and truffles, simple sauces made with pan drippings, and the use of butter instead of oil in pastries.  6

Shortly thereafter, there was a further shift found in the culinary sphere in seventeenth century France, with the beginning hints in cook books of fine foods not being just for kings, queens, and noblemen.  Then in the eighteenth century, Manin first and then Menon (the relatively unknown Manet and Monet of French cuisine) promoted what was to become a culinary outreach to the bourgeoisie in their writings.  7

Nevertheless, it was the British female authors who played the predominant part in introducing the greater populace to fine cuisine.  Our delightful beef recipe was created at the height of this male-to-female transformation that took place in culinary England in the 1700s.

Enjoy its many dimensions of flavor, which are produced simply.

References:

  1. Esther B. Aresty, The Delectable Past (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1964).
  2. Ibid., pp. 118, 119.
  3. Ibid., pp. 109, 110.
  4. Ibid., pp. 27, 28, 32
  5. Ibid., pp. 32, 43, 44.
  6. Ibid., pp. 60, 61.
  7. Ibid., pp. 94-98.
  8. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/French_cuisine
  9. https://www.ecpi.edu/blog/a-brief-history-of-french-cuisine

beef vinaigrette

Beef Vinaigrette  Yields: 10 servings.  Total prep time: 7 hr, which includes 3 1/2 hr for chilling/  active prep time: 30 min/  cooking time: 3 hr.  Note: may make a day or two ahead.

4 lb beef brisket

1/2 c dry white wine

1 bay leaf

1 small yellow onion, diced

1/4 tsp whole allspice

1/2 tsp dried tarragon (or 1 tbsp fresh)

3 sprigs of parsley

capers for garnish

Aspic

1 3/4 c hot broth from meat

1/4 c cold water

1 individual envelope of unflavored gelatin

  1. prepped meat

    Trim excess fat off brisket; place in a heavy stewing pot, with a tight lid.  Add enough water to come up 1/2” in the pot; then, stir in all other ingredients, except capers and those for aspic (see photo).

  2. Bring to a boil over med/high heat.  Reduce heat to med/low, cover, and simmer for 1 1/2 hours.
  3. At the end of this time, turn meat over, and cook for another 1 1/2 hours; check liquid periodically, adding more water only if needed.  (See photo below of finished product.)
  4. finished brisket

    Remove brisket and place on a plate in refrigerator.  Strain remaining broth.  Measure 1 3/4 c, adding water to make full amount as needed, or if liquid is more than 1 3/4 c, boil it to reduce to given quantity.  Bring the 1 3/4 c broth to a light boil in a small pot; then, remove from heat.

  5. Meanwhile, place 1/4 c cold water in a small bowl, sprinkle gelatin on top, and stir with a spoon.  Dissolve this in hot broth, pour into an 8” x 8” pan, and refrigerate.
  6. After chilling meat for at least 3 hours, cut in slices, keeping them in order to retain the shape of the brisket; set aside.
  7. scraping fat off aspic

    Take pan of solidified aspic out of refrigerator, and scrape fat off top with a table knife (see photo).  Cut in 1″ cubes.

  8. Place aspic cubes on a platter covered with greens; arrange sliced beef brisket on top of aspic; garnish with capers (see initial photo).

Herbes de Provence Bread

Herbes de Provence bread

In my last entry on the history of garlic, I sited Provence, France as the place where America’s farm-to-table movement originated.  (Hopefully you were able to partake of my quick chicken soup.)

Here Herbes de Provence is creatively used in an easy, mess-free bread recipe, employing a food processor, which provides outstanding aroma and flavor.

This region’s commercial herb mixture-so prevalent on the market-only dates back to the 1970’s, about the time that Alice Waters started Chez Panisse.  In doing so, she initiated this American culinary (farm-to-table) trend based on fresh, simple foods combined with Provencal cooking methods (for more on this, see Quick Chicken Soup, 2018/05/11).

In their famous Mastering of the Art of French Cooking, 1961, Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle, and Simone Beck state that classical French cuisine utilizes far less herbs than most Americans would suspect; these Europeans traditionally use them as an accent and a complement, never dominating the essential flavors of the main ingredients.  Likewise, their emphasis in this bread is fine. 1

Various regions in France, as with all of southern Europe, have their own unique herbs mixes, according to available plants.  Our Herbes de Provence is considered the youngest member of this family of French mixes, usually referring to the mix of typical herbs from this southeastern Provencal region, though it is also produced in other countries presently.

Whether fresh or dried, these blends, which are not standard, often contain savory, marjoram, rosemary, thyme, and oregano, among other herbs; mixes sold under that name outside France can also include lavender.  The generic name Herbes de Provence doesn’t have Protected Geographical Status, such as I have defined for the balsamic vinegar in my Roasted Beet and Balsamic Chicken Salad, 2017/07/03.  Therefore, there is no guarantee that the herbs which make up these Franco composites were actually grown in Provence.

Originally their varying herbs were foraged in the wild in this region, and the name was used descriptively for those unspecified combinations; now, however, their vital ingredients often come from abroad.  In the 1970’s, Herbes de Provence mixes began to be formulated by spice wholesalers, such as Ducros in France, which is now a part of McCormick and Company.  Since then, these herbs have been cultivated there by both large producers and small family farms; nevertheless, the largest quantities of these herbal elements are actually imported, e.g., rosemary from Spain, thyme from Morocco, and marjoram from Egypt.

Different producers, including those in America, provide mixtures with unique tastes, which are subtly discerned, though their overall impact is common.  This bread boasts of the outstanding flavor of that herb blend, as found at our handy Trader Joe’s (which contains lavender).  This savory loaf pleases any palate!

References:

Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle, and Simone Beck, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, vol. 1, (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1971), p. 18.

https://happybellyfish.com/herbs-de-provence-recipes-history/

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

grinding wheat berries

Herbes de Provence Bread  Yields: 1 loaf.  Total prep time: 3 hours/  active prep time: 30 min/  inactive prep time: 2 hr/  baking time: 30 min.

1 3/8-1 5/8 c tepid water (105-115 degrees)

1 individual package of dry yeast  (May use 2 tsp of Red Star Active Dry Yeast, which is available inexpensively in 2 lb packages at Costco; this keeps well sealed in the freezer; best if brought to room temperature.)

2 1/4 tsp sugar

3 c whole wheat flour

1 c unbleached white flour  (Optional: may grind 2 2/3 c hard red spring wheat berries to make the total 4 c flour.)

1 tbsp Herbes de Provence  (Available at a good price at Trader Joe’s.)

1 1/4 tsp salt

13-gallon plastic bag plus 3-4 tbsp oil  (Any kind of oil will do for oiling bag.)

Coconut spray oil  (Pam coconut spray oil can be found in most grocery stores; our local Winco brand, however, is much less expensive.)

  1. proofing yeast

    If grinding your own flour, begin to do so now (see photo at top of recipe).

  2. Place 1/4 c lukewarm water-110 to 115 degrees-in a small bowl; stir in yeast and 1/4 tsp sugar.  Let sit in a warm place, until creamy, foamy, and nearly double in size, about 10 minutes (see photo above).
  3. Place flour, Herbes de Provence, 2 tbsp sugar, and salt in an 11-c-or larger-food processor; blend well.
  4. When yeast is proofed, add it and 1 3/8 c tepid water to flour mixture; for ease, may measure 1 1/4 c water, then remove 2 tbsp to make a total 1 3/8 c.  (With fresh-ground flour, however, only 1 1/8 c of water is needed.)  Turn

    dough after first 35-second kneading

    machine on and knead for 35 seconds (see photo); turn off and let dough rest for 4 minutes.  (This resting period cools dough, which is essential as processing increases heat, and too much heat will kill the yeast.)

  5. After pausing for 4 minutes, turn on the processor; knead dough for 35 seconds more (see photo below).  Take out and knead by hand for 5 minutes, or until satiny smooth; see bottom photo for dough after kneading by hand.  (As wet dough readily sticks to hands, rinse them

    dough after second 35-second kneading

    as needed to facilitate easy kneading.  Many store-bought flours are a finer grind; therefore, they absorb the moisture more readily and won’t be so sticky.  Much moisture is absorbed while kneading by hand-this is especially true with fresh-ground flour.  Ideally it should be firm, but supple when finished. These instructions should be foolproof, but IF needed, do the following: if dough remains quite wet and sticky, after kneading by hand for several minutes, slowly add more flour to your board as you knead.  If, however, it is too stiff to knead by hand easily, place it

    dough after kneading by hand

    back in processor, and knead in 1 tbsp water.  If called for, repeat this step until severe stiffness is gone, it is flexible, and kneading by hand is facile; carefully rest dough, so as not to overheat.  Note: dough should be firm and not sticky after final kneading.)

  6. Place prepared dough in a well-oiled 13-gallon plastic bag; let rise in a warm place for 50-60 minutes, or until double.
  7. Form loaf and place in a bread pan sprayed with oil.  Loosely cover with a piece of plastic wrap, which has also been sprayed with oil.
  8. Let rise until doubled, for about 50-60 minutes.  Important: 30 minutes into the rising process, preheat oven to 400 degrees, to insure oven is ready when it is time to bake risen bread.
  9. When doubled, bake loaf for 27-30 minutes, or until bread sounds hollow when tapped on bottom.  Cool on rack.  Enjoy this delightful bread!

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.

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!

Norwegian Oven Pancakes

Norwegian oven pancake

The exceptional baking of Norway has been on my mind lately, with recipes I have been making since the 1970’s: I published the Yuletide bars Mor Monsen’s Kaker on 2017/11/27; and now I offer Norwegian Oven Pancakes.  This effortless baked pancake blesses at anytime, but truly it triumphs at a holiday breakfast-may it grace your Christmas morning, either before or after gifts.

Not always has the making of a pancake been so simple; in Consider the Fork, Bee Wilson details the time-consuming directions, published in the advice book Le Menagier de Paris, in 1393: take eggs, the fairest wheaten flour, and warm white wine-in place of milk-beating all together “long enough to weary one person or two” (this was done in a household of servants).

Almost every nation boosts of their own particular version of pancakes, some sweet and others savory; there isn’t room to define these multiple, provincial modifications; I will review, however, those of several countries that capture my interest in particular.

The Nordic pancake is typically like a French crepe, but their oven variation ugnspannkaka resembles a German pancake-also known as a Dutch Baby-which is baked, thick, and unleavened; today’s entry is the ugnspannkaka.

On the other hand, American hotcakes and griddlecakes are always made with a raising agent, such as baking powder, along with flour, eggs, and milk; thus, they swell and bubble in the hot frying pan.  In the 19th century, prospectors and pioneers employed sourdough starter for the rising of this light, airy flapjack; such is still the popular Alaskan mode.

Johnnycake and bannock are pancake types of old.  In world history, bannock dates back as early as 1000 A.D.; hence both the Native Americans and settlers were making this in early North America.  The Natives used corn, nut meal, and plant bulb meal in this creation; the immigrant’s technique was Scottish in origin, in which oatmeal was the key component.

Johnnycake was first recorded here by Amelia Simmons in American Cookery, 1796, with the ingredients of Indian meal, flour, milk, molasses, and shortening (for the history of shortening, see my Ozark Honey-Oatmeal Cookies, 2017/10/30).  These flat corn cakes were a staple in young U.S.A.

In England, pancakes are without a rising agent, using primarily flour, eggs, and milk, which results in their being close to French crepes.  Served for a sweet dessert or as a savory main course, these British cakes date back centuries, for Gervase Markam wrote their instructions in The English Hus-wife (1615); she, however, substituted water for milk and added sweet spices.  That nation’s Yorkshire pudding, a similar receipt to their pancakes, rises only slightly, by the well-beaten air in this batter without leaven.

These English unleavened varieties of flannel cake differ from their risen form found in Scotland, which includes baking soda and cream of tartar;  there are also numerous variables in Wales-among which some incorporate yeast, others oatmeal.

African pancakes, such as those in Kenya and South Africa, most often resemble the English crepe.  In Afrikaans, these unleavened English crepes are known as pannekoeke, while plaatkoekies refer to American-style “silver dollar” risen pancakes.  In Uganda, the pancake is united with their staple banana, usually being served at breakfast or as a snack.

Of all the vast productions, present-yet differing-in almost every nationality, the Ethiopian one enchants me the most; there they have injera, a very large spongy affair, which acts as a huge platter for their stews and salads to be served on at their feasts.  With the right hand, one tears the edges off this yeast-risen flatbread, to scoop up the meal, finally eating the underlying “tablecloth”, in which all the foods’ juices have been absorbed.  In 1984, I had the great pleasure of spending a whole day with an Ethiopian family in Billings, Montana, while they taught me how to cook and eat this authentic repast-I was fascinated with its injera, which simultaneously acted as a plate, an eating utensil, and finally the food itself.

Of all these above mentioned recipes, our Norwegian oven pancake is the most simple.  Enjoy this festive delight, which only takes minutes to assemble.  It is indeed glorious!

References:

Bee Wilson, Consider the Fork (New York: Basic Books, 2012, 2013), p. 147.

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

James Trager, The Food Chronology (New York: Henry Holt and Company, Inc., 1995), p. 52.

Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking (New York: Scribner, 1984, 2004), p. 548.

Amelia Simmons, American Cookery, 1796 (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1965, reprinted), p. 57.

pancake right out of oven

Norwegian Oven Pancake  Yields: 6 servings.  Total prep time: about 45 min/  active prep time: 15 min/  baking time: 30-40 min.  Note: leftovers are delicious either cold or at room temperature.

6 lg eggs

1/2 c sugar  (Coconut sugar is ideal; for its health benefits, see Zucchini Bread, 2017/07/24.)

3/4 c flour  (Bob’s Red Mill organic, unbleached white flour is high quality, or substitute whole wheat pastry flour.)

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

1 tsp vanilla

2 1/2 c milk  (May use an alternative milk, such as hazelnut or almond.)

piece of butter the size of an egg, about 5 tbsp

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. With an electric mixer, beat eggs in a large bowl; blend in sugar, salt and vanilla; gently, quickly mix in flour.
  3. Meanwhile, melt butter in a 9” x 13” pan in hot oven; watch carefully.
  4. batter before baking

    Very slowly add milk to above egg mixture, beating continuously.

  5. When butter is melted, roll it around baking dish, coating entire pan.
  6. Pour batter in greased baking dish.  Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until batter is set.
  7. Serve hot.  (Cold leftovers are also great!)

Holiday Dips

cottage cheese/apricot/green onion dip

Let healthy, creative dips enhance your holiday entertaining; two of my favorites are made in just minutes, using protein-rich cottage cheese for a base.  One, which only adds salsa, dates back to my profound, childhood experience at a restaurant in Tucson, Arizona (see “About”).  The other was inspired by my recent need for additional potassium in my diet; thus, dried apricots, rich in this element, and green onions make another pleasing combination for this dairy product.

When I lived in Switzerland briefly in the 1970’s, I was captivated by their cottage cheese, which to my amazement was without the coagulated lumps that we are used to in the U.S.  Their smooth, thick, creamy substance was more like our cream cheese, though not as stiff.  These soft, uniform curds were excellent with muesli, fruits, raw vegetables, crackers, breads, and more.  (Some European cottage cheese is dry and salty, not so with my rhapsodic Swiss cottage cheese.)

In trying to learn more about this blessing from Europe, I discovered a good source for making one’s own; this site provides a recipe that produces either the creamy smooth or dry salty versions, simply by adjusting the heating time.  Access this incredible treat, which can’t be found in any U.S. grocery store, at: https://cheese.wonderhowto.com/how-to/make-your-own-cottage-cheese-european-way-352742/

Different textured and flavored cheeses are produced by variations in the temperature the milk is heated to, the diverse procedures of draining and pressing the resultant curds, and aging.  For instance, soft, semi-soft, semi-hard, and hard cheeses are often categorized according to their moisture content, which is determined by whether they are pressed or not, and if so, the pressure with which the cheese is packed in molds, as well as upon aging.

“Fresh cheeses” are the most simple of all, in which milk is curdled and drained, with little other processing.  Among these “acid-set cheeses”, cottage cheese, cream cheese, fromage blanc, and curd cheese (also known as quark) are not pressed; when fresh cheese is pressed, it becomes the malleable, solid pot cheese; even further pressing makes a drier, more crumbly farmer’s cheese, paneer, and goat’s milk chevre, for instance.  All are easy to spread, velvety, and mild-flavored.

The unpressed quark/curd cheese is common in the German-speaking countries and those of northern Europe, the Netherlands, Hungary, Belgium, Albania, Israel, Romania, as well as with the Slavic peoples.  It is also found in some parts of the United States and Canada.

Quark is usually synonymous with cottage cheese in Eastern Europe, though these differ in America and Germany, where cottage cheese has lumps (the flavor of German cottage cheese is much more sour than ours).  Curd cheese or quark is similar to French fromage blanc, Indian paneer, Spanish queso blanco, as well as the yogurt cheeses of south and central Asia and parts of the Arab world.

These (fresh) acid-set cheeses are coagulated milk, which has been soured naturally, or by the addition of lactic acid bacteria; this in turn is heated to a 20-27 degrees C, or until the desired curdling is met; then, the curds are drained, but not pressed, such as in the link above.

In America, quark, which is always smooth, differs from our cottage cheese, which has curdled chunks in it.  These lumps are large in the low-acid variant, which uses rennet in coagulating the milk, or small in the high-acid form, without any rennet. In Germany, Sauermilchkase (sour milk cheese) applies to ripened (aged) acid-set cheeses only, not to fresh ones-such as their cottage cheese, which is called Huttenkase.

The world of cheese is a complex one:  I have vivid memories of this smooth European cottage cheese, from my time in the German-speaking part of Switzerland, which has left me with a love for this dairy product.  To this day I frequently employ its American version in my diet.  Enjoy these quick dips!

References:

https://www.thespruce.com/what-is-pot-cheese-591193

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quark_(dairy_product)

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

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

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Types_of_cheese#Fresh.2C_whey.2C_and_stretched_curd_cheeses

https://cheese.wonderhowto.com/how-to/make-your-own-cottage-cheese-european-way-352742/

Salsa and Cottage Cheese Dip  Yields: about 1 1/2 pint.  Total prep time: 5 min.

1 pint cottage cheese  (Whole milk is best for your health; Trader Joe’s brand is hormone and additive free.)

1/2 c salsa  (Trader’s Pineapple Salsa is superb here.)

Tortilla chips  (Que Pasa makes an organic red chip, colored with beet dye, available in nutrition center at our local Fred Meyer-Kroger-

ingredients for salsa dip

stores.)

  1. Mix cottage cheese and salsa in a bowl.
  2. Serve with chips.  (Keeps well in refrigerator.)

ingredients for apricot dip

Cottage Cheese, Apricots, and Green Onion Dip  Yields: about 1 3/4 pints.  Total prep time: 15 min.  Note: may choose to refrigerate for at least 8 hr for ideal flavor and texture.

1 pint cottage cheese

1/2 c dried apricots, minced

1 c green onion, including green part, chopped

1/2 tsp salt, or to taste  (Real Salt, pink salt, is important for optimum health; available in nutrition center at local supermarket.)

  1. Mix the above together in a bowl.
  2. Serve with a high quality cracker.  (May use immediately, but this is much better when refrigerated for at least 8 hours-the flavors not only meld, but the excess moisture in the cottage cheese is absorbed by the dried apricots, producing superb texture and taste!)