Vichyssoise

vichyssoise

Here is the interesting history of vichyssoise and Vichy, France, after which this great soup is named.

Vichyssoise is generally accepted to have been created in America in 1917 by Louis Diat (1885-1957), who was the chef at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in New York City; he first worked at this same hotel in Long, Paris.  1

In an interview with the New Yorker in 1950, Diat relates how his inspiration for this famous soup came about: it grew out of his childhood memory of his mother’s and grandmother’s leek and potato soup, to which he and his brother added cold milk during the hot summer months.  His desire was “to make something of the sort for the patrons of the Ritz”, who needed cool foods during the summertime, in those days prior to air conditioning.  2

Diat’s family made a hot version of potato and leek soup, a popular soup in France, which had its origins in Jules Gouffe’s Royal Cookery, 1869.  A similar French-style cream of leek and potato soup also appeared in Escoffier’s Guide Culinaire, in 1903.  Thus this French soup of leeks and potatoes had become representative of French cooking by Diat’s lifetime.  The genius of our chef, however, improved on it, and today there are many versions-varying only slightly-of his cold American-French soup vichyssoise.  3

Diat called his creation after the name for the inhabitants of the spa town Vichy, which was close to his hometown Montmarault, France.  (Both these cities are in the Allier department of Auvergne-Rhine-Alps, in the central part of this nation, in the historic province of Bourbonnais.)  The town’s inhabitants are presently called Vichyssois, while the term Vichyste was used to define collaboration with the Vichy regime during World War II.  4

Vichy is best known for being the seat of the Nazi collaborationist government in France, during the second world war.  Located in the unoccupied “Free Zone”, it was the de facto-existing in reality, even if not legally recognized-capital of the French State, headed by Marshal Philippe Petain.  5

It started out as the nominal government of France from 1940 to 1942.  Then from 1942 to 1944, the Vichy regime collaborated with Nazi Germany, following the Nazi occupation of all of France, which started in 1942.  The de facto authority of the Vichy regime ended with the Allied invasion of France in late 1944.  The French Resistance-grassroots men and women representing every part of society-played a significant role in the downfall of this government and the Nazis.  6

My dad served in this war, in both India and Egypt.  When I was growing up, the two of us were constantly sharing both fiction and non-fiction books on World War II.  How we loved the courage, fortitude, and valor, of this time, which my father had known first-hand.

Our world today often appears to be void of such heroism, but it still exists vitally in God’s faithful remnant.  These spiritual warriors are presently rising up, to perform his purposes in these end-times.  We wait with joyful hope for the unfolding of mighty good, just like we saw in this tremendous victory, with the ending of the above war in 1945.

This soup always reminds me of the dedication and hope of these times; it, however, was inspired by Chef Diat in 1917, the year the first world war ended, nearly three decades prior to WWII.

Agreeing that it’s an American invention, Julia Child provides its receipt in Mastering the Art of French Cooking, in which she states its basic heritage as being the French potage parmentier, defining the differing points as being the following: in vichyssoise, the leeks are cooked in stock-“white stock, chicken stock, or canned chicken broth”-instead of water, and whipping cream is also added.  7

My version has the option of using leeks, or onions, or a combination of both; onions give bite to the flavor, as does my addition of a high quality yogurt, along with the heavy whipping cream.  Chilled spoons are recommended for the perfect touch.

Let this soup become your summer tradition to please guests and family!

References:

  1. https://whatscookingamerica.net/Soup/VichyssoiseSoup.htm
  2. Ibid.
  3. Ibid.
  4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vichy
  5. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vichy_France
  6. Ibid.
  7. Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle, and Simone Beck, The Mastering of the Art of French Cooking, (New York: Alfred A. Knopf), Vol. 1, pp. 37-39.

soup ready for pureeing with a blender-on-a-stick

Vichyssoise  Yields: 5-6 servings.  Total prep time: 50 min (plus 4 hr for chilling)/  active prep time: 25 min/  cooking time: 25 min.

3 tbsp oil  (Avocado or coconut oil is best for quality; olive oil is carcinogenic when heated to high temperatures.)

3 leeks or 2 med yellow onions, chopped  (May use a combination of the two.)

1 qt broth  (Bone broth is best; see Tortellini Soup, 2016/10/10.)

1 1/2 tsp salt, or to taste  (Himalayan, pink or Real Salt is critical for optimum health; a fine grind Himalayan salt is available at Costco for $4.95/5 lb.)

2 lbs russet potatoes, peeled and sliced  (Organic is best.)

1/2 c heavy whipping cream

1 1/2 c plain yogurt  (Either Nancy’s Honey Yogurt, Stoneyfield Organic Whole Milk Yogurt, or Sierra Nevada Graziers Grass-fed Plain Yogurt works best.)

1/2 tsp white pepper, or to taste

  1. Onions add a sharper flavor to the soup; use in place of, or in combination with leeks, as desired.  If using leeks, prepare thus: cut off the root at the base and the green tops, reserving only the white and light green part of the stalk.  Next slice in half length-wise, then run leeks under water to remove all the dirt; finally, chop into thin half-circle-slices.
  2. sweating onions

    Heat oil in a large stock pot over medium heat; when a small piece of leek/onion sizzles in it, add rest of leeks/onions and sweat (cook until translucent).  See photo.

  3. Add broth and 1/2 teaspoon salt to leeks/onions; turn heat up to med/high.
  4. Peel and slice potatoes, placing them in pot of broth, as they are cut, so they don’t turn brown; see photo below.
  5. When broth comes to a boil, turn heat down to medium; cook until potatoes are very tender.  When done, remove from heat.
  6. slicing potatoes

    Puree this mixture, using a blender-on-a-stick, also known as a smart stick (available reasonably at Bed, Bath, and Beyond).  See blender-on-a-stick in photo at top of recipe.  May also do this in batches in a food processor, VitaMix, or blender.

  7. Blend in cream and yogurt; add white pepper and 1 teaspoon salt.
  8. Chill covered for at least 4 hours; adjust seasonings.
  9. This is the best comfort food!

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!

Creative Caesar Salads

creative Caesar salad topped with serungdeng kacang

When I was growing up, we lived in the small resort town of East Glacier Park, Montana, which is the east entrance to Glacier National Park; there were only 250 residents at the foot of these glorious Rocky Mountains.  Because of our town’s minuscule size, it was necessary to travel to larger cities to take care of our major shopping needs, such as school clothes every late summer.  Usually we traveled within our State, 150 miles east to Great Falls; on special occasions, we ventured as far away as Spokane, Washington.  I can still feel the thrill as we prepared, in the early morning dark, to leave on these revered journeys.

During the extra special trips to Spokane, the Ridpath Hotel captivated me; we ate many dinners in its plush dining room, always partaking in their Caesar salad, which came with the pomp and flair of table-side service.  My young heart was even then preparing for my career in food history, for I was fascinated by the coddling of the egg, with the torch used for that purpose; in like manner, I rhapsodized over the delight of the powerful garlic on my tender tongue.

To this day I love Caesar salad; I share a recipe here that lives up to this enduring mental monument.  Be prepared to enjoy.

There are several accounts of how this famous dish began.  After much research, I chose to attribute its origin to the Italian chef Caesar Cardini (1896-1956), who created this American classic at his well-known restaurant in Tijuana, Mexico, when in 1924 he was serving an unusual number of Californian visitors, escaping there for the Fourth of July weekend during prohibition.  This original production was served table side, without anchovies, and included whole lettuce leaves, which were eaten by the stems, using one’s fingers.

Caesar salad enhanced with beans

There are numerous opposing views on the safety of coddled eggs.  Some profess that they are not a threat: it is adequate to place the eggs in rapidly boiling water, remove the pan from the heat, and then allow the eggs to cook for 60 seconds; indeed, this technique provides the best taste.  Others propound that holding eggs at 140 degrees F (60 degrees C) for five minutes kills potential contaminants, such as salmonella; this can also be achieved instantly by heating them to 160 degrees F (71 degrees C).  Still others declare that uncooked and under-cooked eggs are not safe at all; they rigidly promote the use of either hard-boiled or pasteurized eggs; the latter are available in some grocery stores.  Note: it is important to use caution in highly susceptible populations, such as small children, pregnant women, the elderly, and those with health problems.

Here I cover this dilemma with two good solutions: my favorite version of this dressing is made with coddled eggs, which have been cooked for 60 seconds; nonetheless, for times when extra special care is needed, I provide a method of heating the prepared dressing to 160 degrees; this last procedure, however, thickens our treasured concoction quite a lot.  With both of these two options, the powerful recollected taste from my youth is maintained, which is heightened even further with strong combinations of foods in my creative Caesar salads.

References:

https://whatscookingamerica.net/CaesarSalad.htm

www.reluctantgourmet.com/caesar-salad/

www.foodandwine.com/fwx/food/we-can-thank-tijuana-and-prohibition-caesar-salad

www.ochef.com/447.htm

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

www.safeeggs.com/blog/will-the-real-safe-caesar-salad-recipe-please-stand-up/

finished Caesar dressing

Caesar Salad Dressing  Yields: about 1 1/2 cups.  Total prep time: 30 min.  If cooking the dressing, total prep time is 45 min.

3 fresh, free-range eggs, at room temperature  (Place in warm water for 10-15 minutes.)

2 tbsp fresh garlic

1 tbsp cider vinegar  (Raw is best; available inexpensively at Trader Joe’s.)

1 scant tbsp Dijon mustard  (Aioli Garlic Mustard from Trader’s is also excellent.)

2 small lemons, juiced

3 dashes of Tabasco

3 dashes of Worcestershire

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 anchovy, optional

3/4 tsp salt, or to taste  (Real Salt is important for health; available in natural foods section at local supermarket.)

1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper, or to taste

3/4 cup olive oil  (Personally I prefer a light olive oil for flavor; Bel’Olio from Costco is great.)

  1. Use room temperature eggs, by placing them in warm water for 10-15 minutes.  For health reasons, it is important that they are washed, free-range, and fresh.  (I feel comfortable with coddled eggs; these make the best dressing, but if you are sensitive to them, or storing this dressing for more than 4-5 days, take the extra precaution of cooking it as described in step 6-better yet use pasteurized eggs, which are available in some grocery stores.)
  2. coddling eggs

    For coddled eggs, bring a small pan of water to a boil over high heat; prepare an ice bath, using a bowl of cold water with ice cubes.  Place eggs in rapidly boiling water; quickly remove from heat; let them sit for 60 seconds; then, immediately transfer to the ice bath, to the stop cooking process.  Crack them on side of bowl, scooping coddled egg out of shell with a spoon, set aside (see photo).

  3. Meanwhile mince 2 tablespoons of garlic: easily do so by filling a coffee measure, which is 2 tablespoons, with peeled garlic cloves, cut in small pieces, until it is full; then, chop this in a food processor by repeatedly pressing pulse button; set aside.  (TO MAKE DRESSING BY HAND: chop the garlic with a sharp knife; mix all ingredients, except the oil, in a medium/small bowl; then, beat in the oil SLOWLY, to emulsify the dressing.  May also make this in a VitaMix or blender.)
  4. Juice the lemons, set aside.
  5. Add all ingredients, except the oil, to the garlic in the processor.  Turn on machine and blend; place oil in the feeder, which is located on the top (see this feeder in above photo of finished product); thus, oil will drip in slowly for an emulsified dressing.  Adjust seasonings.  This will keep in the refrigerator for 4-5 days; for longer storage, go to the next step.  Serve on the creative salads given lastly.
  6. For cooked dressing, prepare an ice bath, using a large bowl with a smaller one inserted in center (see photo).  Prepare Caesar dressing as described in steps 2-

    cooked dressing cooling in ice bath

    5; transfer this mixture to a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan; cook dressing over low heat, stirring constantly, until this egg mixture reaches 160 degrees F (71 degrees C); immediately place in the ice bath to cool, adding more ice as needed.  Note: the dressing will thicken as it cooks. Serve on salads described below.

  7. I like to be creative with my Caesar salads; here are two suggestions for using foods that highly complement this excellent dressing.  First: mix greens, sweet onion, avocado, Parmesan cheese, and homemade croutons (2016/08/15); then, top this with serungdeng kacang, which is crispy coconut chips and peanuts sautéed with a garlic/onion puree (2017/01/09).  Second: mix greens, Parmesan cheese, homemade croutons, and beans; legumes really accentuate the flavor of this dressing!  Enjoy.

Ensalada Iberica

ensalada Iberica

Ensalada Iberica is the perfect accompaniment to last week’s Portuguese pork, because of its sweet base of oranges and dates, along with an abundance of piquant onions and lemon-vinaigrette.  This quick salad pleases our palettes.  Its strong combination of complimentary foods is additionally enhanced with the spice coriander, which is also a “seasoning match made in heaven” for pork, as noted by Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page in Culinary Artistry.  Thus these two dishes balance each other, resulting in excellent flavors and joy unspeakable.  1

During the 1980’s, my extensive cooking classes in Montana included a group of twelve professionals, all of whom were friends.  For years they came monthly for each new theme I presented.  We grew to love each other, as I taught them easy steps in making glorious food.  A grieving took place at our parting, brought on by my decision to move to Portland in February of 1986.

My strongest fan among them, Larry, organized a going-away party for me.  He chose an upscale Chinese restaurant, since a travel agent in the group had hoped to take me to China, to teach native foods on one of her tours.  At our celebration, they graciously presented me with a restaurant-caliber, 15 ½” x 10 ½” cake pan and a stock pot, as seen in my photos; how these have blessed my work.

At one of our classes, someone encouraged me to consider the then new concept of computers for my work.  I responded that I will never do that, for it was beyond me.  Technology, however, has enabled the expansion of my endeavors beyond my imagination.

Back then I wrote everything out by hand, as I constantly discovered new themes from various cultures and ages.  All my research came from hard copies of books and publications; I searched for the sources of my inspiration at the local library, in an array of cook books, and in such publications as Montana newspapers, the New York Times, and numerous fashionable magazines.  My existence was marked by creativity, as I developed my faculty for research.  This skill was further sharpened by my graduate work at Portland State University, 1988-91.

Discovering truths in food history is what I do; it is essential that I know their validity.  As a result, to this day, I prefer to obtain my information from actual books, which possess a soundness that I trust, over that of internet.

Both this and its subsequent post, on Portuguese foods, are from that early application of my studies in Montana.  These entries provide exceptional taste treats.  Enjoy!

  1. Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page, Culinary Artistry (Hoboken, N.J.: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1996), pp. 159, 160, 268.

chopping orange segments

Ensalada Iberica  Yields: 5-6 servings.  Total prep time: 25 min.

Note: best to make and chill several hours before serving.

2 lg oranges  (Organic is best for flavor and quality, as orange skins readily absorb pesticides; these are often available at a good price at Trader Joe’s.)

1 small/med red onion, thinly sliced  (May use 2 small, organic cipollini onions; they are expensive, but so good!)

1 small can sliced ripe olives, net dr. wt. 2.25 ounces

1/2 c pitted dates, packed down, cut in halves lengthwise  (About 1/3 lb is needed.)

1/4 c olive oil

1/4 c lemon juice  ( 2-3 small lemons are needed.)

3/4 tsp salt, or to taste

1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper, or to taste

1/4 tsp ground coriander

Bed of spinach leaves or lettuce

  1. easy juicing of lemons

    Peel oranges, divide them in half, cut each half cross-wise in half again, so it is easy to separate segments (see photo above).

  2. Peel and slice onions thinly.
  3. In medium bowl, combine oranges, onions, olives, and date halves.
  4. Juice lemons with a hand-held juicer, watch market for this marvelous tool (see photo).
  5. Combine olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and coriander in a small sealed jar; shake vigorously; adjust seasonings.
  6. Pour over fruit, mix well, and refrigerate until serving time-preferably for several hours-so flavors can meld.
  7. Serve on a bed of spinach leaves or lettuce.
  8. This is a favorite of mine, which I have made since the early 1980’s.

1960’s Portuguese Pork

Portuguese pork roast

My gift of hospitality was birthed during my youth in the mid-twentieth century, for then I watched my mother host elaborate dinner parties.  As an excellent cook, she prepared glorious feasts, often with international themes; this 1960’s recipe for Portuguese pork blessed guests repeatedly.  While in college, I meticulously copied her treasured receipts and began my own journey, fostering nourishment of body and soul.

In 1982, God converted this inherent gift into my lifetime work.  Then I began catering meals and teaching a profusion of cooking classes, utilizing researched historical recipes.  One of these classes was on my mother’s Portuguese foods, on which I expanded, incorporating the salad Ensalada Iberica and dessert Figos Recheados, my next weeks’ posts.

Slowing down, smelling the roses, feeding ourselves and others are important traits. In doing such, let us choose pleasure in even the simplest of foods.  These pleasures seem amplified. when someone else prepares the meal; thus, their charity reaches our hearts regardless of what is served.  Macaroni and cheese can thrill us, when made with love by a friend.

There is an element of courage, which results in unexpected joy, when we graciously receive ailments we aren’t sure of.  While living in Billings, Montana, a friend invited me to celebrate Easter with her.  Upon arrival I discovered we were partaking of rabbit; I was challenged in eating this, especially on this holiday!  Expressing gratitude, I bravely proceeded and found it palatable, as long as I didn’t concentrate on it being Easter.  Though I have never again experienced this meat, fond memories flood my mind whenever it is mentioned.

Let us be strong in both giving and receiving benevolent fellowship; use my series of proven receipts to host this cultural affair for your loved ones, or better yet invite someone newly acquainted.

In Culinary Artistry, Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page note strong compliments to pork; among the most vibrant are vinegar, garlic, black pepper, oranges and onions-all of which are present in this detailed dinner.   Enjoy my creative repast!  1

  1. Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page, Culinary Artistry (Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1996), p. 159.

chopping jalapeno peppers

Portuguese Pork  Yields: 8-10 servings.  Inactive prep time for marinating: 1 day/  active prep time: 30 min/  cooking time: 3 1/2 hr.

4 lb pork loin roast

1 1/3 c water

1 c cider vinegar  (Trader Joe’s carries an inexpensive raw version, which has great health benefits.)

5 med/lg cloves of garlic, minced

3 tepino peppers  (If desired, use jalapeno peppers, which are milder.)

Salt and pepper  (Himalayan, pink, or Real Salt is critical for optimum health; a fine grind is available at Costco for $4.95/5 lb.)

1 c sliced green olives  (May serve additional in a bowl at table.)

Baked yams  (Yams and sweet potatoes are different varieties of the same vegetable, they are interchangeable.)

  1. Place water and vinegar in a 9 1/2″ x 7 1/2″ x 3″ pan, or 3-quart baking dish).
  2. Mince garlic, add to vinegar mixture.
  3. Cut peppers in half lengthwise, scoop out seeds with a spoon, chop fine, and add to vinegar mixture (see photo).  Note: be sure to wash hands thoroughly, as burning will result from touching eyes, if you don’t.
  4. Place pork in marinade and marinate in refrigerator for at least 24 hours, turning roast halfway through, at about 12 hours.
  5. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Before placing in oven, turn roast again, salting and peppering the top well.  Bake for 1 3/4 hours.  Proceed immediately to next step.
  6. Wash yams and pierce several times with a fork.  Cover with foil; place top of foil on potato, where sealed, face-up in the oven while baking; this keeps juices from leaking out.  Start baking these at the same time you begin roasting the meat; bake for about 3 hours, as the oven is only set at 300 degrees.
  7. After baking for first 1 3/4 hours, turn roast for the last time.   Once more, salt and pepper the top well.  Bake for another 1 3/4 hours.
  8. When cooking is complete, remove roast from oven, cool for 15 minutes.  Toward the end of this time, take yams out of oven and place on plates; next, cut pork in thick slices and arrange on dishes; top with sliced olives.  (It is good to serve additional olives in a small bowl at table.)
  9. This pork is superb with the Portuguese salad Ensalada Iberica and dessert Figos Recheados, my next weeks’ posts.

Serungdeng Kacang

serungdeng kacang

serungdeng kacang

The condiment serungdeng kacang first completed my varied dishes in the early 1980’s, when I was catering historical events in Billings, Montana.  In those days, I sought recipes that allowed me to offer thematic meals from diverse cultures and times. To my joy, I discovered a host of receipts from Indonesia; thus, I presented an Indonesian rijsttafel to my eager audiences.

A rijsttafel is a banquet of delicacies from this southeast Asian republic, formerly known at the Dutch East Indies.

Serungdeng kacang is a condiment for rice dishes in these ethnic feasts. My particular recipe comes from Java, one of the many islands in Indonesia. These coconut crumbs, spiced with onion and garlic, are spread liberally over the rice portions, in addition to a variety of other garnishes.

For me, serungdeng kacang has multiple, inventive benefits: it is compatible with Indian curries, acts as a delicious hors d’oeuvre, and-my favorite-provides the crowning touch to salads!

I always keep this enhancement to tossed greens on hand, by making a double batch and storing it in a sealed storage bag.  The beauty of this topping is it lasts a long time, if you are disciplined.

Prior to my doing this rijsttafel, I presented a gala event, a Moroccan affair, which was to  become one of my favorite memories in the history of my business; it best defines what my work entailed back then.

I loved to act in my youth and knew the Billings’ theatrical community well.  As an aside, actors often make a living in the restaurant business; they are adept at waiting tables.  Then my creative dinners needed both excellent service and improvisation.  An incredible fit was made with my Billings’ thespian friends; thus, I frequently employed them in my catered dramas.

My most treasured memory using this partnership was a fundraiser for the Billings’ Children’s Theatre, in which I presented an authentic Moroccan dinner, for a staged “Night at Rick’s Place”.  The five winning tickets, from those auctioned off-each with their three guests-were transported back to World War II in the theatre’s upstairs.

This large room had been converted into Rick’s Place, from the movie Casablanca.  It was furnished with a bar off to one side of the restaurant, while the dining room consisted of five tables of four, clothed with white linen.  The city’s leading actors peopled the bar scene. More of these, dressed in tuxedos, served the sumptuous meal to the unsuspecting partakers in this suspense.

Broadway arts resulted!  Numerous brawls took place in the bar; the Gestapo arrived; guests were pick-pocketed, and on and on.  Talk about fun.

My part was the researched African meal.  That afternoon, after weeks of cooking, I showed up for the final preparations in the theatre’s limited kitchen. Behold, the limits escalated upon my arrival, for the stove wasn’t working!

The true test of my creativity came.  Nevertheless, God’s grace broke through: makeshift occurred as a call went out and citizens brought in hot plates.  The event came off triumphantly, as I, in  Moroccan dress, told the innocent company the colorful history as each dish was served.

I repeated this dinner numerous times in my career, but this show never again reached the thrill of its original occurrence.  That night in “Casablanca” best exemplified what I did with my work then.

Now my food history presentations entertain larger audiences, but still guests participate in dinner theatre type events. They engage by eating authentic foods; I, dressed in period costume, narrate their careful stories.

Today my grand affairs mostly involve Northwest history, for which I was trained in graduate school.  However back in the 80’s and 90’s, I presented other cultures and times in my gala occasions.  Among these many thematic experiences was this Indonesian rijsttafel, from which today’s entry originated.

simple mincing of onion

simple mincing of onion

Serungdeng Kacang  Yields: 3 c.  Total prep time: 1 hr, plus 1 hr for cooling/ active prep time: 30 min/ cooking time: 30 min.

6 tbsp yellow onion, minced  (You will need a med/large onion; follow directions below for simple mincing-see photo.)

6 med/large garlic cloves, chopped fine

2 tbsp sugar  (Organic cane sugar is best; available at Trader Joe’s and Costco.)

1 tsp salt  (Himalayan, pink, or Real Salt is critical for optimum health; a fine grind Himalayan salt is available inexpensively at Costco.)

1 tbsp oil  (Coconut oil is the best for flavor and quality here.)

2 c unsweetened coconut chips  (Available in bulk at our local Winco, or in a 12-ounce Bob’s Red Mill package at local supermarkets.)

1 c roasted, unsalted peanuts  (Also available at low cost in bulk at our local Winco.)

  1. An easy way to mince onion is to peel it, leaving the root on; next, score it by cutting slices close together across the top one way, going 3/4 of way down into the onion; then, turn it and cut slices the other direction.  After onion is prepared thus, shave the minced pieces off the end of it with a sharp knife (see photo).
  2. Heat oil in a cast iron skillet over medium heat.
  3. Measure 6 tbsp of minced onion and place in a mortar; save rest of onion for other cooking.  With a pestle mash onions, garlic, sugar, and salt.  When this is a thick puree, set aside.  (See mortar and pestle in photo.)
  4. Place a piece of the coconut in oil; when it begins to turn brown, immediately lower temperature to med/low; oil is ready for cooking.  Meantime mix together coconut and onion mixture in a large bowl. Make sure coconut is completely coated.
  5. When oil is hot, add coconut mixture; mix well with spoon to evenly coat fruit with oil.
  6. Cook about 20 minutes (over med/low heat), or until golden brown in color and slightly wet, stirring every 5 minutes, so as not to burn.  Let it, however, cook for full 5-minute increments, without stirring; this allows for the coconut to brown.  As you stir it, carefully scrape bottom of pan with a spatula.
  7. When coconut is light golden brown, add the peanuts and cook for another 5 minutes; stir twice in this last 5-minute period.  Note: it will get a darker brown and drier, as it cooks more with the peanuts and then cools in the heat-retentive cast iron pan.
  8. Remove from heat and be sure to leave in skillet to cool; this completes the drying process.  (See top photo for finished product.)
  9. This lasts for months, kept in a sealed storage bag.