SOUP BY ANY OTHER NAME ~ TUTORIAL

Is it a soup, a stew, a bisque or a chowder? And what is the difference between them? After a little research I realized that there are specific reasons for each name, mainly regional cultural and/or the type of cooking vessel.

So let’s check out a few “definitions” or descriptions that I wish I’d had years ago!

  • BISQUE – A French style cream base soup whose main characteristic is a smooth and velvety texture that uses seafood as the protein. This dish is simmered SLOWLY over a low heat which results in the tender meat and rich broth.
  • BOUILLABAISSE – A Mediterranean based fisherman stew.  Traditionally it is made with a mixture of garlic, tomatoes, saffron, fennel, fish and shellfish.
  • BORSCHT – A Russian style stew whose main ingredient is beets.  Traditionally it also contains tomatoes, cabbage and many times chunks of meat.
  • CASSEROLE – a kind of stew that is cooked slowly in the oven in a “casserole”, a large, deep dish. The casserole dish is typically a dish used both for cooking the food in and serving it in also. Casseroles are of global origin and use. Here, in America, the casserole typically has three components; a meat or protein component, a vegetable and a starch, usually a potato or rice and often there is a cheesy or crunchy topping.
  • CHOWDER – Chowder is French in origin and refers to “chaudiere”, a type of “cauldron” used to cook for large gatherings.  Many times chowders are made from household staples. Early settlers used ingredients like salt pork, locally caught fish, bread or biscuits. Centuries later potatoes replaced breads or biscuits and milk or cream was added to create rich flavors and thickening of the sauce.
  • ETOUFFEE – A spicy Cajun braising process to cook proteins, usually a single meat, in a small amount of liquid making a thick stew with a spicy sauce or gravy. The meats are stuffed or smothered with aromatic vegetables and herbs, covered and SLOWLY simmered until the vegetables flavor has become one with the meat. Cooking this way ensures a flavorful, moist dish that is usually an entree versus a side dish.
  • GAZPACHO – A pureed mixture of raw summer vegetables including tomatoes, cucumbers and onions. Classic versions are thickened with breads and include some form of peppers. This is also served cold most often. Gazpacho is considered Spanish, but originated in Greek or Roman times and was brought to Spain the the 1500’s.
  • GUMBO – the word gumbo iteself is derived from the African congo word Quingombo for okra, one of the main ingredients used to thicken gumbo.  Ground sassafras root or file’ powder is another common thickener. variety of meats served WITH rice unlike Jambalaya that rice is IN the dish – RICE IS THE COMMON COMPONENT – it is just the way it is used in the dish is different – Rice is a VEHICLE for gumbo, but an integral COMPONENT of Jambalaya. Gumbo has a variety of meats/proteins (a fish, poultry, sausage for example) whereas Jambalaya uses a single meat, usually a fish of some sort.
  • JAMBALAYA – A pilaf style main dish with a rice like a Paella (probably its early ancestor), but with a Creole Cajun, New Orleans style flavor influence. Traditionally Jambalaya is made with a combination of pork, chicken, shrimp and a variety of herbs and spices.
  • MINESTRONE – An Italian vegetable bean soup made with combinations of pasta, cheese, pesto and primarily FRESH seasonal produce.
  • MULLIGATAWNY – An Indian soup that almost always contains a chicken stock with curried meat or seafood that is smothered in a coconut milk or cream and lentils, carrots or apples.
  • PAELLA – A Spanish dish whose name primarily refers to the style of pan used that is  broad and shallow. Traditionally this was made with rice, chicken, rabbit, beans and sometimes snails. Nowadays the “traditional” ingredients have varied to include fish, shellfish, vegetables, pork and sausage.
  • POSOLE – A hearty Latin stew that is a blend of chicken stock, chicken or pork, chile peppers, vegetables and hominy. This stew is usually served on special occasions or days of feasting. By many this is considered the gringo version of Menudo that uses a less appetizing (to gringos) cut of meat, the cow stomach.
  • POTAGE – is a French soup made with a coarse thick cream and primarily vegetables. It translates into “special of the day”, but NOT the blue plate special as it is traditionally made with the freshest of seasonal ingredients.
  • POT PIE – Pot pies have been around for centuries with quite a history from being called Sea Pies made aboard ships or from Roman times with live birds that flew out of the pies to eventually becoming a comfort food traditional in America. Pot pies to me are one of the BEST comfort foods. There is nothing better than a flaky crust filled with a mixture of chunks of chicken, peas and carrots in a rich gravy like soup. A great cousin to the pot pie is a Shepherd’s pie that has a topping of mashed potatoes or a cornbread, biscuit topping.
  • SEVICHE – A FRESH, raw seafood in a marinade made from tomatoes or lemon juice.  The acids in the tomato or lemon juice “cook” the seafood, removing the raw taste and leaving you a flavorful dish.
  • STEW – Stews are found all around the world by many names, each dealing with regional cultural ingredients. Some of those examples are Hungarian Goulash, Italian or French Ragout and American Brunswick stew from Virginia or Burgoo from Kentucky. Stews are made up of the browning of small pieces of meat in a hot fat, poultry pieces or chunks of fish that then simmers with vegetables, herbs and spices in enough liquid to cover everything in a closed vessel of some sort (dutch oven or stock pot). A stew can be simmered over low heat on the stove top or baked in the oven also at low heat and when left alone allows the flavors to blend naturally while also tenderizing tougher cuts of meat. The sauce that develops as the dish cooks may be thickened by pureeing the vegetables or by incorporating flour or egg yolks.
  • VICHYSSOISE – A classic French soup that is made with potatoes, leeks, herbs, chicken stock and a heavy cream. This is typically pureed and served chilled with a FRESH chive garnish. Shhh… don’t tell anyone, but I like it warm and hate it cold, but love the flavor mixture.

TUESDAY 4 TO CLOSE THE YEAR

Happy New Year and welcome to Tuesday 4 where we continue to remember and honor the memory of  Toni Taddeo who began Tuesday 4.

Masses of people began celebrating in Times Square in 1904, but the New Year’s Ball didn’t drop until December 31, 1907. The ball is 12 feet in diameter, weighs 11,875 pounds and is covered with 2,688 Waterford crystals.  
Click here to see the HISTORY OF THE NEW YEAR’S EVE BALL it’s really quite interesting.

  • Despite the weirdness of this past year, was it still a good year for you anyway or not? While it was a strange year with the pandemic, it wasn’t bad per se, just inconvenient.  I thank God that I’m healthy and those I do know of that contracted COVID had relatively mild cases and have recovered.  We ate out less, traveled less, saw fewer people, shopped less, but are healthy.
  • How will you spend New Years Eve? Quietly at home with the love of my life and a good meal. We usually watch the festivities of TV, but not sure what those will be like this year.
  • What do you do on New Year’s Day? Is football part of the agenda? On New Year’s Day I usually make brunch and we de-decorate as we watch the parade and football.
  • It’s a Scottish tradition to kiss at midnight according to the person who wrote this question, but my research from TIME.com lends the origins to German traditions, at least here in the United States.  See The Mysterious Origins of Kissing at Midnight on New Year’s Eve. Do you keep that tradition? Does everyone get a kiss if you do? We do keep the tradition, but hubby is the only one I kiss even before COVID 😀

I pray your new year is a bright and Blessed one, free from the trials and tribulations that 2020 brought us. All the very best to you and your family.

INDEPENDENCE DAY – 4TH OF JULY!

Independence Day or 4th of July as we call it has only been a federal holiday since 1941, but of course the tradition dates back to 1776 when the Continental Congress voted on July 2nd in favor of Independence. Two days later delegates from all thirteen colonies adopted the Declaration of Independence, drafted by Thomas Jefferson, and celebrated their independence and the birth of a nation on July 4th.

Since July 4th falls in mid summer, the celebrations major focus usually includes leisure activities, parades, concerts, backyard barbecues, games, bonfires and family gatherings culminating in fireworks later at night. Except maybe this year 🙁

When the Revolutionary War broke out back in 1775, a few colonists wanted complete independence from Great Britain. These colonists were considered to be the radicals of their time.

However, more and more colonists came to believe in favor of independence. Many because of Thomas Paine’s famous writing “Common Sense” which he published in early 1776.

In June 1776, Virginia delegate Richard Henry Lee introduced a motion that called for the colonies’ independence. A heated debate followed and Congress postponed the vote to his resolution. At that time they appointed a committee of five men, Thomas Jefferson (Virginia), John Adams (Massachusetts), Benjamin Franklin (Pennsylvania), Roger Sherman Connecticut) and Robert R, Livingston (New York) to draft a formal statement justifying the break from Great Britain.

On July 2nd, the Continental Congress voted in favor of Independence in a near unanimous vote. New York abstained, but later voted yes.

John Adams wrote to his wife that July 2 “will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival” and that the celebration should include “Pomp and Parade…Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other.” He believed that the American Independence celebration should occur on July 2nd since that was the day of the vote to secure it and would reportedly turn down invitations to appear at July 4th events in protest.

Both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson dies on the 4th of July, 1826, the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.

Before the Revolutionary war, colonists would hold celebrations in honor of the king’s birthday. These celebrations included the ringing of bells, bonfires, parades and speeches. After the adoption of the Declaration of Independence these same colonists celebrated the birth of their independence by holding mock funerals for King George III as a symbol of the end of the British hold on America and a triumph to their new found liberty.

Philadelphia held the first annual commemoration of independence on July 4, 1777. Festivities including concerts, bonfires, parades and the firing of cannons and muskets usually accompanied the first public readings of the Declaration of Independence.

The war was still going on and George Washington issued double rations of rum to all his soldiers to mark the anniversary of independence in 1778, and in 1781, several months before the key American victory at Yorktown, Massachusetts became the first state to make July 4th an official state holiday.

After the Revolutionary War and to this day, Americans continue to commemorate Independence Day every year, in celebrations that allow the new nation’s emerging political leaders to address citizens and create a feeling of unity. The tradition of patriotic celebration became even more widespread after the War of 1812. In 1870, the U.S. Congress made July 4th a federal holiday. Over the years, the political importance of the holiday has declined somewhat, but The most common symbol of the holiday is the American flag, and a common musical accompaniment is “The Star-Spangled Banner,” the national anthem of the United States.

And did you know New York City has the biggest fireworks display in the United States and that three U.S. presidents died on July 4?

KING CAKE FOR MARDI GRAS since I missed posting it for the EPIPHANY

Mardi Gras 2020 falls on Tuesday, February 25, this year and is also known as Fat Tuesday, the last day of the Carnival season as it always falls the day before Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. Fat Tuesday is EXACTLY what it sounds like – time to party and EAT!  I thought this would be a good time to re-run this recipe for Mardis Gras King Cake.  I threw in some history for you also since King Cake isn’t just for Mardi Gras though that is what it is most famous for these days.  I do have to admit I made this cake a few years back when we were living in Texas during Mardi Gras season though since then I have made it for Epiphany without the Mardi Gras colors and using traditional Christmas colors.

A king cake (sometimes rendered as kingcake, kings’ cake, king’s cake, or three kings cake) is a type of cake associated with the festival of Epiphany in the Christmas season in a number of countries, and in other places with Mardi Gras and Carnival.

The “king cake” takes its name from the biblical three kings. Catholic tradition states that their journey to Bethlehem took twelve days (the Twelve Days of Christmas), and that they arrived to honor the Christ Child on Epiphany. The season for king cake extends from the end of the Twelve Days of Christmas (Twelfth Night and Epiphany Day), through to Mardi Gras day. Some organizations or groups of friends may have “king cake parties” every week through the Carnival season.

Related culinary traditions are the tortell of Catalonia, the gâteau des Rois in Provence or the galette des Rois in the northern half of France, and the Greek and Cypriot vasilopita. The galette des Rois is made with puff pastry and frangipane (while the gâteau des Rois is made with brioche and candied fruits). A little bean was traditionally hidden in it, a custom taken from the Saturnalia in the Roman Empire: the one who stumbled upon the bean was called “king of the feast.” In the galette des Rois, since 1870 the beans have been replaced first by porcelain and, now by plastic figurines; while the gâteau des Rois Also known as “Rosca de Reyes” in Mexico.

In the southern United States, the tradition was brought to the area by colonists from France and Spain and it is associated with Carnival, which is celebrated in the Gulf Coast region, centered on New Orleans, but ranging from the Florida Panhandle to East Texas. King cake parties in New Orleans are documented back to the eighteenth century. The king cake of the New Orleans Mardi Gras tradition comes in a number of styles. The most simple, said to be the most traditional, is a ring of twisted bread similar to that used in brioche topped with icing or sugar, usually colored purple, green, and gold (the traditional Carnival colors) with food coloring. Cajun king cakes are traditionally deep-fat-fried as a doughnut would be, and there are many variants, some with a filling, the most common being cream cheese and praline. It has become customary in the New Orleans culture that whoever finds the trinket must provide the next king cake or host the next Mardi Gras party.

Some say that French settlers brought the custom to Louisiana in the 18th century where it remained associated with the Epiphany until the 19th century when it became a more elaborate Mardi Gras custom. In New Orleans, the first cake of the season is served on January 6. A small ceramic figurine of a baby is hidden inside the cake, by tradition. However now, the tradition is giving way to the baby being supplied and the customer placing the baby were ever they wish in the cake. Whoever finds the baby is allowed to choose a mock court and host the next King Cake party the following week (weekly cake parties were held until Mardi Gras).

The classic king cake is oval-shaped, like the pattern of a racetrack. The dough is basic coffee-cake dough, sometimes laced with cinnamon, sometimes just plain. The dough is rolled out into a long tubular shape (not unlike a thin po-boy), then shaped into an oval. The ends are twisted together to complete the shape  (HINT: if you want to find the piece with the baby, look for the twist in the oval where the two ends of the dough meet. That’s where the baby is usually inserted.) The baby hidden in the cake speaks to the fact that the three Kings had a difficult time finding the Christ Child and of the fine gifts they brought.

The cake is then baked, and decorated when it comes out. The classic decoration is simple granulated sugar, colored purple, green, and gold for the colors of Carnival. King cakes have gotten more and more fancy over the years, so now bakeries offer iced versions where there’s classic white coffee cake glaze on the cake before it’s decorated, and even king cakes filled with apple, cherry, cream cheese, or other kinds of coffee-cake fillings.

King cakes are available at bakeries all over South Louisiana, but only after January 6 through Mardi Gras Day.

Mardi Gras is French for “Fat Tuesday” referring to the practice of the last night of eating richer, fatty foods before the ritual fasting of the Lenten season, which starts on Ash Wednesday. Popular practices also include wearing masks and costumes, overturning most social conventions, dancing, sports competitions, parades and such. Similar expressions to Mardi Gras appear in other European languages sharing the Christian tradition. In English, the day is called Shrove Tuesday, associated with the religious requirement for confession before Lent begins.

This is my version of this yummy yeast bread/cake.

MARDI GRAS KING CAKE (makes 2 cakes)

PASTRY
1 cup milk
1/4 cup butter
2 (.25 ounce) packages active dry yeast
2/3 cup warm water
1/2 cup white sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

FILLING
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
2/3 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup melted butter

FROSTING/GLAZE
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon water

  • Scald milk, remove from heat and stir in 1/4 cup of the butter.  Allow mixture to cool to room temperature.
  • In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in the warm water with 1 tablespoon of the white sugar. Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes.
  • When yeast mixture is bubbly, add the cooled milk mixture.
  • Whisk in the eggs.
  • Stir in the remaining white sugar, salt and nutmeg.
  • Beat the flour into the milk/egg mixture 1 cup at a time. When the dough has pulled together, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 to 10 minutes.
  • Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat with oil.
  • Cover with a damp cloth or plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 2 hours.
  • When risen, punch down and divide dough in half.
  • Preheat oven to 375°.
  • Grease 2 cookie sheets or line with SILPATS or parchment paper.
  • In a large mixing bowl combine the brown sugar, ground cinnamon, chopped pecans, 1/2 cup flour and 1/2 cup raisins.
  • Pour 1/2 cup melted butter over the cinnamon mixture and mix until crumbly.
  • Roll dough halves out into large rectangles (approximately 10×16 inches).
  • Sprinkle the filling evenly over the dough and roll up each half tightly like a jelly roll, beginning at the wide side.
  • Bring the ends of each roll together to form 2 oval shaped rings.
  • Place each ring on a prepared cookie sheet.
  • With sharp knife make cuts 1/3 of the way through the rings at 1 inch intervals. Let rise in a warm spot until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.
  • Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes.
  • Push the doll into the bottom of the cake.
  • Decorate with beads.
  • Frost while warm with the glaze.

SPICY PIMIENTO CHEESE BURGERS – BUNLESS BURGER series #5

When I was a kid I remember driving by McDonalds and seeing their sign claiming how many burgers they had sold. It ALWAYS seemed like an exorbitantly high number to me, but these days I do believe hamburgers are one of the most eaten fast food and BBQ sandwiches.

I’d never really thought about it, but got curious about the origins of the hamburger. It will probably come as no surprise that the hamburger can actually be traced back to Hamburg, Germany. Ironically you almost have to give the credit to Russia though. In the mid 18th century Hamburg was the largest port in Europe and the seaman brought the idea with them of their acquired taste of eating steak tartare from Russia. But, even Russia cannot lay claim as it was the Mongul nomadic warriors that brought steak tartare with them from central Asia to Russia to begin with. The legend claims that the warriors would tenderize their meat by placing it under their saddles during their long rides where the motion of the saddle would tenderize the meat to a pulp and they would then enjoy the meat raw. I can find no mention of who actually decided to cook the meat into a “burger”. But according to my research it was the German immigrants brought the cooked burger to us here in the states.  The first North American restaurant to offer up a hamburger steak on their menu was DelMonico’s in 1834 New York. Strangely enough the hamburger steak sold for 10¢, double the price of roast beef and even veal. Eventually, people became more familiar with hamburgers and the price dropped as it became more a food of the masses when it was placed on a bun with the added condiments, tomatoes, pickles and was sold on horse drawn lunch wagons, at diners and lunch counters instead of the elite.

The one thing that everyone seems to agree on is that a good burger has a good amount of fat to keep the burger moist. LESS is more when preparing a GOOD burger. LESS ingredients and LESS handling – lets the meat speak for itself. 😀

PIMIENTO CHEESE BURGERS
1 – 1 1/2 pounds ground sirloin
FRESH ground sea salt and black pepper
Pimiento cheese (recipe below)
melted butter

  • Preheat grill to high for direct grilling. Lightly spray the grill with non-stick cooking spray.
  • Divide the ground chuck into four equal portions, 4-6 ounces each.
  • Form each portion into a 3/4-inch burger and make a deep depression in the center with your thumb.
  • Brush both sides of the burgers with the butter and sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper.
  • Grill the burgers, turning once until golden brown and slightly charred on both sides and cooked to desired temperature, about 4 minutes each side for medium.
  • During the last minute of cooking, place a dollop of the pimiento cheese mixture on top of each burger and close the grill lid, cooking JUST until the cheese has melted, about 1 minute.
  • Place the burgers on the buns (if desired) and top with the bacon, sliced red onions, sliced tomatoes, your favorite pickles and lettuce as desired.

SPICY PIMIENTO CHEESE
12 ounces softened cream cheese
1 pound SHARP Cheddar cheese, finely grated
3/4 cup Duke’s mayonnaise
1 large Red Bell Pepper, washed, seeded, roasted and chopped fine
1 teaspoon QUALITY Worcestershire sauce
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon Frank’s original Hot sauce
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

  • Mix together the cream cheese, mayonnaise, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, cayenne pepper, hot sauce and salt until smooth.
  • Blend in grated Cheddar cheese.
  • Fold in bell pepper until well distributed.
  • Chill well.
  • Serve with crackers or on a burger.

TERIYAKI & ENCHILADA CHICKEN MARINADE RECIPES

CHICKEN MARINADES adapted from ala Gimme Some Oven

These easy chicken marinade recipes are VERY simple to make, freezer-friendly as well as dependable and delicious too!  AND they are perfect for ANY cooking method whether it’s baking, slow cooking or grilling.

Teriyaki Marinade:
1/3 cup BRAGG’S LIQUID AMINOS
1/3 cup rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons peanut oil (or avocado oil)
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

  • Whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl until combined.

Enchilada Marinade:
3/4 cup chicken or vegetable stock
2 tablespoons enchilada seasoning (see below)
2 tablespoons avocado oil (or avocado oil)

  • Whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl until combined.

Enchilada Seasoning
1/2 cup chili powder or chipotle (not cayenne)
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

  • Whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl until combined.
  • Store in an airtight container for up to 1 year.

Honey Mustard Marinade
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup avocado oil

  • Whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl until combined.

NOTE: Cooking times will vary depending on the cut of chicken that you use.  Be sure and test your chicken temperature to be sure that it reaches a safe 165°.

These are basic recommendations for 8-ounce boneless skinless chicken breasts.

BAKING

  • Heat oven to 425°.
  • Place chicken on a baking sheet or in a baking dish.
  • Bake for 10 minutes, flip the chicken and bake another 8-10 minutes until it is cooked through (165°) and the juices run clear.
  • Remove from the oven, and loosely tent with aluminum foil.
  • Let the chicken rest for at least 5-10 minutes and serve warm.

GRILLING

  • Heat grill to medium-high.
  • Oil chicken breasts.
  • Grill for 10 minutes, flip the chicken and grill another 8-10 minutes, until it is cooked through (165°) and the juices run clear.
  • Transfer the chicken to a plate, and loosely cover with aluminum foil, letting the chicken rest for at least 5-10 minutes and serve warm.

SAUTEING

  • Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a medium sauté pan over medium-high heat.
  • Add chicken breast and cook for 5-6 minutes, flip and cook another 5-6 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through (165°) and the juices run clear.
  • Transfer the chicken to a plate, and loosely cover with aluminum foil.
  • Let the chicken rest for at least 5-10 minutes and serve warm.

SLOW COOKING

  • Add chicken and marinade to the bowl of a slow cooker.
  • Cover and cook for 3 hours on high or 6 hours on low, until the chicken is cooked through (165°).
  • Serve warm.

EXTRACTS vs. EMULSIONS – a TUTORIAL

Recently a friend and I were debating the flavorings I was going to use in an upcoming recipe and it led us to question a couple definitions, specifically for extracts and emulsions used in baking.

The main difference between emulsions and extracts are that the emulsions are water based and not alcohol based. Yet they can be substituted 1:1 in a recipe. So how do you choose which to use and when to use it when so many meet your flavor needs while cooking and baking?  Best answer: you should choose an emulsion when you’re concerned about the flavor baking out of a recipe. Because they are water-based, bakery emulsions don’t evaporate as quickly as extracts, resulting in stronger aromas and tastes.

EXTRACT – an extract is a preparation containing the active ingredient of a substance in a concentrated form such as vanilla extract used in many cakes and cookies.    SYNONYMS: distillation, distillate, concentrate, essence, juice

EMULSION – I found SEVERAL definitions for emulsions:

  • A system (such as fat in milk) consisting of a liquid dispersed with or without an emulsifier in an immiscible liquid – liquids not forming a homogeneous mixture when added together.
  • A fine dispersion of minute droplets of one liquid in another in which it is not soluble or miscible.

But for me the most accurate definition I think is:

  • a mixture that results when one liquid is added to another and is mixed with it but does not dissolve into such as mixing oil and vinegar together which produces an emulsion.

Extracts and Flavors are great for both cooking and baking applications. Most extracts and flavors contain 45% alcohol by volume and require sufficient cooking time to evaporate the alcohol.

Use an extract or flavor in cookies, cakes, brownies, muffins, and other baked goods. You can also use extracts and flavors in homemade chocolates and candies.

Bakery Emulsions are water-based and alcohol-free versions of extracts. Use them the same way you would an extract but they are also especially great for flavoring frostings and other no-bake applications.

Bakery Emulsions have the same strength as extracts, so they can be substituted one to one in recipes. But conversely because they are water-based, bakery emulsions aren’t suitable for flavoring hard candies or chocolates.

I like the brands Cook’s and Lorann’s extracts and emulsions because they are fairly readily available in most specialty grocers.

Making your own vanilla extract is easy too.  Most recipes call for vodka, but I find flavored rums work really well to as do whiskeys.

VANILLA EXTRACT

6 whole Vanilla Beans
1 cup ALCOHOL of your choice

  • Slice the vanilla beans in half lengthwise with scissors or a knife, leaving a bit intact at the end just to make it pretty. Cut the beans down to fit the height of your jar.
  • Place beans in jar.
  • Cover with alcohol.
  • Screw the lid on tight or cork it and give it a good shake.
  • Place in a cool, dark place for at least 2 months. The longer it sits, the stronger the flavor will be. Be sure and give the jar a shake every week or so.

BEEF RAGU & PASTA ala SLOW COOKER and A LITTLE PASTA HISTORY

Strozzapreti AKA priest-choker or priest-strangler are an elongated form of cavatelli, a hand-rolled pasta typical of the Tuscany region of Italy.

The name has many theories as to the name. One of the theories is because of gluttonous priests were so enthralled by the savory pasta that they ate too quickly and choked themselves. Another explanation involves the “azdora” OR A  ”housewife” who “chokes” the dough strips to make the strozzapreti. It is presumed that the housewife would express such a rage possibly triggered by the misery and difficulty of her life that would fill her with enough rage to be able to strangle a priest!” And yet another legend suggests that wives would customarily make pasta for priests as partial payment for land rents (the Catholic church rented to many farmers) and their husbands would be angered enough by the priests eating their wives’ food to wish that the priests would choke as they stuffed their mouths with it. And yet another possible explanation is that the pasta resembles a clerical collar which is commonly referred to as a “Priest Choker”.

The more commonly accepted theory is that following Sunday mass, a priest would visit homes of the villagers and enjoy dinner with them. The more pleasant the experience for the priest the more often they would come back to that particular home. As a means for the family to let the priest know that he might have worn out his welcome, they would serve this pasta which later earned the name “Strozzapreti.”

The dough is first rolled out in thick flat sheets. It is then cut into strips. The strips are lightly rolled or twisted between the palms. The large pasta is separated into 3-4 inch pieces by pinching it. Unlike spaghetti or macaroni, this pasta is not uniform in size or shape.

Different regions makes this pasta slightly different. In Romagna it is made with wheat flour, water, salt and sometimes eggs. Where as in Emilia it is made from flour, water, Parmesan cheese and egg whites which are all beaten together. In Pici it is more similar to the Tuscan style which is hand rolled, solid fat tubes of dough that are cut, but not twisted giving it the appearance of a taut rope. In Corsica it is a large gnocchi made of cheese and vegetables and then baked.

Unless you make your own pasta regularly this is a difficult pasta to find in your average grocery store. I usually substitute the Barilla Campagnelle pasta which is a thinner cone shaped pasta with a ruffled edge and is often known as “little bells”.

BEEF RAGU ala SLOW COOKER
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
5-6 cloves garlic, minced
2 1/2 -3 pound chuck roast
1 tablespoon House Seasoning (see below)
28 ounce crushed tomatoes
1 cup beef broth
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 large carrot, peeled and grated
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 teaspoons Italian seasoning
Prepared pasta
Parmesan cheese, grated

  • Spray a large slow cooker with non-stick cooking spray.
  • Arrange the onions and garlic in the bottom of the slow cooker.
  • Sprinkle the roast with the house seasoning on both sides.
  • Arrange roast on top of the onions and garlic.
  • Sprinkle the carrots on top of the roast.
  • In a medium bowl, blend together the tomatoes, tomato paste, beef broth, red wine vinegar and Italian seasonings.
  • Pour over the roast.
  • Cover and cook on low 8-10 hours until the beef is EXTREMELY tender and falls apart.
  • Skim any fat from the top.
  • Use 2 forks to shred the beef.
  • Stir beef into the tomato sauce.
  • Adjust seasonings.
  • Re-cover and cook for another hour to allow the flavored to meld together.
  • Serve over prepared pasta and top with Parmesan cheese.

HOUSE SEASONING MIX

1/4 cup fine sea salt
1/4 cup garlic powder
2 tablespoons onion powder
1 tablespoon FRESH ground black pepper

  • Combine in a small bowl until well blended.
  • Store in an air tight container.

 

LEBKUCHEN aka GINGER COOKIES

Do you have a recipe that calls for candied citron? Don’t know what it is? Well, it’s not candied lemon or grapefruit peel. Citron is an actual semitropical fruit that’s similar to a lemon but with a thicker skin. To make candied citron, the citron is blanched in water, boiled in sugar syrup, and dried. It lends a mild floral note to fruitcakes and other such confections. While I love candied citron know that you have other options. Each shines in a different way, but they can pretty much be used interchangeably in most recipes, so if you happen to have one kind on hand, try that in your recipe.

Photography by: Chelsea Cavanaugh

ORANGE SLICES (Top Left) – They’re great as a decorative flourish on top of cupcakes.
CITRON PEEL (Top Right) – Though the pulp is sour, the candied peel is perfect for baking into stollen or stirring into granola.
LEMON RIND (Middle Left) – Finely chop it and mix into muffins and pancakes for a bright flavor.
ORANGE PEEL (Middle Right) – Dip pieces in dark chocolate and serve as an after-dinner treat.
CITRON SLICES (Bottom Left) – Serve thin slices as part of a holiday cheese plate.
CLEMENTINE SLICES (Bottom Right) – You can also garnish cocktails with these.

Candied citrus is available at specialty stores (especially around the holidays) and online at stores like junetaylorjams.com, but you can also easily make your own at home. Either way, store it in an airtight container in a cool, dry place for up to a month.

LEBKUCHEN
Traditional Lebkuchen German Christmas cookies are a form of gingerbread descended from medieval times and taste spicy and nutty in flavor. They were typically a combination of spices, honey, and dried bread crumbs. They are often cut into “sugar” cookie shapes and ornately decorated. I made a super “simple” version this year for hubby since I am unable to make neighbor plates and do my normal holiday baking.

  • Prep time: 15 minutes.
  • Cook time: 10-12 minutes.
  • Makes 12 servings.

COOKIES
½ cup honey
½ cup molasses
¾ cup brown sugar
1 LARGE egg
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2¾ cup flour, plus flour for dusting
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon each ground cinnamon, cloves, allspice & nutmeg
⅓ cup candied citron, diced (I prefer candied ginger)
⅓ cup hazelnuts, finely chopped

ICING
1 cup sugar
¼ cup milk
½ teaspoon PURE vanilla extract
½ cup confectioners’ sugar

GARNISH
Sliced almonds
Candied citron or ginger
Melted chocolate

  • In a medium saucepan, bring honey and molasses to a boil.
  • Remove from heat; stir in brown sugar, egg, lemon juice and zest.
  • In a large bowl, combine flour, baking soda and all spices, and stir in molasses mix, citron and hazelnuts. Cover; chill overnight.

 

  • Preheat oven to 350°.
  • Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
  • On a floured, hard surface roll out a small amount of chilled dough to ¼-inch thick. If dough is sticky, use more flour.
  • Cut dough in 2-inch rounds or shapes; transfer to prepared baking sheets.
  • Bake 10-12 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, make icing by heating sugar and liquids in a small saucepan (do not boil).
  • Remove from heat; stir in confectioners’ sugar. If icing crystallizes, reheat and add a touch of water or milk.
  • Transfer cookies to rack and while still hot, brush with icing and decorate with almonds, citron, ginger or sprinkles; or, let cool completely and drizzle with melted chocolate.
  • Store in sealed container.

MIREPOIX for THANKSGIVING PREPARATION

It’s Thanksgiving week! The food prep can be overwhelming at time, but over the years I’ve found ways to make Thursday more enjoyable without breaking my back.  I did ALL the shopping this morning and one of the first things I did was ALL the tedious chopping for my stuffing vegetables and gravy vegetables. I did a little research and found out I have been using a combination of several methods for years. Mirepoix from the French is plainly diced vegetables cooked with butter (generally) on a gentle heat without browning until soft and flavorful. You are not trying to caramelize, but blend and sweeten the flavors to use as a base for other foods.

A traditional mirepoix is 2 parts onion, 1 part celery and 1 part carrots. This traditional base is then built and layered upon to enhance flavors for building stocks, soups, stews and sauces.

To make mirepoix: Rinse, trim, and peel vegetables — typically two parts onion to one part carrot and one part celery — then chop them into uniform pieces. The shorter the cooking time of your recipe, the smaller the pieces should be, so that they effectively infuse the foods with flavor.

There are of course different names and combinations of vegetables based on the culture. Similar flavor bases include:

  • the Italian soffritto, The Italian version of mirepoix is called soffritto is a base of finely chopped parsley and onion sauted in lard, but most modern cooks substitute olive oil or butter. Garlic, celery, or carrot may also be included. According to the Italian restaurateur Benedetta Vitali, soffritto means “underfried” and describes it as “a preparation of lightly browned minced vegetables, not a dish by itself.”
  • the Spanish sofito, There are many different versions of sofrito, but the basics are green and red peppers, onions, garlic, and cilantro.
  • the Portuguese refogado. Refogado is a Portuguese-style sofrito featuring onion, garlic, saffron, tomato and smoked paprika.
  • the German Suppengrün (leeks, carrots, and celeriac), means soup greens in German, and the Dutch equivalent is soepgroente. Soup greens usually come in a bundle and consists of a leek, a carrot, and a piece of celeriac. It may also contain parsley, thyme, celery leaves, rutabaga, parsley root, and onions. The mix depends on regional traditions, as well as individual recipes. The vegetables used are cold-climate roots and bulbs with long shelf lives. Suppengrün act as herbs and impart hearty, strong flavors to the soup or sauce, providing a foil for other strong tasting ingredients such as dried peas and beans or pot roast. Large chunks of vegetables are slow cooked to make flavorful soups and stocks, and are discarded when the vegetables have given up most of their flavor. Finely chopped Suppengrün are browned in fat and used as a basis for a finished sauce. The vegetables may also be cooked long enough until they fall apart, and may become part of the sauce or pureed to form the sauce.
  • the Polish włoszczyzna (leeks, carrots, celery root, and parsley root), A typical set of soup greens, known as włoszczyzna, the Polish word for soup vegetables or greens and literally translates to “Italian stuff”, used in Polish cuisine: carrots, parsley root and leaves, leek, and celeriac. Bay leaves and allspice grains are also shown. Queen Bona Sforza, who was Italian and married Polish King Sigismund I the Old in 1518, introduced this concept to Poland. A włoszczyzna may consist of carrots, parsnips or parsley root, celery root or celeriac, leeks, and savoy or white cabbage leaves, and sometimes celery leaves and flat-leaf parsley.
  • and here in the U.S. we use the standard mirepoix, the classic and most common French combination of onions, carrots, and celery, typically in a ratio of 2 parts onion to 1 parts each carrot and celery as well as the Cajun and Creole holy trinity that replaces the carrots in the standard mirepoix with bell peppers and sometimes the French duxelles (mushrooms and often onion or shallot and herbs, reduced to a paste).

Though the cooking technique is probably older, the term “mirepoix” dates from the 18th century and is credited to the chef, Charles Pierre Gaston Francois de Levis, duc de Levis Mirepoix who was the field marshall and ambassador and member of the noble family of Levis, lords of Mirepoix.

 

THE FIRST THANKSGIVING MENU vs. A TRADITIONAL MODERN MENU

As I was selecting a Thanksgiving Menu this year I was struck by the thought that much of the menu may not have even been at the first Thanksgiving which prompted me to do some research.

According to HISTORY.COM much of what we eat today for Thanksgiving is vastly different from the First Thanksgiving.

As I was selecting a Thanksgiving Menu this year I was struck be the thought that much of the menu may not have even been at the first Thanksgiving which prompted me to do some research.

Today for many Americans, their traditional Thanksgiving meal includes many “seasonal” dishes such as roast turkey with stuffing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole and pumpkin pie.

As an annual celebration of the harvest and its bounty, moreover, Thanksgiving falls under a category of festivals that truly spans cultures, continents and millennia. Thanksgiving itself dates back to November 1621. For more than two centuries, days of thanksgiving were celebrated by individual colonies and states. But, it wasn’t until 1863, during the midst of the Civil War, that President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national Thanksgiving Day to be held each November.

Although the American concept of Thanksgiving developed in the colonies of New England, its roots can be traced back to the other side of the Atlantic. Both the Separatists who came over on the Mayflower and the Puritans who arrived soon after brought with them a tradition of providential holidays—days of fasting during difficult or pivotal moments and days of feasting and celebration to thank God in times of plenty. Historians have noted that Native Americans had a rich tradition of commemorating the fall harvest with feasting and merrymaking long before Europeans set foot on their shores. In ancient times, the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans feasted and paid tribute to their gods after the fall harvest. Thanksgiving also bears a resemblance to the ancient Jewish harvest festival of Sukkot.

The first autumn harvest for the newly arrived Pilgrims corresponded with the Wampanoag Indians autumn harvest celebration at Plymouth. This event is widely regarded as America’s First Thanksgiving. Much of the local fare would have been from the Indians harvest.

In November 1621, now remembered as America’s “first Thanksgiving”, although the Pilgrims themselves may not have used the term at the time. The festival lasted for three days.

No exact records exist of the actual menu, but Edward Winslow journaled that after the Pilgrims’ first corn harvest proved successful the colony’s governor, William Bradford sent 4 men hunting for wild turkey, which was plentiful in the region and common food fare for both the Pilgrims and Wampanoag Indians. It is also possible that the hunters also returned with ducks and geese. He was organizing a celebratory feast a celebratory feast and invited a group of the fledgling colony’s Native American allies, including the Wampanoag chief Massasoit.

Historians have suggested that many of the dishes were likely prepared using traditional Native American spices and cooking methods. As for the dressing or stuffing, herbs, onions and nuts may have been added to the birds for flavor.
The first Thanksgiving’s attendees almost certainly got their fill of meat. Winslow wrote that the Wampanoag guests arrived with an offering of five deer. Culinary historians speculate that the deer was roasted on a spit over a smoldering fire and that the colonists might have used some of the venison to whip up a hearty stew.

Local vegetables that likely appeared on the table include onions, beans, lettuce, spinach, cabbage, carrots and perhaps peas. Corn, which records show was plentiful at the first harvest, might also have been served, but not in the way most people enjoy it now. In those days, the corn would have been removed from the cob and turned into cornmeal, which was then boiled and pounded into a thick corn mush or porridge that was occasionally sweetened with molasses.

Fruits indigenous to the region included blueberries, plums, grapes, gooseberries, raspberries and, of course cranberries, which Native Americans ate and used as a natural dye. While the Pilgrims might have been familiar with cranberries by the first Thanksgiving, they wouldn’t have made sauces and relishes with the tart orbs. The Pilgrims would surely have depleted their sugar supplies by this time. Records show that adding sugar to cranberries and using the mixture as a relish didn’t actually happen until about 50 years later.

Because of their location and proximity to the coast, many culinary historians believe that much of the Thanksgiving menu consisted of many seafood entrees that are no longer on today’s menus. Mussels in particular were abundant in New England and could be easily harvested because they clung to rocks along the shoreline. The colonists occasionally served mussels with curds, a dairy product with a similar consistency to cottage cheese. Lobster, bass, clams and oysters might also have been part of the feast.

Whether they were mashed, roasted, white or sweet, potatoes were not at the first Thanksgiving as they had yet to arrive to the north American region. Present on the menu would have been turnips and possibly groundnuts.

As for pumpkin pie, pumpkins and squashes were indigenous to the New England area, but the settlers hadn’t yet constructed an oven and lacked both the butter and flour to have made a pie crust. Some accounts do imply that early settlers improvised by hollowing out pumpkins, filling the shells with milk, honey and spices to make a custard, then roasting the gourds whole in hot ashes. The lack of sugar and an oven would have also eliminate pies, cakes or other desserts from the menu.

Throughout that first brutal winter, most of the colonists remained on board the ship, where they suffered from exposure, scurvy and outbreaks of contagious disease. Only half of the Mayflower’s original passengers and crew lived to see their first New England spring. In March, the remaining settlers moved ashore, where they received an astonishing visit from an Abenaki Indian who greeted them in English. Several days later, he returned with another Native American, Squanto, a member of the Pawtuxet tribe who had been kidnapped by an English sea captain and sold into slavery before escaping to London and returning to his homeland on an exploratory expedition. Squanto taught the Pilgrims, weakened by malnutrition and illness, how to cultivate corn, extract sap from maple trees, catch fish in the rivers and avoid poisonous plants. He also helped the settlers forge an alliance with the Wampanoag, a local tribe, which would endure for more than 50 years and tragically remains one of the sole examples of harmony between European colonists and Native Americans.

Pilgrims didn’t hold their second Thanksgiving celebration until 1623 to mark the end of a long drought that had threatened the year’s harvest and prompted Governor Bradford to call for a religious fast. Days of fasting and thanksgiving on an annual or occasional basis became common practice in other New England settlements as well.

During the American Revolution, the Continental Congress designated one or more days of thanksgiving a year, and in 1789 George Washington issued the first Thanksgiving proclamation by the national government of the United States; in it, he called upon Americans to express their gratitude for the happy conclusion to the country’s war of independence and the successful ratification of the U.S. Constitution. His successors John Adams and James Madison also designated days of thanks during their presidencies.

TRIVIA THOUGHTS
Turkey, because it contains tryptophan often gets blamed for the drowsiness and the need for a nap after the big Thanksgiving meal, but studies suggest it is really the carbohydrate-rich sides and desserts that allow tryptophan to enter the brain.

In September 1620, a small ship called the Mayflower left Plymouth, England, carrying 102 passengers—an assortment of religious separatists seeking a new home where they could freely practice their faith and other individuals lured by the promise of prosperity and land ownership in the New World. After a treacherous and uncomfortable crossing that lasted 66 days, they dropped anchor near the tip of Cape Cod, far north of their intended destination at the mouth of the Hudson River. One month later, the Mayflower crossed Massachusett Bay, where the Pilgrims, as they are now commonly known, began the work of establishing a village at Plymouth.

Beginning in the mid-20th century and perhaps even earlier, the president of the United States has “pardoned” one or two Thanksgiving turkeys each year, sparing the birds from slaughter and sending them to a farm for retirement. A number of U.S. governors also perform the annual turkey pardoning ritual.

New York, In 1817, became the first of several states to officially adopt an annual Thanksgiving holiday; each celebrated it on a different day, however, and the American South remained largely unfamiliar with the tradition.  In 1827, the noted magazine editor and prolific writer Sarah Josepha Hale—author, among countless other things, of the nursery rhyme “Mary Had a Little Lamb”—launched a campaign to establish Thanksgiving as a national holiday. For 36 years, she published numerous editorials and sent scores of letters to governors, senators, presidents and other politicians. Abraham Lincoln, finally heeded her request in 1863, at the height of the Civil War, in a proclamation entreating all Americans to ask God to “commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife” and to “heal the wounds of the nation.”

It was Abraham Lincoln who scheduled Thanksgiving for the final Thursday in November, and it was celebrated on that day every year until 1939, when FDR moved the holiday up a week in an attempt to spur retail sales during the Great Depression. Roosevelt’s plan, known derisively as Franksgiving, was met with passionate opposition, and in 1941 the president reluctantly signed a bill making Thanksgiving the fourth Thursday in November.

In many American households, the Thanksgiving celebration has lost much of its original religious significance; instead, it now centers on cooking and sharing a bountiful meal with family and friends.
Volunteering is a common Thanksgiving Day activity, and communities often hold food drives and host free dinners for the less fortunate.

Parades have also become an integral part of the holiday in cities and towns across the United States. Presented by Macy’s department store since 1924, New York City’s Thanksgiving Day parade is the largest and most famous, attracting some 2 to 3 million spectators along its 2.5-mile route and drawing an enormous television audience. It typically features marching bands, performers, elaborate floats conveying various celebrities and giant balloons shaped like cartoon characters.

For some scholars, the jury is still out on whether the feast at Plymouth really constituted the first Thanksgiving in the United States and many Native Americans take issue with how the Thanksgiving story is presented to the American public, and especially to schoolchildren. In their view, the traditional narrative paints a deceptively sunny portrait of relations between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag people, masking the long and bloody history of conflict between Native Americans and European settlers that resulted in the deaths of millions. Since 1970, protesters have gathered on the day designated as Thanksgiving at the top of Cole’s Hill, which overlooks Plymouth Rock, to commemorate a “National Day of Mourning.” Similar events are held in other parts of the country. Historians have recorded other ceremonies of thanks among other European settlers in North America that actually predate the Pilgrims’ celebration.

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KITCHEN SINK FRITTATA

Frittatas are one of the best vehicles for leftovers in my opinion.  So many people make frittatas out to be their arch nemesis, but for me frittatas are the best way to clean out the refrigerator before grocery day. They really are fairly simple, it’s just about the right proportions, seasoning and NOT over baking.

There are 3 main things to remember when making a frittata and then a few more things to remember.

  • The first is you need plenty of flavor, so if your leftovers are bland be sure to add extra seasoning that compliments your ingredients.
  • The second is to make sure your ingredients don’t fight each other. For example, you don’t want to combine liver and onions with hot wing chicken.
  • The third is to make sure your egg mixture is sufficient enough to cover your proteins and that your cheese choice compliments your proteins. I ABSOLUTELY recommend using a cast iron pan for ALL frittatas for an even bake.
  • The most important thing to remember for a fluffy frittata is to use FULL fat dairy and cheese whether it’s milk or sour cream. The full fat makes for a richer custardy texture. I personally like a rich buttermilk. Adding anything less than full fat is like just adding water.
  • If you’re not using leftovers, be sure to use FULLY cooked proteins and/or any vegetables (things like ham, tomatoes and mushrooms) that could release excess moisture while baking. tomatoes and mushrooms.
  • Bake just until set, DO NOT OVER BAKE!

KITCHEN SINK FRITTATA serves 4-6

2 cups chopped proteins
1/2 cup chopped vegetables
6 LARGE eggs
1/4 cup of WHOLE milk
appropriate seasonings, to taste
3/4 cup grated cheese
2 tablespoons butter

  • Preheat oven to 350° .
  • Melt butter in cast iron pan.
  • Whisk together the eggs, milk and seasonings.
  • Mix together the proteins and vegetables.
  • Stir in the majority of the cheese, reserving some for topping just before serving.
  • Pour egg mixture over top making sure to cover everything.
  • Bake for 20-30 minutes until JUST set.
  • Top with remaining cheese and serve immediately.