Sunday, January 27, 2008

Session 4: Brunch Mania! Potato Rissoles, Pizza for Breakfast, Apple Turnovers and Orange-Mango Carrots

Today's Cookbook Party features new CPC member Jeff, who finally managed to make it to one of these things. Jeff suggested that we get together for a tasty Sunday brunch; we saw it as another chance to try out new recipes and have some fun cooking together.

Since brunch doesn't have the same courses as regular dinner, we decided to pull for "Fruity", "Eggy", "Bready" and "Choice", since Julia saw those as the relevant categories. Four cooks, a sous chef and a two-year-old in the kitchen got kind of crazy at times, but this was one of the best Cookbook Parties yet!

Attending: Julia (baby wrangling/sous chef), Brooke (fruity something), Rick (eggy something), Jeff (bready something) and Thad (something else)

~Choice: Thad~
Potato Rissoles
(Again with the Great Victorian Cookbook. We here at the CPC love that thing!)

1 lb. floury potatoes, peeled
2 T butter or 1 T olive oil
2 T milk
salt and pepper
1 oz. Parma ham, chopped
fresh parsely, chopped
2 scallions or 1 shallot, peeled and chopped
flour for coating
olive oil for frying

Boil the potatoes until tender. Mash them with butter or olive oil and milk. Allow to cool slightly, then add salt and pepper and mix the rest of the ingredients in. Shape into balls (a little bigger than golf balls) and roll them in flour. Fry them in the oil in small batches, turning them until they're cooked golden on all sides. Drain on a paper towel and eat.

Cook's Comments:
Jeff and Rick made the grocery run, but somehow overlooked my parsley and mistook "parma ham" for "parmesan" and thusly handed me a chunk of aged cheese instead of the cured ham product I had been expecting. This lead to my having to make an extra trip out before my dish could be completed. Overall the rissoles came out quite nice and I was proud that I had chosen to serve them with the leftover ham as that really helped them as a dish. I found out my fry-fu was a little weak and none of them got the golden-brown coating that I had been wanting. Rick says that I'd have been better off using canola oil and I agree that they may have fried better, but I do think that taste-wise the use of olive oil was important. Also, the suggested amount of "a handful" of parsley seemed a bit too much. Maybe the cookbook writer had smaller hands than I do.

I'd like to further add that Rick once more demonstrated his intent to poison us all. When I asked for the use of a potato masher I was handed what I believe to have been an implement last used during the Spanish Inquisition and it clearly hadn't been cleaned since then either. Since I don't recall when I last had a tetanus shot I declined its use.

Party Club's Comments:
Brooke: These were so delicious! I agree that making them smaller and crunchier would probably only benefit them. They had great flavor combinations. The taste really stood out when you took a bite with a side bite of ham... the balls without extra ham were taste-fully 'meh'. Not bad, but not great. Only serve this with the extra ham on the side!
Jeff: I really enjoyed these. The combination of the potato, scallions, parsley, and prosciutto was excellent. I would go for chopping up the parsley much finer and making the balls about half the size. This would give it a smoother taste, making the parsley more of an accent. Making it smaller would probably make them cook better and help take care of the problem that the olive oil presented in not quite frying them right. Otherwise, I thought they were great and they got my vote for best dish.
Julia: Once again, the Victorians come through for us. I wasn't sure I'd like these (I'm not too hot on either scallions or parsley) but they were fantastic. Best eaten with a little salt and a bite of the ham. I really enjoyed the flavor depth of these- I thought the potatoes provided an excellent matrix for the combination of ham and scallions, with a nice crunch from the fried exterior. My one complaint: they could use a little less parsley, or to have it finer chopped. Some of the balls were very heavy on parsley, others were fine.
Rick: Tasty, but only with the Prosciutto did they really stand out. otherwise kind of middle of the road. parsley needed to be chopped much finer, and the balls were just a bit too large to be honest. The crunch was the texturally interesting part, so smaller balls = more crunch. The flavors were quite good otherwise. I personally think they should have been fried on canola or soybean oil so they could be fried hotter. The olive oil has a nice flavor, but such a low smoke point they weren't frying up proper and when we turned up the heat the house filled with smoke.

~Eggy: Rick~
Pizza For Breakfast
(from the All New! One-Dish Collection, author unnamed)

1 6-1/2 oz. package pizza crust mix
1 lb. breakfast sausage
1 cup dice fresh or drained canned tomatoes
8 oz. fresh mushrooms, sliced
1-1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1-1/2 cups shredded sharp Cheddar
4 eggs
salt and pepper
salsa (optional)

Preheat to 350. Spread pizza dough into a greased 13x9 baking dish, making sure dough covers bottom and 2 inches up the sides of the dish. Crumble and cook sausage in medium skillet until browned; drain. Top crust with sausage, tomatoes, mushrooms, and 1 cup each of the mozzarella and cheddar. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until crust is golden brown at edges. Remove from oven. Whisk eggs, salt and pepper in a small bowl; pour over pizza. Return to oven; bake 7 to 9 minutes or until eggs are set. Immediately sprinkle with remaining cheeses. Serve hot, with salsa if desired.

Cook's Comments: A breakfast pizza, so pretty standard. As I disdain fungus, the mushrooms were dropped in lieu of scallions, which added a nice flavor though I should have chopped them finer. Also, I used fresh rather than canned tomatoes (2 plum tomatoes in my case) but general consensus was that a third tomato was desired. One point of note: I have no idea why this has you bake it twice except to maybe not overcook the eggs? In any case, when I followed the times etc for the recipe, the eggs did not get done when the crust did. so I had to put it back in, which slightly overcooked the crust. So check your packaged dough directions and allow 10 or so min for the eggs to get done. No salsa was served because that seemed a tragedy waiting to happen.

Party Club's Comments:
Brooke: Tasty and standard. The warm juicy tomatoes were the part my mouth loved best. I saw no problems with this dish, but it didn't jump out at me as spectacular, either. I would happily eat it (alone) for breakfast any time.
Jeff: A good main course sort of dish. I loved the flavor that the fresh plum tomatoes brought and agree that adding one more was called for. My biggest problem was the scallions. They did need to be cut smaller and one scallion would have been plenty. If I were to make this myself I would have used the mushrooms that the recipe called for, but then I am a mushroom freak.
Julia: This was also very good. I really liked the combination of eggs, cheese, sausage, and tomatoes- really, what's not to love about that? I think this is a lovely, not-too-difficult breakfast casserole, and I might make it myself sometime. My only criticism was that I thought Rick made it a bit heavy on the scallions. I wished there to be fewer of them, and for them to be chopped finer.
Thad: I was wary about eating this (see above evidence regarding Rick trying to poison us), but hey Cookbook Party Club only comes around once a month or so right? As for the dish, it was basically good, but not especially exciting. I liked the tomatoes and thought that they really worked with the dish, but that it could have used substantially more of them. The scallions were also a bit overpowering.

~Bready: Jeff~
Apple Turnovers
( From Dessert University, by Roland Mesnier)

Turnover dough:
2 large eggs, hard-boiled and cooled
2 cups all-purpose flour
3-1/2 T. sugar
1 t. baking soda
1/2 T. cream of tartar
pinch salt
8 T. unsalted butter, chilled and cut into chunks
3/4 cup plus 2 T heavy cream

Separate the boiled egg yolks (you won't be using the whites). Push them through a mesh strainer and set aside. Combine the rest of the dry ingredients in another bowl. Add the butter, and mix until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the egg yolks and heavy cream, and mix until the dough just comes together. Cover the bowl with a towel until ready to use.

Prebaked apple chunks:
8 apples, peeled, cored and cut into 3/4 inch cubes
6 T. unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
6 T. sugar

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Arange the apple cubes on an ungreased baking dish so they form a well-packed 2-inch layer. Dot them with the butter and sprinkle with the sugar. Bake them, stirring every 3-5 minutes until they just start to give when pressed with the back of a spoon, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove the dish from the oven and push the apples together in a mound. Let them cool to room temp (they will cook further in the residual heat).

Cook's Comments: The Apple filling for these was really easy to make and made so much, that you could easily make 2-3 times the amount of dough and still have a little left over for another project. The book notes that Filling can be kept in the fridge for 2-3 days or the freezer for up to 2 months. As for the dough, I had never though of adding the yolk of a hard boiled egg to such a recipe, but it really helped bring a great creaminess to the flavor. I would suggest adding an extra tablespoon or two of butter to help counter the dryness of the dough, though as long as there is enough filling in there the dryness is not noticeable. I think the biggest change I would make is doubling the size of the piece of dough (6x6 inch rather than 3x3). The recipe size was a bit to small to fit a good amount of filling inside. Also, make sure you drain the apples of all the juice. The instant some of the juice touches the dough, it just starts to fall apart. I would save the juice to be used in a sauce or glaze. Overall, I really like the taste and they were fun to make.

Party Club's Comments:
Brooke: The crust on this dish was actually delectable. I don't think anyone did not grab seconds on the turnovers (except maybe Rick). More filling would have been nice, but I was satisfied with the turnovers as-is. True, they were dry, but not overly so, to my mind.
Julia: This was incredible. The crust wasn't what you think of as turnover pastry typically; it was slightly cakier. Jeff tells me that the cookbook said it could be used in place of puff pastry, and it shows. In any case, it was lightly sweet, and melt-in-your-mouth flaky. The apples were sweet, but not overpoweringly so. It was like eating a little cake with apples cooked in, and it was delicious. My only recommendation would be to try to incorporate a little more apple. Really, though, it was sublime the way it was. I absolutely voted this as my favorite.
Rick: Good, but I simply could not get past the dryness of the pastry. Julia says flaky, but for me it was just dry. The filling was magnificent however; sublime and pure apple flavor, the sugar balanced perfectly to bring out the apple flavor without actually being tasted itself and the apples themselves cooked just right to still have some tooth and texture. I wish there had been more of it in the turnovers to be honest.
Thad: It was a very tasty crust, but with so little filling I really felt like I was just eating crust.

~Fruity: Brooke~
Orange Mango Glazed Carrots
(This is actually one of those tear-out recipes from the grocery store. It was attached to a Juicy Juice coupon, which we did not use.)

1 cup Orange Mango juice
1 1/2 tsp. cornstarch
1 lb. baby carrots
1 Tbs. honey
1 Tbs. butter
1/4 tsp. salt

Combine juice and cornstarch in small bowl; mix until smooth. Cook carrots in boiling water for 10 minutes or until crisp-tender; drain. Return to pan; add honey, butter and salt. Add Juicy Juice mixture; cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes or until glaze is thickened. Makes 4 servings. (Prep Time: 5 minutes, Cooking Time: 15 minutes)

Cook's Comments:
Orange-Mango juice, specifically, was not found during the grocery run, so I just mixed even amounts of orange juice and mango juice together; I think this worked beautifully. The cook time on the carrots was just right; I think they turned out with the perfect consistency, and it was actually the thing I was most afraid of with this recipe in the beginning (limp or tough carrots). This was really easy to make, and didn't take too much time (just waiting for the water to boil was most of it). I doubled all of the amounts because I was going to make a double batch - it says it serves 4- but I didn't specify enough carrots to the shoppers, so ended up with half the carrots for the amount of glaze I was cooking up. This did not end up being a problem, although my glaze never became overly thick and this may be why. It is not a heavy glaze, very light, when you serve them it should look they need more glaze - but this is not the case. Putting too much of the juice on after they're done cooking would overwhelm you with orange-mango flavor, I think. Whereas what is already part of the carrots just works wonderfully. These were really delicious, and they went with everything! It was an extremely complementary dish. I am cooking these again this week, I liked them so well.

Party Club's Comments:
Jeff: Simple, sweet, and delicious. These carrots make for a great side dish. I have always had a soft spot for glazed carrots. The mango and orange juice was fantastic. The flavor is clear but not demanding. The one suggestion I have is using a slotted spoon to serve them so that you don't get too much of the glaze running around the plate.
Julia: This was a simple, but very effective dish. The citrus/mango glaze really set off the sweetness of the carrots beautifully. I also felt that, flavor-wise, they meshed really nicely with the rissoles particularly.
Rick: At first I was so-so on this but as it went along I had to pick it as my vote for winner. It did not stand out in any way above anything else except in one respect: the fact that it DIDN'T stand out but complemented everything. Its light citrus flavor brought out the carrots and made it a nice counter point to everything. At the same time savory and tart against the sweet turnovers then sweet and light with the pizza and rissoles it performed flawlessly throughout the meal.
Thad: Sweet and tasty there's really nothing bad I had to say about these and it was tempting to just keep munching on them.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Session 3: Christmas Edition! Chicken Long Rice, Calico Beans, Oatmeal Fruit Bars

Julia got a number of cookbooks for Christmas, and what better to do with them than have a Cookbook Party, followed by a watching of the Doctor Who Christmas special?

Attending: Brooke (baby wrangling), Thad (entree), Julia (side dish), Rick (dessert)

~Entree: Thad~
Chicken Long Rice
(The Gourmet Cookbook by Ruth Reichl) Thanks, Uncle Max!

2-1/2 pounds whole chicken thighs
1-1/2 T. minced peeled fresh ginger
2 t. salt
2-1/2 quarts water
1 large onion, finely chopped
1-1/2 extra large (Knorr) or 2 regular chicken bouillon cubes
4 small dried shiitake mushrooms, stems discarded
1/2 pound bean thread noodles, cut into 3 inch lengths with kitchen scissors
1/2 cup chopped scallions
1 t. freshly ground pepper

Combine chicken, ginger and salt in a 5-quart pot, add 2 quarts water, and bring to a simmer. Partially cover and simmer, skimming froth occasionally, until chicken is very tender, about 40 minutes. Transfer chicken to a bowl; set broth aside.

When chicken is cool, discard skin and bones and shred meat.

Pour brother through a fine mesh sieve into a bowl; discard ginger. Return broth to cleaned pot, add remaining 2 cups of water, onion, bouillon cubes, and mushrooms, cover, and bring to a boil. Add noodles, reduce heat to moderate, cover and cook, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes. Turn off heat and let noodles stand, covered, for 30 minutes.

Stir chicken into noodles and heat over moderate heat just until hot. Stir in scallions, salt to taste, and pepper.

Cook's comments:
It came out looking rather gloopy and I think it could have used a little more flavor, but I think I had both seconds and thirds so I guess it was all right. If I were to make it again I'd mince the onion a bit finer and add a little more chicken and mushroom. The noodle to chicken ratio was pretty high and you couldn't hardly tell that there were any mushrooms. Ultimately my vote for the winning dish.
Party Club's comments:
Brooke: My vote for the win. Tasty, soft, and the flavors are mild enough that you can just devour it. Might have been nice with a bit more flavor variety, like fish cakes or somesuch.
Julia: Okay, I've got to be honest, here. This was tasty, but I just couldn't get past those strange, gelatinous, clear bean noodles. They were positively... Cthuloid. Also, I think it could have used more meat, and overall just a bit more flavor.
Rick: A cthuloid treat for the whole family. Frankly, too subtle on the flavors, overall rather disappointing and strange. Somehow made the chicken even more bland and almost fishy, possibly due to the green onions. Looked like something that belonged on a bas relief tablet.

~Side: Julia~
Calico Beans

(Cooking for a Cause: a collection of recipes by the Pediatric Brain Tumor Program at UF & Shands Children's Hospital) From Eliza, and for a good cause.

1 can baked beans
1 can northern beans- drained
1 can butter beans- drained
1 can kidney beans- drained
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup ketchup
1/2 pound bacon- browned and drained
1 pound hamburger- browned and drained
1 medium onion- diced
1 t. vinegar

Mix all ingredients into baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees F for 40 minutes

Cook's comments:
First of all, I made this with ham and no bacon. I had ham (Rick made a ham over the holidays, and had bunches of it in the freezer), and I didn't have bacon. They both come from pigs, so I figured, all good, you know? There was also a whole thing where I didn't have enough brown sugar and ended up using raw sugar and some molasses instead. The dish turned out okay. Although, I think in future, I might make it with tomato sauce, rather than ketchup. A little more vinegar, carmelize the onions- I think those are all things that would improve the overall flavor. Still, it was good, meaty, barbecue beans. How meaty? This is a picture of the meat as I was cooking it, prior to adding the beans. The others kept asking me if I was sure I was making a side dish, since there was more meat than in Thad's main course.

Party Club's comments:
Brooke: Too ketchup-y for my taste, though it was otherwise quite tasty. All that meat was delicious.
Rick: Tasty, though a bit sweet and ketchupy. Some of that is likely due to the use of Ham instead of bacon, resulting in the savory being almost completely drowned out, and it being more like a sweet and sour dish than what I think of from beans.. I enjoyed it quite a bit otherwise, as it had a nice vinegar tartness.
Thad: Very tasty, although I do agree with Brooke that it was too ketchupy. Julia and Rick actually had to run out to the store and get the ketchup for this recipe as the bottle they had in their fridge had expired in '06. Rick was insisting that it was fine and they asked my opinion. It was so brown that I thought they were asking me to taste some home-made BBQ sauce. Clearly Rick is out to kill us all.
The meat/bean/onion/brownsugar/vinegaryness of this dish all worked very well together and it was a toss up for me between this and my chicken dish.

~Dessert: Rick~
Oatmeal Fruit Bars
(Also from Cooking for a Cause)

1 egg
1/2 c. butter, softened
2/3 c. honey
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. baking soda, coriander and cloves (coriander and cloves are optional)
1 t. cinnamon
1-1/4 c. wheat flour
1-1/2 c. rolled oats
1/2 c. raisins
1/2 c. chopped walnuts
1-1/2 c. chopped fruit

Cream egg, butter and honey. Add salt, baking soda, coriander, cloves and cinnamon. Stir and add everything else. Beat well. Pour on buttered cookie sheet. Bake at 350ยบ for 20 minutes. Can be frozen. Be sure to spread dough evenly on cookie sheet.

Cook's Comments:

Pretty easy to make, though we had a bit of the hangup when I couldn't find honey. We ventured on though using a mixture of a tiny bit of honey I could find, some molasses, water and raw sugar which overall was quite nice. The recipe done this way was a smidge dry, though I think a 1/4 cup of applesauce might solve that. I used walnuts, golden raisins and craisins(in place of the recipie's unspecified chopped fruit), skipped the coriander (since I had none) in this and it turned out quite tasty and lovely, my personal vote for winner. Makes a handy and grabbable breakfast. One note: does not like to come out of the pan easily, so be careful or you might scratch your non-stick trying to cut it in the pan. Easily adaptable to vegan I would think, using shortening or applesauce instead of butter

Party Club's Comments:
Brooke: Good, I suppose. Overly dry, needs you to have a glass of milk with it (and even then I think it would still be too dry to my taste). Could use moistening up somehow, but not bad tasting.
Julia: I really liked the interaction of the oats and the fruits. The flavor and texture combinations were nice. This was ultimately my pick for the win.
Thad: Like Brooke said, very dry. The fruit and oats worked together, but I didn't find them especially exciting and wasn't enough to compensate for the dryness. This was the only dish I didn't get seconds of. Although, to be fair I had already eaten a fair amount by the time this was served. Probably just as well, like I said above, I think Rick is trying to poison us.

The Votes:
None of the recipes was standout this time, and none of them was a disaster. There were two votes for the Chicken Long Rice to win, and two votes for the Oatmeal Fruit Bars. Knowing that we needed a tiebreaker, we invited our friend Jeff over. He picked the Calico Beans.

After we poked him and told him that he had to actually break the tie and not cause more trouble, he picked the Oatmeal Bars, making dessert once again the winner!

No one could agree on a loser, which is probably just as well. When we make food together, we all win.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Session 2: Meat Pies in Butter Sauce, Spinach and Nettle Souffle, and Pumpkin Chiffon Tarts

November 18th: Tonight's Cookbook Party started a little late- and it ran late, as these things are wont to do. Still, dinner was great.

Attending: Thad (Baby wrangling), Brooke (entree), Rick (side), Julia (dessert)

~Entree (Brooke)~
Meat Pies with Butter Sauce
(Celtic Folklore Cooking by Joanne Asala)
Julia got this book as a gift, years back.

4 eggs, beaten
2-1/2 cups water (WARNING: this is totally wrong)
1-1/2 cups mashed potatoes
3 cups flour
2 pounds ground round steak
1/2 pound ground kidney suet (I instead used some ham in our freezer which I ground up!)
2 slices of bread, softened in milk, and squeezed dry
1/2 cup water
salt, pepper, thyme to taste
1 medium onion, chopped fine (I used a shallot instead, worked excellently)
1 stick of butter

Mix together eggs, water and mashed potatoes. Add enough flour to make a smooth dough. Roll out dough and cut into 3-inch rounds. With your hands, mix the beef, suet, bread, water, and spices until sticky but firm. Place 1 T of the mixture in the center of each pastry round; fold over and pinch to seal. Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil on the stove and drop the meat pies in. Cook until they swell and gloat, about 12 to 15 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon to the platter. Sautee onions in the butter and pour over the meat pies.
Serves 8.

Cook's Comments:
The meat portion of this recipe was absurdly easy, even with having to grind up some leftover ham to replace the kidney suet. The food processor made that bit a breeze. The dough was simply... a disaster. There's really no other word. Firstly, I was outvoted by the group and told to mash my own potatoes, rather than use instant. This added time to the prep, although largely that was because I didn't cook them in the most efficient way. The first few potatoes I added I had forgotten to peel, which made the 'dough' lumpy, and later ones I peeled before cooking (rather than scooping later), lengthening the process. After mixing, the dough was hideously hideously over-watery, and not able to form a proper doughy consistency. This necessitated some emergency intervention from Julia, who helped me add greater and greater amounts of flour and potatoes. After considerable time and effort, it was judged that the dough was never going to be usable as purposed. Julia came up with idea to re-work the recipe into meat cupcakes, rather than pies. The perfectly wonderful meat mixture was placed filling the bottom of a dozen and a half buttered cupcake cups. A small amount of dough was spread ontop of each meat cup. They were then baked at XXX for XXX. When they were done, they were pulled out and each person poured some shallot-butter overtop. The sauce was my absolute favorite part of the dish and the meal. I would have voted the entree as winner based on the spectacular-tasting meat-cups and sauce, but the still-only-moderately-good dough caps and the incapable recipe lost the entree my vote for best dish.

Party Club's Comments:
Rick: Good. A little bit much like meatloaf for my personal taste.
Well, Brooke can tell you. This turned out weird. The meat was tasty. I'm unimpressed by this recipe. Joanne Asala confused my poor Brooke with her unclear and/or messed up instructions!
It's hard to go wrong with meat, pastry and shallot-infused butter. Sufficiently filling. I went back for seconds.

~Side (Rick)~
Spinach and Nettle Souffle
(Redux of the Great Victorian Cookbook by John Midgley)

bunch of tender nettle shoots, sorrel or spinach to fill a 2 pint measuring jug
4 T butter, plus a little for wiping
4 T flour
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup cream
salt and freshly milled black pepper
6 T freshly grated Parmesan cheese
6 eggs, yolks and whites separated
1 oz. aged cheddar, grated

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Wash the vegetables very thoroughly; remove the thick stalk. Throw the leaves into a pan with only a little additional water. Cook until thoroughly wilted, then drain, squeezing out as much moisture as possible. Chop finely. Butter generously a steep-sided casserole dish or cake pan approximately 9 inches in diameter.

Mix together the flour, butter, milk, cream and seasoning, and stir over a medium-low heat until thoroughly blended and bubbling. Off the heat, mix in the Parmesan cheese, egg yolks, and chopped greens. Whip the egg whites until they form peaks, then fold into the mixture, a tablespoon at a time. Pour into the container, sprinkle the cheddar on top, and bake for 25 minutes or until well risen and golden brown.
Serves 4.

Cook's Comments: Chose to use Spinach instead of nettles, mostly cause I had spinach in my fridge and not nettles. Sadly, it fell, mostly because the cheese on the top sealed in all the steam. so next time, once done, pierce top and leave in oven to let the steam leave. Other than that the only thing I would change would be to up the amount of Parmesan by another couple of tbs., the cheese flavor was just a tad too light. Alternately, add a tbs or two of Bleu to bring out the cheese flavor. Course, I was using a weaker Parm than my usual Stravecchio from Whole Foods, a truly godlike Parmesan in my mind, so a stronger Parm may help this dish. Also, whip the egg whites to stiff peaks I think to give it just that little bit more structure.

One other note on the butter-cream-flour mix: ratios are fine, but stir constantly with a fork as this mix does not "bubble" really but rather becomes pastelike as it blends and the flour thickens the milk. Once it is thickened (think like very thick paint) and slightly steaming, remove from heat and proceed. Add the spinach with the cheese here, since the recipe lacks any placement of where you add the greens. Be careful while folding in the egg whites, using minimum turns of the spoon since they will be providing your loft.

Party Club's Comments:
Brooke: Perfectly acceptable and edible. It lacked much strong flavor, so I didn't take more. Nothing wrong with this dish, just nothing stand-out in my mind, either.
Julia: Delicious! This was my vote for the Win of the evening. The souffle fell, but I didn't care. If I were to criticize, I would say that it could use maybe a pinch of salt and/or a bit more cheese. Yum.
Uh, gross. I seriously didn't like it. Probably because of the spinach. But I'm not sure I'm actually fond of what amounts to egg cake, either. (That's because he's a heathen, who hates spinach and also adorable kittens- J)

~Dessert (Julia)~
Pumpkin Chiffon Tarts
(Farm Journal's Country Cookbook ed. by Nell B. Nichols)
Julia's mom gave her this a long time ago. It's a new copy of a book her mom had around the house when J was a kid.

Tart shells (pastry for 2-crust pie)
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
3/4 c. light brown sugar, firmly packed
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
3 eggs, separated
3/4 c. milk
1 1/4 c. canned pumpkin
1/3 c. sugar
Whipped cream
Amber Caramel Sauce

Combine gelatin, brown sugar, salt and spice in saucepan. Combine egg yolks and milk; stir into gelatin mixture. Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil. Remove from heat; add pumpkin. Chill mixture until it mounds slightly when dropped from spoon. Test frequently for mounding stage.

Beat egg whites until frothy; add 1/2 c. sugar and beat until glossy, stiff peaks form.

Fold pumpkin mixture into egg whites. Spoon into tart shells. Chill until firm. Serve topped with whipped cream; pass Amber Caramel Sauce to pour over. Makes about 12 (3") tarts.

Amber Caramel Sauce:
Combine 1 c. brown sugar, firmly packed, 1/2 c. light corn syrup and 1/2 c. water in small saucepan and bring to a boil. Cook, uncovered, 5 minutes.

Remove from heat; stir in 1 tsp. vanilla. Serve warm or col. Makes about 1 1/3 cups.

Cook's Comments:
I told the "Amber Caramel Sauce" to go to hell. I didn't have any corn syrup, and to be fair, I think it would have been a bit much. I should have folded my egg whites in a bit more smoothly- I ended up with chunks. Also, I used dark brown sugar, and I could definitely tell the difference in taste. All in all, though, it was quite tasty. I like punkins. Oh, and I used pate sucree instead of pie crust, and made sort of a ginormous tart instead of little ones

Party Club's Comments:
Brooke: Tasty yet light. And seasonally timely. :)
Superb! Very, very light. Excellent texture. Crust was a bit thick.
Thad: Delightful and effervescent. Perhaps even preferable to the good old standard of Ye Olde Pumpkine Pye.

The dessert was declared to be the winner. Pumpkin chiffon- so good, you'd wear it to prom. Whatever the hell chiffon is.

Meat pies are the majority loser, mostly because the recipe turned out really strange. Way to go, weird Celtic Pagan woman.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Session 1: Chicken Cutlets with Sauce Espagnole, A Light and Tangy Potato Salad, and Apple Strudel

October 21st: First Session: Thad (baby wrangling), Julia (entree), Brooke (side), Rick (dessert)

~Entree (Julia)~
Chicken Cutlets with Sauce Espagnole
(The Great Victorian Cookbook by John Midgley)
R&B picked this up for 1$ at Half Price Books!

2 chicken breasts (I pounded these so they'd be a bit flat. I ended up only serving half a breast to each person- chicken breasts are HUGE these days!)
olive oil, for frying
some good bread, sliced into 4 medium thick pieces (I used olive oil bread from the store)
fresh breadcrumbs, to coat (a cup or so?)
salt and freshly milled black pepper
1/4 tsp. cayenne (I didn't use this- R&B don't even have it in the house, because B is a wimp!)
1/4 tsp. mace (I just used a bit of nutmeg)
4 egg yolks

to garnish:
2 lemon quarters
some Sauce Espagnole (this is the most important part)

First, fry the slices of bread in your 4 tablespoons of fat (oil or butter). Set the bread off to the side- probably already on the plates you're going to serve the dish on. Make sure you don't pull too much butter off with them. After you're done, you should have soaked up all your delicious fat. Then, mix together your breadcrumbs and seasoning. Heat some more oil in the pan. Dredge the chicken in the egg yolks, and then the breadcrumbs.

When the oil just starts to smoke, add the chicken. Fry both sides for about a minute, then reduce the heat and fry gently for 15-20 minutes or so, turning several times. Serve the chicken atop the pieces of fried bread, with the nice hot Sauce Espagnole in a pool at the base of the bread (but not on the chicken! It'll make it soggy!)

Sauce Espagnole
2 T butter
1/2 carrot, peeled and diced
1/2 onion (or a decent sized shallot, which is what I used)
1/2 celery stick (I didn't have one, so I just skipped it)
1 bay leaf
2 sprigs parsley (I used dried)
some lemon peel (this is vital! strips of peel, mind- not zested)
1 sprig thyme
2 t. flour
1 cup beef stock
1 t. tomato puree
1 t. Worcestershire sauce
4 mushrooms, very finely chopped (again, I skipped this. I hate button mushrooms)
2 T dry sherry (I used red wine vinegar, and it was brilliant. In future, I might use apple juice instead)
salt and freshly milled pepper

Heat the butter in a small nonstick frying pan and, when foaming, add the vegetables, herbs and lemon peel; fry until golden brown, but do not burn. Off the heat, stir in the flour, then return to the heat and stir around until well browned. Add the stock, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, mushrooms and sherry. Season and bring to a boil. Partially cover the pan, reduce the heat to minimum and simmer for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the volume has reduced and the sauce is very dark. Strain and serve.

Cook's comments:
The sauce was the big deal with this. It took most of an hour to make, between slow cooking and an assload of chopping. Still it was worth it. I cook because I really, really like eating, and this was So. Good.

Party Club's comments:
Rick: It was one of the best things I've ever put in my mouth. Ever.
Spectacular. So amazing. A taste sensation! Seriously, this dish was so good that it nearly single-handedly demanded we have future Cookbook Parties.
Delightful and savory. A fine entree that I would have again at a moment's notice. Truly enjoyable. Fine Family Food.

~Side (Brooke)~
A Light and Tangy Potato Salad

(Also from The Great Victorian Cookbook by John Midgley)

1 1/2 lb. baby new potatoes, well washed but left unpeeled
3 T. olive oil
2 T. white wine vinegar
1 t. prepared English mustard
salt and freshly milled black pepper
1/2 cup sour cream
small bunch of fresh chives, snipped
leaves from 3 sprigs of mint, chopped

Boil the potatoes until tender but do not overcook them. Drain well, then put them in a bowl. Beat the olive oil with the vinegar, mustard and seasoning. Pour it over the potatoes while they are still hot, turning them to coat. When they have cooled, fold in the sour cream. Add the chives and mint, season lightly, and mix thoroughly. Serve immediately or refrigerate until the salad is required.
Serves 4.

Cook's comments:
This is very different from any potato salad I've ever had before. Not saucy or goopy at all, with a wonderful, rich flavor. It even smelled tasty. The shopping run brought back baby potatoes, but even cut in half they were still a bit big for the recipe. I'm not sure that the proper tiny size of potato is easily available in the groceries around here. The smallest potatoes you can find are a requirement. The finished salad was extremely delicious, but the 3 sprigs of mint seem to have been too much; the taste was over-minty. I am definitely planning on making this again!

Party Club's comments:
Rick: Crap! I mean, I liked it. Naw, it was really good. It could have used more actual herbs, and smaller chunks of potato. But other than that, I really enjoyed it.
Good, but a bit heavy on the mint. I would have liked a bit more chive.
While I am not generally a large fan of potato salad, I did quite enjoy the dish. I thought the mint worked well. I could have used smaller potatoes and a little more seasoning.

~Dessert (Rick)~
Apple Strudel

(The Vegetarian Gourmet Cookbook by Paul Southey)
Also purchased by R&B for 1$ from Half Price Books

The Pastry:
2 cups all-purpose flour
10 T unsalted butter
2/3 cup warm water
a little confectioners sugar

The Filling:
2 cups fresh wholewheat breadcrumbs fried in 4 T. unsalted butter until just beginning to crisp
1 lb. cooking apples, peeled, cored, chopped and soaked in the juice of 2 lemons
1/3 cup raw brown sugar
1/4 cup slivered blanched almonds
1/3 cup seedless white raisins
1/4 t. freshly grated nutmeg
1 t. ground cinnamon

Sift the flour into a warmed bowl. Melt 4 T. of the butter in the water and pour it, little by little, into the flour, stirring all the time. Knead until you have a smooth dough. Take it out of the bowl and knead for 10 minutes - the dough should be soft and pliable, so add a little more warm water if it feels dry. Return to the warmed bowl, cover and leave it for 30 minutes.
Lay a clean cloth about 3 ft. square on a table which you can walk around. Sprinkle the cloth with flour and place the rested dough in the center. Gently roll it out to a square and the place your hands under the dough and carefully stretch it outwards. Melt the remaining butter and brush a little of it over the dough if it looks as though it is getting dry. Continue stretching until the dough is so thin you can almost read through it. Try to keep it the same thickness all over with slightly thicker edges to work on.
When all the dough is of a uniform thickness, brush it lightly all over with most of the melted butter and cut off the thick outer edges. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Straighten shape and sprinkle the breadcrumbs along one side, followed by the apples, the sugar, the almonds, the raisins and spices, keeping the filling neatly along one end of the strudel. Then, by lifting up the cloth, gently roll the strudel up so that the filling is trapped between layers of very thin buttery dough. Form the roll into a horseshoe and gently ease it onto a well-buttered baking sheet. Brush the top liberally with the remaining melted butter and bake in the preheated oven for 30-40 minutes, or until the pastry is golden brown and crisp.
Remove from the baking sheet, sprinkle the top with confectioners sugar and serve hot or cold with lightly whipped cream.
While this recipe seems rather a performance, it is not nearly as difficult as it might appear at first sight. Practice the first time with half quantities; if holes appear in the dough, repair them by making a patch with a piece from the edge, otherwise the hole will grow. Some cooks work section by section; I work from the center outwards, and in Austria it is generally done by four people working around a square table. When you have mastered it, you will realize why the strudel is one of the most popular pastries in Europe.

Cook's Comments: Breadcrumbs really dried this recipe out, and I don't see the raisins helping that since they would have pulled more moisture from the apples. I ended up skipping the raisins for Brooke's sake, though we have since found out that she doesn't mind them when they rehydrate in a strudel. The crust was good though overcomplicated, since a basic pie crust works just as well, especially when brushed with a butter-sugar syrup. The instructions were also not the clearest.

Party Club's comments:
Brooke: The only great thing about this dish in my mind was the Breyer's Natural Vanilla ice cream I put on top of it. The crust was okay, but the entire filling of the strudel was just this awful dry powder. Essentially inedible, as far as I'm concerned. I blame the recipe tho, not the cook.
Julia: Dry. We served this with ice cream, and it was basically tasty (I mean- apples! cinnamon! hard to fuck that one up, right?) but it was kinda weird and crumby in the middle. Not a super awesome strudel. All props to Rick, but this was the clear loser of the first Cookbook Party.
Too dry. He should have left the raisins in, or found an adequate substitute. And my baby ate all the ice cream off of it.

The entree was the clear voted winner- the Sauce Espagnole was delectable. Really, really good. The combination of the tangy sauce with the fried bread and the chicken was total Win.

The dessert was voted the loser. The Vegetarian Gourmets were declared to suck.

Monday, November 19, 2007

About Us

Brooke: can't cook. Not really. But she can feed herself perfectly adequately, which is alright by her. Her style of cooking involves careful reading and following of the directions on the box of mac n' cheese or can of soup. And oatmeal, and grilled cheese. Tasty wonderful grilled cheese. When feeling really ambitious, she'll painstakingly follow the directions for a box of cake mix or Quaker oatmeal cookies.

Julia: has been cooking since she was about 7 years old. She has a thing for pastry, and is a bit obsessed with food. Delicious, delicious food. Pigs are her favorite dead animal, but she tries not to make the other dead animals too jealous.

Rick: started to learn about cooking from a very young age and after some experimental years (yes, Tabasco DOES go with tuna!) has become quite a decent cook, specializing in solid, hearty dishes such as chili, stroganoff, home made pasta sauce, or homemade from scratch soups and pie.

Thad: was trained in the fine art of pizza making at his father's side and every now and then will actually try to cooking something other than pizza.
Nobody has died from his cooking so far and that's just aces!

Jeff: is a fair hand at the world of cooking. He enjoys grilling the most, though the cruel grasp of winter tends to put a damper on that. His breads, pies, grilled meats, and chili are enjoyed by all but the heathens who refuse to try them.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

How it works

Everybody has cookbooks in their house. They never use them- they just gather dust on the shelf. Why keep them around? They cry out to be cooked with. We decided to form the Cookbook Party Club to answer that call.

This is how it works:
  • When CPC gathers, we put courses in a hat, and draw randomly.
  • We search through whatever cookbooks we have on hand. Everyone must cook something they've never cooked before, and try to follow (more or less) the recipe in the book.
  • We make a store run for ingredients.
  • The cooking begins!
With three people cooking, we have one entree, one side, and one dessert. With more, we add another side, and an appetizer. Three or more cooks in the kitchen gets a bit crowded, but it's fun to cook with friends.