Guinness Stout Brownies

You’ll often find recipes using an alcoholic beverage, particularly wine, of course, but also rum, bourbon, and beer. While some teetotalers recoil at making such recipes, if the dish is heated to anywhere near the boiling point, the alcohol evaporates, leaving only the flavor of the beverage. To concentrate the flavor of the beer in this recipe, some people will actually take an entire bottle of Guinness and boil it down to the 12 ounces called for here for more intensity, but that’s just an option.

4 eggs
3⁄4 cup superfine sugar
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
4 ounces white chocolate, chopped
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
3⁄4 cup all-purpose flour
3⁄4 cup cocoa
1 1⁄4 cups Guinness stout

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and butter an 8-inch-square pan. Combine the eggs and sugar, beat with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Melt the bittersweet chocolate, white chocolate and butter, stirring until smooth. I do this is in a glass bowl the microwave. Beat into the egg mixture. Sift the flour and cocoa together and beat into the chocolate mixture. Whisk in the Guinness, which should be at room temperature. Pour into the pan and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out almost clean. Cool on a wire rack before slicing. You can dust this with confectioner’s sugar, if you like, and you can also add a half cup chopped nuts; pistachios would be appropriate.

Colcannon

To many of us, kale seems to have suddenly appeared in markets mere decades ago, when in fact kale has been cultivated as long as cabbage. They’re certainly in the same family, and what we know as collards are simply a type of kale. The Irish—and more notably the Scots—have been eating kale in enormous quantities for centuries and consequently know how to cook it. Colcannon (note the first syllable is practically synonymous with that of another cabbage dish, cole slaw) is from cál ceannann, meaning “white-headed cabbage”, and the recipe is as simple as the dish is hearty.

Use one large starchy potato (russet) to, say, a packed cup of raw, chopped kale for each serving. Cut potatoes into chunks and boil vigorously until very soft and whip with milk or cream and butter. These don’t have to be perfectly smooth; in fact, they’re better a little lumpy, if you ask me. Boil the kale until quite done—this is one recipe for which you don’t want to use blanched kale—drain and while still hot toss with a little butter. Mix the potatoes and kale together, season with salt and white pepper. Some people cook green onions with the kale, but I prefer them raw as a garnish. You can thin this basic recipe with milk or broth to make a soup or you can spoon it into a casserole and bake it topped with a semi-hard cheese. It is a traditional side dish with ham, though I’m certain it goes just as well with anything, anytime.

colcannon 2

Lucky Charms Treats

Breakfast cereals embody a realm of popular culture so embedded in our minds that anyone named Tony runs the risk of having “Tiger” as a nickname. The slogans are part of our collective psyche: “Follow my nose. It always knows;” “I’m coo-coo for Cocoa Puffs!”; “Silly Rabbit, Trix are for kids!” You’ll also know Snap, Crackle, and Pop. Chances are you made Rice Krispy treats about the first time you smoked weed and found them magically delicious. I’m assuming that marshmallows and breakfast cereals are low on the hoarding list, and that many of you have kids with not a lot to do. This recipe is as simple as the one you made; they can do it, too.

1 stick unsalted butter, plus more for the pan
2 10-oz bags mini marshmallows, divided
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
8 cups Lucky Charms
Line a 9 x 13-in pan with parchment paper and lightly grease with softened butter. Set aside 2 cups of the marshmallows. Heat butter to bubbling, add half the marshmallows. Remove from heat, add the rest of the marshmallows and the vanilla. When the marshmallows are melted, add cereal and stir until well-blended but still warm and gooey. Press the mixture into an even layer in the baking pan and cool at room temperature for an hour. Cut into squares, hearts, moons, or clovers.

Scripture Cake

Even those with the most in-depth knowledge of the written Word would have to consult chapter and verse before cooking this basic fig cake for the first time. Scripture cake is an evangelist kitchen riddle that compels cooks to consult a work holding far more potential than dessert. Consider the charming scenario of a mother giving this recipe to her little girl and smiling as she watches her daughter thumb through a bible, perhaps remembering herself looking up Jeremiah 17:11 herself oh those many years ago. This warm scenario springs to mind, but any way you find it, a recipe for scripture cake is a gift; share this one.

1 1/2 cups Judges 5:25
2 cups Jeremiah 6:20
2 cups 1 Samuel 30:12
2 cups Nahum 3:12
1 cup Numbers 17:8
2 tsp. 1 Samuel 14:25
4 1/2 cups 1 Kings 4:22
6 of Jeremiah 17:11
1 1/2 cup Judges 4:19
2 tsp. Amos 4:5
a pinch of Leviticus 2:13
season to taste with:
2 Chronicles 9:9

Follow Solomon’s prescription for making a good boy by Proverbs 23:14. Bake at 350 until done.

Chard in the Yard

Like many gardeners in the Deep South, I grow leaf vegetables and greens during our mild winters as much for their beauty as for their taste—the lemon-yellow spikes of bolting mustard and collard provide luminous company for spring dandelions and daffodils. For many years, I’ve dismissed rainbow chard, with its bold greens, sassy yellows and reds, as gaudy, but this year, I decided I was just being a closet case and planted a plot of them. They thrived. Every time I pass them I feel like putting on a pair of heels and tossing glitter. Mix chard with spinach, bib lettuce and bok choy, dress with vinegar and oil.

An Heirloom Red Velvet

Great cakes don’t come out of a box. No, they come from handwork, sacks and shells, from old tried-and-true recipes and those who have made them. Such cakes are not only worthy of serving to family and guests, but they’re also fun to make. Most of the best of them involve complicated procedures that aren’t that time-consuming at all if you’re a dedicated home cook in the first place, and pulling a perfectly-cooked cake out of the oven is a simply unmatchable experience. After beaming at your creation for a few minutes, you get to decorate; the cake is your canvas, and you are the artist of this most temporary of masterpieces.

Legend has it that the original recipe for the red velvet cake is from the kitchens of the Waldorf-Astoria, but there’s no solid opinion on that. The cake became popular here sometime after World War II, when the South began to become much more a part of the nation as a whole. Me, I think that the red velvet cake is a variation of the old devil’s food cake and that the name changed because many good religious women were just not going to bring Satan’s bounty to their tables. It has the same texture, and while no cocoa is used in the icing, the cake’s primary flavoring is cocoa. This is a family recipe, one of the dozen or so I still have from my mother’s hand. I’m almost sure she got it from her grandmother Eula, who came from a line of exceptional cooks. Her sister, my Aunt Leila, became legendary for her cakes, pickles and preserves. They were all very strict Baptists, and I suspect they were among the ones who would simply not feed their folks devil’s food; doubtless they didn’t want to nurture what they knew was a genetic predisposition for devilment. (It didn’t work.)

Two elements of this recipe betray its age. First is that it employs a “boiled icing”, meaning an icing that is produced pretty much in the way you would make a sauce or a gravy, by heating starch in a liquid. In some cookbooks, this is referred to as a “roux icing”, but it’s a very raw roux indeed. The advantage to this type of icing is that you don’t have to warm it to ice your cake (in fact it needs cooling), and it tastes so much better than that lard and confectioner’s sugar gloop you get at the supermarket. Second is the leavening, which involves that chemistry set action of putting baking soda in a bit of vinegar and watching it foam. The acidic buttermilk in the batter provides additional frothing and the end result is, well, velvety. Many of you will probably take issue with the amount of food coloring involved, but try to relax; besides, it’s so much fun dribbling that red food coloring into your white batter and swirling it in. The absolute best part of course is eating it. If you really want it good, wrap layers in wax paper individually overnight before frosting.

Batter: 1 cup vegetable shortening, 1 ¼ cup sugar, 2 eggs, 1 teaspoon vanilla flavoring, 2 ¼ cups plain flour, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 tablespoon cocoa, 1 cup buttermilk, 2 ounces red food coloring, 1 teaspoon baking soda and 1 tablespoon vinegar. Cream shortening and sugar, and add well-beaten eggs and vanilla. Sift flour, salt and cocoa three times. Add dry ingredients alternately with buttermilk. Blend in food coloring. Dissolve soda in vinegar, and fold into batter. Bake in 3 layers at 350 degrees.
Frosting: 1 ½ cups milk, 4 ½ tablespoons flour, 1 ½ cups butter (3 sticks), 1 ½ cups sugar, 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla flavoring. Gradually add milk to flour in double boiler, stirring constantly until it is thicker than pudding. Remove from heat and stir until cooled. Cream butter and sugar for at least ten minutes, then add vanilla and continue creaming until fluffy. Add flour and milk mixture to creamed butter and sugar and beat at least ten minutes or until no grains of sugar can be detected. Frost and sprinkle with crushed walnuts or pecans.

Paul Crechale’s Bienville

Nowadays most discussions—more often polemics—about culinary authenticity involve terms such as “the salience of ethnic identity” and “aligning broader socio-political representations”. These investigations certainly have their place in this global franchise we call a world, but when it comes to a specific restaurant recipe, we’re on less esoteric footing. We know that at some point in time, at this particular place, a recipe was formulated, prepared and served, a recipe that became an archetype for any that followed, and our best means of replicating such dishes is to find recipes written by people who are thoroughly familiar with the original and have the wherewithal to replicate it with authority.

Such is the case with Arnaud’s signature recipe for oysters Bienville in Bayou Cuisine that’s credited to Jackson restaurateur Paul Crechale. This recipe rings with authenticity and authority. Note the use of a beige roux to thicken, cream and egg yolks to enrich, mushrooms, shrimp and a hard dry cheese for substance.

Prepare the sauce by browning lightly in 3 tablespoons butter 2 minced onions. Stir in 3 tablespoons flour and cook, stirring constantly until the mixture is lightly browned. Be sure not to let it burn. Add gradually 1 ½ cups chicken consommé, ½ cup white wine, 1 cup minced raw mushrooms and 1 ½ cups chopped cooked shrimp. Cook slowly, stirring constantly, for 10 minutes. Open 3 dozen oysters and put them in their deep shells (my italics, jly) on individual baking dishes. Bake the oysters in their own juices in a moderate oven (350) for about 6 minutes. Thicken sauce with 2 egg yolks beaten with 2 tablespoons heavy cream and heat the sauce without boiling. Cover each oyster with some of the sauce and sprinkle lightly with equal parts of dry bread crumbs and grated Parmesan or Romano cheese. Return the oysters to the oven for about 10 minutes, until the topping is browned.

Barbarians in the Kitchen

Before the cosmopolitan citizens of Hamburg, Germany began cooking it and putting it between sliced bread, steak tartar–as such it was served–consisted of lean, raw beefsteak minced, mixed with egg and seasonings. The dish came to western Europe from eastern Slavic regions, which has a long history of Mongol encroachment. The Mongols’ Turkic allies, known the Tatars, were known from Tartary, which was essentially Mongolia, though the name was a conflation of Tatar with the Greek stories of Tartarus (i.e. Hell). Tartars had a tradition of finely mincing very tough meats like horse and camel to make them edible, then binding the meat with milk or eggs. Stories of this dish being made by placing the meat under a saddle to ride upon it until tender probably came from the use of thin slices of meat to protect saddle sores from further abrasion.

Similarly, tartar sauce, or as the French refer to it, sauce tartare, consists of mayonnaise, mustard, chives, chopped gherkins, and tarragon in various combinations. In French, it is loosely translated as ‘rough,’ as the Tartars were considered rough, violent, and savage. But in his Creole Cook Book, irrepressible Lafcadio Hearn, a devoted journalist with a light heart, gives us a recipe for tartar sauce that harkens back to the days when the Golden Horde still prowled around the Great Gates of Kiev.

HOW TO MAKE TARTAR SAUCE

There are two good ways in which a Tartar sauce may be made. You can try whichever you please; but if you are in a hurry the second will suit your purpose better than the first.

1st: Catch a young Tartar: for the old ones are very tough and devoid of juice. To catch a Tartar is generally a very unpleasant and at all times a difficult undertaking. A young Tartar will probably cost you at least $10,000—and perhaps your life—before you get through with him: but if you must have Tartar sauce you must be ready to take all risks. Having procured your Tartar you must kill him privately, taking care that the act shall escape the observation of the police authorities, who would probably in such a case be strongly prejudiced in favor of the Tartar. Having killed, skinned and cleaned the Tartar, cut off the tenderest part of the hams and thighs; boil three hours, and then hash up with Mexican pepper, aloes and spices. Add a quart of mulled wine and slowly boil to the consistency of honey. You will probably find the Tartar sauce very palatable; and if hermetically sealed in bottles with the addition of a little Santa Cruz rum, will serve for a long time. The rest of the Tartar will not keep, and must be disposed of judiciously.

2nd: Take the yolk of a hardboiled egg, a teaspoonful of mustard, a tablespoonful of olive oil, a little vinegar, a little parsley and pickled cucumber, and hash up very fine.

Here’s a modern-day recipe that is simple and delicious. Finely mince dill pickles (I use kosher spears) to make about a third a cup and add about a tablespoon finely minced capers. Chives, dill and/or tarragon are customary options. Mix with a cup of mayonnaise and the juice of half a lemon. This keeps in the refrigerator for several days.

Ginger-Pecan Shortbread Cookies

People will tell you that shortbread is just what they call a cookie in the UK, but in my book shortbread is more like pound cake, a simple, versatile sweet you can put together and on the table in a very short time.  This recipe makes a rich and aromatic, soft and crumbly cookie or small cake that goes perfectly with a hot drink—coffee, tea, cocoa, even sweet mulled wine—and it’s so simple a child can make it.

Cream 1 stick butter with a cup of confectioner’s sugar, and a teaspoon each almond and vanilla extract. Blend in 2 cups plain flour sifted with a teaspoon of baking powder, a  half cup chopped pecans and a tablespoon ground ginger. (I have tried this recipe with freshly-grated ginger, and it simply does not work at all well at all with so much butter.) This mixture makes a soft, elastic dough that you have to work with flour-dusted hands to form into a ball. Pat or roll the dough ball out into an 8” round, score into six wedges and crimp the edges with a fork. Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet at 375 until the edges are just brown. Cut and serve. This recipe makes great cookies, too, and is doubled or tripled easily.

A Roadhouse Omelette

While I worked in west Florida during the 1980s, I came to know people from all over the world. Then there was Ruby Ruth Reese, a down-home girl who grew up in what she called “the woargrass (wiregrass)” region of south Alabama.

Ruby Ruth (“Call me ‘Roo’”) had a heart of gold, but she was just as mean as she could be to all those displaced Yankees we worked with in Florida. She liked me because, as she once put it, “You’re just tryin’ to rise above your raisin’, like me.” She even claimed to have relatives in Tupelo, but I think she just said that because she knew I was homesick all the time. Hell, the only reason she knew about Tupelo was because of Elvis.

Roo told me she worked in a truck stop in Geneva County, Alabama during the Sixties, and if they knew you well enough, and you ordered something “to go”, you’d pay five dollars more, and they’d slip you a bottle of whiskey under the counter before you left. They also made what they called ham and egg pie that most of their customers would order to eat by themselves. Roo often made these for us to share on our lunch, which we took around two in the afternoon when we’d had a busy day. I’ve fancied it up a little bit with the cheddar cheese (she used Velveeta), and she’d fuss at me for that.

8 large eggs
1/2 cup cream
1/2 cup diced white onion
1/2 cup diced cooked potatoes
1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 cup diced ham
salt and black pepper

Beat eggs and cream very well with salt and black pepper. Hint: add a splash of water, no more than a couple of tablespoons while beating; this helps the rise and keeps it moist. Heat an 8-in. skillet, add a half stick of butter. Once butter is sizzling, sauté onions and ham, then add half the egg mixture, shaking the pan as you do. Mix cheese and potatoes with remaining eggs. Once eggs begin to set, add the rest of the egg mixture, then pop into a very hot (450) oven until firm and bown.