Category Archives: Vegetable Side

DIY- Coleslaw

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Coleslaw, as we know it in all of its creamy goodness is a mid 18th century invention, as this is when mayonnaise was invented.  Fannie Farmer recommends coleslaw in her cookbook Food and Cookery for the Sick and Convalescent (1904).  The recipe was simple:  select a heavy cabbage, remove the tough outer leaves, quarter the cabbage, slice thinly, soak in cold water, drain, dry and mix with cream salad dressing.  James Beard devotes nearly 4 whole pages to various coleslaw recipes in his American Cookery.  Now?  Coleslaw is relegated to a plastic container on a shelf surrounded by other picnic salads.  So, so sad.

What barbecue feast would be complete without this accompaniment? It’s simultaneously cool, crunchy, creamy, sweet and sour. It hits all the high notes of summer outdoor eating fare. Most people just pick up a tub from the deli or supermarket. But why? Why?!?!

Walk away from the deli counter. Go over to the vegetable section of the store. I believe it’s called the “produce” section. I have always wondered why. Anyway, grab a nice looking head of cabbage. Splurge on a carrot or two. Want more crunch? Add celery. Want more color? Add red cabbage (I didn’t in the recipe below, but you totally could). You are now three ingredients away from coleslaw and you likely have the other three ingredients at home: Italian Dressing, mayonnaise, and sugar. Slice the cabbage and celery, peel the carrots and mix. Done. Coleslaw.

It’s that easy. And, I firmly believe what you make will taste better and be cheaper per pound than what you would buy at the deli counter! Again, it’s completely customizable. Want onion? Add it. Want less mayo more vinegar? Add more dressing, less mayo. Like less dressing? Cut it down. Coleslaw, your way!!! No more buyer’s remorse on coleslaw. And the veggies will be crisp!! Not limp and, well, awful.

Coleslaw
Serves 4-6 people

1 head of cabbage
2 carrots, peeled into ribbons or strands
2 stalks of celery, sliced thin (optional)
1/2 cup of your favorite mayonnaise
1/4 cup of your favorite Italian dressing
1-2 tablespoons sugar (to taste)
Cracked pepper (optional)

Remove the tough outer leaves of the cabbage.  Quarter and slice thin.  If you would like really crisp cabbage, place in cold water and soak for 30 minutes or until crisp.

Put the cabbage, carrots and celery in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, combine the mayonnaise and Italian dressing. Add one tablespoon of the sugar to the mayonnaise mix. Taste and adjust the ratio of mayonnaise to dressing as needed. Add the remaining sugar if needed. Pour the mayonnaise mixture into the cabbage mixture and combine. Add pepper, if desired. Refrigerate until needed. Take care not to refrigerate too long, as the cabbage will go limp.

One caveat, if you decide to use purple cabbage, mixing ahead will lead to a purple colored dressing. Leave it out of the mix until closer to serving time.

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Coq Au Vin

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One of my earliest cooking memories revolves around a very old set of cookbooks.  I want to say they were Time Life’s World Cookbooks or something like that.  These cookbooks seemed so much fancier than our trusty red and white checkered Better Homes and Gardens’ New Cookbook.  So, of course I poured over them more.  The red checked book seemed so, well, American.

The cookbooks were divided by country and there was an entire cookbook dedicated to French Cooking.  As a child who’s most exotic meals were tacos or spaghetti, these cookbooks seemed other worldly.    So, one night I asked my mom if we could make something out of the French cookbook… and I kept asking for a while until she finally relented.  The most exotic recipe to me (I was probably all of 8 or 9 years old) was Coq Au Vin.  Chicken in Red Wine.  To go with it, Chocolate Mousse.  I’d never had chocolate mousse, but had heard of it.  I had chocolate pudding, but was pretty sure mousse was somehow better. My parents were beer drinkers, so we got cooking wine for the red wine…  I know, stop laughing.  But this was the 70s and, well, we didn’t know.  Why would they sell it if it wasn’t good?

So, that was my first foray into French cooking:  making a recipe from Time Life with supermarket cooking wine.   We weren’t exactly well to do, and, at the time it was a fairly expensive meal.  So, my parents were very kind to indulge me.   For the record, the chocolate mousse was amazing.  To this day I remember that meal.  I was so proud to make it.  I felt truly grown up.

In the many years since then, cooking Coq Au Vin, made famous in the States by Julia Child, seems odd and quant.  Like a 70s fondue party.   I’m almost sheepish about telling people I eat this dish, much less make it.   This is another recipe like my 40 Cloves of Garlic Chicken that really should be in the rotation.  It deserves a spot in your repertoire!  While it is an old dish, and old dishes are not fussy.  There’s no crazy ingredient you’ll only use one and rue the rest of the time it’s in your pantry (looking at you walnut oil!).  The ingredients are fairly cheap and easy to come by, depending, of course, on the type of wine you use.

Coq Au Vin is normally made with a tough, old bird.  It’s rare to come across those nowadays, although my farmer’s market does have a great guy that sells “stewing hens”.  So, I use chicken thighs.  Today’s chicken breasts get woefully overcooked in this dish and can’t really stand up to the red wine.  You also don’t have to simmer the chicken as long, because the chicken isn’t really “old” anymore and becomes tender rather quickly.

I will admit to a cheat. Julia Childs starts this recipe off by rendering the fat off of carefully sliced lardons. As someone who is always looking to maximize my food use, I fastidiously save the bacon fat every time I cook bacon. So, I can skip the rendering step and shave about 20 minutes off the cook time.  If you don’t have bacon drippings, please render away!
Coq Au Vin
Serves 6

1/4 cup rendered bacon fat (may substitute any vegetable oil that can handle high heat, like canola)
6 chicken thighs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
3 stalks of celery, coarsely chopped
2 carrots, coarsely chopped
1 small onion, small dice
3 cloves of garlic, minced
3 cups of red wine
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 cup of water or chicken stock
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Heat bacon fat in an enameled dutch oven over medium high heat. Sprinkle chicken thighs with salt and pepper and place in the pan skin side down when fat sizzles on contact with chicken. Cook chicken until the skin is a golden brown and flip over. Cook the other side until golden as well. Remove the chicken to a platter and set aside.

Saute celery, carrots and onions until the celery is soft. Reduce heat to medium. Add the garlic, stirring to prevent it from burning. When the garlic becomes fragrant, add the red wine, bay leaves and dried thyme and bring to a simmer. Return the chicken to the pan. If the wine does not almost cover the chicken, add the water or chicken stock. Otherwise, you can omit. Cover and place in the oven to finish cooking the chicken through, about 40 minutes.

Remove the chicken from the pot, cover and set aside.  Combine flour and butter together.  Whisk into the red wine sauce and cook until slightly thickened and glossy.  Serve chicken with sauce.

Julia Child’s recommends serving this dish with braised mushrooms and brown braised onions. I made those by sautéing the onions in butter and adding quartered mushrooms and cooking them over medium heat for about 20 minutes. In the pictures, the vegetables in the back are roasted carrots and parsnips. I just heated the oven to 375, roughly chopped the vegetables, covered with oil olive and salt and pepper, and roasted for 20 minutes until browned. I shook the pan occasionally. All told, the dinner took about 90 minutes, but most of that was the chicken cooking in the oven, not active prep time.

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Onion and Wine Braised Chuck Roast

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Ah, pot roast.  Few thinks provoke a rash of tears like me telling my kids we are having pot roast for dinner.  Actual tears.  “No, no pot roast!! Sob!”  My husband and I are completely stumped.  We eat it, it tastes really, really good.  They won’t touch it.

When I was a child, I remember the tears that pot roast bought to me, but my tears were different (GET OFF MY LAWN!!  Sorry, I feel compelled to say that when I sound like a old coot).  My mother made “pot roast”.  The roast went in a lovely shade of red and came out gray with a nice black bark on top.  She served it with gravy.  The gravy made is edible and helped the tough swallow factor.  That was pot roast.  Who wouldn’t cry?

One night, when I was in high school, I went to my friend’s house for dinner.  When Mrs. Gordon brought out her pot roast, it was moist and glistening with a wonderful pink center.  It was beefy tasting and really good.  You didn’t need gravy.  When I asked her what it was, she laughed and said “pot roast”.  No, it wasn’t.  Not the kind I knew.  I came home and told my mom that one could make pot roast that wasn’t gray.  I’m sure she appreciated that.  Anyway, she now does a much better pot roast.  The key is not only the “pot”, but the lid.

I’ve tried pot roast in a slow cooker and, while it’s close to being good, that’s about all I can say.  When you make it with a dutch oven, it’s just better.  Tough pieces of meat like chuck roast need long, moist cooking time.  When they get it, the results are silky, tender, and sublime.

Also, and I can’t really emphasize this enough, when you order your cow by the “half side”, you get lots of roasts.  Lots of them.  Sure you tell them “maximum ground beef”.  Doesn’t matter.  Roasts are plentiful.   Necessity is the mother of invention.  I couldn’t have a roast with potatoes, carrots and onions again.  Seriously, couldn’t.  So tired of it.  As I have to kid friendly a bunch of my meals, since they won’t eat the pot roast anyway, I went all out adult on this recipe.  Every non-kid friendly ingredient I used it.  Wine?  Check?  Lots and lots of onions?  Check.  Rosemary?  Check.  Hitting all the high marks!

Pot roast isn’t about measurements.  I’ll try my best, but if I say a 4 lb chuck roast and you have a 3 pound one, don’t sweat it.  This is definitely a “close enough” recipe.

Onion and Wine Braised Chuck Roast

2-3 tablespoons of high temperature cooking fat (lard, bacon drippings, vegetable oil, etc.)
1 chuck roast (3-4 pounds)
Salt and Pepper
4-5 medium onions, sliced in half rings
2 tablespoons garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed
1 teaspoon of dried rosemary, crushed
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 1/2 cups red wine (I used a cabernet sauvignon)
1 cup water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a dutch oven (I used my trusty 5 quart), heat cooking fat over medium high heat until hot. Salt and pepper the roast and sear on both sides in the dutch oven until each side is browned. Remove and set aside.

Lower the heat to medium low. Place the onions in the dutch oven and stir. Salt and pepper the onions (I used around a teaspoon of each). Try to use the liquid of the onions to draw the lovely bits of brown seared roast off the bottom of the pan. Caramelize the onions, or wilt them until they turn a light brown. This will take a long time and require patience and semi-regular stirring. You may need to add more fat if you find that the onions are sticking. You also may need to turn down the heat if they are burning. Just as the onions are reaching the light brown stage, add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Add the thyme, rosemary and bay leaf. Cook for 2 minutes more. Add the tomato paste and cook until you can smell a slightly tomato-y smell (about a minute or so).

Add the red wine and stir well, and add the water. Simmer for a bit to get the ingredients married.  Return the roast to the pan. Cover and cook in the oven for 1 1/2-2 hours, or until the roast is tender.

I served this with sautéed brussels sprouts. I halved the brussels sprouts and sautéed in bacon grease until caramelized. Finished with salt and pepper. Awesomely good.

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Creamed Spinach

Just writing the title made me shudder.  Gloppy creamed spinach, who wants that?  Well, to quote Alton Brown, it’s Good Eats.  Really.  If you make it yourself.  If you buy it out of a can or the freezer section, well, I can’t guarantee it so much.

Anytime I saw creamed spinach as a child, I refused to try it.  It sat on my plate all gloppy and greenish.  Hardly the stuff a kid wants to eat.  If I was made to eat it, it was just slime.   Now, I liked regular cooked spinach.  To this day love it.  Just the creamed part seemed to be the problem.  Then, my husband took me on a date to Morton’s.  He ordered creamed spinach as a side dish.   I tried it and it was divine.  Not gloppy or slimy.  But rather thick with a creamy, yet substantial mouthfeel.    I make this stuff at home and my 10 year old LOVES it.  Tells me he could “seriously eat this every day”.  My daughter, not so much.   This is a staple on our Christmas Eve dinner menu when the theme is “Steakhouse”.

I could tell you to buy pounds of fresh spinach and wilt it.  But I won’t.  That’s crazy.  Frozen chopped spinach is made for this recipe.  Buy an organic version if you are unhappy with the little retro frozen bricks in your grocery basket.

Creamed Spinach

2 10 ounce packages frozen, chopped spinach
water

4 tablespoons of butter
2 tablespoons of finely chopped onion
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup of heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
Salt and Pepper to taste

Put enough water to cover the bottom of a 4 quart sauce pan, place spinach in the pan and cover. Over medium heat, thaw the spinach. Once there are no frozen parts left to the spinach (the spinach will be hot in parts, so be careful), drain well. I use the pan lid to drain most of the water and then a bunch of paper towels to soak up the rest. Honestly, cleaning bits of spinach out of my strainer is just a no. Not gonna happen again. Strain if you want, but I warned you. Set aside.

In a second sauce pan, melt the butter. Sauté the onion, then the garlic. Once the onion and garlic are softened, add the flour. You want a nice, blonde roux. Sauté flour until the flour taste is gone. Don’t let the flour brown. Once the flour is sufficiently done, add the cream slowly. As the cream and flour meet over the heat, the mixture will thicken. Add the cream until you have a consistency that is slightly thicker than how you want the creamed spinach. You may need slightly more than 1 cup of cream to achieve this consistency. Let simmer for a minute or so and then add to the drained spinach. Stir until well incorporated. Add nutmeg and salt and pepper.

For big dinners, I make this a day ahead, keep in the fridge, reheat when needed. It’s actually better with a little wait time.

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Butter, onions and garlic sautéing. The smell is amazing!

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Creamed spinach with roasted chicken.

Maryland Fried Chicken

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Welcome to my first blog post!   I love history and cooking and marrying these two loves has led me to some interesting reads.  Namely, very old cookbooks.   Luckily, there is a wonderful program at Michigan State University that has put many old cookbooks online.  Reading them is a revelation.  Cookbooks served many purposes.  Not only were they collections of recipes, but also household cleaning and staff supervision.  Many authors of these historical cookbooks admonish young housewives to make sure they know how to execute the recipes and not be completely dependent on household servants, as you may not always be able to afford servants.

Now, I have no servants.  I’m on no quest like cooking every recipe from a particular cookbook.  What I would like to do is explore American cooking before it became corrupted by what I like to call the “Food Industrial Complex” or “Big Food”.    Processed and “convenience” food have handicapped our ability to feed ourselves wholesome food.   When I see a kid eat a homemade chocolate chip cookie and ask what brand it is, I am heartbroken.  People used to make waffles, bread and cookies. Sure, in our carb and gluten adverse world, these are fairly evil items.  But kids who don’t realize that cookies can be made miss out on the best cookies of all.  Nothing beats a homemade chocolate chip cookie out of the oven.  Nothing.

So, where do I start?   Today, I write about a mystery for the ages.  The mystery goes by many aliases:  Maryland Fried Chicken, Chicken Maryland, Maryland Chicken, and Chicken a la Maryland.   I am from Maryland and whenever I traveled out of state and saw some version of this chicken dish on a menu I was perplexed.  Sure, who hasn’t heard of Kentucky Fried Chicken or Southern Fried Chicken?  My favorite fried chicken is from Popeye’s.  But fried chicken “a la Maryland”?  Usually anything tagged with “Maryland” as a descriptor meant it either had crab or the “Old Bay” seasonings in it.  Frankly, I am probably one of the few people from my home state to really not like “Old Bay”.  But, I digress.

So, I set out to find the origins of Chicken Maryland.  Believe it or not, Chicken Maryland appears in many esteemed cookbooks.  Escoffier’s Ma Cuisine, Fanny Farmer’s The Boston Cooking School Cook Book and James Beard’s American Cookery, all have a version or mention of Chicken Maryland.  I love Beard’s introduction to this apparently, unbeknownst to me, iconoclastic dish:

There are so many recipes for fried chicken, but none is as famous as Chicken Maryland.  Strange as it may seem, no two recipes have any similarity when you compare them.  Furthermore, there is no other American chicken recipe quite so internationally famous as Chicken a la Maryland.

How internationally famous?  Well, it was on the menu for the Titanic the day it sank.  Keep in mind, Farmer wrote her book in 1892, the Titanic sank in 1912, Escoffier’s Ma Cuisine was published in 1934 and Beard’s American Cookery in 1972.

Yet, as a native Marylander I have no idea what Chicken Maryland is.  I asked around and I am not alone.   How sad that an apparently once famous a dish is so forgotten.

After perusing several sources, it seems that Beard is correct, there are tons of versions.  Most, however, coalesce around a general idea.  The chicken is not deep fried, it’s pan fried, the steamed by putting a cover over the pan.  So, the chicken is both fried and steamed.  Now, there is general disagreement as to the frying oil (butter, clarified butter, and “drippings”) and the method of breading.  To further complicate matters, many of these recipes give a guide as to how to make it, but ingredient measures seem to be something the reader is presumed to know.

So, I attempted to resurrect Chicken Maryland or Chicken a la Maryland from the dustbin of history and I must confess, it’s pretty awesome.  Crispy and moist without being overly greasy.  Why this isn’t the preferred method of cooking over deep frying is really quite a mystery.

I like to cook a whole meal instead of just a recipe.  So, to accompany Chicken a la Maryland, I made kale and collard greens (recipe below).

Chicken a la Maryland

My biggest issue with fried chicken is the mess.  There’s leftover oil that I suppose I could strain and reserve for another use.  But that’s really high maintenance and frankly, I don’t make it that often to keep old grease sitting around.  Then there’s the oil splatter all over the stove.  Add to that my insecurity over whether the chicken is actually done, and, let’s just say fried chicken in our house is synonymous with “Popeye’s”.

Chicken a la Maryland answers every one of my issues with fried chicken.  First, there’s no oil and very little mess leftover.  The chicken pieces are also “done” with very little effort or clean up.

In order to avoid multiple, different cooking times, I bought chicken thighs.  They are cheap and stand up well to heat.   You could certainly use any other favorite part and have great results.

2 cups Buttermilk

6 chicken thighs

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon paprika

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon pepper

2 large eggs

2 tablespoons water

2 cups bread crumbs (I used Panko style)

½ stick of butter (clarified butter may be easier to work with)

6 mushrooms, sliced

1 cup heavy cream

Salt and pepper

Place chicken thighs in buttermilk and soak for 2 hours.  Combine flour, paprika, salt and pepper on a large plate. Combine eggs and water in a wide, shallow bowl.  Place bread crumbs on a plate.

Remove chicken from buttermilk and dredge in flour mixture, then egg mixture, then bread crumbs and set aside.

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Melt the butter in a 10 inch heavy cast iron skillet.  When bubbling, add chicken.  Depending on the size of your pan, the chicken may need to be broken up into separate batches.

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Brown both sides of the chicken.  Turn down heat to medium low.  With the chicken positioned skin side up, place a lid on the chicken and let steam for 20 minutes, checking occasionally to make sure the bottoms are not burning.

Remove the chicken. Add mushrooms to the pan and sauté until soft.   Add about 4 tablespoons of flour to create a roux.   Cook until the raw flour taste is removed, but not so much that the roux has darkened.  Add 1 cup of heavy cream to the pan and whisk.  If the cream gravy is too thick, thin with additional cream.  Salt and pepper to taste. Serve chicken with gravy and collard greens.

Notes

  • I think this recipe would be pretty adaptable to gluten free cooking.  Cornstarch could sub for the initial flour coating and used as a thickening agent for the gravy.  Gluten free bread crumbs are readily available as well for the coating.
  • I made this in both a cast iron fry pan and an all clad 4 quart sauté pan.  The cast iron pan yielded much better results.  The butter didn’t burn and neither did the chicken.  If you don’t have cast iron, definitely use clarified butter and be very mindful of the chicken while the pan is covered.  You may want to put the covered pan in the oven at 350° F for the 20 minutes, instead of keeping it on the stove.

Kale and Collard Greens

I wanted to highlight the chicken recipe on this post; however, I made the Kale and Collard Greens first, and as it was cooking, made the chicken.  The meal was all finished at the same time.

Collard Greens and Kale

¼ cup leftover bacon fat (or render 4-5 slices of bacon)

1 medium onion, sliced

2 stalks of celery, chopped fine

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon dried thyme (optional)

1 bay leaf

2 cups of water

2 cups of chicken broth

1 bunch of kale

1 bunch of collard greens

Salt and Pepper

In an 8 quart pan, heat bacon grease on medium heat.  When the grease is moderately hot, add onions and celery.  Sauté the vegetables until the onions are translucent and the celery is soft, reduce heat if necessary.

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Once the vegetables are sufficiently soft, reduce heat to low medium and add the garlic, thyme and bay leaf.  Once the garlic and spices and incorporated, but before the garlic burns, add the water and stock and simmer.  While the liquid is simmering, remove the kale and collard leaves from their tough stems and rinse.   Add the greens to the liquid and reduce heat to low, stirring occasionally to wilt the leaves.   Cook until leaves are tender, keeping watch on the liquid level.  Do not allow the water to completely evaporate, add more water during cooking if needed. Prior to serving, salt and pepper to taste.

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