Now that we’ve had time to become hungry again, and curious, and winter is now perceptible, kitchen warmth may be the call of the day, and a few stories might be told around the table.
...A Valuable Fat:
I worried all the time I was melting some of my freshly rendered lard to fry up some calamari that I was wasting it. It’s very rare, you see, if not impossible, to find lard rendered down from hogs that have been raised correctly. And even though it’s fairly easy to render it yourself after you find the right fat, it’s an uncertain process. I’d been out of lard for six or so months until I found good fat at Pine Woods Farm.
So I was being stingy and agonizing over the depth of the lard I was allotting the calamari, and then I reminded myself that I wasn’t wasting it, I was using it for what it was made for! All physical things get used up eventually, and then you start over. Use it or lose it, Honey.
The calamari was very good, but then what did I do but pour that used lard through a sieve into a plastic container which I labeled ‘Fish Lard.’
Have you ever heard of anything more disgusting? I mean hell will have frozen over by the time I dig into the bottom of the freezer to rescue that little capsule of ‘fish lard’ because I need it to... What? Make a potion? What in god’s name would I use it for?
This is the way that old people get a bad name. Packaging up something called Fish Lard for their progeny to discover after they are gone.
**Readers of Twice Bitten wrote with various suggestions. Of course, one said, you could fry some more fish in it -- which I think I will do tonight. Also use it instead of butter in fish chowder. Thanks, Readers!
Those are the best kind, don’t you think? This one is a cookie filling, said to be delicious, that consists of 1 small jar of grape jelly, 2 cans of chick peas, 1/2 quart of wine, 1 pound of chopped walnuts, 1 grated orange, 1 large Hershey bar, and 3 cups of sugar. You mash the chick peas and boil everything else together. I couldn’t find how they got put back together, and I couldn’t figure out if you were supposed to drink the wine or boil it up, so I didn’t make it. If any reader is weird enough to try it, let me know the result.
**Readers again came to the rescue -- apparently this is an old Italian family favorite, made for holidays.
I made these for Christmas dinner for the first time and baked them off at a friend’s house. They were light and tall-hatted and crispy on the out, eggy within, but I couldn’t find the recipe this time. Luckily my friends had found it and stuck it on their fridge. It was called Marlene’s Yorkshire Pudding and it was from Michael Ruhlman’s blog. Now, what is interesting – and I think probably effective – is that you mix this batter a couple hours before baking. Now if that’s not convenient on a busy day I don’t know what is. You could certainly whip these up in the morning and bake them off at 4 for appetizers. Excuse me while I do that right now!
Popovers, (or Yorkshire Pudding)
• 1 cup/5 ounces all purpose flour *
• 1 teaspoon mustard powder (I omitted this)
• 4 or 5 large eggs, enough to make 1 cup
• 1 cup/8 ounces whole milk
• 6 teaspoons lard or beef fat drippings (or try coconut oil if you are not roasting a meat)
Whisk the flour and mustard powder together into a mixing bowl. Add the eggs and milk and blend on high speed with a mixer until fully incorporated. Let the batter rest for 2 hours (at least) at room temperature, stirring it up now and then.
When ready to bake, first, pour a bit of fat into each cup of a popover pan or of each muffin cup. Place the pan on a baking sheet and slide it into the oven to heat the oil while the oven comes up to temp 475°. When it’s ready, stir the batter and pour it into the pans until each cup is 3/4 full.
Put the pan in the oven. From this point on, do not open the oven door. It helps if you have a glass door on your oven so you can watch them rise and brown, but I don’t. We’ll see how that works out.
Bake for 10 minutes, reduce the temperature to 450° and continue baking until the popovers are puffed and golden brown, 13 to 20 minutes. Serve immediately.
Yield: 6 popovers of 12 small muffins; you can also bake it in 9×13-inch baking dish with some beef drippings in the bottom and call it Yorkshire Pudding.
*I mistakenly called for 10 ounces of flour in Twice Bitten, the same amount I called for in the scones, below, even though the scones called for 2 cups flour and the popovers only one. A sharp-eyed reader caught that error, so I made the popovers yet once more, with only 4 ounces of flour. They came out pretty much the same as the 10 ounce popovers, except possibly more delicate. Both highly edible.
...Current Favored Salad:
This is fresh like spring. So sprightly with lemon. So flavorful with... Kale.
Massaged Kale Salad
1 bunch of kale from the farmers’ market. Tear it off the stems into a large bowl. I don’t think you want the stems in the salad, although they’re good. Use them as dippers for a nice spread.
Add to the torn up kale: a very thinly sliced clove of garlic; a sprinkling of salt and pepper; the juice of 1 lemon; the zest of 1 lemon; about a tablespoon of Worcestershire; several chopped anchovies (if you like); a few glugs of olive oil; a heaping tablespoon of Roquefort, Stilton, Gorgonzola, or other blue-veined cheese, pinched into chunks.
With your (spic and span) hands toss these ingredients together, squeezing handfuls, rubbing them together, until every leaf is coated and becoming if not limp then at least manageable. Toss some more. Taste for salt and correct seasonings.
**I met a reader on the evening of the day this was published in the Rutland Herald, and he said, "In this weather (it was sleeting and slippery, do you know what I'm going to do? I'm going to drive into town to get some kale to make that salad. It sounds so healthy!"
... Much ado about Garnishes:
What you put on top – like a bit of parm and olive oil on most soups – can really make the dish. I like to serve that kale salad with sliced hard boiled eggs on the side, and a few sliced almonds and pumpkin seeds that have been crisped in butter over the top. The latter are a wonderful garnish on almost anything.
As are a few raisins that have been plumped in port, Madeira, or sherry. I keep a small dish of raisins macerating in a flavorful alcoholic liquid on the counter for use in many dishes. A sherried raisin is a nice cook’s snack, too.
Too, I like the cascobel pepper salsa that I’ve mentioned several times as a garnish for many dishes.
And just lately I found a new favorite – Spicy Fenugreek Sauce – It’s from Flatbreads & Flavors by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid, a travel/food book, a collection of breads and their accompaniments from exotic and mostly third-world countries.
I ground it in a coffee grinder, used some frozen roasted tomatoes from my garden, some of the cascobel pepper salsa instead of cayenne, and served it over the coconut chicken I’d was making that night. It was very good. It makes a great deal of sauce, keeps well for at least a week, and tastes good as a garnish for many things. Although perhaps not scones.
...Scones and thick cream:
These were developed for a child’s history of food storybook I worked on a while back. When I made them the other day my friend Ann brought sweetened whipped cream and we had Breezy Meadows’ elderberry/blackberry jelly. It was perfect.
Unfortunately, late that evening I discovered that bits of the scones broken off and used as dippers for as much whipped cream they could carry were indistinguishable from true joy. Uneasy dreams resulted from that discovery.
2 cups (10 ounces) unbleached white flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 scant teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup (4 ounces) butter
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup raisins
1 large egg
¾ cup of buttermilk
Preheat the oven to 375°.
Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl or a food processor. Cut or pulse in the butter, then the rolled oats, then the egg and buttermilk. Then stir in the raisins and work them through the batter.
Flour a counter top, scrape the dough onto the flour, gather the dough and pat into a flat circle about 12 inches in diameter. Cut it into wedges with a sharp knife – the dough will be soft – like a pizza, and then carefully place onto a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes.
Alternatively you may spoon half cups full of batter onto a hot griddle, smooth into cakes and bake on each side until done.
Here’s hoping you find true joy on these cold but lengthening days, get to spend some time in the kitchen, with friends around the table, and have another sherried raisin – they’re good for you!