Strawberry ‘Carpaccio’ with Ginger Creme Anglaise & Balsamic Syrup

Photo credit: Rebecca Penovich

Photo credit: Rebecca Penovich

This dessert looks so fancy yet it is very simple.  I loved the combination of ginger cream with the strawberries and the pop of balsamic syrup.  In fact, I loved the ginger cream so much I ate it with a spoon like crème brûlée.

You could even serve this at breakfast (with or without the balsamic syrup).  Simply provide the crème anglaise in a little pitcher and let your guests pour it over their sliced berries.

Sliced-strawberries

Photo credit: Rebecca Penovich

Ingredients

  • 8-10 fresh whole strawberries (to serve 2 guests)
  • drizzle of balsamic syrup (I used Isola Imports ‘Classic Cream with aceto balsamico Di Modena’)
  • 1 batch of crème anglaise (recipe follows) (you will have extra leftover, eat it with a spoon out of the fridge!)
You can buy this in grocery stores or you can make your own by reducing balsamic vinegar.  Be sure to use the highest quality balsamic vinegar from Italy that you can afford.  It makes a difference!

You can buy this syrup in grocery stores or you can make your own by reducing balsamic vinegar. Be sure to use the highest quality balsamic vinegar from Modena, Italy that you can afford.  It makes a difference!

I took the time to hull the strawberries very carefully in a ‘V’ pattern because I wanted the slices to look like hearts.
After hulling the tops, I sliced each strawberry in half lengthwise.  With my sharpest knife I sliced each half into thin slices and laid them flat on a serving plate as you would carpaccio.
Not all your slices will turn out perfectly.  But that’s okay!  I saved my ugly slices and hunks and put them in a bowl and drizzled them with the ginger cream as a cook’s treat.
In fact, you don’t need to be persnickety about slicing at all – I was going for a Valentine’s day effect for the picture.

Ingredients

This recipe is from Gourmet January 1998 via Epicurious.com
  • a 4-inch piece peeled fresh gingerroot (or 1 teaspoon fresh ginger paste)
  • 1 cup half-and-half
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 2 tablespoons sugar

Directions

  • Cut gingerroot into 4 pieces and smash with flat side of a knife.
  • In a small heavy saucepan bring half-and-half and gingerroot just to a simmer over moderately low heat, about 10 minutes (do not let boil). [NOTE: Or use 1 teaspoon of refrigerated ginger paste from a tube and add that to the half-and-half.)
  • While mixture is heating, in a bowl whisk together yolks and sugar until smooth.
  • (If you’ve used gingerroot pieces, fish them out and discard when half-and-half is warm and infused.  If you’ve used ginger paste you can leave that in as it will melt into sauce.)
  • Add hot half-and-half mixture to the egg yolks in a slow stream, whisking constantly, then transfer custard back to pan.
  • Cook custard over very low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon about 5 minutes until it thickens slightly (do not let boil).
  • Pour custard through a fine sieve into a clean bowl and cool. (Crème anglaise may be made 3 days ahead and chilled, covered. Bring crème anglaise to room temperature before serving.)
Creme anglaise on plate

Photo credit: Rebecca Penovich

Spread 1-2 tablespoons of the ginger creme anglaise on a dessert plate (the amount will depend on the size of your plate.

Then carefully arrange the strawberry slices in a circular pattern until the entire plate is covered.

Drizzle the balsamic syrup lightly across the strawberries in a decorative pattern (a little syrup goes a long way.)

Enjoy with your Valentine!

 

Photo credit:  Rebecca Penovich

Photo credit: Rebecca Penovich

 

Here’s a quick video tutorial from Epicurious to show you how to make a créme anglaise without curdling the eggs.  It’s important to not overcook the cream and to temper the eggs before adding them back to the cream.  Once you have the hang of it, you are set to make all kinds of custard desserts.

Downton Abbey Cocktail Party Menu

"I'm going to be Top Chef in 1925." Photo credit:  Carnival Films & Television

“I’m going to be Top Chef in 1925.”
Photo credit: Carnival Films & Television for MASTERPIECE

So Alfred the footman aspires to be a chef and move up a little in the world.

Mrs. Patmore will teach him what she knows (which is a prodigious amount about fine cuisine and jinxed affairs of the heart).  Since she’s a woman she could not be a professional chef in the 1920s, but I’m sure she could teach the Ritz Hotel Cooking School instructors a thing or two.

"I know a thing or two, laddie." Photo credit:  Carnival Films & Television

“I know a thing or two, laddie.”
Photo credit: Carnival Films & Television for MASTERPIECE

Here is an actual English holiday cocktail party menu from Christmas 2013, served at an aristocratic estate (to remain un-named) that could easily be one served at Downton back in the day.

"I'm here for the party.  Where can I park my steed?" Photo credit: Carnival Films & Television

“I’m here for the party. Where can I park my steed?”
Photo credit: Carnival Films & Television for MASTERPIECE

Champagne
Champagne cocktail with homemade sloe gin
Hendricks Gin Martinis
Sparkling Water
(or the butler could bring you an alternative soft drink if you asked politely)
Smoked salmon and cream cheese on crackers
Caviar and cream cheese on crackers
Finger sandwiches (see Mrs. Patmore’s ‘fiddley bits’)
Spinach and herb pastry puffs
Spiral salmon rolls
Cheese straws
Tiny smoked sausages

 Shortbread and Cookies (call them ‘biscuits’)

Teeny mince pies

Fruit and Cheese

Vintage port, brandy, and madeira offered

(if you stayed later than the other guests)

The Abbey hosts a house party

“Indeed, indeed.”
(That’s what you say when you don’t know what to say in mixed company.) Photo credit: Carnival Films & Television for MASTERPIECE

Are you planning a Downton Abbey finale party yet?

Tune in January 26, 2014 to your local PBS station for Episode 4, Season 4.

English Country House Party at Downton Abbey–Part 2

lady mary on horseback

Lady Mary is back in the saddle, in more ways than one.
Photo credit: Carnival Films & Television for MASTERPIECE

Those who watched Downton Abbey’s episode 2 on Sunday know that writer Sir Julian Fellowes certainly knows how to ruin a good house party.

I won’t spoil it here for you in case you haven’t watched yet.  In addition to the shocker, there were moments of comedy and drama upstairs and downstairs, including Mrs. Patmore working herself into a tither over the syllabub, the béchamel, and the lemon dill sauce for the salmon.

She wouldn’t if she had a recipe for blender hollandaise.  And an actual blender of course.

The splattered and battered cookbook I learned to cook from (with my mom by my side.)

The splattered and battered cookbook from which I learned to cook the classic sauces
(with my mom by my side.)
Photo credit: Rebecca Penovich

 

The sauces Mrs. Patmore frets about are known as the Mother Sauces of French cuisine:

  • Béchamel – classic milk-based white sauce
  • Velouté – white sauce similar to béchamel, using chicken stock instead of milk
  • Espagnole –  brown meat stock-based sauce
  • Hollandaise – an emulsified sauce using egg yolks and butter
  • Tomato – tomato-based sauce

Mrs. Patmore’s lemon dill sauce for salmon could have been either a velouté or a hollandaise, with extra lemon and dill added.  Once you’ve mastered the Mother sauces you can create almost any other sauce by adding different flavor profiles with aromatics, stocks, vinegars, vegetables and fats.

I learned to make hollandaise from my mother’s old copy of Verna Meyer’s Menu Cookbook: Dining at Home in Style, Dillon Press, Inc., Minneapolis, MN 1980.

Verna  Meyer's Menu CookbookWe started with vinaigrette (which arguably could be considered a Mother or Master sauce, along with mayonnaise.)  From there I conquered Caesar Salad Dressing and then moved on to hollandaise (my favorite.)

On a teenaged dinner date I had discovered Veal Oscar (veal cutlets topped with crabmeat, asparagus, and hollandaise) and I was immediately in love.  With the dish if not with the boy.

Verna Meyer’s book is so splattered and battered in the Dressings and Sauces chapter that they literally stick together and I have to pry them apart when I want to refresh my memory for her Blender Hollandaise.

Ingredients

  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 1/2 T. lemon juice (freshly squeezed)
  • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
  • Dash of cayenne pepper (more to taste)
  • Dash of kosher salt

Directions

  • In a blender, place egg yolks, lemon juice, cayenne and salt and pulse once or twice to blend.
  • Melt the butter in a small, heavy-bottomed sauce pan until it is hot and bubbling.
  • Turn the blender on high (make sure the cap is on!) and add the hot butter slowly in a very thin stream until the mixture thickens and all the butter has been incorporated (leaving the white solids behind).

French chef Eric Ripert (whose recipes I love) has published his recipe for blender hollandaise and it can be found all over the internet with instructional videos and such.  I encourage you to check it out to see the method.  His recipe calls for 2 1/2 sticks of butter and that is a lot of sauce.

Verna’s recipe will give you 1 cup–plenty of hollandaise to serve 6 eggs benedict with extra sauce for dipping.  I sometimes add more lemon juice to Verna’s when I want it citrusy and have used fresh squeezed orange juice in place of the lemon.

Undoubtedly at the Abbey, Mrs. Patmore would also have served the classic Asparagus Hollandaise.

 

Asparagus Hollandaise

Photo credit: Rebecca Penovich

 

Mrs. Patmore, Daisy, and Ivy would have been taxed to the hilt cooking breakfast, luncheon, canapés, multi-coursed dinners, and tea (with scones, sandwiches, jams and cake) for 16 house guests throughout a weekend.

“She will bust a gut if she keeps that up.” Ivy says.

Highclere Castle-StateDiningRoom

The actual dining room at Highclere Castle
(ancestral home of the Earl of Carnavon) and setting for Downton Abbey.
Photo credit: Highclere Castle

 

From what I could tell from rewinding through the episode (yes, I’m that obsessed), Mrs. Patmore’s menu for the first night’s formal dinner might have been:

First course

Chilled soup, possibly vichyssoise or cold asparagus soup

Second Course

Crabmeat in pastry shells with béchamel sauce

Third Course

Poached salmon with lemon dill hollandaise

Main Course

Squab au vin with roasted mushrooms and vegetables

Dessert

Syllabub with orange peel and brandy

Presented in French, on menu cards, with the accompanying wines, which we know from Earl Grantham’s instructions to Carson included a Château Haut-Brion and a Château Margaux.  (He cavalierly let Carson choose the white wines for the fish courses.)

Interestingly in the episode, Alfred finishes the sauces and saves the dinner while Mrs. Patmore is having her anxiety attack and turns out that he wants to be a chef!

alfred the footman serving food

Alfred, now that you have mastered the classic mother sauces of French cuisine, you are on your way to being a chef.
Photo credit: Carnival Films & Television for MASTERPIECE

 

Good on ya, Mrs. Patmore.  We are glad you didn't keel over. Photo credit?

Good on ya, Mrs. Patmore. We are glad you didn’t keel over.
Photo credit: Carnival Films & Television for MASTERPIECE

 

So there we have it, a very eventful Country House Party at Downton Abbey.

Tune in to your local PBS station on Sunday, January 19, 9 pm ET.  Looks like we are going clubbing in London with Lady Rose so we’ll be shaking up some cocktails 1922-style here at Corks & Cake.

Cheers!

Rebecca

Asparagus and Herbed Butter Canape: English Country House Party at Downton Abbey

Lord Gillingham

Hunky Lord Gillingham in the drawing room.
Photo credit:  Carnival Films & Television for MASTERPIECE

You are invited to The Abbey for an English Country House Party

(well, vicariously through television anyway)

If you WERE actually invited you would be expected to arrive on time, and according to Emily Post’s Etiquette, Chapter XXV, “The Country House and Its Hospitality,” published in 1922:

“A week-end means from Friday afternoon or from Saturday lunch to Monday morning.

On whichever day the party begins, everyone arrives in the neighborhood of five o’clock, or a day later at lunch time. Many come in their own cars, the others are met at the station—sometimes by the host or a son, or, if it is to be a young party, by a daughter.

The hostess herself rarely, if ever, goes to the station, not because of indifference or discourtesy but because other guests coming by motor might find the house empty.”

English Roadster Dowton 2

Please someone, DO pick me up at the station in this.
Photo credit Carnival Films & Television for MASTERPIECE

 

Before dinner (for which you will be dressed to the nines by your lady’s maid) you might be served canapé which is a type of hors d’oeuvres: a small, prepared and usually decorative food, held in the fingers and often eaten in one bite.

Or what Mrs. Patmore has referred to as “fiddley bits” in a previous episode. (See Deviled Ham Tea Sandwiches.)

canapé consists of a base (e.g., bread or pancake), a spread, a main item, and a garnish. The spread is traditionally either a compound butter or a flavored cream cheese. Common garnishes include finely chopped vegetables, scallions, chives, herbs and caviar (Source: Wikipedia).

Asparagus and Herb Butter Canape

Asparagus and Herb Butter Canapé

Ingredients

  • 12 asparagus spears (thin spears, stalks trimmed of their woody bottom)
  • 12 slices thin white bread, crusts removed (I use Pepperidge Farm)
  • 1 stick of unsalted butter, softened for the compound butter
  • 2 tsp. additional butter for sautéing the shallot
  •  4 T. additional butter for melting and brushing on the asparagus rolls
  • 2 T. chopped shallots
  • 2 tsp. chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tsp. chopped fresh dill
  • 1/2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp. salt, to taste
  • Snipped chives for garnish (optional)
IMG_1395

Photo credit: Rebecca Penovich

Directions

  • In a large skillet, bring 1/2 in. of water to a boil. Add asparagus and boil for 3 minutes, until tender. (This will depend on how thick or thin your asparagus spears are.)
  • Drain and immediately plunge asparagus in ice water bath to retain their color. Drain and pat dry. Set aside.
  • Flatten bread with a rolling pin.
  • In a small skillet, heat 2 teaspoons of butter and sauté the shallot until softened, about 2 minutes.  Watch the heat as you do not want the shallot to burn.
  • Combine the softened butter (1 stick) with the cooked shallots, add the chopped parsley and dill, 1/4 teaspoon of lemon juice, and the salt to taste.
  • Spread 1 1/2 teaspoons herbed butter on each slice of bread. Top with an asparagus spear. Roll up tightly; place seam side down on a greased baking sheet.  Pinch slightly to seal the edge.
  • Melt the remaining 4 T. of butter and brush the asparagus rolls all over with butter.
  • Bake at 400° for 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned. Cut rolls in half to serve.  Sprinkle with snipped chives.

Makes 24 appetizers.

Asparagus rolls toasted

Photo credit: Rebecca Penovich

The Abbey hosts a house party

When the dinner gong rings, it is time to ‘go through’ to the dining room, where everyone will be seated according to their ‘precedence’ or rank. Countesses before duchesses, everyone. Or is it duchesses before countesses?  Oh dear!  At least we know there will be place cards.
Photo credit: Carnival Films & Television for MASTERPIECE

Tune in tonight, January 12, 9 pm ET on your local PBS station.

Indian-Inspired Ground Turkey Curry Samosas

Turkey Samosas plated

We cannot resist samosas when dining at an Indian restaurant and I wanted to try to make them at home.  I wanted to find some acceptable shortcuts to the traditional Indian recipe as I was going to make these for New Year’s Eve appetizers to bring to a party and didn’t want to deep-fry.

I adapted this Jean-Georges Vongerichten recipe for chicken samosas so that instead of deep-frying in spring roll wrappers I could use Trader Joe’s all-butter puff pastry and bake them.

Turkey Curry Samosas--baked

I simplified the spices to reflect what I had on hand and added potatoes sautéed in turmeric oil to give them some East Indian flair. I made them appetizer-size and I used ground turkey instead of chicken.  I didn’t have whole cumin seeds to toast and grind, and didn’t have tamarind paste or diced tomatoes so I improvised.  And I added garam masala to take them in a more Indian direction.

Isn’t that annoying?  I always want to reference a recipe that I start out with (out of respect, politeness, giving credit where credit is due), but I so often change, substitute, adapt, or improvise off the written script that the recipe is almost reinvented.

I share my reinvented recipe with you below (and link to the original inspiration above, so you can try both if you like!)

 

New Year's Eve Curry Turkey Samosas

Happy New Year!

Ground turkey in abundanceI used ground turkey that I had defrosted.  (The photo shows the 3-pounder behemoth I purchased on sale; I only used 1 pound of turkey for these appetizers.)

Because the holidays were so busy and I was making a lot of consecutive dishes, I did this in steps over a couple of days so I would not lose my mind.  But it is really easy enough to do all at once.

Step 1:  Make the turkey and spice filling.  (Keeps for 5 days.)

Step 2:  Make the cilantro yogurt dip.  (Keeps for 3 days.)

Step 3: Make the turmeric potatoes and add to turkey mixture.  (You can do this 1 day ahead before you assemble and bake the samosas.  You could opt out of the potatoes if you are pressed for time; the ground meat mixture is good.)

Step 4:  Assemble and bake the samosas.  (Serve that day.)

Since I was taking them to a party in the neighborhood, I baked them and took them right over.  They were good at room temperature.  Awesome right out of the oven. Perfectly fine for my husband’s snack after errand-running, reheated in the toaster oven at 350°.

P1010005

Ingredients

  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 3 T. canola or vegetable oil
  • 1 cup diced red onion
  • 1 large russet potato, peeled and chopped into bite-sized chunks (about 1/2 inch) (OPTIONAL)
  • 1 T. peeled and minced fresh ginger
  • 1 T. minced garlic
  • 1 T. ground coriander
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. garam masala
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons turmeric powder (divided, 1/2 tsp. for the ground meat, 1 tsp. for the optional potatoes)
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 T. Trader Joe’s dry chili paste
  • 1/4 C. chicken broth
  • 2 T. chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 T. fresh lime juice
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

Directions

  • Heat 2 T. oil in a large deep skillet over medium heat. Add the diced onion and cook, stirring, until translucent and softened, about 5 minutes.
  • Add the ginger and garlic and cook until fragrant, 1 minute.
  • Add the coriander, turmeric, cayenne, and ground cumin and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes.
  • Dissolve the dry Trader Joe’s Thai dry chili paste in 1/4 C. of chicken broth.  Add that mixture to the onions and aromatics in skillet.  [NOTE: This product is made with dried mushrooms and tamarind paste.  Since the Chef’s recipe called for 1 T. of tamarind paste and I didn’t have any, this was a good substitute.  I think you could leave it out but it would have a less authentic Indian restaurant flavor.]
  • Add the ground turkey and cook, stirring, until the meat is completely cooked through (no pink) and broth has evaporated, about 7-8 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper; stir in the fresh cilantro and the lime juice.
  • Remove from the heat, and cool to room temperature.
Thai "Dry" Chili Paste

This is a mixture of dried mushrooms, tamarind paste, coconut sugar, dried chili, lemongrass, garlic, shallot, and soy sauce. It is a handy condiment to add Asian flavor to your stir-fries and curries. 

 

  • OPTIONAL POTATOES: Place chopped potato in medium saucepan and cover with cold water, add a healthy pinch of salt to the water and bring the potatoes to a boil. Turn heat down and simmer potatoes until soft enough to fall off when pierced by a fork, about 7 minutes.
  • Drain potatoes in a colander and return to the saucepan.  Place over low heat and let potatoes dry out their moisture, shaking the pan, 2 minutes.
  • Heat the remaining T. vegetable oil in skillet over medium heat and add 1 tsp. turmeric to the oil, stirring to color the oil, 1 minute.
  • Turn potatoes into skillet and sauté, tossing to coat with turmeric oil, 4 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Take off heat, and let cool.  You can add the potato mixture to the turkey mixture and let flavors meld overnight.

P1010015

  • Defrost the puff pastry according to the package directions. (You can do this overnight in the fridge or for several hours on the counter at room temperature, plan accordingly!)
  • Place a defrosted sheet on your lightly floured board or counter.
  • Cut the sheet into fourths and then cut each square on the diagonal to make a triangle.  [NOTE: This will give you luncheon-size samosas as in the photo.  I tested this recipe twice–the first time I made them for lunch; the second I cut the pastry smaller and baked them for the party.)  For appetizer-size, cut the triangles on the diagonal to get smaller triangles (about 3 inches).

Puff Pastry
Puff pastry triangles

Curry samosa filling

  • Place a tablespoon of filling in the center of each triangle and fold the point over to reach the other point.  Seal the edges by pressing down with your finger.Samosas folded
  • Preheat oven to 400 ° and bake samosas until golden, 18-20 minutes.

Cilantro-yogurt dip:

  • 1 cup fresh cilantro leaves
  • ¾ cup plain whole-milk yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon sugar, plus more to taste
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

To make the dip: Put the cilantro leaves in a food processor and process until coarsely chopped. Transfer to a mixing bowl and add the yogurt, lemon juice, and sugar. Stir well, season with salt, pepper.  You can also add heat with a chopped jalapeno or with a dash of cayenne.  We were serving children at the party so I left the dip mild.

P1010061

Enjoy memsahib!

 

Deviled Ham Tea Sandwiches at Downton

The Dowager Countess has perfect posture, always. Photo credit:  Carnival Films & Television???? fanpop-check

The Dowager Countess always has perfect posture.
Photo credit: Carnival Films & Television for MASTERPIECE

I watched the Downtown Abbey premiere very carefully on Sunday night (Jan. 5) as I was taking notes on all the costumes, interiors, language and social conventions, and looking for all things food, entertaining, traditions, customs and kitchen-related to post about.

Zoinks, those Crawleys certainly do drink a lot of tea.  Tea in bed in the morning; tea in the breakfast room; tea in the drawing room; they go out for tea; stay in for tea; and indulge in that 1920’s form of entertainment:  thé dansant or tea dance. SPOILER: The tea dance was ruined for Lady Rose and Anna as they fled the dance hall to avoid being arrested in the fist fight over Rose.  She’s trouble, that one.

I don’t know why I find the social norms and conventions of proper entertaining of the past so fascinating, but I do.  I love the gorgeous interiors and table settings in Downton Abbey as much as the drama and intrigue.  I’m so excited to come up with posts for the 8-week Anglophile-Downton Abbey series on Corks & Cake.  It fits so well with what I’m interested in writing about: celebrations, traditions, all manner of serving food and offering hospitality, showing children how it’s done, and bringing little niceties back to our everyday, even those as simple as finding great pleasure in using a special spoon to stir your tea.

So let’s talk tea, shall we?

Photo credit: Rebecca Penovich

Photo credit: Rebecca Penovich

I found an interesting resource in Emily Post’s book, Etiquette, published in 1922 (the same year that the Downton Abbey season 4 story line begins) that outlines all of the proper conventions of the time for hosting various teas in America, including:

THE AFTERNOON TEA WITH DANCING

“The afternoon tea with dancing is usually given to “bring out” a daughter, or to present a new daughter-in-law.

Guests as they arrive are announced either by the hostess’ own butler or a caterer’s   “announcer.”

The hostess receives everyone as at a ball; if she and her daughter are for the moment standing alone, the new arrival stands talking with them until a newer arrival takes his or her place.

The younger people, as soon as they have shaken hands with the hostess, dance.   The older ones sit about, or talk to friends or take tea.”

Twenties Tea Dance Poster

I read the whole chapter of Mrs Emily Post’s book on “Teas and Other Afternoon Parties.”  Read it if you are so inclined. Even though Mrs. Post is writing about (and for) an American audience, the upper class in America would look to the British aristocrat for their guideline about how to behave in society.

A traditional tea menu for a party would include assorted tea sandwiches, scones, and a rich tart or cake of some kind.  Tea sandwiches could include cucumber, sliced radish, cream cheese, spreads of ground meat and cheese, herbed butter and the like. Scones could be plain or include raisins or fruit and would be served with soft butter, jam, and clotted cream.  The cakes and tarts would most likely be lemon, vanilla sponge, almond or jam-filled.

Inspired, I tested this recipe for Dreamy Cream Scones from Smitten Kitchen for our weekend morning breakfast.

Scone and strawberry jam

Photo credit: Rebecca Penovich

They were delicious!

When I was styling the photo and looking for just the right spoon to serve our jam, I found this sweet one from John’s mother, engraved with her first name.

I took a close-up.

Lovely engraved silver jam spoon.  I can see from it's extreme close-up it needs a bit of a polish!

Lovely engraved silver jam spoon. I can see from its extreme close-up it needs a bit of a polish!
Photo credit: Rebecca Penovich

For Christmas, we had a wonderful smoked ham delivered from Burgers’ Smokehouse in Missouri (a gift from my favorite auntie), and now was a perfect time to use the last of it for:

Deviled Ham Tea Sandwiches

The definition of 'forever':  2 people and a ham.

The definition of ‘forever:’ 2 people and a ham.

I adapted this recipe quite a bit from Homesick Texan:

Ingredients

  • 3 cups finely chopped ham (I put my leftover slices in the bowl and ended up with about 3 cups chopped–you will need to measure and adjust according to how much leftover ham you have.  Be sure to take off the rind if your ham has the skin on.)
  • 1/4 cup onion, scant, grated on a box grater
  • 6 T. mayonnaise (Hellman’s)
  • 2 T.  golden mustard with horseradish (I used Silver Spring brand Beer’n Brat Mustard)
  • 1 teaspoon chopped cornichons (the little French kind; you can substitute dill pickle and adjust the amount to your taste)
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • Salt and black pepper to taste

(NOTE: Our smoked ham was pretty salty so I didn’t use any salt; taste and adjust your seasonings for your ham.)

Directions

  • Chop the ham in the food processor, until it is a roughly smooth texture.
  • Turn the ham into a bowl and add the other ingredients, folding them in with a spatula.
  • Taste and adjust any seasoning or add more mayonnaise and mustard if you’d like a wetter mixture.
  • Cut thin white or wheat bread into circles with a biscuit cutter (or cut them into triangles or fingers.) Do not forget to cut the crusts off, as Mrs. Post directs! Spread ham on one side of bread and place another bread round on top.  Serve on your prettiest plate or cake stand.

Spread keeps in the refrigerator for a few days.  You can cover the prepared sandwiches with a lightly damp paper towel to keep them until tea time but really they should be made and eaten right away for the best effect.  (The Dowager Countess would certainly raise an eyebrow if your cook served her a stale tea sandwich!)

Photo credit: Rebecca Penovich

Photo credit: Rebecca Penovich

I’m not sure that Lady Mary or Lady Edith would prefer as much onion in their tea sandwiches (as they ARE both in the market for a new man, hello onion breath), but we liked this deviled ham spread and ate it for days on crackers, on a roll, just plain, in the fancy tea sandwiches…another new definition of ‘forever.’

Cheers all, and tune in next week for my interpretation of what Mrs. Patmore would do with that leftover ham bone.

Ta ta for now!

Rebecca

A Traditional Christmas Panto

IMG_1241

Pantomime is an eccentric British theater institution.  Usually performed at Christmastime, pantomine (slang, panto) emerged during the Restoration with roots in the commedia dell’arte of Italy.  By the beginning of the 19th century, this wonderfully strange, campy, corny, quirky mix of musical comedy and fairy tale had become a tradition.

Young Queen Elizabeth and her sister Princess Margaret performed in these musical comedy stage productions around Christmas and New Year’s, as pantos were a big part of their holiday celebrations at Windsor Castle, where they lived after evacuating from Buckingham Palace during wartime.

John, Joe and I attended our first Christmas panto in England at a village theater in the north.  Pantomimes rely heavily on audience participation (that’s a main part of the fun) and when the lead character called for a TALL volunteer, we pushed John into the fray. He played a door and a Christmas tree, much to his chagrin and our glee.  Later on in the village, we passed two children in the shops who pointed at John and said, “Look mummy!  It’s the door!”

JP endures the indignity of being a prop in the 2008 panto in England.

JP endures the indignity of being a prop in the 2008 panto in England.

Back at home in Maryland, we have the beginnings of a new Christmas tradition with our friends, Chris and Adrienne Harrington.  The British Players (formerly The British Embassy Players) mount a Christmas pantomime production at the Kensington Town Hall each year.  This year was Cinderella, a traditional British panto directed by Charles Hoag.  Chris purchased a passel of tickets for several friends and their children and away we went.  After the play we adjourned back to our house for dessert and hot chocolate.

I set up an assortment of cookies and treats in various shapes, sizes, flavors beforehand on the buffet.

Christmas dessert display

 

I knew I wanted an abundance of offerings but couldn’t make it all, of course, so I baked some homemade cookies and bars and rounded it out with my favorite seasonal treats from Trader’s Joe’s.

Homemade:

Dried Cranberry and Chocolate Cookies

Dried Cranberry Chocolate Cookies

These are everyone’s absolute favorite cookie. I think I made at least 9 dozen throughout the Christmas holiday to eat and give as gifts.

Chinese Chews

I found the recipe at one of my new favorite blogs, She Wears Many Hats.  This is a vintage recipe, dating back to the 1900s, but no one seems to know why they are titled ‘Chinese.’  Some recipes call for dates and walnuts, but I followed She Wears Many Hats and made these with just pecans.  They were like a blondie without chocolate.  Chewy in a good way with lots and lots of brown sugar.

Chinese chews (pecan bars)

I made a batch of Sugar Cookies with Sprinkles for those who don’t like chocolate or nuts.  I can’t say I was blown away with them (why are sugar cookies so hard to get right?) so no recipe to recommend.

From the store:

We love Trader Joe's.

We love Trader Joe’s.

(Left: Pepperidge Farm Pirouettes with Chocolate and Hazelnut. (Top to bottom: Trader’s Joe’s English Toffee, Trader Joe’s Caramels with Fleur du Sel, Trader Joe’s Jo Jo Cookie Assortment (like chocolate-covered Oreos).

And Walker’s Shortbread (our favorite at Christmastime.)

Everyone at our house gets shortbread in their Christmas stocking.

Everyone at our house gets shortbread in their Christmas stocking.

Christmas cookies

 

Dessert buffet

We decorated the front porch with candy canes, garland and mini trees.

christmas lights and candy canes

And a lovely guest brought the cutest miniature mince pies–an English tradition!

Classic mini mince pies

Classic mini mince pies

Another lovely friend brought a big bowl of Chocolate Mousse and the children had hot cocoa with mini marshmallows and candy canes.

P1010068Santa made an appearance.

santa

We had some savory treats also (because I like salty and crunchy better than sweet.)

Keeping it English, I put out a Stilton and a 5-year aged white cheddar (both from Trader Joe’s cheese section.)

We passed around a bowl of Spiced Pecans and a bowl of smoked almonds, both excellent with the various sparkling wines we served.

Schloss Beibrich Sekt is a wonderful sparkling wine from Germany.  A great buy.  Michelle Brut from Columbia Valley in Washington State another lovely find!

Schloss Beibrich Sekt is a wonderful sparkling wine from Germany. A great buy. Michelle Brut from Columbia Valley in Washington State another lovely find!

Spiced Pecans

And let’s not forget my favorite potato chip:  Kettle Brand Salt and Pepper Chips. Because it’s not a party without a potato chip, in my opinion.

We served an assortment of beverages, including lemonade, Pellegrino, Coke and Diet Coke, Capri Suns for the kids, white and red wines and IPAs for the adults.

I had planned to offer coffee and put out the china cups and saucers beforehand, but we totally forgot to brew it or offer it.  Since the play didn’t wrap up until 9:30 pm, this was a late party and no one asked for coffee as I’m sure they wanted to go to sleep at midnight with visions of sugar plums in their heads.

Tree at the Kensington Armory

The marvelous tree at Kensington Town Hall, large and festive.

Hope everyone had a happy Christmas!  Thank you, Chris and Adrienne for the panto tickets and the lovely new Christmas tradition.

Cheers,

Rebecca

Mushroom and Wild Rice Bisque

Mushroom and Wild Rice Bisque

Mushrooms and wild rice were a centerpiece of my Minnesota childhood holiday meals. Both ingredients were considered “spendy” (Minnesota slang for expensive), and thus we didn’t have them everyday.

On Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter my mom would break away from the budget and our guests would be treated to luxurious dishes that made these holidays special, such as Minnesota Wild Rice Casserole which combined sautéed onions, green pepper, celery, button mushrooms,  chopped pimento and lots and lots of butter.

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Wild rice is actually a grass, sustainably harvested by hand by the Ojibwe Nation in northern Minnesota.

Mushroom and wild rice soup was a budget-friendly alternative.  You could have a small cup or bowl if you were out shopping, which my mom and I did at Byerly’s, an upscale grocery store in St. Paul.  My sister, who lived in the more cosmopolitan Minneapolis, took me to Cafe Brenda in the 1980s, and this is the soup I came to love.

Raw mushrooms

Mushroom and Wild Rice Bisque

adapted from The Cafe Brenda Cookbook: Redefining Seafood and Vegetarian Cuisine

Ingredients

  • 3/4 C. wild rice (order from White Earth Nation/Ojibwe site)
  • 7 C. vegetable or chicken stock
  • 1/3 C. long-grain brown rice
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 green onion, chopped (optional) (save the green parts for garnish on top)
  • 2 large carrots, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 4 T. butter
  • 1 pound mushrooms, sliced (I used a combination of cremini and white button)
  • 2 C. half and half
  • 1/4 C. parsley, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp. Worcestershire
  • salt and pepper to taste

Sliced mushrooms

Directions

  • Rinse wild rice thoroughly in a strainer.
  • Bring stock to a boil, add wild rice, brown rice and rosemary sprigs.  
  • Simmer, covered, for 1 hour or until rice is tender.  
  • While rice is cooking, chop vegetables.
  • Sauté onions, carrot, and celery in 2 T. of butter until very soft (about 10 minutes.)
  • Warm the half and half in a saucepan and add the vegetable mixture.  Let steep for 5-10 minutes.
  • Melt remaining 2 T. of butter and sauté the mushrooms until nicely colored and soft.
  • Add half of the mushroom mixture to the vegetables and half and half.  Puree the vegetables in the pot with your immersion blender or pour into a blender and puree.
  • Add the pureed mixture to the rice and stock mixture and stir to combine.  Take out the rosemary sprigs.
  • Add the remaining sautéed mushrooms.
  • Season the soup with Worcestershire, salt, pepper and parsley.
  • Simmer the soup gently, until heated through but do not let it boil.  Flavors develop best overnight.

Mushroom and wild rice bisque

 

 

wild rice harvest

The Ojibwe people still harvest wild rice by hand in Northern Minnesota. Photo: White Earth Nation.

An Unapologetically Retro Dip

Braunschweiger pate

 

Braunschweiger Pâté

Anyone with any knowledge at all of French cuisine will scoff at calling this pâté, but I certainly can’t call it “meat dip” and get anyone to try it, now can I?

My mom broke out this retro appetizer at Christmastime and it is really tasty despite its homely looks.  For you skeptics out there, I made this for friends in college and a Corks & Cake college friend reached out to say she had a request from another college friend for the recipe!  That’s almost 28 years later, people!  (Gulp!  I just divulged my real age.)

It is very easy and makes a large quantity, so save this to try when you are having a cocktail or holiday party or when you have multiple pot lucks to contribute to.  (A little goes a long way to satisfy, and believe me, this dip is rich so you don’t want a large quantity lurking in your refrigerator for days and days after you’ve had your fill.) Share it, baby!

Braunschweiger pate ingredients

 

Ingredients

  • 1 16 oz. package of Braunschweiger (pork liver sausage); I use Kahn’s brand that I find in my grocer’s deli section
  • 8 oz. Philadelphia brand cream cheese, softened (NOTE:  do not use the whipped kind, it has too much air and contains more emulsifiers)
  • 2 T. grated yellow onion (NOTE:  it is important that the onion is grated, not minced.  That will give you a wonderful, juicy mush to intoxicate your pâté with. Break out the box grater.
  • 1 1/2 T. Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder (NOTE:  I don’t recommend chopped fresh garlic here because you want a perfectly smooth paste without bits of garlic for your guests to bite into on their cracker.
  • 1/4 tsp.Worcestershire sauce

Directions

  • Mash the Braunschweiger and the cream cheese with a fork in a mixing bowl until incorporated.
  • Fold in all the other ingredients.
  • Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate.  You can serve right away but I find that the flavors develop better overnight.

Serve with your favorite retro crackers.  I’m partial to Triscuits Original.  Melba toasts if you are old school.  Ritz crackers if you are a junk food hedonist.  Carr’s Water Crackers if you are a snob (just kidding.)

Cheers!  And enjoy your 'meat dip' with a dirty martini or an IPA.  Photo credit: Chip Pye.

Cheers! And enjoy your ‘meat dip’ with a dirty martini or an IPA.
Photo credit: Chip Pye.

 

Grilled Chicken and Radish Picnic Baguette with Herbed Cream Cheese

chicken sandwich

This is a simple sandwich to share with a crowd.

One of the keys that makes it so tasty is taking the time to trim and marinate the chicken before grilling.  As you probably have found, boneless, skinless chicken breasts can be boring, and worse, dry.  On the grill, they can get tough as a deck of cards and cook unevenly.

Since I’m determined to try to get more chicken into our dinner rotation, I’ve been reading tutorials on how to get chicken breast right.  (Yes, chicken tutorials.  This is life-long learning at its pinnacle.)

The gauntlet thrown, it was time to tackle the chicken breast and find a way to keep it juicy and flavorful without drowning it in sauce.

What I learned:

1.  It’s important to trim the breasts.  Cut off the tenderloins and save for another use. These are the filet mignon of the chicken breast (if you will allow me that analogy) and really should be used in a stir fry or sauté where you can showcase their tenderness.  Sure you can just open the package and toss the uber-plump breasts on the grill, slather with some sauce and they will be edible (maybe), but you want something good, right?

Your goal here is to get a piece of breast that has a consistent thickness.  Since most commercially farmed breasts are so big, I often cut them in half after trimming.  That gives me smaller pieces to deal with and I can better monitor how they are cooking.  You are going to slice the breasts thinly for the sandwich so you don’t need to worry about serving a 1/2 portion of breast.

2.  Pound the heck out them.  I sandwich the breasts between two sheets of plastic wrap and use my trusty mallet.

chicken_mallet

You could use your rolling pin or the flat bottom of a heavy pan.  Really whack those babies to get them an even thickness, ideally 1/2 inch thick.  Kids love this task by the way, so go ahead and delegate it.  Have them pound both sides.

3.  Marinate the breasts for at least an hour (or longer.)  You want to use a combination of oil and acid (vinegar or citrus juice) along with salt, pepper, herbs, spices or other aromatics.  I find that fresh herbs in a marinade tend to char on the grill so I’ve used dry in this recipe. (Plus you will get fresh herby goodness in the cream cheese spread.)

Really Good Marinade

Ingredients

  • 1/4 C. extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 T. red wine vinegar
  • 1/8 tsp. red pepper flakes (more if you like spicy)
  • 1/4 tsp. dried oregano or thyme
  • 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. fennel powder (optional, I had ground fennel seeds for another recipe)

Directions

  • Whisk all together and taste.  Correct the seasoning if you’d like more vinegar or less; more spice or less.
  • Pour over chicken breasts and marinate, covered, for one hour or more in the refrigerator.
Chicken off the grill.

Chicken resting off the grill.

4.  Grill over high heat for 2-3 minutes per side.  Watch them and feel them.  When the breasts feel firm and resist the tongs, they are done. Let the breasts rest on your cutting board so they can absorb their juices.  Do not overcook!

5. Slice thinly against the grain.

 

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For the sandwich

  • 1 good baguette (good toothsome bread is essential: it makes all the difference in a sandwich)
  • 3 radishes, sliced thinly
  • 2 shallots, sliced thinly (TIP:  I sprinkled a little red vinegar over the shallots to slightly pickle them while I assembled the sandwich,  this takes away some of that raw onion harshness)
  • 8 grape tomatoes, sliced in half
  • Herbed cream cheese spread (I made my own with 3 T. cream cheese, 1 T. of mayonnaise, 1 T. chopped fresh parsley, 1 T. chopped fresh basil, pinch of salt and pepper)
Assembling the picnic sandwich.

Assembling the picnic sandwich.

 

 

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Adding the shallot and tomato.

 

Assemble the sandwich:

  • Slice the baguette in half lengthwise and spread some of the cream cheese mixture on both halves.
  • Place the sliced chicken in a single layer on one half, topped with a single layer of pickled shallots.
  • On the other half of the baguette, assemble a layer of the radishes, topped by the grape tomatoes.
  • Sprinkle a little salt and fresh ground pepper over the chicken and shallot side (not too much)
  • Put both sides together and press down to adhere.

When ready to serve, cut your picnic sandwich into serving slices and hold them together with a short bamboo skewer.

Summer chicken on baguette

Pack them into your picnic basket or cooler and enjoy the concert or the game!
For some helpful grilled chicken breast tutorials, check out: