27 March 2010

Pimento Cheese (Pimiento Cheese)

Pimento Cheese / www.delightfulrepast.com

Pimento Cheese (pimento is pronounced puh-MIN-uh, by the way) is an iconic Southern food that's been around for over a hundred years, but my Southern grandmother never mentioned it; I had to learn it on my own! There are many variations, but it's basically shredded sharp or medium Cheddar (I always use Tillamook), mayonnaise and pimientos. I think it would be delicious on a hamburger, hot dog or bacon sandwich; but it's usually just slapped on some soft white bread for a quick sandwich, cold or toasted. Apparently, you can also stuff celery with it, spread it on crackers or dip tortilla chips in it.

It must, or so I'm told, be made with real mayonnaise. Many Southern cooks swear by Duke's mayonnaise, but I have to make do with Best Foods/Hellman's. Duke's is still made in Greenville, South Carolina, and sold throughout the South. I suppose the rest of us could do mail-order if we wanted to be sticklers for authenticity!

Purists may not add anything to the basic ingredients, but I couldn't resist a little dill pickle and dill pickle juice along with black pepper and a pinch of cayenne. And I think next time I'll throw in a few chopped green olives. You can add red wine vinegar or Tabasco. I'm a huge fan of Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce, so I might have to give that a try in the next batch. Some like it blended smooth, but I'm among those who prefer it a little chunky.

This afternoon I spread a thin layer on Oroweat Country Buttermilk bread, topped it with another slice, trimmed off the crusts and cut it into tiny tea sandwiches to go with a pot of Earl Grey tea. Another Delightful Repast! I'd love to hear your thoughts on pimento cheese.

Update 12/07/16: For how to throw an afternoon tea party and a roundup of afternoon tea recipes, see Afternoon Tea Party Tips.

Pimento Cheese (Pimiento Cheese)

(Makes 3 cups)

1 pound medium or sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded
1 4-ounce jar pimientos, drained and diced
1 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons chopped dill pickle
2 tablespoons dill pickle juice
1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

In 2-quart bowl, stir together all ingredients until well blended. Transfer to serving bowl and cover. Chill for a few hours or up to one week. Serve with crackers, tortillas chips, bread or celery sticks.

25 March 2010

Afternoon Tea

Just wanted to let you know that I did a guest post about afternoon tea on a terrific blog for Anglophiles. I hope you enjoy the post and anglotopia.net.

Related posts: How to Make a Proper Cup of Tea and Tea and Scones.

21 March 2010

Shepherd's Pie - Cottage Pie

Shepherd's Pie or Cottage Pie - Classic British Comfort Food / www.delightfulrepast.com

It's hard to find anybody these days who doesn't fancy himself something of a foodie. It's a dreadful word, isn't it? And why anyone would get to feeling uppity about their taste in food, I can't say. I'm no slouch in the kitchen, and I can put a "sophisticated" meal on the table whenever I want to. But you know what guests really get excited over? Comfort food. Simple ingredients, prepared with care, presented with a little flair.

I talk to people all the time who are in a cycle of competitive cookery with their friends. They rarely have anyone in for dinner because they feel they would have to muster up an enormous amount of energy since expectations are so high in their circle. I say, it's time to get real. We're all busy, stressed and tired; we need friendship and comfort, not poached lamb brains on a bed of hummingbird tongues with a rose-scented trockenbeerenauslese reduction (and that's just the first course!).

We had a pair of outstanding cooks to dinner one evening. What did I serve them? Humble shepherd's pie. They genuinely loved every bite of it! Admittedly, my own recipe is put together with a bit more care than some; but it is still "just" comfort food (or, as they say in England, nursery food). Hmm ... I'm trying to remember which wine I served with it. 

It takes about an hour to get it ready for the oven, so I like to make it a day ahead. If you follow the directions precisely, you will have a shepherd's pie that not only tastes great but can be cut into neat squares for an attractive presentation. Try my recipe and see if it's not a Delightful Repast! And be sure to come back and comment. I'll post my (pictured above) Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie another day.

Shepherd's Pie - Cottage Pie / www.delightfulrepast.com

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Shepherd's Pie

(Serves 12)

Sometimes I avoid the whole Shepherd's Pie or Cottage Pie / Lamb or Beef Controversy by making it with turkey. But in my family it's always been Shepherd's Pie, no matter what it's made of.

The Filling

2 to 4 tablespoons (30 to 59 ml) extra virgin olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
2 pounds (0.91 kg) lean* ground turkey, beef, or half of each
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 cups chopped carrots
1/4 cup (1.25 ounces/35 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 14.5-ounce can petite diced tomatoes
1/2 cup (4 fluid ounces/118 ml) water or broth
1 teaspoon marjoram
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups frozen peas

The Potatoes

4 1/2 pounds (2.04 kg) russet potatoes
8 tablespoons (4 ounces/113 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cup (10 fluid ounces/296 ml) milk
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1 cup (4 ounces/113 grams) shredded Cheddar

* If you make it with a high-fat-content meat, you end up with a smaller amount of cooked meat, and so, a smaller amount of filling.

1 Start the filling before the potatoes to allow plenty of time for proper browning. In 12-inch straight-sided skillet, heat oil and cook onion about 5 minutes or until soft. Add ground turkey (or beef) and start browning well. 

2 In the meantime, pare the potatoes and rinse and quarter them. Put the potatoes in a 4-quart pan and add cold water to cover and a teaspoon of salt. Bring to a boil and simmer about 20 minutes or until potatoes are tender.

3 While potatoes are cooking, continue browning the turkey. Proper browning, rather than just "graying," gives the finished dish a richer flavor, making it well worth the extra time it takes. If using lean turkey, as I do, there is no need to drain the fat from the pan. A lot of moisture comes out of the turkey and must evaporate before any browning can occur. Add Worcestershire sauce toward end of browning. When meat is browned (which can take a long time, at least 20 minutes, with lean turkey), add chopped carrots and cook about 10 minutes. Sprinkle flour over all and mix thoroughly. Stir in diced tomatoes, water or broth, and seasonings; cook about 3 minutes. Add frozen peas and remove from heat.

4 When potatoes are done, drain completely, cover and set over low heat for half a minute to dry thoroughly. Remove from heat, mash, add butter and continue mashing. Stir in milk, salt, pepper and grated Cheddar. Potatoes will be a bit looser than you would make to serve as mashed potatoes; this makes spreading easier.

5 Lightly grease a 15x10x2-inch baking dish (I use a little extra virgin olive oil). Line bottom of dish with *half the potatoes, then all the filling; top with potatoes. Can be made the day before. Cover and refrigerate until 65 minutes before serving time. Preheat oven to 375F/190C/Gas5. Uncover and bake for 55 minutes. Let stand for 10 minutes before cutting into squares. It can be made with ground beef, if you prefer; but I've found that even people who claim to not like ground turkey can't even tell the difference with this recipe. If using ground beef (even lean ground beef), though, drain the fat off before adding other ingredients.

* That is not the usual way to do shepherd's pie, but I've done it this way for many years. It's the way to go if, like me, you like your shepherd's pie to come out of the pan in neat squares.

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14 March 2010

Chocolate Buttermilk Sheet Cake

Chocolate Buttermilk Sheet Cake / www.delightfulrepast.com
Chocolate cake is always a hit at any gathering. I'm not that keen on chocolate myself, but nearly everyone else in the world is. My quick and easy feeds-a-crowd chocolate buttermilk sheet cake is served right from the pan--perfect for any large casual party. I took it to a big party on Saturday and it disappeared in no time. Everyone was talking about it! 

Inspired by a cake popular in the '70s, I developed this recipe for a larger, more flavorful, slightly less sweet cake. It yields 32 servings and can be made start-to-finish, including frosting, in under an hour. The only special equipment required is a Sheet Pan Half Size - 12-7/8'' x 17-3/4'' Heavy Duty, 13 Gauge, the same one I use for my Meyer lemon sheet cake and so many other things. I hope you'll try it and let me know what you think.

Chocolate Buttermilk Sheet Cake

(Makes 18x13x1-inch half-sheet, 32 servings)

The Cake

1 1/4 cups water or cold coffee
1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
1/2 cup natural unsweetened cocoa
1 1/2 teaspoons instant espresso powder
2 1/2 dip-and-sweep cups (12.5 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup buttermilk
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
The Frosting

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/3 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup natural unsweetened cocoa
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon espresso powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 cups confectioner’s sugar
1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) finely chopped pecans, toasted

1 Preheat oven to 350. Spray an 18x13x1-inch half-sheet pan with cooking spray; don’t try to make-do with a smaller pan, or the batter will overflow.

2 In 2-quart saucepan, combine water, butter, cocoa and espresso powder. Heat, whisking occasionally, over medium heat until the butter melts.

3 In large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking soda and salt. Whisking for about 30 seconds sort of sifts the dry ingredients. In 2-cup glass measure, combine buttermilk, eggs and vanilla. Add warm liquid mixture to dry ingredients and stir to combine; beat for about 30 seconds. Add the buttermilk mixture and beat for another 30 seconds. (A wooden spoon works perfectly well, but I use an English cake whisk, a kind of stainless steel wire spoon that has been made in Britain for over a hundred years.)

4 Pour into prepared pan. Bake at 350 for about 25 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool slightly (10 minutes) on wire rack while making the frosting. The slight cooling before pouring on the frosting gives the cake a better texture.

In same 2-quart saucepan (no need to wash it) over low heat, combine butter, buttermilk, cocoa, vanilla, espresso powder and salt. When butter is melted, bring to a boil; remove from heat. Whisk in confectioner’s sugar, whisking vigorously until smooth. Stir in toasted pecans. After cake has cooled for 10 minutes, pour warm frosting over warm cake and spread quickly. Cool in pan on wire rack for at least 4 hours.

08 March 2010

Boeuf Bourguignon (Beef Stew in Red Wine)

Boeuf Bourguignon - Beef Stew in Red Wine / www.delightfulrepast.com

Boeuf Bourguignon, beef stew in red wine, has been in my repertoire for ages, but I haven't made it in years. Of course, like so many others across the country, I got in the mood to make it last summer after seeing the movie Julie and Julia. But it was too hot then, and I'm just now getting around to it.

My recipe is adapted from Julia's, in Mastering the Art of French Cooking, with a few changes (I say "changes" rather than "improvements" because, after all, who am I to improve on perfection). There is nothing difficult about Boeuf Bourguignon, it just has a lot of steps and takes a lot of time (nearly 2 hours to the point where it goes into the oven). Getting the heavy work out of the way two days before you plan to serve it gives you time to recover and enjoy it.   

I grew up watching Julia Child on television alongside my mother. We would then head into the kitchen and cook. Great fun, great memories. It’s so unfortunate that my mother died before I met Julia; she would have been so excited. I met Julia on several occasions during her later years. She was so nice. I always intended to invite her over for afternoon tea, but never got around to it. (Lesson: Don't procrastinate when you're dealing with people in that age group!) I would have felt really strange cooking in front of her, but with afternoon tea everything is prepared in advance--so I could avoid burning my eyebrows off!

Boeuf Bourguignon

(Serves 6)

6 ounces (1/2 12-ounce package) cured salt pork
2 cups water
3 to 3 1/2 pounds lean beef chuck, cut into 18 2-inch cubes (start with 4 pounds to allow for trimming)
Salt and coarsely ground black pepper

1 cup water, divided, for deglazing
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, coarsely sliced
1 medium carrot, coarsely sliced
2 cloves garlic, coarsely smashed
1 bay leaf
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
2 cups beef or chicken broth (I was out of beef, so used chicken)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 bottle drinkable Burgundy or Pinot Noir
1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram (if you don't care for the original thyme)
2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup water
1/2 14-ounce bag frozen pearl onions
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound fresh mushrooms, halved or quartered
3 tablespoons brandy
1/4 cup minced flat-leaf parsley

1 Remove rind from salt pork, and cut salt pork into 1/4-inch-thick slices (rather than Julia's 1 1/2x1/4-inch lardons; makes them easier to retrieve from the pot, as I don't care to have the lardons in the finished dish). In 1-quart saucepan, simmer rind and salt pork in 2 cups water for 10 minutes. Drain and pat dry. Meanwhile, trim and cut up beef. I used two boneless chuck cross-rib roasts, a little over 2 pounds each.

2 Place 2 layers of cheesecloth (about 18 inches square) over a medium bowl. Place the blanched rind in the cheesecloth; set aside. (A friend told me about the cheesecloth idea from
Cook's Illustrated; saves some work farther along in the recipe.)

3 In 12-inch skillet, sauté the diced salt pork over medium heat until lightly browned and crisp, about 15 minutes. With slotted spoon, remove to 5 1/2-quart enameled cast-iron Dutch oven. Pour off all but 2 or 3 teaspoons of fat, and reserve.

Note: If your 12-inch skillet is a straight-sided skillet, as mine is, you can brown the beef in two batches. If your skillet has flared sides, and therefore a smaller cooking surface, you will need to brown the beef in three batches.

4 Dry the beef cubes a batch at a time with paper towels, and season with salt and pepper, about 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper for all the meat. Heat the skillet with 2 or 3 teaspoons of fat and, over high heat, brown the first batch of meat in a single layer until very brown, about 10 minutes. Transfer browned beef to
5 1/2-quart Dutch oven. Deglaze pan with 1/4 cup water; pour into Dutch oven. Add 2 or 3 teaspoons reserved fat to skillet and return to high heat. Repeat until all the meat is browned. If you run out of reserved fat, use olive oil. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

5 In same skillet, heat olive oil and sauté onion and carrot about 10 minutes until lightly browned. Add to cheesecloth-lined bowl, along with garlic and bay leaf. Tie with kitchen string and place in Dutch oven.

6 In same skillet, over medium heat, heat butter and whisk in flour, cooking about 5 minutes or until lightly browned. Gradually whisk in broth. Simmer, stirring frequently, until thickened. Stir in tomato paste. Pour into Dutch oven.

7 Add wine, marjoram (or thyme) and about 1/4 teaspoon salt to Dutch oven. Over high heat, bring to a boil. Cover with foil and lid and place in oven to cook for 2 1/2 hours at 300 degrees. (The whole process takes about 1 3/4 hours up to this point.)

8 Take pot from oven and, with tongs, retrieve the cheesecloth bag and put it in a mesh strainer held over the Dutch oven. Press out all the liquid into the pot and discard the bag. Let beef cool to room temperature in the sauce, up to 2 hours, then cover and refrigerate for 1 to 2 days. (This allows you to remove the fat in one congealed layer, which requires less time and skill than skimming the liquid fat from the surface of the sauce.)

9 On serving day, skim off the layer of fat and discard. With slotted spoon, remove beef to large bowl and set aside; remove salt pork and discard. Set pot over medium high heat and bring sauce to simmer. Shake together flour and water until mixture is smooth. Stir into sauce. Simmer sauce, uncovered, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes. Add beef and bring to simmer. Simmer, loosely covered, for 30 minutes.

10 Meanwhile, in 8-inch skillet, cook frozen pearl onions (call me a lazy cook, but I'm not going to blanch and peel a few dozen tiny onions) with 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, 1 teaspoon sugar, 1/8 teaspoon salt and 1/4 cup water. Cook covered, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Uncover and cook a few more minutes until liquid has evaporated. Add to large bowl.

11 In 12-inch skillet, heat 1 tablespoon each butter and olive oil. Add mushrooms and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and coarsely ground black pepper. Sauté mushrooms over medium high heat for about 5 minutes. Add to large bowl.

12 After beef has been cooking for 30 minutes, add onions, mushrooms and brandy. Cover and simmer until heated through, about 15 minutes. Uncover, sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve.

Boiled potatoes are the traditional accompaniment to this classic dish, but I always serve it with mashed potatoes, buttered peas and homemade bread.

If you haven't made it yet, I hope you'll give it a try and tell me all about it. And DO buy the books. Though you can find Julia Child's recipes and lots of people's adaptations of them online, you need to read the books!

04 March 2010

Spoon Rolls - A New Twist on an Old Favorite

Spoon Rolls - A New Twist on an Old Favorite / www.delightfulrepast.com

When I'm feeling my Southern roots from my paternal grand-
mother, I like to make her delectable fried chicken dinner with mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans, biscuits, peach pie and iced tea. Now there's a Delightful Repast! Spoon rolls are a Southern thing, too, but I have to have biscuits with my fried chicken.

Traditional spoon rolls are the quickest and easiest yeast bread going. The problem I always had with them was that, though tasty, they are more like a muffin in texture. So I started experimenting and came up with a much more flavorful version that has the proper yeast dough texture. It's still just as quick and easy, but since they have to hang out in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours, you have to plan ahead.

24-Hour Spoon Rolls

(Makes 18 rolls)

3 3/4 packed cups (18.75 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons (1 package) instant yeast
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter
2 cups water
1 large egg, lightly beaten

1 In large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, yeast and salt. In small saucepan, melt butter; stir in water. With dough whisk or large wooden spoon, stir water, melted butter and beaten egg into flour mixture until blended. The dough will be very sticky. Cover with lid or plastic wrap. Place in refrigerator for at least 24 hours or up to three days.

2 An hour to an hour and half before serving time (the longer time if your kitchen is cold), remove from refrigerator and stir down the dough (just a few strokes). With a 1/4-cup measure, scoop dough into well-greased or cooking-sprayed muffin tins, filling two-thirds full (scant 1/4 cup). Let rise, uncovered, 20 to 30 minutes (60 minutes if kitchen is cold) or until they’ve risen to the top of the cups. During last 15 minutes, preheat oven to 400 degrees.

3 Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes or until rolls are golden brown. Let stand 5 minutes before removing from tins. Makes 18.