The Good Home Cookbook (Collectors Press, Fall 2006) is a landmark cookbook that compiles tried and true American favorite recipes. Key to the book's success is the more than 1,000 people currently participating in the first ever national public recipe testing campaign.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Hangtown Fry--for oyster lovers

This recipe for Hangtown Fry is an oldie but as we found it's a goodie. If you can't do oysters in the morning, then try this in the evening. Either way, it is surprisingly good and offers a new but classic way of getting creative with oysters. It is fully tested and ready to roll, but please do give me your feedback. Thanks!

Hangtown Fry
A miner walked into a restaurant in Hangtown, California, in 1849, carrying a sack of gold over his shoulder. “Give me your most expensive grub,” he ordered. The cook said he could cook up some oysters and eggs, two very expensive ingredients in those days. The miner told the cook to add some bacon and this famous dish was born, or so legend has it. You won’t find Hangtown in an atlas, by the way; the name has been changed to Placerville.

Serves 4

Oysters
1 dozen small oysters, shucked
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1/8 teaspoon black pepper, plus more to taste
1 egg, well beaten
1/2 cup fine cracker crumbs or dried bread crumbs
1/4 cup butter
8 eggs
8 strips bacon, cooked

1. Preheat the oven to broil.
2. Drain the oysters and pat them dry with paper towels. In a small bowl, use a fork to combine the flour with the 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon of black pepper. Dip each oyster in the flour mixture, then the beaten egg, then the cracker crumbs, and set aside.
3. Melt the butter in a heavy, ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Add the oysters and fry them until they are nicely browned on both sides, about 1 minute on each side.
4. Beat together the eggs with a fork, season them lightly with salt and pepper, and pour them over the cooked oysters in the skillet. Cook until the eggs are set on the bottom, about 3 minutes. Place the skillet in the oven on the top rack and broil for 2 to 3 minutes. Serve hot, with the bacon on the side.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Dutch Baby Pancake

When I was a young lad I leaned how to make a Dutch baby pancake. I used to make it for my mother on the weekends. These were the earliest memories I have actually cooking with heat. It is a spectacular looking dish, resembling Crater Lake with its high ridges. Soon after it's pulled from the oven it begins to fall, but the flavor and texture are wonderful--kind of like a cross between a pancake and a crepe. Enjoy!

German Pancake
A German pancake puffs up in the oven and makes a lovely presentation. The pancake is also known as a “Dutch baby.” Bread flour is recommended for the pancake because it helps it rise. All-purpose flour can be substituted but the results won’t be as dramatic.

Serves 4

7 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
2 large apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
6 eggs, at room temperature
1 cup milk, at room temperature
1 cup bread flour
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Confectioners’ sugar, to serve

1. Preheat the oven to 450° F. Place a large ovenproof skillet in the oven to preheat.
2. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the apples and sauté until they are softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the sugar and a 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon until the sugar is melted. Remove the skillet from the heat and set it aside.
3. In a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat the eggs until they are light and frothy. Add the milk, flour, vanilla extract, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon. Beat for more 5 minutes. The batter will be thin but very smooth and creamy.
4. Remove the hot skillet from the oven. Add the remaining 6 tablespoons of butter, tilting the pan to melt the butter and coat the skillet. Pour the prepared batter into the hot skillet all at once, and immediately place the skillet in the oven.
5. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the pancake is puffed up and golden brown.
6. Remove the pancake from the oven, bringing it to the table in its pan or sliding it onto a serving plate. Once it is out of the oven, the pancake will begin to deflate. Dust it with confectioners’ sugar. Cut it into wedges and transfer them to individual serving plates. Top the wedges with the apple mixture and serve immediately.

Option: Substitute the apple mixture for a simple dusting of confectioners’ sugar and serve with lemon wedges.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Swedish Meatballs

Last night we tested Swedish Meatballs. One recipe tester had already approved it. One tester liked it but said the meatballs didn't stay together that well. I modified the temperature and cooking time on the meatballs and they came out absolutely excellent. Here's the classic recipe. Please read my tip at the end.

Swedish Meatballs

Swedish meatballs are indeed a Swedish dish, brought to the America's northern mid-west states by Scandinavian immigrants. It is traditionally served at Christmas in Swedish homes as one of many dishes and is also served at smorgasbords. This dish makes excellent leftovers.

Serves 4-6

2 cups fresh bread crumbs
2/3 cup milk
1 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef
3 eggs, lightly beaten
2 teaspoons salt, plus more to taste
1/2 teaspoon pepper, plus more to taste
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon paprika
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups beef broth (see page 000)
1 cup sour cream
Hot buttered egg noodles, to serve

1. Pour the milk over the bread crumbs and set aside.
2. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until softened, about 3 minutes.
3. Combine the softened bread crumbs, onion, and ground beef in a large bowl. Add the eggs, salt, pepper, nutmeg and paprika. Mix thoroughly until well blended. Shape into 2” balls.
4. Heat the oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add meatballs in a single layer and fry until browned, turning carefully to brown all sides, about 8 minutes. Remove the meatballs with a slotted spoon and keep warm. Repeat until all the meatballs are browned.
5. Stir the flour into the remaining drippings until well blended. Cook over low heat for 1 minute. Add the beef broth and cook, whisking constantly until thickened. Reduce the heat to low and cook for 5 minutes. Stir in sour cream, a little at a time, stirring until thoroughly blended after each addition. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Return the meatballs to sauce. Reduce the heat to a low simmer, cover the pan, and cook for 5 minutes. Turn the meatballs over and simmer for another 5 minutes.
6. Serve the meatballs spooned over hot buttered noodles.

Tip: Be sure to cook the meatballs the full 10-12 minutes or they may fall apart. Turn frequently and don’t rush them.

Crawfish Boil

This weekend we had our annual Crawfish festival, so we tested Crawfish Boil--even though our recipe testers had already approved it. We purchased 5 pounds of lively crawfish and had another couple over for dinner. We spread newspapers all over the table and had a family-style indoor picnic. The recipe came out spectacular! If you can't find Zatarain's seasoning in your local grocery store (like me), just go online and order it at www.zatarain.com. Some regions don't carry it yet. Even Crawfish can be purchased online. Here's our tested recipe. Enjoy!!! And let me know what you think...

Crawfish Boil
The Crawfish Boil is a Louisiana tradition. A well seasoned pot of water sets the perfect stage for flavoring the sausage and vegetables. Add the crawfish and you have a meal in a pot. Spread newspapers out and make it a family-style picnic. This is a social event, meant to be enjoyed with company.

Serves 4

Water
1/4 cup kosher salt
2 lemons, halved
1/4 cup Zatarain or Old Bay seasoning mix
3 medium onions, quartered
3/4 pound andouille sausage, cut into 2-inch lengths
1 pound new potatoes, scrubbed
4 ears corn, halved
5 pounds crawfish, cleaned

1. Fill a 5-gallon broth pot with about 3 gallons water and bring to a boil.
2. Add the salt, lemons, and seasoning mix and boil for 5 minutes.
3. Add the potatoes and corn and cook for 10 minutes, or until potatoes are mostly tender but not completely done. Add onions and sausages, and boil until the potatoes cooked, about 10 minutes. Turn off the heat, add the crawfish and cook until the crawfish are red, about 6-8 minutes. Drain immediately and serve.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Storing Cheese

We've done some research on storing cheeses and here's what we found. Proper storage is a major key to prolonging the life of cheese. Limiting the amount of oxygen that cheese is subject to will help prevent mold and lengthen its life. Plastic wrap is a good choice for storage and ideally should be changed each time the cheese is used. Generally speaking, the harder the cheese the longer it will last. Hard cheese will keep for several months in the refrigerator. Softer cheeses should be consumed within ten to twenty days. Many hard cheeses and even cheddar can be frozen for several weeks, but texture may be slightly altered. Thaw slowly in the refrigerator. And if the texture is not to your liking, shred, crumble or melt it. Cheese will continue to ripen, so it's best to use is as soon as possible unless you like strong cheese!

Monday, August 01, 2005

Don't Freeze Real Cream Cheese

There was a sale on cream cheese so I bought a few packs. Thought I'd be smart and freeze them for use in future recipe testing. Then I thawed one and the cheese separated and my kids wouldn't touch it! It looked like fine curd cottage cheese--not appealing at all. The fat-free cream cheese doesn't have that problem when freezing. Must be the zero fat content and the preservatives. Anyway, cream cheese should stay in the refrigerator unopened in those foil packs for several weeks--if not months! So, I recommend that you don't freeze real cream cheese.