Cube Steaks and Broiled Tomatoes

True story – I’ve never made a cube steak before.  We ate them growing up, quite often actually.  I just never really cared for them.  They seem like the quintessential 1950s housewife food – picturing the wife happily pounding her tough cuts of meat with her beef tenderizer to make dinner (and let out her 1950s housewife aggression?)  Luckily for me, I can now buy already tenderized cuts of meat.  Tops in Buffalo sells them as one of the “pick 5”  choices as “beef tenderettes”, so I picked up a package and referred to Betty for some guidance.

Betty calls these “Minute Steaks”:  Brush heavy skillet with fat.  Brown on one side, about 2 min.  Turn and brown on other side”.  Easy enough!  I was surprised at how much fat these gave off, although thinking now, I should have expected it.  If you’re using a nonstick pan, I don’t think you even need to use any fat.

I have an abundance of tomatoes as they’ve came into season.  I eat a lot of caprese salad (with my trusty lemon balsamic – it’s the best!) but I was looking for something different.  Betty had a recipe for Broiled Tomatoes:  “Dot tomato halves or thuck slices of tomato with butter.  Sprinkle with salt, pepper, sweet basil or savory.  Broil under low heat 3 to 5 minutes, just until heated”.

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I served the steak with some leftover sauce I had in the fridge (I’m Italian, we always have leftover sauce in the fridge) and the tomatoes were screaming for a chunk of fresh mozzarella.  Maybe I was still feeling my caprese salad a little.  All in all, this was a perfect meal for a week night.  Nothing to write home about, but easy, quick and delicious.

Rhubarb Custard Pie!

During the summers/fall, I work at a local farmer’s market here in Buffalo.  I love the farmer’s market.  There’s something special about knowing the people who you’re buying your food from.  Our market started last week.  Early season vegetables are some of my favorites, especially asparagus and ramps.  This week, rhubarb was ready!

Rhubarb pie is my favorite.  My birthday is the first week of June, and every year, my mom makes me a strawberry-rhubarb or a rhubarb custard pie, because I prefer pie to cake. Rhubarb custard pie is my absolute favorite pie.  I called my mom to get the recipe, and was happy to hear that her recipe is actually a Betty Classic!  And even better, it’s in my book!

The thing about Betty and pies is that she has a stir and roll crust that uses salad oil (aka vegetable oil) and milk. I wasn’t ready to try the oil and risk the rhubarb pie not being perfect, so I used the standard pie crust recipe (still from Betty).  I’ll try her oil based recipe on something that isn’t as important to me, like a chicken pot pie or something like that.

If you’ve never had rhubarb, it has a really delicious tart flavor.  You only use the stalks of the plant, the leaves are actually poisonous.  Whoever the first guy who realized you could eat the stems and not die, I’m forever thankful!

RHUBARB!!
RHUBARB!!

I know a lot of people are afraid of making pie crust.  If you’re totally scared, feel free to buy it from the store!  If you want to try it and have trouble here are some of my tips:

  1. Using shortening or lard tends to make a crust that is easier – both easier to cut the fat into the flour and easier to roll out.  Butter tends to be harder when it’s cold, so it’s more difficult to cut in evenly and rolling out takes more patience.  At least that’s my experience.  If you’ve never used lard, don’t be afraid of it.  It makes really delicious crusts.  I actually find lard less scary than shortening for some reason.
  2. Don’t be too afraid to work the dough.  A lot of recipes tell you to be careful not to overwork the dough b/c you’ll activate the gluten and get a tough dough.  Sure, don’t knead your pie crust, but don’t be afraid to work the dough a little on your work surface.  If you find your dough is falling apart a lot and cracking when you roll it out, try pushing the ball of dough around a little more and see it will get a little smoother and easier to work with.  My last tip is just to get your hands in there and play around with what works for you.  I actually rely mostly on feel when I’m making pastry, after you’ve made a few crusts, you’ll get a feel for what is going to work best!
  3. Don’t worry about fussing too much making your dough look pretty while you’re rolling it out. You can make a decent looking pie without stressing out about it looking “perfect”.   My crust looked like this before I filled it:

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You’ll notice in this picture my beloved pastry board.  It’s one of my favorite things I own.  it’s been in my family a while.  When we were growing up, I used it as a board to color on when I’d watch tv – so it has a few pen marks on it…whoops!  It’s a great space to roll out dough!

2015-05-17 14.34.32Standard Pastry for a Two-Crust Pie (for a 9″ pie)

  • 2 cups sifted flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2/3 cup lard (or 2/3 cup plus 2 tbsp shortening)
  • 1/4 cup water
  1. Measure flour and mix salt through it.  With a pastry blender [Angela’s side note:  use a knife, a fork or my preferred too – my fingers!] cut in shortening until particles are the size of giant peas
  2. Sprinkle with water, a tbsp at a time…mixing lightly with a fork until all the flour is moistened
  3. Gather dough together with fingers so it cleans the bowl
  4. Press firmly into the ball.  Then roll it out, or keep in waxed paper in the refrigerator.

Rhubarb Custard:

  1. Make Pastry for a two-crust pie of desired size.  Lie pie pan.
  2. Beat slightly…3 eggs
  3. Add 3 tbsp milk
  4. Mix and stir in 2 cups sugar, 1/4 cup flour, 3/4tsp nutmeg
  5. Dot with 1 tbsp butter
  6. Cover with a lattice top.  Bake until nicely browned.  400 degrees, 50-60 minutes.
Rhubarb Custard Pie
Rhubarb Custard Pie

My mom recommended that I only use 1 cup of sugar which is what she does, which makes a more tart pie.  The filling ends up making a really deep pie.  If you don’t have a deep dish pan, you might want to split the recipe in half.  I made two pies today, so I made 1.5 recipes of the filling and split it in half.  Put aluminum foil under your pie plate on top of a baking sheet for easy cleanup just in case it does bubble over.  It will actually poof up quite a bit, and then will settle a little as it cools.

This pie is good warm or cold with a some vanilla ice cream or some whipped cream.  It’s my favorite pie, and a perfect way to welcome spring/summer!

Hollandaise? More like Hollan-don’t.

This week, the weather in Buffalo has started to warm up.  I saw some asparagus at the grocery store and I had to get some.  Asparagus just feels like spring.

My favorite method for cooking asparagus is to cut it into pieces and saute in a pan.  Betty recommends cooking in boiling water for 10 to 20 minutes.  She also recommends that if you cut the asparagus into pieces, to cook the stems first and then add the tips at the end.

I decided to make my hand at some hollandaise sauce to put on my asparagus.  Hollandaise is one of the french mother sauces.  I’m basically an expert at bechemel, one of the other french mother sauces…used for my famous mac and cheese.  But, for some reason, hollandaise had always kind of freaked me out.  I get eggs benedict once in a while at restaurants, but it’s just not one of the foods on my radar.  But you always see the packets of hollandaise next to the asparagus, so I decided that it was finally time.

Here’s the recipe for Hollandaise that’s in my 1956 cookbook:

  1. In a small saucepan, stir with wooden spoon 2 egg yolks and 3 tbsp lemon juice
  2. Add 1/4 cup very cold butter
  3. Stir over very low heat until butter is melted
  4. Add another 1/4 cup cold butter
  5. Continue stirring until butter is melted and sauce thickened
Hollandaise
Hollandaise

I questioned the recipe as I was measuring out my lemon juice and realized this was calling for basically the juice of an entire lemon.  I love lemon, but only 2 egg yolks with all that lemon juice?   The consistency got really weird and separated, as if the eggs were reacting to the acidity.  It eventually got smooth while melting the last of the butter.  The end product tasted like unsweetened lemon curd.  It may have worked on a piece of boneless skinless dried out chicken breast, but over my beautiful fresh asparagus, it was a fail.

I served my asparagus with an italian sausage patty, served open face on a slice of white bread b/c I thought I had hamburger buns, but I didn’t.  I added some cayenne over the asparagus, and I think the heat helped balance out the tartness a little.  Next time, I’ll probably just stick to my normal sauted asparagus with some salt and pepper.

Asparagus with very lemony hollandaise.
Asparagus with very lemony hollandaise.

I later googled Betty’s current recipe for hollandaise on her website.  It calls for 3 egg yolks and 1 tbsp of lemon juice.  At least Betty realized she was wrong and fixed it!  But next time I try one of the french mother sauces, I may double-check with Julia Child before I trust Betty Crocker, haha.

Roasted Chicken Dinner, w/ Rice Stuffing and Sweet Potatoes

One of my favorite Sunday meals is a roasted chicken.  It’s easy to throw one in the oven and then two hours later, have a delicious meal and leftovers for all week!

I decided to check out Betty’s instructions for a roasted chicken.  Thankfully, her instructions were beautifully simple and outdated.  When’s the last time you had to remove pin feathers and cut off your chicken’s head?   It also recommends that if your bird gets too brown too quickly, you can take pieces of cloth coated in fat and place them on top of your bird.  That sounds like a fire hazard to me, and I find aluminum foil will typically do the same job!

The other directions were to simply salt the inside cavity, stuff the bird, rub her with unsalted fat and cook her breast side down for the first 3/4ths of the cooking time, then flip her to brown the breast.   My chicken was a five pounder, so Betty said to cook her 2.5-3 hours at 325 degrees.

Chicken in the Oven
Chicken in the Oven

I used coconut oil as my fat.  I’ve been trying to incorporate coconut oil in my diet more, I’ve heard that it’s healthier and it has a high smoke point.  Stuffing inside the bird freaks me out a little bit, so I opted to keep my stuffing on the outside.  I also like to use sage and thyme with chicken, so I sprinkled some on the outside and inside the cavity of the bird.

I decided if I’m going to cook according to 1950s standards, I was going to have to cook the giblets.  I’ve been eating giblets my entire life, but I have always been a little squeamish about cutting them up and actually thinking about what I am eating.  My dad normally puts them in stuffing for he and myself for any holiday where we have a bird.  I normally use mine when I make broth – I wrap them and my carcasses in cheesecloth and let them boil away.  Betty’s method for cooking giblets is to boil them for 1 to 2 hours, which seems ridiculous!  I called my dad and asked him how he prepared them, because I realized I never actually watched him do it – he cuts them up and browns them in a skillet, so I used his method.

Giblets before and after cooking
Giblets before and after cooking

I had a box of Stove Top stuffing that I got for free from a Tops meal deal.  I normally prefer a rice stuffing – I’ll make a proper rice stuffing one of these days.   I don’t really like Stove Top (or most prepared box foods – they’re typically too salty for my tastes).  For this, I opted to mix some rice with the box of Stove Top to get rid of some of the saltiness,  and add the giblets into that.

I also made some roasted sweet potatoes – tossed them in a little melted butter, sage, thyme and some red pepper flakes and threw them in the oven towards the end of the bird cooking time.  Betty’s recipes for Sweet Potatoes are as follows:  Baked Candied Sweet Potatoes, Skillet Candied Sweet Potatoes, Sweet Potato Apples (where you shape sweet potatoes around a marshmallow so it looks like an apple), and Banana Meringue Sweet Potato Puffs.  I love sweet potatoes, but the thought of eating them with marshmallows or corn syrup is disgusting to me.  I opted to stick to my normal methods.

The chicken turned out good.  I think cooking it upside down kept it rather moist; however, the skin didn’t get very crispy, even after I turned it right side up.  This wasn’t too much of an issue for me, but it doesn’t look as pretty.  If you’re going to be serving this to a group and wanting to have crispy brown skin, you might want to stick it under the broiler for a bit to crisp up the skin.

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Fat Tuesday Breakfast for Dinner

Sorry about taking so long between posts.  Things have been….busy…to say the least.   I’ve also been working with a nutritionist due to some of my medical concerns, so most of Betty’s dishes haven’t been doing the trick!  I’m going to work on trying some substitutions and figuring out some ways to make some of the recipes more healthy, so look forward to that!

But today, today is Fat Tuesday.  The day when you can embrace your heart’s desires and pig out a little bit, because you have to use up all the oil and butter in your house.  At least that’s where the tradition stems from.  Growing up in my family, we often ate German Pancakes on Fat Tuesday (we ate them a lot, actually, but I definitely remember eating them on Fat Tuesday).  These are also known as a “Dutch Baby”, “Oven Pancake” or several other names.  If you’re British, this is basically the recipe for a Yorkshire Pudding, just garnished sweetly instead of with gravy.  My friend Emily’s favorite food is Yorkshire Pudding, and once my mom made us German Pancakes, and she thought they were weird at first but then really liked them and has even made it herself.  So,  I’m sure you’ll like them too!

This recipe can be found in later editions of Betty Crocker (called a Dutch Baby), but is not technically in my edition.  This is the exact recipe from my mom:

German Pancakes:

  • Preheat Oven to 425.  Place 2 tbsp of butter in a pie plate and place in oven while preheating to melt butter
  • Wisk 3 eggs, 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, 1/4 tsp salt and 1/2 cup milk (I use 1%, but any will be fine in this)
  • Pour the batter over butter in the heated skillet.  Bake 13 minutes until edges are golden.
  • Transfer to a plate.  Top generously with lemon and powdered sugar.
Puffed up and perfect!
Puffed up and perfect!

The pancake will deflate quickly as it cools, so try to bring to the table right away to be more impressive. You can also top with fresh fruit, whipped cream or even syrup, but the classic in my family is lemon and powdered sugar.  I use a lot of lemon, probably about a half a lemon.  My mom also would sometimes cut up an apple and place the wedges in the butter while preheating (add a little cinnamon to the batter…mmmmm).

My mom often mixed up a large batch for our family in a blender.  The recipe can easily be doubled or tripled, just use a larger casserole dish

I served mine with some delicious maple sausage links from one of my favorite local farmers, T-Meadow Farms, and a clementine.

Mmmmmm.

Savory Lamb Patties

I had some ground lamb that I bought when it was on sale at Budwey’s.  I decided to see what recipes Betty had for lamb and found these patties.

I made my own breadcrumbs tonight!  I know it’s a simple thing, but I had always just used the big can of breadcrumbs that you buy at the store.  I guess I had just never really thought about it, I just always went to the can.   I had some day old bread, so I used Betty’s official “soft bread crumbs” recipe -with a fork, pull day-old bread into crumbs, or tear it into small pieces with fingers.

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For this recipe, Betty says to soak the bread crumbs in water and to add 1 tbsp of butter later, instead I soaked them in milk, and left out the butter.  It just seemed really weird to add butter to what is essentially a hamburger.   I guess maybe because lamb is leaner than beef?  Either way, it was fine with it left out and milk as a substitution.

Here’s the recipe for Savory Lamb Patties:

  • Soak 2 cups soft bread crumbs in 1/4 cup water.
  • Add 1 egg, 1 lb ground lamb, 1 tbsp soft butter, 1 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper, 2 tbsp chopped onion, 1 clove minced garlic, 3 tbsp minced parsley.
  • Shape lightly into 8 patties.  Dip in flour
  • Cook 15 minutes in 3 tbsp hot fat (I used olive oil).
  • Turn to brown.  Serve with catsup.

I made 6 patties, because I didn’t actually have a full pound of lamb.   And I don’t know, I felt like lamb deserved to be more log shaped, rather than a round hamburger?  I think that even if it was a full pound of meat, it would be hard to get 8 patties from the recipe, but maybe Betty is just reminding us that our waistlines are getting bigger and portion sizes were much smaller in the 1950s!

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I am not a fan of catsup, so I served mine with some leftover goat cheese I had on hand.  And an empire apple, because this was the last week of fresh apples at the farmer’s market, and there is nothing like fresh New York apples in the fall!  It was a great, quick after work meal.  I’d recommend these patties, even though they’re just basically hamburgers with lamb.  The dipping in flour before browning didn’t really do anything I thought, so I’d skip that step next time.

 

Shirred Potatoes

I’ll be honest, I don’t make a lot of potato dishes.  I’m not the biggest fan of potatoes and the Italian in me prefers a pasta dish.

Last weekend, I discovered shirred potatoes.   It’s like scalloped potatoes, but uses shredded potatoes and lays it out thin in the baking dish so they get crispy. They take FOREVER, so be prepared, but they’re crispy and buttery and delicious!

I paired my shirred potatoes with a skillet meatloaf.  Can you tell that there was a special involving family packs of ground beef at Tops?  I promise I’ll start cooking other meats soon enough!  The skillet meatloaf was decent, it was a basic meatloaf recipe with tomato puree that you cook in a circle in a skillet, but it’s still baked in the oven.   Maybe if you’re trying to fancify your meatloaf game, this might be a good way to change it up a little and I liked the tomato with the meatloaf, but I could do that with a regular meatloaf.

Shirred Potatoes.  The picture doesn't even do it justice.
Shirred Potatoes. The picture doesn’t even do it justice.

Here’s the recipe for shirred potatoes:

  •  Make 3 cups Thin White Sauce  – Melt 1 tbsp butter in saucepan, blend 1 tbsp flour, 1/4 tsp salt, 1/8 tsp pepper, bubble for about 1 minute.  Add 1 cup milk.  Bring to boil, stirring constantly, boil 1 minute.
  • Drop 3 cups grated raw potato immediately into the hot sauce.  Season to taste with salt, pepper, minced onion.
  • Pour into shallow baking dish.  Dot w/ 1 to 2 tbsp butter.
  • Bake uncovered in 325 degree oven for 2 hour until tender and crunchy brown on top.
  • 4 to 6 servings

What kind of emergency requires steak?

I had some ground beef I wanted to use, so I pulled out my cookbook.  I found a recipe for “Emergency Steak”.  I had me picturing 1950s housewife emergencies where they suddenly needed a steak, but didn’t have any on hand.  Was her husband’s boss coming over for dinner?  Did that actually happen back then, or is it just a sitcom thing? I’ve worked for my boss for almost 8 years, but I’ve never had him over for dinner, and can’t imagine a situation where he’d come over to my house – or to any of my coworkers houses.

Emergency steak actually comes from the time of rationing during the war, rather than homemaker emergencies.  During WWII, hearty meat dishes were popular.  Rations typically allowed for 5-1/2 ounces of meat for each person per day.  So while Americans were still eating their meat and potatoes, they were instead switching to different cuts of meat.  Instead of steaks and roasts, people would use their ration stamps for less desirable and cheaper ground beef. Meatloaf, pinwheel meat rolls, beef casseroles and hamburgers became more popular during this time.  Recipes started to try to make ground meat dishes seem more sophisticated by baking hard-boiled eggs in the middle, covering meats with mashed potatoes, and using breadcrumbs/cereal/oatmeal to stretch the rationed items to get them to last longer.

Interestingly, many recipes also existed for “Faux Chicken”, as chicken was expensive at the time.  People would use veal as a substitute.

Here’s the emergency steak recipe:

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 cup Wheaties (or 1/4 cup breadcrumbs)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1 tablespoon chopped onion

Mix together ingredients, pat into T-bone shape about 1 inch thick and cook under the broiler.  Turn once.

2014-09-23 18.11.57I have a little bit of a fear of my broiler, so I cooked my Emergency Steak in a skillet.  I also had a chopped onion to use up, so I added that as well.  Sorry for the not super appetizing picture – a 1″ thick 1 pound hamburger takes longer to cook and is harder to flip than you’d think, and I cut into it a few times to make sure it cooked thoroughly.  It looked pretty messy by the end.  I read a few blogs about Emergency Steak, and they criticized it, saying that it was greasy and gross.  Sure, it doesn’t taste like steak, but if you like meatloaf, you’ll like this recipe.   The meat browned up nicely while cooking, so I’d consider it a meatloaf/hamburger hybrid.  I’m sure you could add other seasonings to kick it up as well.

 

 

 

 

Source:  Young, William H.  World War II and the Postwar Years in America:  A Historical And Cultural Encyclopedia.  Volume I.  ABC-CLIO, LLC.  California:  2010.

Zucchini Provencale and Oven Fried Chicken

I’ve always wanted a good recipe for fried chicken, but I’ve always tried to steer away from frying things in large amounts of oil.  It always seems like a great deal of trouble, between waiting for the oil to heat, having a large pot of oil boiling away on the stove, and what to do with the oil afterwards?  I know you can reuse the oil, but that always seemed kind of gross to me.

This oven-fried chicken recipe was so easy.  Heat the oven to 400 degrees.  Melt 1/4 cup of “fat” (Betty doesn’t specify, she just calls it fat – I used 2 tbsp butter and 2 tbsp shortening) in a baking dish.  Dip your chicken in some flour seasoned with paprika, salt and pepper.  Put the chicken skin side down, bake for 30 minutes, flip, and bake for another 30 minutes.

2014-09-21 16.38.59I also made some zucchini provencale.  This was another easy dish – a great harvest time dish to use up stuff from the garden.  I googled “provencale” to figure out what it means, and it’s a region of France.  It refers to dishes cooked with olive oil, tomatoes and garlic.  I used zucchini, an onion, tomatoes, zucchini, garlic and a cubanelle pepper (the recipe called for a green pepper – but I wanted to use up the cubanelle, which is another sweet green pepper).  The recipe also called for “salad oil”.  I used olive oil, because it seemed like an olive oil kind of dish.  I think you could add a variety of other vegetables to this dish.  Top it with some parmesan cheese and you’re good to go!  This turned out to be a great and pretty easy meal.  It sounds fancy to say you made fried chicken and zucchini provencale…and all you really did was throw some chicken in the oven and chop up some veggies and throw them in a skillet!

 

Zucchini Corn Fritters – Jiffy Mix vs. Bisquick

I have a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) share from Porter Farms this summer.  Every Saturday, I get a large bag full of veggies.  I whipped up a batch of my favorite summer meals- pasta w/ goat cheese and swiss chard.  Perfect to get me ready for a week of lunches.

Perfectly packed pasta for lunch at work tomorrow
Perfectly packed pasta for lunch at work tomorrow

Then, I decided that I have to figure out a different way to take care of the zucchini from my share.  I found a recipe for corn fritters in my 1956 Betty and decided that I could easily add some zucchini to them!  There’s actually a recipe on the Betty Crocker website for zucchini and corn fritters, so this still counts as cooking from the cookbook.

Zucchini Corn Fritters
Zucchini Corn Fritters

Looking at the recipe, I realized it required Bisquick.  I can’t recall EVER using Bisquick. I come from a Jiffy Mix family.  There’s always a box in my cupboard (along with a few boxes of cornbread mix) and I own the Jiffy Mix cookbook.  But for some reason, I’ve never liked Bisquick.  It’s a completely irrational dislike.  Because my mom always bought Jiffy, I buy Jiffy.  I wonder if my grandma bought Jiffy.  She probably did; I feel like this kind of stuff runs in families.

I decided to do some quick research:

Bisquick was invented in 1930 by General Mills.  The General Mills website claims that Bisquick was the first ready mix for biscuits invented.  The following year, there were 96 mixes on the market.  Only six of the mixes survived into the 2nd year.  The mix contains flour, salt, shortening and baking powder.  The product was originally marketed for making biscuit making easier. Advertising campaigns claimed “90 seconds from shelf to the oven”.

Jiffy also originated in 1930, by Chelsea Milling Company, in Chelsea, Michigan.  The Chelsea Milling Company also claims that they were the first on the market.  The company is interesting in that they have the market share for muffin mixes.  They represent 55% of the market but never spend any money on advertising.  This allows them to sell their products for cheaper prices.  They also make attempts to be honest in their packaging – their blueberry muffin mix indicates right on the front that it contains artificial blueberries, while the Bisquick wild blueberry mix hides the artificial ingredients in small print in the ingredient list.

I hope Betty can forgive me for choosing Jiffy.  What kind of person are you, Bisquick or Jiffy Mix?