We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Our Recent Essays Behind the Front Page
Sunday, January 25. 2015
This is an annual re-posting.
The global cooling we are experiencing inspired me to consider some truly fine cool-weather all-white breakfast eats which are not easily found in Yankee-land. The good stuff that sticks to your
Creamed chipped beef on toast is the fine old Yankee version of the southland's biscuits 'n gravy. Both have done wonders for warming the hearts and narrowing the arteries of generations of American boys. Add some potatoes and you have the perfect meal for a lumberjack or hunter.
While apple pie is an old-time Yankee breakfast staple, it has been replaced long ago by eggs, toast, and bacon, maybe a chunk of fruit, and preferably home fries with ketchup on them. Not Heinz 57, though - it's not my job to feed John Kerry.
Some people eat cereal for breakfast. Why? Because Dr. John Kellogg, a health-food charlatan in the 1800s, told them to. Zero nutrition. Breakfast cereal is a fraud and a scam, unless it's plain grits or cream of wheat or oatmeal. The crunchy granola stuff? Well, I thought the guy who discovered that you could sell people plain water was a genius, but the people who decided to sell guinea pig food to humans was his creative equal.
(At Maggie's Farm, we are also fond of fish for breakfast, like the Brits. Kippers. Or a lighty sauteed trout someone has caught early, sprinkled with parsley. Or left-over broiled salmon.)
The chipped beef was always a boarding school standard, and half loved it and half barfed to look at it. It does look like vomit, but it's great stuff. It's a gourmet's delight, but nobody makes it anymore.
When I did my time south of the Mason-Dixon, a local favorite was hot dog gravy on biscuits. Grits on the side, of course. Everything white. Not a refined breakfast, just gravy made with supermarket hot dogs instead of sausage. A truly revolting flavor unless you grew up in the hills and hollers, but it will fend off hunger for hours. I prefer my Sabretts on a bun at Yankee Stadium. But other sorts of southern gravy, made with ham or sausage, are just fine. I won't presume to offer a biscuit 'n gravy recipe, because every Southern Mom has her own. Well, here's a Virginia one from someone's Grandma.
Biscuits 'n gravy, and grits. Serious food for the soul.
Image: New Hampshire chipped beef on English muffins - with home fries. They don't do grits up north (except in Italian homes and restaurants, where they like to call grits "polenta") and it's a damn shame. Good stuff.
Thursday, January 22. 2015
Distinctly not gourmet, kid-friendly, unfashionable, and not for weight loss.
Reposted by popular request, I've collected the posts on old-timey Mommys of America non-gourmet, comforting (eg filling), quick 'n easy (eg no lasagna or fried chicken), and sensitively-multicultural (even Shrimp 'n Grits) winter suppers here, in no particular order. Such foods mean family love.
I suspect some of our foreign readers - of whom we have quite a few - might be interested in what American moms (and sometimes modern dads) fix up for ordinary family suppers in Upper Yankeeland (with the exception of Shrimp 'n Grits which is real Southern food and suitable for breakfast, lunch, or supper).
A number of these are suitable to ye olde slow cooker aka electric crock pot.
Corned Beef and Cabbage, aka New England Boiled Dinner
Friday, January 16. 2015
This was news to me, from a Paris-trained chef friend.
Butter will keep for weeks or months without refrigeration, depending on how much oxygen it is exposed to. The purpose of a butter dish (or butter crock, etc) is so you can have soft, usable butter on the counter or table at all times, while protected from ambient air.
In fact, butter will stay better and fresher in a butter dish rather than in the fridge where it is exposed to ambient air. Why do Americans keep butter in the fridge? Who knows. It won't melt under 80 degrees F. Supposedly, the butter crocks that use a water seal will keep butter fresh even longer, many months. Well, butter has been around a lot longer than refrigeration.
My days of tearing bread and toast with hard butter are over, as of now. Yes, I do love butter, and even more now that we know it's healthy.
Thursday, January 15. 2015
In reference to our Scientific Survey about coffee containers, a reader sends this:
We learned how to make it right from Jewish friends. Mrs. BD has had the bug that's going around - stiff neck, headache, muscle cramps, general weakness, so I made a batch for her. No, it's not meningitis.
Quick and easy. I lightly sautee a pile of chopped onions, celery, and garlic in some olive oil and butter. I chop a few carrots, skin on. Throw them in the big crock pot. I lightly brown a few chicken legs and thighs, and throw them in, and cover with water. I toss in a bunch of herbs - bay leaf, thyme, a little rosemary, maybe tarragon, and a large pile of chopped parsley. Lots of salt and pepper.
I put the crock thing on high for 5 or 6 hours. It can't go wrong, and it is good medicine for whatever ails ya.
Tuesday, January 13. 2015
From our archives:
As you may know, cassoulet is basically French baked beans with meat. The real original of hot dogs and baked beans. It is country home cookin, but it can be great stuff. Dutch oven cooking. Crock pot? Why not, as long as the meats are browned first, but it will not brown the top.
It's a good way to cook some wild game meat, especially the less-tender parts.
Any meat, but not beef - strong red meat is too strong for cassoulet. We have, over time, used various mixes of duck, snow goose, chukar, venison, chicken, pork, wild boar, and pheasant which we have killed. Mix the meats - it adds to the flavor. There should be some source of pig fat or duck fat in it. Some venison sausage, or any sausage, because it is a necessary traditional ingredient. The meat-to-bean ratio is supposed to be fairly high - 30% - but I like beans and prefer a lower ratio. I think every village in southern France has its own recipe and method. I figure roughly one hunk of sausage and one or two hunks of meat per person.
A few tips about Cassoulet:
1. Make it at least the day before. Like beef stew, it improves overnight.
Sunday, January 11. 2015
Cooked up a big batch of superb Beef Stew (my opinion) for the family crowd yesterday, to be served today for birthdays. A stew always benefits from a day's rest. I do it the Frenchie way with the cheapest cuts of meat, lardons, lots of pearl onions, porcini mushrooms, Cotes de Rhone - all the best stuff. My concoction is also good for the unwanted cuts of venison.
I slow cook it, low heat, for 6 or 7 hours, let it rest for 24 hrs, and serve on egg noodles, Italian or otherwise.
However, I somehow stumbled on recipes for liver 'n onions. I love calves liver and onions, with a side of mashed taters. (Me like chicken liver too, but that's another story.) The trick to tasty calves liver is the same as for foie gras - crispy on the outside and pink on the inside. That means high heat, quick cooking. I like liver in chunks, not slabs.
Friday, January 9. 2015
Having accumulated a manageable dose of education and culcha, a nice lunch and a glass or two of wine nearby is perfect. Mrs. BD suggests the following for
Our long-time favorite: Giovanni Vento Cinque. Cozy, cuisine not entirely predictable but always good. My favorite? The calves liver with balsamic. That's Italian.
Caravaggio. Jacket and tie required. Wonderful and elegant but not stuffy.
Jean Georges - just across the park. Mind-blowing.
If you can handle two venues in one day, stroll down to the intimate Neue Gallery and have a perfectly authentic Viennese lunch in their parlor. I have been in Vienna, and this is Vienna.
Thursday, January 1. 2015
For in-laws, kids, and their significant others
Roast Boneless Leg of Lamb to 120 degrees (F) - rare - au jus of course
Prosecca, Mt. Etna Rosso, Martinelli's
Christmas cookies and espresso from my Christmas machine
Tuesday, December 23. 2014
Great to make, but easier to buy one at your baker
Best Macaroni and Cheese
The best side with any juicy, fatty, succulent meat
5-Minute Peanut Butter Frozen Fudge
We changed our Christmas Day menu. Our neighborhood butcher is making us a crown roast of pork with 18 chops - and each chop 2 inches thick. I'll stuff the roasts with sausage-apple stuffing, and we'll make some applesauce. Few winter foods are more succulent and delicious.
Friday, December 19. 2014
Around the HQ, we stick with the un-Yankee, Southern Italian/Sicilian Christmas Eve fast, which means seafood. In past years, I have had the real 7 Fishes with fried baccala, steamed mussels, scungilli, etc etc. A wonderful fish feast which it would be a stretch to term "fasting." The Catholics are very clever with their concept of fasting.
The best-known Sicilian Primi is Pasta Con Sardi - pasta with anchovies (or tiny sardines) - what I term Pasta With Minnows aka Pasta with Bait.
What is an "anchovy"? Never, ever use those tinned brown over-salted anchovies that they put on cheap pizzas. Disgusting stuff, cat food for a cat you hate. If you can't get fresh anchovies (they are white) at your local fish market, use the canned white anchovies in olive oil. Tasty. Good Italian markets have good fresh or oiled white anchovy filets.
Here's the recipe. Yes, to be authentic it needs the breadcrumbs.
And here's another Vigilia favorite: Fried Baccala Balls. I've also had these with mashed potato in the cod mix to hold it all together. Nothing is more delicious.
Traditonally, you have to have Struffoli for dessert even though I find it inedible.
Truth is, in recent years we just make poached salmon with yogurt-dill sauce, to be ready to serve at room temp. after getting home from church.
Thursday, December 18. 2014
We want it easy but good. We're thinking something like this:
Eggnog and/or Champagne, and Martinelli's of course for the teetotalers, then wine
We do church Christmas Eve, not Christmas morning as I did as a lad. We forbid gifts with extended family so we omit that silliness - except gifts of homemade cookies. In fact, we are not too big on gifts in general anymore. Instead, we'll have Mrs. BD on ye olde Steinway playing Christmas songs for us all to sing off-key, and some group games. We often play the "Who am I?" game.
At night, the kids go off to the movies with friends.
What's your plan?
Wednesday, December 17. 2014
From our archives:
Christmas is a traditional feast day (but it was not for true puritan folk like Dutch Reform or Congregationalists, who did not historically care for Christmas), so you are expected to cook something tasty. We have done all of the things: turkey (again), goose, roast beef, crown roast of pork with apple stuffing (real good).
On the other hand, the southern Italians do a cool thing - they do the Christmas Eve fish dinner - because it is a vigilia di magro (fasting, Italian-style).That is darn good. Fried baccala, fried calamari, scungilli, clams, mussels, maybe lobster etc etc. I love the baccala, and those little fried minnows bagiggi - smelt - with lemon that you eat whole like french fries, and clams (if they aren't cooked), but hate those cold seafood salads - dolphin food. In Sicily, the tradition is seven fishes. Serious abstinence: cook a leg of lamb, and you burn in hell for eternity.
But back to Yankee Christmas dinner, and goose.
As regular readers know, we cook our Canada geese with the breast only, marinated and sauteed rare. We confit the legs and thighs.
Store-bought goose tends much smaller (maybe in Dickens' time they had bigger farm geese - if you can find a giant Christmas goose as big as Tiny Tim, great), and has lots more fat on it. In fact, it seems about 50% fat, which oozes out during cooking and fills the pan below. If you want to cook that traditional English bird, you need a few of them. I would say, one per 3-4 people, minimum, if you are using the supermarket birds. (Some might disagree with this.) One bird will not do it, as a turkey does, because once the fat melts off, there isn't much left except bones. The plus side of all of the fat is that they are self-basting.
This is a good approach. Overcooking a goose, at low heat, is not a bad idea. For a roast goose, you may really want the meat falling off the bone, unlike a nice rare breast of wild goose. Goose is, of course, a dark meat like duck (but more coarse in flavor, I think).
Make a tasty sauce out of the drippings, once you have removed the fat. Add a little red wine, maybe a handful of huckleberries or dried cranberries and a bit of sugar, and reduce/thicken.
What to serve with goose? Mainly braised and sauteed roots. Parsnip, carrot, potato, turnip. And how about a rutabaga puree? Or a celeriac (celery root) puree? Maybe a pile of braised, sauteed baby squash, too. Cranberry sauce? You bet.
Monday, December 8. 2014
Last year, we were at a friend's and I was introduced to the Coquito. This is, basically, a Puerto Rican eggnog.
Very tasty, but also very fattening. Probably 10,000 calories per glass. Delicious as can be. After that party, I made some and brought them to our family Christmas party, where they were a hit. We all had to run marathons to burn off the calories, but it was worth it.
I decided to make them again this year and found another recipe to work with. Most of the recipes are similar, though there are minor variations which make it an interesting drink. This year's recipe called for egg yolks, last year's did not. Last year I added nutmeg and vanilla. This year I didn't.
I pour it into resealable bottles, and keep it cold. It needs to be shaken prior to pouring, and sometimes you have to warm the neck of the bottle a bit to loosen it up.
I don't usually like distilled liquors, but during the winter I'll have some whiskey or add rum to my drinks. Particularly when the temperature dips as it has lately.
Continue reading "Coquitos for holiday season"
Friday, November 28. 2014
My favorite is a slice of turkey, some mayo, a spoonful of cranberry sauce and a spoonful of stuffing - on white bread, It has to be white bread.
Some people like Turkey hash which is ok if you use enough black pepper. Needs a ton of fresh ground black pepper to not taste like Cardboard Hash.
What do y'all like?
Thursday, November 27. 2014
it's a good opportunity to catch up on the local news. In Maine.
I see this morning that, during the night, Mrs. BD & Co. produced three punkin pies (from fresh pumpkins and homemade crust) and two pecan pies. Nice. My job this morning? Making stuffing (cornbread with sausage, onion and celery) and grilling the turkeys. Then the friendly Indians will arrive bearing their goodies after their annual TG 10 K race. I say they are nuts but they all blame me for introducing them to the running habit which I did, years ago. I quit that when my 3rd kid was born. It did not feel right to disappear for two hours every weekend morning with three little kids around.
Basting is a waste of time, the stuff just runs off the skin. With my frightening horse-sized hypodermic needle, I am injecting cider into the birds this year. Breasts, legs, wings, and under the skin. Once in the beginning, again when half-done. They are not Butterball, just plain fresh turkeys. One is 20 lbs and one is 26 lbs. That's a big turkey. Good leftovers for all. On the grill, I have plain charcoal and I am keeping some oak and apple logs burning and smoking on top of the charcoal. Nice smelling smoke wafting around for a country mile, as light snow falls. That's Yankeeland Thanksgiving. And the Indian Pudding is in the oven.
For a dumb reason, I did brine one of them for 24 hrs. in a ton of herbs and spices and wine, etc. but it really is not worth the trouble. Just inject them with liquids - sherry, white wine, cider, brandy, beer, or anything. You can add herbs, melted butter, whatever. It's a man's job, cooking meat and game. And mashing the taters with cream cheese, butter, sour cream, and heavy cream. Taste while doing to make sure you added enough pepper and to keep your strength up.
Wednesday, November 26. 2014
The Thanksgiving Recipes Googled in Every State - Which foods are unusually popular in each state on Thanksgiving.
It's wonderful to see how regionally-diverse this big nation of America remains, but I would not touch some of that stuff. I mean, Snickers Salad for Thanksgiving? Sheesh! Nothing against Snickers but oh, well, it's all good as long as we are grateful. I don't want to be a food snob, but, gee whiz, there are some limits!
Pic is my standard Yankeeland cooking. I use half the sugar, twice the berries. My mother in law always makes raw cranberry and orange relish - deliciously tangy and different from this.
How did they celebrate their first year and their first harvest in the fall of 1621, when they sat down with their Cape Cod Wampanoag friends?
"Deer and wildfowl." What else? We don't know. I don't think they had the grain to brew their beloved beer until the next year. What we do know is that these folks had been through a nasty voyage in a rotten, leaky boat, landed at the wrong place - remember, they were headed to the Dutch New Amsterdam area - which was better idea. They managed to scrape out a living, thanks to the Indian's education (these folks weren't farmers, anyway) as they watched their family members die.
Only 53 of the original 104 immigrants survived until fall, 1621. Then they gave thanks to God. Thanks for what? Thanks, I think, to God for being there with them through thick and thin.
It's always been a wonder to me that they didn't all catch the next flight from Logan back to Leyden. Trust in God is strong stuff, and many of us are not strong enough to handle the powerful grip of God. Thanksgiving is about putting our faith in the Lord, or trying to - and nothing else. God Bless us, and America, please, and make us Pilgrims in our own time, in our own ways.
Tuesday, November 25. 2014
It looks like we're down to only 20-25 (not counting rug rats) of friends and family for Thanksgiving this year at the Maggie's Farm HQ. Some of my sibs are doing TG at their new vacation house on Cape Cod, appropriately-enough.
The way we do it is like the Indians did: everybody brings part of the feast. We rent a few round or long tables with chairs to put in the parlor, light up a couple of fireplaces, decorate things a little, and warm up the grill.
Best holiday of the year - no presents, just festive get-together. No TV allowed, generally-speaking.
Our home team is, as usual, providing 2 turkeys, stuffing, gravy, wine and beer, green salad, and Mrs. BD's pumpkin pies and Indian Pudding. Oh, and whipped cream. Soup is just too much trouble. Guests are bringing apple pies and ice cream, grilled brussel sprouts, pickled beets, sweet potatoes, mashed taters, mashed rutabaga, roasted parsnips, cranberry relish, champagne and Martinelli's, and hors d'oevres.
Low-carb, fat-free, vegan, and gluten free of course!
Wednesday, November 19. 2014
In New England, Indian Pudding is as essential a part of Thanksgiving dinner as Pumpkin or Squash Pie. Great stuff, if you like the flavor of molasses. It's not just for Thanksgiving.
It's called "Indian" because it is made with corn (maize) meal - the staple food of North American Indians.
Simple rustic ingredients. No sugar? You use molasses. No flour? You use corn meal. The only trick is to make sure it is neither too firm nor too runny. Serve warm.
Here's a bit of the history of this dessert, with a good recipe.
Tuesday, November 18. 2014
Sunday, November 16. 2014
The potato is a native American food, as American as turkey. Good for your soul. I suspect my Indian ancestors made their holiday mash with Moose or Elk milk and cream. This is my Mom's delicious Thanksgiving and Christmas recipe:
1. Boil potatoes (peeled or unpeeled - I prefer peeled) in water till they're tender (when you can stick a fork in and it comes right out).
Serve, if you must, with a side of steak, roast beef, turkey, pork chops, lamb chops, or roast chicken, and daintily drizzle a reduced jus of the meat on top of your potato piece de resistance.
Can make it the day before, and warm it up later.
Saturday, November 15. 2014
Re-posted from a past Thanksgiving season -
We did one turkey in the oven, stuffed with cornbread stuffing, and the other one on the grill with occasional doses of soaked apple wood chunks from my neighbor's tree, and with white wine in the steam water. Both birds were brined 24 hrs before cooking, and each around 18 lbs. but I feel that's a waste of time.
We had plenty of family and friends to eat it all up.
I think people preferred the grilled (no stuffing in the grilled bird). It was my first time trying grilled turkey. Beginner's luck: It came out perfectly: moist, with a pleasant hint of smokiness. It took around 3 1/2 hrs to cook. Keeping the temp at near 325 involved carefully titrating the number of briquettes and fruitwood chunks to keep the heat low, but to not let the fire go out. Basted it with veg. oil and honey. Just for fun, I use my heavy-duty poultry injector to squirt sherry or cider into the meat. Why not? I don't buy butterball turkeys.
Nice grill, eh? This cast-iron thing weights 500 lbs. I had to assemble the darn thing off a truck, and got most of it right. Except for the wheels, which fell off. Now it takes a few pall-bearers to move it.
This is halfway:
The puppy seemed equally happy with scraps from the grilled and from the oven-roasted turkey.
Friday, November 14. 2014
We posted about Tarte Tatin last week, and there is no need to post more about Apple Pie because everybody makes it the way their Mom did. Here are more favorite apple desserts, all quick and easy to make (except for the Apple Tart), and all as American as Sarah Palin (except for the Apple Tart):
Apple Brown Betty (a classic American colonial dessert - a "betty" is a pudding)
Apple Cobbler (I think it's better with a few cranberries added)
Apple Crisp (a Dr. Bliss standard, with ice cream)
I also like to make Apple Pancakes for breakfast. I just throw thin slices into the batter. A good pancake combo is some apple and a handful of cranberries. (Every fall I throw a dozen or so bags of cranberries in the freezer. They seem to last 10 months easily without any deterioration.)
Our Editor tells me his family refers to all of these apple desserts generically as "Upside-down Apple Town Dowdy Betty Bow Wow," and reminds our readers that, in Yankeeland, Apple Pie is traditionally for breakfast, not for dessert.
Wednesday, November 12. 2014
Our urban hike just won't go away. Yesterday, Bird Dog posted pics of Trinity Church. Today I'm posting one location we didn't happen to visit. It was on the original agenda, by the time we got to Washington Square, taking a swing west would have added too much time to the walk. Spirits were high, but it seemed too much to ask. There's always next year.
As a young arrival in New York, I was single and had small amounts of cash to spend on entertainment. There were plenty of ways to find that entertainment at South Street Seaport, midtown in some of the (much more expensive) watering holes, Greenwich Village, and even portions of the West Village. In particular, The White Horse Tavern (warning - the full article, if you wish to read it, requires joining the site, but there is plenty in the portion I've linked to) was one of my favorite places to go after work on Thursday and Friday. For some reason, I never stopped in on the weekends.
Continue reading "The White Horse Tavern"
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