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
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 Christmastime"
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"
I post enough recipes that I like, and that I like to make. It's your turn for the most American of foods.
What are your favorite Apple Pie recipes? Got any tips?
A pal of mine likes to sprinkle sugar over the top crust partway through the baking. He uses supermarket crusts, but it works very well.
(I actually like Tarte Tatin better, but have trouble caramelizing the bottom - which becomes the top.)
Our Maggie's Farm chef, in photo, will test each one of them for us.
Sunday, November 9. 2014
It's the peak of apple season in Yankeeland, and the best use for apples is Apple Pie and Tarte Tatin, which is sort of a semi-burned upside-down apple pie. Other than just eating one off the tree.
The Tarte Tatin was supposedly invented by mistake. I have tried to make them many times, but I can never get the hard crispy caramelization on the apples that I seek: I just get a browned upside-down apple pie - a gooey mush that sticks to the pan and makes for a mess of a presentation (but tastes good anyway).
Hard apples - not cooking apples, high heat and an iron skillet seem to be important. Some people seem to have no trouble getting it right, but I never do.
Here's a recipe. If you can make it right, it ain't too terribly bad with a scoop of homemade vanilla ice cream on the side.
My chef friend advises making them with a basic Flan Pastry, aka Chef's Pastry. Chef claims that once you've had a good Tarte Tatin, you'll never go back to apple pie with its overdose of pastry.
Saturday, November 8. 2014
Earlier this year, my son came home from school and asked me how hard it was to brew beer. This was not a surprising question from a boy who is 17. I still asked him why he wanted to know. His response was related to school (shocking). He said his Chemistry teacher brewed beer. I thought for a moment, and pointed out that cooking was a form of chemistry, so brewing seemed a natural extension.
At that point I mentioned a brew kit my brother had purchased for my birthday many years ago. It languished in an apartment closet until we moved to our house, and I never utilized it It was gone, but I asked would he be interested in learning to brew?
The answer was robustly affirmative, and we began to look into the purchase of a brew kit.
If you have the desire, you can build your own brew kit for about $35. Two 6 gallon Home Depot buckets, a siphon, an airlock, some washers and a small plastic spigot and you're all set to build the kit on your own. The spigot, washers and airlock can all be purchased online. You'll need lids for the Home Depot buckets. You'll need drills to attach the spigot and the airlock. It will take a little time and effort, but would save a little cash. The alternative is to spend about $100, buy the kit ready made along with all the ingredients for your first batch of brew. I opted for the expensive, easier, route.
You'll also want to read up on brewing first, too.
Continue reading "Oktober Brew for November - reposted"
Saturday, October 25. 2014
A repost from last November -
A great hunt this morning at a pal's rod and gun club. Heavy snow flurries and a stiff breeze made things interesting. Had two good Labs working for us today. Had to break the ice in their water tubs. Being Labs, naturally one insisted on climbing into the water tub to play with the floating hunks of ice and was not eager to come out.
Before a late lunch we had some venison sausage and I fixed myself a Clamato Bloody Mary while we cleaned and oiled our weapons. For lunch, they made us rare roast beef with Onion Pie, with a nice Chateau Simard '86 (Simard remains an excellent wine for the price). I do not know whether it was just the effect of a long cold day in the field, but this onion pie was about the tastiest, most savory thing I have ever eaten. The cook made it with a plain white-cracker piecrust and maybe sprinkled cracker crumbs over the top. This pie is to a kiche as a Grizzly Bear is to a Teddy Bear. Rice Pudding for dessert, of course: what else would you serve at an old-fashioned guy's club where women are not allowed?
As my friends know all too well, it's great to have somebody else to drive so I can indulge a post-prandial, post-hunt snoring snooze. I do not know why my friends put up with me.
1 unbaked pie shell - try a plain cracker crumb crust
2 or 3 very large white onions, thinly sliced
2 tbsp. butter
1/2 lb. Swiss cheese cut into 1/2" or 1" chunks
1 tbsp. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. milk or light cream
1/8 tsp. pepper
Prepare unbaked pie shell. Start heating oven to 400 degrees. Saute onions in butter and dump into pie shell. Toss the cheese with flour, sprinkle over onions. Beat eggs well. Stir in milk or cream, salt and pepper. Pour over cheese. Sprinkle crack crumbs on top. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes. Then reduce oven heat to 300 degrees and bake 25 minutes longer or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Serve hot, in wedges.
That is soul food with a rare roast beef. Might be a good treat for a holday, too, as an alternative to creamed baby onions (which I also love).
Friday, October 24. 2014
It's the time of year when I stock up on bags of Cranberries and throw them in the freezer.
The canned cranberry "sauce" pictured is garbage. It's just congealed sweetened cranberry juice.
The recipe on the Ocean Spray bags is pretty good, but I cut the sugar they recommend in half. It's nothing but water, fresh or frozen berries, and sugar.
A great food, the Cranberry. I love to put them in pancakes (the combination of the sweetness of the maple syrup and the tartness of the cranberries is perfect).
Here's our old post on Cranberry Season and the Heart.
Funny thing about Cranberries: not many animals or birds like to eat them. Maybe bears? I've seen Box Turtles take a bite out of one, but I've never seen anything else eat them. I love Cranberries, as long as they aren't cooked too sweet. Here's a tiny Massachusetts Cranberry bog, flooded for harvest:
Here's how it's done on a larger scale:
Sunday, October 19. 2014
Friday, October 17. 2014
I told you that in Sicily this past Spring we had Parsley Pesto (with grilled swordfish) and Pistachio Pesto (with grilled pork), but we never saw a Basil Pesto. They do love their Pistachios in Sicily - they use them with everything. We brought a small, overpriced jar of pistachio pesto home, but it's fairly easy to make.
"Pesto" means something that is pestado - pounded or ground up, as in English "pestle and "paste." Walnut-Parsley is a popular combination. Also, fresh mint pesto. The Cuisinart is what made Pesto easy.
More: Move out the way, basil. Cheese + nuts + olive oil + garlic + whatever the hell you want = awesome pesto.
Saturday, October 11. 2014
For pottage and puddings and custards and pies
Pilgrim verse, circa 1633
Pumpkins are just one variety of winter squash. Winter Squash have the virtues of being harvested in the fall, and easily storable for keeping through the winter in a root cellar as long as they do not freeze. All winter squash (Butternut, Acorn, etc) taste pretty similar and are more or less interchangeable in recipes.
Winter Squash, along with string beans, maize (which we call "corn" in the US, and many other foods like peppers, tomatoes, and potatoes) were first genetically modified for agriculture by American Indians.
Eastern Indians had large fields in which they grew winter squash, maize, and beans (which climbed up the corn stalks) together. In fact, one of the reasons the Pilgrims decided to stay in Plymouth was for the 50-acre and 100-acre planting fields that the Indians (recently dead probably from European diseases brought in by explorers and fishermen) had prepared there.
The Pumpkin of the Americas quickly became a popular crop in many parts of the world. Our Philippino nanny rarely made a Phillipino stew without pumpkin chunks in it. (Loved that Oxtail stew with peanut sauce, potato, and pumpkin, or her winter squash and string bean stew with coconut milk plus some shrimp or chicken chunks.) And people who have read Alexander McCall Smith's series, The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, know how popular pumpkin became in the African diet. As for Pumpkin pasta recipes, there are tons of them.
Here's 41 Yummy Pumpkin Recipes.
Mashed pumpkin with salt, pepper and butter is great. Same with steamed pumpkin chunks. A little chopped fresh Sage is good with them. Never boil winter squash. Steam or roast, or it will get too soggy.
As for the olde standbys, Pumpkin Pie and Pumpkin Soup, those are OK too but the spices tend to obscure the subtle flavors of the winter squashes used. (Re Pumpkin Pie, the Maggie's Farm advice is to go very light on the sugar, and serve with a spoonful of whipped cream, then drizzled with 100% Maple Syrup.)
Megan McArdle wrote this: Yes, Some of US Really Like Pumpkin
I'd have the oysters, the soft-shell crabs, and the squab (I love squab).
Delmonico's (Since 1837) is still in business, on Beaver St.
Wednesday, October 8. 2014
(Page 1 of 20, totaling 488 entries) » next page