Behind is good. Farther away from the FRONT is GOOD. Also, it turns out, good is the awful spotlights that frelling BLIND YOU. It means you can’t really see the congregation.
Yes. Never underestimate the calming power of bright lights in your eyes. Congregation? What congregation?
Yay for having fun with singing!!! And when you do write that power ballad, I want to hear it.
Ha ha ha ha ha ha. And here I thought you were going to say something all helpful* and knows-way-more-about-music-than-I-do. Fie.
But . . . I’m pretty sure it was you, a long time ago now, posted to the forum asking about Maggie’s mom’s chicken, apples and cream recipe.** I TORE MY KITCHEN APART*** looking for the frelling recipe and had just about decided that it must have been in one of the cookbooks I’d got rid of when I went off dairy—probably one of the Shaker cookbooks. You know all these clean pure lines of Shaker furniture and houses and how they dressed simply and were celibate and so on? THEY MAKE UP FOR IT IN THE FOOD. If there was ever massive sublimation going on Shaker food is it. Or anyway the several Shaker cookbooks I had in my twenties and thirties† were ALL cream and butter and thick gooey sauces and . . . glorious.†† Although it helps if you have a really fast metabolism and/or regularly save the world which is usually a high-calorie undertaking.††† The rest of us have to have a week’s detox on lettuce and water after every foray. Even if I hadn’t gone off dairy twenty years ago I’d’ve had to get rid of my Shaker cookbooks when I hit menopause and my metabolism said, nice knowing you. Going to sleep now for several decades.
BUT I FOUND IT. CHICKEN, APPLES AND CREAM. YAAAAAAY. From the notes in the margins there was at least one other recipe I had already tried—which probably was in one of those lost Shaker cookbooks—but I know I used this one too. It’s been so long since I’ve made it I can’t remember much about it except that it’s good. The original is from COUNTRY SUPPERS by Ruth Cousineau which I’ve praised in these virtual pages before. I think it’s a lovely cookbook and it should have been a fabulous best-seller and still in print. But it’s not—still in print, anyway.
2-3 T slightly salted butter
1 large sweet onion
2 medium-sized sour/cooking apples: popularity was busy ruining Granny Smiths when I moved over here: when they first hit the ground running they were the perfect all-purpose apple, not too sour to eat if you like brisk but excellent in pies and so on too. So I’m not sure what you Americans use now. I used Bramleys when I first moved over here‡ but they are VERY SOUR. Also, Bramleys tend to HUGE. You’ll probably only want one Bramley. Anyway. Choose your weapon. Then core, peel, slice. You know the drill.
3 T flour
1 c good strong chicken stock. Either make it yourself or buy proper stock in the refrigerator section of your grocery.
½ c heavy cream‡‡
4 c chopped cooked chicken‡‡‡
Melt the butter, gently fry your fine-chopped onion. Add apples and go on cooking gently. If you’re using Bramleys be aware that they get fluffy if they’re cooked too enthusiastically. Sprinkle on the flour and stir till you get something resembling a lumpy roux—all those apples and onions in the way. Then slowly add the stock and cream. As I recall I added it alternately in bits—so half the stock, stir till it’s all taken up, then the cream, stir etc, then the final stock. It’ll be much thinner, obviously, but it should still be a proper thick sauce.
Add the chicken and heat through.
You’ll need some salt: add how you like it. You may want pepper. I don’t but then I’m not eating this, am I? You can think of me and feel superior.§
* * *
* I need to learn how to change key signatures and how to write a descant. Okay?
** SHADOWS. For those of you still waiting in the loan queue at your library.^
^ Suggest they buy more copies.
*** It did not, in fact, look a great deal different than before I started the tearing process.
† Before I went off everything that was fun besides tea, chocolate and champagne
†† I was just googling Shaker recipes and there seems to be some revisionism going on. Simple pure lines of Shaker cooking. Hmm. Okay.
††† Ask Kes.
‡ I sashayed back and forth over the ‘no dairy’ line for a while till my body convinced me that it meant NO DAIRY.
‡ Oh frell. US/UK translation problems. I think if you’re in the UK you want what’s called ‘whipping cream’. I’ve just been pestering google and that seems to be the consensus. I too fell into the ‘double cream’ trap. The UK is just cream mad. Which is why I started falling off the no-dairy wagon when I moved over here. Clotted cream. Be still my heart. SIIIIIIIIGH. I’m old and mean now though. I’m used to my bitter privation.
‡‡‡ The original recipe calls for shredded chicken. Ugh. You can also just joint your chicken. It makes quite a nice presentation if you arrange your chicken pieces on a platter, pour the sauce over and artfully arrange a few slices of raw apple on top—not Bramley. People die of intense shrivelling by eating raw Bramleys. This method also saves all that chopping time. You could knit several rows in the time you didn’t spend chopping.
§ I CAN STILL EAT BUTTER. With black tea, champagne, chocolate and BUTTER, my life is not a desert.
Years and years and years and half a lifetime ago when I had only just started this blog*, I brought up the subject of Peg Bracken’s classic of the culinary art, The I Hate to Cookbook,** as a result of having just read her obituary***. Now I started teaching myself to cook at the relatively tender age of thirteen, and discovered I liked it, but I still have pretty much always agreed that ‘life’s too short to stuff a mushroom’†. And when I was thirteen life was serious and the idea of having a family to feed every day—and in the midsixties girls were growing up with the idea that that was their future: this may be what we rebelled against, but that’s precisely because it was what was in our way—was pretty overwhelming.†† Peg Bracken was hot in those days, her recipes worked, and furthermore she was funny.††† Hey! It’s not all June Cleaver!‡ Pass it on!
And, thinking back to those days, the paragraph that caught my attention in the obituary, and which I probably quoted the last time‡‡, was this: ‘Bracken received short shrift from the first half-dozen editors, all men, whom she approached. They neither sympathised with [her cookbook’s] subversion nor thought American women unhappy with their lot. Similarly, when she showed the manuscript to her second husband, the writer Roderick Lull, he remarked: “It stinks.”‡‡‡ Its value was not appreciated until she found a woman editor [boldface mine] at Harcourt Brace.’ Um-hmm. And it sold over 3 million copies.
My original mid-60s paperback disappeared or disintegrated long ago. It probably went with one of my early purist purges. But the obituary reminded me what a hoot she was, and while my diet these days is so holy it hurts§, I started trying to track down a copy of the then-out-of-print cookbook. And found one: yaay. Which happened to be a reprint of the twenty-fifth anniversary edition, with an Introduction to the Introduction which begins: ‘When they informed me that twenty-five years have elapsed since The I Hate to Cook Book appeared, I was astonished. Only think! Twenty-five long years, some longer than others. Well, some of them shorter than others too, come to think of it. But anyway, twenty-five of them, all kinds, and it just goes to show what can happen when you’re not paying attention.’
::Blink.:: Why does this feel so familiar? So, I’ve spent the last two and a half years thinking ‘I should blog about this again. Because I have found a formative influence. When I started the blog, was I thinking, Anais Nin? §§ Virginia Woolf?§§§ May Sarton?# No. Clearly I aspired to the dizzyingly high standards of frittery and piffle of Peg Bracken. And here’s the clincher: she uses footnotes. Yes! Footnotes! I admit she doesn’t use as many as I do## but she uses them in a stimulating manner. ###
So imagine my pleasure and delight when this appeared on my Twitter feed yesterday:
PublishersWkly The “I Hate to Cook Book” turns 50 with a new anniversary edition http://bit.ly/bGPTEG
Will I buy it? Probably. I hope they kept the Hilary Knight illustrations. Of their time? Sure. But so is Bracken. Not all of it will translate—and I wouldn’t miss it, for example, if they edit out the peanut butter and ketchup canapé spread~—but I feel that a paragraph like this is timeless: ‘Some people, so they tell me, can’t make good pastry. I see no reason to doubt them. Some people can’t keep their eyes open under water, either. We all have our mental blocks to play with.’~~
* * *
* That would be September 2007. A very long time ago. I wasn’t even ringing Stedman yet. Well, at least not successfully.
** I did blog about it. I did. But lj’s search is refusing to find it for me, and I don’t feel like wrestling with its extremely uncooperative calendar. Thanks, lj! I so don’t miss you!
*** Gods, I looove the internet when it works. Here’s the link to the one I read: http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/2007/dec/10/guardianobituaries.mainsection
† http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/lifes-too-short.html Also quoted in the Bracken obituary. I don’t know if Shirley Conran read Peg Bracken, but I would like to think they’d have got on like a house on fire. Or like two women who knew they had better things to do than stuff mushrooms.^
^ Although, yes. I have. I have gone through occasional phases of (pretty strictly culinary only) domestic goddesshood in which I not only read but applied chapters of cookbooks that during more stringent eras I wouldn’t have gone near. The crucial word in that sentence however is through. There are all kinds of things you might want to try once or twice for the experience+ even if you aren’t going to make a habit of them. I haven’t stuffed any mushrooms since I started bell ringing, say. And really if I’m going to be silly in the kitchen I’d rather be silly with icing and cookie cutters.
+ Driving 1000 miles in three days on a 350cc two stroke motorcycle with no windscreen, for example. Not sleeping (or breathing, much) for seven days while waiting to see if that English bloke was going to figure out that I was his future or not. And stuffing mushrooms.
†† Did you ever see Audrey Hepburn in a kitchen? Okay, there are a couple of passing references to cordon bleu omelettes in Sabrina, but did she ever make one?
††† Sample chapter titles: The Leftover, or Every Family Needs a Dog^; Potluck Suppers, or How to Bring the Water for the Lemonade; Stealing from Knowledgeable People, or I Seen Her When She Done It But I Never Let On.
^ Not a hellhound, clearly
‡ Or Miss Moneypenny! Or Nurse Chapel! Or any other subservient, hero-fixated girlie! You can cook and have kids or YOU CAN BE PATHETIC AND UNFULFILLED! Having a profession DOES NOT COUNT! Grrrrrrr.
‡‡ But that was a long time ago, so you won’t mind.
‡‡‡ I’m glad she divorced him.
§ Except for the tea, the chocolate and the champagne. Thank you, gods, for this loophole in my undesired and unenjoyed salubriousness.
## She wasn’t writing a daily blog, okay? I’m sure she would have if she had been.
### This one, for example: ‘The recipe calls for “good mayonnaise,” a term that always makes me feel truculent as well as defensive. What kind do they think you buy? . . .’ This reminds me of one of my favourite cookbook comments, which is nailed in my memory to Bracken, except I can’t imagine her ever telling you how to make yeast bread, protesting the standard yeast-bread instruction to cover your rising sponge ‘with a clean towel’. You’re going to cover it with a dirty towel? Indeed.
~ Yeccch. Even if it did appear in a footnote.
~~ Or this paragraph, plus footnotes, which appears at the end: ‘Like a love affair, a cookbook is probably easier to get into than out of. At the end of both, sins of commission and omission loom large. . . . Is the chocolate sauce really that good?^ . . . Shouldn’t there have been some mention of brunches? ^^ . . .’
The rest of this week is a Hideous Social Round. I have a novel to finish, you guys. Why do people have to go on holiday in the summer? Why are novels due the ends of summers? Why is the autumn season the one you want your new novel published in? Why does it take a year for a book to make it through production and show up in the shops?
So I had a friend here for tea. And I’m plying her with muffins and scones and tea bread and things* and she’s very appreciative and has seconds and so on and then she starts telling me that she knows that the reason I had her for tea is because I don’t know how to cook real food.** She also reads the blog. She says I have never posted any recipes with any redeeming social virtues whatsoever.
I started to get all shirty and then I thought . . . uh. She’s probably right. I admit I haven’t checked but . . . I don’t really want to know that I’ve never posted anything with, oh, say, chicken in it. I thought about this all through bell ringing.*** By the time I got home again, after all that intensive thinking about food, I was ready to eat my laptop. I am having scrambled eggs with smoked salmon instead.
But I am going to post a recipe with chicken in it.
Many, many years ago, when I still ate more or less like a normal person, I bought a Shaker cookbook. You know all those old Shaker buildings with their clean pure lines and the lovely spare leanness of their furniture? They make up for it in the food. It’s all cream sauces. It’s quite extraordinary. Just holding the book in your hands you can feel your belt getting tighter. I love cream sauces. Just by the way.
And then I went off dairy. Frell. So I had a fairly major cookbook clear-out and the Shaker is one of the ones that left me forever†.
A few years after that another friend gave me a copy of a cookbook I think I’ve cited here before: COUNTRY SUPPERS by Ruth Cousineau. It’s got all kinds of winsome stuff in it. Including a recipe that reminded me of all my lost cream-sauce darlings in the old Shaker book. When I used still to go off the rails in a dairy direction, this is one of the recipes I would plunge toward. And as I was pulling on a bell rope this evening†† and thinking about food, I remembered both this recipe and my promise, or threat, to post Food I Have Loved But Can No Longer Eat here. So this is my version of Ruth Cousineau’s verson of:
Chicken and Apples in Cream
2 T lightly salted butter
1 large sweet onion, chopped
2 normal sized or 1 monster Bramley sour cooking apple(s), sliced
few drops tamari (good soy sauce)
1 c chicken stock
½ c heavy cream
1-2 T white wine. Make this the day after you’ve had a good bottle of white, and save the dregs.
2 c chopped cooked chicken. I like it in fairly large chunks with lots of sauce. Adjust to preference.
Heat butter in large skillet over medium heat and cook the onion, stirring occasionally, till soft and beginning to brown, about 10 minutes. Add apples and cook, stirring occasionally, till softened, again about 10 minutes. Sprinkle on flour and stir. Cook a few minutes, till brown and gungy, add stock, cream and tamari. Cook 3-5 minutes, till thick and homogenous; then add wine. Start with 1T and see if you like the consistency/texture. I always want a second T. I have been known to use 4T flour and ¼ c wine. In which case you may want to add a little more cream. The sauce is good over many vegetables too, if you happen to find yourself with an excess. Add the chicken and heat through.
* * *
* I would kill for a piece of lardy cake. Have I said this before? Probably. Lardy cake haunts my dreams. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lardy_cake But it’s basically sugar and lard stuck together with a little flour and a few raisins http://www.fitzbillies.co.uk/uploads/257___1.jpg and a single piece of lardy cake would be my calorie ration for about a week. I hate menopause. I used just to have lardy cake when I met friends for tea—I used to know all the best lardy cake cafes and delis in this area—at least I had sufficient sense never to learn how to make the stuff. A whole sheet of lardy cake . . . mind boggling. Waistline boggling.
** The real reason I have people over for tea instead of supper is because I’m probably bell ringing during normal supper hours.
*** Of course I went bell ringing, in spite of expending several hours over tea with a friend and having a novel to finish. I have priorities. Wednesday evening priority is bell ringing. We were rather overwhelmed with beginners tonight, including a brand new eight year old. Eight years old is the bottom limit: no eight years, no ring. As handed down by the Central Council. This girl is about the size of a speck of dust but her mum—Marilyn—says she’s been talking about being old enough to ring for months so she had to be given a shot at it. She was fine. I’ve been telling Marilyn she’d be fine. She’s a very sturdy and determined speck of dust.
† Although it went to a good home with a friend who still ate cream sauces and I hope they’ve been very happy together.
†† Wild Robert made me call a touch of Grandsire! No, no! You must be talking to some other Robin! Blah gleb urb arrgh blah! I’ve called I think one touch of bob doubles in my life! —I made a mess of it of course.
I think I may be coming down with Niall’s flu. Isn’t. Life. Grand.
However, I can at least give you my eggnog recipe. I realise eggnog is another of those divisive subjects: there are people who are totally creeped out by the idea of ingesting raw egg; there are people who prefer their eggnog to be a, you know, drink, as opposed to another deadly sin*. And then there are those of us who think there isn’t any point to eggnog unless you need to serve it in shot glasses . . . with spoons, because it doesn’t actually pour very well. I belong to the last category.
And somewhere out there someone will make this and love it the way I loved it back in the days I could frelling drink it, and I will therefore have Passed On The Torch.** Yaay.
6 eggs, separated. Obviously you want eggs so fresh the hen is still only a few inches away
12T ordinary granulated sugar
1 c heavy cream
1 c light cream
1 c whole/full-fat milk
1 ½ tsp vanilla
Beat yolks very well with 6T sugar in a big enough bowl to hold everything. Put whites in blender, blend till frothy; add second 6T sugar gradually, beat till they’re starting to hold their shape. Add heavy cream and vanilla; blend again. Add light cream and milk and blend one last time–but very gently, because the blender is by now very full. Pour this slowly into the yolks and whisk like mad. This is the moment to add booze, if you want booze. I almost never did because I was usually serving it early in the day. Before people knew what hit them.*** And there would be an awful lot of various booze later.
And, speaking of it being the 21st of December:
The John Calvin chocolates are pretty riveting, but be sure to click through and see the other six top picks. If you aren’t busy gumming your fingers together with festive Christmas tape*** or removing the cat from the Christmas tree (again).
* * *
* The classic seven only scratches the surface, you know
** And My Work Here Is Done. As soon as I get the fifty-three novels I know about written. There may be a few more I won’t notice till I clear out the backlog a little more. But just presently I’m feeling a little pass on the torch and let me expire in peace -ish. What I need is another glass of champagne. The bubbles settle my stomach. They do, you know, although I daresay ginger ale would work just as well (phooey).
*** It went extremely well with the Christmas Morning Coffeecake. It amazes me sometimes that I lived to get old.
† Whose idea was this? And why did I buy it?
It has been another . . . less than optimum . . . day.
I woke up too early–thus the week after the clocks change–and lay there worrying* till I inadvertently fell asleep again** whereupon I overslept.
The phone rang, and it was Asmodeus,*** who wanted to drop off my new all-in-one printer/scanner/fax, which is going to Revolutionise My Life or at least give me back a little shelf space†, and I was barely out of bed and not at my best and most brutal, and I acquiesced to this. By the time the hellhounds and I were out caroming over the countryside I realized this was a mistake, because right at the moment the last thing I want is another new gizmo to get used to, but Asmodeus was supposed to ring me before he started, so that’s okay, I’d ring him when I got back, and tell him to wait and send Gizmo X on Monday when Computer Men are coming back anyway. Then the hellhounds caught a grouse†† and Darkness ducked out of his harness.††† And when we got home again, my little street was blocked by an SUV sitting in the middle of it with all its doors open while its contents stood around chatting to my over-the-road neighbours who would be very nice people except for their taste in friends, who run to SUVs and cluelessness, and who in this instance looked very startled at the impertinent fact of my existence.
And by the time I fought my way to my front door . . . there was Asmodeus waiting for me, standing on the top step with a Large Cardboard Box. It’ll only take five minutes! he said.
The first thing that happened after he left is that I couldn’t find the ‘off’ switch.
Then I turned on a computer–any computer–and started making lists of the things that don’t work. Some new, some old, some familiar, some strange. . . .
I need comfort food.
And, as it happens, I received this by email from b_twin_1 a few days ago:
I gave you chocolate before but I forgot that in your time it was the 26th.
And given the issues you are having accessing the forum…. (::sigh::)
So here’s a special risotto that includes your favourite drink:
Champagne Risotto: http://www.taste.com.au/recipes/6811/champagne+risotto
She and I share bafflement that the original poster seems to think this modest recipe would stretch to feed 20. . . . Twenty what? Flower fairies? Chihuahuas? People who don’t like risotto? Menopausal women? She also said: personally I don’t add cheese to risotto . . . . which in my cheese-denied state I seized upon and said that I made non-cheese risotto myself but I’d always assumed it was Fake Risotto and, rats, if I were going to post it I’d have to figure out the quantities, because I tend to Add Stock Till It Looks Like Risotto and meanwhile could I post her Creative Use of Champagne Risotto? Whereupon, bless her, she sent me this:
Sure you can use it for a post.
If it makes you feel better I never put cheese in risotto while I am making it because Mum has such issues with dairy. Sometimes I will put cheddar on it as I am serving it for myself but lately I haven’t been bothering.
Ever had that thought when you are in a restaurant that yours is better.
Yes. Frequently. It’s one of my excuses for not going out to dinner. The best thing about going out to dinner is getting dressed up. Now, this is a skirt, and these are shoes-that-aren’t-All-Stars. Those of you with office jobs will not appreciate how exciting this is.
I do have a Lazy Cow’s method (should it be Lazy Ewe in my case??)
What, not even a house cow?
for risotto. ;) It involves a wodge of butter and whatever is in the pantry/fridge.
(Following the Lazy Cow Cooking Principles)
B-Twin-1’s Risotto without the Cheese.
All done in under half an hour….
Start with –
1 wodge of butter (oh okay, you want a measurement … about 1-2 tbs)
1 spanish onion
2 cups Arborio rice
4 cups chicken stock, hot
Herbs – I usually use parsley, oregano, garlic (and whatever I feel like grabbing from the drawer or garden)
(whatever is in the fridge)
Vegetarian option = Pumpkin or Mushroom
Non-vege option = Bacon or Chicken (pre-browned or cooked) or cooked gourmet sausages (our butcher does some great gluten free pork or lamb & rosemary ones)
Broccoli / Peas / Corn
Take a heavy based saucepan/pan (I use a cast iron Chasseur) and toss in the finely chopped onion (and fresh garlic and bacon if that is what you are using) with the butter.
After the onion starts to soften I add the herbs. Then I put in the rice and swish that around a bit to heat up and get coated with butter.
I then add the chicken stock. All in one hit. But it is HOT (ie. just off the boil). Stir that all around and put the lid on the Chasseur.
When the liquid starts to simmer I toss in all the veggies and anything else. Then I put the lid on. And turn the heat down very low.
I stir it maybe once or twice in the next 10 minutes or so. It varies a little each time as to when it is “done” but it is usually about 15 minutes. I look for it to have absorbed the liquid but still be “slippery” looking and not gluggy. Gluggy means too much liquid or too long.
Easy huh? ;)
Yaay easy. Easy is good. I love pine nuts, so I will put slightly toasted‡ pine nuts in at the last minute in a herby risotto and–further on the lazy domestic stock front–a couple of tablespoons of hummous stirred in with your couple of tablespoons of pine nuts will totally make this a main dish, although if I’m planning on hummous I’ll probably leave the onion out. (I use an enameled cast iron pot: easier to clean if I get it wrong, and it sticks.)
I went and had a further prowl at www.taste.com.au/recipes after this:
caught my eye, in the sidebar to the Champagne Risotto. Which put me in mind of tea food, and what I could serve Mozart, Beethoven and Verdi when I have them round‡‡ So I had a look for scones:
And I’m a trifle old-fashioned, having learnt scones from Constance Spry and Nell Beaton–fizzy lemonade, feh–so I pass over a lot, but these look good, and very like something I make (if I can put oatmeal flakes in something, I probably will):
There’s also a recipe for Savoury Scones which specifies ‘tasty’ cheese. As opposed to the other kind I guess? ‘Another scone, vicar? Would you like the kind with the tasty cheese or the really nasty purulent cheese? I find that the nasty is very good for your moral probity, and if you concentrate you can get one down in two bites.’
* * *
* About everything, of course. Peter, hellhounds, me, PEGASUS, the American presidential election, the global economy, whether IE will ever stop crashing, and whether Yog-Sothoth will ever make it through the barrier between that universe and this one.
** Thanks to being computer-bereft yesterday while Computer Men performed arcane and sorcerous acts, I’m nearly finished with Peter’s new ms, and I’m at the place when the hero has cause to return to the dark scary hidden booby-trapped maze that runs through the walls of the palace, and . . . aaaaaaaugh. Bad dreams. Bad.
*** I’ve been resisting naming Head Computer Man Asmodeus, but he keeps going on about how long we’ve been together, AKA how many damned computers and associated gadgetry he’s sold me over the years because I’m too dumb and gullible to live, and I ask you, what kind of a colleague would a Hellgoddess have but a demon?
† Shelf. Space. Shelf! Space! SHEEEELF SPAAAAAAACE–!
†† Oh gods.
††† OH GODS.
‡ Slightly toasted makes all the difference. Do it. You spread ’em out in a single layer in a heavy saucepan or skillet–I use my little iron scrambled-eggs skillet–put it on medium heat, shake occasionally, and watch it like a normal dog watches a bowl of dog food. It’ll go from nothing to too brown in the twinkling of a wandering eye. But if you turn it on low it takes forever.
‡‡ I feel that having them one at a time would be a better idea, but I’m not sure if the Time Travelling Admin will allow this.