June 6, 2014

Chicken, apples and cream



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.

Hummus. And chocolate.



You know how ‘the news’ isn’t ‘the news’ but ‘the BAD news’?

Every now and then something slips by the radar—it’s newsworthy and it’s not bad.  It may even be good.

I love this.  Virginia tobacco farmers, floundering in the dropping demand for tobacco, are planting chickpeas instead.  Because hummus is booming.



I of course have been eating hummus for decades.  I’d’ve said all us old original-Moosewood-Cookbook** hippies and freaks and navy-blue-suit wearing secret counterculturists ate hummus.***

But I do want to draw your attention to hummus chocolate cake.  I’ve got a recipe for it myself somewhere but I couldn’t find it and I had to go bell ringing†.  There are several of them out there in internetland†† but they seem nearly identical and epicurious is usually pretty reliable:


This looks like mine—the four eggs and two teaspoons of vanilla are right.  I may use more cocoa.  It’s a safe bet that I usually use more cocoa.  But the cake is lovely.  Really.  It’s chiefly the tahini that gives what you think of as the hummus flavour to, um, hummus.  Hummus chocolate cake is just very, very dense and moist and filling and scrummy and excellent.  It’s also dairy and gluten free and doesn’t taste like a lot of the contents of those grim ‘without’ shelves at the supermarket.†††  You can even fool yourself that it’s good for you.

* * *

* I am also going to risk being heinously politically incorrect and say that given America’s^ relations with the Middle East I can’t help but feel that enthusiastically adopting even a mere humble foodstuff can’t hurt.  They’re people like us, you know?  They eat.  And eating together is usually bonding too.

^ And most of the western first world’s

** Which is out of print.  The new one is all low fat.  Feh.  http://www.amazon.com/Moosewood-Cookbook-Katzens-Classic-Cooking/dp/1580081304/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1368656400&sr=8-1&keywords=moosewood+cookbook

I’ve got so many physical issues it’s not frelling funny.  My intolerances are intolerant of my other intolerances.  But one thing this body has always got right is its cholesterol levels—even back in my heavy dairy, if-it-stands-still-long-enough-put-butter-on-it days, I had low Bad Cholesterol and high Good Cholesterol.^  So everyone moaning about Katzen’s high-fat recipes I was like, What?^^  I remember reading an interview with Katzen I think around the time that the new revised not-so-much-fat edition came out, saying (as my flaky memory recalls it) that she was a little embarrassed at the way she’d trowelled on the dairy and the oil and so on but that she’d been publishing a vegetarian cookbook at a time when vegetarian food was perceived as feeble and weedy and listless and she wanted to present it as able to duke it out with steak and chops.  And it does, unless you have the kind of politically incorrect metabolism that DEMANDS MEAT, which mine does.  Oops.  But I don’t have to have it every day.  And my original MOOSEWOOD and ENCHANTED BROCCOLI FOREST cookbooks have a lot of pages stuck together and a lot of notes in the margins.

^ I must have told you this story:  when I first had ME, and my NHS doctor had grandly declared that she didn’t believe in ME—thanks ever so, lady—I went briefly to a private doc recommended by another ME sufferer.  He had, he said, found himself making a speciality of it simply because he saw so much of it.  I couldn’t afford him for long but he got me started taking care of myself and was very encouraging even when I told him I had to pack as much in as possible in as few appointments as possible.  One of the things he did was have my blood tested for seven single-spaced pages of stuff.   The ‘normal’ ranges for most things are wide enough you have to be a doctor to find any of the readings suggestive, but anything that counted officially as abnormal was marked by a big band of colour, like a giant highlighter.  My cholesterol levels were highlighted.  NOOOOOOOO.  CHOLESTEROL IS THE THING I DO RIGHT.  No, no, said the doctor.  The lab doesn’t differentiate between good abnormal and bad abnormal.  Your bad cholesterol is abnormally low, and your good cholesterol is abnormally high.

Oh.  ::Beams::  Pity about the ME though . . .

^^ I also have another of my crunchy-granola, geeky health-nutter fringe rants about the fact that fat is good for you.  The super-low-fat thing is BAD.  And margarine is not fat, okay?  Margarine is evil.  Greasy evil.  What they do to it to make it solid is far worse than butter ever was or could be unless you injected it with curare or something first.+

+ I think one of the fashions for eggs as good for you is current too.  Yawn.  Yes.  They’re good for you even when they’re out of fashion, unless you’re allergic to them.  I eat a lot of eggs.

*** My hummus is actually not Katzen’s.  I was indeed faintly superior and ho-hum^ when Moosewood came out.  It wasn’t going to have anything to teach me and what’s with the twee hand lettering?  I think one of my long-ironed-hair, tie-dyed-skirt-wearing friends gave me a copy^^ and when I still had more than twelve calories a day available I was a sucker for a good cookbook.

^ I have never claimed to be a nice person, and I was worse when I was younger

^^ Tie-dye took a long time to go away.  AND IT CAME BACK.  AAAAAAAAUGH.  Barring a pink tie-dye t shirt that a friend and her kids made me a few years ago+ that I am very fond of, I have the same feeling about tie-dye that I do about bell bottoms.  AAAAAAAAAAAUGH.  AAAAAAAAAAAAUGH.  And don’t come near me with shag carpeting or Austin Powers either.

+ It’s colour proof and everything.  You can put it through the washing machine.  They make home-hand-dyeing colour a lot better than they used to.

† I RANG THREE TIMES TONIGHT.  YAAAAAAAY.  It was almost like being a real person.

†† Along with a lot of suggestions for straight hummus-chocolate mousse-like-substance or frosting or cookies which I will leave you to discover for yourselves although if you’re asking me all those involving things like Nutella are impure.

††† Personally I think chocolate-covered rice cakes are a sin against nature.

Varieties of short


PamAdams wrote:

I would quit checking for your posts every day, but you keep posting!

Yes, but they’re about half length.  I still haven’t got round to the Future of the Blog post—being easily distracted hasn’t changed—but it includes, among other SHORT things, reverting to having more recipes.

And today, when I’m crazy-stupid-tired* I thought I’d post the sort of recipe you need when you’re banging, or perhaps whimpering, over the final corrections of a novel, overdue optional.**  Also, I adore corn/maize in nearly all its incarnations.  Cornmeal and CHOCOLATE?  Be still my heart.

This is adapted from UNWRAPPED, which is Green & Black’s cookbook.  Really.  And, as you would hope, it is chocolate porn of the highest quality.

Polenta Chocolate Cake

Okay, I haven’t exactly converted, but I do now have a nice small neat digital kitchen scales, and . . . I use it.  So I don’t always recalibrate to American measurements.***  Also, there are now converters EVERYWHERE.  Those of you with reliable internet connections can go on line.  I have several converters on Pooka, because I am indecisive, easily confused and inclined to assume that the next one will be the best—and most aps are so engagingly cheap you can afford to be silly.  PLUS there are aps specifically for kitchenware and cooking ingredients.  Even if I do still tend to measure by handfuls and what stuff looks like.

8 oz dark chocolate, preferably G&B’s own either 70% or—recommended—the blow-your-socks-off 85% cocoa solids dark chocolate, which is intense.  I find it a little too intense for plain eating but the sock-blowing thing happens when you bake with it.

125g (4 ½ oz) good quality slightly salted butter

5 large eggs, separated

150g (5 oz) granulated sugar.  The original recipe calls for caster, which is finer-grained.  I like granulated, which seems to me to leave a faint residue of grittiness even after baking, although I may be hallucinating this.

100g (3 ½ oz) polenta.  Again, the original recipe stipulates fine.  In my experience this cake doesn’t really rise anyway, it falls.  It’s going to be gooey and sticky whatever you do.  I like the slight grittiness of not-quite-fine polenta.  All those eggs will stop it from being heavy, so if you like gritty, go for not-quite-fine.  I also prefer yellow to white.  This may also be hallucination but I think the yellow has a stronger flavour.

The original recipe also calls for rum.  Feh.  I like rum, in its place, but this isn’t its place.  I use about two tsps of good vanilla—and I haven’t posted a recipe in a while, but you all remember my doodah about GOOD vanilla, right?  None of this vanilla flavouring scam.  Get the real thing.

The original recipe tells you to butter and flour a 10” deep-sided springform cake tin.  I don’t.  This is going to be STICKY so I want it shallow so I can get it out better.  Springform is fine but I don’t think they make shallow springform?  Dunno.  But you could have chocolate-polenta goo all over your counter if you took the sides off too soon.  I use an ordinary big flat cake tin, butter and flour it AND THEN line with parchment paper and butter and flour again.

Melt the chocolate and butter in your bain-marie, let cool, vigorously beat in egg yolks one at a time, and then beat in about half the sugar.  It should be so gorgeously thick and creamy you have trouble not saying ‘bag the polenta’ and eating it as is.†

Beat the egg whites with the rest of the sugar.  You want it as airy as possible but as I say, this cake is going to fall so don’t kill yourself over this.

Stir the polenta and vanilla into the chocolate mixture.††

Finally ‘fold in’ the egg whites as the cookbooks always say, like this is going to work. You do want to preserve as much of the air and structure as possible, but it is going to collapse, so don’t let this disturb you.  Stir gently, till it’s shiny and homogenous.

Pour, still gently, into the cake pan, smooth the top, and bake at 350F/180C.  The original recipe says 40 minutes, but it’s supposing a deep-sided pan.  Because I am a twit, I have not written down how long I expect it to take.  I’d guess about half an hour.  It will change colour and look like it’s trying to turn into a cake . . . but as I say, think sticky.  Then take it out of the oven and let sit FOR A VERY LONG TIME.  Unless you want chocolate-cornmeal soup.  Not that this is a bad thing.†††  It WILL SINK as it cools.  Not to worry.

Dust it with icing sugar.  Then cut it up kindly and patiently into squarish globs.

* * *

* I don’t know why^, but I hope it goes away.  Like, now.

^ I mean, sure, I’m tying myself in knots over the last tweaks and twiddles on SHADOWS but I do this writing foolishness for a living.  I should be used to it.  Maybe I’m just dreading the copyediting stage.+

+ Yes.

** And my angelic editor gave me a few days’ grace.  Thursday was going to be hard.  Monday is fabulous.

***  Thus forcing British and Australian and various other non-American readers to convert back.

†And if your eggs are fresh and from nice clean hens, I wouldn’t say you were wrong.

†† And taste again.  You know you want to.  If you didn’t, you wouldn’t be making this in the first place.

††† See:  eating the batter before you put it in the cake pan.

Death-deflecting chocolate


Oh BLERG.  When (still) feeling like death and mildew and old socks . . . clearly chocolate is called for.*  Besides, I need a night off. 

              Sometimes what you want is whatever you can do really fast. 

(Almost) Instant Chocolate Gratification 

4 T butter

8 oz dark chocolate

2 T golden syrup, dark Karo, or light molasses (warning:  molasses has much more flavour than the other two.  You need to like the taste of molasses if you use it here)

Cinnamon or vanilla, possibly

8 oz plain digestive biscuits, rich tea biscuits, wheatmeal biscuits, vanilla wafers, graham crackers, or whatever of that kind of thing either takes your fancy or you can grab in a hurry because the necessary moment is NOW 

Melt butter, chocolate and liquid sugar together gently in a small pan.  Stir till thoroughly mixed.  If you want to use cinnamon or vanilla, use a half-tsp here.  I use cinnamon not vanilla when I use molasses, other than that it’s whatever.

Rolling-pin your biscuits to fine crumbs.  Stir the chocolate stuff in.

Pour into a greased or carefully parchment-papered (this includes up the sides) 8” square pan and refrigerator for several hours till set.  Don’t cheat:  it’s messy and annoying if you do.

So I guess I should say making this is dead fast (and easy).  Waiting around for it to finish turning into itself you need a sofa, some hellhounds, and a few trashy novels.


Less (Almost) Instant Chocolate Gratification, But Still Pretty Fast 

10 oz dark chocolate

6 T butter

1 egg

½ tsp vanilla

1 c granulated sugar

1 ¼ c plain flour

½ tsp baking powder 

Reserve about 2T of the sugar.

Melt chocolate and butter together and cool.  Beat the egg, then beat in the sugar till light and pale.  Add the chocolate mixture when it’s cool enough not to cook the egg** and the vanilla.  Then add the flour.  If it gets too stiff to stir easily, knead the rest in.

Break off bits of the dough and roll cookies into big round pebbles the size of walnuts.  (I do this between my palms.  Some people prefer a table.)  Roll in the reserved sugar.  Then space out on a parchment paper lined baking sheet.  I squish them very lightly with a finger so they don’t roll around.  They will not be pretty if they turn themselves from free electrons into molecule clumps.  Ahem.  You can get the lot on a single baking sheet, but use all the space, they do spread.

400° for 8-10 minutes.  They crack all over. 

They don’t take nearly as long to cool as the refrigerator bars do to set. 

            And may we all sleep better tonight than I did last night. 

* * *

 * At least Chaos is feeling better.

 ** Generally speaking this is less of a disaster than you might think.  In ordinary daily the-queen-is-not-coming-to-tea baking infinitesimal flakes of cooked egg disappear.  Fortunately.

Geography and Chocolate


THANK YOU EVERYONE WHO HAS MADE THE AUCTION/SALE A HELLGODDESS-ASTONISHING SUCCESS.  THANK YOU.   The rough results are up on the auction site.  When Blogmom and I have caught up on our sleep a little, one or the other of us will tell you more about final results and future whatevers.  But chiefly . . . THANK YOU.  Ding dong bell, you might say.

* * * 

There’s been a conversation on the forum about geographic perception.  Or lack of perception. 

blondviolinist wrote:

Black Bear wrote on Sat, 08 October 2011 10:28

Kansas, Nebraska, Minnesota, Iowa, the Dakotas–those are all “great plains states.”

I had a friend (who had grown up in Seattle) once inform me that those states were Eastern states. I just about died laughing. Honey, do you know where the Mississippi is? Do you know how many hours you have to drive from those states to get anywhere near the Eastern United States?

Everyone knows this iconic New Yorker cover, don’t they?  Or are my own East Coast roots showing?  http://bigthink.com/ideas/21121

          The New Yorker shop [sic*] sells prints of it and if it cost about one-fifth of what it does cost I’d buy a copy.**   http://www.newyorkerstore.com/steinberg-collection/new-yorker-cover-3291976/invt/124544/

 * * *

Meanwhile . . . I promised a friend about three weeks ago a red velvet cake recipe.***  I  knew I had a red velvet cake recipe, but I also knew that I hadn’t made it in a while because if I’m going to deal with all those calories I want them really, really worthwhile.  Here’s my biased take on the red velvet cake question:  there isn’t enough chocolate because some deranged person has decreed it’s more about the colour.†  I got rid of a lot of my cookbooks when we moved out of the old house—aside from the bookshelf space problem, menopause zero-metabolism was already creeping up on me—so even after trolling through the cookbook shelves of three houses†† there are at least two other red velvet recipes I can’t seem to find.  But here’s one that I know I’ve made, both because I kind of remember it and because the annotations are clearly in my handwriting.  And the pages kind of stick together.  This is a good sign.  I may have to make this one again some time.

            Note that the original called for one tablespoon of cocoa powder and a two ounce bottle of red food colouring.  Ewww

½ c soft butter

1 ½ c golden sugar:  the raw, low-refined kind that isn’t the pure white of standard granulated.  It doesn’t have as much flavour as brown, but more than white, and it’s mellower than dark brown (and more interesting than light brown.  Say I).

2 large eggs

1 tsp REAL vanilla

2 c flour, or maybe a little more

¼ c unsweetened non-Dutch-process ‘natural’ cocoa powder

pinch salt

1 tsp baking soda

1 c buttermilk, or 1 c milk minus 1T, plus 1T vinegar to sour it.  I’ve been told many times this is cheating, but it’s a lot easier than finding buttermilk and then figuring out something to do with the rest of it.  Theoretically, I think, if you’re using vinegar, it should be skim or low-fat milk—‘butter’ milk is a misnomer—but I always used to use whole/full fat because that’s what I drank, and it worked fine.†††  Most of that soured-milk stuff works semi-interchangeably in baking—I always thought—you get a slightly different taste and texture if it’s sour cream or yogurt, say, but if your ingredients, especially your chocolate, are good quality it’ll all be silky—or velvety—and damnably excellent. 

             Standard cake deal:  cream butter and sugar.  Beat in eggs.  Sift dry and add alternately with sour milk.  Beat hard, but don’t hang about either:  as soon as the vinegar hits the baking soda your batter starts expanding.  Turn into 2 8” or 9” round pans with removable bottoms which have first been buttered and floured with great enthusiasm and thoroughness.  (A greased and floured cut-out of parchment paper works just as well if you don’t have push-out-bottom pans.)  350°F about half an hour:  the layers should rise in the middle, and the edges start to pull away from the pan walls.  Let cool at least ten or fifteen minutes before you try and get them out of the pans.  I tend to think soured-milk cakes are more fragile than others, but that may just be my karma. 

            Frost when cool.  I recommend vanilla buttercream, myself, but as you like. 

I still haven’t given you my favourite chocolate cake recipe, have I?  Or have I?  The Red Devil AKA McKinley’s Famous Exploding Chocolate Cake?  Which is another of these sour milk + baking soda + chocolate = red.   My Red Devil cake, despite its distressing incendiary habits, is the reason I pretty much don’t make any other chocolate cake any more.  I don’t dare have cake very often‡ and I only really pine and yearn for that one. 

* * *

* I grew up in the hard-copy only era, certainly, but I also grew up at a time or anyway on the fringes of a society that believed The New Yorker was cool^.  I am still having a hard time getting my head around the on line presence of a New Yorker shop.  It’s like finding out that Hillary Clinton moonlights selling pencils on a street corner.  I even follow the NYer on Twitter.  It’s just not the same, reading the cartoons off a computer screen.^^  

^ Although I don’t think I’ve actually read the thing since Janet Malcolm on Sylvia Plath, which seems to have been 1993.  How time flies.  Eeep.  http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/bios/janet_malcolm/search?contributorName=janet%20malcolm 

^^ Which is not to say that some comics were not totally made to be read off computer screens.  http://xkcd.com/730/

** Maybe this is the modern on line version of cool.  

*** I believe she needed it by last week. 

† Also, chocolate has changed.   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_velvet_cake  I’ve been trying to remember, but I seem to be unduly tired yet again today,^ my progress through the erratically charted geography^^ of chocolate.  http://www.davidlebovitz.com/2010/02/cocoa-powder-faq-dutch-process-v/   I stopped using Dutch process when I stopped drinking cocoa, but that was a long time ago;  I may have cluelessly used Dutch process in the pre-annotation version of this recipe, which would help explain why I thought it was boring.  (It still needed more chocolate.) 

^ Go away, you Mutant Virus, and take the ME with you!  You have seriously outstayed your welcome!, as Holofernes might have said to Judith if he’d had the chance. 

^^ I perceive a theme.  Also, speaking of themes, anyone who doesn’t follow me on Twitter may need to know this:  http://www.chocolateweek.co.uk/ 

†† I never said there weren’t drawbacks. . . . 

††† I’d use low-fat now because the rest of the carton would be easier to give away, because that’s what everyone I know now uses.  And yes, I assume I could still escape major punishment for ingesting the amount of (cooked) milk that was in a few pieces of cake, despite the ‘no dairy’ billboards lining my alimentary canal.  I’d be worrying more about getting the waistband of my jeans closed. 

‡  See:  getting waistband of jeans closed

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