Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Best Pecan Pie

There's a pecan pie in my oven. I can only hope that it'll come out like one of Grandma's.

I apologize for letting this blog sit idle for so long, but things have been busy lately and cooking has mostly consisted of easy things from sources like Everyday Food or things I've already cooked here. Hopefully, that'll change soon. I'm sorry that I couldn't offer this recipe in time for Thanksgiving, but I really didn't need two, and I didn't want to let one sit for days before Thursday's feast. Christmas, perhaps?

In any case, this is a recipe that Grandma was definitely known for, despite the fact that I believe she got the recipe from someone else. The idea of not having her pecan pie for Thanksgiving or Christmas was heresy. I even convinced her to make one for me to take back to school with me during my freshman year in college, and if you'd blinked, you'd have missed it, it went so quickly. If the bean salad is her best recipe, this one is a very, very close second (and I'd understand anyone who would switch the two!).

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Kidney Bean Salad

I am about to share with you the single best recipe in my grandmother's box.

Well, except for the part where it's not actually in the box. It's on my hard drive. And I wouldn't have it at all if I hadn't recognized, maybe ten years ago, that one day, Gma wouldn't be around to make the stuff for me, and that I was therefore going to badger her until she wrote the recipe down. She never, ever used one, so I'm sure it was a pain to figure it all out and send it to me, but the beauty of Grandchild Immunity is that you can get away with making a pest of yourself until you get what you want, or in this case, need. I exaggerate not at all when I say that I would not want to live with the knowledge that I would never, ever have Grandma's kidney bean salad again. Fortunately, this unthinkably bleak future never came to pass.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Texas Hot Weiners

Just when you thought I'd abandoned this project, I'm back! I've had a tough time this summer coming up with recipes that wouldn't go to waste if I made them for myself, hence the delay. More on that later.

This is one of those recipes that may only appeal to people who've grown up with it, though I don't think it's too far off the beaten path. Wikipedia, if it's to be believed, claims that the Texas Hot Weiner was invented in Altoona, PA in 1918 and in Paterson, NJ in 1920. I can't speak to that, but I can say that I've been eating these hot dogs since I was a kid, and now that I live in New Jersey and only get back to York about once a year, I'd completely forgotten about them. Until I was in town a week and a half ago, that is.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Blueberry Pudding

Here’s a recipe that tends to confuse my friends who grew up with Bill Cosby’s ads for Jell-O pudding. It’s not like what most of us in the US think of as a pudding at all, but that’s what it’s called nonetheless. A quick trip to Google reveals that this is far from the only recipe for a cake-type blueberry pudding, but most of them look more elaborate than Grandma’s version. I’m not too surprised—this is a Pennsylvania Dutch recipe if ever there was one, and we’re good at food that’s good, filling, and really quite simple.

Each summer, Gma would issue an invitation to come over for either blueberry or cherry pudding for dinner one night. (I’d love to make a cherry pudding as well, but have had trouble finding sour cherries, which makes that difficult.) We’d pile into the car and head over for this annual treat. There are several recipes for either cherry or blueberry pudding in her recipe box, but I went with the one that says, “best one” in the corner. 

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Yaki Soba

If you're looking at the title of this post and thinking that it sounds a little off for this blog, you're right. Yaki soba is very definitely not anything my grandmother, or her mother, would have recognized. It is, however, my favorite dish from my favorite UK restaurant, Wagamama (which now has locations in Boston and Washington, DC--why nothing in New York I still don't understand!). Wagamama takes Japanese cuisine and puts its own spin on it. Since I have to travel pretty far to get my grubby mitts on the real thing, I have both Wagamama cookbooks, but I never had the nerve to try making yaki soba myself until two things happened:

1. I found beni shoga--also known as pickled red ginger--at my local Asian market.
2. I had a houseguest from China who loves to cook.

Yaki soba isn't Chinese, of course--it's very definitely Japanese--but I figured an Asian cook would take to it more naturally than I might. In the end, it was relatively simple and I probably should have been brave enough to give it a whirl on my own. It was more fun to do it this way, though.

Without further ado, I present the recipe from Wagamama: The Way of the Noodle (which has a recipe looks more accurate to my experience than the Wagamama cookbook does--the recipes are, for some reason, not the same, and I can say without hesitation that sushi ginger is not only NOT the same as beni shoga, but would be vastly inferior in this recipe). It's now out of print, from the look of things, probably superceded by the later cookbook.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Deep Dish Tuna Pie

It's been a month since my last post, which would be hard to believe if I hadn't spent it wrapping up two part time jobs in the last two weeks of April so I could start a new full-time gig at the beginning of this month. I also find it more fun to cook when friends come over, and it's been a few weeks since we last got together. Tonight, however, everyone was here and I decided to tackle the Deep Dish Tuna Pie.

I don't ever remember Grandma making this. I don't really remember anything like it, either, but I could just be forgetting. I picked it because it looked pretty straightforward, I had most of the ingredients on hand, and I was thrilled to find something that looked good that wasn't a cake or a cookie. In all honesty, that's the largest section in this recipe box, and attempting to alternate those recipes with things that aren't, say, loaded with sugar can be a challenge. So this recipe looked perfect when I found it a few nights ago. It's clipped out of a newspaper, and while I made a few minor modifications, I pretty much followed the recipe as it's laid out.

Deep Dish Tuna Pie

1 can (1 pound) peas
1 can cream of celery soup
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon each pepper and thyme
1 can (4 oz.) pimiento, diced
3 cans tuna in vegetable oil
1/2 cup milk
1 cup prepared biscuit mix
1 cup grated process American cheese

Drain liquid from peas; reserve 1/2 cup. Combine reserved liquid with undiluted soup, salt, pepper, and thyme in saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, add drained peas, pimiento, and tuna. Add milk to biscuit mix. Stir with fork to make soft dough. Turn tuna-vegetable mixture into a 2-quart casserole. Spread biscuit dough over top. Sprinkle with grated cheese. Bake in a moderately hote oven (400F) 20 minutes. Serves 6.

I have to say that unless I am feeling especially nostalgic for the elementary school lunches of my childhood, I don't eat canned peas. I bought a 1-pound bag of the frozen variety instead and eyeballed about how many I might need. I thawed about 2/3 of the bag and used slightly less than that when I actually added them to the mixture. You'll know when it looks about right. I also only used one can of tuna in oil, just in case it actually made a difference (I don't think it does). And since I didn't have liquid to reserve from the peas that weren't canned, I mixed water and milk to make 1/2 cup instead. Can't imagine that made a big difference, either. Finally, the idea of grated American cheese really made me raise my eyebrows, so I used a mix of various New England sharp cheddar cheeses instead, which I'm sure tasted a whole lot better than American would have. (Does anyone actually know what American cheese is? Aside from something that I only use in grilled cheese or cheeseburgers?) I didn't bother to measure it--I just sprinkled it on top until it looked fairly well covered.

Finally, I'm not really sure who might be able to spread that dough on top of something that is essentially liquid, but I sure wasn't seeing how that idea didn't completely defy the laws of physics, so I didn't even try. I parceled it out by teaspoons, dropping it until I'd pretty much covered the top. That worked pretty well and I'm sure was less frustrating (and less messy!) than the alternative.

All told, we all thought this recipe came out quite well, and it really takes no time to put it together and bake it. I probably spent more time looking for a dish that looked like it would hold two quarts (not my trusty 8x8 pan this time!) than I did throwing it all together, so it'd be a great, easy weeknight main dish.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Absolute culinary disaster

Or...Sugar Cakes: The Nightmare. (Where's Gordon Ramsay when you need him?)

I always thought that sugar cakes were a Pennsylvania Dutch treat, so you can imagine my shock a few years ago when I asked the folks at the local Amish market (we apparently import actual Amish folks from Ronks, PA into this part of New Jersey to provide us with things like shoo-fly pie and whoopie pies) about them, and got looks that implied I had begun to channel spirits in Arabic. How could they not know about sugar cakes??

I've since concluded that sugar cakes, as I know them, must be a York County phenomenon. Lancaster has apparently never heard of them (Ronks is in Lancaster County). Neither has Linda, who grew up not far from Allentown. And alas, thanks to the aforementioned culinary disaster, I have no photographic evidence to demonstrate just what I'm talking about, so I shall have to describe them and hope for the best. (I can't even find any photos online. Rats!)

The only way I know of to describe a sugar cake is to borrow from the humble (but delicious) whoopie pie. If you're familiar with a whoopie pie, you know that it's sort of like an overgrown Oreo, where the wafers are actually small individual cakes, flat on one side and somewhat domed on the top. In between, there's a creamy filling. (If you're not from areas that have whoopie pies, the first thing I need you to understand is that these are NOT MOON PIES. They are nothing alike. Not even a little. For one, absolutely no marshmallow is harmed in the making of a whoopie pie. For another, whoopie pies look like this. Nabisco totally swiped the idea and now provides a super-processed and preservatived shelf version that they call Cakesters.)

Sugar cakes are like the cake part of the whoopie pie, only without the cocoa. They're slightly yellow, pack a bit of a vanilla hit, and are domed. They usually have granulated sugar sprinkled on the top.

Linda was curious about these treats, having heard me mention them on many occasions, and ventured forth to help concoct them. Little did she know what awaited her.

Gma's recipe is one cut out of the local newspaper. Bear's Department Store was a fixture in downtown York, right on the Square, until I was a small child (I barely remember it), and it was famous for its cafeteria. Gma clipped the recipe for Bear's sugar cakes and stuck it in her box, where I found it. It's not complicated--flour, sugar, vanilla, buttermilk, baking powder, baking soda in a little vinegar...what could possibly go wrong?

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