Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Fasnacht Day!

Now, this is a true example of Pennsylvania Dutch cuisine. It seems to have come from the Swiss rather than the Germans, but in the US, you'll have a tough time finding a fasnacht outside of PA Dutch country. (Believe me, once a year I'd give an eye tooth to find one here in Jersey, and all I get in response is a weird look from people who think I've just begun speaking in tongues.)

Fasnachts are similar to doughnuts, but are potato based. They can be made with or without holes. As with many other foods traditional to Shrove Tuesday, they were made to use up the ingredients that would not be used during Lent (in this case, lard). When I was a kid, we'd always get fasnachts on Shrove Tuesday; occasionally, they'd even have them on hand for school lunches. I have a very vague recollection of making them with my great-grandmother (not Sweetie--this one would be Gpa's mother), but if I was indeed only about three, as noted below, that certainly would explain why I don't recall it very clearly.

When I was in Nothern Ireland in 1996, I asked my mother to send me the recipe, figuring that I could make them for the day, just for fun. Then she sent the recipe and I found out it would make about 12 dozen, which was a lot even when you had seven people in the house, especially since they are, as my mom calls them, "little potato paperweights." That was the end of that idea.

I haven't had one of these in years, and would dearly love to make some, in keeping with the spirit of this blog, but I am but one lone woman, and there's no way I can handle even half of a recipe like this on my own. Alas, I can provide none of my own photos, though the links above will get you to a few, but I present the recipe anyway, for those of you more adventurous (and less concerned about appropriate Shrove Tuesday timing) than I.

And with that, I turn you over to my mother's email from 14 years ago, which contains some details about the recipe, some backstory about making them, and her own sense of humor, to boot. :)

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Egg and Olive

Egg and Olive is an old family favorite, and a very easy recipe. It's very regional--not just PA Dutch, but a subset thereof. It's popular in York County, and Google reveals that you can find it over in Lancaster, too, but Linda, who is from the Allentown area, has never heard of it. I've loved it since I was a kid, and am surprised at how violent the reaction I sometimes get from people who have never heard of it. I suppose the idea of adding olives and mustard to egg salad must sound strange if you didn't grow up with it, but it's a favorite in our family for as long as I can remember. I remember many occasions when I begged grandma to make some for me, and was very excited when she first showed me how. You can get this in many small restaurants in York County, but none of them ever served a version that was quite as good as hers. (Even in my own family, there have been disputes over the proper preparation of this dish. I confess, I'm a purist,b ut more on that later.)

This recipe, like many others, is one that Grandma made without a recipe. Fortunately, it's a very simple recipe, and it can be adjusted to taste. That said, it may be a little bit difficult for me to convey how much of any ingredient we need. I will do my best.

Egg and Olive

Hard boiled eggs (since I'm making this just for myself, I used six)
yellow prepared mustard (French's, Plochman's, etc.)
Spanish salad olives

I've discovered that the best way to get hard boil eggs without a green edge on the yolk is to put them in a pot of cold water, bring them to a boil, turn off the heat and cover them for 15 minutes once they reach the boil, and put them in ice water at the end of the 15 minutes. I've never had a problem with this method.

I used six eggs since I only wanted a small quantity. After peeling the eggs, you need to mash them with a fork. This is where I use Grandma's black fork, though I'm sure a regular dinner fork would yield similar results. My dad prefers to use an egg slicer, but I find that it makes the end result runny. I mash up the eggs into fairly small bits, which means that the mayonnaise and mustard things together better.

I used 1/4 cup of mayonnaise today. It might have been a little bit too much, but since I was trying to measure ingredients, that's where I started. I used a little less than that amount of mustard. Grandma said to me at least once that she used the mustard for color, which always seemed a bit odd to me considering that you are already going to get a yellow result. I added enough so that a hint of the flavor came through.

The difficult thing about this recipe is that the flavors don't really mingle until they've sat together for a while. That makes it hard to judge whether or not you've used enough of anything, or maybe too much. The nice thing is that you can always add another egg if you have too much of something else. Mostly, though, you do the best you can and test it a few hours later, or even the next day, and find out for sure.

I added a little bit more than 1/4 cup of olives. I always buy salad olives because they're already in pieces. This time, I noticed that they essentially seem to be sliced; in the past, they always seemed to be in more random pieces, as if this was the way the manufacturer had chosen to sell olives that were not whole and could not be neatly sliced. I prefer the olives a bit more uneven in this recipe, so I got out my Santoku knife and gave them a rough chop before I added them. Like everything else in this recipe, you can add as many or as few as you like.

In a few hours, I'll have some of this for dinner. It makes a great sandwich. You could probably also use it to make some sort of hors d'oeuvres. Either way, if the idea of green olives in your egg salad doesn't offend your palate, give it a try!
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