Monthly Archives: March 2014


I first learned about sourdoughs in elementary school  – they were the men who  went out to California prospecting gold out in ’49, and some of them ended up in Alaska, too.

This was a sourdough:



300,000 prospectors came West, and sourdough was the bread they made.Because of them,  this, too, is a sourdough:

Sourdough round from Boudin Bakery in San Francisco, using the same recipe since 1849.

Sourdough round from Boudin Bakery in San Francisco, using the same recipe since 1849.

the 49ers flapjack at

the 49ers flapjack at OHP – another way to use sourdough

OHP stands for Original Pancake House - which open 101 years after the Gold Rush

OHP stands for Original Pancake House – which open 101 years after the Gold Rush

and then there’s Charlie Chaplin  Gold Rush

This Gold Rush was the 1898 Yukon Rush, and the 49ers

This Gold Rush was the 1898 Yukon Rush

and speaking of 49ers…san_francisco_49ers_banner_flag_7930bigSo, quick review –

49ers are gnarly men looking for gold and/or a football team.

Sourdoughs are gnarly men looking for gold or a type of bread.

So, how, pray tell, did sourdough get so specialSpecial sorts of flour , special water, special starters, special temperatures and maybe some  special crocks and OH, the timing and OH, the temperatures and OH,  the worry…..

And I keep thinking, a bunch of guys, far from home and many fending for themselves for the first time ever, without a mother or a sister or a wife or a rooming house landlady or a nearby baker to buy their daily bread are figuring out sourdough without the benefit of modern science or a warehouses of stuff. Living in tents and working all day and drinking all night they MANAGE TO MAKE BREAD OUT OF THE STUFF. And we’re still eating it and talking about it.

The hard part, I think, is replicating these sorts of rough and inconsistent conditions if you’re a professional baker. Sometimes you have to wait, or adjust or the result is a little different – or a LOT different. The results are not always exactly the same. Fine for the home baker, not so fine for the shop baker.

So would you want to make a sourdough?

Is it the flavor? or the texture? The keeping qualities? The challenge?

Last month at the South Shore Locavores meeting  Rosa Galeno

Rosa Galeno

Rosa Galeno

was divvying up a lump of sourdough starter. I took a couple of tablespoons home in a Styrofoam coffee cup (I know, there’s a certain irony. Sometimes you use what you have, end of story) and I’ve been feeding it a little flour and a little water every so often ever since. It is now a cup full (large coffee size cup full) which is enough to use and enough to continue….the question is what to make? I thought I’d start with something quick, like English muffins, but it’s now ready to go. And I’m totally obsessed with griddle bread at the moment.

Does this sound totally casual? I certainly hope so.

There are TONS of books, articles and web resources for sourdough. Don’t let them scare you.

It’s bread.

That whole staff of life thing.

Before we start baking we’re going to contemplate it a little, prepare our heads for what our hands are going to learn.

If you’re the I want to read about it sort, I’m not going to send you to the myriad sourdough places, but instead to 52 loavesBill Alexander bakes the same loaf every week for a year. THAT’S how to learn to bake bread. Remember, the first 500 don’t count.

Start with the starter

Start with the starter

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Waffles for supper

Meatless M0nday – unless if when you hear waffles, chicken isn’t far behind.

Chicken and waffles is not meatless, but a great supper any day of the week

Chicken and waffles is not meatless, but a great supper any day of the week

In keeping with my resolution to reduce food waste, I had to come up with a way to use the buttermilk left over from the Irish bread baking of last week.

I once tried to cross reference my various recipes for just this sort of occasion…it was a hopeless muddle. I just wanted to group all the 1 cup of buttermilk recipes, all the 2 tablespoons of tomato paste recipes, all the…you get the picture.

But because I was reading Marion Cunningham, she neatly solved this buttermilk conundrum for me.

A waffle iron was one of the best small appliances I ever indulged myself in. I’ve actually worn out several. I don’t buy the high-end semi-industrial machine.

This waffle iron is a beaut - but at 200 bucks...I won't eat 200 dollars worth of waffles in my lifetime!

This waffle iron is a beaut – but at 200 bucks…I won’t eat 200 dollars worth of waffles in my lifetime!

I wait for a sale at Benny’s or Target, and get a perfectly respectable machine for under $30. It  has always served well for years. Now that I make waffles less often (read: New Years Day and maybe once or twice in the year, as opposed to maybe 25 or 30 times a year) my current waffle iron should last for decades.

Waffles also have an historic element – you knew I’d be working the food history angle in here eventually –

Waffles as good time food c. early 17th century:

This is a detail from a Pieter Bruegel painting about Carnevale. Notice the waffles as headgear!

This is a detail from a Pieter Bruegel painting about Carnevale. Notice the waffles as gambling booty and  headgear!

This is a 17th century waffle iron from France - It had to be heated over the fire. It's hard to tell from this photo, this might be a wafer iron, which are waffles super thin, extra rich cousins

This is a 17th century waffle iron from France – It had to be heated over the fire. It’s hard to tell from this photo, this might be a wafer iron, which are waffles super thin, extra rich cousins.



1 cup cornmeal

1 ¾ cups AP flour

2 ½ teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

3 eggs, separated

2 ½ cups buttermilk

4 tablespoons of butter, melted

3 tablespoons of sugar

  1. Start heating the waffle iron.
  2. Whisk together the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt until well blended.
  3. In a separate bowl, beat together the egg yolks. Add the buttermilk and butter to the egg yolks, blending well.
  4. Combine the liquid mixture with the flour mixture, mixing well.
  5. Beat the egg whites in a separate bowl until stiff, slowly adding the sugar.
  6. Fold in the beaten egg whites.
  7. Spoon ½ cup waffle batter in the hot greased waffle iron.
  8. Bake until golden. It will smell like popcorn.
  9. Enjoy!

Makes 6-8 waffles, depending on the size of your iron.

The Fannie Farmer Cookbook. Twelfth edition. Edited by Marion Cunningham with Jeri Laber. Alfred A. Knopf: New York. 1979.p. 500.



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Recipes, now and then

Andrew Zimmern

The recipe, which came in a Twitter update from the chef and television personality Andrew Zimmern, was succinct, as the form requires: “Brown 8 thighs, 3 C shallots. Add wine, tarragon, Dijon, sim 30 min covered. Remove lid, reduce. Add 2 C cut cherry toms.”

There was no photograph attached, but he was clearly writing about chicken. An image of the dish was instantly in my mind: the burnished brown of the skin peeking out of a sauce the color of goldenrod, with flecks of green from the tarragon and bright red from the wilted tomatoes. Such is the power of a great recipe in whatever form. The dish seemed obviously cookable. Better yet, it was deeply appetizing. I made it for the family right away.”

Sam Sifton, New York Times Magazine Chicken with Shallots, Chef Style March 19, 2014.

Sam Shifton also wrote a book on Thanksgiving

Sam Sifton also wrote a book on Thanksgiving, a great primer for the day’s cooking

Sifton goes on to say how he knows it’s chicken and how he cooks it and cooks it again, and that the twitter has the essence of the recipe.

Chicken, shallots,






and cherry tomatoes

Cherry Tomatoes

Cherry Tomatoes


The photo to the NY Times

The photo to the NY Times article

Now, if Sifton didn’t know from chicken or tarragon or cherry tomatoes….this might not have been the image he  would have conjured up. But since he had an image and an impression of the dish, he knew how to cook it. So much of cooking is memory.

So much the same for cooks of the past. Just a few words could conjure up an image, and then they’d know what to do, if they even want to do this at all.

In the 17th century they didn’t have Twitter, but some of their recipes  are succinct enough for the form.  And the spelling is totally creative.

Parboyl them with beaten Parsley and Butter in their Bellies, then put them into your Boyler with strong Broth, add a blade of Mace, and some gross pepper, with half a pint of white-wine, grate a little bread into the broth to whitten the Fowl; and so serve them up with the Gravy and a dissolved Anchovy, Garnish’d with Parsly and Violets, or their leaves.

The Whole Duty of a Woman: Or a Guide to the Female Sex, 1696

This is a recipe for………

Pigeons or any small Fowl to Boyl.

It would work equally well with chicken.  Not too far from the the first recipe either – bird, wine, herb.

Violets are edible, as are their heart shaped leaves

Violets are edible, as are their heart shaped leaves

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Making a hash of it


It’s the addition of beets that makes this red flannel – If you think beets taste more like dirt then ‘earthy’   leave them out and you’ll have basic/regular/plain old fashioned hash.

It's the red of the beets that makes it red flannel hash - without them it's merely hash... as if hash were mere,

It’s the red of the beets that makes it red flannel hash – without them it’s merely hash… as if hash were mere,

Hash means to chop (think: hatchet) and you can do this with a knife or in small batches in a food processor – leave bits, don’t make it into a mousse –  but we used the hand crank food grinder at its coarsest setting.  You want range of sizes in the various bits to create texture and interest.

Manual Home Meat Grinder - some things never change

Manual Home Meat Grinder – some things never change

If you use a non-stick pan, you won’t get a crusty bottom. This is a case where you want a crusty bottom.


1 pound cold cooked corned beef cut into small pieces

1 pound cold boiled potatoes, rough chopped

1 medium onion, finely chopped

Salt and pepper

Butter (or bacon grease if you’ve got it)

4 eggs

2 cooked beets, peeled and diced. (Open a can of beets, drain and take out 2 to use here; put the rest of the beets in a bowl, slice them. Add a spoonful of sugar and cover with cider vinegar. Serve these quick pickled beets with the hash.)

  1. Mix the meat with the roots.

  2. Season with salt and pepper.

  3. Melt the fat in the pan, and when it is foaming, add the hash.

  4. Spread evenly across the pan.

  5. Cook on low heat, pressing down with a spoon or spatula for about 10 minutes. A crust should be beginning to form.

  6. Use the spoon to make 4 indentation in the hash.

  7. Break an egg into each indention.

  8. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

  9. Cover the pan and cook another 5-10 minutes, depending on how runny you like your eggs. (I like mine essentially hard boiled without the shell, but with hash, runny works, too.)

  10. On a good day, you can slip the whole thing from the pan, cut into four wedges….or you can scoop about with a serving spoon, making sure to get some of the crusty bit that are holding the whole thing to the pan at exactly the moment you want it on your plate and do the same, looking  more rustic/less Martha Stewart


If you’re craving hash, but used all your corned beef for sandwiches, there’s always the can.

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Slow Chili

It’s turned out to be a slow cooker kind of week.


1 tablespoon oil

1 small onion, diced

2 garlic cloves, smooshed

2 tablespoons chili powder

1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped

1 14.5 can crushed tomatoes (sometimes I used the diced tomatoes, and when there’s a sale or I’m in a hurry or feeling rushed, a can of diced tomatoes with jalapeño already in it and skip the buying and chopping.)



3 cups cooked white beans, drained and rinsed (2 of what used to be 1 pound cans, now they vary between 15.5 oz and 14 oz and some brands have significantly more bean juice then others; it’s easy to cook your own if you’re planning to have beans in the week ahead….)

1 16 oz can hominy, drained and rinsed

1 ½ cups water

½ teaspoon ground cumin

½ teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon ground black pepper

(2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro – I’m not crazy about cilantro and you have to buy it by the whole bunch, which is WAY more the 2 tablespoons and then you can either spend your week watching it wilt into a long slow death OR keep chopping and adding it and making everything you eat taste the same, still not crazy for the taste sort of way. This is my cilantro stand. You are entitled to your own cilantro opinion. Cook for yourself.

Not to sound contrary, BUT  if I had a garden, I’d grow cilantro for the seeds  – a/k/a/coriander – and then I’d have a few sprigs for things like this, and I wouldn’t be spending cash money to make compost.)



  1. Heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until softened, 3-5 minutes.
  2. Add the garlic, cook 1 minute more.
  3. Add the chili powder and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds more.
  4. Scrape this flavor base into a 4 – 6 quart slow cook.
  5. Add the jalapeno, tomatoes, beans, hominy, water, cumin, oregano, salt and pepper.
  6. Stir to blend.
  7. Cover.
  8. Cook on LOW 6-8 hours.
  9. 9.   Come home to one great smelling kitchen….
  10. 10.               Taste. Adjust seasonings. Add cilantro (or not). Enjoy!


Adapted from Robin Robertston. Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker. Harvard Common Press: Boston. 2004. p. 69.


Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker

Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker



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Slow Beef

There is some debate about just how Irish corned beef and cabbage truly is, whether  or not bacon would properly be more traditional. My tradition is, if it’s St Patrick’s, your dinner debate is the choice between Lamb Stew or Corned Beef and Cabbage.

Another name for Corned Beef and Cabbage is Boiled Dinner, which makes it more New England, which is also fine by me.


8 good sized fist sized spuds, peeled and quartered (are you saving the peel enough for broth? Use an extra)

4 turnips, peeled and cut to the same size as the potato pieces

These white turnips, not the big yellow rutabaga sort

These white turnips, not the big yellow rutabaga sort

2 large onions, peeled and quartered

1 small (2-3 pound) corned beef brisket

5 cups water (if you use a 12 ounce bottle of beer for 1 ½ cups of the water, it doesn’t make it worse, if you take my meaning. If you’d rather save the beer for your glass with the meal that works, too.)

1 small head of cabbage, cut into 6 or 8 wedges

  1. Combine the potatoes, turnip and onions in the bottom of a 4 quart or larger slow cooker.
  2. Add the brisket, fat side up.
  3. Pour water over everything.
  4. Cover.
  5. Cook on LOW 10-11 hours or until the meat is tender.
  6.  Remove cooked meat and vegetables, keep warm.
  7. Turn cooker to HIGH.
  8. Add cabbage wedges. Cover and cook on HIGH 20-30 minutes are until cabbage is done.
  9. Lift the cabbage out with a slotted spoon to join the rest of the dinner.
  10. Good with mustard and horseradish.
  11. Leftovers make great hash.

Adapted from Mable and Gar Hoffman. Mable Hoffman’s All-New Crockery Favorites. Bantam Books: 1993. p. 95.

mable Hoffman's

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Slow Beans

If you’re going to be meatless for any length of time, eventually you’ll turn to


Mr Bean - Rowan Atkinson

Mr Bean – Rowan Atkinson

No, not Mr. Bean – dried beans – those protein powerhouses of the plant world.

dried beans

Beans are easy to cook.The biggest problem with them is the time that they take. If the dried beans you buy are older and more dried out, they take longer to get to good.  Still easy.

slow cooker, travel model

I have a model where the lid locks – travel without making your car smell like baked beans every hot day for the next 10 years!


1 pound dried bean

6 cups water

1 bay leaf OR 1 sprig of fresh rosemary OR 2 cloves of peeled garlic


  1. Pick over the beans
  2. Rinse the beans
  3. Put the beans in the slow cooker.
  4. Add the water – are all the beans underwater? I usually ditch the floaters….
  5. If you are using a leaf or a sprig or a bud – add your flavor component now.
  6.  Cover.
  7. Cook on LOW for 8-10 hours, or until tender.
  8. Add salt to taste and let stand about 10 minutes.
  9. Remove the flavor component, it’s done it’s work, so thank it for a job well done.
  10. Beans are now ready for use in soups, stews, chilies, salads.

Adapted Michele Scicolone. The Italian Slow Cooker. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2010. p. 191.

Italian slow cooker book

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Irish Mac and Cheese

Macaroni is not the least bit Irish. Calling it Mac only makes it sound like it is.

But if  you are Irish and Catholic,  St. Patrick’s Day comes smack dab in the middle of Lent and if it’s on a Friday night , no less, even if you are in the Archdioceses of Boston and even if St Patrick is the Patron saint of the Archdiocese  and even if there is dispensation for corned beef and cabbage……you might very well be having macaroni and cheese for supper.

st patrick

St Patrick, chasing  snakes and green macaroni and cheese out of Ireland

I don’t remember the details. We had plenty of St Patrick’s Days with Corned Beef and Cabbage but this one was most notably not one of those.  Was my Irish father working late? He loved his corned beef and cabbage, especially if corned beef would lead to corned beef hash….

Was it a year without dispensation? What year was it, anyhow?

What I remember was

  1. it was St. Patrick’s Day
  2. We were going to have macaroni and cheese and not corned beef.
  3. There wasn’t quite enough elbow macaroni, so some spaghetti was broken up into the mix.
  4. My mother decided to make the meal more festive by adding a little green food color to the cheese sauce.
green food color

Things are not necessarily more Irish if you color them green

How did it turn out?  It was not beautiful. Let me say that again ” ‘s NOT” Beautiful.

There are no photos. Saint Patrick’s gift to the world.

I have been highly skeeved by green food for Saint Patrick ever since. I’m not sure how this is supposed to honor the saint or Ireland.  Just say NO.

Someone else made green macaroni and cheese and took a picture of it and put it on the internet. Imagine a creamier, greener sauce...

Someone else made green macaroni and cheese and took a picture of it and put it on the internet. Imagine a creamier, greener sauce…

Green does not make the beer Irish

Green does not make the beer Irish

Green pancakes? No thank you

Rice Krispie Treats? Thank you, no.



Green eggs and ham

I just avoid green eggs and ham in March

I even avoid green beans at this time of year

I even avoid green beans at this time of year

Éirinn go Brách


Filed under Holiday, Irish

Irish Stew

Because of James Beard I know Marion Cunningham.


Marion Cunningham – Mrs C from Happy Days – NOT a cookbook author

Marion Cunningham, cookbook author

Marion Cunningham, cookbook author

Marion Cunningham wrote a new edition of the Fannie Farmer Cook Book – which would have been quite enough…..

the 100th anniversary edition of the Fannie Farmer Cookbook - edited and updated by Marion Cunningham

the 100th anniversary edition of the Fannie Farmer Cookbook – edited and updated by Marion Cunningham

She also wrote the Breakfast Book

The super fantastic Breakfast Book, because breakfast isn't just for breakfast anymore

The super fantastic Breakfast Book, because breakfast isn’t just for breakfast anymore

Today we’ll pause to take a gander into the Supper Book

Supper Book

The Supper Book – also pretty fantastic – we’ll be visiting here a few times

Because it’s hard to have Corn Beef for Two, since most Brisket is much larger the two servings, even if you want has the next day (and you do want hash, don’t you?) I was interested in looking around for something that would on the one hand reflect my Irish heritage and on the other hand not make we never want to it again, even a year later.

So, I looked up Irish Food in Alan Davidson’s Oxford Companion To Food and here is what he said:

Irish stew is a celebrated Irish dish, yet its composition is a matter of dispute. Purists maintain that the only acceptable and traditional ingredients are neck mutton chops or kid, potatoes, onions, and water. Others would add such items as carrots, turnips, and pearl barley; but the purists maintain that they spoil the true flavour of the dish. The ingredients are boiled and simmered slowly for up to two hours. Mutton was the dominant ingredient because the economic importance of sheep lay in their wool and milk produce and this ensured that only old or economically non-viable animals ended up in the cooking pot, where they needed hours of slow cooking. Irish stew is the product of a culinary tradition that relied almost exclusively on cooking over an open fire. It seems that Irish stew was recognized as early as about 1800…

—Davidson, Alan. (2006). Oxford Companion to Food. Oxford: Oxford University Press. (p. 409).


Marion Cunningham to the rescue.

Ireland’s Irish Stew

2 pounds lamb for stewing (I can sometimes find lamb with bone still in in the stew meat section – a little more fuss to eat, but so absolutely worth it. Eating off the bone is Kitchen Manners, not for Company or Public. Just so you know I was not raised by wolves.)

4 large onions, thickly sliced

8 medium potatoes, peeled and thickly sliced (these peels would be great for Potato Peel Broth…)

Salt and pepper

2 tablespoons of chopped fresh thyme (or 1 tablespoon dried, crumbled)

2 cups water

3 tablespoons chopped parsley

  1. Spread out the lamb, the sliced onions and the sliced potatoes. Salt and pepper them all well.
  2. Starting with the potato, layer potato/onion/lamb in a Dutch oven(the now infamous le cruset), sprinkling some of the thyme over each layer.
  3. Add water slowly so as not to disturb the layers.
  4. She has you put this in a 325° oven, which I’m sure I’ve done, but usually I do this on the stove, bringing it to a boil, and then keeping it at a simmer for 2 hours.
  5. Serve in bowls and sprinkle with the chopped parsley. Now I remember – the oven has the Irish Soda Bread in it……..

Marion Cunningham. The Supper Book. Alfred A. Knopf. 1992. p.99.



A bunch of parsley is not an uncommon thing in my kitchen. If I have it I use it. I’m going to try growing it in pots this year.


Filed under Eating, Holiday, Irish, Recipe

Wednesdays were Chili Nights

and not just in the winter when the cold wind blows. Wednesday nights where chili nights  for my son. I was always trying out chili recipes. A good way to have variation from a basic pantry. This recipe also makes a LOT and it freezes well.


Food To Die For

Food To Die For

Chili with Beer, Miami -Style

1 # ground turkey

3 Tablespoon olive oil

1 ½ Cup trimmed white mushrooms

1 ½ up chopped Bell peppers (she uses a mix of different colored Bells – I use what’s on sale – I actually like red or yellow pepper better for this then green)

1 C chopped sweet onions

2 gloves garlic, minced

2 cans (28 oz) chopped tomatoes with diced green chiles

2 cans (16 oz) red kidney beans

2 cans (16 oz) black beans rinsed and well drained ( or any 2 kidney beans – I like pintos and pink beans. Sometimes I cook them up in my crockpot the day before and ignore the cans altogether)

1 bottle beer (12 oz) (or 2 – the cook may need one while everything is simmering)

3 Tablespoons red wine vinegar

2 Tablespoons chopped fresh oregano or marjoram.

2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

2 bay leaves (surprisingly, 2 little bay leaves add a lot. You’ll miss them if you leave it out)

1 ½ Tablespoons chili powder

2 teaspoons salt

1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin

Coarsely grated extras sharp cheese

  1. In a large heavy bottomed pan (Dutch oven or in French Doufeu)
    This is the le cruset pan I have that is cast iron with enamel. Mine is in a green that has been discontinued.

    This is the le cruset pan I have that is cast iron with enamel. Mine is in a green that has been discontinued.

    This is the color of my pan - I got it from a warehouse on a sale on a clearance - that's 3 levels of discount and it's still the most money I have spent on a pan.  And I do not chintz on cookware.

    This is the color of my pan – I got it from a warehouse on a sale on a clearance – that’s 3 levels of discount and it’s still the most money I have spent on a pan. And I do not chintz on cookware.

    brown the ground meat in 1 tablespoon of the oil. Drain the meat well and wipe out the pan

  2. Heat remaining 2 tablespoon of oil, over med high heat. Add mushrooms, bell peppers, onions and garlic and cook 5 minutes, until bell peppers are tender.
  3. Stir back in the turkey, tomatoes and their juices, the beans, beer, and everything else before the cheese.
  4. Bring the mixture to a boil.
  5. Reduce heat to medium low (pleasant intermittent burpling noises) and simmer, for 1 ½ hours, stirring occasionally.
  6. Taste and correct for seasoning. Remove the bay leaves.
  7. To serve, ladle into bowls and top with cheese.
  8. This is more flavorful and fragrant then hot spicy – have your favorite hot sauce for the heat seekers.
  9. Serves 8 -10. It also freezes beautifully.

Adapted from Patricia Cornwall and Marlene Brown. Food to Die For. G.P. Putnam’s Sons. 2001. pp. 58-9.

As for the cheese that goes on top of this chili, we usually used some form of Cheddar.

Cheddar Cheese

Cheddar Cheese

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