Tag Archives: James Beard

STOP – Drop, don’t roll

Biscuits, that is.

Stop Drop and Roll is still great advice near a FIRE, but biscuits are less intimidating and are quicker and easier if you make drop biscuits instead of cut kind.

pillsbury biscuit

Easy. Quick. Smell great in the oven. Eaten so fast, often with butter or honey, that you don’t notice the taste is lacking. It’s the chemical aftertaste that reminds you you have other options.

Drop biscuits move you past the biscuit perfection issues  and into the wide world of biscuit much more gently.  Instead of rolling the biscuits, which then need to be cut , you make the dough  a little more like batter and drop it by spoonfuls – or scoopfuls – onto the baking sheet and just pop it into a preheated oven. Having the oven good and hot is one way to make a better biscuit.

Parmesan Drop Biscuits

2 cups AP flour

Grated Parmesan cheese

bakewell cream

It really does make the biscuits higher and lighter – heavenly

1 Tablespoon double acting baking powder (or Bakewell Cream, my fave)

½ teaspoon salt

½ stick butter (1/4 cup)

1 cup of milk

  1. Sift the flour into a mixing bowl with the baking powder and salt.
  2. Mix in the grated cheese
  3. Using your finger OR 2 knives OR a heavy fork OR a biscuit mixer (ill)blend the flour and butter together into fine particles
  4. Add the milk and stir the dough just enough to gather it all together. Don’t over mix at this point or you’ll get tough, rugged, more like hockey pucks than biscuits, biscuits.
  5. Drop by spoonfuls on an ungreased cookie sheet.
  6. Bake in a preheated 450° oven for 12-15 minutes
  7. Serve hot
  8. Makes about 12 biscuits.


James Beard. Beard On Bread. p. 160-1.beard on bread



stop sign drop

for when it’s not about biscuits

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Filed under Autumn, Bread, Recipe, The 1980's

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

Irish Breads

There’s more than one way to loaf around in Ireland…..

Soda breads

White and Brown

Brown Soda Bread

Brown Soda Bread

Soda Bread in farls - a griddle cake

White Soda Bread in farls – a griddle cake


Irish Oatcakes (they're not just in Scotland or Wales)

Irish Oatcakes (they’re not just in Scotland or Wales)


Waterford Blaa - in the Irish Food Guide

Waterford Blaa – in the Irish Food Guide

and Cakes.

This is called Irish Bread with Golden Raisins, but really it's tea cake, even if it shows up in The Boston Globe and even if Sheryl Julian and Julie Riven say bread - it's cake

This is called Irish Bread with Golden Raisins, but it is really not bread, even if it shows up by that name  in The Boston Globe and even if Sheryl Julian and Julie Riven say it’s bread – it’s cake.

Most of what will be passing for Irish bread this week is actually cake – tea cake and seedy cake. If it has sugar, butter, seeds or raisins in it – it’s a cake and not a bread. It’s delicious and delightful, please enjoy,  allowing  me my Marie Antoinette moment by letting you all eat cake, but bread is bread and all that added stuff is cake.

Oatcakes have morphed into a kind of biscuit – or cookie – for the most part and are probably the most traditional bread of Ireland, although not the most famous. Oats and griddle baking go back to the medieval period when Ireland was saving civilization for the world. Don’t believe me? Read Thomas Cahill.    How_the_Irish_Saved_Civilization

Blaa is a sort of yeasted white bread roll, perhaps named from the Norman ‘blanc’ when they stopped in to conquer  Ireland. Recently it was a headline in a New York Time travel article, Dining in Dublin from Boxty to Blaa ( http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/02/travel/dining-in-dublin-from-boxty-to-blaa.html?_r=0 ) which includes  In November, I spent a week in Dublin eating my way through some of these restaurants, most of which opened in the last few years. It was my fourth visit to this stately city of Georgian townhouses and lively pubs, and I’ve never eaten better.”  a sentence I hope to make my own some day.

Soda Bread is the kind of bread that screams “Irish Bread” in the month of March around here. It is a bread that is leavened with baking soda and not yeast. Commonly referred to as “quick bread” they go together quickly – no rising time – and are ready as soon as they come out of the oven. Many of them are best warm….and are improved the next day by toasting, because they do stale up almost as quickly as they cook.

Because milk is an important part of the Irish diet – it’s called the Emerald Isle because of all the grass that grows there, which I great fodder for cows, so the butter and beef of the country is not a cliché, but an important part of the culinary landscape for centuries – Soda bread is often made with sour milk or butter milk. The slight acidity level of this liquid actually makes the soda work better.

The classic Soda Bread is a pound of flour and a pint of sour milk, a spoonful of soda and a little salt. Mix together, form into a rough ball, slash a cross into the top to allow the steam to escape the middle so it bakes all the way inside OR to divide it into quarters, or farls, for griddle baking.  The cross  has no religious significance, or if it does I’d like to see a reference from someone who isn’t a detractor about the superstitious Irish. But in typical Irish fashion, we accept the venom of our detractors into as compliments. thus confusing them, and then start to believe our own press. Sigh.

And now for a recipe that isn’t particularly Irish in it’s origins, but turns out a really nice loaf in American kitchens.

Irish Whole Wheat Soda Bread

3 cups whole wheat flour

1 cup all purpose flour (four cups of flour is roughly a pound – measure it by weight if you have a scale…..)

1 Tablespoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

¾ teaspoon double acting baking powder

1 ½ -2 cups buttermilk (2 cups is a pint, and a pint’s a pound the world around….)

  1. Combine the dry ingredients. Make sure there are no lumps in the soda, it’ll leave dark patches in the bread. I toss it into a bowl and use a whisk to combine everything.
  2. Add enough buttermilk to make a soft dough.
  3. Knead it until it comes together, maybe for a minute or two. It should be firm, velvety and able to hold it’s shape.
  4.  Form into a round loaf and place on a greased cookie sheet (or on a silpat on the cookie sheet). IF the dough is a little slack and starts to schlump on the sheet, butter a 8-inch cake pan or casserole dish and bake in that to give the bread it’s form. (How do I know this? You know how I know this)
  5.    OR in a genius move from the current Martha Stewart Living Good Thing: form the dough into 16 equal pieces and place on a lined cookie sheet – YES – Irish Bread in Individual Loaf Form!!!! I’m planning to freeze it at this point, and then making as much bread as I need at any given moment. (Marthastewart.com/soda-bread http://www.marthastewart.com/1055131/pull-apart-soda-bread)Or divide into farls and bake on a griddle and let me know how it works for you.
  6.    Bake in a 375° oven for 35-40 minutes. The loaf will be brown and have a hollow sound when rapped with your knuckles. 
  7.   James Beard let the loaf cool before slicing….let it cool at least a little, it makes it easier to slice. Slather with butter…maybe some marmalade….with bread like this who needs cake?

From James Beard. Beard On Bread. Alfred A. Knopf. 1973. pp.164-5

James Beard

James Beard

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Filed under Bread, Holiday, Irish

Red Gravy…on a just another Meatless Monday

NOT to be confused with red-eye gravy,

Red eye gravy needs a ham steak a-frying and some black coffee to make it, well, red-eye. If there are some long cooked greens and some grits nearby, maybe a biscuit....heaven comes in many forms

Red eye gravy needs a ham steak a-frying and some black coffee to make it, well, red-eye. If there are some long cooked greens and some grits nearby, maybe a biscuit….heaven comes in many forms

which is delightful in it’s own right, just not a tomato sauce to put on macaroni.

This is not Sunday Gravy which always has meat, just basic marinara. Because Italian isn’t as nearly as much one language with dialects as it claims to be, as several languages that have a common Italian accent. The words for sauce/gravy include  sugo/salsa al/di pomodoro or pummarola ...and there are more, and that’s barely getting us out of something with tomatoes that goes over pasta type sauce, and there is a world of others….little wonder they translate into so many variations….not so much”same meat/different gravy”  as “Same gravy/different names”.

Back to the story….

One of the things I discovered when I moved out on my own  that as a single, the pantry and proportions of food I grew up within a large family were completely wrong.

I had to start over and reinvent the wheel.,

Or at least the rotelle…

Rotelle - wheel shaped pasta

Rotelle – wheel shaped pasta

Especially the rotelle – and all the other macaronis. (Back in the day, we called them ‘macaronis’: we were macaroni eaters )

Mangiamaccheroni - we were not allowed to us our hands...

Mangiamaccheroni – we were not allowed to eat macaroni with our hands at the table – EVER.

My mother’s red gravy – or tomato sauce as we say now – was a BIG BATCH affair. Since I’m the oldest of six… and four of them were growing boys – with no dainty appetites – well, let’s just say this didn’t translate well for a single, especially one who decided to be a vegetarian.

But I had been reading about Italian food…..trying to find the dishes and the tastes that my family cooked and talked about.

We talked a lot about food. I thought everyone did. All the time.  I am an not a foodie, thank you very much, I am Italian.

Don’t be fooled by my Irish face – but back to the gravy.

James Beard to the rescue.

Beard on Pasta

Beard on Pasta

Red Gravy (for Winter)

28-oz can whole tomatoes (in puree)

2 small onions, diced*

Salt and pepper to taste

1 teaspoon dried basil (or one frozen stalk)**

4   Tablespoons Butter***

  1. Put the diced onion and basil in your saucepan.
  2. Open the can of tomatoes (make sure to wash the top of the can first, and when was the last time you cleaned that can opener?) Says the voice in my head –  maybe it’s just a Big Sister thing…).
  3. With your impeccably clean hands, pick out the tomatoes and crush them directly into the pan. No finger licking until the last tomato is in!
  4. Pour in whatever puree remains in the pan, and cook over medium high heat, stirring often, for about 20 minutes.
  5. Add the butter at the end, letting it melt and enrich the sauce.
  6. If you use the frozen basil stalk, fish it out before serving.
  7.  If you want a super smooth sauce, puree in the food processor or force through a strainer. I never want a smoother sauce more then I don’t want more dishes…
  8. If you’ve started a pot of water for your macaroni at the same time everything should be done together.

James Beard. Beard On Pasta. Alfred A. Knopf. 1983. p.73.

* He says sliced. He doesn’t say garlic, which I add a clove or two, well chopped.

**I freeze basil in the summer – it turns black and scary looking, but leaves a great basil taste. JB suggests that oregano or tarragon could be used.  Oregano is fine – with or without basil; I would go so far as to suggest even a very little rosemary or the merest pinch of a fresh sage leaf. A pinch of cinnamon is very good, too. Tarragon?? It would seem that Mamma Beard was NOT from Italy.

***This was the very first time I had ever seen butter and tomatoes together in a pot. I used olive oil for years, and one day got brave….it IS very good.


Filed under Influencers, Perception ways, Recipe, The 1980's

That 70’s Bread Man

More like bread-men – James Beard on the one hand; Edward Espe Brown on the other. This post is mostly about JB. That’s how I think of him – JB.

These two pretty much represent the extremes of 1970’s bread baking – one writing for Middle America, publishing in newspapers and more than a few glossy magazines .

Cuisine and James Beard - the back cover was the back of his head

Cuisine and James Beard – the back cover was the back of his head – and the magazine cost $2!

The other, writing from a Zen Center in California – uber hippie.

Edward Espe Brown

Edward Espe Brown

Beard on Bread beard on bread and The Tassajara Bread Book the-tassajara-bread-book_1 were my go-to guides.

In my efforts to be ‘all-natural’ I made more than a few….. door-stops and….hockey pucks, which I hope gives no offense to door stops and hockey pucks. By this time I had 4 younger brothers, and they all had friends, and no one ever went hungry and no one actually got ill…..

James Beard had a section on whole-meal breads; (not all the hockey puck came from Tassajara, which had and still has a killer three layer corn bread and the bestest and tastiest, easiest  gingerbread, but I digress).

James Beard could be a little cranky about some things:

“One doubtful fashion in bread making today, however, is the tendency to acquire as many different flours and meals as can be found and incorporate them all into a single loaf, without thought for texture, for crumb, or for the other attributes by which a fine loaf is judged…….The irony of the health trend is that many of the course flours and meals found on the market, particularly in health food stores, are often quite dirty and, if anything, a risk to one’s health.” (xii/Introduction)

You see? He was on a fine tear about the jumble loaf, the loaf that begins with an odd mix of every which thing with “HEALTH” as an end product, and not a loaf of bread that you should like to eat, especially after you’ve been through the trouble to make it. The dig against health food stores was just unnecessary.

It’s the end of his Introduction that got me to go back time after time, and eventually buying my own copy:

“You can throw a recipe together, or you can be meticulous and, chances are, both approaches are likely to produce a good bread. It is a mysterious business, this making of bread, and once you are hooked by the miracle of yeast, you’ll be a breadmaker for life.”

Hooked by the miracle,I’ve signed on to the breadmaker life. Still baking, still learning.

Some of the things I still turn to, like the Sally Lunn is more properly a cake. Other, like Cream Biscuits, are, bread-ish. Dill Seed Bread – the bread with cottage cheese and dill seed or weed in it, is SO totally ‘70’s, EVERYONE had a version of it. The first pita bread I ever made, I made from here. Portuguese Sweet Bread, Italian Holiday Bread (which I shaped into a ring and made for Easter), ditto. My youngest brother was a huge fan of the English Muffin Bread.

But the one I made a lot when I need a lot of bread, and continued making when I didn’t have a lot of time and I could freeze it until I needed it was an oatmeal bread. Maryetta’s Oatmeal Bread. This makes three loaves, and after making it once, I just always made sure I had three loaf pans. I have never tried to divide this one. It was never too much. If I could figure out how to fit 6 loaf pans in any oven I’ve ever had, I would probably double it. Three is good, just right, just like in Goldilocks.

Maryetta’s Oatmeal Bread

From James Beard’s Beard On Bread. p. 106. Alfred A. Knopf, NY. 1973.

4 cups boiling water

3 cups rolled oats (traditional, not quick or instant)

7-8 cups AP flour (I often use ½ whole wheat)

2 packets yeast (or 1 big tablespoonful)*

1-2 tablespoons salt**

4 tablespoons melted butter***

½ cup mild molasses

  1. Pour the boiling water over the oatmeal in a large bowl and leave to cool.
  2. Stir in 2 cups of the flour and the yeast (so you don’t want this more than 103 so it will encourage the yeast to grow and not kill it off. This is slightly warmer than blood warm)
  3. Place in a warm, draft free (cat-free) place to rise, uncovered, until doubled in bulk.
  4. Punch down and work in the salt, the melted butter, molasses, and enough flour to make a smooth, pliable, firm dough. 10 or so minutes by hand – you can’t knead too much by hand! Work out those anxieties!
  5. Divide the dough into three equal pieces and form into loaves to fit into 3 buttered 9x5x3 inch loaf pans.
  6. Allow to rise again, uncovered, until doubled in bulk.
  7. Bake in a 350 oven 40-60 minutes, or until the bread sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom (slip the bread out of the pan – use potholders! – and rap away. Knock-Knock. Hollow sounds like a hollow-core door sounds when you knock on it. You’ll hear it. Otherwise you’ll hear a thud thud thud, and then it needs a little more oven time. After you’ve made it a few times, your nose will tell you the done smell, so the rapping becomes a double check.)
  8. Cool thoroughly before slicing (or let cool enough to let the middle finish baking before ripping in – warm bread does not slice well. It also stales up faster, so you might as well eat the whole loaf, good thing there are 2 more for later.)
  9. Makes great toast, should there be any left the next morning.

*I buy yeast in bulk, and I think a packet is 2 ¼ teaspoons….close enough.

** James Beard like LOTS of salt. I like not so much. He recommends the 2 Tablespoons, I like less.

***The original calls for salad oil; I never have that and olive oil is very distinctive and not great with molasses, so I’ve been using melted butter for years.


Filed under Books, Bread, Influencers, Recipe, The 1970's

Beard on Food

sounds like something you’d see on Duck Dynasty

Duck Dynesty

Beard OVER  food

or maybe inspired by them

This is more of Beard AS Food, not on it

This is more of Beard AS Food, not on it

But back in the the good old days of the 1970’s it was the title of a syndicated column by James Beard. It was carried by the Brockton Enterprise, in   the weekly Food section (which wasn’t  called FOOD then, but something to let you know it was for the Mrs. House-wife/Homemaker – anyhow it was the day that the grocery stores ran the ads with the coupons). So James Beard was another Early Influencer.

James Beard in front of a portrait of...James Beard

James Beard in front of a portrait of…James Beard – this was a man who was literally larger then life.

James Beard was a unique voice – a MAN writing in the Women’s Section who happened to be writing for PEOPLE. His voice was NOT the usual. He was witty and opinionated and generous and interested and interesting. He was no lightweight.  One of his books was titled Delights and Prejudices, and that’s what you got with him.


I don’t like gourmet cooking or ‘this’ cooking or ‘that’ cooking. I like good cooking.
James Beard

James Beard also liked to drop names…if it weren’t for James Beard I wouldn’t have heard of Marion Cunningham or Helen Brown or Elizabeth David, for instance.

English Bread and Yeast Cookery - Elizabeth David

English Bread and Yeast Cookery – Elizabeth David

In fact, there’s a great deal I owe to  James Beard on the topic of  bread alone.

Although bread is often better with something.

Beard On Bread

Beard On Bread

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Filed under Bread, Perception ways