Archive for March, 2011

Maple Butterscotch Sauce

Monday, March 28th, 2011

I’m a little late to the party celebrating Massachusetts Maple Month—but at least I can offer a small contribution.
Sometimes the simplest recipes are the best. Sometimes they’re also the only ones for which a home cook has the time and the ingredients.
I originally hoped to share my friend Pat’s prize-winning recipe for maple lace cookies. Our extended family was coming to dinner Saturday evening, and I was all set to make these wafers—or so I thought.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t find the key ingredient in my pantry: maple sugar!!
So I punted and made a maple-based sauce for ice cream instead.
Very rich and very sweet, it works beautifully poured in small quantities over ice cream. Toasted walnuts or pecans make a festive garnish. 

As for the cookies, well, I can make them NEXT March……… 

My nephew Michael had no trouble finishing his maple buttersotch sundae.

The Sauce
1/2 cup (1 stick) sweet butter
1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1 pinch salt
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup heavy cream
In a 2-quart saucepan over medium heat melt the butter, stirring constantly. Add the brown sugar and stir until it melts. Continue to stir or whisk as the mixture comes to a boil. Boil for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
Whisk in the maple syrup. The mixture will look a little weird at first, but it will come together eventually! Return the mixture to a boil, whisking constantly, and boil it (still whisking!) until it coats a spoon. This took about 3 minutes on my weird electric stove.
Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the cream. Let the sauce cool slightly before serving it with ice cream. (You may also let it cool to room temperature and then refrigerate it until you are ready to use it. At that point warm it slightly in the microwave.) 

Makes just over 1-1/2 cups.

Surprise Soda Bread

Tuesday, March 15th, 2011
I love Saint Patrick’s Day.
As I noted a couple of years ago on this blog in a discussion of my unsainted great-grandmother, I’m only marginally Irish. Nevertheless, I’ve always embraced this holiday.
It’s cheerful at a time when the landscape in my beloved New England is gloomy.
It’s associated with any number of popular Irish and Irish-American songs.
Some are humorous, such as “Who Threw the Overalls in Mistress Murphy’s Chowder” and “Harrigan.” Only George M. Cohan could have constructed the interior rhymes in the latter.
Others are sentimental to the point of being maudlin. Since a lot of beer is drunk on this holiday no one objects.
I fully expect to evoke tears from the audience when I pay musical tribute to “me mither” during my little solo at our local Saint Patrick’s Day concert. (I’ll be singing “An Irish Lullaby.”)
I also love Saint Patrick’s Day because I look fabulous in green.
And because I love, love, love soda bread.
I’ve already posted recipes for white and whole-wheat soda bread. This year I’m using a recipe cribbed (with thanks!) from Cabot Cheese.
As soon as I saw Cabot’s Cheddar Soda Bread I knew it would be just the thing to serve with corned beef and cabbage or Irish beef or lamb stew. 

I have changed the recipe a little, of course.

First, I upped the Irish ante by using Irish cheddar—laced with porter. The marbled cheese gave the bread a gorgeous mottled look. The original cheddar might taste sharper, but this version still had lots of cheesiness. I can’t wait to try this cheese in my Irish cheese fondue.
Second, I switched Cabot’s salted butter to unsalted (there’s plenty of sodium in this recipe without more in the butter—and I say this as a girl who loves her salt) and used Kerrygold Irish butter.
Third, I threw in some caraway seeds. They are often used in soda bread. I find them a little strong in sweet breads, but they complement this savory recipe beautifully.
Enjoy—but eat sparingly. This bread is very filling. 

And if you’re in Alexandria, Virginia, Thursday night, come sing along with me and the Montebello Singers….

Surprise Soda Bread
2-1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
1/4 cup (1/4 of a 1/2-pound package) Irish butter
1/2 pound Irish cheddar with porter (or stout!), grated
1 cup buttermilk
1 egg
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a cookie sheet or line it with a silicone mat.
In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and caraway seeds. Stir in the cheese and blend well.
In a small bowl or measuring cup, whisk together the buttermilk and the egg. Stir them gently into the dry ingredients.
Turn the mixture onto a lightly floured board and knead it a few times, until it holds together into a slightly flattened ball.
Pop your ball onto the prepared cookie sheet. You may cut a cross in the center, but my cutting wasn’t very successful so I would leave well enough alone.
Bake until the loaf has light brown spots and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean—35 to 40 minute or so.
Slice into small wedges (12 to 14). 

Makes 1 loaf.

Did I mention that I like to wear green?


Monday, March 7th, 2011

Tomorrow is Mardi Gras. If I had the time—and the waistline—I’d make a King Cake and maybe some beignets. (I’ve never made beignets, but there’s always next Mardi Gras.)
Instead this past weekend I paid tribute to the holiday with my favorite Louisiana main dish, Jambalaya.
I first encountered Jambalaya (or a form thereof) in college. The cooks at Mount Holyoke included something they called “Creole Jambalaya” on their monthly menu.
In general, the food at Mount Holyoke was pretty tasty. As I recall, however, the Jambalaya was neither tasty nor Jambalaya. It was creamed shrimp and some sort of other protein served over rice. I was unimpressed.
In Knoxville, Tennessee, however, I learned that I like Jambalaya A LOT.
My roommate at the University of Tennessee, Alice Gagnard, hailed from Alexandria, Louisiana. Alice made fabulous Cajun food.
The gumbos! The po’ boys! The Jambalaya!
I have yet to master the craft of gumbo, although I did get a great recipe from Cajun folklorist Barry Ancelet a couple of years ago.
I hope this coming summer to share with you the po’ boys Alice makes with her husband Kevin.
Meanwhile here is a recipe for Jambalaya.
This dish is appealing on a lot of levels. First, it is relatively inexpensive to prepare since you can mix in a combination of whatever forms of protein suit your budget (or lurk in your refrigerator). In addition to the chicken and sausage below, Jambalaya may be enjoyed with ham, shrimp, and even crawfish.
Second, its form (or lack thereof; it’s a very flexible food) reflects the mixed heritage of Louisiana itself, where French, African, Native American, English, and Spanish influences abound.
In an article titled “Jambalaya by Any Other Name,” food and travel writer Andrew Sigal describes his extensive research into the possible origins of the dish. He concludes that different cooks (and fans) may always have different ideas about where it came from.
He does note that that the Provençal term “jambalaia,” from which scholars believe Jambalaya got its name, originally meant “a mish-mash, rabble, or mixture.”
This pretty much sums up Jambalaya as far as I’m concerned. How can one not love preparing a recipe that means “rabble” and that sound like “jumble”? 

Happy Mardi Gras! I can’t find most of my Mardi Gras attire, alas, so I leave you with a photo of me from a couple of years ago when I made King Cake.

Mardi Gras Jambalaya
1 pound sausage (for true—but very dominant—Louisiana flavor, use andouille, but you may also use plain old kielbasa), cut into bite-sized pieces
extra-virgin olive oil as needed for frying
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 to 2 stalks celery, finely chopped
1/2 bell pepper, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
butter if needed for frying
2 cups cut-up cooked chicken
1-1/2 teaspoons Creole seasoning, plus more if needed
chopped hot pepper (fresh or pickled) to taste—start out with 1/2 teaspoon to a teaspoon; then add more the next time if you want your Jambalaya spicier
4 cups chicken stock, divided
1-1/2 cups uncooked rice
1 large or 2 small tomatoes, roughly chopped
2 cups cooked peas
lots of chopped fresh parsley
In a heavy Dutch oven brown the sausage pieces. If they are not very fatty and start sticking a lot, splash in a little olive oil. If they are very fatty, drain some of the fat off when they have browned. Remove the sausage and set it aside.
In the fat (plus a little olive oil and butter if needed) sauté the onion, celery, bell pepper, and garlic. Cook them until they soften and begin to smell wonderful. Use their juices and the fat in the pan (plus a spatula or wooden spoon) to scoop up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan.
Return the sausage to the pot, along with the chicken, the seasoning, the hot pepper, and 1 cup of the stock. Bring the mixture to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat to low, and simmer gently for 1/2 hour, stirring from time to time.
Add the remaining stock. Bring the mixture to a boil, and stir in the rice. Return the mixture to boiling, stir, and reduce the heat and cover again.
Simmer until the rice is cooked through but not dry, about 1/2 hour longer. Taste for seasoning and add a little more spice if you like.
Stir in the tomatoes and peas. Sprinkle parsley overall and serve with Tabasco sauce on the side. 

Serves 6.