Friday, February 27, 2015

Snow Muffins, or Of course the Canadians would make this

As the day begins to lengthen, the cold begins to strengthen. Or, to put it less poetically, it's pretty damn cold!
Anyway, we at A Book of Cookrye realized that it's raining ingredients out of the sky.
Wow, my phone in low light goes past bad to Instagram filter.

Why do I have a picture of the ground, you may ask? Because that is where I gathered ingredients for...
Favorite Recipes of America: Desserts, 1968

That's right, we're trying favorite foods of Canada! If you're in Canada, do let us know if this recipe is at all familiar to you.
We would not have noticed this recipe had ingredients list not called for "clean white snow, dry and crisp." Of course! In Canada, they have bitter cold winters! Who else but those with Canadian winters would decide to cook snow?
Having no idea what a "buche de neige" is, we checked the directions and... it's muffins! Snow muffins! Seriously, it's muffins with snow in them!
Not as much butter as usually gets used around here, but it looks worse floating on the milk like that.

This is one of those recipes that make us wonder "How did this happen?" Water muffins have been around for a long time, but who among Canada's pioneer homemakers was so impatient one winter that they couldn't even let the snow they'd scooped up melt before baking? Or perhaps these are so tasty that such waiting became impossible?

Also, does what does "stir slightly" mean? We do hope this is what the pioneering Canadians had in mind.

Here we must admit we had to make a slight substitution. You see, we did not get any snow, so we had to use sleet instead.
We also had to be very careful not to scoop up dirt and mulch.

And now, we are pleased to present a shot of one of the most controversial ingredients ever featured on A Book of Cookrye!

You know what? Let's bring the camera closer. This ingredient has caused more impassioned dispute among those who've eaten our creations than anything else we have ever used.

That's right, we're using raisins. Those evil, eeeeevil things that make people spit things out in disgust. Those terrible things whose resemblance to chocolate chips has traumatized so many people. You'd have thought I'd have heard a fair amount of "eeeeew, you got that from outside?" as I mixed these up, but all the grievances I received was on account of the presence of raisins.
The sleet kind of looks like tapioca.

These muffins got really high in the center. I thought they were going to rise right into the rack above them (owing to multiple people using the oven at once, the racks were very close together).

Those who don't suffer raisin flashbacks liked these a lot. The mace was unusual but went really well in them. Plus, this is a really fun recipe to make-- I can totally see bringing it out every winter when the snow gets really severe. So, hooray sleet muffins! I want to make them every time we get snow!
However, these are more of a breakfast than a dessert. However, I'm glad they made their way into a dessert book anyway.

And so, in conclusion, please enjoy this picture of me being totally prepared for this weather.

Stay warm and watch out for inept drivers, everybody!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Austrian Cauliflower Soup, or More ways to use pulverized vegetables

We at A Book of Cookrye, like many people in the United States, are aware of what countries most of our family comes from but know little besides where on a map to point. We have neither stories of the old country nor traditions brought over from across the ocean. We may be able to say what countries our ancestors come from and maybe name a city or two, but that is all we can say about that.
With that in mind, we found a book of Austrian recipes in the library. Being part Austrian, we decided to see if anything resonated with us.

Flipping over to the back cover, the description sold the book to us rather well: it has "171 dessert recipes, and 131 recipes for everything else." That's right, just over two fifths of the book is divided into soups, meats, and vegetables. The rest (viz. the majority) is all desserts. We at A Book of Cookrye considered the possibility that cooking tastes are hereditary. However, aside from things that are common in America anyway, all of the recipes seemed utterly foreign. Whoever would have thought that would happen when reading a cookbook from a country you know nothing about?
We went into the shorter portion of the book instead of the longer one and made this.

Why is everything measured in pints? Do they use measuring pints in Austria the way we use measuring cups here?
We still had most of the stock leftover from that time we made liver. Given that the last time someone gave us a carton of stock we kept saving it for a later use until it went bad in the refrigerator, we found no reason not to use it all at once. We also used frozen cauliflower because we were going to break it up and boil it anyway.

I would just like to point out that every time I make cauliflower, I get asked if I'm a vegetarian. This evening, someone asked "Are you on a cleanse?" Apparently no one wants to eat what looks like broccoli dipped in bleach.
After the cauliflower was cooked (and we do respect Gretel Beer for expressly saying to cook it just until done and not boil it to death), we reached the only point where we and the recipe parted directions. According to the book, we're supposed to shove the cauliflower through a strainer. There is only one way we pulverize cauliflower at A Book of Cookrye.

At any rate, we had to find something to put the broth in and... seriously? This is the third consecutive supper recipe that has involved making gravy.
Incidentally, this is one of the very few recipes in Austrian Cooking and Baking where you're allowed to use margarine.

I'm not quite sure what the point of the whole business was, but it made the soup cloudy. I'd like to think that even though I could discern no difference, the flour-butter definitely made one and I'd have noticed it missing.
I hope it's supposed to look like this.

One of my neighbors came downstairs at about this point and excitedly said "Oooh, it smells like brocolita!" Thus did making Austrian recipes introduce us to a new Spanish word.
It's overwhelmingly brown...

I'd never have thought to add nutmeg, but it smelled good. At this point, we were ready to leave it to its last few minutes of simmering. I'm not sure what the milk and egg yolk were supposed to once added to the pot (so much for ancestrally remembering things). Then again, my great-grandfather who emigrated from Austria was a legendarily angry person, so the lack of mind transfer by genetics might be for the best, even if it does mean I know as much about Austrian food as I do the political affairs of Greenland.
I have no idea what this is for.

It kind of looks like someone got a really big jar of minced garlic and dumped it into a pot. This amplified a concern we at A Book of Cookrye had: without garlic, would we find cauliflower inedible?

I don't think I've ever seen a soup recipe that didn't involve leaving it on the stove for over an hour, but this one is almost certainly better for omitting this. I do love that the recipe doesn't involve boiling vegetables until the vitamins are good and dead. Also, having woken up during health class long enough to remember that boiling vegetables means a lot of the water-soluble vitamins end up in the cooking water, I like that you make soup of said water rather than discarding it and making soup in a new pot of stock.
Also, I wish I'd known a long time ago how cheap parsley is. I may start garnishing everything.

At any rate, this soup, despite requiring more bowls than I had planned to get out, is delicious. Nutmeg and cauliflower are surprisingly well-matched, and the parsley on top went really well with everything. This doesn't even seem very foreign to me despite having never had anything like it before. I don't know whether I'm disappointed or relieved about that, but I'm keeping the recipe.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Hump-Day Quickie: Apparently garlic makes any vegetable good!

We at A Book of Cookrye saw a zucchini recipe floating around Facebook and had a surprising revelation: we've never eaten a zucchini! This theoretically will make us not regret changing that.

Baked Garlic-Parmesan Zucchini Sticks
3 zucchinis
Garlic powder
1 handful shredded Parmesan

Heat oven to 350°. Grease a cookie sheet or 9x13 pan.
Quarter the zucchini lengthwise, lay them skins-down on the pan, and spray them with cooking spray. Shake the salt and seasonings over them, then sprinkle on the cheese.
Bake 15 minutes, then broil until the desired shade of brown.
adapted from source

If garlic, pepper, and Parmesan can make cauliflower delicious, why not dump them on zucchinis as well? The recipe also called for thyme which we purchased some time ago after a series of thyme plants we set on our windowsill died. We wondered what the spice tasted like and was it worth the series of dead plants. Adding it to everything else made it smell a lot like the seasoning they dump on bread in Italian restaurants.
This is why you might prefer powdered garlic to fresh.

If nothing else, they will have crunchy cheese bits on top. Although saying "if nothing else there's cheese on top" makes me think of a Dear Abby letter from someone whose coworker always picked all the cheese and breadcrumbs off the tops of casseroles at parties, leaving bare vegetables for everyone. (Abby suggested disinviting him or, if that was infeasible, serving him little individually-baked portions of everything with great ceremony to shame him out of his behavior.)
I guess Parmesan is like sprinkles for non-desserts.

While they cooked, they smelled like a combination of burning rubber and garlic. We at A Book of Cookrye began to think we might have been right in generously letting everyone else have the zucchinis.
It looks surprisingly not bad.
Upon letting the zucchinis cool a bit, it turned out this recipe is actually pretty good! Garlic and Parmesan seem to be like MSG for vegetables. However, we will note that while the original post makes it look like you have fairly rigid zucchini rods that you can eat like churros, the reality is disappointingly limp.

But these are tasty despite being so floppy, and you get browned cheese bits in the pan when you're done.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Chicken Pie As Made in England, or Christening my grandmother's skillet

This recipe was featured on Yum Goggle!

My grandmother a while ago asked me to get her a cast iron skillet on eBay because she wants one old enough that they machined out the inside. Part of me thinks she asked me and not my grandfather-- you know, her husband who is in the same house and not five hours away-- because she knew I'd compulsively strip and reseason whatever I ended up buying, especially since it's for family. And sure enough, when I saw the skillet in the mail, it went into a trash bag filled with oven cleaner and into my friend's yard. I actually kind of liked not having my own yard to leave it in- it meant we got to visit every couple of days while I was scouring and respraying the pan.
Would you like to see the before and after?

It's not the best re-seasoning job, but it'll (hopefully) do.

We at A Book of Cookrye decided to christen and test this pan, and needed a suitable recipe. Something adventurous and a little weird to us, but not scary or sure to end in regret. One of those things we'd never have thought of, but we're glad we tried it out. We found what we sought in this book.

Chicken Pie as made in England

2 tbsp butter
3½ tbsp flour
1 c chicken stock
2 oz (1 thick slice) ham
8 mushrooms*
1 generous tbsp rum, brandy, or sherry
2 c cooked chicken, diced (not too finely)
8 gherkins
3 anchovies
3 sprigs parsley
Seasonings to taste (suggestions: pepper and nutmeg)
2 pie crusts

Heat oven to 350°.
Line a pie pan with crust, prick with a fork, and let it bake as you make the filling. Be sure to remove it just as it turns golden. You may want to check for large bubbles a couple of minutes into the baking time- prick them with the fork to deflate.
Dice the ham and mushrooms, but don't cut them too finely. Set aside.
Slice the gherkins. Pick the bones out of the anchovies and mince them. Mince also the parsley. Set aside.
Melt the butter and stir in the flour. Remove from heat. Add the stock, a spoonful at a time, mixing each addition in thoroughly before adding the next. As the mixture thins, you can add it more freely, but if you dump it all in at once you'll just get lumps of flour swimming in broth.
Add the rum, mushrooms, and ham to the sauce. Put over medium heat (or slightly below medium). Cook, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom of the pot, for 10 minutes. Remove from heat.
Stir in the gherkins, anchovies, and parsley. Season to taste. Because there's already salt in the ham, anchovies, and stock, taste and check the saltiness before shaking any in.
Pour into the pie pan and cover with the remaining crust. Cut some vent slits in the top and bake 1 hour. Serve cold.

*If you feel like strictly sticking to the original, you'll want 4 mushrooms and 4 truffles.  

EDIT: I've been informed that calling for truffles makes more sense because before two world wars destroyed French farmland, truffles were not so prized, rare, and expensive as they are now.

- With a Saucepan Over the Sea, Adelaide Keen, 1902

With a Saucepan Over the Sea, Adelaide Keen, 1902

A Book of Selected Recipes, Mrs. George Thurn, 1934

This comes to us from Feeding America, the digitized cookbook collection at MSU. Once again, we have extremely specific serving instructions.  We aren't going shooting any time soon, and the Thames is too far away. Having a picnic in the laundry room and watching the water flow from the leaky washer to the floor drain seemed a poor approximation. We briefly considered going to a sports game, but if British TV is a good indicator, even the old ladies would be more enthusiastic than we.

Somebody get Miss Farnaby to a Phillies game.

When getting recipes out of old international cookbooks, I wonder if anyone in the countries the recipes come from would recognize them today. Do people see recipes like this and think "Oh, my mother/grandmother used to make something like that"? Or maybe it looks near-exactly like a modern recipe for the same thing? In a similar vein, I'd love to see what's inside a book of American recipes written by an outsider and published in some other country for those who who want to see what those people in the US are up to in their kitchens.

We at A Book of Cookrye would like to let you know that picking bones out of anchovies is maddeningly tedious. Also, the bones will stick to your fingers, leaving you thinking that you accidentally stuck them back onto the fish. Also, the meat falls apart in your hands, leaving you with lots of little anchovy pieces and unsure which ones you got the bones out of. Also, did you miss any which will make you choke and die? We would rather do as the Italians do and dissolve them.
There may be problems with your ingredients when your cutting board is injecting commentary.

Also, did you know gherkins are only cultivated for pickling? If you don't believe me, go out and try to find fresh gherkins anywhere besides a very specialized specialty store.
But now that we have two piles of chopped stuff plus most of a chicken, it is time to... er... sauce.

I guess people used to use white sauce to hold all their food together. It looks like glue at any rate.

Upon some consideration (stirring a sauce lets your mind go elsewhere), we decided there's probably a fairly straight line between this and the Upside-Down Chicken Pie we made for the Pieathlon. They're both chicken and mushrooms with some other things added for flavor and held together with white sauce. This pie may be what that unfortunate canned creation was trying to be.

All right, this is when all of the work starts to pay off. The mushrooms and ham made the kitchen smell like the best breakfast ever. Forget suspending them in sauce, we want a pan of mushrooms and ham!

At this point, scary canned-chicken flashbacks aside, the pie tasted really good and was ready to bake. I was most curious about Mrs. George Thurn's pie crust recipe with that newfangled baking powder in it.
Something doesn't belong here...

However, we first had to overcome my poor pie crust transferring ability and an overzealous refrigerator that turned the dough into a rock.

This isn't my first time doing a pie patch job. Heck, most of the crust was already in place this time.
Put some chicken-mushroom paste in there and no one will know.

Why does the filling looked like cafeteria slop in the pot but become pretty once it's in the pie?

We at A Book of Cookrye can't decide if we like or despise long cooking times. On the one hand, we tend to wait until we're already hungry to start supper. On the other, at least we can get everything washed up so we don't have dirty dishes and counters waiting for us the whole time we're eating.

Actually, you know what? While looking up how best to strip and re-season cast iron, we found that people love doing fancy shots of food in their skillets. Therefore, behold!
It is most unusual that I should be cooking during daylight.

This may be one of the sturdiest pies we at A Book of Cookrye have made. Rather than breaking, it fell out of the pan with a satisfying whomph!
We considered re-inverting it so it'd be rightside-up, but decided luck does not wish to be pushed.

And.... this is delicious. This is amazing. Even the pickles, which I was leery of adding, went really well in this. It fit so perfectly in the pan that I considered apologizing to my grandmother and keeping it just so I could make chicken pie again.
The long baking time melded all the flavors together really well. Oddly enough, a few days in the refrigerator un-melded them a bit and made the separate ingredients stand out more.
You should definitely try this. It also leaves you sated for a long time. It keeps for days in the refrigerator, which is most fortunate because it will also last a while.
I hereby declare this skillet christened!
If you have any banana recipes, feel free to send them to  for the dreadfully named Bananas About Bananas Recipe Contest! You could win this:

The contest deadline is February 28!

Friday, February 20, 2015

Banana Recipe Contest: You call these gluten-free paleo things pancakes?

Today on A Book of Cookrye, we present the first entry in the banana recipe contest! This one comes from Freezair who sent it with this lovely note:

This is a recipe I heard through a friend of a friend who was on... some diet or another. Paleo? Gluten free? It sound slightly terrifying to me. It's the simplest recipe in the world, so it was easy to spread by word of mouth, but I just can't picture how these would look or taste! I know cooking straight-up banana isn't terribly uncommon. Fried bananas are a thing, right? But this seems to me like it'd be verging on a banana omelette, or even, like, fried baby food... especially with no flour or sugar or anything to cut the eggs with. I'm slightly horrified. But on the other hand, I do loves me some bananas, so maybe it's actually good? I'm too scared to try it myself. So I pass it off on a more adventurous chef!

A Book of Cookrye has featured two recipes from other people. The first one was from a recipe swap and we kind of brought that one on ourselves (however, it was the most entertaining and memorable thing we've ever made). The second one was gingerbread shoe leather. The third, viz. this one, has such a sterling recommendation that I simply had to make it.
Banana Pancakes
1 mushy banana
2 eggs

Blend ingredients together until REALLY well mixed. (You may even want to use a blender.) Pour mixture over hot, buttered griddle. Cook until done.

We at A Book of Cookrye have always been leery of gluten-free versions of things that should be gluten-full. Furthermore, everything on the paleo diet seems to be punitively healthy. That said, bananas are indeed tasty so this might not be so bad. If nothing else, there's still an abandoned blender in the kitchen so this will be over with soon.
Getting down to business, the beginning of gluten-free paleo "pancakes" looks like someone is about to put a couple of scoops of protein powder in it and drink the resulting slurry. (Side note: I don't know how the protein-shake industry convinced so many that you can't do any workouts whatsoever without a massive jar of protein powder and would love to be informed how that came to be.)
If this is juicing, bring me some fried chicken.

Fortunately, there is but a small amount of banana egg stuff. I... okay, seriously people? This is what your diets drive you to? Couldn't you just scramble some eggs and eat a banana? Why do you have to put everything in a blender? Do these diets leave you so weakened you have to outsource chewing?
Okay, technically it doesn't look bad. It just feels like it'll inevitably taste terrible.

If nothing else, at least I didn't waste much time or effort on these. Also, holy crap, it actually looks like a decent pancake!

I guess using a blender also whipped enough air into it to make the pancakes fluffy and everything. However, if you can't turn an omelet, you can't turn this either. They tear ridiculously easily. Yet, oddly enough, the smelled really good. This is most confusing...

All right, if they ain't pancakes, they're as close as they're going to get.

As for how they taste? Odd, bland, and disappointing. Hot mashed bananas always taste terrible, and adding eggs did it no favors. They were a little sweet, but in a way that was oddly wrong. Also, the texture was like whipped rubber.
But! I have good news! You see, I use a communal kitchen and someone else was making her lunch. She tried a banana "pancake" and said it tasted like it would be really good to dip bread in. Furthermore, someone had abandoned a loaf of now-stale bread in the refrigerator.

This is the best French toast ever. You owe it to yourself to try this.

We at A Book of Cookrye fully expected to find this utterly dreadful and write a post about how much we nearly choked in the name of culinary masochism. Instead, we had an unexpected yet amazing surprise. Everything that's wrong about this recipe makes it perfect French toast batter. So thank you, Freezair!

If you have any banana recipes, feel free to send them to  for the dreadfully named Bananas About Bananas Recipe Contest! You could win this:

The contest deadline is February 28!