Saturday, September 26, 2015
Today, the city is home to large Italian, Azorean, and Portuguese-American populations, but prior to the European invasion, the land was home to the Wampanoag and Narragansett Native American tribes. Bristol was where the first battle in the King Phillip's War, a war between the Native population and the European settlers, took place in 1675. The Native Americans eventually lost this war, and this would lead to more wide-spread colonization of the area by Europeans.
Bristol was originally part of Massachusetts before being transferred to the Rhode Island colony in 1747. Despite being a northern town, due to the fact that it was a successful port town, it became a center for the slave trade. During the Revolutionary War, Bristol was attacked twice by the British navy.
Claim to Fame: Bristol is the home of the oldest 4th of July celebration in the United States. It was started in 1785 by Reverend Henry Wight of the First Congregational Church. The parade that still happens today, was started in the early 1800's. Today, the celebrations begin on Flag Day in June, and last through Labor Day weekend. You might be asking me, why didn't you do this place for 4th of July? What a perfect opportunity that you missed! Well, there are two very good reasons. One, I didn't do a 4th of July post. And two, I didn't know about this until afterwards. This would have been a perfect location to do a 4th of July post. The other option was Delaware, which was the first colony of the United States. But I ended up skipping the 4th, so it doesn't matter now!
The Food: Rhode Island Johnny Cake with Raspberry Syrup, and Green Onion and Apple Sausage
Besides seafood, the one item I kept coming across for Rhode Island, was the Johnny cake. For those of you who are not familiar with the term or have never read the Little House on the Prairie books, a Johnny cake is basically a cross between cornbread and a pancake. They are a very simple, very basic, humble food that can be made quickly and with very little preparation. I had my pick of recipes, but chose one from a cookbook I have never had the opportunity to use before. One of the things I like to collect from used book stores is the Time/Life cookbook collection that came out in the 60's and 70's. Each one is a large, hardback book with various regions of the United States and the world. The one I used was specifically for Northeastern foods of the United States. These are fun books. If you can get your hands on them, I highly recommend them. I will write out the recipe the way the book says, but will add some notes based on my experience.
Rhode Island Johnny Cake
1 cup white cornmeal(I used yellow because that's what I had on hand. Some will say this isn't as authentic, but that's ok.)
1 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. butter, softened, plus 1/4 cup butter, melted, plus 4 butter pats
1 cup boiling water
1/4-1/2 cup milk
Combine the cornmeal, salt, and softened butter in a deep bowl. Stirring constantly, pour in the water in a thin stream. When the butter melts and the liquid is absorbed, add 1/4 cup milk. (I made a half batch of this and noticed that the liquid didn't absorb very well into the cornmeal. I ended up having to add more cornmeal to absorb it all. It probably ended up being a 2:1 ratio of cornmeal to liquid, rather than 1:1.) Beat until the batter holds its shape lightly with a spoon. If necessary, add more milk by the teaspoonful.
Heat a skillet or griddle over moderate heat until hot. Brush the skillet lightly with melted butter. To form each cake, ladle 1/4 cup of the batter into the pan. Cook 1-2 cakes at a time, leaving enough space so that they can spread into 5" rounds. Fry them for 3 minutes on each side, or until they are golden and crisp around the edges. As they brown, transfer the johnny cakes to a heated plate and drape with foil to keep them warm while you cook the rest, brushing the pan with melted butter as necessary. If the batter thickens, thin it with an additional tablespoon of milk.
Makes 8 cakes
These were so easy to make. There is no leavening agent in them, so I suppose technically, a person could make and eat these during Passover if they wanted to. They are also gluten free, and I would imagine you could use any alternative milk you wanted and use oil instead of butter to make them vegan. You could probably also fry these in bacon grease if you wanted to impart more flavor to them. They're a very plain, very basic food and I definitely think they were better with the syrup I made.
Ok, I'll admit, this was more of a sauce than a syrup, but it was really delicious! I just made it up as I went, so this is actually one of my own creations! Here is the recipe:
1 pt. raspberries, washed
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
Wash the raspberries, but don't drain all the excess water off. Keep some of it and place all of the berries in a small saucepan. Combine with the applesauce and heat on medium until the raspberries are hot enough to break apart when stirred with a spoon. Once they are broken apart, turn off the heat and add the cinnamon. Mix well and set aside until ready to serve the johnny cakes.
This was really good. Just sweet and tart enough but not overpoweringly so. This could probably also act as jam for toast if you have any leftovers, like I do. Or over ice cream, if you like.
To go with the johnny cakes, I made homemade sausage. I found this recipe in my card collection, but I don't know the original source. It turns out it's not that hard to make sausage from scratch! I had ground pork last weekend that needed to be used before this week, so I actually made the sausage, formed the patties, and froze them last weekend, but didn't try them until tonight. Here's a tip I learned the hard way: When freezing them in one large package, put a layer of foil or plastic wrap between each patty or you'll have to thaw all of it and chisel them apart to use...
Green Onion and Apple Sausage
1 1/2 lb. ground pork
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/8 tsp. white pepper(I don't have white pepper, so I left this out.)
1 1/2 tsp. dried sage, crushed
4 green onions, thinly sliced
1 cooking apple, cored, peeled, and finely chopped
1 Tbsp. butter
In a large bowl, combine pork, salt, peppers, sage, green onions, and chopped apple. Mix thoroughly and form into six 3/4" thick patties. (At this point, they can be wrapped and frozen, if you want.)
In a large, heavy skillet, melt butter. Cook patties in butter until sausages are brown on both sides, and centers are no longer pink (10-12 minutes total).
This recipe is also easy to cut in half, which is what I did. Since I had to thaw all of them, I will be having the rest over the next couple days, which is fine, because this was really rather tasty! I do think it could have used a smidgen more salt than it called for, and my sage is rather old, so it could have been "sagier" if I'd had fresher.
I served this with scrambled eggs topped with cheese for a really decadent and fancy breakfast for dinner. Making breakfast food is difficult because timing is so important. Everything has to be done all at the same time in hopes of serving it all hot on the same plate. The cakes were finished first, so I kept them under foil. A few minutes later, the eggs were done and then the sausage at the last minute. and it was all pretty darned delicious! I definitely don't have time to cook like this during the week for my breakfast, so this is a special weekend treat. I cooked everything in its own pan, so it does create several dishes to wash, but it was worth it!
I definitely recommend these recipes, but honestly, the real stand out was the raspberry syrup. It was ridiculously easy to make and tasted so good! You really do need to try it out!
Johnny Cake History
4th of July History
City History-This has some really amazing pictures in it
Sunday, September 20, 2015
This region of Montana was populated with United States forts after the Battle of the Little Bighorn in 1876. A couple miles west of the Tongue River, Fort Keogh was built. It was named after one of the men who had died in the battle. It was commanded by General Nelson A. Miles, who is known for having driven the remaining Native American tribes, the Nez Perce and the Lakota, onto reservations in order to maintain control over them.
During this time, sutlers, or civilian merchants who sold their wares to military bases, provided the soldiers of Fork Keogh with copious amounts of whiskey. General Miles, in order to keep his men under control, threw the sutlers out in 1877. The sutlers moved two miles over to the east and founded Miles City. When Fort Keogh moved further west eventually, Miles City did too. This position is where Miles City currently resides today.
The 1880's brought cattle and horses to the open range around Miles City, and the railroad was nearby as well, both of which brought with it an increase in population. Miles City was where cattle were brought from Texas to be fattened up on their way to Chicago. Miles City grew into a thriving, typical "Wild West" town. It grew until the 1920's and 30's, when Billings, a town upriver to Miles City, grew and overshadowed them.
Cool Factoid: Though unconfirmed, according to the Guiness World Records, the largest snowflake, measuring 15" in diameter, was recorded on January 28, 1887 at Fort Keogh.
The Food: Rye Cracker-Bread and Montana-Stuffed Trout
Montana is known for their grain production, as well as their wild game. I don't eat game meat, for the most part, and don't have easy access to it, so I opted for another well-known Montana food: trout. Montana is also known for huckleberries and alfalfa honey. I tried very hard to find these, but had no luck. Actually, I did run across the honey at one store, but it was too expensive, so I didn't buy it. I have no idea why alfalfa honey is so expensive and so difficult to find in Seattle. I have heard it is quite delicious, though, so if you ever have the opportunity to try it, don't pass it up!
I wanted to try something a little different for the bread, and in my research, rye came up a lot in Montana recipes. I searched through my own recipe cards and ran across one that stood out to me. It was a little different than a typical loaf of bread, so I chose that. I think it was pretty easy to make and tasted fantastic! I will write out the recipe as it is written, but note that I made a half batch. A full batch would work if you're making it for a large group of people. A half batch still makes quite a lot and I have leftovers to take to work tomorrow. The recipe card is so old that I no longer know the source, unfortunately.
1/4 cup warm water
2 pkg. active dry yeast
1 tsp. each salt and sugar
1 cup milk
1 1/2 tsp. crushed caraway seed(I tried crushing this with a plate and a metal measuring cup and both failed. If you have a mortar and pestle, I would recommend that. If you don't, you can use a food processor or do what I did: use a coffee grinder I keep specifically for grinding spices.)
1 3/4 cup medium rye flour, divided(My store only sold dark rye, so that's what I used and it turned out just fine.)
About 1 1/4 cups flour, divided
In medium bowl, combine water, yeast, salt, and sugar. Let stand about 3 minutes to soften yeast. Add milk, caraway seed, 1 1/2 cups rye flour and 1 cup flour. Beat with quick on-off turns until well blended and smooth.(This instruction is for a mixer, but I just mixed it with a fork and it worked fine that way.)
Turn out on floured surface, and using remaining 1/4 cup flour, knead until smooth and elastic. Cut dough into 8 equal pieces. Shape each into a round bun; place on lightly greased cookie sheet, turn to grease top. Cover, let rise in warm, draft-free place 30 minutes or until almost doubled.
Punch down. Remove to lightly floured pastry cloth, and using remaining 1/4 cup rye flour and stockingette-covered rolling pin(I just used my normal rolling pin and it was fine), roll out each piece to a 9" round. Place on ungreased cookie sheets; prick entire surface with fork.
Some parts of this cracker bread were chewier and some were crunchier. It was really tasty and I loved the texture of both the crunchy and chewy parts. I did not put anything on it, I just ate it as-is, but I can see how it would be delicious with cheese or a spread of some kind. The rye flavor is really strong because of crushing the caraway first. It would overpower more delicate flavors, and any toppings you would put on would need to blend well with that strong, distinct caraway taste. Keep that in mind. It might sound complicated to make, but it was actually quite simple. This is a great way to ease yourself into bread-baking if you are not terribly familiar with it or confident.
My entree recipe was found online and I will provide the link in the sources, but I will go ahead and write out the recipe here. It is not my own, however.
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. dried oregano
3 cups Italian bread, cubed
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 Tbsp. white wine
4(8oz) whole trout, dressed
1/2 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
1/2 cup flour
2 slices bacon, cut in half
Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat; add onion and celery, and cook, stirring constantly, until tender. Remove from heat. Stir in parsley and next three ingredients. Add bread cubes; toss gently. Combine egg and white wine; stir into bread mixture. Spread evenly into an 11"x7"x1 1/2" baking dish; set aside.
Rinse trout; pat dry. Sprinkle inside of fish evenly with 1/2 tsp. salt. Combine lemon juice and soy sauce; brush inside of fish, reserving remaining lemon juice mixture.
Dredge fish in flour. Place over stuffing, overlapping slightly. Drizzle with reserved lemon juice mixture. Place bacon over trout.
Both of these recipes were fun to make. They felt rustic, but classy at the same time. Both turned out to be very delicious. I need to experiment with rye flour more often, and I'll be able to, because I had to buy a whole bag for this recipe!! Every time I bake with it now, I'll think of Montana!
Trout Recipe Source
Sunday, September 6, 2015
The region around Monroeville was home to the Choctaw tribe prior to the European invasion. The area was taken over by the Spanish, but was purchased by the United States in 1795. The city of Monroeville was built in 1831, but not incorporated until April 5, 1899. After the Civil War, it took Monroeville from 1865 to 1900 for it to be completely rebuilt again.
Monroeville's big claim to fame is that it is the hometown of some of America's most famous authors. Truman Capote spent several summers during his childhood there, and Harper Lee, his friend, was born and raised there. She still lives there to this day. In 1997, Monroeville was named the "Literary Capital of Alabama," by the state legislature.
The Food: Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner
One of my favorite books of all-time, is To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee. Harper Lee was born in Monroevill, Alabama, on April 28, 1926. She is best known for that novel, though she recently released a second novel called Go Set a Watchman. It takes place after the events of To Kill a Mockingbird, dealing with the same characters, yet it was written first. Go Set a Watchman is actually the impetus for the story that became To Kill a Mockingbird. I have not read Go Set a Watchman, and do not plan to, because I think To Kill a Mockingbird is a masterpiece in and of itself.
Food is mentioned a lot in the book. It's also mentioned in the film as well. I decided that when I got to Alabama, I would choose foods mentioned in the book, and focus on them. I chose three dishes to try out, and wasn't disappointed by any of them!
One of the most memorable food scenes in both the book and the film doesn't actually mention what type of food is eaten. I would love to have featured it for this post, but needed to choose others that actually mention the food eaten. The scene is set during a lunch break early in the school year. Jem and Scout have brought their friend, Walter Cunningham, home to eat with them. Atticus joins them for the meal and makes Walter feel at home. Walter, the son of a poor farmer, rarely gets to eat lunch, and is clearly looking forward to this meal. He requests syrup for his meal, which Atticus, unhesitatingly, asks Calpurnia the housekeeper to bring. He pays little attention to Walter as the boy proceeds to drown his food in syrup. Unfortunately, Scout doesn't do the same, and points it out, loudly, that one doesn't drown one's lunch in syrup.
The scene would be almost comical if it wasn't so heartbreaking to watch. The pure joy and anticipation on Walter's face is palpable. You can feel his excitement about the treat he's about to enjoy. But the second Scout points out his faux pas, his joy is immediately replaced with shame and humiliation. His meal, something he so rarely gets to partake in, has been ruined before it even began. It hurts to read or watch this scene. I think it's one of the things I keep in mind by choosing not to judge others for what they do or don't eat, or how they eat it. Why take that joy from somebody? Why be that cruel for no real good reason?
Anyway, the three foods I chose are quintessential Southern foods, and one of them I had been holding off on for just such an occasion as this post: Fried chicken. Such as simple dish, yet so easy to do wrong if you're not careful. I didn't want to end up using fried chicken as a default for all the Southern states, so I made sure to use it when it would have the best use. I had trouble finding recipes specific to the state of Alabama that I could or would eat. This state was the perfect location for the dish.
"It's not time to worry yet," Atticus reassured him as we went into the diningroom. "We're not through yet. There'll be an appeal, you can count on that. Gracious alive, Cal, what's all this?" He was staring at his breakfast plate.
Calpurnia said, "Tom Robinson's daddy sent you along this chicken this morning. I fixed it."
"You tell him I'm proud to get it--bet they don't have chicken for breakfast for breakfast at the White House."
Though it's not described how Calpurnia prepared the chicken, I'd say it's a safe bet that it was fried. There was no oven-frying then, and I doubt she made it into a stir-fry or chicken Parmesan. I chose a fried chicken recipe from my own recipe card collection, and I don't know the source of it, but it was amazing! I was really happy with how this turned out.
Buttermilk Fried Chicken
1(3lb.) fryer, cut into pieces
2 cups buttermilk or plain yogurt
1 onion, sliced
1 tsp. each dried parsley(I did not add this, it doesn't really add much flavor), tarragon, and thyme
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp. garlic salt(For this and the onion salt, I didn't have either, but I used granulated garlic and granulated onion instead. I just added a bit more salt and it turned out fine.)
1/2 tsp. onion salt
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
2 cups canola oil
1.) Soak chicken 8 hours to overnight and up to two days in the buttermilk with the onions, herbs, paprika, and cayenne.(My note: I didn't have 8 hours, mine marinated for around 3 hours. It was still highly flavorful, though I am curious what it would have tasted like to have the full 8 hours.)
2.) Drain in colander, leaving some herbs on the chicken. In a paper or plastic bag, mix flours with seasonings. Meanwhile, heat 2 cups oil in a large, heavy-bottomed skillet on medium-high heat until a pinch of flour starts to sizzle when dropped in the hot oil. (Have a lid nearby for emergencies.)
3.) Place chicken pieces in bag with flour and shake until thoroughly coated.
Add chicken to hot pan and fry on one side for 12-15 minutes, until golden brown, and then use tongs to turn the pieces over for another 10-12 minutes again, until golden brown. (Be careful to keep the oil hot enough to fry the chicken, but not so high that it burns the chicken. To do this on an electric stove, alternate the settings between high and medium-high several times while cooking.)(My note: Do not turn the chicken if there is any resistance. If it is still stuck to the bottom of the pan, it is not ready to turn. All you will do is rip the batter off the chicken. Patience is really important for frying chicken. You'll be worried that it will burn, but it won't. Just trust it, it knows what it's doing better than you do.)
4.) Use tongs to remove chicken from pan. Place on a rack over a cookie rack to drain the excess oil. Add more salt and pepper to taste. (My note: I tested the temperature when my chicken was fully browned and it wasn't quite hot enough inside. I finished it off in the oven just to make sure there was no chance of eating undercooked chicken. It turned out fine that way.)
Makes 4 servings
I ate this hot last night but have a second serving to eat cold today. I have to see how it tastes cold vs. hot. That's the key to good fried chicken. The flavor of this was amazing. The thyme and tarragon work really well with it. You wouldn't necessarily think tarragon for fried chicken, but it really works! The batter was ridiculously crunchy and amazing. I may never be able to eat fried chicken again except for this kind because it was that good.
Aunt Alexandra met us and nearly fainted when Calpurnia told her where we were. I guess it hurt her when we told her Atticus said we could go back, because she didn't say a word during supper. She just rearranged food on her plate, looking at it sadly while Calpurnia served Jem, Dill, and me with a vengeance. Calpurnia poured milk, dished out potato salad and ham, muttering, "'shamed of yourselves," in varying degrees of intensity. "Now you all eat slow," was her final command.
Potato salad felt like the perfect accompaniment to the fried chicken. It can be eaten with the hot chicken, or the cold chicken the next day. I chose another of my own recipes, but again, I don't know the original source. I thought this was really amazing too.
Creamy Low-Fat Potato Salad
2 lb. small red potatoes, cut into 3/4" pieces
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1 small bay leaf
1 cup buttermilk
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. tarragon vinegar(I did not have this, and couldn't find it at the grocery store. Instead, I used 2 Tbsp. white wine vinegar and put in about 1/2 tsp. tarragon and let it sit for a while to infuse the vinegar. I kept the tarragon in the vinegar when I added it to the rest of the ingredients, rather than straining it out. I think this worked just fine.)
1 tsp. Dijon mustard with seeds
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
4 green onion, chopped
1 large celery stalk with leaves, chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves(I didn't do this. I rarely/never use parsley when a recipe calls for it. It's either for garnish or flavoring and I don't think parsley really adds that much, flavor-wise, to a recipe.)
1.) In 4-qt. sauce pan, heat potatoes, garlic, bay leaf, and enough water to cover to boiling over high heat. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer 10-12 minutes, until potatoes are fork-tender.
2.) Meanwhile, in large bowl, with fork, mix buttermilk, olive oil, vinegar, mustard, salt, and pepper until blended. Stir in green onions, celery, and parsley.
3.) Drain potatoes, discard garlic and bay leaf. Add warm potatoes to buttermilk mixture and gently stir with rubber spatula until well-coated. Cover and refrigerate if not serving right away.
Makes 8 servings: 130 calories, 4 grams fat
I would never have thought to use buttermilk for a potato salad dressing, but it really worked well! With the other ingredients, it really tasted like it was a mayonnaise-based dressing. I was really impressed. There was too much celery for my tastes, but that's easily altered. I highly recommend this one if you like potato salad, but are trying to be healthier too. Also, I only made a half batch of this, and it was just fine. Some recipes don't divide very well, but this one did.
Perhaps Calpurnia sensed that my day had been a grim one: she let me watch her fix supper. "Shut your eyes and open your mouth and I'll give you a surprise," she said.
It was not often that she made crackling bread, she said she never had time, but with both of us at school today had been an easy one for her. She knew I loved crackling bread.
Crackling, most often pronounced without the G at the end, is simply cornbread with cracklings added to it. What are cracklings, you may ask? If you're unfamiliar with traditional Southern cuisine, or have never read the Little House on the Prairie books, you may have never heard of this food before. Cracklings are the pieces left after frying up chopped salt pork. What is salt pork, you are now asking? Well, it's salted pork belly. It's the same cut of pork that bacon comes from, the only difference is, it hasn't been smoked. Salting food was a common way of making it last through the long autumn and winter months before proper refrigeration and freezing was available.
These are the cracklings I made last night. They don't taste the same as bacon. You can substitute bacon, but it isn't the same experience. Cracklings are very salty, but not at all smoky. They smell very different from bacon when you cook it. It takes longer to render than bacon, but be patient and keep stirring them as they cook. They will get there eventually.
This recipe comes from an article I found in the Chicago Tribune. I will share the link in the sources section, and do check it out. It has several other recipes available, all from foods mentioned in To Kill a Mockingbird. I will paste the recipe here from the article.
1 cup finely diced salt pork
2 eggs, beaten
3 cups yellow cornmeal
2 1/2 cups buttermilk
2 eggs, beaten
3 cups yellow cornmeal
2 1/2 cups buttermilk
1/3 cup lard, melted
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon each: salt, baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Heat a skillet over medium heat; fry the salt pork until well-browned and crispy, about 10 minutes. Remove cracklings with a slotted spoon; drain.
2. Combine the eggs, cornmeal, buttermilk, flour, lard, water, salt, baking powder and baking soda in a large bowl; stir until thoroughly blended. Stir in the cracklings; scrape batter into a 13-by 9-inch buttered baking pan. Bake until golden brown, 25-30 minutes. Serve hot.
Nutrition information Per serving: 284 calories, 48% of calories from fat, 15 g fat, 5 g saturated fat, 44 mg cholesterol, 31 g carbohydrates, 5 g protein, 435 mg sodium, 1 g fiber
The only thing I did different from this recipe, was to substitute the lard with a plant-based oil instead. I had lard I could use, and I was even measuring it out when I changed my mind. With all the oil I was already using, and the salt pork in the recipe, and the fact that I had used lard in last week's blog post, I couldn't in good conscience use it when a healthier oil would work just as well. It turned out fine, but if you want to use the lard, by all means, go for it! Mine only needed the 25 minutes to be perfectly baked through. It makes a lot! If you don't have people to share it with, I suggest making a half batch. I don't think cornbread freezes very well. This one was really good too! I can see why it's a popular dish in the South.
There is the completed meal in all its glory. What a sight to behold. What a pleasure it was to eat. I wish I could eat like this every day, if only it wasn't so unhealthy!
This was a really fun experience. Cooking a meal based on an iconic novel set in a small town in the South, really helps to make you feel like you're there. You are stepping into a world not your own, and understanding what life was like there. If you have been thinking about rereading To Kill a Mockingbird or rewatching the movie, I recommend trying something like this. It enhances the experience that much more. It isn't a brand-new concept, trying foods based on a book or a movie, but it sure is fun!