Sunday, December 27, 2015

Dining-In: A Culinary Tour of America-Portsmouth, New Hampshire

The Location: Portsmouth, New Hampshire
2013 population: 21,440; 88.5% white, 3.9% Asian, 3.9% Hispanic. 2013 per capita income: $40,437

Prior to the European invasion, Portsmouth had been home to the Abenaki and other Algonquian language-speaking tribes. Martin Pring is the first recorded European to explore the area in 1603. By 1630, Europeans were colonizing the area. A British fort, Fort William and Mary, was built near the village of Portsmouth, giving it added protection. Portsmouth is located on a river harbor that opens to the ocean, and is thus a strategic location for trading. Other industries included lumber, ship building, and fishing. By 1645, enslaved Africans were being used as a labor source. Portsmouth profited greatly from their role in the Atlantic Slave Trade.

The city was first incorporated in 1653. In 1679, it was named the capital of the colony of New Hampshire and also became a place of refuge for Puritan exiles from Massachusetts. In 1774, Paul Revere rode to Portsmouth and warned people that the British were on their way. During the Revolutionary War, the slaves helped defend the city from the British. Once the war ended, in 1779, a group of 19 slaves submitted a petition to the state asking them to abolish slavery in exchange for the role they had played in the state and the nation's freedom. The petition was ignored, but New Hampshire did eventually unofficially abolish slavery in 1783 when they changed taxation codes and reworded the state constitution. It was not officially abolished in writing, however, until 1857, when the state passed legislation that stated that a person's decent may not be used to deny them citizenship to the state. Though it wasn't until New Hampshire ratified the 13th Amendment on July 1, 1865, that it was truly and officially ended.

Portsmouth was incorporated as a city in 1849. Though President Lincoln toured through the state of New Hampshire, and the state sent soldiers to fight, the state itself was too far north to have had any battles fought on its soil. Though Portsmouth lost many men to the war, the city itself remained unscathed.

Today, there are many museums and historical buildings dedicated to preserving the early American history of Portsmouth. The city itself now is considered a politically liberal city with many colleges and universities. The publishing company, Heinemann USA, is located in Portsmouth. Portsmouth is home to a plethora of well-known names throughout history. A few recent names include: Ilene Woods, the voice of Disney's Cinderella, Brooke Astor, philanthropist, Samantha Brown of the Travel Channel, and Tom Bergeron, tv host.

The Food: New England Clam Chowder and Brown Bread

I couldn't not do New England clam chowder at some point in time with this blog project. It is so quintessentially New England that it would be criminal of me to neglect it. I know there are several types of clam chowder, but I wanted the traditional New England kind, with a dairy or dairy-like base and no tomato products in it. And soup needs bread, right? One of the most famous kinds of New England breads, is Boston baked bread, the brown bread with raisins, baked/steamed in a cleaned out metal can. But this isn't Boston and so I couldn't do that one. But I found a similar bread and made that one instead. The bread recipe comes from my own recipe collection, at this point in time, the source is unknown. The clam chowder recipe came from online.

Raisin Rye Bread
1 pkg. active dry yeast
1/4 cup water, 105-115 degrees
3/4 cup milk
1/3 cup molasses
1/4 cup butter
1 Tbsp. salt
1 Tbsp. caraway seeds
1 1/2 cups rye flour
2 3/4-3 cups white flour(I only needed the 2 3/4 and probably could have used less. I had to add a bit of water to get it to mix properly because it was too dry.)
1 cup raisins

1.) In a large mixing bowl, dissolve the yeast in the warm water.
2.) In a saucepan, combine the milk, molasses, and butter.
3.) Heat to lukewarm, 110-115 degrees. Pour into yeast mixture.
4.) Stir in the salt and caraway seeds. Beat in the rye flour and white flour with the raisins.
5.) Form a soft dough. Knead on a lightly floured board.
6.) Let rise in a buttered bowl, covered, until double in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours.
7.) Shape into a round loaf. Let rise on a buttered baking sheet, covered, for 30 minutes or until almost doubled. Slash the top.
8.) Bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes or until the bread sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.
9.) Let cool on a rack.
Makes one loaf, 16-20 slices
The bread was kind of tough to knead. I had to add water to it to get the flour to incorporate fully and I feel like it never rose as much as it was supposed to. In spite of all that, the flavor was fantastic! I bet you never thought that a caraway flavor would taste good with raisins, but it does! This is a nice, rustic bread that is good with lots of butter on it. I am going to try toasting a slice today and I bet it will be really great that way! This was super easy to make.

New England Clam Chowder-Dairy and Gluten Free
I have made the base for clam chowder in the past, when I worked in the restaurants I used to work at, but have never actually made it from start to finish before. I think it's a soup that people are intimidated by for some reason, but there is no reason to be. I wanted a recipe that was dairy-friendly and this one is! It's also gluten-friendly for those who need that. The original recipe that I will put in my sources section, has instructions for using canned and fresh clams. Because I used all canned, I will only write out the recipe the way I did it.

3 (6.5 oz.) cans chopped clams with liquid (Strain these with a strainer into a bowl. Keep the clams separated from the juice because you will add them at different points in the cooking process.)
1 (8oz.) can clam juice
3 strips bacon, chopped (I recommend freezing the bacon before chopping, it will make it so much easier.)
Olive oil, if needed (I ended up needing it, my bacon did not give off much fat.)
1 small onion, chopped
2 leeks (I used one large and it was enough.)
1 cup finely chopped celery, with leaves
2 Tbsp. sweet rice flour (Can use regular flour if gluten is not an issue for you. I had the rice flour on hand so I used it.)
1/2 cup white wine (I didn't have any on hand, but you'll note that sherry is listed as an optional ingredient in this recipe, at the end. I used it in place of the white wine at the earlier step instead.)
1/2 tsp. dried marjoram or thyme (I had marjoram on hand so I used it.)
1 bay leaf
1-1 1/2 cups almond milk or alternate to dairy milk of choice (I used coconut milk and it was wonderful in this. Not the kind from the can, the kind from the cardboard carton like you would use for cereal. You'll find it at the store in the same place as the almond milk. Probably the same brand too.)
1/4 cup sherry, optional

1.) Cut off and discard root ends and green tops of leeks. Slice leeks in half lengthwise, remove outermost layer and discard. Run leeks under water, separating layers to rinse out sand. Slice leeks thinly.
2.) Cook bacon in a large pot, until crisp. Remove bacon from pot and leave about 2 Tbsp. bacon fat in the pan or use olive oil to make up the difference, if there isn't enough.
3.) Add chopped leek, onion, and celery to the pot and saute over medium heat until tender, about 5 minutes.
4.) Add flour and wine and stir about 30 seconds. Working slowly at first to avoid lumps, stir in the clam juice and deglaze the pan. 

5.) Add potatoes, marjoram, bay leaf, and pepper. Liquid should cover the potatoes. If it doesn't, add water to cover, and bring to a boil.
6.) Reduce heat to simmer and cover, for 15 minutes, until the potatoes are tender. Remove the bayleaf and discard.
7.) Using an immersion blender, puree about 1/3 of the potato mixture. Mix in the almond milk, reserved bacon, and the clams, and heat back to a simmer. Add sherry, if desired.
This was fabulous! I am looking forward to reheating this tonight because you know how soup always tastes better the next day. I ate this with the bread and some potato chips and it was a perfect meal for a chilly winter night. The clams and clam juice weren't smelly, which is nice. If I had had Saltine crackers or some oyster crackers, that would have been a lovely addition to the soup.

Clam chowder is easy to find in canned form at the grocery store, or in restaurants, but it really is not hard to make from scratch. If you have always wondered what it's like to make, you really should try it out. It did not take long at all, I had much better control over what went into it, and it tasted delicious! If you want to try out a dish that screams "New England," this is it!

New England Clam Chowder Recipe

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Slavery in New Hampshire

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Dining-In: A Culinary Tour of America-Mankato, Minnesota

The Location: Mankato, Minnesota
2013 population: 40,641. 88.4% white, 3.7% African American. Per capita income: $24,330.

The region Mankato is part of was once home to different groups of Native Americans, and over time, when the East Coast began to be populated with more European Americans, the Native Americans were displaced and many ended up relocating in the Mankato area. European Americans also followed suit and began settling in the area in February of 1852.

Mankato as a city, was formed on May 11, 1858, by a man named Henry Jackson. Legend has it that the town was intended to be called Mahkato, the Dakota word for Greenish Blue Earth, but there was a clerical error, and it was entered as Mankato. The railroad came to Mankato in 1868, connecting it to the greater world and making it much easier to travel to and from.

"Fun" Fact: Mankato was the location of the largest mass execution in United States history. On December 26, 1862, the US Army executed 38 members of the Dakota tribe for their role in an uprising known as the Dakota War in 1862. 303 Native Americans had actually been sentenced to death, but President Lincoln pardoned all but 38.

You may be asking why I chose Mankato, out of all the cities in the state of Minnesota, why such a random, obscure town? Well, the answer is simple: Little House on the Prairie. Not the books, the tv series. Mankato was sort of the go-to town that the people on the show traveled to for trading and other business. And one of my rules in life is, if you can connect something to Little House on the Prairie, you do, no questions asked! And so, here we are!

The Food: Scandinavian Christmas
So, I have had a bad cold and was unable to do this blog project for two whole weeks. This set of food was actually scheduled for last week and I was going to take the food to a family gathering to share, but I was too sick to cook and too sick to attend the gathering. I was very sad to miss out, especially since one of the items was tied to a date. In the end though, I decided to do it this week instead and freeze the results to bring for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Lussekatter-Lucia Buns
December 13th is St. Lucia Day, and though St. Lucia is a Catholic saint, she is highly celebrated in the mostly-Lutheran Scandinavian countries. If you have ever seen drawings or pictures of blonde girls with wreaths and lit candles in their hair, this is it. Traditionally, the eldest daughter in the family dons the wreath and candles and serves her family Lucia Buns, which are a saffron-flavored and -colored sweet roll.

I have had this recipe for Lussekatter for years. Every year around Halloween, I pull out my holiday recipes and decide what I'm going to make for the year, for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Every year I pull out the recipe and I say, "I'm gonna make these finally!" and every year, I don't, and then I put it back till next year, where the ritual is repeated. When I started this blog project, I thought this would be a great opportunity to finally make these. And in keeping with the tradition, it fought me every step of the way. First off was getting sick when I was supposed to make them. I wondered if I should forget it, yet again, and put the recipe away for another year. But then I decided that I am neither Scandinavian, Lutheran, nor Catholic, so what the heck did it matter if I did it on the proper day or not? So, I did it, a week late, but I did it! And then there was preparing to make it. When you bake, one of the most important things to do is get your mis en place, this is a French term that basically means "getting your sh-- together". You make sure you have all the stuff you need before you get too far into the process and find out something's missing and your project is ruined. I had just gotten back from the store with ingredients for my other recipe, yet did not look at the ingredients for this one. Of course, it turned out I didn't have enough yeast, so back to the store I went and bought yeast. Then I was able to get started!

Traditionally, these buns have saffron in them, but if you can't find it or afford it, you can use turmeric instead. This particular recipe does not have either in in, but as a nod to it, I added a pinch of turmeric to the egg wash I put on the tops before baking to turn it a bit yellowish. If I had thought of it ahead of time, I would have added it to the milk and let it color the entire dough itself, which is how it's supposed to be done.

Here is the recipe:
3/4 cup milk
2 pkg. dry yeast
1/2 cup lukewarm water
2/3 cup sugar
5 cups flour, sifted(I did not notice this part, I would definitely sift it)
1/2 cup softened butter
2 eggs
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cardamom
1/4 cup seedless raisins(You need two per roll, so a total of 64)
1 egg white, beaten slightly with 1 Tbsp. cold water(I used the whole egg after realizing it should be a yellow dough, I added a pinch of turmeric too. It worked pretty well, I think.)

Scald milk and cool to lukewarm. Add yeast to lukewarm water and mix until yeast is dissolved. Add milk, sugar; mix well.

Add two cups flour and beat until smooth. Add butter, egg, salt, and cardamom. Beat to well mixed. Gradually add in the remaining three cups of flour until well-incorporated. Turn out on a floured board. Knead to smooth and elastic. Place in bowl. Let rise until double in bulk. Punch down and repeat.(Note, I did not repeat, I went directly to the next step. I have never heard of a bread dough where you let it rise and punch it down two times before moving on to the formation and final rise step. You can try it and see what happens, but I can't vouch for it...)

Divide dough into 32 pieces. Roll each piece until about 16" long. Cut in half. Place two side-by-side and curl up ends. (As usual, I didn't actually really read the recipe as I went along and didn't do this. I rolled each piece out as much as I could and then rolled it up into a sort of S shape, making 32 rolls. This is possibly why they came out a bit on the dry side, because they were too small.) Place raisins in curl.

Cover-let rise until double. Brush with egg white and bake at 350 degrees for 11-12 minutes.

The cardamom flavor in these rolls is amazing! I really love the flavor of cardamom, it's a nice change from cinnamon. It's a prominent flavoring in Scandinavian cooking and baking. I like to think about the history of food and these buns are a good example. How do cardamom and saffron, spices from Asia or the Middle East, make their way to the northernmost parts of Europe? Why, the spice trade of course! You can see the geography and history sitting right there in the roll, and you can taste it as you eat it. Portable, edible history is always the best kind, I think.

The next recipe is a Christmas cookie recipe I have also had for a very long time but never tried. I decided it fit in very well with the buns and the theme of the blog meal. There is an icing for these cookies, but I did not make it yet. Since I froze the cookies to take to Christmas Eve and Day, I will make the icing fresh and put it on the thawed cookies. They were pretty awesome even without it, though!

Scandinavian Almond Bars-Source: Taste of Home Magazine

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 egg
1/2 tsp. almond extract(I have to thank the tall man at the grocery store for reaching to the very back of the top shelf for the almost extract, or I would have been stuck with the imitation stuff!)
1 3/4 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. milk
1/2 cup sliced almonds, chopped(These are so thin you can actually crush them in your hand and not need a knife and cutting board to chop these up)
1 cup powered sugar
1/4 tsp. almond extract
1-2 Tbsp. milk

In a mixing bowl, cream sugar and butter; beat in egg and extract. Combine dry ingredients; add to creamed mixture and mix well. (The recipe does not call for chilling the dough, but I do think this type of dough would benefit well from it. If I was to make this recipe again, I would chill the dough.)

Divide the dough into fourths; form into 12"x3" rectangles. Place 5" apart on greased baking sheets. Brush with milk; sprinkle with almonds.

Bake at 325 degrees for 18-20 minutes or until firm to the touch and edges are lightly browned. (I found 18 was too much and the first batch was a bit overdone. I did 15 minutes for the second batch and it turned out better. 14 would probably have been best.) Cool on pans for 5 minutes, then cut diagonally into 1" slices. (I found mine stuck to the pan, use a spatula and carefully remove each rectangle to a cutting board ASAP.) Remove to wire racks to cool completely. Combine icing ingredients; drizzle over bars.

Makes: About 4 dozen

These have a texture akin to biscotti, and I thought it could have stood to have a bit more almond flavor. Next time I would double the amount of extract I used to help bring that flavor out a bit more. I am also curious to see what the icing will do to the flavor. I am not generally an icing person, but it will add more almond flavor, so I'll try it out.

Though neither of these recipes turned out perfectly, I really had fun making them, and that's all that really matters. I would make them both again, with the small changes that I think would make them even better. If you are of Scandinavian descent or just enjoy the cuisine, I highly recommend both of these! You can have St. Lucia buns next December 13th!

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