Tag Archives: Susan

DILLY BREAD

This recipe came as a wedding gift. It was given to Susan by Mrs. Murray, the wife and mother of the family with whom I lived for a while during professional school. Mrs. Murray was a good baker, but dilly bread was one of her specialties. I asked her for the recipe every time she made it, but she always declined or “forgot.” It was an old family secret, she explained, but when Susan and I were married, she gave Susan an index card with the hand-written recipe inscribed on it. She presented the card with great flourish and the admonition not to pass the instructions along as it was a real family secret. For a few years, Susan honored the request until she was asked to contribute a recipe to a fund-raising collection that was being assembled by the Housestaff Wives’ Club! (Do they even have such a thing these days? And it is probably called Spouses’ Club.) In any event, Susan inadvertently omitted a key instruction about letting the bread dough rise. If one is a baker, one would probably have figured that out, but many in the group of newly- and recently-wed women did not. They accused Susan of intentionally leaving out key instructions. That’s what some home cooks, protecting their prowess and their secrets, did in those days. Susan has never again contributed a recipe to a cookbook project.

I believe that Mrs. Murray’s family recipe may not have been as old as she suggested.  The Pillsbury Company sponsored an annual Bake-Off® * which was very popular with home cooks in the 1950s and 1960s. The events were always held in big cities, and the winners took away a lot of prizes including cash, new stoves, and mixers. Leona Schnuelle was declared the Grand Champion at the 1960 Bake-Off® in Washington, D.C., with her recipe, “Dilly Casserole Bread.” The win must have been very exciting for Mrs. Schnuelle who lived on a farm near Crab Orchard, Nebraska, a town of around 40 southeast of Lincoln. In my efforts to track down the dilly bread history, I keep coming back to Mrs. Schnuelle, so I guess she must be considered the inventor of dilly bread. I say that with a little uncertainty because dilly bread has been described as “Amish dill bread”, and there are others who claim invention. All of the claims that I have found come after 1960, so in my opinion Mrs. Schnuelle can still claim inventorship.

This recipe has several differences from the original prize winner. It uses fresh onion instead of dehydrated onion; amounts of ingredients have been doubled; a brief kneading has been added; and loaf pans are used for baking instead of a casserole. You will note that I have included instructions for rising. The cottage cheese may retard rising, so it might take longer than with regular bread. Be careful not to kill the yeast with too-hot water, as I did in one try for the blog.  In spite of all these changes, it is basically the same recipe as Mrs. Schnuelle’s, and the end result is the same – tender, delicious, fragrant bread that you might wind up eating at one sitting.

*Pillsbury is trying to resume the event in cooperation with Rhee Drummond and the Food Network. Deadline for entries was November 10.

RECIPE

Dilly Bread

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • ¼ cup finely chopped onion
  • 2 envelopes active dry yeast
  • ½ cup warm water (105-115°F)
  • 2 cups small curd cottage cheese
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons dill seed + some to sprinkle on top before baking
  • 2 teaspoons dill weed (If you like, substitute finely chopped fresh dill fronds)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 5 cups all-purpose flour
  • melted butter
  • Kosher salt

Method

  1. In a small pan, melt butter over medium-low heat. Add the chopped onion and cook slowly until translucent. Do not allow to brown. Set aside to cool.
  2. In a large bowl, add warm water and sprinkle the yeast. Stir until completely dissolved and let stand for 5 minutes.
  3. Add the cooked onion, cottage cheese, sugar, salt, baking soda, dill seed, and dill weed. Mix thoroughly. Then stir in the eggs until they are fully incorporated.
  4. Add the flour, a cup at a time, mixing it thoroughly after each addition. Use a large spoon for mixing at first, but as the dough becomes stiff, use your hands to mix in the flour. When the flour is completely incorporated, knead the dough for about 5 minutes until it is smooth and elastic. If the bowl is large enough, you may knead the dough in it. You can also knead the dough on a floured surface.
  5. Wash, dry, and oil the mixing bowl. Return the kneaded dough to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and place in a warm place to rise until doubled in size, about 1 – 2 hours.
  6. Punch down the risen dough. Divide in half and shape into smooth loaves. Put the loaves in two well-greased  9 inch x 5 inch bread pans. Cover and let rise for the second time in a warm place until doubled in size. The dough should just about reach the edge of the pan. Immediately before putting them in the oven, brush the tops of the loaves with melted butter, and sprinkle with dill seeds and Kosher salt (I use Welsh smoked sea salt – Halen Môn – but any coarse salt will do.)
  7. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 350°F for about 50 minutes or until the loaves are well browned and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. Turn out of the pans and cool on a baking rack.
Advertisements

4 Comments

Filed under Food, Photography, Recipes

SLOW COOKER BRISKET

I have written about the family recipe for braised brisket before. The previous time, two years ago, I combined it with latkes in honor of a family celebration. This time, I have modified the recipe for the slow cooker. That requires essentially no modification, the difference being that you braise a smaller brisket in a slow cooker rather than a larger brisket in the oven. It works just as well, and the results are always the same. Cheers go up from the crowd when the brisket is sliced, and no one needs encouragement to go back for seconds. That’s the same reaction Sarah gets when she does a brisket for family meal in whichever restaurant she might be cooking.

A good friend of Susan shared the recipe over 50 years ago. That was an act of regard and true friendship, because the recipe had been passed down in that family for years and, in the custom of the day, was considered to be a “family secret”. Actually, that’s how we treated the recipe for many years.

There are only a few rules to follow in preparing brisket by this method.

First, you will need to have the butcher cut the brisket to order, as a whole brisket is way too large to fit in the usual slow cooker. If your pot is smaller, you probably only need a 2-pound piece.  If the pot is larger, a 3-pound piece is a good size. That presents the problem as to what to tell the butcher. One end of a full brisket is called the “first cut” or “flat cut”. The meat is leaner and may require longer braising. The other end has more fat and is called “second cut” or “point”. During braising, the fat will render and the remaining shards of meat will be tender and can easily be shredded.

Second, it is important to marinate the brisket over night. This recipe uses a marinade that includes liquid smoke and is then used as the braising liquid. If you have your own favorite marinade, by all means use it.

Third, lower is better, and so is slower. It is hard to get the temperature too low although you shouldn’t try for anything lower than 170°F. Keep in mind that you will need to cook the brisket longer the lower the temperature. At 170°F you should plan on at least 12 hours cooking.  If the cooking is not long enough, the meat will be done but not as tender as you might like. Fortunately, it is hard to ruin the brisket by cooking it too long.

When you are ready to serve the brisket, let it rest on a cutting board for 5 minutes and then slice it thinly on the diagonal with the grain of the meat and with a 45° angle with the cutting board. It should be fork-tender. Shred it, using two forks, if you prefer.

RECIPE

Slow Cooker Brisket

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons liquid smoke
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1 teaspoon onion salt
  • 1 teaspoon celery seed
  • 2-3 pound brisket
  • salt and pepper to taste

Method

  1. Combine the liquid smoke, Worcestershire sauce, and seasonings in a metal pan. Add the brisket, and cover with aluminum foil.  You can use a large zippered freezer bag if you prefer. Marinate overnight in the refrigerator, turning occasionally.
  2. Place the marinated brisket in a slow cooker large enough to hold it flat. Cover. Set the cooker on LOW (about 200°F in my slow cooker) or SIMMER (about 185°F in my slow cooker) and cook for at least 10 hours, turning frequently during the cooking process.
  3. When the brisket is done to your satisfaction, remove from the oven to a cutting board. Let rest for 5 minutes. Then slice on a diagonal with the grain of the meat. Serve immediately.

4 Comments

Filed under Food, Photography, Recipes

RECENT FAMILY FEASTS AND HOMEMADE ROLLS

The holidays of spring are nearly over, and I have been eyeing my bathroom scale with disbelief. My son and his family were in SoCal this past week because of a family situation that did not foster celebration. They’re back in the Bay Area with the plan to observe a family Seder last night. Carol invited us to her house for a feast on Sunday. And a feast it was! I spent several days making gravlax along with a Swedish dill-mustard sauce from a recipe of a dear, old-time friend. That, along with garlic crostini, deviled eggs (some stuffed with shrimp), and olives, made the appetizers for our Happy Hour on the patio while watching the sun go down over the ocean. Why wouldn’t you like Southern California?

But that was only a modest prelude to the meal that lay ahead. Here’s the menu:

  • roasted leg of lamb
  • stuffed mushrooms
  • rice pilaf with currents and hazelnuts
  • fresh green peas, snap peas, and watercress sprouts
  • Moroccan carrots

Susan made two contributions to the meal. First she made a batch of rolls from her mother’s recipe. Over the years we had had them at many meals on the farm when there weren’t biscuits. They were always popular – and delicious. She also made coconut cupcakes at the request of one of the young folks. Then they decorated them with frosting, shredded coconut and nerds (I lost points when that was the only candy I could find at the store, but they actually turned out to be a positive addition to the final version.)

Carol has a very large collection of cookbooks, and she is always looking for different versions of common foods along with unusual foods. Over the years she has gradually brought her whole family out of the doldrums of eating only meat and potatoes. She also always puts her own twist on the recipe.  I’m not sure of the source recipes of several of the dishes, but I know that the Moroccan carrots came from Amanda Hesser’s The Essential New York Times Cookbook (W.W. Norton and Co, New York, 2010) The dish is delicious, and Carol used a mix of various colors of carrot to create a stunning visual effect. The same thing was true with a dish of fresh green peas and snap peas. The recipe called for pea tendrils, but my son-in-law struck out looking for them in several stores, and the farmers’ market was closed for Easter. Carol, always innovative, substituted watercress sprouts. IMHO the substitution improved the dish.

Kevin had bought some special wine for the occasion, and I contributed a bottle of Klinker Brick old vine zinfandel from last year’s visit to Lodi.

Needless to say, it was a very special and memorable family evening.

Here’s the recipe for Mom Mom’s homemade rolls.

RECIPE

Mom Mom’s Homemade Rolls

Ingredients

  • ½ cup sugar
  • 6 tablespoons vegetable shortening
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/3 cups milk
  • 1 package dry yeast
  • ½ cup lukewarm water
  • 2 eggs
  • 6½ cups all-purpose flour

Method

  1. Place sugar, shortening, and salt in a large bowl.
  2. Scald milk and pour over ingredients in bowl. Stir until mixed, and let cool.
  3. Dissolve yeast in water.
  4. Beat eggs lightly and add to yeast mixture. Then add these ingredients to the cooled milk mixture.
  5. Beat in the flour to form a smooth dough. Allow to rise until doubled (about 2 hours) or refrigerate for later use.
  6. Shape into rolls and place in greased muffin pans. Let rise again until doubled.
  7. Bake in a preheated 350°F oven for 15-20 minutes or until browned to your liking

Makes 36 medium rolls

Cook’s Note: The easiest shape is to cut out circles with a biscuit cutter and place them in the pans. You can make fancier shapes by rolling balls of dough between your palms; clover leaf rolls with three small balls dipped in melted butter and placed 3 to each cup; fan-tans with 5 or 6 layers of rolled-out dough separated with melted butter and cut into squares; Parker House with flattened balls of dough with an off-set crease cut across them, topped with melted butter, folded on the crease,  and baked on a greased cookie sheet.

4 Comments

Filed under Food, Photography, Recipes

THE FERRY BUILDING FARMERS MARKET

Susan and I have been making the Great California Loop away from a computer for over two weeks, child tending in all of our children’s houses. That doesn’t mean that we have not had some good food adventures along the way. Over the next several posts, I will describe some of those experiences.

Chefs chatting in front of the Ferry Building

And what better place to begin than San Francisco’s famous Ferry Building Farmers Market? The Saturday edition is the most popular and crowded. It is a big-city street fair with buskers a-plenty, kids on skate boards, families with babies in strollers, and lots of tourists. If you watch carefully you can see some of the best known chefs in the city shopping for their weekend menus and visiting with one another. The main reason for the market’s popularity is the amazing cornucopia of the freshest Northern California food products, and this time of the year the choices are simply amazing.

Sweet peas

Sweet Williams

We  were in a celebratory mood because Sarah and Evan finalized the contract for their new restaurant space just before we headed to the market. Sarah thought we needed to be festive so our first stop was in the bank of flower stalls at the front of the building. The fragrance of the sweet peas attracted us, and Sarah bought an armful of blossoms of all hues.

Asian pears

We passed up the Asian pears and other fresh fruits because we had already opted for fresh-churned ice cream for dessert.

Choose your asparagus

Next stop was the asparagus stall. There were bundles of thick, medium, and thin stalks arranged in orderly rows. The abundance made it hard to choose, but we finally settled on three bundles of beautiful, thick, fresh stalks before moving down the row of vendors.  Fresh dill, thyme, and oregano all made it to our shopping bag.

Beautiful vegetables

Mushrooms! Baskets filled with all varieties of the tasty fungi. Criminis, whites, Portobellos, oysters, shitakes, and my favorites – lion’s manes. There were some giant royal trumpets, but we chose a basket of the most beautiful small-size trumpets.

New potatoes

New potatoes in all colors, sizes, and shapes – a good choice for smashed potatoes.

Hog Island Oyster Company

Hog Island Oyster Company  http://www.hogislandoysters.com is one of the landmarks of the market. We often go to their restaurant for fresh oysters or clam chowder, but today we went to their food stall. They had choices of small and large local sweet oysters-in-the-shell and some crenelated beauties from British Columbia. Sarah got a dozen each of the small sweets and the BCs.

Sarah at the Prather Ranch shop

Then we went inside the Ferry Building to the Prather Ranch stall   http://www.pratherranch.com where we found some juicy lamb shanks.

Chilaquiles

A little more shopping for green garlic to braise with the lamb shanks and some baby cucumbers to turn into a salad. Then, with shopping finished we stopped off for an early lunch. There were all sorts of choices including fried chicken, porchetta sandwiches, and lots of Mexican food. We settled on plates of freshly made chilaquiles to eat al fresco on a make-do seat along a planter wall. Evan loaded up his supply for the restaurant, and Sarah and I packed ours up for what looked like a feast that evening.

Leave a comment

Filed under Food, Photography

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE? SOME SAY TURKEY, I SAY DRESSING

Thanksgiving for nearly every American family is a special holiday where grandparents, parents, children and often more distant relatives and friends gather around a bounteous table to share fellowship and a delicious traditional meal. The meal has become almost ritual, and each family table is filled with particular foods that absolutely must be there. There is usually the roasted turkey, although in recent years more and more families are substituting roast beef, ham or some other protein. Then there are mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes with miniature marshmallows on top, dressing or stuffing as the case may be, gravy, cranberry relish, and green bean casserole made with canned mushroom soup and canned fried onion rings.  All of this is followed with both pumpkin and pecan pie with lots of whipped cream. (How can one possibly choose – so of course you need “a little sliver” of both!)

One of our family traditions is creamed onions. No one eats them, but the whole family complains if the onions are not on the table.  What nobody complains about is the bread dressing. The recipe came from Susan’s aunt who used to visit the family around Thanksgiving-time and always brought good food and new recipes from Delaware. Her dressing  has been an all-time hit so that we always double and usually triple the recipe to have plenty to eat with leftover turkey the next day. I suspect that she got her recipe out of a newspaper or magazine, because I have seen a lot of similar though not identical recipes since then. Still, this is a family heirloom which has to be made exactly the same every year.

Our family Thanksgivings have been both days of joy and family happiness (There are three birthdays in November) as well as days of sadness when one of the clan has been diagnosed with a serious illness or when a loved one is no longer at the table.  The day can also be one of discouragement for the cook or cooks who have been baking and preparing for days ahead. They often arise before dawn on the big day to put the finishing touches on the meal. Hours of hard work, sweat over a hot stove, and attention to details all seem to be for nothing when everyone sits down, only to have the meal disappear in a few minutes. That’s so folks won’t miss a minute of the football games on television or conversations around the fire. Mountains of dishes still have to be done by the kitchen crew.

Cubed French bread

Crumbled corn bread

This year we are doing things differently. We will be going to the dining room of a local hotel where they will serve a traditional turkey dinner ending with a huge buffet of desserts. When everyone has eaten his or her fill, the leftovers get packaged up to take home for the next day. No hot work in the kitchen and no dishes to clean up. Everyone seems happy including the usual cooks.

Ready to eat

Still, we will miss AA’s all-time best bread dressing. We might even make some beforehand to make sure we have it on Friday.

RECIPE

AA’s All-Time Best Bread Dressing

Ingredients

5 Cups cubed French bread

5 Cups crumbled cornbread

1/2 Cup butter

3/4 Cup minced onion

1/2 Cup minced green pepper

1/2 Cup minced celery

1 chicken bouillon cube

2/3 Cup hot water

1/2 pound bulk sausage

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning

2 eggs,beaten

3/4 Cup chopped pecans

  1. The day before, cut French bread into 1/2 inch cubes and spread them out to dry overnight.  In a separate pan, crumble the cornbread and spread it to dry overnight.
  2. In a large, heavy skillet, saute the onion, green pepper, and celery in the butter until tender.
  3. Place the bread cubes and crumbled corn bread in a very large container.  Dissolve the bouillon cube in the hot water and sprinkle over the dried breads. Stir in the sautéed vegetables.
  4. Using the same skillet, saute the sausage until browned and finely divided. Set aside.
  5. Add the salt, pepper, poultry seasoning, eggs, and pecans to the crumb mixture. Stir in the sausage and pan drippings and mix well.
  6. Bake in a large greased pan, covered, at 325 for 30 minutes. Uncover and continue to bake for an additional 15 minutes or until the top is nicely browned.

Yield: Enough for 6 to 8 with no leftovers

Leave a comment

Filed under Food