Saturday, August 30, 2014

Lyonnaise Potatoes

I picked up a 1959 edition of the Farm Journal's Country Cookbook at an estate sale a couple of weeks ago.  The book looks to be unused, except for the potato section, which includes a note that reads, "I used this book for potato soup." 

Lacking the dustcover, the front isn't particularly photogenic

I had a few extra baked potatoes leftover from meatloaf night and rather than just reheat them as baked potatoes, I decided to make Lyonnaise potatoes. Well, I was originally just going to fry them, but 'Lyonnaise' sounds so much more impressive than 'fried taters'.

It wasn't until after I started chopping that I noticed that the potatoes were supposed to be raw. Oh well, it's just a head start, right? I also didn't have pimientos, but I did have Anaheim chiles from the garden, so I used those. And instead of shortening or oil, I used bacon grease (because I am from Texas). Aside from changing three ingredients out of six total, I followed the recipe exactly! 

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Mmm, onions and peppers cooking in bacon grease - a heavenly aroma!

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Golden brown flecked with red and green. And leftover meatloaf pan-frying in the background.

Lyonnaise Potatoes (Printable Recipe)
from the 1959 edition of the Farm Journal's Country Cookbook

1/4 cup shortening or oil (or bacon grease!)
4 cups raw potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2" cubes (or diced leftover cold potatoes)
1 small onion, chopped fine
1 teaspoon salt
4 pimientos, chopped (or fresh peppers of your choice)
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

Heat shortening in a skillet over high heat.  Add potatoes, onion and salt.  Cook until potatoes are almost tender.

Add pimiento and parsley.  Mix carefully.  Cook until potatoes are golden brown.  Serve at once.

Makes 4 servings.

Oh dear.  I had to edit this post after I published it because, much like Dan Quayle, I misspelled 'potatoes' in the title.  Oops!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Walnut Squares

I wanted to make something small  (translation: not many leftovers) for coffee at my mom's house this weekend.  After looking at what felt like every bar cookie recipe ever written, I decided on Walnut Squares, from the 1950 edition of Betty Crocker's Picture Cook Book.

My copy of this book is a reproduction from the mid-1990s, but I taught myself to bake using my mom's well-loved original.

While the description in the book caught my eye, "Almost rich and nutty,"  the fact that it called for an 8x8" pan was what sold me on it.  I don't mind making and sharing a huge batch of sweets, but I hate to have the leftovers sitting around the house, taunting me.  Desserts can be so cruel.

After I started mixing everything, I realized that this recipe uses absolutely no butter.  No butter!  The horror!  I briefly considered throwing it away and making something different, but  I decided I should at least give it a chance.  I'm glad I did, because these bars were delicious!  The dough was very sticky and just barely covered the bottom of the pan, but it puffed up while baking and resulted in a dry, crispy top and bottom crust with a sticky, candy-like interior. 

Apparently I wasn't the only one who  liked them, because this was the only bar that came home with me.  Which is good, because I succumbed to the taunting only a few hours later.

Delicious, gooey, crunchy.  I wish I had extras now!

Walnut Squares (Printable Recipe)
from the 1950 edition of Betty Crocker's Picture Cook Book


1 egg
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup sifted flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon soda
1 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 325F.  Grease an 8" square pan (don't skimp on greasing - these bars are sticky!)

Beat the egg until foamy.  Beat in the brown sugar and vanilla.  Sift together the flour, salt and soda and stir into the egg mixture.  Mix in the walnuts.

Spread the dough in the prepared pan.  Bake until the top has a dull crust, 25 to 30 minutes.  Cut into squares while warm.  Cool, then remove from pan. 

Friday, August 8, 2014

Spinach a la Béchamel (or creamed spinach, in my language)

To prove that it's not all cookies and cakes around here, today we are serving spinach.  Spinach a la Béchamel, according to the 1951 copy of The New Fannie Farmer Boston Cooking-School Cook Book.

I became a fan of spinach when I planted my first vegetable garden at the age of twelve.  My mom bought me a few packs of seeds and I, having no idea what I was doing, planted every single seed.  The spinach was my greatest gardening success that year and we ate spinach every day for weeks. Prior to that, the only spinach I had tasted was canned and while I could choke it down, it wasn't exactly exciting.  Then I met creamed spinach.  We've been good friends ever since.

I took a few liberties with the recipe.  I minced a clove of garlic and sautéed that in the butter before adding the spinach, then I noticed that the next recipe in the book (Puree of Spinach, French Style) called for the spinach to be topped with almonds (which I forgot to sauté in butter first).  Since I was also baking something else, I put it all in a baking dish and baked it rather than cooking it on the stove for 5 minutes.

Spinach a la Béchamel (Printable Recipe)
slightly modified from The New Fannie Farmer Boston Cooking-School Cook Book (1951)

3 Tablespoons butter
1 clove garlic, minced
2 cups chopped, cooked spinach
1 tablespoon flour
pinch nutmeg
1/2 cup cream
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons sliced almonds (preferably sautéed in butter first)

Melt the butter in a skillet and sauté the garlic until it is fragrant.  Add the spinach and cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Season with nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste.  Sprinkle with the flour and then stir in cream.  Pour into buttered baking dish and top with almonds.  Bake at 350F for 15 to 20 minutes, or until hot and bubbling.

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Wouldn't those almonds look nice if they had been browned in butter first?

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Blueberry Buckle

I bought a huge container of blueberries about a week ago in anticipation of eating them with a little cream for breakfast, only to discover that they were a little on the tart side.  Okay, a lot on the tart side.  Rather than load them up for sugar for my daily breakfasts, I decided to transform them into something for our weekly tea and crumpets session (aka, Sunday coffee at my mom's house).

I thought about making a pie, but I didn't feel like making a cuss... I mean a crust.  I ran through a few other scenarios, but finally decided on a blueberry buckle, which is really just a nice coffee cake with blueberries and a crumb topping.  I turned to my handy dandy 1953 copy of the Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book which I rescued from an estate sale several years ago.  It is one of the more battered books in my collection, with its split binder and many loose pages.  To me that just means it was cherished, so I was happy to give it a new home. 

Blueberry Buckle (Printable Recipe)
from the 1953 Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book

Cake ingredients:
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 well-beaten egg
2 cups sifted flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla (not in the original recipe, but adds a nice touch)

Topping ingredients:
2 cups fresh blueberries (rinsed and dried)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup sifted flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup butter


Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease an 11.5x7.5x1.5" baking pan.

For the cake:
Thoroughly cream the butter and sugar.  Add egg and mix well.  Stir together the flour, baking powder and salt; add to creamed mixture alternately with milk, beginning and ending with the flour mixture.  Stir in the vanilla.  Pour the batter (it will be thick) in the greased pan and smooth. 

Sprinkle the blueberries over the batter.

For the topping:
Combine the sugar, flour and cinnamon.  Cut in the butter until crumbly.  Sprinkle over blueberries.

Bake at 350F for 45 to 50 minutes.  Cut into squares and serve warm.

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