250 Cookbooks: Extra-Special Crockery Pot Recipes

Cookbook #183: Extra-Special Crockery Pot Recipes, Lou Seibert Pappas, Bristol Publishing Enterprises, San Leandro, CA, 1975. A Nitty Gritty Cookbook.

Extra Special Crockery Pot Recipes cookbookI have 10 crock pot/slow cooker cookbooks! Crazy. I discussed the history of crock pots in a previous post: The Electric Slow Cooker Cookbook.

Extra-Special Crockery Pot Recipes is similar in design and layout to The Bread Machine Cookbook II, another “Nitty Gritty Cookbook”. These books are all about recipes – cleanly laid out and easy to follow.

I find lots of different ideas to try in Extra-Special Crockery Pot Recipes. The soups chapter includes the basics (French onion soup) and the slightly exotic (Caldo Xochitl). Next is salads. Salads in a slow cooker? At first I thought: cooked salads? But no, the recipes are for regular lettuce-type salads including leftover slow-cooked chicken or beef. I am often looking for “main dish salad” recipes in the hot summertime.

I’m not tempted by any of the recipes in the fish chapter – fish generally needs only a brief cooking. The poultry chapter includes the basics (poached chicken) and the unusual (Chicken and Cherries Jubilee). “Meats and Casseroles” has lots of ideas. It’s the longest chapter in the book, and I like a lot of the recipes: a wide range from the basic (Meat Balls Stroganoff) to the unusual (Choucroute Garni).

“Breads and Cakes”? Why bake bread in a slow cooker? “There are sometimes occasions when you may prefer not to heat the oven or perhaps you are at a location without an oven, when having a crockery pot makes baking possible.” I remember our relatively recent family reunion in California where the oven in the rental did not work, so we cooked a cake in the barbecue. But hey – we could have looked for a crock pot instead!
The fruits chapter gives recipes for cooked fresh fruit to be used in desserts or for breakfast. “Preserves” has a recipe for apple butter (already made it!) as well as orange marmalade and apricot pineapple jam and a couple chutneys. Beverages? Hot Spiced Cider, Swedish Glugg, and Hot Mulled Wine.

I decide to make Savory Swiss Steak for this blog. Wikipedia says “Swiss steak is meat, usually beef, prepared by means of rolling or pounding, and then braising in a cooking pot of stewed tomatoes, mushroom sauce, or some other sauce, either on a stove or in an oven.” That’s a pretty broad definition – and the recipe in Extra-Special Crockery Pot Recipes definitely falls within it. (I have made Swiss Steak for this blog before, but it was not a slow-cooked version.)

Savory Swiss Steak recipe

Round steak is a very lean meat (nice when you don’t want a fatty gravy) but it can be flavorless or tough. Hopefully this recipe makes it tender and tasty! I think I’ve tried this recipe before, since this page was marked when I pulled the book off the shelf.

Slow Cooker Swiss Steak
serves about 4

  • 1 1/2 pounds round steak
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 teaspoons dry mustard
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons butter (or less)
  • 2 tablespoons oil (or less)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 16-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons Worchestershire sauce
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • fresh parsley (optional)

Cut the round steak into about 6 pieces. Mix the flour, dry mustard, and salt and pepper. Heat a frying pan and add half of the butter and oil. Dredge the steak in the flour mixture, then fry in the hot butter/oil until browned. (You might need to do this in a couple batches, it depends on the size of your frying pan.)

Remove the meat from the fying pan and put it in the crock pot. Put the rest of the butter and oil in the hot (now empty) frying pan, then add the onion, carrots, and celery. Cook until the vegetables are “glazed” or softened. Add the tomatoes, Worchestershire, and brown sugar; heat, scrapping up the fond. Transfer the entire mixture to the crock pot.

Cover and cook on low about 6 hours, or until the beef is tender. Serve over noodles, mashed potatoes, or rice, with some fresh parsley sprinkled on top (if you have it).

Swiss SteakThis was excellent! I will make it again. Very tasty and the meat was very tender. There was enough for two meals for the two of us (I froze half for later use).

250 Cookbooks: Original Schlemmertopf Recipes

Cookbook #181: Original Schlemmertopf Recipes, Scheurich-Keramik, publication date not given.

Original Schlemmertopf Recipes cookbookA “Schlemmertopf” is a covered clay baking pot. I received my first clay pot as a gift sometime in the 70s. I wrote a lot of background material in Römertopf Cooking is Fun, so I won’t repeat that information here.

Original Schlemmertopf Recipes is the instruction/recipe booklet that came with my first clay pot (the one that broke long ago). Even though there is no publication date given, this booklet is obviously decades old. (I have a newer instruction/recipe booklet that came with my second clay pot.)

Both Romertopf and Schlemmertopf brands of clay pots are currently available. Each is made in Germany. A search for “which clay pot is best” pulled up a few sites that discuss clay pots and where to buy them, like the Kitchn site, but no reviews. Romertopf has a website, but Schlemmertopf does not seem to have one.

Originally, I used a Schlemmertopf for making stews and braising meats, as I discussed in Römertopf Cooking is Fun. In the 2000s, I bought a Schlemmertopf to replace my broken one, but I bought it mainly for baking crusty no-knead bread. The yummy pot roast that I cooked for  Römertopf Cooking is Fun was the first time I had used my new one for something other than bread.

Clay pots are a bit different to use than other types of covered cooking pans or casseroles. Never, ever can you use a clay pot on the range top, like when you want to brown meat or saute vegetables, or to make a gravy after the baking process. Before you start, you soak the pot in cold water, then you put the pot (with your food inside) into a cold oven (clay pots don’t do well with quick thermal change). Once in the oven, you can turn the temperature way up, even to 475˚. After cooking, removing the hot, heavy, covered pot from the oven can be difficult (and these pots break easily). If you want to make a sauce or gravy, you have to pour out the pan juices into a stove-top pan. Cleaning the pot usually requires an overnight soak in soapy water (no dishwasher for clay pots!).

So why use a clay pot? Because the results are juicy, well-browned, tastily braised meats.You don’t have to brown the meat before starting. The recipes cook faster than a slow cooker or even a typical oven braising. If you don’t make a gravy, it is a one-step process, just put the food in the clay pot and bake.

Since the pot roast that I cooked for Römertopf Cooking is Fun was such a success, I am looking forward to cooking another braised meat recipe from Original Schlemmertopf Recipes! I choose “Chicken Shanghai”, because I have a whole chicken in the freezer.

Chicken Shanghai recipe

I often roast a whole chicken in an open roasting pan; it will be interesting to compare/contrast the different cooking methods.

Chicken Shanghai
serves 3-4

  • 1 whole chicken, 3-4 pounds
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil (more if you like the flavor a lot)
  • 1 tablespoon dry sherry
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper (or use a little hot chili oil)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Chinese 5 spice powder
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon powdered ginger (or use freshly grated ginger)
  • 1-2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • cooked rice

Mix the marinade ingredients (everything except the chicken, cornstarch, and rice). Put the chicken in a bowl and add the marinade to it, rubbing some under the skin. Let stand at least 30 minutes, turning occasionally.

While the chicken marinades, soak the top and bottom of a clay pot in cold water.

(Leave your oven off!)

Pour the water out of the soaked clay pot and wipe it with a towel. Add the chicken and its marinade in the pot, cover, place in a COLD oven and turn the oven to 450˚. Bake for 90 minutes.

Carefully remove the clay pot from the oven and uncover. When cool enough to handle, remove the chicken to a plate and cover to keep warm. Pour the clay pot pan juices into a sauce pan and add 1-2 tablespoons cornstarch mixed with a little water. Boil this sauce until it thickens.

Slice the chicken and serve over rice with the sauce.

Shanghai Chicken

Comments

This chicken was extra-nicely browned! And unlike my other roast chicken recipes, the clay pot cooking method caused no oven splatter, since it is roasted covered. The meat was very juicy and moist. And the flavor was great, of both the meat and the sauce. We both loved it. I did think the sauce a bit salty (and I even left the added salt out of the recipe) and fatty; next time I might use a gravy separator before thickening.

I definitely will roast more chickens using a clay pot. I have a few of my own recipes I can adapt, or can look for others online, like this one using lemony thyme, sage and oregano. I am glad I have re-discovered clay pot baking – it definitely adds variety to my repertoire.

250 Cookbooks: Elena’s Famous Mexican and Spanish Recipes

Cookbook #179: Elena’s Famous Mexican and Spanish Recipes, Elena Zelayeta, Dettners Printing House, San Franscisco.

Elena's Famous Mexican and Spanish Recipes cookbook

Driving out of Boulder last week, I noticed a new Mexican grocery store. I wanted to go in! I love discovering small stores with interesting ethnic products. I used to get the best corn tortillas from a store in almost the same location. Makes me hungry for Mexican food. Time to pull another Mexican cookbook off my shelf!

And I have only one that I have not yet covered: Elena’s Famous Mexican and Spanish Recipes. I covered another of her cookbooks, Elena’s Secrets of Mexican Cooking, in one of my earliest posts. That book was published in 1958, and this one in 1944. Inside the back cover is the price it originally sold for: $1.50 from May Co. I think I bought it from a used book or junk store, way back when we lived in Boulder. But I am not sure. It could have been my mother-in-law’s – there is some writing in this book that might be hers.

The introduction to Elena’s Famous Mexican and Spanish Recipes is written by Elena’s friend Katherine Kerry, while the introduction to the (later) 1958 book is written by Helen Evans Brown. Her friends just loved her! If you read my other blog entry, you will learn that Elena lost her sight as an adult, but blindness didn’t stop her from cooking. That amazes me so much! Katherine Kerry writes of her friend’s book:

“This book of her own much-used recipes is just one expression of Elena’s love of people, her knowledge of how to make them happy. Each recipe is a shining star of courage, faith and hope, plus a full measure of gastronomic enjoyment for you who use them.”

“Elena is a bouncing ball of pep, gaiety, kindliness and heart – a heart so big it encompasses all she meets.”

Some of the recipes in Elena’s 1944 book were carried through to the later book – “because no book on Mexican cuisine could possibly be without them”.

The first chapter of Elena’s Famous Mexican and Spanish Recipes is “Sopas – Soups”. I learn that there are two types of soup in Mexico: wet and dry. Wet soups are liquid (plus meats and vegetables) and served at the beginning of the meal, dry soups are served next. Dry soups are rice or vermicelli cooked in soup stock, the stock being entirely absorbed in cooking, in effect making them more like our idea of seasoned cooked rice.

“Eggs, Glorified ways of serving them”, the next chapter, has at least one recipe I’d like to try: “Rice Nests with Egg”. In this recipe, bacon is wrapped around a small pile of cooked rice and secured with a toothpick, then topped with a raw egg and baked in the oven. I like this recipe for a couple reasons. One, it sounds good! And two, it illustrates Elena’s Mexican dishes. They are often simple home cooking, and barely our typical ideas of “Mexican” cooking.

Some of the salad recipes look very good, like an avocado salad with pineapple, oranges, fresh mint, lettuce and French dressing. Chiles Rellenos – green chiles stuffed with cheese, dipped in egg batter, deep fried, and served in a spiced tomato sauce – are in the vegetable chapter. I have made them Elena’s way for years! She suggests frying them the day before serving, an idea that might me prepare these delights more often. (Much easier than frying while your guests are there.) Fish, poultry, meats and beans each has its own chapter. (Some of the meats, like tripe, kidneys, rabbit, and pigs feet, I guarantee I’ll never cook.)

“Tortillas, Tacos, Tostadas, Enchiladas and other things made with masa” is the title of another chapter. Elena talks about treating a pan with “hydrated lime” when one makes homemade tortillas. Hydrated lime is not made from limes, instead, it is calcium hydroxide, and is used to help the masa bind together. All of her recipes that include masa (a type of cornmeal) call for purchasing it fresh from a Mexican store. I’m not sure this type of masa is still available, and I ran into problems when I tried making a tamale casserole using the bagged masa that is currently sold in US supermarkets. But in general, her recipes call for store bought tortillas, so it’s not a huge problem. She also mentions an item I’d like to find called “raspadas”, thin tortillas specially made for tostadas.

And last but not least, desserts! Flan, rum and macaroon pudding, Mexican bread and rice puddings, banana pudding, cookies (Little Drunkards sound interesting!), and turnovers are among the sweet recipes in this chapter.

Elena’s Famous Mexican and Spanish Recipes includes several pages of menus for Mexican meals. Below is a great example:

Mexican menus

I do like this cookbook and definitely will keep it. Lots of good recipes, information on historical Mexican cooking, and written by an interesting woman.

For this blog, I decide to make Carne Deshebrada, or Shredded Skirt Steak, Mexican Style:

Shredded Skirt Steak recipe

Usually when I make “shredded beef”, I braise a roast for a long time until it falls apart easily when shredded with a fork. In this recipe, the skirt steak is broiled just to medium rare – sounds like an interesting variation. I found it hard to “shred with a fork”, so I went back and forth using a fork and a sharp knife to shred/chop instead of following the directions. I couldn’t find a green bell pepper, so I used a red one. I like lots of fresh cilantro and garlic so I increased the amounts. And I added the green chiles as suggested. I preferred not to serve this “in soup plates and eaten with soup spoons”. Instead, I kept the meat a little drier by adding less water, and served the mixture in a corn tortilla with grated cheese and salsa.

Shredded Skirt Steak
serves 4

  • 1 skirt steak, about 1 1/2 pounds
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 large tomatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 1 green (or red) bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon chile powder (optional)
  • fresh cilantro, 1/4 cup chopped (or to taste)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 small can chopped green chiles

Cut the steak into several pieces and broil in an oven just until medium rare. Cool, then shred with a fork and a sharp knife.

Fry the chopped onions in a little oil until tender. Add the tomatoes, bell pepper, chile powder, cilantro, garlic, chiles, the shredded meat, and about 1/2 cup water. Salt and pepper to taste. Simmer about a half hour, adding a bit more water if needed to keep the mixture moist. Serve wrapped in tortillas with cheese and salsa.

Below is a photo of the skirt steak after I cooked and “shredded” it.

shredded skirt steak ingredientsAnd here is the pan of shredded beef and vegetables, ready to be served.

Shredded Skirt Steak

And how did it turn out? Wonderful! The skirt steak was so, so flavorful! A different experience than my braised style shredded beef. I used “Tortillaland” corn tortillas, half-cooked tortillas that heat up on a dry grill into soft but sturdy tacos. These tortillas were strong enough to stay together, even packed with shredded beef and fixings.

I made another meal using the leftovers by mounding the mixture and some grated cheese in thin flour tortillas, rolling them up, then browning in a big fry pan in a little oil just until all sides were browned. Then, I cut into bite-sized pieces and served with salsa and sour cream. Yum again.

250 Cookbooks: Cover and Bake

Cookbook #177: Cover and Bake, by the editors of Cook’s Illustrated, a Best Recipe Classic, America’s Test Kitchen, Brookline, MA, 2004.

Cover and Bake cookbook

I discovered my first Cook’s Illustrated magazine sometime in the early 2000s. This magazine has no ads – what a treat! I clipped and saved several recipes, then I subscribed to Cook’s Illustrated online. (It’s the only cooking magazine I subscribe to.) I ordered this book, Cover and Bake, and I use it a lot.

Christopher Kimball founded the enterprise that includes Cook’s Illustrated and America’s Test Kitchen, where they develop the recipes in their publications. This “Kitchen” is located in Brookline Massachusetts, and is where the TV show “America’s Test Kitchen” is filmed. Most of my friends who are into cooking love this show!

Cook’s Illustrated recipes always include a lengthy discussion. In their test kitchen, they try each recipe many different ways, and report on their findings. This appeals to my scientific side! Plus, when I follow the directions, the recipes always come out excellent. For instance, their recipe for pie crust taught me how to finally make a tender, easy-to-roll crust. I often browse the site for new ideas, or how to cook . . . anything! I also use their reviews of kitchen equipment to help decide on a new purchase.

The chapters in Cover and Bake are: Assemble and Bake (casseroles), Pot Pies and More, Oven Braises and Stews, Skillet Casseroles, Savory Side Dishes, Breakfast and Brunch, and Slow-Cooker Favorites. My favorite chapters are the pot pies and oven braises and the slow-cooker recipes. I have so many notes in this cookbook!

It will be easy to find a recipe to cook for this blog. I start flipping through the pages. What catches my eye is “Chili Mac”, from the first chapter, Assemble and Bake. I haven’t made many of the casseroles in this book, and it’s time to try one.

Chili Mac is an American comfort food, although I’ve never made it before. It even has its own Wikipedia entry. Briefly, it’s made with meat-bean chili, noodles, and topped with cheese. Sounds good to me!

Because of copyright issues, I am not scanning in this recipe. It’s a relatively recent publication, and the editors are still actively publishing. The original recipe is on pages 80-81 of the Cover and Bake. Page 80 is a two-column discussion of how they got this recipe “perfect”! Page 81 gives the recipe in 1 1/2 columns. This is the typical layout of Cook’s Illustrated recipes: not a fast food publication! I changed their recipe a bit (my adaptation is below).

Chili Mac: adapted from Cover and Bake, America’s Test Kitchen
makes a 9×13-inch casserole, enough to serve 8, depending on appetites

  • 8 ounces elbow macaroni
  • 3/4 cup reserved macaroni-cooking-water
  • 1 1/2 pounds hamburger (I used 90% lean)
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons finely minced garlic (4-8 cloves)
  • 2 tablespoons hot chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 14.5-ounce can diced tomaotes
  • 1 28-ounce can tomato sauce
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 8 ounces grated cheese, preferably “colby Jack” or a mixture of cheddar and Jack cheese

Cook the macaroni in salted boiling water until al dente. At my altitude of 5300 feet, this took about 10 minutes; it would take less time at sea level. (It’s important not to boil the macaroni too long, as it will continue to cook when the casserole is baked.) Before draining the pasta, reserve 3/4 cup of the pasta water; this will be used later when the casserole is assembled.

As the macaroni cools, cook the hamburger in a large pan or pot, salting to taste. (The original recipe recommends cooking the hamburger in a little oil; it’s up to you.) When the meat is cooked, drain it in a colander to remove (and discard) the fat. Set the meat aside.

Add a little oil to the now-empty pan and cook the onions, red bell pepper, garlic, chili powder, and cumin, stirring, until the vegetables soften and begin to turn brown (about 10 minutes). Add the diced tomaotes, tomato sauce, brown sugar, the 3/4 cup reserved pasta water, and the drained hamburger. Simmer 20 minutes.

Stir the cooked macaroni into the pot and season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour the mixture into a 9×13-inch rectangular casserole and sprinkle with the grated cheese. Bake at 400˚ for 15 minutes, or until the cheese is melted.

Chili MacOh yes, this was good! Yum!

I will definitely keep this cookbook. (And tucked inside is the little Rival Crock-Pot Cookbook that I mentioned in an earlier post.) With fall coming on, I am sure I’ll be back to Cover and Bake soon, looking for warm and hearty meal ideas.

250 Cookbooks: The Crockery Cook

Cookbook #173: The Crockery Cook, Mable Hoffman, Fisher Books, Tucson, AZ, 1998.

The Crockery Cook cookbookA crock pot has been a staple in my kitchen for a very long time. I have 10 crockpot cookbooks! I even have another cookbook written by Mable Hoffman, Crockery Cookery. (See my first crockpot blog entry for a little on the history of crockpots.)

I picked this book off the shelf because a long-cooking meal fit into my schedule one day. Lately I just use the crockpot to cook pots of pork green chile and shredded beef. Time to shake up our meal times with a new recipe.

The Crockery Cook is nicely formatted and illustrated, with a large variety of recipes. I think I could always find something to cook from this cookbook, so I decide to keep it. And for this blog? I decide to make “New-Style Pozole”.
New-Style Posole recipe

I like hominy, and the bacon should add a nice twist. I have some hot peppers (my daughter grew them!) in my refrigerator, and we like things hot, so I’ll add them to the pot.

It’s best to prepare this recipe the day before to allow time for cooling the pozole so that you can skim off the fat.

Crockpot Pozole
prepare the day before

    • 1 pound boneless pork, cubed
    • 1 pound chicken thighs (bone-in or boneless)
    • 2 slices bacon, chopped
    • 1 onion, chopped
    • 1 clove garlic, chopped
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 2 cups chicken stock
    • 1 teaspoon chili powder
    • 2 16-ounce cans hominy, drained
    • dried pepper flakes (1/4 teaspoon or to taste)
    • fresh hot chili peppers to taste, chopped (optional)
    • garnishes such as: cilantro, avocado, sliced radishes, chopped red bell peppers, chopped red onions, chopped tomatoes, paprika

Mix all ingredients in a crockpot and cook on low 6-7 hours or on high for 3-4 hours. Add water as necessary to keep it soupy. Check seasonings and add salt and peppers to your own taste.

Let the pozole cool, then remove the chicken thighs. Bone them (if necessary) and chop into small pieces.

Put the pozole in the refrigerator overnight, then skim any fat from the top. Re-heat and serve with garnishes of your choice.

Crock Pot Posole

This was good, but not perfect. I thought the hominy was overcooked, too mushy. I couldn’t decide if it was a soup or a stew, but that doesn’t really matter! We like our Mexican food spicy, so if I make it again, I’ll add more peppers.

I served it with grilled quesadillas and it was a satisfying meal.

250 Cookbooks: Southwestern Grill

Cookbook #171: Southwestern Grill, Michael McLaughlin, the Harvard Common Press, Boston, MA, 2000.

The Southwestern Grill cookbookI bought this cookbook for myself and have always enjoyed it. Such refreshing ideas! Grilling with spices and fresh ingredients. A pleasure after some of my aged cookbooks.

I grew up in the Southwest (southern California), and tacos and enchiladas were part of our everyday meals, especially from the time I was a teen. How did this author develop his own interest in southwestern-style foods? On Wikipedia, I learn that Michael McLaughlin was born the same year I was, in Wray, Colorado. He moved to New York and became a chef. There he met Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins, and helped them publish The Silver Palate Cookbook in 1983. This cookbook encourages homecooking with fresh ingredients, and has sold in excess of 2 million copies. (Why have I never heard of it? Sounds right up my alley.)

McLaughlin moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he owned a restaurant for a time. His interest and expertise in fresh foods and grilling expanded to include bright, spicy Southwestern flavors. He became a food writer for Gourmet, Bon Appetit, and Food & Wine magazines. McLaughlin authored (or co-authored) over 20 cookbooks. I was sad to learn he passed away in 2002.

McLaughlin writes about two “very good things” that happened in the 1980s-2000. First, grilling, “formerly a casual backyard art form, evolved into an accepted and respected cooking method.” And “second, the food of the Southwest escaped from its regional confines and swept like a mesquite brushfire across the country.” The two combined and now both chefs and home cooks grill southwestern dishes, full of heat, spice and savory smoke. “Grilling has grown up . . . liberally seasoned with a dose of the special magic that is the unique culinary contribution of the American Southwest.”

Here is a sampling of recipe titles, to give you an idea of the variety in this cookbook: Steak and Grilled Green Onion Quesadilla, Cafe Pasqual’s Grilled Salmon Burritos with Cucumber Salsa, Grilled Chicken Totopo Salad, Warmed Grilled Chile-Lime Beef Salad, Arracheras with Crunchy Vegetable Garnish, Heirloom Bean Salad, and Grilled Tequila-Cured Salmon with Mango Pico de Gallo.

Some recipes are a bit “out-there” for my own cooking, partly because I’m not sure I could get some members of my family to eat them, for instance: grilled cactus, grilled eggplant dip, and portobello mushroom burgers.

I like the Salsas, Sauces, and Condiments chapter a lot. For one, many of the recipes in this cookbook refer to this chapter for sauce/salsa/rubs recipes (for example, see the scan of the Grilled Fish Tacos recipe). And too, it allows the cook (me!) to be creative, adding a fresh salsa to “same old” tacos, for instance.

I am going to share a couple recipes that I love from this cookbook. I know, I usually try something new from a cookbook, but the rules are mine, and I can bend them! I have made the “Grilled Fish Tacos with Citrus Slaw” many times.

Grilled Fish Tacos recipeCitrus Slaw is a separate entry.

Citrus Slaw RecipeAnd so is the Lime Cream.

Lime Cream recipeI made these exactly according to the above recipes. And they were good, as always!

Fish TacosThank you Michael McLaughlin for this wonderful recipe! If you want to make them for yourself, pick up a copy of his book, or use my scans, above.

250 Cookbooks: Weber’s Real Grilling

Cookbook #169: Weber’s Real Grilling, Jamie Purviance, Sunset and Weber books, Weber-Stephen Products Co., 2005.

Weber's Real Grilling cookbook

Ages ago we had a covered Weber charcoal grill, then changed to a gas grill at some point in time. Today I consider a gas grill an essential component of my cooking equipment, summer, fall, winter, and spring!

I got Weber’s Real Grilling about six years ago, when we purchased our current Weber gas grill. I use this book a lot! It sort of flops open to “Basic Baby Back Ribs”, where I have several post-its pressed into place.

I highly recommend this cookbook. It taught me how to cook over direct and indirect heat on a gas grill, and how to set the temperature of the grill. If I want to know about rubs, or BBQ sauces, I go to this book first. If I want to know how long to cook a cut of meat, poultry, or fish, I go to this book first. The recipe chapters are: red meat, pork, poultry, fish, veggies and sides, and desserts. Each recipe has an accompanying photo that makes this amateur photographer envious!

The recipes offer a variety of seasonings: Rib-Eye Steaks with Tomato Harissa, Flatiron Steaks with Little Italy Relish, Sweet Chili-Mustard Chicken Salad with Toasted Almonds, Smoked Pulled Pork in Hot Chile Sauce, and Soft Tacos with Halibut, Guacamole, and South American Slaw are some examples. A fun range of ingredients and lots of fresh herbs and vegetables – I can always find a recipe to try in this book!

In September 2013 we were “stranded” at our home northwest of Lyons by a 500-year flood. Rushing water covered our only drivable way to civilization. Our power was out for a week in our all-electric home. We had no landline service. No cell phone reception. I am a packrat, so we had plenty of food, but how to cook? The Weber grill! That’s when I pulled out Weber’s Real Grilling and learned how to grill pizzas. They were wonderful!

For this blog I choose to make “Greek Chicken Salad Sandwiches”.

Greek Chicken Salad Sandwiches recipe

I like the seasoning mix for the marinade, and I like using chicken thighs sometimes instead of chicken breasts. Ever since our trip to Turkey, I’ve especially enjoyed Mediterranean-style food. Plus: pitas! It’s been ages since I’ve bought (or made) pita bread. For the “creamy cucumber or blue cheese dressing”, I will substitute a cucumber dressing that I have in my own cooking documents.

Greek Chicken Salad Sandwiches with Cucumber Dressing for Two

  • zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
  • 1/4 teaspoon granulated garlic (or use fresh garlic)
  • a few shakes each: dry mustard, cumin, coriander, salt, cayenne pepper
  • salt and pepper (to your own tastes)
  • 8-10 ounces boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 2 pita breads
  • lettuce and tomatoes
  • cucumber dressing: 1/2 cup plain yogurt, 1 tablespoon mayonnaise, 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, a couple leaves fresh mint (if you have it), and about a third of a cucumber, peeled, seeded, and finely chopped

Whisk together the marinade ingredients (lemon though the spices). Place the chicken thighs in a plastic bag and pour in the marinade. Close the bag and refrigerate 2-3 hours.

Combine the cucumber dressing ingredients and set aside.

Remove the thighs from the bag and discard the marinade. Grill over direct high heat until the meat is firm, 8-10 minutes, turning once or twice. Remove from the grill, and when cool enough to handle, chop the chicken into small pieces. Combine with enough of the dressing to coat the chicken and mix well.

Cut the pita breads in half. Open each half and fill with the chicken mixture, lettuce, and tomatoes and serve.

Comments

My cucumber dressing, pita pockets, marinated chicken, and the veggies:

Pita Sandwich ingredients

Here is an assembled sandwich

pita sandwiches

We both enjoyed these! The chicken in nicely seasoned and well complimented by the cucumber dressing. We had them for dinner on a hot summer day, but they’d be good for lunch too.

I’ve made chicken salad for sandwiches before, zillions of times. Usually I use boiled chicken. Marinating and grilling the chicken – for chicken salad? A great idea. Putting the salad in pita bread? Another great idea. Next time, I’ll probably cook the chicken ahead of time, since they are served at room temperature.

250 Cookbooks: M’sieur Crêpe Electric Crepemaker

Cookbook #163: M’sieur Crêpe Electric Crepemaker, Sunbeam Appliance Company, 1976.

M'sieur Crepe Crepemaker cookbook

This cookbook came from my mother’s collection. Someone must have given her a M’sieur Crêpe Electric Crepemaker back in the late 1970s. I was already on my own and living in Colorado by that time, and I don’t remember her ever talking about making crepes. She didn’t mark any of the recipes, but she stuffed a lot of crepe recipe clippings into this little instruction/recipe cookbook!

The M’sieur Crêpe Electric Crepemaker was a “dip and cook” type of crepemaker. It came with a hot plate, a pan that fit over it, and a large flat dish to hold the batter. To use this set up, first, you pre-heat the pan – inverted – on the hot plate. Then, take it off the hot plane dip the bottom (the outside) of the pan into the batter and hold it there for a few seconds. Finally, put the pan, again inverted, on the hot plate. In about a minute, the crepe bakes on the top of the underside of the pan. (Details at about.com.)

Below is a photo of the M’sieur Crepemaker that I pulled from the web. Unfortunately, I don’t have my mother’s crepemaker in my possession. It would be fun to try!

MSieur Crepemaker

You can no longer buy this Sunbeam M’sieur Crêpemaker, although I saw a few vintage ones for sale on a couple sites accessed June 2016. The Day, a New London, Connecticut paper, includes this crepemaker in a July 28 1976 article entitled “Versatile French crepes are latest food fad everywhere“. It cost $29.95. Dip-and-Cook crepemakers are available new: for instance, the CucinaPro cordless crepemaker for $35.99.

I am a big fan of crepes and have already posted several crepe-dish recipes on this blog. Last fall, we travelled to Paris and thoroughly enjoyed street crepes.

Crepe batters are made from eggs, flour, and milk or water, and often a little butter or oil. Some batters include sour cream, baking powder, cornmeal, whole wheat flour, sugar, and even chocolate. The exact ratios of these ingredients vary; French crepes are thin, some of the American ones I make are thick. I have a little 7-inch crepe pan that I use for everyday crepes. I have also made French-style crepes (a recipe from Cooks Illustrated) In a 12-inch skillet.

For this blog, I decide to try one of the recipes that my mother tucked into this booklet: Ham and Sour Cream Crepes.

Ham and Cheese CrepesHam and Cheese CrepesHam and Cheese Crepes

Ham and Sour Cream Crepes
serves 2

  • crepes (recipe follows)
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 3 green onions, finely chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese
  • 12 ounces chopped ham
  • 1/3 cup bread crumbs
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted

Mix the sour cream, green onions, and mustard. Sprinkle the cheese on the crepes. Top with ham, then spread a heaping tablespoon of the sour cream mixture on top of the ham. Roll the crepes and place in a baking dish.

Mix the bread crumbs and the melted butter and sprinkle this mixture on the crepes. Bake at 350˚ about 12 minutes, until golden brown.

Crepes
makes 6-8

  • 2 eggs
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Mix in a blender and let stand an hour or so. Use about 3 tablespoons batter to cook each crepe on a hot skillet or crepe pan. (More crepe-cooking instructions are here.)

These were indeed “very good”! I will definitely make them again. A good way to use leftover ham.

Ham and Sour Cream CrepesNote: Later in the week, I made chocolate crepes following a recipe in M’sieur Crêpe Electric Crepemaker. Filled with fresh strawberries and whipped cream and drizzled with chocolate sauce, they too were delicious!

250 Cookbooks: Cooking of Japan

Cookbook #161: Cooking of Japan, Rafael Steinberg and the editors of Time-Life Books, Time-LIfe Books, NY, 1969. Foods of the World series; sixth printing, revised 1976.

The Cooking of Japan cookbook

Once again, I look forward to discovering another interesting author as I open this Foods of the World cookbook, just as I discovered M. F. K. Fisher in the Cooking of Provinvial France, Emily Hahn in the Cooking of China, and Joseph Wechsberg in Cooking of Vienna’s Empire. So, who is Rafael Steinberg?

The information page of Cooking of Japan tells us that Rafael Steinberg first went to the Orient as a correspondent during the Korean War. “Later he was a Time correspondent in Tokyo and London, and he spent several years as Newsweek’s Tokyo bureau chief. He is the author of Postscript from Hiroshima, a book about survivors of the nuclear bombing.” In the first chapter, he writes of his first trip to Japan: “as soon as I set foot on the good ship Hikawa-maru in Seattle – oh yes, airplanes were invnvented but they weren’t flying the Pacific – I was confronted with what the passengers called ‘The Choice.’ You could either have a full Western meal or a full Japanese one. I asked for Japanese food, got it three thimes a day and stuck to it for all 21 days of the voyage to Yokohama.”

The above brief excerpt illustrates Steinberg’s writing style (readable! engaging!). His writings are so important that Columbia University Libraries/Information Services’ Rare Book & Manuscript Library acquired the papers of “Rafael Steinberg, a distinguished author and foreign correspondent whose dispatches from Korea, Japan, and elsewhere, provide a unique eyewitness perspective on U.S. foreign relations during the height of the Cold War.” The Columbia University site goes on to say “Described by the New York Times in 1966, as ‘one of the most knowledgable American journalists in Japan,’ he reported on life, death, culture, and politics in key hotspots around the world during some of the most tumultuous events of the 1950s and 1960s. . . . his intuition and quick grasp of events showed brilliantly in reporting on subjects that ranged from diplomacy and disarmament talks to a world heavy-weight boxing championship bout and the cuisines of Asia.”

I feel lucky to have one of the works of this author in my hands to read and enjoy. History and food and the culture of another country. Perfect combinations.

I love the photos in the Cooking of Japan. It’s enjoyable to leaf through the pages and gaze at the artful food presentations, and learn about the culture of Japan. To actually cook many of the recipes in my own kitchen presents a few obstacles. For one, many include raw fish. Here in Colorado fresh sushi fish is very expensive. Plus I have some reservations about buying and consuming raw fish. Other ingredients beyond fish are also hard to find. For instance, to make a dipping sauce for noodles, you need mirin (sweet sake), katsuobushi (dried bonita), and  kombu (dried kelp). Almost each recipe presents a shopping challenge.

Finally, I am not a patient and artful cook. I try! I don’t mind spending hours in the kitchen, but when it comes to meticulously arranging foods, I am inept. And arrangement is a big thing in Japanese food.

I choose three recipes to try for this blog: Red Caviar with “Sleet” Dressing, Cold Noodles with Shrimp and Mushrooms (and a dipping sauce), and Duck Simmered in Sake-Seasoned Sauce.

Red Caviar with Sleet DressingDipping Sauce and Noodles recipeDuck Simmered in Seasoned Sauce

I set off to my favorite Asian Seafood Market with a long list of ingredients. I so enjoy searching the loaded shelves of this market! The lady shopkeeper chides me for not visiting her store in such a long time. I smile and say I’ve been busy with grandkids. I find many of the ingredients on my list, but decide to buy a pre-made Japanese dipping sauce for the noodles and forgo the bonita flakes and kelp. I put Japanese soy sauce, mirin, and soba noodles in my basket. And daikon (radish), ginger, and some big long green beans (not in my recipes, but they look so cool). Much to the pleasure of the shopkeeper, I picked up a package of shrimp wrapped in noodles with a little sauce from the tray at the check-out counter. “Very good!” she exclaims.

That was fun! But I’m still missing a few items, so I have to shop some more. I find sake at the Liquor Mart, and duck breasts and red caviar (salmon roe) at Whole Foods. I was surprised to find dried bonita flakes at Whole Foods – didn’t buy them but did pick up some packaged Japanese snacks. I also bought fresh shitake mushrooms and watercress.

ingredients for a Japanese meal

Japanese snacksI had fun cooking my Japanese dishes and worked as best as I could to artfully arrange them on our plates:

Japanese meal

The meal was great. I thought the duck a little chewy – probably should have thinly sliced breast from a whole duck. Everything else was bright and tasty.

I’m not writing my own versions of these recipes into this blog. I made so many changes as I cooked each recipe that it’s hard to renumerate. And, although the meal was delicious and I learned a lot and got a lot of new ideas, I don’t plan to cook these recipes again.

250 Cookbooks: McCall’s Cook Book

Cookbook #160: McCall’s Cook Book, by the Food Editors of McCall’s, McCall Corporation and Random House Inc., 13th printing, NY, 1963.

McCall's Cook Book

My McCall’s Cook Book falls apart in my hands as I open it. The binding is held together with green tape. The pages are almost water-logged and have quite a few stains. I had this book in California before we moved to Colorado in 1973, so I probably bought it (or was it a gift?) when I was attending UCI or at my first job. After all these years, it still resides in the cabinet next to my stove. And I still use it!

McCall’s Cook Book was my first very own thick, comprehensive cookbook. It precedes the other aged cooking tome I keep in the kitchen: Joy of Cooking. McCall’s is the kind of cooking I grew up with, and to this day, I am very comfortable with this book. The Joy of Cooking has a lot of character and bossiness, but McCall’s makes me feel at home. Both books belong in my kitchen!

McCall’s used to be a women’s magazine. On Wikipedia, I learn that that McCall’s was one of the Seven Sisters, “a group of magazines which have traditionally been aimed at married women who are homemakers with husbands and children, rather than single and working women.” I remember all of these magazines so well (and I don’t let myself buy them anymore, too many recipes in my files!):

  • Better Homes and Gardens
  • Good Housekeeping
  • Family Circle
  • Redbook
  • Woman’s Day
  • Ladie’s Home Journal
  • McCall’s

McCall’s magazine ceased publication in 2002, and today McCall’s is best know as a brand of sewing pattern.

I’ve always used this cookbook as a reference for cooking methods and times, and for researching how to cook something new. The yeast bread section is well used! A couple of the recipes I marked: Ginger-Sugar Cookies and McCall’s Best Cheesecake (I notes to use deli cream cheese if possible). The Sweet-and-Sour Pork recipe is one of my favorites. In this recipe, the pork is battered and deep fried. It is delicious that way, but I usually cook pork chunks unbattered in a little oil (to save calories). But the recipe for the sweet-and-sour sauce is right on in its balance of vinegar and sugar. I’ve referred to it tons of times.

Lasagna! I associate lasagne with this cookbook. I first cooked McCall’s lasagne while still living in California. Though I was a fledgling cook, it came out absolutely wonderful. I remember it as my first dish that I could always count on to “wow” my diners. Let’s see, where is that recipe? I check the index for “lasagne”. No, it’s not in the “L”. Now I remember, this cookbook has a quirky index. I put on my thinking cap and recall that the lasagna recipe is in the “International Cookery” section. Sure enough, when I look under “Italian” in the index, I find “baked Lasagna”.

This recipe for lasagna (below) is what I call a “full-on lasagna recipe”. It uses none of the shortcuts I often employ these days, like no-bake noodles, sauted ground meat, and a quick can of tomato sauce and herbs. In this recipe, you boil regular packaged noodles, a time consuming process, but I think it makes a better lasagna than the no-bake noodles. And this lasagna recipe has wonderful meatballs, sauted briefly and then simmered a long time with canned tomatoes, tomato paste, onion, garlic and herbs to make the sauce. Finally, the requisite mozzarella, ricotta, and Parmesan cheeses.

Baked Lasagne recipe

Yes! This is what I want to make for this blog. The recipe says it serves six, so I’ll make it in two pans and have some to share with my son and his wife and their new baby!

Baked Lasagna
serves 6

meatballs

  • 1 pound hamburger
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped onion
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (or use 1 tablespoon dried parsley)
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 egg

tomato sauce

  • olive oil to saute meatballs (a couple tablespoons)
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (or use 1 tablespoon dried parsley)
  • 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 6-ounce cans tomato paste, or use 2 12-ounce cans tomato sauce and skp the 1/2 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt (or, salt the sauce “to taste”)
  • black pepper to taste

the rest of the ingredients

  • 1/2 of a 1-pound package of lasagne noodles
  • 1 pound mozzarella cheese, chopped into dice or grated
  • 1 pound ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Combine all meatball ingredients and toss lightly to mix well, then make about 30 3/4-inch meatballs.

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan. Brown the meatballs on all sides, then remove them from the pan and reserve.

Pour some of the grease out of the pan, if you like. Then, add the onion, garlic, and parsley and saute until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the rest of the sauce ingredients and stir together. Then, add the meatballs. Simmer, uncovered, about 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.

While the sauce simmers, boil the lasagna noodles according to the package directions. Drain and rinse with a little water. Handle carefully, as sometimes they like to fall apart.

Set out a 9×13-inch baking dish. (I used one 8×8-inch dish and one a bit smaller; there was plenty of sauce and noodles and cheeses to fill both dishes.) I like to put a smear of tomato sauce down first onto the baking dish, under the first layer of noodles. Alternatively, you can lightly grease the bottom of the baking dish.

Layer half the ingredients, in this order: lasagna noodles, mozzarella, ricotta, tomato sauce with meatballs, and Parmesan cheese; then repeat.

Bake 30-35 minutes at 350˚, or until cheese is melted and lasagna is heated through. (The directions do not say to cover the lasagna, but I usually do cover it with foil, until the last 10 minutes or so of baking.)

Baked LasagnaThis lasagna was “a cut above” and “amazing”, comments from my millenium-age son and his wife. I give it a big “yum”!