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: Cooking of Provincial France

Cookbook #110: Cooking of Provincial France, M. F. K. Fisher and the Editors of Time-Life Books, Time-Life Books, NY, 1968. Foods of the World series; seventh printing, revised 1969, reprinted 1976. (Note: Julia Child is credited as a consultant for Cooking of Provincial France.)

Cooking of Provincial FranceThis book is an unexpected pleasure. M. F. K. Fisher turns out to be “Mary Francis Kennedy Fisher”. I had never heard of her, so I looked her up online. According to Wikipedia, she was one of the preeminent American food writers of the twentieth century. A website devoted to her life and works is a good online resource for this interesting writer.

My first clue that I will like this writer is her introduction to Cooking of Provincial France. I always associate French cooking with heavy, rich sauces. Apparently Fisher had come up against the same prejudice:

“When I stopped in Scotland with my young children after a long stay in Provence, elderly and rather insular friends exclaimed in wonder at how well we seemed to be, ‘in spite of those dreadful thick rich concoctions covering everything and making one bilious, not to mention gouty.'”

She goes on to explain how French provincial cooking differs from grand or haute cuisine. “French provincial” is the cuisine cooked in country kitchens. Fisher writes: “haute cuisine stood or fell upon its essential stocks, and on the five basic warm sauces: espagnole, veloute, bechamel, tomato, and hollandaise.” In contrast, “most dishes that come from country kitchens make their own juices, right in the casseroles in which they are cooked and often without any need of the strainings, the additions, the final touches intrinsic to a great chef’s unfaltering performance.”

Fresh herbs, vegetables, dairy products, eggs, and meats are the mainstay of French provincial cooking. As I leaf through the pages of Cooking of Provincial France, I find myself planning an entire meal to cook. Definitely my type of recipes! (Especially since I recently read The Big Fat Surprise and have been incorporating more butter and full-fat milk products in our diet.)

M. F. K. Fisher

Much like my experience with The Cooking of China, a Foods of the World cookbook I covered in a previous blog post, I have discovered another fascinating woman culinary author from the mid-twentieth century.

Fisher was born in Michigan in 1908 and grew up in Southern California. Her family was “highly literate” and she was writing poems as a young girl. In college, she met Al Fisher; they married and soon moved to France for several years. She learned to love the people’s food of France: cooked in home kitchens with fresh ingredients. She loved to write, she loved cooking – so she combined her two passions as a food writer. Her first book, Serve it Forth, was published in 1935. Her last was published in 1992.

From this web site, I learn: “Mary Frances contributed to their income by working in a picture-framing shop that sold pornographic postcards. She read books and, inspired by an Elizabethan cookbook she discovered at the Los Angeles Public Library, she began writing essays of her own on cooking.” Also from this web site: “Her first book, Serve it Forth was so unlike other ‘women’ writers on the subject of cooking that many critics thought it was written by a man.”

I like her style of writing, her prose, her sense of humor. Her essays are a mixture of memoir, travel, and culinary tales. I checked out a compilation of her works from the library, “Art of Eating”, and am enjoying the read.

(If you like, you can read a few pages of her 1937 book Serve It Forth on Google Books.)

What to cook?

I am caught first by the recipe for French onion soup. I don’t believe I’ve ever made it! Time to try. Fisher’s version begins with cooking the onions slowly until they are nice and brown, then adding beef stock. (The recipes in this book for chicken and beef stocks are almost exactly like my own self-evolved stock recipes for the same.) The soup is topped off with a crust of bread, cheese, and a run in the oven.

Okay, soup to start my meal. Now I need something to go with the soup. Luckily this book is brimming with good recipes. I’ll make French bread for sure.

Main dish? Something light like fish. But sauced. How about a nice aioli (garlic mayonnaise) over halibut? And a vegetable or two. How about artichokes? I also like the spinach-ham stuffed mushrooms, held together with a bechamel sauce. (The recipe is titled Champignons Farcis, or “baked stuffed mushroom caps”.)

For dessert, I choose clafoutis aux cerises, or cherry cake. This is sweet cherries baked in an eggy batter with lots of vanilla.

So I settle in early on a rainy Saturday to begin the bread. I cooked (played?) off-and-on all day on my French provincial dinner. Everything came out perfect.

As my official recipe from this book for this blog, I’ll write up only the French onion soup. Here is the recipe:French Onion Soup RecipeI made it almost exactly like the above recipe, except for downsizing to serve just two people.

Soupe à l’Oignon
French Onion Soup
serves 2

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 1 pound onions, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • up to 1 quart beef stock, preferably homemade

croûtes:

  • 2 1-inch thick slices of French bread
  • olive oil (to brush bread slices)
  • 1 garlic clove, split in half
  • 1/2 cup shredded Swiss or Parmesan cheese, or a mixture thereof

Melt the butter with the oil in a saucepan. Stir in the onions and salt and cook, uncovered, over low heat, stirring occasionally, for about 30 minutes. They will become a rich golden brown if you have the patience to do this step carefully.

browned onionsSprinkle the browned onions with the tablespoon of flour and stir for several minutes. Add about 3 cups of the stock slowly, with stirring. Simmer, covered, for about 45 minutes. Add more stock if the soup is too thick, and adjust the seasonings.

While the soup is simmering, or even earlier in the day, make the croûtes, or toasted bread slices. Put the 1-inch thick bread slices in a 325˚ oven for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and drizzle or brush each side of the slices with olive oil. Put them back in the oven (preferably with the side that used to be up now down) and bake for another 15 minutes, until they are lightly browned. Remove from oven and rub each slice with the cut garlic clove.

Divide the soup between two ovenproof soup bowls. Put a croûte on top of each and sprinkle with the grated cheese. Bake for 10-20 minutes in a 375˚ oven. If you like, as a last step, put the soup bowls under a broiler for a couple minutes to brown the tops.

French Onion SoupThis was yummy. I kept the amount of cheese a bit low and we liked it that way. I’ll make it again! Here’s a photo of the bread and vegetables I prepared for the second course:

veggies and breadThe rest of the meal  – the fish with aioli and the cherry cake – tasted great but were not terribly photogenic.

Bon appetit!

250 Cookbooks: Soups and Stews Cook Book

Cookbook #97: Soups and Stews, Better Homes and Gardens, Meredith Corporation, Des Moines, Iowa, 1978. (Twelfth Printing, 1983)

Soups and Stews Cook BookAnother magazine cookbook. This one is hard bound, full size, and about 90 pages. I have no idea how I acquired this cook book, and have no notes in it.

So. At first glance, I find this a decent compilation of recipes for soups and stews, but not terribly inspiring. I usually just toss together a soup sans recipe, using whatever is on hand that catches my eye or imagination (or that needs to be used up). For this blog, I settle on “Turkey Soup with Danish Dumplings”, because I have turkey stock from last Thanksgiving and leftover turkey too. What the heck are Danish Dumplings . . . ? I am directed to page 90 at the back of the cook book.

And at page 90, I discover a few gems. Homemade noodles: plain, spinach, or cheese, made using a simple dough rolled out on a breadboard. Dumplings: Danish, fluffy, matzo, corn, and herb. Crackers! Either from white or whole wheat flour. I am a little bit goofy but I really want to try all of these. They will perk up my soup making.

About the soup recipes. The section on cold soups does not interest me. The hot soups are mostly pretty quick to put together, and in general call for fresh vegetables (good) and few packaged ingredients (good). Nutrition information is not included. I see some good ideas for soups; I am reminded that I haven’t made wonton soup in ages, or a Mexican-style soup. So I have some ideas for future meals. This cook book does serve a purpose and I will keep it.

Here is the original for Turkey Soup with Danish Dumplings:

Turkey Soup recipeI am going to have to re-name the soup “Turkey Soup with Sneaky Dumplings”. More on that later. I have my own turkey stock and cooked turkey in the freezer, so I will use those instead of following the above recipe. We don’t like turnips so I plan parsnips instead. I will also shake in a few more herbs.

Turkey Soup with Sneaky Dumplings
serves 2-4

soup:

  • 4 cups turkey stock (can use chicken broth)
  • 1 cup chopped, cooked turkey (or chicken; can use more or less turkey)
  • 1/2 of a 14-oz. can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 stalk celery, sliced (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1 parsnip, sliced
  • 1 carrot, sliced
  • 1/2 of an onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley (or 2 teaspoons dried)
  • fresh or dried basil and thyme (to taste)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste

dumplings:

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley (or less dried)

Combine the stock, cooked turkey, tomatoes, celery, parsnip, carrot, onion, parsley, basil, thyme, bay leaf, and salt in a cooking pot. Simmer about 30 minutes, covered. Remove bay leaf.

While the soup simmers, prepare the dumplings. Combine the butter and water in a small pan and bring to a boil. Mix the flour, baking powder and salt and dump in all at once, stirring vigorously all the time. Continue cooking, stirring constantly, until the mixture forms a ball that doesn’t separate. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. Add the egg and immediately beat it into the dough until the mixture is smooth. Stir in the parsley.

Drop the dumplings from a tablespoon into the bubbling soup, making about 8 mounds. Cover the pot and simmer, covered (do not peak!) for 20 minutes.

Serve!

Turkey Soup with Sneaky DumplingsComments

The soup is good, the star is the dumplings. The dough for these Danish dumplings is a cream puff dough, or pâte à choux. I have made cream puffs before: when you bake them in an oven they puff up and leave a big hole in the middle. As a scientist, I find this just a lot of fun. As an eater, well, yum! Fill them with cream for cream puffs or a filling for eclairs or a savory mixture for appetizers and you have a special treat. Baked, unfilled cream puffs are convenient because they store for awhile (you don’t have to cook them at the last minute). The disadvantage, in my often-on-a-diet lifetime, is the high percentage of butter in the recipe.

Okay. We know what cream puff dough is. It is usually baked on a sheet in a hot oven. On top of a wet soup? How will this turn out?

I note that the original recipe tells me to not lift the pan lid while the dumplings are cooking. Probably so that the dumplings will cook through. Can I resist the temptation to peak? No, but I can get around the obstacle by using a glass lid.

About 20 minutes before serving the soup, I drop 8 small globs of dough on top of the bubbling liquid. I note that there is a lot of soup surface uncovered. I cover the pot.

A few minutes later, I look over at the cooking pot. Whooa! The dumplings have grown!

sneaky dumplingsAnd a few minutes later, they have grown so huge that all I can see on top of the soup is dough, reaching almost up to the pan’s lid. I worry a bit that the soup will be overtaken by the dumplings.

Just before I serve the soup, I look in the pan: Oh! The dumplings shrunk! Now they are just nice-sized blobs on top.

So I call them “sneaky dumplings”. During their cooking, they stretch way up to the lid and then retreat back. If I had used a solid lid I wouldn’t have caught the dumplings in the act.

These dumplings are fun, but are they good? Yes! They are delicate and tasty and a great addition to a soup. And they take very little time to put together. I will make them again, definitely!

250 Cookbooks: One Dish Meals

Cookbook #29: One Dish Meals, The Easy Way. Reader’s Digest, The Reader’s Digest Association, Pleasantville, NY/Montreal, 1991.

One Dish MealsAll of the recipes in this cookbook use “the convenience of serving a complete meal in a single dish” (from the preface). The chapters include cooking basics, soups, meat, poultry, fish, vegetarian dishes, pasta, salads, appetizers, desserts, and more. Each recipe includes nutritional information, touted as “weight-watching calorie counters”, as well as suggestions for cutting fat and calories. The book is nicely laid out, the recipes easy to follow, and the photos are great.

This was one of my mother’s cookbooks. She noted on the inside cover that it is “from Reader’s Digest contest, May, 1993”. I’m not sure quite what this means; maybe she entered a contest and the book was the prize? I’ll never know.

My mother marked several recipes as “tried” in this book. Minestrone with Turkey Meatballs is marked “Delicious” and also as having “great directions”. Mozzarella Meat Loaf Pie was “not great”. Chicken Breasts Catalan was “good but not worth the fussing with”. Turkey Sausage Succotash is marked “very good”. This reminds me of my parents liked lima beans in soups and also succotash. She had marked a recipe for Ham and Lima Bean Soup to try.

I found it easy to find recipes for myself to try in this cookbook. Note that plural: recipes! A lot of them have over 600 calories per serving, but if that’s the entire dinner meal, it’s not terrible. Some, though, have over 900 calories, a bit daunting to fit into a low-calorie plan.

I chose a recipe for “Sweet Corn Chowder with Shrimp and Red Peppers”. It has only 280 calories per serving, and I have some very good frozen shrimp in the freezer. I also have a jar of roasted red peppers in my pantry that needs to be used. I am impressed that the instructions direct you to cook the shrimp only 3 minutes – it shows that they know what they are doing.

CornChowder

It’s hard to read the above scanned-in recipe, but I wanted to show you the great photo layout of this book. Here’s an enlargement of the recipe:

recipeI made a half recipe as per the typed-in recipe below.

Sweet Corn Chowder with Shrimp and Red Peppers
(recipe for 3 people)

  • vegetable oil
  • 1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 small potato, peeled and diced (I used a russet)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 teaspoon marjoram
  • pinch ground nutmeg
  • scant cup chicken stock (canned or homemade)
  • 7 ounces cream-style corn (sold in 14-oz. cans 2013)
  • 5 ounces frozen corn kernels (about half a cup)
  • scant cup milk
  • black pepper and salt to taste
  • 3 1/2 ounces canned roasted red peppers, drained and thinly sliced (about 1/3 cup)
  • 1/2 pound large shrimp, shelled and deveined

Cook the onions in a few drops of vegetable oil, sweating with a little salt, until the onions are limp – about five minutes.

Add the potato, bay leaf, marjoram, nutmeg, and stock, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, cover, and simmer until the potato is just tender, about 10 minutes.

Add the cream-style corn, frozen corn, milk, and black pepper, and bring to a rapid boil. Lower the heat to moderate, add the red peppers and shrimp, and boil gently, uncovered, until the shrimp are just cooked through – about 3 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove the bay leaf before serving.

Comments

This soup was good, and I might make it again. It was easy to put together, although it sure did require gathering a lot of ingredients! (Gee, I could have opened a can of soup instead!)

Soup IngredientsBut the finished soup was worth the trouble. If you like corn and shrimp, you will like this soup.

Corn Chowder SoupI served it with grilled cheese sandwiches, since the soup itself was low in calories. My method of making grilled cheese sandwiches is constantly evolving, but I’ll share how I made them in April 2013:

Grilled cheese sandwiches

I took a cast-iron grill pan, very heavy, and put it on my electric stove top and heated over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes. (It’s important to heat the pan long on low heat.) I set a metal measuring cup with a small amount of butter in it on the grill pan. When the butter had melted, the pan felt hot to a hand held an inch above the pan. Time for the sandwiches.

I took rosemary-sourdough bakery bread and stuffed grated sharp cheddar cheese between two slices to form sandwiches. Then I brushed the tops of the sandwiches with melted butter and carefully flipped them to place them butter-side down on the heated grill pan. Then, I brushed the other side of the sandwiches with butter.

I peaked at the bottom sides and turned when golden. When both sides were golden and the cheese melted, time to eat! You can see them in this photo of the soup, dripping cheese and golden.

grilled cheeses

250 Cookbooks: The New 365 Ways to Cook Hamburger and Other Ground Meat

Cookbook #8: The New 365 Ways to Cook Hamburger and Other Ground Meat. By Doyne and Dorothy Nickerson, Doubleday & Company, Garden City, NY, 1983.

365 Ways to Cook HamburgerI think this book used to have a cover leaf, without it it looks so plain. But it is a plain little book. There aren’t any photos inside, although there are some pleasant drawn illustrations. The recipes are pretty plain too. Why did I buy it? Dunno. Guess I wanted hamburger ideas.

I don’t think I ever cooked anything from this book, although I had marked several pages. Those pages were for . . . meatballs! I am a huge fan of meatballs. I could eat meatballs once a week. They are right up there among my top comfort foods. I guess I already hinted at that when I chose to make the Pork Balls from cookbook #6. I like mushing the meat with the spices and egg, I like forming the meatballs, I love the aroma as they sizzle and cook in the pan. And I like the convenience of making extra, freezing them, and popping them into a sauce later for a quick meal. Oh, and I like stealing one as they sit on the counter to cool—hey, it’s important to taste them to make sure they are good!

The only recipe in this book I marked besides the ones for meatballs is one for gnocchi. I’ve tried several times in my life to make gnocchi from scratch, but nowadays I use the shelf-packaged product that you can find in most grocery stores.

Do I like this cookbook? It’s okay, but doesn’t have very many innovative ideas, nor are there commentaries to personalize the 365 recipes. The original publication date was 1958 and today, the recipes seem tired. Grilled hamburgers, skillet dishes, baked casseroles, soups, spaghetti meat sauce, tacos (with no seasoning other than salt), meat pies. If you have a hankering for a nostalgic hamburger pie with crescent rolls on top, this is your cookbook. It’s mostly basic hamburger cooking, the kind of cooking that doesn’t require a recipe. I could give this cookbook away and never miss it.

I chose German Meatballs, one of the recipes that I had marked years ago. I’m not sure if I tried this recipe before, but I doubt it because the cookbook is free of food stains and I didn’t write anything on the recipe. This recipe interests me because the onion is cooked before it’s added to the hamburger, there is white wine in the meatballs, the eggs are separated and the whites stiffly beaten. (I doubt that this will make the meatballs much different from ones made with whole, non-beaten eggs, but it’s worth a try.) I like the accompanying sauce, with beer, potatoes and carrots. I don’t have a recipe in my repertoire that is anything like this one. Sounds good for a winter dinner, as I watch the snow fall on a November day in Colorado.

German Meatballs

I had some problems cooking these meatballs. I could tell that the uncooked meatball mixture was much more liquid-y than I would normally choose, and sure enough, when I dropped the first couple meatballs into the hot pan, they flattened out like pancakes. Well, the dogs will like those! I added another generous half-cup of breadcrumbs to the meat mixture and that did the trick.

I tasted one of the cooked meatballs and said “yum!” As I had predicted, the high moisture content and egg whites in the meatballs made them light and almost delicate.

For the sauce, I recalled my Beer and Cheese Soup disaster, and substituted half of the beer with beef broth. As the sauce and meatballs and potatoes and carrots simmered together, I added more broth so that they would be covered.

When the vegetables were done, I didn’t know quite how to serve the dish, since the sauce was thin. As written in the cookbook, there is no way this dish could be served over pasta or rice, nor could it be lain on a flat plate, because the “sauce” was just a runny liquid. So I thickened it with a little cornstarch and called it a “soup-stew”. I served it in big bowls with slices of My Daily Bread and cheese. It was really good! The broth suffused the potatoes and carrots with a hint of beer, marjoram, and bay leaf, and the meatballs were just about perfect.

Below is my revised version.

German Meatballs


Serves 3-4.

Meatballs:

  • 1/4 cup finely diced onion
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 pound hamburger (I used 90% lean)
  • 1 cup soft bread crumbs soaked in 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup white wine
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (or to personal taste)
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 egg whites, stiffly beaten

Sauce and vegetables:

  • 1 cup beer
  • 1 cup beef stock
  • 1/4 teaspoon marjoram
  • 1 large bay leaf
  • 4 medium potatoes, cubed (gauge the amount of potatoes and carrots to your diner’s appetites)
  • 4 medium carrots, cubed
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon cornstarch mixed with a little water or broth

Heat a small amount of oil (olive or vegetable) in a pan and saute the onion, sweating with a little salt, until soft. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds more. Combine with the hamburger, bread-crumb-and-milk mixture, wine, egg yolks, and seasonings. Mix lightly but well. Fold in egg whites.

Form into 1-inch balls and brown in a small amount of hot oil. These burn more easily than most meatballs, so watch the heat of the pan and turn the meatballs often. When they are all browned, drain off any fat.

Add the sauce/vegetable ingredients—except the cornstarch mixture—to the meatballs and bring to a boil. Cover, and reduce heat to simmer for 20-30 minutes. If you like, add more broth so that the meat and vegetables stay down in the liquid. This will make it more soup-like.

When the vegetables are tender, slowly and with stirring, add the cornstarch mixture to thicken the sauce. (You can add more cornstarch if you like it thicker.) Taste and adjust salt and pepper to your taste.

German MeatballsWe each finished our German Meatballs and wiped the bowls clean with bread!