Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Greasy Bookshelf: Home Cooking by Laurie Colwin

With the temperatures in the teens earlier this week, I felt like a character in a Jack London story. Feeling this way is understandable when I'm outdoors, but I also feel this way indoors, which is pitiful. As I get older, it seems like it becomes more of struggle to maintain my core body temperature. I'm sure I'm imagining this, but it's becoming a problem because I've actually contemplated purchasing one of those Snuggie blankets, a sure sign of madness or that I'm one step away from joining a cult. I've resisted such drastic measures though. Instead I bake, prepare a good soup, or distract myself by curling up with a good book.

I usually don't curl up with a cookbook because they tend to be bulky and cumbersome. Recently though I encountered Laurie Colwin's cookbook/memoir Home Cooking. The book fit snuggly into my hand, and in the opening she writes, "Unlike some people, who love to go out, I love to stay home." At that point this this homebody realized he had discovered a kindred spirit and a perfect book to distract me from the cold.

The book's casual delivery put me at ease. Her recipes are more casual suggestions rather than rigid instructions. Throughout the book, she gently nudged me to contemplate the possibilities each recipe might offer. This is an approach I need to adopt, for I too often cook by the book and find myself getting uptight about following a recipe verbatim.

This book also contains a dash of gentle humor, which is nice respite from the in-your-face, cynical humor that is in vogue. Do yourself a favor? Visit a bookstore or library and read pg. 150, where she describes some bad home-cooked meals she's had the misfortune of eating. She doesn't merely lambast these meals; instead, there's a certain reverence for such meals. She writes:
There is something triumphant about a really disgusting meal. It lingers in the memory with a lurid glow, just as something exalted is remembered with a kind of mellow brilliance. I am not think of kitchen disasters - chewy pasta, burnt browneis, curdled sauces: these can happen to anyone. I'm thinking about meals that are positively loathsome from soup to nuts, although one is not usually fortunate enough to get eith soup or nuts.

Bad food abounds in restaurants, but somehow a bad meal in a restaurant and a bad home-cooked meal are not the same: after all, the restaurant did not invite you to dinner.
Then she goes on to describe some of the worst home-cooked meals she's encountered. The following is a little taste from one of those meals:

At the door, our hostess spoke these dread words: "I'm trying this recipe out on you. I've never made it before. It's a medieval recipe. It looked very interesting."

Somehow I have never felt that "interesting" is an encouraging word when applied to food.
In the kitchen were two enormous and slightly crooked pies.

"They're medieval fish pies," she said.
This book is triumphant indeed and provides the perfect companion for some under-the-cover reading on a cold, winter day.

take care,

PS. . . Checkout the Snuggie blanket parody at YouTube.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

40-Hour Week Dinner Rolls A.K.A. Scoop-and-Bake Dinner Rolls

We love music here at The Greasy Skillet. There are days when carefully selected playlists are as essential in the kitchen as sharp knives.
We don't discriminate when it comes to music. We spin an eclectic mix of music in our kitchen.

I love songs that mention geographic locales. I trace this love back to singing Woody Guthrie's "This Land is Your Land" back in my elementary school days. When I hear a song that mentions a dot or squiggle on a map, I start thinking about the possibilities the road has to offer. Of course, some of those possibilities involve food.

However, I've noticed songwriters often ignore the state of Kansas. They seem to favor those Southern states or California, and if I had a dollar for every song that mentioned Texas, I could retire and blog full time.

I have encountered a few songs that mention the Great State of Kansas. Over the next few weeks I will spotlight some of those songs, and since this is a food blog, I'll throw in a recipe to accompany each song.

When I told Mr. Crankypants about this feature he actually smiled and seemed excited - something I rarely see from him. When I revealed the song I would use to kickoff this feature, he threw a fit and screamed, "Nooooo. You can't feature that song. It's crap. It's schmaltzy drivel. It has slick, over-produced sound that sounds canned. In fact, it's the equivalent of canned mushrooms. You wouldn't use canned mushrooms in a recipe."

I then explained to him that this song was part of my youth, and here at the The Greasy Skillet I strive to be honest, even if it is a bit ugly. I told him that a people shouldn't have to defend their musical tastes. I also told him that I don't have a problem occasionally using canned mushrooms when I cook. To conclude my argument, I simply informed him that this was my blog and I would do whatever the heck I wanted to do and schmalty drivel is redundant.

He simply grimaced through my whole explanation.

Today's featured song is "40-Hour Week" by Alabama. I have fond memories of this song. When I was in middle school, I'd spend the weekend with my cousin who lived in Quenemo, Kansas. In the afternoons, we take a pocketfull of quarters and head down to the travern, where we'd waste away the afternoon shooting pool, playing Galaga, and eating junk food. We'd also pump quarters into the jukebox. Between cuts from Def Leppard and Pat Benetar, we'd play some Alabama

The song "40-Hour Week" praises the hard workin' folk across American. It's just one of many country songs that explores this theme, but at one time I really loved the song because it was the first song that mentioned my home state.
There are people in this country who work hard every day
Not for fame or fortune do they strive
But the fruits of their labor are worth more than their pay
And it's time a few of them were recognized

Hello Detroit auto workers, let me thank you for your time
You work a forty hour week for a livin', just to send it on down the line
Hello Pittsburgh steel mill workers, let me thank you for your time
You work a forty hour week for a livin', just to send it on down the line

This is for the one who swings the hammer, driving home the nail
Or the one behind the counter, ringing up the sale
Or the one who fights the fires, the one who brings the mail
For everyone who works behind the scenes

You can see them every morning in the factories and the fields
In the city streets and the quiet country towns
Working together like spokes inside a wheel
They keep this country turning around

Hello Kansas wheat field farmer, let me thank you for your time
You work a forty hour week for a livin', just to send it on down the line
Hello West Virginia coal miner, let me thank you for your time
You work a forty hour week for a livin', just to send it on down the line

This is for the one who drives the big rig, up and down the road
Or the one out in the warehouse, bringing in the load
Or the waitress, the mechanic, the policeman on patrol
For everyone who works behind the scenes

With a spirit you can't replace with no machine
Hello America let me thank you for your time

You wont' find this song on my Ipod, but if I heard "40-Hour Week" blaring from a bar jukebox, I'd hoist a beer and heartily sing that line about Kansas wheat field farmers.

Here's a recipe for those who people who work hard each day and find it difficult to fit a little baking into the schedule:

Scoop-and-Bake Dinner Rolls

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 14/ cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 envelope (2 1/4 teaspoons) instant yeast
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 large egg
  1. Grease a twelve-cup muffin tin.
  2. Whisk 1 1/4 cups of the flour, salt, sugar, and yeast in a large bowl. Whisk in the butter, egg, and water until it is smooth. Add the remaining 1 cup of flour and mix until it's combined. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in a warm place until the batter has doubled in size. This will take about 30 minutes.
  3. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Punch the dough down. Scoop the batter evenly into the muffin cups. I use a large ice cream scoop. Cover the muffin cups with greased plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until the batter reaches the rims of the muffin cups, about 15 minutes.
  4. Remove the plastic wrap and bake the rolls until golden, 14 to 18 minutes. Allow to cool for about 10-15 minutes before removing.
  5. Serve

What's your favorite song that mentions a geographic locale?

May your tank always be full,

Next week Josh Ritter's "Lawrence, KS" will be in the spotlight.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Greatest Hits: Mahnomin Porridge

My first album I ever purchased was Shaun Cassidy's Da Doo Ron Ron. My first cassette purchased was Queen's Greatest Hits. My first CD was The Ramones' Greatest Hits. Since I seem to be a fan of greatest hits compilations and since some of my earliest posts wallowed in obscurity, I thought I would periodically feature some of my favorite posts in a segment called Greatest Hits. Today I serve up a piping hot bowl of Mahnomin Porridge:

At the table in the kitchen, there were three bowls of porridge. Goldilocks was hungry. She tasted the porridge from the first bowl.

"This porridge is too hot!" she exclaimed.

So, she tasted the porridge from the second bowl.

"This porridge is too cold," she said

So, she tasted the last bowl of porridge.

"Ahhh, this porridge is just right," she said happily and she ate it all up.

***From "Goldilocks and the Three Bears"

I always found this story disturbing, especially the part about her sleeping in their beds. That's downright creepy. I bet she rifled through their underwear drawers also. However, her greatest atrocity came when she ate their breakfast. Eating another man's (or bear's) breakfast just ain't civil.

This story first introduced me to porridge. I had no idea what it was, but I thought it was similar to oatmeal. It turns out I was right. According to wikipedia, porridge is a simple dish made by boiling oats and sometimes a mixture of other grains in milk or water. I also learned the following interesting facts about porridge
  1. In parts of Asia porridge is fed to horses and donkeys (This fact just makes me smile. "Honey, I'm going out to the barn to feed the donkeys their porridge.").
  2. Gruel is a form of porridge, but it's usually a thinner consistency, so that people can drink it (I might make some gruel for my daughter because I think it would be fun to scream, "Drink your gruel, or you'll get no dessert!).
  3. Every October Scotland hosts the World Porridge Making Championships, where contestants battle for the Golden Spurtle Trophy. A spurtle is a special spoon used to stir porridge. For you curious souls, here's a picture of spurtle (I won't comment on the phallic nature of it. I'd be embarrassed to whip this out of my kitchen drawer):
  4. Many cultures use porridge to nurse the sick back to health.
When I read on about the Mahnomin Porridge served at Hell's Kitchen in Minneapolis, I thought it sounded interesting, but something I'd never try. For the record, I've never craved porridge. I've never been fan of hot breakfast cereals like oatmeal, mush, or grits. However, I think some of it has to do with its unappealing name. I think the name porridge turns most people off to the dish. In fact, very few people ordered it when it first appeared on Hell's Kitchen's menu. Then they started giving it away, but people still balked at trying it. Eventually, people tried the dish, realized it was heavenly, and now it's a popular menu item.

Last week I had the privilege of eating at Hell's Kitchen, and I was still reluctant to try it. However, the snowy weather and my lumberjack attitude prompted me to give the porridge a try, and when I tried the first bite I was a porridge convert. At that moment I wanted to be porridge's new PR man, spreading the gospel of this great dish. So here I am blogging about it.

Like most restaurant dishes that bring a glint to my eye, I'm always inspired to replicate the dish at home. This drives my wife nuts. She doesn't understand why I would go to all the trouble. She doesn't understand why I just can't enjoy the dish at the restaurant, where it's something special, a treat. Now my wife is partially right. For some reason she's always right and I'm wrong. This is the gospel truth. However, believing that I'm right, I usually respond with a two-pronged response:
  1. I could make this dish for a fraction of what they're charging me at the restaurant.
  2. What if someday we live somewhere like Moscow, Kansas, where there's not a wide range of restaurants.? Wouldn't it be nice to have a husband, who can prepare a huge repertoire of dishes?
In which she responds:
  1. We'll never live in Moscow, Kansas.
  2. We can afford to occasionally eat a meal at a restaurant. There's nothing wrong with occasionally treating ourselves.
She's probably right, but I still insist on replicating recipes I encounter on restaurant menus.

This morning I made the Mahnomin Porridge.

Mahnomin Porridge

(Photo from


  • 4 cups cooked wild rice
  • ¼ cup pure maple syrup

  • ¼ cup dried blueberries
  • ¼ cup craisins
  • ½ cup roasted, cracked hazelnuts
  • 1 cup heavy cream


  1. In a heavy non-stick sautee pan, add the cooked wild rice, heavy cream, and maple syrup, and warm through.
  2. Add the blueberries, craisins, and hazelnuts, and stir to mix well.
  3. Serve in a bowl with sides of warm heavy cream and maple syrup.
Now my attempt at Mahnomin Porridge wasn't quite as good as Hell's Kitchen, but it still was pretty darn good. I think, there are three things I could do to improve the porridge:

  1. I used half and half, and using heavy cream would improve my porridge.
  2. I could toast my hazlenuts in a skillet. I stepped this step, so I could stuff my face. Toasting or roasting nuts would definitely give the nuts a more pronounced flavor.
  3. I could use a better quality maple syrup. I don't really know anything about maple syrup, so I just grabbed the cheapest bottle, a $3.50 bottle of Maple Grove Farms: U.S. grade A Dark Amber. I've been cooking long enough to know that sometimes the quality of ingredients does matter, so I'll research maple syrups and find a better one to use with this recipe. This might be the most important thing I could do to improve the recipe.
I also think you could experiment with the ingredients a bit. Pecans would work in place of hazlenuts. If you don't have wild rice, you could probably use a white rice. Also, you could add a little cinnamon, nutmeg, or vanilla to change the flavor of this recipe. Overall, I'm happy with my results, and I look forward to enjoying this porridge on a cold, snowy, day.

Happy eating,

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Potato and Sausage Breakfast Popover Casserole

Last year my wife I held our first annual family summit. It's an idea we borrowed from our friend Steve, who's known as The Oracle in some far out realm of the blogosphere. Basically, the summit consists of clearing our schedules, sitting down, and spending the entire day discussing household projects, finances, personal goals, and any other relevant family matters. Yesterday we participated in the 2nd annual family summit, and since you can't discuss weighty matters on an empty stomach, I prepared a quick, breakfast casserole.

Potato and Sausage Breakfast Popover Casserole
(One of my goals for the upcoming year should be to improve the presentation of my food)

  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
  • 2 scallions, chopped
  • 3/4 pound potatoes peeled and cut and diced.
  • 1 (12-ounce) package sausage
  • 2 tables vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Adjust oven rack to the upper-middle position and preheat the over to 425 degrees. Line a 9-inch springform pan with nonstick foil, and then spray it with a non-stick spray.
  2. Whisk the eggs, milk, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in the bowl until combined. Stir in the flour, and then whisk in the butter until the batter is smooth. Stir in the scallions and set the batter aside.
  3. Toss the potatoes with 1 tablespoon water in a large microwaveable bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, poke a few holes in the wrap, and cook the potatoes for 3-4 minutes.
  4. In a large skillet over medium heat, cook the sausage. Using a slotted spoon, spread the sausage evenly over the bottom of the springform pan.
  5. Heat the oil in the skillet with the sausage fat over medium high heat. Add the potatoes and 1/4 teaspoon salt and cook until the potatoes are golden brown.
  6. While the potatoes are cooking, place the springform pan with the sausage in the over for 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and sprinkle 1/4 cup of the cheese over the sausage.
  7. Then pour the batter evenly over the filling.
  8. Scatter the potatoes on top and sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Don't make the mistake I made and pour the batter over the potatoes. You want your potatoes a chance to bask in the glow oven, so they can develop a George Hamilton hue. My brain doesn't start working until 11:00 a.m., so I shouldn't be in the kitchen before then.
  9. Bake until puffed and golden, 25-30 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven, run a knife around the edges of the pan, and let cool for 5 minutes. release the outer ring, and transfer the casserole to a serving plate.
This is the first time I've prepared this dish, but I think, it's open to improvisation. I need to invite some veggies to the party. As always, we'll keep you posted.

Don't take your guns to town,

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Greasy Five: Children's Books that Play with Food

Here at The Greasy Skillet we love books. At any given moment in our home, I'm only a few steps away from a book. At my bedside is a little basket that my wife and daughter refer to as the rat's nest. It's full of stuff that fuels The Greasy Skillet.

Someday I'll show you its contents.

When I became a parent, someone told me that I would never have time to read. This hasn’t been the case; I read more than ever. Being a parent is time consuming, but I make time to read. If it's a choice between reading or television, I usually gravitate towards ink and paper. Reading is something my daughter and I often do together, and I'm pleased to announce that she is also a book lover. I get the biggest kick watching her enjoy a good book, and I'm grateful our home is a place where books are read, appreciated, and discussed.

In today's installment of The Greasy Five, I thought I'd share my five-favorite children's books for foodies.

Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss
  • It's no surprise that I would include this on this list. Dr. Seuss uses his trademark playful rhymes to serve up the intriguing possibility of green eggs & ham, and more importantly he advocates the value of occasionally trying something new and different. I know many adults who would benefit from this advice.
And I would eat them in a boat
And I would eat them with a goat
And I will eat them in the rain
And in the dark, And on a train
And in a car. And in a tree
They are so good, so good, you see!
Brave Potatoes by Toby Speed and illustrated by Barry Root
  • This book might be on the list merely because it has potatoes in the title and it's illustrated by a man whose last name is Root. This makes me chuckle, and I take great delight in small joys such as this. This book tells the story of some prize potatoes from the country fair that are kidnapped by Chef Hackemup who needs them for his soups, stews, and chowders. I'll be honest with you: When I read this book, I sometimes root for the antagonist. I can't help it; I love a good soup.
Way across town at the Chowder Lounge
Hackemup the chef begins attack
with the chopper and the dicer
and the shredder and the grater
and the masher and the mincer
and the So-Long-See-You-Later!

See him chop, chop, chop!
Chili peppers on the top.
Spanish onions do a tango while the radishes unfurl
See the parsnips looking pallid in the Bastaboolabaisse,
while the salad softly sings a veggie-ballad
See the carrots curli-queuing and the garlic parachuting.
With a plop, plop, plop,
in the chowder pot they drop!
The Bake Shop Ghost by Jacqueline K. Ogburn and illustrated by Marjorie Priceman
  • Sure the title is a tad plain, but this book is delightful. The book tells the story of Cora Lee Merriweather, a ghost who haunts a bake shop she used to own. When a baker named Annie Washington buys the shop, she decides she's not going to tolerate Cora Lee's antics, so they reach an agreement.
"Enough!" Annie cried. "What do you want? What can I do so you'll let me work in peace?"

Cora Lee stared through the swirling flour, then smiled a title little smile. "Make me a cake," she said. "Make me a cake so rich and so sweet, it will fill me up and bring tears to my eyes. A cake like one I might have baked, but that no one ever made for me."
  • What follows is an account of Annie's attempt to bake the perfect cake for Cora Lee. The touching ending always bring tears to my eyes. Yes, you heard correctly. The ending makes me cry. I also cry while watching Little House on the Prairie episodes and Hallmark commercials, so I guess I'm a bit of a softie.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling
  • When I watch the Harry Potter movies, I'm always enthralled with the scenes that take place in the grand, dining hall. I can't take my gaze off the scrumptious mounds of food that grace the tables. It looks like those kids at Hogwarts eat well. I wish the school cafeteria of my youth would have been as good. My favorite food moment in Harry Potter occurs in the first book when the snack cart passes Harry's train compartment. I can relate. When I travel, I'm afraid I'm going to miss some culinary treat the region has to offer, so I tend to eat more than three meals a day. When I read the following passage, I'm suddenly nine-years-old with a pocket full of change and I'm standing in the candy aisle at Peek's Supersaver in Pomona, KS. Good literature can reclaim youth. It has that kind of power.
What she did have were Bertie Bott's Every flavor Beans, Drooble's Best Blowing Gum, Chocolate Frogs, Pumpkin Pasties, Cauldron Cakes, Licorice Wands, and a number of other strange things Harry had never seen in his life. Not wanting to miss anything, he got some of everything and paid the woman eleven silver Sickles and seven bronze Knuts.
Stone Soup
  • I don't own this book, but I fondly remember it from my school days. In the book, some hungry travelers trick everyone in a village into contributing ingredients to make a tasty soup. Of course, I remember it because it was about soup, which might be one of my favorite foods to eat, but I also liked the book because it was about community and sharing. When I started this blog, I wanted to title it Stone Soup, but someone else out there in the blogosphere had already claimed it. The rest is history.
What are your favorite children's books for foodies?

Happy reading,

Monday, January 12, 2009

Grandma Ryan's Sloppy Joes

In beer commercials single guys seem to encounter a never-ending string of beautiful, buxom, scantily clad blondes with Ms. America smiles who like to frolic in hot tubs. The music pulses, the good times roll, and life is glamorous. While being a single guy had its thrills for me, it was far from being a party at the Playboy Mansion. During my bachelor years, my inner gourmet was drowning in a sea of beer, and my path to culinary enlightenment was blocked by microwaveable meals, bar food, and recipes spotlighting ground beef. A culinary highlight during this bleak period in my life might involve browning some hamburger and combining it with a can of Manwich. I could sometimes go a week eating leftover Sloppy Joes.

Needless to say I don't miss that life. Gone are the cans of Manwich, and when I make Sloppy Joes today, they're made from scratch, using a recipe our household received from our dear friend Mary Ryan. I know there are some culinary snobs out there who scoff at the notion of this sandwich. Just give it a try. I think, you'll find the tang of the mustard, vinegar, and the hint of cloves to your liking. If this recipe doesn't make one of the best Sloppy Joes you've ever tried, leave your name & address, and I'll mail you a can of Manwich.

Grandma Ryan's Sloppy Joes

  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup chopped green pepper
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons mustard
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  1. In a large skillet, brown the beef and drain excess grease. Set aside.
  2. Saute onions and green peppers until soft.
  3. Add beef to the onions and green peppers.
  4. Mix remaining ingredients together and add to the meat.
  5. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes.
  6. Enjoy!
Eat your vegetables,

PS. . . I do miss the stereo speakers I had during my bachelor years, but that's about it.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Mr. Crankypants is in the House

muddywaters received a Nintendo Wii for Christmas, so right now he's downstairs playing a game. It's a damn waste of time if you ask me. A 38-year-old man playing a game where the objective is to ride a warthog isn't exactly the type of activity that will pull our economy out of its current abyss. If he's not going to help the economy, he could at least give the environment a helping hand by going outside and churning his compost pile. While muddy is downstairs wanking away with his Wii, I commandeered the computer, so I could get a few things off my chest.

First I'm annoyed with Pizza Hut. Lately they've been pounding the airwaves pimping this new Natural pizza. I really don't know what the hell it is. I just know that the damn commercial they've been running has detracted from the great joy I derive from watching college football bowl games. Each time I catch a glimpse of the commercial, I think: If this pizza is made with natural ingredients, what the hell is in the other pizzas? Then I picture some chemical plant in New Jersey churning out ingredients for Pizza Hut. Natural pizza. This just pisses me off. If you're thinking of sending me something to alter my mood, please don't send me this:

I shoudn't have to explain why an edible fruit arrangement annoys the hell out of me.

Think for yourself &
Question authority,
Mr. Crankypants

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Belfast Brownie

I have days when stress perches on my shoulder, digs its talons in, and prevents me from enjoying time with my family. I can usually shoo this beast away by doing any of the following:
  1. Writing
  2. Reading
  3. Cooking
  4. Praying
  5. Walking or hiking
  6. Lounging in my hammock
  7. Listening to music
  8. Taking control of my attitude and simply willing stress away.
  9. Composing, choreographing, and performing an extemporaneous musical before my family gets home.
This is just a partial list of stress reducers. As I grow older, it seems like my arsenal for combating stress keeps expanding. For example, today my daughter taught me a new way to cope with stress. I decompressed simply by dressing Barbies with my daughter and doing a fashion shoot. Here's Barbie in a Jayhawk sweat suit that my mother created:

Here's Barbie looking casual in some of Ken's clothes:

I never thought that something so simple and somewhat feminine would relax me.

I usually don't turn to eating as way to deal with stress, but I have been known to reach for a beverage as a way to decompress. Sipping a good drink tends to slow time down and melt away the stress. The following are a few drinks I turn to when I want to mellow:
  1. Hot chocolate
  2. A good Kansas limeade
  3. Iced tea with lemon
  4. Sangria
  5. In the fall, I love to drink a Guinness
  6. A margarita
Last week I treated myself to a nice cocktail, the Belfast Brownie. I might add it to my list of stress-reducing beverages.

Belfast Brownie

  • 1 ounce Bailey's Irish Cream
  • 1 ounce Godiva chocolate liqueur
  • 1 ounce orange liqueur
  • 3 tablespoons half & half or milk
  1. Fill cocktail shaker with a little ice. Add all of the ingredients. Shake. Strain into glass. Enjoy.
NOTE: The drink also calls for a strip of candied orange peel, but the staff at The Greasy Skillet wasn't resourceful enough to prepare this element of the drink. Heads will roll for this oversight.

What's your favorite way to banish stress from your day?

take care,

Friday, January 2, 2009

Alpine Bread

Once upon a time, there were just three commercial television networks and most families owned only one television. During this fabled time, it was common for a family to gather around the television and watch a program together. It was also common for programs to build to a climatic cliffhanger, and when viewers were at the edges of their seats, the action would freeze and the dreaded words "To Be Continued" would flash across the screen. Collective groans would fill living rooms, and then families would discuss what might happen next week. I have fond memories of such nonsense. My favorite To-Be-Continued moment might be from the TV show Happy Days. I'll never forget a leather-jacketed Fonzie on water skis as he approached a ramp to jump a blood thirsty shark. It was high drama for a seven-year-old muddywaters.

Nostalgia. Those were the days.

A few weeks ago I provided readers with a toned-down version of a Fonzie-jumps-the-shark moment - minus the absurdity, I think - when I mentioned my quest to cultivate a rye sourdough culture and bake brotchen. I left readers hanging, but today I'm here to give you an update on my jumping of the shark. The following is a brief recap of what happened:
  1. Due to a low room temperature, my sourdough culture struggled to come to life.
  2. My culture eventually came to life and possessed a nice sour tang.
  3. I used my culture in my first attempt at making the recipe in this post.
  4. The recipe turned out great, but I couldn't detect that nice sour tang in my final product.
  5. Therefore, I decided to scrap the sourdough, and use a starter that was more practical.
While I didn't end up with a brotchen that measured up to Wheatfields Bakery, I ended up with a bread that is more practical for my busy schedule, and it's quite tasty. It's a hearty companion for a bowl of soup.

Alpine Bread
Adapted from Daniel Leader's Local Breads

Poolish Ingredients
  • 1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 1/4 cup of rye flour
  • 1/4 cup of water
Ingredients for Dough
  • Poolish from above
  • 1/3 cup rolled oats
  • 1/3 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/3 cup flax seeds
  • 1/4 cup wheat berries
  • 2 1/4 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 2 cups bread flour
  • 1 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • PREPARING THE POOLISH AND SOAKING THE GRAINS: 24 hours before you plan to bake, mix the poolish ingredients and allow it to rise at room temperature. The poolish won't rise a lot, but it will become bubbly and spongy. Pour the rolled oats and seeds into a small bowl and cover them with 3/4 cup water. Soak them overnight, uncovered, so they plump and soften.
  • MIXING THE DOUGH: Pour the remaining 1 1/2 cups of water into a large mixing bowl. Stir in the yeast, bread flour, soaked oats and seeds, and salt with a spatula or wooden spoon. Scrape the poolish into the dough, and then with your spoon or spatula work the poolish into the dough.
  • KNEAD THE DOUGH: Use the dough hook and mix the dough on medium-low speed (3 on a KitchenAid mixer) for 8 minutes. Turn off the mix and scrape the hook and the sides of the bowl. Drape a piece of plastic wrap over the dough and allow it to rest for 10 minutes. Turn the mixer back on to medium-low and knead the dough until strands of gluten develop and it clears the side of the mixing bowl. During the 2nd round of kneading, you might need to add a tablespoon or two of extra flour, so that the dough isn't so sticky.

  • THE RISE: Transfer the dough to a lightly oil, 2-quart container. Cover and let it rise at room temperature until it doubles, which should take 2 to 2 1/2 hours. When you press your fingertip into the dough, your fingerprint will spring back slowly.

  • PREPARE THE OVEN: About 1 hour before baking, place a baking stone on the middle rack of the oven and a cast-iron skillet on the lower rack. Heat the over to 450 degrees.
  • SHAPE THE LOAF: On a floured surface, shape the bread into a boule, which is a round loaf. For instructions, visit this page at FoodTV.
  • PROOF THE LOAF: Let the loaf rise at room temperature for about 45-60 minutes. The loaf should look puffy. When you press your fingertip into the dough, your fingerprint will spring back slowly.
  • BAKE THE LOAF: Slide the loaf, still on the parchment, onto the baking stone. Place 3/4 cup of ice cubes in the skillet to produce steam. Bake until the loaf is nicely browned, 25 to 30 minutes.
  • COOL AND STORE: Cool the loaf for about 30 minutes. Store cooled loaf in a brown paper bag. Reheat in a 350-degree oven for 7 minutes to recrisp the crust. For longer storage, freeze in resealable plastic bags for up to 1 month.
Next time I think I'll shape this bread into some baguettes, and I'll do it on water skis while wearing a leather jacket. I'll keep you posted.

Sit on it,