Sunday, January 25, 2015

Edwardian Cooking Part Three: Baked Brussels Sprouts and Cheddar Cheese

Remember the Brussels sprouts that I didn't feel like coring last week in Edwardian Cooking Part Two: Shredded Spiced Brussels Sprouts? I made another new dish with them! (Really, I didn't know this was going to a three parter until now.) This Baked Brussels Sprouts and Cheddar Cheese dish is fairly close to how I first tried Brussels sprouts in a dish that was called Brussels Sprouts Au Gratin. (It's basically the same thing except no bread crumbs this time.) 

First, a spoiler. I didn't use cheddar cheese. For vaguely known reasons, we have a ginormous bag of shredded Mexican blend cheese in our fridge. With no other use for this cheese, I decided to use it in place of cheddar in this dish. The result was absolutely fine. I say, use whatever cheese you'd like. In fact, experimenting with different kinds of cheese sounds like a lot of fun!

Again, the book is Edwardian Cooking: the Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook by Larry Edwards. If you've enjoyed these recipes, please buy it! With each recipe, you will find lovely anecdotes about the dish, its history, the culture, and sometimes little tidbits about the show Downton Abbey.

What You Need:
  • 1.5 lbs of Brussels Sprouts
  • 1/2 tspn salt
  • 1 T butter
  • 1.5 cups grated cheese
  • 1 tspn ground black pepper
As I said above, I used shredded cheese and not grated. It all melts in the oven! But if you're a stickler, the recipe does call for grated cheese.

It turns out we do have a pairing knife, at least what Greg knows as a pairing knife, so I used that to find my own way of coring Brussels sprouts. This recipe actually makes it easier than the last one. It directs you to first cut the sprouts in half, then core them. So this is what I did:

Still a bit tedious, but Greg and I agreed, the texture was much improved over a previous Brussels sprouts and cheese attempt. Once cored, you will want to:
  • Bring one inch of water to boil in a medium-size pan. Add the halved sprouts and salt and allow to cook for about three minutes. (The green color of the sprouts will intensify.)
  • Drain the water out of the pan. Add butter and toss sprouts to coat.
  • Spray a casserole dish with non-stick spray. Then pour in the sprouts, cover with cheese, and shake on some ground black pepper.
  • Cover with foil and bake at 325F for about 20 minutes.

Even with the coring, this dish was incredibly easy to make. I had to run off to an author event at around dinner time, so I prepped everything and had the sprouts ready to go and covered in foil for Greg to pop in the oven 20 minutes before I arrived home. (Team work!) For the companion piece, Greg cooked turkey sausages in a frying pan. Not a bad combo! 

Ok, I am all out of Brussels sprouts. Don't know what I am doing next week, but here's hoping the stove doesn't catch on fire. I have scoured the entire thing, so unless it wants to catch vestiges of cleaning solution on fire (again), we should be fine. 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Edwardian Cooking Part Two: Shredded Spiced Brussels Sprouts

This is the side dish I made along with the Majestic Potato Cream Soup from last week's Edwardian Cooking Part One. It is also found in the book Edwardian Cooking: the Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook by Larry Edwards. 

Here are the listed ingredients for Shredded Spiced Brussels Sprouts:
  • 4 cups Brussels sprouts
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2 tspn lemon juice
  • 1 tspn salt
  • 1/2 tspn ground white pepper
  • 1/2 tspn cayenne peppers
I ran into trouble with my first step, but that is not where it ended, oh, no. The first thing you must do to prepare this dish is core the Brussels sprouts. "WTF?" I thought. "How do I do that?" I have only ever had Brussels sprouts whole, usually covered in cheese. (I did not grow up eating Brussels sprouts - I don't think my parents liked them - so I have only eaten them as an adult, and not often.) 

The book instructs you: "using a sharp paring knife, cut out the core of the Brussels sprouts." What, now? I am not 100% sure (Greg may correct me on this), but I don't think we own a paring knife. And looking at the pictures online, the thought of using one sort of freaks me out. I don't cut myself often in the kitchen, but it has happened. (I am far more likely to grate a chunk of my fingernail off with the cheese grater, which has happened at least once.) 

With no paring knife, I turned to the internet, where I learned you can also, according to eHow: "push a vegetable peeler into the bottom of the sprout and pierce the middle of the core. Quickly twist the vegetable peeler in a circular motion. This will cut a hole through the entire core." Then, in theory, I will be able to remove the core. I have the type of peeler in question, so I decided to give that a try. Lies. I almost stabbed myself a number of times attempting this method. 

I eventually just started cutting the sides off the core. If it was too hard to easily cut, I tossed it, which was a frustrating waste to me! I know the cores are edible, just tough and sometimes a bit chewy (granted, a texture that turned Greg off when I made Brussels sprouts before). But anyway...

Once I had gone through half of the Brussels sprouts, I stopped. That was a lot of work, and I was tired of it! I probably should have adjusted the rest of the recipe since I think I had roughly 2 cups of leaves, but I didn't because the recipe didn't say how many leaves I was supposed to have, just that I started out with, I assume, 4 cups total of whole Brussels sprouts. 

Here are the rest of the steps:
  • Shred the cored Brussels sprouts. (I more or less accomplished this in my coring process.)
  • Cook the sprouts in boiling water for about 5 minutes. Drain and discard the water.
  • Put the cooked sprouts in a serving dish and toss with the remaining ingredients to coat.
Nowhere in that second part does it say "and set your stove on fire," yet that's what happened. Somehow, the spilled soup from earlier that had pooled beneath the burner caught on fire. And it was quite a lot of fire! I had no idea milk and potatoes were so flammable. This is not the first time the stove has caught on fire. In fact, it is the third, and let me reiterate that this is an electric stove. 

I removed the pan and was able to blow the flames out. There is a fire extinguisher provided by the apartment complex located  in the closet by the front door. I elected not to go and get it because the flames were responsive to blowing. It was a little like blowing out birthday candles if someone decided to put my actual age in candles on the cake. If this had been a gas stove, I definitely would have attacked it with the fire extinguisher! Technically, the stove was not on fire, it was the soup. And I was too busy putting it out to take a picture. (I'd be lying if I didn't admit that a fraction of my mind didn't consider it.)

And it caught on fire again for breakfast the next morning while Greg was making turkey bacon. Blowing didn't work that time as the flames were, strangely, even bigger, and he smothered it with a large pot lid. The lid was clear, so we were able to stand there and watch as the flame fought desperately for life. 

Back to the Brussels sprouts, I put them on a different burner to finish boiling, ended up turning on the wrong burner, and sent the soup back into a boil that it was not supposed to have. Sigh! In the end, everything worked out, and Greg did not hate the Brussels sprouts this time. I didn't notice the cayenne powder - which I actually used this time! Mostly the Brussels sprouts tasted like butter. Lots and lots of butter. 

I don't know if I would make this exact recipe again - sans fire - but I would use it as inspiration for other Brussels sprouts creations. Less butter and more pepper, perhaps, or some other herbs and spices. I also think that I would buy the package of shredded Brussels sprouts from Trader Joe's rather than attempting it again myself. That was just obnoxious. 

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Edwardian Cooking Part One: Majestic Potato Cream Soup

I have always been fascinated by the way that people live. I am particularly interested in how people have lived throughout history, without access to our modern day "conveniences." This is why when the book Edwardian Cooking: the Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook by Larry Edwards arrived in the store, I couldn't resist for long. (I also love Downton Abbey.) Since the recipes are all really quite simple, I was able to get started right away, too!

As they say, the weather outside is frightful. Highways have been shutting down north, south, east, and west due to car and semitruck pile-ups. Friday seemed like a good day to stay indoors and make some soup. And so I pulled out my new cookbook and got started on Majestic Potato Cream, which, the book tells me, was only ever made when members of King Edward's court were present at dinner or a gala, and is served in smaller bowls due to its incredibly rich flavor. I was also warned that this dish might be too much for modern tastes. Challenge accepted.

What You Need:

  • 2 cups of mashed potatoes
  • 2 cups of milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice 
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • paprika
Here's what I did:

I did not have mashed potatoes lying around, so I had to make some by peeling (something I normally hate to do because I like the nutrients one finds in the skins of potatoes) about 4 or 5 small to medium sized potatoes, cubing then boiling then mashing them. I added a little milk to aid in the mashing. Very easy. 

Next, in my larger sauce pan, I whisked together the mashed potatoes, milk (I used whole milk), cream, salt, ground pepper (alas, I had no white, so I think I used black), and allspice (we had Jamaican allspice - no idea if that's terribly different; it smelled right) over medium-high heat. The butter was saved for later. Once it was boiling, I reduced the heat to a simmer and allowed it to cook - with the occasional stir to break up the film that kept forming on the surface - for about 5 minutes.

Something else happened at this point: some of the mixture spilled over onto and beneath the electric burner. This will be important later in the tale, so this gets its own paragraph. 

Moving along... When Greg got home and we were ready to eat (I made this as the main dish along with a vegetable side), I ladled the soup into two bowls, cut two tablespoons-ish of butter from my butter stick and placed one in the middle of each bowl, then sprinkled on some paprika. Voila! Soup is on. 

Perhaps I did not follow the recipe as closely as I was supposed to, or there may have been something wrong with the ingredients I used. Whatever the reason, neither Greg nor I found this potato soup to be anything particularly out of the ordinary. The spices, surely, gave it added flavor and lovely aromas. But too rich for modern tastes? Really? I say nay. It was still very good soup! Quite creamy and easy to eat. (Greg likened it to a squash soup in texture.) Would I make it again? Maybe. The ingredients were few and simple, and I like both of these things.

Next week: the Brussels sprouts side dish that I made to accompany the soup. Also, the stove lit itself on fire. (Told you the soup spillage would become important later.) 

Monday, January 5, 2015

Turnip (or Rutabaga) Puff

This recipe comes to us courtesy of my mother and her boyfriend's family. It's worth noting that said family is in Ontario, Canada, as it explains the name of the recipe. His family calls it Turnip Puff, "turnip" being, according to Wikipedia, what people in Ontario and Atlantic Canada (but not western Canadians, apparently) call the "rutabaga," which started out its days long ago as a cross between a cabbage and a turnip. (In the interest of not confusing people, should I change the name of the recipe to Rutabaga Puff?) 

Whatever you call this root vegetable, it's delicious mashed and baked into this casserole side side strangely reminiscent of scalloped corn. I helped my mom make this for our family Christmas celebration on New Year's this year, but it would make a great Thanksgiving dish, or any family gathering. 

Here is what you need:
  • 6 cups cubed rutabaga
  • 2 tspn butter
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 3 T flour
  • 1 T brown sugar
  • 1 tspn baking powder
  • 3/4 tspn salt
  • 1/8 tspn pepper
  • 1 pinch of ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup fine breadcrumbs
  • 2 T melted butter
And here is what you do:
  • Cook the rutabaga until tender, drain, and mash with the 2 teaspoons of butter and beaten eggs. (There is a note that this can be done a day ahead of time and the rest on the day of serving.) 
  • In a separate bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, salt, pepper, and nutmeg, then combine it with the rutabaga mixture. 
  • Spread butter around the inside of a glass casserole dish, then spread in the turnip mixture. Top with the breadcrumbs and melted butter. 
  • Bake at 375F for 25 minutes. Serves about 6 people. 

Et voila! I find that rutabagas have an almost nutty flavor, like many squashes, though this dish is on the sweeter side thanks to the addition of brown sugar. The texture is a little creamy, a little fluffy. Rutabagas can also be roasted, boiled, stir-fried, braised, steamed, and microwaved (and all of those recipes can be found at 7 Ways to Cook Rutabaga).