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Everything posted by browniebaker

  1. The opera-and-Pearl-Jam analogy is very telling about the persepctive of the person who drew the analogy. The analogy is inapt. I wouldn't post about Pearl Jam on a board about opera, but I certainly would do so on a board about music. This is a board about food, all kinds of food.
  2. I love cookbooks and would be crowded out of house and home by them if I did not purposefully limit myself to the three feet of countertop next to the refrigerator; the space is full, and any new cookbook I purchase means the removal of one or more on the countertop, to accomodate the new one. I have to be very selective in my purchases. One thing I do is borrow the new releases from the public library to decide whether to buy. The other day, the librarian asked me, "Are you still checking out a lot of cookbooks, or are you over that phase?" I replied, "It's not a phase!" He wasn't aware that there are times of the year when the new cookbooks are released by publishers, and that now is a slow period.
  3. The point is, who are you or anyone else to judge the level or quality of another's interest in food and appropriateness of commenting on this board? I have seen someone on this board summarily dismiss someone else's recipe for pigs-in-blankets because the recipe called for covering the pigs-in-blankets in nuts and sugar! What justifies the sense of superiority some people exhibit about their taste in food as compared to others'?
  4. Some believe, however, that the term "cobbler" comes from the fact that dish was easily "cobbled" together out of whatever fruits one had on hand. I find this etymology more persuasive than that claiming derivation from "cobblestone." But the American Heritage Dictionary states that the etymology of the word "cobbler" is unknown.
  5. I was going to let you all duke it out, but now I have to speak up. A cobbler can indeed be made with a flaky pie pastry. I make my cobblers with a flaky pie pastry and always have. I grew up (in Nashville) eating cobblers topped with pie pastry, at friend's houses, at restaurants, and at school (whose dining hall was catered by the renowned Belle Meade Buffet Cafeteria in Nashville). No, these are not pandowdies, since pandowdies have their top crusts pushed down into the fruit mixture mid-way through the baking before being baked some more to crisp up. And, yes, many cobblers have not only pie pastry on top but also pie pastry layered as a sheet or in strips into the fruit mixture, which results in dumpling-like bits in the fruit mixture. Some cobblers have you bake half of the fruit filling with a layer of pie pastry on top until golden-brown, pour the other half of the fruit filling on top, place a second layer of pie pastry on top, and return to the oven to bake until done. Some cobblers are encased in a bottom crust and a top crust, almost like a runny pie. Edna Lewis, the doyenne of Southern cooking, includes in her latest book _The Gift of Southern Cooking_ an old family recipe for cobbler in which the fruit filling is completely sealed inside a bottom and a top crust of flaky pie pastry that is crimped together at the edge of the baking dish. Are you going to tell her that her old family recipe does not make a cobbler because it doesn't use a biscuit topping? My point is, cobblers are simple homey desserts made in as many different ways as there are cooks. Look in any community cookbook of whatever vintage, from whatever geographical region, and you'll see. Like threads on the best style of barbecued ribs, this thread is not going to resolve anything. But it sure is nice to read about all the different styles of cobbler!
  6. My birch breakfast table I never cover with a tablecloth, as it has a durable water-resistant finish and I could not care less . . . . but my 60" round wood table in the dining room has a custom-finished surface that I take infinite care to preserve: first a flannel-lined, cut-to-size vinyl liner, then a 70" x 90" taupe tone-on-tone damask hem-stitched linen tablecloth, over which I might also drape one, two, or three 12" x 70" runners in the same fabric (depending on how many people are to be seated) or set placemats that I also have in the same fabric. I adore this tone-on-tone taupe linen for its stain-hiding abilities -- all stains seem to wash out to a taupe in the end, fading invisibly into the fabric. No bleaching ever needed. I used to be of the spanking-white-linen school, which necessitated a lot of bleaching. But then I decided that bleaching was too much wear and tear on the linens and on me. Now, if only I could only go one step further in lassitude and resolve never to press these table linens, I might live the easy life . . . . maybe just washing and tumbling dry for the shabby, easy look? Has anyone been brave enough give up the iron and live with nonchalant wrinkles?
  7. browniebaker


    I agree with Varmint about separating the egg and whipping the whites before folding them into the batter. Also, for crisp waffles, substitute rice flour for one-fourth of the wheat flour. Sugar adds crispnness, too. Shirley Corriher says to add corn syrup for crispness. I add two tablespoons per recipe. Buttermilk is my liquid of choice, for a delicious flavor. I use the highest setting on my Cuisinart Belgian waffle-maker, for crispness. A little lower setting and less browning if I am planning to freeze extras in ziploc bags for toasting later, which works great. Also, crispness requires a lot of butter. A whole stick of butter per recipe is what I use, and it seems a horrifying amount until you calculate that it's only a tablespoon or less per waffle. Vegetable oil will give you crispness, too, but with much less flavor. For a while I was a big fan of Marion Cunningham's feather-light yeasted waffles (recipe in Rose Levy Beranbaum's _The Cake Bible_ as well as in Cunningham's own book of a title I cannot recall -- is it _How to Cook_?), but after I tried a recipe for unyeasted, much more substantial waffles, my family voted for the latter. They found the feather-light waffles too airy by comparison. I guess one could say that Cunningham's recipe makes the Wonder Bread or Krispy Kreme of waffles.
  8. From Wal-Mart, a pair (one smaller, one larger) of clear silicone heatproof spatulas with detachable wood handles. Have lasted me two years thus far. And I even machine-wash them, handles and all. The best $2.50 ever spent. Wooden spoons and Chinese bamboo spatulas are some other cheapos that have endured in my kitchen. Pyrex or Anchor-Hocking glass baking pans (especially pie plates) can't be beat for price, performance, and versatility. I prefer the Anchor-Hocking pie plates to the Pyrex because the rim of the Anchor-Hocking is as wide as that of the Pyrex, but the Anchor-Hocking's rim is more level so that the crust dough does not slide downward so much toward the center during baking. The Pyrex's rim is more slanted toward the center, and dough tends to slide down more.
  9. marrons glacees, only in the autumn
  10. Gooseberry pie with cream ladled extravagantly on top. The dining hall of Somerville College made delectable gooseberry pie when I was up at Oxford. in fact, all their desserts were terrific, for there was always a big pot of heavy cream for you to ladle onto whatever the evening's pudding was. The British know how to ladle on the cream (and know, unlike Americans, that you don't need to whip it).
  11. The temperature is in the 90's and there's a code red alert in the D.C. area, and I find myself hardly hungry for anything. Instead of simply being happy about the probable weight loss, I am ambivalent, also feeling I'm missing out on opportunities for eating. I am down to two meals a day, but I really *live* for my three square meals a day.
  12. browniebaker

    Banana Pudding

    The famed Belle Meade Buffet Cafeteria (superb meat-n-three) in Nashville, Tennessee, makes a wonderful banana pudding from scratch. I grew up eating it every week because I had the good liuck to attend a private day school in Nashville whose dining hall was catered by Belle Meade Buffet. Lunch at school was served family style at round tables each seating eight students and one teacher. One of my best taste- memories is of the bowl of banana pudding being passed around and getting to spoon out a serving on my plate. The bananas were ripe and fragrant, the nilla wafers well-moistened and soft, and the vanilla pudding just a little runny and laced with frothy meringue. We kids used to make fun of how the pudding was "snotty," but we all loved it. Now I make an identical banana pudding at home, to replicate this taste-memory, from a recipe in the cookbook _A Gracious Plenty_ (ed. John T. Edge). The recipe uses flour not cornstarch as the thickener. The cornstarch version is too smooth for me; I think the pudding should be essentially rustic. I like the banans firm and not too ripe, the nilla wafers well-soaked in the pudding, definitely meringue on top and *not* whipped cream, and it all served just a little warm -- bliss!
  13. I use Silpats for cookies (for the non-stick properties and for less browning on the bottom) but not for biscuits or scones. As between biscuit rounds on aluminum baking sheets and biscuit rounds on Silpats placed on aluminum sheets, the former definitely spread more. The former end up with the bottoms wider than the tops (rather conical), whereas the latter are perfectly cylindrical. The bottoms of the biscuits sitting directly on aluminum are browner, too, and I like the crustiness. The Silpats seem to moderate the initial heat hitting the aluminum and cause the biscuit dough to set more slowly than when they sit directly on a fast-heating aluminum sheet. Cookies on Silpats do not brown on the bottom as quickly as when they sit directly on aluminum sheets; I would guess they spread more, too, just as do the biscuits and scones.
  14. Fresco, Believe it or not, in the South these sweet congealed salads are considered vegetables. They are side dishes. They are just what they are called : salads. You put a dollop of Orange Fluff right on your dinner plate, next to all your other vegetables. I have Ernest Mickler's White Trash cookbooks and love them. The recipes are real.
  15. The congealed salads of the American South definitely are distinctly American. Great? I don't know. But much loved in certain parts. At holidays my mom made a Christmas Ribbon Salad: a layer of lime Jell-O, topped by a layer of lemon Jell-O mixed with ingredients such as crushed pineapple, marshmallows, and mayonnaise, topped finally by a layer of raspberry Jell-O. It's considered a salad and is served on a leaf of lettuce, just so you know it's a salad -- ha-ha. A subset of congealed salads is the Cool Whip salad. One of my guilty pleasures from growing up in Tennessee is a Cool Whip salad often called Orange Fluff, though the name is variable. It is made using a large box of Orange Jell-O (used in powder form, no water added) simply mixed with a large tub of small-curd cottage cheese, one small can of drained crushed pineapple, one small can of drained mandarin orange segments, one small package of chopped walnuts, and a large tub of Cool Whip. The taste is a bit like the orange flavor of Bayer's children's aspirin -- remember the taste? A big bowl of this salad graced every celebratory meal at my house when I was growing up, and it still does today -- I don't care how trashy it is! Mmmmmm.
  16. Embarrassing: my father-in-law is seventy years old but just has to flirt with pretty young waitresses. He makes eyes at them, and they flirt back. And my mother-in-law is sitting right at the table, not unaware. Once, a waitress at a French bistro in NYC even patted my father-in-law on the head! Pathetic old man. Also embarrassing: My father-in-law pays the bill with spanking-new $100 bills, very proudly laid on the table with a flourish. Granted, some of this pride in paying with big bills is an Asian thing (he is Asian), but, still, I feel like crawling under the table. Several years ago, as a summer associate at a law firm, I went to a lot of social functions sponsored by the firm which were no less than testing grounds for us. One summer associate was a bit gauche. At a Japanese restaurant, she looked at the orchids in the vase at the table and said, "Those are orchids? I thought orchids only came in purple!" Then when the sushi came, she said she had never had uncooked fish before, tried the sushi with evident trepidation, and left the rest of her meal untouched -- honest and forthright she was, but she did not exhibit the social polish the law firm wanted. I felt bad for her. She did not get an offer of employment at the end of the summer. Annoying: We took a hamburger-or-steak-only guy out to dinner at a barbecue place. There were hamburger and steak on the menu, so I don't know why he didn't order a hamburger or steak. He ordered a fulll rack of ribs and then proceeded to eat only the top layer of the rack off with his fork and knife! He left the strip-mined rack otherwise intact -- what a waste of good ribs! And neither my husband nor I felt comfortable telling him how he should eat his food. Never taking him there again! Most cringe-inducing of all for me: at even the most formal dinners, if my mother is asked what she'll have to drink with her meal, she invariably says, "Pina colada." I have tried to explain that it's not "the thing" to do, that she should maybe ask for wine instead, but she doesn't get it. Aaaargh.
  17. Fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, butter beans, biscuits, and a slice of chess pie.
  18. Terrific article, JAZ! Don't you wish every guest would read it?! Question for you all: Don't most of these rules for guests still apply when i give a dinner party at a restaurant? I think some rules should apply (but not rules regarding food preparation if the guests are to place their own order, e.g. wanting their steak medium-rare, substituting vegetables, etc.) To illustrate, with something that happened to me a few months ago: I told a new friend Julie that my husband and I wanted her, her husband Bill, and her mother to "be our guests for dim sum" at a particular Chinese restaurant on a certain date. Julie and Bill had lived in Hong Kong for a while and I knew they liked Chinese food. She said, "My mother doesn't eat any cuisine east of Greece, but I am sure she would love to come." I offered to have the brunch at some other restaurant serving some other cuisine, but my friend said, "No, no. Bill and I love Chinese food and I don't want to miss out on dim sum." So, all right, Chinese it is. The next day, Julie responds to my invitation by saying, "We all can come on that day, but could it be dinner instead? Bill does like Chinese food but he prefers dinner, is not big on dim sum." So, all right, I went along with dinner instead. Two weekends before the dinner, Julie calls and asks whether they can change the date to the this weekend (two days from now), so that they can visit her in-laws next week instead of this week because "Bill has a cold right now and doesn't want to descend on them with germs." So Julie and Bill thinks it's okay to for him to descend on *us* with his germs? I pleaded a prior engagement, the dinner was cancelled to my great relief, and I will never invite them again. Perhaps the fact that the dinner would be at a restaurant made my guests think they could depart from the host-guest paradigm? What do you think? Were these guests rude?
  19. The most utterly authentic Chinese cookbooks I have found in the English language are the series published by Wei-Chuan Publishing (related to the Wei-Chuan culinary school in Taiwan). Of the series, my personal favorites (bibles in my kitchen, really, and the only Chinese cookbooks I use) are the following: Chinese Cuisine Chinese Snacks Chinese Dim Sum Chinese Cuisine Szechuan Style Chinese Cuisine Taiwanese Style Chinese One Dish Meals Chinese Cooking for Beginners Traditional Rice Cooking Home-style Rice Cooking Besides that these are completely authentic recipes, the appeal for me lies in that (1) the books are bilingual in Chinese and in English; (2) they have color photographs of the completed dish and of the various steps of preparation; (3) there is a section with color photographs of, and Chinese characters for, the ingredients, which is helpful when I (not a speaker of Mandarin or Cantonese) shop for ingredients in Asian grocery stores; and (4) my mother cooked from the early editions of Chinese Cuisine and Chinese Snacks when I was little in Taiwan, so these recipes let me re-create the tastes of my childhood -- this alone is priceless to me. The Wei-Chuan books are the only Chinese cookbooks I recommend if someone wants authentically Chinese recipes. I have looked at the other books that people have recommended on this and other threads and, I hate to say it, but a lot of the recipes in them just are not right. (But if you don't know that the recipe is not authentic and you don't care as long as the taste is to your liking, then there is not really any problem, is there? This recalls the issue of whether it matters that a dish be authentic to the cuisine in order to be "good" . . . .)
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