Saturday, November 14, 2009

Make Your Own Norman Rockwell Americana Memories......

While waiting on winter to get on with things and planning menu's and other holiday doings, it's always seemed to me that just because the temperatures are down we don't need to stop enjoying our favorite flavors.... duh! For those lucky people, like our friends in Merida, Yucatan (Hi Guys!) where the weather is balmy even in winter and have the luxury of ripe fruit year round, or the other tropical places that share this benefit..... but for most of us that will have weather that no longer permits this (you could go to Whole Foods, (one of my favorite food stores), and get imported fruits at a premium price I suppose), I will use good old frozen or even canned fruits us mere mortals can find at our local A&P......

If you've been following this blog at all then it will be no surprise to see that I generally include some baked goods.... can you tell I love to bake? There's just something about producing wonderful food from an oven that inspires me and while it doesn't all have to be in the dessert classification, the term "baking" usually means visualizations of rich sweets, right? Only one thing missing from my kitchen to make it absolutely perfect (well, maybe more than one...) and that would be a wood fire oven to cook almost everything.... maybe when I grow up (lol).

It came to me that there were so many different labels put on these fruit dishes that used to confuse me, I figured they did the same to you, so here's a simple explanation of what they mean. Makes for great visualizations and will jog your memory too! These are truly old fashioned in every sense and come with a long pedigree.....

1- COBBLER: Fruit topped with a crust and baked—as a fruit pot pie. Most cobblers have a thick biscuit crust, which can either be cut into rounds (“cobbles”) or left as a single layer.

2- CRISP: The fruit is sprinkled with a streusel-like mixture of butter, sugar, flour, and often oatmeal or nuts that has been rubbed together or pulsed in a food processor.

3- CRUMBLE: This is what Crisps are called in the UK.

4- BROWN BETTY: Similar to a crisp, but breadcrumbs are used, and they’re layered in with the fruit rather than scattered on top.

5- BUCKLE: The fruit is generally folded into (or sprinkled onto) cake batter and then covered with a topping similar to that found on a crisp; the cake batter will “buckle” as it bakes.

6- PANDOWDY: A deep-dish fruit dessert that originated in the hearth kitchen as a way to use up leftover bread dough on baking days. The thick crust, which would become as hard as a cracker, was then broken up and left to soak in the cooking juices. The end result was similar to a bread pudding. The pandowdy evolved with the times, and both biscuit and pie crusts were used. Up until the mid-20th century, apples were the only fruit and molasses the only sweetener used in pandowdies.

7-GRUNTS: This is a close cousin to a slump, is made by simmering barely sweetened dumplings in spiced fruits.

8- SLUMPS: It’s really a cobbler but it's made on the stovetop like dumplings, not baked. It’s easy. Even a novice can make a slump. And you don’t have to heat up your kitchen. You can make them on the grill or even out camping. The name refers to the way the dumplings "slump" during cooking - presumably the sound made by the fruit as it bubbles on the stove.

9- CRACKLES: Much like the crisps and betties I wrote about, summer fruit is sliced or peeled and placed into a buttered pan, sprinkled with sugar and then a mixture of flour, salt, sugar, cinnamon and butter, then baked and served warm with cream, custard or ice cream.

10- ROLY POLY: A fruit dumpling wrapped in a pudding bag and poached in simmering water. Popular in the South, it is found in Lettice Bryan's "The Kentucky Housewife" (1839), and Estelle Wilcox's "The New Dixie Cook-Book," (1889). Because it is cooked in a bag and called pudding, though it may be cakelike, it sounds to me as if it might have origins in England or Scotland, although Neal doesn't mention that specifically. Its fruit filling is rolled in dough, placed in the bag and then poached. In the South, the dough is sometimes fortified (with spirits) and the roly poly baked instead of poached.

11- STICKIES: From Appalachia comes a variation of biscuit dough that is kneaded and rolled on a floured surface, then spread with softened butter and sprinkled with cinnamon sugar, and then rolled up, jelly-roll fashion, and sliced and baked in a buttered pan with more cinnamon and sugar. Water is poured over the whole thing, and, when they are baked, a syrup forms in the pan to be spooned over the rolls. (doesn't that sound good?)

12- AWENDAW: One of the most delicious legacies of the native cuisine." A spoonbread named for a Native American Indian settlement near Charleston, S.C., the recipe was published as Owendaw Corn Bread in "The Carolina Housewife" by Sarah Rutledge in 1847. Made with cold grits and white cornmeal.

Phew! Who knew, right? I began with a couple and one led to another and so on and pretty soon a dozen appeared letting me know many more could be discovered if I continued on my scavenger hunt. The point is that all though these prime examples of "Americana" are of a bygone era, we should not just remember them but make them a part of our present day lives. They are all wonderful, classic, adaptable, economic and everyone loves them, so why don't we see more of them? I don't know, but I will be doing my part; got a crisp in the oven right now featuring apples and cranberries that is sure to be a hit when served hot over ice cream. YUM!

Here are some examples in case you feel like doing your part too:

Blueberry Bread Pudding with Blueberry Ginger Sauce.- A different take of an Old Classic taking advantage of the nutritional advantages that blueberry's give us, a great and tasty dish:

Blueberry-Ginger Sauce:
2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
1/2 cups sugar
1 tbl crystallized ginger /1/2 tsp dried ginger / 1 tbl fresh grated ginger
1/4 cup water

1 1/2 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1 cup whipping cream
2 cups milk
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 loaf challah bread, cut into 2-inch cubes (or any egg type bread)
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries

For the sauce: Combine blueberries, sugar, ginger and water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat then reduce heat to a simmer and cook 3 to 5 min or until sauce thickens.

For the pudding: Preheat oven to 375. Lightly grease a 13 x 9 baking pan. In a bowl, beat sugar and eggs at medium speed with an electric mixer until fluffy. Add whipping cream, milk, vanilla and nutmeg, beating until blended. Fold in bread cubes and blueberries. Pour into baking pan and let it rest for 5 min. Put in oven and bake 40 to 45 min. Remove from oven and allow to cool in pan 5 min before serving. Top with Blueberry Ginger Sauce and whipped cream, or ice cream.

Peach or Mango Cobbler.- Beloved by my family and served at several of my restaurants to great acclaim, this very simple yet classic cobbler is so versatile, I've made it with all kinds of fruit combinations (fresh, canned or frozen) and it's amazing each and every time. You won't believe how easy and fantastic this one is, truly:

4 cups peeled, sliced peaches (whatever... if using canned, omit the syrup)
2 cups sugar, divided
1/2 cup water
8 tbl butter
1 1/2 cups self-rising flour
1 1/2 cups milk
Ground cinnamon, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine the peaches, 1 cup sugar, and water in a saucepan and mix well. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat. This is for fresh fruit, if using canned, don't cook and use as is.

Put butter in a 3-quart baking dish and place in oven to melt. Mix remaining 1 cup sugar, flour, and milk slowly to prevent clumping. Pour mixture over melted butter. Do not stir. Spoon fruit on top, gently pouring in syrup. Sprinkle top with ground cinnamon, if using. Batter will rise to top during baking by itself. Bake for 30 to 45 min. To serve, scoop onto a plate and serve with your choice of whipped cream or ice cream.

Apple Brown Betty.- Another easy yet tasty comfort food recipe for you! This one is great if you add cranberries or switch around the fruit too:

4 medium apples, sliced
1 cup bread crumbs
3 tbl butter
1 tsp grated lemon or orange peel
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
3 to 4 tbl fruit juice (maybe same kind as fruit used or experiment)

Mix bread crumbs, butter, lemon or orange peel, sugar, and cinnamon. Place half of the sliced apples in a buttered baking dish. Cover with half of the bread crumb mixture. Add remaining apple slices and cover with remaining crumb mixture. Moisten with fruit juice. Bake at 375 for 45 min. Serve hot or cold with cream, whipped topping, or ice cream.

Fresh Fruit Crisp.- Easy and good, nutritious and rich in fiber. Makes in a snap and can use any fruits you like:

1 cup oats (quick or old fashioned), uncooked
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 tbl flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup water
6 cup apples, peaches or pears, plums, peeled and sliced

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Combine oats, brown sugar, butter and cinnamon; set aside. Combine remaining ingredients except fruit. Add fruit slices, tossing to coat. Spoon into 8 inch square glass baking dish. Top with oat mixture. Bake 40 to 45 min or until fruit is tender.

Grandma's Stickie Recipe.- Not my grandma's but maybe yours.... This is the mountain version of Cinnamon Rolls kind of; no yeast but baking powder is used but you get the idea and makes a lovely treat. They were called "stickies" because that's what they do, stick to your hands in the most delicious way:

1 cup
sifted all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup milk
1/4 cup butter plus 2 tbl of butter
1/4 cup of brown sugar packed firmly
1/2 cup of finely chopped nuts
3/4 tsp of cinnamon

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Sift flour, baking powder and salt together. In mixing bowl add two tbl butter and work it into the flour mix using two knives, or forks or with your fingers until you have little floured lumps like peas. Mix in milk slowly with a fork. DON'T MIX TOO MUCH. Dump on lightly floured pastry cloth, sprinkle with flour and roll lightly into a rectangle until it is about 1/8 of inch thick. Spread 1/4 cup of butter over the surface (spreads easily if butter is very soft). Then sprinkle with brown sugar, nuts and cinnamon. Now, using both hands, r
oll dough tightly like a jelly roll, then tuck in the ends neatly. Cut off dough with a very sharp knife into one inch thick slices. Place a little bit apart on a greased cookie sheet. Bake for 12 - 15 min.
I always enjoy finding old classic recipes people for the most part have forgotten about. Even though I specialize in the Mexican classics "long lost or fast disappearing" recipes (due to the great number of ingredients and labor intensive preparation daunt people from trying them), these are quick and easy so there's no reason to not mak
e them; all countries have these and it's sad to see that new generations are not interested in these little "gems" (except maybe in certain "pockets" of Americana), yet people like me are amazed and delighted when we run into them, resurrecting them in our home kitchens and introducing them to a new generation who might then make them family favorites again. So go ahead and make a classic at home this season and maybe you can relive a piece of the past and make it your present and part your family's future.....

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