Yorkshire Pudding and Sausage

My mother loved going to the Original Pancake House for one simple reason: her craving for a Dutch Baby. I took her there for lunch at least once a week and I bet Dad took her once a week for dinner. Her appetite as she got older was negligible, but she could put an entire Dutch Baby away- no problem- and I promise you they are colossal. I never understood how she did it. Some people like apples, fruit jams or even syrup on top, but purists like my mother just want confectioner’s sugar and a fresh lemon to squeeze over everything. The batter is about as simple as it gets… equal parts flour and milk with eggs, whipped smooth but not too fluffy. It's then poured into a cast iron skillet over melted butter and stuck into a hot oven.

Another twist on this recipe is the English version called Yorkshire Pudding. Everyone knows about Yorkshire Pudding; the British love it with their roast beef. It’s basically the same batter as a Dutch Baby- eggs, milk and flour. The British use the roast beef pan drippings for flavor. Then after the roast is cooked and while you are letting it settle, you have your batter ready, pour it over the roast beef drippings, stick it in a hot oven and voila! You have Yorkshire Pudding. If gravy was made with some of the drippings, you can also pour gravy on top. It is delicious.

Basically, the same batter is used for popovers. Doesn’t everyone love a popover? Neiman Marcus is famous for serving one with every meal- always accompanied by strawberry butter. It’s worth having lunch there just to enjoy one of their popovers.
I have a recipe from an old cookbook entitled No-Fail Popovers where you put the batter in a cold oven then turn the heat on. It works too. I used to serve them for luncheons. Everyone was so impressed. If your oven has a glass insert, your kids will have fun watching the popovers puff up.
The very same batter that is used in both popovers and Yorkshire Pudding is also used in a Dutch Baby; but as I previously mentioned, butter is used in the pan instead of beef pan drippings. Rather than a savory, it is a sweet. Mother loved popovers too (she couldn’t wait to have one at Neiman Marcus) but for some reason she never made them at home.

I bring all this up because frequently Mother did cook something which she referred to as Yorkshire Pudding and Sausage. I have no idea where she found the recipe, but it obviously was a favorite with her- it sure was with the rest of us. In fact, it's a treat for all Yorkshire Pudding and popover lovers. In fact, if you are British you have another name for this particular dish: Toad in the Hole.

Mother’ s recipe uses sausage (the “toads”) for flavor. I prefer bulk sausage but have used links as well; I just don’t think links are as flavorful- or perhaps they don’t produce as much in the drippings department. Or perhaps I am buying the wrong kind. However I think links are prettier to the eye - as in the photo below. (I even tried bacon once instead of sausage- no doubt I didn't have sausage in the fridge and must have been longing to make the dish- but I didn’t like it nearly as well.) I can think of any number of things you could add to this recipe if you want to be inventive- scallions, mushrooms- but I have always loved it exactly the way it was served to me as a child- with sausages and a touch of Worcestershire sauce for flavor. One more tip: if you have one of those fabulous cast iron skillets, use it- it’s perfect for this dish, but I have made it in other pans with no problem.

I have never tried to make a Dutch Baby with this recipe, eliminating the sausage and Worcestershire and using butter instead of pan drippings. Oddly enough, considering how she loved them, neither did my mother. But I see no reason why you couldn’t try it if you love Dutch Babies as much as Mother did. As far as I am concerned, Yorkshire Pudding and Sausage should be served for dinner while Dutch Babies are a breakfast or lunch dish.
I bet you have all the ingredients in your refrigerator so if you are looking for an easy dinner, try it tonight. I have to confess, this is way up there on my comfort food list!

Yorkshire Pudding and Sausage

Ingredients:3 eggs
1 cup milk
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
bulk sausage- whichever brand you prefer, or links

Method:Preheat oven to 400°.
Slice the sausage and fry in a large oven proof frying pan. Leave a generous coating of the sausage oil in the pan along with the sausage.
Beat the eggs with milk and flour until smooth. Add the Worcestershire sauce and a dash of salt. Pour everything over the sausage and place in the oven. Bake for about 25 minutes; keep checking. It will puff up like a popover. Serves 4.


Sticky Buns!

Brace yourself. I am about to drop a million calories on you. Sorry about that, but really, it’s worth it. Do you need a good excuse for trying this recipe? How about Easter Brunch? House guests? A house-bound friend? How about I’m going to taste one and only one and give the rest to a skinny friend? I chose the latter- and carried through with it too. I simply had to give these a try- thinking I would serve them next Christmas. Don’t laugh, I am the mother of all organizers; ask anyone.

This is another of Ina Garten’s recipes. Shame on her. And on me for downloading it. I’m not going to enter it in my food program because across the bottom of the page it lists list calories, plus a nutritional analysis. (Hah- that’s a good one.) I don’t want to know how bad these buns are for me; I don’t want anyone to ask me either. The only thing anyone needs to know is this: they are to die for.

Another thing, as if taste isn’t enough incentive, they only take about 10 minutes to put together and 30 to bake. These are nothing like the old fashioned sticky buns- which used to take all day because they used a yeast dough. This recipe uses puff pastry. Which makes the calorie count worse, but let's not talk about that.

In the photos below it looks as though there are way too many raisins. As it happened, the only raisins I had on hand were some Monucca raisins, those extra big ones, which I had purchased at a speciality store a couple weeks ago. You will want to use Thompson raisins-the regular kind that come in a box at the grocery store. Also- I sprayed my muffin tins briefly with Pam which Ina does not suggest but I think it helped ease the buns from the pan. If any buns needed extra help, I used a spoon; there was a little of the brown sugar mixture and a small amount of pecans left in some of the muffin cups, so I scooped that up with the spoon and dumped it on top of the each bun. It had not hardened yet so it was easy. No doubt that’s why Ina Garten suggests cooling five minutes and no more.

If you are trying to stick to a diet, I apologize in advance; you could always do what I did- give 11 of these little gems away. Immediately. Before you have a chance to reconsider. But I just had to share the recipe with you because you will love them for Sunday breakfast or brunch for guests. And frankly, two of you could eat the entire bunch in no time flat. After all, they are small. Or so you can tell yourself.

Sticky Buns
(Adapted from Barefoot Contessa , Back to Basics)

12 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1/2 cup pecans, chopped in large pieces
1 package (17.3 ounces- 2 sheets) frozen puff pastry, defrosted in the refrigerator

Ingredients for the filling:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2/3 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
3 teaspoons cinnamon
1 cup raisins

Preheat your oven to 400°. Place a 12 cup standard muffin tin on a baking sheet lined with tinfoil. (I used two 6 cup muffin tins.)
Using an electric hand mixer beat together the 12 tablespoons butter and the 1/2 cup brown sugar. Place one rounded tablespoon of this mixture in each of the 12 muffin cups. Distribute the pecans on top of the butter/sugar mixture.
Be sure to have your filling ingredients all ready to go.
Lightly flour your counter. Unfold 1 sheet (leave the other in the refrigerator) with the folds horizontal. Brush with the melted and cooled butter. Leaving a 1 inch border all around, sprinkle half the brown sugar and half the raisins on the puff pastry. Starting at the bottom, roll up the puff pastry, fairly snugly, like a jelly roll. Trim each end of the roll and then carefully cut the roll into 6 equal pieces. Place each piece, spiral side up in 6 of the muffin tins. Repeat with the second sheet of puff pastry.

Bake for 30 minutes until the buns are golden to dark brown on top. Remove from the oven, allow to cool for 5 minutes- no more-no less. Invert the pan on a piece of parchment paper. You may have to use a spoon to ease the filling and pecans onto the buns. Cool completely.


Red and White are for Valentines

Here’s the thing: I am not a chocolate lover. That makes me odd man out on February 14th. Calorie-wise, I say thank you God for this small favor.

My cousin Marcy was allergic to chocolate. My mother, who thought she was being extremely cunning, used to hide it inside the piano; of course Marcy knew it. She knew ALL the hiding places. She liked it so much it was worth the sneezing that immediately followed a mouthful. Lucky for her, she never had any competition from me. I was more a red hot fan. Still am.
But I sure did love Valentine’s Day when I was a kid. I remember cutting out hearts in red paper with white lacy stuff for trimming. Do kids still do that? Or are they too sophisticated? It was probably a girl thing anyway. And I used to stick some of those valentine candy hearts in the envelopes; you know- the ones that said Be Mine. Kiss Me. Yours 4Ever. 
Anyway, I send Valentine cookies to my kids now. I suppose I could try to make them, Martha Stewart-like, but I’m no good at it and besides, they would disintegrate somewhere during the UPS trip. My friend Kay makes those Martha Stewart cookies- the old fashioned royal icing-decorated ones. They are so delicate, delicious and beautiful. I just don’t have the decorating knack. So I mail order.
I should have ordered some for myself because I would like to give a Valentine's gift to a friend who needs cheering up. As my chocolate repertoire is a tad skimpy, I opened my favorite file to search for some red and white desserts. I could do a strawberry tart- I actually have one of those heart shaped tart molds- left over from my maniac Martha Stewart years. And there’s Coeur à la Crème-always pretty. But I decided on something I bet she’s never had. Russian Crème. Unusual, a snap to make and delicious.
This Russian Crème recipe has an interesting background: my sister Sharon went to Michigan State in the 50’s; they served Russian Crème at her sorority and she liked it so much she begged them for the recipe. She brought it home for Mother to try. The recipe has undergone several variations since then and the recipe she has is not exactly like the one I have. We couldn't figure it out- although she and Mother both tend to fiddle around with ingredients; Sharon mentioned she hadn’t made it in years- in fact had nearly forgotten all about it and because she had a luncheon coming up, she decided to serve it for dessert. Everyone loved it and nobody had ever heard of it before.
Because I was writing and testing for the family cookbook, I spent a day making her recipe and then the one I had on file. I ended up choosing mine- it had the taste and texture of the one I remembered Mother making. Not too sweet and quite light- even with all the cream. She always made it in a square pan and then cut it into squares. (She also used sweetened frozen raspberries for a sauce- easier, but the recipe below is delicious.)You could make it any shape you wish; I even served it once in a parfait glass. Isn't this a perfect Valentine?

Russian Crème

Ingredients:1 tablespoon Knox gelatin
1 cup half and half
1/4 cup cold water
4 tablespoons confectioners sugar
1/4 cup boiling water
1 cup whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
Raspberry sauce

Method:Soften the gelatin in the cold water for 5 minutes. Add the boiling water to dissolve. In the meantime, heat the cream and confectioners sugar. Do not boil. Add the gelatin mixture, mix well so the gelatin dissolves and set aside until it reaches room temperature.
Whip the cream to soft peaks (not stiff peaks or it will taste too buttery) and add the gelatin mixture. Stir carefully until completely mixed. Pour into a square pan and refrigerate until firm. Serve with a raspberry sauce. Serves 6-8.

Raspberry Sauce
Ingredients:1 pint fresh raspberries (reserve ½ pint for garnish)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
1 cup (12 ounces) seedless raspberry jam
1 tablespoon Framboise liqueur (optional)

Method:Place the package of raspberries, the granulated sugar, and 1/4 cup water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 4 minutes. Pour the cooked raspberries, the jam, and Framboise into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade and process until smooth. Chill. Add some fresh berries and serve with Russian Crème.


Swiss Chard

It hasn’t been the most fascinating weekend activity-wise around here so we spent some time Sunday afternoon at the Delray Antique Show. It’s always a fine one and we weren’t disappointed. What we were was stalked. In all the years I have gone to this show this is the first time booth owners were quite so chatty- often standing behind us holding forth on whatever item happened to be in front of us.

It’s a small show, but still- there couldn't have been more than 25 people there. Of course, it was the last day and the last afternoon. I imagine sales weren't exactly robust to say the least. To say the most, the owners were coming way, way down in their prices before we even asked. I didn’t buy, although I was tempted by a smashing and fun flamingo pitcher- rather like a piece of majolica although it wasn’t. Mostly the same vendors come each year but there was a new one this year, Nula Thanhauser. She had a booth chock full of vintage designer bags. Check it out: http://www.nulathanhauser.com/ We were enchanted. But we didn’t help the economy much.

I arrived home only to remember I had purchased some Swiss chard Saturday at the green market to try out in some recipes. A very good way to perk up a boring Sunday I think. When bored, cook. So here goes.....
If you’re anything like me, Swiss chard is a vegetable that you pass right by in the produce section. But I recently had my first taste of it- all by itself. I don’t know what I expected, but not this delicious flavor. It’s actually a member of the beet family, it just doesn’t have a bulb. It comes in a variety of colors; the leafy portion is always a nice green, while the stalk can be white, bright yellow, or a Christmas red. If you see it packaged together, it is often referred to as rainbow chard.

It tastes much like spinach although I think it has a nuttier and cleaner taste. If you’ve tried it before and it left you uninspired, get some from a farmer's market where it has been freshly picked. It’s sort of like the difference between white corn picked that day, or the same corn two days later. The tastes don't even compare.

The secret to Swiss chard is understanding that it’s really two vegetables in one. The younger, sweeter leaves can be put raw in salads, providing color and nutrition. Larger leaves can be chopped and cooked. The leafy portions cook quickly like spinach; the stalks should be chopped into bite-size pieces and can be sautéed or steamed for a longer period of time than the leaves.
But the most important thing about Swiss chard is its exceptionally impressive list of health-promoting nutrients. A super healthy vegetable, it gets excellent marks for its concentrations of vitamin K, vitamin A, vitamin C, magnesium, manganese, potassium, iron, vitamin E, and dietary fiber. Swiss chard also emerges as a very good or good source of copper, calcium, vitamin B2, vitamin B6, protein, phosphorus, vitamin B1, zinc, folate, biotin, niacin and pantothenic acid. I don’t think you can beat that for healthy!

As far as recipes are concerned, remember that it is interchangeable with spinach in most recipes: you can use it in quiches, pasta dishes, in soups and salads. I tried it several ways and enjoyed it immensely each time.

When I first tasted Swiss chard it was served as a vegetable side dish, simple, nothing fancy. There appeared to be onions and garlic mixed in with the chard and perhaps butter, but I knew there was a slightly salty taste and perhaps a little broth had been added for cooking, so I added a little soy sauce and some chicken broth. I think onions can be a little strong, so I decided to use milder shallots instead. After they were mostly caramelized, I added some minced garlic. Start with a big pan because, like spinach, it wilts down to practically nothing when it’s cooked. I think a touch of nutmeg might be good too and perhaps mushrooms.
Give my recipes a try- then widen your experiment to replace spinach with Swiss chard in some of your other recipes. That’s what I’m going to do.

Sautéed Swiss Chard
Ingredients:2 bunches Swiss chard
3 tablespoon olive oil
2 large shallots, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons soy sauce
Freshly ground black pepper

Method:Wash the chard, but don’t dry. Trim the large stems away and coarsely chop the leaves horizontally in 2 inch chunks. In a pan, heat the olive oil and add the shallots. Sauté until nearly caramelized and then add the garlic. Sauté another minute; add the chard, soy sauce and chicken broth. The pan will look overloaded, but chard reduces like spinach. Cook, stirring often until the greens have wilted and are tender. ( I served it with sea scallops for my dinner.)

Later, I was chatting on the phone with an Italian friend about my chard recipe and she said her mother made it all the time, but added a few other ingredients. She browned some pancetta, removed it, added the shallots, caramelized them, and then added the garlic and the chard. When it was nearly wilted, she added a well-rinsed can of cannelloni beans and a red tomato, diced. When everything was warmed through, she added the pancetta and served it- almost like a soup- with some really good bread. Yum.And lo and behold, in my stack of recipes, I found a Swiss chard recipe torn out of an old Gourmet magazine. I made it with what chard I had left- I think I liked it best.
(I also discovered a recipe for a Swiss chard tart-sounded divine, but by this time, I ran out of chard. I will save it for another day.)

Swiss Chard With Raisins and Pine Nuts(Gourmet Magazine, February 2005)
Ingredients:1 ½ pounds Swiss chard, rainbow or red (two bunches)
½ cup pine nuts
1/8 cup olive oil
1 medium onion, sliced thin
¼ cup golden raisins
½ cup chicken broth

Method:Tear the stems from the leaves and coarsely chop them separately. Toast pine nuts in the oil, remove to a paper towel; season with salt. Add the onion to the pan and cook for about 1 minute. Add the chard stems. Cook 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add raisins and ¼ cup chicken broth and simmer, covered until stems are softened, about 3 minutes. Add chard leaves and remaining ½ cup chicken broth. Simmer, partially covered until the leaves are tender, about 3 minutes. Add the pine nuts and season with salt and pepper to taste.


Aunt Mar's Birthday Cake

My Aunt Mar lived across the street from us when I was a child. She was really a great aunt, my paternal grandmother’s sister. There was a huge weeping willow tree in her back yard where I set up housekeeping as often as I could. The willow leaves reached right to the ground all the way around; doesn’t every kid love a hidey-hole? Aunt Mar always seemed to have something wonderful baking in her little kitchen and her house always smelled like lemons. She gave me empty spice cans, bowls and spare kitchen utensils to play with under the tree where I had a just-pretend kitchen going. Oh the things I cooked under that tree! I mixed spices with dirt, stones, leaves and nuts and served the dish to dolls I had lined up like children.

Aunt Mar was generous in her kitchen too. She invited me to help her roll out her lemon or date cookies. She made both on a regular basis and brought them over for the rest of my family. Of course, I had already sampled….more than once.

I have many of her recipes and smile when I notice she used lemon flavoring in many of them. I automatically think of her when I smell that flavoring. She never used extract, always flavoring; I know my father’s family were strict teetotalers, so the reason could have been as simple as the alcohol content in extract. Who knows? She was a sweet, pretty woman, soft spoken, a stalwart member of the Methodist church and had wonderful slightly curly, soft, white hair which she kept tucked neatly under a delicate hair net, barely visible.

But the really important thing about Aunt Mar was her sponge cake recipe. As far back as I can remember, on all of our birthdays, we waited with baited breath for her to arrive with our birthday cakes. We loved them. My aunt was sweet enough to write down all her recipes when I married and the birthday cake was among them. And yes, I continued the tradition and made the identical cake for each of my children until they were grown and gone. It is really a very basic recipe with old fashioned 7 minute frosting. Of course, the cake called for lemon flavoring which results in a slightly different flavor than other sponge cakes. I use extract in my recipe and had to adjust the amount as it is stronger than flavoring. It’s really not that unusual a sponge cake recipe but it does make a picture-perfect birthday cake- all that fluffy frosting. And when Aunt Mar added the birthday candles, we thought it was enchanting!

Aunt Mar’s Birthday Cake

Ingredients:1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups flour
6 eggs, room temperature
1 1/3 teaspoons cream of tartar
1/2 cup cool water
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 teaspoon lemon extract

Place room temperature egg whites in a bowl and beat until foamy. Add 3/4 teaspoon cream of tartar and beat until soft peaks. Slowly add 1/2 cup sugar and the vanilla, beat until stiff peaks and set aside.
In another bowl, beat yolks until lemon colored. Add lemon extract and the remaining sugar.
Sift the flour and the remaining cream of tartar. Beat the flour and cream of tartar into the egg/sugar mixture alternately with the cold water. Fold in egg whites carefully by hand and pour into an angel food cake pan. Bake 350° for 1 hour and cool upside down on a funnel.

Sift some confectioners sugar on a cake plate. Run a knife around the edge of the cake pan and around the center. The cake should release easily. Invert on the cake plate. (My aunt always served the cake top side down, but this is your choice.)

Frost generously with 7 minute frosting.

Seven Minute Frosting
2 unbeaten egg whites, room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
5 Tablespoons cool water
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 1/2 teaspoons corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla

Place all ingredients except the vanilla in the top of a double boiler. Beat constantly with electric beater while it cooks for 7 minutes or until at least double in volume and holds stiff peaks. Remove from heat. Add vanilla. Beat again to mix.


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