Saturday, November 22, 2008

Holiday Cheese Log

I planned to use the Amy Sedaris Cheese Ball recipe that I cut from an issue of BUST Magazine. She republished it in a slightly different form in I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence (2006). There it's called "Lil' Smokey Cheese Ball." This recipe is by far the best basic cheese ball recipe I've ever used. You can make lots of changes and it still turns out great.

Amy Sedaris's Cheese Ball
BUST Magazine, 2001

2 8oz packages cream cheese
2 cups shredded smoked gouda
1 stick unsalted butter
2 Tbs milk, cream, or 1/2 and 1/2
2 tsp A-1 Steack Sauce
2 cups crushed nuts

Allow ingredients to soften to room temperature. Beat them all together in a mixing bowl and form into a ball, or small balls to suit your needs. Roll in crushed nuts and refrigerate. Remove from refrigerator and allow to soften about 20 minutes before serving. Serve with crackers of your choice.

Armed with my shopping list, Serena and I took the bus down to Jewel because you can't buy anything but queso fresco or cheadar in our neighborhood. But when we got to Jewel there was not a single scrap of smoked gouda left! I was outraged. Was everyone making cheese balls for Thanksgiving? From our slim choices we decided to use an extra-sharp cheddar and smoked white-cheddar mix. It turned out great. The thing about this recipe is that it is so forgiving. Yummmmm.

250 Tasty Snacks

This week I have three parties. My friend Victoria's birthday, Thanksgiving at Paula and Terri's, concluding with a pie and hors d'oeuvres with Lara, Dominick, Andrew and Nicholas. As you can imagine, that's a lot of cooking. I decided to make a single dish that I can bring to multiple parties. And obviously that dish is a cheese log.

I turned immediately to 250 Tasty Snacks #1 (1970, original copyright 1965), which I knew would help me out. There was an interesting looking recipe for "Nut-Cheese Log," that used both cheddar and roquerfort, but it called for a half a cup of white wine and honestly, I just didn't trust it. So I've decided to stick with my trusty old standby.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Dinner Party

So I had some friends over for dinner tonight. All in all the meal went well. I used a lovely Polish sausage that I got at Lincolnwood Produce and I made my mashed potatoes from small, unpeeled red potatoes instead of instant (yuck!). It was a hit.

For sides, I served asparagus with pimento strips, just like The American FAMILY Cookbook suggests. I thought I would have a hard time finding pimento, but it was right there on the shelf at Lincolnwood. Of course, the store had a lot to do with it. We also had a great Ceasar Salad with a nice anchovy dressing from The Joy of Cooking.

Serena made the "Pots de Creme Chocolat" from 150 Delectable Dessert Recipes #13 (1971). She really likes to follow a recipe the first time out with a dish. They tasted pretty good, but the instructions were poor. It proved what I had been thinking all along as I read through these books--many of these recipes have not been tested.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Frank 'N Potato Pie

I've decided to make the Frank 'N Potato Pie with turkey kielbasa and actual mashed potatoes instead of instant. First of all, old school Culinary Arts Institute books would NEVER have used instant. But in reality, no one eats instant potatoes anymore and I would imagine them to be intolerable to a modern audience, but doesn't it look good.

I'm watching my favorite television program, The Bob Newhart Show. This episode originally aired on November 24th, 1973 (You gotta love Hulu!). That is one week shy of 35 years ago. You have to admit, Emily is pretty cute. The title theme "Home to Emily," makes me want to be home to my own Serena. I wonder if Emily ever made these dishes. It seems unlikely.

The American FAMILY Cookbook #8

I'm having a few friends over on Sunday. They're colleagues of my girlfriend, Serena, and I want everything to be nice. She already told them about my project, so really the goal is to make something that will be authentic, but still palatable to a contemporary audience. For Sunday I have selected a lovely main dish from The American FAMILY Cookbook #8 (1971) called "Frank 'N Potato Pie." Though I have to say, the frank in the photo looks much more like a kielbasa and not a hot dog. The latter books from The Culinary Arts Institute are obviously re-works from the 40s and 50s editions. Many are exactly the same recipes, even the same photos. This makes it hard to tell precisely when frankfurters metamorphosed from sausage to wiener.

Of course, there will be salad to offset the starch of the potatoes. Also, I will serve grilled asparagus wrapped in pimento (all long green vegetables: asparagus, green beans are bound by pimento). And I am serving a delightful chilled Lambrusco from Trader Joe's. I still can't decide on a dessert. The one I want to make requires a star-shaped Jell-O mould. Sadly, I'm fresh out.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Dishes Mother Used to Make #126

Sadly, Dishes Mother Used to Make #126 (1942) hardly looked as if it had been cracked. It had been checked out a few times. But really...This is so pathetic. Five times in 62 years? Even if you account for the REMOTE STORAGE this book seems better than that. But then I wondered, Was it the title, Dishes Mother Used to Make? Now, when I was growing up my mother made it pretty clear that women had better things to do than cook. And my mother wasn't such a great cook anyway, and maybe even the women a generation before me had mothers who weren't such great cooks. What if our romantic ideals of women from the past (mothers) who made such great food wasn't really true. Of course, I'd batted this idea around before, but faced with the reality of people's indifference to Dishes Mother Used to Make, I've come to the conclusion that perhaps we are not so fond of mother's cooking.

The Library is My Friend

I started my search for books by The Culinary Arts Institute through the state academic library system. Who would have thought that someone might still have these jewels on their shelves. Well, come to find out The University of Illinois had a few. You can't imagine how shocked I was by this. I went ahead and requested them, though I didn't have great hopes. Because these books are really slight I figured they were probably just lost through non-specific library attrition, of which most of the books I really want seem to be victim. Well they came! Sure, they were marked REMOTE STORAGE on the front. Sure, they hadn't been checked out for a decade or four, but they came. The first one that came is called Meals for Two #128 (1942). (Please note the PostModern self-reference of the cover.) It was a little beat up, which indicated use. Honestly, that seems like a lot of food for two. And wasn't everyone thin back then?