Saturday, March 28, 2009

250 Fish and SeaFood Recipes

Last time I was at La Frescasita they were having a big sale on tilapia fillets. I bought a bunch and popped them in the freezer figuring that there was always something to do with white fish. When I first received 250 Fish and SeaFood Recipes (1940) I thought I would never end up cooking from it. (note: The 1970s edition is called 200 Ways to Serve Fish and Sea Food, but the title page reads 200 Different Fish and Sea Food Recipes. I think it's funny how they played loosey goosey with the titles.) First of all the recipes are all things like "take 24 fresh oysters," then it has you shuck them and bake into some kind of crazy casserole. Hailing from the Pacific Northwest, this kind of seafood adulteration is really a sin. I think no matter how long I live in the Midwest I will never abandon this basic tenet of preparing seafood. But for the sake of this project and the uninspiring frozen tilapia, I turned to The Culinary Arts Institute.

Right off the bat there were a couple of acceptable fish recipes. I chose "Baked Fish Fillets." The recipe was simple and I had all that was needed.

Baked Fish Fillets

1 pound fish fillets
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon salt
Fine dry bread crumbs
1 tablespoon oil or melted butter

Cut fillets into serving pieces. Combine milk and salt. Dip fish into milk, then into crumbs being sure fish is completely covered with crumbs. Place in greased baking dish or on oven proof platter, sprinkle with oil and brown quickly in very hot oven (500F.) 10 to 20 minutes. Do not add water. Serve with Almond Butter Sauce, melted butter, Maitre d'Hotel Butter or Lemon Butter. Serves 2

I followed the recipe closely and it turned out well. Since I didn't have any bread crumbs, I made some from pita that I had in the freezer and topped it with butter. If I were to make this recipe again, which I will, I would definitely season the bread crumbs. I am unsure whether or not packaged bread crumbs were popular in 1940. Maybe they were expecting my bread crumbs to already be seasoned. Anyway, it was good. I made "Tartare Sauce" from the final page. It was good as well. I served the fish and tartare sauce with a packaged mushroom risotto with peas and a green salad.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Scalloped Sweet Potatoes and Corn

One of the things that I love about my weekly produce box from Newleaf Grocery ( is that it forces me to work with unfamiliar ingredients and since much of the produce is local, at certain times of the year I have an abundance of a particular vegetable. Now for example, it’s sweet potatoes. Last week I had some great sweet potato fries, processed and froze some uncooked fries for a future date, and I also fed some to my dog who loves them. But that still leaves me with about a half a dozen more. I turned to 250 Ways of Serving Potatoes (1941) for help.

There were MANY more recipes for sweet potatoes than I expected in this book. I don’t really think of sweet potatoes as a potato. I mean, if I’m in the mood for mashed potatoes or tater tots, then sweet potatoes don’t really do the trick. But I guess in this case they count. There was terrifying similarity in the recipes. Mostly it was all sweet potatoes, butter, and brown sugar in some combination. They’d change it out a little with honey instead of sugar, or marmalade instead of sugar. You get the idea. The single recipe I use as an example of my grandmother’s horrible cooking is in this book: “Sweet Potatoes with Cheese and Mushroom Sauce.” And by mushroom sauce they mean canned cream of mushroom soup. The recipe is right next to the one I made. I also wanted to mention that there is also a recipe for "Pickaninny Creole" on page 41. Though it shouldn't have, this surprised me. Immediately I ran to The Culinary Arts Institute Encyclopedic Cookbook. This is really just another repackage of the previous booklets. I just had to know if "Pickaninny Creole" made the cut to this 1964 edition. It did. Really, did no one ever look at these recipes again?

The "Scalloped Sweet Potatoes and Corn" recipe was pretty good. There were a couple of small problems--my fault, mostly lack of planning. The recipe says to boil the potatoes, but I always prefer my vegetables roasted and since the sweet potatoes I had were so small, it didn't really take long. The thing is, I was then left to peel them hot if I wanted dinner to be ready by the time Serena got home. It also calls for white sauce, which I made from the Encyclopedic Cookbook. Here's the dumbass part, I didn't check how much the recipe called for. So after I made the white sauce, I dumped it on my casserole only to find I didn't have enough. But since my potatoes were so small I just poured a little extra milk in and called it good. It was supposed to cook for 45 minutes, but when I pulled it out the whole thing still looked pale and dry. I added a bit more milk and some butter dollops on top. I mean, what doesn't taste better with butter? I served this with a green salad and kale sauteed in butter. I would definitely make this again.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Arty Party

My friend Andrew really digs food that looks like something other than what it is. I once had the entire set of General Mills' Betty Crocker Recipe Card Library (1971). The thing was, it wasn't nearly as interesting as it should have been. I gave the set away but kept these two cards because I thought that someday I might make them. The "Rag Doll Tea Party" seemed perfect for a ladies luncheon, but so far I haven't made it. But maybe Andrew will, or maybe you will. Who knows? If you do make one of these, be sure to let me know.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

250 Delectable Desserts

One of the fascinating things about the cookbooks from The Culinary Arts Institute is the way they (Ruth Berolzheimer) recycle their material. Nowhere is this more obvious than with 250 Delectable Desserts. The oldest edition I have is from 1940. This two-color cover was standard with the books from the 40s. Honestly, I have no idea what this dessert is on the cover--especially the little rounds, possibly bacon, or those little soy disc things that come with vegetarian udon. The strange thing about this book is that when you open the cover the title page reads, 250 Tempting Desserts. If you're re-packaging material, it seems easy to understand how this kind of mistake could happen. What's less easy to understand is how this "typo" happened on the 1949 and 1950 editions, which were similarly titled 250 Delectable Dessert Recipes. The dessert pictured on this 1950 edition also seems impenetrable to me. I think it might be baked apples. The title page of 150 Delectable Dessert Recipes (1971) reads correctly. I assume this happened when they culled their “best” 150 recipes and had to change the title page anyway.

Despite the cover or the title, all of the editions of the 250 Dessert variety are EXACTLY the same on the inside. The 1970s versions, the smaller 150 Desserts, use the same recipes, same pictures, same font. The only difference is pagination, and of course the missing 100 recipes. This really makes me wonder about the content of these books. If the 70s editions are simply selections of the 50s editions, which are reprints of the 40s editions, then just what is the source for the 40s editions? How old are these recipes anyway? Is this why they are so strange?

Friday, March 6, 2009

Guest Blogger: Stephanie Crain


Last night I performed, if not a miracle, a pretty good magic trick. Even though most of my recipes consist of “Open, Peel Film Back, Heat for Three Minutes,” I somehow turned four simple ingredients into some of the most delicious barbeque pulled pork I’ve ever had. And it was easier than standing at the microwave, waiting to stir mid-defrost.

To Serve 4 – 6

Step 1: Open the Crock-Pot® you bought four months ago.

Please note, this is for illustrative purposes only, and my Pot never had food in it before last night. I would show an image of mine, but it’s in the dishwasher.

Step 2: Slice two small white onions and lay on the bottom of the Pot.

Step 3: Put raw pork, with excess fat trimmed, on top of onions. (I thought I used pork loin, but there were a few pieces with bones in them, resembling pork chops. The bottom line is that you can use any cut of pork according to all of the recipes out there.)

Step 4: Put on the lid and turn Crock-Pot® to Low.

Step 5: Do whatever you want while it cooks for approximately four hours. Seriously. You don’t have to do anything with it except let the Pot work its magic! I took a nap, watched a movie, cleaned a little and walked the dog.

Step 6: Drain off as much liquid as you can (there isn’t a picture of this because it looked like consomm√©) – I had about two cups worth – and remove any bones. At this point you can break up the meat into smaller chunks easily with a fork.

Step 7:
Add the star ingredient. I used the entire 28 ounce bottle.

Step 8: Add the secret Southern ingredient
I used about one cup of Coke. This is classified as a Southern secret ingredients, because our Southern friends take their Coke very, very seriously. So seriously, in fact, that if you do manage to find Pepsi products in the store, they’re usually more expensive than Coke products.

Step 9:
Stir the meat until the sauce and Coke are incorporated. Put the lid back on and cook until your guests arrive. (In my case, this was about another four hours, so I turned it to Warm for the last hour.) I suspect that the longer you let it cook, the denser the sauce becomes, and the flavor is more intense.

Step 10: Happy Vittles Time! Serve on the best buns you can, with Terri’s Rockin’ Coleslaw and Kettle Salt and Pepper chips.

Of course, pleasant company and saucy pork with fried potatoes are always a recipe for a good time, but this meal was so tasty, so easy and (if I say so myself) so impressive, it was almost like having staff cook for you.

(editor's note: Today I was at the supermercado and saw that Sweet Baby Ray's has a chipolte-style BBQ sauce. It think that would be great in this recipe.)