A recipe is supposed to be a formula, a means prescribed for producing a desired result, whether that be an atomic weapon, a well-trained Pekingese, or an omelet. There can be... no "little secrets." A cook who indulges in such covert and destructive vanity as to leave out one ingredient of a recipe which someone has admired and asked to copy is not honest, and therefore is not a good cook. He is betraying his profession and his art... and no deep-fat kettle is too hot to brown him in.

- M. F. K. Fisher

Fast Recipes found this page and asked me to share my thoughts about American food. Here's the full interview.

Pumpkin Bread

My mother's justly famous recipe.

Cream butter and sugar till well mixed. Add eggs one at a time and beat till fluffy. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Add 1/3 dry ingredients, mix, add 1/3 pumpkin, mix. Alternate dry mix and pumpkin untill all mixed together. Fold in raisins.

Grease 2 loaf pans with the butter wrappers. Put a strip of parchment paper along the bottom and short sides of each pan. Divide batter equally between pans. Put row of walnuts or pecan halves down center (or strew all over top) if desired. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour, or until a knife or toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Cool on rack and hide.

Beef Not Exactly Bourguignon

Red wine makes fantastic beef stew. Authentic boeuf Bourguignon would of course call for Pinot Noir, but if you're planning a stew, I think you get the best bang for your wine buck with an inexpensive Australian Shiraz (at the risk of a Burgundian defamation suit). On the other hand, if you open a bottle of any old red wine and find that the bottle is corky, why then, don't pour it down the sink; make a beef stew. I'm constantly fiddling with the recipe; what follows is about three years old (and a newer version is below).

Prep work: Slice the fresh mushrooms, carrots, onions, garlic and meat as indicated. Soak the dried mushrooms in a cup or so of warm water for half an hour, then remove them and chop finely. Reserve the water. In a good-sized Tupperware (with a lid), combine flour with a big pinch of salt, a small pinch of sugar, and several generous grinds black pepper.

In a skillet (preferably not non-stick), saute onions in butter until golden brown. Transfer to a Dutch oven. Saute fresh mushrooms in butter. Transfer to the Dutch oven. Deglaze the pan with red wine and transfer the browned stuff to the Dutch oven. Dredge the meat in the flour, brown it in canola oil, and transfer it to the Dutch oven. (You'll probably have to both dredge and brown in batches. A Tupperware works great for dredging because you can put the lid on and shake it, coating the meat evenly with flour.) Deglaze again. Saute the garlic very briefly (so it doesn't burn), and... you guessed it... transfer it to the Dutch oven. Add directly to the Dutch oven: wine, beef broth, carrots, a couple of bay leaves, chopped dried mushrooms, and soaking liquid thereof. Cook over low heat until meat is tender, about 2 hours.

Another method: Cut up beef, slice an onion, and marinate in half a bottle of red wine for 2 hours. Forget the flour. Brown meat in canola oil over medium-high heat (probably in batches); transfer to plate as it is done. Add onions and several cloves chopped garlic and let saute for a gew minutes. Add chopped shiitakes and cook 1 minute. Add marinating liquid (deglazing if necessary), mushroom soaking liquid, 1 package sliced crimini mushrooms, 4 anchovies chopped finely, 25 baby carrots cut into cubes, a couple of bay leaves, several branches fresh thyme, and reserved beef (with whatever liquid it's emitted). Stew until meat is tender. Other possible additions: potatoes and parsnips. One day if I am up to it, I may try making spaetzle.

Saratoga Chicken

Given to us by Elaine Kirk, a friend of Jennifer's parents. Easy to prepare and amazingly good.

In a glass pan, combine marinade ingredients with a whisk. Add chicken (you can cut the breasts in half). Marinate in refrigerator for several hours. Grill chicken for 5 minutes, turn gently with spatula, and grill an additional 5 minutes or until chicken is opaque and juices run clear. Baste with marinade as necessary while grilling.

(You can replace the olive oil with cheaper canola without doing any harm to the recipe. Also, I frequently forget to baste while the chicken is on the grill; it still tastes plenty good, particularly if the chicken has marinated overnight.)

Lemon Bars

My mom's recipe. Freshly squeezed lemon juice is a must.

Preheat oven to 350°. Cream butter, 1 cup flour and confectioner's sugar together. Press into an 8" square pan. Bake at 350° for 10 minutes.

While the crust is baking, beat the eggs well and add sugar, salt, and lemon juice. Combine baking powder and 2 Tbsp flour separately and combine with egg mixture. Pour over the hot crust and bake at 350° until golden brown, typically 20-25 minutes (ovens vary considerably).

Candied Carrots and Sweet Potatoes

Grandma Norma's original recipe, and absolutely indispensable to a Martin family Thanksgiving. Despite the amounts given, you can be sure Grandma never bothered to pull a measuring spoon out of the drawer and level off two scoops of brown sugar. So even if you learned to cook from the Anal Retentive Chef, don't you bother either, because you're going to be adding more sugar and syrup every 15 minutes anyway, and there's no such thing as overdoing it.

Use 2 lbs carrots (as though I've ever weighed them), peeled, and maybe 3-4 good-sized sweet potatoes, sliced thickly. Melt 1 tbsp margarine, oil or chicken fat in a coverable pan (Corningware is good). Sprinkle 2-3 Tbsp brown sugar in pan to absorb butter and melt sugar. Add a little salt. Melt gradually on low to medium flame. When it starts to caramelize, add 1 Tbsp fake maple syrup. (Don't waste the good stuff. Store-brand high-fructose-corn-syrup-plus-caramel-coloring-and-preservatives will work just fine.) Drop carrots and sweet potatoes in and turn around to coat. Sprinkle more brown sugar on top of carrots. Let simmer for a while, maybe an hour or two, covered, occasionally (every 15 minutes or so) rearranging and adding more syrup or sugar, while you make the rest of your Thanksgiving dinner. They should be brown, somewhat wrinkled, and soft but not quite falling apart. The carrots take longer to cook than the sweet potatoes. Mom sometimes uses corn syrup, which would probably be fine but is not something I generally have in the house. The recipe suggests a little vanilla, which neither Mom nor I have used, but how could it possibly hurt? We've discussed the possibility of adding a little bit of booze, bourbon for instance, although Grandma would certainly not approve.

Jon is more Latin than Ricky Black Beans

From my brother Jon.
  1. Pour 1 can beans in pot. Lay thyme on top of beans. Lay chipotles on top of thyme. Pour 2nd can of beans on top and heat on medium-low heat till steamy.
  2. Meanwhile, fry the onion in olive oil and add pepper and garlic when it starts to caramelize (sofrito).
  3. Add tomatoes when pepper is soft and heat through.
  4. Fold sofrito into beans, mix well, and simmer on low for 1/2 hour.
  5. Remove thyme and serve with fried plantains and rice.

Mexicanish Gamey Stew

Also from Jon.
  1. Combine coriander, cumin, dry chile and pepper in bottom of a stockpot and shake until well mixed. Heat on low for a minute or two until you can smell the spices.
  2. Add olive oil and heat until a drop of water spatters on surface.
  3. Add lamb, bay leaves and thyme and heat until meat is browned evenly on all sides.
  4. Add salt and cover with water.
  5. Bring to a boil, lower heat, cover, and simmer for an hour or so.
  6. Add remaining ingredients and continue to cook on low/medium for half an hour.
  7. Add more liquid if necessary and bring to boil, until potato begins to disintegrate and thicken the stew.
  8. Add salt & pepper to taste.

Marinated Flank Steak

  1. To prepare sesame seeds, place them in a dry, hot frying pan and shake pan continuously until seeds are toasted, then crush seeds (e.g., with a mortar and pestle) before adding to marinade. (You can also just buy toasted sesame seeds.)
  2. Combine sugar, soy sauce, green onion, garlic, ginger, sesame and cayenne. Marinate the beef in the mixture for at least an hour. Grill over direct heat, about 4 minutes per side. Let cool and slice across the grain.

Jeremy's home page
This page last updated 12/14/10