Posts Tagged With: cooking

Year Round Recipes: Irish Onion Soup

Is there a more aromatically alluring allium than this?

Besides garlic, is there a more aromatically alluring allium than this?

With free time finally returning to my schedule, I decided to spend an afternoon finding a soul- and palate-satisfying recipe to replace the drab peanut butter and jelly sandwiches which have accompanied me to work over the past six months. And, despite the hot and sticky weather that’s been plaguing central PA recently, I found myself craving the sweet, historic tang of French onion soup. French onion has always been a favorite of mine, as it so exquisitely satisfies my love for root vegetables, melted cheese, and recipes designed by the ancient Greeks.

Although France didn’t quite exist when onion soups first debuted on the world stage, the use of fried/caramelized onions in soups eventually spread to the Anglo-Saxon and Gallic regions of pre-modern Europe, where they quickly became incorporated into the working-man’s repertoire of hearty, inexpensive sops. It’s important to note that a sop is far more than an apparent misspelling of “soup;” and, it is, in fact, an entirely different dish altogether! While the star attraction of a soup is the liquid and what’s incorporated into it, the whole point of a sop is the large hunk of (usually) crusty bread that gets plopped right in the center of a bowl of broth (which then “sops” up the soup!). The sop tradition carried through European time and space to eventually influence the great French chefs cuisiniers of the 17 century, who expertly combined their unmatched onion broths with large chunks of toasted French bread and inspired countless generations of future chefs to do the same.

Now, you may be wondering why I’m going on about French onion soup when we’re actually making Irish onion soup. And my answer to that is that we are, in fact, continuing the tradition of French onion, but with a slightly modern twist. Thanks to the ingenuity of The Beeroness, I’ve been inspired to try swapping out the white wine usually simmered into a classic French onion soup with a dark stout. Since the original onion soups of antiquity were concocted by the working class, this slight alteration seemed more fitting (and delicious!) than irreverent. So, let’s dig in!

Irish Onion Soup Recipe

 

Stout and onions: a surprisingly perfect combination.

Stout and onions: a surprisingly perfect combination.

Ingredients

  • 6 Tablespoons butter
  • 2 pounds of white onions (about 3 medium sized onions)
  • 1 Tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 12 ounce bottle of stout
  • 2 cups stock (beef or vegetable)
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • French bread or croutons
  • 1 cup of shredded or sliced cheese (Gruyère is traditional, but a wide variety of easily melted cheeses will work)

Directions

  1. Peel and slice your onions into thin, 1/4″ rings.
  2. In a large soup pot, melt the butter over medium heat and then add the onions, brown sugar, and salt. Mix well and let simmer for at least 50 minutes to 1 hour (trust me, the longer you let your onions cook, the sweeter and more caramelized they’ll be in the end). Stir onions every occasionally to ensure that they cook evenly without burning.
  3. When the onions have caramelized, stir in 1/2 cup of the stout and let simmer over medium heat until the beer dissipates and the pot is nearly dry.
  4. Pour in the remaining beer, stock, and black pepper. Return to a simmer and cook for an additional 10 minutes.
  5. Turn on your oven’s broiler; ladle the soup into oven-safe crocks; and top each crock with some French bread and cheese.
  6. Place prepared crocks under the broiler just until the cheese has melted.
  7. Serve and enjoy a modern twist on some delicious history!

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As always, thanks for stopping by for this week’s kitchen excavation! I hope you’ll stop by next time as we dig into the breadier side of French cuisine!

Keep digging!
~Nate

Categories: Cooking, History, Year Round Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Summer Recipes: Strawberry Jam

Wow, it’s certainly been quite some time since I last gathered up my culinary excavation equipment and dug into a good recipe! To make a two and a half month story short, my now old job slowly grew to engulf most, if not all of my free time; and, as my average workday neared the 14 hour mark, my will to cook and write was wholly drained. Now, however, as I enter into a chapter of life that is far richer in time than in money, I’m rediscovering my kitchen and finally digging into some good eating. In celebration of this new era (and this hot, summery weather), I thought it would be fitting to try out a cooking style that’s all about looking towards the future: canning!

13. Submerge jars into the water bath, bring to a boil, and cook for 10 minutes

It may seem like a lot of work now, but trust me, you’ll be thankful you took the time to preserve a slice of summer once winter sets in!

While it may seem like the dog days of summer may never end (which may be good or bad depending on your disposition), the chilling reality remains that crisp fall and barren winter will invade our kitchens in time, taking away our immediate access to bright summer fruits and berries. So, in this present time of abundance, it only seems right to set aside some of the season’s eatings for our future selves to enjoy! Because once the doldrums of late January are upon us, cracking open a nearly forgotten jar of summer-infused jam might be all that stands between us and complete hibernal despair.

Dating back to at least the times of ancient Rome, strawberries have long been heralded for being a medicinal plant. However, as the red berry traveled across time and the European continent, the plant’s cultivation changed from a medicinal herb to a garden berry prized by the French kings. And, because of the plant’s unique method of growing via runners, it is believed by many culinary etymologists that the rather odd name “strawberry” actually comes from the pre-modern English verb “strew” (meaning “to spread”). Over time, the original English term “streabergen” gradually evolved into our modern “strawberry!” But, no matter what you call these summery red bells, they’re bound to make a wonderful jam. So, let’s dig in!

Strawberry Jam Recipe

Special Equipment

  • Boiling-water canner with rack
  • 6 – 8 Jam jars, lids, and rings
Strawberries: bursting with summer sun and natural sugars!

Strawberries: bursting with summer sun and natural sugars!

Ingredients

  • 4 pints of strawberries
  • 7 cups of sugar
  • 1.75 ounces or 1 full box of pectin
  • 1/2 teaspoon of butter (optional; including the butter will help reduce foam in your finished product)

Directions

  1. Fill your boiling-water canner halfway with water and bring to a simmer on the stove.
  2. Sanitize your jars, lids, and rings with hot, soapy water, then rinse with warm water. Place rings and lids in a small saucepan and fill with boiling water. Keep the lids and rings in the hot water until ready to use.
  3. To prep your berries, remove and discard any fruit that is visibly discolored or moldy, as this could introduce bacteria or spores to your final product that will spread throughout the jam.
  4. Remove the stems and cores of each berry, and mash one cup of berries at a time until you have exactly five cups of crushed strawberries.
  5. Place the mashed fruit, pectin, and butter into a large saucepan, and bring to a full rolling boil over high heat, stirring constantly. You’ll know when you’ve reached a rolling boil when the mixture continues to boil even as you stir.
  6. When fully boiling, quickly stir in the sugar. Return the mixture to a rolling boil, and cook for 1 minute while still stirring constantly.
  7. Remove saucepan from heat and skim off any foam that may have formed.
  8. Ladle fruit mixture into your prepared jars, leaving 1/8 inch (1/3 cm) of room at the top of the jars. Wipe the jars and threads to make sure no fruit will interfere with the final seal of your jars. Tightly screw on the lids, place on the canning rack, and submerge jars into the boiling-water canner (make sure there is at least 1 – 2 inches [2.5 – 5 cm] of water over the jars). Bring the water to a light boil and process for 10 minutes to fully sanitize the jars and activate the lids’ seal.
  9. Remove the processed jars from the canner and place on a towel to cool completely.
  10. Let sit for 24 hours, and then move to a dark, dry place, where they will stay ready to enjoy for 1 year!
  11. Enjoy knowing that you’ve preserved a sliver of summer to brighten the rest of the year!

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As always, thanks for stopping by the dig! I hope you’re enjoying the fruits and flavors of summer as much as I am!

Until next time, keep digging!
~Nate

Categories: Baking, History, Preserving, Summer Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Spring Recipes: Coleslaw

The time of the leafy greens is upon us!

The time of the leafy greens is upon us!

With our season of seemingly eternal winter coming to an end, the time has finally arrived to celebrate the classic cool-weather crops! Leafy greens like kale, chard, spinach, and cabbage are finally hitting their stride, what with deep freeze of winter past and the intense, leaf-wilting heat of summer still a month or two away. And, with the dawn of warmer weather, it’s hard to find a more enjoyable time to fire up the grill and enjoy the hamburgers, pulled pork, and other soul-satisfying entrees that seem so oddly out of place in the dead of winter. So, with the simultaneous burgeoning of cold crops and picnic foods, I can think of no better time of year to whip up the classic Dutch salad (or sandwich ingredient) coleslaw!

Literally translating to “cabbage salad” from the Dutch “koolsla,” coleslaw is a creamy, often vinegared amalgam of sliced cabbage and, quite honestly, whatever other veggies (or fruits!) you may have on hand. While coleslaw’s key component, mayonnaise, was only invented in the 1800’s, shredded cabbage salads have been eaten since the age of ancient Rome, some 2000 years ago! So, whether you prefer your coleslaw creamy and modern, or vinegary and archaic, this classic salad makes a perfect pairing with any of your favorite warm weather foods! So, let’s dig in!

Coleslaw Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 medium carrot
  • 1 medium head of cabbage
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup milk (I used soy)
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 1/2 Tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons white vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon celery seed

Directions

  1. Peel and shred the carrot, and finely chop the head of cabbage. Set aside.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the sugar, milk, mayonnaise, lemon juice, vinegar, salt, pepper, and celery seed until smooth and creamy. Pour in the shredded carrot and chopped celery, and stir until the vegetables are fully coated in the mayo mixture.
  3. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight so that the cabbage can fully absorb the flavors of the dressing.
  4. After refrigerating, serve cold with a dusting of freshly ground pepper or on your favorite spring/summer sandwich! Enjoy!

 

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As always, thanks for stopping by for this kitchen excavation! I hope to see you next time for another taste of history’s cumulative cookbook!

Keep digging!
~Nate

Categories: Cooking, History, Spring Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

St. Patrick’s Day Recipe: Colcannon

With the stresses of a tranquil life disturbed finally falling away, I’m once again taking time to savor the simple pleasures of life. Fleeting moments with friends and family have become increasingly more cherished as my free time is consumed by long days at work. With tomorrow marking a great Irish holiday honoring the life and service of Saint Patrick (through typically less-than-saintly celebration), I’ve been pondering the tenacity and fortitude displayed by the natives of the Emerald Isle. Now I could never equate my comparatively luxurious living conditions to the working class of the Irish and their ancient Celtic ancestors, but I cannot help sharing in their affinity for creating and appreciating beauty in simplicity.

Potatoes: the humble base for many an Irish dish

Potatoes: the humble base for many an Irish dish

This past week, I had the privilege of preparing and sharing one of the creations of the pragmatically aesthetic people of pre-industrial Ireland: colcannon. As potatoes arrived in Europe in the 16th century, Ireland quickly took to the tuber simply as a means of staving off starvation. But, when Irish cooks combined mashed potatoes with their native leafy crops (like kale and cabbage, the use of which dates back to the ancient Celts), the lowly spud was transformed into a cultural dish worth celebrating. In fact, as the recipe for colcannon spread to England and the continent, it was widely regarded as a dish fit for the upper class, a far cry from its original audience. So today, on the eve of St. Patrick’s Day, I would like to pass this wonderful example of Irish culinary prowess onto you! The recipe I’ve been using relies primarily on cabbage and onions, but if you would like to throw in some kale, garlic, or even beans, these variations would all fit in with the traditional definition of Irish colcannon! And don’t be afraid to add in some of your own local and cultural ingredients: the basic process of this dish provides a wonderful backdrop to illuminate your own culinary surroundings!

Let’s dig in!

Colcannon Recipe

Cabbage and onion: the unsung heroes of this classic Irish dish

Cabbage and onion: the unsung heroes of this classic Irish dish

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 pounds of potatoes peeled and cubed (about 8 medium potatoes)
  • 4 slices of bacon
  • 1/2 head of chopped cabbage
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup milk (I used soy)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Place your cubed potatoes in a medium or large saucepan and cover with water. Bring water to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for 15 – 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender enough to offer no resistance when a knife is inserted. When potatoes are finished cooking, drain and set aside.
  2. In a large skillet, cook bacon over medium-high heat until both sides are evenly brown and crisp. Save the drippings in the skillet, and place cooked bacon on a paper towel to dry. Crumble dried bacon and set aside.
  3. In the bacon drippings, sauté the cabbage and onion until soft and lightly brown.
  4. In a large bowl (or the original saucepan), mash the potatoes with the milk until smooth. Fold in the bacon, cabbage, and onion and season with salt and pepper to your liking.
  5. Top with butter and enjoy a taste of true Irish cooking!

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As always, thanks for stopping by! I hope you have a wonderful day celebrating Irish culture and heritage, and I hope to see you next time as we unearth another recipe from humanity’s communal cupboard!

Keep digging!
~Nate

Categories: Cooking, History, Holiday Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Year Round Recipes: Rice Pudding

Over the past several weeks, I’ve been reminded in subtle (and less-than-subtle) ways that sometimes, life can be unpredictable, unrelenting, and holistically draining. And, as much as we like to think that we’re strong enough to handle life’s challenges alone, it’s become incredibly clear to me that it’s not innately incorrect to need to rely on others and outside forces to weather life’s storms. And, while I still feel that I’m in the middle of one of these maelstroms, I thought I’d share a rather simple recipe that I’ve long held as a satisfying balm for the soul. Oddly in line with my youthful associations with the dish, rice pudding originated in several ancient civilizations in the Middle East and Asia as a medicinal, not culinary recipe. Designed to treat digestive ailments in people of all ages, rice pudding has a long and storied history as a catch-all cure for the stomach, the alleged “seat of the soul” for some ancient religions and philosophies. So, whether your stomach or your soul is in need of some old-world healing, I can’t suggest this recipe for rice pudding any higher. Just be careful: once you make one bowl of this enlightening dish, you might soon find yourself readying another sooner than you think!

Let’s dig in!

Rice Pudding Recipe

 

Rice: soothing stomachs and souls for millennia!

Rice: soothing stomachs and souls for millennia!

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 3/4 cup medium or short grain rice (make sure your rice isn’t the traditional long grain variety-only the medium and short grain rice will “melt” down to that smooth and creamy consistency)
  • 2 cups milk (I used soy)
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 2/3 cup raisins [Optional]
  • 1 Tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Directions

  1. In a medium saucepan, bring the water to a boil. Stir in the 3/4 cup of rice and reduce the heat to low. Cover and let simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  2. Stir in 1 1/2 cups of the milk, the sugar, and salt. Turn the heat to medium and cook, uncovered, for 15 – 20 minutes until the mixture is thick and creamy.
  3. Mix in the remaining 1/2 cup of milk, the beaten egg, and the optional raisins. Keep cooking for another 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
  4. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter and vanilla until combined.
  5. Enjoy warm or cool, with a sprinkle of cinnamon and nutmeg for even more soul-satisfying flavor!

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As always, thanks for stopping by! I hope to see you next time as we excavate another of the world’s greatest culinary creations!

Keep digging!
~Nate

Categories: Baking, Cooking, Dessert, History, Year Round Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Year Round Recipes: Chocolate, Avocado, and Pistachio Sandwich Cookies

While I typically like to keep my my ingredients local and seasonal, I do, for very special cases, go against my culinary conscience and indulge in the omnipresent agriculture of our modern world. This past week has been full of these special cases. With the weather finally breaking away from this year’s unusually frigid tendencies, I splurged and celebrated like only the Aztecs could, with a bitter chocolate drink imbued with the essence of Mexican chiles. And now, at the end of this most special of weeks, I couldn’t help but pull one last ingredient from the west coast of the North American continent: the great Californian avocado.

Avocados and Pistachios: two of the west coast's most delicious exports!

Avocados and Pistachios: two of the west coast’s most delicious exports!

Several months ago, two of the greatest people whom I’ve ever had the honor and pleasure of calling friends moved from this frigid clime to the ever-pleasant land of San Diego, California. And just as the clouds of winter finally broke (and are scheduled to return in the next few days), their absence from our Pennsylvanian lives was temporarily put on hold with a short visit this past week. So, in honor of our friends’ new home on the west coast, and for the light and warmth they’ve brought to us back east, I couldn’t help but try out a recipe that subtly features the avocado, the crop that many consider to be the epitome of Californian farming. Typically, when we think “avocado,” our minds immediately conjure up images of guacamole; and, while I adore guacamole in its season (preferably when local tomatoes and veggies are ripening here in the east), I was struck by a recipe by Kylie Held on immaeatthat.com. Instead of the traditionally savory uses for avocado, she presents a new way of viewing this creamy crop as a butter substitute in frosting. So, thoroughly fascinated, and aching for an innovative and inspiring avocado recipe, I couldn’t help but dig in!

Chocolate, Avocado, and Pistachio Sandwich Cookies

 

Sixteen cookies brimming with Californian flavor!

Sixteen cookies brimming with Californian flavor

Ingredients for the Frosting

  • 2 ripe California avocados
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (adjust to taste)
  • 1/3 + 1 Tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Ingredients for Cookies

  • 1 cup almond flour (lacking almond flour, I used all-purpose, which produced a lighter, but no less tasty cookie)
  • 1 cup oat flour
  • 3 Tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup whole and halved pistachios + 1/4 cup chopped pistachios
  • 1/4 cup melted coconut oil
  • 2 Tablespoons honey
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract

Directions

  1. Scoop out the flesh of the avocados into a medium mixing bowl, and beat with an electric mixer until smooth.
  2. Add cocoa powder, honey, vanilla, and almond extracts, and continue mixing until incorporated and smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until needed.
  3. In another medium bowl, whisk together the two flours, granulated sugar, baking powder, salt, and 1/4 cup of whole/halved pistachios (set aside the chopped pistachios for now). Stir in the coconut oil, honey, egg, and almond extract to form a dough.
  4. Divide the dough into 16 equal pieces, place on an ungreased cookie sheet, and flatten until each cookie is round and thin.
  5. Bake at 350° F (175° C) for 10 – 15 minutes, or until lightly brown. Remove from the oven and let the cookies cool completely on a wire rack.
  6. When your cookies are cool, spoon the chocolate avocado frosting onto 8 of the cookies, and top with the additional 8 cookies to make your sandwiches. Roll each cookie in the additional 1/4 cup of chopped pistachios so that they stick to the sides of each sandwich.
  7. Chill in the freezer for 4 hours or overnight, or until the frosting fully hardens.
  8. Enjoy with a glass of milk, tea, or coffee, and be sure to take a moment to appreciate the wonderful people on the west coast as you do!

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Categories: Baking, Dessert, Year Round Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Year Round Recipes: Crêpes

If you’re from the Eastern US, or have been following the weather for this corner of the world, you’ll know that this week was fraught with an uncharacteristically devastating series of snow and ice storms. During this meteorological event, my typical love for the forest that surrounds our neighborhood was turned to dread, as heavy, ice-laden branches and trees exploded to the ground for much of the past week, taking homes, cars, and power with them. So, if you noticed the lack of activity from the blog on Wednesday, that was due to the dark, chilled state of our home as we weathered yet another display of winter’s power.

The crêpe: not just a thin pancake!

The crêpe: not just a thin pancake!

But! Power has returned, the roads are at last safe to traverse, and I’m still in the mood for a little French cuisine (my previous French excavations can be found here and here)! Even though the roads have been cleared for a day or two by this point, I still haven’t made it to the store since last week; so, I thought we’d dig up the crêpe, a 12th century French staple that can be made with only a few, basic ingredients typically found in every kitchen! The original crêpe would have been (and still is) made from buckwheat flour (you can check out an excellent buckwheat crêpe recipe here from Buckwheat for your health), which produces a savory dish that makes the perfect foundation for any meal of the day. However, with my pantry devoid of buckwheat flour, we’ll be looking at the sweeter version of the crêpe, made from basic all-purpose wheat flour to conjure a canvas fit for the most decadently simple dessert or breakfast! I happened to have a slightly dodgy apple still rolling around in the fridge, so I’ll show you how to make a quick and easy spiced apple topping to fill your crêpes with; but, keep in mind that this French classic can be paired with anything you have on hand! Peanut butter, ice cream, fruit preserves, you name it, the crêpe can enhance it! And, what better way to surprise that special someone this Valentine’s day than with a homemade breakfast straight out of romantic 12th century France? Without further ado, let’s dig in!

Crêpe Recipe

Just a few simple ingredients combine to create a 900 year old masterpiece of French cuisine.

Just a few simple ingredients combine to create a 900 year old masterpiece of French cuisine.

Ingredients

  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk (I used soy)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons melted butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, water, sugar, butter, and vanilla extract.
  2. Add the flour and salt, and stir thoroughly to remove any large lumps (you want as smooth a batter as possible).
  3. Place a greased frying pan over medium high heat, then pour or ladle about 1/4 cup of batter into the pan. Rotate the pan to ensure that the batter is evenly distributed and covers the entire bottom of the pan.
  4. Cook for 1 – 2 minutes, or until the bottom of the crêpe has turned light brown. Flip over the crêpe and repeat.
  5. Top with your favorite fillings, roll, and serve with a dusting of powdered sugar! To make a quick and easy apple cinnamon filling, keep reading below the pictures!

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A flavor heralding from the warmer days of autumn!

A flavor heralding from the warmer days of autumn!

Ingredients for Apple Cinnamon Filling

  • 1 apple, peeled and chopped into small pieces
  • 1 Tablespoon powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 Tablespoon butter

Directions for Filling

  1. In a small bowl, toss the apples with the sugar and spices until coated.
  2. Place butter in a small frying pan and melt over medium high heat. Add the coated apples to the pan and fry for about 5 minutes, or until the apples become soft.
  3. Top your hot, fresh crêpes with a spoonful of apples and enjoy!

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As always, thanks for stopping by for this week’s recipe! If the weather cooperates this week, I’ll see you again this Wednesday!

Stay warm, and keep digging!
~Nate

Categories: Baking, Breakfast, Cooking, Dessert, Year Round Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Winter Recipes: Cranberry Flaugnarde

Still life from the home of Julia Felix in the Roman town of Pompeii

Still life from the home of Julia Felix in the Roman town of Pompeii depicting the use of bird and egg in the home

With my recently acquired passion for French cuisine still burning brightly, I thought it only fair to share an ancient French recipe that’s currently topping my all-time winter favorites: the flaugnarde (pronounced “flow-nyard”)! Now, to be fair, the true origin of this recipe lies not with the French, but with the ancient Romans. Credited with being one of, if not the, first civilization to domesticate and farm chickens, ancient Roman food scientists finally had the raw materials necessary to unlock the seemingly limitless cooking potential held within the humble egg. Out of their undoubtedly delicious research, Roman bakers were the first to produce what is today known as the flan, an egg-based custard dish that we tend to associate with Central and South American cooking. In Rome, the flan was generally considered a savory dish, being made from and served with meat and fish. However, as Rome’s borders expanded, and its recipes charged across the European countryside, the native, conquered cultures began experimenting with Rome’s cutting-edge cuisine. In the Occitan regions of southern France, resident chefs began turning the Romans’ savory flan into a sweet dessert that highlighted the fruits of the region. And, when the Roman empire eventually collapsed and receded back to the Italian peninsula, the French natives were able to freely transition egg custard from the Roman flan to the French flaugnarde, allowing the modern baker to enjoy the fruits of over two thousand years of culinary experimentation!

With a history steeped in cultural alteration, you should feel free to change the contents of this recipe to fit your locale and season! Because of the scarcity of fruits in the winter, I’ve simply chosen a recipe that features cranberries in order to fit my present situation; but, if you find yourself craving a flaugnarde in the summer, perhaps lemon and blueberry would be a better fit, or apple and orange for the fall, or simply whatever you have on hand. But, whatever you choose, know that you’re contributing to a grand, millennia-long experiment to find the perfect flaugnarde!

Cranberry Flaugnarde Recipe

Over 2,000 years of culinary wisdom in a single baking dish

Over 2,000 years of culinary wisdom in a single baking dish

Ingredients

  • 1 Tablespoon melted butter
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 3/8 cup of all-purpose flour (6 Tablespoons)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 – 2 cups of fresh or thawed cranberries

Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 400 F / 205 C.
  2. Brush the melted butter on the bottom and sides of a shallow baking dish (a pie plate worked fine for me), and sprinkle 1 Tablespoon of granulated sugar over the bottom of the buttered dish.
  3. In a medium bowl, mix together the remaining sugar, flour, and salt until combined.
  4. In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, cream, milk, and extract until blended.
  5. Mix half of the egg and cream mixture into the dry ingredients. Repeat with the remaining half, and whisk until smooth.
  6. Pour the combined mixture into your prepared baking dish and sprinkle with cranberries (I ended up using about 2 cups of berries, but whatever you have on hand will do).
  7. Place the dish on a baking tray, and bake in your preheated oven for 30 – 35 minutes, or until the flaugnarde puffs up and begins to lightly brown at the sides (the center will not be fully set when finished).
  8. When your flaugnarde has finished baking, sprinkle it with a bit more sugar, and allow to cool slightly before serving either warm or cold.
  9. Enjoy a sweet, tart bite of French and Roman culinary history!

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As always, thanks for stopping by the dig! I hope to see you this Tuesday for another look at a recipe that’s filled with as much history as it is flavor!

Keep digging!
~Nate

Categories: Baking, Dessert, History, Odds and Ends, Winter Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Year Round Recipes: Chinese Tea Eggs

‘Tis the Season for Tea Eggs

Chinese Tea Eggs: Intricately beautiful cuisine that's stunningly simple to make yourself!

Chinese Tea Eggs: Intricately beautiful cuisine that’s stunningly simple to make yourself!

For all that I love about my hometown’s culture and history, I have always been slightly underwhelmed by our region’s lack of multicultural cuisine (besides that of continental Europe, of course). Because of this, I’ve always jumped at the opportunity to try recreating classic dishes from cultures that haven’t influenced our corner of the world quite as strongly as some. One such dish, the Chinese Tea Egg, has since become a sort of Christmas-time tradition for me, even though the ingredients are readily available year round, and true tea eggs from China are likely served by street vendors every night of the year. However, the blend of warming tea and spices that subtly sink into the eggs speak strongly to me of winter cooking, and for the past few years, that just happens to be when I feel drawn to making my annual batch of tea eggs. And, when paired with freshly toasted sesame seeds, these eggs make a stunning side dish for any Christmas dinner!

Chinese Tea Eggs with Toasted Sesame Seeds

Ingredients

  • 6 large eggs
  • 2 Tablespoons of black tea leaves (roughly 4 bags of tea)
  • 1 Tablespoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons Chinese Five Spice
  • Sesame Seeds (white or black)

Directions

  1. Place eggs in a large pot and cover with cold water. Heat until the water begins to boil. Reduce heat to medium-high and allow to simmer for 12 minutes.
  2. Reduce the heat to medium-low and remove the eggs from the pot. Using a spoon, carefully crack the shell of each egg to produce a veined, spiderweb of cracks across the eggs.
  3. Stir the tea, salt, and five spice into the cooking water and return the cracked eggs to the pot. Cover the pot and let the eggs simmer for 1 hour.
  4. After simmering for an hour, remove the pot from the heat and let cool for 30 minutes.
  5. Peel one egg to check the color of the eggs. If they are dark enough for you, remove all eggs from the water; if the lines on the egg are quite light, allow the eggs to sit in the liquid for additional time.
  6. When your eggs have finished soaking and you are ready to serve, quickly toast the sesame seeds in a large frying pan over medium heat for 1-3 minutes. This will allow the seeds to release their true, nutty flavor and aroma, which adds an extra dimension of flavor to your tea eggs.
  7. Enjoy your tea eggs whole or quartered with a sprinkling of toasted sesame!

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Categories: Cooking, Odds and Ends, Winter Recipes, Year Round Recipes | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Winter Recipes: Dark Hot Chocolate

The Walk towards Winter

The first sign of winter.

The freeze begins

If you stopped by yesterday, you’ll know that I’ve been forming a habit of taking walks through the surrounding forest in order to improve my overall well-being. What I’ve enjoyed the most from this new practice is not feeling more energetic or starting each day with an active purposefulness (not that I’m not enjoying these side-effects!); but instead, I’ve grown to deeply appreciate the opportunity to watch the natural world adjust to the changing seasons. At the beginning of the week, the air was certainly chilled, but the birds and squirrels seemed to pay little mind to the biting breeze, instead focusing their attention on finding bugs and berries and nuts among the dew-covered ground. However, as the week progressed, and the temperatures dropped, I couldn’t help but notice that the birds were flocking and chattering together in the brush, hesitant to leave their roost even as I approached. And that’s when I saw a new and threatening arrival to the forested stage: ice. The grass and leaf litter, once dewy and welcoming became spiked and jagged, sparkling in the morning sun as if to formally announce the approach of winter. And I, woefully underdressed in this now dazzlingly hostile environment, felt a longing that seemed to echo from our earliest ancestors; more than anything, I wanted to find a fire.

Now, being the modern being that I am, my second thought, after this primal first, was that I wanted to roast some marshmallows over that fire. As I stood in wet, freezing shoes certain I was about to catch pneumonia, I couldn’t help but wonder, could a bit of culinary archeology unite these two desires? Might marshmallows also answer a primal need? Probably not, but that doesn’t make their history any less interesting! Let’s dig in!

Marshmallow as Medicine?

The true marshmallow. Not quite as sweet, squishy, and roastable as the modern variety, but undeniably healthier!

The true marshmallow.
Not quite as sweet as the modern variety, but undeniably healthier!

It may come as a surprise to many, but the term “marshmallow” was actually coined to describe an African plant that’s been around for quite some time. According to the 16th century botanist Prospero Alpini, the ancient Egyptians (circa ~2000 BCE) first harvested and processed the marshmallow plant in order to harness the properties locked away in the plant’s root. Not unlike the modern confectionary marshmallow, the ancient Egyptians mixed the cooked mallow root with honey in order to make a soft, sticky sweet. However, wholly unlike the modern marshmallow, ancient chefs (from the time of the Egyptians up to the Middle Ages) prepared mallow root candies because of their medicinal qualities. Containing a strong mucilaginous compound, marshmallow root can effectively treat (or soothe) a wide variety of sinus and bronchial ailments, providing relief from sore throats, ulcers, and even, according to modern scientists, more serious conditions like hyperlipidemia.

Modern Marshmallows

If you’ve recently glanced at the nutritional information of that bag of marshmallows in your pantry, you probably spotted plenty of corn syrup in the ingredients, but no true mallow extract. For this shift, you can thank the French candy makers of the late 19th century. These innovators, in an attempt to make a more widely available marshmallow, switched the traditional root extract with gelatin, a much cheaper and easier to produce ingredient. Fast forward to the 20th century, and modern marshmallows quickly climbed from the realm of childish treat to a staple ingredient suggested by dessert and savory cookbooks alike. For today’s recipe, though, we’ll be whipping up a batch of dark hot chocolate, the perfect complement to the modern marshmallows we made yesterday (you can find the recipe here)!

Dark Hot Chocolate Recipe

Yields 2 mugs of hot chocolate

Dark, rich, and creamy: the perfect pairing for the light and fluffy marshmallow.

Dark, rich, and creamy: the perfect pairing for the light and fluffy marshmallow.

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups milk (I use soy for a lactose-free recipe, but any milk will work)
  • 3 Tablespoons dark chocolate powder
  • 3 Tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • pinch of salt

Directions

  1. In a medium saucepan, whisk together all ingredients until smooth and combined.
  2. Heat mixture over medium-high heat until it reaches a simmer (approximately 10 minutes), stirring occasionally.
  3. Allow your hot chocolate to simmer for ~30 seconds to reduce slightly.
  4. Remove from heat, whisk until frothy, pour into your favorite mug, top with a marshmallow (or three), and enjoy!

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Thanks, as always, for stopping by for this weekend’s pair of kitchen excavation. Be sure to stop in again on Tuesday to dig into another breakfast recipe!

Stay warm and keep digging!
~Nate

Categories: Drink Recipes, History, Odds and Ends, Winter Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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