Sauces & Gravies

Roasted-bone Poultry Gravy

January 7, 2018

I have only just recycled the poultry bones from our holiday feasting. I may have missed that curve in your household, but anytime you serve a few roast chickens or a turkey, save the bones and give this a go! Actually? Frigid cold weather is a good time to do this, because you’ll welcome having that oven heating for a few hours: You roast the bones once with onions and garlic for an hour, and then slow roast them for another three hours, covered in water.  Deglazing the pan with white wine and adding mushrooms and thyme adds extra flavor. Chicago chef Mike Sheerin shared his technique with me a few years back and I use it frequently.  The resulting rich gravy is liquid gold. Bonus: View our marvelous mashed potatoes recipe using best-of methods from Mike and another famed Chicago chef, Matthias Merges. Continue Reading…

On The Side

Marvelous Mashed Potatoes

January 7, 2018

Chicago chef Mike Sheerin has been making the mashed potatoes at family gatherings since he was six years old.  On one childhood holiday, “I had the unfortunate timing of catching my mother on the phone with one of her sisters in California,” Sheerin laughs, recounting that first mashed moment. “She was trying to mash the potatoes and talk on the phone at the same time—and this was before cordless phones.” Giving up on the effort, Mike’s mom handed him a towel, poured milk and butter in the hot potatoes, “And I went to town mashing them,” says Sheerin. “I kept pushing down the masher and lifting just enough to catch a little air to lighten them. I wasn’t even thinking about what I was doing at the time, but somehow, they were pretty amazing.”

In the decades since, Sheerin has perfected his methods. We asked him, and another famed chef, Matthias Merges, to please share, because who hasn’t messed up the mashed on at least one occasion? Too wet, too dry, gluey or pasty, mashed potato fails, well,  FAIL. Both chefs obliged with top tips, and a great recipe. Continue Reading…

Beans

Blackeyed Peas with Rice, Greens & Sidemeat (Hoppin’ John)

January 1, 2018

The lucky-food lore casserole is a deep dish, indeed.  World over, New Year’s eating, whether that’s a Theravidin Buddhist New Year celebration in April, a Jewish Rosh Hashanah in the Fall, or Western-culture parties January first, festivities are rife with symbolism. Traditions vary, but, definition-wise, “good luck” long ago entwined itself with “prosperity.” So if it looks like money–silvery fish, greenback greens, coin-shaped legumes, sweets or breads, you can be sure some culture’s eating it at the start of the new year.  Potfuls thought to be propitious at this juncture include foods that you have to eat a lot of to make into a meal, or, that swell as you cook them, such as rice, lentils and pasta. Of these in America, black-eyed peas are the Southern favorite. Continue Reading…

Bread Box

Cornbread (Very Best! With Dried Sweet Corn)

January 1, 2018

I like a many-textured cornbread: crunchy on the outside, tender inside, with plenty of chewy corn niblets for added flavor. To get there, I’ve tried mixing fresh corn, frozen corn and canned corn into the batter.  But better by far? Cornbread made with dried sweet corn!

This native American staple made it’s way into pre-Civil war kitchens, adding fresh summer sweetness to the winter table. Parboiled on the cob, the kernels were then removed, dried for days in the sun, packed in clean sacks and stored, just needing a soak to reconstitute. Continue Reading…

Vintage Veg

Whitehall Club Creamed Spinach

November 21, 2017

Established as a private-dining club in Chicago’s boutique Whitehall Hotel in 1956, The Whitehall Club was a fine-dining fixture for 40 years before it closed. That left LRF reader Dave Lauer with an insatiable craving for Whitehall Club creamed spinach. LRF reached out to now-Colorado-based Jason Rogers–one of the last sous chefs at the Club–who was happy to share the recipe. Built with an Escoffier-styled bechamel (white sauce steeped with onion, veal, nutmeg, clove and thyme,) this home-cook-sized version of the dish yields both creamy spinach, plus a serving of milk-braised veal–delicious mixed with orzo, or Israeli couscous. For another delicious creamed spinach, try our Texas-style Jalapeno Creamed Spinach Continue Reading…

Pie Revival

Chocolate French Silk Pie & Butterscotch Pecan Meringue Pie

November 12, 2017

Making pie crusts is such a soothing thing. A quieting, settling-in ritual that centers you in one place and time as you sift the flour, sugar and salt, cut in the butter, gently pinch the butter bits into even tinier bits with your fingertips and stir in just a bit of cold cream. I thoroughly enjoy the process—and you may too. So try handmaking your crusts this time, instead of buying pre-made! The results are worthy of these dreamy, vintage fillings. Continue Reading…

Cuneo's Famous

Rum Cake

October 8, 2017

When reader T.J. Campbell wrote in search of the recipe for a famous rum cake that used to be the signature at Cuneo’s Bakery in Austin, Texas, I didn’t have much hope of finding it. Cuneo’s closed more than 50 years ago, and attempts to find the former owners didn’t get me anywhere. But, a string of phone calls to food-history buffs in Austin, led to Addie Broyles, a food writer at the Austin American-Statesman newspaper, who unearthed a link to an article in the paper mentioning Ray Kennedy, former production manager at Cuneo’s.

With that, I tracked down Kennedy’s son James and daughter Rita who were more than happy to talk about Ray, Cuneo’s and the famous rum cake. Continue Reading…

Baked Treats

Apple Almond Cheese Tarts

September 2, 2017

Whatever craziness is going on, in my head or otherwise, baking grounds me. Last night, for example. Couldn’t sleep. Walked my bare feet over cold floorboards to the dark kitchen.  Fumbling, I gathered sifter, bowls and pans, trying not to clatter. And, sigh: I measure. Sigh again: Sift flour & sugar. Sigh: (the last! I’m breathing better now) cut in the butter, tousle the two with fingertips ‘til wet-sand-like, add the almond meal, stir the cream, whisk the filling. And last? Peel the apples that smell just the color of their green skins.

The light comes golden now, pushing west through house and garden, matching the scent of baked tart, coming from the oven. Waiting, I remember this tart from little, a thing I made for mom. Different kitchen, different goals, same spiral of apples and almond. Make some. Eat some. And it’s all okay. Note: This recipe makes TWO tarts. Also, if you like this tart, you may also want to try my Gooseberry Tart–a simple way to showcase gooseberries, or whatever other berries you have on hand. Continue Reading…

Baked Treats

Gooseberry Tart

September 1, 2017

Wow, the things you learn when digging into etymology! Word geeks tell us that the “goose” in “gooseberry”, for example, likely came from France, where they call the little green globes, groseille à maquereau or, “mackerel berries”, because French chefs used to make a sauce of the berries to go with mackerel. A bit more ribald, Molly Oldfield, writing for the London Telegraph says “gooseberry bush” was 19th century slang for pubic hair, which led to the saying “born under a gooseberry bush.” Continue Reading…