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American Classics

American Classics

Banana Pudding with Homemade Vanilla Wafers

January 24, 2021

This is comfort, pure and simple. Smooth and creamy vanilla pudding, fresh sliced bananas, crisp little vanilla wafers, and a dollop of whipped cream. Perfection. When I was little, we used to put store-bought vanilla wafers into the warm pudding, letting them soften as the pudding chilled. But making the cute little cookies from scratch is easy, and I like the crunch they add served whole as a garnish, or, crushed into crumbs to sprinkle on top. This recipe makes four individual servings of the banana pudding–but 80 or more of the quarter-sized vanilla wafers. Note: The wafers bake up quite hard, which helps them hold up well in the pudding, but they are much harder than the boxed ‘nilla wafers. They do work well crushed as a crust for a cheesecake, or,  for dunking in coffee or tea. Continue Reading…

American Classics

Skillet Cornbread with Molasses & Honey

November 19, 2020

Hailing from Texas, my Mom made a lot of cornbread: Corn dodgers, corn cake, cornbread…we ate it with butter and molasses, dunked it in spicy stews, crumbled it over our chili. This version is one of my favorites. It bakes up nicely moist, with a crispy crust and lovely crumb. Be sure to use stone-ground cornmeal—white, or golden, for best texture and flavor. You can gild the lily by stirring a few spoons of diced green chilies or fresh corn kernels into the cornbread batter before baking if you like. But it’s just fine without, eaten piping hot, right out of the oven. Continue Reading…

American Classics

Apple Pie

July 10, 2020

Good recipes are like friends, they come, they go. In fashion and out. Some, you may not see for a long while, so when reconnected, it’s with a Proustian flood of happy. Some– in your face all the time, you may take for granted. Others, you wish, so much, you could see more of.  Thinking of this, I realized that in all the years I’ve written about vintage recipes, I’ve never done a post about apple pie. Iconic. American. Just apple. Pie.  It seemed about time. 

I do have a favorite. I’ve tweaked it over the years to make my own. It’s originally credited to a community cookbook writer’s grandmother I don’t know to name, but sure would like to thank. (Thank youuuu!) It’s pure, homely and perfect.  Continue Reading…

American Classics

Corned Beef Hash

March 21, 2020

What to do with the leftover corned beef? Make hash! It takes just three ingredients: corned beef, potatoes, and onions. (Well, six ingredients, if you include the vegetable oil, salt and pepper.) Really simple, really good. Your culinary goal? Achieving a nice mix of textures: slightly chewy + crispy corned beef cubes, crunchy-edged potatoes, and soft, silky onions. Here’s how!

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American Classics

Texas-style Chili Mac

March 18, 2020

The first time my parents drove to the tiny Texas town where I would spend my early childhood, Dad got lost. He found a filling station and asked the attendant where Riesel was — pronouncing the placename “Rye-zel.” The man blinked at dad for a few moments and then, eyes wide with belated recognition, said, “Ohhhh! you mean REEEEE-zel!”  drawing out the eeeeeeeee’s in an impossibly wide-mouthed drawl. And so it was, we moved back to Texas. Mom had grown up in Houston and coached collegiate basketball in Texarkana. Then she made a serendipituous wide swoop North to coach at the University of North Dakota, where she met Dad, a South-side Chicago native, at the beginning of his vicarage in the frozen North. After a few winters there, Mom was very glad to get back to the Lone Star State. My brother and I benefited from the remoteness–and the heat. We ran around nearly naked for two years, in, and out, and all around the old wooden farm-house, with it’s big rooms, tall windows, and banana trees out back, where we used to sit on the porch steps and eat huge slices of Texas watermelon : ) And my mom’s cooking. Continue Reading…