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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Corn Chowder

I've been remiss.  There's been little time for Nigel and I to write here, given our varied adventures.  My small travelling journal was not sufficient even to record the varied things we've seen or contraptions we speculate over.

However, I have a simple yet delicious recipe to share.  Out of necessity comes some lovely things.  This chowder was originally created in order to nourish us with items we could easily find at local farmer's market for a fairly low price.  We shared our chowder with one of the families we were journeying with.  It was such a success, I quickly made an additional pot, as the children wanted two more servings (as did the adults).  Since then, Nigel requested me to make this soup several more times.  Each time I make a few minor changes, each turning out well.  Even Madame Landbouwer has started making it with some frequency for her companion and herself.  I apologize for not having exact measurements below.

Original image was a Thanksgiving Greeting Card from 1910.
Click here for the original version.
3 to 4 full ears of corn, steamed
1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 celery stalk, diced
2 medium (russet) potatoes, cut into cubes
olive oil
whole milk
salt and ground pepper

Cut kernels from the corn cobs and run the backside of the knife (or a spoon) down the cob's sides to get the remaining kernel "meat".  Set aside.

Heat olive oil in a pot over medium heat.  Add onions, garlic, and celery.  Cook until onions begin to soften and turn somewhat translucent.  Add potatoes and corn.  Sprinkle in some salt.  Add enough water to just cover the vegetables. Stir.  Allow to cook until potatoes begin to soften, approx 10 minutes.  (Add more water if necessary.)  Lower heat to medium-low.  Add approximately 1 to 2 cups of milk, and allow to simmer for 10 minutes.

Put 3/4 of the soup into a blender and blend until just smooth.  You may add more milk (or water) if the soup is too thick (I didn't need to).  Return to soup pot and stir.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Poached Eggs and Home Economics

Nigel, being the odd fellow that he is, has several quirks of nature.  One such quirk is his apparent obsession that I learn how to be a proper housewife.  Mind you, I am not his wife, nor do I plan to be.  We also live in separate houses when we are not travelling and I did, in fact, go to finishing school.  It is one thing to not know how to behave, it is another to know, yet choose not to do so.

During our travels, he will occasionally purchase me a book or two on this subject, as if most women from our time do not already possess a receipt book of some sort!  Recently, he added to my collection Carlotta Greer's "Your Home And You", which will be published in 1943.  He just returned from what he called a "dismal affair", which I will leave for him to explain when he feels prepared for it.

In an attempt to humor him, I am reading this text.  I do find it interesting to note the many similarities and differences between these books.  How items that seem so uncommon, special, and new may have been so common in a previous era.  One such example is the use of watercress in sandwiches and salads.  In some eras, these items seem to be considered classy and a sign of one's culinary finesse, while in previous eras it may have been considered an every day item.  Other examples of this would be the soybeans, risottos, and polenta, all of which were considered at one time to be the food of the poor or rustic fare, and at other times were (or will be) considered the height of culinary fashion.

Speaking of which, if you hear Nigel claim that something is a delicacy, I would reconsider the food item he is offering.  "Delicacy" does not always mean appealing.  Usually, if you are not part of the culture that considers the food items as such, that "delicacy" may outright offend your conditioned culinary taboos.  Of course there were a few that I rather enjoyed...

As an aside, am I wrong for finding it odd that schools will be relied upon to teach children to cook and clean house?  During my upbringing, we learned from watching our mothers or our house cooks.  We learned from maids, tutors or our governesses if our families could afford them.  What schools the girls could attend taught mathmetics, spelling, and other academic skills.  For household lessons, we may seek out the persons mentioned previously, or friends and relatives to teach us or follow the guidance of our Receipt books.  Do people of later eras simply forget how to teach their children the simple tasks necessary for daily existence in a civilized society?  From what I found, these institutions are being relied upon more and more with each decade to teach the most basic of home maintenance and management, such as cooking, sewing, child rearing with the help of dolls or hollowed eggs, cleaning, and so forth.

I will try out some of the cooking suggestions and recipes in Ms. Greer's book and will write of anything I find that is worth while.  I tried to poach eggs in the way that she states, but found they didn't work out as well as my usual method.  I must admit, however, that when I reread her method, I discovered that I did not follow it as much as I thought I did.  I will try again, with the book at ready, to see if her method improves on what I already consider a wonderful food item.

More about poached eggs and my method of cooking them as follows...

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Traveller's Clam Chowder

From:  "Iron Kettle and Clams" - Soren Emil Carlsen (1926)
 As Nigel taught me, when travelling, tinned food can be a boon.  Not only are you guarranteed a meal without much foraging, but you may also have some of the home comforts that would otherwise be near impossible.  One such comfort is the "Traveller's Clam Chowder".  Using tinned clams allowed me to bring a simplified version of my childhood comfort with us on many of our exlpoits abroad.

This is also a lovely way of using older, hearty vegetables, especially root vegetables.  Nigel makes sure we always have these on hand, as well as various meat drippings.  He's an occasional devout fan of rustic living.

Traveller's Clam Chowder
2 tins or cans (6.5 oz each) clams, juice reserved
1 cup heavy cream
1 to 2 cups whole milk
2 Tbsps bacon drippings
1 medium onion, diced
2 medium carrots, finely diced
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
4 medium white potatoes, diced
1 tsp minced garlic (or 1 to 2 cloves)
2 bay leaves
ground thyme
sea salt
cooked rice (optional)

Heat bacon drippings in a dutch oven over medium heat.  Add the onions and garlic, stirring occasionally.  When onions pieces begin to soften, add carrots and celery, stirring occasionally.  When vegetables have begun to soften, add clams, clam juice, and potatoes.  After a couple minutes, lower heat and add the cream, 1 cup milk, bay leaves, a few dashes of ground thyme, and a couple pinches of sea salt.  Adjust seasoning as you see fit.  Cover dutch oven and allow to simmer for 20 to 40 minutes.  Add more milk if you desire a thinner chowder.  When done, serve over the rice (if using).

Side Notes:
I prefer Snows canned clams.  Whether chopped or minced is up to personal taste and texture preference.  Light cream and lighter forms of milk may be used, if desired, though starch (such as corn starch) may need to be added to assist in a creamy texture.  Using russet potatoes instead of white may also assist in giving a creamier texture without the necessity of using an additional starch.  A lighter oil, such as olive oil, may also be used instead of the bacon drippings, though the flavor will be affected.

We normally use white rice, but have recently tried brown glutinous rice which I now prefer for this.  The added chewy texture and light nutty flavor was a lovely addition.  I cannot vouch for regular brown rice, though I can see it having a similar effect (though a less pearlesque appearance).

Friday, March 4, 2011

An update

I feel remiss in sharing our culinary exploits.  Have no fear, for we have not been stagnant in ideas.  On my list to share are porridges and chowders.  As you can see, I have been in a mood for simple, rustic fare.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Sugar Glazed Walnuts and Introduction to "Microwave Apparatus"

"Persian Walnuts"
Almeda Lambert (1898)
One thing Nigel and I have learned is that the most exquisite of culinary items are also sometimes the most simple.  While we were having tea with Madame Umber Landbouwer, she had a bowl of sugar glazed walnuts which she had cooked just prior to our visit.  When asked for the recipe, she introduced Nigel and I to a new and wonderous gadget, called the Miniature Non-ionizing Micro Wavelength Radiation Calefaction Apparatus (or "Microwave Apparatus", for short). 

This gadget is essentially a small metal box that uses "microwave radiation" to heat molecules in the food items placed within the heating chamber.  We were warned that there are some items that should not be put into this device, though we are not sure what the consequences would be of doing so, as Madame Landbouwer would not allow Nigel to experiment with it.  Nigel, being interested in understanding and sometimes owning mechanical advances of all natures, is determined to construct one for our homestead.

There are recipes for making sugar glazed nuts in a baking oven or on the stove top, but below is how to make them in the wonderful Microwave Apparatus.  Enjoy!