Deviled Eggs

My relationship with eggs is a Facebook status:

It’s complicated.

And like many a well-documented social media bond, my affair with eggs has always been mercurial and overly sensitive to the delicate shadings of status updates.

Today, I’m a fan of eggs of all sorts – boiled, deviled, poached and even shirred.  But it’s been a tempestuous affair.

It all started as a child when cousin Johnny and I could happily divide a boiled egg (he the white, I the yolk) until one day, without warning, poof!  The love was gone. I was done.  Just done.  In an instant, even quicker than Tayor Swift can sing, “Never, ever, ever,” my egg splitting days were over.  I don’t know that there was a reason, but, while I continued to hang out with Johnny, the egg and I were over.

Much later, after a late and very merry night, friend Ann made us a boiled egg and toast as a buffer against our indulgence.  It was a medium boiled egg, crunchy with kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper eaten in succession with bites of good bread, well-toasted and slathered with rich, Normandy butter.  Heaven.  A perfectly textured nibble, generously endowed with my favorite treats (salt and fat), it rekindled an old flame burning in my heart.  For years, even long after I abandoned besotted evenings about town, that egg service has remained my favorite snack:  we were reunited and it tasted so good!

Despite that reconciliation, my prejudice against deviled eggs persisted even longer.  It may have a been a lingering and unpleasant memory of limp and tepid examples from church socials where the yolks were so pale and pasty that not even a sprinkle of tasteless grocery-brand paprika could enliven their visual appeal.  First impressions are strong, and this one endured until only a few years ago.  The change transpired at a family Thanksgiving when my new favorite aunt presented a plate of eggs stuffed with a deep yellow yolk flecked with parsley and garnished with a half a green olive on top.  In moment, better far than a metaphor can ever, ever be, I wasn’t just in love – the egg was love:  Delicious, simple but well considered, and pleasing to all the senses.

That, of course, is the truth of all great food loves – a good eat is a well-rounded appeal to at least 4 senses (and sometimes all five if there’s a sizzle involved).  And that’s exactly what this recipe for deviled eggs has going for it.  The addition of a little sriracha deepens the color of the stuffing and puts a little of the devil in it too, giving both the eyes and the tongue a treat. Red onion adds some texture and capers, with a little punch from Dijon, bring a refreshing savor for the aroma and the taste too. But, of course, all these elements perfectly frame the rich and smoky flavor of the salmon which also affixes a luxurious silkiness to each bite.

It’s a festive deviled egg to be sure, but it’s just the right kind of celebratory for the Fourth July or any gathering with the people you love.  That’s the real reason we spend time in the kitchen – it’s a palpable way to show our love, and a good recipe makes it a palatable and enduring affection, too.

 

Tomato Head’s Smoked Salmon, Red Onion and Caper Deviled Eggs

6 large eggs

3 TBL Mayonnaise

1 TBL Dijon Mustard

1 TBL red onion, chopped fine

1 TBL capers, chopped

2 TBL Smoked Salmon, chopped fine

1 tsp sriracha

1/8 tsp salt

¼ tsp black pepper

Boil eggs for 10 -11 minutes. Remove the eggs from the hot water and place in an ice bath. Peel the eggs then cut them in half lengthwise and gently remove the yolks, keeping the whites intact.

Place the yolks in a small bowl. With a fork mash the yolks with the mayonnaise and mustard until smooth and creamy. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well.

Fill the egg whites with the yolk mixture. Cool for 1-2 hours and serve chilled.

 

Chess Pie

Chess pie may not be what you think it is.

There’s the name, of course; unlike apple or peach or even buttermilk pie, chess pie doesn’t sound like what’s in it.  It doesn’t promise a crust filled with bishops or even pawns.  There are many stories about its name, and in one version, as Mahasti explains in the video below, it may have less to do with the pie itself than with where it was stored.  I suppose in the interest of accuracy, we could rename it to Butter, Sugar, Vanilla, and Egg Pie, but that hardly rolls off the tongue.  And, to be honest, I like to know what’s in my treats, but I’m not particularly interested in saying every ingredient aloud.

Aside from the interesting nomenclature, this pie is notable for some modern fiddling.  I say modern, but I really mean is the post-cake mix era.  I can remember the first time I saw a 9×13 Pyrex baking dish holding a rich and gooey filling encased by a golden brown cakey frame.  It was at one of those countless church socials that punctuated my greener days; and when I asked just what it was, I recall hearing a mature southern voice, dripping with disdain, say, “They call it a chess bar, but that’s not right.  That’s from a mix.”

You will understand, I expect, that in some circles, store bought cake mix remains a kind of sad chapter and a blemish in the history of the baking arts. In my own family, there are some who have always believed that while the use of cake mix would not necessarily endanger your immortal soul, it almost certainly indicated the kind of loose moral character that could lead one to perdition.

Still, this “chess bar” is a popular and easy treat.  It’s rich and full of butter, cream cheese and whatever else comes in the box of butter-yellow cake mix. But what it’s not is chess pie.

Now, admittedly, a real chess pie has ingredients that might surprise you.  Of course, there’s the butter, egg, vanilla and sugar, but there’s also a midge of cornmeal and little lemon juice and vinegar, too.   Don’t be skeert, this is the way chess pie is supposed to be.  These interesting ingredients serve dual functions in the pie.  The cornmeal helps stabilize the filling as it sets and contributes to the unique texture of this treat.  As for vinegar and lemon, think of them like buttermilk, which performs a similar function in baking.  The acid helps the eggs thicken at a lower temperature so the pie bakes evenly and that makes for a very nice custard.  It also keeps balance in the flavor of the pie as it offsets the sweetness.

It’s an ideal pie for picnics and potlucks and the like, because it’s delicious at room temperature and, by my standards, even better when cold.  The high sugar content keeps it nice and fresh out of the fridge so it keeps well in the hamper or on the long table of desserts – though I wouldn’t expect it to last very long once people know that it’s there.

But, if you do make this pie (and everybody will thank you if you do) don’t be tempted to take a slice while it’s warm.  The pie must chill completely before it’s actually chess pie.  If you cut it too soon, you may as well call it a mess.

recipe

7 TBL Butter, melted

1 ¾ cup Granulated Sugar

4 large Eggs

¼ c Whole Milk

1 TBL Cider Vinegar

1 TBL Fresh Lemon Juice

½ TBL Vanilla

¼ tsp Salt

2 TBL plus 2 tsp Cornmeal

1 TBL All Purpose Flour

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Place melted butter in a large mixing bowl.  Whisk in the sugar.  Gradually whisk in the milk, and eggs.  When the mixture is well combined mix in the vinegar, lemon juice and vanilla and whisk until all the ingredients are incorporated.  Add the salt, cornmeal and flour and whisk until the mixture is blended well.

Pour the mixture into a prepared 9 – inch pie shell and bake on the center rack for 45 – 50 minutes until the center puffs slightly and sets.  If the pie is getting too dark, cover with foil for the last 5-10 minutes of baking.

Cool the pie to room temperature, then chill for 3-4 hours.  Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Serves 8 – 12

Matzo Balls for Matzo Ball Soup

Recipe

4 large eggs

1 tsp Salt

½ tsp Black Pepper, ground

2 TBL Parsley, chopped

¼ cup Schmaltz (chicken fat), or melted shortening

¼ cup Chicken Stock

1 ¼ cup Matzo crackers, ground

In a medium bowl whisk eggs.  Add salt, pepper, parsley, schmaltz and chicken stock and mix until incorporated.  Add Matzo meal and mix until everything is mixed well.  Refrigerate the mixture for 3 hours or overnight.

To shape the balls: 

Scoop the mixture using an ice scream scoop, or a large spoon.  Roll the scoops into balls and place in a pot of salted boiling water.  Drop the matzo balls into the pot, making sure you leave enough room for them to double in size, and reduce the heat to simmer.  Simmer the matzo balls, covered, for 45 minutes until they are very fluffy and floating.

To Serve Matzo Ball Soup:

Heat and season your homemade chicken stock with salt to taste.  Place some thinly sliced carrots in each bowl.  Place a matzo ball in each bowl and ladle hot chicken broth into each bowl.  Garnish with fresh dill.

Makes 7 large or 10 medium Matzo balls.

Simple Chicken Stock for Soups

Recipe

½ a Chicken

2 medium Carrots

3 stalks Celery

1 large Leek

1 small Yellow or White Onion

4 cloves Garlic

2 – inch piece of Ginger

8-10 sprigs Parsley

20 cups Water

Cut a whole chicken in half, rinse and place the chicken in a large stock pot.  Peel carrots and cut into 2-inch pieces and add to the pot.  Wash Celery and Leek and cut into 2-inch pieces and add to the pot.  Peel the onion and garlic cut into large dice and add to the pot.  Rinse the ginger and cut into strips then add the ginger to the pot.  Add parsley and water.  Bring mixture to a boil over high heat, then reduce to a gentle simmer and simmer for 20 – 30 minutes.

Remove the chicken from the pot.  When cool enough to handle, remove the meat from the chicken and reserve for another use.  Return the chicken bones to the pot and simmer the stock for 3 hours.  Drain the stock through a mesh strainer, discard the solids and allow the stock to come to room temperature.  Refrigerate or freeze the stock until ready to use.

Stock will keep refrigerated for 5-6 days and frozen for up to a month.

Tomato Head’s Grit Casserole with Mushroom Cream Sauce        

I can’t recall my first memory of grits.

I may have blocked it. That’s not because of any dislike, per se, but more likely it comes down to shame.  I suspect that my first

Grits and Cast Iron

encounter with grits involved copious butter with lots and lots of sugar, too.  And as any self-respecting Southerner will tell you, sugar and grits are a dishonorable combination that casts considerable shade over the house that dares to serve it.  You will understand, of course, why I may have repressed any such memory, if, in fact, it ever transpired at all.

Or it may be that I suffered at the hands of hurried or inconsiderate cooks who didn’t care to or know how to cook grits properly and, thus, served up some al dente.  As far as I’m concerned, an underdone bowl of grits is a far greater transgression than a sweet one; and it’s much more horrid to the young and sensitive palate.  Imagine the shock of that first, granular bite – why you’d want to forget that, too.

But whatever it was, something happened way back when to make me more than a little suspicious of this staple; and that’s wreaked havoc with my love of fine dining in town over the last decade or so as there are more grits on pretty plates than you can shake stick at.

In the intervening years, I have managed to accept grits or at least to taste them with an open mind, not because of the number of talented chefs giving grits a loving and careful treatment, but because of an old friend and roommate named Harry who shared his conviction that all grits are improved by good casserole treatment.

Mushrooms and Cream

Harry’s Sunday habits were practically set in stone and included the New York Times, mimosas, biscuits, country ham and cheese

grit casserole.  The paper was for Harry to read aloud to you whether you liked it or not, but everything else was selected for sharing.  Harry’s house was one of those places where you never knew who might show up hungry.  And being a firm believer in hospitality, Harry always had something to offer – provided, of course, that they would listen to his selected readings from the Times.

I don’t recall his exact recipe, but the one that follows is very close.  And, as Harry would tell you, it feeds plenty and can sit happily in line with ham or whatever you serve for any upcoming family feasts or breakfasts or brunches for a crowd, waiting its turn and keeping its good taste and texture as everybody fills up their plate.

Tomato Head’s Grit Casserole with Mushroom Cream Sauce        

2 cups Whole Milk

Comfort on a Plate

1 cup Water

½ cup Heavy Cream

½ tsp Salt

¼ tsp Ground Black Pepper

1 ¼ cups Stone Ground Grits

1 TBL Butter

1 cup Cheddar Cheese, shredded

2 eggs

Place the milk, water, heavy cream, salt and ground pepper in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Whisk until mixture starts to let off steam.  Gradually stream in the grits while whisking, reduce heat to low and whisk constantly until mixture thickens.  Remove the grits from the heat and add in butter and cheddar.  In a small bowl whisk together the eggs, add ¼ cup of hot grits to the eggs and whisk until combined.  Add the egg mixture to the cheese and grit mixture and mix well.

Pour the mixture into a greased 10-inch cast iron skillet and bake in a 350-degree oven for 25 minutes until the top is browned.

Serve the Grit Casserole in the skillet with Mushroom Cream Sauce on the side.

For the Mushroom Cream Sauce:

6 cups Mushrooms, sliced

2 TBL Butter

1 tsp Salt

½ tsp Black Pepper

¾ cups Heavy Cream

In a large skillet over high heat, melt butter.  Add mushrooms and sauté for 2-3 minutes.  Add salt, pepper and cream.  Reduce heat to medium and cook until the cream thickens, about 3-4 minutes.  Remove from heat and pour Mushrooms into a small bowl.

Serve with Grit Casserole

Serves 6-8 people.

 

 

 

Hot Milk Cake

 

Despite the digital age and the ease of having all my favorite books on a portable screen, I’m still dedicated to the real thing.  Books fit my hand, and there’s something particularly satisfying about holding the bottom corner of the next page of between my thumb and index finger; it’s a tease to my anticipation.

And with actual books, when I’m browsing through a bookstore, a sense of the hunt comes over me – and that feeling’s never so intense as when it’s a used bookshop that is my hunting ground.  It’s a treasure hunt, made complete by the enticing, almost delicious aroma of old books and their inevitable dust.  Pages old and new have their own scents that mingle into something that I find almost intoxicating.

But the hunt has other, better rewards if I’m prowling for cookbooks, something I can never seem to stop doing.  Cookbooks can yield the finest treasures, especially if they’ve been well used by thoughtful cooks who scribble notes in the margins that reveal certain truths or elucidate some mystery.  Perhaps they’re adjusted cooking times, or oven temperatures, or some reminder of an improvement – things like, “needs more vanilla” or “better with pecans,” living moments that bear witness to that best of recommendations for recipes and cookbooks, too – that they been used more than once.

If you’re particularly lucky, there may be even more treasure in the form of newspaper clippings, perhaps yellowed and nearly crackling cuttings that help date books for the time of their use – a small window into the past of the book’s owner.  Or, when the fates smile, the book may have the richest treasure of them all: an original recipe.

My favorite of these come on an index card, handwritten in ballpoint pen, stained and faded with use, complete with little corrections, changes that tell that the recipe is tried, true and perfected along the way.

This how our current recipe came to us.

Mahasti found a lovingly used treasure, The Cake Cookbook by Lilith Rushing and Ruth Voss, while on her own used book expedition.  Published in 1965, the book’s cover speaks of an era of doilies under cakes and napkins between fine china tea cups and their saucers.  The authors, sisters, are pictured by their biographies: Lilith, in wise and frameless glasses, also wrote children’s stories for the Farmer-Stockman of Oklahoma City and married a Kansan; Ruth, the younger sister in cat’s eye frames, was the associate editor of the Thomas, Oklahoma Tribune, and lived with her bachelor son.

Two red cardboard leaves are pasted inside the front cover of the book, and on them are written the names Tommy and Kathlyn.  Perhaps one of them, (Kathlyn, Mahasti imagines) also took a black, ball point pen to a 3 and half by five, lined index card to record a recipe for Hot Milk Cake.

It’s a cake that seems to have been fairly standard in the American kitchen from the early 1900’s until faded out of favor in the late 60’s or 70’s.  We imagine that Kathlyn copied the recipe from her mother’s or grandmother’s cookbook, perhaps it was her favorite, perhaps it was the one that mom loved best.

The cake itself is a like a sponge cake but calls for some baking powder to help the cake rise.  It’s one of those rich and moist cakes that tastes of vanilla and butter and comfort.  Often it was served alone without adornment or just touched with a simple glaze.  Kathlyn doesn’t tell us how her cake was finished, but we’re betting it all gotten eaten with or without something extra on top.

HOT MILK CAKE (exactly as it was hand written)

Mix in a Big Bowl

4 eggs

2C Sugar

Sift Together

2C Flour

2 tspb. b. Powder

½ tsp salt

Add:

1C Boiling Milk into which 1 stick of Butter Has been cut up

Add:

1 tsp vanilla

Pour in a well greased & Floured tube cake pan

Bake 50 min in 350⁰

Chocolate Chip Cookie Day!

We don’t mean this as a bait and switch, per se.  It is not actually chocolate chip cookie day as the food calendar would have it, but, honestly, everyday there’s a warm cookie nearby is a de facto festival in my book.  Today, while we are, in fact, celebrating the chocolate chip cookie, we’re doing it all on our own terms.

Almost every package of chocolate chips has a recipe for cookies on the back; some have that most famous of chocolate chip cookie recipes, the Toll House Cookie.  At least our package did, and Mahasti decided to follow that recipe exactly and to the letter.  When the cookies came out of the oven, Mahasti concluded that it was a good time to do a little tweaking…

We’re including the recipe, but we hope you’ll take a moment to watch the cookie making in action!  While you’re there, subscribe – we have good stuff cooking all the time.

 

Flour Head Bakery’s Chocolate Chip Cookie

2 sticks unslated butter, softened

½ cup Light Brown Sugar

½ cup Granulated Sugar

1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract

2 large Eggs, room temperature

2 ¼ cup All Purpose Flour

1 tsp Baking Powder

1 tsp Salt

2 cups Chocolate Chips

1 cup Chopped Walnuts

In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment cream the butter with the sugars until light and fluffy.  Scrape the bowl down and with the mixer running on low speed add the vanilla, followed by the eggs – one at a time, and allowing the first egg to mix in before adding the second.  Scrape the bowl down after the second egg has completely mixed in.

In a small bowl mix together the flour with the salt and baking powder.  Whisk briefly to remove the lumps in the flour.  With the mixer running on low speed add the dry ingredients and mix until all the flour is inocorporated into the mixture.  Scrape the bowl down oen more time and mix for 15 – 20 seconds, then gradually add the chocolate chips followed by the nuts and mix until they are mixed in.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Scoop as many cookies as you would like to bake onto a parchment lined cookie sheet, allowing 2 inches between each cookie.  Flatten the cookies slightly and bake on the middle rack for 12- 13 minutes or until the edges are starting the brown.  Cool cookies on a cooling rack for 5- 10 minutes then enjoy.

Scoop the remainder of your cookie dough onto a parchment lined plate.  Freeze the cookie dough balls for 20- 30 minutes.  Transfer the dough balls to a Ziploc bag and freeze for up to 6 weeks.

To bake cookies from frozen, simply thaw the cookies 1 hour before baking then follow the baking instructions above.

Tomato Head’s White Bean Chili

White Bean Chili

Yum

White Bean Chili Recipe

 

2 cups dry White Beans, checked for stones and soaked overnight

¼ cup Oil

½ cup Onion, chopped

3 large cloves Garlic, minced, about 2 TBL

Preparing to Cook

1 large Poblano Pepper, seeded and chopped

4 cups Water or Chicken Broth

1 cup Cooked Chicken, white and or dark meat shredded

2 tsp Salt

3 TBL Cilantro, chopped

2 TBL Cumin

½ tsp smoked Paprika

1 tsp Chipotle Pepper, chopped fine

2 TBL Cornmeal

½ cup Heavy Cream (optional)

Drain beans, place them in a medium pot and cover with enough water to cover the beans at with a couple of inches of water.  Bring the beans to boil, skim off the foam on top, reduce heat to medium and cook until beans are soft, for about 1-1.5 hours, adding more water if necessary.

Meanwhile chop onion, poblano peppers, and garlic.  In a large 6-7-quart pot, heat ¼ cup of oil on medium heat.  Add onion and sauté for 1-2 minutes.  Add garlic and poblano peppers, and sauté for 1-2 minutes longer.  If your beans are not soft, turn the heat off and let vegetables rest until the beans are soft.

Toppings to Customize

When beans are soft, drain the beans, saving the cooking liquid.  Pour cooked beans into the pot with the sautéed vegetables.  Measure your cooking liquid and bring the total liquid up to 4 cups by adding either water or chicken broth.  Add liquid to beans and turn the heat on to medium then give the beans a good stir.  Add the cooked chicken, salt, cumin, paprika and chipotle pepper and stir to combine.  Bring the mixture back to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes until the poblano peppers are soft.  Sprinkle the cornmeal into the pot while stirring constantly to avoid clumps, simmer the chili for 5 minutes longer, then add the cream if using; stir and simmer for 5 more minutes.

Serve topped with chopped onion, cilantro, chopped tomatoes, sliced radish, sliced jalapeno, avocado, corn chips or tortillas for a full meal.

Serves 8-10 people.

Warm Winter Pasta Bake

Yum

Baked Rigatoni Recipe

8 oz dry Rigatoni Pasta

2.5 cups Spaghetti Sauce

1 ½ cups Italian Sausage, cooked

2 cups Spinach, chopped

1 cup Ricotta Cheese

3 TBL Basil, Chopped

2 TBL Heavy Cream

2 cups Shredded Mozzarella Cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Cook pasta one minute less than the suggested cook time on the package in a large pot of salted water.  Drain the noodles into a strainer, rinse with cold water, and place in a large mixing bowl.

Add 2 cups spaghetti sauce to noodles and toss well to coat.  Add Italian sausage and spinach and toss to distribute the ingredients well.  Pour the other ½ cup sauce in the bottom of a medium cast-iron skillet or an 8×11 baking dish, then pour pasta mixture over the sauce.

In a small bowl mix together the ricotta cheese, basil and heavy cream.  Drop the ricotta mixture onto the pasta by the spoon-full, distributing the cheese evenly.  Top with shredded mozzarella.  Place the baking dish in the oven, uncovered, and bake for 20 – 25 minutes until the sauce is bubbling and the cheese has melted and browned slightly.  Remove from the oven when done.  Allow the dish to sit for 5 minutes before serving.

Serve with some hot bread and a side salad for a complete meal.

Serves 6-8 people.

Shopping List

1 lb box or bag of Rigatoni Noodles, or any tubular noodle of your choice

1 tub Ricotta Cheese

Heavy Cream

1 lb block Whole Milk Mozzarella Cheese

Italian Sausage

Spinach

Basil

Equipment list

Medium Stockpot

Strainer

Cutting Board

Chef’s Knife

Cast Iron Skillet

Small & Large Mixing Bowls

Dry Measuring Cups

Liquid Measuring Cups

Measuring Spoons

Wooden Cooking Spoon

© 2016 The Tomato Head Site by: Robin Easter Design