In the Kitchen: Chocolate Pudding (1956)

Dear Constant Reader,

This recipe came from a Baker’s Chocolate recipe pamphlet from 1956. Baker’s Chocolate used to be made just down the road from The Manor, so I was delighted at the local connection.

Although there are all sorts of fun and interesting chocolate recipes, I was looking for something I could scale down and that I had everything already. I decided on Chocolate Pudding. Easy and simple.

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Start by combining sugar, cornstarch, and salt.

The original recipe called for flour to thicken the pudding, but I know from experience that it tends to have a “floury” taste and can be difficult to incorporate smoothly. I used cornstarch instead. Rice flour would probably also work as a thickener

Add milk and stir to combine. Obviously you’re supposed to use real milk, but almond milk works perfectly fine. If you’re using flour, mix really well to keep it from being lumpy. Add the unsweetened chocolate and place over boiling water.

Baker’s unsweetened chocolate used to come in individually wrapped one-ounce squares and many recipes call for squares of chocolate. Recently Baker’s switched to selling the chocolate as a bar with half-ounce squares. Just be aware.

Chopping the chocolate before adding it makes it melt faster and more evenly. It would have taken so much longer with the whole one-ounce squares. As it was I broke the squares into quarter-ounce pieces and they didn’t melt very evenly.

Cook the pudding over boiling water until it starts to thicken. Then cook 10 minutes more. Add the vanilla and chill.

Serve with cream poured over. There were variations that were topped with flavored whipped cream (like with orange marmalade folded into it), but the basic recipe used plain cream. This was a new one to me, but it worked.

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Here’s the recipe, scaled for 4 servings.
Baker’s Chocolate Pudding, Miss Mina’s Way
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon corn starch
pinch salt
2 cups milk
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Combine sugar, corn starch, and salt in a medium saucepan that works as a double boiler. Also start water boiling in the bottom pan of the double boiler.

Add milk and mix well. Add the chocolate and place pan over the boiling water. Stir frequently until mixture thickens. Cook 10 minutes more, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and add vanilla.

Pour into serving dish or individual bowls. Chill. Serve with cream poured over.

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Published in: on 24 May 2017 at 2:30 pm  Leave a Comment  
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In the Kitchen: Ham Banana Rolls (1950)

Dear Constant Reader,

Back in November, I wrote of my quest to prove the vintage recipe testers at Buzzfeed wrong and of the results of my first experiment, Olive-Cheese “Porcupine”. At that very same party, I also made a ham and banana dish. I had to do this at a party, because I wanted the feedback from several palates but also because I hate bananas.

I didn’t actually use the same recipe as the Buzzfeed folks. I could tell that theirs was going to be disgusting no matter how good a cook I am, so I found one that was similar, to prove that the recipe was at fault, not the dish concept. I used the recipe for Ham Banana Rolls with Cheese Sauce from a Chiquita Banana’s Recipe Book from 1950 while they made Ham and Bananas Hollandaise from the McCall’s Great American Recipe Card Collection from 1973. I’ll explain as I go how the two diverged.


Start with bananas, ham, mustard, butter, milk, flour, shredded cheese

Both recipes begin about the same. Take slices of boiled ham and spread with mustard. My recipe left the amount of mustard up to the cook, while theirs specified a teaspoon and a half per slice. I just covered each slice with a thin, even coating. Diverging from both recipes, I used baked ham instead of boiled, because I was going to be making my lunch out of the left-over meat and I don’t like boiled ham. Does anyone? Also, back when they probably used French’s yellow, but I used a brown deli mustard.

I wrapped the bananas in the mustard-smeared ham and then brushed the bare banana tips with melted butter. Their recipe says to sprinkle the bananas with lemon juice to keep them from browning (not so necessary I thought) before wrapping the bananas. In both cases the wrapped bananas go into a greased, shallow baking dish.

Now things get very different. Their bananas are baked at 400F for 10 minutes. I baked my bananas at 350F for 30 minutes, but first I had to pour cheese sauce over them.

The cheese sauce is really easy. Make a roux with butter and flour, then add milk. Then add grated cheese and cook until it’s all smooth and hot. I confess, I used sharp cheddar instead of the called-for sharp American because I already had a bag of shredded cheddar for the porcupine (and I like it better).

That’s it for my recipe, but theirs has one more step. You mix an envelope of hollandaise sauce mix with some water, cream, and lemon juice bring it to a boil. Pour over the bananas and bake 5 minutes more.


Here’s a gratuitous picture of the chef with the finished product. My taste-testers wrote “This is something I will get a craving for in the future. So great!” and “Awesome combo. Maybe need more salt or sharpness but this is one of those surprising flavor combos I’m glad I tried.” Those who liked bananas really liked the bananas. They were nice and creamy and had transformed from “hot banana” into something very tasty. Those who liked ham liked that too, especially the part that was above the cheese sauce, as it got crispy and brown. The part of the ham that was completely submerged in the sauce was not as good, since it never browned. The mustard flavor didn’t blend well with the ham & banana and was a touch assertive. The cheese sauce was a little bland.

If I were to make this again, I’d add some dry mustard to the cheese sauce (and salt & pepper), shred the ham and sprinkle it on top of the bananas, instead of wrapping it around. It doesn’t make for as nice, tidy, and midcentury a presentation, but it solves all the problems above while keeping the good parts.

I’m not surprised that the Buzzfeed version got low marks. To start I think they followed the recipe to the letter and used boiled ham and yellow mustard. Although their bananas cook at a higher temperature, it’s for half the time. They probably didn’t get creamy and slightly caramelized like mine did. Also, they were cooked without the sauce, just having been seasoned with lemon juice, which I think was totally unnecessary. I doubt the bananas were going to get oxidized in the short time from peel to pan. Perhaps the recipe was deliberately trying to amp the lemon flavor. Also, I think brushing the exposed banana bits with butter in my recipe improved the flavor and helped them brown.

Lastly, and most importantly, I think their hollandaise sauce was a loser from the get-go. Maybe it could have been okay with an actual freshly made hollandaise, but a mix was right out. I’m sure adding extra lemon juice to an already lemon-flavored sauce mix didn’t help. I’m not sure why the recipe creator thought ham, banana, and lemon was going to be delicious. I know hollandaise was pretty popular in the ’70’s. I’m sure it was seen as more chic than a pedestrian cheese sauce.

It probably deserved the reviews of “It’s kind of like a banana split made a baby with a hot dog? Oh, it’s very sour!” and “Even the bits of banana that graciously don’t have slop on them have absorbed the scent of lemon and mustard in a very aggressive way.”

So don’t every try the 1973 version with hollandaise, but the 1950 version with cheese sauce is actually worth making.

banana rolls cooked
Here’s the original recipe, straight from Chiquita:

Ham Banana Rolls with Cheese Sauce
4 thin slices boiled ham
Prepared mustard
4 firm bananas (all yellow or slightly green-tipped)
1 1/2 Tablespoons melted butter or margarine
Cheese Sauce

Spread each slice of ham lightly with mustard.

Peel bananas. Wrap a slice of prepared ham around each banana. Brush tips of bananas with butter or margarine.

Place Ham Banana Rolls into a greased shallow baking dish, and pour Cheese Sauce over them. Bake in a moderate oven (350°F) 30 minutes, or until bananas are tender… easily pierced with a fork.

Serve hot with the Cheese Sauce from the baking dish.

Serves 4

Cheese Sauce
1 1/2 Tablespoon butter or margarine
1 1/2 Tablespoons flour
3/4 cup milk
1 1/2 cups grated sharp American cheese

Melt butter or margarine in saucepan; add flour and stir until smooth. Stir in milk slowly. Add cheese and cook, stirring constantly until sauce in smooth and thickened.
Makes about 1 cup sauce.

I’ll need to throw another party soon to try some of the other recipes.

M2

Published in: on 16 December 2015 at 3:21 pm  Leave a Comment  
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In the Kitchen with Mina: Peach Mousse (1950)

Dear Constant Reader,

I recently made dinner based on a menu in a little cookbook from 1950, Meals for Two Cookbook. True confession, I just used the menu as a guideline and made similar dishes from other vintage cookbooks in my collection.

The entree (Lamb en Brochette) was from an undated “postwar” butcher’s pamphlet, the vegetable (Épinard à l’italienne) was from a 1947 cookbook, and the bread (Sweet Potato Biscuits) came from a 1935 baking powder pamphlet. Dessert, however, did come from the original cookbook and that’s what I want to share with you.

Dessert was Peach Mousse and I was intrigued. Usually when I make mousse, it involves whipping heavy cream or egg whites (or both) and maybe a little gelatin to stabilize. This used evaporated milk, a substance I’d never had in my kitchen before, and it was a frozen dessert.


The ingredients are simple: peaches, sugar, evaporated milk, lemon juice, and a dash of salt (the salt box is hiding behind the other ingredients — I forgot to move it into the shot).

Peel the peaches and mash them to make 3/4 cup of puree. That was about a peach and a half in my case. Add some sugar and stir until it dissolves.

The recipe says to whisk the chilled milk until stiff. This is terribly amusing. I was using my trusty hand mixer and while the milk thickened, it was nowhere near stiff. After a little research I discovered that whipping evaporated milk needs a little special prep. Put the milk, bowl, and beaters into the freezer for half an hour. Then beat for only a few minutes. I did get soft peaks, but I’d never call it stiff. I couldn’t imagine this working with a whisk at all.

Fold in the peach puree, lemon juice, and salt and stick in the freezer. I put it in smaller, lidded container to freeze. That night it was in the freezer for maybe 5 hours and it was still soft at dessert time. A couple days later, it was very hard and probably wanted to spend a little time at room temperature before scooping.

I served it with fresh blueberries thus:

It’s more like ice cream than mousse, but so deliciously peachy that who cares. It’s easy to make, as long as you properly chill the milk. The actual preparation is pretty fast, although you’ve got to wait hours for it to harden up enough to serve.

Here’s the recipe:

Peach Mousse
2 large peaches
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup evaporated milk
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
Dash salt

Pour evaporated milk into a bowl (preferably metal) and put it and the mixer’s beaters in the freezer for 30 minutes.

Peel and stone the peaches and mash to get 3/4 cup puree. Add the sugar and stir until sugar is dissolved.

Whip the milk for just about three minutes, until it resembles whipped cream. Fold in the peach mixture, lemon juice, and salt.

Cover and freeze for several hours, until firm.

Makes about 3 cups.

There’s a variation that uses bananas instead of peaches. I loathe bananas, but maybe I can find some brave taste-testers.

M2

Published in: on 29 July 2015 at 2:09 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Vintage Chinese Food, Part 2

Dear Constant Reader,

Yesterday I wrote about making Cashew Chicken from a cookbook published by nuns in the mid-50’s. Today’s recipe is Asparagus Peking Style.

In this case I made the recipe almost exactly as writ, with one big exception. It called for a can of asparagus and I just can’t do that, even in the spirit of tasting history. I had to use fresh asparagus. Sorry to all those purists out there.


Asparagus, sherry*, soy sauce, corn starch, chicken broth, and oil. I remembered to put the oil in this picture!

Since the recipe called for canned asparagus and I was using fresh, I had to do a little prep work before I could get started. I snapped the tough ends of the asparagus (it’s fun!) and blanched them. Some people advocate blanching the asparagus standing up, but I think that takes way too much time and water. I like to throw them in a little boiling water in a big skillet, presumably the same one they’re going to get cooked in later, to save on dish washing. After a few minutes the asparagus turns bright green and is tender. Don’t let it overcook. Drain the asparagus and run some cold water over it to stop the cooking process.

Then mix up the oil, broth, some water, sherry, soy sauce, and cornstarch in the pan and bring to a boil. When it’s bubbling away, toss in the asparagus and cook until it’s hot. The sauce will be really thick, bordering on gloppy. Serve.

That’s it!

And here’s the recipe with measurements and stuff.

Asparagus Peking Style (Lung Hsu Ts’ai)
2 Tablespoons oil
1/4 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon sherry
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
1 lb. asparagus

Prepare asparagus by snapping off tough lower stems. Blanch the asparagus in boiling water for a few minutes until the stems are bright green and tender. Drain asparagus and set aside. This can be done in advance. Or you could just use canned asparagus, like the original recipe.

Heat pan and add all ingredients except asparagus. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly.

Add asparagus and heat through.

Serves about 4.

And here’s the whole meal: Cashew Chicken, Asparagus Peking Style, and brown rice. This picture doesn’t show the beauty of my zebrawood chopsticks**.

M2

*In the last missive I decided not to use cream sherry because it was so sweet and instead used rice wine vinegar. A few minutes later I changed my mind, thinking that it was likely that cream sherry was the sort that your average 1950’s housewife had on hand and that was the target audience for this cookbook.

**I need a food stylist. And a better camera.

Published in: on 20 August 2013 at 9:31 am  Leave a Comment  
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Vintage Chinese Food

Dear Constant Reader,

The other day I indulged in some vintage Chinese food. That’s not “vintage” as in “hmm… how long as this white box been in the back of the fridge?”, but as from a vintage cookbook.

The Art of Chinese Cooking, The Benedictine Sisters of Peking (1956)

The backstory to this cookbook is as good as the recipes. It was written by two nuns who were in China when the Japanese invaded. After Pearl Harbor, they were sent to a civilian internment camp. When the War ended, they went back to being missionaries, but the Communists kept pushing them out of various cities until they ended up in Taiwan (then called Formosa). The American Consul thought they might be in danger there and sent them off to a safe place. Ironically, that was Tokyo. Needing an income, they opened a school where they taught Chinese cooking.

Their book is illustrated with the cutest line drawings of dancing dumplings and opium-smoking ducks. Yes, there are some utterly stereotypical “Oriental” caricatures, but do keep in mind when it was published. It’s also a product of its times in the use of canned foods which we can easily get fresh these days.

There are a whole lot of recipes I’m planning to try someday, quite a change from many of my midcentury cookbooks, where the recipes are more “interesting” than delicious. I’m really intrigued by Loquat Chicken and someday I’ll have to visit my parents when their loquat tree is fruiting and try it out.

I made Cashew Chicken, a favorite. I’ve modified the recipe a bit from the original, mostly in terms of proportions (i.e. heavier on the vegetables, lighter on the meat), but a little regarding the ingredients.


The ingredients: bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, raw cashews, rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, salt, cornstarch, celery, chicken breast, sugar, chicken broth, onion. There was also oil, which I completely forgot to put in this still-life.

Combine soy sauce, salt, sugar, cornstarch, and vinegar* in a bowl. Chop the chicken into small cubes and add to the bowl. Set aside. Not the most attractive photo, but raw chicken isn’t exactly glamorous.

Chop up bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, celery, and onion. The most important thing when making Chinese food is to cut up everything first, because you won’t have time once you start cooking. Also, everything should be about the same size so it all cooks evenly.

Heat up some oil** and add the veggies. Stirfry them until they’re softened (not mushy — you’ll be cooking them more later) and the onion is just little bit brown. You want to use a big pan and high heat. Scoop the cooked veggies out of the pan.

In the oil remaining in the pan (add some if necessary), brown the cashews. This is why I specified raw ones. Keep an eye on them, so they don’t burn. Once they’re toasty, remove them from the pan. The original recipe is for walnut chicken (with a substitution of blanched almonds), but walnuts are my least favorite nut. The original also calls for deep frying the nuts. I though that was excessive. But feel free to make it that way if you like.

Add more oil to the pan and add the chicken. Be careful; it will spit! Cook the chicken until it’s browned. Then add some chicken broth or stock. When that heats up, add the vegetables and nuts and cook it all until it’s hot.

Serve with rice.

The recipe proper:

Mina’s Cashew Chicken, Benedictine-style
1 boneless skinless chicken breast (about 8 oz.)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
1 1/2 Tablespoons soy sauce
1 Tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon sugar

1 can (8 oz.) water chestnuts
1 can (8 oz.) bamboo shoots
3 ribs celery
1/2 large onion
Approx. 5 Tablepsoons oil
1 cup raw cashews
1/4 cup chicken broth

Combine salt, cornstarch, soy sauce, vinegar, and sugar in a medium bowl. Cut the chicken into 1 inch cubes. Add the chicken to the sauce. Set aside.

Chop water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, celery, and onion into small pieces.

Heat 2 Tablespoons oil in a large pan over high heat. When it’s hot, add the vegetable and stirfry until soft and slightly browned. Remove vegetables from pan and set aside.

If necessary, add 1 Tablespoon oil to pan. Heat and add cashews. Cook until browned. Remove and set aside.

Add 2 Tablespoons of oil to the pan and heat. Carefully add the chicken to the hot pan. The liquid will make it spit, so be careful. Brown the chicken. Lower the heat and add the chicken broth. Once the broth simmering, add the vegetables and nuts.

Cook all until it’s hot. Serve with rice. Makes about 4 servings.

You can easily double the amount of chicken, just remember to double the sauce ingredients too. Everything else stays about the same.

Tomorrow I’ll share the second dish I made, Asparagus Peking Style.

M2

*The original recipe calls for sherry. We have cream sherry (very sweet) and I’m sure back in China it was made with rice wine, which has a sharper flavor. So I used rice wine vinegar. The reason I forgot to put the oil in the picture was because I was furiously debating the virtues of sherry vs. vinegar, decided, grabbed the bottle from the pantry, and left the oil sitting forlornly there next to the abandoned sherry.

**This should be a neutral oil that can get quite hot, like vegetable oil. Peanut oil is good for cooking Chinese food. I used grapeseed oil. Which you’d know if I had remembered to put it in the picture.

Published in: on 19 August 2013 at 12:04 pm  Leave a Comment  
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In the Kitchen with Mina

Dear Constant Reader,

I had some fun cooking while Scratch was off having fun at the Burlesque Hall of Fame. Mid-century cuisine, of course, and from one of my favorite cookbook authors.

I chose Wolf in Chef’s Clothing: The Picture Cook and Drink Book for Men by Robert H. Loeb Jr. (1950).

The recipes, for the man who knows nothing about cooking but wants to impress the ladies, have step-by-step illustrations, as seen. The whole thing is whimsical, charming, and gently condescending.

I decided to make “Orange Hawaiian”, which he recommends as either a breakfast dish or an appetizer. I was only making it for one, so I halved the recipe. And ended up having it as sort of a mid-morning snack.

I gathered my ingredients:
an orange, a can of crushed pineapple, sugar*, lemon juice**, sherry, and pistachios.

I cut the orange in half and cut out the fruit and supremed it (that’s a fancy way of saying I got rid of the membrane between pieces). I wished I had one of those funny grapefruit knives, because I needed to be careful not to cut through the peel. The fruit & juice went into a saucepan with the can of crushed pineapple, a little sugar and lemon juice.

You’re supposed to cook until it “looks like thin marmalade”. Whatever that means. I just cooked it low until it simmered a little. Once it’s off the heat, I added a little sherry. Less than called for because the only sherry we had was Harvey’s Bristol Cream*** and I don’t like it much.

Then I scooped the mix into the orange rinds. Not surprisingly, there was more than necessary to fill them, so I dumped the rest in a ramekin. Then I sprinkled them with salted pistachios and baked everything at 350 for 20 minutes. Then I let them cool a bit before eating.

It was good enough, but I’d probably serve it as a dessert rather than breakfast or as an appetizer. I didn’t drain the pineapple and probably should have. To make it really “Hawaiian”, I’d use macadamia nuts; I have no idea how available they were in 1950. I don’t think the sherry added anything, but I used so little that it didn’t detract either. I’m surprised it wasn’t topped with a maraschino cherry.

M2

*Isn’t my sugar bowl lovely? It’s just there for symbolic purposes, as it holds lump sugar. I keep granulated sugar in a utilitarian canister that is unphotogenic.

**Yes, I used the stuff in the bottle. Sue me.

***Don’t judge. It was a gift.

Published in: on 10 June 2013 at 10:32 am  Leave a Comment  
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