Grand Manan, pies une

We’re here! We almost missed the ferry, after planning to be there early, because we forgot all about Atlantic Time, which is an hour earlier, eh? Then our trip was delayed while the ferry crew heroically rescued three people adrift in the freezing Bay of Fundy after their boat overturned. Only one was wearing a PFD, but they all made it. “Too much speed and too much drink,” according to the rescue crew.

Then it was a short drive to a lovely cottage, and a walk down the hill to our own personal cliff.

Now off to discover some haddock in leek cream.

At your mother’s knee

I am beginning work on a illustrated collection of excerpts from my family’s letters. My son and I talked about the examples I’ve used so far and found that his recollection (of my communications with him) is vastly different than the advice I heard from my parents. This is a partial list for Mother’s Day 201o: amusing, and not a little weird.

In no particular order, although I suspect the examples that he remembers most vividly come first:

Baba Yaga eats people. Always has. Always will.

Never play cards for money in a place you can’t leave.

Always trade up.

There’s nothing that can’t be fixed with the  judicious amount of accellerant.

Sleep is a weapon.

Never fall in love with  someone with more problems than you. And, there are a lot of people out there with more problems than you. (I should add that this rule has been flung down and danced on in our household.)

Dress like you had to walk home.

If you get to salt water, turn around.

If you don’t know what color it is, it isn’t purple.

That’s higher than it looks from down here.

The Rent-a-cop won’t think it’s funny. Don’t take it personally.

Remember where you parked.

Wish my mom had told me the one about Baba Yaga. . .

Easter eggs

Pink pickled deviled eggs are a treat any time of year, but traditional for spring. We just had an Easter supper of tabouleh, baba ganouj, pita chips, fruit salad and pickled eggs – it was wonderful and no one (least of all myself) had to stand over a hot stove on this lovely day.

Hard boil six to eight eggs. My technique is to add the eggs to cold water in a large pot, bring them to a boil with the cover on, then turn off the heat and let stand 15 minutes. Uncover, drain and rinse with cold water, allow eggs to cool enough to handle and peel. Older eggs are much easier to peel.

My original recipe for this dish begins with cooking the beets, adding spices and then making a pickling solution out of the broth. These days I buy a large jar of borscht, empty it into a large container, add 1/4 C brown sugar and two Tbs of cider vinegar and add the eggs. I swear it’s even better this way.

Allow the eggs to stand in the broth for three days, stirring occasionally, in a cool dark place.

Dip the eggs out of the jar with a slotted spoon and compost the broth. Slice them in half, scoop out the yolks and mash separately with 1/4 C mayonnaise or yogurt, 1/4 C mustard, 2 Tbs of chives and a little sea salt. I have sorrel in the garden now, and added 5 leaves chopped fine for a lemony edge. Mix and mash the ingredients until smooth and then add back to the empty “whites” with two spoons. You can use a pastry bag, but I like the less formal approach here. Joyeuses Pâques!

Happy New Year Buns

new years buns

This is a weird picture, but it’s the only one I have – we ate them too quickly. My family traditionally celebrates New Year’s Eve by staying in and eating dumplings. Tonight we made potstickers (fried and then steamed, made with unleavened dough) and baozi (steamed, leavened filled rolls).  We also made a batch of shrimp, ginger, garlic, spinach and water chestnut filling and used it for both batches. Here’s the recipe for the baozi – you’ll need a bamboo or metal tiered steamer and a food processor.

1 Tbs active dry yeast
1  cup lukewarm water
2 tablespoons cooking oil
2 teaspoons sugar
1 egg
3 1/2 cups all-purpose wheat flour or bread flour, plus more as needed. You can also use rice flour, barley, whole wheat or corn meal as part of the dry ingredients.

Add flour, sugar and yeast to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse a few times to mix.  Add water, oil and egg; process until well blended and the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. This is a soft dough.

Let the dough rise until doubled in size, about 1 to 3 hours depending on the room temperature.

Stretch the dough out into a log with a diameter of about 2.5 inches. I generally let it lie coiled on a large cookie sheet lined with a Silplat. Using kitchen shears, cut the dough into 2 inch pieces (it should make around 25), and let rise again for at least 30 minutes. You can steam these plain for 20-25 minutes,  or you can fill them, like we did tonight. Flatten a piece of dough in your hand (oiling your fingers first makes this easier). Holding the dough cupped in your palm, put about 2 tsp of filling in the middle and fold the edges up in a pleat, squeeze shut. I like to roll the opening underneath the bun so that it doesn”t show, but it’s also traditional to keep them upright, showing off their little topknots.

Any filling you can imagine works well with this dough. I’ve had spicy pork, red bean paste, homemade jam, cream cheese and strawberries, butter-sugar-cinnamon, bean curd and pineapple boazi – they’re all good.

Happy New Year!

Hardy Ancestors – Mincemeat

68 adams rdI grew up in this house. There were cows wandering the first floor when my parents bought it in 1955 shortly after I was born. My father had adventures and tetanus shots ripping off the decrepit front porch and flipping the huge old floorboards over to hide the damage from the livestock. The house was built in 1770 – or thereabouts and had been updated last around 1800. He did extensive renovations before my grandmother would allow my mother to move in with the new baby.

The Institute Cookbook’s recipe for mincemeat “has remained unchanged for quite some time”. The book dates from 1800 and the editor is prone to understatement so I imagine a cook in my childhood home might have made it the same way in 1770. My father told me once that his grandmother made mincemeat with woodchuck, but he too was prone to understatement and I would keep to the “lean beef” mentioned in the recipe, myself.

1 lb suet, 2 lbs lean beef, 1 quart chopped apple

1/4 C candied orange peel and 1/4 C candied lemon peel, 1/2 lb citron, 3 C seeded raisins and 1 C currants

Juice and grated rind of 1 lemon and one orange

1/2 C molasses, 1 C sugar, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp allspice and cloves, 1 nutmeg, grated (about 1 tsp)

2 1/2 C sweet cider (as opposed to hard cider)

Let the meat simmer slowly in a covered kettle until tender (insert my father’s story about sampling the meat cooking on the back of the stove, finding it fairly lean and good, and then being told it was ‘chuck). Run the meat and then the suet through a meat chopper and mix well. Add the other ingredients, chopping the peels and citron before adding. Put in a stone (ceramic) crock and let stand several days to ripen. Bake in a plain or half puff paste double crust pie.

I should add that I’ve had vegetarian versions made with beets and dried apples instead of meat and suet – not the same, but not bad.

In drear-nighted December

Yesterday we had a wonderful Christmas. There were friends and family, decorated cookies, stollen and panettonne, casseroles and decorations and a Bueche de Noel – all the best from every culture we could filch from and some that we made up. There’s another side of Christmas, though, as there is to every day we set aside to gather with family and friends. To properly celebrate the holiday with those we did not see or will not see again, we need some Keats.

In drear-nighted December,tree

Too happy, happy tree,
Thy branches ne’er remember
Their green felicity:
The north cannot undo them
With a sleety whistle through them;
Nor frozen thawings glue them
From budding at the prime.

In drear-nighted December,
Too happy, happy brook,
Thy bubblings ne’er remember
Apollo’s summer look;
But with a sweet forgetting,
They stay their crystal fretting,
Never, never petting
About the frozen time.

Ah! would ’twere so with many
A gentle girl and boy!
But were there ever any
Writhed not at passed joy?
The feel of not to feel it,
When there is none to heal it
Nor numbed sense to steel it,
Was never said in rhyme.”
–   John Keats