Saturday, October 26, 2013

Pumpkin Cornmeal Pancakes from 1749

Each year we take our fourth graders to Old Salem, a small village and living history museum in the larger city of Winston-Salem.  On our tour, the students get to take part in a variety of activities using traditional eighteenth century methods such as cooking, painting, making pottery, and carding wool.  This year we took our trip in the fall, and the students got to cook small pumpkin cornmeal pancakes adapted from a recipe from 1749.  The pancakes were creamy on the inside, crunchy on the outside, slightly sweetened, and dusted with cinnamon sugar (which the docent pointed out would not have been traditional since sugar would have been an expensive resource).  

The students loved making the pancakes, with each student adding a different ingredient to the mix, and the entire group took turns whisking the egg whites with a whisk made of small twigs.  They cooked their pancakes, with the help of the docent, in melted butter in a spider pan over hot, burning coals.  The students then had the opportunity to sample their creations along with a little apple juice from a cold pewter mug.  Even though the pancakes are not overly sweet like snacks students are accustomed to today, there was not a single piece of pancake left on a plate in the end.  The students enjoyed them, and I did too, and it was made all the more special by the fact that they created the pancakes themselves.  

These pancakes are a perfect fall treat, slightly sweetened and spiced.  We will be recreating them at home tonight.  We will not be dusting them with cinnamon sugar but will instead drizzle them with a little warm maple syrup.  A few slices of bacon will round out a quick and easy fall breakfast-for-dinner, and while I'm sure they won't be quite as tasty as they were prepared in an eighteenth century kitchen over hot coals, they will still hit the spot.  

Pumpkin Cornmeal Pancakes- makes nine 3-inch pancakes or 4-5 larger ones

The recipe we were given at Old Salem stated that this was adapted from Peter Kalm's Travel Accounts, 1749.  When the students made them, they made small three-inch pancakes, and we did not use all of the milk.  I am including the recipe below as it was given to us.  

1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 cup mashed pumpkin
1 egg
3/4 cup sweet milk

Mix dry ingredients in a medium bowl.  Separate the egg.  Beat the yolk until creamy and the white until the color of snow.  Add milk, pumpkin, and yolk to the dry ingredients.  Fold in the whites.  Add more milk to make a thin pancake batter. Cook pancakes on both sides in butter until nicely browned.  Serve hot sprinkled with cinnamon sugar.   

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Sunday, October 13, 2013

Penne with Chicken, Green Beans, and Roasted Tomatoes

Green beans are still coming in from the garden.  We picked some just yesterday, but as the temperatures cool and the leaves fall, their numbers are dwindling.  I thought I would share one final recipe to help celebrate the last of these.  Soon, fresh green beans will be just a memory (until next year).  

Let me begin by apologizing for the less than ideal pictures.  They were taken quickly, in poor lighting, and with a poor camera. Focus on the pasta, not on the skills (or lack thereof) of the photographer.  

This pasta is perfect for this time of year when summer produce isn't quite finished, but you are ready for some warm, gooey comfort food.  It is creamy and cheesy, nicely flavored with herbs, and filled with tender chunks of chicken, slightly crisp green beans, and chewy roasted tomatoes.  It also reheats well, although it will not be quite as creamy the second time around.  

If you roast your own tomatoes in the summer, this is the perfect way to use them.  If not, store-bought sun dried tomatoes will work.  Just drain them well if packed in oil or rehydrate them if using the dry packed tomatoes in the bags.  Also, this recipe, as is, only makes a 9x9 baking dish which serves 2-4 people.  If you wish to make more, just double the ingredients and bake it in a 9x13 pan.  

I fully intend on making this dish in the fall and winter with broccoli, cauliflower, or Brussels sprouts, so by no means should you feel boxed in by green beans if they are finished for the year where you live.  

Penne with Chicken, Green Beans, and Roasted Tomatoes-  serves 2-4 

I cooked the chicken for this dish separately and ahead of time.  I seasoned one large chicken breast with a little salt and pepper and a sprinkling of Herbes de Provence.  Rosemary and a little thyme would work well also.  I grilled the chicken until just cooked through. I then chopped it in bite sized pieces.  You could use any cooked chicken in this dish.

1 boneless, skinless chicken breast, cooked and chopped (see note above) 

1 onion, finely chopped
1 1/2 tsp garlic, minced
1/2 tsp dried thyme
2 Tbsp flour
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 1/2 cup fresh green beans, trimmed and cut in 1 inch pieces
4 oz roasted tomatoes (or sun dried), chopped
8 oz penne pasta
2 oz mozzarella, shredded
2 Tbsp Pecorino Romano, grated
1/2 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
1 Tbsp butter, melted

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Spray a 9x9 baking dish with cooking spray.  Combine breadcrumbs and butter in a bowl and set aside.  Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Once boiling, add the pasta and cook until just al dente.  In the last two minutes of pasta cooking time, add the green beans and boil until crisp tender.  Drain the pasta and beans in a colander and set aside.  

Return the empty pasta pot to the heat and add the olive oil on medium heat. Add the onion and cook until translucent.  Add the garlic and thyme and cook 1 minute.  Add the flour, salt, and pepper, and whisk to combine.  Whisk in the stock and cream and heat until the mixture boils and begins to thicken.  Remove from the heat and stir in the red wine vinegar.  Stir in the cooked chicken, pasta, green beans, chopped roasted tomatoes, and mozzarella cheese.  Stir to combine.  

Pour the mixture into your prepared pan.  Top with the seasoned, buttered breadcrumb mixture. Sprinkle Pecorino Romano cheese over the breadcrumbs.  Bake for 15-20 minutes until bubbly and brown on top.

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Friday, October 4, 2013

Using What's Been Put Up: Skillet Apple Crumble

One of the most convenient items to have on hand is canned pie filling.  You can make any number of desserts quickly by simply popping the lid off the jar and topping the filling with some type of crumble or crust.  Whether it's Spiced Peach Crisp made with Cardamom Peach Pie Filling or this Skillet Apple Crumble made with Apple Pie Filling, crisps and crumbles are my favorites because the toppings are so easy to put together.  You can have a great, homemade dessert ready for the oven in minutes.  

This dessert can be made from scratch if you don't have canned apple pie filling on hand, but if you don't have any, you should really make some very soon before apple season ends.  The filling is perfectly spiced, just gooey enough without being too thick, and the apples (if you use a baking variety) hold their shape nicely.  The crumble topping is easy to make and requires items you probably have on hand.  I will warn you that this dessert has a high ratio of crumble to filling.  I like it that way so that you get a fair amount of topping in every bite, and while I am making it in a skillet, it can certainly be made in a pie pan lined with a crust.  In that case, it would be more like a Dutch apple pie.

If you don't have the pie filling on hand, use the 1 quart recipe from National Center for Home Food Preservation and skip the canning step.  You just may need to blanch your apples slightly longer so that they cook through during baking.  If you want to make more, use the 7 quart recipe from that site or my slightly altered version below.  The crumb topping recipe comes from Cook's Illustrated, and even though it requires two baking periods, it is well worth the extra minutes.  The topping stays crisp and crumbly on this dessert without turning to mush in the filling.    

Skillet Apple Crumble- makes a 10 inch skillet dessert or pie

1 jar apple pie filling
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 Tbsp cornmeal
7 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  

Spoon apple pie filling into a cast iron skillet or baking dish.  

In a bowl, combine the flour, sugars, and cornmeal.  Drizzle the melted butter into the dry ingredients, and toss with a fork to moisten until large, pea-sized crumbs form.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and spread the crumbs in an even layer on the baking sheet.  Bake the crumbs 5 minutes until golden brown.  Cool several minutes until cool enough to touch.  

Sprinkle the crumbs over the pie filling.  Bake another 10 minutes until deep golden brown.  Serve warm with ice cream or whipped cream.  

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