Sunday, March 12, 2017

The Church Cookbooks of New York, Part 4: Transparent Pie ("Chappaqua Cookbook" The Chappaqua Congregational Church, 1941)

Part 2:  "Hot Damn," "Sharing Our Best" - Chemung ARC, Elmira, 1996
Part 2.5: Steamed Chickent "From Ridgewood Kitchens," West Side Presbyterian Church, Ridgewood, NJ, 1945

I scored this little darling last week.

Here we have 1941's "Chappaqua Cookbook" from the The Congregational Church of Chappaqua.

The first thing I ought to say about this particular church cookbook is that it was absolutely brimming with racist imagery. Pages and pages of it. I have several cookbooks from this era and once in a while there will be something to raise an eyebrow... But Chappaqua Cookbook? Chock full. I won't share any images as I don't think anyone benefits from that. 

Considering only the recipes, the book is wonderful. One of the first recipes in the book is the below. I imagined this being whipped up in a prison toilet. This is one of the only "home brew" recipes I have come across in one of these collections. I imagine wild "Sherry" fueled ragers going down at the Congregational Church.

The next one gave me a case of the barf-spits. Prune/mayo/seafood? I can't live at that speed.

My favorite part of 40s/50s Church/Community cookbooks is the hand drawn art work that was common. From the 60s on you don't see this as much. It was pretty much a convention in the 40s and 50s. I absolutely love the "illuminated" title of this pickle recipe.

These lil' dancing cukes? I love them

Anyhow, I came across the following recipe for "Transparent Pie"by M. Pennebaker (L.H.P.). I have no idea what "L.H.P." stands for, but maybe it's this which would make M. Pennebaker a whole lot more interesting. Something about the name "Transparent Pie" made me laugh so I decided to give it a whirl.

From a cursory reading this seems to be a pretty run of the mill custard pie. I don't consider custard pies to be particularly transparent, but I went with it anyhow.

Church cookbook recipes always have you throwing things in double boilers. Because of this I have been on the hunt for a vintage enamelware double boiler. Haven't found a good one yet. In the meantime I do the bowl over a pot thing.

One thing about this recipe that is interesting to me is how much culinary knowledge it presupposes. I love custard so I know what the drill is. I could easily see it not being apparent to others that you are going to want to cook the custard until it is fairly stiff. That would make for a soupy pie and no one likes a soupy pie. Also, "meringue on top" is a pretty spare bit of instruction.

I took "a slow oven" to be 325. So in she went for 30 minutes. I made the meringue by hand with a whisk as I'm a masochist. It came out fairly crappy.

I let it chill and cut myself a slice this very morning for breakfast.

As you can see there is nothing particularly "transparent" about the "Transparent Pie." It is pretty much just a custard pie with some meringue on it. False advertising.

I am a huge custard pie fan. In fact, I don't consider you to be much of a person unless you can cook a decent custard pie. So I was a bit surprised that I didn't really like this recipe. I would dial the sugar way back. Also, I don't really feel like the meringue brings much to the party.

So there you have it. Weird pie from Chappaqua.

One of these days I need to have a dinner party and go full bore with some of the more interesting recipes from these books. I play it fairly conservative as I don't really want to waste food in the name of bizarre historical recipe experimentation. I am starting to accrue a mental stockpile of whizbangers that need to be brought to life and it is starting to bother me...

I might actually have to start a "Ridiculous Food Society" to consume them...

Monday, February 20, 2017

The Community Cookbooks of New York, Part 3: Barbecued Frankfurters ("Kitchen Kapers" City Club of Albany, Albany, 1949)

Part 1:  Tomato Soup Cake, "Golden Anniversary" - Church of the Master, Rochester, 1977
Part 2:  "Hot Damn," "Sharing Our Best" - Chemung ARC, Elmira, 1996
Part 2.5: Steamed Chickent "From Ridgewood Kitchens," West Side Presbyterian Church, Ridgewood, NJ, 1945

I consider "Kitchen Kapers" to be one of the jewels of my (ever expanding) Church/Community cookbooks of Upstate New York collection. I really owe some more in depth coverage of its contents. The ads, anecdotes, artwork, etc... are mental ambrosia for any City of Albany History buff.

I consider "Kitchen Kapers" to be nothing less than a work of American folk art.

The book was "compiled" by the City Club of Albany. The City Club is apparently still a going concern (they have a Facebook Page).

Will give some more in-depth coverage of the various hand-drawn elements (ads and recipe artwork) in the future, so just a teaser below. The Tobin's ad and the intro. page to "Meats" are both great. I had a great uncle who worked for Tobin's!

I chose a fairly simple recipe mostly due to the fact that I had a pack of hot dogs in the fridge that I wanted to do away with. This recipe is by no means my favorite (or the most interesting) in the book. There is another humdinger of a recipe in Kitchen Kapers that I am going to have to lay on you at some point in the future.

Here we have "Barbecued Frankfurters" by Mrs. Willbur H. Crammel Sr.

This is a fairly simple recipe and is thoroughly typical of other contemporary recipe collections in my collection.

It's basically a ketchup based BBQ sauce poured over hot dogs and then baked.

Here she is pipin' hot out of the oven!

I am going to dig deep here for a reference, bear with me... The appearance of the "Barbecued Frankfurters" immediately conjured to my mind a scene from the seminal 1989 classic film "Robot Jox."

I am, of course, speaking of the "Real Meat Tonight" scene.

Anyhow, I was a little perplexed by this dish. There was not the usual "serve over rice" or "serve on sliced bread" instruction at the end of the recipe to guide me towards a suitable method of consumption.

I flopped a dog on a plate.

Pretty much what you would expect. A baked hot dog with some sweet BBQ sauce. I will say that it reminded me of the "Brat Tub" preparation (click here for an ancient recipe from my blogging past). I love me a good Brat Tub. Should the craving for wurst braised in a sweet sauce strike me in the future, I will be going with the Brat Tub.

Certainly more to follow concerning "Kitchen Kapers." As I am easily the 3 or 4 thousandth most eminent City of Albany cookbook historian, I feel it is my duty to give this recipe collection the attention it deserves.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

For Whom The Bell Toll Gates... (Toll Gate Ice Cream, Slingerlands)

People are tied to places. Places are tied to people. Sometimes places can't survive without their people. Sometimes this is very sad.

The Toll Gate is part of the landscape. Imagining a drive to Thacher Park without passing the Toll Gate is like imagining a drive to Thacher Park without a view of the Heldebergs. It has been there all of my days and I took for granted that it would be there for the rest of my days.

Recently the proprietor fell ill and the Toll Gate shut its doors (go here to help out a little). The community closed ranks around the beloved joint. Money was raised and good feelings were shared. I was not at all surprised. Appearances often to the contrary, people around here are good and kind. When help is needed, help is given.

I will recount a Toll Gate anecdote of mine. One time a year or two ago I was driving back from a day at Indian Ladder with the kids. We came upon a car that had run off the road and struck some trees, maybe a minute or two prior. I pulled onto the shoulder and ran over to see what I could do. Maybe 10 other folks of all ages and sorts had the same idea and joined me.

All turned out well, the authorities arrived, and the family and I continued on to the Toll Gate. I got each of my little ones a cone and perched them on the gate of my truck. As I watched the kids happily dribble melted ice cream all over themselves and told them about how I used to dribble ice cream all over myself as a kid (in this very parking lot!), my wife received a phone call. From my own phone.

I had dropped the phone on the side of the road when I had jumped out back at that accident. A friend of mine was one of the first responders and had come across my phone after clearing the accident! He brought it to me at the Toll Gate and we shot the shit for a minute. One of those happy little coincidences that make you think there may really be some sort of rhyme or reason to life and the rest of the universe...

Anyhow, this is all to say that folks are scared and stupid most times. But when it counts it is a safe bet that people around here will get together and do the right thing.

A couple of weeks ago the Toll Gate opened on a Saturday to offer free ice cream by way of thanks to all those who contributed towards Robert's medical bills.

I took my daughter over.

The line was out the door. Standing outside I had a chance to take in the details. In summer the Toll Gate is covered in ivy.

Should the Toll Gate close I am convinced that it should be preserved as a museum. There just aren't places like this anymore and there never will be again.

There was a table set up with get well cards for all to sign. My daughter signed one.

I chose an eggnog cone (daughter had the Thin Mint). It occurred to me that my lifelong obsession with eggnog may have its genesis in childhood eggnog cones from the Toll Gate.

I have hopes that this was not my (or my daughter's) last cone at the Toll Gate. But the future is very uncertain. At the very least things will change.

As we walked back to the truck I clumsily dropped my half-eaten cone into the muck on the side of the road. My daughter gasped and said, "Oh Daddy! I'm sorry!" Then she offered me her cone. I think she knows that the Toll Gate is an important place to me... She is a good kid.

All kids are good. I think maybe we should turn over leadership of our affairs to the children. Maybe also dogs.

Should Toll Gate open its doors back up, I hope that you will all join me in frequently spending money there. I would like to do anything I can to keep it as a going concern.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Every Now and Then I Get A Little Bit Lonely... (Stewart's "Now and Then" Ketchup-Glazed Meatloaf)

Sorry about the title, I was never one to pass up a Bonnie Tyler reference...

Here we have Stewart's "Now and Then" KETCHUP-GLAZED Meatloaf with Mashed Potatoes. I am writing KETCHUP-GLAZED in all-caps because I have been saying it in my best "guy shouting descriptors in a commercial" voice.

I find various foodstuffs to be very sad. Not so much sad in and of themselves, but sad because of how my mind's eye pictures them to be consumed. This convenience meatloaf (KETCHUP-GLAZED) falls firmly into my category of sad foods. This is a meal to be eaten over the sink by a recently divorced father of two while he drinks away the pain.

First of all, I was thoroughly disappointed with the KETCHUP-GLAZE. It was more of a ketchup-film. Maybe a ketchup-smatter... The milky mashed-potato-water was likewise a little unsettling.

But in for a penny, in for a pound. I kept going!

The meatloaf isn't that bad. I mean, it's a flaccid gray mess... But certainly not the worst convenience meatloaf I've ever had. However, the mashed potatoes were unforgivable. Rehydrated (then frozen) potatoes with a smattering of what appears to be green crepe paper on top. Sort of an odd musky flavor too (there is also the issue of the mashed-potato-water)...

Ah well. I had to have it. For better or worse, I try every new thing that Stewart's puts out (I sort of like the cold brew coffee...). Also, after all of these years I have maintained my unhealthy interest and obsession concerning meatloaf (and the meatloaf arts).

I am as unchanging as the hills.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Grand Mac Facts

Did you know that I was a Big Mac virgin until 2009? Well, I was. You can read about that here. In the intervening years I've had perhaps one or two more. That is all to say that I am no especial Big Mac fan.

But there is unholy power in McD's advertising. For reasons unknown to me the minute I saw a "Grand Mac" advert I began to ache for the thing. Today I went and got one.

"Size up your hunger" is the tagline for the new breed of Macs. McDs also now has a wee 'un-Mac in addition to the Grand. I picture hungry fellars pondering how many Mac-units they can pound into their gut.

Something I found mildly infuriating about the Grand Mac picture was the two slices of cheese on the bottom half. The Grand Mac was obviously designed by deviant minds with no sense of balance! I suppose this does maintain the essential Big Mac-iness of the thing as the traditional Mac has the one slice of cheese on the bottom.

The above grease spattered cardboard box is what I received in exchange for my five-fitty American. Where are the pictures and witty quips that you usually find on McDonald's packaging? I don't know, do you know?

Cracking the box open, I'll have to admit the thing looked fairly picturesque. As is per usual with the family of Mac hamburger sandwiches, your nostrils are assaulted by the tang of pickles and special sauce.

I did a bit of an autopsy on the Grand Mac. I noted an aggressive amount of special sauce. I have found the Big Macs I've had in the past a bit lacking in this department, always a bit dry.

Grand Mac après-bites. After the third bite I began to have trouble handling the thing. My thumb pierced the bottom bun and entered the moist center of the sammitch. Now, needless to say the sensation of your thumb entering the warm innards of a Grand Mac is a bit unsettling.

At this point the structural integrity of the Grand Mac had faltered to the point where I was in effect holding a handful of special sauce soaked bread and lettuce. I gave up and pitched the thing in the trash. My hand still smells like Mac-sauce at the time of this writing.

The thing tastes like a big Big Mac. I don't know what else to say.

I no longer ache for the Grand Mac.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Found Grocery List #5: Oven Cleaner and Fish Fresh

Found another grocery list over at the Slingerlands P-Chops. Not a very thrilling list (certainly not as interesting as the "Blonoga" list), but still a rather nice example.

Here we have.

Oven Cleaner (check)
blueberries  --- strawberries
Cottage cheese
diet bread
fish fresh

So what can we surmise about the author of this list? "Diet Bread" is a sort of dated term so I'm assuming an elderly person. The penmanship is a bit ambiguous, but I am leaning towards female. The list speaks of a healthy diet, but in a very 1970s kind of way.

The oven cleaner is a bit interesting. Who uses oven cleaner anymore? I don't believe I've ever cleaned an oven with oven cleaner... What sort of person keeps such a fastidious diet, and also needs a particularly clean oven? - Serial killer. The oven cleaner is for spraying in victim's eyes. Perhaps for cleaning the DNA evidence out of the oven after roasting people pieces.

The list concludes with "fish fresh." The word inversion is obviously the result of this cottage cheese fueled killer's crumbling sanity. The author kept it together all the way to "diet bread," but could go no further.

You will have to excuse me. It is the Halloween season so I indulged myself in a little horror movie speculation while interpreting this grocery list.


Sunday, August 21, 2016

Chili Cheese Salt Potatoes at the Altamont Fair

Every year I go to the Altamont Fair (here are glorious scenes from a past fair) with the stated purpose of locating the most ridiculous fair-food item available on the premises. This year I wandered far and wide but didn't see anything that really struck my fancy.

Feeling a bit peckish on the way out I thought I might just stop by the Sap Bucket for a hot dog and some salt potatoes. The ol' Sap Bucket serves Glazier's, the classic red hot of the North Country Michigan, one of my favorites. Gorging on a hot dog with a side of salt potatoes seemed quite the fitting end to my day at the fair.

A salty boiling cauldron of salt potatoes is a fixture in my summer household. The moment when your teeth pierce the taught skin of a Hinerwadel's and the tender tater-meat pops into your mouth is a singular culinary experience. Even more so then the hot dog I was looking forward to the taters. 

Standing in line my eyes fell upon the Salt Potatoes on the signboard. Then my eyes fell upon the topping options. Chili-Cheese Salt Potatoes! Yes, please. It is possible that this has been offered in the past, but I never noticed. I cannot tell you the last time that I have been so excited for food. My plan of salt potatoes as the side dish to a hot dog immediately fell away. I ordered only the adorned potatoes so that I might maintain focus.

Beautiful. So beautiful.

I absolutely loved this. The bright yellow canned cheese and the workaday chili melded with the tender taters and made for a beautiful fair food experience. As I sat eating a breeze relieved the oppressive heat, twangy country music played in the background, I heard children laughing, watched my kids repeatedly spill their snow cones, and all was right with the world. I had made the perfect fair food choice.

My bowl of potatoes came with two forks. I laughed at this. I laid low the entire bowl in minutes.

Ah, life is good sometimes. Isn't it?

On the way out of the fairgrounds we did have a minor tragedy. Our small gentleman fell and got quite a nasty booboo knee. He made me take a picture for documentary purposes. He was quite proud that he stopped crying so quickly.

A passing EMT helped us out with an enormous bandaid and a high-five and I made an emergency trip to the ATM for cash for some palliative Maple Floss.

And that was that. We packed up into the car and trundled back to Delmar. We made a pitstop at Stewart's for some drinks (a sixer of Genny red eyes for dad), and that was that. This was one of those days that felt very full of life. Life swirling around in all of it's hot, sticky, noisy glory...

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Fried Peppers, Prinzo's, Genny, Griswold, Gardening. All That Good Stuff in One Meal.

I've always said that one of my "going to the electric chair/last-meal" requests would be an order of the roasted hot peppers from The Franklin Hotel in Rome, NY. A plate of those peppers with some crusty bread, washed down with a nice cold beer is hands down one of my favorite dining experiences. Jon In Albany has a great picture of a mess of the peppers over on his weblog. I've always been too busy stuffing my face to take a picture.

Such is my obsession with this particular dish that I devote a section of my garden to the cultivation of Italian "long hot" peppers. I have been cycling through varieties over the years to try to pin down my favorite. This year I did Lombardo peppers. They are OK but a little small and tame in flavor. I'm thinking of trying Sigaretta De Bergamos next year. The peppers The Franklin uses are very large and fleshy and I should ask the specific variety next time I'm by...

Anyhow, my 8 or so plants have begun to issue forth ripe fruits. These are some of the first.

A great plate of fried peppers contains a spectrum of red to green. This batch was a little towards the green side because I am impatient. I prefer mostly red with a few green 'uns.

Now before we get on to my cooking method we should discuss the accompaniments to your plate of fried peppers. A nice, crusty, no-nonsense "Italian Bread" is what you want. Around here I will always go with a loaf of Prinzo's (Delaware Ave., Albany). I generally grab my loaves over at the Delmar Market. So on my way home from work last night I stopped in, bought a bunch of stuff, and when I got home I realized that I had forgotten my Prinzo's loaf...

Undeterred, I jumped back in my car and headed back to the store. There I came face to face with confirmation that the universe is conspiring against me. Standing in front of the bread shelves was a stooped, elderly man behind a cart. I don't know if you have ever been to the Delmar Market, but to see a cart is very rare. It is more of a "grab a couple things" sort of place.

Now, what did I see inside this man's cart? Well, the very last two loaves of Prinzo's bread in the store, that's what. The loaves were there along with several packs of Prinzo's hard rolls (with poppy and without!), also - carrots. I am convinced that this guy was some sort of mischievous supernatural beastie that had taken human form for the very purpose of messing with my much anticipated plate of peppers...

Undeterred, I improvised.

I bought a ball of Prinzo's pizza dough. I've found that if you shape it into a loaf, let it rise for 45 minutes, mist it, and cook it in a humid oven at 425 for a half hour or so, you get quite a serviceable loaf.

Back to the peppers. I like to cook them in cast iron. I use my beloved Griswold.

I cook them low and slow in plenty of oil. I also slap a pot cover over the peppers to steam them for a bit. Towards the end, when the peppers are very soft, I throw in some coarsely chopped garlic to cook for a while.

The whole mess gets dumped on a plate. Oil and all. That is what the bread is for. Oil-sopping.

There is the complete meal. Pretty as any painting...

You need to drink beer with your feast. An uncomplicated American lager is best. I would slap an IPA out of your hand if I saw you having one with this meal at my table. I prefer good ol' Genny lager. A nice red-eye tall boy. Perfect. Just perfect...

Rip off a heel of bread and sort of stuff a few peppers in. Maybe run it through the oil a bit...

That right there is what you need to do.

Sigh, I owe a trip out to the Franklin. Although my efforts were delicious, nothing beats their take. Eating ripe Italian long hots is something I look forward to all year long. This hot, dry summer was perfect weather for this sort of pepper. I am almost thinking a field trip to the Utica/Rome area might have to go down before the month is over...

Sunday, June 19, 2016

"Swifty's Greens..." - Some Commentary on Utica Greens Gone Astray.

So the Wife, kids, and I went to a late dinner at Swifty's (home of the famous "Deep Fried Buffalo Burger") in Delmar last night. My family had just arrived home from viewing "Finding Dory" and I had spent most of the evening drinking brew-doggies. We were all feeling a bit peckish.

It appears that Swifty's has a new menu. As I stated above, last night I was a few brew-doggies deep... Due to my slightly addled condition I didn't really peruse past the appetizers. Seeing as I had the old Swifty's menu pretty much memorized any new additions are welcome indeed. I owe this new menu issue further study...

An appetizer that immediately caught my attention was, "Swifty's Greens." I probably should remember the description from the menu, but I don't. It was an obvious play on Utica Greens, but with corned beef (we get it Swifty's, Irish) subbed for the usual prosciutto.

Now, I am a huge fan of Utica Greens from way back. Give me a plate of greens "Vescio" from the Franklin and I am in heaven. The very point of this hack weblog was to evangelize about New York's local food traditions. But in helping to bring the beauty of this style of 'schkarole to a wider audience, I may have contributed to the making of a monster...

These "Swifty's Greens" were executed poorly. I don't know how else to say it. Utica Greens (like another Central NY delicacy-- Chicken Riggies) is a grandma dish. It is not fussy, or particularly hard to make. But it must be done right. "Swifty's Greens" are not done right. If this was my first experience with "Utica Greens" I would be put off of them. That is a shame.

The "Swifty's Greens" were all wrong. The escarole was crunchy. You have to boil the escarole for about 10 minutes before sautéing/baking. It is my guess that Swifty's just hits their greens in a pan. The meat component was all wrong. There were big bits of meat in there and they were an assertive textural component. This is wrong. There was pizza cheese melted on top. This is wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

I won't even comment on the cast iron skillet presentation...

When you are thinking about Utica greens you should think of them as a "side dish." Think of the mouth-feal of stuffing or dressing -- savory, tender, comforting. Think of that except spicy from the cherry pepper and a bit funky from the parmesan. That is the feeling of good Utica greens.

You can't be cute with Utica Greens. No "the greens are still a bit crisp" business. This is not the place for that and it is not how the greens are treated in this application. Boil them until they are limp and dead. It is perfectly fine, even preferable, to make Utica Greens in a big hotel pan the night before and then reheat them for service. Just give me a big scoop on a side plate. Save the cast iron skillet..

I don't mean this as a hit piece. I am absolutely thrilled to see a Utica Greens inspired dish on a local menu. The dish just needs a bit of work. Go ahead, Swifty's. Email me. Tweet at me. I will give you Utica Greens tips all day long. We can work on this...

Saturday, June 4, 2016

A Needle in the Hard Roll Haystack: Stewart's Peanut Butter & Butter Hard Roll

I have written before about the Stewart's Butter Hard Roll. In the past I would occasionally grab a butter hard roll as a restorative after a night of excessive drink.

I would stagger into any given Stewart's and peruse the butter hard roll basket. I would find there the usual suspects -- PB, PB&J, Butter. However, once in a great, great while I would a find a treasure. The elusive Peanut Butter & Butter hard roll.

I have not seen a PB&B in many years. I had assumed that Stewart's had ill-advisedly removed the item from their hard roll menu. But so help me god, every time I go into a Stewart's I do a quick once over of the hard roll basket just in case...

Well, today at the East G-Bush Stewart's my vigilance was rewarded.

I almost did not believe my eyes when I saw that peanut butter hewed lettering followed by the bright blue "& Butter." If speaking to hard rolls in public was acceptable, I would have said to the PB&B -- "Hello, old friend. We meet again. I have missed you."

I was barely half in my truck before I tore the cellophane off of my prize. I will say that I saved the sticker. I have it on an old YMCA card in my wallet pending preservation...

Behold, the guts of a Peanut Butter & Butter hard roll!

A cross-section!

Oh, its so good... I often speak of my love of butter added to any sandwich (salami and butter, bauernschinken and butter), and a PB likewise benefits from the addition of "& Butter." It adds a rich unctuous feel to what is otherwise just a mediocre peanut butter hard roll.

PB&Bs are rarer then hen's teeth, so if you see one I suggest you pick it up and try it at least once.

--An end note. The E. G-Bush Stewart's has quite a forward thinking bathroom setup. One unisex and one gender neutral. Good on you Stewart's.

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