Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Scotney Castle and Cherry Coupe with Cherry Rose Cookies



My monthly cooking club Creative Crew’s challenge this month was to make a one-color dish.  This being the beginning of summer, it got me thinking of cherries.  I discovered when I first wrote about cherries (HEREthat Kent was the epicenter of English cherry growers and has been since Henry VIII’s time when he took to having them grown in Teynam in Kent after being wowed by them during a visit to Flanders –– when a king falls for cherries he gets cherries.  Cherries were not new to the British Isles since legend has it that Roman legions dropped sour cherry pits (a product of Persia) as they tromped through Britain and so they had been growing nearly wild there for a millennia. A Kentish Red was the first cherry planted by Massachusetts’ colonists.

I can’t find the photographer who took this but I love the photo!!

I decided at the last minute to go over to England next week and travel for a week after going to the Oxford Food Symposium. Such a conundrum –– there are so many places I’d love to see and so little time –– some are just a bit too far afield for a tight schedule. How to decide? Cherries got me to thinking about great places in Kent and noodling around in my handy National Trust Guide I discovered Scotney Old Castle in the cherry capitol of Kent –– it’s a fairytale looking place with a magnificent garden.  I thought if anything would get me in the mood to create a red cherry dish, this would be the place.


How about a little history of the place? The oldest part of the estate is the adorable squat tower built in the 14th century by Roger de Ashburnham on land owned by Lambert de Scoteni (hence Scotney Castle).  Scotney came into the Darrell family in 1418 through marriage.  They tore down all of the original buildings save the tower and built a house around it in the 16th and 17th centuries. Most of that addition was in ruins and torn down during the building of the new castle in the 19th century.

NYPL-John Miller

The Darrells owned the house for 350 years and then sold it to the Hussey family in 1778 –– they have lived there ever since.  

The old buildings that remain are a charming visual element –– sort of an antique folly for the estate's extensive gardens.  They built the new castle on the hill in 1837 according to an 1878 article by Edward Hussey.  

Anthony Salvin 1799-1881

It was designed by Anthony Salvin who was famous for restoring or working around ancient buildings (like Alnwick Castle).  He was incredibly prolific and worked until he was 90 (he restored 20 churches and 3 cathedrals and built 34 new churches as well as working on private commissions for new places like Scotney)!


He also designed furniture like this 1835 desk for Mamhead House

The new castle is full of Victorian wonders and rooms with winning charms –– love the peachy chairs, the Greek Key desk and that graphic b&w tile surround for the fireplace.

NTPL - Andreas von Einsiedel

NYPL - John Miller
The kitschy kitchen is especially endearing and perfect for helping with inspiration for a delicious cherry dish.




I have wanted to make this cherry pie from Robert May’s Accomplisht Cook for a very long time ––  it wasn’t so much the pie I wanted to make as the filling.  That’s a good thing too because a brown piecrust would be trouble in an all-red world (sadly it wasn't as red as I had hoped, the pink cookies took a brown cast in the oven!).

What appealed about the recipe was the muscadine syrup.  Muscadine is a New World grape.  It would have been a fairly fancy ingredient since the grape had only been discovered by Walter Raleigh and his intrepid band of New World explorers barely 70 years before May was using its syrup (they tried to cultivate the warm-weather grapes in England but were not successful so I imagine the syrup would have been a New World product).  The explorers were terribly impressed with the muscadine grape variety.  

The “Mother Vine” on Roanoake Island, dating from at least the 18th century

Raleigh’s explorers, Captains Amadas and Barlowe wrote in 1584 that North Carolina was “so full of grapes as the very beating and surge of the sea overflowed them … in all the world, the like abundance is not to be found.”  In 1585, North Carolina Governor Ralph Lane said “We have discovered the main to be the goodliest soil under the cope of heaven, so abounding with  …  grapes of such greatness, yet wild, as France, Spain, nor Italy hath no greater… (so said an article at Auman Vineyards). 

I imagine with rave reviews like this, a masterchef like May would have jumped at the chance to add the exotic flavor to his Kentish cherry pie.

No pie?  Well, I thought a coupe would do nicely for an elegant treat of pure cherry goodness using the flavorings in May's cherry recipe.  Then I thought a cherry cookie would do well but when I looked for a recipe I came up short.  All I saw were cookies with chunks of dry cherry or cherry extract or maraschino –– not for me.

So, I made up real sour cherry cookies that are divine with my compote and if not red, at least there's the barest hint of pink.

Enjoy the combination and the yummy muscadine cherries.  Although the syrup is available online it was full of corn syrup (blech!) I did get a sense of the flavor.  Were I to do it again I would probably make my own with muscadine juice (available at healthfood stores) or make it in the fall with the grapes when they are in the markets –– it's easy to do and people rave about grape syrup as a sweetener for fruit pies like apple. By the way,  muscadine grapes and juice are considered a super food screamingly full of vitamins, antioxidants and that lovely resveratrol that keeps you young.


Cherry Coupe based on Robert May's Recipe

4 c pitted cherries
1/2 c sugar
1 t cinnamon
1 t ginger
1/4 c muscadine grape syrup*
1-2 drops Aftelier Rose Essence or 1-2 t rosewater to taste

Cook all ingredients except rose until soften somewhat.  Taste for sweetness, if you want it sweeter add more muscadine/grape syrup.

Serve with cookies and/or with cream or ice cream.

*If you want to use something else, take 2 cups grape juice and 1/2 c sugar and reduce by 1/2
or take 4 c grapes with 1/2 c sugar and 1 t lemon juice and cook slowly till the grapes have dissolved.
Strain the grapes out and check the texture.  If it is too runny, reduce.  If you can't find muscadine, any dark grape will do, especially concords.


Cherry Rose Cookies (makes 3 doz. –– recipe with a little help from Taste of Home Baking)

1/2 c butter
1/2 c sugar (I think 1/3 c is better, 1/2 c is very sweet)
2 T brown sugar
1/2 egg
3 T cherry juice from Coupe recipe or from good canned or frozen sour cherries
2 t lemon juice
1/2 t vanilla
1 1/2 plus 2 T flour
1/4 t baking soda
pinch of nutmeg
1/2 c chopped cherries from the Coupe recipe or from good canned or frozen sour cherries
1-2 drops Aftelier Rose Essence or 1-2 t rosewater to taste

Cream the butter and the sugar
Add the egg, cherry and lemon with the beaters running

Sift the dry ingredients into the bowl and mix for a minute.

Add the cherries.

Roll into 2 - 1' logs on plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 4 hours or till hardened

Preheat oven to 375º

Cut each log into 18 cookies and place on cookie sheets.

Bake 8-10 minutes until slightly brown around edges.

See the Creative Cooking Crew Pinterest Board HERE


I will be off on a trip for the next few weeks and don't know if I'll be able to post.  Since it was last minute I have nothing in the pipe, as 'twere!



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Thursday, June 20, 2013

Blueberry Lavender Ice Cream Flowers




I have always loved blueberries.  I keep a bag of them in the freezer to have with yogurt or on ice cream and am in heaven when they are in season.  What’s not to love about them?  They are incredibly good for you –– full of manganese, vitamins A, B1, B2, C, niacin, and the minerals calcium, phosphorus, potassium, and iron, fiber, and antioxidant.  They also have resveratrol, that magic stuff that is supposed to keep you young when you eat it –– you know, the stuff that red wine is rich in.  They’re good for your blood pressure, depression and may even lower cholesterol.  Native Americans called them ‘star berries” and believed the Great Spirit sent star berries to relieve children’s hunger during famine. They made a corn cake with blueberries that the pilgrims probably enjoyed at their first Thanksgiving, according to the Blueberry Council.

Robert Frost wrote a poem about them that began:

"YOU ought to have seen what I saw on my way
To the village, through Mortenson's pasture to-day:
Blueberries as big as the end of your thumb,
Real sky-blue, and heavy, and ready to drum
In the cavernous pail of the first one to come!
And all ripe together, not some of them green
And some of them ripe! You ought to have seen!"

and ended:

“You ought to have seen how it looked in the rain,
The fruit mixed with water in layers of leaves,
Like two kinds of jewels, a vision for thieves.”


They are a fabulous color, aren’t they? I love the purple dye that colors the cream a perfect lavender color.

lavandula

That got me to thinking the other day when I found myself with blueberries and cream in the fridge –– I would make a favorite summer ice cream, blueberry lavender.  No, not just the color but a hint of the flower lavender.  I can’t remember what made me combine them years ago, but I’ve been doing it ever since.  It leaves a lovely fragrance in your mouth after you eat it. You can use lavender flowers or one of my favorite ingredients, Aftelier Lavender Essence that imparts the soul of lavender to the mixture. You can just use scoops or old ice cream molds that make it very special  to look at and delicious.

Remember if you use a mold, just hold the top of the mold for a moment, then pull away the top. Warm your hand for the top and use a warm cloth for the bottom where the detail isn't as important (or your hand after you've warmed it up!).  I used a lobster pick to pop out the bottom.  If you leave it on too long or too warm, you will lose the detail in the mold. Do not run it under hot water (did that the first time and lost all the detail to mush). If you only have a few molds, you can save them in the freezer and keep making more with softened ice cream.  

I have seen silicon molds that come in sheets like cupcakes too (you can see one here: World Cuisine Non-Stick Silicone Mold, Rose) -- they don't have the bottom detail (that you don't see anyway!). I can't tell you the trick to them so you may have to experiment.  Mine was a very heavy old French metal model on a hinge with a top and bottom.


Blue berry Lavender Ice Cream

1 ½ c whole milk
1 ½ c cream
¾ c sugar
4 egg yolks
1 ½ c blueberries
1 T maple syrup
1 t vanilla extract
2-3 drops Aftelier Lavender Essence or 2 T lavender blossoms 
use rose geranium leaves and/or lemon verbena for garnish (optional)

Heat the milk and the cream with ¼ c sugar till sugar dissolves.  Remove from the heat.

Beat the yolks with the rest of the sugar until lemony colored and thick.  Pour the hot milk mixture into the bowl, beating all the while.  Clean the pot and return the mixture to the stove, it will be around 150º.  Heat the custard till no more than 180º stirring constantly.

Pour the custard through a strainer, stir in the vanilla and chill.

Puree the blueberries with the maple syrup and the lavender.  Chill.  When chilled, add to the custard mixture and freeze with your ice cream maker

OR, easier...

Use softened vanilla ice cream and add the pureed blueberries and lavender.

OR, easier still

Use softened blueberry ice cream and add lavender



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Thursday, June 13, 2013

Hip Hip Mornay and Filet of Sole Verdi


Giuseppe Verdi

I discovered Filet of Sole Verdi when I read the description of it in a lovely book Dining with Verdi that I wrote about HERE when I wrote about my friend August's Verdi project and learned about Verdi's connection with great food (read more about the Verdi project, 27, at the end of the post).   The recipe has been asking me to make it ever since.  NO, not asking, demanding (albeit seductively in a come-hitherly way).

I made it a few times with sole and shrimp but I knew I had to break down and get a lobster tail to make it properly.  Also, I had my wonderful D’Artagnan truffles  to make the final necessary addition so obviously the stars aligned for the dish to be made.  All I can say is WOW.  This is one of those knock-your-socks-off dishes you make for magical occasions –– using a touch of truffle oil instead of the truffles makes it an affordable luxury.

  

Escoffier

At first glance, Escoffier’s recipe is fairly straightforward.  The ingredients to make it work are not difficult to come by.  I’ve made béchamel a zillion times and Mornay Sauce dozens of times.  Thing is, I don’t think I ever looked at Escoffier’s original recipes because when I did, I was in for a shock.




Escoffier’s original béchamel is made with veal!   His white sauce is cooked with pieces of veal for two hours then strained.  Remarkable.  I will try doing it that way one of these days but decided since it was fish that I would go with the simpler, non-veal version. 

Béchamel was named after the Marquis de Béchameil (1630 -1703), of whom Escoffier wrote “After all, if it wasn’t for his divine sauce the Marquis de Béchamel would have been forgotten long ago.” Legend has it that it was invented to sauce dried cod.  It is in Varenne's 1651 Cuisinier Francais made with a veal velouté and cream so Escoffier's version echos the sauce's  velouté ancienne roots (velouté has been around a very long time).




The same was true of the Mornay sauce.  I never knew Escoffier put fumet into the sauce (fumet being stock-based liquid the meat or fish was poached in).  It makes a sublime addition to the pallid, cheesy sauce, giving it a bit of backbone.  



Le Grand Vefour

The sauce was introduced at the Paris restaurant, Le Grand Véfour  (1784 - present) in the 19th century (although it was not mentioned in the 1820 version of Le Cuisinier Impérial so it was a mid-century invention).


That's all pretty straightforward, but the link with the Mornay name is a bit murky. 


Some say it was named for  Philippe, duc de Mornay (1549-1623)  and that the 2 cheeses used in the sauce had something to do with the link and the way he brought two factions together.  That makes no sense to me especially since the sauce wouldn't be around until a few hundred years after Philippe's death –– he wasn't exactly a household name at that point.


Charles de Mornay by Dedreux-Dorcy 


What makes more sense to me is another Mornay –– Charles (1803-78) who would have been a player in the halcyon days of the 2nd Empire (and a diplomat best known for bringing Delacroix along on an 1832 visit to Morocco).



1822 Lawrence portrait of Marguerite, Countess of Blessington (1789-1849)


When I checked in with the Countess of Blessington’s  fun book, The Idler in France (1841) and saw all the references to a dinner circle that included Talleyrand (1754-1838) as a frequent guest when de Morney was present, I can’t help but think that Charles is the inspiration for the sauce.

The countess wrote of de Morney:

"The glass of fashion and the mould of form, 
The observed of all observers."

"I was agreeably surprised to find him one of the most witty, well-informed, and agreeable young men I have ever seen.  Gay without levity, well-read without pedantry, and good-looking without vanity... with a brilliant wit, the sallies of which can "set the table in a roar".

After all, Talleyrand was a world-renowned gourmet and employed none other than Carême as his chef (Carême wrote lovingly about Talleyrand's knowledge of food and his refined tastes).  Doesn't it seem more likely that Mornay sauce was named after a tastemaker of the day who often dined with Talleyrand? 

What the eponymous sauce will give you when added to this dish is luxury, richness and a refined taste that will cause you to reflect on the simple majesty of great tastes and textures in a dish fit for Talleyrand –– or you!




Filet of Sole Verdi (serves 2 main course-4 appetizer)

½ to ¾ lb. filet of sole
1 c fish fumet/stock* 
4 c cooked pasta (don't go too al dente on this, you want it softish to go with the elegant texture of the dish)
1 c cream
2 small lobster tails, shells removed  
1 T butter
2 c béchamel
2 c Mornay sauce
1 large D'Artagnan truffle sliced  and ¼ chopped (optional)
2-3 t  D’Artagnan truffle oil  to taste.
Salt and pepper

Put the fish in the stock on medium heat.  Add a touch of salt and pepper and cook for 2-3 minutes per side –– they cook very quickly.  Remove.  Reduce the stock to1/2 a cup.  Pour any juices that have collected from the fish into the reduced fumet.

Warm the cream.  Add the cheeses to the cream. Toss the pasta with the cream and salt and pepper to taste.  Add 2 t of the truffle oil  and some chopped truffle if you are using it and toss just before assembling the dish.

Add the fumet to the Mornay sauce and stir.  Warm it.  It should be thick.

Saute the lobster tails for a few minutes.  They should not be fully cooked.  Chop the smaller end of the tail and add to the pasta.  Slice the fatter end.

Heat the broiler.

Spoon the pasta into the dish.  Lay the sole over 2/3 of the dish. Pour the Mornay sauce  over the sole and tuck the lobster and truffle at the edge of the mornay sauce. Heat the pan on the stove for a few minutes at medium low heat.

Put under the broiler on high for a few minutes.  Pay attention, it goes from perfect to burned in no time.   Remove and top with chopped herbs.  Drizzle with remaining truffle oil.

*(I always freeze bones and shrimp/lobster shells and make this when I have enough to make a quart of stock.  Then freeze it flat and break it off when I need it or freeze in ½ c portions) you could use chicken stock in a pinch






Béchamel

2 c milk
1 small shallot, sliced
1 clove (optional)
3 T butter
2 T flour

Heat the milk and simmer while you melt the butter.  Add the flour to the butter and stir over low heat till all bubbly.  Do not let it brown.  Strain the milk.  Pour the hot milk slowly into the flour mixture, stirring all the while over a medium heat till all the milk is used and the sauce is thickened.  Add the cheeses and set aside.



Mornay Sauce

2 c béchamel
½ c fish reserved fumet
1 c grated Parmesan
1 c grated Gruyere

Add the fumet to the béchamel and reduce a little.  Add the Parmesan and gruyere and stir till smooth.







My great friend, August Ventura (who I wrote about HERE) is hard at work completing his passion project just in time for Giuseppe Verdi's 200th birthday.  It is a provocative and entertaining documentary about the unique opera culture that exists in that culinary capital of Italy, Parma.

Click to see the wonderful 22-minute promo reel HERE   
or visit his website HERE  
and see a fun party for the film HERE 

I encourage all of you film or opera buffs, lovers of all things Italian, and champions of the cause of musical education to support "27" if you can.  Great passions should always be nurtured and supported, don't you think??



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Thursday, June 6, 2013

The Great Gatsby, Design and Nick Carraway's Lemon Tea Cakes



When I was young I was a voracious reader. If you saw me there was a book nearby. I developed a habit early on as a reader held me in good stead when I started designing sets –– casting and then creating the locations described in the book in my head and having my characters inhabit my cranial creations.  It made books very real for me.

Frame from Original 1926 Trailer for Gatsby, all that remains of the film

That’s exactly what I do now when I read a script. Styles and shapes and colors start to coalesce, then props and art and –– well, you get the picture. The casting director in my head has gotten a bit out of shape since I usually know who’s going to be in the movie by the time I get a script but when I saw The Great Gatsby was going to be made again my casting director self bristled because I have never never, never been satisfied with the casting or the production design for one of my favorite books–– nope, never.

DiCaprio and Mulligan 2013?

Redford and Farrow in 1974?

Ladd and Field in 1949? 

Baxter and Wilson in 1926? (this isn’t fair, the film is lost so hard to tell)

I still haven’t gone to see the new version but I know I will (even if I am not over-the-moon with the casting). Baz Lehrmann movies always have a great look when his wife, Catharine Martin does the costumes and the sets and she does fine work (Moulin Rouge, Oh Yes).

When I watched an interview with her, I enjoyed the way she waded through the script and designed intelligent visual storytelling through her costumes and in sets and decoration. That she had a few years to work on the project shows in all the astonishing details.

Even the cars are consistent with her interpretation of the novel and the script and for all of it she decided to play with styles throughout the 20's and not be locked in to 1922 (the famous Paris Deco Exhibition was 1925, '22 wasn't up to Deco speed yet). When Martin and Luhrmann didn’t like the way cars looked in 1922 (they felt the cars looked too Beverly Hillbillies-Keystone Cops boxy or Muntster’s ghoulish hearsey), they went to a 1929 Duesenberg since the look suited them better (Fitzgerald mentions a Rolls Royce carting people around as Duesenbergs weren't yet hot in the early 20's).



1922 Duesenberg

1929 Duesenberg used in the film

Wardrobe was also matched to the characters with Daisy clinging to the hem of the early part of the century with a more gauzy look and Jordan looking forward as a modern woman with pants and dresses that were backless or cut on the bias.



Jewelry was actually created with Tiffany’s so many of the star’s pieces are real –– that is a costume designer’s dream. The headache band was from the Tiffany design archives as were many of the pieces used in the film. Daisy’s bracelet-rings were a collaboration with Miller and the Tiffany jewelry designers, inspired by Indian pieces. All the pieces were then made in Tiffany’s workroom above the Fifth Avenue store.

Headache band from original 1917 Tiffany design

wrist ring

case

deco ring

When deciding what Gatsby’s house would look like they visited many old mansions on Long Island and looked at photos of historical houses (the only way to see them –– sadly, many have been demolished). Fitzgerald described Gatsby's house this way:


Two of the largest influences for Luhrmann and Miller were Oheka Castle (which is still around and used as a hotel) and Alva Belmont’s Beacon Towers (demolished in 1945).

The old photos come from the  Old Long Island site –– a treasure of historical documents and new photos of old estates as well as great history – it’s addictive.


Oheka Castle, Photos from Old Long Island blog

Otto Kahn’s Oheka Castle,Photos from Old Long Island blog
Beacon Tower,Photos from Old Long Island blog

Beacon Tower, Photos from Old Long Island blog

From these and others, Miller ended up shooting in a Gothic Revival building, the former St Patrick’s Seminary in Sydney and added the towers digitally 

St Patrick’s Seminary, Sydney


Miller/Luhrmann fantasy version of Gatsby –– part St. Patricks Seminary, part Beacon Towers, part Oheka Castle and a little Disney.


Gatsby twilight
Gatsby night

Miller took the interiors into the 20th century, and applied new-money Deco to the old world style. It’s a little bit tacky and too much, like Xanadu meets McMansion but that’s what she wanted to say about Gatsby.



The swirling ballroom is a visual stunner, especially with the pillow pit out of Arabian Nights – Gatsby drinking orange juice like Diamond Jim Brady!

Gatsby’s bedroom with another swirly staircase, master-of-the-universe bed and the library of shirts.


Gatsby’s enormous party seems like a peacock fanning it’s tail to attract his mate --- Gatsby overdid it to get Daisy’s attention.


When you move to food within the book, the pickings are spare. For the most part, the book and the films are about champagne and cocktails like the gin rickey (gin, lime and seltzer) –– there’s a good deal of drinking and Jazz Age hedonistic partying and a lot of orange juice.

Aside from a late night plate of fried chicken at the kitchen table and sausage and mashed potatoes at a NYC eatery, there are only 2 other scenes where food is mentioned. This makes sense in a historical context. With Prohibition, fine food fell down a well. How do you make fine French food without wine? Almost every sauce has wine. Restaurants without liquor tabs couldn’t make a go of it and many of the great names went out of business. What happened was food seemed to take a back seat to booze –– food was a necessary evil. You had to eat but didn’t much matter what. American versions of Italian and Chinese food became popular.

Still, Fitzgerald freighted his party table with meaning. Nick, his narrator describes it:


The food here is all about ostentation. The homey ham and turkey are gilded for Gatsby and the description is about display not taste (I imagine they are en croûte - pig and turkey shaped pastries would be a bit odd).

The scene that I loved is smaller and it is the tea at Nick Carraway’s charming arts and crafts bungalow in the new film.


Gatsby has sent a whole florist’s shop of flowers to decorate the place for the tea with Daisy.


So this:

becomes this:






I love that Nick sent his housekeeper to the delicatessen to get teacakes! Gatsby would have had gold-plated pastries brought from NYC for this meeting with Daisy for the first time in 5 years. The new film added quite a few more desserts than the little lemon cakes!

That’s what I wanted to make, Nick’s lemon cakes not for show but for simple good taste. I found a recipe from a wonderful book from the first decade of the 20th century by Janet McKenzie Hill. I have an incredible little book of hers called The Book of Entrees that is chock full of photographs of dishes from the 1920s. She also wrote a book called Cakes Pastries and Dessert Dishes. In it I found a recipe for Lemon Queens. Small lemon cakes like the ones that Nick might have had on the tea table.

I think they would stand up to a forest of orchids quite well. They are lemony, light as air and wonderful with old-fashioned boiled frosting.  The delicate perfume of candied violets make them perfect for a romantic tea or just on your own.



Lemon Queens

1/2 c butter, softened
1 c sugar
4 egg yolks, beaten
grated rind of 1 lemon
juice of 1 lemon (about 2 1/2 T)
1 1/4 c flour
1/4 t baking soda
1/8 t salt
4 egg whites, beaten to soft peaks

boiled frosting
candied violets and herbs (optional)

Cream the butter.  Beat in the sugar, yolks, rind and juice.  Sift the flour salt and soda.  Fold in the egg whites and put into 16 well buttered cupcake tins or something like -– mine had decorative flutes so my cakes were upside down.  If you use a regular cupcake pan, turn them the regular way.   Bake 350º for about 20 minutes.

Cover with boiled frosting and violets.


Boiled Frosting for Lemon Queens

3/4 c sugar
1/4 c boiling water
1 egg white, beaten to soft peaks
1/2 t vanilla extract

Boil the sugar and water together till it reaches 238º.  Pour slowly into the egg whites, beating all the while.  The frosting will be soft.




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