Saturday, June 15, 2013

Sweet Potato Pudding No. 1

This is actually what we call a pie because it has a crust but it looked simple and interesting, so I gave it a go.

The recipe is from Thomas Jefferson's Cook Book, by Marie Kimball.  It was originally published by the University Press of Virginia in 1976 and this is the fourth (1987) printing.

ISBN 0-8139-0706-3

Sweet Potato Pudding No. 1

Boil 1 pound of sweet potatoes until tender.  Rub them through a sieve.  Add 5 well-beaten eggs, 1 1/2 cups of sugar, 1 cup of butter, the grated rind of 1 lemon, a dash of nutmeg, and a wineglass of brandy.  Line a baking dish with pastry and pour in the mixture.  Sprinkle with sugar and bits of citron and bake in a slow oven until set.  -- Mrs. Mary Randolf.

I believe this Mrs. Mary Randolf is the sister of Thomas Jefferson's son-in-law and she is also a descendent of Pocahontas and John Rolfe.  She is famous for her housekeeping and cook book, The Virginia Housewife.  This puts her solidly into the Colonial American time period.  Sweet potatoes are a New World food and someone from Virginia was likely to know how to cook with it.

I updated the methods by first microwaving the sweet potato until it was tender.  Once it was cool, it was easy to peel.

Then I put the sweet potato into my food processor and blended it until it was mushy.  After that I added the rest of the ingredients (not the pie crust!) and blended until it was smooth.  *Forgive me, History, but I couldn't bring myself to use an entire cup of butter -- I used 1/2 cup, slightly melted.

My "wineglass of brandy" was about 4 ounces.

Once the mixture was poured in the crust, I sprinkled sugar over the top but skipped the citron because I still don't own any.

This pie was in a ceramic pan so I set the temperature to 325 degrees F and baked it until it was puffy all through -- about 60 minutes.  The very middle still looked moist but it was puffed and didn't jiggle, so I figured it was "set".

Post-oven, still hot

The smell was heavenly!

Waiting for it to cool enough to eat was challenging.

Cooled.  The cracking looks distinguished, no?
The Verdict:  Oh. my.  This is incredibly tasty with the sweet potato, lemon, nutmeg, and brandy flavors.  It is fluffy like a chiffon pie without having to deal with the whites separately.  The texture is light and smooth.  Each forkful melts in your mouth.  The sprinkling of sugar on the top before baking makes a sweet, slightly crunchy thin crust.

This "pudding" is marvelous just as it is.

If I were to change anything, I would add less sugar -- perhaps just a cup -- and I made the right decision on the butter.

By the way, don't skip the brandy in this recipe.  It brings the flavors to an incredible height and is a natural pairing with the nutmeg.

And yes!  The center was cooked all the way through. 

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Stuffed Beef Breast

Gefulte Rinderbrust

I got this from my Pennsylvania Dutch Cook Book, by J. George Frederick.  It was published by Dover Publications, Inc. in 1971.

ISBN:  0-486-22676-X
Dover is stellar in my mind because they reprint, often completely, works that were published previously but may have otherwise been lost to time.  This cook book is "an unabridged republication of Part II, 'Cookery,' of the The Pennsylvania Dutch and their Cookery, as originally published by The Business Bourse in 1935."  (A bourse is a stock exchange; I wonder why they were publishing recipes!)

Gefulte Rinderbrust is on page 47, recipe #86, and looked both simple and interesting as something to do with a chunk of beef.

1 beef fillet
1 onion
1 teaspoon minced parsley
1/2 lb chopped meat
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Chop the onion, mince the parsley, add the salt and pepper.  Spread this over the beef fillet, rub in well on both sides.  Cover the fillet with the chopped meat, seasoned, and roll and tie it.  Cook until tender in covered pot with one cup of water.  Make a gravy to serve with it.

For my chopped meat, I chose ham

I had a piece of beef tenderloin.  Not exactly "breast" but I thought I could make do with it.  It was a thick slab of meat, so I cut in nearly in half horizontally (leaving a hinge) and then cut those nearly-halves nearly in half again, keeping everything connected.  This gave me a long, thin cut of meat.

See the three hinges?

My parsley patch was empty so I used basil instead.  Once the onion, basil, salt, and pepper were chopped and well-mixed, I spread it over the beef on each side, rubbing it in.  Since I was not sure quite how that works, I just rubbed until it seems like the herbs and spices were sticking and the onion had good contact.

Aye, there's the rub!
The chopped meat I used was ham.  I didn't season it because ham is already salty.  Plus I used more than 1/4 tsp of pepper in the onion mix.  It seemed like enough.  I'm sure if I had chopped the ham finer, or even ground it, it would have spread further along the beef, but I wasn't particularly concerned about it.  It rolled easily and I used two long wooden skewers instead of tying it.  All of the onion mix that fell off when I rolled the beef was piled on top of the roll before it went into the oven.

Ready to roll

Ready for the oven

It baked, with the cup of water and covered, for 2 hours at 300 degrees Fahrenheit.  That was a guess on my part.  I wanted slow cooking so it got tender without being rushed.

The Verdict:  Success!  Two hours was plenty of time -- perhaps I could have gone less -- but the meat was tender, cooked all the way through, and the flavor was lovely.  The beef was brown, the ham was red, and the onions were cream colored, so you could easily see the spiral from the rolling.  The basil was not strong; it was easily a background flavor and I could have probably spiced the meat even more without worry.  I didn't make any gravy because I wanted to taste it without that extra. There was plenty of liquid in the pan to use for gravy, if you wanted to.

Definitely a repeater.  This is something that would be fun to serve to guests because it looks impressive once it is sliced.