Friday, December 19, 2014

Sweet Potato - Apple Soufflé

I like to reserve the final posting of the calendar year for a favorite recipe of mine, whether or not it is historical.  This one has been a favorite for over ten years and a great way to serve up sweet potatoes any time but particularly during the holidays.

It is from The Mount Vernon Cookbook, published by The Mount Vernon Ladies' Association of the Union, which I purchased in 1999 while visiting Mount Vernon.  At the time I thought it was a collection of historical recipes all from George Washington's era but now I see it more as a ladies' club collection with Virginia vibes.  This is not a complaint!  The few I have tried have been excellent.
ISBN 0-931917-13-1
On page 128 is the Sweet Potato - Apple Soufflé.  It serves 6 to 8 and is tasty without being sweet.

2 Tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 cups applesauce
1 Tablespoon grated orange rind
3 cups cooked, mashed sweet potatoes
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup melted butter
4 eggs, separated

Two more eggs joined the party later
Combine sugar and cinnamon.  Add to applesauce with orange rind.  Mix well.  Combine sweet potatoes, salt, applesauce mixture and butter.  Add beaten egg yolks.

All but the whites
Beat egg whites stiff and fold into applesauce-sweet potato mixture.

Whites gently folded in
Pile lightly into greased 3-quart casserole.  Bake in 400 degree oven for 45 minutes.  Serve immediately.

Ready to serve immediately
My Notes

Turn on the oven to preheat before you get started.  Get the eggs separated, too, so the whites can warm up a bit before you beat them.  I put the whites right into the bowl in which they will be beaten.

I either bake the sweet potatoes in the oven or cook them in the microwave.  This is done in advance so you can peel and mash them easily.

Start with a big bowl for the sugar and cinnamon and add everything to it in order.  That way you have enough room through to the end!

It is important to mix in stages as described.  This gives the sweet potatoes a chance to get very mashed and blended with the other ingredients.

The recipe calls for a 3-quart casserole but I have used a 2-quart without any problems.

I keep the oven door closed while it is cooking although I check it at about 40 minutes to make sure it doesn't get too brown.  The center might jiggle when it is still hot but the dish is cooked thoroughly when a knife blade inserted into the middle comes out clean.

The Verdict

Success!  This is a very light and tasty way to serve sweet potatoes.  The applesauce adds a bit of sweet and the orange peel is an excellent flavor complement.  The cinnamon is just enough to hint without competing for attention.

The texture is fluffy and delicate when hot. An excellent accompaniment to ham, turkey, or chicken and is even better with a side serving of cranberry sauce.

The leftovers are also very good cold.

I've made this with freshly grated orange zest, dried orange zest, and no orange at all.  They were all excellent!

Here's how I served the soufflé at my dinner, with a slice of spiral cut ham and a sauce of brown mustard mixed with bitter orange marmalade, mixed well and heated:

Along with a tossed green salad, delicious!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Layered Sauerkraut as Made in Kolozsvár -- Transylvania

My last post was on a dessert recipe from Paul Kovi's Transylvanian Cuisine:

ISBN 0-517-55698-7
After I made it I thought, "Only dessert?  I need a main course to go along with it!"  Strolling through the rest of the book brought me to a layered sauerkraut dish listed as "... one of the old, popular Transylvanian dishes.  It is mentioned in the very first gastronomic writings, such as Miklós Misztófalusy-Kis' book written in 1695."

Wow!  Historical, which means it is possible my grandfather could have tasted this dish.  Of course I had to give it a try.  I made a half of this recipe because that is what fit the amount of sauerkraut I already had in the house.

Kolozsvári Rakott Káposzta (page 150)

4 pounds sauerkraut, drained (some juice reserved)
3/4 cup rice
2 tablespoons rendered lard
1 cup beef broth
1 large onion, chopped
1 1/4 pounds lean minced pork
1 teaspoon paprika
10 ounces smoked sausage, sliced
1/2 cup sour cream and 1/2 cup heavy cream, mixed together
4 ounces sliced smoked bacon

More than enough for a half recipe
Heat the sauerkraut with some of its juice; when done, press out all the juice.

In a skillet, saute' the rice in 1 tablespoon lard until glossy.  Add broth, and cook until nearly done but still firm.

I called this "glossy."  The grains were white, not translucent
In another skillet, saute' the chopped onion for 5 minutes in the remaining 1 tablespoon lard.  Add the minced pork and brown it for 15 minutes, stirring the mixture with a fork.  Then remove from the heat and add paprika.

In a greased ovenproof casserole, place one third of the hot sauerkraut, half the rice, half the pork mixture, and one third of the sausage.  Sprinkle with half the sour cream mixtures.

The first layer before the sour cream sauce went on
Make another layer the same as above, then cover with the remaining sauerkraut.  Decorate the top with remaining sausage and the bacon.

Top with the remaining sour cream mixture.

Cover and bake in a preheated moderately hot oven for 15 to 20 minutes.

My Notes

I was aiming for a half recipe; it turns out I needed the full cup of broth (I used dissolved bullion) to get the rice cooked enough.  I also used a bit more than 5 ounces of sausage because I covered each layer with it, enough to make it look good and not stingy, so I used more than a third each time.

My healthy choice was vegetable shortening over lard.  *Sigh*  Sorry, Grandfather.

I noticed that when I mixed the sour cream and heavy cream until no more lumps appeared, the mixture got very thick, so "sprinkling" it was out of the question.  I spread it around with a spoon.

I had to guess what a "moderately hot oven" was; I chose 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  I didn't feel the dish was hot enough after 20 minutes, so I kept it in another 15 or so and that worked out well.

The Verdict

This was unexpectedly tasty.  I thought I would like it but the flavor combination was just ... something that danced on my taste buds and tingled, making me want to eat more and more.  My guest taster felt the same way.  I would describe it as slightly sour and salty from the 'kraut, chewy and meaty from all the pork, subtly spicy from the paprika, and creamy delicious from the sauce.

The only thing that bothered us was the bacon was not specified to be cooked before putting into the oven and it wasn't really cooked much even after 35 minutes.  We both felt a bit squeamish finding it that way in our portions.  Maybe it would have cooked better if my oven had been hotter or the sour cream sauce had been runnier.  Or perhaps the recipe was missing the instructions to cook the bacon in advance like all the other ingredients.

I want more!
Still, it was a resounding success.  I had the leftovers over the next few days and loved it all over again.  After I reheated it, I added a spoonful of sour cream just to gild the lily.  Another guest taster tried the leftovers and thought it was delightful.