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America’s founding foodies. November 19, 2012

Posted by ourfriendben in Ben Franklin, wit and wisdom.
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Silence Dogood here. All of us at Poor Richard’s Almanac are fans of America’s Founding Fathers, especially our hero and blog mentor, the great Benjamin Franklin. So I was thrilled to find a book on a recent shopping expedition that combined my love of the Founders with my love of cooking. It’s Thomas Jefferson’s Creme Brulee (Thomas J. Craughwell, Quirk Books, Philadelphia, 2012, $19.95). The subtitle says it all: How a Founding Father and His Slave James Hemings Introduced French Cuisine to America.

Jefferson is revered by many as the drafter of the Declaration of Independence, and viewed by many as the most intellectual of the Founders. (We think they’ve somehow forgotten Dr. Franklin.) He’s seen by others as the Founding Hypocrite, the man who preached liberty for all while holding (and selling) slaves. He is widely believed to have fathered six children on his slave, his wife’s half-sister Sally Hemings (a claim hotly disputed by his legitimate descendants), yet he freed neither Sally nor her children. He was so addicted to personal luxury that at his death, his descendents had to sell Monticello to settle his debts.

This is hardly the profile of a man who lived by principle. And yet it is Jefferson, his Louisiana Purchase, his Lewis and Clark Expedition, who made America the great nation it became. (Credit also goes to Jefferson’s old political rival, Alexander Hamilton, who envisioned the strong central government that forged the United States rather than a federation of individual states.)

James Hemings, another of Martha Jefferson’s half-siblings, was Sally Hemings’s older brother. Thomas Jefferson thought all the Hemings family were unusually talented, and when he was appointed ambassador to France, he took James Hemings with him. He made a most unusual deal with James: If James learned to cook French cuisine and taught the skill to another Monticello slave, Jefferson would grant him his freedom. It was a promise that Jefferson, if belatedly and reluctantly, kept: James was the only slave he ever freed.

In France, James Hemings learned fluent French and apprenticed with France’s finest chefs. He was chef de cuisine at Jefferson’s mansion in Paris and later at his home in New York (then the capital of the U.S.) when Jefferson became Secretary of State. He taught his brother Peter Hemings the art of French cooking, and after gaining his freedom, cooked professionally in Philadelphia and Baltimore.

James’s story, and his role in bringing French cuisine to America, is given as much play in Thomas Jefferson’s Creme Brulee as the author could give them, drawing on every surviving account to sketch a portrait of the man and his times. The book is obviously also about Thomas Jefferson’s years in France and his lifelong love affair with French food and wine. (One of the most interesting passages is about Jefferson’s tour through France and northern Italy, seeking out and spending time with the great wine producers and wine merchants, and learning everything he could about wine.)

But ultimately, Thomas Jefferson’s Creme Brulee is about French cooking during the reign of the ill-fated Louis XVI, the 32-course dinners, the delicate fare. (A specialty of the time was disguising dishes so they looked like something else, creating an apparently delightful surprise for diners when they cut into a peacock and discovered it was actually a rabbit or fish.) The author’s discussion of the presentation of food (by the time it was ceremoniously paraded to the upper-class table, it was invariably cold) and table manners (forks weren’t adopted by most Americans until the mid-1800s) is the real heart and hook of the book.

If you’re thinking of cooking a la Jefferson, you won’t find much to go on here. You’ll discover the dishes Jefferson and James Hemings introduced to America, such as French fries (known simply as fried potatoes, pommes de terre frites, in France), macaroni and cheese, creme brulee, and a recipe for making coffee. But to find usable recipes, you’ll need to refer to Marie Kimball’s Thomas Jefferson’s Cook Book (1938, reprinted Garrett and Massie, Richmond, VA 2004). 

When we think of French food today, we don’t tend to picture mac’n’cheese, French fries, and coffee. Rather than picturing McDonald’s fries, Cracker Barrel’s mac’n’cheese, and Starbucks’ or Dunkin’ Donuts’ coffee, we’ll at least imagine Julia Child and her boeuf bourguinon, famous Michelin-starred French restaurants or their American cousins like The French Laundry and Le Bernardin, baguettes and croissants, or luscious French cheeses like Roquefort, Camembert and Brie.

But clearly, while potatoes may have originated in the Americas, those pommes frites dished up by the ton at Mickey D’s, and their trans-Atlantic cousins of fish and chips fame, originated in pre-revolutionary France and were served to royalty at Versailles.

Strange but true: Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were responsible for popularizing potatoes in France. They not only ate potatoes, they wore potato flowers in their lapels and hair, creating a rage for all things potato. Fried potatoes really were French fries. If Marie Antoinette had said “Let them eat potatoes” rather than “Let them eat brioche” (an expensive, “refined” bread; she didn’t actually say “Let them eat cake”), perhaps the French revolution would have been averted.

But I digress. If you love food history or early American history, you’ll enjoy a romp through Thomas Jefferson’s Creme Brulee. And if you’d like to see at least one Hemings get his due, this book is a great place to start.

             ‘Til next time,

                           Silence

Happy birthday, George! February 22, 2011

Posted by ourfriendben in Ben Franklin, recipes, Uncategorized, wit and wisdom.
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Today is the birthday of America’s first and greatest President, George Washington (February 22, 1732-December 14, 1799). We now know that the famous story of the young Washington’s chopping down his father’s cherry tree, then confessing it with the statement “I cannot tell a lie,” was actually an allegory created by his early biographer, Mason Locke “Parson” Weems in his book A History of the Life and Death, Virtues and Exploits of General George Washington (1800), to inspire future generations. But we also know that the General really did love cherries (and all fresh fruit and nuts).

So we here at Poor Richard’s Almanac have prevailed on our resident culinary historian, Silence Dogood, to provide one authentic and one more modern cherry-based recipe so you can celebrate Washington’s birthday in style. And for those of you who aren’t especially interested in recipes but are interested in the life and times of George Washington, we suggest that you head to our search bar at upper right and type in “Happy birthday, big guy,” to find one of our fellow blog contributors, Richard Saunders’s, George Washington quiz. Take it, and see how you well you really know the Father of Our Country!

Silence Dogood here. Big George loved his cherries, but he wasn’t too big on dessert. So what sorts of cherry treats did Martha make for him at Mount Vernon? Turning to Martha Washington’s Booke of Cookery, containing her handwritten collection of recipes (called “receipts” back in her day), I found a recipe that was sure to sit well with George: cherry wine.

Washington, like all his contemporaries, was a heavy drinker, often polishing off four glasses of madeira after downing homebrew throughout dinner. And drinking beer with breakfast was considered par for the course in his day, followed by an assortment of alcoholic beverages, from hard cider to claret and port, not to mention gin and rum among members of the navy, as the day wore on.

Why? Was America founded by a bunch of alcoholics? Hardly, nor were the Colonists alone in their drinking habits: All Europe shared them, with good reason. With no knowledge of sanitation, and sewage being dumped in the streets and into the water supply, drinking water was—and was widely recognized as—dangerous. Encounters with E. coli and other contagious diseases usually proved fatal in the days when bleeding and purging were the recommended treatments for pretty much everything and antibiotics were unknown.

Fermentation was an easy way to destroy most of the bad bacteria, so drinking fermented (i.e., alcoholic) beverages was strongly recommended and pretty much universally practiced. Only one voice was raised against the practice, that of the youthful visionary Benjamin Franklin, who was both a teetotaler and a vegetarian, centuries ahead of his time, and recommended water as the universal beverage. Spending time in the polluted cities of London and Paris eventually cured Franklin of his idealism—fresh water was nowhere to be found in either locale—and he came to appreciate a glass of wine or a mug of beer; his vegetarianism also eventually fell by the wayside.

But even in an era of universal drinking, public drunkenness was condemned as vulgar and appalling; a gentleman (or lady, for that matter) was supposed to be able to hold his (or her) liquor. I have no idea how the people of the time managed to walk that tightrope; I’m just glad we moderns have a lot more options when it comes to choosing a thirst-quenching beverage.

But to get back to Martha’s cherry wine, which we would probably consider more of a cherry cordial, let’s just say I’m providing the recipe as a matter of historical interest rather than urging you to try it. We’ll get to a cherry recipe next that would probably have pleased George and will certainly please you.

           Martha Washington’s Cherry Wine

Take a good quantety of spring water & let it boyle halfe an houre. then beat 4 pounds of raysons, clean pickt & washed, & beat them in a mortar to paste. then put them in an earthen pot, & pour on ym 12 quarts of this water boyling hot, & put to it 6 quarts of ye Juice of cheries, & put in the pulp & scins of ye cheries after they are strayned. & let all these steep together, close covered, 3 days, then strayn all out & let it stand 3 or 4 hours to settle. take of ye cleerest, & run ye rest thorough a Jelley bagg, then put ye Juice up into bottles & stop them up close, & set them in sand.

Mmm, mmm, good! Well, maybe it was good. But I don’t think I’ll try it and see! Instead, I set myself to thinking about what our First President, a man of hearty appetite but plain tastes, who was known to leave the fancy dishes and desserts to his guests, would have enjoyed in the way of cherry recipes.

Clafouti sprang to mind, a simple, warm dish that is half-pancake, half pudding, full of fruit and flavor, but not too sweet. It would have made a great breakfast dish for George, served with his eggs, a variety of meats (including ham, bacon, sausage, and possibly fish), hominy, and biscuits before he headed out to ride over his plantations. If you’d like to make it as a dessert, whipped cream adds a lovely touch; for breakfast, you, like George, would probably prefer heavy cream poured over your portion of hot clafouti. This recipe is courtesy of Anna Thomas’s wonderful The Vegetarian Epicure Book Two (Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1979). Ben Franklin would be proud!

             Clafouti of Cherries

4 eggs

1 cup flour

2 cups warm milk

3/4 cup sugar

2 tablespoons butter, melted

2 tablespoons kirsch

pinch of salt

1 to 2 tablespoons soft butter

1 pound sweet, dark cherries, washed, stemmed, and pitted

Beat the eggs lightly and gradually stir in the flour. When the mixture is smooth, beat in the milk, sugar, melted butter, and kirsch, along with a tiny pinch of salt.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Very generously butter a large, shallow baking dish and pour a very thin layer of the batter across the bottom of it. Put it in the hot oven for 2 to 3 minutes, or just long enough for the batter to begin to set.

Arrange the pitted cherries evenly over the layer of batter and pour the remaining batter carefully over them. Reduce the heat to 400 degrees and bake the clafouti for about 30 to 35 minutes. It should be golden brown and slightly puffed. It’s a good idea to check it once or twice during the baking, and if it is starting to puff unevenly in large bubbles, pierce it with a skewer or fork.

Sprinkle the hot clafouti with sieved confectioners’ sugar and serve it hot or warm, topped with cold heavy cream or whipped cream. Serves 6 to 8. (Probably more like two if one of you is George Washington!)

So there you have it, a breakfast dish fit for, if not a king, at least a president! From all of us here at Poor Richard’s Almanac, Happy Birthday, George!!!

Snow, eggs, and milk pie. February 10, 2010

Posted by ourfriendben in homesteading, recipes, wit and wisdom.
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Silence Dogood here. As I dismally watch my car disappear under what looks like feet of snow, my mind drifts (sorry, couldn’t resist that) back to yesterday afternoon, when I was out and about buying food for us and the critters prior to this latest blizzard.

Our friend Ben and I are both fortunate and dumbfounded to have two wonderful and very reasonably priced restaurants five minutes from our cottage home, Hawk’s Haven, which as we’ve often noted is located in the precise middle of nowhere, PA. This means the two restaurants are located just the other side of nowhere, in the tidy little town of Topton, PA. One, the White Palm, serves up the best spring rolls I’ve ever eaten, and their tropics-inspired menu manages to be both family-friendly and offer enough veggie-friendly fare to cause me to spend ten minutes poring over the menu trying to make up my mind (as opposed to the usual ten-second perusal while trying to find the one or two things I can eat). The other, The Market Cafe, has fantastic paninis (the three-cheese is my favorite), a huge, crisp Caesar salad (gotta offset all that cheese), and a Shiloh-friendly outdoor eating area. (The staff always makes sure Shiloh, our beautiful black German shepherd, has water, and of course she gets the hard-boiled egg and croutons from the salad.)

I mention all this because yesterday, en route to the local grocery, I had lunch with my friend Amy at White Palm and then swung by The Market Cafe to pick up some coffee. OFB’s and my favorite “adopted” nephews, Rashu and Sasha, simply fell in love with our own favorite flavored coffee, Jamaican Me Crazy, and I wanted to get some to take up to the Poconos next time we visited them and their mom (hopefully this weekend, weather permitting). The Market Cafe is locally famous for its coffee, and fortunately sells as well as brews it.

And here’s where the eggs come in. Waiting my turn at the counter, I heard the staff bantering about the storm. One was giving a second a bunch of grief about stocking up on eggs for the storm. “Hey, I got eggs,” she replied. “Yes, but you’ll make the whole carton for your husband’s breakfast tomorrow,” the first said. “No I won’t!” said the second. “Okay, how many eggs do you make him for breakfast, six?” “Uh, seven,” said the sheepish spouse. Who, mind you, had the trim figure of an olympic cyclist or marathon runner. And the worst of it is, I’ll bet her husband does, too.

Interestingly, while we’re on the subject of eggs, when last weekend’s snowstorm hit, I was pretty late getting to the (considerably larger) grocery in nearby Kutztown. I was concerned that the dairy section would be wiped out: no milk, butter, cheese, yogurt, sour cream, or the half-and-half OFB insists on putting in his morning coffee. Not so. Even the bread shelves were still reasonably stocked. What had been ravaged were the eggs. I couldn’t find even one carton of brown eggs. I couldn’t find any organic eggs. In fact, every brand of eggs but the store brand had been completely wiped out, and even the store brand was pretty much down to the medium-sized white eggs. (I managed to snag the last carton of jumbo eggs.) Curious, eh? I thought so.

Yikes, I see that the 45-mph winds we’ve been promised appear to be arriving, if the snow crashing off the trees and bushes outside my home office window is any indication, so I’d better move on to those milk pies before our power cuts out. Ever heard of milk pies? I never had, at least until the arrival of this morning’s local paper, the Allentown, PA Morning Call, which featured a story by food columnist Diane Stoneback on this regional specialty. (And what can I say about a news carrier who manages to deliver our paper in a blizzard? Bless her heart, what a courageous act!)

Like all people with an agricultural background, from France and Italy to Mexico and Greece, the original settlers of our area, the Pennsylvania Dutch (from the regional dialect, Deitsch, for Deutsch, aka German) hated to see anything go to waste. The old expression about pigs, “we eat everything but the squeak,” certainly applies to them, and they clearly felt the same way about piecrust, too.

I can sympathise. Like my own Southern staple, biscuits, making a good piecrust is an arcane art, involving rubbing bits of cold butter into flour with one’s fingers until the dough is perfectly smooth (and God forbid that the butter warms up so the task would be easy, it has to remain chilled), rolling it out just so, somehow transferring that pillowcase-thin crust to the pie pan, and not just fitting it perfectly but crimping the edges so the pie doesn’t leak, weep, or boil over the top. Yow, this is not a task for the faint of heart. No wonder the ever-practical Penna Dutch didn’t want to waste the leftover fragments of dough after they’d shaped and trimmed the crusts. And so the milk pie was born. 

At this point you may be wondering how there could possibly be enough dough fragments left over to make even one milk pie, much less several. But that would be because you’ve never had the delight of seeing an old Pennsylvania Dutch bake oven in operation, as I have. These fantastic ovens, dating to the 1700s and 1800s, were made of handmade brick and housed in their own building. Once (or perhaps twice) a week, the baker in the family (typically the housewife, though the baker our friend Ben and I saw in operation was the husband) would create an enormous wood fire in the large space beneath the oven. By the time the fire had burned to coals, the oven itself would be extremely hot. So the baker would put loaves of bread directly on the hot surface to bake—many loaves to feed the typical large family for a week—followed by all sorts of pies, cakes, and every other type of baked good in progressive succession as the oven (very) slowly cooled down.

After making the numerous fruit pies, breakfast pies, and other pies that were staples of Pennsylvania Dutch cuisine, the thrifty cook would form the pie dough scraps into a few last piecrusts and fill them with a mix of flour, sugar, milk, cinnamon, and butter, then bake up these “milk pies” for casual snacking. According to Diane Stoneback, the traditional milk pie filling was barely visible in the bottom of the baked crust—basically just enough to sweeten and tenderize the crust—and was traditionally made by stirring the dry ingredients together with the fingers directly in the crust until everything was mixed well and all lumps were smooshed out, then the milk was poured on top, followed by pats of butter being floated on the milk. If one chose to mix the wet ingredients with the dry, you’d have a single layer of filling; if the cook opted not to bother with mixing, there’d be a two-layer filling.

Coming from the South as I do, pies were definitely a sometime thing, not an everyday staple as they are up here. We loved our chess pies and pecan pies and (when we could get them) banana cream pies and chocolate icebox pies. But we ate fruit cobblers, not fruit pies, and the thought of molasses crumb pies like shoofly pie were (and frankly, still are)  inconceivable, not to mention the raisin-based “funeral pie.” After moving here, I discovered the pleasures of coconut cream pie, lemon sponge pie (an Amish specialty), and fruit-topped custard pies. But milk pie? Hadn’t it vanished along with the horse and buggy? (Oh, wait, we still see plenty of horses and buggies around here.)

As Diane discovered, milk pie fans are still legion in our area. The venerable tradition lives on, but with variations. You can read the article, “Memories of Milk Pie,” and find dozens of reminiscences and recipes at www.themorningcall.com. But here’s one to get you started if you’d like to try it yourself:

         Marion and Susan Redline’s Milk Pie

In an unheated 9-inch pie shell, put flour in the bottom until it covers it to a depth of 1/4 inch. Top with a handful or so of light brown sugar. Mix the flour and sugar thoroughly with your fingers. Pour three circles of white corn syrup over it. Then fill the crust with whole milk until it is three-quarters full.

Dot the top with 5 pats of butter. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Bake at 400 degrees F for 10 minutes and then turn the temperature down to 350 for about another 40 minutes. Because all ovens are different, give the pie a shimmy-shake while it’s still on the oven rack. If it jiggles just a little in the center and the crust is light brown, it’s done.

Are you intrigued enough to try this Colonial-era treat? Not me, I confess. If I’m going to eat pie, I’d rather splurge on a slice of something horrifically decadent. But I love the idea that a pie with such a venerable history is still cherished and eaten to this day. Long may it wave!

And all of you poor souls who, like us, are battling the cold and snow, may you stay warm, dry, and well-fed.

                  ‘Til next time,

                               Silence

Oh, deer: venison recipes. January 20, 2009

Posted by ourfriendben in homesteading, recipes, wit and wisdom.
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Silence Dogood here. Though our friend Ben and I live deep in the heart of deer-hunting country (there’s a deer blind in the field directly across the road from our cottage home, Hawk’s Haven), neither of us has ever eaten venison. So I was unprepared when my brother sent me an e-mail this weekend to say that a colleague had presented him and his family with four venison steaks, and he wondered if I could tell him how to cook them.

Well, in a word, no. But never let it be said that Silence Dogood is not up to a challenge! Heading to my trusty accomplice, Google, I typed in “venison recipes,” expecting to be taken to something like the Cabela’s website. Instead, to my astonishment, what came up first was Jamie Oliver’s website! Never averse to looking at Jamie Oliver, I clicked on the link, searched the site for “venison,” and lo and behold, two recipes appeared, for Pan-Seared Venison with Blueberries, Shallots, and Red Wine, and for Wild Mushroom and Venison Stroganoff. Both sound pretty tasty, eh? You can find the recipes, with lovely photos of the finished dishes (plus some lovely photos of Jamie himself) at www.jamieoliver.com.

My brother had heard that venison, not a fatty meat, could easily get tough if mishandled. Jamie appeared to take care of that by adding what he endearingly referred to as “glugs” or “lugs” of olive oil and “knobs” of butter to each dish, along with a spirited splash of red wine in the case of the Pan-Seared Venison and brandy for the Stroganoff. Cutting the meat fairly fine and cooking it for a brief time also kept it nicely tender and juicy.

Jamie’s wording in both recipes is simply classic. I don’t want to give anything away (or earn an X-rating for our blog), but check out Jamie’s intro to the Pan-Seared Venison recipe for a priceless example of the differences between British and American usage. I can’t wait to share this one with Ben! Oh, dear, I mean, deer.

Now, Jamie’s recipes looked delicious. They also required a ton of ingredients and took a quite a bit of preparation, not ideal for two adults with incredibly hectic schedules and two young, active kids. Where could I find a simpler recipe that didn’t descend to the “Take a can of mushroom soup” level? Hmmm, I thought. When were people historically eating a lot of venison? Why, when this country was first settled! Inspired, I headed for my Colonial cookbooks.

Starting at the beginning, I took Martha Washington’s Booke of Cookery off the shelf. But fond as I am of Martha, I couldn’t help but feel that her recipe for venison in a pastry crust, though it might be quite tasty, would require almost as much preparation as Jamie Oliver’s recipes, and probably wouldn’t sit well with the kids, who are unlikely to have ever encountered a meat pie. I did learn something fascinating, though: Martha, like her British ancestors, prepared a “faux venison” dish called “Red Dear of Beefe” that begins with these appetizing instructions: “First take a piece of young buttock beefe & lard it.” This dish decended directly from the home country, where deer and deer parks were the  exclusive property of the nobility, which gave venison quite the cachet. More humble folks had to fake it with rump roast.

Undaunted, I next turned to Thomas Jefferson’s Cook Book, where I found a somewhat more straightforward recipe that in fact did use actual venison. Here it is in its totality: “Lard well a saddle of venison, dust with salt and pepper. Put in a hot oven. Baste with cream, as it is not very fat. Serve with currant jelly sauce.” Unfortunately, while flipping through the pages to reach the relevant one, I encountered a recipe for “Remains of Boiled Fish.” I wonder how often Mr. Jefferson ate that!

Moving on, I picked up The Early American Cookbook. This time, I struck gold. If you’re ever confronted by a gift of venison, or eat it regularly and want to try something a bit different, here are three easy recipes that all sound good:

                   Roast Venison with Sour Cream Gravy

3 cups dry red wine, divided

1/2 cup apple cider

3 bay leaves

4 whole peppercorns

1 6-pound venison roast

Salt

1/4 cup butter

1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 cup dairy sour cream [Er, as opposed to what?—Silence]

In a shallow dish combine 2 1/2 cups wine with cider, bay leaves, and peppercorns. Place venison in wine mixture; cover and refrigerate overnight, turning occasionally. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Remove venison from marinade and place on a rack in a roasting pan, fat side up. Sprinkle with salt. Insert a meat thermometer in center of thickest part of meat, not touching bone or resting in fat. Melt butter in a small saucepan. Strain 1 cup of the marinade and add to melted butter. Brush meat with this mixture several times during roasting time. Roast meat to desired degree of doneness, approximately 25 minutes per pound for medium rare. Remove roast to a warm platter. In a 1 1/2 quart saucepan combine flour and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Add 3/4 cup drippings from the venison and stir until smooth. Stir in the remaining 1/2 cup wine. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until smooth and thick. Reduce heat to low and stir in sour cream. Heat to serving temperature, but do not boil. Serve with venison. Serves 6 to 8.

                 Venison Steaks or Chops

8 venison steaks or chops, 1 1/2 inches thick

Dry red wine

Freshly ground pepper

Seasoned all-purpose flour [Uh, seasoned with what?!—Silence]

Butter

1/2 pound mushrooms, sliced

3 slices bacon, cut into small pieces

1 small onion, minced

1/2 cup diced celery

Place steaks or chops in a shallow dish and pour enough red wine over the top to barely cover meat. Sprinkle liberally with pepper. Let stand overnight, turning occasionally. Remove steaks from marinade and pat dry. Dredge in seasoned flour. Heat enough butter in a large, heavy skillet to cover the bottom. Add steaks and cook on both sides until browned and tender. While steaks are cooking, melt 2 tablespoons butter in another skillet. Add mushrooms, bacon, onion and celery and cook slowly until onion is tender. Stir in about 1/4 cup wine, bring to a boil, and simmer 2 minutes. Serve steaks topped with wine sauce. Serves 8.

Leftovers? Not a problem. Just toss together this easy casserole—don’t be fooled by its name, “Day-After Pie”—for another 4 to 6 hearty servings:

             Day-After Pie

3 cups warm cooked rice

1/4 cup butter

1 egg, well beaten

Pinch of ground nutmeg

2 to 3 cups leftover cubed venison with gravy

Salt and pepper to taste

2 hard-cooked eggs, sliced

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Mix warm rice with butter, egg, and nutmeg. Butter a 1 1/2-quart casserole well and cover bottom and sides with about two-thirds of the rice mixture. Put cubed meat and gravy in center. If they are already well seasoned, season with a very little salt and pepper. Place sliced eggs over meat. Cover with remaining rice mixture. Bake 25 to 30 minutes, or until thoroughly heated.  

Of course, I couldn’t leave the subject until I had consulted with that venerable authority, my 1943 edition of The Joy of Cooking, passed down through three generations of my family and counting. And sure enough, Irma S. Rombauer had quite a lot to say on the subject of venison, beginning with a commentary on how long you had to hang venison before it was fit to eat (not, hopefully, an issue in the case of my brother’s steaks). Irma offers two simple recipes for venison steaks. (As you’ll see, she has her own unique way of putting recipes together.) The first basically tells you to rub venison steaks with a cut clove of garlic and a generous amount of butter, season with salt and paprika or pepper, and broil under a broiler until they’re “crisp and brown on the outside, rare and juicy within.” Then serve with Currant Jelly Sauce (a surprisingly complicated recipe) or Maitre d’Hotel Butter, which sounds scary but is really just 1/4 cup softened butter creamed with 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/8 teaspoon pepper, and 1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley, with 3/4 to 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice stirred in until totally blended just before serving.

Here’s Irma’s other recipe for venison steaks:

            Venison Loin Steaks or Cutlets

These may be dipped in:

              Olive oil

then in:

              Seasoned bread crumbs

Broil the steaks or saute them quickly in butter. Or rub:

               2 venison steaks

with:

               A cut clove of garlic

Heat until sizzling:

                  1 tablespoon olive oil

Saute the steaks quickly in this until both sides are brown. Season the steaks with:

                   Salt

                   Paprika

Stir in:

          1/4 cup dry sherry

          1/3 cup thick cream

          1 1/2 tablespoons currant jelly

           2 tablespoons butter

Add additional seasoning if required. 

Irma also provides recipes for Roast Leg of Venison, Saddle of Venison, and Venison Pot Roast or Stew, and they all look good. Do you have favorite venison recipes? If so, please share them! I’d hate for my brother to end up with an inedible dish, or to be so intimidated by the prospect of cooking those steaks that they continued to live in the freezer for untold ages. Talk about “Oh, deer!”

             ‘Til next time,

                           Silence

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