Retro Recipes and Traditional Fare

Steak au Poivre with Shallot Pan Sauce

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by Joseph Erdos

steakaupoivre.jpgNow and then I have a craving for red meat. And when that craving comes I want a meal that's fast and easy to make. Steak au poivre is my answer. It's a French-restaurant favorite. I don't think there's anyone out there who can dispute that. It's one of my absolute favorite dishes and I almost always order it if I see it on a menu. But it's so simple to make at home when I feel like staying in. It's quickly cooked in a pan followed by a luxurious sauce that includes brandy and white wine. This recipe can be made for a quiet romantic dinner for two or even doubled or tripled for an elegant dinner party.

For the perfect level of flavor and doneness, make sure the steaks have come to room temperature before cooking, then pat dry, and season well with salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Crush the pepper in a mortar and pestle or using my new favorite tool, the Flavour Shaker. I like to press the steaks into the crushed black pepper for optimal adhesion. For a steak that's beautifully pink inside, a 2-minute cook time per side is ideal. 

Shrimp Rockefeller Stuffed Mushrooms

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by Cathy Pollak

shrimpmushrooms.jpg My love of stuffed mushrooms started when I was very young thanks to my Aunt Mary.

Every holiday Aunt Mary made mushrooms stuffed with pork sausage. A simple starter to a large festive meal but always a crowd pleaser.

Somehow, no matter how many of those mushrooms she made, it was never enough.  My cousins and I devoured them quickly and in epic proportions. This is where my taste for all things "stuffed mushrooms" reared its head.

I have never lost the craving.

When I came across this recipe for Shrimp Rockefeller Stuffed Mushrooms with Parmesan Crumbs I knew I couldn't wait to make it.

Pasta Salad Nicoise

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by Joseph Erdos

pastanicoise.jpgHere's a great dish that does double duty: it can be dinner tonight and lunch tomorrow. It's delicious served slightly warm or chilled. And it's especially great for a Friday night Lenten dinner. Using readily available ingredients including my favorite cans of tuna, this dish is light on the wallet too. For the best taste and texture use white albacore tuna packed in oil. It's much better than the chunk light in water.

My version of the French salad Niçoise is crossed with the American macaroni salad. Instead of boiled potatoes, I use pasta as a delicious alternative. Cavatappi, a corkscrew-shaped pasta, makes a playful addition, but elbow macaroni works well too. Green beans are quickly blanched and pasta is then cooked in the same pot before being combined with all the ingredients. A finish of briny olives and capers and a fresh vinaigrette make it feel like springtime on the Mediterranean coast.

Flapjacks: The British Madeline

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by Tracy Tynan

flapjacks.jpgWhen I was growing up in England in the fifties and sixties, there was a snack called a flapjack that could be occasionally bought at bakeries but was more often found in homes, served up by diligent housewives. It was never found at my home: the only time my mother turned on the stove was to light a cigarette. But some of my friends’ mothers did make them, and the sweet, buttery smell of freshly baked flapjacks is one of those childhood aromas that still haunt me today.

Now, for the American reader a point of clarification is required. British flapjacks bear absolutely no resemblance to American ‘flapjacks’, which seems to be just another word for pancakes. The British flapjack is a unique item unto itself, but if a comparison is required, I suppose a granola bar would come closest in look and texture. But it is simpler, more elemental, only requiring four ingredients (long before Michael Pollan came up with his five ingredient mantra): oats, sugar, butter and golden syrup.

Tarte Flambée

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by Joseph Erdos

tarteflambee.jpgI am very much intrigued by the unique food of Alsace, the tiny region that shares a border and many culinary similarities with Germany. My love for Alsatian food stems from my visit a few years ago to The Modern, which is run by Alsatian chef Gabriel Kruether. There I enjoyed many traditional Alsation dishes, among them a tarte flambée, a simple pizza-like tart. It is also known as flammekueche in Alsatian or flammkuchen in German. It's fundamentally a very simple combination of smoky bacon, sautéed onions, and rich cream on a crispy bread that forms a most amazing salivatingly savory meal.

The flavors I experienced that day still linger in my memory. I knew then that I would try and re-create this Alsatian tart at home. But it wasn't until last week that the thought crossed my mind once I discovered my local supermarket sold crème fraîche, the French sour cream, which is a necessary ingredient for this recipe. To recreate the flavor profiles of the tart I enjoyed at the restaurant, I also searched for applewood-smoked bacon, which I was also luckily able to procure. With all the ingredients in hand, I was now absolutely ready to bake and devour a traditional tarte flambée.

The World's Most Unsexy Recipe

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by Matt Armendariz

prunes.jpgI remember reading her words like it was yesterday. Molly once said that prunes were among the few foods with their own built-in laugh track. And gosh darnit, she’s right. I still giggle when I think about them, even when people were saying they were delicious and I should try them. And you know exactly what this boy is talking about, quit trying to be coy and pretend you don’t know.  We’re friends here.

Luckily I can now tell you that I no longer laugh as hard as I once did when I say the words prune and I can also tell you that I no longer put the palms of my hand to my lips and make mega-sounds.  And why? Because scattered among the yards and yards of breakfast items on the buffet table at Club Med in the Bahamas were bowls of stewed prunes.

Whoopie Pies

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by James Moore

whoopie_pie.jpgIt wasn't until I moved to the West Coast, that I realized how many people had been deprived of one of my favorite childhood treats - Whoopie Pies.  A New England favorite,  Whoopie Pies were always part of bake sales, school lunches, and family gatherings.  And, they were quite often the confection upon which many mother's were judged. The variations in the pie (which is actually cake) and the sweetness and texture of the filling can differ greatly with each recipe.  My Aunt Mary would often lament about the pies turning out too flat, or the filling too runny.  Our next door neighbor, Mrs. Ekberg, made a memorable Whoopie Pie, with a completely unique cooked cream filling, a recipe that she never shared, but I later discovered the method while researching frostings for Red Velvet Cake.  At home, my sister has become the family champion of Whoopie Pies, and has a blue ribbon from the county fair to prove it.


It's a PASS-tee

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by Sue Doeden

pasties_001.jpgBe careful when you do a Google search for pasties. I was searching for the edible kind, the Cornish kind-- pastry stuffed with meat and vegetables. But, ummmm, you know, the other kind came up. Google misunderstood. It did try, though. Google asked: Did you mean to search for: all about pastry?

I had just returned to my office after a visit with Mark and Peggy Schultz, owners of a pasty (PASS-tee) shop in Turtle River, Minnesota, not far from where I live. After spending time in the Turtle River Pasties kitchen, watching Mark create very chubby pasties, all-butter pastry turnovers stuffed with beef and root vegetables, I was anxious to use the tips he shared with me to make my own batch.

I first learned of pasties over 20 years ago when I was in Ely for a state Legion baseball tournament. They were part of the line-up at the concession stand. A pasty is a little bit like a filled dumpling, but it's baked, not boiled. It's a little bit like a pie with a flaky crust, but it's eaten out of hand, not with a fork. It's a little bit like a sandwich filled with meat and vegetables, but there's no bread involved.

Meat and Potatoes Can Be Good Food

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by Susan Russo

beefstew.jpgOne day when I was a little girl watching my mom make dinner, I asked her why we weren't a "meat and potatoes" family. She said, "That's because we're Italian, and we eat good food."

I remember thinking, was meat and potatoes bad food? Would it make you sick? I suddenly felt sorry for all those kids at school whose moms cooked meat and potatoes. I secretly wished I could bring them home for dinner so they could have good food like my mom's eggplant parmigiana, escarole and beans, and macaroni with gravy and meatballs.

Other than the once-a-year New England boiled pot roast with potatoes and carrots, my mom never made meat and potatoes meals, and I don't either. The closest I get to making meat and potatoes is a burger and fries, which suits Jeff just fine since his mother also never made meat and potatoes.

A Meat & Potatoes Kinda Guy

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by Matt Armendariz

meatpotatoes.jpgGrowing up my mother and grandmother fed us picadillo, a dish of ground beef, potatoes, tomatos, onions and spices. It was the perfect meal–delicious and satisfying–and always enjoyed with fresh flour tortillas on the side. It’s a dish I still crave to this day, and like most Latin cuisine it has its regional differences.

As I’ve traveled I’ve noticed that almost everyone has their own version of meat and potatoes, and it’s easy to see why. A traditional Irish corned beef and potatoes, a Kashmiri Rogan Josh served with slowly stewed potatoes, or Brazilian churrasco enjoyed with mounds of Brazilian potato salad- – mix a protein and a starch and happiness is always guaranteed…not to mention a fully belly.

Sometimes in my moments of quasi-food snobbery I chide my friends who refuse to join me for dinner, fearing I’ll pick something that falls outside their culinary comfort zone. I practically have to sign a form promising them no organ meats, no intense heat, no stinky cheese, no bellpeppers and certainly nothing that comes from the “strange” parts of an animal (which always leads me to ask why a rump roast isn’t strange but a tongue is, but whatever!) However, the perfect meal to satisfy my picky meat-and-potatoes kind of friends are, well, meat and potatoes. But only meat and potatoes in their most simple, smoky and stripped down form: steak frites.


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