Meanwhile in My Other Life: Elderberry Scones

While we’re waiting for that pizza dough to rest…

A friend gave me a whole mess of elderberries. I’d never had elderberries, so in my infinite wisdom I popped a handful in my mouth. They were interesting–bitter, fruity, and acidic with a slightly medicinal aftertaste. It makes me wonder about the first people to try them. I can see thinking “this is better than starvation” but not “yum! let’s eat!”  (This is not unlike the way I wonder about Kaldi the goatherd. What on Earth made him try the beans that were energizing his goats and think “Hey! I’m going to pour hot water over this and then drink it with milk and sugar!”?)

Being in possession of a bag of elderberries and unable to resist a challenge, I set out to make something with them; preferably something not medicinal-tasting. I decided to turn them into scones, and they’re actually pretty darned good.

Elderberry Scones

Ingredients

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup sugar

1 TBS baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

2 tsp cardamom*

1/2 (1 stick) cold butter, cut into cubes

1/2 cup elderberries

1 cup heavy cream, divided

Elderberry glaze (recipe below)

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 425
  • Oil or spray a baking sheet
  • Whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and cardamom together in a large bowl
  • Cut in the cold butter using a pastry blender or two knives
  • Carefully fold in the elderberries with a large spoon
  • Fold in all but 2 TBS of the cream, stirring gently until all of the flour is just moistened. The dough should be crumbly.
  • Turn dough onto a floured surface (or a sheet of parchment paper, if you have some lying around) and gently shape into an 8″ circle
  • Using a sharp knife, cut the dough into 8 wedges*
  • Carefully transfer the wedges to your baking sheet, leaving 1-2″ between the wedges
  • Brush the tops with the remaining 2 TBS of heavy cream
  • Bake 13-16 minutes, until golden brown
  • Top with elderberry glaze

Elderberry glaze

Ingredients

1/2 cup elderberries

1 tsp butter

2 TBS milk

1 tsp cardamom

Apx 1 cup powdered sugar (I didn’t measure this; I just kept adding in a little at a time until it reached the consistency I wanted)

Instructions

  • Place elderberries and butter into a small saucepan, simmer on medium-high for 5 minutes–until berries have released their juice. You should have a nice purple slurry in the bottom of the pan
  • Strain berries, reserving the juice
  • Whisk milk and cardamom into the reserved juice
  • Whisk in powdered sugar until glaze reaches desired consistency

Notes

Elderberries, I’ve been told, have an affinity for lemon. Today, I didn’t have any lemons. I did, however, have cardamom which added a lovely, citrusy-floral element that plays beautifully with the berries. If you have lemon, consider adding some zest to the glaze to bring out the more citrusy notes.

Quick Tip

This dough is sticky. Use a very sharp knife and dip it into a glass or bowl of water between slices to make it easier to handle.

Elderberries look kind of like the caviar of the tree-fruit world.

Elderberries look kind of like the caviar of the tree-fruit world.

Welcome to Connecticut: The Constitution State

usa-welcome-signs-connecticut-2

Connecticut, if you’ve never been there, is stunningly beautiful. The coastal areas are pure New England beach, while inland the rolling hills contribute to some of my favorite drives–especially through Mystic and the surrounding towns.  And driving, in case I haven’t mentioned it, is my version of therapy. On the other hand, if you’re trying to get home to western New York from Narragansett, Rhode Island on a beautiful summer Sunday, don’t take I-95 through Connecticut. It’s a nightmare.

One of my good friends lived in Connecticut for 20 years, so I picked her brain about the classic foods of the state. Turns out the answer isn’t clam something, or cod-filled things. No. New Haven, Connecticut is the birthplace of American style pizza. Called “apizza”*, a good overview of the history of New Haven Pizza can be found here.

So that’s what we’re going to make this week: New Haven pizza. It should be fun–the crust is a 2-3 day process on its own and at the end of that, I’ll get to fire up the wood grill in order to create the charred crust that is a requirement of this dish.  While white clam pizza also hails from Connecticut, the true New Haven apizza is pretty simple–tomato sauce and a bit of Parmesan cheese. Really, more of a tomato pie than what we consider a real-live-honest-to-goodness pizza.  Mozzarella (or mootz) is an additional topping that true purists leave off.

We’ll talk crust on Thursday. In the meantime, here’s an interesting bit of trivia for your week in Connecticut: Connecticut and Rhode Island are the only two states that never ratified the 18th amendment (prohibition). Also? The state insect is the praying mantis.

See you soon,

–Brooke

* That “a” is a linguistic marker of the classic Napoli dialect. Southern Italians add it to other words as well, such as “grazie”, turning it into “grazia”. But whatever you do, don’t say it like that in Tuscany!

 

 

Welcome to Georgia: The Peach State

Georgia-welcome

Why does Georgia inspire so much idyllic longing, even in people who aren’t from the south? Dukes of Hazzard aside I’m blaming the peaches, the Gulf coast, and the Brunswick Stew. Especially the Brunswick Stew.

One summer when I was about 12, we lived on a farm near Macon with my then-stepfather, his mother,  and his Aunt Cleta. The three things I remember most are that this was the first time I encountered a feather bed—the real kind, not just a feather topper on a standard mattress, it was the first time I was in possession of a (borrowed) bicycle with an odometer, and the food.

The bed was weird. I was a city kid, accustomed to my hard mattress indented just so from sleeping in the same position for years, and all those soft-yet-poky feathers were as alien as sleeping on Mars. It didn’t help that my bedroom was in the attic, terribly quiet, and away from everyone else in the house (In retrospect I have to wonder if this made me the crazy relative in the attic, but I digress). It took a couple of nights before I understood that this was as close as I was going to get to Heaven on Earth. As an adult I’ve tried to replicate the experience with feather toppers, but it’s just not the same.

As for that bicycle, well. I can tell you this—wiping out while going 40 mph down a gravel road isn’t a lot of fun.

But the food. Oh, the food. Aunt Cleta would set my mother to shelling peas (to keep her out of the way, I think now, since her Missouri-roots-with-a-Texas-transplant would not have served her well in a true southern kitchen) put on her apron and start hustling. And that kitchen was hot. It was an old house, the kind with a summer kitchen–in the far back of the house, well away from the living areas so it wouldn’t heat up the rest of the house. In a Georgia summer, in an old house, air-conditioning existed but just barely huffed enough coolness to combat the sweat of the day. The woman never complained, probably because she was too busy making biscuits, and preserves, and one of my favorite things in the world: Brunswick Stew.

Thing about Brunswick stew is that it’s easy. After you’ve smoked the pork, the brisket, and the chicken, that is. It’s getting to the stew-making that’s the real challenge. Luckily, this is what my family has named the “Summer of the Smoker” so I’m ready for it.

So join me in Georgia this week, where we’ll smoke things, stew things, and if we get really lucky do something with peaches.

See you soon!

Brooke

Spiced Peach Cobbler

Sometimes, you just have to throw your hands into the air and yell “Uncle.” Or, in my case, something far less appropriate for a PG-rated audience. Which is what happened with my abortive attempts at Brunswick Stew. After recovering from the Great Chicken Debacle of 2014, I smoked a new chicken and the pork as planned. All was right in my world. Until, that is, the hungry hordes descended, leaving my beautiful pork nothing more than a little fat and a shoulder bone. So I give. Instead, we’re going to celebrate Georgia with a fresh peach cobbler, inspired by the ones my mother used to make. She used canned peaches, because they were always available, accessible, and cheap. If you have a can of those sitting around the house, or if fresh ones are just way more work than you can, or want to, do, then by all means used canned peach slices–just skip the saute step.  Now, without further ado.

Spiced Peach Cobbler

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

5 cups peeled, sliced peaches (you don’t have to peel them; I just prefer the fuzz-free texture of peeled ones)

5 cups=apx 7 medium peaches

5 cups=apx 7 medium peaches

1 TBS butter

1 1/2 cup sugar, divided

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp cloves

1/2 cup unsalted butter

1 cup flour (all-purpose is fine)

1 TBS baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1 cup milk

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 375
  • In a low skillet over medium heat, melt the butter
  • Add peaches to melted butter
  • Sprinkle with 1/2 cup of the sugar, the cinnamon, and cloves (I stir the spices into the sugar for easier dispersal)
  • Bring to a gentle simmer
  • Let simmer for 5-10 minutes, until the liquid in the pan starts to become syrupy and the peaches are slightly softened

    Just looking at them makes me happy.

    Just looking at them makes me happy.

  • While the peaches are simmering,  cut butter into chunks, then add the chunks to your baking dish*
  • Place the dish of butter into your hot oven and allow it to melt
  • If the peaches are ready, turn off the heat–they can rest in the pan until you need them, otherwise let them continue simmering
  • In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, remaining cup of sugar, and salt
  • Whisk in the milk
  • When the butter has melted, carefully remove your baking dish from the oven
  • Pour the batter over the top of the butter. Do not stir.

    It's hard to not stir this together.  DON"T DO IT

    Not stirring takes a supreme act of will. DON’T DO IT!

  • Spoon peaches and sauce over the batter and butter, again do not stir
  • Carefully return your pan to the oven and bake for 40-45 minutes

Best served warm, with a smidgen of vanilla ice cream if you have some on hand

Note

A 13×9 baking dish is standard. I used a taller 1.5 liter baking dish because that’s what fits into my oven. As a result, my cobbler was much taller than normal, but still very very good. It did, however, take a bit longer to cook–closer to an hour. The moral of this story is that if you don’t have a 13×9 baking dish, don’t sweat it. Use whatever you have and adjust the time accordingly.

Looks a little homely, like a cobbler only it's baker could love. Appearances lie.

Looks a little homely, like a cobbler only it’s baker could love. Appearances lie.

 

Up Next: Connecticut

Meanwhile in My Other Life: Breakfast Potatoes

School started last week–7th grade for the boy, culinary for me. I know there are people who are organized and prepared, but I’m not one of them. I’m more a whirling dervish of panic–we forgot to get half of the school supplies, I can’t find his lunch bag (it was in the freezer out in the garage–don’t ask), what do you mean you need $2 for your towel fee YESTERDAY, here’s a baggie of quarters to pay it and no I don’t have any paper money.  So yeah, it feels like it has been much longer than a week since I back-burnered Georgia, and that there’s a bit of catching up to do. So let’s start here.

In addition to the panic, there’s the planning for breakfasts and lunches. I often wish my child would just eat the school lunch, but after a week of onion-and-mayo sandwiches that left us unable to be in the same room with him no matter how often he showered or brushed his teeth, I let go of that dream. I can only surmise that when they say “sub station” they mean “here’s some bread, load it up bucko!” Maybe not, but there are things I just don’t ask. On the plus side, he’s often happy with leftovers or bruschetta for lunch–things that are easy to assemble the night before. Breakfast, on the other hand, remains a challenge because I think he’s eaten maybe two bowls of breakfast cereal in his entire life. It’s not his thing (unless he’s eating it straight out of the box while playing Minecraft. Again, a completely different story).

One of his favorite meals is what we call Breakfast Potatoes.  Here’s the thing–he leaves for school at 7am, which is wrong on so many levels, so breakfast has to be easy to put together. The nice thing about the potatoes is that I can usually get them together with ingredients we have on hand, and our CSA share has been abundant with potatoes, peppers, onions, and eggs the last couple of weeks. A little bacon or chorizo (or ham or leftover skirt steak, whatever we have on hand), a sprinkle of cheese, and all is well. The biggest challenge is getting the potatoes cooked through, and for this I thank the gods of the microwave. And trust me, it looks far more complicated than it is. I can have it together and in front of him in about 20 minutes.

Breakfast Potatoes

Serves 2

Ingredients

2 small or 1 medium potato*

1/2 cup diced vegetables*

2 oz pre-cooked sausage (or bacon, etc.) (optional)

2 eggs

1 TBS cooking oil

Cheese as desired

Instructions

  • Poke each potato with a fork, so that it vents the steam (preventing a microwave disaster at 6am)
  • Cook on high for about 4 minutes, or until done (more or less depending on your microwave)
  • While the potatoes are cooking, preheat your pan on medium-high and add half of the oil. When the oil is hot add the vegetables and saute while potatoes cook
  • While sauteing and microwaving, enjoy mumbled conversation with your child who is looking bleary-eyed and desperate
  • When the potatoes are done, carefully remove from the microwave and allow them to rest while you pour yourself another cup of coffee
  • Handling them very carefully, dice the potatoes and add to the pan with the vegetables and the rest of the oil
  • Toss the potatoes in the oil/veg mixture. You want the potatoes to be in contact with the hot pan so they can form a bit of that wonderful crust that makes potatoes the food of the gods.
  • Allow to brown for 5-10 minutes*
  • At this point, you can either cook the eggs in a separate pan (fried, scrambled, poached, however you like them), or just watch the potatoes and talk to your kid if you don’t want to use a second pan.
  • When the potatoes are done (or you’re out of time), divide them into two bowls or plates.
  • Top with the eggs and a bit of cheese, a little salt and pepper; you can also add salsa or ketchup. Sriracha if you’re feeling spicy.
  • Take a breath and serve to almost-coherent child

Notes

I use whatever potatoes we have on hand. Last week’s were purple (which explains the muddy color in the photo), but I’ve used russets, fingerlings, redskins, etc.

The vegetables are completely customizable. I always add onions and peppers plus whatever else I have on hand which means squash, broccoli, mushrooms, asparagus.  Any combination works here. Use what you like.

As for that 5-10 minute browning time, use whatever time you have. The potatoes should be fully cooked by the time they hit the pan, so all you’re doing is browning them a bit.

 

 

 

 

Technical Difficulties

This spot was supposed to have a discussion of smoking meat and a recipe for the classic Georgia Brunswick Stew.

Instead, it’s been a week of intermittent rain and exploding chickens. It happens.Luckily, there’s always next week.

See you then–
Brooke