Corned Beef

Corned Beef

This is a main component of a New England-style St. Patrick's Day corend-beef-and-cabbage dinner, a New England Boiled Dinner, and the Plymouth Succotash, as well as Corned Beef Hash and some wonderful sandwiches.

This recipe is to cook and cool the beef to be used for hash or sandwiches.

You can start with corning the brisket yourself with the recipe in Salt Beef, where you will also find some interesting lore about this old favorite.

Irish Whole Wheat Soda Bread

Irish Whole Wheat Soda BreadThis is great sliced thin and served with almost any kind of cheese, especially farmhouse cheese and local ale!

I made this one with King Arthur Irish-style flour and NH buttermilk, but the supermarket stuff makes good bread too - this is an excellent recipe.



Here's a version of the New England and Canadian Maritimes classic, often served for breakfast with Baked Beans (but they're great with fried eggs, too!

You can buy fishcakes in a can. It's easier than making your own. But they're disgusting.

Some restaurants, especially clamshacks, sell fishcakes. In many cases they're no better than the canned ones. Sometimes they're 9-parts potato with a hint of fish essence.

These are not hard to make, and you get enough servings that it's worth your while. The mixture keeps in the fridge for some days so you can fry up a few fishcakes when you want them.

For a simpler, more historical version, see Yankee Fish Cakes

A Smashing Cocktail

Apricot Smash on a Snowy Day

Annette requested a drink called an apricot smash, so I got on line and looked at recipes using vodka and rye, but selected one that called for bourbon. You were supposed to muddle a fresh apricot, but there are none in the supermarket at this time of year, so I got canned apricots instead.

For one drink I used four ounces of bourbon and two canned apricot halves, the juice of one lemon, and about a teaspoon of simple syrup. Recently I splurged on a nifty muddler from Crate and Barrel, but it didn't seem the thing for canned apricots, so I put the whisky, the lemon juice and the apricot halves in the blender and whizzed them up.  Then I strained the mixture into a shaker and added the syrup.

You can buy simple syrup at the liquor store, but it's easy to make.  You stir equal measures of sugar and water in a pan and boil it until the liquid becomes clear.  Put the syrup in a covered jar and store it in the refrigerator.  Don't make too much because it will become moldy after a while and have to be thrown away.  Always check the syrup for spots of mold before using.


Classic GingerbreadAnother New England classic, easy to make, with a wonderful old-time flavor!

This is good to make on a snowy winter evening when you've had just about enough of January or February and a little something special is in order, especially if it's not too complicated. 

Sometimes I sprinkle some sugar on top before baking it, or some chopped up crystallized ginger, but honestly it doesn't need any of that claptrap - this is a fine classic recipe for a winter's evening! 

Palme d’Or

Florida is a state I associate with traffic-clogged highways lined with fast food joints, body shops, psychic readers, and strip clubs. The locals call people like me Q-Tips.

The Palme d'Or Hotel, in Miami - photo by Richmond TalbotNevertheless, Annette and I were invited to a Florida wedding we couldn’t miss. As we started out for Logan Airport with boarding passes for a flight to Miami, the car thermometer read 6°above and soared to 9° by the time we arrived at the terminal. I can gripe about flat, scrubby landscape and the high-rise blighted beaches, but when you walk out of any Florida airport, including Miami International, you smell vegetation and warm soil. Coral Gables is an exception to my prejudiced view of the Sunshine State, and the Biltmore Miami Hotel, where our hosts had reserved a block of rooms has a lot of class. On the evening we arrived we went to dinner at the Plame d’Or restaurant in the hotel.

My memory reaches back to the day when waiters in French Restaurants were stiff and condescending. When you ordered, they’d repeat what you said, correcting your pronunciation. On at least one occasion I pronounced my selection properly, and a wannabe French snob got it wrong. Usually they managed to give me the feeling I’d somehow gotten in where I didn’t belong.

Something Fowl

Type of Post: 
What's on my Plate?

Light and Heavy FowlI was preparing a recipe that called for a fowl. That's not so unusual; fowl are tough old birds, stringier and better suited for the stockpot than for roasting or frying. Fowl are used instead of younger birds when flavor is important and tenderness is not.

But I encountered an unexpected complication. At Compare Foods in downtown Worcester, I found Fresh Heavy Fowl and Fresh Light Fowl - what to do? The heavy fowl was much more expensive per pound (although still cheap), but I had no other clues. So I came home and did some more research. Here's what I learned.

Heavy FowlChickens are raised for meat or for laying eggs, and the birds that are bred to be good at one are not so well suited for the other.  Of course, the ones bred for meat come from eggs, too, but those eggs are laid by big meaty mamas.

When either type reaches the end of her laying life, it is slaughtered for fowl. The meat-producer chickens become heavy fowl and the egg-producing chickens become light fowl. Since you're looking for flavor, the heavy fowl is the superior choice for stocks and stews. 

Read any good books lately?

Type of Post: 
Best of Show

A classic of New England CookeryHave you seen the listing of cookbooks in What's on My Shelf? If you're the sort to enjoy whiling away a winter evening with a few good cookbooks and dreams of great ingredients and friendly farmers' markets...Well you could do worse than the two dozen+ books on that section of this site.

There is a broad variety of books listed there, with links to Amazon pages for the same books. Most (all?) of them feature in recipes on this site. And they have writer's insights about the books, and more. It's not a comprehensive list of the best cookbooks in the world, or even of the best in New England. Honestly, who has the presumption to tell you what's best? Why would you listen to that presumptuous fool?

This list is randomly generated from the sources of the recipes on this site, and the few books that simply could not be ignored - This is what's on my shelf. What's on yours?

Maple Syrup Standards

The Four Proposed Grades, image from IMSITwo international organizations cooperate to help ensure quality and production of Maple Syrup and the health of the often very local, small-farm maple syrup production industry:

  • The North American Maple Syrup Council is comprised of representatives from state/provincial maple producer associations in Canada and the United States. This organization focuses primarily on issues of concern to maple syrup producer groups and actively supports maple research.
  • The International Maple Syrup Institute is comprised of state and provincial maple associations, maple equipment manufacturers and other maple businesses and individuals. The Institute focuses its efforts on international standards for pure maple syrup, product quality assurance and marketing in the international marketplace. The two organizations often work together in helping resolve issues of importance to the maple syrup industry

The IMSI is all about the quality standards, espousing the mission:

  • To protect the integrity of pure maple syrup;
  • To encourage more industry cooperation; and,
  • To improve communication within the international maple syrup industry.

(These three bullets and the two above are quoted from the IMSI website, linked above)

Rock Shrimp

Rock Shrimp, photo by Richmond Talbot

It's a great thing at my age to discover a new seafood, and I just devoured my first mess of Rock Shrimp. These little critters have been off the Florida Coast for a long time, but no one fished for them for a very good reason. They aren't named rock shrimp because of their habitat; it's because their shells are rock hard and until recently there was no practical way to get to the good stuff. Now with the invention of high speed splitting machines, these well armored crustaceans have hit the market, and I'm sending up a cheer.

I had my first taste of them at Dixie Crossroads in Titusville, Florida. If you're on your way to Cape Canaveral, it's a good place to stop. You may just spend your afternoon eating shrimp and forget all about outer space.

You can order rock shrimp by the pound. If you make a mistake and under-order, your friendly waitress will bring you more. She starts you off with corn fritters, which are addictive, but filling, so go easy. The shrimp are sweet. Some compare the flavor to lobster, but I think it's unique, and these were absolutely the best shrimp I ever tasted. They came broiled and accompanied by lemon and melted butter. Annette liked them with butter, but I thought they were perfect with just a side of cheese grits.

Should you have any room when the shrimp are gone, Dixie Crossroads serves an excellent key lime pie.

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