Monday, March 30, 2009

[Baked] Potato Soup

Mrs. BA and I are big fans of the Baked Potato soup that we used to get at Houston's restaurant. (After a while, you could only get it at the Rockville location, where Tuesday is Baked Potato soup night). So what joy it was to find local Cheverly Chef Scott posting a great recipe for Potato Cheddar Soup. Enjoy!

Potato-Cheddar Soup
  • 6 strips of bacon, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 3 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and diced into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 2lbs potatoes, peeled and diced into 1/2 inch pieces (about five medium potatoes)
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 4 cloves of roasted garlic
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  1. Fry the bacon in a large pot until crispy and the fat has rendered out. Reserve bacon on a paper towel lined plate. Pour out all but one tablespoon of bacon fat.
  2. Add the onions to the pot with the one tablespoon of bacon fat. Saute until tender and translucent. Add the fresh thyme, carrot and potatoes. Pour in the chicken broth and bring to a simmer, until the potatoes are fork tender. Prior to the next step, remove the stems of thyme.
  3. Working in batches, puree the soup in a food processor or blender. Add the roasted garlic to the first batch of soup to be pureed. Process until smooth. If you would like some texture to the soup, other than silky smooth, don't process until fully smooth, leave some bits and pieces of potato.
  4. Return the pureed soup to the pot and add the cheese and cream. Stir until the cheese is melted and the cream is incorporated. If you wish to thin the soup out, add some additional broth or cream. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Serve hot and garnish with the cooked bacon and if you have them, some fresh snipped chives.
NOTE: If you wish to make this soup vegetarian, skip the bacon. Just cook the onions in olive oil. And instead of chicken broth, use vegetable broth. For some additional flavor you could add about 1/2 a cup of beer. Also, if you don't have a food processor or blender, you can make this soup more rustic by mashing the tender potatoes and vegetables with a potato masher. You will have a hearty, textured soup that is a little less creamy and maybe a little more brothy.

Monday, March 23, 2009

The History of the Bagel and a Hamantaschen recipe

Can you really have a recipe when you're going to talk history of the official food of the greater New York area? We'll see what we can come up with by the end. Some time ago, Slate had a very interesting article on the History of the Bagel (subtitled "from Ancient Egypt to Lenders"). Who knew? This also led to a good review of a book, "The Bagel," which I found from a link on Marginal Revolution.

No trip to New York is complete for me without acquiring at least a dozen bagels from Bagel Boss in Hicksville and usually several Hamantaschen cookies. So with the history of the bagel, here is a good Hamantashcen recipe that made its way to my Google reader a few weeks ago.

The recipe comes from Maida Heatter's Book of Great Cookies (Knopf, 1977)

Makes 27 cookies

  • 2 cup sifted all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons double-acting baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 lb (1 stick) butter, cold and firm
  • 1 egg
  • Finely grated rind of 1 bright-colored orange
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons orange juice
Sift together, into a large mixing bowl, the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Cut the butter into 1/2-inch slices, and with a pastry blender, cut it into the dry ingredients until the particles are fine and the mixture resembles coarse meal. Beat the egg lightly just to mix. Stir the egg, orange rind, and juice into the dough. Mix thoroughly and then stir well until the dough is completely moistened and smooth. Wrap in wax paper or plastic wrap, flatten the dough slightly, and refrigerate overnight.

The filling may be made the next day or it may be made ahead of time and kept at room temperature for a day or two or refrigerated for a longer time.

  • 12 ounces unsweetened dried pitted prunes (about 2 cups, lightly packed)
  • 6 ounces unsweetened dried apricots (about 1 cup, lightly packed)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup honey [these are better with a mild clover honey than with a strongly flavored one]
  • 2 1/2 ounces (3/4 cup) walnuts, cut into medium-size pieces
Cut the prunes and apricots into small pieces. Place them in a saucepan with the water. Bring to a boil, cover, and lower the heat so that they just simmer for 10 to 15 minutes until very soft. (Some fruits are drier than others -- if the water evaporates before the fruit is soft add another spoon or two of water and cook a bit longer.) Add the lemon juice and honey. Cook, stirring almost constantly, for about 5 minutes (it should not get too thick; it will thicken more while cooling). Stir in the nuts and set aside to cool.

When you are ready to bake, adjust two racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat to 400 deg. Cut aluminum foil to fit cookie sheets.

Work with half the pastry at a time; refrigerate the other half. Work quickly or the dough will become sticky. On a floured pastry cloth with a floured rolling pin, roll out the dough, turning it over occasionally to keep both sides floured. Roll it to an even 1/8-inch thickness (that is thin but be careful -- if you roll the dough too thin, it will be hard to handle). With a plain round 3-inch cookie cutter, cut the dough into rounds. (Reserve the scraps of dough, press them together, and rechill until firm enough to roll.)

Hold one round in your hand. Place a rounded teaspoonful of the filling in the center, mounding it rather high -- it will not run out in baking. Fold up two sides of the dough -- each side should be a third of the circle -- and pinch them together where they meet, forming a triangle and leaving a generous opening at the top. The filling should extend above the top of the pastry. (If the rounds of pastry become soft or sticky before you shape them, transfer then with a wide metal spatula to a tray or cookie sheet and chill briefly in the freezer or refrigerator only until they are firm enough to handle.)

Place the Hamantaschen 1 1/2 to 2 inches apart on the cut foil. Slide cookie sheets under the pieces of foil. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes until the cookies are barely colored on the sides, slightly darker on the edges. Reverse the sheets top to bottom and front to back to insure even browning. If you bake only one sheet at a time bake it high in the oven.

With a wide metal spatula, transfer the Hamantaschen to racks to cool, or serve them warm. If anyone is in the kitchen with me when I bake these, very few if any actually have a chance to cool.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Thanks, Mom

Today would have been my mother's 79th birthday. I miss her everyday.

The house I lived in growing up was near a major road, which frequently saw rescue vehicles scream down it, on their way to some accident, fire, or medical emergency. My mother would often get up and go out on the porch to watch them go by. My siblings and I always thought of buying my mother a police scanner to help her stay on top of things. There were even some occasions when my mother would jump into the car and follow the fire trucks. She loved a good fire. In my mother's memory, I went out last night on a "ride along" with the Cheverly Police department. While it was something I wanted to do as part of my campaign for Councilman, I also thought it would be fun. And my mother would have loved it.

It was a quiet night in the town. My ride along was with Officer Lamb (Cheverly PD's Officer of the Year in 2007!). We rolled through the various trouble spots in the town, with Officer Lamb pointing out this and that. We made a few traffic stops (one for no seatbelt, one for a headlight out) and then took out the radar gun. We made two speeding stops, including one woman who was driving with a suspended license (and had her six-year old in the front seat with her). We then went to a stolen car report (which will happen when you leave the keys in the ignition). After that, we ended the evening with a fire (I'm sure my mother planned that one). A small fire broke out in the apartments in the town, and the FD had to break open a few doors to check on residents. At the same time, two of the fire trucks sideswiped each other, taking off a mirror on one of the trucks. When Officer Lamb headed back to the station to write up his reports, I took my leave and headed home. It was a very good experience and I am glad I did it.

Some time ago, I received the following video from my friend north of the border, Stinkypaw. I have to say that Mrs. BA finds herself saying to LBA quite often, "What did I just say?" I have taken to telling him something and then asking, "Do you understand?" or "What did I say?" Sometimes he gets it sometimes he doesn't. But it's selective - he's four. Then there was the time that he knocked his little brother down after being told not to do so. When he was asked why he hit his brother, he replied, "I didn't hit him, Mommy, I punched him."

Friday, March 20, 2009

Firsts - but second

Because she said I would.

1. Who was your FIRST prom date?
  • The one I actually went to? Kim from Huntsville, AL. The first one I was invited to? That would be Donna Kadlub, who invited me to get her ex-boyfriend to ask her - then she decided to go with him. And don't get me started on the 9th grade formal. It was like that scene in Say Anything ("sitting here at like the Gas 'n' Sip on a Saturday night completely alone drinking beers with no women anywhere?")
2. Do you still talk to your FIRST love?
  • How are we defining love? But no, whoever she is, I am not still in contact with her. But I talk to my true love every day.
3. What was your FIRST alcoholic drink?
  • I was always a vodka guy.
4. What was your FIRST job?
5. What was your FIRST car?
6. Who was the FIRST person to text you today?
  • Haven't received one yet, but I don't get a lot of personal ones - hockey scores and news alerts are the majority of my texts.
7. Who is the FIRST person you thought of this morning?
  • Mrs. BA
8. Who was your FIRST grade teacher?
  • Ms. Marino
9. Where did you go on your FIRST ride on an airplane?
  • I think the first time I flew was when I went to France in 1983.
10. Who was your FIRST best friend & do you still talk?
  • Probably Gary and not as much as we should.
11. Where was your FIRST sleep over?
  • I think Gary again.
12. Who was the FIRST person you talked to today?
  • Mrs. BA - telling her I wanted five more minutes (that's usually the first words we exchange in the morning)
13. Whose wedding were you in the FIRST time?
  • My brother's wedding (we wore Morning Suits - I was a teenager)
14. What was the FIRST thing you did this morning?
  • Getting breakfast ready for the boys
15. What was the FIRST concert you ever went to?
  • Easy - Billy Joel, Madison Square Garden, 1985 - we got tickets through a lottery system. You sent a check and a self-addressed stamped envelope and your tickets came back to you in the mail. How quaint.
16. FIRST tattoo?
  • Thank you, no.
17. FIRST piercing?
  • Again, thank you, no.
18. FIRST foreign country you visited?
  • Canada (on a school trip to Quebec) followed by the aforementioned France.
19. FIRST movie you remember seeing?
20. When was your FIRST detention?
  • Thanks for bringing that up - Lunchtime detention, elementary school, with Mr. Zazucha. And just when I thought I had blocked that out.
21. What was the FIRST state you lived in?
  • New York
22. Who was your FIRST roommate?
  • I went off to college and my first roommate never showed, so I had a semester with no roommate (but three suitemates). Second semester, Joe Basi showed up, less than stellar student, but a good pot farmer (remind me to tell you that story some day)
23. If you had one wish. What would it be?
  • "I'd like to teach the world to sing . . . " - no really, I guess - is not being tired a good wish?
24. What is something you would learn if you had the chance?
  • I would love to learn to fly and get my pilot's license
25. Who do you think will be the next person to post this?
  • Possibly the Canadian Paw or Ohioan Amy

Monday, March 16, 2009

Heart Attack on a Stick

Yet one more reason that I am not allowed to own a deep fryer. I would certainly be dead by now.

French Fry Coated Hot Dog
from this website, seen first on Buzzfeed

  • One hotdog
  • One large russet potato
  • Plenty of oil for deep frying
For the batter:
  • 100 grams of plain flour
  • 75 grams of cornmeal
  • 1 egg
  • 2 teaspoons of sugar
  • half a cup of milk
Peel the potato then slice into french fries in a mandolin slicer (or do it by hand). Set aside.

Mix together the dry batter ingredients, add the egg and the milk. Mix to a thick paste, adding more milk if it is too dry: you’re aiming at the batter being thick and sticky rather than runny like a real corn dog batter, slightly more viscous than a dough. Set aside.

Fry the french fries in oil until golden. Remove from the oil onto a paper towel. Coat the hotdog in the batter, then glue the french fries to the dog as best you can. Drop this monstrosity back into the boiling oil and fry until the french fries begin to brown.

Monday, March 9, 2009

A Timeline of Food

I know I've mentioned this before, but I love I'll even forgive him for a recent post when he got snarky (well, quoted someone else's snarkiness) about preserving the website before the change over. He shared this great timeline with his readers in early December and it's too good not to share.

The Food Timeline
Just remember, the foods we eat are not invented, they evolve. As OSG is fond of saying, how about the guy who decided that eggs were edible. "Hey that thing just came out of that chicken's ass, let's eat it!"

Here's a recipe I selected from the timeline. It is for Bananas Foster, which brings back memories of my father flambeing bananas after dinner on more than one occasion. The recipe is from Brennan's in New Orleans.

Bananas Foster
  • ¼ cup (½ stick) butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ cup banana liqueur
  • 4 bananas, cut in half lengthwise, then halved
  • ¼ cup dark rum
  • 4 scoops vanilla ice cream
Combine the butter, sugar, and cinnamon in a flambé pan or skillet. Place the pan over low heat either on an alcohol burner or on top of the stove, and cook, stirring, until the sugar dissolves. Stir in the banana liqueur, then place the bananas in the pan. When the banana sections soften and begin to brown, carefully add the rum. Continue to cook the sauce until the rum is hot, then tip the pan slightly to ignite the rum. When the flames subside, lift the bananas out of the pan and place four pieces over each portion of ice cream. Generously spoon warm sauce over the top of the ice cream and serve immediately.

Friday, March 6, 2009

One Down, Three to Go

I found out that I lost an election today. As many of you know, I was a candidate for Chair of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference (MARAC), the professional organization of which I have been a member since becoming an archivist nearly fifteen years ago. I am certainly disappointed in the outcome, it was an election I had really hoped to win. My opponent was a formidable candidate and she will do a great job. I will hope for the opportunity to run for the job again in two years. I really believe in the organization and look forward to the chance at helping the group continue to move forward. In a very conciliatory note from the Chair-elect, she has offered me an opportunity to serve the organization that I really do love. I hope to have some opportunity to help.

I am also a candidate for Nominating Committee for the Society of American Archivists, my national professional organization. That voting will commence next week. If chosen to be a member of the Nominating Committee, I will have a voice in selecting the next leaders of the Society. There is a lot going on in our profession right now and it is essential for us to have strong leadership to guide our profession in the right directions. So look for my name on your SAA ballot, if you are a member. I would appreciate your support. Here at my employer, I am coming to the end of my first term as the Treasurer of the staff professional association. I have agreed to run for a second term. So we will see how that one turns out.

Finally, I have made a decision to run for town council in my hometown. It is an idea that I have thought about for several months, after discussions with several of my neighbors and community members. The incumbent has decided to run for another term, but I have some ideas that I feel would benefit my town and would like the opportunity to make a difference for my community. So if you live in Cheverly, in my Ward, I'll be coming around to see you. I will look forward to hearing your ideas. That election will take place in early May.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Presidential Portions

Can you believe it has been a little over a month with our new president? I get all giddy when I hear about "Former President Bush" and they have to qualify which one! In case you missed it, here is my favorite of the recipes from the luncheon after the Inauguration ceremonies.

Seafood Stew (serves 10)
  • 6 (1 Lb) Maine lobsters
  • 20 medium size Sea scallops
  • 36 Large shrimp, peel, cleaned and tail removed, approx. 2 lbs.
  • 10 (1 oz) pieces of black cod
  • ½ cup small dice carrots
  • ½ cup small dice celery
  • ½ cup small dice leek
  • ½ cup small dice Idaho potato
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground white pepper or black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 quart heavy cream
  • 1 cup dry vermouth (can be made without)
  • 10 (5 inch) puff pastry rounds
Bring 1 gallon of water to a boil; poach lobsters, then shrimp, then black cod and last scallops. After seafood is cooked, remove from water; reserve water and bring to boil.

Cook all vegetables in liquid that was used for the seafood, remove vegetables when tender. Allow the liquid to continue to boil until only 1qt of liquid remains. This will be the base for the sauce.

Bring seafood liquid back to a boil and add the vermouth and heavy cream and reduce by half,
season with salt, white pepper and nutmeg to taste. You have reached your desired thickness when the sauce will cover the back of a wooden spoon. Set aside to cool.

Cut Maine lobster, shrimp and scallops into bite size pieces.

Pre-heat oven at 400 degrees.

Fold seafood and vegetables into cool sauce, being careful not to mix too much as this will break up the seafood. Scoop mixture into terrines or oven proof baking dish of your choice.

Cover terrines with puff pastry rounds, brush them with egg wash and bake them until golden
brown about 8-10 minutes, allow to cool for 5 minutes before serving. You can cook this 2-3 hours ahead of time and keep warm at 150 F degrees.