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It’s been some time since I reported on cookbooks, but I have 2 additions that I have to mention, or lightning will strike me. The first is a 2011 Solstice gift from Diane, “BULL COOK and AUTHENTIC HISTORICAL RECIPES AND PRACTICES, by GEORGE LEONARD HERTER  and BERTHE E. HERTER,  Herter’s, Waseca, Minnesota“,  (c) 1960, 61, 62, 63 – in total 7 editions, and a treasure.  To give you a teaser, it provides the instruction for preparing “DOVES WYATT EARP”.  Mine is a 1963.

And today I found another real gold nugget:  a first-edition of “Brown Derby COOK BOOK”, (1949), forward by Rbt. H. Cobb, President, The Brown Derby Corporations, which finally closed in 1985, amid significant national nostalgia, having served generations of Hollywood’s elite.  It has a handsome brown leather cover, with speckled edges – and the seller asked only $6.  It’s worth $50 on Ebay, if you had the heart to sell something irreplaceable.   The Derby opened in 1926.  Sixty years is not a bad run.  The menu was famous for Grapefruit Cake, a cocktail, a Blackbottom Pie, Cobb Salad, a Red Velvet Cake, and a long list of other major & minor culinary credits.

(photo courtesy http://www.etsy.com/listing/78806862/hollywood-vintage-postcard-brown-derby )

Here is the renowned

Brown Derby Black Bottom Pie (10″, serves 8)

Start with Shell Pastry Dough For Open-Faced Pies, 2 10-inch shells

3/8 c (1/4 c & 2 Tbsp) sugar

1 egg

1/4 tsp. lemon rind, grated

Small pinch salt

1/2 tsp vanilla (bean or extract)

2/3 c butter

2-1/4 c flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

Use an electric mixer to combine egg, lemon rind, salt, vanilla, until creamy.  Knead butter till smooth, and add to egg mixture.  [* that’s apparently correct – knead the butter?  Counter-intuitive = good. ]  Then combine all in the mixer at slow speed until a paste is formed.  Beat at high speed for only a moment or two.  Allow the paste to relax, and roll out thin on a lightly floured board, baking the shell at 400F for 10-12 min.  (probably best to do a blind-baking w some aluminum foil and/or pie-weights.)

Now on to the Black Bottom Pie

BROWN DERBY’S BLACK BOTTOM PIE

2 tsp (one envelope) unflavored gelatine

1/2 cup milk

1 oz. sugar (that’s 2 Tbsp)

1 pinch salt

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 egg yolk

3 ounces sweet chocolate

1 pt. cream, whipped (that’s 2 cups of heavy cream, not yet whipped)

1 prebaked baked pie shell

Soak gelatine in small amount of cold water for 15 minutes.  Bring milk to boiling point.  Beat together sugar, salt, half of vanilla, and egg yolks until light, thick, and creamy.  Add 1/2 of the boiling milk over egg mixture.  Blend well, then add to remaining hot milk.  Return to heat, stirring constantly, for a few seconds.  Remove from fire before boiling point is reached.  Press soaked gelatine free of any excess water and dissolve in hot mixture.  Strain through a very fine sieve.  Add 2 ounces of the chocolate, which has been shaved; beat until smooth.  Cool until it reaches creamlike consistency.  Fold in half of whipped cream and remaining  half of vanilla.  Fill prebaked pie shell.  Place in refrigerator for 30 minutes.  Top with remaining whipped cream 1 inch thick.  Remaining chocolate is now shaved into curled spears and stuck in top.  Dust with grated chocolate.

For reference, here is a little more background and some modern context for this famous Hollywood eatery,  as well as an updated read on this recipe:  http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/dailydish/2011/10/from-the-culinary-sos-archive-the-brown-derbys-black-bottom-pie.html
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I stopped at a few stores and located the following ingredients today.  I moved into a new apartment this past week- and I have a gas-stove again, so I am extremely happy (I can use my wok again!) (plus I got my piano back!!)

The ingredients are:  Morel mushrooms (they grow in the wild here in Minnesota- and elsewhere- in the spring); fiddleheads (the beautiful unfurled stems of the earliest ferns- but you have to know which ones are truly good to eat.  If you’re fortunate enough to have them during the 2 or so weeks they are available at your coop or natural food store- get them!!); and finally a fat rainbow trout.  Rolled in blue cornmeal.

Wait till you see the fiddleheads steaming

Today I steam them over med-high heat  in a heavy iron skillet.  I think they’re sort of iron-y.  They develop a very dark mineraly broth, which is restorative in the spring.  This should take about 7-10 min & I turn them.  No seasoning at all.  Remove them, wipe the pan with a paper towel & add 2 tsp olive oil, followed by a TABLESPOON of butter. Let it melt quickly and add a leaf of sage- fresh would be best.  Add pepper, but do not think of adding salt until everything is ready to serve.  Maybe you can do that with other mushrooms- Morels:  Don’t do that.

It is so much fun to pick them.  They grow in the wild, generally in early spring  near fallen oak trees, and gathering them requires a fair amount of work.  Then, they can be sandy, like leeks.  If you’re going to store them in your fridge, do so in a paper bag.  If you use them right away, brush gently and barely swoosh in a little water.

After only a couple minutes of turning in the olive oil and butter (yes, add some ground pepper too), add the fiddleheads, and continue to saute for another minute or two.  After that, simply turn off the heat.

I rolled the rainbow trout in blue cornmeal, lightly seasoned, and pan fried it in equal parts of bacon fat and butter.  Probably about 5 minutes on each side of a 1 pound fish.

How’s that for spring?  Trout, with sage flavored morel mushrooms and fiddleheads, steamed and doused with some butter.

Here is a fairly authentic preparation of Wild Rice.  I’ve been very fortunate to have some good teachers here for the past 20-30 years, around the Great Lakes region, and the old way of preparing manomiin (true wild rice) is very consistent.  I have just adjusted downward the amount of liquid indicated, on the advice of an elder.

Manomiin is an aquatic grass, and it has been harvested faithfully and carefully for probably many times more than a thousand years in what is now Minnesota.  It continues to be gathered in the new millennium in small canoes, with both an Oarsperson and a a Rice Knocker, using traditional carved wooden sticks.  The seeds are then parched, threshed and winnowed to ensure a fine product.

This delicacy- which continues to attract increasing worldwide appreciation- commands the attention of food-lovers and nutritionists alike.  It is a valuable heritage food, and an ancient mainstay of Sovereign Indigenous economies.  Real manomiin packs a whopping 14 grams of completely balanced amino acids, versus the 2-3 grams of incomplete protein that is found in commercial white rice.  In addition to the distinctive, nutty flavor real manomiin also possesses high values of vitamins and fiber- there is absolutely no comparison between the two.

Many Native people can identify a specific lake or region where the rice originates, just as an oenophile can detect and identify the base notes of certain soils in a wine, or alpine summer flowers and grasses in a unique cheese, etc:  “Terroir (/tεʀwaʀ/ in French) was originally a French term in wine and coffee used to denote the special characteristics that geography bestowed upon them. It can be very loosely translated as “a sense of place” which is embodied in certain qualities, and the sum of the effects that the local environment has had on the manufacture of the product. Terroir is often italicized in English writing to show that it is a French loanword, although many now regard it as a word naturalized into English.”  (http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=25529610592)

(photo courtesy of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:WildRice23.jpg )

For my favorite preparation of wild rice I use:

2 cups of water (or chicken or vegetable broth)

-1/2# true wild rice (not the commercial paddy grown product)

-a small handful of dried wild mushrooms (preferably morels), crushed or powdered, is best

-pinch of salt

Wash the wild rice in a bowl in three changes of water, allowing any small grit to settle to the bottom, being careful to strain it off.  Add the water or broth over the washed rice in the cooking pot and set over high heat until it threatens to boil; then turn the heat down immediately.  You may cover, or half-cover,  the pot and allow it to simmer for up to 20 minutes, until the liquid has been absorbed.  True wild rice cooks quicker and better than its ersatz, genetically modified commercially grown paddy ‘wild’ rice counterpart, which takes up to twice as long to cook, and yields a product with less than half the flavor.  You can tell when authentic rice is fully cooked, however, because it will fill out and burst slightly, and many of the outer ends of begin to curl elegantly inward.

Meanwhile, you have now toasted or roasted a a big handful- a generous half-cup of hazelnuts in the oven or on the stove top for several minutes until they are fragrant.  Rub them between your hands after they have cooled, until they are bare to your satisfaction.  I like to leave them with a good deal of the skins on, because of course it is better for you, and it also imparts a deeper flavor.

When the hazelnuts are cool, chop them roughly, as you heat a heavy 10-inch skillet over medium heat with a generous tablespoonful of vegetable oil.  Any good fat will do in fact.  Sometimes I use rendered bacon grease, which gives everything a nice smokey flavor- although you could alternatively add a pinch of smoked paprika, which will accomplish almost the same thing.

To this grease, add a medium chopped onion, or a cup of chopped scallions (or a combination of the two) and allow everything to sweat with a sprinkling of salt until translucent- about 6-10 minutes.  I often throw in a clove of finely minced garlic as well.  Wild onion and wild garlic are frequent players in Native American traditional cooking across the continent.  I also like to add a bay leaf, as well as ground black pepper (think:  Christopher Columbus), since it completes a recognizable modern flavor profile.  It would be good at this point to include a strong pinch of crumbled dried mint or thyme, if you have it.  (Fresh is equally good, but you will have to use twice as much, of course, finely chopped.)

Now, for the fruit.  Fruit?  Yes.  Have in your hand a generous 1/2 cup of some kind of dried fruit.  If you don’t have dried blueberries (an ancient and revered ingredient, full of modern and highly worshiped anti-oxidants), use an equal amount of dried cranberries, or even raisins.  Don’t be afraid to use dried apricots if that’s all you have.  It’s all good, and you will be happy with the result.  Chop up some dried figs or apples, if that’s what you have in your cupboard.

Combine the cooked manoomin and the other ingredients into a serving bowl, and stir everything together with conviction.  You now have a very respectable preparation of wild rice in front of you, and I think you and your friends should begin eating it while it is hot.  In the unlikely event that there are leftovers, chill them in the refrigerator, and scatter what you have the following day over salad greens and anoint everything with a simple dressing.  This will be a completely new dish, and you can serve it with impertinence to any visiting dignitary to impress them.  Doesn’t matter which side of the ocean you happen to be.  Don’t be afraid to add chopped parsley- or any other bright greens- that will make the dish pop in front of your family, friends or peripatetic plenipotentiaries.

*in honor of a very pleasurable evening of cooking with Sabina and Citty