Friday, October 24, 2014

Danish Apple Bars with Brown Butter Frosting

Our apple crop this year has not been nearly so large as last year, and the quality of the apples is lesser also.  However, we have taken the opportunity to make a couple of these Danish Apple Bars. This is a perfect seasonal recipe for autumn when apples can seem to be multiplying before your very eyes and while the chickens begin to respond to the waning daylight by slackening off on their laying.

The first step is to cut 1 cup of vegetable shortening into 2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour and a scant teaspoon of salt.  I always use a pastry blender for this job.

Shortening, flour, and salt blended together.
Next, place an egg yolk in a measuring cup.  Add a little vanilla and enough water or milk to make 2/3 c. of wet ingredients.  Beat the mixture until well combined.

The egg yolk, vanilla, and milk combined to make 2/3 cup.
Add wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and combine.  Do not over beat!  This is a pastry after all.
The completed pastry dough.
Divide the dough in half and roll one half into a 10x15-inch rectangle.  Line the bottom of a 10x15 jelly roll pan with this bottom crust.
The bottom crust in the jelly roll pan.
Next, peel eight to ten small baking apples and slice them thin as for pie.  Spread these on top of the bottom crust.  On top of the apples, sprinkle two handfuls of corn flakes (to absorb some of the moisture from the apples), one cup sugar, and one teaspoon of cinnamon.  I also added some raisins because I love them--in everything.  

The apple, corn flake, sugar, cinnamon, (and raisin) mixture.
Roll out the other half of the crust and put it on top of the fruit mixture.  Seal the edges.  Beat the egg white and brush it over the top of the upper crust.

The Danish Apple Bars ready to go into the oven.  My second
one of these of the season looked a lot better.
Bake in a moderately hot oven for 45-60 minutes.  The recipe says to bake it at 400 degrees for that amount of time, but I think that an oven closer to 375 degrees for about forty minutes seems better.  You be the judge based on how brown you want the crust to be and how thickly you have sliced the apples.
Danish Apple Bars baking in the oven of Marjorie, the Margin
Gem cookstove.

The finished bars.  The second batch of these was not so dark,
partly because I didn't put the egg white on top.

And now for my favorite part of the whole thing: the frosting!

Some of you may recall that I had written about the Applishus booths at the Iowa State Fair and how wonderful I consider their frosting.  This recipe is so similar to what they use that it may be the very same recipe.  I found it on page 339 of the 463-page Kitchen Klatter cookbook, a wonderful collection of recipes that I sometimes call "the southwest Iowa kitchen bible."  This was a very popular cookbook in our area in the middle of the last century, and it remains so popular that they are very hard to come by.

For the frosting, melt 1/4 cup of butter.

A half stick of butter melting over the fire.

Gently brown the butter.

Add the browned butter to two cups of powdered sugar.  Add 2 Tbls. cream, 2 Tbls. hot water, and 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla.  Beat until smooth.

The finished frosting.
Drizzle frosting over the pastry.

Here are the same recipes in a little more accessible form:
Danish Apple Bars
2 1/2 c. flour
1 tsp. salt
1 c. vegetable shortening
1 egg yolk
1/2 tsp. vanilla
enough water or milk with the above to ingredients to make 2/3 c.
Directions: Mix as for pie crust.  Roll out half to cover the bottom of a 10x15 inch jelly roll pan.
8-10 medium baking apples
1 c. sugar
2 handfuls corn flakes
1 tsp. cinnamon
Directions: 1. Peel and core apples, slice thin. 
2. Spread apples and rest of filling ingredients on bottom crust.
3. Roll out top crust and place over apple filling.  Seal edges.
4. Beat egg white and brush over top crust if desired.
5. Bake at 400 degrees for 45-60 minutes until apples are done.  (See what I think about this above.)
 Brown Butter Frosting
(p. 339 of the Kitchen Klatter Cookbook, The Prairie Press, 17th Printing, March 1978)
1/4 c. butter or margarine, melted
2 cups powdered sugar
2 Tbls. cream
2 Tbls. hot water
1 1/2 tsp. Kitchen Klatter vanilla flavoring
Melt butter or margarine over a low flame until golden brown.  Remove from fire and add sugar, cream, water and vanilla.  Beat until smooth and creamy.
I have also used this recipe for making apple strudel.  Instead of making the pastry into bars that will be cut into squares, I roll the pastry out, put the apple filling along one side, then start rolling the fruit up in the pastry.  It works pretty slick.  I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I do.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Request for Information about the Olympic B-18 Range

If you've followed this blog for any length of time, you know that every once in a while I get a comment from a reader that I feel needs more attention than it would receive if simply left in the comments section of a blog post. Such is the case with a recent comment put on the "Purchasing a New Wood Cookstove" entry from June 2013.

Blog reader Charlie G. asked if anyone had any information about the Olympic B-18 range made by the Washington Stove Works in Everett, Washington.  I will share the little bit that I had on hand here, but if any of you readers can help Charlie out, please use the comments section below.

The Olympic B-18 Family Range made by the
Washington Stove Works.  Pretty sharp looking
cookstove, in my opinion.

I knew which range Charlie was asking about because my grandmother on my dad's side was a great catalog saver.  I have 1950s Sears catalogs that she saved which were found "over top of the garage" and various catalogs from the 60s, 70s, and 80s.  Thus, the picture that you see above is a scan of page 990 from a JCPenney catalog.  Unfortunately, I do not know the exact year because I took this scan from just a few pages that were removed from it.  I can say with certainty that this stove was not carried by Penney's in the early 1970s, but did appear in their catalogs for a space of about three years in the late 70s when wood heat was making a comeback due to high energy prices.

Compared to the other wood heating stoves that Penney's advertised on the near pages, the price of the Olympic was quite high, which leads me to believe that its quality might have been pretty good, too.

The catalog description reads as follows:

One of America's Classic Stoves . . . authentic down to the smallest detail.  Cast from original molds by Washington Stove Works, builders of fine wood-burning stoves since 1875.  All castings made of Western Gray Iron, famous for its strength and toughness.  Ideal for your home or country retreat.  Superbly crafted, this stove lets you heat a large room or cook a complete meal on its full-size, cast iron cooking surface.  This surface also has cast-iron polished tops, 32-in. rag rack and commercial-size 27x40-in. griddle.  Lids and center are reinforced to prevent warping, sagging and crackling.  Two center posts support the top section--helps keep it flat.  Linings are sectional to avoid burning out.  Oven is heavy-gauge, rust-resistant steel with heavy cast-iron braces.  The body is one-piece 20-gauge polished steel, features triple-wall construction accented with heavy nickel-plated trim and legs.  Kettle shown not included.  Firebox: 9 in. wide, 20 in. deep, 9 in. high.  Cooking surface:35 1/4 in. wide (wing shelf adds 4 1/2 in. to width), 26 1/2 in. deep, 31 1/2 in. high.  Oven: 18x18 1/2 x 13 in high.  Overall: 59 3/4 in. high.  Installation: use with 8-in. stovepipe, sold above, from stove to ceiling or wall.  Finish the installation with 8-in. Metalbestos Chimney Pipe, sold on page 998.  Not fully assembled--only pliers and screwdriver needed; instructions included.  See Clearance information below.  Warranted by manufacturer--see page 802.
RJ 904-2078 A--Delivery Class C--see page 808.  Wt. 490 lbs. ....1299.99

The clearance information states that the required space between the sides of the stove and a combustible wall is 36 inches.  The clearances from the stove to the outside edge of non-combustible floor protection is 12 inches on all sides.

Charlie is looking for any information that about this stove, and he wonders if anyone has an owner's manual.  Again, if you have any additional information, please utilize the comments feature below.

P.S.:  With the two brand new cookstoves that I have purchased in the last seventeen years, the information that came with them was sparse to say the least.  That's why I started this blog.  I'll do my best to answer any questions that anyone has.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Trivets and Simmering Pads: Keys to Stovetop Flexibility

It seems like I have written quite a bit about how to use the oven on a woodburning cookstove, but have written relatively little about using the cooktop.  I suppose this is partly due to the fact that stovetop cooking on a woodburning range is really pretty easy.  In a nutshell, high heat is directly over the firebox, medium heat is the middle section of the stovetop, and low heat is the section of the stovetop farthest from the fire.  All the cook needs to do is slide pots and pans to the location that is providing the desired level of heat . . . usually.

One of the things that can make stovetop cooking a bit challenging is that there are times when the whole cooktop is too hot for things that you want to cook very slowly or gently.  A stovetop which is too hot can be caused by a number of reasons.  The first and probably most common reason is that your fire is serving multiple functions.  For example, if you are baking something that needs a hot oven--say 400-425 degrees or more--or if your cookstove is doing double duty as the sole means of heating your home on a cold winter's night, your fire might be hot enough that the whole cooktop is running somewhere between what would be considered high or medium high heat on a modern range.

In his 1978 book entitled Wood Heat, John Vivian writes, "When there is a good baking fire going, there will be live flame under all lids and the entire cooktop will be hot enough to boil water with the lids in place."  In my experience, the "live flame under all the lids" part isn't true, but the part about the entire cooktop being able to boil water certainly is.

Sometimes you also need a hot fire because of what you are doing on the cooktop itself.  If you are canning--especially in the case of water bath canning--or heating large amounts of water for laundry, you might need a raging fire beneath just part of the cooktop.  What you are trying to cook on the rest of the stovetop might not benefit at all from such an intense heat.

Furthermore, in the case of small cookstoves (see the pic of my brother's), two-lid kitchen heaters, boxwood stoves, or combination ranges where the wood heated cooktop is abbreviated, the heat of the cooktop might be uniformly hot when you need a variety of heat levels. 

This is where trivets and simmering pads come in handy.  By raising a cooking vessel enough that it no longer is making direct contact with the stovetop, they reduce the amount of heat which is being transferred from the stove to the food.  These wood cookstove accessories can be found in just about any shape or form and are generally inexpensive.   I added to my collection of these over the summer, so I thought I would show them to you.

Starting at the top left side and working clockwise, a grate from
the sidecar burner of a gas grill, the new round simmering pad from
the Goodwill Warehouse, a relatively new perforated steel simmering
pad, a "burner shield" still with its original packaging, and the four-
point star that belonged to my Granny.
The square grate that you see at the top left is the grate that went over the top of the sidecar burner on a gas grill.  We live on the road that takes people from the western side of our county to the county trash compactor, and occasionally, some interesting things end up in our ditches because they blow out of the back of pickups on the way there.  Several years ago, a gas grill that was long past its prime had exited its transport in just that fashion, and there were gas grill parts everywhere.  I rummaged through them and salvaged this nifty little piece.  I have used it a few times.  Since it holds a pan about three-quarters of an inch off the stovetop, it can provide a nice warm spot for something to rest, or when placed directly over the firebox, I've seen pots boil while sitting on it too.
The round simmering pad at the right rear was at the Goodwill Warehouse this summer, and I felt that it needed to go home with me.  You buy merchandise by the pound there, so I estimate that I paid about $.80 for it.  I'll let you know how I like it once I've used it.
The simmering pad at the lower right is one that I purchased new shortly after buying the Qualified range in 1997.  I found it in a hardware store in Atlantic, Iowa, and snatched it up in a hurry because I knew that my great-grandmother had owned one just like it.  It is constructed of two perforated steel disks that are fastened together so that there is about a half inch between them.  Originally, it had a handle on it which connected to the little tab that you can see at the very right edge of the picture.  However, the handle had a plastic cover that was not removable, and I found the angle at which it rose to be bothersome for large pots, so I took the handle off.  This pad has seen considerable use and has proven very helpful on our new gas range too.
The "burner shield" with the red and white card still attached to it in the front center of the picture was purchased for a dollar at a local estate sale this summer.  The card says, "Simply place Burner Shield on top of burner and cook as usual.  Protects glass teakettles, sauce pans, casserole dishes, etc."  Obviously, I haven't used it yet, either.
The four-pointed star in the lower left is basically the same thing as the aforementioned "burner shield."  The difference--other than the shape--is that the four-point star is made of a much narrower gauge wire.  This belonged to my grandmother on my dad's side, whom we all called Granny.  She used this little thing daily because she had one of those clear Pyrex Flameware teakettles that were popular in the middle of the last century which she used to boil water for instant coffee every morning.  This little star was a fixture on the Qualified range for years, but has only recently made its way to the Margin Gem.  It has seen quite a bit of use over the years, too.
Other than actually cooking on them, I have also used trivets and simmering pads to keep finished foods warm.  For example, when cooking a large meal where mashed potatoes are the staple, a simmering pad is the perfect place to let the kettle of potatoes rest after they are mashed while the meat is carved. 
Instead of using trivets and simmering pads, I've read about people using regular building bricks on top of their stoves, and I have seen pictures of people using very short pieces of sawed off metal pipes, too.  Clearly, several different options exist, but I'm pleased with my collection here because they won't leave scratches or grit on my stovetop like pipe or bricks might.
If you are a wood cookstove cook, or even a woodstove cook, please let me know what sorts of trivets and simmering pads you use if they differ from mine.  It's helpful to me and to other cooks to have as much information as possible here.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

A Little Information about Maintaining Dual Hot Water Systems

The trees and the grass in the lawn are still arrayed in the deep greens of late summer, but the corn and beans have begun to turn here, and my nephew (four years old) announced last weekend that harvest is coming soon.

He is indeed right.  The weather turned sharply cooler this week too, so my thoughts are turning toward more regular use of the cookstove.  One of the aspects of having the stove steadily fired that I'm really looking forward to is having it supply our hot water.  I'm looking forward to this because it results in such a savings on our electric bill and because the water that comes out of the tap is so much hotter than what we have our electric water heater set at.

Having dual hot water systems creates for us a unique set of maintenance routines.  Last year, we turned our electric hot water heater off in late September and didn't turn it back on again until late May.  It was the second heating season in which we had turned off the electric hot water heater for an extended period of time.

Before we had installed the Margin Gem with the water jacket system, I was telling my uncle about our plans to shut off our tank-type hot water heater during the winter.  He didn't think this was a good idea at all.  He works as an electrician and has seen a number of vile occurrences in people's homes and said that the inside of a turned-off water heater is the beginning of all kinds of nasty things.  I, however, am unwilling to heat water that we are not intending to use, so I went ahead with turning off the electric water heater. 

What has happened each winter, though, is that the water in the electric hot water heater does sour after about the third month of it being off.  This is not a humongous problem, however.  Both the electric hot water intake and supply lines are equipped with gate valves about a foot above the water heater, so those are both shut off.  When we are far enough into the spring that we are going to use the electric hot water heater, I drain and flush the tank, let it fill again, and turn it on.  Initially, the water does have a slightly objectionable smell to it.  After the water heater has been on for a couple of days, I completely empty the tank again, but since it is hot water this time and I am so frugal, I empty it by washing clothes in hot water in the top-loading automatic washer and the wringer-washer.

Now, because I fear the same situation happening in the water heating system attached to the cookstove, I make sure that we use the Margin Gem at least once a month during the summer season.  We make sure to switch the valves in the water lines so that the water heated by the cookstove is used, thereby circulating fresh water into the system.

I don't want the water in the wood heated system to sour because there is no easy way to drain the system.  The Vaughn range boiler has a tapping on the very bottom of the tank which would have been ideal for a drain valve.  However, due to the low height of the legs on the bottom of the tank and the fact that our tank sits on a marble slab, the plumber could not attach a fitting to the bottom of the tank. 

A photo of our range boiler before it was attached
to the Margin Gem range.

I think that what I'm going to try to do this winter is to occasionally circulate fresh water through the electric hot water heater by setting the top-loading automatic washing machine to the hot water cycle, but washing a load of clothes in the cold water that would come from the turned-off water heater.  I can't use the high-efficiency washing machine in this scheme because it senses the water temperature and heats what has come into the washer to the temperature that it desires according to its setting.  Hopefully, this plan will alleviate the easy but inconvenient task of draining and flushing the electric hot water heater in the spring.

Of course, we use well water here on the farm.  What I'd like to know from my readers is whether this situation as I've described it would happen to people whose homes are served by chlorinated water.  Does chlorinated water ever sour in a turned-off water heater?  If you have a range boiler system which is hooked up to a chlorinated water supply, are you able to leave your wood-fired hot water system unfired for the entirety of the summer without any adverse effects?  Please let me know by utilizing the comments section below.  Thanks for your help!

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Our Summer Kitchen

I had a request for more information and pics of our summer kitchen, so I thought I'd write a quick post about it.  Our summer kitchen is just a Tuff Shed that we purchased in July of 2009.  Originally, we were thinking about having a farm store/bakery at the end of our driveway.  We spent Saturdays of the fall of 2009 baking breads, pies, and cinnamon rolls in the Riverside Bakewell cookstove down there.  We opened for a few Saturdays in 2010, but we decided that for various reasons the reality of having a farm store/bakery was not what we had envisioned it to be.  Thus, the building is now just called "the summer kitchen" or "the shed" and is used occasionally for canning and cooking, but mainly just for storage.  If we ever get our dilapidated garage torn down, I would like to move the summer kitchen up closer to the house where I'm sure that it would get more use.

We wanted to be as economical as possible, so we chose a 10'x12' shed because that was the largest building that we could erect without having to go through the difficulties of county permits.  We painted its exterior to match the paint scheme of our house, and we hung drywall and pegboard on the inside, finishing with trim around the windows and door and baseboard.  The following pictures were taken last November.

The first thing that catches your eye when you walk in is the green and cream Riverside Bakewell cookstove.  I purchased this stove at an estate auction in McClelland for either $240 or $260--I can't remember which.  The fellow who owned the estate had refurbished the stove so by putting a new oven box in it.

As the pictures show, the chimney situation for the stove is not great.  When you buy a Tuff Shed, you order your shed according to the specifications that you request from your salesman.  Then Tuff Shed sends an installation crew out to assemble your shed on your property.  I had negotiated with my salesman to have the Tuff Shed people install the chimney for the stove since they would be assembling and shingling the roof.  Unfortunately, the message about the chimney did not make it from the sales desk to the crew foreman's clipboard, so while I was able to convince the crew to install the chimney, the situation was not good and the chimney did not end up being installed correctly.

This made for some extra difficulties in attaching the stove pipe to the chimney, and my extremely poor sheet metal working skills were no help (hence the two ninety-degree elbows just above the warming oven).  After reading some things from Woody Chain about stovepipe and chimney installations, I think I'm going to endeavor to at least partially rectify this situation.

This seems a good time to point out that we do not carry insurance on our summer kitchen building.  I don't know of any insurance company who would insure a building with a stove that is connected to an improperly installed chimney.  Furthermore, because of the limited space in the shed, the stove is installed WAY TOO CLOSE to the walls.  You can see that the rear wall of the shed is protected by sheets of quarter inch concrete board which are fastened to the studs using electric fence insulators.  These prevent the heat of the stove from burning down the summer kitchen, but I'm only comfortable with this arrangement because of the fact that while the stove is in use, we are always right there with it (and our bedroom is not above it!).

The Riverside Bakewell with its poorly installed chimney
in our summer kitchen.
To the left of the stove is the sink.  This cast iron beauty was rescued from an Omaha dumpster by my uncle.  We had the sink refinished by Nebraska Permaglaze, and now it is my second favorite feature in the summer kitchen.  Naturally, it only has a cold water spigot which is fed by about seventy-five feet of hose attached to one of the farm's hydrants up the hill.  The drain is connected to pipe which goes out of the side of the summer kitchen and angles down toward a five gallon bucket.  Waste water is then used to water the lawn around the shed.  The pipes for the sink are visible on the left side of the first picture above.
The sink in our summer kitchen.
The view below is looking from the sink to the south side of the room.  You can see that the stove sits on a prefabricated stove pad purchased at Menards.  We painted the floor with Dutchboy porch floor paint, and I have been very impressed with how well it has held up.  The counter top is made of cheap pieces of plywood, cut to fit over old metal Youngstown kitchen cupboards.  These cupboards were installed in our house's kitchen by my grandparents in the early 1950s.  They took them out in the late 1970s and put them in the basement.  Then, when the basement was redone, the cupboards went to the garage.  I removed the handles, cleaned them up, spray painted them, put the handles back on, and they are now back in commission.

The next picture is taken from the same spot as the previous picture, but the view is turned toward the door.  We hung peg board and shelving in this corner because this was where we originally displayed our baked goods, cards, and needlework that was for sale.  Now we use the shelves for storage.

The view to the north while standing between the stove and the counter.

The summer kitchen is not equipped with electricity.  Again, we didn't want to have to go to all the trouble of permits and what have you.  Therefore, we did opt for the skylight, and this makes it so that the shed is a wonderfully bright place to work during the day.  At night, the oil lamps that you see in the pictures are employed.

Also note the register that you see at the peak of the ceiling.  We opted for one of these on both the east and west sides as well as the rotating roof vent that you can see in the second exterior picture above.  Our idea was to make it so that the heat could circulate out of the shed as easily as possible.  An unfortunate side effect of this arrangement is that with the poor chimney situation, the shed itself almost has as much draw as the chimney, so refueling the fire can sometimes be a smoky affair.

Besides the wonky chimney, one thing that I really want to change about the shed is the arrangement of the counter.  As it is, while you are working at the counter, your back is very close to the range.  In the winter, this doesn't feel too bad, but in the summer it is hot.  In reality, the whole shed can get quite hot in the summer.  We have a thermometer inside it, and its maximum temperature is 125 degrees Fahrenheit.  The thermometer has been completely red, and I suspicion that the temperature was actually closer to 140 degrees on the worst days.  That's plenty hot!


Thursday, July 31, 2014

Asiago Chicken

I've been remiss in my blog posting over the last few months, and for that I apologize.  I should have actually written this post back in March when the pictures were snapped, but I guess that life got in the way.

The recipe that I'm going to share here is one that I "devised" back in late January or early February and is really much more of a cold weather, stick-to-your-ribs kind of dish than what I would be interested in making this time of year.  Maybe "devised" isn't quite the right word.  I got the idea for this dish from the dinner at my cousin's wedding a few years ago.  The catering company was not about to share their recipe, of course, so I looked at recipes for Asiago sauce online and studied them a little.  A couple weeks later I struck out on my own, and this was the result of my endeavor.  It was a hit with my family, and we ended up using it as the entree at our church's Valentine Dinner.

The pictures that you will see below are from when we did an encore meal with some good friends of ours and their twin daughters.  We served this meal with homemade noodles, so the first picture is of the noodle dough being mixed; however, I think rice or potatoes would be equally good starchy accompaniments.

Step one for the actual Asiago Chicken is to pound out five or six chicken breasts (I think there's actually enough sauce for more like ten of them).

We pound the breasts out with the edge of a dessert plate.
Once the chicken breasts are flattened, roll two slices of dried beef into a single cylinder (this is sold as "deli smoked beef" in our local Fareway store.  Don't get the stuff in the vacuum pack from the nationally known packing house; it tastes like dog food).  Then wrap the chicken breast around the dried beef cylinder.  Wrap two slices of bacon around the chicken/dried beef crosswise.  If necessary, you can secure the whole thing with a centrally located toothpick.

The dried beef/chicken/bacon combinations as they are being
put into a baking dish.

We cooked five breast combinations for four adults and two
youngsters, and it was plenty of meat.  I wish we had gotten
a picture of the dried beef on the inside.
Pop the meat into a moderate oven for about an hour, or until the chicken is cooked thoroughly.

While the meat is in the oven, it is time to work on the Asiago sauce.  Melt 3 tablespoons of butter in a deep skillet.  I like to use our Magnalite chicken fryer because of its nice tall edges.  In the butter, brown seven minced cloves of garlic.  As you can see, this is done directly over the firebox.

Browning the minced garlic.
Now, I am ordinarily not a person who cooks with wine.  I just have never really tasted wine that I liked.  However, I do pour perhaps a 1/4 cup of white wine into the garlic and butter in order to deglaze the pan.  This is best done directly over the fire in order to cook away as much of the alcohol as possible.

Deglazing the pan with a little white wine.
Now comes the good stuff.  Pour in one quart of cream.  Yup, that's right: one quart of cream.  Don't question it.  Don't analyze it.  Don't substitute milk.  Use 1/2 and 1/2 if you must, but don't mess with it any more than that . . . . and don't tell my doctor.

Add a splash of dried parsley for color and flavor, a dash of salt and pepper, and some garlic salt if you want.

Bring the mixture to a boil over the fire, stirring pretty much constantly.

Mix 1/4 cup of sifted all-purpose flour in a half cup of milk until smooth while you are waiting for the boil to be reached.

Continuing to stir the sauce directly over the fire.
Once you've reached the boiling point, add the flour and milk mixture for thickening along with a generous tablespoon of sour cream.
Adding the tablespoon of sour cream.
Then add a 1/4 pound of grated Asiago cheese, stirring constantly until the cheese is completely melted and the sauce has thickened a little.

Once the sauce is cooked, put the whole pan on a trivet or simmering pad as far away from the fire as you can.  You just want the sauce to stay warm.

The sauce resting on a simmering pad away from the fire.

The young ladies in the first picture above had charge of the camera for awhile, and they caught a couple of cool pictures of the fire as I was stirring and refueling.  I thought their height created an angle into the firebox that I would not ordinarily have caught.

Remove the meat from the oven when it is thoroughly cooked (no pink in the chicken, juices running clear).

Pour the sauce over the chicken (and the pasta, potatoes, rice, or whatever else you want--people generally seem to want to put it on everything) and serve.

I hope you enjoy this as much as we do!

Here's the recipe in a little more accessible fashion:

Asiago Chicken

10-20 pieces of good dried beef
5-10 boneless skinless chicken breasts
10-20 pieces of bacon

1. Pound the chicken breasts flat.
2. Roll two slices of the dried beef into a cylinder.
3. Wrap a chicken breast around the dried beef cylinder.
4. Wrap two slices of bacon around the chicken breast crosswise.
5. Repeat until you have used all of the chicken breasts.
6. Bake in a moderate oven until thoroughly cooked (about an hour).

3 T. butter
7 cloves garlic, minced
about a 1/4 c. white wine
1 quart cream
dried parsley flakes--maybe 1/4 c.
1/4 cup sifted flour
1/2 cup milk
1 generous T. sour cream
1/4 lb. Asiago cheese, grated

1. In a tall skillet, saute garlic in butter over fire until brown.
2. Add the white wine to the garlic and butter mixture to deglaze the pan.
3. Add cream, parsley flakes, salt, and pepper.
4. Bring mixture to boil, stirring almost constantly.
5. Stir sifted flour into cold milk until smooth.
6. Once cream and garlic mixture boils, add flour and milk mixture and sour cream.
7. Add grated Asiago cheese.
8. Stir until thickened and cheese is completely incorporated.
9. Set aside on simmering pad or trivet away from fire until meat is cooked.
10.  Serve by pouring sauce over chicken wraps.

P.S.  I forgot to mention that one of those beautiful girls in the first photo--I don't know which--said this after observing the cooktop with the sauce, the noodles, the broccoli, the teakettle, and a pot of pancake syrup on it while we were cooking:

"I know why you like cooking on a wood stove: you have room to cook so many things at once!"

Pretty perceptive, isn't she!

Friday, June 20, 2014

A Vintage Piece of Advice

As we are getting ready for the family reunion which will be held at our house in early July, we've been having discussions about the menu.  My brother's most recent suggestion is to have a vintage menu from 1887, which is when our great-great-great-grandparents purchased the farm where Nancy and I live.  This prompted me to do some research last night because I have the hand written cookbook that my great-grandmother (the first of the family to live on this farm) started before she was married.

The book includes a few clippings from an unidentified newspaper which were written by Faith Felgar.    You can learn more about her here.  I'm including it on this blog because it does mention the use of a woodburning range and because sometimes I take for granted how easy baking bread has become in this day of reliable yeast and consistently milled flour.  For that matter, in today's world where so many households never have any from-scratch cooking occurring in them, this article is a good reminder of what our ancestors went through in order to just have a slice of bread.  There is no date on the clipping, but it was pasted between pages with recipes dated January 1914 and February 1914, so it is a safe bet that this column is just over 100 years old.

"Dear Faith Felgar,
     Why is it my bread gets so dark and holy [sic] when baked?  I knead it for half an hour the first time, then work it down, but it inclines to flatten and be sticky to the hands.  I would give so much to always be sure of the outcome with the bread.  We buy the highest-priced flour and we all like good bread, but mine is never very nice, so I'm quite discouraged.  I will be grateful for any help you are able to give.
     As nights grow cooler the making of a really good loaf requires a bit more care, and though it is not difficult, it must not be neglected, for on such little things as temperature and heating depends our success or failure.
     Follow this to the letter just once and report:
     Any young housewife that has bother with bread will be pleased with the result and if it helps you, help me be saying so:
     Into a teacup put one cake of dry yeast (this is for large batch), a half cake for four or six small loaves, and allow enough warm water to cover.  New milk is a good guide for temperature where there is no thermometer.  When soft and tiny sparkling bubbles appear in the liquid it shows that the germs are active.  Now beat in enough flour to make a stiff batter; cover cup with inverted saucer and keep in warm place.  In the warming closet of a range is usually suitable, but if firing heavily it may be too hot. When light, beat it down and let it rise again.  I have never had bad results if this had to be attended to several times before 8 p.m., but this time of year there is little bother with rapid growth.  Three medium white potatoes boiled in their jackets, peeled and mashed while hot.  Do not use the water they were boiled in.  Ordinarily I use just some mashed potatoes and the liquid drained from them, as it is less bother, but when I want to find if it is the yeast, the miller or I, I use the potatoes cooked without paring.
     To these three potatoes add half a gallon of water for small batch.  Remember to have it the right heat and warm the flour by stirring it over the fire.  Be gentle with the heat and stir well or it will become full of hard lumps.  Add the cup of sponge, then beat in the flour.  Do not beat a certain number of minutes, but count the strokes--150 is none too many--and the spoon must be brought from the bottom upward in and over and over motion.  Never stir round and round.  Put on the lid (no slang intended) and wrap the vessel, which should be not over one-third full, in a clean cloth, and over this throw any heavy rug--ironing blanket or what not--to keep the temperature uniform.
     In the morning warm another pan of flour and work this in until the bread becomes elastic and will not stick to the board.
     Add the salt and sugar if you wish and a bit of lard when you stiffen the sponge.  The first is all I use for light, delicious bread.
     Dip a cloth in melted lard and run over the mass; return to vessel to become light.  Never neglect it till it has spent its energy or it will not be so good.  When it doubles, work down.  Next time make into loaves, covering each lightly with melted fat.  Keep from draft.
     Loaves made so will rise straight up, be white and flaky--no coarse holes--and sweet to the taste.  In the oven it will continue to rise, not run, and should brown slightly in fifteen minutes.
     Leave in oven until the loaves shrink a little.  It is then done entirely to the center."

I might try this method sometime, but for now, I'll stick to my usual.