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Monday, November 29, 2010

Rode kool met appeltjes (Red cabbage with apple)

Around this time of year, when you walk along the narrow streets of Holland, you are guaranteed to smell the lovely, spicey, clove and nutmeg riddled smells of hachee. And if you stand still and concentrate on the mixture of smells coming from any traditional Dutch kitchen, you might be able to detect a sweet and sour undertone, a bit cabbage-like, but not much. You'd be so right! Red cabbage, braised with apples, is THE vegetable to serve with hachee and boiled potatoes. It's a typical Dutch winter dish.

Americans usually don't care for fruit in their foods, but you may want to give this a try. The sweetness of the apple combines perfectly with the tanginess of the cabbage and the vinegar, and makes for a beautiful mix.
As with practically any food, the braised cabbage will taste even better the next day (if there's any left). I've found myself many times sneaking a forkful of refrigerated cabbage in the middle of the night. The slight crunch of the cabbage, the sweet and sour combination, the tenderness of the apples......

Rode kool met appeltjes
1 medium sized red cabbage
2 small apples
4 bay leaves
3 whole cloves
2 tablespoons of red wine or apple cider vinegar
1 cinnamon stick
2 tablespoons of sugar

Peel the outer, tough leaves off the cabbage. Cut the cabbage in half, then each half in half again. This will give you an easy opportunity to cut out the core which is tough and bitter. Slice each quarter in thin strips (I prefer a chunkier strip). Rinse the cabbage and add to a Dutch oven. Pour in enough water to cover the cabbage and set it on the stove. Add the bay leaves, cloves and cinnamon stick, cover and bring to a slow boil. Stir in the wine or the vinegar, add the sugar, stir and cover again. Let it slowly braise on the back of the stove.

In the meantime, peel, core and quarter your apples. Add them to the cabbage, and slowly simmer for another twenty minutes, or until the cabbage is soft.

Taste, adjust with salt and pepper. If you like it sweeter or tangier, add a bit more sugar or vinegar.
Red cabbage also pairs very well with game: rabbit, hare, venison and elk.



Monday, November 22, 2010

Griesmeelpudding met bessensaus (Grits Pudding)

Every now and then I come across a recipe in my Dutch cookbooks that surprises me once I try it. A traditional dessert called "griesmeelpudding" (grits pudding) sounded old-fashioned even when I was a little girl. My grandma never even made it, that's how old fashioned it was, imagine that!

My mom doesn't care for dairy so our milky desserts were few and far between. Come to think of it, we never ate much dessert, as neither my mom nor my grandma cared for sweets. I guess I've made up for both :-)

Anyway, "griesmeelpudding" did not sound appetizing, partly because of its perceived high "last century" factor, partly because the name "gries" (grits) forms also, phonetically, the first syllable for the verb "griezelen", i.e. shudder in horror ( a "griezelfilm" is a horror movie). Kids would often refer to the pudding as "griezelpudding" and would not eat it. No wonder!

But in my quest to cover the traditional Dutch kitchen, I cannot circumvent something so typically Dutch. And after deliberately cooking and baking twenty other things, I've finally come full circle and decided to tackle the griesmeelpudding. And I am SO glad I did!!

There is something inheritently comforting in the smell of warm milk with sugar. I don't know if it's because my grandma would make "lammetjespap" for me every so often and it reminds me of being a child, or whether it's a nurturing thing. No clue. But when I stand over the stove, warming up milk and stirring sweet sugar into it, I get this homey, warm, fuzzy feeling, perfect for these cold days.

The "griesmeelpudding" is very similar to rice pudding, as we know it here in the United States, but the berry sauce most definitely adds a characteristic and flavorful angle to it.

Griesmeelpudding
For the pudding:
1 cup of grits
4 cups of milk
3/4 cup of sugar
1 slice of lemon peel, no pith
1 teaspoon of vanilla essence

For the sauce:
1 can of cranberry-raspberry sauce (or a small jar of berry jam)
1 cup of apple juice
1/2 cinnamon stick

Bring the milk to a slow boil, add the lemon peel and the sugar and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Add in the grits, bring back to a boil but keep stirring to prevent the milk from burning. Lower the heat and cook for about six to seven minutes or until the grits are gorged, but stir every so often to make sure the bottom doesn't burn. Stir in the vanilla.

Rinse the pudding form with cold water and, after removing the lemon peel, pour the grits into the form. Set it in the fridge to cool. It will take a good five hour to set: even better if you can leave it overnight.

When you're ready to serve dessert, add the contents of the cranberry sauce or the berry jam to a small saucepan, add the apple juice or water to thin the sauce and the cinnamon stick. Stir well, bring to a boil, then simmer for a good twenty minutes. Thicken with cornstarch if needed. I decided to put my sauce through a sieve in order to remove all the raspberry seeds, but that's purely a personal preference.

Pour some warm water over the outside of the pudding form, lightly loosen the sides of the pudding and invert the whole thing onto a plate. Pour the thick berry sauce on top and on the sides, and enjoy!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Hallee, it's hachee day! (Stewed beef)

Hachee (hash-ay) is one of those old-fashioned dishes that pops up on the table the moment the temperature outside drops to "colder than dirt". Looking out the window and seeing snow, I knew it was time for a good old "stick to your ribs" kind of meal, and hachee is just the ticket!

November 15 is National Hachee Day in the Netherlands. The stewed beef dish has been around since the Middle Ages, where its main function was to use up all the pieces of meat that needed to be used up, combined with a bunch of onions, some leftover red wine and set to simmer on the back of the stove. It's such an easy and yet grateful dish to make, and a favorite of the Dutch. Cubes of beef, stewed in a sauce flavored with onions, bay leaf, vinegar, juniper berries and pepper corns, pair perfectly with creamy mashed potatoes and red cabbage.

This is a great dish to prepare in a Crock-Pot. Throw everything together in the morning, turn it on low and go on your merry way: when you come home, dinner will be ready! For this dish, I tend to use chuck pot roast, or a bottom round or rump roast: it's a cheaper cut of meat that will benefit greatly from this cooking method.

Hachee
2 lbs of beef, cubed
1 tablespoon of butter
3 large onions, peeled and sliced
1 tablespoon of flour
1/2 beef bouillon cube, or homemade beef bouillon
4 cups of water
3 bay leaves
3 cloves, whole
4 juniper berries (optional)
8 pepper corns
3 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar or red wine
Salt
Pepper

Melt the butter in a Dutch oven and quickly brown the cubed beef. Add the onions and stir in with the beef until the onions are translucent. Sprinkle the flour over the beef, crumble the bouillon cube and add with four coups of water to the pan. The meat has to be almost submerged. Add the bay leaves, cloves (I stick them in a piece of onion so I can find them again), juniper berries if you want and the pepper corns, then stir in the vinegar or the wine. Bring to a slow boil, then turn down the heat, cover and simmer for a good two hours.

Try a little piece of meat to see if it's tender to your liking. Remove the meat onto a plate, adjust the sauce with salt and pepper or a little vinegar if you like it more tangy and reduce slightly. Add the meat back in, stir to cover, and serve with mashed potatoes and red cabbage, or over a plate of rice.


To make it really Dutch, don't forget the "kuiltje" (pothole)
in your mashed potatoes for the gravy!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Hete Bliksem (Mashed potatoes with apple and salt pork)

 In this quest to investigate, research and write about the culinary traditions of my country, I stumble across some very interesting details. For one, I think there is nary a thing a Dutch person wouldn't add to a dish of mashed potatoes: we have mashed potatoes with carrots (hutspot), mashed potatoes with kale (boerenkool), mashed potatoes with sauerkraut, a whole array of mashed potatoes with greens and today I am making mashed potatoes with apple.

Boerenkool
The potato was first introduced in the Netherlands in the early 1600's but was not officially recognized as fit for human consumption until 1727. Since then, the country has been producing a large variety of potatoes such as Eigenheimers, Bintjes, Alphas, Irenes, Gelderse muisjes. As with other agricultural products, Holland is one of the market leaders regarding the export on potatoes.

The traditional meal in Holland consists of the Dutch trinity: meat, vegetables and spuds. Most traditionally boiled, potatoes can also be served fried or mashed. One of my favorites are pan-fried potatoes: boil some extra potatoes the day before, chill them, then slice the next day and fry in some butter in a skillet until they are golden brown and crispy. Yum!

Hete Bliksem
Today's dish is called "hete bliksem" or hot lightning. Not entirely sure what generated the name. Some say it's because the high amount of liquid in the mash: the dish stays hot longer than other types of mashed potatoes. That is true, there is no additional milk needed to mash these potatoes and apples into a smooth consistency and it does stay warm longer. Other names for this savory and sweet potato dish are "heaven and earth" referring to the source of apples (heaven) and potatoes (earth), or "thunder and lightning".

The key is to use a mixture of sweet and tart apples, 2 parts potato, 1 part apple. Jonagolds, Braeburns and Jonathans will do well by themselves as they possess both flavors.

Hete Bliksem
8 large potatoes
4 apples (2 sweet, 2 tart)
4 slices of salted pork

Peel and cube the potatoes and place them in a pan with just enough water to cover them. Peel and core the apples, cut in halves and place on top of the potatoes, top with the slices of salt pork. Cover and bring to a boil, then simmer for twenty minutes or until potatoes are done. Remove the pork, pour off the water (save some) and mash the apples and potatoes to your liking, lumpy or smooth. If it's too dry, add a tablespoon at a time of the cooking liquid. Taste. Adjust with salt and pepper if needed.

Slice the pork in narrow strips, mix in with the mashed potatoes and serve. Good with a lick of mustard.


Saturday, November 6, 2010

Pasteitje met ragout (Puff pastry with chicken and mushroom gravy)

As Calvinistic as we are, bent on not having too much of anything and claiming that "being normal is crazy enough", we are set on extending the Christmas celebrations over two days instead of one. First Christmas Day is December 25th, Second Christmas Day is December 26th. And if you are part of those families that also celebrate Christmas Eve, that makes it two days and a half.

Christmas Eve is traditionally the night where you dress up, go to evening mass (even those that are not raised in the church will often attend) and upon return to the house round off the celebrations with hot chocolate and, how else, a bread meal with luxury rolls.

First Christmas Day is a formal dinner day and a day that is generally celebrated with family only. If you are invited to someone's home on First Christmas Day, and you are not family or in any way related, it is quite an honor! This is also the day that will determine where you stand, family-wise. In trying to keep the peace between families and in-laws, children often switch back and forth between families on 1st and 2nd Christmas Day: one year you will celebrate dinner at your parent's on the 1st, the next year it's at your significant other's parents. Being invited, or visited, on 2nd Christmas Day almost automatically classifies you as 2nd class family member......

Second Christmas Day is much less formal. It's when the leftovers are eaten, and everybody runs around in their "house suit", sweats and jammies, hanging in front of the TV or going for long, wintery walks to get some fresh air. Friends will sometimes come over for a drink and a chat, and a less formal dinner (not leftovers!!).

So many of these traditions are slowly changing but one of the standard items on Christmas Day is this appetizer or starter for the meal: a puff pastry cup filled with a chicken and mushroom gravy. It is so seventies, but it is one of those dishes that is comforting, filling and familiar at the same time.

I had some chicken leftover from last night's dinner club. It's getting close to Christmas and all of a sudden I had a hankering for a pasteitje met ragout.......

Pasteitjes are sold ready-to-use in Holland. As there is no such thing here, I made my own.

Pasteitje met ragout
For the pasteitje:
2 sheets of puff pastry
1 tablespoon of flour
1 egg, beaten

Dust the counter with flour and thaw the sheets. Cut eight circles out of the pastry dough. Out of four of these circles, press a smaller circle from the middle. Wet the full circles with a little bit of water, place the rings on top and brush the whole pastry with egg. Place the cut outs on the side, and brush as well.

Bake on a sheetpan in a 400F oven for ten minutes or until golden and puffy. Cool on a wire rack.

Ragout
1 tablespoon of olive oil
2 chicken breast
1 large onion, peeled and sliced
3 garlic clove, peeled and minced
1 small can of mushrooms (or one cup of fresh mushrooms, sliced)
2 1/2 cups of white wine
2 1/2 cup of warm water
1 chicken bouillon cube
2 bay leaves
thyme
pepper

1 tablespoon of flour
2 tablespoons of water

If you have time, marinate the chicken breast the night before in a bowl with the wine, water, onions, bay leaves, thyme and crushed garlic cloves. 

Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven, dry the chicken and quickly brown the chicken on all sides. Add the sliced onion and the garlic cloves and sauté until translucent. Add the wine, the warm water, the bouillon cube and the mushrooms and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat, add the bay leaves, a sprinkle of thyme and pepper and simmer for at least 45 minutes.

Take the chicken out of the sauce. The meat should be tender enough that you can pull it apart with two forks. If not, return to the pan and simmer longer.

Taste the sauce and see if it needs adjusting with pepper and/or salt. Make a paste with the flour and the water and add to the gravy, bring up the heat and while stirring, thicken the sauce. Add the shredded chicken to the gravy.

Carefully place the pasteitjes on a plate, fill with ragout, sprinkle with some parsley if you want and serve!