Category Archives: Recipes
Recipes from Readmore’s kitchen.
New England Spider Cake!
New England Spider Cake is everything from a side dish to dessert! Get out your cast-iron frying pan, your cornmeal, your roasted corn, and treat your family and friends.
New England Spider Cake
When my kids were little they loved hearing we were going to have “spider cake” for dinner. With a little drizzle of maple syrup on top, it could easily stand in for dessert.
This is an old New England technique, a cross between luscious, creamy corn pudding and traditional corn bread cooked in a cast-iron skillet with either cream or milk poured directly into the center just before baking. The cream sinks into the cake and makes a lovely custard-like layer just under the crisp top. The “spider” was a cast iron Dutch oven with little legs that could be placed directly in the coals for baking or long braising. I’ve made this camping, and it works great if you have a nice fire going.
My variation on this recipe is the fresh roasted corn! It adds a nice dimension to the dish. Also, my mother’s recipe called for souring two cups of milk with a few tablespoons of white vinegar. I found myself with only cider or balsamic vinegar in the house one day, and so I acidified the milk with a half cup of sour cream instead. It was even more delicious, so that is the way I make it now (unless, of course, I want to make it and I have no sour cream but plenty of white vinegar on hand…).
This is not a diet food, so don’t even think about skim milk in this one! My mother made this with whole milk poured on top rather than cream, but the cream is definitely better! She also used bacon fat rather than the butter, it adds another dimension of flavor, so if you happen to have a coffee can filled with this fat, go ahead and use it.
¾ cup cornmeal, fine to medium ground, local if possible
1 cup unbleached white all purpose flour
½ tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
½ cup sour cream
About 1 1/2 cups whole milk
2 eggs plus one egg yolk
1/3 cup sugar
¼ cup melted butter, cooled a bit
1 cup fresh roasted corn kernels, or frozen corn
1 cup heavy cream or whole milk
Place a 10” cast-iron frying pan in a 450-degree oven. It needs to be smoking hot when you pour the batter in. Alternately, you can use any heavy skillet.
In a large bowl, mix together the cornmeal, flour, soda, powder, salt and pepper. Set aside.
In a two-quart measuring cup, add a large blob of sour cream, about a half cup. Add enough whole milk to come to the two-cup mark. Mix with the eggs, sugar, and 3 tbsp. of the melted butter, blend well, and toss in the corn. Add the liquid all at once to the dry ingredients and gently combine, just until there are no large pockets of flour. Don’t over mix.
Remove the frying pan from the oven and add the last tablespoon of butter, brushing it around the pan. It should be bubbly and sizzling.
Quickly, add the batter. It will sizzle and start to set on the edges immediately.
Here’s the magic. Now, gently pour the cup of cream directly into the center of the batter. You’ll be tempted to pour it all around, but you want it dead center. It will look totally wrong, but will come out deliciously right.
Return to the oven. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or so, depending on your oven, but check at 30. The top will be browned, but not overly so, you don’t want it to go too far and dry out.
Let cool for a few minutes, and cut into eight or ten pie-shaped pieces and enjoy! This needs no assistance from a topping except perhaps a drizzle of dark amber maple syrup.
Variations: Sometimes, I add some sweet red pepper, diced and sautéed, along with the corn, just a 1/3 cup or so, no more. Or, if you like heat, add a bit of crushed red pepper, or some finely minced hot pepper. Freshly snipped chives are really good in this as well, and a cup of shredded Cheddar Cheese is never a mistake either!
Strawberry Season in Vermont:
Our Official Beginning of Summer
Strawberry Season! It is one of Vermont’s official seasons, the one that comes after Black Fly Season and Trout Season.
This is the time I wait for all year! First of all, the roses are blooming. A morning stroll in the garden with a steamy cup of coffee, a few quiet moments in the Gazebo at dusk, and the scent of roses fills the air. Life is good. The farm stands are filled with everything from quirky little garlic scapes to vine-ripened tomatoes, and every kind of green imaginable! We can pick a rainbow at the counter, and feel virtuous with every meal.
When strawberries are in season, you know that summer is really here, and now they are coming fast and furious. Blueberries are poised for their debut, and local cherries have already made their way to a large jar of brandy for use next year.
I spent an afternoon this weekend making and canning my conventional strawberry jam recipe, to pull out all winter long. I just follow the basic powdered pectin instructions, and since this year the strawberries are nice and sweet, the jam is terrific. Some years, the strawberries are watery, and I’ve found it is hardly worth the time of putting them up because the flavor will be lacking. Sometimes I add a little orange zest and juice for an extra element, but when the strawberries are as good as this year, that is not necessary.
I also made a quick fresh jam this past weekend, with the addition of a little lavender balsamic vinegar. It was great, and it was done in 20 minutes. I was using up the last of a quart of strawberries, and it this hassle-free version will keep in my refrigerator for about a month (assuming, of course, that it lasts that long…). And it’s not just for toast, I put it on roasted chicken the other night for supper, and it was a hit with all. Here’s the recipe>.
Our guests have feasted on Strawberries Romanoff, Strawberry Soup, Strawberry Smoothies, Strawberries and Cream, and Strawberry Shortcake Waffles.
When we are not wiping strawberry juice off our chins, we are enjoying all the wonderful things Vermont has to offer in the summer: long, long daylight hours, peepers at dusk, fireflies, hiking, boating, swimming, garden tours, chamber music, plays, art and crafts fairs, book sales, antiques, fine dining. You name it, we have it!
Mémé’s Good Times Tourtiere
Meat Pies, (or tourtiere) are a traditional French Canadian dish, a treat that was served in our family on Christmas Eve and other special occasion. There is nothing better than a family recipe that has been handed down, and this one takes a little time, but is worth the effort, and you can even make it vegetarian! This is my version as I have substituted the local ground turkey for the beef and pork, but if you eat red meat, you may use it here; there are many options for locally raised, sustainable meats.
This makes two bountiful pies, and they freeze well.
One large luscious onion, diced
1 tbsp. duck fat or olive oil
2 pounds Vermont ground turkey
1 pound fresh Vermont pork sausage, broken up
1 tbsp. poultry seasoning
1 tsp. dried sage, or 1 tbsp. fresh, minced
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. hot Hungarian paprika (my addition!)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 large bay leaf
Chicken stock or water to almost cover, about two cups (homemade is best!)
One sleeve crackers smashed into crumbs
1 cup local, organic diced potatoes, precooked but still a bit firm
2 Double butter crust pastry recipes
Sautee the onion in the fat in a large pan. Add the turkey burger, sausage, spices, and enough stock to just cover with bits poking their heads up. You can also use just plain water here, that’s what my grandmother used. Bring to boil, cover, reduce, and slow cook on low heat, covered, about an hour, stirring now and then. The house will smell like Christmas Eve!
Remove the lid, stir, and remove some of the fat and liquid that has accumulated. Add crackers and potatoes. Stir well, and spoon back a little of the liquid if need be. The mixture should be very soft and moist, but with no visible pools of liquid.
Pour into two prepared bottom crusts and make smooth. Add the top crusts, and always a little pastry decoration. This is, after all, holiday food, so it should look as pretty as it tastes. I like to decorate with little leaves made from the pastry trimmings. Brush all with an egg wash made of an exquisite organic egg and a little cold water.
Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 to 50 minutes. It should be golden brown! Check when the house starts to smell really good.
Let set at least 20 minutes before cutting. Traditionally, this was served with a brown gravy, but I like it much better with a wild foraged hen-of-the woods mushroom gravy on the side.
I’ve also made this with the Gimme Me Lean Soy Sausage in place of the meat, and I’ve made it with Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Baking Mix pie crust. It will works!
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