Friday Recipe Exchange: Food In Fiction

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JeffreyW does beef stew but let’s pretend it’s venison. 

I’m travelling this week, so this is going to be a quick post. But I had this inspiration when John Cole was looking for Hot Chocolate recipes and all I could think of was the movie, Chocolat. I love food in movies and books. Especially when it is just casually mentioned, to set a mood or give a little description of a character or place.

A while ago I did a series of recipes called, yes, you guessed it, Food in Fiction (you can see all those recipes here). And I wanted to highlight it tonight because I really wanted to hear if you have any favorite foods from movies or books. Have you ever explored recipes for those favorites? Would you like me to rustle up a recipe if you haven’t?

Here are three of the books/recipes I had to search out and try.  At each link is the recipe and an excerpt from the book, describing the food.

From my childhood fav, Trixie Belden, Venison Stew (click here).

My all time favorite book, ever, To Kill a Mockingbird, has many, many fun ideas for recipes that I tackled (crackling bread, anyone?), here is the most challenging, the Lane Cake (recipe here, narrative here).

A little darker book, in a series I discovered a few years ago, Lomax and Biggs, Blood Thirsty, the lead character was having dinner with his girlfriend and they had something I’d never tried before, broccoli rabe, so I had to check it out. I came up with several recipes, including Broccoli Rabe and Hot Italian Sausage Pasta  (recipe here).

That’s just a few of the ones I played with, it was a fun idea I probably should explore more when I have the time.

Tonight’s featured recipe comes from Agnes and the Hitman, in which the heroine is a food columnist and chef. It was a wealth of ideas and I put together several recipes based on the story. But this was by far my favorite and I made them for Valentine’s day one year.

A little background, these cupcakes open the book and in the midst of making them, our heroine is attacked by a young man with a gun who wants to kidnap her dog and she defends herself with hot raspberry sauce and a skillet with deadly consequences. For the full narrative, click here.

Chocolate-Raspberry Cupcakes

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

Moist Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 1 cup cold water
  • 1/2 cup chopped raspberries

Dry ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup dry cocoa
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Grease and flour muffin tins. Cream together oil, butter and sugar. Mix in remaining moist ingredients, one at a time, until well mixed. Sift together dry ingredients. Mix dry mixture into creamy mixture and beat for 2 minutes at high-speed. Fill muffin tins 3/4 full and bake for 20-25 minutes, until they bounce back when pressed lightly.

Chocolate Ganache:

  • 6 oz dark chocolate
  • 6 oz heavy cream

Double boiler (I use a metal bowl over a saucepan with about an 1 inch of water)

Place chocolate and cream in top of boiler, bring water in bottom half to a boil, reduce heat to med-high and let chocolate melt, stirring occasionally. When completely melted, remove from heat and stir until cream and chocolate are completely mixed. Let cool and dollop over cooled cupcakes

Raspberry Sauce:

  • 2 cups raspberries
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice

saucepan

Puree raspberries until smooth, add raspberries and sugar to saucepan and heat to a low boil, stirring constantly. Let bubble  for 1 minute, reduce heat to medium low and stir constantly until thickened, remove from heat and add lemon juice. Let cool and spoon over frosted cupcakes.

Note:  While making the raspberry sauce I was never accosted by any strange men breaking into my house, forcing me to use the sauce as napalm.  Mores the pity.

That’s it for this week. If you missed it. the Dinner Menu and Shopping list for this week was Baked Ricotta Gnocchi in Fire Roasted Tomato and Basil Sauce and Grilled Asparagus.  – TaMara

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Friday Recipe Exchange: Stuffed Burgers

Stuffed Burger Uncut Snap

Stuffed burgers, yum. It’s grilling season. And as much as I love a good grilled burger, I’m always looking for a way to elevate them to something beyond ordinary.  I’ll probably have several posts over the summer with different ways to dress up ordinary ground beef for the grill. Today though, I’m going to start with my new favorite, stuffed burgers with sharp cheddar and jalapenos.

Before I get to that, let’s start with my basic burger recipe, one I’ve been making since I was a kid, that makes sure even the leanest ground beef comes out moist and flavorful. That recipe is here.

Next, JeffreyW has been playing with perfecting sliders here, here and here. If you can get through those photos without your mouth watering, you’re stronger than I am.

Your turn. What’s your favorite way to prepare your burgers? Are you a turkey or veggie burger person? If so, what’s your favorite way to fix them? What is your “must have” on a burger? Ketchup? Mustard? A thick tomato slice? My must have is ketchup. Lots of it.

For tonight’s feature recipe, I’m going to take you step by step through a single burger prep. It should be easy to multiply the ingredients for as many as you’ll want to make. I’m using sharp cheddar and pickled jalapenos, but you can use blue cheese, mild cheddar, jack, swiss, or any favorite cheese. An ounce of cheese per quarter pound of ground beef is about the right ratio to keep everything from falling apart and still have a nice melted center. Add grilled onions, mushrooms or peppers to change things up. The ideas are endless.

Jalapeno-Cheddar Stuffed Hamburgers:

Stuffed Burger Final

Ingredients for each burger:

  • 4 oz ground beef
  • salt, pepper
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp crushed garlic (opt)
  • 1 oz sharp cheddar, sliced thin
  • 2 or more slices of pickled jalapenos

Mix salt, pepper and garlic into the ground beef. Form two, 2-oz patties. Place jalapenos on one burger, cheese on the other.

Prep2

Place the two sides together and seal the edges completely. Gently flatten the burger, but be careful because you don’t want the cheese busting out of the center.

Prep1a

The key to grilling or frying these is low and slow. Medium heat seals them and allows the cheese to melt without drying the burger out. I flipped at the 5 minute mark, but depending on the heat, 3-4 minutes may be enough to flip. They’re thin, so the beef cooks quickly, but you want to make sure the cheese melts. I would say minimum 4 minutes per side.

If cheese starts to leak out, flip and flip again as needed. DON’T press down on these burgers while you grill, you’ll have a cheesy mess.

Now the warning. Did I say WARNING? Yes I did. You’ll need to rest these burgers to let the cheese cool a bit. Otherwise you could be biting into a scalding cheese center. You’ve been WARNED.

That’s the basics, now let your imagination run wild. Maybe I should have titled this, How To Stuff A Wild Burger.

Until next week…..

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Growing Up Trixie

Originally published 9/13/09

My first strong female literary character was Trixie Belden. She rocked. You have to be a woman, and probably a woman of a certain age, to be a hardcore Trixie fan. A friend’s sister gave me my first Trixie Belden book when I was in the hospital for surgery. By the end of the first chapter, I was hooked.

It is fitting then, that I begin the series on Food in Fiction with Trixie Belden and one of the first recipes I tried on my own, cooking for my parents, adapting  and experimenting, even then.

Perfect Hamburgers

  • 1 slice bread, crusts removed
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic
  • salt & pepper to taste

Soak bread with milk for 5 minutes, mix all ingredients together completely. Form into 4 patties and grill or fry to desired doneness.

This works especially well with extra lean ground beef, keeping it moist and flavorful, even if you like them cooked to medium-well.

Burger week begins right here…

Growing Up Trixie: Venison Stew

This book takes place over the Thanksgiving holiday, so it is full of good food.  My favorite recipe comes from Mr. Maypenny, an independent gent, who lives in the middle of the Wheeler game preserve.  They think he’s a poacher and he ends up becoming their gamekeeper, but not until he shows off his cooking skills to Trixie and Honey.

From Trixie Belden and the Mystery Off Glen Road:

“Well, now,” Mr. Maypenny said, sitting on the bunk, “a stew just isn’t worth putting into a pot unless you put everything in your garden in it.  In that I got turnips and parsnips and carrots and potatoes and beans and corn.  And I don’t use any water a-tall.  Why should I?  Onions and cabbage and tomatoes are full of water – the right kind of water.  I must have used a peck of tomatoes in that goo-lash.  Spices, too.  I’m a bit heavy with garlic and basil and thyme.  There may be some folks who don’t go for such, but it suits me to a T.”

 Trixie had been eating steadily…..”It suits me, too.”

In all honesty, I think that recipes says it all.  Start with 1 pound of stew beef or venison, cut into 1-inch pieces, brown in a bit of oil.  Add  the meat and the remaining ingredients, cut up about 4 tomatoes, 1/2 head of cabbage, 3-4 carrots, 2 turnips, 2 parsnips, 4 potatoes, 1/2 lb of green beans, 1 onion,  1 cup of corn and 1/2 cup water or wine, also – salt, pepper, garlic, thyme, basil, salt and pepper to taste – into a slow-cooker, cover, set on low and cook for 8-12 hours.

Beef Stew

  • 1 lb lean stew meat
  • 1 small onion, quartered
  • 4-6 small potatoes, quartered
  • 8 oz baby carrots, halved
  • 2 tsp rosemary
  • 2 bay leaves (remove before serving)
  • ½ tsp ea. salt & pepper
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic
  • 7 cups water
  • 3 tbsp flour

slow-cooker

Place meat, onion, potatoes, carrots & spices in crockpot, add 6 cups water and cook according to crockpot directions, (usually 8 to 10 hours on low). Before serving, turn heat to high, mix 1 cup water and flour completely, add to stew, stirring constantly, and cook until thickened, about 1-3 minutes.

Growing Up Trixie: Chocolate Cake and Spiced Grape Juice

Every time I read this book in the Trixie Belden series, when Mrs. Smith serves up any of her delicious food, it made me hungry.  But when she serves the girls her chocolate cake and spiced grape juice, I thought  it sounded like the best dessert ever.

From Trixie Belden and the Red Trailer Mystery.  Mrs. Smith speaking to Trixie:

“I must get to my baking before it gets any hotter.  You and your honey-haired friend come back for tea.  Grape juice and chocolate layer cake.  Spiced juice from my own grapes and I bottled it myself last year.  You must help us drink it up.”

[later] 

“It’s not the best cake I’ve ever baked,” she apologized, although Trixie and Honey had never tasted anything like it.  “Somehow my baking reflects my moods.  I was so depressed this morning all four layers fell and I couldn’t do a thing with the icing.  But this is grape juice is the best in the county, if I do say so myself.”

I must confess I’ve never been able to bake a decent layer cake.  I’d blame it on living at high altitude, as I do now,  but I’ve lived from coast to coast and altitude is the least of my cake baking problems.  But Spiced Grape Juice, that I can handle:

Spiced Grape Juice

  • 64 oz unsweetened concord grape juice
  • 4 sticks cinnamon
  • 12 whole cloves
  • 2 tbsp whole allspice berries
  • 1/2 cup sugar – most recipes call for this, I’ve never added it myself. 

large sauce pan

Add all ingredients and heat over low heat for 3 to 4 hours, stirring occasionally.  Strain spices from juice before serving.  Or if you like, you can put the spices in cheesecloth, tied with string and let steep that way.  I’ve also used a tea infuser for steeping.

Can be served hot or cold, though I prefer mine over ice.  You can serve with lemon slices.  Chocolate layer cake is optional.

Refrigerate any leftover.

A Novel Idea

I learned to cook at a very early age.  My godmother gave me a children’s cookbook for my 9th birthday and I think I tried every recipe in it before my 10th.  It was about the same age that I began to notice that some of my favorite books contained intriguing ideas for recipes and some even had recipes written in with the story.

I learned the best ever burger recipe from Trixie Belden.  I learned about spoonbread and butterbeans from Scout and Jem Finch.  Stephanie Plum made me crave meatball subs and cabbage rolls.  And author Jennifer Crusie creates entire novels around cooking and taste treats.  There are so many others, but that’s off the top of my head.