When I was in college, one of my friends introduced me to another girl, Biba Hughes, who would become my best friend. I dated her brother, I got the father/daughter talk from her father because my father had died, and I was privileged to be in the kitchen with her mother, who made the absolutely best food. One of our favorites was Biscuits and Sausage Gravy. Her mother made the best, and still does. Mine is good, but Jeanne Hughes has some mother thing going that just makes hers the best.
With that in mind, and a package of raw bulk sausage in hand, I decided to make sausage gravy for dinner. I will happily admit that I am biscuit challenged, so I just got a package of refrigerated biscuits. No recipe for those here, yet.
Jeanne Hughes usually uses Italian sausage, but I had regular bulk sausage. I still wanted to make my gravy like hers, so I added the missing ingredients, garlic and fennel seed. She also has a secret ingredient that I am about to share with you…
Why would anyone want to write about Thousand Island Dressing? It’s yucky! It’s that reddish stuff that sits on the salad bar and congeals because no one wants it, and rightly so. It’s the “secret” sauce on the Big Mac, and has become so common that you probably don’t even notice it on your sandwich anymore. That’s a pity, because this is a grand dame of salad dressings with an interesting and honorable history.
Thousand Island Dressing is named for the archipelago of 1,864 islands that straddles the Canada-U.S. border in the Saint Lawrence River. Some of the islands are very small indeed. The one pictured above supports a single tree and two bushes. The dressing was popularized by May Irwin, a Canadian vaudeville star in the 1890’s. She had a home in Grindstone Island, one of the Thousand Islands. She said that the dressing reminded her of the Thousand Islands, and enjoyed the dressing so much that she requested the recipe from Sophia LaLonde, a fishing guide’s wife who frequently made the dressing for her husband. Miss Irwin then gave the recipe to George Boldt, the proprietor of the famous Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, who instructed his the hotel’s maître d’hôtel, Oscar Tschirky, to put the dressing on the menu. In 1950 the dressing became a standard, and started its decline into the gloppy mess we have today.
One of the things we do at The Good Plate is to reconstruct packaged foods, so they taste better, and don’t have the preservatives common in packaged foods. I knew that venerable Thousand Island Dressing deserved a better place, and making it from scratch would make it one of my favorites, especially for sea food salads.
I made a crab salad for the dressing, and some Balsamic Toasts to go with them. This was in the midst of Spane and his friend making Play Dough on the stove. There are little bits of homemade Play Dough all over the place. Time to clean!
When I was a little girl, my mother had the entire collection of The Woman’s Day Encyclopedia of Cooking, and there was a recipe in for Hungarian Porkchops, which I have been making for many years. Today, I decided to change the recipe a bit, and came up with Pork Chops Paprikash.
In Glendale, California, which has a large Armenian population, we have Red Pepper Sauce. It’s basically paprika peppers, and I use it quite often, in sauces, eggs, and other dishes. There are many brands and you can probably find it in ethnic European stores. I highly recommend it.
Paprikash dishes call for sour cream. I have probably talked about this before, and I will say it again. When you buy sour cream, please only get the kind that has cultured cream. The other stuff has gelatin and other ingredients as fillers, and they just are not real sour cream. The Alta Dena brand has a wonderful saying on the top of the tub, “Those cravings you feel are totally natural”. I love that because it’s true – there is nothing in that sour cream except cultured cream, the way sour cream should be.
Mis en Place – Sour Cream, Red Pepper Sauce and Beef Base
Sometimes, you need a little Christmas, right this very minute. That’s why we love ham steaks, because you satisfy your craving for a good piece of ham, without having to cook a whole ham. If you’re lucky, you even get to have the bone with the luscious marrow.
When I make a whole ham, I usually make a glaze of Russian mustard and Sour Cherry preserves. It’s sweet and a little hot, and definitely wakes up the ham. One of the traditional gravies for ham steak is Red Eye gravy, which has, you guessed it, coffee in it. I wanted to incorporate both.
Since The Good Plate is all about deconstructing packaged foods, and one everyone likes a lot is Rice-a-Roni. Rice-a-Roni is rice pilaf, but with way too much salt and other preservatives. There’s no need to use the box, just get the ingredients together and make it from scratch – you know what’s going in it, and you can add whatever you want.
Over the weekend, I made a salad with a new dressing. It was fresh dill and lime, and Amber absolutely loved it. She asked for it again tonight, so I’m including the recipe for it here.
Remember, if you’re having a ham steak, and you don’t want your bone, just give it to me!
I don’t eat a lot of fried food, but sometimes, you have to fry. I wanted to make Avocado Fries, and considering that there was already going to be a pan of hot oil, why not throw some other things in as well?
I really like watching America’s Test Kitchen, and follow them on Facebook. So, when they announced a Kitchen Challenge to make Chicken à la King, I just had to take up the challenge. What makes my Chicken a la King different? Well, it’s barbecue season, and my Weber was sitting outside, crying that it couldn’t join in the fun. I thought to myself, why not? Pimentos are nothing more than very mild chili peppers. I had some lovely yellow, orange and red sweet peppers, and I had some mushrooms and shallots. I also had a chicken breast. All those could go on the grill, couldn’t they? Sure, they could get a lot of flavor to add to a dish that I already really like.
The America’s Test Kitchen challenge is to cook like it’s 1917. Charcoal was developed from waste wood scrap in the Ford Motor Company in 1920, and renamed Kingsford thereafter. Kingsford was a relative of Henry Ford. The Weber grill was not invented until the 1960s but I’m sure that people were barbecuing in some sort of fashion in 1917 – how else would Henry Ford have been able to sell charcoal? I think I’m okay with the time-line, don’t you?