Saturday, February 17, 2007

Nathalie's Notes

Welcome! This is my first attempt at a blog, so I'm feeling as clumsy as a beginning cook learning how to boil water.

LET’S PRETEND was a radio show I listened to as a child. In fact, my sister and I once were taken to see the show live, and were terribly disappointed. While listening to the radio we were able to conjur up all sorts of fairy godmothers, ogres, princesses and the like. Alas, during the live show actors stood up to the microphone and read aloud, holding their scripts in front of their faces. They wore day clothes, not even dress up clothes, or Sunday clothes, and were all ages. Imagine a 70 year old princess being woken up from a sleep by a twenty year old prince.
By when we listened to the radio, the magic lasted.


My happiest memories as a child revolve around the times before I started school, when my mother had the time to linger over meals and spend long hours with us. Saturdays were a special time. My sister and I got up early to help squeeze oranges. Standing on top of a chair, we pressed the orange halves mother cut. We put them cut side down on top of the juicer bottom, pulling down the rounded top of the machine over the rounded half of the orange and yanking down the handle that pushed the juice out of the spout into the glass pitcher. At the end there was a big pile of orange rinds. We would turn them inside out, using our teeth to tear out the tasty filament that stuck to the white of the rind, considering it as much a treat as a child of today would candy.
As soon as we could, we turned on the radio for the wide range of children's programming. We sat cross-legged in front of the huge Magnavox, a dark brown wood cabinet that reached to the top of my head. Fabric covered its front, its thin wood lattice peeled off over the years, perhaps with the help of curious little hands. From this shrine came stories of princes and princesses, fairy godmothers and other fantasy creatures, the world of a popular program, "Let's Pretend."
Around that time, Mother started making the breakfast. On bad days, it was oatmeal - a much-scorned Saturday breakfast. On the good days, bacon and eggs, or, best of all, French toast.
The fork would beat the eggs and milk together, making a steady beat, just as we would smell the butter browning slightly in the iron skillet, Mother poured a little of the browned butter into the batter before she added the bread for a brief soak before she slipped it into the hot buttered pan. She turned the bread over with its flecks of brown and gold when it was crusty around the edges. After a little while she forked the cooked French toast onto a plate she kept in the warm oven. She stacked piece after piece until she had enough for us to dig into.
On birthday mornings or some special occasion, we might eat on the floor, with the plates on a tray in front of us - after admonitions to be careful - so we could continue listening. Other times we would sit at the table, covered with a snowy white cloth, and eat silently, our ears tuned to the next room and the end of the tale.
Breakfast was prolonged as much as possible, the dishes to be cleared and washed when our radio time was over. Then my sister and father, who didn't like opera, would gleefully go to do outside chores together, and my mother and I would turn on the opera and listen together, one washing, the other drying, as we entered an operatic fantasy world.

Here are some breakfast ideas:

French Toast Serves 2
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk, light cream or heavy cream
Salt to taste (optional)

Dip each slice of bread in the batter and turn to coat, Fry the bread over medium heat until very lightly browned, turn. Remove when second side is cooked. Keep the cooked slices warm in a 250 F oven while frying the rest in the remaining butter. Serve warm, sprinkled with butter, confectioners’ sugar, jam or syrup.

Crisp Bacon

Crisp Bacon is best produced by baking in a preheated oven. It also removes the need for constant attention. Spread the bacon out, seperated, on a non-stick or easily cleanable baking or cookie sheet that has sides. Move the baking sheet to a preheated 350 oven. Set the timer for 10 minutes, check the bacon, remove the sheet from the oven and pour off any excess fat into a can or jar, mop up any spills, turn the bacon and return the baking sheet to the oven. Set the oven for five minutes and check to see if brown. If not, set for five minutes again, repeating until done. Drain on a paper towel and serve. Since ovens are so variable, if the bacon is not crisp and brown, next time preheat the oven for 375 degrees. If overbrown, reduce the heat.



There are a couple of books I use for easy reference when I need to find out about a basic cooking subject in depth. One is the Joy of Cooking and another is The New Good Housekeeping Cookbook. I used both of them for reference in these tips:

Waffle irons have different patterns and depths. The deeper “pockets” were originally for Belgian Waffles (which were traditionally a yeast waffle), but work for all kinds.

2. Waffle irons and griddles or pans for pancakes should always be preheated. Heat is of the essence. Without the right heat, pancakes and waffles may stick. If waffle irons or griddles are well seasoned -- i.e., not previously rubbed with an abrasive or left to rust – you may not need additional butter or oil to cook them. I like the color a little butter gives, however. The first one is always a test one. Plan to discard or give to the dog.

All waffle batters have to include some fat or they stick, so don’t try to omit it entirely. The Joy of Cooking recommends four tablespoons butter for a reduced fat waffle, eight tablespoons for a classic light and fluffy waffle, and sixteen tablespoons (that’s eight ounces, or two sticks) for a crunchy delicious waffle.

To keep waffles warm and crisp so all may be served at one time, spread out on a single layer directly on the oven rack. They will keep for about twenty minutes at 200 degrees.

To keep pancakes warm and tender, use a sheet of aluminum foil or a ovenproof plate or pan, layer the pancakes up as they are done, covering loosely with foil, and keep in a 200 degree oven for twenty minutes. For a phenomenal pancake, brush each side with a little butter before layering. (The same thing is true for reheating frozen pancakes – a little butter brushed on the ones reheated in the oven makes them truly special. Obviously this will not be appropriate for a toaster.)

The first side (down) of a pancake is always the prettiest. To tell when the pancake should be turned, look for the bubbles coming to the surface of the pan, then turn until the second side is done.

Determine how much waffle or pancake batter is appropriate for your needs. One half to three fourths cup batter is the norm for waffle irons, One third cup is the norm for an average pancake. Size of pancakes can vary, of course, from very small to extra grand.

If your batter is too thick, add more milk and/or butter. If it is too thin, caarefuly integrate more flour.

Batters can be made and stored, covered, in the refrigerator for twenty four hours. They produce a more tender pancake than those that are made from a recently mixed batter.

Basic Pancakes About 10 six-inch cakes

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons granulated, light or dark brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups whole, skim or lowfat milk
3-5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 large eggs, beaten to mix

Preheat the griddle.

Sift or toss together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. In another bowl, whisk together the milk, butter and eggs. Whisk the wet ingredients gently into the dry ingredients, At this point you may add 1/2 cup of berries, nuts, bananas, cheese, bacon, etc. This may be kept in the refrigerator for 24 hours, covered tightly. Stir well before using, and thin if necessary to achieve desired consistency.

Test the griddle with a little water to be sure it sizzles. Ladle or pour 1/3 cup batter onto the griddle per pancake, pushing it into rounds if necessary. If they run together, you can cut them when they are done. Cook until the top of the pancake is sprinkled with large bubbles, some of which are bursting, then turn and cook until the other side is lightly browned. Keep warm as directed above, or serve immediately. Continue with the rest of the batter until all is gone.

Buttermilk Waffles

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups buttermilk
1/3 cup melted butter or salad oil
2 eggs, beaten to mix

Preheat waffle baker.

Sift or toss together flour, baking powder, soda, and salt. In another bowl, mix buttermilk, melted butter and eggs. Whisk together and beat until smooth.

When waffle baker is sufficiently hot, ladle or pour the batter directly into the center of the lower half until it spreads to one inch from the edges. Cover and bake as directed. Do not lift cover during baking. Steam will escape from the sides of the waffle baker, so take care not to get burned.
When waffle is done, lift cover. Loosen waffle with fork. Keep warm in oven as above or serve immediately. Meanwhile recover the waffle baker to reheat quickly. When ready, pour in next waffle. Thin as needed with more buttermilk.

For Sweet-Milk Waffles

Use 1 tablespoon baking powder
Substitute milk for buttermilk.

1 comment:

Artessss said...

Thank you for your pancake recipe. I have cooked successfully for many years, but never made pancakes picture perfect! I relented and now use a pancake mix adding only water. They are delicious, I don't eat them often anyway as I wish to lose some weight. But once in a while a treat is good for the soul. I ate in a restaurant many years ago in Savannah. They served the best catfish dinner I've ever had! Just a good memory! Thanks for you --- I've so enjoyed watching you on TV when you were on...When do you think you will appear next? Keep on blogging...I enjoy your writing very much! A misplanted Texan from Florida and Kentucky! Artessss