Monday, April 29, 2013

The 1950 Westinghouse Range

We get a lot of comments at Cavalcade of Food about appliances, especially about the variety of old stoves that we use when preparing our recipes.  I’ve been collecting these stoves – usually referred to as “ranges,” for many years. I try to rotate them through the three kitchens that we use to make recipes for Cavalcade of Food. These vintage ranges not only feature marvelous engineering, but many of them are simply beautiful in their design. These were made in that post-war period when the United States was still a manufacturing powerhouse, and one only needs to spend a minute with these ranges to know how well they were built. As a matter of fact, they are very, very heavy! Moving them around provides more than a workout! 

The steel used is of heavy gauge, and the porcelain enamel coating is thick and durable. At its factory in Mansfield, Ohio, Westinghouse turned out thousands of stoves like the one I just found to fill the new kitchens of homes in the suburban neighborhoods that were popping up across the country. Other major appliance companies like General Electric, Frigidaire, Hotpoint, Norge, Kelvinator, Crosley and Philco were also filling the market with spectacular new ranges, refrigerators, washers, dryers and other appliances.  Today, the survivors of this era remind us of this incredible period of American history.

This latest addition to the CoF collection is a 1950 Westinghouse Model BA-74, also known at the “Commander” model. The Commander was Westinghouse’s top-of-the-line, although the BA-74 was the single-oven model. The very top and most expensive was the double-oven Commander.  Instead of a smaller oven on the left side, the BA-74 has a warming drawer. This stove measures 40 inches across. It features “Color Glance” controls, which glow a different color depending on the burner’s heat setting. It also has one “Super Corax” heat unit, which according the above advertisement should reach full heat in 30 seconds. Speed burners were the answer to the criticism about electric ranges being slow to heat up, unlike the instant heat of a gas range. 

So, it has been 63 years since this range was manufactured and it is still in good working order. This speaks to the care with which it was given all these years, and the quality of the product coming out of the factory. I can’t help but look at this range and think of my mom and grandma, both of whom were excellent cooks and bakers. They cooked on a range like this, and I feel connected to them when I have the opportunity to do the same.


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Wonderful Waffles!

There are a lot of waffle irons in this world. It seems like most people have one tucked away somewhere. Maybe it was a shower gift, or a hand-me-down from mom or grandma, or just something you picked up along the path of life. I own a few waffle irons, most of them I picked up at thrift stores or estate sales. A couple of them date back to the 20’s and 30’s. But the one thing all the waffle irons have in common is that they all show very little wear. I can extrapolate from this that the original owners of these appliances didn’t make waffles very often. What a shame. 

Making homemade waffles certainly takes more effort than the kind you just put in the toaster, but the little extra work pay off big in flavor, texture and versatility. You can make waffles that sweet or savory, depending on the direction you want to go. While you could include chocolate chips, coconut or berries, waffle batter can also include things like crumbled cooked bacon, ham, cheese or corn. 

You can enjoy waffles the traditional way, with butter and syrup, or make sandwiches using waffles in place of bread. Waffles also provide a wonderful “stage” for dishes like chicken ala king, chipped beef, and other dishes with lots of gravy or sauce. 

So here is a basic waffle recipe to get you started. Enjoy the waffles as-is, or let your own creativity inspire you to experiment with additional flavor ingredients. This recipe makes a large amount of waffles – good for four or more people. If you have left overs, waffles can be frozen and brought back in a toaster. If you are cooking for one or two, you can cut this recipe in half.

Wonderful Waffles

2 2/3 cups sifted flour
4 ½ tsp baking powder
¾ tsp salt
1 TBSP sugar
3 eggs, separated
¾ cup vegetable oil
2 cups milk (don’t use skim)

Combine flour, baking powder, salt and sugar in a large sifter (if you don’t have a sifter, you can use a fine-mesh sieve or just add the ingredients to a large bowl and whisk together). Sift dry ingredients into a large bowl.

In the bowl containing the three egg yolks, add the oil and the milk. Mix wet ingredients together and pour into the bowl containing the dry ingredients. Stir together until combined – there will be some lumps, and that’s okay. Do not overbeat! NOTE: If you want to add other ingredients (chocolate chips, berries, meat, cheese, etc.) add them at this point. 

Beat the egg whites in a separate bowl until stiff. Best to use an electric hand mixer for this if you have one. Once egg whites are still, using a spatula add the egg whites to the batter mixture. Gently fold in the egg whites until combined being careful to be gentle and not over mix.

Heat up your waffle iron. Each one is different, so make sure to allow enough time for the iron to get hot. If you have a modern waffle iron, it may have a non-stick surface. If not, once the iron is hot, spray top and bottom plate with non-stick cooking spray. Using a ladle, spoon batter onto bottom plate being careful not to let the batter go all the way to the edge. When you close the iron, the pressure will push the batter out a little closer to the edge. Cook waffle until golden brown.

Every waffle iron cooks differently. So follow the manual (if you have one) for your iron, or check for doneness when you can no longer see steam escaping from the cooking waffle. If you lift the lid and it still looks pale, just lower it and let it cook a little longer. You will get a sense of how long it takes after you’ve done a couple. Serve warm with your favorite toppings! Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Chicken Curry - In A Hurry!

This is a flavorful and fragrant dish that is a quick-fix thanks to the use of a rotisserie chicken from the local market. There are many variations of curry out there, some are sweet, some are hot, some are in-between. If you don’t have a lot of experience with curry, give them a try. A curry is a blend of many different spices, so each one is unique and lend a different personality to the dish.

I have come to really appreciate the rotisserie chickens that available at the market. Not only are they pretty good as-is, but they are real time savers for dishes like chicken ala king, chicken pot pie, or a curry dish like this one. And when you think of what you would pay for a whole chicken and the time and energy it takes to roast it and clean up, the rotisserie chicken is a real bargain (the one I used in the recipe was on sale for $5)! 

Enjoy this “curry in a hurry” recipe when you want a fully flavorful meal but don’t have a lot of time. If you can get basmati rice, it is the perfect accompaniment. Garnish with some fresh parsley or finely chopped cucumber and green onion. 

Chicken Curry

4 TBSP butter
2 TBSP curry (use whichever curry you prefer)
2 medium onions, diced nice
2 TBSP flour
¼ tsp ground ginger
2 cups chicken stock
8oz can crushed pineapple in juice
Meat from medium cooked chicken, diced (I use a rotisserie chicken from my local market)
2 tsp fresh lemon juice

In a large pot, melt butter and add curry powder. Stir curry in butter and heat for a minute or two – this will release a lot of the flavors from the spices. Add diced onions and sauté until soft – about 5 minutes. 

Add flour and ginger to onion mixture and stir in until all the flour has been absorbed. Add chicken stock and be sure to loosen any bits at the bottom of pot (deglaze). Add can of crushed pineapple (juice and all) and bring mixture to a simmer. Continue simmer for 10 minutes – mixture will thicken.

Add in chicken and stir to combine. Cover pot and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove cover, add lemon juice and serve over rice (basmati is good). Garnish with fresh parsley. Enjoy!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Celebrating the Chiffon Cake!

When chiffon cakes first hit the American baking scene in the late 1940’s, they created a huge sensation. It’s hard to believe that a cake could cause such a ruckus, but then we finally returned to peace-time, there was plenty of work for everyone, and people were celebrating life. I’m sure the introduction of the chiffon cake went unnoticed by many, but this new method of cake baking was a big deal to those who baked.  General Mills (who introduced the recipe to the world via Betty Crocker in Better Homes & Gardens magazine) claimed it was the first really new cake in 100 years. In some respects they were correct, but the cake wasn’t really new.

The chiffon cake was developed by a California caterer in the 1920’s, who kept the recipe top-secret for decades. He made the cake for Hollywood stars and other important clients, and everyone wanted the recipe. Finally, General Mills bought the recipe from him, shared it with the world, and in doing so sold millions of boxes of their Softasilk cake flour. Whatever the motives, the chiffon cake got people making a new kind of cake and it remained popular throughout the 1950’s. 

As is always the case, all things come in and go out of fashion. You couldn’t get the time of day with a chiffon cake in the 80’s! But I have always loved these cakes. They are light, delicate and beautiful. The flavor variations are endless. You can rich-them-up with a decadent frosting, drizzle them with a simple icing, or serve them plain with fruit or ice cream. Let’s put the chiffon back in our cake repertoire!

Orange Chiffon Cake
2 ¼ cups cake flour
1 ½ cups sugar
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
½ cup vegetable oil
5 egg yolks
¾ cup orange juice
Zest of one medium orange
6 egg whites
½ tsp cream of tartar

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

In a large bowl, sift together cake flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Add into the well IN THE FOLLOWING ORDER: vegetable oil, egg yolks, orange juice and orange zest. Stir until all is well combined. Set bowl aside.

Place egg whites and cream of tartar in a large mixing bowl. Beat with mixer until egg whites hold stiff peaks. Gradually pour cake batter over egg whites, gently folding them together. Do this slowly – you don’t want to deflate the egg whites.

Pour mixture into an UNGREASED 10-inch tube pan. Put into 325 degree oven and bake for 55 minutes. Then turn oven heat to 350 degrees and bake for another 10 minutes. Remove cake from oven and INVERT IMMEDIATELY. I use a wind bottle for this (see video), but a large funnel or other bottle can work. Allow cake to cool completely – it may take a couple of hours.

Once cake is cooled completely, use a thin spatula or knife to go around the edge of the cake so as to loosen it from the side of the tube pan. Remove cake from pan and run spatula or knife under the bottom of the cake to loosen it from tube pan bottom insert piece. Invert onto plate.

You can frost or ice the cake. Dust it with powdered sugar or serve it as-is with fresh fruit or ice cream. Enjoy!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Roasted Pepper Soup

While it is said that necessity is often the mother of invention, it can also be said that abundance is often the inspiration of creation. So, when there was an entire case of beautiful orange peppers at the farm market at $3.99 for the taking, the question was now what to do with them all! Among the infinite possibilities, soup seemed to be a natural choice.

Cooking the peppers themselves could have been achieved by blanching or steaming, but roasting the peppers is always a favorite method. The roasting brings out the sweetness and really deepens the flavor. These pepper were small – sort of “banana” shaped, and they roasted nicely in a grill pan on top of the stove.

This soup could be made just as well with red or yellow peppers, too. Roasting the peppers took the most time, but I actually ended up doing that task the day before when I had other work to do in the kitchen and it was no bother to have another burner going. It also helps to have either a standard or immersion blender for this soup, as the softened vegetables need to be pureed. But once the peppers have been roasted, the soup comes together quickly and delivers a rich, creamy pepper flavor.

Roasted Pepper Soup
16-20 small orange, red, or yellow peppers (use half as many if using bell peppers)
3 TBSP butter
1 large onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups vegetable stock (can also use chicken stock if you prefer)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 cup half and half

The first thing you need to do is roast the peppers. There are a number of ways you can do this. I used a cast iron grill pan over low heat on the top of my electric stove. If you don’t have a grill pan you could use a regular cast iron or other heavy bottom skillet. You could also do this on your gas grill. Take care to do this over low heat and let the peppers char (blister) on each side. It is going to take a while so be patient – you want them roasted, not burnt! After the peppers have roasted, transfer them to a heat-proof bowl and cover with plastic wrap. When the peppers cool, you will be able to easily slide the outer skins off.

After removing the outer skin (some people leave this on, but I think it has a bit of a bitter taste so I remove), cut the stem off the top of the pepper and with a sharp knife slice down the side of the pepper so as to open it up completely. Once open, you can easily scrape the seeds out and then roughly chop the peppers.  Set the cleaned and chopped peppers aside.

In a large pot, melt butter and saut̩ onion and garlic until soft Рabout 5/6 minutes. Add vegetable stock, peppers, salt and pepper to pot. Bring to a simmer and cover. Let simmer for 20-25 minutes. Remove from heat and uncover. Allow to cool for 5-10 minutes.

Working in small batches, transfer some of the contents of the pot to a blender (a couple ladles worth). BE VERY CAREFUL when blending hot liquids – do not overfill the blender! As a precaution, I hold a towel over the top of the blender when I turn it on. Puree contents and transfer to bowl. Repeat as necessary until all the contents of the pot have been pureed.

Take about two cups of the puree and put in a separate bowl. Add half and half to this smaller amount and stir well. Return the rest of the puree mixture to the pot. Transfer the puree-half and half mixture to the pot and combine with the rest. CHECK FOR SEASONING – if you need to add more salt and pepper this is the time to do it. Over low heat, gradually bring soup back up to a hot temperature – do not boil! Serve immediately. Garnish with fresh basil or parsley leaves.