I think it’s no secret that I have a thing for everything vintage and historical. I am particularly interested in the history of food and cookery which is why I have a pretty respectable collection of historical cookery books ranging from ancient Rome to 1950s. I think that’s where I draw the line when I mean “historical cookery”. I do consider vintage cookbooks up to the 50s historical and if you’ve ever read such books you will know why. First, while the name of many recipes is familiar, the procedures and even ingredients are quite strange at times. Then there’s the measurements. For example, a 1956 book I recently acquired calls for “gills” of this and that and it doesn’t mean fish breathing organs!
I actually had to look that up because I had never come across that reference before. Turns out a gill is a archaic unit of measure that is equal to 1/4 pint. Of course, this means that an Imperial gill and an American gill are different since the pints are different in those two systems. An Imperial gill is 5 fluid ounces, roughly 142 ml. An American gill is 4 fluid ounces, roughly 118 ml. This particular book was published in the UK so I will assume it uses Imperial gills.
Anyhow, that’s just a little trivia for you. I bought this book, The Constance Spry Cookery Book on eBay along with a 1955 copy of The Perfect Hostess Cook Book by Mildred O. Knopf. The books original prices were 50 schillings and $3.95 respectively. I wish cookbooks were that cheap these days!
I was looking through The Perfect Hostess book the night it arrived and I found a recipe I wanted to try right then and there. That’s not unheard of but it’s not all that common either. I waited until the next day, yesterday, to try it. It was Kaiserschmarren; pretty descriptive name, no? Not. By reading the name and the ingredient list I knew that it was Austro-Hungarian and I knew that it was sweet. Those two things combined are rarely bad so I felt compelled to make it. Just to be sure, I looked it up on good old Flickr and it looked even better than it sounded. Kaiserschmarren is a caramelized pancake that is cooked in butter and broken up into pieces (thus the “schmarren”) and served with powder sugar, fruit compotes, etc for dessert. It was first made for Austrian Emperor Francis Joseph I, hence the “kaiser” part. I made one substitution beacuse I didn’t have brandy, but I think my substitution made it even better!
1 tbsp sugar
1/4 cup milk
1 cup flour, sifted
pinch of salt
2 oz unsalted butter
1/4 cup raisins
2 tbsp vanilla cognac
Separate the yolks and the whites.
Beat the egg yolks with1 tablespoon of sugar until light. Add the milk alternately with the flour.
Beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until stiff but not dry. Fold gently into the yolk mixture.
Melt the butter in a large skillet over moderate heat. Pour the batter into the skillet. Brown slightly and turn. Turn once again and brake up into fairly small pieces using two forks.
Add the raisins and vanilla cognac, turning the pieces of pancake over with a spatula as they cook. Place on a serving platter. Serve sprinkled with powder sugar to taste.
It’s so easy and so good! I’m used to American style pancake batter so this batter seemed very heavy and thick before I folded the egg whites in. I was tempted to thin it out but I figured that since I’ve never made this before I’d follow the recipe and see what happened. I’m glad I did because it was fine after I cooked it. It was SOOOO good. The vanilla cognac really made this dessert. I had mine with powder sugar and then with some breakfast syrup. I was delicious both ways. I will definitely be making this again!
My son has gotten to the stage where he refuses to be spoon fed. He will fight tooth and nail at meal times if I even try. It doesn’t matter what it is, he doesn’t even open his mouth so it’s not a case of him not liking the food. Turns out, he wants to feed himself all the time. This poses an enormous hassle for me because every day I figure out what finger food I can make for him that won’t take me ages and that is somewhat nutritious and varied. Ideally he’d always eat the same thing we eat but until he can successfully use utensils, that’s just not going to happen.
I was looking through some books yesterday trying to figure out what the heck to make for him and I remembered arancini. Arancini are little rice balls that I used to have in Italy all the time. They are normally fairly big but they can be made child-bite sized and that’s what I decided to do. They are not difficult to make but they do take some time. If you made a large batch I’m sure you could freeze the balls and then just fry them from frozen since the rice is cooked prior to forming the balls. Arancini would normally be served with a sauce of some kind, a tomato sauce usually, but I didn’t bother. The Monkey loved them and we ate them too. I made 12 little balls without mozzarella for the kid and then 19 or so larger balls for us and fried them separately. The outside of these balls is beautifully crisp and then you get that nice melted mozzarella surprise when you bite into them. Campania in every bite!
Arancini di Riso
1 cup Arborio rice
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3 tbsp tomato puree
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground black pepper
1/3 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
fresh mozzarella cut in small cubes (one cube for every ball)
fine, dry bread crumbs
oil for deep-fat frying
In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the rice until tender, 12 to 15 minutes. Drain the rice and run it under cool tap water. Drain again.
In a mixing bowl, combine the rice with the beaten eggs. Add the tomato puree, salt, pepper and the grated cheese. Mix well and refrigerate until cold.
Place the bread crumbs in a shallow bowl or on a plate and line a cookie sheet with wax or parchment paper. Keeping your hands moist to prevent the rice from sticking. Use a small cookie dough scoop to measure the rice mixture. Place one scoop on the palm of your hand and flatten out slightly. Place one mozzarella cube in the center and then bring the rice around the mozzarella making sure that it’s fully covered. Shape into a ball and place on the prepared cookie sheet. When all the balls have been shaped, roll them in the bread crumbs and coat well.
In a deep-fat fryer or deep pot with enough oil to fully cover the balls, heat the oil to 375°F. Fry the balls 5 or 6 at a time for about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. The balls will be done when they have a deep golden-orange color. Serve immediately.
Makes 20 to 24 balls
This is an instance when a proper deep-fat fryer is golden. I’m Cuban so it would be almost heresy for me not to have one. I don’t use it often but I’m glad I have it for times when I do need it. I have tried deep-fat frying on the stove but it’s so hard to maintain the oil at the right temperature. Not only that but after you are done frying you are still left with a pot of oil you don’t know what to do with. It usually sits there for a while until you realize it’s gone rancid so you put it in a empty milk gallon and throw it away. Ask me how I know. The deep fat fryers are much better; they keep the oil at the right temperature AND they store the oil! You don’t have to throw the oil away every time you use it and because most fryers have a lid, it takes longer to go rancid.