Posts Tagged ‘old fashioned flavor’

Strawberry Shortcake

June 24, 2014
Strawberry Shortcake

Strawberry Shortcake

My granddaughters and I slipped out of the big blue van and peered down from the fifth floor of the parking garage next to the Evanston Farmers’ Market. There they were, swaths of red spilling across long tables: strawberries. We trotted downstairs with baskets in hand, looking for the best berries. They were all delicious, and I finally made my pick from a Michigan farmer and her two sons whose deep ruby berries caught my eye. We tasted the fruit scarlet to the core, dripping with juice. I cradled the boxes and vowed never to look at another store-bought Driscoll. It was time to pay more for the real thing. They wouldn’t be around long; they wouldn’t come in plastic clamshells; they wouldn’t keep all week in the fridge. It was time for Strawberry Shortcake.

Classic American Strawberry Shortcake is a buttery sweet biscuit, split and filled with sugared berries and whipped cream. It’s pure indulgence—not a low-fat concept—something not to be missed, at least once a year. The berries must be soft and juicy; cold storage supermarket berries will never do. The biscuit dough must be “short” or rich with butter—thus shortbread cookies, shortcake, shortening (vegetable fat). I’m sticking with pure butter for my shortcake and gilding the lily with heavy cream for the liquid. These feather-light little cakes are perfect nests for juicy spoonfuls of sliced berries and clouds of whipped cream. If they seem like too much for dessert, try them for breakfast or brunch. The strawberry fields won’t be with us forever.

A note on whipping cream: Look for heavy cream that is not ultra-pasteurized. The long-life version (ultra-pasteurized) is difficult to whip and has a slightly “cooked” flavor. Ultra- pasteurized dairy products are heated 100° higher than regular pasteurized dairy items and have stabilizing additives such as carrageenan. For this once-a-year treat, pure pasteurized heavy cream is your best bet.

Cream Biscuit Shortcakes

1 cup all-purpose flour (5 oz.)

1½ tablespoons powdered sugar

1½ teaspoons baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt (a tiny bit more if using unsalted butter)

2 tablespoons butter (1 oz.)

½ cup + 1 scant tablespoon cream

sugar to sprinkle on tops

Preheat oven to 400°.

Sift flour, powdered sugar, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Slice over the chilled butter and rub in with fingertips. Make a well in center of flour mixture, pour in ½ cup cream and stir together with fingertips. Add extra cream if dough seems dry. Roll dough into a ball. Knead just a few turns on lightly floured counter. Pat or roll into a circle at least ½ inch thick. Stamp out circles with 2-inch cutter and place on baking sheet. Reroll scrapes to cut more circles. Brush tops with water and sprinkle with sugar. Bake about 12 minutes or until golden. Makes 6-8 shortcakes.

Split while warm and fill with sliced, sugared berries and whipped cream; serve with more berries.

Mary Jo's Cookbook available on Amazon

Mary Jo’s Cookbook available on Amazon





Quick French Chix

March 26, 2012

Winds may blow us off course, but eventually set us back down where we began. I’ve boned whole chickens, stuffed them with exotic rice and preserved lemons, bathed them in sauces of mushrooms, pistachios, fresh herbs and creme fraiche, but sometimes I’m ready for some simple fried chicken. I’m not interested in the boneless, battered, deep-fried model but just an honest piece of flavorful, free-range chicken seared until the skin is crispy, the meat juicy and bathed with a simple reduction of greaseless pan glazing.

Long ago I learned all it takes in addition to my heirloom cast-iron skillet, a swirl of oil, and a few cloves of garlic is a splash of common red wine vinegar. I’ve repeated this chicken sauté countless times over the decades with slight variations along the way, and it’s always a favorite. Diners will never guess the secret ingredient is vinegar that sweetens, tenderizes and moistens the chicken.

Country cooks have long known the benefits of using vinegar, one of the oldest kitchen staples. All you need are five ingredients, along with salt and pepper and half an hour to recreate the version of fried chicken that made Paul Bocuse a celebrity chef forty years ago. Even if you hesitate at the vinegar idea, you’ll want to give this healthy, tasty alternative a chance. It’s not necessary to use fancy balsamic, sherry or champagne vinegars here; simple salad vinegar, red wine or cider, is fine. For any pan-fried chicken, choose bone-in pieces that boost calcium, hold in moisture—and as most chicken aficionados know, the choice pieces are dark.

French Style Sautéed Vinegar Chicken

4 leg/thigh pieces of free-range chicken (about 2 1/2 lbs.), or one 3-lb. chicken cut in pieces.

salt and pepper

1 tablespoon olive or vegetable oil

6-8 large whole cloves garlic

4 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon flour

1 teaspoon tomato paste, Dijon mustard or 1 chopped fresh


3/4 cup (6 fl. oz.) chicken stock

Cut through the underside fat line between the knee and thigh joint to make two pieces or just sever the tendon so the joint will lie flat as it cooks. Blot chicken dry with paper towels and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Swirl oil in a heavy iron skillet and heat until oil shimmers. Find a lid or a baking sheet that will cover the skillet tightly, and set aside. Using tongs, add chicken pieces, skin side down. Distribute whole, unpeeled garlic cloves among chicken pieces. Sauté over moderately high heat for ten minutes. Turn chicken, which should be deeply golden, and cook for ten minutes on the other side. At this point the chicken should be almost cooked through.

Remove chicken and garlic to a plate, and pour fat from pan (there may be as much as 4-5 tablespoons excess fat). Return chicken and garlic to skillet; bring heat back up. Measure 4 tablespoons vinegar. Once the chicken is again sizzling, pour the vinegar over the chicken and immediately cover with lid and steam the chicken for 5 minutes.  Remove the lid; again remove chicken and garlic from the skillet which will be filmed with a sticky residue from the vinegar and chicken juices; this is the precious bit to turn into a glazing sauce.

Work the teaspoon of flour into the little bit of remaining fat, and add tomato paste, mustard or diced whole tomato. Whisk in chicken stock and boil up quickly to form a light sauce. Return the chicken and garlic to the pan, coat with sauce and simmer a few seconds. Serve with sauce glaze, whole soft garlic cloves and a sprinkling of fresh parsley and chives. Serves 4. Any leftovers make excellent room-temperature picnic bits.