Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Food: Recipes, cookbook reviews, food notes, and restaurant reviews. Unless otherwise noted, I have personally tried each recipe that gets its own page, but not necessarily recipes listed as part of a cookbook review.

Sealing the bread slice guide—Wednesday, January 29th, 2020
Side view of bread slice guide

The original, without mineral oil.

My scrap wood bread slicing guide had only one problem: I didn’t know how to protect it or stain it. In the comments, Charles the Simple suggested:

…common mineral oil will seal your slicer. Available at any drug store, just wipe on when necessary.

I got some cheap mineral oil from Walmart—their store brand—and wiped it on several times over several days letting it soak into the wood after each application. The wood, as you can see in the photos, looks nicer now than in the original. In fact, the after-photo doesn’t do it justice. It looks a lot nicer than it used to; I am not a professional photographer (as any reader of this blog is painfully aware) and cannot get the photo to look like the real thing.

I wiped it on by pouring a little oil on the wood, and then spreading it using a paper towel; when done, I used another paper towel to wipe away any obvious excess. Even after wiping the excess away, the wood does make the wood feel oily until it soaks in. It takes a day or two after each application for the wood to start feeling normal again. I did not use the guide for slicing until then, because I didn’t want any bread to soak up mineral oil. While drug-store mineral oil is labeled as safe to eat, it’s usually found in the laxative section. I enjoy whole-grain breads but I don’t need to enhance that aspect of it.

While the main purpose of the mineral oil is sealing the wood— protecting the wood against humidity in the air and from any water in the breads I slice on it—it also highlights the wood grain. It resembles a very light stain. Every once in a while I put more on—just as I would with a wooden breadboard or rolling pin—and every time I do it gets better looking. So if beauty is truth, then this is a necessary step in making a bread slice guide.

Roast beef for National Sandwich Day—Wednesday, October 30th, 2019

Sunday is National Sandwich Day. So far I’ve been focusing on breads for National Sandwich Day, but what’s a sandwich without something to go between? A good sliceable roast beef is high sandwich cuisine, and I’ve recently discovered a great, simple recipe for it using what is (for now, anyway) a reasonably priced cut, sirloin tip.

This recipe is attributed to Mrs. M. H. Webber of Seabrook, Texas, in the Holiday volume of the Southern Living Cookbook Library. It is a very simple recipe and produces great results. The first time I made it, I overcooked the roast and it was still amazing.

After an hour and a half I check the temperature, and as long as it’s 160° in the center, it’s done.

Roast beef is a hearty flavor, and can handle a hearty bread. In this case, I’m using a seeded rye from the fourth volume of Donna Rathmell German’s Bread Machine cookbook series. If you don’t have it, any rye will do; the seeds are anise and fennel in addition to the caraway that is probably already in your rye recipe.

They say in the Mediterranean that the best accompaniment to a meal is the wine that was grown near to the ingredients. As you can see in the photo, the perfect accompaniment to this sandwich is cheap Texas beer. Happy eating!

Brandywine beef

The first time I made this, I overcooked it to about 190 degrees. It was still amazing. There’s a lot to be said for recipes that are difficult to screw up.

Roast Beef Sandwich

Mustard, tomato, jalapeño, red onion, roast beef, red bell pepper, cheddar cheese on seeded rye.

Dominion Electric Corporation Wafflemaker Manual—Wednesday, August 21st, 2019

I have never been a fan of single-purpose kitchen tools. They take up space and are only used on that rare occasion when their purpose comes into play. Waffle irons are no different. If I want a waffle, I figured, I could just go out and have someone else make me one. Why would I want to use space in my kitchen for an appliance I’m literally only going to use when I want to make waffles?

Then I saw this beautiful old waffle-maker at the local antique mall, for $5, marked “works” and I couldn’t resist. It makes small waffles—about 4 ½ by 5 ¼ inches, just right for a moderate breakfast—and two at a time. It’s the perfect waffle maker.

There was only one problem: each side uses its own plug, and the waffle maker only came with one cord with one plug. This meant only making one waffle at a time. So I started haunting eBay for an extra cord.1 I discovered that there are a lot of these waffle makers out there, and sellers have a very inflated sense of what they’re worth. They usually list for far more than $5 (especially with shipping added in) and they literally never sell.

As I started to use the waffle maker, I discovered another problem. It seems like a simple thing to use a waffle maker, but in practice it isn’t. Do I need to grease the iron? That seemed to make more of a mess than people would be willing to put up with. The gauge on the top of the irons goes from low, to bake, to hot. Which do I wait for when making waffles? It seems like I’d want it to be hot, but then what is bake for?

At which point I noticed something else about the Dominion waffle irons on eBay. None of them come with manuals or instructions. A detailed search of the Internet and there are no reproductions of the manual either.

The only Dominion waffle maker I’ve ever seen bid on, I bid on. Because it came with the manual (and it was only about $20 with shipping). Even then, with photos of the manual, doing a search on the title of the manual still comes up with nothing. Since it’s a short manual, and it has very useful information, I figured I’d reproduce it. The full title is Directions for Operating Waffle Iron and Tested Recipes (PDF File, 81.2 KB).

Perfect lemon pie for Pi Day—Wednesday, March 13th, 2019
Whole perfect lemon pie

Meringue is perfect for pi day because it’s all about the volume.

Tomorrow is Pi Day, and to celebrate, you should have erudite circular discussions of mathematical philosophy, over a sector of pie. I’m generally partial to fruit pies or nut pies, but every once in a while I have a craving for a good lemon meringue.

Until recently, custards have always bedeviled me. I never seem to cook them long enough, no matter how long I wait. Because of my impatience, the custard ends up too runny or burnt. I’ve been doing a lot better lately, and mainly because of the incredible Southern Living Cookbook Library series. The Holiday volume has an amazing almond-silk pie, for example. The Food & Wine series has also been helpful—you can see the edge of their annual collection in the previous post but I’ll have more about that later.

So when I saw that this lemon meringue pie from the Fondue and Buffet volume of the series was labeled Perfect Lemon Meringue, it was impossible to pass up even if the name does seem guaranteed to disappoint. What in this world is perfect? This pie comes close. It is in fact very easy. And it is easily the best lemon meringue pie I’ve ever made. It manages to make the dangerous part of lemon pie, the filling, easier, at least for me.

National Sandwich Day: Do-it-yourself bread slice guide—Wednesday, October 31st, 2018

Owning a bread machine means slicing my own bread. There’s a reason “best thing since sliced bread” became a popular saying. It’s very hard to get evenly sliced bread the same width at the top as the bottom. This is especially true for people who can’t draw a straight line to save their life—like me.

There are a lot of bread slicing guides available on Amazon and other places, and the reviews for all of them seem to be all over the map. It occurred to me that making one by hand shouldn’t be too hard, and I could do it with scrap wood left over from making bookshelves.

Mine consists of five parts—five pieces of wood, plus, of course, however many nails you feel necessary. I measured the width of a loaf from my bread machine, and that became the width of the inner part of the slicing guide. Since the scrap wood was ¾-inch thick and the slicing guide has two walls, the width of the base was the width of a loaf of bread plus twice that, that is, plus 1 ½ inches.1

The space for the guide is the width of my electric carving knife blade. The two sets of walls are that distance from each other. Something you can’t easily see in the photos is that I’ve also sliced a guide partly through the base, about an eighth of an inch deep and the same width as the blade. This allows the knife to go below the bottom of the bread without wearing itself out on the wooden base. I did this by raising the blade on the table saw only about an eighth of an inch, and cutting a groove through the base that way.2

I have neither dyed nor lacquered the wood, because I haven’t found a wood dye or lacquer that I trust to be food-safe. Or which a clumsy woodworker (me) isn’t likely to screw up. The general advice for staining wood to be used on food is to use stain and then seal it to keep the non-food-safe stain out. But that doesn't seem to me to work when you’re using a blade that is going to cut through the lacquer. In this case, it seems to me that an electric carving knife is likely to break through any lacquer or laminate.

The wood needs to be cut into five parts. I used scrap leftover from 7 ¼-inch wide boards.

  • (1) base: 6 ¼ inches wide by 16 inches long with a groove at 10 inches.
  • (2) loaf-side walls: 6 inches long by 7 ¼ inches tall.
  • (2) slice-side walls: 3 ½ inches long by 7 ¼ inches tall.
The Southern Living Cookbook Library—Wednesday, October 3rd, 2018

The Southern Living Cookbook Library is probably the series of books I rely on most when looking for new recipes. I found the first of these cookbooks, the Cookies and Candy Cookbook, at one of the local flea markets about four years ago. It was filled with great recipes; it seemed impossible to make a bad recipe from the book. So when I happened to see the Meats Cookbook in Franklin, Tennessee, I picked it up. And then the Holiday Cookbook a few months later in Birmingham. I then quickly picked up several more on a pre-Hallowe’en run through Franklin and Nashville.

As I came to rely more and more on the books in the series, I picked up new ones whenever I ran across one; of all old cookbook series, they seem especially scarce. I have a feeling that people don’t get rid of these books when they start culling their collections.

I have not been able to find any official list of the books in the series. There are a couple of lists online, but these lists each miss at least one of the books. By my count, which could easily be wrong, there are twenty-two books. I made this count by searching for various permutations of Southern Living cookbooks; there are a couple of collections for sale with the spines out.

Molasses ginger sandwich cookies

Molasses ginger sandwich cookies from the Cookies and Candies book. Easy sandwich cookies, very good. Buttery.

Glazed donuts

Glazed donuts from the Holiday book, made in a bread machine and deep-fried.

Popovers with butter

Popovers from the Holiday book, made in the bread machine and then slathered in butter.

If my count is correct, I managed to pick up the last missing book in the series, the Soups and Stews Cookbook, in August. And just like the first book rapidly became the first place I looked for cookies and candies, this has become the pre-eminent soup book in my collection. The uncooked tomato/yogurt soup alone is worth the book; it’s very simple, and very much something I would never have thought to try without seeing the recipe here.

National Sandwich Day: Whole Wheat Sesame Bread—Tuesday, October 31st, 2017

Today might be Hallowe’en, but this Friday, National Sandwich Day is again upon us. So to counter the gooey candies get ready for a fresh sandwich by making this hearty bread.

For anyone who was in Ithaca, New York in the eighties, one cookbook was on almost every shelf: Mollie Katzen’s The Enchanted Broccoli Forest. The Moosewood Restaurant was a bit too expensive to be a regular habit for me at the time, but it was definitely an interesting place.

The sesame-lemon bread in Broccoli Forest is also interesting, not least of which because I could pretty much never make it come out. But then, I pretty much couldn’t make any bread recipe come out consistently well until I got a bread machine.

Still, when I tried to make this one in the bread machine, it turned out almost as bad as if I made it by hand. Particularly, when I compared it to some other recipes, the liquid content seems awfully low. So I experimented a bit, and came up with this variation that works in my bread machine and is perfect for toast and for sandwiches.

The order of ingredients here isn’t just the standard liquids-first that bread machines require. Most importantly, measure the one tablespoon of oil first so that the three tablespoons of honey will easily slip from the spoon. And grind the seeds dry. Otherwise, they will stick to the sides of whatever you’re using to grind them; once they are ground, add the oil.1

Sesame Krispies—Tuesday, January 31st, 2017
Cat in a doorway

Cat waits for krispies. His wait is sad and endless. I ate all the treats.

I was in the mood for some sesame candy, and noticed the opened box of Rice Krispies in the cupboard. This semi-sesame candy is just as easy as rice krispie candy.

I’ve also used almond extract or vanilla extract to add to the flavor of rice krispie candies, and I’d bet that just about any flavoring normally used in candies will work well.

I have no photo, because I ate them all before writing this. Nor can I find a free rice krispie candy stock photo. So here’s a picture of a cat in a doorway. That should make this recipe a viral sensation.

Older posts