Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Junket, the Mystery Dessert

So, ask me.  
What is it?

A dessert.
 Well, the box says rennet custard.  So like a pudding?
Kinda sorta.  But not thick and gooey like pudding.   And not especially rich.   More like sweet milk jello.

How is it that nobody around here has ever heard of Junket?  Zero of my friends were ever served Junket as a kid.   Apparently Junket is pretty much unknown here in the U.S. (although it seems to have been readily available), but much more common in Europe. I'm assuming my Kiwi mother had Junket made for her by her British mom.  And she made it for me.
I can remember making Junket for  some of my room-mates in college and they loved it.  Then I made it for my guys.
And I hadn't thought of it in ages, but the other day I started thinking about the cold sweet milkiness of it and just  had to have some.
Junket is made with Rennet,  an enzyme.  It comes from cows.  That's all you need to know about that.  It is used to make a variety of desserts and cheeses.  Rennet begins the  digestion of food. When it is added to milk that's just a little warmer than human body temperature (like a cow's body temperature) it causes  the milk to ... not curdle, because it's not sour.....not thicken, but to turn into a kind of loose, jello-ey,  er...well, ... not pudding.  And not rubbery.
Is that not clear now?
Junket is sweet just the way the milk in the bottom of the cereal bowl is when you eat sugared cereal, which, believe it or not, is now being served in a very hot NYC restaurant.  Cereal Milk, they call it.  And they sell that!
I  estimate the calories in 1/2 cup serving of Junket to be around 100, which I consider to be a bargain  for this much sweet delight.

This is what you will need.
2 cups of Whole Milk.
1 junket tablet (pulverize with two spoons)
mixed with 3 T. sugar
Vanilla (oops, not pictured)
Nutmeg  (Freshly, finely grated is best)

Here are the steps. The actual composition should take 5 minutes, max.
1. Pour 2 C. milk and some vanilla (1tsp.) in a saucepan.
2. Put 3T sugar combined with one crushed Junket tablet aside. 
3. Heat the milk, stirring constantly, until it registers barely warm with your clean handy-dandy finger-thermometer.  Think about it;  110°F, the recommended temp, is just 11 degrees over body temp. And remember: if it gets too hot it won't set.
4. Add the sugar and Junket and stir thoroughly, until the sugar is dissolved.

5. Pour the milk mixture into individual ramekins or whatever you want to serve it in.
6. Grate fresh nutmeg on the top. Done.
7. Walk away for 15 minutes.  Rennet needs some time to do it's magic.
8. When you come back it should be set.  Jiggle it a little to see, and what you should see is slight movement,  but definitely not liquid.    If it's still liquid, your milk was too hot. Try again.
9. When you're sure it's set, put it in the fridge until it's good and cold.
10.  Get ready for questions, unless you're going to eat it all by yourself.

Junket tablets (the kind I used here) were in all the grocery stores back even 20 years ago, and some still carry it, you just have to search.  It is usually on the top shelf of the Jello/Pudding/Tapioca section.
Please let me know if you've ever done anything different (recipe wise) with these tablets.  I'd love to hear about it.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Fat Mama Cookies

This is my only cookie recipe.  I used to make them often, when the boys were little.  (A long, long time ago.)  I used to call these "Goody Two Cookies" because you can remember the recipe so easily that way, but then I had to rename them when I realized that they were completely responsible for porking me up, as we say around here.
They are (here's that tired but apt descriptive) addictive and delicious; once, years after I had taken them to an event, a woman I had met there called me from Kentucky to ask for the recipe.  Again.
This recipe can be used for oatmeal or chocolate chip cookies with a minor variation.  Sorry to say they are just as fattening either way.  So.. here is the oatmeal recipe.

Take 2 sticks of softened butter and throw them in the mixing bowl.
Add 2 cups of sugar.  (I use 1 of brown and 1 of white, but you can use either/or.)
2 very generous pinches of salt
2 eggs
2 big slurps of vanilla

2 eggs
2 cups of all purpose flour
2 cups of oatmeal
1 tsp. baking soda
and mix this up. 
This part is important:
 Let it sit for about 15 minutes before you start making cookies!   Bake at 350 for 12-15 minutes.

Here is how you change it up for chocolate chip.  
Instead of adding the oatmeal, add 2 more cups of regular flour.
Add chocolate chips (and nuts if you want to).   That's it! 

Don't say you weren't warned.



Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Greenhouse that Time Forgot

 In the cool mountains of Southeastern New Mexico there is a relic of a large plant business.  The sign is on the facade, but the original nursery bit the dust back in the 70's.  What's left is a quiet green and mossy testimony to the passage of time.  Every year I go back  to wonder at the  awesome tenacity of the plants and the man who tends them. This plant, for example.
Here is a picture of the pot it grows in.

Here's a beautiful example of lush overgrowth.
And another...

and another...
and one more...

and I can't forget about this one...

But along with the freakiness, there is breathtaking beauty.  Like this:
or this,
But don't get too excited.  Because you cannot, under any circumstance; you cannot buy this one.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Chiles Rellenos

Chile relleno means "re-filled" chile.   Llenar (yehnahr) is to fill, and chiles rellenos are chiles that are filled or "stuffed"  in many different ways. Rellenos Frios are not fried but served cold, stuffed with with guacamole or shrimp, chicken, or tuna salad.   Chiles en Nogado are stuffed with a meat/fruit/nut mixture, traditionally served for holidays.  Where I live on the Texas, New Mexico, Mexico border, the  "Chile Relleno" dish  is a thick-meated green chile,  roasted and peeled, and usually, but not always de-seeded, stuffed with cheese and coated with simple batter made with eggs and flour.  Then fried carefully in a pan with a scant amount of oil; this is not a deep fried dish.  This Relleno is served warm, as a side dish or as a main course. 

My guys would rather have a steak with a chile relleno than a potato.  Any. Day.  Something about the blending of the flavors of green chile, Monterrey Jack cheese, crispy batter and a piece of delicious beef cooked perfectly over a hot grill.... well, it's just the about best combination ever invented.  The next best way to enjoy one is wrapped with a schmear  of refried beans in a freshly toasted flour tortilla.  That, my friend,  is a burrito that will bring tears of joy to a hungry person.

But, back to the Chile Relleno, simplicity and just the minimum of everyday ingredients once again trumps the overwrought and the over-thought. Steak, Chile Relleno, and maybe some sliced fresh tomato.... now that's what we consider a perfect summer meal.

As the daughter of a chile farmer, I always look for  green chile that is thick and meaty.  Rounder tips are generally, but not always, milder than the pointy ones.  I am very lucky to have a neighborhood store that always has freshly roasted chiles available.  And they are usually very good ones.  And.....someday I am going to find the sweet little man who roasts them so perfectly and give him a big ol' kiss.  Probably.

Anyway, you take your roasted and peeled chiles and make a small slit in the side and rinse out the seeds.  Then you dry them well and dredge them in a little bit of flour.
Cut the Monterrey Jack cheese into strips and stuff them into the chiles.

Now you take some eggs, say one for every 3 chiles that you are going to make, and separate the yolks from the whites.  Be careful!  You don't want any yolks to mix in with the whites or it won't beat up fluffy and white, like this.

I put some plain flour in a strainer, along with a generous pinch of salt and some baking powder ( a half tsp. per cup of flour).  How much flour, you ask?  Well, just guestimate about the same volume of flour as yolks.
Then shake your strainer over the yolks and mix the dry ingredients with them, and add a little water until it is thick but not stiff, about pancake batter consistency. 

Take  the yolk mixture and fold or whisk it into the beaten whites.  Don't over-mix it, just until the whites and the yolk mix  together.   Heat up a pan with about a half inch of light olive oil, or any other oil that you like.

Now, dip your chile into the batter, and lay it carefully in an ugly pan just like this one. 

Don't have one this bad?  No worries.  Just use what you have.  Your rellenos should fry but not sizzle and spit.  Turn them over when they are brown and fry the other side.  Then lay them on some paper or paper towels and keep them warm (200) until you're ready to serve them up.   If you are lucky enough to have some left over, be sure you try the chile relleno/refried bean burrito.  You will never be the same.