For the past 12 years or so I’ve been the proud owner of the 1975 Joy of Cooking, purchased at the original (and huge) Half Price Books in Dallas.  It is largely regarded as the best edition, and with good reason – it was the last book authored by Marion Rombauer Becker, who had collaborated on every edition with her mother, Irma S. Rombauer, since the first edition published in 1931 and was an accumulation of all the knowledge and experience gained by Mrs. Becker over the course of her life. 

Joy had been revised roughly every 10 years since being originally published in 1931, but the 1975 edition remained unchanged for 22 years.  In 1997, a new “publisher-driven” edition was published, removing much of the content that had made Joy so useful (and so popular).  A 75th anniversary edition was released in 2006, returning to the original format and restoring much of the original content, including the very useful Know Your Ingredients section.

I asked for, and received, the 75th anniversary edition for my birthday.  My request was mostly due to curiosity – the new book is noticeably larger than my worn, old copy (it contains 500 new recipes and many “best of” recipes from previous editions).  It also has a brand-new section on nutrition, and it was this to which I initially, and eagerly, turned.

I should have known better.

At first I was really encouraged, despite repeating the tired (and inaccurate) old saws about life-expectancy in ancient times, which was followed by this:

Today the average American reaches a ripe old age of seventy-seven years.  That’s more than long enough to develop a litany of diseases associated with getting older.  It turns out, though, that most of these diseases aren’t the inevitable consequences of aging.  Instead, many are rooted in poor nutrition, lack of exercise, and other unhealthy habits.

Well, alrighty then.

It got irritating again in a big hurry, though, when it advocated Harvard’s Healthy Eating Plate (precursor to the USDA’s new Choose My Plate) as a guide to good nutrition, with its admonitions to eat more whole grains and little red meat, but redeemed itself by saying, “You shouldn’t eat by the book, or by the plate or pie chart, for that matter.  Slavishly following any healthy eating guide takes all the fun out of eating.”  Then I began reading the section of fats – and damn near kissed the book.

No matter what our national fat phobia suggests, the human body needs fats and cholesterol.  Fats are a prime source of energy.  Certain kinds of fats protect the heart.  Cholesterol helps make the “skin” around cells and the bile acids needed to digest food.  It also provides the raw material for making vitamin D and hormones such as estrogen and testosterone.  Body fat provides an essential energy storage depot, cushions and insulates organs and tissues, and regulates body temperature.

Then…yeah, it went there.

There are four main types of fats: saturated, monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and trans fats.  Understanding good and bad fats is actually simple:  Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature.  Saturated and trans fats are solid rather than liquid.

*sigh*  Apparently sources of omega-6 polyunsaturated fats such as corn and soybean oil are perfectly fine; since they’re liquid at room temperature they can’t be a source of trans fats (you do hear the sarcasm there, yes?).  It gets even better and lumps saturated fats together with trans fats and dutifully warns us to keep our consumption of saturated fats to 8% of our total caloric intake while avoiding trans fats all together (at least we can agree on something).  The section on carbohydrates was about what I expected – eat lots of whole grains (good carbohydrates) while avoiding refined grains and sugar (bad carbohydrates), along with how things like beans and peanut butter are acceptable sources of “complete proteins,” yadda yadda yadda, world without end, Amen.

Ah, well – I won’t be tossing the book out because of any of this; the recipes from previous editions, along with the revised and updated sections of Know Your Ingredients and Cooking Methods and Techniques, make it worth owning.  It’s also fascinating from the perspective of how things have changed in the last 30 years – my 1975 edition, for instance, has a small but detailed section on cooking brains, while the 2006 edition simply states, “We do not recommend eating the brains of cows, sheep or pigs, nor any part of the spinal column, because of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) known as Mad Cow Disease.”  One thing of the first things I did was look up goat recipes; both say essentially the same thing – cook it like lamb – but the 2006 edition not only tells you where you can find it commercially, but also contains several recipes for wild goat in the surprisingly comprehensive game section.

I guess what all of this leads up to is this:  I understand this book is six years old, but Mr. Becker (the original author’s grandson), please stick to what you know – cooking – and leave the dissemination of bad nutritional advice to the experts…the government.


Asian-Style Pork and Goat Meatballs

O hai.

Well, we’re back from our combined birthday/holiday adventures and a good time was had by all.  Beloved took me to Michael Symon’s Lola Bistro for my birthday, and I’m afraid G. Michael’s Bistro has lost us, perhaps for good.  Afterwards, we drove to Cincinnati to visit with Jolly and The G Man, which is always fun.

One of the more exciting things that happened over the holiday weekend (at least for us) was the acquisition of our goat, Pete.  You don’t get a lot of meat from a goat – our box had about 30 pounds of different cuts (including 2 frenched racks) – which, after paying for the goat and processing, cost us about $6.75 a pound all told.  A bit high, perhaps, for the ground and stew meat, but not bad at all for the frenched racks, chops and shanks.  Besides – it’s goat; not exactly something you can just pick up at the grocery store.

While goat is butchered very much like lamb, it does not taste like it – lamb has a rather strong, often a bit gamey, flavor.  Goat, however, has a pretty mild flavor, more like beef or a good venison.  Because there’s not a lot of Pete in the freezer and we may have to wait until late next fall to purchase another goat, I mixed the pound of ground goat with a pound of ground pork (if you don’t eat pork and can get the goat, go ahead and use two pounds of goat or mix it with a pound of ground venison or ground turkey) for this dish.  Both meats work really well with Asian flavors and this dish came out quite well.

Don’t be intimidated by the list of ingredients; the recipe comes together quickly and easily.  And be prepared for more goat recipes – I’ve got 29 more pounds out there, and hopefully it will all come out better than the poor duck I overcooked on Christmas Eve (although the pork belly I made as an appetizer was delicious).

Asian-Style Pork and Goat Meatballs

Asian-Style Pork and Goat Meatballs

serves 6

1 pound ground pork
1 pound ground goat
1 tablespoon lard or butter
1/2 small onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 tablespoons tamari or gluten-free soy sauce
1 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons ginger, freshly grated
1 teaspoon sesame oil

1/2 large onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 tablespoons lard or butter
1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon red pepper
1 tablespoon ginger, freshly grated
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons raw honey
1/4 cup tamari or gluten-free soy sauce
2 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons tapioca flour or arrowroot powder

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Melt the lard or butter in a small, heavy skillet over medium-low heat. Cook the onion, stirring frequently, until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Using your hands, gently mix the ground pork, ground goat, onion/garlic mixture, tamari, pepper, red pepper flakes, ginger and sesame oil in a large bowl until well-blended. Form into 2-ounce meatballs and place on a shallow, foil-lined baking dish; bake the meatballs for 20 to 25 minutes, or just until cooked through. Place the meatballs on a paper towel-lined plate and set aside.

While the meatballs are baking, melt the lard or butter in a large, heavy skillet over medium-low heat. Cook the onion, stirring frequently, until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Pour in the chicken stock, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, ginger, sesame oil, honey, and tamari and simmer for 10 minutes.

Whisk the tapioca flour into the water and add to the sauce mixture in the skillet. Cook, stirring frequently, until the sauce thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon. Reduce the heat and add the meatballs to the sauce; continue cooking, stirring frequently, until the meatballs are coated with the sauce and heated through. Serve over steamed rice, riced cauliflower or stir-fried baby bok choy.

Nutrition (per serving): 431 calories, 26.3g total fat, 106mg cholesterol, 1066.7mg sodium, 675.7mg potassium, 15.1g carbohydrates, <1g fiber, 8.1g sugar, 32g protein.

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Yeah, that’s my age.  I celebrate another important anniversary tomorrow – I quit smoking four years ago.

We’re taking The Young One to Cleveland to fly to Texas to visit with the paterfamilias for the holiday, so we decided to stay for the night and are going to eat dinner at Michael Symon’s Lola Bistro.  This weekend we drive to Cincinnati to visit with The G Man for Christmas (if we can fit all the gifts in the car :P).

Since we’re going to be so busy, I’m taking a few days off from blogging, and probably won’t be back until next Wednesday, when we return from Cincinnati.

Happy Holidays!

Grain-Free Chicken Pot Pie

I talk a lot here about pastured eggs and their superiority to battery-produced eggs, but what happens to those hens once they become too old to lay eggs any longer?  Well, I can’t vouch for battery hens, but those chickens that spend their time roaming around outside (and I’ve watched the hens that lay my eggs roam around outside) become stewing hens.

Unlike chickens meant to be eaten, called roasters, laying hens are much leaner and smaller; by the time they reach an age when they no longer lay eggs, they are too tough to bake, roast, grill or fry.  However, like tougher cuts of beef, they are extremely flavorful and take well to long, slow cooking in liquid, making them excellent for soups, stews and casseroles.  Another upside is that they’re also inexpensive; we’ve gotten them for as little as $3 per chicken in the past.

At any rate, I threw one in the slow cooker the other morning (something I’d not done before) with half a sliced onion, salt, pepper and rubbed sage, covered it with cool water, and set it to cook for 12 hours on low, with the idea that I’d make some sort of soup out of it that evening for dinner.  I have to tell you I was thrilled with the results – it produced a stock that was a deep, lovely golden color and the most delicious I’ve ever tasted, and the chicken just fell off the bones.

By that time, though, I’d abandoned the idea of a soup (thanks to the lovely Stacy) and decided I’d tackle a pot pie, instead.  And, thanks to the equally lovely Andrea of Simply Living Healthy, I had an idea of how I was going to tackle the crust.   Last month, Andrea posted a recipe for Perfect Paleo Biscuits and once I’d decided to make the pot pie, her recipe immediately sprang to mind – and, with a few tweaks, it became a wonderful topping for what is very likely the most delicious chicken casserole filling I’ve ever made.

And I’ve made a lot of chicken casserole fillings.

A few notes:  This is a fairly time and labor intensive dish – you’re not going to get it on the table in under an hour.  We often dine rather late in our house (I tell Beloved and The Young One that we’re being European), but I know that’s not an option for a lot of people, so you might want to wait and make this on a weekend.  Now, having said that, this dish reheated extremely well the next day, so you could make it ahead and refrigerate or freeze it to serve on a weekday (consider this next week’s Make Ahead Monday, which will be on hiatus due to the holiday).

Also, if you’ve not cooked with coconut flour before, its properties are quite different from those of wheat flour, so don’t make the mistake of trying to substitute it in a 1:1 ratio.  It also has a distinct coconut taste which, while ameliorated by the almond flour and sage, is still fairly noticeable in the dish.  At least at first; by the time I finished dinner, I barely noticed it at all – this was even more true with the leftovers the next day.  I guess if you simply do not like coconut, this dish might not be for you.

I also decided at the last minute to add some of the ten tons of sweet corn we canned this summer and have socked away in the basement – feel free to replace it with something like potato, if you wish, or leave it out all together.  The good news is, if you just include the carrots, celery and onions as the vegetables in this dish, it is not only paleo, but Whole 30 legal, as well (if I’m not mistaken).

Grain-Free Chicken Pot Pie

Grain-Free Chicken Pot Pie

serves 6

6 egg whites from large eggs
3/4 cup almond flour
1/4 cup coconut flour, plus 2 tablespoons if needed
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
2 teaspoons fresh sage, finely chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons lard or coconut oil, chilled
3 tablespoons lard or butter
1 large onion, thinly sliced
3 large carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
1 1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon fresh sage, finely chopped
1 cup fresh corn kernels (optional)
3 1/2 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
4 cups cooked, chopped chicken
1/4 cup tapioca flour or arrowroot powder
1/2 cup chicken stock, preferably homemade

Preheat oven to 375 F.

In a large bowl, whisk together the almond flour, 1/4 cup of coconut flour, baking powder, salt, and sage. Using a pastry knife or two forks, cut the lard or coconut oil into the dry mixture until it resembles a coarse meal. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least 10 minutes.

Melt the lard or butter in a large, heavy, oven-proof skillet – preferably cast iron – over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until it begins to soften a bit, about 3 or 4 minutes. Reduce the heat slightly and add the carrots, celery, salt, pepper and sage and continue cooking for another 5 minutes.

Add the chicken, corn (if using) and 3 1/2 cups of chicken stock to the skillet; bring the mixture to a simmer and continue cooking, stirring frequently, for 10 minutes.

While the chicken mixture is simmering, remove the almond/coconut flour mixture from the refrigerator. Beat the egg whites with a fork until very frothy, then whisk the whites into the dry biscuit mixture until well blended. If the mixture is too wet to handle, gradually stir in the extra coconut flour until the mixture resembles a soft, moist dough. (Conversely, if the mixture is too dry after beating in the egg whites, gradually stir in two tablespoons water until the mixture is a soft, moist dough.) Cover with a damp cloth and set aside.

Whisk the tapioca or arrowroot into the remaining half cup of chicken stock and whisk into the chicken mixture in the skillet. Increase the heat slightly and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens enough to coat a spoon. Remove for the heat and set aside.

Gently divide the topping into six equal parts and pat into thin rounds. Carefully place each round on top of the chicken mixture in the skillet. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the topping is golden brown and the filling is bubbling.

Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 5 minutes. Divide the filling into six serving bowls and top with a biscuit.

Nutrition (per serving): 404 calories, 21.3g total fat, 18.7mg cholesterol, 1269.8mg sodium, 753.6mg potassium, 36.1g carbohydrates, 7.7g fiber, 10.5g sugar, 14.9g protein.

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Posted in participation of Kelly the Kitchen Kop’s Real Food Wednesday