Archive for the ‘history’ Category

Sometimes when performing cooking demonstrations, we need to alter our plans due to supplies, weather, or other situation that is thrown our way.  This past year, we ran into an issue with supplies.  We decided to do an improvisational recipe and it was a tasty success!  This was a change to a traditional dish and I liked it immensely and I hope you do too.


Cod Hash

Cod Hash

2 lbs of cod, cut into 2 inch by 2 inch cubes
1 medium onion or 1 leeks (a mild onion flavored vegetable), diced
1 lb of carrots, thick julienned (size of twig or finger, but not matchstick sized)
1/4 lb of sweet potatoes, peeled and thick julienned
1 lb of red potatoes, thick julienned
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 sprig of rosemary
Kosher or sea salt (to taste)
black pepper (to taste)
2 tbsp of olive oil

Over medium heat add the olive oil.  Once hot, add the garlic and onion or leek to flavor the oil.  Once sweated (becoming transparent), add the vegetables and stir constantly for 6 – 8 minutes. The vegetables should be nearly tender and add the fish; the fish will not take long to cook.  The dish is ready when the carrots and potatoes are tender.  Remove from heat and let it set for 2 minutes before serving.


Close up look of the duck breast

During Love and Romance weekend at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival, we decided to make the most decadent (calorie laden) and romantic meal we could come up with.  Duck L’Orange and Potato Dauphenois.  The potato dish has been a long-standing favorite of Alice the Cook’s and it was nice to show it off again.  Ideally, the potatoes and the duck should be nicely caramelized on the top for appearance and taste sake. 

There were no leftovers with this dish. 

¼ cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons Sherry
1 ½ cups orange juice
2 tablespoons shallots, minced
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
4 oranges, sections cut from membranes
2 duck breast halves, seasoned with salt and pepper
¼ cup unsalted butter
2 tablespoons orange zest



The finished dish

Boil the sugar and water for several minutes, until the syrup caramelizes and turns a golden brown color. Add the vinegar, juice, shallots, and chicken stock and simmer until the sauce is reduced to a little less than a cup. Add butter and 1 tablespoon of orange zest. Stir in orange sections.

Before cooking, score the duck fat with a knife so that the duck fat made render properly.  In a hot skillet, sear the duck breasts, fat side down, over very high heat until caramelized (not burnt) for about 3-5 minutes.  Turn the duck breasts over and continue cooking for about 5 more minutes.  Pour the prepared sauce over the duck breasts and continue cooking with the duck fat and sauce together for 4 more minutes.  Take the duck and let it set for 2 minutes outside of the pan and cut on a bias, garnish with the sauce and remaining orange zest.

Potato Dauphinoise
Preheat over to 350 degrees F
3 lbs of red potatoes, thinly sliced
6 large garlic cloves, minced
1 large garlic clove, halved
4 table spoons of butter
2 1/2 cups of heavy cream
1/2 cup milk
Salt and pepper to taste

Place the potato slices into a bowl of cold water to remove the excess starch.  Drain and pat dry with paper or cloth towels.  Take the halved garlic clove and rub the cut side around a wide, shallow, ovenproof dish or cast iron pot.  Butter or spray oil the dish/pot generously and blend the cream and milk together. 

Cover the bottom of the dish with a layer of the potatoes.  Dot a bit of the butter and minced garlic over the potatoes and season with the salt and pepper.  Pour a bit of the cream and milk mixture over the layer.  Continue making layers until all of the ingredients have been used, ending with just a layer of cream. 

Bake for about 1 1/4 hours. If the potatoes are browning too quickly, cover with a lid or a piece of aluminum foil.  The dish is done when the potatoes are soft and tender and the top is golden brown. 
Serves 8

Several years ago, I wrote an article for Renaissance Magazine (issue #74 on meatloaf and how recipes could be traced back to ancient Roman cooking.  Back then, meatloaf was prepared in sheep stomachs like the Scottish haggis or in upper intestines like sausage and the meatloaf would be baked in a large oven.

Similar recipes have existed for meatballs and have been discovered in German, Belgium, and Holland cooking. In Europe, they use pork, beef, and/or horse meat.  In Asian cooking they would use pork, fish or seafood. Unlike meatloaves that had to be shaped and then cooked, meatball recipes were more versatile – could be baked, boiled or fried.

The meatloaf and meatball recipes add various fillers including bread, rice, or oatmeal to chopped, minced or ground meat, and would allow anyone could stretch a small amount of meat to feed others.  My mixing the meat and the fillers, cooks could use their hands or spoons to drop the meat in boiling water, hot oil, or bake and choose to serve them immediately, use in another recipe or wrap up to be eaten at a later time.  Because of its size, it was very portable and could be used when traveling.

Modern eaters are accustomed to seeing the meatball used in Italian dishes and can be used in other recipes or eaten as a snack. The meatball stew recipe  below is simple and is a great people pleaser for the fussiest of palates.  It can be adapted for any guest and any ingredient and travels well to potlucks and family dinners.

2 lbs. of ground beef (or turkey)
1 cup of raw oatmeal or breadcrumbs
2 eggs

Mix all of the ingredients together.  Form 1.5” – 2” balls and bake for 20 minutes in the oven at 300 degrees.  These may be frozen for future use or used in the recipe below.

Meatball Stew
2 lbs of meatballs (Can be pre-prepared or home-made)
4 cups of beef broth (use chicken or turkey broth with ground turkey)
1 cup of baby carrots or regular carrots thickly chopped
One medium onion, coarsely chopped
10 green onions, diced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 cup of rice
1 sprig or rosemary
1/2 tsp of thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
Optional: red potatoes, turnips (peeled), green beans, pea pods, or sweet potatoes (peeled)
Serves 3-4

In a cast iron Dutch oven, add the meatballs, broth and add enough water to covered the meatballs.  Cook on stovetop or open flame for 20 minutes and add the onions and garlic and let cook for another 20 minutes.  Add the carrots and stir occasionally.

If water is getting low, add more water so the meatballs remain covered.  Continue cooking for 10 more minutes and add rice, rosemary, and thyme.  Stir it up and the rice will settle near bottom to cook. Add optional ingredients.  Keep an eye on the pot to make sure the rice doesn’t burn.  Cook for 20 – 30 minutes and when rice is done.  Garnish with the green onions and serve hot.



Cheese has been traced to the Sumerians, Egyptians, and has been found throughout the world. Each culture has had its own version of cheese; in central Asia, cheese was made from yak milk. North Africans used milk from wild pigs and Europeans used milk from reindeer, water buffalo and mares. But it was the Romans who perfected the art and began to age their cheeses, preparing to send their product out to the marketplace.

Cheese pie served with fresh apple slices and blueberries

Cheese pie served with fresh apple slices and blueberries

Early cheeses were made from adding milk into a container made from an animal’s stomach. The stomach contains a natural enzyme called rennin and would cause the milk to curdle. When churned, the milk would be separated from curds and whey, which could be strained to create two milk by-products. The curds would be gathered and cooked to create cheese. Softer cheeses were cooked at a lower temperature and higher temperatures results in the harder varieties. Cheese makers would drain off any additional liquid whey, and then would salt and cut the hardened curd. The processed curd would be pressed into molds and would be further aged/cured in nearby caves or holes in the ground.

During the Renaissance, cheese was served as a dessert and was reserved for the middle or wealthier classes. The merchant/middle class would enjoy softer goat cheeses with grapes or figs and the wealthy would enjoy a cheese course, which was served before or during dessert.

One of the more popular desserts was the cheese pie. This dessert is very different than the desserts for modern palates; it is not sweet and, depending on the cheese, can be pungent. To offset its strong flavor the cheese would be served with fresh grapes or figs. Traditionally, pastry crusts were very hard and were used as a container for many types of dishes. The pie crust below is a modern execution of that recipe and creates a flakier and tastier crust.

Pie Crust Recipe:
2 cups of all-purpose flour
½ tsp of finely ground sea salt
½ cup of butter or lard, softened
¼ cup of cold water

Mix the flour and salt until well combined. Cut the butter or lard up into teaspoon chips and add it to the flour mixture.

Using a large fork, begin crushing the butter or lard into the flour and salt mixture. Begin adding the water at 2 tablespoons increments until a soft, non-sticky dough forms into a ball.

Refrigerate the dough for 1 hour or more before rolling out. This will allow the fat to combine with the flour and will create a flakier crust. While the crust “cures” in the refrigerator, you can begin making the filling.

Cheese Pie Filling Recipe:
1 cup of all-purpose flour
¼ tsp of salt
Pinch of black pepper
¼ tsp powdered mustard
½ cup of grated Gouda cheese (other “white” cheeses may be used as well).
2 egg yolks
¼ cup of lard or butter

Mix together the flour, salt, pepper, mustard. Add the butter or lard and begin to blend together with a fork. Add the cheese and egg yolks. If the filling seems too dry, add the water 2 tablespoons at a time until a thick cream is developed. Cover and let cool for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375° F.

Roll out the pie crust into a 10” circle. You can use a plate to measure the circle. Place the pie crust into an 8” pie tin; there should be enough of the crust to go over the pie tin. Pierce the crust 6 times in the bottom of the pan; this will help the crust to cook evenly.

Move the cheese mixture from the covered bowl onto the crust and spread evenly. Roll the edges of the pie crust inward or crimp or pinch the crust; this will add a decorative element to the pie.

Set the pie into the oven to bake for approximately 12-18 minutes, depending on altitude. The crust edges should be golden brown. Let cool for 7-10 minutes before cutting. Serve with fresh figs, berries or apples and honey.


Rosemary Health Benefits

   Posted by: anj68 Tags: , ,

In ancient times, Rosemary was used to relieve abdominal pain, gout, insomnia, and for the calming nerves. People would burn rosemary branches on the altars of the gods, considering it a sacred herb and the Egyptians placed the herb in pharaohs’ tombs. The custom of burning rosemary branches was practiced in hospitals in France until the 20th century – and used for cleaning the air. Also because of its antiseptic effect, the plant was appreciated and used for conserving meat, even in extremely hot weather – it was known that rosemary prevents and delays the decay of meat.

Rosemary in known as an analgesic, antiseptic, antidepressant, anti-inflammatory, expectorant, antiviral, aphrodisiac, and disinfectant while stimulating bile secretion and helping eliminate it in the intestines, destroying microorganisms, increasing the quantity of eliminated urine, improving the blood flow and refreshing and energizing the mind. Rosemary helps as a memory stimulant and has calming effects by working against fatigue, sadness, anxiety, calming muscle soreness, digestive pains and also, indigestion caused by stress.

Rosemary improves digestion, fights against obesity, liver diseases, gastritis, hyper or hypocholesterolemia, bronchic asthma, edemas, and adjusts fast heart beats caused especially by irritability, coffee or tobacco excess. Because of its antiseptic and tonic properties, rosemary is extremely beneficial in cases of fainting, influenza, hangovers, asthma, bronchitis, cramps, constipation, cystitis, headaches, polypus, colds, cough, sinusitis or muscular pains. The plant also has a good influence on the blood circulation and blood pressure.

SOURCES:,,, and

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