Saturday, September 15, 2007

A Yankee Meal: Navy Bean Soup, Parker House Rolls, and Concord Grape Pie

Tonight we have the first frost advisory of the year here in Ithaca, so it's a good night to stay home and have a comforting meal. Also, I didn't feel like doing my homework, so I basically got food (at the farm and farm-stand) and cooked the whole day. I even took pictures this time! Tonight's meal was truly all-American, all-Yankee, in fact. A navy bean is also known as a Yankee bean, so the soup is self-explanatory. The Parker House rolls originated at a swanky hotel in Boston; I made the cloverleaf version. The concord grape pie may be more hard to believe, but it does exist and is a regional delicacy. Concord grapes are a 'labrusca' variety, which means they're descended from the native North American grape. I'm not sure if you can find concords in MN, but I hope so, since the pie smells delicious (it's still cooling, so I don't know how it tastes). I think that you can use any other black-skinned grape whose skins slip off readily.

Yankee Bean Soup - Lillian's original recipe

1 lb. navy beans, soaked overnight or using a quick-soak method
1.5 lb. smoked ham hocks (try to find meaty ones)
2-3 qts. meat stock (I used pork from the roast I made a few entries back)
3-4 carrots, finely diced
1 large onion, finely diced
1/4 c. ketchup
3 Tbsp. brown sugar or 3 Tbsp. molasses + 1 Tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. powdered mustard
1 1/2 tsp. white pepper
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. thyme
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 pinch tarragon

1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. white pepper

In a heavy pot, saute the onions and carrots in some oil or bacon drippings until they begin to soften. You can cook the veggies separately and then add to a crockpot, or just cook them in a Dutch oven and use that for your cooking. Add the dried spices and stir. Add the beans, ham hocks, and enough stock to cover generously (about 1-2 inches over the beans). Stir in the ketchup, Worch. sauce, and sugar/molasses. If you're using a crockpot, go do your thang and come home and deliciousness will have occurred. If you're using the stove-top, cook the soup for as long as possible (I cooked it for about 4 hours). Remove the ham hock, cut off the meat, and add it back to the pot. At the end, add the extra salt and pepper and adjust the sweetness if necessary. It should be rather sweet, with some tangy zip from the mustard and pepper. You can whomp it a bit if you want a smoother soup.

Parker House Rolls

Ok so I'm cheating on this one and not including the recipe. You can find it in any number of places--I got mine from The Joy of Cooking. The key is to brush with butter at basically every step of the process. For this meal, any starchy bread thing would be good. Be creative! My rolls turned out great, which was a relief since I haven't made a yeast-leavened bread in ages.

Concord Grape Pie

Thsi pie recipe is almost identical to the one in The Joy of Cooking. Pre-heat your oven to 425.

1 two-sided pie crust, chilled and ready to use
2 lbs. concord grapes, or other black-skinned grapes whose skins come off easily
3/4-1 c. sugar
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1/8 tsp. salt
1/2 lemon, zested and juiced
3 Tbsp. quick-cooking tapioca or corn starch

Slip the skins off of the grapes, so that the guts go into a saucepan and save the skins in a separate dish. This doesn't take nearly as long is it sounds like it would, and is actually much easier than peeling and slicing apples by hand. Simmer the grape guts for 5 minutes, until the seeds loosen from the rest of the pulp. Squish this stuff through a fine strainer into a medium bowl. While it's still hot, whisk in the sugar, butter, salt, lemon juice, and zest. Then mix in the peels. Allow the filling to cool, and then whisk in the tapioca or corn starch. Meanwhile, roll out the crust and place the bottom half into the pie pan. Pour the grape filling in, and cover with the other half of the crust. Make it pretty and brush it with beaten egg and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 55-65 minutes. Remove and allow to cool before slicing.

Caveat: I felt that this high temperature was too much for too long. If I did it again, I would reduce the heat to 375 or so for the second half of the cooking. Also, your pie will erupt with liquid hot MAGMA, so you will probably need to put a pizza pan underneath it towards the end. It also needs some tinfoil over the crust after the first 15 minutes. Like I said, it's still cooling so I don't know how it turned out yet. I sure hope the bottom isn't burned!

Wowee check out that keen grape detailing!

So that was a taste of the Northeast for Dan, before he leaves in a couple of days. The soup was one of the best I ever made, especially since I found some righteously meaty ham hocks and cooked it for ages and ages. Sorry for the fuzzy, yellow-ish photos, but there's hardly any light in the kitchen here, and this is the best I can do without the flash.

Coming up soon, I might need to post some apple recipes, since it's that time of year again. I've finally caught the baking bug again!

UPDATE: So the pie is incredible! It's not, as I'd worried, like eating grape jelly in a pastry crust. I'ts more like the super-concentrated Welch's grape juice, with a very pleasant level of sweetness, and the texture came out well too: smooth, with little bits of innocuous grape skins in it. I definitely hope I can find the grapes for this in MN. I did a little research, and it sounds like "Bluebell", "Fredonia", "Van Buren", and "Worden" are hardier black, seeded, slip-skin, grape varieties, though none are as high-quality as the Concord. I know you can buy the rootstocks for these varieties, but I don't know where you find the fruit for sale. Some of the orchards in Pepin County might be good places to look, as well as the farmers' markets--let me know if you find any.

1 comment:

Lillian said...

PS Two people told me it was the best fruit pie they ever had. Whoo-hoo!