Monthly Archives: July 2011

Who The Heck Is Poppy Cannon Anyway?

What happens when a 1950’s shopping list collides with 2011 reality?

The Can Opener Cookbook by Poppy Cannon

A friend of mine owns a used book store. When he sees an old cookbook cross his counter he may set it aside or give me a call. One day I’m there, wandering around, looking for some out of the ordinary cookbook treasurers. I ask the question, “anything interesting come in?”. With that, out comes The Can-Opener Cookbook. Success!

First published back in 1951 by MacFadden Books, The Can-Opener Cookbook, was too great a find to pass up. Written by Poppy Cannon, this book has recipes for the “quick gourmet meal”. We are talking about “gourmet” food made with ingredients straight out of a can, box or bag. These recipes have some creative and enticing names that roll off your tongue. Eggs Benedict Chasseur, Lobster Bisque De luxe, Chicken Flambé with Black Cherries and Lamb Chops aux Fines Herbs, just to rattle off a few.

This is a pretty bold attempt to upgrade the average “canned macaroni in crème sauce with cheese”. Frankly, it’s a tall order. We’re all used to using some shortcuts in our daily cooking routines, but, recipes that are based on pre-packed food, is something totally different.

The Author, Poppy Cannon, was something of a fifties foodie. She was at times the food editor of Ladies Home Journal and House Beautiful. She was an early adopter of the convenience food movement (aka pre-packaged, ready to eat meals). And, last but not least, she was a cookbook Author.

She created quite a stir back in 1949 when she married Walter Francis White who at the time was the leader of the NAACP. He was black, she wasn’t. In 1949 that’s an issue. Poppy later penned a biography of her husband titled, A Gentle Knight that was published in 1956.

That’s Poppy White. All super interesting stuff. But, what I really wanted to know was, can a recipe created back in the early fifties using these type of ingredients be satisfying and edible using today’s measures. I was going to find out (and so are you!).

Our test, Green Noodles with Meat Sauce

Green Noodles with Meat Sauce

One of the crazy quirks about Poppy’s recipes is that they have no real amounts for most ingredients. I guess she was known for that (what?).

I used some fresh basil (probably a no-no).

Fresh basil

To keep this pure, I was thinking about going for one of those little herb packs from the produce section of my grocery store. But, I have an herb garden full of the stuff. I hope this doesn’t screw things up too much.

Here are the rest of the ingredients.

The rest of the ingredients

That’s it, honestly. The directions are equally is abbreviated.

Here’s How To Do It

green noodles
prepared spaghetti sauce (with or without meat)
basil, oregano, Worcestershire sauce or red wine
parsley (optional)

Cook 2 cups of dried noodles according to package directions. Don’t overcook. When al dente, drain (the recipe mentions rinsing in cold water to separate the strands, I didn’t).

In a medium saucepan heat the spaghetti sauce. Add a little of the basil or oregano or Worcestershire to “perk it up”. I used basil.

Here’s where the garlic comes in. Rub the garlic (I’m assuming you cut the clove) on the serving dish, holding with a piece of waxed paper. Pile noodles in center of platter. Make a well and pour in the sauce. Sprinkle with grated Romano or Parmesan cheese (not included in ingredients list). Serve with crusty bread, a green salad, red wine and a fruit dessert. This will comprise a “glorious meal”.

Green Noodles with Meat Sauce

OK, all joking aside. It really wasn’t bad. Actually, if you were working a full time job and had to whip up a quick meal for your hungry family, this would be great. And, to be honest unless you’re making your own pasta and spending hours simmering our own Bolognese, this is a suitable substitute with a couple of easy modifications.

I can think of a few 2011 refinements. Obviously, there is no need for the pasta rinsing. If you have a large skillet, heat it with a little olive oil, toss in the cooked pasta with a small amount of the cooking liquid and give it a quick sauté. You can even throw a little minced garlic into that pan. Or, a splash of the sauce. Just a couple of quick fixes would make this dish a lot better.

Here’s another look at my finished product. Would Poppy be proud? I want to say YES.

Green Noodles with Meat Sauce

The Bottom Line

Poppy had a style all her own. You can easily tell that by the way in which she wrote these recipes. It shows her attempt to make “elegant” food more accessible to the masses. This book was written at a time when the term foodie was yet to be uttered and the medium which brings us all of the food TV we can digest was in its infancy. Without too much trouble, I can easily picture her sitting at the Top Chef Judge’s Table, next to Tom Colicchio doling out culinary justice. I think Poppy would have liked that.

BUY -The Can-Opener Cookbook

Author: Poppy Cannon
Publisher: Macfadden – Paperback (1951)
Pages: 253
ASIN: B000K0B14O

Summer Is THE Time To Grill

There is nothing like a great summer barbeque, nothing.

Time To Grill

Just like a lot of families around the country, we do a bunch of grilling come summer. So much so, that we have to turn the oven on every once in a while just to make sure that it still works.

On weekends we’ve been know to grill for a pretty good size group. It’s not easy cooking burgers to order for fifteen or twenty people. During the week though, it’s usually a two or four person affair. Even though cooking for the masses is fun, you can do a lot more when it’s scaled back just a bit.

At the moment there are lots of great grilling books out there. Steven Raichlen’s Barbeque Bible, Seven Fires and one my my favorites, the Cook’s Illustrated Guide to Grilling and Barbeque. Now, there’s a new contender for my grilling affection, Weber’s Time to Grill by Jamie Purviance.

The books contains great takes on old BBQ standards and features some brand new dishes. Each dish has a sibling. One adventurous version and one easy. This makes Jamie’s grilling guide a nice fit for grill tenders of all stripes.

One of the unique features of this book is a slick tech integration. The book is part traditional cookbook and part smartphone cooking app. The best of both worlds! For each recipe you can go to a mobile website on your smartphone or tablet, enter the page number of your recipe and viola, instant grilling aides. Have a look at some of the extra help you get.

Buttermilk Brined Pork Chops

Awesome, right? You get a recipe overview to have at the grill. Plus, cooking timers, grocery lists for your shopping trip and more. This takes the traditional cookbook off the kitchen counter and out into the backyard. This is the best integrated use of the technology I’ve seen yet. It really works well.

Onward to todays main event. As you can see above we’re going for Buttermilk-Brined Pork Chops with Whiskey-Braised Cabbage and Apples. An ambitious attempt (it’s from the adventurous side of the book!).

Lately, we’ve all become accustom to brining poultry as well as some cuts of meat. The usual process calls for a ratio of salt to sugar. And then maybe throw in some herbs or fruit. The brine for this dish uses buttermilk as it’s base. I was a little suspect at first, but, the results are fantastic.

Shred some red cabbage.

Shredded Red Cabbage

Course grate a nice tart Granny Smith apple.

Granny Smith

Add something that’s bound to make things interesting.

Jack Daniels. Never settle for less than the BEST!

And, you’re on your way to making a nice side dish for your chops. It’s really a classic paring for the meat.

Here’s How To Do It

Ingredients – Brine
2 cups cold buttermilk
1 cup water
1/2 cup kosher salt
1 Tbsp. whole grain mustard
1 Tbsp. fresh tarragon, finely chopped

Ingredients – Cabbage
2 Tbsp. butter, unsalted
4 cups red cabbage, shredded
2 cups Granny Smith apple, coarsely grated
1/3 cup whiskey (I used Jack)
2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1/4 tsp. celery seed
3/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper

4 boneless pork loin chops (about 8oz. each & 1 inch thick)
Extra virgin olive oil

Whisk all of the brine ingredients together in a large or medium size bowl. Place your trimmed chops in a large resealable bag. Pour the brine over the chops. Seal and place in the fridge for about 1 1/2 hours. Flip the bag over every half hour or so.

When chops have fully brined, remove the chops from the bag and rinse under cold running water. Pat dry with paper towels. Lightly brush each chop with olive oil and let stand at room temperature for about 30 minutes.

Prepare your grill to cook using direct heat, medium temperature (350 to 400).

In a large skillet add the shredded cabbage and apples. Sauté until the cabbage starts to wilt, about 2 or 3 minutes. Stir in the whiskey, balsamic and celery seed. Cover and cook until the cabbage is tender (10 to 12 minutes). Stir occasionally. When finished remove from heat, season with salt and pepper and cover to keep warm while you grill the chops.

When your grill is heated, cook the chops over direct medium heat for about 8 to 10 minutes, flipping a couple of times. This is where you can use that nifty grill timer on your phone. Grill until they are just pink in the center. Once cooked, remove from grill and let rest about 3 to 5 minutes.

Serve with your braised cabbage and apples. Great!

Buttermilk-Brined Pork Chops with Whiskey Braised Cabbage and Apples

Recipe Adapted From Buttermilk-Brined Pork Chops with Whiskey Braised Cabbage and Apples, Jamie Purviance, Weber’s Time to Grill, Oxmoor House.

The Bottom Line

Weber’s Time to Grill: Get In. Get Out. Get Grilling, is a fantastic addition to any barbeque cookbook collection. The recipes are geared towards all grilling skill levels, so there will be lots of things for everyone to cook. There are helpful hints and grilling advice scattered throughout the text, which also makes it a nice read as well as a useful manual.

Thinking about firing up that grill? I know you are. Let Jamie help you tame the flame.

BUY: Weber's Time to Grill: Get In. Get Out. Get Grilling


Author: Jamie Purviance
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Oxmoor House
ISBN-10: 0376020601