Making Memories from the Hearth

Weekly recipes, menus, and thoughts from Diane to help make home your favorite place.

January 25, 2009 - Restaurant Review

Review of Old Salty’s
Hooper’s Island, Maryland

We walked into Old Salty’s with its lunch counter to the left, dining room to the right and gift shop straight ahead, and one of the locals, a Waterman, perhaps, who was seated at the counter, called to the waitress who is in the kitchen: “Hey, you've got some real customers!" The reply, "Does that make you fake?" It was great local color.

For our first meal, Drew ordered the Hooper's Island Sampler -- ham, fried chicken and a crab cake. Drew first took a bite of the generous slab of pale pink ham and immediately told me to take a bite. I would never think to order ham and a restaurant, but once it reached my mouth, I was filled with nostalgic pleasure. The ham was flavorful, not salty, and the texture was perfect, with just a little creamy fat on the top. It was the ham of my childhood. The fried chicken was perhaps over fried, but the coating was crunchy and delicious. It is better, of course, to have chicken too done rather than underdone. Drew enjoyed his crab cake which was backfin crab meat, scooped and broiled. No bread crumbs, flour, egg or anything else, which are all unnecessary to a crab cake.

I ordered the jumbo lump crab cake -- again, just crab meat which flaked off in huge lumps. It was buttery and luscious -- the reason God made crabs, I believe! And only $16!

The sides were homey and homemade -- beets, cucumber/onion salad, mashed potatoes & gravy, coleslaw, mac & cheese and baked pineapple. I ate all my pickled beets which had a hint of clove -- and all my coleslaw, which thankfully did not have celery seed in it. Again, the mashed potatoes tasted like childhood Sunday dinners -- real potatoes, real cream, real butter. We were way too full for dessert, but told our waitress we would be back for dinner.

At dinner Drew got the crab cake sandwich, which was a broiled crab cake on a hamburger role. It was perfect for a light dinner. I ordered cream of crab soup -- which was loaded with crab meat and a rich, creamy broth. I thought it was a little too salty, but Drew thought it was perfect. He scraped the Old Bay spice off the top for me. My main course was stuffed shrimp: three huge shrimp stuffed with Crab Imperial. The portion was perfect for my dinner, and the shrimp and crab were yummy.

We were again too full for dessert, so we ordered it to go. Old Salty’s boasts of its homemade pies, so we ordered a slice of coconut custard pie and a slice of chocolate cream pie. This was the only part of the meal that disappointed us. The crust was not special- it was nondescript- and the custards were too thick and seemed like gloppy Jell-O mix. The meringues on top of both pies were identical and, again, were nothing special. The next time we'll try the apple cobbler.

The overall feel of the restaurant is old-fashioned. This place, thankfully, is untouched by anything trendy or upscale. The food and decor feels like the 1950s in a wonderful, homey way. And the locals have that great Eastern shore accent, which, I'm told, sounds close to Shakespeare's English.

We hope to return to Old Salty’s many, many times.

December 23, 2008 - Christmas Dinner

I don’t know if it’s because of my English heritage, or if it’s because I come from a long line of excellent cooks- starting with my Grandma Cooper’s Aunt Lottie- but for me the only Christmas dinner is, no, not roast goose, but a standing rib roast. Here is the ideal Philips-Cooper-Congdon-Jones Christmas dinner with the appropriate trimmings. I say ideal because circumstances don’t always permit me (and the girls) to do everything, but this is what we aim for:

Shrimp cocktail

Standing rib roast
Yorkshire pudding
Sautéed mushrooms
Green beans almandine
Caesar salads
Twice baked potatoes

Assorted cookies
Sticky toffee pudding
Peppermint ice-cream

For the roast:
If I were serving 5 or 6 guests I would buy a three rib roast. I drizzle olive oil on top, salt and pepper him and rub it in. Then I put him in a shallow roast pan (I use my large oval Le Creuset chaffing dish). Next, I heat the oven to 500 and put the roast in for about 15 minutes. After the searing, I top the roast with chopped onion, turn the oven down to 275 and roast him until the meat thermometer reads 130. Then I take him out, cover him in foil and let him rest for 30 minutes.

For the pudding, beat 4 eggs with an egg beater and add 1 cup of milk, 1 cup of flour a Tbs. of oil and a pinch of salt. Heat about 3 Tbs. of the pan drippings (from the roast) in a casserole dish, and when it is very hot (425-450) pour in the batter and cook until puffed up- about 15 -20 minutes.

Here is the recipe for our family spice cookies- with a few improvisations of my own. Have a lovely Christmas.

½ cup molasses
½ cup butter
1/3-cup brown sugar
1 tsp. Each ginger, ground cloves, cinnamon
½ tsp. Black pepper
1 Tbs. rum
1 tsp. Baking soda
2 ½ cups flour

Combine molasses, butter and brown sugar in a medium sauce pan. Heat until butter and sugar have melted. Remove from heat and stir in everything except flour. Cool to lukewarm; then add flour.
Roll and cut (Or use my mom’s method- drop and squish). Bake at 350 for 5-8 minutes.

December 14, 2008 - Christmas Cookies

Growing up, Christmas cookies only took three forms: almond spritz, Ellen's spice (and no, I don't know who Ellen is/was, but her cookie is in the 1952 Good Housekeeping cook book) and meringue kisses. These are pretty much the cookie associations for my daughters, too, although their dad likes chocolate chip cookies with red and green M&Ms. Sorry, not traditional enough for me. I have told Papa that I will make him any form of chocolate chip cookie 11 months of the year, but not in December. Erin usually feels sorry for him and sneaks them into the oven when I'm not looking!

My mom taught me how to use a cookie press when I was about 7 years old, and I still use her recipe and technique. But with the spice cookie, she used the "drop and squish" method, not liking to roll them out. I am a roller, and I like to use my star cookie cutter- or my biscuit cutter for those.

And Erin has taken meringues to new places for us. She pipes them onto parchment in the shapes of stars or Christmas trees and sprinkles them with blue and green sanding sugar that we buy in Vermont.

Vicky loves to bake with me too, and one sniff of the almond extract, and she says, "Now it's Christmas!"

Lastly, about 3 years ago Drew bought me some snowflake cookie cutters from the Bakers catalogue (from King Arthur flour) and we now include snowflake sugar cookies with white glaze and white and blue sanding sugar. I use Martha Stewart's recipe, and they are a new tradition for us. It's okay; there are no M&Ms involved.

December 6, 2008 - Alternatives to Eating Out

I am unable to pay $1.95 for a cup of tea served in a hot/cold paper cup. Call me old-fashioned (many do) but, dog-gone-it, I know how much tea bags cost! And although I am passionate about Starbucks hot chocolate, I reserve that for special occasions (like Vicky getting an A on a test).

So my first idea for the Five Miles from Home readers is to stay cozy at home on one of these windy, raw December days and make a special memory with someone you live with- be it family or roommate- with hot chocolate and cinnamon toast.

When I make hot chocolate I like to use Nestles Rich Chocolate variety (two-three spoonfuls per mug). I boil the water in the old fashioned copper-bottomed kettle and when it begins to whistle, I fill the mugs about 2/3 full- then I fill them up with half and half, or on very special occasions, cream. Vicky and Erin like big puffy marshmallows in theirs. When I am really ambitious and want to make a memory even more special, I get out my Laura Ashley rose colored Petite Fleur tea pot, cups and saucers.

For the cinnamon toast, Drew and I prefer to use either Pepperidge Farm or Arnold oatmeal bread- it is dense with nutritious ingredients, but not overwhelmingly whole-wheat. Sometimes I use McCormick cinnamon sugar, but if caught short I just mix ½ cup sugar and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon. I always use real butter.

So enjoy being inside, maybe in front of the woodstove or fireplace with family, good friends, or maybe even the company of a book- and enjoy some hot chocolate and cinnamon toast!


PS Two cups of hot chocolate at a café cost $7.00. Enough cocoa mix to fill two mugs- I'm not sure, but a large canister costs only $3.50! (This week Safeway stores have Nestles Hot Cocoa 10 ct. box - 2 for $4.00!)


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