By Marcia Pilgeram
For an upcoming project, I’ve begun organizing my Reader recipes and other written recipes, as well as committing several “still-in-my-head” recipes to paper. Some people measure their lives and relive their memories through photos and other ephemera. Likewise, my life is measured in recipes.
Over the years, I’ve written recipe ideas in the margins of cookbooks, penciled them onto cocktail napkins, jotted edible ideas on railroad timetables, and added my adaptations to my ancient collection of mimeographed (remember those?) and carbon-smudged recipes from long-departed relatives. But, for some reason, my mother chose to record her recipes in pencil, and though the memories will live with me, sadly, the recipes continue to fade from the worn paper.
Every time I dig through these paper treasures, I am transported to distant times. For example, I came across Aunt Joan’s recipe for spaghetti pie. I can recall the aroma of the rich tomato sauce that permeated her kitchen and the copper handles on her maplewood cupboards.
Aunt Joan was my mother’s younger sister, a fabulous cook and a quintessential hostess. As if raising seven children wasn’t enough, she was married to a prominent pediatrician in Billings, Mont., and her duties included hosting elaborate dinner parties. My collection of her recipes is mainly written on the yellow lined paper of legal pads, because she never took a shortcut when committing her detailed recipes to paper.
Another recipe I just rediscovered came from my early days on the ranch. During the annual turkey shoot at the grange hall in Gold Creek, Mont., my neighbor sliced up her homemade salami for the hardworking kitchen staff to enjoy. The spicy sausage was delicious, and I complimented her offering as I stood beside her, scraping mounds of dirty dishes. Lo and behold, just a few days later, she showed up at my house with a whole length of the savory sausage and a hand-written copy of the recipe that included 25 pounds each of ground pork and ground elk. Though I’ve yet to make it, it’s high on my list of foods I intend to prepare before I perish.
Believe it or not, many of the”forever” dishes in my repertoire have yet to be committed to paper. I am a taste-and-proceed sort of cook, which is subjective, to say the least, but I endeavor to end up with results pleasing to most of the crowd.
Last week, I hosted a small gathering for Sunday dinner and took the time to carefully measure each ingredient in every single dish I was preparing. Once the guests were seated and the wine was poured, I announced that it was to be a “working dinner,” which came with a caveat: I needed them to carefully taste and critique every dish. And so, they did. It was a lively and fun dinner, and now I have five recipes (including the much-requested recipe for my deviled eggs) that will be added to my compilation of Reader recipes.
My recipes come from the adage, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” Our Montana ranch was 25 miles from the nearest grocery store, and there was rarely a food item essential enough to drive me to load up two small children for the trip to Deer Lodge. So a trip to town was never wasted; had I made an effort, it would have necessitated a stop for swather parts and vet supplies. Learning to substitute ingredients was my saving grace.
That philosophy served me again when I began cooking on moving passenger trains. Invariably, though I had detailed shopping lists for each menu, I’d overlook a vital ingredient and have to improvise. Even now, my recipes continue to evolve with substitutions as I cater to my growing family, including a handful of well-loved vegetarians.
There are only a few ingredients I can’t live without and, in my kitchen, you will always find an ample supply of Maldon sea salt flakes and S&B curry powder. The salt is the perfect finish for all things savory and, in my opinion, S&B is the ideal blend of spices that delivers a genuinely flavorful curry. Both are must-haves for my classic deviled eggs.
I’m headed to Seattle this week and will be restocking my supplies. Fortunately, if you’re inclined to try the deviled eggs, both items are available on Amazon.
Classic deviled eggs • These savory and tasty eggs compliment any meal or stand alone as an appetizer. Use older eggs, as they peel easier, and cook a couple extra to allow for breakage. If you have your own sure-proof method for cooking eggs that peel well, by all means use it. If you don’t have an egg dish, line the serving platter with spinach leaves so the eggs stay put. Serve garnished, or set up a “garnish bar,” and let guests add their own.
• ¼ cup of Best Foods mayonnaise
• 2 tbs Grey Poupon mustard
• 1 tsp S&B curry powder
• 1 tbs rice wine vinegar
• ½ tsp sea salt
• ⅛ tsp fine ground white pepper
• Bacon crumbles
• Minced parsley
• Finely chopped chives
• Tobiko (tiny fish roe)
Place eggs in a medium saucepan and cover with a couple inches of cold water.
Bring to a full boil over high heat, then immediately reduce heat to a low simmer. Set timer for 20 minutes.
Transfer the eggs from the stove to the sink and run cold water over them.
While eggs are still warm, peel under warm running water, rinse well and pat dry.
Cut eggs lengthwise in half. Place whites on a serving platter and turn yolks out, into a mixing bowl. Mash well with fork, then using a spoon, press yolks firmly against sides of bowl to make sure there are no small lumps remaining.
Stir in mayonnaise, mustard, curry powder, salt and pepper, and mix well by hand. Taste and correct seasoning if needed. Fill whites with heaped (or piped) egg yolk mixture. Cover tightly and refrigerate up to 24 hours. Before serving, sprinkle with garnish(es).
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