Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Beef Stew and Date and Nut Balls

It has finally begun to snow here in Southern Maine. It feels like winter outside and everyone needs a little warming up. Tuesday morning here at The Blue Elephant I made Beef Stew; a rich, hearty stew. Marjorie's version of the recipe was not far off from any other version I've ever made. It was loaded with vegetables and beef.

We serve the stew in either a cup or a bowl and at our regular soup price, $2.95 for a cup and $5.95 for a bowl and with a slice of bread. The stew can also be ordered with our half sandwich and cup of soup special for $4.95.

For a yummy treat I made Date and Nut Balls. They were one of the easiest desserts I've ever made. They are very delicious too! After mixing and baking all the ingredients in the oven, you stir up what's in the pan and as Marjorie says "Butter up," roll the mixture between your hands and make little balls. An excellent Christmas treat.

Pressed Chicken and "Best Potato Salad"

As I started mixing the ingredients for the Pressed Chicken recipe together I began to wonder why on earth Marjorie would say this recipe is  "... an excellent dish to serve to guests." It starts off with boiling a chicken, then reducing it's stock and adding gelatin to it. To the jellied broth you add the cut up chicken and then press it into a loaf pan with your choice of garnish. My choice (from her list of suggestions)... sliced hard boiled egg.

I was sure to season the recipe with salt and pepper, however it was a dish straight from the 1960's or perhaps before, and not very appealing. A learning experience nonetheless and as I have committed to the project I have to try making each recipe even if it's not appealing.

Marjorie recommends serving the Pressed Chicken with her "Best Potato Salad" recipe. I liked this recipe because she doesn't add mayonnaise. Adding mayonnaise to potato salad is something that most recipes do. Her potatoes are cooked until tender and then dressed with a vinaigrette. The salad marinates for a long time in this and then is served with whatever dish you choose. Marjorie's special hint to a good potato salad is cutting the potatoes into a small dice and cook until they are very tender. It was very delicious though perhaps more of a summer dish that winter.

Week four will entail some Christmas dishes, warm hearty stews and yummy desserts! Stay tuned!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Vegetable Soup Served with Buttermilk Biscuits

Today's special started off with some hearty root vegetables, a can of tomatoes and a couple quarts of water. I've been planning on making this vegetable soup all week, however it keeps getting pushed back a day due to scheduling. In the end it worked out perfectly because it is perhaps the coldest day we've had so far this year and now there is a wonderfully warm and hearty soup to enjoy here at The Blue Elephant Cafe.

The vegetable soup is made with tons of root veggies like potatoes and turnips in addition to onions and cabbage and tomatoes. The one thing about Marjorie's vegetable soup is that it is not vegetarian as it is made with a soup bone. I am sure I could have substituted the soup bone for vegetable bouillon or something of the sort, but I am trying to stick to the recipes as much as possible. The soup smells and tastes delicious. It's easy to pull together, the only thing is that it has to sit and simmer for at least three hours. I would not be afraid to try this recipe in the crock pot. It would be an easy meal for someone with not a lot of time to do cooking at home.

The soup will be served in your choice of a cup or a bowl and with a buttermilk biscuit, which I also made today. I was disappointed with how my biscuits turned out and would like to try to make them again. They taste just fine but didn't rise as much as I would have liked. I also had to make a substitution for buttermilk because I forgot to pick some up. It worked just fine but I wonder how much of a difference the real buttermilk would make.

Come in to The Blue Elephant Cafe today, Thursday December 16th, and warm up with some hearty vegetable soup and buttermilk biscuits! 

French Toasted Cheese Sandwiches

The Blue Elephant had a catering job yesterday morning and I needed to be able to pull the Standish Special together quickly for lunch when I got back. The French toasted cheese sandwich was an easy answer and quite delicious too.

The part that makes it French Toasted is dipping the outside of the sandwich in an egg wash and then frying it in a pan with a little butter. Exactly like making French toast. In the middle of the sandwich was American cheese and a little bit of mustard.

It was the perfect combination for a cold winter's day.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Halibut Loaf with a Tomato Sauce

Fresh out of the oven the Halibut loaf, though it may sound unappealing to the palette, smelled and looked great. As I turned it over onto the plate I was going through the process in my head and I realized that the method was exactly the same as her meatloaf. The only difference is that the Halibut Loaf recipe has a choice of sauce to make to go with it. The choices are tomato, almond and lobster. I chose the tomato which made the dish look even more like a traditional meat loaf. 
I also decided that perhaps Maine is the only state where someone would come up with a fish "meatloaf." Not that it's a bad idea, in fact it is very innovative. I give total credit to Marjorie Standish for her Halibut Loaf and Tomato Sauce. 

Here at The Blue Elephant Cafe the loaf will come served with mixed greens, some extra sauce and your choice of dressing. Come on in for a taste!

Tossed Garden Salad with Dressing

Today's Standish Special was a tossed garden salad. A combination of mixed greens and romaine lettuce topped with thinly sliced avocado, cucumbers, celery, green pepper and cherry tomatoes. The salad came with a homemade vinaigrette. Its number one ingredient in the vinaigrette was tomato catsup. 

There was nothing to the recipe but it was a delicious looking salad and customers said it tasted great. I had also made crab cakes today as another special, unfortunately they were not Marjorie's recipe but they were similar. One customer ordered this salad and a side of crab cakes. It was a delicious, satisfying lunch. 

Monday, December 13, 2010

Waldorf Salad served with Corn Fritters

In my mind a traditional Waldorf Salad consists of a mixture of apples, celery, some kind of nut, chicken and a creamy dressing; usually mayonnaise based. However as I was mixing up Marge's recipe I realized that there was no chicken in the salad and the "dressing" was simply a light coating of mayonnaise.

It still looked very good and the accompanying corn fritters were very easy to make. They reminded me of  pancakes.... except add the corn. It was a delicious combination.

Blueberry Cake

The Blue Elephant has been extremely busy this past week catering holiday parties in Southern Maine. I shamefully have fallen behind in my blogging and am just now getting a chance to catch up on posting about last week's specials.

On Wednesday I made Marjorie's Melt in Your Mouth Blueberry Cake. Maine and blueberries- the perfect combination! There is a small excerpt before the recipe where Marge says

"A story goes with the first choice of cake recipes. Taken from one of our Maine church cookbooks, it is undoubtedly the most popular recipe ever used in my column."

I would love to read her columns that she speaks of in the excerpt above, and it is a delicious recipe that the customers here at The Blue Elephant did very much enjoy as well!

Featured This Week

Featured this week at The Blue Elephant Cafe:

Monday December 13th
Tossed Green Salad
with a Homemade Vinaigrette 

Tuesday December 14th 
Halibut Loaf with a Tomato Sauce

Wednesday December 15th
French Toasted Cheese Sandwiches

Thursday December 16th 

Vegetable Soup 
Buttermilk Biscuits

Friday December 17th 
Pressed Chicken
Best Potato Salad 

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Meatloaf Sandwiches and a Side of Two Week Salad

Today's Standish Special........... Meatloaf and Two Week Salad. In order to make the meatloaf a dish that we would be able to sell at The Blue Elephant, I turned it into a meatloaf sandwich; two slices of meatloaf served on toasted white bread with catsup, mayonnaise, lettuce and tomato. To accompany the sandwich I chose a simple salad called "Two Week Salad" which is a combination of chopped cabbage and onion dressed in a sweet oil and vinegar dressing. 

The response to the Meatloaf Sandwich was spectacular. The best comment of the day came as a customer placed their order. She finished her placing her order exclaiming, "... and it's even served on white bread too!" 

I don't often eat meatloaf and rarely do I make it either. So before today I had to do some research on how to make a meatloaf sandwich. It may sound strange but I honestly had no idea how to "properly" serve a traditional meatloaf sandwich. From what I discovered there are many different ways to prepare a meatloaf sandwich. As I was taking each order today I discovered that everybody likes a meatloaf sandwich with a slight variation.

White or wheat bread is the bread of choice. Catsup and mayonnaise were a must. A couple customers added cheese to their sandwiches and while most people liked the lettuce and tomato some opted to not have the vegetables on their sandwich.

On the docket for tomorrow, Wild Maine Blueberry Cake. Come in to try a piece before we run out!

Monday, December 6, 2010

American Chop Suey and Fresh Baked Brownies

Week two, day one started off with two of my family's favorite recipes: American Chop Suey and Brownies. I always remember how excited my dad would get when we sat down to dinner and the meal was American Chop Suey. When he was growing up his mom, my grandmother, would make Marjorie's American Chop Suey recipe, and when my parents got married my mom inherited the cookbook and began making this recipe as well. It become a well loved dish at our house.

For all of these reasons I was excited to bring this recipe into the Blue Elephant. It is a recipe with simple ingredients and simple directions and yet a dish that gives a warm, comforting feeling.

Some people say that the earliest brownie recipe originates from Maine. While it's not clear whether this is true, and it is not Marjorie Standish's recipe, the brownies that I made today did in fact turn out fantastic. I have never made brownies from her cookbook, and I was astonished to find that there was no leavening agent and there was also not a lot of chocolate. The brownies rose very nicely, however they are perhaps the lightest color chocolate brownies I've ever seen, and they almost taste like a mocha brownie.

Today was a cold and dreary day outside, and The Blue Elephant customers took comfort in food items such as the American Chop Suey. Perhaps, though, the best reaction to the Cooking Downeast project to date occurred today when a customer picked up a card on the table advertising the project to ask me a question about the specials. She then proceeded to tell me that she moved to Maine forty years ago and was given Marjorie's cookbooks, and that is how she learned to cook "The Maine Way."

Featured This Week

Featured this week at The Blue Elephant Cafe:

Monday December 6th 
American Chop Suey 

Tuesday December 7th
Meatloaf Sandwiches
Two Week Salad

Wednesday December 8th 
Melt in Your Mouth Blueberry Cake

Thursday December 9th
Waldorf Salad
Corn Fritters 

Friday December 10th
Tossed Green Salad with Dressing 

Friday, December 3, 2010

Hot Chicken Salad Casserole Served Over a Bed of Pasta

This morning I tackled my first Marjorie Standish casserole, and actually it's not even under the casserole section of the cookbook. It is simply called Hot Chicken Salad; a combination of chicken, celery, almonds, pimiento, mayonnaise and crushed up potato chips for some added crunch. All of this plus some combined seasonings baked in the oven create a Hot Chicken Salad Casserole.

This recipe in particular reminds me of my grandmother and going over to her house as a child for dinner. She used to make casseroles like this for dinner all the time, and most of them probably came from the Cooking Down East cookbook.

My challenge in working my way through this cookbook is not actually making the recipes but adapting them and finding a way to serve them in the Blue Elephant Cafe. 

The Blue Elephant is a 22 seat restaurant, open Monday through Friday from 8am to 3pm, we serve breakfast and lunch. Our menu is primarily soups, salads, sandwiches and specials. Making and serving a heavy meal is a bit unusual at the Blue Elephant. So when I am flipping through the recipes and decding what to make, it is a bit of a challenge to settle on what to make and to determine how best to serve it. 

Today's Hot Chicken Salad Casserole will be served Over a Bed of Pasta. 

Boothbay Harbor Crab Cakes with a Lobster Sauce

Day two of Marge meets the Blue Elephant started off with some saltines, butter, celery and Maine crab meat. I have always thought of crab as something that I really want to like but I don't. As a result of this thought I don't often work with crab as it is not a dish I particularly care for, however I know it is a popular Maine dish so why not try it as one of my first recipes?

When I read Marge's method I was actually surprised that she didn't fry the mixture in small patties in a pan on the stove. Instead, after you mix all of the ingredients all together, she has you place the mixture into well greased custard cups and bake in a bain marie for 25 minutes.

When they came out of the oven they were hot and crispy. I let them cool for a minute and then turned them over onto a sheet pan. We served them with Marge's lobster sauce over a bed of mixed greens, and as I suspected they were a popular dish.

Tomorrows endeavor... Hot Chicken Salad Casserole Served Over a Bed of Pasta

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Maine Corn Chowder and Baconized Cornbread

When I began planning for this project I started by flipping through the cookbook and reading some of the recipes. Reading the cookbook is like having a conversation with Marjorie; she has a running commentary mixed into her directions and I feel like I can hear her talking in the background. Some of her words and phrases are this side of ridiculous, i.e. "Allow chowder to ripen for an hour to develop flavor" but I found it captivating and easy to read.

Deciding which recipe to tackle first was no easy task as there are well over 300 recipes in this cookbook alone. I know that soups are well received at the Blue Elephant, so I thought making one would be a nice segue into the project. With this in mind, I settled on making Maine Corn Chowder. The recipe called for few ingredients and had minimal prep time. I was able to prepare and have it ready to go on the stove in under an hour.

To go with the chowder, Baconized Corn Bread. No I'm not making up the phrase, it actually says "Baconized." I have never seen bacon in corn bread but it turned out looking very nice and again the recipe took seconds to assemble and only fifteen minutes in the oven.

The simplicity is one of the things that I love about Marge. That and her high quality food. Come into the Blue Elephant Cafe today and try Marjorie Standish's Maine Corn Chowder and Baconized Cornbread!

Stay tuned for tomorrows recipe...

Featured This Week

Featured this week from "Cooking Down East" at the Blue Elephant Cafe:

Wednesday December 1st
Maine Corn Chowder 
Baconized Corn Bread

Thursday December 2nd
Boothbay Harbor Crabcakes with a Lobster Sauce 
served over a bed of Mixed Greens

Friday December 3rd
Hot Chicken Salad Casserole 

Monday, November 29, 2010

Well known Maine cook and author, Marjorie Standish, spent years collecting and creating recipes that have been loved and enjoyed by many "Mainers." Marjorie Standish attended Farmington State College and, after graduating, she taught home economics to high school students.  When she moved on from teaching, Marjorie became a member of the Central Maine Power Company crew as a home service advisor. Perhaps her greatest accomplishments were writing a weekly column for the Maine Sunday Telegram  and completing her first cookbook, "Cooking Downeast." The cookbook, published in 1968, is a compilation of Marjorie's best New England recipes.

I grew up in midcoast Maine cooking and eating Marge's recipes. Just the words "American Chop Suey" or "Banana Bread" remind me of the little yellow book on the cookbook shelf. Practically everyone I know has a copy of the cookbook, as it is a standby of back to basics recipes that many people are sure to enjoy. 
In what I hope will be an exciting, new venture I've decided to cook my way through Marjorie Standish's Cooking DownEast cookbook. As I do so, I would like to invite the local community to join me in this tribute to Marjorie Standish by sampling some of her tried and true recipes, as I cook and serve them at The Blue Elephant Cafe in Saco. 
The Blue Elephant Cafe is located at 12 Pepperell Square in Saco, Maine and is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. The cafe serves breakfast and lunch, daily specials, coffee, tea and soft drinks.
Beginning the first of December, I will introduce a new Marjorie Standish recipe each day as I work my way through her first cookbook, "Cooking Down East." Come in and try Marje's recipes at the Blue Elephant!