MUCH is in print nowadays about “crash” diets and how to achieve a life of self-denial. The self-deniers are everywhere, cutting down on their starches, ruling out fats, denouncing sweets, alcohol, and second helpings. They have enslaved the press, intimidated the householder. A Cottage Cheese Institute of America is doubtless on the point of setting up its Washington lobby.
The crash diet is, of course, a formula of disarranging and subtracting still further from an ordinary weight-reducing diet, and the self-deniers are especially wrathy against nibbling or the gratuitous consumption of such things as canapés and hors d’oeuvres. Herewith, therefore, four crash additions to any diet, all guaranteed to build a man up, put flesh on his bones, and make him well and strong. They are particularly useful to that end, since they are all intended to accompany Cocktails, spirits, or a dry white wine before a meal. they are unnecessary, they are delicious, and guests go for them with enthusiasm.
QUICHE LORRAINE — This worthy dish seems to have gained a real place for itself in recent years, and almost any up-to-date cookbook has a recipe for it. But what makes it come off so well with the cocktails is serving it in individual ramekins — the small, white earthenware variety, about three and a half inches in diameter — fresh and hot from the oven. It’s almost as good at room temperature, but not quite as attractive.
The trick in making a quiche is to keep the piecrust from being soggy, and not all cookbooks are helpful on this point. It is achieved by lining the ramekin with dough and baking it — the words are my wife’s — “until it is three quarters done and not at all brown.”At this point the ramekins are set aside and allowed to cool before the filling is added, after which the final baking in a 325-degree oven takes some 25 to 30 minutes. (If any reader would like to have the whole recipe, we shall be pleased to supply a copy on request.)
For family purposes, a quiche Lorraine is just as well off in a large single baking dish, but the ramekins or small casseroles are fine for a party. A powerful desire for this dish will be felt from time to time by anyone who ever had a good one. It becomes a matter of making it or ordering it then and there, and no substitute will suffice.
CHEESE SOUFFLÉ — Baked in individual ramekins, cups, or casseroles, the cheese soufflé as prescribed in any of the major cookbooks is just as well received as the quiche when offered as a hot hors d’oeuvre dish. It does the mix no harm to prepare it a couple of hours in advance, but the final moment of delivery to the guests must be timed more closely than for a quiche. In my wife’s version, chopped parsley and chives and crisply fried ham diced fine— enough only to make a thin bottom layer in each container — go in before the mix is added.
CURRIED WALNUTS—Either of the two foregoing offerings is enough to carry things along until dinnertime, but curried walnuts might be useful at some stage of the party. From an unidentified clipping in my wife’s arcana, the recipe, and a superior result it produces:
Melt 4 tablespoons butter, stir in same amount cooking oil, 2 1/2 tablespoons curry powder, 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce, 2 tablespoons strained juice of chutney, good dash of cayenne. Heat and blend thoroughly. Stir in one pound shelled walnut halves until all are well coated. Spread on brown paper laid on baking tin. Bake at 250 degrees about 10 minutes, until quite crisp.
PIROZHKI — I am indebted to Mrs. Dana Adams Schmidt for introducing me to a very easy way of making this excellent example of hot hors d’oeuvres. Pirozhki look like little golden-brown biscuits in the shape of a ball, about the diameter of a twenty-five-cent piece. On sampling they are found to be stuffed with meat, and the market for them is brisk in any cocktail interval. The meat can be anything from beef or lamb to chicken, ham, fish, or shellfish. For a trial spin, a pound of finely ground lean round steak and a couple of cylinders of that refrigerated but not frozen biscuit dough are the main ingredients. (The expiration date on the end of the cylinder should be noted.)
The rather bland quality of the biscuit dough calls for seasoning the stuffing more heavily than usual. For the round steak, one might draw on some combination of flavoring salt, nutmeg, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco, and black pepper, with or without grated onion. The meat is then converted into balls about the diameter of a nickel, broiled under a flame, and allowed to cool. This much of the process can be done in advance, but it is well not to open the dough until an hour or so before the final baking.
Each cylinder contains enough dough to make ten biscuits, and the dough for one biscuit is enough for three meatballs. It pulls apart readily into small pieces. The casing of dough should be rather thin, and the stuff stretches easily, so that encasing each ball is no problem. The completed pirozhki are placed on a greased baking tin, brushed lightly with milk or melted butter, and baked 8 to 10 minutes at about 350 degrees.
A good homemade biscuit dough is better than the refrigerated kind, and piecrust would be worth trying out. But the dough in cylinders leaves nothing to be washed up, a handy way of experimenting with pirozhki.