Monday, December 10, 2012

Avoiding Identity Theft - The French White Doppelgänger

I have been receiving a lot of inquiries regarding French White, and how to tell the difference between the original pyroceramic version vs. the newer stoneware versions.  I can understand the confusion, since the French White was never discontinued and merely had it's constitution changed.  Cornflower, Spice of Life, Wild Flower and Floral Bouquet on the other hand, were discontinued and never produced in stoneware.  Thus when you find pieced in Thrift Stores, you are pretty much guaranteed that they are constructed of Pyroceramic glass and safe to use on the stove top.

So, I am going to try and pictorially show the differences between the two versions of French White.

Here they are, side by side.  French White 16oz (500ml) or (473ml) Ramekins. The pyroceramic French White piece is on the Left, and the new stoneware French White imposter is on the right.

As you can see, they do look slightly different.  The color of the stoneware is a little more of a cream color instead of the true white of pyroceramic glass.  The lines of the pyroceram version are a little cleaner and crisper, giving it a more "faceted" appearance,

while the stoneware version has softer detailing that give is a more "fluted" look.

But when all is said and done, it is the bottom that give the most information.

Pyroceramic glass pieces are smooth on the bottom.

Stoneware pieces have a firing ring where they sat in the kiln.

That's this ring right here.  It is unglazed and will feel kind of rough. 

If your piece has this ring, then it is not safe to use on the stove top nor under the broiler.  In the US, they are clearly marked as not being safe for stove top or  broiler. They also are printed with their country of manufacture, in this case China, along with standard 16oz and metrics 473ml marked on it.

Pyroceramic glass is made in either the USA or France (I think the German factory only made Borosilicate Pyrex) and will be marked on the bottom with an F-16-B along with a 500ml mark which is actually slightly more than 16oz.

I hope this information helps the next time you are scoping out some French White pieces in the thrift store.  Good Luck in your hunting!

Where is your Conringware?

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Corn alla CorningWare - Creamy Breakfast Polenta

I have noticed, over the years, that it is not just the resulting food that makes cooking so pleasurable; sometimes the equipment you are using adds to the enjoyment.  Thus it is with my CorningWare Saucemaker.  An interesting piece of CorningWare to be sure.  It's shape is completely out of the ordinary when compared to the normal "Square" offerings.

The Saucemaker was produced in both a 1 quart and 2 quart size from 1963 to the early 70's.  Available with or without lids, and sometimes available with or without a handle; though since there is only 1 "handle tab" due to the ingenious triple pour spout design, it's pretty much mandatory that you have said handle to attach to the tab in order to efficiently utilize the pot.  The graduated marks inside make cooking sauces a little easier, though I have noticed on one of my 1 quarts.... Yes, I have two of the 1 quart models, one of which does not have a lid, and one of the 2 quart models, which has a lid... that the printed measurements are slightly off.

Evidently, these 1 quart and 2 quart Saucemakers have model numbers of P-64 & P-65, respectively, though none of mine are marked this way... They simply say "Saucemaker" on the side where the handle attaches.  Recently I even saw a 1 quart model on eBay with it's original box.  The box was marked with a P-55.  Likewise, the lids, made by Pyrex, are not marked either, but I have found that they DO actually have model numbers of P-64-C and P-65-C.  My assumption is that the "C" stands for "cover".

I love these little pots.  But I must admit that it is the 1 quart size the most often.  That is simply because I make SO much risotto.  The properties of Pyroceram make it the perfect receptacle for heating up my stock and keeping it hot throughout the risotto making process.  The addition of the pour spouts means I can add stock to my rice, without having to dirty a ladle as well.  Fewer dishes always makes me a happy camper, I must say.  But there is another Italian dish that these Saucemakers are perfect for.  Polenta.

I adore good Polenta.  A fact I still find somewhat surprising, because I don't particularly care for grits.  Go figure.  I think it has to do with the type of corn and the treatment.  Grits are made from Dent corn and polenta is made from Flint corn.  Two completely different flavors.  Add to that, the fact that sometimes you end up with Hominy grits and I begin to shudder.  I understand WHY the corn is soaked in lye water, but that doesn't mean I have to like it or eat it.  It just tastes like dirty chicken feathers to me.

In case your wondering why I know what dirty chicken feathers taste like..... I use to have to clean out the chicken coop when I as a kid, and by the end of the horrendous experience, I could actually taste the dirty chicken feathers mixed with the cedar toe (cedar "shavings" now days).  It's one of those unpleasant things you just never forget.

Unwashed chickens and tree feet aside.....

This morning, I was hungry for Polenta and Eggs.  Meaning I wanted soft breakfast Polenta.  Some may argue that this makes it Grits, but I do not, for I am using fine ground Flint corn.  The whole idea of soft breakfast polenta is that it is smooth and creamy, making it the perfect accompaniment to a braised egg.  When I make Polenta for dinner, I use a slightly coarser grind making the polenta a little more hearty in texture.  The finer grind I use for "breakfast" also means that the starches gelatinize a little faster, so I don't have to cook it quite as long.  In truth it only saves about 10-15 minutes, but hey, every little bit helps.

This polenta has a slightly higher "water" content, so it will not "set-up" the way it normally would.  Just so you know and don't get frustrated trying to make it solidify for frying.  If this is your goal, reduce the chicken stock by 1/2 cup to give you a full 3 to 1 ratio. (only part of the cream counts as water)  

Creamy Polenta and Braised Eggs   

2 cups Chicken Stock
1 cup Heavy Cream
2/3 cup Fine Ground Flint Cornmeal
2 oz shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano (not "grated", it does not melt as smooth and will cause graininess)
1/4 tsp White Pepper
Kosher Salt
CorningWare Saucemaker (P-64)
4 braised Eggs (Using a CorningWare 6 1/2 inch Skillet (P-83-B), with lid)

Combine Chicken Stock and Heavy Cream in your CorningWare Saucemaker, then set it over medium flame.

Go ahead, while you are waiting, and measure out the fine cornmeal,

and the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

Once the Stock/Cream mixture comes to a boil, grab a whisk and begin swirling the liquid in the pot,
creating a vortex in the center.

Slowly sprinkle the corn meal in the center of the vortex while you continue whisking, to prevent lumps.

Once you have added all the cornmeal, you may stir less vigorously.

Bring back to a boil, while stirring, then reduce the flame and simmer the polenta, stirring every 5 minutes or so, until it becomes thick and will hold a line when dropped from the whisk, about 35-45 minutes.

Add the Parmigiano-Reggiano and stir until it has completely melted.

Season with White Pepper and Kosher Salt (though you may not need the salt)
Polenta may be kept warm for up to 1 hour by setting the Saucemaker in a larger pot filled with simmering water.
Which give you time to braise your eggs in a CorningWare skillet (P-83-B).

Spoon the polenta into bowls as you finish braising each egg, and sprinkle with fresh cracked black pepper and you are good to go.

Creamy smooth polenta and braised eggs.... Breakfast of champions, especially after the yolk has been broken and added to the cheesy deliciousness.

Where is your Corningware?

Monday, October 29, 2012

Sentimental Journey - Quiche Lorraine in French White

This is the first piece of CorningWare I ever purchased (it came with a 1 1/2qt Souffle Dish as a set) so it is sort of near and dear to my heart.  I got the set on sale at JC Penney back in the early 90's.  Which was a good thing, cause it was expensive stuff and I wasn't making much money at the time.  I lived in Clackamas, had roommates and coexisted with an evil cat that use to relieve himself in my bathtub all the time.  Man, those were the some interesting times. It's sometimes amazes me how many memories you can tie to something as simple as a baking dish.

Sort of fitting, since it IS French White, that the two piece set consisted of a Quiche Dish and a Souffle dish.  :) I love this piece (F-3-B) and I use it all the time.  Mainly because it is used for one of my favorite things. One of the first things I ever learned to bake as a matter of fact.  Quiche!

Oh yeah, the whole "Real men don't eat quiche" thing.  Poppycock!  I say.  Ain't ever been nothin' wrong with Eggs, Bacon and Toast for breakfast.

It's true.  Quiche, which is a French-ization of the German word Kuchen (meaning Cake), was originally made with bread as a crust.  So in essence, it kind of started out like a bread pudding (minus the sugar of course) Then, sometime along the way, down through the ages the toast was replaced with a pastry crust.

This, for me at least, is awesome, cause NOW it's pie.  And I love Pie.  I love pie almost as much as I love my CorningWare French White Quiche dish.  It must be noted, that this dish works equally well for tarts and other open pies.  There have even been times that I have baked Mac & Cheese in it, cause you get more crust.  :)

Quiche Lorraine, in particular, is one of my favorites.  How can you go wrong with Bacon and Egg Pie?  Please note, I left out the onions.  That is because there are no onions in Quiche Lorraine.  Bacon & Onion Quiche is called Quiche Alsacienne  (Let's give them credit)  There is no cheese either... That is an American thing.  The reason is simple.  In Lorraine, they use Crème Fraîche instead of Heavy Cream to make quiche.  Crème Fraîche is already flavorful enough, so no cheese is added.  Since it has been rarely available in the United States, up until recent years, cheese was sort of a necessary addition.  But now that it is available in most supermarkets (heck, it's even made domestically now) I think it's time to forgo the cheese and use Crème Fraîche for a more authentic flavor.

Quiche Lorraine

10-inch (24cm) French White Quiche dish
1 cup (4.5oz) (127g) AP Flour
1/2 cup (2.25oz) (62g) Spelt Flour
8 TB unsalted Butter
1 TB Sour Cream or Crème Fraîche
1 TB Ice Water
6-8 oz (170-226g) Bacon, cooked (about 12 regular slices or 6-7 thick cut)
6 large Eggs
1 1/2 cups (350ml) Crème Fraîche
Kosher Salt
White Pepper
Dash of Nutmeg

Always remember, the key to perfect pastry crust is cold ingredients and speed. (the refrigerator is your friend)
In a medium bowl, combine AP Flour, Spelt Flour, Salt and Black Pepper (if using) with a whisk.

Add sliced butter and work it into the flour with your fingers or a pastry cutter.

In a small bowl, combine Ice Water and Sour Cream with a fork.

Add this to the Flour/Butter mixture and stir with a fork until a dough forms.

You may chill it at this point if you like, or roll out to a 13 inch circle.

Roll the pastry over your rolling pin to move to your 10-inch Quiche dish. (F-3-B)  Spelt makes it a little more tender and it will rip fairly easily if you try to fold it into quarters to move it

Unroll into your dish and gently coerce it down into the dish.

Because of the rustic nature of quiche, I simply tear the extra pastry from the edge and leave it, but your can trim with a knife and crimp it if you like.

Dock it (poke holes in it) with a fork and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400F degrees.

Line with foil and fill with beans, rice or pie weights.

Bake for 10 minutes, then remove the foil and bake an additional 5 minutes.

Let the pastry shell cool slightly and reduce the temperature to 325F degrees.

Cook the Bacon. (By whichever method you prefer)

Chop the Bacon.

Sprinkle the Bacon all over the bottom of the cooling pastry.

Now, in a bowl, place 6 Eggs and beat them lightly just until the white and yolk are combined.

Add the Crème Fraîche and stir well to combine (be careful not the beat it too much, you want to keep the bubbles to a minimum)

Season with a dash of Nutmeg, Salt and a sprinkle of White Pepper.

Pour into the awaiting pastry shell very slowly as to not dislodge the bacon from the bottom.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the center is just barely set.

Let rest on the counter for 10-15 minutes to allow it to finish cooking and to "set".

Cut a slice and enjoy.

Creamy, smooth and silky; best Bacon and Eggs ever!

Where is your Corningware?