22 October, 2014

Fishy Delights 52: Richfield Farms Ready-to-Serve Clam Chowder

I spent most of last week along the southern Maine coast, doing things like visiting lighthouses, walking the beaches, and gawking at the gorgeous New England autumn foliage (seriously, those of you who don't live here should put "Second Week Of October In New England" on your bucket list.) One of the things Maryanne and I always do on visits to Maine is hit up Marden's, a regional chain of discount/job lot/cultch stores. We generally go to the Biddeford store on US 1.

And it was here that I found a few cans of Richfield Farms Ready to Serve Savory Selections Clam Chowder, Healthy Chunky New England Style. (Look at all that text. Who designed this label, Leo Tolstoy?)

Clam chowder - even canned - is one of my favorite lunches. In addition, I try to keep track of what chowders are good and which are crap. In my Comprehensive Guide to Canned Clam Chowder, I've reviewed and rated nearly every available clam chowder I could find. Discovering Richfield Farms chowder in Marden's reminded me that the guide is still a work in progress.

So how is it?  Pretty good, I'd say.  The color and consistency is pretty much what you'd expect of a New England-style chowder, although the texture is a little on the "slippery" side. I was surprised to see visible bits of herbs in the broth - mostly, though, it seems to be finely minced parsley with enough thyme to give the chowder a vaguely aromatic aftertaste. I was also a little unsettled by these weird little white floaty bits that just would not stir into the chowder. I think that might have been some kind of starch or fat or something. The floaters persisted even after microwaving and the chowder didn't have an off taste. Despite how it looked, it definitely wasn't mold and probably wasn't a bacterial colony either (I ate it at the beginning of the week and I'm still alive.) 

There were big chunks of nice, waxy potatoes and plenty of clam bits of varying sizes. Overall flavor was pretty good - clammy and a bit herbal, but a little tinny. Like most canned chowders, it was improved with a good dose of black pepper.

I would love to give Richfield Farms a 7/10 but them floaty bits, yo. Gotta knock it down a tad to a 6+/10.

To see how this chowder stacks up against other canned chowders, you can click here to go to the Richfield entry in the Comprehensive Guide.

21 October, 2014

Vintage Cookie Recipes

Some time ago I posted about a set of old Christmas cookie cutters that made me nostalgic for my childhood. Last week I got a comment from a reader:

"Do you happen to have the cookie and glaze recipe that I believe was on the lid of the box, on the inside? If so, would you be kind enough to share?"

I had forgotten all about the recipes included with the cutters, so I dug them out of their off-season sleeping place and checked it out. There are actually four recipes printed on the underside of the lid - three cookies and one for frosting.

Sugar Cookies

½ cup shortening
1 cup sugar
2 well-beaten eggs
2 tablespoons cream
1 tablespoon vanilla or almond extract
3½ cups cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder

Cream together shortening and sugar. Add eggs, cream, and flavoring extract and beat well.  Sift flour and baking powder together. Add dry ingredients to creamed mixture. Shape into mound, wrap in waxed paper and chill thoroughly. Roll on board lightly "floured" with confectioners sugar until dough is about ¼ inch thick. Dip cutter in confectioners sugar each time before cutting cookie, the place cookie on lightly greased baking sheet. Bake in moderate oven (375 F) for about 8 minutes, or until delicately browned.


Ginger Snap Cookies

½ cup molasses
¼ cup sugar
3 tablespoons shortening
1 tablespoon milk
2 cups flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger\

Heat molasses to boiling point; add sugar, shortening, and milk and mix well. 

Sift flour, soda, salt, and spices together; add sifted dry ingredients to the molasses mixture. Shape into mound, wrap in waxed paper and chill thoroughly. Roll on board lightly "floured" with confectioners sugar until dough is about ¼ inch thick. Dip cutter in confectioners sugar each time before cutting cookie, the place cookie on lightly greased baking sheet. Bake in moderate oven (375 F) for about 8 minutes.


Brown Sugar Cookies

2 cups brown sugar
2/3 cup shortening
2 well-beaten eggs
½ teaspoon vanilla
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder

Cream sugar and shortening together until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla and beat well.

Sift flour and baking powder together. Add sifted dry ingredients to the creamed sugar and shortening. Shape into mound, wrap in waxed paper and chill thoroughly. Roll on board lightly "floured" with confectioners sugar until dough is about ¼ inch thick. Dip cutter in confectioners sugar each time before cutting cookie, the place cookie on lightly greased baking sheet. Bake in moderate oven (375 F) for about 8 minutes, or until delicately browned.


Frosting and Decorating

1 egg white
1 cup confectioner's sugar
Few grains of salt

Add sugar gradually to the unbeaten egg white. Beat until smooth and of a consistency to pour slightly. Divide frosting into two or three small bowls and color to pastel shades with vegetable coloring; flavor as desired.

16 October, 2014

Craft beer?

Big Y has a really loose definition of "craft beer."

(Look carefully at the top shelf.)

15 October, 2014

Special K Chocolatey Delight

Special K - the flagship of the Kellogg's "good for you" cereal brands - is now available in a heavily-sugared version which includes tiny little chocolate bars. 

For the record, even though they're almost as sweet as Cap'n Crunch, they're not all that bad - a good hearty whole grain flake with lots of crunch - but they're much more like Sugar Frosted Flakes with bits of Hershey Bar mixed in than traditional Special K. It's like Kellogg's just said, "Fuck it, just give 'em candy." 

14 October, 2014

Twilzzlers Caramel Apple Filled Twists

Candied nastiness has taken a new form and is now available as Caramel Apple flavored Filled Twizzlers, a confectionery abomination that Lynnafred came home with a few days ago.

She's long been a big fan of Twizzlers, so she was kind of excited when she presented them. "Check it out! A new kind of Twizzlers! And look, they have skin inside!" (referring to the human-flesh-colored stuff which was supposed to represent the "caramel.") Okay, so "excited" might be the wrong word.

There were four pieces in the package, one for each of us, and we all helped ourselves to one and took tentative bites.

This is, we unanimously decided, not the candy to choose if you are looking for the flavor of caramel apple.

The Twizzler part - that is, the surrounding green twisty bit - is fine as far as it goes. If you're a fan of "red licorice" you know what to expect from it, only it will be green instead of red and have a vaguely apple-ish flavor that bears little resemblance to actual apples.

But the filling is astonishing in its utter worthlessness. How hard could it have been to put something more like actual caramel inside? Caramel is cheap and common, and the technology needed to fill Twizzlers has already, obviously, been perfected. But no, Twizzlers had to go with some kind of sweetened plasticine psuedofood with a flavor eerily similar to caramel and an aftertaste strongly similar to Play-Doh.

Twizzlers should change their label for this candy. I suggest this:


06 October, 2014

Hebert Filled Chocolate Bars

Photo of the Candy Mansion by Hebert Candies
Just about everyone in central New England is familiar with Hebert Candies. The company got it's start in 1917 when Frederick Hebert cooked up his first batch of caramel. In 1946, the company moved to a big Tudor mansion on Route 20 in Shrewsbury Massachusetts where they've been ever since. Hebert's candies are outstanding, and their chocolate is really quite excellent - velvety smooth as it melts in your mouth.

Once upon a time, the only way to wrap a lip around a Hebert's confection was to travel to Shrewsbury, but these days they distribute their sweets over a much larger range. For the most part, this increased production and distribution has done nothing negative to the quality of their products - the chocolate is always great.

Recently we found four varieties of filled chocolate bars produced by Hebert at the local Ocean State Job Lot store. How could we resist their delicious allure?

We picked up one each of the four varieties: Banana Cream Pie, Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich, Peanut Butter Cup, and Peanut Butter and Fluff. All of them were good - they can't help but be good since they were enveloped in Hebert chocolate - but some were gooder than others.

First up:  Banana Cream Pie. An interesting simulation of pie, with banana ganache filling over a graham cracker-studded base. Our tasters were unanimous that the banana flavor was entirely overpowering, even knocking out the rich chocolate. The graham cracker crunch was really nice, though.

Next, Peanut Butter and Fluff. Fluff is a type of marshmallow creme made in Lynn, Massachusetts, and sold virtually everywhere in New England, but is almost unknown anywhere else in the country. That's a shame, because it's not at all like the standard marshmallow cremes available anywhere else - it's airier, and...well...fluffier.  

Hebert's confection doesn't quite pull off the peanut-butter-and-Fluff thing. The marshmallow flavor gets totally lost between the milk chocolate and the peanut butter. Perhaps if the marshmallow layer was
thinner, or if there was more marshmallow above the peanut butter layer? Also, I'm wondering whether that was really Fluff™ in those little pockets and not just some kind of marshmallow thing that Hebert is calling "Fluff" in a generic sense. (Given that this bar no longer appears on the Hebert website, I would guess that it was the latter. Fluff™ is, after all, a trademark.) Either way, this bar was rather underwhelming.

Peanut Butter and Jelly was a better combo; the jelly was a little bit of an overkill in the sweetness department, but the flavor was discernible along with the peanut butter and the chocolate, and I thought the flavors were pretty well balanced.

The unanimous favorite among the taster was Peanut Butter Cup, perhaps not surprising considering its classic and familiar combination. The peanut butter flavor was, like in the PB&J bar, just right and well-balanced with the chocolate. And the chocolate used for this bar was noticeably darker than with the others (although the label did say "Milk Chocolate" like the others.)

05 October, 2014

Help Me Identify This Edible Root

I bought these roots at Price Chopper the other day. They were right next to the parsnips, and no one in the produce department could tell me what they were (and the cashier rang them up as "parsnips" so she was just as clueless as everyone else.). I bought them because they're so cool-looking - kind of square in cross-section, with little root nubbins along the "corners" which give it a distinctively grub-like look.

I haven't done anything with them as of yet, because...well, because I'm not sure what to do. I did take a slice off on one to taste it. It has a wet, refreshingly crispy texture very similar to a water chestnut, but without the water-chestnut bitterness. The flavor was pretty neutral, but with a gentle nutty undertone.

So...WHAT ARE THEY?  Help a brother out here - I think they might be jerusalem artichokes or sunchokes, but I'm not familiar enough with them to tell for sure.  If you have any ideas, put 'em in the comments.