Thanks for the memories: Revamping vintage recipes

Photos courtesy Red Stick Spice Company

All my childhood memories are tied to food. While I don’t remember what we were celebrating—was it Aunt Gloria’s birthday or was it my parrain’s graduation?—what I do remember is what was served. Sock it to Me cake. Pimiento cheese sandwiches. Fizzy sherbet punch bubbling with Fresca. I recall helping bring out the fancy china and glassware and looking forward to certain dishes that were reserved only for special occasions. While I love the fond memories, there are some dishes (Pistachio Delight, anyone?) that make me wonder: what were we thinking?

Part trip down memory lane, part tasty food analysis, I recently took to the mic on my podcast Smidgen with my friend and co-cooking instructor Lili Courtney. Lili and I talked about throwback recipes and which ones we felt deserved a comeback. Incorporating many ingredients that can be found at my shop, Red Stick Spice Company, we drew upon our knowledge of the four complementary components of cooking—salt, fat, acid and heat—to bring modern flavor to vintage dishes.

Hummingbird cake and ’70s-style cocktail meatballs made the list. For the cake, we decided to tackle the overly dense texture while leaving the banana-pineapple flavor intact. We also wanted to bring in a salty sauce and serve it as an individual trifle. The cloyingly sweet, grape jelly- and chili sauce-doused meatballs received a major makeover. We brought in a splash of balsamic vinegar and studded the meatballs with currants. While slow cookers are handy, we decided our modern meatballs should be served on a bed of slightly bitter arugula for some updated crunch.

Read on for the recipes, and bring some of your own favorite food memories back to life in a modern way.


SWEET & SOUR MEATBALLS WITH PINE NUTS & CURRANTS

Ingredients:
3 oz. fresh whole-wheat breadcrumbs (about 1½ cups), divided
¼ cup Shallot Extra Virgin Olive Oil,* divided
Salt
12 oz. lean ground beef
12 oz. ground pork
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
¼ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, divided
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 Tbsp. capers, drained and chopped
1 cup low-salt chicken broth
½ cup Champagne Pear Balsamic Vinegar*
2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
¼ cup pine nuts, toasted
¼ cup dried currants
In a large skillet, toss half of breadcrumbs with 2 Tbsp. Shallot Extra Virgin Olive Oil and ¼ tsp. salt. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until crumbs brown and crisp, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and let cool.
In a large bowl, using your hands, gently mix beef and pork with 1 tsp. salt and ½ tsp. pepper. Gently mix in Parmesan cheese, half of parsley, egg, capers and remaining breadcrumbs. Note: when we tested the recipe, we found our fridge missing Parmesan cheese. We subbed nutritional yeast with perfect results and flavor. It’s a great ingredients to have on hand for cheesy flavor with no dairy.
Set a small bowl of cold water nearby; gently roll 1½-oz. portions of the meat into balls; you should get about 20 meatballs. Use the water to moisten your hands to help with stickiness.
Heat remaining 2 Tbsp. Shallot Extra Virgin Olive Oil in a large skillet over medium heat until shimmering hot. Cook half of meatballs, undisturbed, until browned on bottom, about 2 minutes. Flip and brown other side, 1 to 2 minutes more. Transfer cooked meatballs to a paper towel-lined plate, and repeat with remaining meatballs. Pour off all fat; put pan back over medium-high heat. Add chicken broth, Champagne Pear Balsamic Vinegar and sugar. Boil, stirring to incorporate any browned bits, until mixture reduces by about half, 3 to 5 minutes.
Return meatballs to pan, lower heat to medium, and braise meatballs, shaking pan occasionally, until meatballs cook through—they should be firm to the touch and have no visible pink in the interior. Allow sauce to thicken to a glaze that coats meatballs, about 15 minutes. If glaze reduces before meatballs cook, add more broth 1 Tbsp. at a time and continue cooking. If meatballs cook before glaze reduces, transfer meatballs to a plate and continue cooking glaze. Remove from heat. Stir in pine nuts and currants, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve sprinkled with remaining parsley and toasted breadcrumbs.

HUMMINGBIRD CAKE TRIFLE

Ingredients:
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
2 cups granulated sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. Pumpkin Pie Spice Blend*
¼ tsp. Vietnamese Cinnamon*
3 large eggs, beaten
1 ½ cups Pointe Coupée Pecan Oil*
3 tsp. Pure Vanilla Extract,* divided
1 tsp. Maple Extract*
1 (8-oz.) can crushed pineapple tidbits in juice, undrained
2 cups chopped ripe bananas (about 3 bananas)
1 cup chopped pecans, toasted
2 (8-oz.) packages cream cheese, room temperature
1 (14-oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
3 Tbsp. plain yogurt
½ stick unsalted butter
½ cup packed dark brown sugar
½ cup heavy cream
2 tsp. Vanilla Puree*
½ tsp. Fleur de Sel*
Spray a 9 x 13-inch pan with baking spray. Line bottom of pan with parchment. Spray parchment. Dust pan and parchment with flour. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Whisk together flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, Pumpkin Pie Spice and Vietnamese Cinnamon in a large bowl. Add eggs and Pointe Coupée Pecan Oil, stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened. Stir in 1 tsp. Pure Vanilla Extract, Maple Extract, pineapple, bananas and pecans.
Spread batter in prepared pan. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until sides are pulling away and a skewer pierced in center has only a few moist crumbs attached. Set aside to cool.
For no-bake cheesecake layer, using an electric mixer set at medium-high speed, beat cream cheese in a large bowl until smooth. Beat in condensed milk a little at a time, scraping sides of bowl as necessary. Beat in lemon juice, yogurt and 2 tsp. Pure Vanilla Extract.
For butterscotch sauce, melt butter in a medium-size heavy-bottom saucepan over medium heat. Add brown sugar and cream, and whisk until well blended. Bring to a very gentle boil and cook for about 5 minutes, whisking occasionally. Remove from heat and add Vanilla Puree and Fleur de Sel. Carefully taste sauce and add additional pinches of Fleur de Sel if desired.
To assemble trifles, place cubes of cake in a trifle dish or individual dishes. Martini glasses and stemless wine glasses work well. Place a dollop of cheesecake mixture in each dish. Drizzle with butterscotch sauce.
*Available at Red Stick Spice Company

Anne Milneck is a trained chef and the owner of Red Stick Spice Company, which offers spices as well as loose teas, olive oils and other goodies both at its Jefferson Highway location and online at redstickspice.com.

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