30 January 2012

Palmer House Cook Book

Ernest Amiet was a classically trained chef who trained in France, Switzerland and England before landing in Chicago at the Palmer House.

The Palmer House is still in existence in Chicago. The first version, was built as a wedding present for his bride by Potter Palmer. Thirteen days later, it burned to the ground in the Great Chicago Fire. Which does not sit well with the superstitious. Undaunted, Palmer signed a slip of paper and was granted a loan of over a million and a half dollars (which some believe to be the largest signature loan secured during 1871) and set out to rebuild it.

When Chef Amiet arrived he set out to bring the finest dining experience to the hotel's visitors. He was a big success and received literally thousands of requests for recipes for dishes served at the Palmer House. Finally, he decided to write a cook book because,

“During the past fifteen years I have kept a careful record of the requests for recipes by patrons of the dining room…this book is made up of theses dishes.

Home cooking is altogether different from the wholesale method used in a large hotel. Therefore, I evolved a plan whereby even beginners could produce my restaurant dishes in the kitchens of their own homes.”

Published in 1940, the Palmer House Cook Book offers up over a thousand recipes. The first half of the book offers up breakfast, luncheon and dinner menus and recipes to follow. In the second part, a series of basic recipes for cakes, sauces, meats and hors d'oeuvre are listed. Unlike many cook books from this era; the Palmer House Cook Book features many pictures to illustrate its food. As one might expect, photo’s of food from nearly 75 years ago can be a bit challenging.

While the cream pie holds up, the boiled chicken and potatoes looks a bit dated.

Who would order boiled chicken in a restaurant?

The recipe titles are quite grandiose and offer a look into the mind of a chef – or perhaps a hotel staff bringing “the Continent” to the middle of America. The pairings often seem to have nothing to do with one another.

Boiled Fresh Ox Tongue Polonaise served with Noodles Countessa.

Breast of Guinea Hen General Grant and a Siberian Coupe for dessert.

Bisque Idaho and Batavia Mutton Curry.

Here is a little vegetable dish for the family tables.

Spinach Mussolini

Six ounces of spinach well drained, 2 slices of bacon cut in strips, 4 thin slices of cucumber, 2 tablespoonfuls of butter, salt and pepper to taste.

Slightly sauté the bacon, add the cucumbers, cook for a second and then add the spinach, butter, salt and pepper, stir slightly and cook for a few minutes and serve.

Now ask yourself, when is the last time you had Spinach Mussolini, so cook some up for the family.


  1. Is there a recipe for the "famous Palmer House rolls", or am I thinking of something completely different?

  2. I thought the same thing then remembered the "famous" rolls were from the Parker House.

  3. Whoops! Or maybe it was the Palmer House that was referenced by The Monkees...I know there is something about it in my storage neurons somewhere!


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