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.

27 January 2012

Dining With The Washingtons

As I stated in the Lucindaville Abecedary, Dining With The Washingtons is a glorious book. It may look like a stuffy old academic tome from the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association, but it is a breath of fresh air when you open the covers. Yes, it is a well researched scholarly book about George and Martha Washington, but the focus is about an area often overlooked in most histories – it is about the kitchen – or more specifically, how the kitchen impacts the dining room.

This interdisciplinary study starts in the kitchen and uses this space to view everything around it. It begins with the house as a focal point for entertaining such as, who came and why. George Washington’s life of public service made him a distinguished guest and those traveling through Virginia became his guests. Mount Vernon became one of the first private homes to offer its guests ice cream. In 1784 a “Cream Machine for Ice” was purchased in England for the sum of 1.13.3 pounds. It must have been a hit as three years later and expenditure of $7 was noted for another ice cream maker and the next year a full five shillings for ice cream spoons. Seriously, who wants to eat ice cream with plain soup spoon?

Ice Cream "Machine"

There is section on how everyday meals would have been prepared. While not incorporating the same pomp and circumstance of “state” dinners, the meal preparation was executed with military precision. The household staff, consisting of Washington’s slaves, began work before sunrise and ended late in the evening. A diary of the cook’s day from the 1790’s tells us that the cook, Lucy, along with her husband, Frank Lee, the butler would rise at 4 a. m. to begin work. A normal workday for Lucy would end with cleaning the kitchen at 8 p. m. When company was expected, the day would run much longer as Washington generally served his guests at 9 p.m.

Larder at Mount Vernon

Washington’s lavish meals were raised at Mount Vernon. Washington was a serious student of agriculture. He was one of the first farmers to abandon the once lucrative crop of tobacco for more farm friendly grain, which he milled and sold. A world traveler, Washington was fond of imported drink, but in his desire to “shop American” he replace imported ale with local beer. Especially fond of Robert Hare’s porter from Philadelphia, Washington was saddened when the brewery burned and wrote of his sorrow, “on public as well as private accounts.”

No book on dining would be complete without recipes. Noted food historian Nancy Carter Crump assembled a lovely collections of recipes that would have graced the tables of the Washington and translated them into a usable collection for today’s kitchens. For historical sake, here is one of Martha Washington’s actual recipes for you to try.

Take 40 eggs divide the whites from the yolks & beat them to a froth then work four pounds of butter to a cream & put the whites of the eggs to it a Spoon full at a time till it is well work’d then put 4 pounds of sugar finely powdered to it in the same manners then put it in the Youlks of eggs & 5 pounds of flower & 5 pounds of fruit. 2 hours will bake it add to it half an ounce of mace & nutmeg half a pint of wine and some frensh brandy.

Even if you could care less about history, this is one culinary romp you will want on your shelf.

26 January 2012

The Ciao Bella Book of Gelato and Sorbetto

Years ago...

I would venture into Whole Foods and grab a pint of the most delicious blood orange sorbet made by Ciao Bella.

Then the evil queen...

also known as Oprah, decided to make Ciao Bella's Blood Orange Sorbet one of her "favorite things."


It was gone. Oprah's minions set out to eat it all. It was a full three years before one could find Ciao Bella's Blood Orange Sorbet in any store.

So you can just imagine our unmitigated joy when we found out that they were writing a cookbook. AS you know, we have a plethora of ice creamy cookbooks at our disposal. But this is a gem. In the first place, they make the whole process rather easy. Well about as easy as making ice cream can be, provided one owns a big ol' ice cream machine. But still...

Since moving far far away from the dazzling Whole Foods, transporting ice cream has become a bit of a hassle. So the DIY approach suits us well and if there is anyone we want to DIY ice cream with it would have to be F.W. Pearce & Danilo Zecchin. If you don't believe us, check out this New Yorker article.

Now we just love chocolate, but it is a bitch to clean up in our Simac. Next to the blood orange, this is terrific.

Classic Chocolate Gelato

2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate (about 60% cacao), finely chopped
4 large egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar

In a heavy-bottom saucepan, combine the milk and cream. Place over medium-low heat and cook, stirring occasionally so a skin doesn’t form, until tiny bubbles start to form around the edges and the mixture reaches a temperature of 170°F. Turn off the heat and whisk in the cocoa powder. Add the chopped chocolate, and stir or whisk until the chocolate is completely melted and the mixture is smooth.

Meanwhile, in a medium heat-proof bowl, whisk the egg yolks until smooth. Gradually whisk in the sugar until it is well incorporated and the mixture is thick and pale yellow. Temper the egg yolks by very slowly pouring in the hot milk mixture, whisking continuously. Return the custard to the saucepan and place over low heat. Cook, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, until the custard is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon and it reaches a temperature of 185°F. Do not bring to a boil.

Pour the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer into a clean bowl and cool to room temperature, stirring every 5 minutes or so. To cool the custard quickly, make an ice bath by filling a large bowl with ice and water and placing the bowl with the custard in it; stir the custard until cooled. Once completely cooled, cover and refrigerate until very cold, at least 4 hours or overnight.

Pour the custard into the container of an ice cream machine and churn according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer to an airtight container and freeze for at least 2 hours before serving.

If you don't live next door to the Whole Foods, grab up a copy of this book before summer and make your own.
If you do live next door, make your own anyway because one never knows when Oprah will open her mouth and steal away your favorite sorbet.

24 January 2012

Not A Cookbook -- A Birthday

Edith Newbold Jones, 1870 by Edward Harrison May

Today is Edith Wharton's 150th birthday. In that spirit, we thought we would go back and look a couple of cookbook posts on the Edwardian era. Enjoy.

21 January 2012

Ancient Grains for Modern Meals

This past year we cooked a lot of “ancient grains” in our kitchen, prompted by a birthday gift of 5 pounds of quinoa. Yes, Virginia, I am the kind of girl who finds 5 pounds of quinoa a spectacular birthday gift. Along with quinoa we consumed a fair amount of farro. Not a week passes without grits and our bread is enriched with wheat berries.

Now here is a word about incorporating “ancient grains” into your diet. Before you get all freaked out about what to do with them, just think of quinoa, farro, barley, oat berries as a substitute for rice. Want to be more adventurous? Pick up a copy of Maria Speck’s Ancient Grains for Modern Meals. Maria Speck takes and old world approach to cooking, stating that she doesn’t own a lot of cooking equipment. She has a mortar and pestle rather than a food processor. She does, however, have two different grain mills, as one might expect. Many of these recipes walk you through making the grains first. Once the grains are cooked then the remaining ingredients are prepared and the dish is put together.

This year, for Christmas(it actually arrived before Christmas, but that's another story...)we got a grain grinder. It is not the spiffy German one that Speck owns, but a silver behemoth whose bucket was cracked. Upon our first use, we covered the kitchen in a fog of blue cornmeal. We then turned our blue cornmeal into a green cornbread. A good first effort!

Health professional tell us we need more whole grain. So if you think that might just be a bowl of oatmeal every now and then you desperately need Ancient Grains for Modern Meals. One of the easiest grains to both find and cook is probably couscous. Like all packaged foods, buy the plain, whole-wheat couscous and not a box that has already been flavored. Remember, your job is to add the flavor. This citrus couscous makes a lovely side dish, especially for roasted chicken.

Orange and Lemon Couscous

2 large oranges

1 lemon

3/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 cup whole-wheat couscous

2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

1. Finely grate the zest of one orange and squeeze the oranges until you have about 3/4 cup juice. Finely grate the zest of the lemon, and squeeze the lemon half to get 2 tablespoons juice. (Reserve the remaining lemon for another use.) Whisk together the orange juice, lemon juice and zest in a liquid measuring cup or small bowl.

2. Bring the chicken broth, olive oil, salt and pepper to a boil in a 2-quart saucepan. Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the juice mixture and the couscous. Cover and let sit until the liquid is absorbed, about 10 minutes.

3. Taste and adjust for salt and pepper. Fluff the grains with two forks, sprinkle with the parsley, and serve right away.

See, that was easy. Now that you have jumped right in you, too, will be getting large bags of quinoa for your birthday. Lets hope they throw in a copy of Ancient Grains for Modern Meals. Happy Birthday.

20 January 2012

Handheld Pies

Handheld Pies was one of many Christmas cookbooks. The reason I got his book as a present was clearly stated. My friend, Ann believed that she would like to eat some of the handheld pies on the cover. Seemed like a good plan.

The book is fairly straightforward. The twist in the book is that the pies are backed in a small, transportable manner. Little tarts in cupcake tins, cream pies in preserve jars, and tiny little pop tarts. The recipes are familiar, pared down versions of pumpkin pie, cherry pie, coconut cream, lemon meringue and even a chicken potpie in a little pot.

Sarah Billingsly and Rachel Wharton visited a vast array of pie shops from East to West, North to South and offer up a short profile of these shops. The book offers up several crust options including a plain, flaky butter crust and a cornmeal crust. Then there are a series of filling options, like cherry, blueberry, and apple.

Blueberry Filling

3 cups/340 g fresh or frozen blueberries (if frozen, do not thaw)
1/4 cup/50 g sugar
1 1/2 tbsp cornstarch
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp grated lemon zest
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg (optional)

In a bowl, combine all of the ingredients and mix gently so as not to crush the berries. Use immediately.

You can pick a crust and make a pie in a jar or little pop tart pies.

As you can see, the recipes are familiar but the deliver provides several cool options for presenting and pie that one might have in their repertoire.

04 January 2012

Not A Cookbook -- A Blogger Cooks

We posted about Countess Morphy's Recipes of All Nations. Recently our reader, Chandra, found an old copy of this book and decided to cook the entire book. Seriously...

She began her quest with this question: "Where do I buy a whole pig's head?" Indeed!

Here is the link to her site: Chandra Cooks Recipes of All Nations.

Chandra, we are rooting for you. We will keep checking in.
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