Wednesday, January 21, 2009

American Classics, revisited

From the Your Table section of today's Anniston Star, a humble offering of old school American recipes that have never gone out of style. Cheers!

American classics
New era reminds us of the old favorites in our nation’s pantry
By Laura Tutor
ltutor@annistonstar. com

After their inauguration Tuesday, President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and about 200 guests sat down for lunch in Statuary Hall on Capitol Hill.

Another president, Abraham Lincoln, is Obama’s hero. So it’s appropriate that the first meal Obama ate as president was inspired by the Lincoln White House. On the menu for his inaugural lunch: seafood stew of lobster, shrimp and black cod topped with a puff pastry dome; duo of pheasant and duck served with sour cherry chutney and molasses sweet potatoes; and apple cinnamon sponge cake with sweet cream glace.

Not sure Lincoln would have had glace, but we won’t quibble.

The lunch, organized by the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, included members of the Supreme Court, Cabinet designees and the congressional leadership. Chefs spent months researching the food and cooking style of the 1860s. Wild game, especially duck, appeared on many White House menus of the day. Apples were widely available.

“Stews were very popular. It wasn’t rare to have stew for breakfast,” says account executive Rickie Niceta of the decision to serve seafood stew. “But we were also thinking about who will be attending. They’ll be cold, and they’ll be starving. We wanted to start with something hot and substantial.”

January in D.C. calls for hot and substantial, but it also brings to mind some famous recipes that have been handed down through the years. The restaurant in the Senate section of the Capitol serves bean soup every day – and has for more than a century. And while some pages will insist it’s served the same soup every day for more than a century, the recipe is actually a pretty good bean soup for a cold day on the Hill.

Not to be outdone from the heartland, The Truman Library in Independence, Mo., has dozens of recipes that Bess Truman whipped up regularly for her family and friends: American classics like meatloaf and mac-and-cheese.

Finish your presidential meal off with something sweet, such as Mamie Eisenhower’s fudge, which still makes the rounds at Christmas, or the tart cranberry pudding served at Mount Vernon.

Thanks to our friends at The Washington Post for doing the legwork on the menu particulars.


Senate Bean Soup
According to one story, the Senate’s bean soup tradition began early in the 20th century at the request of Sen. Fred Dubois of Idaho. Another story attributes the request to Sen. Knute Nelson of Minnesota, who expressed his fondness for the soup in 1903.

The recipe attributed to Dubois includes mashed potatoes and makes a 5-gallon batch. Well, he was from Idaho, so what do we expect? This is the original recipe, which included mashed potatoes – the ultimate thickening agent of its day. Oh, and this makes five gallons, so prepare to freeze some.

3 pounds dried navy beans
2 pounds of ham and a ham bone
1 quart mashed potatoes
5 onions, chopped
2 stalks of celery, chopped
four cloves garlic, chopped
half a bunch of parsley, chopped
Clean the beans, then cook them dry in a large (really large) pot for a few minutes to heat them. Add ham, bone and water and bring to a boil. Cook until begins just get soft, but still have some texture. Add potatoes and mix thoroughly. Add chopped vegetables and bring to a boil. Simmer for one hour before serving.

Mrs. Truman’s Meat Loaf
1 1/2 pounds ground beef
1/2 pound ground veal
1/2 pound pork (get all the meat ground and mixed at store)
1 cup bread crumbs (or oatmeal)
3/ 4 cup of milk
2 eggs
2 tablespoons chili sauce
1/2 teaspoon Kitchen Bouquet
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
salt and pepper to taste
chopped onions
Mix and form into a loaf. Bake at 350 for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Several slices of bacon add to flavor if put on top at baking time.

Mrs. Truman’s Mac and Cheese
8 ounces macaroni, cooked and drained
1/ 2 pound grated cheddar cheese
2 cups milk
1 egg
1/ 4 cup margarine (she said “oleo” on her recipe card. That’s so retro.)
In a baking dish, place layer of macaroni, then add a layer of cheese. Repeat your layers to use everything up. Combine milk and eggs; pour over macaroni and cheese. Dot the top with butter. This can be made up to this point and refrigerated for a day – just take it from the ’fridge and let it warm up some while your oven is preheating to 350. Then bake at 350 until hot and bubbly.

Cranberry Pudding from Mount Vernon

2 eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons sugar
pinch salt
1/ 2 cup molasses
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/ 3 cup boiling water
1 1/ 2 cups sifted flour
1 1/ 2 cups cranberries, cut in half
Combine eggs, sugar, salt and molasses. In a separate container, put 2 teaspoons of soda in 1/3 cup boiling water. Add to egg mixture. Stir in flour and cranberries. Steam in a buttered rice steamer for 1 1/2 hours. Serve warm with the sauce.
Sauce
2 sticks butter
1 cup half and half
2 cups sugar
Melt butter. Add sugar and half and half and stir until sugar is dissolved.

Mamie’s Million Dollar Fudge
4 1/2 cups sugar
pinch of salt
2 tablespoons butter
1 tall can evaporated milk
12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate bits
12 ounces German-sweet chocolate
1 pint marshmallow cream
2 cups nuts
Boil the sugar, salt, butter, evaporated milk together for six minutes.
Put chocolate bits and German chocolate, marshmallow cream and nutmeats in a bowl. Pour the boiling syrup over the ingredients. Beat until chocolate is all melted, then pour in pan. Let stand a few hours before cutting.
Remember, it is better the second day. Store in tin box.

More American classics
Source: The American Woman’s Cook Book (1950 edition my grandma gave me.)

Boston Baked Beans
2 cups dried navy beans
1 small onion, chopped
1 /8 pound salt pork or bacon
1/ 2 teaspoon salt
1/ 2 teaspoon dry mustard
2 tablespoons molasses

Soak beans overnight in water. Drain and rinse. In a slow-cooker, add all ingredients and 2 cups water. Turn to low and cook for 10 hours. Stovetop/oven: In a Dutch oven, put the rinsed beans and all ingredients. Simmer on the stove about 1-2 hours, partially covered, until the beans soften. Then pour into a baking dish and bake at 350 for another hour.

New England Clam Chowder
1/ 4 pound salt pork or bacon, cubed
2 small onions, minced
1 rib celery, diced
2 tablespoons flour
1 quart clams (with juice from can or jar)
6 small potatoes, peeled and diced
2 cups chicken broth
salt to taste
1/ 2 stick of butter
1/ 2 teaspoon pepper
3 1/ 2 cups half-n-half
Brown pork in a Dutch oven or heavy pot. Add onion and celery and cook about 3 minutes. Sprinkle on the flour and cook about 1 minute more, stirring to coat the vegetables with the flour. Add the potatoes and chicken broth, then cook over low-medium heat until the potatoes soften, stirring frequently so the vegetables don’t stick. Don’t worry if some of the potatoes start to break apart – that will help thicken your chowder. Add remaining ingredients, then cook, covered, over low heat for about 15 minutes. DO NOT BOIL. Taste and add more salt and pepper, if necessary.