This post will look a bit different than the typical one. And the format surely is. And some spellings. I’ll explain why later. What you do get here is a complete meal:
- Chicken Pudding
- Scallop Tomatas
- Peach Cream
[No, that spelling is correct. Just be patient, please.]
Here we go.
Beat ten eggs very light, add to them a quart of rich milk, with a quarter of a pound of butter melted and some pepper and salt, stir in as much flour, as will make a thin good batter; take four young chickens, and after cleaning them nicely, cut off the legs, wings, &c. put them all in a sauce pan, with some salt and water and a bundle of thyme and parsley, boil them ‘till nearly done, then take the chicken from the water and put it in a the batter, pour it in a deep dish and bake it; send nice white gravy in a boat
Peel off the skin from large full, rip tomatas — put a layer in the bottom of a deep dish, cover it well with bread grated fine; sprinkle on pepper and salt, and some bit of butter over them — put another layer of each, ‘tlll the dish is full — let the top be covered with crumbs and butter — bake it a nice brown.
Get fine soft peaches perfectly ripe, peel them, take out the stones, and put them in a China bowl; sprinkle some sugar on and chop them very small with a silver spoon; if the peaches be sufficiently ripe, they will become a smooth pulp; add as much cream or rich milk as you have peaches; put more sugar and freeze it.
These are real recipes. From Virginia. From 1828. Hence the spelling and the style. And, did you note this, the absence of quantities. A quart of milk, rich milk, yes. But otherwise, you are just adding salt, pepper, bread crumbs and butter. Oh, you need to use that silver spoon, too. You know, I had a grandmother who did exactly that, though I never knew why. Somewhere, there is a chemist who knows.
Andrews McMeel Publishing is collaborating with the American Antiquarian Society to preserve the foundations of American culinary history. The Antiquarian Society has 1,100 cookbooks in its preservation shelves. Andrews McMeel has a project to publish 100 of these books, some in paper and some as e-books. The recipes above do come from the 1828 edition of The Virginia Housewife by Mrs. Mary Randolph. The book portrays a culinary world that is very, very different from the one we have now. This is all way before Whole Foods.
No, Suzen and I have not prepared any of these recipes, but we are going to attempt them. And others. We won’t do the calf’s feet fricassee, but there are plenty of things to try.
If you are a foodie, if you think things haven’t changed all that much over time, well, you need to get this charming book. It was not just a different time in 1828. It was a different world. The Virginia Housewife is a time machine, showing you how much has changed and offering some gems that just still may please you, your family, and your friends.
The Culinary Institute of America — yes, that CIA — is recognized as the best culinary school in America. If you can’t invest two or four years to attend, then you have an alternative: the series of cookbooks written by the CIA staff. The latest in this series, Pasta, is a wonderful book that will appeal both to professional chefs and foodies.
When we cook pasta at home, the tendency is to be two toned: spaghetti or lasagna. How many of us have ventured out to cook risotto, crespelle, or polenta. Sample them at a restaurant? Sure. Try it at home? Uh, maybe not.
Pasta is designed to carry you over the threshold, to inform you, educate you, and in the end to let you prepare an exceptional meal.
Sure, Pasta has spaghetti and lasagna recipes. But, probably not ones you have tried:
- Lasagna with Asparagus and Fontina
- Lasagna with Eggplant, Tomato, and Mozzarella
- Vegetable Lasagna with Tomato Sauce
- Spaghetti with Anchovies, Wild Fennel, and Toasted Bread Crumbs
- Fresh Spaghetti with Lamb Sauce
- Handmade with Spaghetti with Porcini Mushrooms
- Spaghetti with Garlic, Tomato, Mint and Fresh Tuna [recipe below!]
Pasta is organized seasonally [Summer, Autumn, Winter, and Spring] but truly you probably can source the fresh ingredients you need for any of these recipes almost year round. At the back of the book is a strong appendix with basic pasta and sauce recipes. Well, not that basic. How about Red Wine Fettuccine and Rabbit Broth? That’s a meal in itself.
Pasta has 150 recipes and 100 full-page color photos [styled and shot by Franceso Tonelli] to inspire and guide you. The typical recipe is one page: 6-10 ingredients, 3-8 steps. The intensity level of the recipes ranges from moderate to serious. I was cooking on my own, so I went for a spaghetti recipe. Suzen is much more dexterous and would jump to tackle one of the almost 20 gnocchi recipes [like pumpkin with crayfish].
These are the sorts of recipes that you would “buy” at a truly high end, contemporary Italian restaurant. Yet here they are, staged and ready for you to try at home.
My spaghetti dish was wonderful, in large part because of the technique. Garlic, tomatoes and eventually the tuna are cooked in heavy skillet. The spaghetti is, of course, boiled. But the spaghetti is pulled from the pot two minutes early and finished off back in that skillet where it can absorb the flavors. The result? If you just eat strands of pasta — with no fish in that forkful — you still get a delicate fish flavor that has entered the pasta. Sublime and quite satisfying. I had a very strong sense of accomplishment [achieved without sugar or chocolate!]
It’s a challenge to write a cookbook that is serious, fun, and sure to produce an exceptional dish, page after page. Pasta is just that kind of book. Pick up a copy. Let the pictures seduce you, and put some water in the pot.
Spaghetti with Garlic, Tomato, Mint and Fresh Tuna
Yield: serves 4 to 6
- ⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 garlic cloves, crushed
- 10 ounces fresh tuna, cut into ¼ inch cubes
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic
- 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
- ⅓ cup dry white wine
- 2 cups peeled seeded diced fresh or canned tomatoes
- Kosher salt, as need
- 1 pound dried spaghetti
- 1 tablespoon thinly slice or chopped mint
Heat the oil in a wide saucepan or skillet over medium-high heat. Add the crushed garlic cloves and sauté until the garlic is aromatic and just staring to turn brown. Remove and discard the garlic. Add the tuna and cook, stirring as necessary, until the tuna is seared on all sides, about 1 minute.
Add the minced garlic and the parsley and stir to combine. Add the wine and once the wine is simmering, about 1 minute, add the tomatoes. Cook, stirring frequently, until the tuna is fully cooked, about 5 minutes. Set aside.
While the tuna is cooking, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the spaghetti and stir to submerge and separate the strands. Cook, uncovered, until the pasta is almost fully cooked, 5 to 7 minutes [check the recommended cooking time for your pasta and cook 1 to 2 minutes less than that recommended time].
Drain the spaghetti in a colander. Shake well to remove any water clinging to the pasta. Pour the drained pasta in the pan with the tuna and sauce and toss together over medium heat until evenly combined. Add the mint and cook over low heat until the spaghetti is fully cooked and the sauce thickens and clings to the spaghetti, about 2 minutes.
Serve at once in a heated serving bowl or in pasta plates.