Tag Archives: recipe

Beef & Okra Gumbo (1957) – Rubenstein Library Test Kitchen

Post contributed by Ashley Rose Young, a Ph.D. candidate in History at Duke University and the Business History Graduate Intern at the Hartman Center.

Throwing a Mardi Gras-themed party this weekend? Then check out this gumbo recipe!

New Orleans Carnival season is in full swing with Mardi Gras fast approaching. My Twitter feed is full of images of brightly clad parade goers and heaps of dazzling beads. Scrolling through my feed the other day, nostalgia overwhelmed me. I had been missing New Orleans, the subject of my dissertation research. In that moment, I wanted one thing: gumbo.

With a goal to kick off the Rubenstein Test Kitchen in 2017, I thought I could make gumbo from a historic recipe, satiating my emotional need for it while also sharing my passion for the dish with wider audiences. There was one flaw in my plan, though. I had already written a blog post for the Devil’s Tale on Shrimp Gumbo Filé. As I pointed out in that post, however, New Orleans-style gumbo is anything but formulaic and reflects the complexity of New Orleans’ Creole food culture. There were an infinite number of combinations that I could draw upon to make a gumbo dish that would look nothing like the one I had made a few years ago.

So, I set out to look for a gumbo recipe that stood in contrast to the meaty seafood stew I had previously made from the Picayune’s Creole Cook Book (1916). Whereas I tend to gravitate towards roux-based stews with chicken, ham, and seafood, I knew that there were entirely different gumbo traditions—ones that drew upon ingredients that I have never tried in my gumbos.

Ladies Home Journal (1957). David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

I found just the recipe I was looking for in an article published in a 1957 issue of Ladies Home Journal. This was a beef-based stew with tomatoes and okra, among other unfamiliar gumbo ingredients like basil and oregano. The recipe came from an article titled, “Main Dishes with a Southern Accent,” written by Dorothy James, a native New Orleanian.

Okra Gumbo

Buy 2 pounds of either stewing beef or veal cut into 1” cubes. Put in a heavy kettle or Dutch oven along with 2 cups water, 2 cups chopped onion, ¾ cup chopped green pepper, ¾ cup chopped celery, 2 cloves garlic, crushed. Season with 1½  teaspoons salt, 1½ teaspoons gumbo filé, 1 teaspoon sugar, ½ teaspoon basil, ½ teaspoon orégano, 1/8 teaspoon pepper and a dash of crushed red-pepper flakes. Gumbo filé is innate to gumbo as far as Southern cooks are concerned, but it is not generally available in the North. It may be omitted, in which case add a little more red pepper and herbs. Simmer, covered, for 1 hour. Separate the meat from the broth and set both aside. Make a brown roux with ¼ cup flour and ¼ cup bacon drippings. Add the broth, 4 fresh tomatoes, peeled and quartered, and 1 cup tomato sauce. Cover and cook until the sauce is well blended. Then add the meat, cover again, and simmer gently about 45 minutes longer. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking. Wash and trim 1½ pounds fresh okra. Then cut into ½” pieces—there will be about 3 cups. (You can use two 10-ounce packages of frozen okra). Add to the gumbo and cook another 20-30 minutes, or until the okra is tender. Serve with rice. Makes 6 servings.

The final product was incredibly tasty. The gumbo, which had three kinds of thickener (filé powder, roux, and okra slime), had a decadent, creamy texture. The tomato was not overwhelming and provided a tangy, sweet undercurrent that blended nicely with the kick of the red pepper flakes. I had to add a bit more salt to balance the flavors in the dish to my liking. Overall, it was a satisfying meal that showcased both beef and okra beautifully.

As is the case with any recipe, there are tips, tricks, and “trade secrets” that are regularly left out. I’ve added some notes to help create the most flavor-packed gumbo possible.

I purchased a fatty beef brisket from the local grocery store. The more fat in the meat, the more flavorful the stock. I also patted my beef try with a paper towel (thanks for the tip, Julia Child) and browned it in 2 tablespoons of oil to start a nice faun on the bottom of the pan. After a few minutes, I pulled the beef out, added a bit more oil to the pan, and sautéed my vegetables for 5 minutes. Then, I added the beef back in along with the water and spices. I added an extra cup of water so that the beef was almost completely covered.

After letting the stew simmer for an hour, I separated the beef and broth, trimming the extra fat off the beef once the meat had cooled. In the meantime, I washed out my cast iron pot and prepped to make a roux, the base of most Creole stews. For a detailed lesson on how to make a roux, see my previous blog post on gumbo. This time, I decided to make a quick roux, in ten minutes or less. I heated up equal parts oil and fat over medium-high heat and stirred constantly. My roux went from butter yellow to Hershey’s chocolate bar brown in about 9 minutes. I poured the broth back in and then added the tomatoes and tomato sauce, and eventually the beef (watch for splatter from the hot roux).

Finally, I added in the okra, and allowed the gumbo to simmer for another 30 minutes, while I prepared rice.

Voila!

Almond Cake (1911) – Rubenstein Library Test Kitchen

When Kate—our fearless Test Kitchen coordinator—assigned me to the Friday, April 15th post, I was very excited. Not because I love the month of April so much, although a couple of my nearest and dearest count it as their birthday month. And not because I love doing my taxes, it’s definitely not that. What I do love is a theme, and Tax Day—although not this year for a very good reason— provides an excellent opportunity for a monetarily themed baked good: financiers.

A financier is a small cake made with almonds. Its distinct name bears testament to the financial market in 19th Century France: financiers were first created in a bakery near the financial center of Paris, where many a financier could visit; the cakes are also a crisp golden color and baked in small rectangular molds (Hesser). So at their heart, financiers are really just edible gold bars, which may be even better than real gold bars, as food resembling precious metals most likely can’t be subject to additional income taxes.

While the origin story of these gilt cakes can be found on websites and is recounted in a 19th Century tome (Mémorial Historique et Géographique de la Patisserie), recipes for it don’t make frequent appearances in cookbooks (Hesser). Some of this may be born from the fact that the recipe is fairly straightforward, mainly involving eggs, butter, flour, and sugar. Haute cuisine (fine food) was very much a part of the French cookbook tradition, dating back to the publication of La Varenne’s Le Cuisinier Francais in 1651 (DeJean, 2005, p.107-109). Or, it could be a recipe known very well to the French, and just little known to Americans. In fact, there was little interaction between French cuisine and North Americans until the mid-to-late 20th Century when Julia Child, Simone Beck, and Louisette Bertholle’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking was first published, bringing French cuisine across the ocean (DeJean, 2005, p.131).

All this is to say, a recipe for financiers proved too elusive for me, and so I substituted in a similar recipe from our collections involving almonds, conveniently titled “Almond Cake” and found in  Royal Baker and Pastry Cook published by Royal Baking Powder Company. There are only two notable differences between the almond cake selected and financiers: baking powder and brandy, which I didn’t have anyway, and so I just left it out.almond cake 1

Royal Baking Powder Company was based out of New York and copyrighted its cookbook in 1911. The company took baking powder very seriously, and in its cookbook included such sections as “General Directions,” which “must be carefully read by everyone using this book” (p.1) and “Facts worth knowing” (p.44). These sections pertain to the merits of different types of baking powder. Did you know that there were 3 kinds of baking powder in 1911, with 3 different main ingredients? These ingredients were 1) cream of tartar, 2) phosphate of lime, and 3) alum and alum-phosphate. Royal Baking Powder is made with the “wholesomeness of cream of tartar” (p.1), and the makers advocate using only those baking powders made with cream of tartar.

almond cake 2

The recipe I used was appealingly tiny and contained mostly familiar terms. I did learn a new definition for the word “gills.” Not only does it refer to a specific kind of fish tissue, but it is also “a measure for liquids, containing one fourth of a standard pint.” (Gill, n.3). Thankfully, the latter definition is the one referenced in Royal Baking Powder Company’s recipe.

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The ingredients in the recipe were all things that might normally be in a kitchen, which meant I made a couple trips to the store. And even though I’m truly enamored with the word “gills,” I did not follow this part of the recipe, instead choosing to grind my pre-sliced almonds with their skin still on. Because Royal Baking Powder so vehemently argued against aluminum based baking powder, I chose one that prominently advertised that it did not contain any:

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Whenever I read my colleagues’ Test Kitchen posts, I always envision the labor involved in cooking the food– whether that’s scooping up lard to fry Mexican ravioles or carefully molding meat into a box shape.Some of these activities undoubtedly look exactly the same as they did in the recipes’ heydays. Others feature new technologies and look decidedly different. My own activities fell into the latter category. I chose to use my blender and hand mixer to combine ingredients, both because of time constraints and because my arms just aren’t strong enough to mix in each egg individually, with 3-4 minute intervals for beating.  What would’ve taken me 12 minutes to do thus took me 5, and the recipe came together very quickly. Je ne regrette rien.

 

almond cake 5

almond cake 6Financiers are most typically baked in individual molds. Royal Baking Powder specifies a fluted pan, which I don’t own. I thus didn’t follow the recommendations for either financiers or the almond cake and baked it in a clear pan. This was probably a mistake, as glass pans do not conduct heat as well as metal ones (Lawandi, J.).

almond cake 7

As with other recipes of its time, Royal Baking Powder doesn’t specify a temperature, and so I arbitrarily chose 375 degrees. After checking on the cake at 20 minutes, and then again at 35 minutes, I decided to bump up the heat to 400 degrees. (You may recall that the recommended cooking time was 20 minutes.) Another 10 minutes resulted in a cake that would not poison eaters, and I called that success and took it out of the oven.

almond cake 8

I attempted to give my almond cake a more financial appearance and shaved the cake down into gold bars. The cake was quite crumbly and didn’t quite take to my tender ministrations. I quickly let go of my gold bar dreams (and taking pictures) and just started eating, which was a good thing to do. The cake was much better than expected, and I quickly helped myself to another couple slices. I imagine that it would taste even better with ice cream.

My quest for a financier recipe ultimately reminded me of a library aphorism: let the resources guide your research, meaning that it’s probably not a good idea to choose a topic (or theme) until you look at the resources available to you. If I had paid more attention to that rule of thumb, I might have chosen a slightly more accessible recipe and ended up with a delightful French pastry that more closely followed the instructions.

To be fair, I also ended up learning more about financiers, French cuisine, and baking powder than I ever dreamed of, and those are things certainly worth knowing. Just as importantly, I ended up with a delicious dessert to get me to the weekend.

Works Cited

DeJean, J. E. (2005). The Essence of Style: How the French Invented High Fashion, Fine Food, Chic Cafés, Style, Sophistication, and Glamour. New York: Free Press.

Gill, n.3. (n.d.). Retrieved April 15, 2016, from http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/78285?rskey=ObQoES

Hesser, A. (1999, November 24). The Pastry Chef’s Rich Little Secret. The New York Times. Retrieved April 12, 2016, from http://www.nytimes.com/1999/11/24/dining/the-pastry-chef-s-rich-little-secret.html

Lawandi, J. (n.d.). When to Use Glass Bakeware and When to Use Metal – We’ve Got Chemistry. Retrieved April 15, 2016, from http://www.thekitchn.com/glass-vs-metal-bakeware-is-there-a-difference-food-science-217961

Royal Baker and Pastry Cook: A Manual of Practical Receipts for Home Baking and Cooking. (1911). New York, U.S.A.: Royal Baking Powder.

Post Contributed by Liz Adams, Special Collections Cataloger

 

Oatmeal Cakes and Baked Oatmeal (1917) – Rubenstein Library Test Kitchen

While processing the Slade Family Papers my colleague came across several delightful pamphlets from the US Department of Agriculture on economical and nutritious foods. One in particular caught my eye, “Do You Know Oatmeal?” which was published in 1917. Conveniently, it had already been digitized and was available through the Internet Archive.

oatmeal1
Do you know oatmeal?

As a long time fan of oatmeal, I was thrilled to see it get the government promotion it deserves. There were several recipes to choose from, and in a change from some past test kitchen experiences, all the recipes seemed edible to this oatmeal lover. Finally, I decided on “Spiced Oatmeal Cakes” which seemed to be a cross between a cookie and a muffin, and “Baked Oatmeal and Nuts.” As a vegetarian, I was especially intrigued by the direction “Instead of meat, cook this appetizing dish for your family.”

oatmeal 2
Part cookie, part muffin?
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Savory oats

According to Wikipedia oatmeal can refer to ground oats, rolled oats in various forms (instant, quick cooking, “old fashioned”, etc.) or steel cut or Irish oats. The recipe did not specify a type, but the long cooking time given on the front page (1 hour in a double boiler) suggested the “old fashioned” variety rather than instant or quick cooking. However, I never cook my oats longer than 10 minutes on the stove top so I was a bit skeptical. In the end, I went with what I had in my cabinet, Quaker Old Fashioned.

oatmeal 4
The Face of Oatmeal

I started with the oat cakes. All the ingredients were things I already had in my pantry. The only oddities in the recipe were 3 tablespoons of unspecified fat and the lack of oven temperature. I chose canola oil and 350 degrees.

oatmeal 5
Mise en place

These were very easy to assemble, even with the extra step of precooking the oatmeal. The dough/batter was very dry and I had to add ¼ cup water in order to reach a stir-able consistency. I also did not get 12 cakes.

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Into the oven they go!
Thirty Minutes Later
Thirty Minutes Later!

Verdict: They were super tasty warm from the oven. I ate 3. They also smelled delicious while they baked.

The “Baked Oatmeal and Nuts” was equally as easy to assemble. Sadly, this would not feed 5 people, despite what the recipe says. I regularly cook 2 cups of dry oats for 2 people for breakfast, and then add fruit, flax seeds, and sugar. 2 cups already cooked oatmeal, split between 5 people would be a snack at best, even with the addition of peanuts and milk.

I used apple cider vinegar, and I used soymilk instead of regular milk. I also reduced the salt to 1.5 teaspoons. I also accidentally added ½ teaspoon pepper instead of ¼ that the recipe calls for. Since the oven was already preheated, I stuck with the previously decided upon temperature of 350 degrees.

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Ingredients for Baked Oatmeal and Nuts
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The Final Product

Verdict: This was fairly tasty, although a little bland. I would also bake it longer than 15 minutes if I were to make it again.

Post contributed by Jessica Janecki, Rare Materials Cataloger

A Bitter Look at the Sweet History of Brown Sugar

Amari Victoria Stokes was a student in Kelly Alexander’s Our Culinary Cultures course offered in the Fall 2015 semester in the Center for Documentary Studies. Utilizing Rubenstein Library resources, students in the class were asked to explore the history of a culinary ingredient of their choice, find a recipe that exemplified their chosen ingredient, and prepare it for the class. The following is Amari’s research paper submitted for the class.

Ginger DropsTwo eggs well beaten, one-cup brown sugar, two teaspoons ginger, one-cup N.O. molasses (boiled), one-teaspoon baking soda, flour to roll out. Mix in the order given. I poured the molasses into a pot and watched small bubbles form and subsequently burst as the dark liquid began to heat. As the molasses boiled on the stove, I started mixing the ingredients in the order specified in the recipe. After the eggs had been beaten furiously with my new silver whisk, I began to measure the brown sugar for what I hoped would be a delicious dessert.

Sticky and compact, I remember struggling to handle this strange sugar during family barbeques as we seasoned our meat. As I thought about it, I realized besides an occasional pineapple upside down cake, outside of barbeque, I couldn’t recall ever having used brown sugar. Why was that, I asked?

The story of brown sugar begins, unsurprisingly, with the story of sugar. Sugars are natural ingredients found in most plants but what we have come to known as sugar is often extracted from sugarcane and sugar beets. Sugar cane, from the genus Saccharum, was originally cultivated in tropical climates in South and Southeast Asia.1 Neither should it be a surprise that the road from brown sugar to white sugar looks very much like the roads taken to get to white bread, white flour, and white cotton. All have similar histories where the unnatural but white version is preferred or is seen as a higher quality than the browner, natural varieties.2

Three hundred years after being introduced to Europeans by Christopher Columbus in 1492,3 by the 19th Century, sugar was considered a necessity.4 This evolution of taste and demand for sugar had major economic and social implications for the entire world. As a result of this demand, tropical islands were colonized and sugarcane plantations began ‘cropping up’ in record numbers. Consequently, the demand for cheap labor to assist in the labor-intensive cultivation and processing of sugarcane contributed greatly to the transatlantic slave trade, which displaced many African peoples.5

As I turned down the heat on the molasses to allow it simmer, I carefully added ground ginger. Watching the ginger disappear into the creamy brown concoction, I thought back to my ancestors. It wouldn’t surprise me if at some point in history one of them had made the same treat for her master’s children while her own children toiled in the hot sun picking cotton or harvesting sugarcane.

Continue reading A Bitter Look at the Sweet History of Brown Sugar

19th Century Maple Ice Cream – Rubenstein Library Test Kitchen

IMG_3257A manuscript (i.e. handwritten) cookbook can tell us a great deal about its creator. What foods were available to her? How would her family have celebrated holidays and birthdays? Was she an elite woman with a cook who could prepare elaborate dishes, or a farm wife who had to prepare simple, hearty fare and preserve her harvest to feed her family? Do the recipes reflect a particular ethnic or religious background or geographical location? As is the case today, routine meals do not require a recipe. It is the special occasion recipes, especially those that require careful measurements to work properly, that are recorded for future reference.

We know, based on the ingredients, that Rubenstein Library’s New England Manuscript Recipe Book, [ca. 1860]-[1900] comes from the northeastern United States. It is no surprise that the little book includes a page of maple recipes, since maple is such a distinctive regional product.


IMG_3260

I was intrigued by the Maple Ice Cream Recipe, in part because I am the proud owner of a fancy electric ice cream maker, so much easier than the hand-crank models that would have been available when the recipe was recorded. There is also the nostalgia of tasting maple:  Santa always left a maple sugar woman in my Christmas stocking.

This is an extremely simple recipe, with just three ingredients: eggs, maple syrup, and cream:

photo 1

I made a couple of changes. Given concerns about salmonella, I was not comfortable leaving the egg whites uncooked. I was also worried that mixing the eggs and syrup and boiling the mixture would result in curdled eggs. Instead, I boiled the syrup for about ten minutes to reduce it slightly, thereby intensifying the flavor. In a separate bowl, I beat the whole eggs. Then I slowly dribbled in about a cup of hot syrup, whisking the egg mixture constantly before whisking the egg mixture into the pot of hot syrup. Then I brought the mixture to 170 degrees, turned off the heat, and stirred in the cream.

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Finally, I strained the mixture through a sieve to remove any solids and chilled it overnight before freezing, emptying into a plastic container, and leaving it in the freezer for a few hours to firm it up. The result: an absolutely luscious and elegant frozen dessert.

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How did it taste? I brought in the whole container to share with my Rubenstein colleagues and it got rave reviews. It is very rich (note the quart of heavy cream!), but delicious.

Intrigued by the annotations (1896, Mrs. Kimber Thomas, Ladies Uplift Club), I did some searching and found a Morrisville, Vermont Uplift Club in The Register of Women’s Clubs (1922). I wondered whether Mrs. Kimber Thomas was given the recipe for Maple Ice Cream in 1896 and contributed it to an Uplift Club fund-raising cookbook and was thrilled to find a reference to this 53-page cookbook: Tried and Proven Recipes from Many Households. Morristown, Vt. : Ladies of the Uplift Club. The one known copy is in the Janice Bluestein Longone Culinary Archive at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Staff have dated it to 1921, based on advertisements printed in the cookbook. As I write this, I am waiting for scans that I hope will confirm my hunches about the Maple Ice Cream recipe’s provenance. The tradition of noting the source and date of a recipe is a lovely way to link culinary creations to a vast network of friends, family, community, and history. The additional information would also allow us to more precisely identify the origins of this precious little cookbook.

Post contributed by Elizabeth Dunn, Research Services Librarian