Usually when I browse through hundred-year-old cookbooks searching for a recipe to make, I skip over the ones that seem particularly odd or strange. However, I recently read a quote that made me give some of these recipes a second look:
Recipes that a century ago would have been the apogee of culinary chic may no longer be prepared because they are no longer in vogue; they may be considered unappealing, outdated, or unhealthful.
(Eat My Words: Reading Women’s Lives Through the Cookbooks They Wrote, 2002)
So when I saw a colorful illustration for Asparagus Shortcake in a hundred-year-old promotional cookbook published by the KC Baking Powder Company, my curiosity was piqued. Was Asparagus Shortcake an example of a food that once had been at the “apogee of culinary chic”?
When I made this recipe, I worried that my husband and I won’t like it, so I only made half a recipe so that I won’t have too much left-over.
The verdict: Asparagus Shortcake gets high marks for the “wow” factor when served. And, while the combination of asparagus and shortcake seemed a bit odd, the dish was tasty. The asparagus in its rich butter sauce worked well with the shortcake. Overall, Asparagus Shortcake made a satisfying lunch.
Here’s the recipe updated for modern cooks:
1 1/4 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 cup shortening
1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 cups asparagus, cut into 1 inch piece
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons butter + 2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 hard-boiled egg, quartered
Preheat oven to 425° F. Grease and lightly flour a 6-inch round baking pan; set aside.
In a mixing bowl, combine the 1 1/4 cups flour, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and baking powder. Cut in the shortening; then add the milk. Stir gently with a fork to create a dough. Place on a pastry cloth or other prepared surface, and gently knead for 15 seconds; then shape into a 6-inch round disc and place in the prepared baking pan. Place in oven and bake 20-25 minutes or until the top is light brown.
In the meantime, put the asparagus pieces in a saucepan and add water. Using high heat bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat; simmer for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and drain (reserve liquid).
In another saucepan, melt two tablespoons butter using medium heat, then stir in the 2 tablespoons of flour. Add the asparagus liquid while stirring constantly; continue to stir until the sauce begins to thicken. Remove from heat, and immediately stir in an additional 2 tablespoons of butter, then gently fold the cooked asparagus into the sauce.
To assemble the shortcake, split the baked shortcake. Place the bottom half of the shortcake on the serving dish and then spread with half of the asparagus sauce. Cover with the top of the shortcake and spread with the remaining sauce. Garnish with hard-boiled egg quarters. Serve immediately.