Food presentation is an art. I occasionally see lovely food designs in hundred-year-old magazines that may not quite work a century later. Then again, maybe they do. As food fads wax and wane over time, these old presentations sometimes almost seem refreshingly cutting edge. Pear and Celery Salad definitely is dramatic, and is sure to be a conversation item at any party; however,I have mixed feelings about whether it is a fun but quirky recipe, or just a bit odd.
The Pear and Celery Salad is placed on a bed of celery leaves, which creates a beautiful foundation for the salad. Celery slices are heaped into a large mound in the center of the plate, and then surrounded by canned pear halves (poached fresh pear halves would also work well). The mounded celery is topped with a mayonnaise, chili sauce, and nut dressing.
This recipe definitely turned out better than I thought it might. The tender pears melted in my mouth and their delicate flavor was nicely balanced by the crunchy celery and nuts. The dressing reminded me a little of French salad dressing, except that it was nutty instead of smooth. The dressing worked well with the celery – and was intriguing with the pears.
approximately 2 1/2 cups celery, cut into 1/2 – inch slices
1 29-ounce can of pear halves, drained
To make the dressing, place the mayonnaise and chili sauce in a small bowl; stir until combined. Add nuts, and stir. Set aside.
Arrange celery leaves on serving plate, then place the sliced celery in a pile in the center of the plate. Surround the heaped celery with the pear halves which are stood on their edge. Gently spoon the dressing on top of the celery. There may be more dressing than needed. Reserve and extra dressing and serve separately.
Homemade Chicken Pot Pie with Baked Dumplings is the perfect comfort food for a cold winter day. I found this delightful hundred-year-old recipe in a promotional cookbook for KC Baking Powder. Chicken pieces smothered in a rich gravy are topped with tender dumplings.
This authentic old-fashioned pot pie recipe calls for cutting a whole chicken into pieces (legs, thighs, breast, etc.), and putting the pieces- including bones and skin – into the pot pie. I had doubts about doing this, but it worked just fine. I also thought that it seemed unusual that the recipe didn’t call for any vegetables – but I really didn’t miss them. The chicken pieces made lovely presentation and for a nice surprise for guests when the crust is opened, and the chicken was very tender and almost fell off the bones.
Place chicken pieces in a dutch oven, cover with water, cover pan and bring to a boil using high heat. Reduce heat and simmer until the chicken is tender (about 45 minutes). Remove from heat and place chicken in a large casserole dish (2 1/2 – 3 quart dish).
Strain the liquid that the chicken was cooked in, and place in a saucepan. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt and the black pepper. Bring to a boil. In the meantime, put 1/4 -1/2 cup flour in a small bowl, and add enough water to make a thick paste. Stir the flour mixture into the boiling liquid while stirring constantly. Continue cooking until the liquid thickens into the gravy.
(The amount of flour needed is dependent upon how much liquid there is. I used 1/2 cup of flour, and then first stirred half of it into the boiling liquid. When it didn’t thicken it to a gravy-like consistency, I added more of the flour mixture.)
Add the hot gravy to the casserole dish that contains the cooked chicken until it is almost covers the chicken and is about 1 1/2 inches below the top of the dish. Don’t overfill the dish or it will boil over when heated in the oven.
In the meantime, preheat oven to 425° F. To make the dumplings, put 2 cups flour in a mixing bowl; then stir in the baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cut the shortening into the flour mixture, then add 3/4 cup milk, and stir with a fork to combine. If the mixture is too dry, add additional milk to create a dough similar in consistency to what would be used to make biscuits. Drop by spoonsfuls on top of the chicken and gravy. The top should be completely covered with the dough. Place the casserole dish in the oven and bake for 25 – 35 minutes, or until the top is lightly browned. Remove from oven and serve.
I’m stranded in the house by cold weather and snow, so I decided it was the perfect time to make a hundred-year-old recipe for Steamed Graham Pudding with Lemon Sauce. Since I had nowhere to go, it didn’t faze me that the recipe called for steaming the pudding for 2 hours.
It was worth the time and effort. The moist, rich Steamed Graham Pudding was embedded with raisins, and had sweet and sassy molasses undertones. When served with Lemon Sauce, the tartness of the sauce balances nicely with the heartiness of the pudding.
Judging by the number of steamed pudding recipes in hundred-year-old cookbooks, steamed puddings were very popular a century ago – yet it’s rare to see any steamed pudding recipes in modern cookbooks except for the occasional plum pudding recipe. Today steamed puddings are often considered difficult to make with a lengthy cooking time. However, back in the days of wood and coal stoves that had the fire going all day, they were an easy-to-make dessert that was often made using an old coffee can as a mold.
Here are the hundred-year-old recipes:
I decided to go with “good” and served the pudding with lemon sauce, rather than topping with whipped cream to make it the “best.” It’s a bit of an overstatement to say that the pudding is “almost as light as a souffle,” but it is simply delicious.
I used a steamed pudding mold to make the pudding. The molds can be found in many (usually upscale) cooking equipment stores. It’s unfortunate that Target, JC Penney, and other more mainstream stores no longer sell these molds; however, casserole bowls can also be used as a mold. BBC Good Food has an excellent video that succinctly describes how use a bowl to make a steamed pudding as well as general information about making steamed puddings.
Combine the graham flour, milk, molasses, baking soda, and salt in a mixing bowl, then stir in the currants or raisins. Put the mixture in a greased mold, and put the mold on a rack in a deep kettle; add enough water to come half way up the mold. Cover kettle. Bring to a gentle boil and steam for 2 hours. Remove from mold and serve warm with Lemon Sauce or whipped cream.
*Cook’s Note: I used a 2-liter mold. A 2-quart mold would also work.
Eggless Lemon Sauce
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon corn starch
1 cup hot water
2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
Put the sugar and corn starch in a saucepan, and stir together. Add water and stir until smooth. Using medium heat bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer while stirring constantly for 10 minutes. Remove from heat, and stir in butter, lemon juice, and nutmeg. Serve warm.
At my house all the holiday baking is done (and has been consumed), and I’m ready to put up my feet and relax. To me this means that it’s time to make simple, basic, comfort foods like Creamed Tuna Fish.
The hundred-year-old recipe that I found for Creamed Tuna Fish only had two ingredients: tuna fish and white sauce. My updated version has four since I listed the ingredients in the white sauce.
Here’s the original recipe:
Creamed Tuna Fish is wonderful when served on toast, and it hits the spot after all the heavy holiday meals.
Melt the butter in a saucepan. Stir the flour into the butter. While stirring constantly, slowly pour in milk and bring to a boil over medium heat. If mixture is too thick, add a little more milk. Stir in the tuna and bring back to a boil; remove from heat. Serve over toast, biscuits, rice, etc.
Christmas isn’t even here yet, but I’m already worrying about leftovers. I justify this to myself by saying that I like to plan ahead, but maybe I should be enjoying the moment.
In any case, I ALWAYS have leftover mashed potatoes after holiday meals, so I was thrilled to find a hundred-year-old recipe for Potato Croquettes that calls for mashed potatoes. The Potato Croquettes had a crispy crust filled with a delightful spicy mashed potato mixture flavored with paprika, cayenne pepper, celery salt, parsley, and onion.
2 cups hot mashed potatoes (If they are cold, they can be reheated in the microwave.)
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/8 teaspoon cayenne (red) pepper
1/8 teaspoon celery salt
2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
2 egg yolks
1 tablespoon onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup flour
1 egg, beaten
1 cup fine bread crumbs
approximately 1/2 cup shortening
Mix together the potatoes, butter, salt, paprika, cayenne pepper, celery salt, parsley, egg yolks, and minced onion. Shape into 1-inch balls; then roll in flour, dip in beaten egg, and finally roll in bread crumbs. (If the potato mixture is sticky – and not very firm, skip dipping in the egg.)
Place the shortening into a frying pan, and heat until hot. (There should be about 1/2 inch of melted shortening. Add more if needed.) Drop balls into the hot shortening, then gently roll the balls with a fork until all sides are a light brown. Remove from heat and drain on paper towels.
When I made the recipe I used 1/2 teaspoon of salt rather than the 1 teaspoon called for in the original recipe. I also used chopped onion rather than onion juice. The recipe turned out fine with these substitutions.
Scalloped Oysters are a classic holiday dish, so I was curious when I saw a hundred-year-old recipe for “new” Scalloped Oysters, that called for tomatoes and corn in addition to the usual bread or cracker crumbs.
The old, “new” twist adds interest to this traditional dish. “New” Scalloped Oysters were colorful, flavorful, and easy to make.
1 1/2 cups dried bread crumbs or cracker crumbs (I used bread crumbs.)
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 pint shucked oysters (drain-though it’s okay if there is still some liquid clinging to the oysters.)
1/2 cup stewed or canned tomatoes
2/3 cup corn (if using frozen corn, cook and drain)
salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 350° F. Butter 1-quart casserole dish. Put 1/3 of crumbs in bottom of dish. Lay 1/2 of the oysters on crumbs, sprinkle with salt and pepper and dot with small pieces of 1 tablespoon of butter. Add layers of tomatoes and corn, using 1/2 of each. Repeat with layers of bread crumbs, oysters (sprinkled with salt and pepper and dotted with 1 tablespoon of butter), tomatoes, and corn.
In the meantime, melt 2 tablespoons butter in a small skillet. Gently stir in the remaining 1/2 cup crumbs; continue gently stirring until the bread crumbs are coated with melted butter. Remove from heat. Put the buttered crumbs on top of the previously assembled layers in the casserole dish. Bake for approximately 45 minutes or until hot and bubbly.
Combine brown sugar and milk in saucepan; add cream of tartar and stir. Continue stirring while heating over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved. Quit stirring and bring to a slow boil. Reduce heat to low and continue boiling (without stirring) until candy reaches the soft ball stage (235-240 degrees F.) (about 10-15 minutes). Stir in butter and remove from heat, beat until the mixture thickens. Stir in walnuts. Pour into a buttered 8 X 8 inch pan. When cool, cut into pieces.