Saturday, June 19, 2010

"Sous" Much Fun

Let the games begin! Let the good times roll. What would they say in the 1600's, 1700's or 1800's? Heeyah! (Okay, I promise to work on my early American humor...)

Leaving nothing to chance, I selected the first two facebook responses in this "challenge."

- Chris Salvadori - p. 21: Beef Steak as Fixed for Jonathan Trumbull (Authentic Colonial Cookery)

- Jan Blalock Smith - p. 77: General Winfield Scott's Mexican Corn Bread Deluxe (A Taste of the Old West)

Flashing back to the days in cooking classes at Cornell, I had my "mis en place" ready to go. Professor Pezzotti - eat your heart out! Oddly enough, one of the challenges for this recipe was finding plain corn meal. Not cornbread, not cornmeal m-i-x, not cornmeal flour...just corn meal! Clearly the affinity for 'all-things-processed' had not yet started on the frontier.

With a 45-minute cook time, I began the cornbread first. Britt (my sous chef, and 4-year old son) kept asking, "What does 'deluxe' mean?" Well, the deluxe in this recipe was a layer of grated onion, finely diced red peppers and shredded cheese in-between the top and bottom layer of home made corn bread. 'Deluxe' is clearly the savory, melty, gooey "surprise" that makes this 'bread more like corn pudding. Delicious!

General Scott was introduced to this dish in 1847 during the Mexican War while he was in New Mexico. Can you imagine a culinary find so impactful that you would bring it back home after the war? Even though General Scott was later nominated as the Whig candidate for president (and lost) - his lasting impact lives on in 2010 through this delightful dish! (Okay, he won the battles of Cerro Gordo, Contreras and Churubusco, too... but who is counting?)

Next up - beef steak. Keep in mind that this recipe was from the late 1700's - so when I showed up at our local meat market asking for "one steak" - they were a little dumbfounded why I couldn't give more specifics. Needless to say... you don't need a lot of specifics when you're preparing to pan sear a cut of meat in 1/4 cup of butter in a HOT cast-iron skillet that will then go into a HOT oven to broil for exactly 9 minutes on each side. The steak is then topped with a mixture of fresh cracked pepper, catsup, Worcestershire sauce and... *wait for it*... coffee.

~Sidebar lesson: In case you didn't know - cast-iron is actually i-r-o-n. Even my cute little Le Creuset pan. What does iron do? Yep, that's right. CONDUCT HEAT! So, the all-caps in the previous paragraph pays homage the fact that I touched the handle of the pan (after it was in the oven) not once... (oh, no, since I'm blonde)... but twice. Dang. ~

While Jonathan Trumbull was busy shaking up the colonial political scene by speaking out on behalf of the people's struggle for justice and freedom... he should have been out espousing the cause of this steak! A true hero, he died in 1785 - but this legendary recipe lives on.

A few firsts today, Wednesday, June 16th:

-First time I've ever grated onions.

-First time I've ever made cornbread that didn't come from a pouch or a little blue box.
-First time I've broiled at steak at home. (Who needs a steakhouse?)

-Not the first I've burned my hand. Twice. Might be a habit...

Up next - a colonial tribute to Edward Winslow... Happy trails! (Or would that be entrails...)

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