Monthly Archive for April, 2009

Retronovated Recipes: Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

Today is the last day of National Grilled Cheese Sandwich Month!  I had the pleasure of attending a grilled cheese sandwich competition yesterday, and there were a lot of fancy-schmance grilled cheeses. Take a look:
Much like my friend Josh, I’m a Wonderbread and American cheese kind of girl.  I was inspired to do a little research into historic grilled cheese sandwich, and I came across this recipe from The International Jewish Cook Book (1919):
I liked the idea of adding a little kick to the cheese with paprika and mustard.  It reminded me of when I would sleepover my best friend’s house in elementary school.  Her mom would make the best grilled cheeses with Velveeta and spicy brown mustard.
So I decided to use the Toasted Cheese recipe to spice up my grilled cheese routine.
Spiced Grilled Cheese

16 oz (1 package) Velveeta Cheese
1 tablespoon Dijon Mustard
1 tsp Powdered Mustard
1 tsp Paprika
1 tsp Garlic Powder
8 Bread Slices

Add Velveeta and spices in a medium pan; melt until smooth over a low heat, stirring constantly. Spread a generous amount on a lightly toasted bread slice, and sandwich with another slice of bread on top.  Finish as you would a grilled cheese sandwich: melt butter into a skillet, place sandwich into the skillet to toast, flip when golden brown.  Will make about four sandwiches


Grilled cheeses are really something I can get behind.

A Bit More on the Mint Julep

Jerry Thomas writes in his 1862 Bartender’s Guide:  

“…We have knowledge of several old-fashioned gardens where the mint bed under the southern wall still blooms luxuriantly ; where white fingers of household angels come every day about this time of the year and pluck a few sprays of the aromatic herb to build a julep for poor old shaky grandpa, who sits in the shady corner of the veranda with his feet on the rail and his head busy with the olden days.

In such a household the art is still preserved. With her sleeves rolled up, the rosy granddaughter stirs sugar in a couple of table-spoonfuls of sparkling water, packs crushed ice to the top of the heavy cutglass goblet, pours in the mellow whiskey until an overthrow threatens and then daintily thrusts the mint sprays into the crevices. And the old man, rousing from his dreams, blesses the vision which seems to rise up from the buried days of his youth….

The mint julep still lives, but it is by no means fashionable. Somehow the idea has gotten abroad that the mint ought to be crushed and shaken up with water and whiskey in equal proportions. No man can fall in love with such a mixture. Poor juleps have ruined the reputation of the South’s most famous


I like the idea that the mint julep was “out of fashion” in the 1860s.  Perhaps because of the Civil War?

History Dish Mondays: The "Real" Mint Julep

The Kentucky Derby is upon us, and that means the start of mint julep season. Juleps are my hands down favorite drink; I’ve even purchased a few live mint plants so I can make them at a moment’s notice. Captain Maryatt, a 19th c British admirer of the American Julep, had this to say on the frosty drink:

“I must descant a little upon the mint julep as it is with the thermometer at 100 one of the most delightful and insinuating potations that ever was invented and may be drunk with equal satisfaction when the thermometer is as low as 70.”

He also said that American ladies who drink juleps are “irresistible.”

The following recipe is from our old friend, drinksmaster Jerry Thomas. In his own words “This is the genuine method of concocting a Southern mint julep…”  I have used this recipe many times with great success, and highly recommend it for your Derby parties this Saturday.

The Real Georgia Mint Julep.
Jerry Thomas’ Bar-tending Guide, or How to Mix Drinks, 1862

(Use large bar-glass.) 
Take 1 tea-spoonful of white powered sugar. (or superfine)
¾ wine-glass (1.5 ounces) of Cognac brandy.
¾ wine glass (1.5 ounces) of peach brandy.
About 12 sprigs of the tender shoots of mint.

Put the mint in the tumbler, add the sugar, having previously dissolved it in a little water, then the brandy, and lastly, fill up the glass with shaved ice. Stir with a spoon but do not crush the mint.  Whiskey may be substituted for brandy if preferred


I have a few variations on this recipe:  Contrary to Thomas’ recommendation, I muddle the mint, powdered sugar, and water in the bottom of the glass before adding the alcohol.  You could also make a simple syrup instead.  Additionally, I one day dream of making my own peach brandy, but in the meantime I find the best substitution is a peach liquor.

Georgia Mint Julep on Foodista

Coming Soon — Retronovated Recipes!

Retronovation n. The conscious process of mining the past to produce methods, ideas, or products which seem novel to the modern mind. (

I’m going to be introducing a new feature this week:  Retronovated Recipes. Retronovation embodies a lot of what this blog is about: looking to the past to innovate the future.  So I’m going to be sharing some of the recipes I’ve created that aren’t accurate recreations of historical recipes, but rather use the flavors of the past as inspiration.  Keep an eye out.

History Dish Mondays: Burnt Almond Ice Cream

Burnt Almondy Ice Cream Goo.

We’re continuing our ice cream social agenda with Burnt Almond Ice Cream, another flavor pulled form Lincoln’s Inaugural Menu.  This is a custard ice cream, so it’s a little more difficult than what we’ve been making up until this point. And I’ll let you in on the surprise ending: mine didn’t turn out.  It didn’t freeze in the ice cream maker, and it’s currently a Tupperware of goop sitting in my freezer.  I did something wrong in this recipe, I just don’t know what.  The great tragedy is that it TASTES AMAZING.  I think I’ll try serving it as a sauce on top of other ice cream.

At any rate, give this recipe a try, and if your results are more successful than mine, please let me know.


Burnt Almond Ice Cream
Original Recipe from the Boston Cooking School Cookbook By Fannie Merritt Farmer

Boston, Little, Brown And Company (1896).

1 1/3 cups sugar (set half aside)
1 tablespoon flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 egg
2 cups milk
1 quart cream
1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla
2 cups finely chopped, toasted almonds (or to taste)

1. Mix half the sugar, flour and salt.

2. Add egg, slightly beaten.

3.  Add milk slowly, whisking constantly.

4. Cook over a double boiler (or makeshift double boiler) for 20 minutes, stirring constantly the first 15 minutes.  If you’ve made a custard before, this may not look as think as you think it ought.  But don’t worry, it will thicken up when you add the caramelized sugar.

Left: Makeshift double boiler. Right: Caramelizing the sugar.  Do not try to taste the caramelized sugar by sticking your finger in it; its is very very hot and you will get burned very very bad. Like me.

5. In the last five minutes of cooking time, caramelize the
sugar.  Put the remaining sugar in a non-stick saute pan over a low heat.  Stir constantly.  When the sugar begins to melt, it will caramelize soon after.  You want the sugar to be completely melted and the color of maple syrup. Take care not to burn it.

6.  With the double boiler still on, drizzle a fine stream of the caramelized sugar into the custard, whisking constantly.  As the sugar hit the custard, and might cool slightly and become gooey.  Don’t fret, just keep stirring until the sugar is fully integrated.

7. At this point, you custard will be a dark brown.  Add the cream and vanilla and combine.  Let sit until it comes to room temperature, or place in the refrigerator for an hour or more.

8.  Freeze in an ice cream make according to the manufacturer’s instructions.  I let my ice cream mellow in the refrigerator over night, and then I put it in the ice cream maker for 30 minutes.  It never seemed to freeze; I just tossed the almonds in at the very end and then stuck it in the freezer. tragedy.

Pepsi Throwback!

Speaking on new/old products appearing on store shelves, Pepsi is releasing two new soda lines: Pepsi Natural  and Pepsi Throwback.  Their main selling point is that they are made with real cane sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup.  According to “Pepsi Natural, a premium cola made with sugar, natural caramel and kola nut extract, will be sold in glass bottles…The Pepsi and Mountain Dew Throwback drinks will be sweetened with natural sugar and will feature retro-looking packaging reminiscent of the 1960’s and 70s.” 

My Dad used to rant and rave that Coca-Cola in glass bottles was better than Coke in cans, and fell into a deep depression when they discontinued the glass bottles.  After moving to New York, I brought my dad home a few bottles of Coke from the Mexican deli across the street, and I discovered the difference: imported Coke in bottles is made from real sugar; American soda (or pop, for my friends in the midwest) is made with HFCS.  Besides, People are really excited about that glass bottle.

I recently saw Pepsi Natural on the shelves of my local Duane Reade; I haven’t tried any yet, so if you have, let me know what you think. 

And on the topic of tasty sodas, if you live in New York, The Lexington Avenue Candy Shop is worth a visit.  More of a luncheonette than a candy shop, they make all of their sodas the old-fashioned way, with syrup and soda water.  They also don’t have that whole “we an old fashioned soda shop!!!” attitude.  I had never had a “real” root beer float before, and it was unbelievable.

Update: I’ve since tried Pepsi Natural, and It’s pretty good.  It definately doesn’t taste like Pepsi. I also found this lovely qoute by Andy Warhol about Coke:

What’s great about this country is America started the tradition where the richest consumers buy essentially the same things as the poorest. You can be watching TV and see Coca-Cola, and you can know that the President drinks Coke, Liz Taylor drinks Coke, and just think, you can drink Coke, too. A Coke is a Coke and no amount of money can get you a better Coke than the one the bum on the corner is drinking. All the Cokes are the same and all the Cokes are good.”

General Mill’s Vintage Cereal Boxes

Retro General Mill’s cereal boxes are appearing on shelves around the country.  Read the full article and check out more photos at:

History Dish Mondays: Kirschwasser Sorbet

Instead of attempting the Maraschino Ice Cream I had originally planned for my Ice Cream Social, I decided something a little lighter would be in order after all that heavy cream.  So instead, I’m reviving my Kirsch Sorbet recipe from The Devil in the White City Dinner Party. This recipe was a huge hit, so I highly recommend it.  Additionally, it’s important to garnish the sorbet with a good quality cherry preserve.  The sweet and tart flavor of the preserved cherries are the perfect compliment to the sorbet.


Kirsch Sorbet
Modern recipe adapted from
The Chocolate Traveler.

½ cup confectioners sugar
½ cup skim milk
½ cup heavy whipping cream
1 cup water
¼ cup + 1/8 cup kirschwasser

Bring the milk, cream and sugar to a boil and simmer until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat and stir in the water. Add the kirsch to taste. Pour into ice cream maker and freeze for about 20 minutes.  Transfer the ice cream to an airtight container and freeze until ready to eat. Garnish with cherry preserves.

Yeast Infection!

Left: The fresh starter. Right: After 48 hours.

I never updated you on my yeast experiments from last month.  Here’s the recipe I used to start my own yeast colony:

Except for some reason I didn’t boil it…I don’t know if I didn’t read the recipe close or what.  Here’s what I did:  I took a cup of flour and mixed it with 1/4 brown sugar, a pinch of salt, and a cup of water.  I let it sit out uncovered for 24 hours, the covered and let it sit another four hours.  Now despite the fact I didn’t follow the recipe, according to those in the know at Orwasher’s, this should still work.  After 48 hours, there were definitely some yeasty-looking bubbles.  But it also smelled horrible; Like cat puke.  I closed it up and hid it in the back of the fridge, where my roommates wouldn’t find it and ask “Lohman…What’s this?”

Needless to say, I haven’t tried to make anything from it. I’ve been too scared.  And that’s where it stands.

If you’re looking to try to make your own yeast, I also find many recipes, like this one, that use a combination of hops and potatoes.

History Dish Mondays: Lemon Ice Cream

I’m planning an Ice Cream Social for the late spring, possibly to coincide with the Kentucky Derby. So I wanted to begin testing out a few ice cream recipes, and I decided to use the menu for Lincoln’s second inaugural banquet as a reference. Because if it was good enough for Lincoln, it’s good enough for me!

Lincoln’s guests were treated to Burnt Almond Ice Cream, which is built around a caramel base; Maraschino ice cream; and Lemon ice cream, which my friend Eva at the Merchant’s House Museum tells me was one of the most popular ice creams in the 19th century. I’ll be trying all of these, along with two modern creations (Cashew Cookie Dough and Chai Tea) and a frozen Mint Julep inspired by Jerry Thomas’ original julep recipe.

But first, Lemon Ice Cream. The recipe is as simple as can be. I made only a small amount, but this recipe can be multiplied to suit your needs.

1 pint cream
1/2 cup sugar
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
Add the sugar to the cream, a little at a time, and mix until combined. Grate the zest of one lemon into the cream mixture, being careful not to add any of the bitter, white pith. Juice the lemon and add to the cream, mix to combine.

Let the mixture sit in the refrigerator for an hour or more to steep. I let mine sit overnight. Pour to mixture through a fine sieve or cheesecloth to remove the lemon zest. Pour into an ice cream maker, and let it freeze for about 15 minutes. Be careful not to over mix, or you’ll get frozen lemon butter. I like ice cream straight from the ice cream maker; the texture is similar to soft serve. But it is generally suggested that it should harden in the freezer for at least an hour before serving.

Left: The mixture of cream, sugar and lemon steeps. Right: Coming out of the ice cream maker. I left it in a little too long and it got a little buttery, but it was still good.

Rating: A+ This was easy to make and Delicious. Refreshing and smooth, this would be really enjoyable on a summer day. But it’s very, very rich–it is pure cream, so a little goes a long way.