Monthly Archive for August, 2011

Events: A Timeline of Taste

Thursday, September 1
Timeline of Taste with Historic Gastronomist Sarah Lohman
7:00 p.m. @ The Brooklyn Historical Society, 128 Pierrepont Street at Clinton Street Brooklyn, New York
Tickets: $8 BHS members/$10 non-members. Purchase your ticket here.

Have you ever noticed that the names of Greenpoint’s streets bring to mind exotic locales? From Java to India, these Brooklyn roadways took their names from the distant countries that brought spices from the Far East to America’s shores. Once a major port for trading ships,Greenpoint can be used as a guidebook to explore the history of American food through flavor. When did American palates favor one spice over another and why? When did ships stop bringing mace and start carrying vanilla beans?

In A Timeline of Taste Sarah Lohman will take you on a journey from 1800-1950, making a pit stop every fifty years to explore the tastes of a particular time. You’ll get to smell and sample the spices, fruits, extracts, and other ingredients that defined the flavors of each time period. From rosewater to vanilla, nutmeg to cinnamon, citron to reddi-whip, Sarah Lohman will discuss why these flavors were popular and how they were used in day- to-day cooking.

This event is part of BHS’s Brooklyn Food Stories. Advanced ticket purchase recommended as the event will fill up. Tickets: $8 BHS members/$10 non-members. Purchase your ticket here.


The Gallery: Thomas Jefferson’s Ice Cream

After the revolution, Jefferson spent a number of years in France before becoming President.  In this time, he amassed an amazing culinary collection that would influence his dinner table for the rest of his life.  One of the dishes he enthused about was ice cream; not only did he buy an ice cream maker while abroad, but the Library of Congress also holds the vanilla ice cream recipes that Jefferson jotted down in his own hand.

1780s – Thomas Jefferson’s Handwritten Recipe
2. bottles of good cream.
6. yolks of eggs.
1/2 lb. sugar
mix the yolks & sugar. put the cream on a fire in a casserole, first putting in a stick of Vanilla. when near boiling take it off & pour it gently into the mixture of eggs & sugar. stir it well. put it on the fire again stirring it thoroughly with a spoon to prevent it’s sticking to the casserole. when near boiling take it off and strain it thro’ a towel. put it in the Sabottiere then set it in ice an hour before it is to be served. put into the ice a handful of salt. put salt on the coverlid of the Sabotiere & cover the whole with ice. leave it still half a quarter of an hour. then turn the Sabottiere in the ice 10 minutes open it to loosen with a spatula the ice from the inner sides of the Sabotiere. shut it & replace it in the ice open it from time to time to detach the ice from the sides when well taken (prise) stir it well with the Spatula. put it in moulds, justling it well down on the knee. then put the mould into the same bucket of ice. leave it there to the moment of serving it. to withdraw it, immerse the mould in warm water, turning it well till it will come out & turn it into a plate.


Below, an adaption of this recipe for the modern kitchen.  And if you’ve always wanted to know how to make ice cream from scratch, sign up for my class at the Brooklyn Brainery a week from today, on Sunday, September 4th.  I’ll go through the process step by step and talk about the origins and science of ice cream making.  See you there!

Basic Ice Cream Recipe
Inspired by Thomas Jefferson’s recipe, with some modern instructions pulled from “Martha Stewart’s Easy Ice Cream

6 large egg yolks
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
1 quart heavy cream (for a lighter ice cream, use 2 cups cream and 2 cups milk)
1 vanilla bean (or, other flavoring of your choice)
Additional mix-ins

1. In a glass bowl, whisk together egg yolks, sugar and salt until blended.
2. Add split and scraped vanilla bean to 1 quart of cream; bring to a boil, then pour slowly into the egg mixture, whisking constantly.
3. Cook egg and cream mixture over a double boiler, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until custard thickens slightly and evenly coats back of spoon (it should hold a line drawn by your finger).  Pour custard through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl set over ice, or place in refrigerator, until chilled.
4. Churn in an ice-cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions, adding mix-ins like nuts or fruits in the last few minutes. Transfer ice cream to a resealable plastic container and freeze until firm, about 2 hours.


Appetite City: Chop Suey

A few things to know after you watch the episode:

1. I don’t know what I was talking about, or what happened with the editing, but a gizzard does not help a chicken digest “meat.”  It’s a digestion aid in general, where chickens store small stones to help them grind food.

2.  Some people enjoy the texture of a chicken gizzard.  It’s been described by people who love it as “crunchy,” which is exactly how I would describe it.  It was like biting into a meat apple.

By the turn of the century, New York had a large Chinatown, although its expansion had been frozen by the strict Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882.  This law was the first to enforce a restriction on immigration in our country and did so on the basis of race.  Chinese workers, who were seen as a threat to the American economy because they would work longer hours for less pay, were banned entry to the United States.  They were not allowed to become citizens and were not allowed to send for their wives and children.

The result was a dominantly male enclave surrounding Mott street; many of the men worked and owned laundries and cooks, “female” work was one of the few jobs in which they could find opportunities.  Chinatown became an object of fascination for New Yorkers and tourists alike, and “slumming” parties (their words, not mine) were led through the neighborhood, complete with a guide and police escort.  In addition to viewing an opium-smoking demo, groups were almost always taken to the Chop Suey houses.  As a result, Chop Suey became a faddish dish in America.  By the 1920s it was an avant-garde dish for dinner parties, accompanied by an exotic “show you” sauce.  By the 1950s, housewives across American were stocking their cabinets with bottles of  Kikkoman and the dish became a weeknight staple.

The recipe I used for chop suey comes from a 1902 newspaper article that William Grimes dug up in his research for the book Appetite City.  You can read the full article, reprinted in the Pittsburgh Press, here.  Although the dish seems to be invented here in America, it’s one of those iconic foods whose origin is shrouded in myth.  Many stories exists, none of them seem to be factual.  But perhaps there wasn’t a single origin point; it seems more likely that America’s Chop Suey is the logical descendant of dishes available in China that use up little scraps of everything.  Perhaps no one before had named the adaptable stir fry that became so iconic to Americans.  From the Evening Post:

“Chop suey, the national dish of China for at least twenty-five centuries, bids fair to become a standard food in this country.  There are some 60 Chinese restaurants scattered over the different boroughs of Greater New York, whose cheif attraction is this popular composition, and several American restaurant have endeavored to take advantage of its popularity by adding it to their daily bill of fair.  There is a rediculous amount of mystery concerning the dish.  It is simple, economical, and easily made.”

Give it a try, and decide for yourself.


Chop Suey
From the New York Evening Post, 1902. 

1 lb pork
2 chicken livers
2 chicken gizzards
1/4 lb celery
1/4 lb canned mushrooms
1/4 lb bean sprouts
4 tb oil
1 tb chopped onions
1/2 clove garlic
white & red pepper
Worcestershire Sauce or Shoyu (Soy) Sauce

1. Make rice.

2. Cut pork into 1/4 inch pieces. Dice chicken livers and slice chicken gizzards.  Slice celery; finely chop onions and garlic. 

3. Put oil into a skillet over high heat. Add meat, celery, and fry until lightly colored.  Add 1/2 cup boiling water, onions, garlic and seasonings.  Cook approximately five more minutes, or until nearly tender, stirring constantly; then add mushrooms and bean sprouts and cook two minutes more.

4. Add a teaspoon shoyu sauce and serve over rice.

The History Dish: George Washington’s Breakfast

George Washington’s breakfast: Three corn meal pancakes and three cups of tea.

“He rose before sunrise, always wrote or read until seven in summer or half past seven in the winter.  His breakfast was then ready–he ate three small mush cakes swimming in butter and honey, and drank three cups of tea without cream.”

–Nelly Custis Leiws, Washington’s step-granddaughter
(as republished in The Founding Foodies by Dave DeWitt)

I have a very specific obsession with menus; it’s not just the historic recipes I’m fascinated with, but the order in which people ate them, the occassion,  and the time of day.  I hope that by consuming foods in the same way, I can understand something about another way of life.  After I read the above qoute about George Washington’s morning routine, it prompted me to step into his shoes and consume his breakfast.

Last night, I texted my boyfriend:  “This will seem like a strange reqeust, but I need to get up at 6am.  Im trying to emulate george washington.”

To which my boyfriend promptly responded: “K sweets.  Sounds like a good idea. He was pretty.  Bad ass.”

The qoute from Washingotn’s step-grandaughter came from The Founding Foodies by Dave DeWitt, a new publication on early Americans who affected what we eat today.  Washington was a really badass farmer:  he turned a huge profit each year, likely due to the fact that he was always ready to try a new technique or a new trade, adding a grist mill and a distillery to his property late in life.  Having  visited his home two years ago, I enjoyed enivsioning him awake in the early hours of the morning, quietly reading, thinking, or penning letters, then sitting down to breakfast.

I set my alarm for 5:45 and slept through it.  Luckily, boyfriend Brian had set his and physcially rolled me out of bed at 6.  I have trouble getting up in the morning, which is unfortunate because I actually love the mornings.  Quiet and restful, being up before everyone else settles my mind, and gives me a headstart on the day.  I installed myself at the kitchen table, wrote a few emails, and read: World’s Largest Stove Destroyed–By Fire; A Feast for the Eyes; and The Ladies of the 17th Century Were Way More Hardcore than You.  Then, it was time to attack my breakfast.

Unlike Washington, I do not have slaves.  I cleaned my own kitchen, brewed my own tea, and mixed up my own batter for mush cakes:

Indian Mush Cakes, from Directions For Cookery, In Its Various Branches By Miss Leslie.  Philadelphia: E.L. Carey & Hart, 1840.

I scaled this recipe down, mixing 2 cups cold water with 1 1/3 cups cornmeal.  I used a sifter to add the cornmeal to the water, while whisking constantly.  This ended up being a great technique, as it did a good job preventing lumps.   Last, I added 1/3 cup whole wheat flour and a pinch of salt.

When bubbles start to appear, it’s time to flip!

The batter was quite thin, so I decided to use a small, non-stick skillet.  Butter went in the skillet, followed by enough batter to cover the bottom of the pan.  When bubbles began to appear on the surface, I flipped it (with confidence) and cooked the other side until brown.  Then, with a plate stacked high, I tucked slivers of butter in between the layers and covered the whole thing over with warm honey.

I had been concerned about the lack of leavning in the pancakes, but although they weren’t light and fluffy, they weren’t dense either.  They had a great, rugged texture, and pretty much anything “swimming” in butter is gonna taste pretty good.

We don’t really know if Nelly Custis’ account of Washington’s breakfast is factual, or if she just said it to make him sound more austere and awesome, unlike Ben Franklin, who “…ate an inordinate breakfast, four dishes of tea with cream, and one or two buttered toasts, with slices of hung beef…” (his own words).  But I have to admit, I’m feeling pretty bad ass right now (alot like this). I sat and munched my mush cakes, thinking about George, and how different his mornings may have been.  I have to admit, he may be displacing Thomas Jefferson as my favorite founding father.

Tonight on Appetite City: What is a Gizzard, Anyway?

Believe it or not, there was a time in New York City when there weren’t any Chinese restaurants. Discover, along with host William Grimes, the origins of “Chinatown” as it grew from a small cluster of streets in Lower Manhattan to the vibrant neighborhood of today. Take a trip to New York’s oldest tea parlor, hear stories about the first immigrants and find out what’s in Chop Suey.

Last week I made one of the best things I’ve ever eaten; this week I cook one of the most horrible things I’ve ever put in my mouth.  Tune in to watch disaster, tonight @8:30 on NYC Life Channel 25.

Appetite City: Reuben’s Apple Pancake

This week’s episode of Appetite City focuses on Delis, a take-out tradition brought by the Germans and appropriated by Eastern-European Jewish immigrants. I cook up one of the BEST FOODS EVER: Apple Pancakes from the now defunct Reuben’s Restaurant.

I’ve done a post on Apple Pancakes before; so for recipes and more history on the dish, go here. They are well worth making–and reviving. When the cameras turned off, the crew of Appetite City descended upon the plate of Apple Pancake like a pack of ravenous lions, a swarm of hungry ants, or some sort of other voracious animal. The pancakes were a hit.

I had a viewing party at my apartment last night and cooked Apple Pancakes with the same results: swarms of my friends devouring them burning hot from communal plates.  I also served up another deli favorite, an authentic New York Egg Cream. Egg Creams, any New Yorker knows, contain neither eggs nor creams; and can only be authentically made with “Fox’s U-Bet Chocolate Syrup” (available locally at Economy Candy and online).   The formula is 2 tablespoons U-Bet Chocolate syrup mixed with 1 cup of whole milk and topped off with a 1/2 cup plain seltzer. I used a long, bar spoon to blend the syrup and milk before adding the seltzer; and, in a possible Egg Cream first, I added an ounce (or two) of rum.  Delicious.

Tonight on Appetite City: The Delicatessen

Tonight’s episode is all about one of NYC’s most famous institutions, the deli:

The word “Delicatessen” is almost synonymous with New York City, yet many don’t know where the word comes from or how the deli got its start in the Big Apple. Join host William Grimes as he uncovers the true origin of the New York City deli, speaks to food author Arthur Schwartz and reveals the truth about how these once foreign and unusual delicacies from Eastern Europe became a staple of New York City life.

And I’ll be whipping up a batch of one of the most delicious things I’ve ever put in my mouth.  Tune in to find out what it is!  Tonight @ 8:30 on NYC Life, Channel 25.  And stop by FPF tomorrow for the full episode, recipes, and more!

Appetite City: Soul Food. Full Episode, Recipes and More!

Premiere episode of Appetite City.  I get a montage!

Last night marked the premiere of Appetite City!  I cooked up some piggy feet, which to be honest, have always given me trouble.  As I say in the episode, the pork has a good flavor; but my pig’s feet always comes out a little on the tough side instead of soft and supple.  Thoughts? Suggestions?

The recipe I used in the show came from Rufus Estes’ Good Things to Eat, As Suggested By Rufus; A Collection Of Practical Recipes For Preparing Meats, Game, Fowl, Fish, Puddings, Pastries, Etc., considered to be one of the most important early cookbooks by an African American.   Born into slavery, Estes lost two brothers in the Civil War, and from a young age was the man of  his household: carrying water and pails of milk for his mother and working to keep the family afloat.  Estes worked at his first restaurant at the age of 16 and spent the better part of his adulthood working as a chef for the Pullman railways car service, catering to an exclusive clientele: “…Sir Henry Morton Stanley, the explorer, Ignace Paderewski, the Polish pianist and politician, President Benjamin Harrison (1889 – 1903) and President Grover Cleveland…”  By the time his cookbook was published, he was cooking for some of the most wealthy families in America.

Estes seems like a pretty trustworthy reference in the matter of pig’s feets.  His slim cookbook contains recipes for “…Sheep’s Brains with Small Onions, Sheep’s Kidneys, Broiled, and Sheep’s Tongues; Candied Violets, Southern Corncakes, Coffee Cup Custard, Roasted Canvasback Duck, Kedgeree, Rolled Rib Roast, and Scotch Snipe. They also include ten Souffle recipes, including those for corn, Guernsey cheese, tapioca and tomato; and five kinds of Sherbet – Cranberry, Currant, Lemon, Lemon Ginger and Tea.”  Although few original copies of his book remain, it can be read in its entirety on Feeding America.

Broiled Pig’s Feet
From Good Things to Eat, by Rufus Estes, 1911.
Modern directions inspired by Soul Food and Southern Cooking.

8 pig’s feet
1 bunch fresh parsley
3-4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
3 allspice berries
2 medium onions
2 carrots
4 egg yolks
2 tb butter
1 cup bread crumbs
1 tb shallot 

1.When you purchase pig’s feet, ask your butcher to split them in half for you.  Wash them, pat dry with paper towels, and tie halves together with kitchen twine.

2. Coarsely chop parsley, carrots and onion.  Add to a slow cooker along with thyme, bay leaf and allspice.  Cover with water, and cook on high four hours, or until extremely tender.

3. Remove pig’s feet from cooking liquid to cool.  Finely dice shallots and parsley and mix with  bread crumbs.  Whisk the egg yolks with the butter and set aside.

4. Dredge pig’s feet in egg and butter mixture and then the bread crumbs. Place in a baking pan and broil 10-15 minutes until well browned. Unbind and arrange on a platter; garnish with parsley.


Fun Fact: Raw pig’s feet feel exactly like human hands.

Tune in next Thursday for another episode of Appetite City!  Every Thursday at 8:30 on NYC Life Channel 25.  And for those of you who live around the country, stop by my blog on Fridays for the entire episode, recipes and more!



Appetite City Series Premiere!

SO this is Kinda a Big Deal: I’m in a tv show!

Noted author and former New York Times restaurant critic William Grimes brings his epicurean knowledge to Appetite City, a new series on NYC life (Channel 25) that tells the history of New York City through its iconic food. Each episode focuses on a unique flavor of food that has become a staple in New York City as Grimes takes viewers on a journey about how soul food, delis and farmers’ markets all came to be a part of New York’s history.

The show is hosted by William Grimes, but every week, viewers will stop by my Queens kitchen to cook up a dish on the episode’s focus.  Join me as I eat a chicken gizzard for the first time; as a I drop a toppling tower of Baked Alaska to the floor; and as I come to the realization that raw pig’s feet feel like human hands.  And I’ll make some delicious stuff, too.

If you’re in the NYC area, Appetite City premieres Thursday, August 11 at 8:30pm on NYC life (Channel 25). The first episode features soul food:

Host William Grimes takes a journey back in time to the glory days of Harlem when he explores the origins and evolution of “Soul Food.” At a favorite local restaurant he speaks with soul food expert and author Frederick Douglass Opie and later has our historic gastronomist, Sarah Lohman, whip up a soul food favorite. Then viewers join award-winning chef Marcus Samuelsson at his newest Harlem-based restaurant where he’s putting a whole new spin on this down-home favorite.

Additionally, there’s a premiere party tomorrow night at Tavern on the Green, the Central Park Visitor’s center;

Twilight @ Tavern: Film Screening

Watch a screening of Appetite City under the stars. Appetite City tells the history of New York through its food. Author and former restaurant critic of the New York Times, William Grimes, takes viewers back in time to explore the origins of some of New York’s most loved and iconic foods with visits to Brooklyn delis, historical taverns, and local food markets. This screening features an introduction and remarks from host William Grimes.

No advance registration. Free. All ages welcome.

Time: 7:30 PM – 10:00 PM

And if you’re not in the NYC area, don’t fret! I’ll be posting the full episodes on my blog every Friday along with recipes and stories from the show!

Stay Tuned! Watch a promo video for the show here.

The Gallery: Primer of Hygiene

I picked this book up at an antique store in Ohio.  Printed in 1915, it was a school book, likely both in NYC and in the rural Ohio town I found it in.

After the general acceptance of germ theory, but before antibiotics were available, great emphasis was put on preventative medicine and hygiene.  In fact, it was part of everyday school curriculum.

What make this little special is not just its advice on avoiding typhoid; after being in the hands of about fifteen years worth of bored school children, vandalism and doodlings have turned this book into a piece of outsider art.