Monthly Archive for October, 2011

Appetite City: Schrafft’s Cheese Bread

Appetite City: Diners

I’m not old enough to know diddly about Schrafft’s, the New York City restaurant chain, first hand; but everyone who does always remembers the cheese bread.   There’s only one known recipe for the famous cheese bread and it looks like this: This document was dug up by Joan Kanel Slomanson, the author of When Everybody Ate at Schrafft’s: Memories, Pictures, and Recipes from a Very Special Restaurant Empire.  It gives the proportions to make cheese bread on an industrial scale; it seems like it would be simple to just scale it down, right?  Wrong!  The problem is the mystery ingredient: cheese tang! So what is a cheese tang? No one seems to know, or remember.  It was allegedly produced by Kraft, and some researchers have gone as far as to call the Kraft company and ask about it.  No one has any memory of its existance. With the loss of cheese tang, Schrafft’s cheese bread is gone to the ages. Hold the phone.  Time to do some deductive reasoning.  You know what else Kraft makes? Tang.  Like, orange Tang, that went up with the astronauts.  Tang is a bright orange, orange-flavored powder.  So perhaps cheese Tang is a bright orange, cheese-flavored powder.  Now in what Kraft product can one get bright orange, cheese-flavored powder?

This is my theory and I think it’s a good one!  At any rate, the bread made with Mac N’ Cheese powder is phenomenal and will be devoured within minutes of exiting your oven.  Should you have some left overs, toast it before consumption: it’s best warm.


Schrafft’s Cheese Bread
Adapted from the original Schrafft’s recipe, as reprinted in When Everybody Ate at Schrafft’s: Memories, Pictures, and Recipes from a Very Special Restaurant Empire by Joan Kanel Slomanson, published 2007.

1 package dry active yeast
1 ¾ cups warm water
2 tsp salt
1 ½ tsp sugar
1 tsp – 1/4 cup powdered cheese (depending on desired cheesiness); either from a Mac & Cheese box, or from online
3.5 cups flour
1 cup grated sharp cheddar.
1. In a large bowl, combine yeast and ½ cup warm water. Stir to dissolve yeast. Mix remaining water with salt; stir to dissolve.  Pour over yeast and set aside.
2. In another bowl, sift together flour, sugar, and cheese powder.
3. Add flour mixture to yeast and water, one cup at a time.  When the dough becomes hard to stir, turn out onto a floured work surface.  Let dough rest while you clean out the bowls.
4. Knead dough for ten minutes, adding more flour if necessary, until dough is smooth and elastic.  Up to another 1 1/2 cups can be incorporated here.
5. Butter a bowl and place dough inside; let rise until it has tripled in size, 2-3 hours.  Punch down risen dough and turn out onto work surface.  Sprinkle grated cheese all over.  Roll the dough up and knead just long enough to incorporate cheese.  Swirls of cheese in the baked loaf are not a bad thing!
6. Grease two loaf pans; plop dough inside. Cover each with a kitchen towel and let rise 45 minutes.  Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
7. Put loaves in oven.  After 15 minutes, turn down heat to 350 degrees and let bake for 10 more minutes.  Cool on racks.
P.S. – this bread is total munchies food!
A delicious loaf of cheese bread.


The Gallery: Cooking on the Monitor

Re: my event with the Brooklyn Diggers last weekend, celebrating the 150 anniversary of the construction of the Monitor.  The Diggers dug up this amazing image of cooking on the deck of the infamous iron clad ship.

What where they cooking? Find out.

Events: Taste Civil War Navy Rations

I’m going to be in McGolrick Park in Greenpoint from 1-4 today as part of an event commemorating the building of the Monitor, the infamous iron-clad ship of the Civil War.  I’ll be giving a talk around 3;30 about the spice trade in Greenpoint, but throughout the day I’ll be passing out samples of Civil War Navy rations.  The rations, which were quite a bit better than what was handed out to the Army:

“One pound of salt pork, with half a pint of beans or peas; one pound salt beef, with half a pound of flour, and two ounces of dried apples or other fruit; or three quarters of preserved (canned) meat, with half a pound of rice, two ounces of butter, and one ounce desiccated (dehydrated) mixed vegetables; or three quarters pound preserved meat, two ounces of butter, and two ounces desiccated potato; together with fourteen ounces of biscuits (hardtack), one quarter of an ounce of tea, or one ounce of coffee or cocoa, two ounces sugar, and a gill (four ounces) or spirits; and a weekly allowance of half a pound of pickles, half a pint of molasses, and half a pint of vinegar.” (source)

This diet was supplemented by deliveries of fresh meat and veg when in port; and by “foraging” (stealing from Southern farms).  Also available were some canned food brands we know today: Vancamp Pork & Beans; Underwood Deviled Ham; and Borden’s Condensed Milk.

Stop by and give this food a try! Full details below.


Saturday, October 22nd

Greenpoint 1861
1pm-4pm @ McGolrick Park, Greenpoint, Brooklyn

On October 25, 1861 the keel of the USS Monitor was laid. Come and celebrate the 150th anniversary of the USS Monitor and the workers who built Greenpoint and worked in the shipbuilding industry. The Diggers will recreate Greenpoint circa 1861 for a one day festival that imagines North Brooklyn when it was the center of national trade and shipbuilding. The event will include:

-A near lifesize model of the Monitor made out of papermache by Jason Gaspar
-Historic food that would have been Greenpoint staples by Sarah Lohman from as well as a talk on culinary developments & the spice trade in Greenpoint
-Knot tying demonstration & workshop by Peter Haakon Thompson
-Talk on Alfred and Carnes Eddey, shipwrights in Greenpoint, by their descendant Gary E Eddey
-1860s music by the Depressionaires
-Historic costuming by Melissa Estro and a chance to actually “Walk in the shoes” of 1860s Greenpointers
-Mini pop up museum with educators


Events: The Big Apple Historic Cocktails

The Hot Apple Toddy will be featured on October 20th @ The Brooklyn Historical Society

Amazing event coming up on October 20th!  Let me give it to you straight: $40 for 4 cocktails.  More than that, the evening will be an exploration of locally produced apple alcohols.  You thought you knew cider; well, we’re going to blow your minds with products from new producers making alcohol in traditional ways.  Guest of the evening will include:

Revolution Cider, out of Philadelphia, who produces a unique hard cider inspired by recipes from the Revolutionary era.

Warwick Valley Winery is bringing their intense apple brandy, as welll as samples of the apple liqour (it’s like an apple in a bottle–soo good) and apple cider.

Cornelius Applejack has generously donated their artisinal, small batch applejack–generally considered some of the best on the market.

All this and so much more, including cider history and cocktail lessons!  Full details below; get your tickets here!



Thursday, October 20
The Big Apple:  Historic Cocktails with Regional Apple Alcohols
7:00 p.m. @ The Brooklyn Historical Society, 128 Pierrepont Street at Clinton Street Brooklyn, New York
Ticket: $30 BHS members/$40 non-members. Purchase your ticket here.

Apple cider, apple brandy, and applejack are complex alcohols that are infinitely mixable. We’re going inspire you to add them to your liquor cabinets with a night of nineteenth-century cocktails!

The evening will begin with a cup of Apple Punch, which features slices of crisp New York apples steeped in wine. While sipping drinks, guests will hear a short talk on the history of apple alcohol in New York. Afterward, participants will learn how to make three historic apple cocktails: the refreshing, spicy Jersey Cocktail; the warm and comforting Apple Toddy; and the sweet, meringue-like Tiger’s Milk Punch. These drinks will feature local apple alcohols made from traditional recipes. Participants will work with educators in small groups, learning about the history of each drink as they imbibe their handmade cocktails. Additionally, local apple alcohol producers will be on hand to talk about their products and the state of the apple industry today.

Generous donations have been made to this event by Revolution CiderWarwick Valley Winery, and Cornelius Applejack.

This event is part of Glynwood’s Cider Week, which seeks to cultivate an appreciation for hard cider. Glynwood preserves apple orchards in the Hudson Valley by promoting the production of hard cider and apple spirits. Learn more at

This event is part of BHS’s Brooklyn Food Stories. Advanced ticket purchase recommended as the event will fill up. Ticket: $30 BHS members/$40 non-members. Purchase your ticket here.


Events: Cocktail Bitters

Saturday, October 15th

Alice, or the Scottish Gravediggers: An Evening of Victorian Medicine and  Cocktail Bitters.
6pm-8pm @ The Old Stone House, 336 3rd Street, Brooklyn, NY

Polybe + Seats theater presents  a preview of Alice, or the Scottish Gravediggers in part with a bitters tasting with Historic GastronomistSarah Lohman.

Premiering in late October, Alice is an 1829 melodrama about a penniless orphan who works as a maid in her aunt’s inn and is torn between two suitors.  She subjects her body to mysterious experiments at a nearby medical school in exchange for treatment for her wounded beloved, a medical student himself.  At this event, you’ll get a preview of the play’s gothic set design, music, and art as well as a taste of how Victorian medicine begot the modern cocktail.

Arrive at six for a talk on the link between cocktail bitters and old fashioned medicine.  Afterwards, mix and mingle while sipping a bitters-focused cocktail, featuring Original Sin Hard Cider.  Then, attend a bitters tasting from local makers, and watch a demo on how to make your own bitters.

Attendees will receive a coupon for discounted admission to the premiere of Alice, or theScottish Gravedigggers.

This event is part of Open House New York and the Historic House Trust Festival Weekend.


Appetite City: Baked Alaska

Appetite City: Fine Dining. My demo starts at 12:35

Ok. So mine is maybe not the prettiest Baked Alaska.  And sometimes, I show my colors as still being a young cook.  Like when I dump my carefully crafted dessert all over the floor.  Oh well–at least I’m honest about it.

The history of  how Baked Alaska came to be is a little loosey goosey, as origin stories for the most famous dishes tend to be.  We do know that at the turn of the 19th century, scientists discovered the insulatory properties of egg whites.  Cooks seized on this idea, and began creating Baked Alaska-like dishes in the first half of the 19th century.  But Chef Charles Ranhofer, the gifted head of the Delmonico’s kitchen, seems to be the one that perfected and popularized it.  Allegedly,  it was served at a dinner celebrating the purchase of Alaska in 1867, and the popularity of this fantastic new dish sky-rocketed over the next century, peaking sometime in the 1950s.

Making a good, old-fashioned “Alaska, Florida”  has a hella lot steps, and the end result doesn’t taste that great.  It was waaaay super sweet.   I think this is one of those instances when you should look up a modern version of the old classic.  The dessert is worth cooking up in a simpler form: the combination of hot meringue and cold ice cream seems like magic and will really impress your friends.



Alaska, Florida (Baked Alaska)

From the Epicurian, published 1893.
And Martha Stewart Living.Small yellow cakes
Apricot marmalade
4 bananas
1 qt heavy cream
1 ¼ lb sugar
½ vanilla bean
6 egg whites
1 tsp cream of tarter1. Cake base:  Make your favorite yellow cake recipe in advance, baking it in cupcake tins or ramekins, depending on the size of your ice cream molds.  Remove the cakes from the tins, level the tops, then cut a depression into the center of each cake.  Fill depression with apricot marmalade.

2. To Make Banana Ice Cream:  Mash 4 banana to a pulp; Mix with 1 pt heavy cream and ½ lb sugar.  Stir until the sugar is dissolved.  Put into an ice cream maker until frozen soft.  Pour, or scoop, into a conical ice cream mold until mold is halfway full. Freeze until frozen hard.

3. To Make Vanilla Ice Cream: Infuse ½ a vanilla bean in ¼ cup milk by gently heating on a stove top burner.  Combine with 1 pt heavy cream and ¼ lb sugar; stir until sugar in dissolved.  Freeze in an ice cream maker until frozen soft.

4. When banana ice cream is hard, remove from freezer and pour vanilla ice cream over top, until the mold is filled.  Return to freezer and freeze until hard.

5. To make meringue:  Combine egg whites, remaining sugar, and cream of tartar in the heatproof bowl of electric mixer, and place over a saucepan filled with water.  Heat over stove-top like a double boiler, whisking constantly until the sugar has dissolved and the egg whites are warm to the touch, 3 to 3 1/2 minutes.  Transfer bowl to electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, and whip starting on low speed and gradually increasing to high until stiff, glossy peaks form, about 10 minutes.

6. Preheat oven to 500 degrees.  Unmold ice cream, and place on top of cake.  Fill a pastry bag with meringue; encase ice cream and cake in meringue

7. Bake in a 500 degree oven for 2 minutes.  Serve immediately


Be sure to watch the episode to see me demo the whole thing, from start to finish!

Appetite City: Hot Tamales!


Appetite City: Street Food. My demo is at 12:30.

Yes, it’s true. Tamales in New York in the 1890s.   The earliest mentions of Tamales stretch back to the late 19th century, even earlier than the 1910 date I give in the show (ugh. my bad.).  Grimes mentions them in his book, Appetite City, and the image of the tamale men on the streets of the city enchanted me. One of the original newspaper articles on the topic, from the New York Herald, is below.

Why veal and not chicken? I’m not an expert on 19th century meat production (yet), so maybe some of you out there can add to this explanation.   But as I understand it, chicken was not being mass produced, like we do in factories today, so it was quite expensive. Veal, on the other hand, was a by-product of the milking industry. You don’t need male calves, and raising them to adulthood is a financial detriment to your business. Selling off calves young was a boon, so the price was cheap.

If you’re looking for the best masa (or tortillas) in town, you’ll have to check out Tortilleria Nixtamel for yourself.

1890s New York Tamales
from The New York Herald, 1894.
From the (LA) Times Cookbook No. 2, published c. 1905.


1 ¼ lbs Veal
1 large onion, halved
1 head of garlic
4 dried chilis
2 cups masa harina
⅔ cup lard
1 8-ounce package dried corn husks

1. Place veal in a large pot or slow cooker; add onion and 4 cloves of garlic.  Cook until tender.

2. Separate dried corn husks, then soak  in a sink filled with warm water for 30 minutes to soften.

2. Remove meat from cooking liquid and shred.  Set aside to cool.

3. Remove stems and seeds from chili pods; place in a saucepan with two cups water. Simmer for 20 minutes, then remove from heat to cool.

4. Add chilies and water to a blender along with remaining garlic.  Blend until smooth; strain mixture, and add 1 ½ teaspoons salt. Mix with shredded meat.

5. To masa, add: ½ teaspoon salt, lard, and enough veal broth to make a spongy dough.

6. Fold the tamales; best to watch my demo in the video above.  Bring water in a pot with a steamer basket to a low boil; steam tamales for two hours.



Appetite City: Pigeon with Green Peas

Appetite City: Green Markets.  I come in at about 11 minutes.

Take the time to watch this full episode on New York’s Green Markets; it’s lovely.  There’s an interview with Jeffrey of “Jeffrey’s Meat” that is just gold.  His butcher shop, on the Lower East Side since 1940, is an emblem of the neighborhood.  Sadly, it closed just weeks after this interview was completed.  As Jeffrey says, “Food is an example of the History of a Neighborhood.”

The second half talks about the rise of New York’s greemarkets–and the real hell New York was in the middle of the 20th century.  It’s fascinating.

This episode’s recipe, for “Pigeon with Peas,” is a gud’un.  It comes from the earliest Delmonico’s menu known, from 1838.  Delmonico’s is one of the (the?) oldest surviving restaurants in the country and for most of the 19th century, was the voice on high-fashion French cuisine in America.  It started from slightly humbler roots, but you’ll see how extensive even this early menu was (Click images to enlarge).







The recipe for pigeon with peas comes from The Epicurian, the Delmonico’s cookbook published in 1893 ; but I suspect the recipe changed very little since the original menu.  The recipe speaks of a much simple mode of cooking: one pan is used in a style that has more in common with early hearth cooking, than the complicated, multi-stepped, high-French Delmonico’s was known for in the second half of the 19th century.  I really do think this was an old-fashioned Delomonico’s staple that survived the test of time.

And it’s no surprise that this recipe continued to be cooked in Delmonico’s kitchen; since making this recipe for Appetite City, I have cooked it several times since for the pleasure of it, including once over a hearth.  These are the most kick-ass peas you will ever taste.  Ever.

A squab, by the way, is a young pigeon, killed before it has begun to fly.  They have a distinctly dark and gamey flavor, complemented well by bacon.  But please don’t go picking up pigeons off the street; as Bill says “It’s at the city’s market that you can put together the ingredients for the kind of simple and elegant dish like squab and green peas.”  And if you don’t dig squab, quail or Cornish hens are an easy replacement.


Pigeons with Green Peas
From The Epicurean, published 1893.
3 squabs
⅛ lb bacon, chopped into ½ inch squares
15 pearl onions
3 pints green peas
½ bunch parsley
1 cup stock
kneaded butter: 2 tb butter kneaded with 2 tb flour 

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Wash squabs and pat dry.  Pull organs out of cavity returning the liver.  Truss (watch the video for a demo).

2. Add bacon to a large cast iron skillet with cover or a dutch oven.  Fry until crispy, then remove bacon, leaving fat behind.
3. Put pigeons in skillet with onions; brown slowly on all sides.  Add peas, parsley, and bacon; cook for 2 minutes, then add a cup of stock.  Cover and bring to a boil, boil five minutes, then reduce heat
4. Put in a 350 degree oven for 15 minutes or longer if necessary. The squab is done when its juices run clear.  Remove from oven and arrange pigeons on a platter.  Untruss.
5. Thicken peas and juices with kneaded butter and place around the pigeons.