Archive for the 'beef' Category

WNYC: Blazing Maize – Mrs. Gannon’s Tamale Pie, 1947


One more little gem from around the web: I wrote this post for WNYC (New York Public Radio) about Frances Foley Gannon, a LaGuardia era public figure who held sway over the city’s public markets and the five-borough’s dinner tables.

“Good morning, Housewives!”

Every morning at 8:25 AM, long after mothers had ushered their children off to school and begun the laborious task of housework, “Mrs. Gannon” chirped her greeting over the radio. Cheerful but firm, the Deputy Commissioner of Markets gave menu-planning advice to “the biggest collection of hungry people ever gathered in one small spot —New York City.”

You can read the full article, as well as get her recipe for Tamale pie, here.

pie3Tamale pie: a crowd pleaser.

Retronovated Recipes: Crockpot Beef Tongue

Look at it.  Licking the side of the Crock-pot.

Old Stone House of Brooklyn hosted an 1864 baseball game; naturally, they wanted some 1864 ballpark treats to go along with it.  So we did some research and after looking into Victorian street fair food and picnic pickings, we decided on a menu of popcorn balls (maple, molasses, and rosewater), lemonade, and ham on cornbread.  But there was one Victorian dish that came up again and again as an all-time, picnic in the park favorite: Tongue.

We decided to go for it.  We’d strive for historic accuracy and allow tongue sandwiches to grace our menu. We were serving in Brooklyn, after all, and I trusted this borough to have some adventurous eaters. However, I had never actually cooked a tongue before.  It was time to embark on another Offal Adventure.

A cow tongue is shockingly large and floppity.  I acquired mine at Jeffrey’s Meat Market, which has been located in Essex Street Market since Essex Street had a market.  I brought it home and prepped it, and as I moved it around the kitchen, I imagined it making some kind of animate tongue sounds (mostly pppplhhhlhlllh!). I began cruising for recipes: the Victorians demanded it be “…so tender that a straw would go through it.”  Now that’s tender.  So how to get it so perfectly tender, while at the same time infusing it with all kinds of mid-century spicy flavors?  I knew what I had to do: I busted out my trusty Crock-pot.

Yes, ok, OBVIOUSLY they didn’t have Crock-pots in 1864.  But that’s not what we do on this blog; I don’t have a hearth installed in my four-story walkup.  And I love my Crock-pot; no matter what shit I throw in there, it always comes out perfectly cooked and flavorful.  I trusted it with my tongue.  So I decided to retronovate a recipe:  I used this Spiced Beef Tongue Crockpot recipe for cooking instructions, but used the spices  listed in this 1845 recipe from The New England Economical Housekeeper.

1864-style Slow Cooked Tongue

Adapted from The New England Economical Housekeeper by Esther Allen Howland, 1845; and, Spiced Beef Tongue from

3 pounds Beef tongue (phhhhffffll!)
2 quarts Water
1/4 cup brown sugar
6 whole cloves
6 black peppercorns
6 whole allspice
6 flakes mace
2 teaspoons Salt

Ground spices would be fine, too.

Combine all ingredients in a slow-cooker.  Cook on low 10 hours.


I pulled the tongue from the Crock-pot and it went into the fridge to chill overnight.  The next day I served it toasted on slices of molasses-sweetened cornbread.  It was indeed perfectly tender and flavorful.  And did Brooklyn live up to my expectations of being adventurous eaters?  By the end of the day, we had sold out of tongue sandwiches.

How to Cook a Wolf Week: Day 3, That Butt of Gibes

A meal of ground round patties.
Breakfast today was another hearty helping of toast; lunch, minestrone leftovers. Fisher said any good minestrone is better the next day.
I came home from work at night tired, hungry, and not at all excited to be on  history diet.  My ever-present roommate, Jeff, asked me what I was doing for dinner.  I told him as long as he didn’t mind eating history food, he was welcome to join me for some ground round steaks.
This recipe is wedged into Fisher’s text, nestled between recipes in a chapter on affordable meat: “One way to use cheap meat is to buy that butt of gibes and snobbishness, ground round steak.”

Fisher recommends serving this dish with “hot French bread and a crisp green salad, and a red wine or ale if you can and will.”  I set Jeff to work on a salad of fresh lettuce, carrots, and green peppers, while I heated a cast iron skillet until a splash of water sizzled on its surface.

This mixture will create a flavorful sauce for the patties.

I prepped my ingredients: three large hamburger-style patties of beef and a bowl of chopped chives, parsley, and a healthy glob of butter.  Fisher wanted me to add wine, or vegetable stock, or tomato juice to create a sauce for the meat; but I had none of those things in my pantry.  But I did have half a pint of cherry tomatoes, which I halved and added to the herbs, and topped off with a few shakes of Worcestershire sauce (as per Fisher’s suggestion).

As Jeff and I assembled our ingredients, it made for a cheerful assortment of colors on the kitchen table.  Just looking at all the fresh vegetables heartened me and I began to fully understand what Fisher means when she talks about cooking to keep the wolf at bay: a good meal can change your entire outlook on the world, and make you feel safe and accomplished.

Gettin ready for DINNER!

When the skillet was good and hot, I “Put in the pats of beef.  There will be a great smoke and smell, so windows should be open if possible.”  I cooked the burgers two minutes on each side, then turned off the heat, added the herb/butter/tomato mixture, and quickly covered the pan.  “There will be another great sizzle and fume.  Put the cover on quickly, to catch all the first fine savor.  In about 50 seconds, stir the mixture thoroughly to catch all the meat-essence in the pan…and put the mixture with a spoon over the cakes of meat.”  And so we did, and served up our dinner with thick slices of fresh baked, whole grain bread.

Making this dinner was so quick, about 20 minutes from start to finish. We both agreed it tasted delicious; Jeff even went back for seconds, and he is usually apprehensive of History Food.  The meat was incredibly flavorful, particularly for such a short cook time.

This meal was cheap, easy, and tasty. Eating it put me in a good mood after a long day.

Silver & Ash: Look at All Those Wieners!

Silver & Ash, the interactive edible art piece I presented with singer/songwriter Clare Burson, went off without a hitch last week.  We were SOLD OUT, and I am pleased to say the food was very well received;  and in the coming months, I’m continuing to work on the dishes to make them even more delicious and interesting.  We’re bringing this event back to New York this September, and we *may* be bringing it to the West Coast (possibly with a 19th Century Pub Crawl in San Francisco as well!) Stay tuned, and in the meantime, here are a few images to wet your appetite.

Look at all those wieners! The second course of Silver & Ash is modeled after a favorite dish from Wiemar Germany. The dish features all-beer wieners from Schaller & Weber, a butcher's shop founded in 1937 in New York's German community of Yorkville. Â Braised in beer from the world's oldest brewery (the Weihenstephan brewery near Munich), these wieners were served alongside a hot potato salad.

The dining room of the Henry Street Settlement. The tables are set and ready for guests.

The kitchen, behind the scenes at Silver & Ash, the staff is hard at work preparing a delicious meal.

Sold-out seats packed with 30 guests. Clare takes the mic and begins to perform, weaving stories with music from her upcoming album, Silver & Ash.

Clare takes the stage to tell it like it is.

For the third course, we served a dish that Clare's mother closely associates with her childhood: frozen chicken pot pies. I decided to serve the pies in vintage packaging; in this photo, server Sarah Litvin presents a box o' pie to bemused Edible Brooklyn editor Rachel Wharton. As the guests begins to dig in to their pot pies, the room was filled with reminiscences: "I had these all the time when I was little!" "I remember when my parents went out, they would leave chicken pot pies for us for dinner." It was so funny to hear that so many people had a visceral memory associated with chicken pot pie--and that a few bites of warm, flaky pie crust could bring it all back.

The final course is laid out and ready to be served: it's comprised of thick slices of Helga's Homemade Almond Pound Cake. Helga is Clare's grandmother, and she prepares this not-too-dense, not-too-sweet poundcake for all of her grandchildren. Helga stashes the baked cakes in the freezer, where her family knows they can always find a frosted slice. I topped the poundcake wtih a port wine cherry compote, because Helga loved eating cherries when she was growing up--she and her friends would hang them from thier ears like earrings, and pretend to be grown up and sophistaced. Â After the show, Clare's family told me I had gotten the pound cake just right--and that was the best compliment of all.

In the News: Meat, Meat, MEAT

A pig’s head made from newspaper, wire mesh, and clay.  Not your grade school craft project. (

Head’s up! The Brooklyn Beefsteak is back February 20th.  Stay tuned into their blog for updates here, and read my write up of their fall event here.

The New Age Cavemen and the City:  A group of New Yorkers swear by the Paleo Diet, which involves eating and exercising like a caveman. (nytimes)

Historic Faux Foods: “Sandy Levins researches the foodways of bygone eras to create historically-accurate individual faux foods as well as entire period table and room settings. ” Rendered in astounding accuracy–check out her website.

Events: Brooklyn Beefsteak Wrap-up!

“The Unbridled Enthusiasm of Sarah Lohman.” Photo by Doan Buu.

I know this post is belated, but I must to take the time to say something about the amazing event I attended in Gowanus last weekend, the Brooklyn Beefsteak.

The mood at the event was nothing less than euphoric: a room full of hungry carnivores, subdued by the ever-flowing pints of McSorely’s, and finally satiated by course after course of beef. And oh, the beef! We started with tiny hamburgers, then slices of tenderloin, then there was pot roast, and some sort of BBQ Beef. Too many beefs for me to count or remember, and each one masterfully prepared.

My favorite course was the strips of tenderloin, grilled over charcoal and drizzled with butter. It’s the most traditional preparation of beef at a beefsteak, and arguable the best.

And now I know a thing or two about the history of the beefsteak, thanks to the two lectures at the event: one on the tradition of the beefsteak in New York (a manly 19th century gathering) and one on the survival of the beefsteak in the VFW halls of northern New Jersey. Both talks were entertaining; however, I don’t envy the speakers for trying to give a history lesson to a room full of drunks. We were an enthusiastic crowd, to say the least.

You can see a bajillion photos from the event here. And if you would like to learn more about the tradition of the beefsteak, I encourage you to read the classic New Yorker article All You Can Hold for Five Bucks. It was published in 1939 and survives as the source of most of our contemporary beefsteak knowledge. Don’t be dismayed by the first two paragraphs, were he talks about how terrible women are. It gets better after that.

Eating Like A Tenement Family: Day 7

Roly-Poly Pudding.

Breakfast: Cocoa and Fried Polenta
Last night, I went to bed with a pounding headache, that no amount of Tylenol seemed to help. I lied awake for hours–during this project, I’ve had a lot of trouble sleeping. I’m so hungry by the time I turn in, that the sensation of it keeps me awake. I’m too famished to get up and do anything else, but too uncomfortable to drift off the sleep. I wake up the next morning exhausted.
This morning, I could barely open my eyes when my alarm rang. “It’s okay,” I told myself. “You get to have hot chocolate this morning.” I had been looking forward to it all week.
I slipped into my robe and shuffled into the kitchen…only to see 2 empty milk jugs on the kitchen table. One of my roommates had polished off not only the skim milk, but also my whole milk which they had earlier this week declared “disgusting.” I opened the fridge to find a carton of half and half. “I’ll use this,” I thought. “The cream will give me strength!”

I poured it into my mug…and it came out in chunks. It was beyond spoiled. “Is there no god damn milk?” I screeched. I shoved my feet in my boots and put on my coat–angrily–and went to the corner bodega to buy milk. The snowstorm the night before had turned the world into a sheet of ice. As I scooted down the sidewalk, hanging onto the sides of buildings, I cursed everything.

Finally, I got back and mixed up my hot chocolate. The cocoa was a gift from my brother. It was delicious. Corson recommends accompanying it with fried lentils; I didn’t have any lentils left over, so I fried up the rest of my polenta. Delicious, and very satisfying.
I collapsed on the couch, feeling too awful to move.
“You look like shit!” My roommate declared.
“I feel like shit.”
“That’s because you don’t eat anything.” Thanks, Jeff.
Cost: .40 cents.
Lunch: Haslet Stew and Roly-Poly Pudding
I started on the Roly-Poly Pudding first, since it needed to boil for two hours:

“Suet Roly-poly.-Sift together one pound of flour. two teaspoonfuls of salt, and one teaspoonful of baking powder, (cost about five cents,) rub into them two ounces of sweet drippings, (cost one cent;) mix with two gills of milk, or one egg, and two gills of water…roll out half an inch thick, spread with quarter of a pound of chopped suet, (cost two cents,) one teaspoonful of salt, a little spice of nutmeg, and two tablespoons of sugar (cost two cents); roll it up, tie it tightly in a well floured cloth, and boil steadily for two hours in a large covered pot.”

I consulted with my mother to see what she thought “sweet drippings” were. We decided it was probably like grease, and perhaps “sweet” was synonymous with “fresh.” Regardless, I decided to substitute lard (.19 cents), and rubbed it in with the flour and other ingredients. After adding the milk (.13 cents) and water, the dough was a little thin, like muffin batter. I added a little more flour until it was the consistency of cookie dough and rolled it out. For some reason, I drew a line at asking my butcher for suet, and also substituted lard. I rolled it up with the other seasonings.

I took a pillow case that I had rinsed and dried to get rid of any laundry detergent residue, and shook flour inside. I placed my dough-log in it, tied it up, and placed it in a pot of boiling water. See you later, roly-poly pudding.

Meanwhile, I prepared the haslet stew:

“Haslet Stew.-For this dish use a fresh pig or sheep’s haslet…cut them in two inch pieces, put them into a sauce-pan with one ounce of salt pork diced, an onion chopped, one dessert spoonful of salt, and half a tablespoonful of black pepper ; two bay leaves, two sprigs of parsley and one of thyme, tied in a bouquet, (cost of seasoning one cent.) one ounce of flour. one gill of vinegar, half a pint of cold gravy or cold water, and six potatoes peeled and cut in dice, (cost of all these about five cents) stew these ingredients gently together for two hours, and serve as you would a stew, with a tablespoonful of chopped parsley sprinkled over the top, and bread to eat with it. It will give you a good dinner for about fifteen cents.”
Haslet is a bag of pig offal, livers and hearts and things. While there was all variety of offal available at my local butcher, I had to buy the beef chuck steak from yesterday’s dinner in a pack of two. I decided to save a few cents, and replace the haslet with beef.
I tenderized the beef chuck steak ($1.40) and dredged it in flour, pepper and salt, then browned it in a saucepan with a slice of bacon (.15 cents) and half an onion (.05 cents). I poured in a cup of water to deglaze, then added two diced potatoes (.34 cents), a bay leaf, a handful of parsley (.15 cents), and 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme. I added more water, then simmered the pot for about an hour.

I don’t understand why this photo came out looking like a postcard from the ’70s.

I ate it with a hunk of bread (.07 cents) and it tasted like real food. The beef was tender from it’s long simmer, and the few herbs made for a flavourful broth. It was fine.
I took the roly-poly pillowcase out of the boiling water. It was hot as hell. I slowly unrolled it and scooped out the pudding, which was stuck to the sides of the bag (which still smelled a little like laundry). It tasted better that it looked, especially with a little sugar sprinkled on top. But it was salty–so salty! I wouldn’t make it again.
Cost: 2.33
And to be honest, I’m so full from lunch, that I don’t think I’m going to make Cheese Pudding (a cheesy polenta) tonight for supper. I’m just going to finish up the night with an extra cup of milk (.25 cents).
Total cost: 2.98
Approximate Calories Consumed: 1,390
7-Day Total: about $19.16
Tomorrow, we’ll discuss what we’ve learned.

Eating Like a Tenement Family: Day 6

Breakfast: Barley in Mutton Broth and Scalded Milk
Corson suggested that I have mutton broth for breakfast today, but cooking the barley the night before used it all. So I ate a bowl of leftover barley with a cup of milk. It was still good, although not necessarily want I want for breakfast.

Cost: .25 cents

Lunch: Beef and Potatoes

Like every other meat this week, it’s boiled according to the directions for Salt Pot-au-Feu. I had a chuck steak ($1.40) that I tenderized with a few whacks from a heavy rolling pin. I dredged it in salt, pepper, and flour then browned it in butter and cooking oil (.15 cents). I chopped up two potatoes (.34 cents) and tossed them in the pot, then covered everything with water and boiled it for 15 minutes.

It was fine. I ate all the potatoes, because it’s really hard to mess up a potato, and three-quarters of the meat. The meat was very tough. I chewed thoroughly, and tried not to choke, because I didn’t want to be found dead in my apartment next to a mysterious looking bowl of beige food. But when it was all done, I felt full for the first time this week. Either potatoes are awesome, or my stomach has shrunk. Probably both.

Cost: $1.89

Supper: Beans in Broth

Stupid beans. I hate beans. They take so freaking long to make. I soaked 1 cup of beans (.84 cents) for six hours, then boiled them in beef broth for 90 minutes. I sucked on a lemon in the meantime ( .12 cents).

And then I smelled something burning. And it was my beans. I had been afraid of this all week: skrewing something up and then having to eat it anyway. And now it was happening.

So I ate about a cup of burnt, awful beans.

Cost: .96

Total Cost: $3.10
Approximate Calories Consumed: 785

Running Total: 15.64-16.18

I am in a foul mood. And I’ve lost three pounds so far this week. I get to have hot cocoa tomorrow morning, and I am looking forward to it so, so much.

Eating Like a Tenement Family: Day 1

Corned Beef with Cabbage.

Breakfast: Boiled Rice with Scalded Milk
There was no recipe given for Rice with Scalded Milk, so I added 1/2 cup of rice (this item was already in my pantry, but costs about .39 cents) to 1 cup milk (cost .25 cents). I brought it to a boil, stirring constantly, then turned down the heat to low. I stirred it and let it cook until it was very thick and starchy, then add about 1/2 cup water and let it simmer for 15 minutes.
It was gross and gummy. A tablespoon of sugar greatly improved the taste. The recipe yielded about 2 cups, and I ate half.
Cost: $ .25-$.64
Dinner (Lunch): Corned Beef and Cabbage
The recipe for Corned Beef and Cabbage is based on the recipe for Salt Pot-auFeu, at Ms. Corson’s recommendation. I’ll be making Salt Pot-auFeu on Thursday, and will get into the recipe in more detail then.
There were no instructions in Fifteen Cent Dinners (FCD) to make corned beef from scratch, so I assumed they were buying pre-made, possibly potted, beef that would have been less expensive than making it at home. After comparing prices of modern pre-packaged corned beef, I decided on Budding brand slices, costing a total of .86 cents.
I heated 1/2 a piece of bacon (about .15 cents, but I already had this item in my pantry) in a pot, to render some cooking fat and add flavor. I then added 1/2 of a small onion (about .05 cents) and let it cook until soft. I then added the Budding Corned Beef, browned it a little, then poured in enough water to deglaze the pan. I added 1/4 of a white cabbage (.33 cents) and added enough water to cover everything. I put the lid on the pot and let it simmer for 15 minutes.
When I took the lid off, the broth was a rich brown color and it smelled promising. I lifted out the cabbage with a strainer and placed the slices of beef on top.
The results: the Budding beef was a bad choice. Although cheaper than its cousin in a can (which costs about $4.00) it was tough, flavourless and inedible. The cabbage was not bad. I’m not a huge fan of boiled cabbage, but perhaps it will grow on me.
Cost: $1.24-$1.39
Supper: Peas Boiled in Stock
I added 1/2 cup dry split peas (.40 cents) to the leftover broth from the Corned Beef and Cabbage. I brought it to a boil, then turned down the heat, added a little pepper and salt, and simmered it for about 45 minutes, until nice and tender. I strained the peas and saved the broth for breakfast tomorrow. Nutritious, flavourful, and economical!
Cost: $ .40
I also ate 1/2 lemon (.12 cents) and 1 apple (.33 cents)
Total Cost Day 1: $2.34-$2.88
Total Approximate Calories Consumed: 661
Right now, I’m so hungry I’m having trouble thinking.