Saturday, January 23, 2016

John William Godward, Neo-Classical Color and Scented Blueberry Pie



It’s January and the snow has sucked all the color out of the world. Have you ever longed for saturated colors or is it just me? We need a color blast.

A dozen or so years ago, the Brooklyn Museum held an exhibit of Victorian paintings. To tell the truth I remember very little about the exhibit save for one painting.

After meandering through the maze of rooms I turned a corner and came upon a veritable 6-foot sun of an orange backside. It was striking and beautiful and amazing (the original is large at 47” square but this was brilliantly exaggerated for dramatic effect). It took my breath away. The color was just staggeringly beautiful. It was the best orange I had ever seen. It was warm and sexy and so alive. I don’t know that Frederick Leighton’s 1897 painting of Flaming June was great art -- it was great color. So many years later I still remember turning that corner and seeing June flaming orange

Frederick Leighton by David Wilkie Wynfield, 1860’s


Dorothy Dene and Dene and her sisters

It was certainly affecting enough that I did a bit of research on old Sir Frederick. He lived from 1830 to 1896, studied in Europe and knew Delacroix and one of my personal art gods, Ingres. He was considered a minor satellite in the Pre-Raphaelite heavens, specializing in historical pieces with lots of gauzily dressed ladies strewn about magnificent marble sets. He was well-respected enough to be the first artist to be given a Peerage only to be completely forgotten soon after his death. He was never married but was rumored to have had an affair with his spectacularly beautiful muse, Dorothy Dene (he tutored her, changed her name and left her a good deal of money after his death). She was the model or inspiration for many of his paintings.

If I am supplying a full color cure for what ails you, it would be unfair of me to leave Leighton without giving you a taste of his amazing house full of William de Morgan’s (1839-1914)  magical tiles and ceramics that is now a museum.




The house is rich with saturated color but Flaming June was his shooting star. I longed for more color and found it when I revisited the work of John William Godward (1861-1922). 

Contemplation
An Offering to Venus
 
I want to have a room full of Godward paintings I can go into on dreary days.

You've never heard of Godward?  You are not alone, he is nearly forgotten unless you are a Victorian art fan. Godward was a student of Alma-Tadema and imitated his Neo-Classical style. He was a member of the “Marble School” and like Tadema studied ancient architecture and was certainly a scrupulous marble copiest. Godward went above and beyond satisfying the period’s classically educated art audience –– his meticulous attention to detail was remarkable. His buildings could have been dropped into ancient Greece and Rome without raising an eyebrow.

Waiting for an Answer (1889)

The only image I could find of him was a possible self-portrait, hidden in a painting called Waiting for an Answer. It is unusual because it has a man in it. Godward has no paintings of men alone and very few with men and women. Even in those few paintings the men always play a supporting role. Godward glorified female beauty, great marble and classical architecture. As with Leighton's Flaming June I won't tell you Godward made great art but his work great fun full of brilliant color.

Nerissa

Mischief

The Old Story

What this guy did with sheer fabric is unreal. 

A Fair Reflection

Athenais

Enjoy the color, the sensual forms and fabrics and my pie. Oh yes, I have a treat for you.

Last month, Mandy Aftel at Aftelier sent me a care package of new chef’s essences.

I decided to break into them for Christmas and made the most amazing pie that I called a scented blueberry tart. I used magnolia in the loose crème pâtissière, geranium leaf in the blueberry filling and a bit of nutmeg in the crust. It is heaven. We inhaled it. It will make any gray day a brilliant Technicolor dream. I even used a bit of photoshop magic to make my tart more painterly. In person it doesn’t need it. Spectacular flavor.

Do use Chef's Essences sparingly, they are very potent. You want to scent your tart, not drench it. They are a remarkable deal and give you a great value because they are so concentrated.  I am crazy about them.  They actually cheer me up when I use them. 


Scented Blueberry Tart

1 cooled tart shell
1 recipe Pastry Cream
1 recipe blueberry filling

Pour the pastry cream into the shell, making sure you leave enough room for the blueberries (you may not need the full amount). Add the blueberries to the top and chill. Serve after an hour chilling.

Pastry Shell based on a recipe from David Lebovitz

3 ounces butter
1 T hazelnut or walnut oil
3 T water
1 T sugar
1/8 t salt
1 C of flour
2 T whole-wheat flour
1 drop Aftelier nutmeg essence

Set oven to 410º

In a heat proof bowl, add butter, oil, water, sugar and salt and put in the oven for 15 minutes or until the butter browns. Keep an eye on it. Mine took a minute or 2 more.

Add the flour to the butter mix and combine.

Press this mixture into a 9” tart shell, leaving about 2t of dough for fixing any cracks. Prick with a fork.

Bake for 10 – 15 minutes until golden brown. Fix any cracks with the left over dough (I didn’t need to do this).

Cool the shell before filling.

Magnolia Pastry Cream

¾ c milk
¼ c cream
1/3 c sugar
4T flour
3 egg yolks
1T butter
½ t vanilla
1 or 2 drops to taste of Aftelier Magnolia essence (Rose or jasmine from Aftelier would also be lovely)

Heat the milk and cream. Combine the dry ingredients and then add the egg yolks. Slowly add the hot milk. Cook until thickened. Add the vanilla and the magnolia. Add the flower essence one drop at a time –– it is potent stuff. 1 drop may be enough. Add the butter and cover with plastic wrap so a skin doesn’t form. Cool in the refrigerator.

Blueberry Filling

4 cups blueberries
2 T cornstarch
2 t lemon zest
¼ c lemon juice
1/3 to ½ c sugar to taste
pinch of salt
1 or 2 drops to taste of Aftelier geranium leaf.

Add the sugar, lemon zest and cornstarch together and toss with 3 cups of the blueberries with lemon juice and salt. Cook the blueberries until softened and the sauce is thickened.

Then add the last cup of blueberries and warm for a minute or 2. Remove from heat and cool.


Thursday, January 7, 2016

The Chafing Dish, Trending Fad of 1890 and Game Birds with Grapes


Lost Past Remembered was born 6 years ago when I had the outrageous good fortune to stumble upon a forgotten collection of menus at the PLAYERS CLUB in NYC. Many of them were autographed and dated back to the club’s founding in 1888.

Delmonicos Menu from meeting with founders of Players to set up club

I wrote my first ever food article about them for the Player’s newsletter (and shared Mark Twain's Players' menus with you HERE and HERE ).

Chafing dish for a yacht that could move with the waves

As I researched the earliest days of The Players Club for the article, I was fascinated by a unique activity called “Time of the Chafing Dish” –– a culinary joust that would take place late Saturday night after theaters closed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The evenings began when stewards would set up individual chafing dishes; requested ingredients were then placed at member’s cooking stations. Masters-of-the-chafing-dish prepared their creations with the dramatic flourish one would expect from a theatrical crowd. Flames, high pours and rich aromas would elicit oohs and ahhs from the appreciative assembly. “Oh what foods these morsels be!” was an oft-repeated Shakespearey-ish pun. The results of their mostly cheerful rivalry were passed around the room and judged by all present. Stanford White, the infamous architect best known for his unusual sexual proclivities (the famous ‘red velvet swing’) and spectacular demise (he was shot on the roof of Madison Square Garden by an ex-mistresses’ deranged husband), was one of the more notable contributors to this event. His esteemed specialty was a Welsh Rabbit with oysters. Other popular chafing dishes there were Rum Tum Tiddy, Scotch Woodcock and Golden Buck –– all variations on a warm cheesy theme.

One of the earliest chafing dish books by Thomas Murray -- published by Gorham Silver Co 1890

I had thought that the chafing dish fad was an anomaly at the Players – you’d expect that actors would be experts at alcohol burner cooking out of necessity (small towns after performances would be food deserts), but it wasn’t just happening with actors at the Players –– it was all the rage in gentleman’s clubs and in single men’s (and women’s) lodgings for 20-odd years. In a small rented room, a chafing dish with a, “larder in a shoe box, nailed to the window ledge”, and a tiny selection of condiments could make you a warm inexpensive meal in a jiffy. When you think about it, who doesn’t like the idea of a bunch of mates sitting around your table enjoying cooking with you instead of waiting as you slave away alone in the kitchen! No wonder it was popular.

A book from 1890 called Cookery with a Chafing Dish proclaimed, “ Chafing dish cookery is the latest fad among the amateur and professional gourmets of Gotham. Chafing dish clubs have not only been formed the in the family circle but men of the leading clubs of New York have taken up the subject with the cheerful prospect that in a few years from now, to be an American will be synonymous with possessing a knowledge of the art of cookery although it has been the reverse in the past…Society today is advancing so rapidly towards the practical, that not to know a great deal about cookery and dainty dining is to announce one’s educational deficiencies and lack of social standing.”

by Deshler Welch, 1895

When I perused the NY Academy of Medicine library catalogue before my visit there last fall, I was pleased to find they had a treasure of books on the subject from the 1890’s through the early teens. I gleefully leafed through them in their reading room (snapping iPhone pics all the while).

One great discovery involved Lobster Newberg (that I wrote about HERE). The common legend is that Captain Wenberg, the dish’s inventor (and chafing dish master by all accounts), fell out of favor at Delmonicos and his famous dish was renamed Newberg out of pique. Two of the chafing dish books I read were by men who knew Delmonicos at the time of the creation of the dish said it was renamed because Wenberg didn’t want the notoriety and Delmonicos changed it out of consideration for his wishes. Much nicer, don’t you think?

Although I loved handling the real books, I had limited time at the library, so I augmented my hardcover selection by exploring an equally rich vein of virtual chafing dish cookbooks to be had by all at Google Books (they are free and you can copy and paste favorite recipes). I thoroughly read up on the phenomenon of men and their chafing dishes.


Back in the day, some men believed chafing dishes inspired a special innate talent they had. In his 1895 book, The Bachelor and the Chafing Dish, Deshler Welsh felt this was because, “… men appear to have an instinctive fondness for meddling with everything appertaining to the art of cookery, for such it is come to be under ingenious skill and logical deduction.” Men –– when they cook it’s art, when women cook, what is it, housewifery?? Harrumph.

In The Cult of the Chafing Dish, the author coos "An American Chafing-Dish book in my possession contains the following quaint apothegm : " The Chafing Dish not only makes possible the sincerest expression of the most perfect hospitality, but it seems the true symbol of good fellowship." The sentiment herein expressed is unimpeachable, and I should like to be able to use such pretty talk myself. It is exactly what I wanted to explain, but being clumsy in the expression of intimate feeling, I cannot get beyond something to this effect : " The Chafing Dish is a handy thing to have about the house, and turns up usefully at the most unexpected moments. It is a ripping good idea ! " He continues, "Chafing-Dish cookery, I am delighted to be able to add, seems to engender the love of beautiful things. It is so easy to pick up and use, in parlour cookery, all sorts of quaint and delightful pieces of china of curious and old-fashioned design. They may not all be genuine ; in fact, most of them are pretty certain not to be. But if the shape is good, the colouring pleasing, and the form well adapted for holding sauce, sweetmeats, condiments, or anything else, then, so far as Chaffinda is concerned, their genuineness and intrinsic value is a secondary matter.



So, it’s great subject, right? A bona fide forgotten fashion just waiting to be rediscovered by Lost Past Remembered – HOWEVER -- after looking over a zillion recipes in 20 or more chafing dish books I had nothing to cook. Although many of the books started out well with witty repartee and juicy, quotable bon mots, their recipe sections were a slurry of banal floury sauces for EVERYTHING. Fish, lobster, beef chicken, game, it didn’t matter what it was – add butter, flour, sometimes mustard sometimes pepper and/or cheese – wash rinse repeat. There was not much in the way of creativity or flavor to pique anyone’s interest – blech. I was in despair – I saw the same recipes over and over again. It appeared that I had barked up a very dull tree. There was nothing worth cooking.


Then, just as I was packing it in, I found A Bachelor’s Cupboard  by A. Lyman Phillips –– a man on a mission to fill a huge need –properly educating a bachelor, for to him, "It is the bachelor who. makes society; without him it would indeed be tame and find itself dwindling down into a hot-bed of discontent, satiety and monotony. He adds just the right touch of piquancy to its hot house existence and furnishes husbands for its debutantes and flirtations for its married women."

Phillips thought the world was awash in instructions for everything BUT training to be a proper bachelor:

 “There is no ‘ complete compendium’ for the ambitious bachelor who wishes to become bon vivant, epicure, " connoisseur de vins " and " up " on all the little things that combine to make him an authority on the things of single men of the world.”

Note the chafing dish with pride of place on the table in the advert?

A Bachelor’s Cupboard was terribly amusing (perhaps a bit tongue and cheek as well?) and I would imagine terribly useful to a modern bachelor of the day. Phillips made canny suggestions on how to live well without spending a fortune – how to eat, how to furnish a bachelor flat (renting a piano rather than buying it), "And even a man of average salary may afford a large, tastefully-decorated room in which to set up his Lares and Penates, where he can entertain in a small way."

Refined quarters of the period

Phillip’s advice for setting up a closet and a kitchen is ambitious:

“If the room has an alcove, so much the better. In this his chiffonier may be set, and portieres may screen it from sight. He may sleep upon his couch, and the alcove might serve as a dressing-room. If the man is handy with tools, he might make for himself from old packing boxes a cupboard for his boots, shoes, blacking brushes, etc., to be kept here. A shelf could be put across one side of the alcove, upon which to keep hatboxes, with hooks beneath; a curtain tacked along this shelf would cover his clothing and keep the dust from it. With this provision, his closet could be used for the storage of his eatables or as a " kitchenette." If it be fitted with running water, as many closets are in old-fashioned houses, so much the better. If the bachelor wants to pay a particular compliment to one of his women friends, then let him ask her to help select the curtains. For $2.00 a pair at the most he should succeed in finding something quite recherche that will be in keeping with the hangings of the room. If he wishes sash curtains, then let them, together with the curtains before the bookshelves, be of raw pongee silk. If the lady is a very particular friend, perhaps she'll offer to make them for him. “

“The stocking of the cupboard may be divided into three classes: the service, the utensils for cooking, etc., and the supplies.” How he fits his batterie de cuisine in a tiny alcove with everything else he has recommended is beyond me, since it includes 6 full place settings of dishes, glasses (5 kinds) and silverware, serving pieces as well as a pretty substantial selection of cooking things:

“1 covered agate kettle, 2 mixing bowls, 1 tin oven to use over gas, 1 colander, 2 large frying pans, 2 small ones, 1 chain dish cleaner, 2 covers for frying pans, 1 flour sifter, 2 basins, 3 oblong baking tins, 2 small skillets 1 quart measure, 3 kitchen knives 3 forks, 2 mixing spoons, 1 measuring spoon, 1 graduated measuring cup, 1 chopping bowl and knife, 1 strainer, 1 egg beater, 1 toaster, 1 meat board. 1 broiler, 1 ladle, 1 dish pan, 1 skimmer, 1 large tin pan, 1 pitcher”

There is even a quite comprehensive list of staples are needed to thoroughly stock your cupboard (although where do you put it all?):

NECESSITIES: Salt, Pepper, black and red, Oil, Biscuits in variety, including sweet biscuits and water biscuits as wished, Soup herbs or poultry seasoning, Vinegar, Mustard Worcestershire sauce, Sugar, cut and powdered, Tabasco sauce. Ginger, Rice, Macaroni, Laundry soap, Wheat flour, Coffee, Spaghetti, Tea, Indian meal, Cocoa, Onions, Condensed milk or cream, cereal –whatever desired, olives, Lard, Eggs, Lemons, Bacon and salt pork in jars, Tinned soups, Tinned fish, Tinned vegetables, Cheese, American or in jars, LUXURIES: Pickles, Curry powder, Chutney, Anchovies and Anchovy essence, Kitchen bouquet, Tarragon vinegar, Tinned French vegetables, Tinned or dried mushrooms, Tinned red peppers, Marmalade Jam, Potted meats, Capers, Caviare, Celery salt, Chow chow, Macedoine in glass, Mango pickles, English relishes, Cooking sherry and white wines, Rum and brandy, Bottled Mayonnaise, Noodles, Parmesan cheese, Soy, Tinned Truffles, Pate de Foie Gras tinned or in jars, Asparagus in glass, German sausages in jars, Jellies for use with game, Foreign cheeses Preserved fruits in glass, Irish bacon, Virginia ham, Garlic, Caramel, Essences of vanilla, lemon, and pistachio, Cocktail olives and cherries”


Gustav Stickley chafing dish cabinet


Charles Rolf 1904 chafing dish

 Gustav Stickley, 1909 dish

And of course no apartment is complete without a place for the chafing dish and its cabinet!

“The bachelor in an apartment, who has limited space and wishes to confine his cookery to a few chafing dish dainties, may invest properly in one of the handy chafing dish cabinets that are so attractively fashioned in mission style with a " place for every thing." Perchance he may also have — and probably will — a cabinet in which to keep his bottles, mixing glasses, shakers, etc., which is styled appropriately enough " the Bachelor Cabinet."

The book is full of wise recommendations that encourage creativity and taste in the reader, not obsequious sycophancy. It is a priceless 1906 time capsule.


Chafing dish dainties

After the charming lessons comes a luscious barrage of recipes like a bay and orange scented escabeche! Can you imagine such an adventurous dish in 1905? The book was full of great recipes, often from famous men of refined tastes and adventurous palates. Yes there were some classic floury-cheesy-things and a few devilled dishes (that were the rage in 1906), but there were many other really exciting dishes–– even Mexican and Creole favorites like enchiladas, a fiery pepper sauce for fish and Bouillabaisse. Eureka. There’s also a stellar chapter on drinks with delights like Walter Raleigh’s Sack Posset, Chatham Artillery Punch or an Immortal Sour and a smashing section on what to pay for wines which should shock and awe you (a case of Chateau Margaux 1877 is $42. – less than $4 a bottle!!).

The real gem of a chapter is one sweetly named “Bachelor Bonnes Bouchees”, a collection of recipes of well-known bon vivants from all over the world with De Wolf Hopper’s amazing toasted bread potato dumplings, Counte Boni de Castellane’s crab stuffed potatoes, a Caruso inspired Sabayon, Prince Henry of Prussia ) ’s sausages with celery, a brilliant sandwich spread of butter, brown sugar rum and nutmeg and Marquis de Massa’s quails with grapes. Some do require a bit more than a chafing dish but could be possible with some innovative modifications.

I can't help but think that with today's micro housing gaining popularity, it may be time for a chafing dish renaissance!!

It was hard to decide what to make since so many things looked great but I did have a lovely wood pigeon from D'Artagnan in my freezer that was asking to be used so it stood in for the Marquis Quail.  I would think duck breast (cooked rare) or even cornish hen would be delicious with this preparation-- couldn't be simpler and fabulous with wild rice.

QUAILS A LA MARQUIS DE MASSA The Marquis de Massa really does invent dishes. Recently he gave to the world! delicious morsel in a piquant dish of quails that he has wished to bear the name of a Capus. The quails are " poached " in a saucepan, which means " completely cooked at slow ebullition," together with a good quantity of Muscatel grapes that are yet green. When nearly done a finishing touch is added in a Madeira wine — only a little, remember — but ah! what fascination!



Game Birds a la Marquis de Massa

2 Scottish Wood Pidgeons or Quail
2 T butter
1 1/2 c stock (duck would be great or game bird stock but chicken will do just fine)
1 1/2 c green grapes.
2 T madeira
S&P
herbs for garnish

Cut the birds in half, remove any innards and rinse and dry. Salt and pepper your birds. Brown them
quickly and then add the grapes and stock.  Bring up to boiling and then turn down to a low simmer and cover.

Cook for a few minutes.  Remove the birds and cover and reduce the stock till slightly thickened.
Add the madeira and stir to blend.  Pour over the birds and serve!


It's hard to believe it's just 5 1/2 years since Petunia came into my life. She died suddenly Tuesday. The day before we had gone to the park as usual. Turns out she had a tumor and 3 seizures took her in a matter of a few hours. I think she didn't suffer long, thank heavens.

She was an incredibly sweet, loving dog that had been through a lot before I got her (18 pieces of buckshot in her). Despite that, she could love and be loved -- a beautiful spirit who got me through a lot. It will take a long time not to think she is going to come down the hall or wake me with that special snuffling sound at 5:30 -- my organic alarm.

RIP my beautiful dog.


Thursday, December 10, 2015

The New York Academy of Medicine Library, Cookbook Treasures and Queen Victoria's Turkey


New York Academy of Medicine, founded 1847, at 5th Avenue and 103rd since 1926

I was introduced to the New York Academy of Medicine a few weeks ago. It’s housed in an impressive Byzantine-ish building on 5th Avenue full of spacious rooms, a beautiful auditorium and a magnificent library full of some of history's greatest cookbooks.  Cookbooks in a medical library? I realized I knew absolutely nothing about this venerable institution and decided that had to change. 

The New York Academy of Medicine was formally begun in 1847. In an article by member D. Bryson Delavan written in 1926, I learned it was formed around 3 cardinal principals:

1. Cultivation and advancement of the science of medicine
2. Promotion of the character and honor of the profession
3. The elevation of the standards of medical education

The Academy didn’t find a home of its own until 1875 when they took over a house at 12 W 31st Street –– just in time too because members had begun donating their books for a library. By 1880 there were 25,000 books and periodicals and the services of a professional librarian were secured to properly handle the donations. For 50 years, the man responsible for the library was Mr. John S. Brownne. He came by it naturally, it seems –– his father Robert was the librarian of the New York Lyceum of Natural History (soon to become the Academy of Science).

Some books were given as enormous direct donations –– the collection of The New York Medical Journal, 23,000 volumes from a 100-year old collection of The New York Hospital and Dr. John Watson’s rare old books (beginning the library’s most excellent collection of incunabula) as well as other generous gifts of many member’s enviable medical libraries. Others were bought by the Academy. The market for “desirable accessions’ in medicine was sizzling at the end of the 19th century yet many prizes were won by the Academy’s deep pocketed members, wealthy friends and grateful patients.


Because of this, by 1926 the library had 239,505 books! Today it has around 550,000 as well as a formidable museum of medical objects (including a model for George Washington’s dentures and the 1600 BCE Edwin Smith papyrus – an ancient surgical document that contains the first use of the word brain). The New York Academy of Medicine moved into their beautiful building on 5th Avenue in 1926.


What about those cookbooks I teased you with? Last summer, a lovely lady named Kiri Oliver contacted me about coming for a visit and writing about a very particular collection at the library. You see, the Margaret Barclay Wilson Collection of Cookery is housed here and the collection was celebrated in a group of lectures this year, culminating in a marvelous all day celebration aptly titled Eating Through Time. Everyone from great food historian Ken Albala (talking about sex and food) to a Danish forager chef to Jacques Pepin discussing his life in food made for a great day (to get updates on events and for a fun read, subscribe to the NYAM blog -- they recently did a fine piece on the magnificently researched 19th century hospital drama, The Knick, on HBO). 


NYAM Rare Book Room 

NYAM Rare Book Room with the gorgeous restored cork floor

NYAM Rare Book Room

Robert Latou Dickenson sketch of Rare Book Room, 1933 

I snapped a few pictures of the books that were on display in the Coller Rare Book Reading Room during the event.


The Fulda Apicius


The Fulda Apicius 
On view at the exhibit in glass cases were some of the collection’s treasures including the earliest western cookbook -- 9th century Fulda copy of the centuries older recipes of Apicius (that I wrote about HERE – the other copy of the manuscript is in the Vatican library).

Scappi's Opera

I got to see Maestro Scappi’s beautiful L'Opera in person (that I wrote about HERE ). I was amazed at how SMALL it is –– it fits easily in your hand – maybe 5x8” (I always thought it was a giant book for some reason). There was Hannah Wooley’s 17th century masterpiece and Monsieur Emy’s 18th century book with recipes for ice cream (very new at the time) as well as an introductory sampling of the Library's precious collection of manuscript cookbooks.

I came back a few weeks later to peruse the collection with Librarian Arlene Shaner as my guide. She was incredibly patient with me as I worked though the 22 books I had requested (all visits are by appointment, you need to make a request of which books you wish to see a few days before the visit).

Some of my requests were chosen to see favorite books in person after being familiar with their online versions — it was great fun to leaf through both the 19th century’s giant tome, The Epicurean (that I wrote about HERE) and William May’s diminutive The Complete Cook —a 17th century gem (that I wrote about HERE and HERE –– I love his food!) .


Good Things from the Chafing Dish, Thomas J Murrey 

Others on my list were rare oddities. I pulled a handful of 1890’s chafing dish cookbooks skewed to male amateur chefs – it was an absolute craze in late 19th c NYC gentlemen’s clubs and I have wanted to learn more since first hearing of it (late night contests developed between chafing dish masters and the assembled group of club members would declare winners based on flavor and dramatic skill). 

A collection of choise receipts 1680-1700 

Gemel Book of Recipes 1660-1700

I also requested some volumes from their collection of 38 manuscript cookbooks since I have been interested in them for a long time.( I wrote about them HERE and HERE ). Rare they are indeed, since there is only one of each book, written mostly by the lady of house. These date from the 16th to 19th century, all written by hand (and in the case of the Choise Recipe book, gorgeously written) and cover everything from medicines to cure boils, to furniture polish to favorite recipes for cakes, jams, jellies and some savory dishes (I love these books –– I’m going to share some of their great recipes with you soon). Arlene kindly suggested a few more of the handwritten manuscript books when she saw that I was mad for them. There just wasn’t enough time to explore such a vast collection. It will take a few visits to get through so much rich material (the catalogue is online HERE).

A collection of choise receipts 1680-1700 listing many cures beginning with C (NYAM photo)

You may wonder what a library devoted to medicine is doing with a world-class cookbook collection?


Well, for one, food and medicine like food and perfume were thought of as related arts until fairly recently–– from the beginning of our history forward. Secondly, and most important for the library, member Margaret Barclay Wilson’s interests led her to amass a rather substantial collection of food-related books and papers which she donated to NYAM in 1929 (she was a professor of physiology and hygiene and ‘honorary librarian’ at Hunter College and felt cookery books were not respected as they should be ––  I agree,  they do flesh out their times in a sensual language we all can understand) .

Ephemera from Wilson collection (NYAM photo)

Wilson won a small bidding war over the Apicius in the 1920’s. It’s the crown jewel of her collection of early cooking masterpieces that included Scappi and Carême. Yet her 10,000 item bequest wasn't limited to classics, it also included restaurant menus and food company brochures of the early 20th century –– documents that were not much respected at the time.  Today we appreciate how much they reveal about the food styles and attitudes of their times. Wilson was not wealthy, but she left an endowment to insure the collection would be looked after properly and to allow for funding new acquisitions that would compliment the collection as they came up for sale - our Miss Wilson was a very forward thinking lady. The collection’s handwritten books have recently undergone a major conservation effort – they were cleaned and, when necessary, rebound under the auspices of the Pine Tree Foundation.


One of the books in the collection is Charles Elmé Francatelli’s The Cook’s Guide and Housekeeper’s & Butler’s Assistant. Francatelli was a student of Carême, a chef at the Reform Club (that I wrote about HERE) and the Chef to Queen Victoria


I have wanted to make Queen Victoria’s turkey, Les Dindes rôties à la Chipolata, since I wrote about her Christmas dinner HERE. It is a simple dish, but full of luxurious touches (like the truffles!). I found the recipe tucked in his book. I had images of myself at the Queens table for a daydreaming minute or two but settled into a more practical reverie –– I was going to make this beauty. 



I haven’t made chestnut stuffing for years and thought it was time to do it again. The addition of the sausage (chipolatas are a small pork sausage) both in the dressing and on the outside as a garnish is a fine idea and you can either buy sausage or make it – if you don’t stuff it in casings it is as easy as could be and you know what’s going into it. I just made a bit extra for the garnish when I made the stuffing sausage. I did a Financiére sauce -light instead of a full out recipe.  If you want to go old school, there is a link to my Financiére sauce recipe-- just leave out some of the liquids as instructed.


This year, I had a beautiful D’Artagnan Heritage Breed Turkey. It was a frozen 15-pound beauty that looked absolutely fresh after a few days gentle thaw (I hear that’s the best way to do it). It cooked beautifully. I do have a turkey technique I have been using since I saw it in Gourmet Magazine many years ago. It involves butter and molasses and gives the turkey a beautiful mahogany glow and crisp skin yet leaves the turkey juicy and tender -- it may not be the one Francatelli used but then I don't have massive coal-burning ovens with 50 sauces bubbling away in a giant bain marie in my airplane hanger-sized kitchen either.

Make the turkey and you can say you are celebrating Christmas like a great English Queen!!


Turkey a la Chipolata

1 15 lb D’Artagnan Heritage Breed Turkey
1 recipe stuffing
1 recipe chipolata ragout
1 recipe turkey gravy

Place the turkey on your platter and tent for 20 minutes. Pour any accumulated juices into the gravy and dry around the turkey platter. Place the ragout around the platter with some of its sauce and garnish with fresh herbs. Serve with the gravy on the side.


Turkey

1 15 lb D’Artagnan Heritage Breed Turkey
1 T soy sauce
2 T softened butter
3 C unsalted stock
½ c Rare Wine Company Charleston madeira
3 T softened butter
salt and pepper
1 T molasses
1 t red wine vinegar

Preheat oven to 425º

Rub the Turkey with the 2 T butter and soy. Put a bit of butter under breast skin if you can. Sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper and stuff with some of the stuffing and place on a rack. Truss if needs be and cover the wing tips with foil. Cook for 15 minutes and then turn heat down to 350º. Pour 1 cup of stock and some of the madeira into the bottom of the pan. Cook the turkey for 2 hours, basting frequently with the rest of the stock (make sure there is always a bit of liquid in the pan so it doesn't burn and ruin your gravy -- you can toss in a bit of water too. Combine the 3 T softened butter, molasses and red wine vinegar. Take the turkey from the oven and brush the molasses mixture all over the turkey. Cook for 35-45 minutes. Remove from the oven, put on a platter and tent for 20 minutes.


Chestnut Sausage Stuffing

1 loaf peasant bread, cubed
1 pound sausage (from recipe or good herbed breakfast sausage
2 medium onions, chopped
4 -8 stalks celery, chopped (depending on size of stalk, some are green and small)
2 garlic cloves, chopped
¼ c cup white wine
¼ c calvados or dry sherry
1 to 1½ cups chicken stock (depending on the bread, use what is needed to moisten the cubes.
2 sprigs parsley
*2 sprigs sage
*1 sprig rosemary
*1-2 t thyme or 4 sprigs, leaves removed
3/4 pound fresh shelled, cooked chestnuts from D’Artagnan (the weight of the nuts without shells)
1 T salt or to taste
Pepper to taste

Sauté the sausage till lightly browned, remove. Pour out some of the accumulated fat. Sauté the onion and celery and garlic until softened. Add the wine and 2 T of calvados and reduce to a glaze. Add 1 c of the stock and the herbs and toss in the bread cubes and reserved sausage and chestnuts. Add more stock as needed. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the last of the calvados.

Stuff the turkey. Take any leftover stuffing and put in a dish. Cover with foil and cook for about 20 minutes at 375º

* some stores sell  a poultry selection of fresh herbs with a bit of everything in it... these are most economical.


Turkey Gravy

Turkey drippings
1 c heavy cream
¼ c flour
1 – 2 cups additional stock
½ c red wine
2 T  Rare Wine Company Charleston madeira
2 T calvados or cognac
Salt and pepper to taste

Pour off the drippings from the pan into a fat separator. Pour the drippings back into the pan, leaving most of the fat behind. Add some of the cream to the flour, making a slurry. Add this to the pan and stir till it thickens. Add the rest of the cream, scraping up any brown bits if you wish. Then add the stock and the liquor. Taste to see if it needs any seasoning. Serve with your turkey and dressing.


Herbed Pork Sausage

1 ¼ lb ground pork
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
½ t fennel, crushed
1sprig sage, leaved chopped
1 t dry thyme
2 -3 sprigs fresh marjoram, leaves chopped
¼ t nutmeg
¼ t mace
1/8 t cayenne
2 t salt
1 t pepper

Combine all of the ingredients and let the flavors meld overnight or at least a few hours.
Use most of the sausage for the stuffing. Reserve around ¼ lb to make small sausages for the ragout.


Chipolata Ragout

1 slice of bacon, chopped
¼ lb pork sausages whole or sliced
¼ lb mushrooms
1 or 2 truffles sliced (I used D’Artagnan whole summer truffles in a can  but they have fresh black truffles as well  or fresh white truffles for extra luxury
2-3 carrots, cut into long rounded pieces
6 small turnips, peeled and rounded
¼ lb cooked chestnuts from D’Artagnan
1 T D'Artagnan truffle butter
*1 T mushroom ketchup or soy sauce
*1 T Rare Wine Company Charleston madeira
*½ cup D’Artagnan duck-veal demi-glace
1 T calvados

Sauté the bacon until crisp and remove. Add the sausages and mushrooms a cook until done, set aside. Steam the carrots and turnips till done.

Warm the truffle butter. Add the mushroom ketchup, madeira and demi-glace. Cook until well combined. Add the sausages, mushrooms, carrots, turnips and toss to coat.

Add the calvados and place on the platter around the turkey.

*if you want to make Financiére, don't add the asterisked items and use about a cup of sauce. The recipe for the sauce is HERE and it can be made ahead and frozen in ½ c portions


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