Sunday, August 12, 2018

The Historic Foodie's (2nd Annual) Summer Feast- Let the feasting begin!

Dear Readers last left me in a flurry to put the last minute touches on The Historic Foodie's Summer Feast.

I welcomed four fellow members of the recreated 28th Massachusetts and a family member who's shy about photographs.

We were more focused on the food and presentation than on the dining experience (and there wasn't really room to serve), so I laid the courses out in a buffet style separately from the dining table.

Here's an overview of the first course.
First Course
In dining order, the Course Premiere is...
Fish Chowder

Chilean Sea Bass with Tomatoes

Fish Cakes

Macaroni Pudding

Fried Chicken

Lively conversation delayed the Second Course, in the best way. :-)
Here's an overview, with guests contemplating the dishes ...okay, they were actually hurrying me along with the photos so they could descend like a plague of locusts.

The Second Course, in dining order:

Pot Roast Beef,
garnished a la Jardinere

Baked Potatoes


Boston Baked Beans

Apple Pie

The Coffee, Tea, and Dessert was served at table; as was a special treat of Lemon and Strawberry Water Ices.

Here are the guests at table. They couldn't say enough how thrilled they were with the feast and stayed much longer than intended, which is a compliment in itself.

The Historic Foodie's (2nd Annual) Summer Feast- Feasting Day

With preparations under way for The Historic Foodie's Summer Feast, feasting day started much like an episode of "No Reservations."
We started the day at the  Reston Farmer's Market at Lake Anne for the elusive salt pork and a breakfast of street food.

Valentine's Bakery and Meats had "bacon ends" which I decided would be an acceptable substitute for salt pork. Roomie found some gluten free muffins and cakes in the bakery section, which was welcome.
I had coffee and grabbed pepper-steak empanadas to fuel my hectic day. Roomie had coffee and tacos from her favorite, Lake Anne Deli.

Fortified for my day and with the final ingredients to hand, the cooking could begin in earnest.

Setting the fish to thaw

I started with Fried Chicken with a milk and flour (in this case gluten free flour) batter and oven fried. I would finish up with a butter and parsley sauce closer to serving.
Fried Chicken- batter up!

Next up was a dish that has become a signature, Macaroni Pudding. (Mac-n-Cheese for Mac and Cheese).  Since this was for company, I went all out with cream, butter, and a dash of parsley.
Macaroni Pudding- ready to bake

Moving on to beans. I choose two different recipes with beans, Succotash and Boston Baked Beans. That's a lot of beans. :-p  First up is lima beans for Succotash.
Lima Beans for Succotash

While the beans and corn were boiling, I set the roast in to ...well.. roast.
The glaze was not specified in the receipt, so I used cooking marsala, orange juice, and Lea & Perrins sauce.

Well... that was a disappointment...  the roast is too roasted. Hopefully the gravy saves it from the inedible status.

Moving on to potatoes. It's just not a mid 19th century meal without potatoes. I chose oven-baked with a salt and oil finish. 
Potatoes- ready to bake

Cruising right along for Fish Cakes, in this case salmon.
I made the batter and then formed the cake with a flour dusting.
Fish Cake- batter

Fish Cake- oven frying
  This point in the cooking process was chaos. I was running late and in a flurry to finish up, get my sideboard organized and tables set, and get ready to greet my guests.  My Roomie was again the hero by peeling apples and doing the mountain of dirty dishes. My Hero!
Photos will continue in the next post, showing the finished dishes and happy guests.

The Historic Foodie's (2nd Annual) Summer Feast- Let the feast begin!

The Historic Foodie's (2nd Annual) Summer Feast- Shopping Day

With The Historic Foodie's Summer Feast a mere two days away, it was time to get cracking with my second most hated part of the cooking process... ingredients shopping. I love having a variety of ingredients available locally. I love patronizing small vendors. I don't love the traffic, confusing directions, and crowds in going from store to store to store. My friends in the recreated 28th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, Co. B are worth it, so off I went, with GPS grasped firmly in hand.


Well, a trip to Trader Joe's landed my favorite Tuscan melon, almond meal, and of course the wine.
Next to Aldi's and Wegmans for the bulk of the items. No salt pork! What's this madness?
Naturally, something was forgotten. Roomie was a hero and headed to Safeway.  Also no salt pork.
The cooking schedule was rearranged for a trip to the trusty Farmer's Market while I continued on with Cornbread, Lemonade, and Water Ices.

Strawberry Water Ice-
stewing strawberries for syrup

Strawberry Water Ice-
syrup complete, next up is freezing
Lemon Water Ice-
syrup complete

ready to bake

It's A-Peeling! :-p

Soaking Beans

The Sous Chef insists we've come far enough. Tomorrow is another day.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Historic Foodie's (2nd Annual) Summer Feast

Dear Readers will recall last year when I spoiled my re-enacting unit with an historic feast. It was so very well received I decided to do another this year.

I began thinking of a theme. Thoughts of summer in the mid-Atlantic turn to seaside adventures and the bounty of the oceans and rivers. With Independence Day recently past, summery thoughts turn also to things distinctly American.
To accommodate the specific guests, I selected a blend of distinctly American surf-n-turf, 19th century style.

Follow along as I prepare and serve The Historic Foodie's (2nd Annual) Summer Feast.

The Historic Foodie's (2nd Annual Summer Feast- Shopping Day
The Historic Foodie's (2nd Annual Summer Feast- Feasting Day
The Historic Foodie's (2nd Annual Summer Feast- Let the feast begin!

Monday, April 16, 2018

Mid 19th Century Stag Weekend; Or, The Fanciest Camping Meals Ever!

Those who know me can tell you how much I am an advocate of history interpretation of non-military menfolk. An especial friend will leave the ranks of bachelorhood soon, and that deserves a party. I combined the two into a very special event, a mid 19th century Stag Weekend.
After inadvertently choosing a very popular weekend for events, we made a party of four men and me, your hostess. The men donned their mid 19th century attire and headed out for hiking, swimming, and a Tall Tales competition that left everyone in stitches with laughter.

Of course, the men would need sustenance and I was happy to oblige.
I had read previously on how the menu composition differed in the mid 19th century and began looking into how menu composition might change with all masculine company verses a mixed one.
A first stop was Jennie June's American Cookery Book by Jane Cunningham Crowly, 1870. 
On Friday, for supper, I used this as an inspiration for composing a menu. With only four people dining, the full spread would be too much, so I took a poll on what they'd most like to see. A few meat items were unavailable, so that prompted a few more tweaks. We decided on the following:
It was dark when we arrived, so we didn't get photos. You'll have to take my word that it was lovely. the items were very well received and prompted the first comment of, "This is the fanciest camping meal I've ever had." It would not be the last.

For breakfast, I turned to the hotels and public dining houses. A fair few may be found in the online collections of the New York Public Library and the University of Houston Library. Again, we needed fewer items and had to tweak some unavailable items. Our breakfast on Saturday included the following:

Here's a coupla photos of breakfast in progress.

The sausage, fried mush, and eggs were a hit. All were in a food coma that required a long rest before heading out on a hike.

The gents made themselves useful by helping to clear away the dishes. They were very good about this throughout the weekend, for which I was grateful.

With breakfast out of the way, the gents filled their satchels with luncheon and headed out on a hike.
For luncheon I chose portable items that are often considered appropriate for picnics. This is what was on offer.

Cooking the Dinner was an all-day endeavor. I began after the luncheon was set out.
I knew I wanted an opportunity to showcase the dining styles of mid 19th century America. Events such as this were attended by gents of means and society, if an intellectual bent; so, offering an appropriate sit-down dining experience allowed the menfolk to learn a bit of social history in a fun way.

For the menu composition, I was inspired by menus given in Chef Francatelli's work The Modern Cook  (Charles Elme Francatelli, 1859). 
I included several American inspirations of international dishes in my selections, as this is a special interest of mine (one of many.)
This is our finalized menu.

Likewise a few items were unavailable, so substitutions were made.
I was excited to try campfire cooking because I was new at it. I can't do things by halves, so I jumped right in. I usually need to convert a receipt to modern cooking methods, but these receipts were written for fire-based cooking. It went much faster than I anticipated. I even had enough time for a quick nap and to move up dinner by an hour. I'll detail a few key receipts in future posts.

With cooking complete, it was time to set up and serve.
The key to efficient dinner service is an organized sideboard and precise table-setting. Here's a few photos of the sideboard, table, and a rare photo of Wolfie herself.

At this point I changed up into my service dress, the gents changed into their dinner suits, and I guided them through the meal. We toasted the honoree and let the food settle.
Many comments were made about loosening waistbands and how spoiled they felt to have such a splendid meal. They considered how different mid 19th century dinners were from modern dinners and how they were unprepared for the variety of foods in a dinner. They commented they took too large of portions in the first course and were disappointed not to have room for the good food in later courses.
Then the men formed an assembly line to clean the many, many dishes.
I was ready for some pain relief and sleep.

On Sunday, we began with a breakfast similar to Saturday, with a few changes to keep things interesting.

Again, the appreciation for the weekend of meals was expressed with ever more creative adjectives.
After a colorful edition of the Tall Tales Competition and an intense packing session... we were ready to say adieu to Lake Anna, wishing our friend the best on his next step in life's journey.

For the collection of receipts used for this event, I formed an online booklet you may explore here. 
Photo credit goes to John Payne and N.W. Briggs, with thanks.