Sunday, November 22, 2015

Countdown to Thanksgiving, Day 5: Greens, Glorious Greens!

I will readily admit that the thought of vegetables at Thanksgiving left me cold when I was young. Green beans and brussels sprouts boiled to inedible mush, mushy broccoli and cauliflower with a salt lick of processed cheese food. Wilted salad greens with the dread White Dressing that reeked of fresh paint already applied liberally.
But then I grew up. I had vegetables prepared by gourmands, salad bars where I could use dressings I liked, and new and exciting preparations from foodies like me.
Now when the selections of Thanksgiving sides turns to vegetables, I'm inspired to try a few myself.

Many 19th century preparations for vegetables are very simplistic with a dressing of butter, salt, and pepper. We do see a few preparations that are more complex.

First we'll start with a dressing of green beans with a rich gravy and a savory topping that hints of the green bean casserole. A ragout is generally a gravy treatment meant to improve and impress.
Best Ever Green Bean Casserole
by Alton Brown of Good Eats
From: The Virginia Housewife by Mary Randolph, 1838
Ragout Of French Beans, Snaps, String Beans.
Let them be young and fresh gathered, string them, and cut them in long thin slices; throw them in boiling water for fifteen minutes; have ready some well seasoned brown gravy, drain the water from the beans, put them in the gravy, stew them a few minutes, and serve them garnished with forcemeat balls; there must not be gravy enough to float the beans.

Next we'll tackle the brussels sprouts, with a preparation with bacon and vinegar, a modern sounding recipe indeed.
Roasted Pictsweet Brussels Sprouts by Serious Eats

From: The Kentucky Housewife by Lettice Bryan, 1839
Sprouts, And Other Young Greens,
Should be boiled in every respect like turnip sallad, served warm with bacon, and seasoned at table with salt, pepper, and vinegar. All kinds of sallad should be thouroughly washed in two waters, otherwise it will be gritty.

Finally we reach the promised Cauliflower Macaroni. Many modern cooks are looking for alternatives to pasta. Imagine my surprise to find a 19th century recipe that does too.

Cauliflower "Mac" and Cheese by George Stella,  Food Network
From: The Lady's Receipt Book by Eliza Leslie, 1848
Cauliflower Maccaroni
--Having removed the outside leaves, and cut off the stalk, wash the cauliflower, and examine it thoroughly to see if there are any insects about it. Next lay it for an hour in a pan of cold water. Then put it into a pot of boiling milk and water that has had a little fresh butter melted in it. Whatever scum may float on the top of the water must be removed before the cauliflower goes in. Boil it, steadily, half an hour, or till it is quite tender. Then take it out, drain it, and cut it into short sprigs. Have ready three ounces of rich, but not strong cheese, grated fine. Put into a stew-pan a quarter of a pound of fresh butter; nearly half of the grated cheese; two large table-spoonfuls of cream or rich milk; and a very little salt and cayenne. Toss or shake it over the fire, till it is well mixed, and has come to a boil. Then add the tufts of cauliflower; and let the whole stew together about five minutes. When done, put it into a deep dish; strew over the top the remaining half of the grated cheese, and brown it with a salamander or a red hot shovel held above the surface.
This will be found very superior to real maccaroni.

So no need to skip the veggies at Thanksgiving this year. Spice, sauce, and cooking times mean the mush is a thing of the past. Dig in! Delicious!

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