"will not fail to be excellent..."
We turned to two American cookbooks this weekend to prepare several dishes in our Demonstration Kitchen. Mary Randolph's The Virginia Housewife was first published in 1824 and is considered to the first regional American cookbook. Randolph not only published many southern recipes in her work, but also included many dishes with international influence, one of which we chose this week-- Gaspacho. Seventy-five receipts for pasty, cakes, and sweetmeats made its appearance in 1828 and was authored by "A Lady of Philadelphia," which is now known to have been written by Eliza Leslie. In her preface, Leslie writes: "Experience has proved, that pastry, cake, &c. prepared precisely according to these directions will not fail to be excellent..."1
BEEF STEAK PIE.
Cut nice steaks, and stew them till half done, put a puff paste in the dish, lay in the steaks with a few slices of boiled ham, season the gravy very high, pour it in the dish, put on a lid of paste and bake it.
Put some soft biscuit or toasted bread in the bottom of a sallad bowl, put in a layer of sliced tomatos with the skin taken off, and one of sliced cucumbers, sprinkled with pepper, salt, and chopped onion; do this until the bowl is full; stew some tomatos quite soft, strain the juice, mix in some mustard, oil, and water, and pour over it; make it two hours before it is eaten.
RED BEET ROOTS.
Are not so much used as they deserve to be; they are dressed in the same way as parsnips, only neither scraped nor cut till after they are boiled; they will take from an hour and a half to three hours in boiling, according to their size; to be sent to the table with salt fish, boiled beef, &c. When young, small and juicy, it is a very good variety, an excellent garnish, and easily converted into a very cheap and pleasant pickle.
TO MAKE PUFF PASTE.
Sift a quart of flour, leave out a little for rolling the paste, make up the remainder with cold water into a stiff paste, knead it well, and roll it out several times; wash the salt from a pound of butter, divide it into four parts, put one of them on the paste in little bits, fold it up, and continue to roll it till the butter is well mixed; then put another portion of butter, roll it in the same manner; do this till all the butter is mingled with the paste; touch it very lightly with the hands in making--bake it in a moderate oven, that will permit it to rise, but will not make it brown. Good paste must look white, and as light as a feather.
Two ounces of blanched bitter almonds
Take two ounces of shelled biter almonds, or peach-kernels. Scald them in hot water, and as you peel them, throw them into a bowl of cold water. Then wipe them dry, and pound them one by one in a mortar, till they are quite fine and smooth.
Break ten eggs, putting the yolks in one pan and the whites in another. Beat them separately as light as possible, the whites first, and then the yolks.
Add the sugar, gradually, to the yolks, beating it in very hard. Then, by degrees, beat in the almonds, and then add the rose-water.
Stir half the whites of eggs, into the yolks and sugar. Divide the flour into two equal parts, and stir in one half, slowly and lightly, till it bubbles on the top. Then the other half of the white of egg, and then the remainder of the flour, very lightly.
Butter a large square tin pan, or one made of paste-board, which will be better. Put in the mixture, and set immediately in a quick oven, which must be rather hotter at the bottom than at the top. Bake it according to the thickness. If you allow the oven to get slack, the cake will be spoiled.
Make an icing with the whites of three eggs, twenty-four tea-spoonfuls of loaf-sugar, and eight drops of essence of lemon.
When the cake is cool, mark it in small squares with a knife. Cover it with icing, and ornament it while wet, with nonpareils dropped on in borders, round each square of the cake. When the icing is dry, cut the cake in squares, cutting through the icing very carefully with a penknife. Or you may cut it in squares first, and then ice and ornament each square separately.
Source: Seventy-Five receipts for pastry, cakes, and sweetmeats. By A Lady of Philadelphia (Eliza Leslie), Boston 1828
1. Leslie, Eliza. Seventy-Five receipts for pastry, cakes and sweetmeats (Boston, Munroe & Francis, 1828) https://archive.org/details/seventyfiverecei00lesl
Beef Steak Pie
Gaspacho- a Spanish dish