Thursday, January 14, 2016

The Historical Food Fortnightly 2016 Challenge - #1 Meat and Potatoes Part 1

I've been following the Historical Food Fortnightly for a couple years now, but wasn't able to join in due to major health issues, but I'm in this year! Perhaps not for the full marathon, but definitely at least a half marathon.

So how does this work?

From the site:

"Every fortnight we will feature a themed challenge. Your mission is to take each challenge and cook, bake, or otherwise prepare a food item or dish from a historic recipe the way it was meant to be prepared and consumed.

Your creations can be as elaborate or simple as you like, and can definitely be chosen to suit your skills and interests. You can choose to participate in as many challenges as you like - you can pick and choose the challenges that interest you, and you can choose the ones that work in your schedule. The most popular ways to participate are to do a marathon (completing all the challenges, for the craziest/most masochistic among us) or a half-marathon (doing every other challenge). How you participate is up to you and your comfort level, though we hope that everyone will choose to step outside the box and stretch themselves.

The emphasis here is on research and documentation, and the goal is to learn more about historic cooking through experience and trial. We believe that a better understanding of the past comes from doing things with an eye towards authenticity and accuracy, and from good, solid research about how things were done and why. We encourage everyone to research each recipe and to document their research so that we all can learn from each other.

Our definition of “historic” is anything before 1960, so your recipes should be documented to a date before then. Other than that, it is wide open to anything for which you can find documentation. You also need not limit yourself to one era - feel free to hop around as much as you like."

I will be submitting challenge results based on the mid-19th century, having been involved in living history from that era for nearly twenty years.

Here we go with Challenge #1!

The Challenge: Meat and Potatoes

The Recipe: Baked Beef from Miss Leslie's Directions for Cookery


This is a plain family dish, and is never provided for company.

Take a nice but not a fat piece of fresh beef. Wash it, rub it with salt, and place it on a trivet in a deep block tin or iron pan. Pour a little water into the bottom, and put under and round the trivet a sufficiency of pared potatoes, either white or sweet ones. Put it into a hot oven, and let it bake, till thoroughly done, basting it frequently with its own gravy. Then transfer it to a hot dish, and serve up the potatoes in another. Skim the gravy, and send it to table in a boat.

Or you may boil the potatoes, mash them with milk, and put them into the bottom of the pan about half an hour before the meat is done baking. Press down the mashed potatoes hard with the back of a spoon, score them in cross lines over the top,'and let them brown under the meat, serving them up laid round it.

Instead of potatoes,, you may put in the bottom of the pan what is, called a Yorkshire pudding, to be baked under the meat.

To make this pudding,—stir gradually four table-spoonfuls of flour into a pint of milk, adding a salt-spoon of salt. Beat four eggs very light, and mix them gradually with the milk and flour. See that the batter is not lumpy. Do not put the pudding under the meat at first, as if baked-too long it will be hard and solid. After the meat has baked till the pan is quite hot and well greased with the drippings, you may put in the batter; having continued stirring it till the last moment.

If the pudding is so spread over the pan as to be but an inch thick, it will require about.two hours baking and need not be turned. If it is thicker than an inch, you must (after it is brown on the top) loosen it in the pan, by inserting a knife beneath it, and having cut it across into four pieces, turn them all nicely that the other side may be equally done.

But this pudding is lighter and better if laid so thin as not to require turning.

When you serve up the beef lay the pieces of pudding round it, to be eaten with the meat.

Veal may be baked in this manner with potatoes or a pudding. Also fresh pork.

The Date/Year and Region: 1851 United States

How Did You Make It: 

Disclaimer: We seldom eat beef and I even more rarely cook beef, so this was quite an experiment!

As there are only two of us, I purchased the smallest English roast possible, as this was not actually the "Meat and Potatoes" dish that I wanted to create, but I did need the leftovers to create my desired dish.

While I do have a cast iron Dutch oven, I do not have a trivet to place inside it, so I substituted a couple of Pyrex ramekins.

Prepped for the oven:

After cooking:

And for modern tastes, it was overcooked. I've not found a reference to the desired doneness of beef during the mid-19th century, however, Miss Leslie states that carrots should be boiled for THREE hours, so perhaps it wasn't overdone by period standards.

Time to Complete: Approximately 2 hours.

Total Cost: The entire roast was $9.53, only used half for this meal, potatoes $1.00, salt in the cupboard - approximately $5.26.

How Successful Was It?: 

As above, the beef was overdone for modern taste, although it had good flavor, as did the potatoes. As was common during the period, I also served preserves ( green tomato chow chow and rhubarb chutney) on the side to add to the beef - I had made these previously for another project using period receipts. I also served glazed carrots (not made from a period receipt) to round out the meal., 

Without the preserves, it would have been rather bland, but was not unpleasant.

How Accurate Is It?: 

Ingredients were purchased at a mainstream grocery store, so not heirloom unfortunately. My access to good ingredients is currently limited due to living on an island in northern Michigan, access will improve come May.

Cooked in an electric oven and without a cast iron trivet.

Coming soon Meat and Potatoes - Part 2!

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