01 April 2017

Martha Washington Cooking in March

No fooling, I did cook from a historical cookbook in March - I just didn't get around to writing the post.  So here it is!  I thought of pulling out Apicius for the Ides of March, then I found the Martha Washington cookbook I'd originally intended to use on President's Day.  So I thought I'd see what she has to offer.  Since I've given up wheaten goods for Lent, I had to ignore all the recipes for baked items, of course, and figure out how to do a balanced meal from the ones included in the cookbook.

As with Thomas Jefferson's cookbook, there were few recipes for vegetables.  Most were how to grow the vegetable, or how to preserve it.

Looking at the list, I decided to make "sparragus" (asparagus) which is plentiful in March, and use the Seasonal Pickle from my CSA, which is a lacto-fermented collection of whatever odds and ends they have when they are making that particular batch of pickle.  This one includes carrots, various greens, and some onion.

For the meat I am using fish, and although the recipe is for trout, that's surprisingly expensive, so I went with a filet of tuna from the freezer. Needing a starch, and not being able to bake bread or biscuits, I found a steamed pudding that uses oats instead of wheat flour:
I used steel-cut oats, and instead of letting it simmer all night, pulled out my small crockpot, which I have used to cook steel-cut oatmeal in the past.
I used "high" to heat a pint of milk, then following the 4:1 ratio on the carton of oats, I added a half-cup of steel-cut oats.  After leaving it to cook on low overnight, it was cooked but still milky.

I chopped up a bunch of spinach and about half a bunch of flat-leaved parsley, and stirred them into the oats in the crockpot along with an egg.  I debated whether to use a second egg; it's hard to guess sizes of eggs then versus now, and I generally assume the eggs are smaller, so making a half-recipe meant I could use one large egg instead.

Once this was mixed, I took some muslin and wetted it, then rubbed on cornmeal.  I placed it in a bowl to make filling it with the pudding mixture easier.

I tied off the pudding and set it into a pot of simmering water, tying the string to a wooden spoon placed over the top to make it easier to fish out.  Then I went away for an hour or so, checking periodically and adding water once or twice.
The asparagus was just steamed a bit, that was easy.  For the fish, I followed the recipe on "How to Boyle a Trout", although using a single tuna steak instead of a while fish "cut in pieces" - fillets? steaks?  My guess would be the former, but I was working from my freezer.

This is white wine (from a local winery, plus a splash of champagne left from making New Year's celebratory cupcakes), a lump of butter, a bit of minced ginger, and a sprig of rosemary from my kitchen pots.  I thought it might be a bit large, but I like rosemary, so took a chance.

Since the tuna steak was a bit thick, I cooked it for a few minutes, then turned it and cooked the other side until the piece was done to my liking.

At this point, I took out the pudding, unwrapped it, and arranged the plate:
Seasonal pickle is top left, and simply steamed asparagus at top right.  I chose thin stalks and had to cut them in half due to the size of the pan.  The pudding is to the left of the fish, and I thought another egg might have been a good idea because it was somewhat falling apart.  Of course, I'd had to guess at proportions of the "hearbes" to oats, and was trying to not put in too many so the oats would also keep it together.

For the fish, I think next time I will add a bit more ginger and a bit less rosemary.  I love it, but that was definitely too much and starting to overwhelm the dish.  The pickle added a welcome tang to the overall dish.  Definitely a meal I'll try again, with adjustments.

Since there was quite a lot of pudding, I put it into the refrigerator.  Cold, it was much more cohesive.  Warmed, it made a nice breakfast with a bit more pickle on the side.
I've already decided on the April cookbook, and will work on getting that report posted more promptly after cooking.  In the meantime, it's an icy day outside, and I might try the fish again as a nice warming meal.  No fooling!