Archives for posts with tag: American Woman’s Cook Book

I had intended to make something from the American Woman’s Cook Book today as promised, a project just waiting for a mellow weekend like this. Alas, I didn’t get around to the chicken pot pie or beef brisket or chess pie just yet. In part I was too busy studying Japanese, getting ready for my new class on Tuesday. Watashi wa Nihon-go benkyoshimashita.

I was in the mood for a roast loin of pork and braised red cabbage, it seemed just the thing to eat on a lazy(ish) Sunday with a chill in the air. If I check I’d probably find such a recipe in my grandma’s old cookbook but I was dashing off to the co-op and in the mood for a little improvising. I remembered last year, around this time, eating such a dish at Dressler, in Williamsburg, and feeling so satisfied. The combination of tender pork with a crispy crust, grainy brown mustard, and acidic-sweet cabbage all in one bite, eaten at Dressler’s lovely, long bar  (one of the best spots to eat at in the city, with or without a dining companion), seemed too good to replicate.

I was lucky to snatch up the last Aberdeen Hill Farm pork tenderloin at the co-op (not a minute later I heard someone page, “Is there anymore pork tenderloin? Pork tenderloin, any more please?”). My plan B, if they didn’t have any, was to try Marlow & Daughters but that would’ve run me a pretty penny. Although, for good quality pork loin, it’s money well spent. I also picked up some Tom Cat Bakery cheddar brioche rolls and served them on small individual plates, just like they do at Dressler, with perfectly softened butter. The loin came out juicy with a crispy exterior, just the way I like it.

Roasted Pork Loin with Braised Red Cabbage

For the Pork:
1 2-lb boneless pork loin
5 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
1 tbsp fennel seeds
salt and pepper
5-6 branches of sage

For the cabbage:
2-3 tbsp butter
optional: 1 sausage (plain, fennel, or even chorizo is fine), chopped
1 red onion, sliced thin
2 lb red cabbage, sliced
2 tart apples, like Granny Smith, peeled and sliced thin
1 c chicken stock
1/4 c apple cider vinegar
1/2 c orange juice or apple cider
5 or 6 juniper berries
2 cloves
1 bay leaf
1 cinnamon stick
salt and pepper

The day before cooking, if possible, you want to season the meat. First trim off all excess fat from the loin. Slice little gashes into the meat and stick the slivers of garlic inside. Crush the fennel seeds with the side of your knife, or with a mortar and pestle, and rub all over the loin. Cover the meat with a very generous coating of salt, and freshly ground black pepper. Gently push the sage leaves into the meat and tie up with twine, spaced a couple inches apart. Refrigerate overnight. If it’s the day of, that’s fine too, proceed anyway with these steps.

Bring the pork loin to room temperature (about one hour) before cooking. Preheat your oven to 425F. Place the pork loin on a rack over a baking dish, place in the center of the oven, and cook, uncovered until a thermometer reads 130F at the thickest part of the loin. This will take about 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and let the meat rest for 15 minutes, loosely covered with foil.

While the loin is roasting, prepare your braised cabbage. Melt the butter in a dutch oven or stock pot, then add the onions, cooking until softened, about 5 minutes, then add the sausage, cooking on medium heat for a few minutes. Add the cabbage and apples to the pot, stir, and let cook down for 8-10 minutes. Then add the chicken stock, apple cider vinegar, and juice/cider. Turn the heat to high.

Place the juniper berries, cloves, bay leaf, and cinnamon stick in some cheesecloth, and tie up. Toss into the cabbage pot, along with salt and pepper, to taste. Once the liquid is boiling turning the heat down to low, cover, and let cook for 20-25 more minutes.

Slice the loin against the grain and serve with dollops of the brown mustard and of course, the braised cabbage.

I recently came upon a treasure. For the past couple of months my grandmother has been telling me of an old blue cookbook she’s had for ages that she wanted to give me. She said it contained recipes for things like Campbell’s tomato soup cake and various gelatinous desserts that might be fun to create. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the book and start cooking, retro style.

To my chagrin we couldn’t find the book anywhere in her house; I turned closets upside down, called my mother asking if she had thrown it away, to no avail. Then recently, on my last visit, she told me to go to the upstairs kitchen and look above the sink. I dashed up the stairs, like it was Christmas morning, and there it was: a little musty, mildewy, and indeed, blue.

The American Woman’s Cook Book, edited by Ruth Berolzheimer, the director of the Culinary Arts Institute, was published in Chicago in 1945. Back then, my grandmother was a secretary in Manhattan at an insurance company. She traveled into the city from the Flatbush section of Brooklyn where she lived with her mother and sister. The way she remembers it, one day, someone came into the office and all the “girls” had to each buy a copy of the newly published cookbook. I should say the book was first published in 1938 and later revised by Berolzheimer in 1945.

Well there isn’t in fact a recipe for tomato soup cake, or even too many wiggly desserts. It’s a treasure of classics with recipes including: creamed salmon, bacon corn bread, popovers, welsh rarebit, réchauffé of lamb, roast beef, and coconut cream pie. Oh the good old days! When folks drank buttermilk with dinner and dissolved baking soda in water when sick. When milk was dropped off in glass jars on your doorstep and people made their own preserves and jellies.

The Table of Contents reveals a chapter for “The Lunch Box” and another for “Food for Invalids.” The Lunch Box section reads:

“As much care is needed in selecting and preparing the food for the lunch box as for the other meals served to the family. If the lunch is inadequate or lacking in food essentials throughout the year, the individual’s whole nutrition will be seriously affected, and his work will suffer. The lunch box is one of three meals, not just a ‘snack,’ and should possess the following characteristics:

1. It should be abundant in amount for a hungry, healthy individual. A little too much is better than too little.
2. It should be chosen with regard to nutritive needs of the individual, and in relation to the whole day’s food.
3. It should be clean, appetizing, wholesome and attractive.”

That’s a tall order. It’s also quite different from today when most people get a $7 burrito from Qdoba or a $5 footlong from Subway and call it a lunch. I like the idea though of a well-prepared, carefully presented lunch, in a metal box, with a thermos and cloth napkin and silverware (to say nothing of course that the woman didn’t have much of a choice whether this was the job she wanted or not, preparing cute and wholesome lunches for her husband and kids). Some of the menu suggestions are cream of spinach soup with crackers, an egg salad sandwich with lettuce, raw vegetable strips, an apple, and cup cake (that’s one lunch); or peanut butter, bacon and lettuce sandwiches, carrot sticks, cauliflowerlets, a hard-cooked egg, gingerbread, grapes, and milk (again, that’s all one lunch).

“Food for Invalids” reads, “The following general suggestions are intended to help the housewife who, in addition to her other work, has the duty of ministering to the needs of the sick and convalescent.” It recommends presenting the food as nicely as possible, and serving hot foods very hot and cold foods very cold, with meals arriving at regular intervals, perhaps with a sprig of green or a flower on the tray. Dishes in this section include banana gruel, egg drinks, kumiss (milk, yeast-cake, and sugar), rice jelly, and flaxseed lemonade. A recipe for something called “panada” says to place 2 soda or graham crackers in a bowl and add boiling water to soak the crackers, for 20-30 minutes. Lift them from the water carefully and serve on a hot saucer, serve with sugar and cream.

Needless to say I can’t wait to start cooking from this book. I’d like to try the chess pie, which includes only pastry, butter, sugar, eggs, raisins, nuts, and vanilla; fricassee of chicken; chicken and dumplings; the devil’s food cake; and many more. This weekend I hope to carve out some time for at least one or two recipes, and if I do you’ll hear about it here of course.

%d bloggers like this: