If only our history books in school were as beautiful, lively and interesting as the Mount Vernon Ladies Association book, Dining With the Washingtons: Historic Recipes, Entertaining, and Hospitality from Mount Vernon (2011), perhaps we Americans would be a little more passionate about our history lessons.
As Walter Scheib, a former White House Chef, wrote in the introduction:
“For years, my view of George Washington was probably similar to that of many Americans, I pictured him as the gracious and influential statesman I had seen in his renowned portraits and learned about in history classes.”
It was only through his research and subsequent cooking that Scheib developed a deeper understanding and appreciation of Washington. Asked in 2000 during his position as White House Chef to create a “circa-1800” menu for the 200th anniversary celebration of the “people’s house”, Scheib came to see Washington not only as an upstanding moral citizen of his time, but as a fountain of knowledge and wisdom to be brought forth with us into the present.
As its name suggests, the book is a beautiful invitation to learn what it must have been like to dine with George and Martha Washington and their clan at their Mount Vernon estate where they gave “much time and attention to the cultivation of both food and the pleasures of the table.”
Not only do we learn about one of Mrs. Washington’s favorite cookbooks by Hannah Glasse (1708-1770) entitled, The Art of Cookery, Made Plain and Easy (whose equivalent today would be The Joy of Cooking**), and the importance of “gracious hospitality”, food preservation and gardening, we also learn how to make “Scotch Collops” – a dish that we would call “Veal Scallopini.”
If nothing else, the book serves as a reminder of the beauty and inspiration found in the communal act of dining and eating, and the enthusiasm many of us share today for cooking with seasonal, local ingredients (as we are currently witnessing in the Farm-to-Table movement).
After all, as is written in Life is Meals: “Food has shaped human society since the very beginning…the rhythm of working and eating defines the life of every individual…[p]rimitive man did not eat at certain hours but simply when hungry. Gradually regularity developed. Families and clans ate together, and in fact, for ages most eating was communal.”
**Please find below the recipe for “Scotch Collops” (Veal Scaloppini) taken from Dining With the Washingtons, slightly adapted (pictured below):
Scotch Collops (Veal Scaloppini)
2 ½ – 3 pounds veal scaloppini (about 6-8 slices of veal or can substitute thinly sliced boneless chicken breasts)
6-8 tbsp. unsalted butter, divided
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 ½ tsp. freshly grated lemon zest
3 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
2 cups chicken broth
About 4 ounces white button mushrooms
- Season veal with salt and pepper
- Combine 3 tablespoons melted butter with nutmeg, lemon zest and 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Mix the above mixture with the three egg yolks
- Dip veal in egg yolk mixture and then dredge in flour and set on waxed paper.
- Melt 2 tablespoons butter in large sauté skillet and cook until browned on both sides (about 2-3 minutes per side) adding more butter if necessary. Remove from skillet and place on plate and cover with aluminum foil and set aside.
- Sprinkle about 1 ½ tablespoons of flour in the pan, stirring up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Stir in chicken broth and bring to a boil. Pour the gravy into bowl and set aside.
- Using a clean sauté pan, melt 2 tablespoons of butter and add quartered mushrooms and sauté on medium-high heat until they start to brown nicely and then adjust heat. When nicely browned add gravy back into the pan and stir.
- Arrange veal on ovenproof dish and pour mushroom/gravy on top. Before serving, place in preheated 350-375 degree F oven for 5 minutes or so to heat thoroughly.
Serve with sautéed green beans or oven-roasted carrots, a nice salad and cornbread (see recipe below)!
Of interest: “Scotch”, as defined in Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary of the English Language, means to “cut with shallow incisions”
“Collop”, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, is of obscure derivation, perhaps connected with coal, or later to mean a slice of meat.
Jalapeño Cheddar Cornbread (taken from Barefoot Contessa “At Home”)
3 cups flour
1 cup cornmeal
¼ cup sugar
2 tbsp. baking powder
2 tsp. salt
2 cups milk
3 eggs, extra large
2 sticks melted butter
8 ounces cheddar
1/3 cup scallions
3 tbsp. jalapeño peppers
Mix all dry ingredients. Mix milk, eggs and butter in a separate bowl. Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and mix thoroughly. Stir in cheese and jalapeño peppers, pour into glass baking dish, sprinkle scallions on top and a little bit of cheese. Bake at 350 degrees F for 30-35 minutes, or until done.
In the spirit of Washington and Jefferson, we are featuring Dreaming Tree Wine (pictured below), made by acclaimed winemaker Steve Reeder and Dave Matthews, whose Blenheim Vineyards is one of the 30 vineyards that can be found on the Monticello Wine Trail in Virginia.
**For dessert, try this delicious recipe for Molasses Cookies from the Joy of Cooking:
¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) margarine or unsalted butter
1 cup sugar or packed brown sugar
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
½ tsp. salt
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 large egg
¼ cup molasses
1 tsp. baking soda
Beat butter and sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Beat in the remaining ingredients until well blended. The dough will be soft. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes or until easy to handle. Preheat the oven to 350 degree F. Grease or line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper. Shape the dough into 1-inch balls. Rough the balls in a separate bowl of sugar and place 2 inches apart on the cookie sheet. Bake for about 8 minutes. Let stand briefly. Then remove to a rack to cool.
These are especially delicious with the butter cream frosting we use on our homemade sugar cookies, found here.