This is the first article in March of the School for Housewives 1907 series published on March 3, 1907, and is a discussion on the entree. It is interesting to note that the entree was once identified as “a made dish introduced between the principal courses of a dinner.” Over one hundred years ago today an entree was a dish eaten prior to one of the main dishes, whereas, today the entree is known as the or one of many main dishes in a meal.
Also discussed in this article are sweetbreads. Like the chafing dish, sweetbreads are something that have gone out of fashion based on my knowledge. In fact, on first glance I assumed sweetbreads would be confectionery considering sweet is in the word. Imagine my surprise when I Googled that sweetbreads are actually the thymus or pancreas of a calf and lamb and that sweet refers to the flavour of the meat.
Another item on the menu is the calf’s head which is another item that isn’t exactly easily accessible to people today.
Transcribed from the Sunday edition of The Boston Sunday Post.
Some Delicious Lenten Entrees
Who sets the fashions? The question never has been, and it never will been answered satisfactorily. About 800 years before the birth of the Christian era somebody or something ordained that the daughters of Zion should wear changeable suits of apparel, round tires (tiaras) like the moon, mantles, wimples and crisping pins. The inventory is too long to be copied out in full here. So circumstantial it is, one suspects that the indignant prophet called upon the womenkind of his household for help in making it out.
St. Paul, writing in the second half of the first century, A.D., is more general in condemnation of the ultra-fashionist whose taste ran to embroidery and jewelry. In the fiftieth century, the mysterious arbiter of customs had so led away wise as well as silly women that the heap of finery cremated in the public square at Savonarola’s command to his converts made a smoke that darkened the heavens at midday.
Who first abolished the hoop and towering headdress of Queen Anne’s reign, and who brought them in again in the middle of Queen Victoria’s? Who forbade the sweeping curtsey of our grandmothers, and is now drilling our grandchildren in the very same motion?
WHENCE TABLE FASHIONS?
Who ordained the good man’s tables must no longer groan under the weight of a dozen dishes, but be decorated with flowers, and tricked out with chef d’oeuvres, and that all which builds up and solaces the inner man shall be served from kitchen and “service table”? Who dictated that dish is not to be touched with the knife and ice cream must be eaten with a fork in preference to the honest and convenient spoon?
Who banished the “side dish” from the main board and taught us to call it an entree?
We, who cling to English speech—sometimes at the expense of grammar and oftener by the sacrifice of elegance—persisted in naming them as “made dishes” until chefs and butlers put us to open shame and forced the foreign phrase between our teeth. We all say “entree” meekly now, and we have ceased to torment ourselves with speculations as to the identity of the Tyrant to whom man and woman kind have done homage for all these thousands of years. In the days of the Empress Eugenie we said with glib complacency that she “gave fashions to the world.” She sank out of sight, and the nameless Despot of whose abiding place no man knoweth unto this day still tells us, though his thousands of myrmidons, what we shall wear, and when; what we shall eat, and how and where.
This is not a growl, dear reader! The Dictator is not consistently unkind. We eat, drink and live, generally, more sensibly than our fathers dreamed of doing. But one can’t help wondering how it happens that we do! When did you, dear housemother, who lay no claim to the reputation of a fashionable woman, discover that it is no longer “the thing” to have a hot roast at the foot of the table to be carved by John, a secondary roast at the head, a couple of side dishes and faithful flankings of vegetables up on side of the board and down the other? This was entirely en regle for the second course of a dinner party forty years ago. Soup preceded it. When we wished to be in very fine feather, we had a fish and a salad course. Can you cast your thoughts backward and tell us, with any degree of accuracy, how you arrived at the conclusion that your present mode of serving and eating was the better way—in fact, the one and only way for “nice people? To adopt? Go a step further. How did it come to pass that, without any concert of action, all your neighbors also took to the altered fashion of “diners a la Russe,” and the accompaniments of service table and a dozen etceteras to which your children have been used for the major part of their lives? We spoke with bated breath of giving what the consulting caterer called “a course dinner” when those young folks were in the nursery. We sit down to “course dinners” seven days in the week, nowadays. We have not grown much richer. Our position in society is an inheritance from parents who were of gentle blood and breeding. Yet we do not live as they lived. Who sounded the order for the change of base?
“Entree” is defined in my small manual of “Kitchen French” as “a made dish introduced between the principal courses of a dinner.” The definition is food—as I once heard a circuit rider say encouragingly to a brother who stammered to a hopeless breakdown in the middle of a prayer—“very good, so far as it goes!” But “made dishes” is a term so constantly applied to “rechauffes,” or warmed-up meats, that we have come to associate it exclusively with “left-overs.” And all entrees are not second thoughts, an effort more or less successful, to evolve savoriness out of insipidity. For example, sweetbreads, kidneys, mushrooms, asparagus—in some of the ways I have written of lately—macaroni in divers shapes, sweet core on the ear or as a pudding, stuffed eggplant—and half a score of other “first hand” edibles—are entrees. I do not undertake to supply one word which will aptly define what has superseded the obsolete side dish; the intermediate course of the company dinner, and which serves excellently well as the principal dish of the family luncheon when the base is meat. As a matter of necessity and custom, we fall back upon “kitchen French” and cover the long list—growing with the increasing luxuries of our civilization—with the ambiguous, elastic ENTREE.
MANY TOOTHSOME DISHES
I am thus minute in explanation, because I know of no other culinary phrase which is more misused and abused. Your “made dish” may be an entree, but, as we have seen, all entrees are not left-overs. It is a joy, too, in these days of individual ramekins, casseroles and casserole chafing dishes to make toothsome and savory entrees.
The chafing dish pictured for instance, is a product of modern arts and crafts workmanship, and a most useful one. The tray itself is of mission wood, and the stand copper, with brass trimmings. The head is inclosed so the whole dish gets the benefit, and there is a quaint door effect like and old-fashioned oven. The cover is of copper, and has a mission wood handle, in keeping with the tray. In fact, it is quite unlike the silver and aluminum chafing dish of other days.
Wash the sweetbreads carefully, freeing them from skin and strings. This done, drop them into boiling water, slightly salted, and cook for ten minutes. Turn off the water and cover the sweetbreads (in a cold vessel) with iced water. In five minutes drain and cover with more iced water. Leave them in this for one hour. Take out and wipe dry.
This process is known as “blanching.” It is necessary to the right preparation of sweetbreads, making firm and white what would else be flabby and dull-red.
Cut fat salt pork into thin strips (lardoons) and make incisions in the sweetbreads with a narrow, keen blade. Thrust the lardoons into these. They should project half an inch on each side of the sweetbread. Arrange the larded sweetbreads in a deep bakedish; pour a cupful of well-seasoned stock about them, cover and bake for twenty minutes. Several times during the cooking lift the cover and baste the sweetbreads copiously with the gravy.
Remove the sweetbreads to a hot dish; stir into the gravy left in the dish a roux made by cooking a tablespoonful of butter with one of browned flour. Add a teaspoonful of onion juice and three olives, minced fine. Cook one minute, add a glass of brown sherry and pour the gravy over the sweetbreads.
An Easter Entree of Sweetbreads
Blanch, lard and bake the sweetbreads as directed in the last recipe. Set in a closely covered dish over a pan of boiling water while you prepare the “nest” which is to receive them. Cut into long shreds some cold meat. Chicken or turkey or veal is best for the purpose. The meat should be white. Mix with a generous cupful of boiled spaghetti, drained and clipped into length. Make a ring of the mixture upon a hot platter, wet well with a cupful of rich, hot gravy, set in the over for five minutes, or until heated through, lay the sweetbreads within the garnish around with the dish.
A pleasing variation of this handsome dish may be made by pouring tomato sauce, made rich with butter, thickened with browned flour and seasoned with salt, pepper and onion juice, over the nest and content after they are dished.
Wash and blanch the sweetbreads. Cut into neat dice and mix with an equal quantity of canned mushrooms (champignons), cut into pieces of corresponding size. Blanch a dozen almonds and shred into tiny bits. Have ready a cupful of good drawn butter, rather highly seasoned. Stir sweetbreads and almonds into this and set over the fire in a double boiler. Heat a dozen shells of pastry in the oven and when the mixture in the inner boiler is very hot fill them with it.
A Casserole of Liver
Wash a lamb’s liver and lay in cold water for an hour. Take it out, wipe, and slice. Fry together half a dozen slices of fat pork and a sliced union until the fat is crisped. Strain off the fat and return to the fire. Lay the liver in it, and fry quickly, first on one side, then the other, until it is slightly browned. Scald the casserole and lay the sliced livery in it. Between the slices put a dozen potato marbles, cut out with a gouge and parboiled, and half a dozen boiled green peas, left from yesterday, or a few champignons, may be added. Fill up the dish with soup-stock or gravy, thickened with browned flour. Fit on a close cover and cook for an hour and a half. This is a cheap and most savory entree that will not be unwelcome as the mainstay of a family dinner.
Send to table in the casserole. If the cover does not fit tightly, fill the space between it and the casserole with a thick paste of flour and water. The chief advantage of the casserole is that it keeps in all the flavor and juices.
Calf’s Head en Casserole
Boil a calf’s head until the flesh leaves the bones of its own weight. Leave it in the liquor until perfectly cold. Cut into pieces an inch long and half as wide. Thicken two cupfuls of the pot liquor with a roux made by cooking together two tablespoonfuls of lemon juice.
Add the meat to this and turn into the casserole. The tongue, cut into dice, should go in with the rest of the head. Lay on the top two hard-boiled eggs, sliced, then sift over all very fine bread crumbs to form a light crust. Stick dots of butter in the crumbs; fit on the cover and bake for forty minutes.
Send to table, covered, in the casserole.
Cook half a pound of macaroni for twenty minutes in salted, boiling water. Into another saucepan put two cupfuls of beef stock; thicken with a brown “roux” made as I have directed in former recipes. Cook for five minutes, stirring it smooth; add four tablespoonfuls of tomato catsup, a teaspoonful of kitchen bouquet, the same of inion juice, salt and pepper to taste.
Drain the cooked macaroni and add it to this gravy. Pour all into a bakedish; sift a mixture of fine crumbs and double the quantity of Parmesan cheese over the surface, stick bits of butter here and there; add the tiniest dust of cayenne, and bake, covered half an hour, then brown lightly.
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