Wednesday, April 09, 2008

“Comeback” meals.

April 9 ...

Some cooks cook with the express intent of having leftovers. I am one of those cooks. I understand (no, I don’t, actually) that some cooks abhor leftovers, and some eaters refuse them. I have puzzled over the issue in several previous stories (two of them are here and here), and had no intention of bringing up the subject again (at least for a while) until I came across the term ‘comeback’, in relation to a meal. I naively thought this meant a meal so good that everyone came back for more, so there were no leftovers to agonise over.

I was wrong, it seems. A ‘comeback’ is restaurant-speak for a particular type of leftover. At least that is what Mr. Charles Fellows indicates in his book Fellows’ Menu Maker (Chicago, 1910). I don’t know if this remains current restaurant parlance, and would be grateful for some enlightenment from professionals in the business.

Difference between Leftover and Comeback.
The difference between a leftover and a comeback in culinary parlance is: a leftover is prepared food which has not been dished onto a plate to set before a diner, but which may be kept for service at a future meal. A comeback is food that has been dished onto a plate, probably messed over, and returned to the kitchen. The leftover is an economy; the comeback is a waste.
Food dished onto platters for redishing onto plates, are classified as leftovers when returned to service pantry in the original platter. Such food is not spoiled.

Please be advised: I definitely do not want to know what restaurants do with ‘comeback’ food.

On the same pair of pages as the above exposé are a number of menus from The Drake hotel in Chicago, so I thought it might be fun to see what could be done with leftovers (as in the household use of the phrase) from one of the meals.

United Dinner of hotel associations at The Drake, Chicago, July 13, 1921

Little Neck Clams
Jellied Gumbo
Celery Almonds Olives
Lobster, Mornay
Cucumbers, Parisienne
Filet Mignon, Drake
New Peas Potatoes Berny
Blackstone Salad
Ice Cream

I shouldn’t imagine leftover clams would ever be a problem: they would surely to into chowder. Leftover Potatoes Berny should never happen: no-one in their right mind would leave the tiniest scrap of deep-fried almond-coated, truffled, buttered and egg-yolked mashed potato balls. Leftover almonds could simply be used to make more Potatoes Berny. Olives don’t get leftover, they just get put back in the oil or brine. Coffee leftovers can be used in many recipes, and there is a goodly selection in the Coffee Recipe Archive.

The idea of Jellied gumbo just frightens me. I cannot comment.

I am bereft of ideas for the other items on the menu. I am left with celery.

Cream of Celery Soup.
A pint of milk, a table-spoonful of flour, one of butter, a head of celery, a large slice of onion and small piece of mace. Boil celery in a pint of water from thirty to forty-five minutes; boil mace, onion and milk together. Mix flour with two table-spoonfuls of cold milk, and add to boiling milk. Cook ten minutes. Mash celery in the water in which it has been cooked, and stir into boiling milk. Add butter, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Strain and serve immediately. The flavor is improved by adding a cupful of whipped cream when the soup is in the tureen.
[Miss Parloa's New Cookbook, c.1880.]

Tomorrow’s Story …

Shop Bananas.

Quotation for the Day …

I have not attempted to give recipes for using up scraps, as this art is only useful when you run short of provisions; it is quite a mistake to imagine that warming up cooked meat is economical, as all good transformations must be expensive. Baron Brisse, 1868


Lidian said...

I love making things that will result in leftovers - but yes, they must be the right sort of leftovers. Not comebacks. I really like that word and plan to use it and amaze the rest of the family (or perhaps merely confuse them which will also be fun)

Liz + Louka said...

When I worked as a kitchenhand (ooh, probably going on for 20 years ago) we didn't use those terms, but certainly distinguished the two things. The restaurant was a smorgasbord-type affair, and the big platters just got topped up as far as I remember, or in the case of puddings, made into trifle. But anything on a plate was thrown out - a waste indeed, especially as people seemed to take as much as they could get onto the plate, and sometimes only ate a little bit off the top. Some of the plates came back looking like (inactive) volcanoes.

Shay said...

I'll bet you could make wonderful crepes with the leftover lobster Mornay.