Friday, June 06, 2014

The Queen of the Household.

They say you cant (or shouldn’t) judge a book by its cover. I don’t know about the literal truth of that statement, but I do know that I am easily tempted to old cookery books by their title. How could I not give you something from Queen of the household: a carefully classified and alphabetically arranged repository of useful information on subjects that constantly arise in the daily life of every housekeeper. A guide to the best and easiest ways of accomplishing home work in its various departments. (Detroit, 1896.) by Mrs. M.W. Ellsworth?  The book was apparently an updated version of The Successful Housekeeper, first published in 1882, and the preface indicates that it contains new and useful information:

For example, the chafing dish has come to be a fixture in many homes, and as it becomes known its use increases. To meet this a section of recipes has been added.

The advent of the chafing dish has been slow but sure, and those who have experienced its convenience for quick tasty dishes, will yield it willing homage. Once begin its use, and the range of savory dishes which can be cooked is surprising. A point to be emphasized is that the graceful and expeditious use of it require that, as far as possible, materials be measured and prepared beforehand.

Though this section has been prepared for the chafing dish especially - all of which recipes can be cooked on the ordinary stove - there are many others in various sections of this book which, with little or no modification, can be used the same as these; while for those who use the range these will be found equally useful.

A chafing-dish, according to the Oxford English Dictionary is “a vessel to hold burning charcoal or other fuel, for heating anything placed upon it; a portable grate.” The OED gives the first known written use in English as being in 1483, in an English Act of Parliament, but there can be no doubt that the method itself had already been in use for a long time. No doubt as the nineteenth century progressed, and more and more individual households had cooking ranges, the chafing-dish was no longer a necessity and became subject to the dictates of fashion – hence the comment by the author of our book of the day about the resurgence of its popularity.

I have chosen several recipes from The Queen of the Household. Naturally I could not resist Welsh Rarebit - which we all know should be Welsh Rabbit – but I give you  a couple of others too to show that you can use your chafing-dish to cook really posh food (reed birds) and also sweet dishes too. 

Cut ½ pound fresh cream cheese into small pieces, and put it in the chafing-dish before lighting the lamp. Stir it and, as soon as it begins to melt, add i1tablespoon butter. When it begins to look
smooth add 2 eggs, beaten light, and  ½ cup cream. Cook,  stirring all the while, until it is smooth and of the desired consistency. Season with salt, a little white pepper and a dash of cayenne, or use no pepper and season with Tabasco. Serve on crackers or on toast. If salted wafers are used, be careful about the amount of salt used.
Welsh Rarebit No. 2. - Melt a lump of butter the size of a walnut in the chafing dish, then add 1 pound of cheese, cut in small pieces, with I teaspoon of dry mustard. When melted, pour in slowly ½ cup milk or cream, being careful not to curdle. Season with salt and cayenne pepper, and pour on hot buttered toast.

Put in the chafing dish about 2 walnuts of butter, or sufficient to float the birds, and when quite hot put in 4 reed birds. Season with salt and pepper and cook for 6 minutes, turning them frequently. Lay 2 birds on each slice of toast and pour over them a gravy made from ½ cup rich stock and  1 teaspoon vinegar. Serve quite hot.

Pulp and juice of 2 oranges, ½ teaspoon orange extract, 2 eggs, 2 teaspoons butter, 3 tablespoons powdered sugar,  ½ teaspoon caramel,  ½ saltspoon salt. Beat the yolks of the eggs until light
and thick. Beat the white of  1 egg until stiff, add gradually 1 tablespoon of the sugar, fold into the yolks, add salt, spread carefully into a hot buttered chafing dish, when well puffed spread the

pulp of the oranges over the top, spread over that the other beaten  white, to which the sugar and extract are added gradually, when well puffed and brown, fold, sprinkle on the caramel, pour over all the orange juice and serve.


Anonymous said...

Any idea what a 'reed bird' is? Mud hen? Something tastier?

korenni said...

I don't know that this is correct, but Google came up with more than one hit that said it was a bird that hangs out in the reeds -- particularly bobolinks. Bobolinks are pretty small, but in the Middle Ages they used to do all kinds of things with "small birds," and the Nero Wolfe cookbook has a recipe for starlings, which tells me that gourmets in the 1930s were still eating relatively small fowl.

The Old Foodie said...

Hello ladycelia and korenni. Reed birds are marsh birds, as their name suggests. They were very popular in fine restaurants in America in the nineteenth century - so much so that a "fake" trade of supplying sparrows in their place developed to meet the demand. I have previously mentioned them in posts