Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Porter-house Steak: the real story.

Yesterday’s source provides the story for today too, which is lucky for me as I am more keen to spend time today actually experiencing New York City than I am to spend the time reading and writing about it. 

In The Market Assistant, (1867,) Thomas F. de Voe describes the origin of the name “porter-house steak.” There may be other theories, but this is what he says:

The origin of the name of “porter-house steaks” took place about the year 1814, in the following manner:
Martin Morrison was the proprietor of a long-established and well kept “porter-house,” located and known at that period at No. 327 Pearl-street (New York), near the “old Walton House.” We introduce him in 1803, where we find he opens a “porter-house” at No. 43 Cherry-street, which became a popular resort with many of the Kew York pilots for his prepared hot meals, at any hour, at their call, they being occasionally detained on shipboard until their vessels were safely moored.
The “porter-houses” in those days were not so devoted to tippling, dram-drinking, and the common nests for the loafing, or the manufacturing of politicians and corrupt officials as at the present day, but rather to accommodate the hungry and thirsty travellers, old and young bachelors, seamen, and others with a cold lunch after the English custom – “a pot of ale [or porter] and a bite of something.” Some “porter-houses” prepared a hot meal of one or two dishes, among which was Morrison's, who must have been quite famous for his excellent broiled beefsteaks, which were universally called for at his place.
On one occasion (at the above period, 1814), Morrison having had an unusual call for steaks, he had cooked his last steak, and, as fortune would have it for all future partakers of beefsteaks, an old favorite but a rough pilot, made him a late visit, both hungry and thirsty, having been several hours without food. Not caring for the salt junk aboard the vessel which he had piloted in, he concluded to wait until he got on shore, that he might cast his anchor at Morrison's, where he could enjoy his “hot steak and mug of porter.”
In his honest language the pilot gave his usual order. Morrison had nothing but his family dinner for the next day, which consisted of a sirloin roasting-piece, of which he offered to cut from if the old pilot would have it. “Yes, my hearty, anything - so long as it is a beefsteak - for I am as empty as a gull!” exclaimed the pilot. Morrison cut off a good-sized slice, had it dressed and served, which the pilot ravenously devoured, and turning to the host (who had been expecting a blast from the old tarpaulin, but who, to his astonishment, received the order “Messmate, another steak just like that - do you hear?” Having finished his steaks and the second mug of porter, the old pilot squared himself towards his host, loudly vociferating, “Look ye here, messmate, after this I want my steaks off the roasting-piece! - do ye hear that? - so mind your weather-eye, old boy!”
It was not long after this when the old pilot's companions insisted upon having these “small loin steaks” served to them. Morrison soon discovered that these steaks were more suitable in size to dish up for single individuals, and he ever after purchased the sirloin roasting-pieces, from which he cut off these small steaks as they were called for, the large sirloin-steaks becoming less in demand.
Morrison's butcher - Thomas Gibbons - in the Fly Market, one morning put the question, after he (Morrison) had selected several sirloin pieces, “Why he had ceased purchasing the usual quantity of sirloin steaks?” Says Morrison, “I will tell you the reason: I cut off from the sirloin roasting-pieces a small steak which serves my pilots and single patrons best; but as it is now cold weather, I wish to have these roasting-pieces cut up as I shall direct every morning.” After this, Morrison's sirloins were daily cut up by Mr. Gibbons, with his order to “cut steaks for the porter-house,” hence the sirloin was changed into “cut the porter-house steaks.” Their appearance attracted the attention of other butchers and keepers of porter-houses, who admired their appearance and convenient size; in a few years their name and character became quite common to the butchers of the Fly Market, from which the name has spread to the several principal cities of the United States, and I doubt not that the name, porter-house steak has reached across the Atlantic.

The recipes for the day comes from the cookbook which I used for yesterday’s post, The New York cook book: a complete manual of cookery, in all its branches (1889) by Marie Martinelo

To Broil Beef Steaks.
Cut the steaks off a rump or ribs of a fore-quarter; beat them well with a rolling-pin. Have the gridiron perfectly clean and heated over a clear quick fire; lay on the steaks, and, with meat-tongs, keep turning them constantly, till they are done enough; throw a little salt over them a little before taking them off the fire. Serve them as hot as possible, plain, or with a made gravy and sliced onion, or rub a bit of butter upon the steaks the moment of serving. The tender-loin is the best piece for broiling.

Beef Steak Pie.

Take some fine rump steaks, beat them with a rolling-pin, then season them with pepper and salt according to taste. Make a good crust, lay in your steaks, fill your dish, then pour in as much water as will half fill the dish. Put on the crust, and bake it well.

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