I am intrigued by dinners which have as their theme a single ingredient, and I have featured a number of these on this blog over the last decade. I have a new one for you today – an asparagus dinner. Here is the report in the New York Times of June 4, 1882.
AN ASPARAGUS DINNER.
An asparagus dinner was served yesterday afternoon to a party of hotel-keepers and merchants in Emil Helm’s restaurant at no. 19 West Twenty-seventh Street. Once a year Mr. Helm serves such a repast to a limited number of his friends, and the affair of yesterday, it was said, exceeded all previous efforts of that description. The room was fragrant with the most expensive flowers, and the guests expressed their astonishment and delight over what was to them their first asparagus dinner. The following was the menu:
Salmon à la Maître d’Hotel
Salade d’asperges à la Lubeck.
Jambon de Westphalie.
Blanch, Oyster Bay, Jersey.
Fleur de Moselle.
Mumm, Extra Dry
The asparagus was remarkable for its quality and was said to be the finest every brought to New York. The white asparagus salad especially gratified the gourmands.
I was more than a little baffled by the menu items ‘Blanch, Oyster Bay, Jersey’, ‘Reutier, Goronsola’ and ‘Fleur de Moselle.’ I assume that the first refers to white asparagus from Oyster Bay in New York, as this is named on other menus of the time. Searches for ‘Reutier, Goronsola’ is immediately converted by Google into ‘Reuters, Gorgonzola’ - which turns up nothing, thank goodness. I have found nothing asparagus-related in searches for ‘Fleur de Moselle.’ I suspect these latter two are also somehow intended to indicate specific varieties of the vegetable. Please do let us all know if you have any insider information.
As the recipe for the day, I wish to provide a counterpoint to the sublime fresh asparagus temptations of this menu by offering some of the very pedestrian, but cheap and convenient, opportunities offered by the canned product.
From Asparagus for delicacy and variety: a collection of recipe and menu suggestions for the service of California canned asparagus (undated, but probably mid-1920’s,) prepared by Belle De Graf)
(A Meat Substitute)
Melt l tablespoon butter; add 1 tablespoon ﬂour and mix well. Place in a double boiler, then add ½ cup milk and cook until thick, constantly stirring; add 1 cup grated cheese, 1 tablespoon tomato catsup, ½ teaspoon salt, and ⅛ teaspoon pepper. Stir until cheese has melted, then add 2 cups California Canned Asparagus cut into short lengths and thoroughly heated. Serve on triangles of fresh buttered toast.
Yankee Asparagus Salad.
Drain California Canned Asparagus. Hard cook 4 eggs and chop 2, reserving 2 to use for garnish. Measure 3 cups diced cold boiled potatoes. Mix potatoes and chopped egg. Heat ½ cup mild vinegar, add ½ teaspoon salt, ⅛ teaspoon pepper, 2 tablespoons butter or substitute and 1 tablespoon grated onion. When butter has melted, add to potatoes and chill mixture. When ready to serve, arrange salad in a mound in center of serving dish on lettuce leaves. Pile asparagus on 2 sides of the salad. Pour French Dressing over the asparagus. Garnish mound of salad with slices of egg and sprinkle with chopped parsley.