Monday, February 22, 2016

Cooking for George Washington's Birthday...and Remembering Lafayette

Since today was George Washington's birthday according to the Gregorgian calendar (he was born on February 11 on the Julian calendar) I decided to plan our dinner menu around a cookbook from Mount Vernon, Dining with the Washingtons. This is a lovely book full of gorgeous photography from Mount Vernon, the history of the food grown, cooked, and enjoyed at Mount Vernon, and reciepts (recipes) based on the 18th century originals.

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I kept the dinner menu simple due to a busy day, but everything came together easily. The receipts I chose were based on what I primarily had in the pantry.

First we enjoyed Green Peas Soup, without Meat. Not only is this receipt based on colonial cooking with its varied spices from the Far East like mace and cloves, but it also reflected the cooking style of France with the addition of spinach and eggs. Their is an entire cultural history of this in the cookbook. I did alter the receipt a bit, primarily to reduce the number of steps while retaining the flavor. I also added a bit of coconut cream at the end to loosen the soup while adding a bit of lusciousness...which I didn't think would be breaking too many 18th century rules (the cream part would have been used...but not the coconut, but that is what was in the pantry).   The receipt can even be found at the Mount Vernon website.

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For the main course I made Chicken Fricassee, which of course is another French dish that is also colonial. Fricassee basically means "French stew with white sauce." The colonial aspect came from, once again, the varied inclusion of spices like mace and nutmeg, as well as egg yolks. Egg yolks were used to help thicken the gravy and gives it a  lovely consistency.  I also made a few changes to this receipt, mainly to simplify the cooking process while keeping the colonial flavor. 
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For dessert I made Lafayette Gingerbread. Although the dessert is entirely colonial, with spices from the Far East and even orange juice, it was named after the French general and friend of America. It is said that while Lafayette was visiting his adopted father, George Washington in 1784, he also paid a visit to Washington's mother in Fredericksburg, Mary Ball Washington. She reportedly served Lafayette this very gingerbread. In honor of the beloved friend of the Washington family...and America, the colonial cake was named after the Marquis de Lafayette. I adjusted this recipe as well, primarily the cooking order of ingredients, since what they call for didn't work well for good baking chemistry. =) This receipt can also be found at the Mount Vernon website.
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For some more versions of this gingerbread, see this which has an expanded set of ingredients including raisins and brandy.

Resources:

https://www.archives.gov/legislative/features/washington/

http://shops.mountvernon.org/dining-with-the-washingtons.html

http://www.mountvernon.org/recipes/green-peas-soup/

http://maryballwash.umwblogs.org/fredericksburg/

http://www.mountvernon.org/recipes/lafayette-gingerbread/

http://www.spokesman.com/blogs/too-many-cooks/2013/dec/06/mary-ball-washington-mother-george-was-known-her-gingerbread/

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