Culinary Historians of Chicago
CHC Logo

Valentine Dinner Menus From the Web
By Wanda Bain

Here are a few websites -- from the straightforward to the slightly offbeat -- for people to try if they are looking to put together a special Valentine dinner:

  • Bruce Foods:
  • Cookie Recipes:
  • M&M Recipes:
  • Häagen Dazs:
  • Jet Puffed Marshmallows:
  • Sugar in the Raw Recipes:
  • Brown Kisses Recipe:
    (scroll down and open: Cooking for Two.

    We now have the space to run the recipe for the Houska Bread that was demonstrated at a previous meeting.

    From Prasky to Poutine: Recipes and Restaurants
    Presented by Judy Hevrdejs, Feature writer, Chicago Tribune
    This is a lightly sweetened, traditional bread from Czechoslovakia. It can be sliced and served plain or with butter and jam. Leftover, dried slices work fine as French toast.

    Makes 1 large loaf
    1 cup milk
    1/2 cup butter or margarine
    3/4 cup sugar plus a pinch
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1/4 cup warm (not hot) water
    2 packages active dry yeast
    2 eggs, beaten
    Pinch of ground mace
    5-1/2 to 6 cups sifted all-purpose flour
    1/4 to 1/2 cup golden raisins
    1/4 to 1/2 cup slivered almonds
    Vegetable oil

    For finish:
    1/2 cup melted butter
    1 egg
    1 tablespoon water
    1/4 cup whole blanched almonds

    1. Heat milk; add shortening, 3/4 cup sugar, and salt. Cool to lukewarm.

    2. Measure warm water into a mixing bowl. Add pinch of sugar. Sprinkle in yeast; stir to dissolve. Let stand until bubbly. Add milk mixture, eggs, and mace.

    3. Add 3 cups flour; beat well. Add raisins and slivered almonds. Beat in another 2-1/2 cups flour. Turn dough onto lightly floured board. Knead several minutes, adding a bit more flour to prevent sticking, until dough is smooth and elastic.

    4. Brush a large bowl with vegetable oil. Place dough in bowl, turning to grease top. Cover bowl with plastic wrap or waxed paper and a clean cloth. Set aside, away from a draft; let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.

    5. Punch dough down; turn onto lightly floured board. Knead several times. Cut dough in half. Divide one half into three pieces. Roll each piece into a strip about 12 to 16 inches long. Butter a large baking sheet. Place three strips on baking sheet and braid. Using your fist, press an indentation along the center of the braid. Brush with butter.

    6. Divide 2/3 of the remaining dough into thirds. Roll and braid as before. Set atop first braid, nestling in the middle. Press indentation along center of second braid. Brush with melted butter.

    7. Shape remaining 1/3 of dough into a braid. Set atop loaf; stretch ends so that they can be tucked under each end of the loaf. Pinch braid ends at each end of the loaf together. Use toothpicks as needed to hold braids in place. Cover lightly and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.

    8. Heat oven to 375°F. Beat egg with water, Brush surface of loaf with egg glaze. Garnish with whole almonds. Bake 40 to 45 minutes, or until loaf sounds hollow when bottom is tapped.

    Note: If loaf browns too fast, reduce oven temperature to about 350°F. Remove from oven. Cool before slicing.

    Sources: from Judy Hevrdejs

    For Czech foods:

  • Crawford Sausage Company, 2310 S. Pulaski Road, Chicago (773-277-3095)
  • Vesecky Bakery, 6634 W. Cermak Road, Berwyn (708-795-8233)
  • Czech Plaza Restaurant, 7016 W. Cermak Road, Berwyn (708-795-6555)
  • Bohemian Crystal, 639 Blackhawk Drive, Westmont (630-789-1981)

    For tamales:

  • La Guadalupana, 3215 W. 26th St., Chicago (773-847-3191)

    The Foods of Quebec: The dominant influence comes from France, but other immigrants (from Scotland, England) and Quebec's southern neighbors have added their spice. The stews (ragouts), soups, entrees and desserts of this Canadian province feature lots of game (rabbit, duck, etc), fish and seafood plus the bounty that comes from its farming regions and abundance of maple sirup.

    A few definitions:
    Croton: A coarse, country-type pate, almost like rillette.

    Feves au lard: Pork and beans; sometimes served at breakfast with eggs and bacon.

    Fiddlehead ferns: They are grown in a region of this province and are served simply steamed or with a light butter sauce scented with garlic.

    Poutine: A popular snack served in snack shops (casse-croutes) and even fast-food chains. Consists of hot French fries topped with a light beef gravy flavored with a bit of tomato and a handful of fresh cheese curds.

    Sugar Pie: Just what it sounds like -- a pastry crust filled with a cream and sugar filling. Children love it. It makes my teeth ache.

    Tourtiere: A double crust pie with a savory filling that varies with the regions throughout the province of Quebec. You can find chicken, pork, beef and salmon pies. The filling is quite thick/stiff. Sometimes a white sauce is used to bind the filling that may feature (but not necessarily include) onions, celery and carrots. Potatoes are used in some versions; occasionally oats. Sometimes there herbs or a pinch of cinnamon is added.

    Where Food Meets Family: A Memoir
    By Christy Prahl

    In Stuffed: Adventures of a Restaurant Family (Random House), author Patricia Volk devotes a chapter to her maternal grandfather, Jacob Volk. Immortalized by E.B. White in the New Yorker as the "greatest wrecker of all time," Jacob digressed from his family's restaurateur legacy to revolutionize the demolitions industry. Not only did he invent the wrecking ball; he also conceptualized an approach to razing old buildings dubbed the "Inside-Out Method," whereby deconstruction begins on the bottom floor, allowing higher stories to collapse of their own weight onto the core of the building, rather than being dismantled, layer by layer, from the building's upper reaches.

    Volk employs an Inside-Out Method of her own to detail the history of her family -- restaurant operators many, food lovers all. She rejects the temptation of linear time for a more associative approach, where the culinary ticks of each family member trigger a larger story, essentially moving from the inside out. Food, in fact, stands at the very center of this memoir, and the narrative's own Inside-Out Method meanders in time, employing an organizing principle of cuisine, rather than chronology.

    The reader learns early, in the memoir's first chapter titled What We Ate, that "In a restaurant family, you're never hungry, you're starving. And you're never full, you're stuffed." This gentle hyperbole is fitting for a family where "everybody did one thing better than everybody else."

    From this opening on, chapter titles showcase one epicurean example after another. Canapés are the salmon hors d'oeuvres on rye lovingly prepared by Volk's father. Chocolate Pudding reconciles Patricia with her sister during their frequent punishments for fighting. Lapsang Souchong describes the inedible tea served by her Uncle Al, the adulterous endodontist who performed Volk's childhood root canal, and Spaetzle is the signature dish of Al's jilted and unconventional wife, Aunt Lil.

    Bacon is Volk's paean to her mother, a perfectionist who sees her daughter as an ongoing work in progress. Hash is the centerpiece of Volk's tribute to the family housekeeper, Mattie Sylvia Lee Myles Weems Watts. Caviar was the favorite food of Jacob Volk, and Fricassee the signature dish of Volk's maternal grandmother Polly, voted "Best Legs in Atlantic City" in 1916. Butter Cookies, made with Crisco during lean times, are the unpalatable offerings of Volk's eccentric Aunt Ruthie. And Cucumber Salad is the dish most adored by Volk's Uncle Hank, the family's only work camp survivor. Other chapters memorialize lost foods like Hersheyettes, or foods associated with tragedy, such as the Chopped Liver recipe Volk's maternal grandfather must hand down when cancer prevents him from preparing it himself, or Boost, the insufferable calorie-bolster Volk's father resists during his own advanced stages of cancer.

    Together, these chapters assemble into the smorgasbord of the Volk family lineage. One nearly imagines a banquet table, lavished with aromatic offerings, populated by grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, siblings, and -- as would be fitting in the Jewish traditions that make up Volk's spiritual legacy -- an open seat at the table for Elijah.

    Judaism, while central to the Volk family customs and traditions, was perhaps more a cultural inheritance than a religious one. The family didn't keep kosher (even relished pork as one of its most coveted indulgences), celebrated Christmas rather than Chanukah, and rejected sacred burial rites for the dead, but they did attend Friday night seders, name first-born sons after their grandfathers, marry within the religion, appear in Distinguished Jews of America, observe Yom Kippur, and devour matzo ball soup, chopped liver, herring, and other staples of the traditional Jewish diet. The Volk family's temple was largely the table. As Patricia plainly states, "Our religion was getting together at my grandmother's to eat."

    And so Patricia, a former advertising writer who invented the names for both Hershey's Hugs and the Whatchamacallit bar, turns her attention to her family's intergenerational palate. Morgen's, the family Manhattan restaurant so conspicuously featured in the book's subtitle, is more an essence than a showcase of the memoir. A 50-table restaurant with a full staff including captain and hatcheck girl, the eatery -- known familiarly as "the store" -- forms the backdrop of several chapters, particularly that of Patricia's father, who took over a grouping of Morgen's restaurants from his in-laws and worked six days a week to preserve.

    Here and there, Patricia demystifies the experience of running a restaurant: she reveals the chef's signature dishes, the food storage methods, and Morgen's famous Russian dressing recipe -- unsuturing what would appear, at least to the outside observer, as a seamless operation, a well-oiled machine. She works backward from the cooked to the raw, ungarnishes the plate, allowing the reader to understand the labor behind the final presentation. But only if the reader is looking carefully.

    Her references to the restaurant are peppered, rather than ladled, throughout the narrative. Her real commitment here is to the odyssey of her family, and how food cemented the bonds of so many, even sometimes unlikely, relationships.

    Food is the prism through which the Volk family cast of characters is viewed. It is the bulwark that holds up the lineage. This is not surprising for an author whose paternal great-grandfather introduced pastrami to America and whose maternal grandfather was the first to cut meat in a shop window. But like a good meal, the food fades as other aspects of each life come into focus. Again from E.B. White's obituary of Jacob Volk: "Deconstructionists are not memorialized. What they do vanishes. They make emptiness. Then something fills it." And so it is with food. A meal cannot be experienced without being consumed. The only precipitate is the language one gives to the memory, and this is Volk's greatest contribution to her reader.

    As she states, "No matter what time period you live in, the opportunity to make your mark, to do something that matters, is there. Making your mark does not mean making money. It means putting your X on your time." Volk has done so deliciously.

    Historic Cookbooks: Let the website do the walking
    By Catherine Lambrecht

    If you're interested in historic cookbooks, you must visit the link below:

    The Michigan State University Library has a project called Feeding America: The Historic American Cookbook Project. Here's a description of the project from the website: "The Michigan State University Library and the MSU Museum are partnering to create an online collection of the most important and influential 19th and early 20th century American cookbooks. The digital archive currently includes page images of 47 cookbooks from the Special Collections Division of the MSU Library. The text-search function currently indexes six books. When the project is completed in September 2003, the site will include page images, full-text transcriptions, and indexed text searching for 75 cookbooks published between 1798 and 1922."

    This is an incredible website. Here's the link:

    CHC members and guests received a lesson in slow food from speaker T. Ron Jasinski-Herbert during a fall 2002 meeting. Mr. Jasinski-Herbert spoke on Polish cuisine, the polar opposite of fast food, and offers the following recipe to illustrate. Embellishing on the the Chinese proverb, "One picture -- and one plate of pork cutlets -- is worth ten thousand words."

    PORK CUTLETS (Kotlety) Serves 4

    1-1/2 lbs. pork chops, sliced
    dash Salt
    2 medium onions
    2-1/2 Tbsp. Flour
    2 eggs
    1/2 cup bread crumbs
    2-1/2 Tbsp. bacon drippings

    Slice the onions. Saute the onions in the heated bacon drippings.

    Remove the onions from the pan and hold until the meat is ready.

    Sprinkle the meat with salt and dip in the flour. Dip in the egg, then in the bread crumbs.

    Fry the pork in the hot drippings on both sides until golden. Add the onions and water to cover. Saute the meat and onion mixture over a low flame for an hour or until a light sauce forms.

    This plate is nice served with potatoes and sauerkraut.

    Note: Mr. Jasinski-Herbert writes, "I prefer bone-in pork chops, but any cut may be used. Likewise, the thickness is a matter of taste, but I like the medium cut, about 3/4-inch, as one usually finds them in the market.


    CHC member Wanda Bain has toured the the Mount Horeb Mustard Museum in Mount Horeb, Wisconsin, and waxes enthusiastic about "the hundreds of yellow and brown mustard brandsäthe history of the museum" and its curator. She also sent a copy of the Mustard Museum Newsletter (Januray 2003) which contained the following news snippet:

    There's Nothing Trivial About Mustard!
    It is indeed a rare moment when the Curator is left speechless but that is exactly what happened when he saw card #92 in the 20th Anniversary Edition of the game Trivial Pursuit. The question in the "GV" category (that's "Global View") reads, "What Great Lakes state's hamlet of Mount Horeb is home to the famed Mustard Museum?"

    No kidding! We are the subject of a question in Trivial Pursuit. Oh yes, the Mustard Museum has arrived.

    The January issue of the Mustard Museum Newsletter also contined the following recipe (which may be pushing the culinary envelope too far?):

    Butterscotch Mustard Fudge
    1-1/2 cups sugar
    1 stick (4 oz.) butter
    1 jar (7-1/2 oz.) Marshmallow Fluff
    5 oz (1 small can) evaporated milk
    1 bag (11 oz.) butterscotch chips
    1 jar (8 oz.) Slimm & Nunne Sweet Hot Mustard

    Combine first four ingredients in a saucepan over low heat until well blended. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Boil slowly, stirring constantly, for 5 to 10 minutes, until the mixture comes to the "soft ball" (240°F) stage. Remove from heat and stir in the butterscotch chips and Slimm & Nunne mustard, stirring well until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Turn into a buttered 9x9-inch pan and refrigerate. (Optional: you can insert pretzel sticks when the fudge is thick enough to support the sticks -- about 90 minutes after placing in the refrigerator.) Cut into squares and serve.

    The texture is a little softer than most commercial fudges but the taste is great! (Any suggestions for improving on it? Let us know.

    To let them know, and to subscribe to the newsletter:

    By Nancy Ross Ryan
    How long has it been since you discovered something new? In theory, every day should bring a discovery to our eyes and mind. In practice, daily routine dulls the edge of wonder. So how wonderful it is to discover a unique, intelligent, passionate -- as well as opiniated and challenging -- quarterly about food and wine:

    The Art of Eating quarterly by Edward Behr.

    And how curious that I had for so long been in the dark about a publication that Saveur magazine listed among its 100 favorite things for the year 2000, that The Gazette (Montreal) called: "The cult foodie magazine," that the Chef's Edition on National Public Radio dubbed, "One of the most respected publications in the food world." I have seen the light.

    To quote from Edward Behr, The Art of Eating is about the best food and wine -- what they are, how they are produced, and where to find them (farms, markets, shops, and restaurants).

    Tradition. More often than not, the best food and wine are traditional, created when people had more time and when food was more central to happiness than it is today. I try to explain the logic of geography, techniques, and culture that make good food good -- that give the most character and the finest flavor.

    I visit passionate growers in America and Europe to understand why some raw materials are so much better than others. I seek the most accomplished artisans to understand their methods. Their best products, rare as many have become, still set the standards by which even mass-produced foods are judged.

    Besides superior foodstuffs, I also seek exceptional time-honored recipes, the products of generations of cooks. Not that everything old is good. The Art of Eating is also about the new when it's better.

    Simplicity. On the farm, in workshops, in the kitchen, what is treated least usually tastes best. Gentle, minimal treatment produces the clearest, fullest, flavor.

    The best olive oil is wholly unrefined. The best hams are patiently dry-cured. The most delicate fresh cheese is made with raw milk and hand-landled into molds, so the curd is broken as little as possible. The most flavorful honey is not only unheated but still in the cells of the comb, sealed by the bees under wax. The best vegetables are the very freshest, not stored at all but cooked as soon as possible after they are picked. Grapes for the finest wine are pressed, and the maker interferes as little as possible with the natural process after that.

    In the kitchen, too, the best dishes are generally simple. In the words of the great French critic Curnonsky: "Cooking! That's when things taste like what they are."

    A Sense of Place. The best food and wine have a sense of place that comes from soil, climate, tradition, and all the local influences that, as a group, exist nowhere else. Certain varieties of plants and breeds of animals evolved under local conditions. A few places, not only vineyards, are ideal for particular foods. Local foodstuffs combined with local culinary skills create the typical flavors of a place -- Edward Behr.

    For more invormation:
    fax: 1-802-592-3400.

    The Art of Eating
    Box 242, Peacham, VT 05862

  • Return to Winter 2003 Newsletter (page 1)