Tuesday, February 5, 2013

A Colonial Dinner in New England

During our stay at the Little Inn of Washington (check out our amazing dinner there), I picked up a book at the hotel's store.  The book is The Founding Foodies, written by Dave DeWitt.  The subtitle said it all, How Washington, Jefferson and Franklin Revolutionized American Cuisine.  Well, it did not say it all, because DeWitt discussed many other influences upon American cuisine, including those that predate our Founding Fathers. 

Not only does DeWitt discuss influences on American cuisine, but he also provides "menus" of dinners hosted during the Colonial times.  Each menu sets forth several courses and explains the background to each of the dishes.  There are several menus, focusing on specific regions of the colonies or specific occasions.  After having read all of the menus, I thought it would be a great idea to make a colonial meal for our next wine club.

The menu for this meal is drawn from the ingredients and recipes made in New England, which have created some of the most well known dishes from the colonial period.  The three course dinner will be the following:

Classic Clam Chowder

Seafood chowders are considered a signature dish of the colonies, and, even of the Northeast today.  The chowders were often made with fish, such as cod or pollock, but they also used lobster and clams.  DeWitt includes a recipe in his book based upon the 1842 recipe of Mrs. N.K.M. Lee, who wrote, "[t]his Receipt is according to the most approved method, practiced by fishing parties in Boston harbor."

Roasted Turkey with Herb and Wine Stuffing

The first known recipe that paired turkey with cranberry sauce is a recipe by Amelia Simmons, which she included in her 1796 book, American Cookery.  That recipe has served as the standard for Thanksgiving dinners for more than two centuries.  DeWitt provides a slightly updated version of the recipe, which calls for a stuffing of cornbread, bread crumbs, vegetables, herbs and white wine.

Boston Baked Beans

We plan on serving the traditional Boston baked beans as a side dish.  DeWitt includes a recipe based on one by Mrs. A. L. Webster that appeared in her cookbook, The Improved Housewife, which was published in Boston in 1855.   

Strawberries in Madeira

Thomas Jefferson called them "Arcadian dainties," strawberries served with cream and Madeira wine.  According to DeWitt, Abigail Adams wrote in 1798, "after walking in the garden we returned and found the table spread with 6 or 8 quarts of the large ... strawberry gathered from the vines with a proportional quantity of cream, wine and sugar."  We will be making this recipe to conclude this New England dinner.  

We hope that this will be a great dinner and that the entire wine club will enjoy!  The recipes and pictures will be posted on the blog for so that family and friends can share in the experience.  Until that time ...


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