Appetite City: Schrafft’s Cheese Bread

Appetite City: Diners

I’m not old enough to know diddly about Schrafft’s, the New York City restaurant chain, first hand; but everyone who does always remembers the cheese bread.   There’s only one known recipe for the famous cheese bread and it looks like this: This document was dug up by Joan Kanel Slomanson, the author of When Everybody Ate at Schrafft’s: Memories, Pictures, and Recipes from a Very Special Restaurant Empire.  It gives the proportions to make cheese bread on an industrial scale; it seems like it would be simple to just scale it down, right?  Wrong!  The problem is the mystery ingredient: cheese tang! So what is a cheese tang? No one seems to know, or remember.  It was allegedly produced by Kraft, and some researchers have gone as far as to call the Kraft company and ask about it.  No one has any memory of its existance. With the loss of cheese tang, Schrafft’s cheese bread is gone to the ages. Hold the phone.  Time to do some deductive reasoning.  You know what else Kraft makes? Tang.  Like, orange Tang, that went up with the astronauts.  Tang is a bright orange, orange-flavored powder.  So perhaps cheese Tang is a bright orange, cheese-flavored powder.  Now in what Kraft product can one get bright orange, cheese-flavored powder?

This is my theory and I think it’s a good one!  At any rate, the bread made with Mac N’ Cheese powder is phenomenal and will be devoured within minutes of exiting your oven.  Should you have some left overs, toast it before consumption: it’s best warm.


Schrafft’s Cheese Bread
Adapted from the original Schrafft’s recipe, as reprinted in When Everybody Ate at Schrafft’s: Memories, Pictures, and Recipes from a Very Special Restaurant Empire by Joan Kanel Slomanson, published 2007.

1 package dry active yeast
1 ¾ cups warm water
2 tsp salt
1 ½ tsp sugar
1 tsp – 1/4 cup powdered cheese (depending on desired cheesiness); either from a Mac & Cheese box, or from online
3.5 cups flour
1 cup grated sharp cheddar.
1. In a large bowl, combine yeast and ½ cup warm water. Stir to dissolve yeast. Mix remaining water with salt; stir to dissolve.  Pour over yeast and set aside.
2. In another bowl, sift together flour, sugar, and cheese powder.
3. Add flour mixture to yeast and water, one cup at a time.  When the dough becomes hard to stir, turn out onto a floured work surface.  Let dough rest while you clean out the bowls.
4. Knead dough for ten minutes, adding more flour if necessary, until dough is smooth and elastic.  Up to another 1 1/2 cups can be incorporated here.
5. Butter a bowl and place dough inside; let rise until it has tripled in size, 2-3 hours.  Punch down risen dough and turn out onto work surface.  Sprinkle grated cheese all over.  Roll the dough up and knead just long enough to incorporate cheese.  Swirls of cheese in the baked loaf are not a bad thing!
6. Grease two loaf pans; plop dough inside. Cover each with a kitchen towel and let rise 45 minutes.  Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
7. Put loaves in oven.  After 15 minutes, turn down heat to 350 degrees and let bake for 10 more minutes.  Cool on racks.
P.S. – this bread is total munchies food!
A delicious loaf of cheese bread.


Appetite City: Hot Tamales!


Appetite City: Street Food. My demo is at 12:30.

Yes, it’s true. Tamales in New York in the 1890s.   The earliest mentions of Tamales stretch back to the late 19th century, even earlier than the 1910 date I give in the show (ugh. my bad.).  Grimes mentions them in his book, Appetite City, and the image of the tamale men on the streets of the city enchanted me. One of the original newspaper articles on the topic, from the New York Herald, is below.

Why veal and not chicken? I’m not an expert on 19th century meat production (yet), so maybe some of you out there can add to this explanation.   But as I understand it, chicken was not being mass produced, like we do in factories today, so it was quite expensive. Veal, on the other hand, was a by-product of the milking industry. You don’t need male calves, and raising them to adulthood is a financial detriment to your business. Selling off calves young was a boon, so the price was cheap.

If you’re looking for the best masa (or tortillas) in town, you’ll have to check out Tortilleria Nixtamel for yourself.

1890s New York Tamales
from The New York Herald, 1894.
From the (LA) Times Cookbook No. 2, published c. 1905.


1 ¼ lbs Veal
1 large onion, halved
1 head of garlic
4 dried chilis
2 cups masa harina
⅔ cup lard
1 8-ounce package dried corn husks

1. Place veal in a large pot or slow cooker; add onion and 4 cloves of garlic.  Cook until tender.

2. Separate dried corn husks, then soak  in a sink filled with warm water for 30 minutes to soften.

2. Remove meat from cooking liquid and shred.  Set aside to cool.

3. Remove stems and seeds from chili pods; place in a saucepan with two cups water. Simmer for 20 minutes, then remove from heat to cool.

4. Add chilies and water to a blender along with remaining garlic.  Blend until smooth; strain mixture, and add 1 ½ teaspoons salt. Mix with shredded meat.

5. To masa, add: ½ teaspoon salt, lard, and enough veal broth to make a spongy dough.

6. Fold the tamales; best to watch my demo in the video above.  Bring water in a pot with a steamer basket to a low boil; steam tamales for two hours.



Appetite City: Pigeon with Green Peas

Appetite City: Green Markets.  I come in at about 11 minutes.

Take the time to watch this full episode on New York’s Green Markets; it’s lovely.  There’s an interview with Jeffrey of “Jeffrey’s Meat” that is just gold.  His butcher shop, on the Lower East Side since 1940, is an emblem of the neighborhood.  Sadly, it closed just weeks after this interview was completed.  As Jeffrey says, “Food is an example of the History of a Neighborhood.”

The second half talks about the rise of New York’s greemarkets–and the real hell New York was in the middle of the 20th century.  It’s fascinating.

This episode’s recipe, for “Pigeon with Peas,” is a gud’un.  It comes from the earliest Delmonico’s menu known, from 1838.  Delmonico’s is one of the (the?) oldest surviving restaurants in the country and for most of the 19th century, was the voice on high-fashion French cuisine in America.  It started from slightly humbler roots, but you’ll see how extensive even this early menu was (Click images to enlarge).







The recipe for pigeon with peas comes from The Epicurian, the Delmonico’s cookbook published in 1893 ; but I suspect the recipe changed very little since the original menu.  The recipe speaks of a much simple mode of cooking: one pan is used in a style that has more in common with early hearth cooking, than the complicated, multi-stepped, high-French Delmonico’s was known for in the second half of the 19th century.  I really do think this was an old-fashioned Delomonico’s staple that survived the test of time.

And it’s no surprise that this recipe continued to be cooked in Delmonico’s kitchen; since making this recipe for Appetite City, I have cooked it several times since for the pleasure of it, including once over a hearth.  These are the most kick-ass peas you will ever taste.  Ever.

A squab, by the way, is a young pigeon, killed before it has begun to fly.  They have a distinctly dark and gamey flavor, complemented well by bacon.  But please don’t go picking up pigeons off the street; as Bill says “It’s at the city’s market that you can put together the ingredients for the kind of simple and elegant dish like squab and green peas.”  And if you don’t dig squab, quail or Cornish hens are an easy replacement.


Pigeons with Green Peas
From The Epicurean, published 1893.
3 squabs
⅛ lb bacon, chopped into ½ inch squares
15 pearl onions
3 pints green peas
½ bunch parsley
1 cup stock
kneaded butter: 2 tb butter kneaded with 2 tb flour 

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Wash squabs and pat dry.  Pull organs out of cavity returning the liver.  Truss (watch the video for a demo).

2. Add bacon to a large cast iron skillet with cover or a dutch oven.  Fry until crispy, then remove bacon, leaving fat behind.
3. Put pigeons in skillet with onions; brown slowly on all sides.  Add peas, parsley, and bacon; cook for 2 minutes, then add a cup of stock.  Cover and bring to a boil, boil five minutes, then reduce heat
4. Put in a 350 degree oven for 15 minutes or longer if necessary. The squab is done when its juices run clear.  Remove from oven and arrange pigeons on a platter.  Untruss.
5. Thicken peas and juices with kneaded butter and place around the pigeons.


Appetite City: Pickled Oysters

Oysters. Gross.
I’m not a happy camper in this episode; I think you can tell.  Although I am always faithful to my rule of trying foods again and again, even ones I don’t like on the first taste, I have never liked oysters.
But oysters have a really fascinating history in New York. And my oyster revulsion is kind of hilarious on camera.  In the end, this week’s recipe, The Pickled Oyster, didn’t taste too bad.
Cooking up this recipes was fulfilling a personal request of Bill Grime’s to revive this 19th century favorite.  I sent a tupperware of them over to his office, but I forgot to ask what he thought.
And who knew that Mark Kurlansky looked like a salty sea captain?
Pickled Oysters
from Mrs. Lincoln’s Boston Cookbook, 1884
and  A Love Affair with Southern Cooking by Jean Anderson, 2007.

1 qt oysters in their liquid
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1 tsp salt
2 blades mace
10 cloves
10 peppercorns
10 allspice berries
Pinch cayenne pepper

1. Shuck the oysters, saving their liquor.  Strain liquor through a coffee filter to remove sand.

2. “Place the oysters and their liquid in a large nonreactive pan and set over moderately high heat just until the liquid begins to bubble. The minute the oysters’ skirts ruffle, adjust the heat so the liquid bubbles gently, and simmer 1 minute longer.” (Anderson)

3.  Using a slotted spoon, remove oysters and place in large glass jars, leaving their liquor behind.

4. Add  vinegar and spices to the liquor.  Bring to a boil and boil five minutes.

5. Pour hot liquid over oysters.   Seal jars and refrigerate overnight.  Oysters are ready to serve the next day and up to 2 weeks

Tonight on Appetite City: Oysters

Before New York was called the Big Apple, it could have been called “The Big Oyster.” Join host William Grimes as he dives into oyster history, the commodity that sparked the creation of some of New York City’s first food markets and restaurants. Listen in as Grimes speaks with New York Times bestselling author Mark Kurlansky on what some deemed to be a “worthless commodity” because it was so plentiful. Discover an old recipe made new again and then float to the present with a trip to the Mermaid Inn for a look at the oysters of today!

Oysters.  Having come from a land-locked state, I’ve never loved them.  But if you tune in tonight, you’ll see me make them the least gross way I know how.  Tonight @ 8:30 on NYC Life

Appetite City: Chop Suey

A few things to know after you watch the episode:

1. I don’t know what I was talking about, or what happened with the editing, but a gizzard does not help a chicken digest “meat.”  It’s a digestion aid in general, where chickens store small stones to help them grind food.

2.  Some people enjoy the texture of a chicken gizzard.  It’s been described by people who love it as “crunchy,” which is exactly how I would describe it.  It was like biting into a meat apple.

By the turn of the century, New York had a large Chinatown, although its expansion had been frozen by the strict Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882.  This law was the first to enforce a restriction on immigration in our country and did so on the basis of race.  Chinese workers, who were seen as a threat to the American economy because they would work longer hours for less pay, were banned entry to the United States.  They were not allowed to become citizens and were not allowed to send for their wives and children.

The result was a dominantly male enclave surrounding Mott street; many of the men worked and owned laundries and cooks, “female” work was one of the few jobs in which they could find opportunities.  Chinatown became an object of fascination for New Yorkers and tourists alike, and “slumming” parties (their words, not mine) were led through the neighborhood, complete with a guide and police escort.  In addition to viewing an opium-smoking demo, groups were almost always taken to the Chop Suey houses.  As a result, Chop Suey became a faddish dish in America.  By the 1920s it was an avant-garde dish for dinner parties, accompanied by an exotic “show you” sauce.  By the 1950s, housewives across American were stocking their cabinets with bottles of  Kikkoman and the dish became a weeknight staple.

The recipe I used for chop suey comes from a 1902 newspaper article that William Grimes dug up in his research for the book Appetite City.  You can read the full article, reprinted in the Pittsburgh Press, here.  Although the dish seems to be invented here in America, it’s one of those iconic foods whose origin is shrouded in myth.  Many stories exists, none of them seem to be factual.  But perhaps there wasn’t a single origin point; it seems more likely that America’s Chop Suey is the logical descendant of dishes available in China that use up little scraps of everything.  Perhaps no one before had named the adaptable stir fry that became so iconic to Americans.  From the Evening Post:

“Chop suey, the national dish of China for at least twenty-five centuries, bids fair to become a standard food in this country.  There are some 60 Chinese restaurants scattered over the different boroughs of Greater New York, whose cheif attraction is this popular composition, and several American restaurant have endeavored to take advantage of its popularity by adding it to their daily bill of fair.  There is a rediculous amount of mystery concerning the dish.  It is simple, economical, and easily made.”

Give it a try, and decide for yourself.


Chop Suey
From the New York Evening Post, 1902. 

1 lb pork
2 chicken livers
2 chicken gizzards
1/4 lb celery
1/4 lb canned mushrooms
1/4 lb bean sprouts
4 tb oil
1 tb chopped onions
1/2 clove garlic
white & red pepper
Worcestershire Sauce or Shoyu (Soy) Sauce

1. Make rice.

2. Cut pork into 1/4 inch pieces. Dice chicken livers and slice chicken gizzards.  Slice celery; finely chop onions and garlic. 

3. Put oil into a skillet over high heat. Add meat, celery, and fry until lightly colored.  Add 1/2 cup boiling water, onions, garlic and seasonings.  Cook approximately five more minutes, or until nearly tender, stirring constantly; then add mushrooms and bean sprouts and cook two minutes more.

4. Add a teaspoon shoyu sauce and serve over rice.

Appetite City: Reuben’s Apple Pancake

This week’s episode of Appetite City focuses on Delis, a take-out tradition brought by the Germans and appropriated by Eastern-European Jewish immigrants. I cook up one of the BEST FOODS EVER: Apple Pancakes from the now defunct Reuben’s Restaurant.

I’ve done a post on Apple Pancakes before; so for recipes and more history on the dish, go here. They are well worth making–and reviving. When the cameras turned off, the crew of Appetite City descended upon the plate of Apple Pancake like a pack of ravenous lions, a swarm of hungry ants, or some sort of other voracious animal. The pancakes were a hit.

I had a viewing party at my apartment last night and cooked Apple Pancakes with the same results: swarms of my friends devouring them burning hot from communal plates.  I also served up another deli favorite, an authentic New York Egg Cream. Egg Creams, any New Yorker knows, contain neither eggs nor creams; and can only be authentically made with “Fox’s U-Bet Chocolate Syrup” (available locally at Economy Candy and online).   The formula is 2 tablespoons U-Bet Chocolate syrup mixed with 1 cup of whole milk and topped off with a 1/2 cup plain seltzer. I used a long, bar spoon to blend the syrup and milk before adding the seltzer; and, in a possible Egg Cream first, I added an ounce (or two) of rum.  Delicious.

Tonight on Appetite City: The Delicatessen

Tonight’s episode is all about one of NYC’s most famous institutions, the deli:

The word “Delicatessen” is almost synonymous with New York City, yet many don’t know where the word comes from or how the deli got its start in the Big Apple. Join host William Grimes as he uncovers the true origin of the New York City deli, speaks to food author Arthur Schwartz and reveals the truth about how these once foreign and unusual delicacies from Eastern Europe became a staple of New York City life.

And I’ll be whipping up a batch of one of the most delicious things I’ve ever put in my mouth.  Tune in to find out what it is!  Tonight @ 8:30 on NYC Life, Channel 25.  And stop by FPF tomorrow for the full episode, recipes, and more!

Appetite City: Soul Food. Full Episode, Recipes and More!

Premiere episode of Appetite City.  I get a montage!

Last night marked the premiere of Appetite City!  I cooked up some piggy feet, which to be honest, have always given me trouble.  As I say in the episode, the pork has a good flavor; but my pig’s feet always comes out a little on the tough side instead of soft and supple.  Thoughts? Suggestions?

The recipe I used in the show came from Rufus Estes’ Good Things to Eat, As Suggested By Rufus; A Collection Of Practical Recipes For Preparing Meats, Game, Fowl, Fish, Puddings, Pastries, Etc., considered to be one of the most important early cookbooks by an African American.   Born into slavery, Estes lost two brothers in the Civil War, and from a young age was the man of  his household: carrying water and pails of milk for his mother and working to keep the family afloat.  Estes worked at his first restaurant at the age of 16 and spent the better part of his adulthood working as a chef for the Pullman railways car service, catering to an exclusive clientele: “…Sir Henry Morton Stanley, the explorer, Ignace Paderewski, the Polish pianist and politician, President Benjamin Harrison (1889 – 1903) and President Grover Cleveland…”  By the time his cookbook was published, he was cooking for some of the most wealthy families in America.

Estes seems like a pretty trustworthy reference in the matter of pig’s feets.  His slim cookbook contains recipes for “…Sheep’s Brains with Small Onions, Sheep’s Kidneys, Broiled, and Sheep’s Tongues; Candied Violets, Southern Corncakes, Coffee Cup Custard, Roasted Canvasback Duck, Kedgeree, Rolled Rib Roast, and Scotch Snipe. They also include ten Souffle recipes, including those for corn, Guernsey cheese, tapioca and tomato; and five kinds of Sherbet – Cranberry, Currant, Lemon, Lemon Ginger and Tea.”  Although few original copies of his book remain, it can be read in its entirety on Feeding America.

Broiled Pig’s Feet
From Good Things to Eat, by Rufus Estes, 1911.
Modern directions inspired by Soul Food and Southern Cooking.

8 pig’s feet
1 bunch fresh parsley
3-4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
3 allspice berries
2 medium onions
2 carrots
4 egg yolks
2 tb butter
1 cup bread crumbs
1 tb shallot 

1.When you purchase pig’s feet, ask your butcher to split them in half for you.  Wash them, pat dry with paper towels, and tie halves together with kitchen twine.

2. Coarsely chop parsley, carrots and onion.  Add to a slow cooker along with thyme, bay leaf and allspice.  Cover with water, and cook on high four hours, or until extremely tender.

3. Remove pig’s feet from cooking liquid to cool.  Finely dice shallots and parsley and mix with  bread crumbs.  Whisk the egg yolks with the butter and set aside.

4. Dredge pig’s feet in egg and butter mixture and then the bread crumbs. Place in a baking pan and broil 10-15 minutes until well browned. Unbind and arrange on a platter; garnish with parsley.


Fun Fact: Raw pig’s feet feel exactly like human hands.

Tune in next Thursday for another episode of Appetite City!  Every Thursday at 8:30 on NYC Life Channel 25.  And for those of you who live around the country, stop by my blog on Fridays for the entire episode, recipes and more!