Retronovated Recipes: Crockpot Beef Tongue

Look at it.  Licking the side of the Crock-pot.

Old Stone House of Brooklyn hosted an 1864 baseball game; naturally, they wanted some 1864 ballpark treats to go along with it.  So we did some research and after looking into Victorian street fair food and picnic pickings, we decided on a menu of popcorn balls (maple, molasses, and rosewater), lemonade, and ham on cornbread.  But there was one Victorian dish that came up again and again as an all-time, picnic in the park favorite: Tongue.

We decided to go for it.  We’d strive for historic accuracy and allow tongue sandwiches to grace our menu. We were serving in Brooklyn, after all, and I trusted this borough to have some adventurous eaters. However, I had never actually cooked a tongue before.  It was time to embark on another Offal Adventure.

A cow tongue is shockingly large and floppity.  I acquired mine at Jeffrey’s Meat Market, which has been located in Essex Street Market since Essex Street had a market.  I brought it home and prepped it, and as I moved it around the kitchen, I imagined it making some kind of animate tongue sounds (mostly pppplhhhlhlllh!). I began cruising for recipes: the Victorians demanded it be “…so tender that a straw would go through it.”  Now that’s tender.  So how to get it so perfectly tender, while at the same time infusing it with all kinds of mid-century spicy flavors?  I knew what I had to do: I busted out my trusty Crock-pot.

Yes, ok, OBVIOUSLY they didn’t have Crock-pots in 1864.  But that’s not what we do on this blog; I don’t have a hearth installed in my four-story walkup.  And I love my Crock-pot; no matter what shit I throw in there, it always comes out perfectly cooked and flavorful.  I trusted it with my tongue.  So I decided to retronovate a recipe:  I used this Spiced Beef Tongue Crockpot recipe for cooking instructions, but used the spices  listed in this 1845 recipe from The New England Economical Housekeeper.

1864-style Slow Cooked Tongue

Adapted from The New England Economical Housekeeper by Esther Allen Howland, 1845; and, Spiced Beef Tongue from

3 pounds Beef tongue (phhhhffffll!)
2 quarts Water
1/4 cup brown sugar
6 whole cloves
6 black peppercorns
6 whole allspice
6 flakes mace
2 teaspoons Salt

Ground spices would be fine, too.

Combine all ingredients in a slow-cooker.  Cook on low 10 hours.


I pulled the tongue from the Crock-pot and it went into the fridge to chill overnight.  The next day I served it toasted on slices of molasses-sweetened cornbread.  It was indeed perfectly tender and flavorful.  And did Brooklyn live up to my expectations of being adventurous eaters?  By the end of the day, we had sold out of tongue sandwiches.

Retronovated Recipes: Chocolet Puffs

A few weekends ago, I was awarded Best in Show at the Havemeyer Sugar Sweets Festival, a fundraiser for the City Reliquary. I was especially proud of my prize because the recipe that won, Chocolate Puffs, is one of my favorite creations.

I first came across the recipe for Chocolate Puffs in The American History Cookbook, an excellent resource by Mark H. Zanger that uses food to teach cultural history. That’s right up my alley.

The recipe, which is from a 1750s manuscript, is fascinating because it is “one of the first recipes in English for any use of chocolate other than drinking.”

Take a pound of Loaf Sugar, beat and Sifted very fine, 2 Ounce of Almonds blancht and beat very fine with a little Orange Flower water or any other, to keep them from Oyling, but not to make the same too thin, take 2 ounces of Chocolet and grate it, then mix it well together, the take the wfite of an Egg and beat it to a froth, if one be not Enough take a little more, then beat it well to a paste & Squert it, and do it on Slight paper and Set the same in an oven after Bread, of Chocolett Ditt it up a while but not for White ones, for fear of making them brown.

I realized this recipe was the perfect vehicle to try out the block of American Heritage baking chocolateI had picked up on my recent trip to Washington DC. American Heritage is chocolate produced by the Historic Division of Mars, Inc.

“The Historic Division of Mars was established in 2006, with the vision of becoming the undisputed leader in chocolate history. Our mission is to relentlessly pursue and share chocolate’s rich past, by creating authentically historic chocolate experiences that allow our consumers to enjoy the fusion of chocolate history and Mars Chocolate excellence.

It’s “Handcrafted chocolate made from an authentic colonial recipe…available during the 17th century.” I’m a huge nerd, so when I discovered that there was an authentic historic chocolate being produced, I was beside myself with excitement.

Early chocolate was produced sweetened cakes and sold as a spice. Until the later half of the 19th century, it was primary served as what we know of as hot chocolate. My block of American Heritage chocolate is about 5 oz of pressed cocoa, delicately spiced with anise, red pepper, nutmeg, orange and cinnamon. It seemed only fitting to feature the unique taste of this chunk of chocolate history in my recipe for Chocolet Puffs.

If I’m reading the Chocolet Puffs recipe correctly, it gives you an option of melting the chocolate before adding it to the whipped egg whites, but primarily advises you to simply grate it and stir it in to the meringue, much like you would use a spice. I searched for a comparable modern recipe to use as a jumping point for my baking process: I came across a wonderful recipe for Chocolate Meringues in Martha Stewart’s Cookies that stirred shaved chocolate into a Swiss meringue; a concept incredibly similar to my 18th century recipe.

Chocolate Puffs (1750s)
From a manuscript housed at Tyron Place, as published in the American History Cookbook.

Modern recipe inspired by “Chocolate Meringues” from
Martha Stewart’s Cookie Book.
4 large eggs whites
1 cup sugar
Pinch of cream of tartar
Pinch of Salt
1/2 tablespoon Orange Flower Water*
1/4 cup grated American Heritage chocolate

1. Preheat oven to 175 degrees. Combine egg whites, sugar, cream of tartar, salt and orange flower water in a heat proof bowl of an electric mixer. Set in a double boiler. Cook on a low heat, whisking constantly, until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is warm to the touch.

2. Transfer bowl to electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment; beat starting on low speed and gradually increasing to high, until stiff, glossy peaks form, about 10 minutes.
3. Gently fold in chocolate, taking care not to crush the meringue.

4. Transfer meringue to a pastry bag, or (like I did) a Ziploc bag with one corner cut off. Pipe quarter sized, “kiss” shaped cookies onto a non-stick cookie sheet, or parchment lined cookie sheet.

5. Bake cookies for two hours.

*Orange Flower Water can be found in Middle Eastern grocery stores; I live in an ethic neighborhood, so my local grocery store carries it, along with three different brands of Rose Water. It is a historic gastronomist’s paradise.


And that’s all there is to it. The process is time consuming, but simple. The results: a depth and intensity of flavor I would not have thought possible from these crispy, sweet little puffs.

Retronovated Recipes: The Frozen Mint Julep

I’ve concocted this recipe based on Jerry Thomas’ “The Real Georgia Mint Julep Recipe.” A winning combination of peach, mint and bourbon, the flavors blend together perfectly into a drink that’s just the right amount of sweet. It is frosty, delicious, and boozey; which is really the only kind of drink I want this summer.

The Frozen Mint Julep
Inspired by The Read Georgia Mint Julep, by Jerry Thomas
1 pint Haagen-Daaz Peach Sorbet
1 handful fresh mint
6 oz Bourbon (or to taste)
Place all ingredients in a blender. Fill blender with ice. Blend until smooth. If the consistency is too think, add more ice. If it is not boozy enough, add more booze. Pour in glasses and enjoy.

Retronovated Recipes: Soup Meagre

Soup Meagre is a great spring recipe from about 1723.  It’s a sort of catch-all meal made of all types of early season vegetables: onions, peas, and leafy greens.  

The original recipe can be found in the American History Cookbook;  in the original, you add a hunk of stale bread and cream the soup together into something I can only imagine resembles baby food.  In my modernized version, I leave this final step out, and let the vegetables maintain their integrity in the broth.

I made this soup recently at my friend Mark’s house: I had gathered some wild onions from a farmer’s field and brought them over as a gift.  He pointed out some wild greens in his front yard, and we decided to make a batch of soup meagre.

The original recipe features sorrel, a leafy green that is ready in May when it’s cultivated, and June if it’s found wild.  It’s flavor is tart and distinctly lemony.  When choosing greens for this soup, I recommend using a combination of mild and tart flavors.  I also enjoy making this soup heartier with the addition of a hard boiled egg for garnish.  This recipe can be made your own with the additions of any ingredients you have on hand: mushrooms, white beans, ham;  be creative.  We didn’t have cloves, so we used cinnamon and red pepper flakes.  This recipe can also easily be made vegetarian by using a vegetable broth instead of chicken.  

The point is: feel free to diverge from this recipe in ingredients and proportions.  It’s very hard to go wrong.

Soup Meagre
Inspired by a recipe from a 1723 manuscript as it appears in The American History Cookbook by Mark H. Zanger.
3 bunches leafy greens, including any combination of spinach, parsley, kale, sorrel, lamb’s quarter, or dandelion; washed well.
1 medium onion
2 cloves
1/2 stick salted butter
2 cups peas
3-6 cups Chicken stock
Salt and Pepper to taste
Hard boiled eggs for garnish
1. Melt butter in bottom of pot. Add onions and season with salt and pepper.  Cook until transparent.

2. Add chicken stock, cloves, and peas.  Bring to a boil.  Test peas for doneness (they want to be a little under done at this point). Taste and re-season broth, if necessary.

3. Add greens and cook five more minutes, or until greens are just wilted.

4.  Garnish with hard boiled eggs and serve.

Note: this soup is not good the next day; the greens tend to get slimy  So only make as much as you will eat in one meal.

Retronovated Recipes: Maple Glazed Squab with Corn Bread Stuffing

This recipe is perfect for a romantic dinner for two.  I came up with it in 2005, while I was working on my thesis.  The flavors are based on 18th century game recipes;  the maple-vinegar glaze is important because it breaks up the gaminess of the meat.

Maple Glazed Squab with Corn Bread Stuffing
Inspired by recipes from American Cookery by Amelia Simmons

3 Squabs
2 tbsp Olive Oil

For the Stuffing:
2 cups cornbread, toasted
½ cup fresh parsley
1tsp Marjoram
1tsp Savory
4 leaves fresh Sage
1tsp Salt
1tsp Pepper
1/2 large yellow onion, chopped
1 rib celery chopped
1/3 cup chicken stock
1/2 stick butter
1 egg

For the Glaze:
1/2 stick butter
½ cup real maple syrup
2 table spoons red wine vinegar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Wash the squabs throughly and pat dry. Rub inside and outside with salt and pepper.
2. Mix toasted cornbread with seasonings, 3. In a skillet, cook onion in 1 tbsp butter until transparent.
Add celery and chicken stock, then cook 2-3 minutes more.
4. Add onion, celery, and chicken stock to cornbread. Add butter and egg. Mix thouroughly.
Stuff squab with stuffing, being careful not the stuff it too tight. Bake any remaining stuffing in the oven, until the top is browned.
5. Heat oil in a skillet, and brown squab on all sides, turning often. Transfer to oven.
6. Let squab roast for 30 minutes undisturbed, then glaze every 10 minutes for an additional 30 minutes until its juices run clear.
7. In the meantime, prepare the glaze: melt butter over low heat in pot, add maple syrup and vineger; salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a simmer.
8. Serve over bed of stuffing, drizzled with glaze

Retronovated Recipes: Barley Risotto with Wild Greens

Barley Risotto with Nettle Leaves and Wild Onions.

Last week, when we downed our sticky yet filling Nettle Pudding, we all agreed it could probably be adapted into something more appetizing.

Barley Risotto with Wild Greens
With additional inspiration from Martha Stewart’s Parmesan-Carrot Risotto.
3-4 cups beef broth or stock
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
A handful of wild onions
1 bunch nettle leaves
coarse salt and ground pepper
1/2 cup barley
1/2 cup booze
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
1. Microwave stock until steaming. Set aside.

2. Wash the wild onions well, and prepare by slicing off the roots and tough green leaves. It should look similar to a pearl onion.

3. Prepare the nettle by plucking the leaves off of the stem. Remember to wear gloves! Rinse the leaves well.

4. Brown the onions in a skillet with 1tbsp butter and 1tbsp olive oil, seasoned with salt and pepper. Cook until soft, about 5-7 minutes.

5. Add the nettle leaves and saute 1-2 minutes, until wilted.

6. Add the barley to the skillet and mix with other ingredients.

7. Add the 1/2 cup booze. I ended up using sweet vermouth because there was nothing else in the house, but a red wine would probably work best. Stir, and cook until booze is absorbed.

8. Add 1 cup hot broth; simmer over medium-low, stirring frequently until mostly absorbed, 10-12 minutes. Continue to add broth, one cup at a time, stirring occasionally until it is mostly absorbed. Cook until rice is creamy and tender, 20-30min.

9. Remove from heat and stir in Parmesan and remaining butter.
This is very rich; I’d recommend it as a side served with more vegetables, or with meat.

Retronovated Recipes: Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

Today is the last day of National Grilled Cheese Sandwich Month!  I had the pleasure of attending a grilled cheese sandwich competition yesterday, and there were a lot of fancy-schmance grilled cheeses. Take a look:
Much like my friend Josh, I’m a Wonderbread and American cheese kind of girl.  I was inspired to do a little research into historic grilled cheese sandwich, and I came across this recipe from The International Jewish Cook Book (1919):
I liked the idea of adding a little kick to the cheese with paprika and mustard.  It reminded me of when I would sleepover my best friend’s house in elementary school.  Her mom would make the best grilled cheeses with Velveeta and spicy brown mustard.
So I decided to use the Toasted Cheese recipe to spice up my grilled cheese routine.
Spiced Grilled Cheese

16 oz (1 package) Velveeta Cheese
1 tablespoon Dijon Mustard
1 tsp Powdered Mustard
1 tsp Paprika
1 tsp Garlic Powder
8 Bread Slices

Add Velveeta and spices in a medium pan; melt until smooth over a low heat, stirring constantly. Spread a generous amount on a lightly toasted bread slice, and sandwich with another slice of bread on top.  Finish as you would a grilled cheese sandwich: melt butter into a skillet, place sandwich into the skillet to toast, flip when golden brown.  Will make about four sandwiches


Grilled cheeses are really something I can get behind.

Coming Soon — Retronovated Recipes!

Retronovation n. The conscious process of mining the past to produce methods, ideas, or products which seem novel to the modern mind. (

I’m going to be introducing a new feature this week:  Retronovated Recipes. Retronovation embodies a lot of what this blog is about: looking to the past to innovate the future.  So I’m going to be sharing some of the recipes I’ve created that aren’t accurate recreations of historical recipes, but rather use the flavors of the past as inspiration.  Keep an eye out.

Pepsi Throwback!

Speaking on new/old products appearing on store shelves, Pepsi is releasing two new soda lines: Pepsi Natural  and Pepsi Throwback.  Their main selling point is that they are made with real cane sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup.  According to “Pepsi Natural, a premium cola made with sugar, natural caramel and kola nut extract, will be sold in glass bottles…The Pepsi and Mountain Dew Throwback drinks will be sweetened with natural sugar and will feature retro-looking packaging reminiscent of the 1960’s and 70s.” 

My Dad used to rant and rave that Coca-Cola in glass bottles was better than Coke in cans, and fell into a deep depression when they discontinued the glass bottles.  After moving to New York, I brought my dad home a few bottles of Coke from the Mexican deli across the street, and I discovered the difference: imported Coke in bottles is made from real sugar; American soda (or pop, for my friends in the midwest) is made with HFCS.  Besides, People are really excited about that glass bottle.

I recently saw Pepsi Natural on the shelves of my local Duane Reade; I haven’t tried any yet, so if you have, let me know what you think. 

And on the topic of tasty sodas, if you live in New York, The Lexington Avenue Candy Shop is worth a visit.  More of a luncheonette than a candy shop, they make all of their sodas the old-fashioned way, with syrup and soda water.  They also don’t have that whole “we an old fashioned soda shop!!!” attitude.  I had never had a “real” root beer float before, and it was unbelievable.

Update: I’ve since tried Pepsi Natural, and It’s pretty good.  It definately doesn’t taste like Pepsi. I also found this lovely qoute by Andy Warhol about Coke:

What’s great about this country is America started the tradition where the richest consumers buy essentially the same things as the poorest. You can be watching TV and see Coca-Cola, and you can know that the President drinks Coke, Liz Taylor drinks Coke, and just think, you can drink Coke, too. A Coke is a Coke and no amount of money can get you a better Coke than the one the bum on the corner is drinking. All the Cokes are the same and all the Cokes are good.”