Yankee Doodle went to town, a-riding on a pony, stuck a feather in his hat, and called it macaroni.
Happy New Year!
With the holidays and the exciting gourmet food behind us all, it’s time to go back to basics. I have a hankering for good old macaroni and cheese. Renaissance cooks brought pasta in its many forms to England from Italy back in the 16th Century; however it didn’t catch on until the early 18th Century. Pasta was easy to ship and found its way to the Colonies at that time.
One of the first receipts for this new ingredient was “To Make Soop with Vermicelly,” from the cookbook, The Cooks and Confectioners Dictionary, written in 1723, by John Nott. Nott was a learned man and was inspired by the French and their use of vermicelli. Other cooks followed suit, Charles Carter, Elizabeth Raffald. Then the first cookbook to be published in the colonies, The Complete Housewyfe by Eliza Smith, was followed by the first American cookbook author Hannah Glass. Vermicelli seemed to be used mostly in soups and puddings and it was not until Elizabeth Raffald’s, cookery book, that we see “To drefs MACORONI with PARMESAN CHEESE” And from there it became history, in a box for kids.
As it is the New Year I thought I would start with the first Mac and Cheese receipt. Something simple and comforting with the addition of some fried cured ham and a green vegetable my dinner would be easy and complete.
Allan started the fire early and it produced a lot of coals and heat. After a few mornings of 5 below zero and very chilly wind it felt really good. I boiled the macaroni and put it on the side to keep warm, and assembled all the things I’d need by the fire.
I melted the butter and added the flour and some salt and pepper to make a rue, then I put in the cream. When it was thick, I poured it over the pasta that I had put in a buttered dish.
I mixed all the sauce into the macaroni and added the parmesan cheese on top.
I sprinkled some bread crumbs on top and put it in the bake kettle to keep warm and toast the crumbs a bit. Then I fried the cured smoked ham in a little butter and cooked the broccoli , needed something healthy on the plate. Next year when my root cellar is operational I’ll have something from “age-appropriate” to use.
So the dinner was as easy as it sounded and comforting . Allan gave it rave reviews, even the broccoli tasted better than he thought. That saying a lot for a man who dislikes mosts vegetables.
As an historical sidebar, Thomas Jefferson was interested in macaroni, a general term he used for pasta, and this was something he ate while living in Paris; he even served macaroni at the White House too. He had a macaroni machine sent from Naples to Paris and then on to Philadelphia.
There is a recipe for macaroni from the Jefferson Papers Library of Congress, that was donein Jefferson’s own hand:
6 eggs. yolks & whites
2 wine glasses of milk
2 tb of flour
a [?] salt
Work them together without water, and very well. Roll it then with a roller to a paper thickness cut it into small pieces which roll again with the hand into long slips, and then cut them to a proper length. Put them into warm water a quarter of an hour. Drain them. Dress them as macaroni. But if they are intended for soups they are to be put in the soup and not into warm water.
I hope you enjoyed the Pasta blog and will subscribe if you haven’t already, I have some wonderful plans for hearth cooking this year.