Yesterday's Menus

Cooking up retro menus from vintage cookbooks

1965 James Beard Dinner for 4

Menu:

Grilled Cheeseburgers*

Mushroom-Romaine Salad*

toasted rolls

Quick Raspberry Shortcake*

(*recipe provided)

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Today’s menu comes from the 1965 James Beard’s Menus for Entertaining.  James Beard of the James Beard award.  I’m not a bad cook, but I’m not a trained chef either so I found this book a bit intimidating.  However, this home-y, cozy menu sounded easy and accessible.  It was in the “easy to prepare” chapter after all.

And the results?  One (large!) and seriously tasty hamburger.  The salad had a classic vinaigrette and the fresh mushrooms were a interesting textural addition.  The dessert was so good, I ran out and bought some more raspberries and had the same dessert the next day.

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This was a great meal, but a little lacking in visual appeal.  I would have added a slice of tomato and red onion to the burger plate. But then again, I’m not James Beard, am I?

This menu was way less intimidating than I feared.  Not a book for rank beginners.  The instructions assume that you’ve been in the kitchen before.  Perhaps I’m to use to idiot-proof instructions.  For example, the burger instructions didn’t say how many patties to make.  The menu served four, so I assumed four, but it did make giant 1/2 lb. burgers so I wondered if a better cook than I would have made eight.  Maybe I’m just over thinking it.

Still, lots of interesting menus in this one.  There are a few breakfast menus I have my eye on.  A mint julep breakfast (cold Smithfield ham, rye or french bread, eggs and mushrooms in tarragon cream, raspberry preserve, toasted muffins and pound cake) and a champagne breakfast (tiny croustades, superb chicken hash, chipolatas, asparagus, toasted brioche, damson preserves).  Yes, please.

Flipping through this book made me seriously wish I could go back in time and become James Beard’s friend.  I would just stand outside his house unobtrusively until he invited me in for dinner (or lunch, breakfast, brunch or cocktails). Or perhaps, that’s a description of a stalker.

Also on my list of time travel wishes is opening day at Disneyland and the day I met my husband. (That also involved a nice dinner…)

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Grilled Cheeseburgers

2 lbs. chopped chuck or round

1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

1/4 tsp. Tobasco

1/2 tsp. mustard

1 c. loosely packed shredded cheddar or Gruyere cheese

Mix seasonings and cheese with the beef.  Make patties about 1 1/2 inches thick.  Grill or pan-broil to desired doneness.  Serve on hot plate with mustard.

Mushroom-Romaine Salad

1 large head romaine

1/2 lb. raw mushrooms, sliced

6 to 8 scallions, finely cut

6 TBSP. oil

2 TBSP. vinegar, or to taste

1/4 c. chopped parsley

1 tsp. salt

freshly ground black pepper

Tear romaine and put in a salad bowl.  Add mushrooms and scallions.  Blend rest of ingredients and toss with salad just before serving.

Quick Raspberry Shortcake

1 or 2 packages frozen raspberries (or fresh raspberries, sugared, if in season)

4 slices Pound Cake

heavy cream or sour cream

Defrost the raspberries (or sugar the fresh ones–I used fresh).  Toast both sides of the pound cake.  Top with raspberries and cream (I used sour and it was fabulous).

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