Wednesday, June 30, 2010

George Washington Hoe Cakes

According to his step-granddaughter, Nelly Custis Lewis, George Washington liked to rise with the sun, read or write until seven or seven fifteen, then sneak downstairs for his favorite breakfast of “three small hoe cakes swimming in butter and honey” and “three cups of tea without cream."

So, what are Hoe Cakes? Well, they’re usually made from a simple batter of corn meal, salt and water and fried in grease. Some people say that Hoe Cakes got their name because they were baked on the blade of a hoe by slaves in the field. Others claim that “hoe” was once another term for “griddle” in colonial Virginia and parts of England.

Either way, George sure seemed to enjoy them — and you might, too, if you try them someday! If you'd like to whip up a batch of hoe cakes today, here's a recipe to try that's simple to make and tastes simply delicious!

8 ½ cups white cornmeal
¼ teaspoons dry yeast
1 egg
warm water
honey and unsalted butter to taste

In large container, mix together 4 cups white cornmeal, 1 ¼ teaspoons dry yeast, and enough warm water to give mixture the consistency of pancake batter (about 3-4 cups).

Cover and set on counter overnight. In the morning, gradually add remaining cornmeal, egg and enough warm water to give the mixture the consistency of pancake batter about (3-4 cups).

Cover and set aside for 15 minutes. Add grease to a heated griddle. Pour batter, by the spoonful, onto the griddle.

When the hoe cake is brown on one side, turn it over and brown the other side. Serve warm with lots of butter and honey and enjoy!

George Washington's Rules of Civility

When George Washington was a schoolboy in Virginia, he was given a list of 110 Rules to live by. To practice his penmanship, the young Washington carefully wrote out each rule and committed it to memory. Some of the rules were special admonitions governing good behavior at the dinner table. Here are some of them:

“Don't Take so big a Bite that you must Chew with your Mouth open.” “Let not your Morsels be too Big for the Jowls.” “Drink not nor Talk with your Mouth full.” “Cleanse not your Teeth with the Table Cloth Napkin Fork or Knife.”

This is still superb advice today! Originally written by French Jesuit priests in the 1590s, the list was later published in a booklet entitled George Washington’s Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation. If you would like to read it, it is still available from booksellers today.

Credit: Washington Receiving a Salute on the Field of Trenton, from the engraving by William Holl (1865) after the painting by John Faed.

Friday, June 25, 2010

"I Like Ike!" Pork Chops with Apples and Onions

During the 1952 presidential campaign, Ike’s wife Mamie was by his side every step of the way, delighting crowds with her quick wit and natural charm. Campaign songs were written about her and colorful buttons and posters proclaimed, “I LIKE IKE, BUT I LOVE MAMIE.”

Historians say that one reason Mamie was so popular as First Lady was that she shared the country’s interests and middle-class values. She watched soap operas, played board games, served TV dinners, and encouraged White House cooks to use boxed cake mixes and Jell-O.

Even Mamie’s personal tastes reflected those of the nation. She was a fan of such hit shows as “I Love Lucy” and let it be known that she and Ike liked to eat their dinner on trays while watching television in the private family quarters at the White House. As First Lady, Mamie was proud of her role as a traditional housewife, and was famously quoted as saying, “Ike runs the country, I turn the pork chops.”

This recipe for Thick-Cut Pork Chops with Apples and Onion from is adapted from Mad Hungy by Lucinda Scala Quinn.

4 bone-in thick-cut pork chops
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 large white onion, sliced
2 to 3 apples, cored and sliced, about 3 cups
1 cup beer, white wine, cider, or chicken broth

Trim any excess fat from the chops and season liberally with salt and pepper. In a very large, heavy skillet (large enough to hold the chops with room to spare, preferably cast iron), heat the oil over high heat. Once it is shimmering and very hot, add the chops carefully and cook undisturbed for a few minutes for a good sear, about 5 minutes. Turn and sear the other side, then remove the chops to a plate.

Turn the heat to medium-low and swirl in the butter, then add the apple and onions. Cook until the onion is golden and the apple is softened, 8-10 minutes, then deglaze the pan with the beer or other liquid. Return the chops to the pan and cook, turning occasionally and covering with the sauce, for an additional 5-10 minutes, until the chops are done.

If desired, remove the chops and turn the heat to high to thicken the sauce. Serve the chops with the sauce draped over them.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Andrew Jackson's "Great Cheese Levee" of 1837

So, did you know that in 1835, a New York farmer presented Andrew Jackson with a mammoth wheel of cheddar cheese. Weighing more than 1,400 pounds, it was four feet in diameter and stood nearly three feet high. Jackson let the gift sit, aging, for two years in the vestibule (lobby) of the White House.

A few weeks before leaving office, Jackson invited the public to a reception in honor of George Washington’s birthday. According to newspaper accounts, more than 10,000 well-wishers swarmed to the White House, hoping to get a glimpse of the departing president – and a piece of the cheese! When the last guests finally left, all that remained of the cheese were the pieces that had been ground into the carpet, smudged across the walls, and smeared on the satin couches and curtains.

If you're in the mood for something cheesy today, this recipe for Extra Cheesy Cheddar Cheese Bread is a great addition for large social gatherings and is a cinch to make at the last minute!!

1 pound shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/4 cup sour cream
4 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 stick butter, softened
1 large loaf of French bread or biscuits

In a bowl, mix together the cheeses Stir in mayonnaise and sour cream. In a separate bowl, blend butter and garlic. Add butter mixture to the cheese mixture.

Preheat broiler. Slice loaf of bread in half horizontally and lay crust side down on an ungreased cookie sheet. Spread cheese mixture over the bread. Place under the broiler until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Remove from broiler and let sit for 4-5 minutes. Serve warm and enjoy!

Credit: Jackson's Great Cheese Levee, painting by Benjamin Poole (1886)