Thursday, November 15, 2012

Steak and Ale Hash

What should one do when one finds a boneless New York steak and a bottle of Newcastle Brown Ale in the refrigerator?   Why, make a beef hash, of course!

Actually, I was inspired by the recent arrival of the Jas. Townsend and Son 2013 calendar
( that comes complete with recipes.  It happened to be opened to August's tempting picture.

They cited this book:  The House-keeper's Pocket-book by Mrs. Sarah Harrison.  I found a copy of the ebook here:

Published in 1739!!!

The recipe was for "A Hash of Beef fine, without Expence".

Page 41
The original rendition is:  
Cut your Beef in thin slices, then make your Sauce for it as follows; take an Onion cut in two, some Pepper and Salt, a little Water and some strong Beer; then take a piece of Butter roll'd in Flour in your Pan, stirring it till it burns; then put in your Sauce, and let it boil a Minute or two; then put in your Beef, and let it just warm through, for if you let it lye too long it will harden it.
A little Claret may be put in just before you take it off the Fire; if you use no Beer, some Mushroom or Walnut liquors; garnish with Pickles.

I tried the calendar's redaction:

1 lb of beef, sliced as thinly as possible across the grain
2 - 3 T butter
1 small onion, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
1 pint strong ale or red wine
2 tsp mushroom ketchup (the calendar has a recipe for this) or Worcestershire sauce (I used this)

I trimmed the fat off the steak before slicing

Roll your butter into a ball and roll it in flour, being careful not to shake off any more than 
naturally falls off.  

Too cold to make a ball, so I just coated the chunk with flour

Melt the butter in a hot Dutch oven.  Add the onion and a bit of salt and black pepper.  
Stir until the flour has turned a golden brown.

That is as brown as it got before I added the ale

Add the ale or red wine to the browned flour, along with the mushroom ketchup or 
Worcestershire sauce.  Bring to a boil and allow to thicken, stirring continually.

Add the slices of beef to the broth and stir around, just until they are heated through -- a 
couple of minutes.  Do not heat too long, otherwise the meat will become tough.  
Serve immediately.

The meat is cooked enough

I had less than a pound of steak but it still made a good quantity using the given amounts of 
the other ingredients.

The pint (well, almost, after I made sure the taste was acceptable!) of ale was plenty and had 
to be reduced quite a bit.  The best part of this was how wonderful it smelled while the sauce 
was reducing.  Heavenly!  It was hard to wait until the sauce got thick.

The meat goes in pink but don't wait until it looks cooked before taking it out.  The thin 
slices cook quickly and will continue to cook from the heat of the sauce once you take it 
off the stove.

This is really quite simple and easy to prepare.

The Verdict:  Success!  Definitely a winner and a repeater because the taste was robust and 
flavorful.  There was some bitter from the ale, more so than just the ale itself; I think this is 
from the reducing.  If you don't like bitter, pick an ale that is not!

I think I could have put in more flour but that would have made the sauce more like a gravy
 -- a fine idea but that might change the flavor.

I wish I would have remembered to garnish with pickles!  I think that would be good.

Serve this with a hunk of warm, buttered bread.  You'll need it to sop up the sauce. 

Come to think of it, this would make a good "sloppy"-style sandwich on a roll.  Just reduce
the sauce a bit more.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

An Elizabethan Field Kitchen

A little while ago I set up an Elizabethan Field Kitchen to demonstrate historical cooking techniques.  This is different from the big set up I did last spring as I only had a small area, two tables on which to display my wares, a small metal fire pit and a tripod space, and NO FENCE so people could walk right up and talk to me.  The best part:  I could give the public a taste of my food!

Here's how it looked the first morning, after it was set up and ready to start cooking:

The view as you approach.  Fire pit on the left.
A close up of my bowls, platters, and implements

On the other table, foodstuffs and fun things to talk about

My various cooking pots, plus tripod and grates and fire moving tools

I cooked a variety of recipes, always in normal quantities (I'm not trying to feed the public, just give them a bite of what I had made).

My favorite recipe of the weekend was this:

Erbolate  (Baked Herbed Eggs)

To the King’s Taste, page 78

ISBN: 0-312-80748-1

Take parsley, mint, savory, sage, tansy, vervain, clary, rue, dittany, fennel, southernwood.  Chop them and grind them small.  Mix them with eggs.  Put butter in a baking dish and put the mixture in it.  Bake it and serve it in portions.

In other words...

6 Tbsp fresh herbs from the list above or to taste
5 eggs, lightly beaten
1/8 tsp salt
2 Tbsp butter

Mince herbs.  Mix with eggs and salt, beating a few moments.
Melt butter in an 8 inch baking dish.
Pour in egg mixture.
Bake in a preheated 325 degree F oven until eggs are set and top is brown. (about 35 min)
Serve as you would a pie.

Notes:  I used a blend of flat-leaf parsley, apple mint, peppermint, sage, and rue.  It was delightful, especially the mint.  I ended up cooking mine in a fry pan that was already greased from cooking bacon.  The coals were very low so the eggs cooked without scorching the bottom.  All the herbs floated to the top and made the omelet look very pretty.  I think this is the best way to make a simple, flavorful omelet that I have ever experienced (and much, much better than dried herbs, even if they have the chance to rehydrate!).


I took a mincemeat pie to share with my fellow re-enactors and the public.  Professional photographer Gar Travis took some excellent pictures of it:

I have a pie pan now!

Sharing it with friends.

Credit where it is due!  These two photos were graciously given to me by:
Gar Travis / GT©

The Verdict:  The weekend demonstration was a success.  The site was great to work at, the people were interested and interesting, and nearly every recipe was tasty and fun.  Only one was a border-line success but I think I just needed to measure things a bit more carefully.  I hope to retry some of the recipes at home to see what else I could do or if I could improve upon them.  And I recommend you try the Erbolate.  It is yummy.