I don’t know about you, but I love Christmas morning. Yes, the presents are nice – but it is breakfast that I crave. I need a hearty breakfast that’ll tide me over while I clean up the mess and get ready for a dinner which I’ll be too nervous to eat. And don’t think I’m a Stepford Wife – I encourage chaos. While everyone else plays with their toys – I gorge myself and drink tons of coffee appropriately laced with Bailey’s Irish Cream.
But here’s the question – what to make? It has to be simple, yet yummy, especially considerate of young people’s tastes and tummies.
So, I ask myself – what would the Victorians do? What better way to find out than to check our local Cape May Cookbooks. I personally have a fondness for former Mainstay Inn Bed and Breakfast owner, Sue Carroll’s Breakfast at Nine, Tea at Four. These are recipes compiled from the prestigious Bed & Breakfast.
I’ve chosen Eggnog French Toast with Cranberry Syrup. It’s festive, very naughty when it comes to calories, (consequently very yummy) and can be prepared the night before – then just pop it in the oven right before serving time. A fresh cold glass of orange juice served in a pretty wine glass (Kids love that it. It makes them feel so grown up) and you’re ready to go without having missed a single present opening.
The French toast must be prepared the night before, then baked just before serving.
- 4 ounces softened cream cheese
- 1/4 cup dried cranberries (1 ounce)
- 1 (1-pound) loaf French bread, cut into 12-14 (1-inch) slices
- 2-1/2 cups half-and-half
- 6 tablespoons butter, melted
- 8 eggs
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 teaspoon rum extract
- 1 cup frozen raspberry-cranberry juice concentrate, thawed
- 1 cup whole-berry cranberry sauce
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
Grease a 13x9x2 inch glass baking dish. In a food processor, combine the cream cheese and cranberries. Cut part way through each slice of bread to form a pocket. Fill with the cream cheese mixture and arrange in the baking dish.In a large bowl, whisk the cream, butter, eggs, nutmeg, sugar, vanilla, and rum extract. Pour evenly over the bread slices. Cover and refrigerated for at least 8 hours, or overnight. Preheat oven to 350°F and bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown.
Meanwhile, make the syrup. Combine all the ingredients in a small saucepan.
Whisk over medium-low heat until dissolved and lightly thickened.
Serve immediately, with cranberry syrup.
Yield: 6-8 servings; 2 cups of cranberry sauce.
Another good source is Cape May Fare, compiled by the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts.
Oven Omelette Brunch is the one I’ve chosen. Again, it’s quick to prepare and then pops in the over for 45 minutes. And honey – it feeds 12 – so, you needn’t worry about unexpected guests.
- 1/4cup margarine
- 18 eggs
- I cup sour cream
- I cup milk
- 2 teaspoon salt
- I cup grated sharp cheese
Melt margarine in 13×9-inch baking dish in a 350ºF oven. Tilt to cover the bottom. With an electric mixer, beat eggs, sour cream, milk and salt. Stir in cheese. Pour into baking dish. Bake until set (approximately 45 minutes). Serves 12.
I would be remiss, if I didn’t include the Colonials as well. I picked a couple of recipes – neither one of which you’re likely to make but they’re a fun read – from The American Frugal Housewife by Lydia Marie Child, first published in 1844 and sold at the Country Store at Historic Cold Spring Village.
Pancakes should be made of half a pint of milk, three great spoonfuls of sugar, one or two eggs, a tea-spoonful of dissolved pearlash, spiced with cinnamon, or cloves, a little salt, rose-water, or lemon-brandy, just as you happen to have it. Flour should be stirred in till the spoon moves round with difficulty. If they are thin they are apt to soak fat. Have the fat in your skillet boiling hot, and drop them in with a spoon. Let them cook till thoroughly brown. The fat which is left is good to shorten other cakes. The more fat they are cooked in, the less they soak.
“If you have no eggs, or wish to save them, use the above ingredients, and supply the place of eggs by two or three spoonfuls of lively emptings; but in this case they must be made five or six hours before they are cooked,-and in winter they should stand all night. A spoonful or more of N. E. rum makes pancakes light. Flip makes very nice pancakes. In this case, nothing is done but to sweeten your mug of beer with molasses; put in one glass of N. E. rum; heat it till it foams, by putting in a hot poker; and stir it up with flour as thick as other pancakes.”
The Village also uses some of the recipes included in the book in their food demonstrations. My particular favorite is not one which many of us might make but it reminds me of Ebenezer Scrooge in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. He’s in a restaurant having Gruel for dinner and he asks the waiter for more bread. The waiter, who has obviously waited on him before, tells him he’ll have to pay for it. And says; “No more bread.” Then later he tells Marley he’s not a ghost but just a piece of undigested Gruel. Well here’s the recipe. You gotta love it.
For those looking for help in creating a Victorian Christmas dinner, the following menu comes from Godey’s Lady’s Book, December 1890:
- Raw Oysters
- Fried smelts with Sauce Tartare
- Potatoes a la Maitre d’ Hotel
- Sweetbread Pates
- Roast Turkey with Cranberry Sauce
- Roman Punch
- Rice Croquettes
- Parisian Salad
- Crackers and Cheese
- Nesselrode Pudding
- Fancy Cakes
Have blue-point oysters; serve upon the half shell, the shells being laid upon oyster plates filled with cracked ice; six oysters and a thick slice of lemon being served upon each plate.
Put into a pot three pounds of shin beef, one pound of knuckle of veal, and three quarts of water, and simmer gently. As soon as the scum begins to rise, skim carefully until it quite ceases to appear. Then add salt, two carrots, the same of onions, turnips, and a little celery. Simmer gently four hours, strain, and serve in bouillon cups to each guest.
Fried Smelts with Sauce Tartare
Clean about two dozen smelts, cut off the gills, wash them well in cold water, and then dry them thoroughly. Put in a pinch of salt and pepper in a little milk, into which dip your smelts, and then roll them in cracker dust. Put into a frying pan some lard, in which, when very hot, fry your smelts a light brown. Also fry some parsley, which place around your fish, and serve with sauce tartare.
Put the yolks of two eggs in a bowl with salt, pepper, the juice of a lemon, and one teaspoonful of dry mustard. Stir with a wooden spoon, and add by degrees– in very small quantities, and stirring continuously– a tablespoonful of vinegar; then, a few drops at a time, some good oil, stirring rapidly all the time, until your sauce thicken, and a half a pint of oil has been absorbed. Chop one pickle and a tablespoonful of capers, also chop a green onion and a few tarragon leaves, and mix with your sauce.
Potatoes a la Maitre d’Hotel
Wash eight potatoes, and boil them in cold water with a pinch of salt. When thoroughly done, peel them cut them in thin round slices; put them–with three ounces of butter, a pinch of salt, pepper and a nutmeg, the juice of a lemon, and a tablespoonful of chopped parsley–in a saucepan on the fire, and, when very hot, serve.
Boil four sweetbreads, and let them become cold; then chop them very fine, add about ten mushrooms, also chopped fine. Mix with these a quarter pound of butter, half a pint of milk, a little flour, pepper, salt, and a little grated nutmeg. Put upon the fire, stir until it begins to thicken, then put in puff-paste that has been prepared, and bake until light brown.
Open a can of peas, soak in clear water for half an hour, then put upon the fire in clean water, let them boil up hard, drain well and serve with butter, pepper and salt.
Clean and prepare a medium sized turkey for roasting. Cut two onions in pieces, and put them in a saucepan with two ounces of butter, and color them slightly. Grate a pound of bread into fine crumbs, add the bread to your onions, the turkey’s heart and liver chopped very fine, quarter of a pound of butter, salt, pepper, a pinch of thyme, and mix all well together. Stuff the turkey with this mixture, sew up the opening through which you have introduced the stuffing, and put it to roast, with a little butter on top and a wineglassful of water; roast an hour and a half; strain your liquor in the pan, pour over your turkey, and serve.
Take one quart of cranberries, pick and wash carefully, put upon the fire with half a teacupful of water, let them stew until thoroughly broken up, then strain and add one pound and a quarter of sugar; put into a mould and turn out when cold.
Put in a saucepan on the fire three-quarters of a pound of sugar with three pints of water, boil ten minutes, then put aside to become cold. Put in a freezer, and when nearly frozen, stir into it rapidly a gill of rum and the juice of four lemons. Serve in small glasses.
Take one cupful of rice, wash and boil it, and let it get thoroughly cold. Beat up with it one egg, a teaspoonful of sugar and the same of melted butter, salt and a little nutmeg. Work this mixture into the rice, stirring until all is well mixed and the lumps worked out. Make, with floured hands, into oblong rolls about three inches in length, and half an inch in diameter. Coat these thickly with flour, and set them in a cold place until needed. Fry a few at a time in hot lard, rolling them over as they begin to brown to preserve their shape. As each is taken from the fire, put into a colander to drain and dry.
Cut in small pieces six cold boiled potatoes, the same quantity of beets, and also of boiled celery–both cold. Mix the yolks of four hard boiled eggs with two tablespoonfuls of anchovy sauce, press through a sieve; add, little by little, four tablespoonfuls of oil, one tablespoonful of mustard, two tablespoonfuls of vinegar, a few taragon leaves chopped fine, two pinches of salt, two of pepper, and the whites of four hard boiled eggs, cut in pieces, mix all well together, and serve.
Crackers and Cheese
Place on separate dishes, and serve with the salad.
Remove the shells from two dozen French chestnuts, which put in a saucepan with a little water, then peel off the skin, and put the chestnuts in a saucepan on the fire with a pint of water and one pound of sugar. Boil them until very soft, then press them through a sieve; the put them in a saucepan with one pint of cream, in which you mix the yolks of four eggs. Just before boiling put your mixture through a sieve, add an ounce of stoned raisins, an ounce of currants, two sherry glasses of sherry wine, and freeze it like ice-cream. When frozen, cut four candied apricots, four candied green gages, half an ounce of citron in small pieces, three ounces of candied cherries; mix them thoroughly into the pudding, which is put into a mould, a thick piece of paper on top, and the cover securely shut down upon it. Put some cracked ice, mixed with two handfuls of rock salt, into a bowl, in the middle of which put your mould, covering it entirely with ice and salt; let it remain two hours, then turn it out of the mould, first dipping it into warm water.
Put half a pound of almonds in boiling water, remove the skins, then put the almonds in cold water, then put them in the oven to dry. Pound them to a paste, adding the white of an egg; then add a pound and a half of powdered sugar, again pound well, adding the whites of two eggs. Spread on a pan a sheet of white paper, pour the mixture into little rounds somewhat smaller than a fifty cent piece, place them on top of the paper in your pan, about an inch and a half apart. Put them in a gentle oven for twelve minutes, the door of the oven shut; at the end of that time, if they are well colored, remove them from the oven, let them become cold, turn the paper upside down, moisten it with a little water and remove the macaroons.
Arrange grapes, apples, bananas and oranges upon fancy dishes, with gayly colored leaves and ivy branches around them.
Take one quart of boiling water, one even cupful of freshly ground coffee, wet with half a cupful of cold water, white and shell of one egg. Stir into the wet coffee the white and shell, the latter broken up small. Put the mixture into the coffee pot, shake up and down six or seven times hard, to insure thorough incorporation of the ingredients, and pour in the boiling water. Boil steadily twelve minutes, pour in half a cupful of cold water, and remove instantly to the side to settle. Leave it there five minutes; lift and pour off gently the clear coffee. Serve in small cups, and put no sugar in the coffee. Lay, instead, a lump in each saucer, to be used as the drinker likes.