Archive for February, 2012

Happy (gourmet) Presidents’ Day!

Monday, February 20th, 2012
Thomas Jefferson Gourmet President

John Trumbull miniature of Thomas Jefferson, 1788

While¬†George Washington described his manner of living as “plain,” and noted that those who expect more than “a glass of wine and a bit of mutton may be disappointed”–and while Abraham Lincoln’s bodyguard reported that the President “never lost his taste of the things a growing farmer’s boy would like”–Thomas Jefferson, having lived four years in Paris as U.S. Minister to France (1785-1789), was a culinary adventurer and an influential gourmet.

Some of this we gleaned from¬†The Presidents’ Cookbook¬†by¬†Poppy Cannon and Patricia Brooks, now out of print, but cited at¬†The Food Timeline, a fascinating resource created by food editor and librarian¬†Lynne Olver.

Keen for fine cuisine

Even before his years abroad, Jefferson was a dedicated foodie.¬†Dining at Monticello, a richly illustrated book¬†edited by Damon Lee Fowler¬†and published by the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, notes that just prior to his diplomatic appointment Jefferson sent for a French chef in Annapolis, to train one of his slaves. Then, when Jefferson knew he would be moving to Paris, he instead decided to bring 19-year-old slave¬†James Hemings¬†with him, to study “the art of cookery.” Hennings’ first mentor was the caterer who provided Jefferson’s meals. This was followed by “workshops” with a pastry chef and other training. Before long, Hennings had taken charge of Jefferson’s kitchen on the Champs-Elysees, and he served as Jefferson’s chef from 1787 to 1796.

Our “Pasta President” and his imported macaroni machine

Upon his return to Virginia Jefferson wrote to his valet, still in Paris, to “bring a stock of macaroni, Parmesan cheese, figs of Marseilles…raisins, almonds, mustard…vinegar, oil and anchovies.” In fact Jefferson was so fond of macaroni, he subsequently ordered a pasta-making machine from Naples, which–after a circuitous journey via Paris and Philadelphia–eventually found its way to Monticello.

Jefferson’s meticulous notes on the macaroni machine, which can be found with his papers in the The Library of Congress read, in part, as follows:

“The best maccaroni in Italy is made with a particular sort of flour called Semola, in Naples: but in almost every shop a different sort of flour is commonly used; for, provided the flour be of a good quality, & not ground extremely fine, it will always do very well. a paste is made with flour, water & less yeast than is used for making bread. this paste is then put, by little at a time, vir. about 5. or 6. tb each time into a round iron box ABC. the under part of which is perforated with holes, through which the paste, when pressed by the screw DEF….”

Just below, Jefferson’s wonderfully illustrated notes appear in their entirety:

Thomas Jefferson pasta-making machine

Thomas Jefferson's notes on a pasta-making machine are in The Library of Congress

Also in The Library of Congress, is a macaroni recipe written in Jefferson’s own hand:

Thomas Jefferson’s “Maccaroni” Recipe

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 peices which roll again with the hand into long slips, & then cut them to a proper length.
put them into warm water a quarter of an hour.
drain them.
dress them as maccaroni.
but if they are intended for soups they are to be put in the soup & not into warm water

Since Thomas Jefferson’s time, macaroni and cheese has been associated with America, and the first recipe appeared in 1824 in The Virginia Housewife, a cookbook written by Jefferson’s cousin¬†Mary Randolph. (We applaud the book’s¬†epigraph: “Method is the Soul of Management”!)

Macaroni and cheese at Jules

Curious to learn how Jules’ very own French Chef, Jean-Claude Banderier, approaches macaroni and cheese, we asked him to weigh in.

Jules Catering French Chef

Jean-Claude Banderier says "the mac and cheese we prepare at Jules is a time-honored American dish."

“We prepare a classic B√©chamel¬†with heavy cream, half-and-half, milk,¬†and three types of cheese: White Cheddar, Parmesan, and Pecorino Romano. For additional flavor we boil a whole onion that has been pierced with cloves, and then we blend this into the mix.”

This approach, we subsequently learned, is basically how¬†Auguste Escoffier¬†outlined his recipe for¬†B√©chamel¬†presented in¬†Le R√©pertoire de La Cuisine: “White¬†roux¬†moistened with milk, salt, onion stuck with¬†clove, cook for 20 minutes.”

And the topping?

“Dry panko bread crumbs mixed with butter and sprinkled with paprika forms a crispy crust when the elbow macaroni and cheese is baked,” Jean-Claude explained.

Pasta geometrics

Macaroni pasta geometrics

Finally, because we have no doubt that both Jean-Claude Banderier and Thomas Jefferson would be fascinated by an article we recently read in The New York Times, we post a link here:  Pasta Inspires Scientists to Use Their Noodle.

Photo Credits:
Wikimedia Commons: Miniature of Thomas Jefferson and macaroni
The Library of Congress: Thomas Jefferson’s pasta machine notes
Liz Muir: Photo of Jean-Claude Banderier

If you enjoyed this, please share!

Cookie love

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012

The King of Hearts

We stopped by Jules Catering’s busy kitchen one morning just before Valentine’s Day to pay tribute to ‘Wilmar, King of Hearts’ (more commonly known as ‘Assistant Pastry Chef Wilmar Aristizabal),¬†who has been with Jules for¬†11 years.¬†It was a heart-warming scene!

¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†‘Heart Art’ requires a sense of fun and a steady hand

When we expressed astonishment at the hundreds of hearts that surrounded him and marveled at his expertise in ‘cookie cardiology,’ Wilmar shrugged, modestly observing that cookie preparation in February is “nothing¬†compared to the thousands and¬†thousands¬†of cookies Jules bakes and decorates in December.” Surveying the Valentine scene,¬†we found this hard to believe….

Valentine shortbread hearts

Chocolate shortbread hearts were just some of the funny Valentines Jules offered this year

Isn’t it romantic?

Our heart stood still at the sight and scent of cookie dough being rolled, cut, baked, and adorned.

Chocolate shortbread cookie dough

Rolls of shortbread cookie dough on floured surfaces await their fate (i.e., to be pressed and cut!)

Chocolate shortbread hearts await decoration

A while later, unadorned chocolate shortbread hearts cool on parchment paper

Other Valentine cookies prepared by Jules this year included plain shortbread hearts, as well as jam-filled hearts dusted with powdered sugar.

Shortbread cookies with raspberry jam

Plain shortbread hearts are spread with jam and sandwiched together, with a cut-out heart on top

Still other offerings included almond, coconut, and French egg-white macaroons–in purple and pink!

Valentine macaroon sandwich cookies

This year  Jules offered three flavors of macaroon sandwich cookies in both purple and pink

Not just for holidays

As Wilmar wrapped a plate of assorted cookies for us to take away and “share the love,” he reminded us that Jules Catering offers a mind-boggling array of cookies and dessert bars–every day of the year.

Unbaked chocolate chip cookie

Chocolate chip cookie ready to be baked at an off-site catering job–this cookie was served warm!

Some client favorites include:

Chocolate Chip
Mocha Chip
Oatmeal Raisin

Dessert Bars
Lemon, Strawberry-Rhubarb, and Apricot Crumble Bars

Tea Cookie Assortments
Coconut Macaroons
Assorted Biscotti (Plain and Chocolate Dipped)
Assorted Shortbread (Plain and Chocolate Dipped)
Almond Macaroons

Jules offers Whoopie Pies, too!
Anita Baglaneas and Jules Catering team off-site catering

Assistant Pastry Chef Wilmar Aristisabal and Chef-Owner Anita Baglaneas and other members of the Jules team with cookies baked on the spot at an off-site catering job

Photo Credits: Liz Muir

If you enjoyed this, please share!