Thursday, November 26, 2009

Abraham Lincoln Thanksgiving: Part 2

This was a day for slow cooking and consideration.

I followed Miss Leslie's directions in her 1845 cookbook. Stuffed the craw of our heritage Bourbon Red turkey with a forcemeat dressing seasoned with lemon peel, pepper, sweet marjoram and nutmeg. Dusted it with flour and then began basting with butter and drippings as it roasted. Parsnips and carrots pan roasted, too. The mushroom sauce -- no turkey should be eaten without it -- was simply made. A long, slow simmer is the key to bringing out the rich earthy flavors from the few ingredients.

Did Mary Lincoln cook the 8 pound turkey she purchased in January 1859 following these instructions, too? She might not have been able to get mushrooms in January in Springfield, but parsnips and carrots would have been there. All I can say is that we all agreed it was the best Thanksgiving dinner ever. Everything seasonal, local and fresh. This is the way food would have tasted in the 19th century.

Abraham Lincoln concluded his 1863 Thanksgiving Day Proclamation with the hopes that the nation would soon be restored to the "full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union." His words continue to speak to us today.

1845 Mushroom Sauce

16 ounces fresh white button mushrooms
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup light cream
1/2 cup skim milk
1/2 teaspoon black pepper -- or to taste.
2 tablespoons soft butter
2 tablespoons flour

The night before you make the sauce, slice about 1/4 of the mushrooms and sprinkle with salt to draw out their juices. The next day, cut off the stems of the remaining mushrooms and slice into quarters. If there are small ones, you may keep them whole. Combine the mushrooms with the cream and milk in a 2-quart saucepan. Stir in the salted mushrooms and the accumulated juices. Cook over very low heat until the mushrooms are tender and the sauce is a light beige color. Mash the butter with a fork and work the flour into it until if forms a paste. Stir this by bits into the mushroom mixture. Continue stirring as the sauce thickens. If sauce is too thick, add a bit more milk. Store leftover sauce in the refrigerator for two or three days. Good with other meats and vegetables.

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