Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Antoinette Pope's "Southern hash with rice," 1948 -- and a cocktail

There are times when a dinner which looks like glorified glop is in fact very delicious -- and it's the mid-twentieth century, family-style retro stuff that often fits this bill. Here is Southern hash with rice, from Antoinette and Francois Pope's Pope School Cookbook. What makes it Southern? My guess is the rice and the abundance of butter. Southerners seem not to have the slightest qualms about rich food.

And never you mind the picture.

To begin, you will brown 1 pound ground beef in a heavy skillet, using no other fat. This is my own little technique, and I can't think why cookbook writers do not more often suggest it. The Popes' written recipe tells us to sauté onions and green peppers in butter, and then add and brown the beef, and carry on with the recipe. Most ground beef recipes advise the same thing -- sometimes the vegetables are to be softened in olive oil -- but the meat gives off so much fat anyway that, unless you spoon it off at some point, you will end up with puddles of grease floating atop your finished casserole. If you do spoon it off after cooking vegetables and meat together, you will lose a lot of the nice butter or olive oil mixed in too. With my method, ground beef cooked alone can be freed from its grease and then you can add it to the aromatics that you will have already simmered and bathed (see immediately below) in their flavorful butter or oil.

To continue. Having browned the beef à la my way, you will cook "until tender and light golden in color" 1 cup sliced onions and 3/4 cup diced green peppers in 1/4 cup butter.

Now add the cooked beef.

Then add:
2 cups canned tomatoes
1 and 1/2 cups cooked rice
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 and 1/2 teaspoons salt
dash black pepper

Blend well. Pour into a buttered 10 x 6 x 2 inch baking dish. Sprinkle with 1 and 1/2 cups pulled bread crumbs, and drizzle with 2 Tablespoons melted butter.

Bake in a preheated 350 F oven for 25 to 30 minutes.

Retro, gloppy looking even if de-fatted, and delicious. While it is baking, why not relax and enjoy a cocktail? My latest treat has been the Daiquiri "natural," the authentic version as first created in 1898. Charles Schumann in American Bar says so. We know how strict he is: no stuffed olives in a martini, and here, no strawberries in your daiquiri.

Daiquiri "natural"

Shake well with ice in a cocktail shaker:
2 ounces (a little more than a jigger) white rum
3/4 ounce (about half a jigger) fresh lime juice
1/4 to 1/2 ounce (up to 1 Tablespoon) sugar syrup
Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Careful. It's potent.

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