September 14, 1999
by Lee Edwards
Quite often necessity has been the usher to creativity. We have all heard it said in different and familiar ways over and over again. It has also been the benefactor of many good things to eat for more than a hundred reasons and on just as many occasions.
When the American frontiers began to open up to pilgrimages of early settlers some humorous episodes concerning unexpected dinner guests came about. Unless a pioneer caught wind of a smoke signal or heard and deciphered the code of a tom-tom while they were tendin’ their chores they had very little, if any at all, notification that there would be needed extra places set on the dinner table.
One particular unexpected guest that would be certain to knock on the door of someone’s cabin was the “circuit preacher.” He would travel from one settlement to another to provide a Sunday service.
In homage to these visits from the clergy, the settler’s very best dishes came out of the cupboards, the best of what was in the root cellar was brought up, the chickens were slaughtered, and so on. Oh, what a lucky man he was! Not only did he depend on their generosity for his next meal but he got more than he asked for.
Many treasured recipes handed down to us from this era were born by the settlers’ pride in the humility of grace they found in serving these men of the cloth. If they did not have the makings on hand for a fit meal, and most often they did not, they made do with what was available for whipping up an elegant presentation of some kind or another.
Once, an ArchBishop traveled over the mountains of Mexico with a Spanish Viceroy to drop in on a convent of nuns. When these nuns caught wind of his coming, they did not have enough of anything in the cupboard to make a decent meal with. They all gathered around the kettle and began to add a few scant things and came up with a most unusual surprise for His Holiness. They then killed their only turkey to add to the pot.
The recipe they created is for a “Turkey With Chocolate Sauce.” The fame of their recipe spread to all parts of the globe; to this day people travel thousands of miles to visit this secluded mission in the mountains just to be served a portion of Mole’ (sauce) with turkey by their order.
Receiving of communion wafer is the closest I expect to become in dining with clergy. None the less, some of these holy heritage recipes can still be used to make up wonderful dinner parties just as the nuns did way back then. For example; President McKinley served a Cardinal Punch as condiment for sliced turkey during a seventy-one course meal of his first year in the White House. Either way you go, if you decide to go, whomever is coming to dinner better well have been sent by God, because the menus for both of the above affairs requires some gathering in of the “sheaves.”
There could be a great many people declaring the Turkey With Chocolate Sauce is worth the muss they will never know you went to, unless you want to tell them so. There will be others who might say that serving a pitcher of Sangria along side this culinary feat, as the nuns might have done, will smooth out any wrinkles that furrowed your brow while collecting the ingredients together. And, if any of the guests have ever had it before, and I doubt that little more than a few cooks rarely goes to this extent anymore, they might say as I would, “Vaya con Dios.”
Combine 2 heaping cups of patience
1 heartful of love
2 handfuls of generosity
1 handful of understanding
Add a dash of laughter
1 generous sprinkle of kindness
Mix in plenty of faith
Spread it over a lifetime and it could serve everyone that you will meet.
(Recipe from a kitchen sampler)
President McKinley’s Cardinal Punch (26 condiments or 13 desserts)
1/2 cup of hot brewed tea
1 cup of sugar
1 cup of orange juice
1/2 cup of lemon juice
1/4 cup of brandy
1/4 cup of orange liqueur
Bring three cups of water to a boil, add the sugar and stir it until the sugar dissolves. Remove the syrup from the heat, and add the two remaining ingredients. When it has cooled pour it into two refrigerator trays. Freeze the punch until it firms. Before the dinner is served, remove it from the trays, break it apart with a fork to make a slush (or put it in a blender and pulsate). Serve each guest one quarter of a cupful as an accompaniment to meat dishes or serve one half for desserts.
Turkey With Chocolate Mole’
20 equal amounts of dried chiles mulatos, chiles pasillas and chiles anchos with the stems and seeds removed.
4 plum tomatoes
1/2 cup of thickly sliced onion
2 large cloves of garlic, peeled
1 ripe plantain peeled, and thickly sliced
1/2 cup of raisins
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons of toasted sesame seed
1/2 cup of peanuts
1 1/2 cups tortilla chips
1/4 cup of white wine vinegar
6 ounces of extra bittersweet chocolate (Mexican Chocolate)
1 pinch of ground clove
1/2 teaspoon of ground coriander seed
1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
10 cups of chicken stock
8 pound turkey cooked, deboned and cut into 1/4 inch thick slices
salt as needed
Blister the chiles in a hot skillet for one minute, shaking the pan constantly to prevent them from burning. Remove them from the heat. Soak the chiles in 5 cups of very hot water for about 1 hour. When they have become softened, put them into a blender and puree along with 3 cups they were soaked in. The sauce should have a consistency of a thick cream.
Sauté the tomato, onion and garlic. Combine the remaining ingredients except for the chili sauce, chicken stock, the turkey and the sesame seed) along with the vegetables in a blender to make a smooth vegetable puree. Add the vegetable puree to the chile puree in a large sauce pan. Mix the two together. Add the chicken stock. Simmer the sauce for 1 hour until it becomes thickened, stirring it often. Let the mole’ cool and put it into the refrigerator until the turkey is ready to be served. At serving time, heat up 7 cups of the mole’. Add the turkey to the mole’. When the turkey is heated through, serve it on a platter with the mole’, sprinkled with sesame seed.
1 bottle of dry Spanish red wind
1 heaping tablespoon of sugar
1 orange cut into thin slices
1 lemon cut into thin slices
1/8 teaspoon of cinnamon
1 pint of club soda
Pour the wine into a large pitcher. Add the fruit slices, sugar, and cinnamon to the wine. Stir and chill (or serve it with ice cubes). Add the club soda just before serving and stir to mix it. Very often, several jiggers of bourbon or rum are added to the sangria.
1/4 cup of orange juice
1 cup of sugar
2 cups of pecan halves
Combine the sugar and orange juice in a skillet set over a medium heat. Add the pecans and stir constantly while raising the temperature to a slow boil. Continue to stir the pecans until they crystallize. Remove them from the heat and spread them out on waxed paper to cool.