As I mentioned before, the Frenchified ’70s vibe of the Junior League of the City of New York’s New York Entertains is ideal if you’re hosting a retro ladies’ luncheon, a benefit for the Philharmonic, or perhaps a key party. However, any cookbook that suggests cream of scallop soup for a tailgating menu just does not have its finger on the pulse of the sporting community.
Sure, it’s not trying to, so I don’t fault it for that. And besides, I did truly enjoy reading all the menus, which were very much a product of their time, and very entertaining in that regard. But I needed baseball-watching food this week, and as it would turn out, comfort food as well. Things turned out poorly for my Dodgers.
While what I was able to round up wasn’t perfect, and certainly wasn’t very Manhattan at all, I did get one very good recipe out of it, and had an opportunity to pull out an old favorite.
This first recipe comes from a menu for “An Election Night Celebration for Twelve”:
Beef With Beer
6 pounds top round of beef, cut into 2-inch cubes
1/2 cup bacon drippings or peanut oil
6 cups thinly sliced onions
4 tablespoons flour
4 1/2 cups each light and dark beer
Tied in a cheesecloth: 2 teaspoons whole allspice, 2 bay leaves, 1/2 teaspoon thyme, 6 peppercorns
4 pounds whole mushroom caps
Salt, freshly ground pepper
12 to 16 slices French bread
Seeded French mustard
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Dry meat with paper towels and brown in hot drippings in a heavy pot. Remove meat and set aside. Add the onions to oil in the pot, and cook until browned, then sprinkle with flour and stir in beer. Return the meat to the pot and simmer gently, uncovered, for 25 minutes. Add the cheesecloth bag of spices, and simmer, covered, for 1 hour. Uncover, and continue cooking for 30 minutes. Add mushroom caps 20 minutes before end of cooking time. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Spread one side of the bread with mustard, and butter other side lightly. Pour beef into a deep, heavy, ovenproof casserole, put bread on top buttered side up, and put in a 375 degree oven for 20 minutes to toast lightly. Serves 12 to 14.
Now, I’ve made many pot roasts and beef stews and beef braised in Guinness in my day, but never once did it occur to me to serve it with good mustard. Silly, really, because nothing tastes better with tender, cut-it-with-a-spoon beef than mustard. It’s almost a slightly more refined take on the open-face hot roast beef sandwich.
A couple of notes on the preparation. For my dark and light beers, I used Guinness and Pilsner Urquell, but play around with your own combinations. And we don’t care for mushrooms in any form at the Potts-McCoy house, so I omitted them. If you’re not planning to eat all of this in one night, I might suggest only baking the beef with as much bread as you plan to eat in one sitting. Otherwise, the bread will mush up your leftovers.
For a side dish, I made a leeks vinaigrette so utterly unremarkable and undelicious that I won’t bother posting it here. And what I made for dessert is also sort of unremarkable – lemon squares. But who doesn’t like a lemon square? They remind me of bake sales and Little League games, and for my purposes, they were just the thing.
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 pound butter (2 sticks)
1/2 cup plus 2 teaspoons confectioners’ sugar
2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons lemon juice
Grated zest of 2 lemons
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream together 2 cups of flour, butter, and 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar. Press into a 9 by 13-inch pan. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 15 minutes, until pale gold at edges.
Mix eggs, granulated sugar, and salt, then blend in lemon juice and grated zest. Sift remaining flour and confectioners’ sugar onto egg mixture and fold in. Pour egg mixture over crust and return to oven for 30 minutes. Sift confectioners’ sugar over top and loosen edges with a spatula. Cool, then cut into squares. Makes about 48 1 1/2-inch squares.
Who can argue with that? Keep an eye on the lemon squares in the oven, as I found mine to be a little over-browned on top when they came out, but otherwise, it’s pretty unscrew-up-able.
Since my highly invested baseball-watching has come to an end for the year (especially if the Fall Classic winds up a match-up between the odious Yankees and the villainous Philies), I just don’t know if I have the heart to pursue my MLB postseason-themed cooking for another week. If the Angels pull it off, I will totally dust off the Junior League of Newport Beach’s cookbook. But otherwise, next week, I’ll be looking for a cookbook from a city that doesn’t even have a baseball team, or at least, doesn’t have one that’s broken my heart in the past five years.