20th Century American Classics
Originally published the week of June 22, 1998.

All content copyright by World Wide Recipes.

 

You might have thought that Vichyssoise was a French dish, and so did I. Actually, its roots are French but it was created about 1917 at the New York Ritz-Carlton Hotel by Chef Louis Diat. Chef Diat modeled it after a leek and potato soup his mother used to serve when he was growing up in a town near Vichy, France.

Cream Vichyssoise Glacie

4 leeks, white part
1 medium onion
4 Tbs (60 ml) sweet butter
5 medium potatoes
1 qt (1 L) water or chicken broth
1 Tbs (15 ml) salt
2 cups (500 ml) milk
2 cups (500 ml) medium cream
1 cup (250 ml) heavy cream

Finely slice the white parts of the leeks and the onion, and brown very lightly in the sweet butter, then add the potatoes, also sliced finely. Add the water or broth and salt. Boil from 35 to 40 minutes. Crush and rub through a fine strainer. Return to fire and add the milk and medium cream. Season to taste and bring to a boil. Cool and then rub through a very fine strainer. When soup is cold add the heavy cream. Chill thoroughly before serving. Finely chopped chives may be added before serving. Serves 8.

 

There are two versions of how this dish got its name. The one I had heard is that the crimson color of the beets is also the official school color of Harvard University, hence the name. The other version has to do with an English pub named Harwood's, where this recipe supposedly originated. According to the story, a Russian immigrant opened a restaurant in Boston under the same name and began serving their signature beets. Due to his flawed English, the dish sounded more like "Harvard beets" than "Harwood's beets," and the name stuck. No matter how you pronounce it, Harvard beets are a 20th century American classic.

Harvard Beets

2 lbs (900 g) medium-sized beets, tops removed
1/4 cup (60 ml) sugar
2 Tbs (30 ml) cornstarch (cornflour)
1 tsp (5 ml) salt
1/4 tsp (1 ml) freshly ground pepper
1 cup (250 ml) cider vinegar
1/4 cup (60 ml) orange juice

Boil the beets in lightly salted water for 40 to 45 minutes, until tender. Drain and allow to cool. Peel and trim the ends, then cut into thin slices. In a saucepan mix the remaining ingredients and cook over moderate heat, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens and becomes clear, about 5 minutes. Add the beets to the pan and turn gently in the sauce to coat them. Reduce heat to low and simmer covered for 5 to 10 minutes, until the beets are heated through. Serves 6 to 8.

 

20th Century American Classics week continues with this recipe out of my family vault. My mother was given this recipe by a friend, who I believe cut it out of a newspaper back in the 1940s, or thereabouts. I have no idea why it's called Cheese Freeze, because it never goes in the freezer. It's basically a quick and easy cheesecake, but there is something about this particular version that is absolutely mouth-watering.

Cheese Freeze

For the crust:
20 Graham crackers (or 1* cups (375 ml) Graham cracker crumbs)
4 Tbs (60 ml) butter
1/4 cup (60 ml) sugar

For the filling:
1 lb. (450 g) cream cheese
2 eggs
1/4 cup (60 ml) sugar
1 tsp (5 ml) vanilla extract
A pinch of salt

For the topping:
1 pint (500 ml) sour cream
1/4 cup (60 ml) sugar
1 tsp (5 ml) vanilla extract

Crush the Graham crackers and mix with butter and sugar. Press into a greased 8-inch (20 cm) square pan. Combine the cream cheese, eggs, sugar, salt, and vanilla and blend until thoroughly mixed. Pour into the crust and bake 35 minutes at 350F (180C). Remove from oven and cool for 10 minutes. Mix the ingredients for the topping, pour over the cooled pie, and bake an additional 10 minutes.

 

20th Century American Classics week continues with my version of the ubiquitous Sausage-Cheese balls. It seems that no party was complete without these back in the '60s, and in the South these show up at every breakfast buffet I have been to in the past several years. Mine is a slightly spicier version than most, and as always you are encouraged to modify the recipe to suit your family's tastes.

Sausage-Cheese Balls

1 lb (450 g) bulk pork sausage (or ground meat of your choice)
1/2 lb (225 g) sharp Cheddar cheese, finely grated
3 cups (750 ml) all-purpose baking mix (Bisquick*)
(or 3 cups (750 ml) all-purpose flour and 4 tsp (20 ml) baking powder)
1 egg
1 Tbs (15 ml) fennel seed, crushed
1 tsp cayenne pepper, or to taste

* Bisquick is an American product. If it is not available in your area, substitute the flour and baking powder as indicated above.

Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and mix well using your hands. Roll the mixture into balls about 1 inch (2.5 cm) in diameter. Place these on a lightly greased baking sheet about 1 1/2 inches (3 cm) apart and bake at 375F (190C) for 15 to 20 minutes, turning them over after 10 minutes. Drain on paper towels and serve warm. Makes 5 to 6 dozen.