Miss Parloa blessed us with escalloped fish in Miss Parloa’s New Cook Book, which Washburn-Crosby Company published in 1880. This company’s successor General Mills brought these proven receipts back to America by printing an edition in the mid-twentieth century. Both these companies are known for their production of Gold Medal flour, which they successively produced; thus, this product has been on the market for nearly two and a half centuries.
This 1880’s cook book was one of many written by Miss Parloa, who was an important figure in the gastronomical world of her day. As director of the Boston cooking school, she became famous for her Boston Cooking School Cook Book, which was forerunner to the renowned Fanny Farmer Cook Book.
In this first above account, she taught “modern” techniques and included 93 “essential” utensils for the kitchen, which boasted of such items as an apple corer, melon mold, and squash strainer. Her writings catered to the affluent, for she recommended that a dinner for twelve need cost no more than $25, this at a time when an unskilled worker made about $1 per day.1
In her preface to this book, she set forth her desire to give clear, complete, and concise directions, but these were vague compared to our present standards. Her instructions, however, had far greater detail than those found in the contemporary cook books of her day.
This recipe required five pounds of fish to sustain a family of six at a meal, in contrast to providing for twelve guests at a dinner party, as these hospitable affairs were always profuse in delectable dishes. My directive only calls for one pound of salmon for four people, because this is a rich food for our relatively sedentary bodies; in these former days people were highly active, requiring many more calories than we do today.
As with this outmoded receipt, things call for adaptation; we must learn to adjust to the required needs of any given time. Our living God perpetually covers us in all instances of unforeseen change, bringing healthy modification, if we ask believing.
There are truths in his word. When overwhelmed with trouble, our heartfelt cries go out to our Father: “Do I have what it takes to counter this storm? How do I do this?” As we quiet our souls, clear answers come; next, we proceed to follow our heart’s unction with our determined movement. Victory always follows when we heed this inner voice carefully!
At times the process is slow; thus, patience is critical to success. It is necessary to listen for “the winds in the mulberry trees”.2 Like these air currents in trees, which are constantly varying, our circumstances also rapidly change; therefore, we need to be very flexible when we receive guidance as such.
This is a joyful race we are running! Nothing is too difficult for us. We simply align our hearts to the “recipe” our Father is dictating at each turn, purposing to not be alarmed when our five pounds of fish becomes one pound, or with equal intention, staying calm when it reverses back to five pounds.
Recently I enjoyed escalloped salmon with friends I hadn’t seen for a long time; our reunion was marked with excellence in both fellowship and food. This dish is a winner for special occasions, especially when served with next week’s entry 1880’s minced cabbage.
- James Trager, The Food Chronology (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1995), p. 310.
- The Holy Bible, King James Version, 2 Samuel 5: 22-25.
1880’s Escalloped Salmon Yields 4 servings. Total prep time: 1 hr & 15 min/ active prep time: 45 min/ baking time: 30 min. This is adapted from a recipe in Miss Parloa’s Miss Parloa’s New Cook Book (Boston: Estes and Lauriat, 1880), a facsimile of this was printed sometime in the 20th century by General Mills.
1/4 cup bread crumbs (May purchase these, or grind 2 slices of stale bread in a dry food processor; make extra, as these freeze well; for stale bread, leave it out for about 8 hours.)
1-1 1/2 lb salmon fillet (A minimum of 1 lb is needed if fillet is boneless and skinless, more if there are bones and/or skin.)
1 tsp salt, or more to taste (Real Salt is best for optimum health; available in health section of local supermarket.)
1 cup whipping cream*, or half and half
1/8 cup water
1 tbsp flour
1/8 tsp white pepper, or more to taste
Steamed rice, cooked according to directions on package
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees (if preparing ahead, wait and preheat oven 1 hr &10 min before serving).
- If salmon fillet is large, cut in pieces that will fit in a 3 quart saucepan. Place in pan and cover with water, to which you have added 1/2 tsp salt; bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook until center of thickest part of salmon is opaque, when pierced with a fork. Remove from liquid and cool. Meanwhile go to next step.
- If preparing your own bread crumbs, grind 2 pieces or more of stale bread in dry food processor, pressing pulse button repeatedly until crumbs are fine. Set aside, freeze extras.
- Heat cream over medium heat in a small saucepan, only until a soft boil is formed, stir frequently, and watch carefully.
- While heating, dissolve flour in water. Watching cream carefully, turn heat down to medium/low, as soon as it barely boils. Stir is flour mixture with a wire whisk and cook, beating frequently, until sauce is thick. Season with 1/2 tsp salt and white pepper. Taste and adjust seasonings; set aside.
- Start rice, following directions on package (wait if you are preparing salmon ahead).
- Butter a small, 1 quart baking dish; place a light layer of sauce in bottom of dish.
- Skin and carefully de-bone fish, placing bite-size pieces in baking dish on top of layer of cream. When all the salmon is thus prepared, press down on fish to make compact; cover the top with the remaining cream sauce.
- Just before placing this in oven, spread bread crumbs on top of sauce. If a skim has formed on top of cream, gently break apart with a spoon, making surface wet again, so crumbs can stick; then, bake for 30 minutes in preheated oven to meld all flavors. (If you are making this ahead of time, place dish in refrigerator; top with breadcrumbs just before baking, being sure to break up skim on top of cream first; cook for 1 hour in preheated oven; start rice when you place salmon in oven.)
- Serve with 1880’s Minced Cabbage, which is next week’s entry.