Presidents' Day amalgamates George Washington's and Abraham Lincoln's birthdays. Historians working at Mt. Vernon and preservationists working with Lincoln's boyhood home have compiled the following recipes for each president's favorite foods.
George Washington raised most of his own food on his Mt. Vernon farm, but was reputed to enjoy eating game, fish, hazelnuts, almonds and raisins. His favorite breakfast food was the hoecake, a cornmeal-based pancake that uses a yeast starter to leaven the cake. Hoecakes are so named because the batter is thick enough to spread on the flat head of a hoe and cooked over an open flame. Nellie Custis was George Washington's step-granddaughter. She was raised on Mount Vernon and describes Washington's breakfast as "three small mush cakes (Indian corn meal) swimming in butter and honey, and (he) drank three cups of tea without cream."
Nellie Custis' Hoecake recipe (modernized)
½ teaspoon active dry yeast
2 ½ cups white cornmeal
3-4 cups lukewarm water
½ teaspoon salt
1 large egg, beaten
In a large bowl, mix the yeast with 1 1/4 cups cornmeal, then pour in 1 cup warm water, and combine thoroughly. Now stir in ½ cup more water. The mixture should be like pancake batter. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight.
In the morning, add ½ to 3/4-cup lukewarm water to the batter, stir well, and cover bowl with a damp towel. Let rest for about 20 minutes.
Add 2 tbsp. oil to griddle or skillet and heat until water sprinkled onto the surface beads.
Pour batter by the spoonful onto the hot griddle, stirring well before pouring. When the hoecake is brown on one side, turn it over and brown the other.
Serve warm with butter and honey.
NOTE: For a smoother batter, substitute 1/4 c. whole wheat flour for 1/4 c. of the corn meal. You may also want to add 2 tbsp. light brown sugar for a slightly sweeter flavor.
True to Abraham Lincoln's midwestern roots, his favorite foods were chicken and biscuits and apple pie. He developed a taste for oysters in any form after he arrived in Washington D.C.
Fricaseed chicken is a very simple meal that makes use of stewing hens. A stewing hen is a laying hen that is older and past her ability to produce many eggs. The meat is a little tough and stringy, so simmering and stewing tenderize the meat and make it palatable.
1 large stewing hen, cut in to serving pieces (be sure to separate the thighs from the legs)
1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. Italian seasoning herbs (rosemary, oregano, thyme)
1 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 celery stalk, diced
chicken stock or canned broth
1 c. cream or half-and-half
1/4 c. chopped fresh parsley
Rinse chicken parts and pat dry. Place the flour, garlic powder, dried herbs, paprika and black pepper in a gallon-sized plastic bag and shake to mix well. Drop in the chicken pieces a few at a time and shake to coat evenly. Set aside.
Heat olive oil in a heavy deep skillet or Dutch oven. Drop in floured chicken parts a few at a time and brown chicken pieces on all sides. Remove to a plate and set aside.
Scrape the fond (brown bits) from the bottom of the pot, and sautee the onion, garlic and celery in remaining fat until onion is translucent. Return chicken pieces to the pot and add just enough chicken stock, bouillion or broth to cover. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium and allow to simmer. Cover with a tight-fitting lid. Cook until chicken separates easily from the bone, about 45 minutes to an hour.
Remove chicken from pot to a plate and keep warm. Return heat to high under the liquid in the pot and reduce liquid to about half, stirring frequently. Return chicken to the pot, lower heat, pour in cream and simmer until mixture is hot ahd slightly thickened.
Arrange chicken pieces on a serving plate and pour the sauce over it. Serve with buttermilk biscuits.