I remember so well the mashed potatoes and gravy they served at the Trolley Dinner on Guthrie Avenue next to, fittingly enough, the railroad tracks in Indiana Harbor that I ate as a little girl, the taste of the pepper steak cooked tableside at Fritzel’s (as well as the awe I felt watching, at age 10 or so, the artistry of restaurant food cooked while we watched) and the Chinese Chews from the bakery at Marshall Field’s State Street store – chocolate cookies stuffed with dates and coated with powdered sugar.
Thank goodness then for Monica Kass Rogers and her website "Lost Recipes Found". Rogers, a Chicago freelance writer, searches out vintage recipes and organizes them on this fun website that’s a walk through local culinary history. Among the collection of recipes include those from both famous and infamous personages. Who would have guessed that Alfred Hitchcock liked to make quiche? And no one will ever know if Al Capone loved the minestrone soup which was served with every meal at the famed Como Inn but he definitely did dine there and let’s face it – if Al didn’t like something, well...if I were the chef I would have left town in a real hurry. For those looking for a favorite recipe, Rogers’ email can be found on her website, lostrecipesfound.com.
As for my lost favorites, alas the Trolley Diner seems to have faded into oblivion but I can now make my own Chinese Chews and pepper steak, though I’m not going to flambé it at my dining room table.
Al Capone’s Favorite Minnestrone
Makes 20 servings
5 ounces olive oil
1 pound onions, finely diced
10 ounces celery, diced
10 ounces carrot, diced
5 teaspoon garlic, chopped
2 pound crushed tomatoes
5 quarts chicken stock
1/2 pound ditalini (short little tubular pasta; means "little thimbles" in Italian)
10 ounces green peas (fresh-frozen, thawed)
10 ounces fava beans (cooked)
10 ounces green beans
1/4 cup chopped parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
Parmesan cheese grated
Heat the oil in a heavy pot over medium heat. Add onions, garlic, celery, carrot and sauté until al dente, do not brown.
Add tomatoes and stock and heat until vegetables are almost cooked. (Do not overcook.) Add pasta and continue to cook. Add beans, and parsley. Stir in peas and season with salt and pepper.
Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
Fritzel’s Pepper Steak
2 tablespoons extra light olive oil, divided
1 cup diced onion
1 cup diced button mushrooms
1 cup diced green bell pepper
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 pounds beef tenderloin, trimmed into 1/4-inch cubes
1 Tablespoon roughly ground black peppercorn
Salt to taste
2 tablespoons dry sherry
2 teaspoons (plus 2 tablespoons for potatoes) butter
4 large potatoes, peeled and carved into tiny, pearl-onion sized balls, or, substitute 15 peeled tiny new potatoes
In a skillet over medium heat warm 1 tablespoon the oil and sauté the onion, mushrooms, bell pepper and garlic, covered. Cook until soft, but not over cooked. Remove vegetables to a separate dish. In skillet, add remaining Tablespoons of olive oil and sauté beef at high heat until browned and tender. Add vegetables back into skillet with beef. Stir in pepper, salt and sherry and sauté one minute more. Stir in 2 tsp of butter to melt (optional). Remove all ingredients to a serving dish and let rest while you prepare potatoes.
Make noisette potatoes: Carve 4 large potatoes into 15 or more pearl onion sized balls, using a melon baller or paring knife. OR Peel 15 tiny new potatoes. While you are peeling/carving potatoes, heat water to boiling in a pot. Boil potato balls until just under-done. Strain. Dry out pot and set aside. In a microwaveable bowl, microwave two Tablespoons butter for 1 1/2 minutes to separate butter from milk solids (clarifying the butter.) Pour the clear-yellow, clarified butter into the pot, being careful not to add white milk solids to the pot.
Heat clarified butter and add the just-under-done potato balls to the pot. Shake and stir the potatoes until brown and crispy on all sides. Remove with a slotted spoon and add over the top of the pepper steak in the serving dish.
Marshall Field’s Chinese Chews
Makes 3 dozen cookies
2 pounds 8 ounces brown sugar
6 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate
1 ½ cups butter
½ cup honey
1 pound 12 ounces dates (one large tub) cut in small pieces
6 ounces pecans, cut in ½ inch pieces
1¾ cups cake flour
1 teaspoon vanilla
¾ pound powdered sugar
Preheat oven to 350°F degrees. Beat eggs. Add sugar to eggs and beat for five minutes.
Partially melt chocolate in microwave at 50% power. Add butter to chocolate and finish melting all. Add honey and vanilla to butter/chocolate mixture and combine well. While still warm, fold this mixture into sugar/egg mixture. Add dates and nuts and fold until well incorporated. Slowly mix in flour, a little at a time.
Grease two cookie sheets well. Spread batter into pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. Cut into 1 ½ x ½ inch bars. (Or, scoop out walnut-sized chunks of brownie and shape into balls) Roll in powdered sugar.
Photos courtesy of the New York Public Library (Fritzel’s) and Lost Recipes Found.