Wednesday, September 12, 2007

"The Chicago Daily News Cook Book" & "The New York Times Cook Book" (Claiborne) - Spanish Omelet two ways

Date I made these recipes: September 8, 2007

The Chicago Daily News Cook Book by Edith G. Shuck, Home Economics Expert for The Chicago Daily News and Editor of Cookery and Dr. Herman N. Bundesen, Health Editor of The Chicago Daily News and Editor of Special Dietetics
Published by: The Chicago Daily News (Note: This book cost one whole dollar back in 1930. Sounds expensive for back then!)
© 1930
Recipe: Spanish Omelet – p. 111

The New York Times Cook Book edited by Craig Claiborne
Published by Harper& Row
© 1961
Recipe: Spanish Omelet – p. 306

This is a tale of two cities, a tale of two omelets.

For those of you who watch The Food Network on cable, think of this blog posting as Iron Chef America meets Throwdown with Bobby Flay.

The popular show Iron Chef America pits an Iron Chef (either Bobby Flay, Mario Battali, Masaharu Morimoto or Cat Cora) against a challenger who is always a professional chef, usually the executive chef or owner of a restaurant. Each week, The Chairman decides on a secret ingredient that they have to use in all of their recipes, for example Battle Citrus, Battle Pork, Battle Peppers, etc. After giving the contestants a few minutes to think through their dishes and what they’re going to make, The Chairman yells “Let the battle begin!” (And yes, he’s called The Chairman. The Chairman ran the original Iron Chef TV show in Japan and now his nephew is The Chairman of the American version. I have no idea why The Chairman is named The Chairman—it just is what it is. I don’t make the rules!)

Throwdown with Bobby Flay pits Bobby Flay (also an Iron Chef) against an average Joe or Jane who just happens to make the country’s best: ice cream, wedding cake, Cuban pork, clam chowder, etc. Bobby gets the dirt on these people and their recipes and then comes up with a version he thinks will sway the guest judges. He often loses and as much as I like Bobby Flay (he grew on me), I love that fact that the “little guy” often prevails. It is only fitting and proper that this be so.

And so, dear reader, this week was Battle Newspaper combined with a Spanish Omelet Throwdown. On the one hand, we had the Chicago Daily News Cook Book, published in 1930 by the Chicago Daily News (now defunct). On the other hand we had The New York Times Cook Book published in 1961. This was Battle Newspaper at its best. And then we had Mrs. C.W. Scheef who submitted the Chicago Daily News’ Spanish Omelet recipe against that of the venerable Craig Claiborne, editor (and former food critic) of The New York Times. Although it was not exactly a fair fight, Mrs. C.W. Scheef certainly held her own.

These recipes were different enough that it really did feel like a Throwdown. Mrs. Scheef’s was more in line with how I imagined a Spanish omelet would taste which is to say, a nice mix of vegetables (onion and tomato) with celery coming in through the use of celery salt. Back in 1930, they probably didn’t get too wild with the ingredients.

Craig’s was definitely lighter in taste and seemed like something I would find in any restaurant today. It is also loaded with herbs. I passed on the saffron, though, as it’s so expensive and I use it so little, but if you wanted to stay true to the recipe, knock yourself out and buy some. (By the way, if I wrote my blog according to The New York Times standards, I would refer to Craig as Mr. Claiborne but it’s my blog and I’ll call him what I want to!)

So we didn’t have a camera crew and nobody was chewing their fingernails over the results but I’d say this Battle was quite enjoyable. And as the sole judge and jury, I’m going to declare it a draw. It would break my heart to tell Mrs. C.W. Scheef that she had to pack up her knives and go home. Oh wait, that’s another show……

Spanish Omelet (Mrs. C.W. Scheef)
1 tablespoon fat
1 teaspoon chopped onion
½ tablespoon flour
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup tomatoes
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon chopped green pepper
3 chopped mushrooms
¼ teaspoon celery salt

Note: the recipe actually included how to make the omelet but the New York Times recipe was for the filling only. So I made just a generic omelet and called it a day, seeing as how the filling was really what I was interested in.

Also note that she doesn’t say how many this serves but it sounds like you use 6 eggs to make one omelet. We made one, three-egg omelet and the filling was sufficient for that.

Melt the tablespoon of fat and add [the] green pepper, onion and mushrooms. Cook slowly for 3 minutes. Add flour, celery salt, remaining salt and pepper. Mix well. Add tomatoes and simmer gently until thick.

Spanish Omelet (Craig Claiborne) – 6 servings
6 fresh tomatoes
3 tablespoons cooking oil
1 onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1 leek, chopped
½ bulb fennel, chopped, or ½ teaspoon crushed fennel seeds
1 clove garlic, minced
3 sprigs parsley, chopped
1 clove
½ teaspoon thyme
½ teaspoon oregano
½ bay leaf
Pinch of saffron
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Peel the tomatoes, cut in half and gently press out the seeds and liquid. Chop the tomatoes.

Heat the oil in a pan and add the onion, green pepper, celery, leek, fennel, garlic and parsley. Saute five minutes. Add the tomatoes and season with the clove, thyme, oregano, bay leaf, saffron and salt and pepper to taste.

Simmer the mixture gently until the vegetables are tender, about ten minutes. Discard the clove and bay leaf. Use to fill and garnish six three-egg omelets.

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