Saturday at Parker House

The Omni Parker House Hotel in Boston is the longest continuously operating hotel in America. First Opening its doors on October 8th 1855 by Harvey D Parker, Parker House has since been the home to culinary invention, Literary & political debate, and according to some of the guests, a few hauntings.

            Parker House started off its life as a culinary landmark early. Ever since its opening, Parker House was the first hotel to operate on the European Plan, which essentially means that room and dining are charged separately instead of as one lump sum. This way of billing meant that the dining room operated as a full restaurant. The first chef to be hired in this new kitchen was French chef M. Sanzian, who would later in 1856 create what would become the Massachusetts state dessert, the Boston Cream Pie. Interestingly enough, the kitchen would from 1912-1913 employ Ho Chi Minh, the Vietnamese Communist revolutionary leader, as a cook’s assistant in the pastry kitchen. Later that same kitchen would employ Malcom X as a bus boy in the 40s. However, it is the success of Chef Sanzian in the early days of its operation that turned the Parker House into a culinary destination. The Parker House became tremendously popular as soon as it opened for its upscale feel and the delicious food of French Chef M. Snazian.

            Among some of the earliest customers of Sanzian were the members of the Saturday Club. The Saturday Club was a group of scholars, politicians, and artists who met monthly at the Parker House. This club was made up of some rather notable minds, such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, James Russell Lowell, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Charles Sumner, and Oliver Wendell Holmes. In these meetings Longfellow drafted pieces of Paul Revere’s Ride, Charles Dickens gave his first American reading of A Christmas Carol, and the Atlantic Monthly magazine was started.

            The Omni Parker House is the longest continuously running hotel in America after opening in 1855 and still operating to this day. Having been around a considerable amount of time, it is natural for a hotel to have some history. However the Omni Parker House has been a hot bed of historical occurrences. Whether it was culinary invention such as the Boston Cream Pie, famous employees such as Ho Chi Minh or Lydia Shire, or the influential Saturday Club, the Omni Parker House seems to spark historical events. In an effort to symbolize and understand the history of the Parker House, I have attempted to recreate some of the dishes listed on a Jan 4th, 1858 menu from their kitchen. This menu is served only a few years after the creation of the Boston Cream Pie and well within the time frame in which Chef Sanzian would have been preparing monthly meals for the Saturday Club. While some may think the taste and appearance of a dish might not be worth the time, it is my opinion that food culture is an important part of human history. For this reason, I attempted to recreate the dishes of Chef Sanzian as well as a college student could. All of the dishes are picked straight form the 1858 menu, prepared according to historical recipes, all ingredients and components were made by hand from scratch, and cooked using all cast iron cookware over gas or by oven. I hope the tasting and preparation of these dishes gives perspective into the historical landmark that is the Parker House.

Macaroni A la Italienne

Ingredients:

  • Elbow Macaroni
  • 1 Can of crushed tomatoes
  • 1 Onion
  • 1 Bulb of Garlic
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Oregano
  • Butter

Recipe

Boil the Macaroni with salted water.

In a separate pan, dice and sweat the Onion with half the minced Bulb of Garlic in butter.

Empty in can of crushed tomatoes into the pan with the sweated onions.

Add Oregano, salt, and pepper to taste.

Cover and simmer on low for 10 minutes.

Strain away all but a small amount of pasta water away from the Macaroni previously boiling.

Combine the now simmered sauce and the macaroni.

Tomato Soup

Ingredients:

o 1 Can of stewed tomatoes
o 1 Pint of chicken stock
o 1 ¼ Teaspoon of Baking Soda
o 1 Tablespoon of Butter
o 2 Table Spoons of flour
o 1 Teaspoon of Sugar
o 1 small Onion
o 1 Sprig of Parsley
o 1 Bay leaf
o 1 Teaspoon of Salt
o Pepper to season

Recipe

Put the Tomatoes into a sauce pan with the parsley, onion, bay-leaf, and stock.

Cook for 15 minutes and strain through a sieve.

Melt in the butter with the flour into the soup.

bring to low boil and stir still smooth

Stir in the sugar, salt, pepper, and soda

Allow to simmer for 5 minutes.

Boston Cream Pie

Ingredients:

Yellow Cake:
o 2 cups cake flour, sifted
o 2 teaspoons baking powder
o 1/4 teaspoon salt
o 1/2 cup butter, softened
o 1 cup sugar (granulated)
o 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
o 3 large eggs
o 3/4 cup milk

Custard Filling:
o 1 1/2 cups whole milk
o 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
o 1/2 cup sugar (granulated)
o 1/4 cup flour (all-purpose)
o 3 large egg yolks, beaten

Chocolate Ganache:
o 1/3 cup heavy cream or whipping cream
o 7 ounces chocolate (semi-sweet or bittersweet), chopped

Recipe

Yellow Cake Mix

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Butter and flour a 9-inch round springform pan. NOTE: You may use 2 (8-inch cake pans instead, but it is a lot easier to use a springform pan. Adjust oven rack to the center position of your oven.

In a medium-size bowl, sift cake flour again with baking powder and salt; set aside.

In a bowl of your electric mixer, cream together the butter, sugar, and vanilla extract until the mixture is light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the sifted flour mixture to the butter mixture in three (3) batches alternately with the milk, beginning and ending with the flour mixture.

Pour the batter into the prepared springform pan and bake for approximately 25 to 30 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean and the top springs back when lightly touched; remove from oven. Let the cake cool in the springform pan on a wire rack for 10 minute. After 10 minutes, remove sides of springform pan and let cake cool completely.

When cake is completely cool, carefully remove cake from springform bottom. Using a serrated knife, cut the cake in half horizontally, and arrange the bottom half, cut side up, on a plate.

Custard

In a large saucepan over medium heat, add the milk and split vanilla bean; heat to just below boiling and then remove immediately remove from heat and set aside to infuse for 10 to 15 minutes. After the infusing time, remove the vanilla bean and, using a sharp knife, scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean, reserving the pod for another use.

In the top of a double boiler over simmering water, place sugar, flour, and egg yolks; stir until mixture is smooth. Add warm milk and scrapings from inside of vanilla bean. Continue cooking, stirring constantly, until mixture begins to thicken. Remove from heat and stir. Let mixture cool completely.

Chocolate Ganache

In a small, heavy saucepan, add the cream and bring just to a boil; immediately remove from the heat. Add the chopped chocolate, stirring with a whisk until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is completely smooth.

Use the Chocolate Ganache while still warm. If your Chocolate Ganache has cooled, gently re-warm before using.

Assembly

Top the bottom half of the cake with the custard, spreading the custard to the edge.

Carefully place the remaining cake half, cut side down, on top of the custard; gently pressing down.
If you think it is necessary, refrigerate for 1 hour to help keep the cake together.

Spread the Chocolate Ganache on top of the the cake, spreading the Ganache to the edge and down the side of the cake. Some people like to let the Chocolate Ganache drip down the sides of the cake (your choice).

Refrigerate the finished Boston Cream Pie approximately 1 to 2 hours before cutting and serving.

The Boston cream pie may be made 1 day in advance and kept covered loosely and chilled.

To cut the cake, wet a sharp knife in hot water, and shake off any excess water before making each cut. Let the cut portions stand at room temperature for approximately 10 to 15 minutes before serving.

Rice Croquettes

Ingredients:

1/2 cup chopped onion

2 tablespoons butter

1 cup uncooked long grain rice

2-1/4 cups chicken broth

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

1 egg, lightly beaten

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 teaspoon dried basil

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/2 cup dry bread crumbs

Canola oil

Parsley

Recipe

In a large saucepan, saute onion in butter until tender. Add rice; saute 3 minutes. Stir in broth and parsley; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Cool for 30 minutes.

Stir in egg, cheese, basil and pepper. Moisten hands with water and shape 1/4 cupfuls into logs. Roll in crumbs.

In an electric skillet, heat 1/4 in. of oil to 365°. Fry croquettes, a few at a time, for 3-4 minutes or until crisp and golden, turning often. Drain on paper towels. Sprinkle with parsley if desired.

References