Thursday, October 2, 2014

Betsy - Challenge 9: The Frugal Housewife

When I think of frugality, I (of course) think of saving money. However, a couple other principles come to mind: being able to create a tasty and attractive dish, being able to do it cheaply, and being able to utilize any ingredients on hand. My mom is a very frugal housewife in all these respects - her grandmother (my great-grandmother) once told her, "A good cook is someone who can take any ingredients she has on hand and make a meal." She's lived that principle through raising four kids, and now that I am on my own, I try to embody that principle in my cooking.

So I decided to try for a dish that used just a few ingredients one might have readily on hand, would make a dish that could be served proudly at any dinner table, and could be made inexpensively.

I turned to one of my favorite quirky cookbooks from any era, What Shall We Have For Dinner by Lady Maria Clutterbuck*. The book is a collection of bills of fare from the Lady Maria, whose late husband was of a strong appetite that required varying menus. These menus vary from the plainest tables to the fanciest dinner parties. No matter the occasion, Lady Maria has a bill of fare with a wide variety of dishes to suit.

At the end, she includes an appendix of recipes, and one of them is "Potato Balls":

Mmmm. Grated tongue.
Pretty simple, could easily be made with ingredients around the house, and can be dressed up or down depending on the occasion/diners. It's also a great way to use up leftovers - have some baked potatoes from yesterday's dinner? I think this is a very frugal recipe indeed!

*Lady Maria Clutterbuck is the pseudonym of Catherine Dickens, wife of Charles Dickens. He was very much alive at the time the book was written. She herself was a talented writer, and the book was popular enough to go through several printings.

The Challenge:  The Frugal Housewife

The Recipe: "Potato Balls" from What Shall We Have for Dinner? by Lady Maria Clutterbuck (Catherine Dickens)

The Date/Year and Region: 1852, England

How Did You Make It?: Just like it says! I baked some potatoes, let them cool a bit, and then peeled off the skins. I mashed them (adding some salt and pepper), and formed them into balls about the size of a golf ball. I brushed those with egg yolk - the yolk from the egg I grabbed was kind of thick, so it ended up a little gloppy, and the fact that I did not have a pastry brush on hand didn't help. I popped them in a 450 degree oven for about ten minutes to brown.

Time to Complete: I baked the potatoes for an hour, it took about 20 minutes to cool, peel and mash, then another ten to bake. Obviously most of that time was cook time, rather than prep time.

Total Cost: $2 max. I used four medium-ish potatoes and got a dozen balls.

How Successful Was It?: Not bad! They're a little bit like a rissole, but baked (thus healthier). It reminded me a lot of a twice-baked potato, minus the skins and all the fixings. The egg yolk was definitely too thick, but that's easily remedied next time. They could definitely be dressed up with a sauce, or with a garnish, to make them a little fancier, but they were a nice accompaniment to tonight's soup dinner.

How Accurate Was It?: No heirloom potatoes (just plain old russets) and cooked in an electric oven (as always) but besides that, very accurate.

1 comment:

  1. A wonderful recipe even for modern use and a great story about Lady Maria!