Thursday, March 10, 2011

Traveling Beef Steak

"All kitchens are alike, inasmuch as the various articles used for cooking purposes strongly resemble each other," an 1851 article from Bizarre observes, "yet there is a marked difference in the quality of such instruments." Indeed, some kitchen utensils seem altogether more useful than others. And though an anonymous reader of an 1896 edition of The American Kitchen Magazine warns readers about the dangers of "labor-saving machines" in the kitchen, earlier cooks welcomed ingenuity in the field of culinary arts.

Take for instance a particular invention of Sir Samuel Morland, who was known for his inquisitive mind, and who distinguished himself chiefly by his many mechanical inventions: the speaking trumpet, the fire engine, the steam engine, and the capstan for heaving anchors.

Morland particularly enjoyed inventing machines that made his life more enjoyable. Every part of his house he reputedly filled with his ingenious contrivances.

One of his more novel inventions, however, was to be found in his stagecoach. Morland despised the inconvenience of having to stop for refreshment at an inn or restaurant while roaming the highways and byways of England, so, as author Robert Chambers writes, "he constructed for himself a coach, with a movable kitchen in it, so fitted with a clockwork machinery, that he could broil steaks, roast a joint of meat, and make soup, as he travelled along the road."

Morland's traveling kitchen was surely one of the mechanical wonders of the seventeenth century. Few men could boast taking on "the sooty yoke of kitchen vassalage" while roving the English countryside.

Should you wish to broil a steak while journeying (though this is not advised), follow this easy recipe for broiled beef steak from the 1860 Modern Cookery, for Private Families: Reduced to a System of Easy Practice. Because only "genuine amateurs ... consider the natural juices of the steak sufficient," the author suggests serving broiled beef steaks with melted butter or warm "mushroom catsup."


Broiled Beef Steak

The steaks should be from half to three quarters of an inch thick, equally sliced, and freshly cut from the middle of a well kept, finely grained, and tender rump of beef. They should be neatly trimmed, and once or twice divided, if very large.

The fire...must be strong and clear [high heat]. The bars of the gridiron [or use a cast iron pan] should be thin, and not very close together. When they are thoroughly heated, without being sufficiently burning to scorch the meat, wipe and rub them with fresh mutton suet; next pepper the steaks slightly, but never season them with salt before they are dressed; lay them on the gridiron, and when done on one side, turn them on the other, being careful to catch, in the dish in which they are to be sent to table, any gravy which may threaten to drain from them when they are moved.

Let them be served the instant they are taken from the fire; and have ready at the moment, dish, cover, and plates, as hot as they can be. From eight to ten minutes will be sufficient to broil steaks for the generality of eaters, and more than enough for those who like them but partially done.

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