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AMERICAN PRESIDENTS: FAVORITE FOOD

Foods of Thomas Jefferson (with Judy's Deviled Eggs and Anchovies Recipe)

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To write about the favorite foods of the third U.S. President Thomas Jefferson requires a multi-part series. The native Virginian’s influence on American history is so vast and his notable love for fine food and drink presented no short order.

A walking contradiction, Jefferson’s words inspired the independence of a young nation, instilling in each and every one of us—for generations to come—our God-given rights to be free, happy and confident in our absolute equality. Yet Jefferson’s character and the inspiration for his own discourse in the Declaration of Independence have been debated throughout history. Jefferson owned up to 200 African slaves in his lifetime and never set them free, even when his contemporaries and fellow politicians of varying socio-political views were emancipating. Put plainly, when it came to Africans and slavery, Thomas Jefferson had some serious issues.

It was thanks to this human—slave—power, Jefferson’s homestead Monticello ("little Mountain") was cared for to the minutest detail. His servants tending to his garden of about 250 different vegetables, preparing his every meal and all the while helping to create a warm and inviting environment for Jefferson’s guests and family to savor and enjoy.

Jefferson was an adventurous eater, having used his own garden to experiment with foreign vegetables. He is said to have been the first in the “New World” to have grown sweet potatoes and tomatoes. 1

Jefferson was also a passionate collector of Bordeaux wines and when he was sent to France as the American Minister to the Court of Louis XVI, the University of Virginia founder was pleased to have been introduced to a pasta-making machine. Years later, Jefferson returned to the U.S. with shiploads of wares and foods, including macaroni, Parmesan and raisins. 2

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While serving as U.S. President, Jefferson’s love for French food inspired him to add French chef Julien Lemaire to the White House staff. He also brought two of his Monticello servants, Eda and Fanny, to learn French cooking techniques. Eda and Fanny later became Jefferson’s chefs when they returned to Monticello. 3

This very brief glimpse of Jefferson’s compelling biography is fodder enough to play in the kitchen and create a multitude of recipes that might represent microcosms of his fascinating experience. But for today, we focus on an easy-to-make, recession-proof recipe of a classic dish: Deviled eggs with anchovies.

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Deviled eggs with anchovies, according to the authors of The American Heritage Cookbook, might have been an appetizer on a plentiful menu of Jefferson’s Monticello. On this same menu, this appetizer was followed by an array of vegetables and olives, sorrel soup, ribs of beef au Jus, spinach timbales and small roast potatoes or macaroni and cheese pudding and a salad.

Another menu might have included deviled crab, consommé Julienne, roast saddle of lamb with brown gravy and a salad of mixed “garden stuff.” The latter would be dressed with "Monticello dressing," which included of all things, sesame (benne) oil. Jefferson's inspiration for developing the sesame oil stemmed from the Africans bringing what they called "beni" (and the botanists called "sesamum") from Georgia to Virginia. 4

During Lent, Jefferson would honor his Anglican faith by abstaining from meat on Fridays. On those days, his servants were likely to serve oysters on the half shell, mock turtle soup, baked shad with roe soufflé and scalloped potatoes. 5

Judy “the foodie’s” Deviled Eggs with Anchovies Recipe

With this dish, I wanted to capture the gourmet aspects of Jeffersonian gastronomy. When I first heard of eating anchovies with deviled eggs, I was skeptical. After all, anchovies are notoriously salty and fishy in taste and smell. Before using them in this recipe, I had only been accustomed to eating them on pizzas or prepared in a Chamorro finadene, then wrapped in warm corn tortillas. Anchovies are also not the most attractive looking delicacy so I felt plating with them would be a challenge.

I thought the taste of an anchovy with a devil-egged yolk mixture sounded like an odd combination. But after experimenting with the dish and coming up with the proper measurements for each ingredient, I discovered the entire package can be absolutely delectable. Enjoy!

  • 3 eggs
  • ¼ cup mayonnaise
  • 2 teaspoon minced onions
  • ½ teaspoon mustard powder
  • 2 pinches of salt
  • 2 dashes of freshly crushed black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon parsley flakes
  • 2 anchovies (previously soaked in olive oil)
  • 12 capers
  • ¼ teaspoon paprika

Cooking and preparing the eggs

(For beautiful yellow yolks)

1. Place eggs in a pot of cold water that covers the eggs by an inch. 2. Turn heat to high and allow water to boil. 3. Immediately remove pot from heat, cover tightly and let eggs sit in hot water for 15 minutes. 4. Pour out hot water and run cold water over the eggs. 5. Place eggs in a bowl and chill in the refrigerator for about two hours (if using right away, peel eggs under running cold water). 6. Take each egg and crack it gently, start peeling at the bottom (the wide part) where there is likely to be a separation point between the shell and the egg white, peel gently under cold water.

Creating the mixture

1. Slice each egg in half, gently separate the center part of the egg white from the yolk, drop yolks into a small bowl. 2. Add mayonnaise to yolks and use a fork to mash yolks and stir in mayonnaise, keep doing this until the texture is creamy. 3. Add onions, used fork to mash some of the onions and continue to stir. 4. Stir in mustard powder, black pepper and salt.

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Plating suggestion

1. Sprinkle parsley flakes on the outer section of a large plate. 2. Fold two anchovies in thirds and lay one anchovy on top of the other in the center of the plate. 3. Add capers to the top of the anchovies. 4. Place egg whites in a circle on top of the parsley in the outer section of the plate. 5. Spoon in the egg yolk mix into each egg white. 6. Sprinkle paprika over each deviled egg.

How to eat

1. Using a fork, cut a tiny piece of an anchovy and put it in the center of a deviled egg, add two capers. 2. Pick up the egg with your fingers and take a bite. Sense your taste buds dance as the flavors unfold! 3. Note: if you are confident your guests do not have fish allergies, you can pre-place the anchovies and capers in each egg. This makes for an attractive appetizer and perfect for tray passing at parties!

Yields six deviled eggs.

References:

(1) Eating in America, William Root and Richard de Rochemont, William and Morrow Company, Inc. 1976, pp. 63, 65 (2) Thomas Jefferson, a film by Ken Burns, 1997 (3) Eating in America, William Root and Richard de Rochemont, William and Morrow Company, Inc., 1976, p. 117 (4) The American Heritage Cookbook, Helen McCully, Eleanor Noderer, Helen Duprey Bullock, American Heritage Press, 1964, 1969, p. 137 (5) The American Heritage Cookbook, Helen McCully, Eleanor Noderer, Helen Duprey Bullock, American Heritage Press, 1964, 1969, p. 224

Photos: 1. Official White House portrait from Whitehouse.gov. 2. Monticello portrait from Library of Congress. 3 - 4. Judy's deviled eggs with anchovies.

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