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Maryland’s Way: A dinner based on historic recipes


As follow up to our recent Picayune Creole Cook Book dinner, our second wine cookery dinner shifted focus north to Maryland.  For this dinner Sudip and I were joined in the kitchen by Lou.  Lou was raised in Maryland which imparted a strong affinity for the foods of the Chesapeake Bay as compared to my Virginia upbringing which involved more southern food.  Lou suggested we cook from the Maryland’s Way cookbook

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This fantastic mid-century cookbook is in fact a collection of historic Maryland receipts dating back to 1634.  The receipts were gathered and published by The Hammond-Harwood House in Annapolis.  This house was built in 1774 and today operates as a museum.  Lou’s parents cooked from this book when he was young and today he possesses that very same copy, complete with a few old recipes stuck between the pages.

Lou texted a pictures from the book including an entry from an old house book, “it is usual to have terrapin, canvasback ducks, or game” and an 19th century extract regarding a dinner of the Ancient South River Club, “A fine lamb…Several dozen crabs must be caught…must have asparagus…potatoes and peas…I shall bring boiled ham, and a fine piece of beef.”  Sudip and I were hooked, immediately ordering our used copies of the book.  The book has many chapters ranging from Chesapeake Bay Fish, Diamond Back Terrapin, to Vegetables, and Fragrances and Seasonings.  There are even copies of old letters and menus.  All of this first fascinated Lou as a child and will fascinate anyone interested in the history of Maryland cooking.

The first order of business involved picking our menu.  In all honesty, the recipes sounded far more interesting than what is in the Picayune Creole Cook Book.  That, of course, is a more test-kitchen product whereas Maryland’s Way is a collection of family recipes each with their own language and method of conveying ingredients and direction.  One hundred years ago we certainly would have started with Maryland terrapin and Madeira.  In our case we managed to involve oysters, crab, rock fish, and ham.  There are many recipes for biscuits and rolls.  I was intrigued by the Maryland Beaten Biscuits but this involves hitting the dough with the flat of an axe for at least 30 minutes.  For formal company the recipe suggested 45 minutes of beating!  When it came to the vegetable side dishes we had a hard time focusing.  So many of the recipes caught our appetite so we focused in on onion pie, parsnips, beets, and sweet potatoes, many of the ingredients came from local markets.

Rockfish stuffed with crab

Rockfish stuffed with crab

The routine we are settling into involves the prepping of the ingredients in our individual kitchens then gathering at our house late afternoon.  We start with some drinks and cheese then cooked the dinner with which we drink other bottles of wine.  Lou and I picked the wines together.  Champagne was a requirement given the food, as was a few whites to go with the rockfish, one from Maryland and one from France.  With the ham we opened a pair of Maryland wines from Black Ankle.  I like to see some older bottles opened so we tucked into a pair of 1977 Dry Creek Vineyard, Cabernet Sauvignon before the fray of cooking.  Lou included a surprise bottle which he served with the ham.

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We started the afternoon outside on the deck eating goat cheese and drinking the 2002 Rare Wine Company, Les Mesnil, “Cuvee Sans Malolactique” Blanc de Blancs Champagne en magnum.  This only got better and better with air.  I would say it took at least three hours to open up to reveal the right about of white and yellow fruit, fine yet firm bubbles, and a mousse that was matched by the weight of the fruit.  A pleasure to drink now but I highly recommend letting this age another five years before trying again.

The rest of the Champagne was required for the start of our dinner so we switched to a pair of old Dry Creek Vineyard wines.   Dry Creek Vineyard was opened in 1973 by David Stare, representing the first new winery in the area since Repeal.  When David Stare presented a tasting of all his Cabernet Sauvignons vintages in 1980, from 1973 through 1979, it was the 1977 Vintner’s Selection that was the top wine.  David Stare stated it was “a little more complex with a big future.”  The Vintner’s Selection blends were in the range of 90% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Merlot.  The fruit was fermented in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks then aged in small oak barrels.  The 1977 vintage in California was the second in a row to experience drought conditions.  According to the Underground Wine Letter the “crop was not nearly as affected” as with the previous vintage.

Both of our bottles had fills of bottom-neck or higher.  The cork of the regular bottling came out easy with staining higher up the sides whereas the cork of the Vintner’s Selection was firmly seated with staining only at the business end.  Both bottles were in fine shape and drank well over the course of four hours.  I really liked the deep fruity aromas and flavors of the 1977 Dry Creek Vineyard, Cabernet Sauvignon, Vintner’s Selection, Sonoma County but it was the 1977 Dry Creek Vineyard, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County bottling that improved with air.  This bottle is a blend of 91% Cabernet Sauvignon and 9% Merlot that was aged in French and American oak.  According to the back label this should have been consumed by 1985.  Thankfully it was not for it was the first wine we finished, no doubt due to the remarkable liveliness.

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1977 Dry Creek Vineyard, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County
Alcohol 13.1%.  The nose is higher toned with red fruit and a smoke hint.  In the mouth, this old school wine, has bright red fruit that mixes well with greenhouse notes.  The wine maintained a tart grip, with lively acidity, and over the course of several hours the fruit fleshed out.  Endless energy which draws you back for more.  **** Now but will last.

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1977 Dry Creek Vineyard, Cabernet Sauvignon, Vintner’s Selection, Sonoma County
Alcohol 13.0%.  The nose is deeper and darker with animale notes.  In the mouth is deep, old perfumed red fruit, a tart middle, and good acidity.  There is plenty of fruit presence and even an inky, lipstick hint.  It becomes a bit unknit in the finish where the structure shows.  *** Now but will last.

Once the final cooking begins it becomes hard to take the time to jot down tasting notes. The following come from memory and a few words scribbled away.  The 2014 Basignani, Seyval, Montbray Vineyard had a very interesting nose but was rather devoid of flavor and quite short in the mouth.  It took three days for the 2009 Domaine de La Bongran, Cuvee E.J. Thevent, Vire Clesse to fully open up.  The nose mixed yeasty stones whereas in the mouth were complex, round flavors of cream and dried floral fruit.  Neat stuff.

The Black Ankle wines were very solid, slowly maturing, and in no way mistakable for a wine from Virginia.  The 2006 Black Ankle Vineyards, Crumbling Rock, Frederick County is a blend of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Petit Verdot.  I would say age has softened the edges rather than add significant bottle age complexity.  The 2010 Black Ankle Vineyards, Leaf Stone Syrah, Frederick County offered most of its flavor in the finish where it mixed grapey flavors, sweet oak, bacon fat, and smoke.  The 2004 Beaux Freres, Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley stepped this up one notch by offering rich and filling Pinot Noir flavors unmistakably from the west coast.  It even had some pleasing complexity from age.  So in the end, not quite my style but enjoyable.

Cherry Glen Goat Cheese Farm, Monocacy Silver cheese
Fire Fly Farms, Mary Goat Round cheese
Grilled bread

1977 Dry Creek Vineyard, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County
1977 Dry Creek Vineyard, Cabernet Sauvignon, Vintner’s Selection, Sonoma County
***

Oyster Stew

2002 RWC, Les Mesnil, “Cuvee Sans Malolactique” Blanc de Blancs Champagne en magnum
***
Rock Fish stuffed with Crab

2014 Basignani, Seyval, Montbray Vineyard
2009 Domaine de La Bongran, Cuvee E.J. Thevent, Vire Clesse
***
Miss Fanny Chase’s Spiced Ham
Onion Pie
Parsnip Cakes
Spiced Beets
Sweet Potato Pone

2006 Black Ankle Vineyards, Crumbling Rock, Frederick County
2010 Black Ankle Vineyards, Leaf Stone Syrah, Frederick County
2004 Beaux Freres, Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley
***
Berry Pudding with Foaming Sauce

It was a fun evening with interesting wines and rather tasty food.  I am not a food historian but I must remark that most of our dishes had mace in them.  From what I gather this has less to do with Maryland specifically, rather it is the Colonial basis for some of these recipes.  That was a time when nutmeg and mace were commonly imported.

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