old school recipes
March 16, 2023 11:49 AM   Subscribe

Adam Ragusea just put out a video about steak Diane. Coincidentally, I just made one of my favorite meals the other night, a sauteed chicken with a cream sauce. The 1-2 punch has got me thinking about old school cooking, and I want more.

In the steak Diane video, Adam made a point that it used to be a big thing in mid-20th century fancy restaurants, and it got me thinking about other types of things that used to be common and now aren't because what we think of as "fancy" has changed. Things like chicken Kiev, lobster Newberg, etc. Stuff with a lot of butter and cream. I assume nearly all of this is French-influenced, which explains the names after the main ingredient, but it's not, like, really French, you know? It seems French in the same way that most Chinese food in America is Chinese; some liberties were taken. Anyway, I want to cook and eat more dishes like this. Oooh, veal Zurich is another. What else makes you think French-influenced late-20th century fancy restaurant food? Don't worry about recipes; I can find those myself. I'm just looking for names of dishes.
posted by kevinbelt to Food & Drink (32 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Beef Stroganoff
posted by wenestvedt at 11:52 AM on March 16, 2023 [3 favorites]

A general note and a general warning:

I would start looking for "retro" or "vintage" recipes. This is kind of my jam sometimes as well (at least, it was sometimes before my doctor got mad about it), and cookbooks and websites that dealt with "retro" recipes seemed to hit the sweet spot.

However, the warning there is that you may also run into the whole "weird retro recipes" craze, where you have people testing and trying the mid-20th-century WEIRD shit like Jello salads and spam broiled with peaches or spaghettios suspended in gelatin.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:54 AM on March 16, 2023 [1 favorite]

Chicken liver pate. Baked Camembert. Coq au vin.
posted by greycap at 11:55 AM on March 16, 2023 [2 favorites]

Take a spin through Something Old Something New: Classic Recipes Revised by Tamar Adler. It explore delights such as: Oysters Rockefeller, Alligator Pear Salad, Potatoes Delmonico, and Duck Confit à l'orange and contains seasonal suggested menus.
posted by carrioncomfort at 11:58 AM on March 16, 2023 [5 favorites]

The apparently famous Billi Bi mussel soup (I’d never heard of it but recently came across it in a Jacques Pépin video)
posted by staggernation at 12:07 PM on March 16, 2023

This kind of cuisine is alive and well in some of the classic NYC restaurants in the theater district. I invite you to peruse the menus for Chez Napoleon and The Russian Tea Room.
posted by cakelite at 12:07 PM on March 16, 2023 [1 favorite]

For reading amusement, I recommend The Prawn Cocktail Years. It is full of old school dishes.

Anything en papillote - truite, saumon, etc. Steak au poivre. Duck a l'orange. Pavlova. Peach melba. Three layer mousse from scratch. Profiteroles. Pots de creme. Eclairs. Quiche Lorraine. Potted shrimp (no, seriously). Pate de campagne. Coque au vin.

How about the mother sauces, béchamel, velouté, espagnole, hollandaise and old-school tomato? Anything in espagnole sauce is going to be sixties-frenchy. Or the adaptations, sauce supreme, etc?

This is making me too hungry.

Oh gosh, potatoes dauphinoise.
posted by Frowner at 12:07 PM on March 16, 2023 [7 favorites]

Chicken Piccata and Chicken Marsala were quite popular. You don't even see a dish like Shrimp Scampi much anymore.

Budget Bytes has a great recipe for Salisbury Steak. Not quite restaurant, but still retro.
posted by hydra77 at 12:07 PM on March 16, 2023 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: the warning there is that you may also run into the whole "weird retro recipes" craze

Haha yeah, that's how this became an Ask instead of a Google search.
posted by kevinbelt at 12:11 PM on March 16, 2023 [3 favorites]

My husband recently started watching the early episodes of Julia Child's cooking show. I would imagine that her cookbook, Mastering The Art of French Cooking would be full of the kind of thing you are looking for. The preview on Amazon includes the index so you could browse that for ideas if you don't need the actual recipes. You can also find a copy at your local library (or at least at mine).
posted by metahawk at 12:38 PM on March 16, 2023 [5 favorites]

I made turkey tetrazzini last year and you know what? It was great. [Protein] florentine and [protein] amandine are nice too.

I read a lot of old kids books set on the East Coast and written in the 1950s-60s as a kid, and they were full of these things. One that really seized my imagination was baked Alaska. As an adult I realized it was no longer in style and I wasn't likely to ever taste it unless I made it myself, with my midlevel cooking skills. But then, one day, I visited a restaurant run by culinary program students, and there it was on the menu! I enjoyed every bite. There's no way in hell I'll ever try making it at home, but maybe you will!
posted by wintersweet at 12:38 PM on March 16, 2023 [5 favorites]

Anything flambéed, like crêpes suzette, cherries jubilee and of course, baked alaska. Grand marnier souffle, yes please!

I see a lot of these things on the menus of Wisconsin supper clubs. Filet Oscar anyone? Check out the Hobnob menu for more ideas.
posted by BibiRose at 1:01 PM on March 16, 2023 [1 favorite]

Cordon bleu! Any kind, though IMO the classic chicken cordon bleu is the purest form. Bouillabaise, also, is a classic.

There's also some wonderful desserts I'd put in this quasi-retro category. Crepes Suzettes popped into my head as I read the question, as well as creme caramel and basically any type of fancy flan.
posted by ZaphodB at 1:03 PM on March 16, 2023

Shrimp de Jonghe is a very Chicago thing with exactly that quasi-European provenance and quality. The recipe I've linked to doesn't look like the best; I chose it because it features a brief history of the dish. Anything made with sherry pretty much fits in here, doesn't it?

Awesome question by the way, and the answers are great! I'd not seen that book by Tamar Adler and can't wait to read it!
posted by BibiRose at 1:12 PM on March 16, 2023

Waldorf salad
posted by rustcellar at 1:14 PM on March 16, 2023 [2 favorites]

Beef Wellington.

Great question!
posted by praemunire at 1:38 PM on March 16, 2023 [1 favorite]

I'm pretty sure Swedish meatballs aren't Swedish, but I don't know if they're French influenced enough for you. They do fit into this kind of cooking though.
posted by FencingGal at 1:45 PM on March 16, 2023

Chicken Kiev. Weiner schnitzel (Vienna schnitzel, no wieners involved).
posted by Iteki at 1:55 PM on March 16, 2023

Souffles are so good and so, so 70s. My parents were 1970s foodies - mom was a really good cook and an admirer of Julia Child - and we had various kinds of souffle all the time. Cheese souffle is great, chocolate souffle is out of this world, especially with a chocolate sauce on top. She also made ossobucco on the regular but I always hated it as a kid. We had hollandaise sauce with asparagus or broccoli and sauce bearnaise (which is actually hollandaise with tarragon) with filet mignon on special occasions. Potatoes anna - those are great - and hmmm, lamb chops with mint jelly and new peas? That's not french so much but you don't really see it anymore.
posted by mygothlaundry at 2:01 PM on March 16, 2023

No specific names but a look through the New York Public Library Menu Archive should get you there.
posted by cobaltnine at 2:01 PM on March 16, 2023 [1 favorite]

How can we talk about La Reine Julia without sole meunière?

My mother used to make Coquilles St. Jacques for fancy dinners, and they're wonderful.

I also feel like my older copy of the Joy of Cooking has a bunch of these recipes.
posted by BlueBlueElectricBlue at 2:47 PM on March 16, 2023 [4 favorites]

Creamed spinach with a bit of nutmeg in the sauce. For the full retro glory you need fresh adult spinach, not frozen and absolutely not baby — the baby leaves get weird when you cook them. But if your store still carries real adult spinach, creaming it is the correct thing to do.
posted by nebulawindphone at 3:49 PM on March 16, 2023 [4 favorites]

Crepes Mornay seems like it would qualify.
posted by Dashy at 6:48 PM on March 16, 2023 [2 favorites]

The James and Julia series on YouTube is a watchable take on Julia Childs' cookbooks. The recipes he cooks give you a more concrete feel than just reading a recipe book, and simply by being Julia's recipes you'll get that seventies-dinner-party French vibe. He makes somewhat more of a... performance... than the recipes might actually warrant, but that makes it interesting enough to follow along. Even without that, you can just browse his video titles for inspiration.

Also, so much butter. And alcohol, for that matter.
posted by How much is that froggie in the window at 7:23 PM on March 16, 2023 [2 favorites]

Chicken liver mousse: it’s wonderful, I like it much better than pate.

Sole meunière: “Sole meunière was the first meal Julia Child ate upon her arrival in France and has been credited as inspiring the chef, who called it "the most exciting meal of my life" in her memoir, My Life in France.” (It’s basically the same as piccata but with browned butter.)

Lobster thermidor

Oysters Rockefeller

Baked Alaska
posted by vunder at 8:31 PM on March 16, 2023 [2 favorites]

Check out some cookbooks by Craig Claiborne. For a long time he was the NYT's food critic and major guru about what was "fancy" in midcentury.
posted by Miko at 9:38 PM on March 16, 2023 [3 favorites]

Not French, but tiramisu. Fondue. Anything with Grand Marnier - mousse, pate, strawberries. Apricot chicken. Tarragon chicken. Eggs with caviar. Veal marsala. Bisque. Vichyssoise. Veal Oscar. Chicken supreme. Poached pears, possibly with a chocolate sauce. Salmon mousse. Vol-au-vents. Seafood bonbons.
posted by some little punk in a rocket at 3:59 AM on March 17, 2023 [2 favorites]

In the 1950s, it was called International Cuisine. In Calvin Trillin's household, it was called "stuff stuff with heavy".

I remember pastry shells filled with something in a cream sauce, don't remember what.
posted by SemiSalt at 5:12 AM on March 17, 2023

Julia Child's Beef Bourbuignon
Spinach souffle is my fav in that oeuvre.
Before winter goes you can still squeeze in a big pot of french onion soup and crusty bread.
posted by Cris E at 7:23 AM on March 17, 2023 [1 favorite]

A few little less fancy retro options: (I feel like this is really up my grandma and my husband's alleys)

-hot turkey sandwiches
-stuffed chicken breasts
-surf & turf, or Steak Oscar (steak topped with crab meat and doused in hollandaise)
-chicken wings baked and then tossed in either teriyaki or sweet and sour sauce (my grandma used to add slivered blanched almonds to the last 5 minutes of cooking the wings and throw them into the sauce as well)
-green beans almandine
-baked macaroni and cheese
-beef dip

Also a real easy thing to do that has this feel is anytime you've cooked meat in a pan, while the meat rests for a minute, use some white wine or broth to deglaze the pan, add a little grainy mustard and cream, let it thicken a bit then remove it from the heat and stir in a little cold butter - slice your meat into slices, arrange on the plate and pour your pan sauce over it.

Also both my husband and grandma love casseroles like chicken broccoli and cheese with rice, or a classic hot dish, or Shepherd's pie, pot pies, all that stuff feels quite classic to me!
posted by euphoria066 at 9:24 AM on March 17, 2023

Chicken breasts with hollandaise sauce.

Steamed asparagus with boiled potatoes and hollandaise sauce.

Wiener schnitzel and sauced alternstives
posted by pipstar at 9:59 AM on March 17, 2023

Another chance to plug my favorite lesser-known crotchety food writer - Haydn Pearson. He grew up in rural New Hampshire around the turn of the 20th century and was a columnist for Yankee Magazine. He also wrote several books on New England country living, including a couple of cookbooks. If you can, find a copy of The Countryman's Cookbook; it includes many "classic" recipes (credited to local church groups and women's organizations) as well as some excellent onion-on-the-belt discourses about the proper way to eat lobster, laments about how the city folk will never appreciate the joy of a cellar full of barrels of sauerkraut and salt pork, and missives on the importance of pie in a man's diet.
posted by backseatpilot at 9:57 AM on March 20, 2023

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