From 1887: Chicken à la Bonne Femme


I love that even back in 1887 (100 years before I was born!), chicken was a go-to dinner. Chicken is so easy, and it can really become anything you want.

So, what are we cooking? Chicken à la bonne femme from Entrées à la Mode published in 1887.


Let’s go into the kitchen and make some history!


Here are our ingredients: Butter, chicken breast, onion, carrots, flour, chicken stock, white wine, diced tomatoes, sweet herbs (rosemary and thyme), mushrooms, parsley, salt, and pepper.


Step 1: Prep the ingredients. Chop up the onion – if yours is huge like mine was, just use half. Chop the carrots into rounds; chop the parsley; pull out a sprig of rosemary and a sprig or two of thyme; rinse the mushrooms.


Step 1.1: Chop up the chicken into bite-size pieces.


Step 2: Melt two tablespoons of butter in a high-sided skillet, or whatever pan you like to cook in. Once it’s melted and bubbling lightly, add in the chicken and season it with a teaspoon of salt and a few twists of black pepper.


Step 3: Cook the chicken for two to three minutes on each side. You don’t want to cook it through – you just want to brown it.


Step 3.3: Once the chicken is browned, remove it from the pan and set it aside.


Step 4: Add the carrots and onions to the pan and cook them for five to six minutes over medium heat until the carrots start to soften.

Note: You may want to just add the carrots first and cook them for five to six minutes, then add the onion and cook for an additional three to four minutes. The goal is to have the carrots cooked completely in the end (duh!), and this might be a better way to achieve that!


Step 5: Then, sprinkle a tablespoon of flour over the vegetables and stir to coat them.


Step 6: Slowly stir in the chicken stock so that you start to form a nice sauce. Then, add in the white wine and the tomatoes.


Step 7: Add the chicken back into the skillet. Then, add in the rosemary and the thyme. Stir everything together then raise the heat to allow it all to come to boil. Once it boils, reduce the heat and let it simmer for ten minutes.


Step 8: After ten minutes, add a half a cup to a cup of sliced mushrooms. I’m not a mushroom fan, but my husband is, so I added enough for him to enjoy! Stir everything together and let it simmer for another five minutes. Then, taste the sauce and adjust your seasonings. I added a pinch more salt, and it was perfect!


Final step: Remove the sprigs of rosemary and thyme, and sprinkle the parsley over the top. This dish is almost too pretty to eat!

From 1887: Chicken à la Bonne Femme

  • Servings: 2-3
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print


  • 2 Tbs. butter
  • 1 pound chicken breast, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 2 carrots, chopped into rounds
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 Tbs. flour
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary
  • 1-2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1/2-1 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 1 tsp. fresh parsley, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste


  1. Melt the butter in a high-sided skillet or saucepan over medium heat until small bubbles form.
  2. Add the chicken, season with 1 tsp. salt and a few twists of black pepper, and cook 2-3 minutes per side until browned. Do not cook through. Remove from pan and set aside.
  3. Add carrots to the pan, and cook for 5-6 minutes. Then, add the onion and continue cooking for another 3-4 minutes.
  4. Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and stir to coat.
  5. Slowly stir in the chicken stock to begin making a sauce. Then, stir in the white wine and the diced tomatoes.
  6. Return chicken to the pan, and add in the rosemary and thyme. Stir to combine. Raise heat to bring the mixture to a boil, then lower the heat and allow to simmer for 10 minutes.
  7. Stir in the mushrooms and adjust seasonings. Cook for an additional 5 minutes.
  8. Remove the rosemary and thyme. Sprinkle the parsley on top. Serve immediately over egg noodles or rice.


From 1950: Toasted Deviled Hamburgers


The 1950s are incredibly romanticized for me, and it’s because of my grandma. Any time I ask her what her favorite time in life was or when her best memories are from, she always says, “The ’50s.” And, that makes sense. She grew up in the ’50s – she went to high school, met all her friends, married my pap. All in the ’50s.

I have this old picture of my grandma and pap from the late ’50s. My grandma is in a white blouse and a fashionable pencil skirt that falls below her knees. My pap has his arms around her waist and they’re standing in front of this amazing classic car with a big front end and two-tone paint. My grandma told me that was her car and it was pink and silver. She loved it.

So, what are we cooking? Toasted deviled hamburgers from Song of the Kettle published in 1950.


This seemed weird to me, but it’s quintessential ’50s with all its “convenience” ingredients – bottled sauces, sliced bread, etc. I didn’t believe it would cook, either. Ground meat under the broiler?? But, it worked!


Here are our ingredients: Lean ground beef (or turkey), onion, chili sauce, yellow mustard, bottled horseradish, Worcestershire sauce, bread, salt, and pepper.


Step 1: Put the ground beef or turkey in a mixing bowl and break it up.


Step 2: Add all of the ingredients – that means the chili sauce, mustard, horseradish, onion, Worcestershire, salt, and pepper. Don’t add the bread. That would be weird.


Step 3: Stir it all together until it’s completely combined.


Step 4: Even out the mixture you’ve created and mark it with a knife. You want to create eight equal sections so that you can scoop out eight equal meatballs so that everything cooks… equally. Equal. Yeah!


Step 5: Cut the crusts off your slices of bread (I made four at a time) and put them on a foil-covered baking sheet. You don’t have to use the foil, but it makes cleaning up much easier.


Step 6: Broil the bread slices until they’re golden brown. Rotate your baking sheet halfway through if you need to. Keep an eye on these slices – they will brown fast under the broiler!


Step 7: Flip over the slices of bread so the un-broiled sides face up.


Step 8: Scoop out a section of the meat mixture and form it into a patty to perfectly cover the bread squares. Make sure the squares are completely covered – any bread left exposed will burn. Then, put the baking sheet back under the broiler for six to eight minutes. Using turkey, I went with eight to make sure the meat was completely cooked through.


Final step: Plate up your burgers next to some fries or some macaroni salad and think about the “good old days!” Maybe that’s the ’50s for you…

From 1950: Toasted Deviled Hamburgers

  • Servings: Makes 8 open-face hamburgers
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print


  • 1 pound lean ground beef (or turkey)
  • 1/3 cup chili sauce
  • 1.5 tsp. yellow mustard
  • 1.5 tsp. bottled horseradish
  • 1.5 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp. minced onion
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • pepper to taste
  • 8 slices bread


  1. Set the oven to broil. Line a baking sheet with foil.
  2. Mix together the ground meat, chili sauce, mustard, horseradish, Worcestershire, onion, salt, and pepper in a mixing bowl. Level the mixture and then mark it with a knife into 8 equal sections. Set aside.
  3. Cut the crusts off the bread slices and place them on the baking sheet. Broil them for a few minutes until golden brown. Remove from oven and flip so that the un-broiled sides face up.
  4. Scoop the meat from the mixing bowl in sections using the marks you made as guidelines. Form them into flat patties and set them over the bread slices. Make sure to cover all of the bread – any left uncovered will burn.
  5. Broil the hamburgers for 6-8 minutes, or until the meat is cooked through. Serve immediately.


From 1921: Italian Potatoes


So, this is my fifth week in my PhD program, and it is hard. I knew it would be, but I didn’t really know how it would be if that makes sense. I knew it would be a lot of work, of course, but I guess I didn’t realize how much deeper I was going to have to start thinking.

For first year PhDs, there’s a class called Introduction to Doctoral Studies. It’s basically a philosophy class. It’s all about reading to absorb really deep, complex philosophical ideas that define the hows and whys of historical study. I’m learning SO much, but the readings are long, dense, and complicated. Seriously, when I leave class, my brain hurts!

I guess what I’m having trouble with is that I’m really far behind my classmates – at least it feels that way. So many of them come from much better universities than what I went to; they come from different family backgrounds; they come from different classes of society. I’m proud of my mid-Western, blue collar, rust belt background, but I’m not the average person in a PhD program here in Boston. I guess I never really thought of myself as different… but, it’s very obvious here.

Anyway, with being so busy working on really difficult work, I’m going to cut back on blogging for the time being. Once I’m able to get a handle on how overwhelmed I am, and once I can “catch up” a bit, I’ll pick it up again. But, for now, I’m going to go down to one post a week.

So, what are we cooking? Italian potatoes from Lowney’s Cook Book published in 1921.



Here are our ingredients: Russet potatoes, onion, parsley, cheese, eggs, salt, and pepper.


Step 1: Wash, peel, dice, and boil the potatoes until they’re fork tender. After they’re done cooking, pour them into a mixing bowl and set them aside to cool. You’re going to be adding eggs to them, so they need to be as cool as possible so they don’t cook the eggs!


Step 2: While you’re waiting for your potatoes to cool, prep the rest of the ingredients. Grate a little bit of an onion onto some cheesecloth.


Step 2.1: Then, squeeze the juice out of the onion into a bowl or a cup. You don’t need much, so don’t shred too much onion or it’ll just go to waste!


Step 3: Shred a half cup of cheese. I used parmesan cheese since the recipe is called “Italian” potatoes, but I’m sure you could use any cheese you’d like! If you’re using shredded cheese from a bag, you won’t even have to do this step!


Step 4: Chop up some fresh parsley. Coincidentally, I had Italian parsley in my refrigerator, but you can use whatever you have!


Okay… you’re potatoes have hopefully cooled enough by now!


Step 5: Mash them up. You can do it by hand, or use an electric mixer like I did! Also, measure out two cups at this point. If you have extra, save them for another recipe, feed them to your dog, or just leave them in and add a little more of the other ingredients. I’m really easy to get along with!


Step 6: Add the other ingredients: the onion juice, parsley, cheese, and one egg yolk. Save the egg white for the next step.


Step 7: Put your egg white in another mixing bowl, and add three more. Save the yolks for another recipe or feed them to your dog!


Step 8: Whip the whites until they’re stiff. Again, use an electric like I did. Unless, of course, you want to whip these by hand, then by all means!


Step 9: Add the potatoes into the whipped egg whites. I wasn’t particularly careful with mine. You could be if you wanted to, I’m sure.


Step 10: Whip everything together, and then add in salt and pepper as you see fit. Go with your tastes! When you’re all done, put the potatoes into a buttered 8×8″ baking dish and bake them at 350 for 20-30 minutes or until they’ve warmed through.


Final step: Take a big spoonful of these mashed potatoes and plate them next to something comforting – roasted chicken and gravy, steak, pork and sauerkraut… whatever you want!

Things that are worth doing in life are hard. That doesn’t make them simpler or easier to deal with in the moment, of course. But, thinking big-picture, it’s important to remember. And, being overwhelmed and getting out of your comfort zone is the only way to go after those things that are hard. I know my PhD will be worth. I’m taking it one day at a time.

From 1921: Italian Potatoes

  • Servings: 3-4
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print


  • 2 cups mashed potatoes, cooled
  • 1-2 tsp. onion juice
  • 1/2 cup grated cheese
  • 1 Tbs. fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 4 egg whites
  • Salt and pepper, to taste


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 8×8″ baking dish.
  2. Mix together the cooled mashed potatoes, onion juice, cheese, parsley, and egg yolk.
  3. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff.
  4. Pour the potato mixture into the egg whites and beat them together until creamy.
  5. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Bake for 20-30 minutes, or until hot all the way through. Serve immediately.

From 1950: Butterscotch Squares


I am thirty years old today. THIRTY. That’s weird to say. I don’t feel thirty. I don’t think I’ve felt like I’ve aged at all in a very long time. Twenty-one is probably the last big birthday you celebrate once you become an adult. So, it’s really just another day to me. But, since I typically write about history and today has a theme to it for me, let’s talk about my birthdays of the past!

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From 1923: Sunshine Cake


Alright, let’s go back to the The College Woman’s Cook Book one last time. I’ve used recipes from this cookbook quite a few times, but it’s just such a great cookbook! Not only does it have interesting recipes, but they all turn out. And, I’ve gone through a few cookbooks now whose recipes did not turn out for me. Sorry, 365 Foreign Dishes, but I’ve tried three different recipe from you, and they were all just terrible. I don’t know if it was me or you, but let’s just pretend none of it ever happened!

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From 1922: Blackberry Jam Pudding


So, when I make the recipes I write about in my posts, I sometimes don’t know what’s going to happen. I’m a historian, not a chef or even a cook. I like to cook, but I don’t have any kind of expertise! So, sometimes, I’m kind of surprised with what happens when I put ingredients together, or when I put something in the oven. This whole thing is an enormous learning experience for me, and I love that!

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From 1923: Candle Salad


Let’s have some fun. I’ve been stressing out over starting my PhD program, so let’s dial that stress back a little bit and talk about salads. Salads? Yup! Now, I don’t mean “eat-your-greens” salads. That would be too easy, and not really much fun at all. I’m talking about the kinds of salads that first made their appearances on the American eating scene around the 1920s – the kinds of salads whose main ingredients seem to either be gelatin or mayonnaise. Know what I’m talking about now?

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