Saturday, March 16, 2013

Stuffed Flounder Casserole

DSCN2038I have found out a great deal more about the Rumford Complete Cookbook since I posted last.
“In 1816, Benjamin Thompson (1753-1814), also known as Count Rumford, a British physicist, inventor, and social reformer, bequeathed an annuity of $1000, a reversion of a $400 annuity he bequeathed his daughter, and his residuary estate, to Harvard College for the establishment of a professorship to "teach regular courses of academical and public lectures" in the field of the practical sciences.” (Reference found here.)
Another source clarified that Thompson was born in America, but emigrated to England:  “In 1753, Benjamin Thompson, an American born in Woburn, Massachusetts, escaped from "political complications" in this country by moving to England. There he served in the English army until 1784 when he entered the service of the Elector of Bavaria. For the following 14 years, Thompson devoted his time investigating ways of supplying nutritious foods at the lowest possible costs to the State. For his brilliant success in this endeavor, he was knighted "Count Rumford." “  The same source indicated that in 1854 Harvard Rumford Professor Eben Horsford joined with George Wilson to found the Rumford Chemical Works in Rhode Island (or Massachusetts, depending on where the state boundaries are drawn!).  Their most popular product was “Horsford’s Acid Phosphate”, and was marketed as a remedy for “mental and nervous exhaustion” and a myriad of nondescript ailments.  It was to be stirred into water or milk, and drunk as a “tonic” refresher.  (I want to insert here that having grown up in Southeastern Mass, what is today known as “soda”, “soda pop” , or just “pop” is still commonly referred to as “tonic” in that geographic area.  I suppose this history may be why that is.) I believe this may have preceded, or introduced the popularity of sugary flavored drinks with “fizz”, such as “cherry phosphate”, “lime rickey”, etc.  I don’t know why they are now carbonated instead of phosphate, though.   rumford_baking_powder(With special thanks to, from whose home page I “borrowed” this picture.)
Eventually the company marketed a mixture of calcium acid phosphate, sodium bicarbonate, and cornstarch:  originally Horsford’s Baking Powder, and later (and to this day) Rumford Baking Powder! (For more on baking powder, read this.  As a biochemist, I find this fascinating, but I don’t expect everyone to feel this way….)DSCN2020
Now, about the cookbook:  as far as I can tell, the first cookbook was published in 1908, although there were pamphlets before then, most likely promoting the use of Rumford Baking Powder.  I was thrilled to discover that they employed recipes of Fannie Farmer, of the Boston Cooking School.  (I am on the lookout for an old edition of her cookbook, that would really shine in my little collection.)  After her death, they employed the expertise of  Lily Haxworth Wallace, a home economist who emigrated from England, and lectured all over America, on domestic science topics in the early part of the 20th century.  (Oh, how I would love to have been in the audience!)  In my research on the cookbook, I discovered that there were printings from 1908 into the 1950’s, and there are many fans and collectors out there!  I feel so lucky to have stumbled across this one.  (And it’s a crime that I got it for a quarter!)DSCN2043 - Copy
As a coastal-dweller, I always try to serve fish or seafood on a regular basis, both for the health benefits, and to support the local economy.  It does take a little more planning, as it does not keep well, and it’s best to prepare and serve as fresh as possible.DSCN2043.

Well, this time they had a little markdown on flounder, and having never had flounder (I usually serve haddock, cod, or tilapia), I decided to give it a go.  I wish I had taken pictures of the process, but frankly it didn’t occur to me that it was a blog-worthy topic until I had a dish ready to serve to my guinea pigs family.  With the above suggestion for stuffing as my inspiration, I made the following:

Stuffed Flounder Casserole

This was inspired by my vintage "Rumford Complete Cookbook", in a section describing how to bake fish, and giving a stuffing recipe. Prep time: 20 min
Cook time: 35 min
Serving size: 6
Calories per serving: 498 Ingredients:
2 pounds (approx) flounder filets
cooking spray
3 slices stale bread (I used a torpedo roll, torn up)
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup instant potato flakes
1 tablespoon dried cilantro
1-1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 beaten egg
1/2 cup seasoned bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 sweet onion
1/4 stick  butter
Directions: Prepare a large (9"x13") baking dish by spraying generously with cooking spray. Wash and pat dry the flounder fillets. Lay most of the fillets in the bottom of the dish, aiming to create a uniform thickness layer of flounder. This will take more than half of the fillets. Tear up the bread into small pieces and put in a bowl with the milk, allowing it to soak while you measure out the other ingredients. Add potato flakes, parmesan cheese, egg, pepper, onion powder and cilantro. Mix it up with a fork. If it is soupy, add bread crumbs to thicken. It should be a little like pancake batter. Layer this stuffing all over the fillets, spread it evenly. Lay the remaining fillets over this stuffing layer. Mix together the bread crumbs and grated cheese, and sprinkle about 2/3 of it over the top layer of the fillets. Slice the sweet onion into rings, and separating them, scatter them on the top. Sprinkle the rest of the crumbs and cheese, dot with butter, and sprinkle with paprika.
Bake in a preheated 375 deg oven for 25 minutes. Then broil for 8- 10 minutes to brown the topping and caramelize the onion rings.
Serve with lemon slices for garnish. Recipe formatted with the Cook'n Recipe Software from DVO Enterprises. DSCN2041
I over-broiled it by a minute or two, so it looks scorched, but I must say that my finicky family found my flounder fresh, flakely and flavorful, not foul or “fishy”. (Forgive me, if I have failed to be funny.)
I steamed some broccoli rabe (which I had never done and will likely not do again, as it was terribly bitter) to serve with it.  That is the green stuff in the RevereWare saucepan above.  Pretty but not too tasty.
Are you still awake?  Thanks for reading all the way through this long post!  Happy Weekend!


Lorrie said...

You're a biochemist? I've wondered, from time to time, how baking powder came to be. Interesting history.

Glad your family favoured the flounder feast.

Shannon @ A Cozy Place Called Home said...

My family tends to have fish the same ways over and over. Thank you for sharing another recipe for us to try. I've never thought to add Parmesan cheese to fish, but I bet it is fantastic. Thanks for sharing your recipe. Have a great weekend!

Thimbleanna said...

You were fabulously funny LOL. That recipe looks like a keeper -- thanks for sharing it and the wonderful history!