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Photo by Jordan Kyler
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Photo courtesy Storey Publishing
Patrick Evans-Hylton, food writer, chef, culinary school instructor and author of Dishing Up Virginia, has a slow, Georgia drawl, but his family's roots in Virginia go back to the 1600s, and he's lived in the Hampton Roads area for nearly 25 years. When Storey Publishing approached him to do a book about Virginia for their Dishing Up series, they didn't realize exactly how perfect their choice was. Evans-Hylton has a collection of 20,000 culinary artifacts — antique cookbooks, postcards, 18th-century wine bottles, antique peanut bags — specific to the state and the Chesapeake Bay. Researching a Virginia cookbook? Evans-Hylton was born to do it.
The process, from the start of the research to publication, took about three years. The result was a book interwoven with classic recipes like one for Brunswick stew and another for deviled ham spread, and stories about the food and the people who made it. Getting all the information together in one cohesive package was a challenge, however.
"What I did first of all was lock myself in a hotel room," says Evans-Hylton. He stayed a week, ordered room service, and although the room overlooked the Virginia Beach oceanfront, he never left it. He'd bought a ream of copy paper and divided the room into five sections, to represent the five regions of the state, and started making notes. "Oh, yeah, I'd remember, there's that story about the people who sold fried chicken in Gordonsville — well, that's Central Virginia, so I'd put it [in that section]." Slowly, the room became covered in notes and drawings, taped to the walls with painter's tape. "I loved the look on people's faces when I answered the door," he says. By the end of the week, he'd created the outline that would be his guide for the next year.
He left the hotel and started traveling across the state, digging into archives, flipping through microfiche and talking to the folks at places like Monticello and Mount Vernon.
"I didn't want to write a ‘recipe book.' I wanted to write a food-history book — with recipes," says Evans-Hylton. "I spent a lot of time trying to find the snippets of information that really made the food relevant. And then I tried to think of what recipes would go with that."
Out of the 145 recipes, 100 of them were developed by Evans-Hylton. He thought about ingredients and combinations — the culinary calling cards, as he terms it — that would showcase the particular area he wanted to focus on. For instance, in the section detailing Central Virginia, he discovered that Thomas Jefferson loved deviled eggs with anchovies; stuffed eggs, Evans-Hylton says, were a popular dish, and the term "deviled" had come to mean highly seasoned foods in the late 18th century. Creating a recipe for them to start a menu titled "Dining with Mr. Jefferson" seemed a natural.
The remaining 45 recipes came from chefs from around Virginia, people like Walter Bundy of Lemaire and Marcel Desaulniers, formerly of The Trellis in Williamsburg. Nonetheless, Dishing Up Virginia is Evans-Hylton's own book. He wants people to know that "this is where American cooking really started. I want people to start thinking of Virginia differently when they think about food and realize how special of a place this is."
Miller & Rhoads Missouri Club Sandwich
It was a sad day in Virginia in 1990 when one of the South's great department stores, Miller & Rhoads, closed after 105 years of serving customers. In its tearoom, one of the signature items was the Missouri Club, eaten by white-gloved ladies wielding knives and forks while watching midday fashion shows. This recipe is inspired by the original, a rich, substantial sandwich smothered in cheese sauce and broiled.
2 tablespoons of butter
2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/4 teaspoon of white pepper
1⁄8 teaspoon of paprika
1⁄8 teaspoon of dry mustard
1 cup of milk
2 ounces of cheddar cheese, shredded (about 1/2 cup)
2 ounces of Colby cheese, shredded (about 1/2 cup)
8 slices of white bread, toasted
1/2 pound of roasted turkey, thinly sliced
1/2 pound of Virginia country ham, thinly sliced
8 slices of tomato
4 slices of cheddar cheese
8 slices of crisp, cooked bacon
8 large green olives with pimento
1. Make the sauce. Preheat the oven to broil. Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour until smooth, then stir in the Worcestershire, salt, white pepper, paprika, dry mustard and a dash of hot sauce.
2. Whisk in the milk, adding about 1/4 cup at a time and stirring constantly, until the mixture reduces and thickens, about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low and mix in the cheddar cheese and Colby cheese, adding about 1/4 cup at a time and stirring constantly until the cheeses melt and incorporate into the mixture, about 3 minutes.
3. Make the sandwiches. On individual ovenproof plates, place a slice of toast evenly layered with turkey, ham and two tomato slices. Top each sandwich with a slice of toast and spoon the cheese sauce over the top, dividing it equally among the sandwiches. Top with a slice of the cheese.
4. Broil the sandwiches until the cheese is bubbly and the top is slightly browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the sandwiches and crisscross two slices of bacon on top of each sandwich. Garnish each sandwich with two olives speared with toothpicks and serve immediately.
Excerpted from Dishing Up® Virginia © by Patrick Evans-Hylton and used with permission from Storey Publishing