Time-Tested Comfort Food
Recently I shared a cookbook that my Dad gave to his mother at Christmas 1936. The old book is an endearing collection of hand-written recipes and clippings from magazines and newspapers.
The first recipe I tested was a dish clipped from a 1936 newspaper - "Pepper Chuck Steak," subtitled "Brookfield Sunday Dinner." The silhouette illustration drew my attention - a skier tumbling down a slope, obviously falling for this dish.
"If you like very tasty food and must watch your budget, here’s a recipe that you will like," wrote contributor Mrs. Frederick Coords of Maspeth, Long Island. "I’ve been making this Brookfield Sunday Dinner, as my folks call it, for 15 years and we never grow tired of it. Please try it. I know you’ll love it."
Mary Lee Swann, added "Many of our readers will like the savory and unusual flavor…."
OK, I was sold, but who was this Swann lady?
A Google search shows that Mary Lee Swann wrote a popular column "Old American Farm Dinners." She was a noted food writer and lecturer in the 1920s, ‘30s and ‘40s. In a column from 1939, she wrote, "In these days when it’s popular and fashionable to study American history, why not correlate such readings with pleasant research into old food habits of our ancestors?"
Why not indeed?
As it turns out, Mrs. Coords and Mrs. Swann - and my grandmother - were correct. Brookfield dinner is a tasty choice. With mashed potatoes, it’s comfort food at its best.
Here’s the recipe:
Brookfield Sunday Dinner
- 2 tablespoons lard (substitute shortening)
- 2 large chuck steaks (medium thick cut)
- 3 lbs. green peppers (cut in strips)
- 2 lbs. onions (cut in slices)
- 1 large can stewed tomatoes (mashed)
- 1 small can tomato sauce
- Pepper and salt to taste
Brown steaks on both sides. Place one steak in roasting pan and cover with sliced onion and peppers, using about half of this mixture, sprinkle a little salt over top.
Now place the other steak on top of this and cover with the rest of the peppers and onions. Mix the two kinds of tomatoes and pour over top of steaks, sprinkle salt and pepper to taste, place in oven and roast for 2 ½ hours or till tender. Water may be added to make a rich gravy. Cover after the first 1 ½ hours and baste from time to time to keep moist.