Among the recipes in the Vegetable section of the 1906 Berlin Cook Book are a few that are surprises. Today it is Rice and Cheese Scallop from a recipe contributed by Miss. K. Fisher. It could be argued that Rice does fits in the Vegetable section since it is a grain plant but we tend to think of it simply as a starch. I was curious about this recipe. The term “scallop” was used a great deal in the early twentieth century cooking and it didn’t refer to the shellfish. It basically meant adding a white sauce to the main ingredient. The one survivor is scalloped potatoes. White sauces were everywhere during this era. In fact an attempt at a fancy meal might include several dishes of food incorporating white sauces.
Miss K. Fisher submitted a number of recipes for the cook book. I’ve already made two puddings using her recipes but she remains a mystery. I’m speculating that Miss K. Fisher could be Catherine in the 1901 census. This particular census taker seems to have had difficulty with a number of names so it is possible she was Katherine with a K not a C. Based on the 1901 census, Catherine Fisher’s family is interesting. Her mother is head of household, listed as married not widowed, and yet her husband isn’t included. Where is he? The 52-year-old mother (her name is illegible) has five daughters age 26, 22, 20, 17, and 15, an 11-year-old son, and there is a 24-year-old female lodger from Germany. Catherine is the 17-year-old. The family have German heritage and are Roman Catholic. All the girls, except the oldest, work in the same occupation but I can’t decipher it. I’m not sure this is the woman who submitted the recipe. I do picture Miss K. Fisher as a young woman as she insists on exact measurements — just like a person who has received some training in domestic science.
I wasn’t sure if the recipe was calling for preparing two cups of raw rice or if Miss Fisher meant two cups of prepared rice. I decided to start by preparing two cups of raw white rice to make sure I had enough. While it was cooking I made the white sauce. Miss Fisher’s directions are quite clear and she is using exact measures. In fact her white sauce is essentially the one I was taught by my mother – melt butter and add an equal quantity of flour and stir until smooth (this is a roux). Add the milk slowly and stir until smooth. Heat slowly and continue to stir.
Once the white sauce was thick I added the grated cheese to turn the white sauce into cheese sauce. It suddenly occurred to me that I was making macaroni and cheese but with rice! I buttered a casserole dish and soon realized that two cups of prepared rice was not enough for the amount of sauce so I used all the rice I had made from 2 cups of raw rice, and followed the directions to layer rice and sauce. I sprinkled almost a cup of bread crumbs on top and added dots of butter. The dish went into the preheated oven (350 degrees F.) and it took about 20 minutes for it to become golden brown.
I think I might have used just a little too much rice as that was the main taste. The cheese sauce was in the background. That’s okay but I think just a little more sauce and a little less rice would have improved things for me — I like a very saucy mac and cheese. The historic version is interesting and worth trying as written but this recipe also has potential for a modern cook to experiment. Why not include some veggies or use brown rice or add some herbs to the sauce?
This recipe gave me a new perspective regarding 1912. I had assumed rice was eaten primarily as a dessert in Berlin Ontario by people of European and British ancestry but this recipe shows some variety. There were residents of Berlin who had emigrated from other places too although so far this isn’t reflected in the contributors to the 1906 Berlin Cook Book. A book celebrating Berlin’s cityhood in 1912 included ads and several were for Peter Wong’s Star Laundry at 11 Queen Street N. His ad states “As a Naturalized Citizen of the Dominion, as a Citizen of the baby City of Berlin, as one born in China but whose life is wrapped up in the success of our City and good work for our families — I wish Berlin every success.”
RICE AND CHEESE SCALLOP
2 cups boiled rice, 1 1/2 cups white sauce, 3/4 cup grated cheese, buttered crumbs, mix the cheese with the white sauce, put a layer of rice in the bottom of a buttered baking dish, then a layer of white sauce, repeat until all is used, cover with crumbs and bake a golden brown.
3 tablespoons butter, 1 1/2 cups milk, 3 tablespoons flour, 1 teaspoon salt, a little pepper, melt the butter in a saucepan, add the flour and stir until smooth, stir in the milk, stirring until it boils, season. Level measurements are used.