Sunday, February 13, 2011

Private Recipes of the Private Clubs (Including General Ripper's Hot Potato Salad)


Sterling Hayden as General Jack D. Ripper, Dr. Strangelove, 1964

          Poking around my bookshelves last weekend, I uncovered (literally; it was buried behind other books in a "secret back row") a book called Private Recipes of the Private Clubs by Beverly Anderson Barbour, which was published about 35 years ago.  It's a fascinating volume of mainly traditional and regional recipes (some of them very old-fashioned in terms of today's tastes and trends) served in well-known private city clubs, country clubs and military officers' clubs, mainly in the United States, but with a small international representation also.

        Apart from reading the various club histories, an enjoyable feature of the book is that most recipes are presented in two versions: one with quantities suitable for a home dinner party and one intended for catering-type use, i.e., preparation of mass quantities.  The only thing I've ever seen along these lines is a U.S. Army cooking manual I once perused in the old Bryn Mawr College Bookstore in the East 70s in Manhattan, where I read how to prepare loaves of white bread for hundreds of men at once.  I should have purchased that book then (I still think about it and dream about it frequently), but as my wife often tells me: "men are cheap".

        Following are a few excerpts that seem suitable for weekend reading, which all look worth essaying at home and adapting to your own taste as far as quantities of seasoning (e.g., these recipes issue from an era and ethos where garlic and freshly ground black pepper still seem to have been more rumor than fact) are concerned.  All, certainly, have conversational value, and the wonderfully-named  Flaming Derrick (which would be fun to adapt outdoor home grills for summer cooking) from Houston's Petroleum Club, and General Jack D. Ripper's Hot German Potato Salad (see items # 3 and 4 below) must be seen as potential dinner or cocktail party "awkward silence ice-breakers".

Landsdowne Club, Berkeley Square

1.  Landsdowne Club, London, England:

          "The Landsdowne clubhouse is older than our country, a fact that was emphasized when the manager said: 'Oh, by the way, the Treaty of Independence with the United States was drafted in that room behind you.'

          This historic room is now a writing room.  It is charming, rather small, completely circular (the club calls it the 'Round Room') with brick walls 2 ft. thick and 12 ft. high windows admitting light to the portrait of the first Marquis of Landsdowne which hangs over the fireplace.  The ceiling is a dome, decorated with a painted frieze of classical figures.  The room is not at all the stiff and stately space that one expects to house history.

          Shortly after that year so important in American history, Lord Shelbourne was named the first Marquis of Landsdowne, and the house has been known by his title since that time.  Incidentally, it was in this house, too, that John Priestly discovered oxygen."

Landsdowne Club, Interior

Landsdowne Beef Curry

Yield:                        6 Portions                    24 Portions


Onions,                     2                                  8
finely chopped

Garlic, finely              1 clove                         4 cloves

Cooking oil               4 tbsp.                          4 oz.

Chili powder             2 tsp.                            1 tbsp.

Curry powder           2 tsp.                            1 tbsp.

Topside of beef,       1 lb.                               4 lb.

Tomato paste           2 tbsp.                           4 oz.


Salt                         To taste                          To taste

Lemon juice            1/2 tsp.                           2 tsp.


1.  Saute onions and garlic in oil for 4 minutes. Add chili and curry powders and saute 4 more minutes.  Add beef cubes and stir well.  Add tomato paste and enough flour to thicken sauce. Cover tightly and simmer until beef is tender.  Just before serving, add salt and lemon juice.

2.  The chef suggests that this be served with boiled rice, dessicated coconut (peeled and dried, it looks like rice), Bombay duck, chutney and popadum.  Popadum is a very thin, dry bread-like product used to garnish the curry (when placed on top, it disintegrates.)  It can be procured at an Indian grocery store.

Somerset Club, Beacon Street, Boston

2.  Somerset Club, Boston, Massachusets:

        "The Somerset Club is an old one, dating from 1846, and so is its home.  One of the four adjacent houses facing Boston Common, which go to make the clubhouse, was designed by a famous Boston Revolutionary War-period architect, A. Parris.  The ornamental marble tablets on the front of the club were carved by Solomon Willard, the architect of the Bunker Hill Monument.

        The staircase within one of these houses is an architect's dream and an engineer's delight, spiraliing up and around to serve 3 floors without a single supporting post."

Bengal Toast
(An unusual English Appetizer -- ham and chutney with sour cream and Parmesan cheese)

Yield:                            16 Portions                            96 Portions


Ham                             6 oz.                                     2 1/4 lb.
(boiled, finely diced)
Sour Cream                 1/4 cup                                  1 1/2 cups 
White Bread                 4 slices                                  24 slices
Chutney                       As needed                             As needed
Parmesan Cheese         As needed                             As needed


1.  Combine boiled ham and sour cream.
2.  Cut 16 rounds from 4 slices of white bread.  Toast them and spread them with ham mixture.
3.  Dot each round with a good-sized piece of chutney. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
4.  Bake in oven at 400 degrees F. for 3 minutes.

Potage Choisey
(A lovely lettuce soup to serve as an appetizer)

Yield:                          1 1/4 Quarts                             1 Gallon


Butter                          3 tbsp.                                      6 oz. (12 tbsp.)
Leeks, minced             3                                              12
Onion, minced             1                                               4
Boston Lettuce,           1/2 head                                    2 heads
Potatoes, sliced          2 cups                                       8 cups
Chicken Broth             3 cups                                       3 quarts
Cream                        1 cup                                         4 cups
Salt                            to taste                                      to taste
Pepper                        to taste                                      to taste


1. In a heavy saucepan, saute butter, leeks and onion until mixture is transparent.

 2.  Add lettuce, tomatoes and chicken broth.  Cover and cook slowly until potatoes are soft.  Force through a food mill or puree in a blender.

3. Reheat at serving time in a double boiler, adding cream, salt and pepper.

Somerset Club, Dining Room

3.  Petroleum Club, Houston: 

          The Petroleum Club was founded in 1946, in part to give its members a place to go for a mixed drink in the days when private clubs were the only places in Texas where you could get a cocktail.

          "The room, which serves as both a ballroom and main dining room, is dominated by a tapestry depicting a cross-section of the earth's strata from a point on the Gulf Coast near Houston to the Permian Basin of West Texas.  The designer consulted with members of the club who are geologists and translated their story to eight looms.  The actual weaving, done in Spain, uses 287 specially dyed yarns in earth colors - black, gray and rusty orange -- which are repeated throughout the club".

Project Mercury Astronauts at Petroleum Club, Houston

The Flaming Derrick
(Shrimp and beef flambeed on a skewer)

Yield                                    6 portions                                          24 portions


Tenderloin Tips,                     1 lb.                                4 lb.
1-inch cubes
Olive Oil                                1/2 cup                          2 cups
Garlic, mashed                       1 clove                           4 cloves
Thyme                                   1/2 tsp.                          2 tsps.
Oregano                                1/2 tsp.                          2 tsps.
Black Pepper                          1/2 tsp.                           2 tsps.  
Shrimp, raw, peeled               12                                  12
Cherry Tomatoes                   12                                  12
Green Pepper,                       6 squares                        24 squares
2-inch squares                      
Fresh Mushrooms,                 24                                  96
Onions, Small, Whole            12                                   48  
Salt                                        to taste                          to taste
Pepper                                   to taste                          to taste
White Rice, cooked               6 cups                           24 cups
Bamboo Shoots                     2 cups                           8 cups
Red Wine                              1 cup.                           1 quart
Brandy                                  2 tbsp.                          1/2 cup


1. Marinate tenderloin tips in olive oil, garlic, thyme, oregano and pepper for 24 hours. 
2. Alternate marinated meat on skewer with raw shrimp, cherry tomatoes, green pepper squares, mushrooms and onions.  Season with salt and pepper.  Pre-broil in the kitchen. 
3.  Finish broiling at the table, if desired.  Serve on a bed of rice and bamboo shoots with a sauce made from red wine and flaming brandy.

Oil derricks, Houston

Peace Is Our Profession

4.  Offutt Officer's Club, Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska

        "The Offutt Air Force Base is the home of the Strategic Air Command, and is located on the Nebraska prairie, near Omaha.  This is where the button will be pushed to send the ballistic missiles out of their silos all across the continent, should the word come that the country has been attacked.

        The club is a popular spot for rest and relaxation.  Special parties are an everyday occurrence at the club, where SAC officers entertain distinguished civilian, government and military personnel who have come to confer with them from all over the world."

        The following recipe for Hot German Potato Salad, Nebraska Style, is one that might have been enjoyed by the mad General Jack D. Ripper, anti-hero of Stanley Kubrick's 1964 masterpiece, Dr. Strangelove, when he left Burpelson Air Force Base to visit his superiors at Offutt: 

Hot German Potato Salad, Nebraska Style
Yield:                               5 portions               50 portions


Potatoes                           1 lb.                       10 lb.
Celery, thinly sliced           1 rib                       1 lb.
Onion, medium dice          1/4 cup                   1 lb. 
Parsley, finely chopped     1 tsp.                      1 oz.
Bacon                              3 slices                    1 1/2 lb.
Water                              1/3 cup                    3 3/4 cups
Vinegar                            1 1/2 tbsp.               1 cup
Salt                                  1 1/2 tsp.                 1/3 cup
Pepper                             pinch                        1 tsp.


1.  Cook unpeeled potatoes and peel while hot; slice or dice.
2.  Combine potatoes, celery, onion and parsley.
3.  Fry bacon, crumble and add with the bacon fat to hot water, vinegar, salt and pepper.
4.  Pour this dressing over potato mixture.  Combine gently, cover and let stand for 30 to 40 minutes to season well.   Serve hot.

Sterling Hayden (r) as General Jack D. Ripper and Peter Sellers (l) as Group Captain Lionel Mandrake in Dr. Strangelove, 1964 

View from 3rd tee, Los Angeles Country Club

5.  Los Angeles Country Club, Los Angeles, California:

          Finally, here are descriptions of two marvelous-sounding and simple desserts from the Los Angeles Country Club.  The book contains an additional "minor/major" quantities recipe for Strawberries Bruxelloise, which I'd love to try if any of my Los Angeles friends who might be members ever invite me to join them there:

          "California fruits, in various guises, are favorites with Los Angeles Country Club members.  Small fresh strawberry fritters called strawberry beignets make an elegant dessert.

          Schweppes soda water is mixed with sifted all-purpose flour to make a soft paste.  Cleaned and dried strawberries (or raspberries, kumquats or bananas) are picked up with an oyster fork, rolled in the paste, and fried in deep fat.  The browned beignets are then sprinkled with confectioners' sugar and nestled in a napkin to keep them warm for service. At their peak the beignets are crusty and the fruit inside is fresh and firm. 

          The beignets can be served alone or with a custard sauce flavored with liqueur.  At the Los Angeles Country Club, Elixir d'Anvers is used for flavor, although any good orange-flavored liqueur could be used.

          A simple Club dessert is called Orange Cognac. Sections of peeled Callifornia oranges are well-chilled for 2 hours. Then the sections are arranged in glass serving dishes centered with confectioners' sugar. Guests dip their orange sections in Cognac and then in the sugar before eating." 

Los Angeles Country Club Menu, Chateau Montelena Wine Maker's Dinner

Los Angeles Country Club

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