The is the fourth edition of a new Lost City feature wherein I rummage through my library of old New York restaurant histories and cookbooks and dig up the prime dishes the denizens of the five boroughs dined on in years gone by.
Longchamps was medium-size chain of Middle-Class, Bourgeoise, well-designed eateries in New York and Washington, DC. They were popular with wives and working girls in postwar America. The restaurants attempted to combine European elegance and American efficiency and did a pretty good job of it. The chain was popular enough that, in 1954, a cookbook was produced.
Unlike other prominent restaurants of the time, Longchamps wasn't big on creating original dishes. Instead, it mainly offered its versions of classic European dishes, most of them French. One Italian recipe that sneaks in, in the chapter titled "Etceteras," is Spaghetti, Longchamps. (Spaghetti! How exotic!) It looks pretty standard, but may prove interested as an example of the kind of pasta dish New Yorkers ate in the mid-50s, and because of the inclusion of chicken livers and heavy use of butter. Here it is.
3/4 cup butter
1 medium onion, chopped
3 shallots, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 pound fresh mushrooms, slices
4 fresh tomatoes, peeled and cut
1 1/2 cups tomato puree
1 teaspoon sugar
1 bay leaf
2 pinches allspice
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 pound chicken livers, cut in small pieces
1 pound spaghetti
Parmesan cheese, grated
Melt 3/4 cup butter in pan. Add onion, 2 shallots and garlic and brown. Add mushrooms and simmer for 5 and 6 minutes. Add tomatoes, tomato puree, sugar, bay leaf, allspice and salt and pepper. Simmer for 45 minutes. Remove bay leaf. Put 2 tablespoons butter in another pan. Add 1 shallot and chicken livers and saute for 5 minutes. Add this to sauce. Cook spaghetti; drain. Cover with sauce and Parmesan cheese.
One note: the cook book's introduction notes that Longchamps always used sweet butter, so avoid the salted variety. They were also big on blanching their vegetables, so I'd do that with the tomatoes before peeling them. As to the mushrooms, my guess is, in 1954 New York, the button variety were the kind more commonly available.
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