27 March 2009

Recipes of the Lost City: Longchamp's Spaghetti

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.

Spaghetti Longchamps

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.

Previous "Recipes From the Lost City"


M.Lane said...

This is a great feature! I'm looking forward to more. I also loved the post on Lanza.


Harriet Harkins said...

Thank you so much for this wonderful site Brook I am enjoying it very much especially the old recipies. I will ask my Sisterin Law about the restaurant on the corner of dikeman and coffee I think she will know

Brooks of Sheffield said...

Glad to hear it, Harriet. Thanks!

jsl said...

The original longchamps restaurants were owned by my great uncle, Henry Lustig. He sold them in 1946. This recipe is from a cookbook published in 1954 by the successor owners; I don't know if the dish was served in the original restaurants.

Anonymous said...

I was cleaning out some of my family's old things. I came across an old wallet of my grandfathers. In the wallet was a paper credit card for Longchamps dated 1958 and then one behind it dated 1959 so I guess he really liked the place. Doing some research I found this site and thought I would just leave this foe his memory.

Lsfla said...


I believe we are cousins! My grandfather was Kalmon Lustig. He was Henry Lustig's nephew and was involved with the restaurants with his brothers. I just spoke to my mom and she said you are correct: the cookbook is not from the original Longchamps. I would love to hear from you. Please email me at Lsfla@aol.com

Anonymous said...

Jan Mithcell wrot the cookbook, he bought from Lustig after tax conviction.

who is JSL? how is Henry Lustig your great uncle?

Longchamps also invented the charge card, and what you are talking about in the wallet it the charge card.

I have a few of them.

you can reach me at LaurenceLeavyEsq@aol.com

would love to hear from you.

laurence leavy said...

JSL, contact me if you have not yet.


Nottingham said...

Longchamps spaghetti was a Neapolitan favorite which, in NY, was sometimes called "a la Caruso".

Not difficult. Very rich.