High school Home Ec. back in the day taught us essentials like "White Sauce" and recipes we despised like Eggs á la Goldenrod. Turns out, it's a classic and when not being forced to become happy homemakers, it is really quite delicious. The secret is in the sauce!
It’s a wonder that when Dante was writing The Divine Comedy, he didn’t include high school as one of the circles of hell. High school, you recall, is a buzzing hive of half-formed people who don’t know who they are or where they’re going, hopping with hormones and preoccupied with pimples trying to fit into a socially decreed ‘one size fits all’ mold of “adulthood”. What could possibly go wrong?
And to make matters worse, that shiny vision of the perfect adult keeps changing. In my day we had the future farmers – boys, of course – and the future homemakers. Boys learned auto, small engines and woodworking. Girls learned cooking and sewing and child care. Girls were still not allowed to wear trousers and boys were not allowed to wear jeans.
Social revolution was imminent, but, holding the fort in our school at least, was the redoubtable cooking teacher, Miss Westling, a name close to ‘nestling’ to which she bore a more than passing resemblance. She was tiny. I would guess 4’6” and not a young birdie any time lately. But she had a gleam of determination in her eye as she tried her level best to make proper homemakers out of us whether we liked it or not. She depended on making lists, lest anything be forgotten. Despite our rebellious rumblings, many of her oft repeated maxims did lodge firmly in our punky adolescent brains. A clean sink is a dry sink, for instance! At the end of cooking “labs” we dreaded her wee hand detecting the slightest sink dampness.
When at home, I spoke of her class with the rolling eyes and derisive laughter.
Mother was a friend of Miss Westling, Ann, and so took me along to visit her one day. Her house was perfectly tidy, of course, a sunny wee house. The house itself wasn’t small. It was the proportions. Everything was built to fit her tiny frame. Stairs were small, railings were low, counters were built to suit her perfectly. Being a tall gangling specimen of a teen, I felt rather like I’d fallen through the looking glass! After our visit, Mother explained that at one long ago time, Ann was engaged to be married. Her fiancé had built the house to fit her. He had tragically died before the wedding had taken place. Of course, I immediately shed my Rebel Without a Cause and went all Anne with an E, swept away by her “tragical tale of lost love”. Needless to say, there was never an eye-roll in her class after that.
Mothers do have skills.
So, other than sink cleaning, and manners and how to set a table, what did we get up to in that class, you wonder? White sauce, for one thing, apparently the foundation of any homemaker’s tool kit.
One dish we prepared with said white sauce was Eggs Ala Goldenrod. Turns out it’s a classic of Southern cuisine, and falls into that cozy category of “comfort food” but with a bit of flair. Eggs. Toast. White sauce. For this one, we have to fall back on good old Betty Crocker - bettycrocker.com.
4 hard-cooked eggs (Use your Instant Pot for easy peeling!)
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 cup milk
4 to 6 slices buttered toast, chopped or torn into bite-sized pieces, separated onto four serving plates
1. Peel eggs; separate whites from yolks. Chop whites into bite-sized pieces. In small bowl, mash yolks with fork or press through fine strainer. Set aside.
2. In 1-quart heavy saucepan, melt butter over low heat. With whisk, beat in flour, salt and pepper. Cook over low heat, stirring until mixture is smooth and bubbly. Remove sauce from heat. Stir in milk.
3. Return sauce to heat; heat to boiling, stirring constantly. Boil 1 minute or until sauce thickens slightly. Remove from heat. Fold chopped egg whites into white sauce.
4. To serve, arrange buttered toast pieces on 4 serving plates. Pour creamed eggs over buttered toast pieces; sprinkle with yolks.
If you want to go full on Southern, you can use baking powder biscuits instead of toast.
King Arthur flour has a great recipe if you’re in the mood to fuss.
3 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tablespoon sugar
6 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
1 to 1 1/8 cups cold (preferably whole) milk or buttermilk
Drizzle the smaller amount of milk evenly over the flour mixture. Mix quickly and gently for about 15 seconds, until you've made a cohesive dough. If the mixture seems dry and won't come together, don't keep working it; drizzle in enough milk — up to an additional 2 tablespoons (1 ounce) to make it cohesive.
Place the dough on a lightly floured work surface. Pat it into a rough rectangle about 3/4" thick. Fold it into thirds like a letter and roll gently with a floured rolling pin until the dough is 3/4" thick again.
Cut the dough into circles with a biscuit cutter for traditional round biscuits; a 2 3/8" cutter makes nice-sized biscuits. Or to avoid leftover dough scraps, cut the dough into squares or diamonds with a bench knife or sharp knife.
Place the biscuits bottom side up on your prepared baking sheet; turning them over like this yields biscuits with nice, smooth tops. Brush the biscuits with milk, to enhance browning.
Bake the biscuits for 15 to 20 minutes, until they're lightly browned. Remove them from the oven, and serve warm.
We just used toast, of course, in Home Ec, but when I go the extra mile and make biscuits, I like to think Miss Westling would be proud. And I do try to keep my sink dry!