It seems like eons, but it was just a mere seven months ago that we were in Philadelphia for our anniversary. It seems like years ago, we traversed the city without a mask-free care in the world. We had the best time and saw many great sights and ate so much good food! Our favorite stop was City Tavern Restaurant. The modern City Tavern sits on the spot where the original City Tavern stood. The original tavern was once the hub for the first continental congress. Unofficial meetings were convened, historical proclamations were made, and decisions that changed the course of history were concluded between those walls. Men like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Richard Henry Lee, and Peyton Randolph made history there. America’s very first Fourth of July celebration was held there.
The original City Tavern‘s roof caught fire in March 1834 causing significant damage and the surviving parts of the building were finally torn down in 1854 after two decades of neglect. The site that held so much history for America… seemed to be all but forgotten. Until the ’70s when some sweet, patriotic soul undertook to build a painstaking replica and the new City Tavern operating as a restaurant was opened just in time for the Bicentennial. After some time, the restaurant ceased operations, but in 1994 German-born, American Chef Walter Staib successfully lobbied congress to operate the Tavern and reopened just in time for Independence Day 1994 serving early American food.
Chef Staib conscientiously poured through colonial cookbooks (most notably Martha Washington’s Booke of Cookery) to not just put together a menu reminiscent of colonial America, but to honor the period and recreate dishes as authentically as possible. The food and atmosphere effortlessly transported my easy imagination back, way back, to that era. It makes me want to visit Colonial Williamsburg that much more. The Mr was so impressed, I don’t think he’d mind a trip there himself!
The cuisine of the Philadelphia area at the time was heavily influenced by the incoming ships at the ports. Flavors from around the world poured liberally into the very fabric of their diets. Native foods introduced by indigenous peoples fully integrated with this onslaught of fresh flavor to create a cuisine with an identity all its own. Early American menus were quite an amalgam – a melting pot, if you will – of dishes just waiting to be rediscovered today. Since the Tavern enjoys such a long, close history with America’s Independence Day, it seemed only fitting this past week to bring some early America to the table with a recipe from the City Tavern Cookbook we picked up while dining there.
Since it’s Summer, and early American food usually settles with me as a little heavier than today’s fare, we opted for a dish with a lighter, more Summery foundation. Citrus-Marinated Salmon with Herbed Barley seemed just the ticket. It’s earthy, yet lighter with overt notes of citrus from the marinade and grassy tarragon from the Béarnaise sauce. The wild-oiliness from the wild-caught salmon balanced well with the nutty herbed barley (which also echoed the tangy, garlicky notes from the blanket of aromatic Béarnaise). It was delicious and even got us both working together in our little kitchen again. It was a bit of fun even if we were constantly bumping into each other. If you would like to watch the Chef make it himself, you can watch his acclaimed show here via Amazon A Taste of History, Season 2: Episode 8 or check out my spin from the book below.
4 (8-10oz) skinless salmon fillets (preferably wild-caught)
Juice of 1 orange, 1 lemon, and 1 lime
Kosher salt & fresh ground pepper
2-1/2 tbsp butter, divided
1/2c AP flour
2lg eggs, well beaten
1c regular pearl barley
3c veg stock
1tsp kosher salt
1/2med shallot, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
2-1/4tsp fresh chopped parsley
1/8tsp curry powder
1c Béarnaise sauce
1) 4-6hrs prior to cooking, place the salmon in a baking dish. In a sm bowl, whisk together the orange juice, lemon juice, and lime juice. Drizzle over the salmon and cover. Refrigerate 4-6hrs.
2) When the time has elapsed, start the barley. In a med saucepan, combine 3c veg stock, barley, and salt. Bring to a boil over high heat and cook for 20-25min.
3) Prepare the Béarnaise and set on a backburner on low.
4) While the barley is cooking, remove the salmon to a paper-towel-lined baking sheet and discard marinade. Cover the exposed side of the salmon with another line of paper towels and pat the fish dry. Season with S&P and set aside.
5) In one dish (I like to use pie plates), add the flour and season with more fresh S&P. In another dish, scramble the eggs. Set aside.
6) In a lg skillet, over med heat, melt 1-1/2tbsp butter. Dip the salmon fillets in flour, then dip them in the eggs. When the butter is melted and hot, working in batches, add the salmon to the pan with the butter, frying them on both sides for 2min each until golden and crispy.
7) Drain the barley in a colander. Melt 1tbsp butter over med heat. Sautée the shallot and garlic for 2min until tender and golden. Stir in parsley, curry, and barley until well-combined. Season with S&P.
8) Scatter a generous bed of barley on a plate, rest a fillet on the barley, and drizzle with the Béarnaise. Serve hot!
I’m sure one day we’ll find ourselves wandering mask-free (don’t @ me!) around an old American city again. I still have so much culinary explorations to undertake, so unless Jesus returns before then, I plan to forge ahead. What was one of the more memorable restaurants you’ve eaten at on vacation?