OUR Fourth of July commemorates a top event in American history: the signing of the Declaration of Independence. What would Thomas Jefferson, one of its writers and our gourmet president, have served to celebrate that occasion?
There must have been culinary accents Virginian and French. He was a true son of Virginia - and an ambassador to France.
For example, Tom Jefferson planted peas in Virginia, one of his favorite vegetables. So he would surely have served Petits Pois (little peas) - which were also the rage of western Europe at the end of the 18th century. Or perhaps the patriot would have served ``Peas `a la Bonne Femme,'' or ``Petits Pois `a la Menthe.''
Potatoes are always popular for the Fourth feast. The small boiled ones go very well with salmon, and potato salad is popular for picnics or barbecues. However, Jefferson's favorite, ``Scalloped Potatoes,'' would also be a fine choice.
Salmon was so plentiful in colonial America that servants had clauses in their contracts stipulating that they could not be served this fish more than a certain number of times a week.
In New England, Abigail Adams served salmon and peas as early as 1773, and thought they would be appropriate for the first July 4 celebration.
As for dessert, Tom Jefferson might have chosen one of his favorites: ice cream or ``Oeufs `a la Neige'' (Eggs in Snow or Snow Pudding). He also grew strawberries, so an alternate choice could have been ``Chantilly Strawberries and Cream Cake.''
Broiled Salmon with Herbed Lemon Butter 8 individual fresh salmon filets (about 2 pounds) 1/2 teaspoon salt Pepper to taste 1/4 cup melted butter or margarine 2 tablespoons lemon juice 2 tablespoons chopped parsley 1/4 teaspoon dill, rosemary, or marjoram, crumbled 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper
Line broiler pan with foil, and place salmon filets on rack. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Combine remaining ingredients, and use to baste salmon. Place broiler pan 4 inches from heat and broil, allowing 10 minutes cooking time per inch of thickness. Do not turn salmon. Baste several times during cooking. Serves 8.
Thomas Jefferson's Scalloped Potatoes 4 cups raw potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/8-inch thick 4 tablespoons butter 3 tablespoons flour 1 cup cold water Pinch of saffron Salt and pepper to taste Butter Finely chopped onion and green pepper Mushroom pieces
Dry sliced potatoes thoroughly. Melt butter in small skillet over medium heat. Add flour, and mix until smooth and creamy. Remove from heat and add water. Stir until thoroughly mixed. Add saffron, salt, and pepper. Return to stove, and bring to slow boil, stirring all the time. Remove from stove. Grease baking dish generously with butter. Put in layer of potatoes, and scatter a few finely-chopped onions, green peppers, and pieces of mushroom on top. Then pour a little of the sauce over layer. Repeat process until dish is full. Bake at 350 degrees F. for 2 hours.
Peas `a la Bonne Femme (Peas & Onions in Chicken Broth) 2 tablespoons butter or margarine 12 very small white onions, peeled 2 slices bacon, diced 4 teaspoons flour 1 cup chicken broth 3 pounds shelled green peas (or 2 10-ounce packages frozen peas, unthawed) Salt and pepper to taste
Melt butter in large skillet over moderately high heat. Brown onions, 6 to 8 minutes, then push to one side of skillet. Add bacon, and saut'e 2 to 3 minutes, or until crisp and golden. Stir in flour.
Slowly add chicken broth, and mix until smooth. Cook, stirring constantly, until thickened. Reduce heat. Cover and simmer 10 minutes until onions are crisp-tender. Add peas. Cover and simmer 8 to 10 minutes for fresh and 5 to 7 for frozen. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serves 6.
Oeufs `a la Neige 1 envelope unflavored gelatin (1 tablespoon) 1/4 cup cold water 1 cup boiling water 3/4 cup sugar 1/4 cup lemon juice 1 tablespoon lemon rind 2 egg whites, stiffly beaten
Soften gelatin in cold water. Stir in next four ingredients. Strain and cool. Stir occasionally. When it begins to set, beat with rotary beater until frothy.
Beat in stiffly-beaten egg whites. Continue beating until mixture holds shape. Pile into sherbet glasses. Chill. Serve with soft custard. Serves 8. Custard Sauce for Oeufs `a la Neige 2 eggs 1/4 cup sugar 1/4 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon vanilla 1 1/2 cups milk
Beat eggs in top of 1-quart double boiler. Blend in sugar, salt, and vanilla. Pour in milk. Cook over simmering (not boiling) water, stirring constantly. When custard makes a thin coating on silver spoon, remove from heat. If custard should start to curdle, remove from heat, and beat with rotary beater until smooth. Cool.
Chantilly Strawberries and Cream Cake 1 pint strawberries, washed and hulled 1 cup heavy cream 1/4 cup granulated sugar Reserved strawberry slices (garnish) 1 pound cake or angel cake, cut in layers
Pur'ee 1/4 cup berries to make 1/3 cup liquid. Slice remaining strawberries. Set aside. In large bowl with electric mixer at high speed, beat cream and sugar until stiff peaks form. Gradually pour pur'eed berries into whipped cream. Spread 1/2 cup of strawberry-cream mixture between each cake layer. Frost top and sides with remainder. Garnish top with berry slices. Serves 10.