Cookie Cutter image

Tillie Cookie Cutter

This cookie cutter is based on the heroine of Helen R. Martin’s local color novel Tillie, a Mennonite Maid (1904) which helped to popularize interest in Lancaster County’s plain sects. Roughwood Collection.

CATFISH & WAFFLES à la Kugler's

(Culinary Food Region 1)

The original Kuglers Restaurant in Philadelphia was located at 34-36 South Broad Street, and in its heyday during the early 1900s it was considered both the largest and most beautifully appointed restaurant in the city. A postcard view from about 1906 shows its elaborate interior décor. More important, Kuglers specialized in distinctively Philadelphia style dishes, such a chicken salad with fried oysters, snapper soup, terrapin, hundreds of shellfish dishes, game, and the recipe here: catfish-and-waffles, which is taken from the 1902 menu. Tracing back to at least the 1840s, this localism in regional cookery was long recognized by Philadelphia food writers as something distinct to the city, even into the 1920s. After that, chicken-and-waffles more or less replaced it in popularity (see sidebar left). The secret to good catfish-and-waffles lies in using only the freshest, hottest, and crispiest waffles direct from the stove. Kuglers recipe featured wafer-thin waffles, even waffles made with Jersey sweet potatoes or white cornmeal. Whatever one’s waffle preference, keep in mind that this is a savory dish: no sugar or any kind of sweetener is added to the waffle batter.

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About this Image

A postcard view of the l originaKugler's Restaurant in Philadelphia, circa 1906, Roughwood Collection.

Recipe Source

Kugler Family, Philadelphia, PA. Field Interview: December 20, 2009.

Recipe

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

2 tablespoons (30g) butter
2 tablespoon (25g) flour
4 tablespoons (65g) chopped shallots
2 cup (500ml) cream or whole milk
10 fresh bay leaves
6 tablespoons (90ml) fish stock
2 pounds (1 kg) poached catfish, chopped fine or hashed (see note below)
6 mushrooms, 6 morels, chopped or 24 whole oyster crabs
2 tablespoons (30g) tiny capers, or chopped olives
Madeira to taste (about 6 tablespoons/90ml)
salt and pepper to taste

Heat the butter in a broad sauté pan until it begins to foam. Add the flour and stir until the flour turns straw color, and then add the shallots. Cover, reduce the heat, and sweat 3 minutes, then add the milk or cream, bay leaves, fish stock, and chopped catfish. Bring this to a gentle simmer and cook until thick, adding the mushrooms, morels or oyster crabs according to your preference. Add the capers and Madeira, adjust seasonings and serve very hot over thin, freshly baked waffles.

Note: The catfish should be poached in hot water for 6 to 8 minutes, or until it changes color but not until falling apart. Use the poaching stock for the fish stock called for in the recipe.