While I'm busy baking hundreds of cookies for this weekend's Drop In & Decorate® cookies-for-donation event, please enjoy this post from the archives, updated with new photos, links and recipe.
In 1981, the US Department of the Army was "honored" by Taxpayers for Common Sense with their Golden Fleece Award, for spending $6,000 to prepare a 17-page manual on how to buy Worcestershire sauce.
Not to worry, friends; you don't need to read the report. I'm going to tell you how to buy Worcestershire sauce (I'll even tell you how to use it), and my advice won't cost you a penny.
Go to any grocery store in the United States. Look in the condiment aisle, the one that has ketchup, mustard, mayo and canned olives. You'll see an orange box that says Lea & Perrins, and inside will be a bottle mysteriously sheathed in a tan paper wrapper. And inside that wrapper you'll discover a bottle exactly like the one in my pantry.
Worcestershire (pronounced WOOH STER SHEER, or, sometimes in England, WOOH STER), contains, according to the label, malt vinegar, spirit vinegar, molasses, sugar, salt, anchovies, tamarind, shallots or onions, garlic, spices and flavorings. Exactly which spices and flavorings are a closely-guarded secret; only three or four people in the Lea & Perrins company know the complete recipe.
Worcestershire sauce originated, as you might expect, in Worcester, England, in the early 1800s. A certain Lord Sandys, returning home from travels in India, brought back a recipe for a condiment he'd tasted, and he asked local pharmacists Joe Lea and William Perrins to duplicate the sauce for him. They did, and they put aside a few gallons for themselves. When they tasted it, Messrs. Lea and Perrin proclaimed it vile, and relegated it to the cellar. Several years later, however, they uncovered the jars and decided to taste once more. The sauce had mellowed into something quite delicious, and an enterprise was born.
When Fernand Petiot, barman at Harry's New York Bar, tossed some Worcestershire sauce in with vodka and tomato juice in 1921 to create a Bloody Mary, this pungent earned a place in homes and restaurants everywhere. It's a key ingredient in chicken caesar salad, as well as Mediterranean chicken soup, crawfish jambalaya, black bean and lentil salad, sweet and sour pork, steak with mushroom sauce, and zillions of variations of barbecue sauce. No pantry should be without it.
Black bean dip (frijoles molidos)
Cousin Martin gave me a locally published cookbook, Costa Rican Typical Foods, by Carmen de Musmanni and Lupita de Weiler, to introduce me to the foods of the country where he spends a good deal of time. This recipe, adapted from the book, originally calls for 4 strips of cooked and crumbled bacon; add it if you wish, though I love this vegetarian version. It tastes much more delicious than it appears in the photo! Serves 8-10 as an appetizer.
4 cups cooked black beans (canned beans are okay)
1 tsp vegetable oil
1/2 cup onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup cilantro leaves, finely chopped
1-1/2 tsp Tabasco or other hot sauce, or more to taste
1 Tbsp sugar
1-1/2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp kosher salt
Fresh lime juice, to taste
Large bag of tortilla chips
In a blender or food processor, or with a wooden potato masher, blend the beans until creamy but with some texture remaining, and place mashed beans in a large mixing bowl.
in a small frying pan, heat the oil, and saute the onion for 2 minutes; then add the garlic, and cook for 30 seconds. Add to the black beans, along with cilantro, hot sauce, sugar, Worcestershire and salt. Mix well, and taste for seasoning. Adjust as needed with salt and lime juice. Serve with tortilla chips.
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