Beautiful Connecticut

Woven into the tapestry of Connecticut’s historical landscape are revolutionaries, innovators and philosophers. Today we celebrate the fifth state to join the newly formed American Union.

Like other colonies of the region, the Dutch were the first to explore the area and found trading posts in what would one day become Connecticut. In 1633, Puritans from Massachusetts established the first permanent settlement. From the very beginning, industry established in its settlements provided a means for the colony to prosper. The production of brass buttons placed Connecticut in a valuable position to later supply buttons to the Revolutionary Army. Their colonial governor, Jonathan Trumbull, was the only colonial governor to support independence from the British Crown. The other governors, already in comfortable positions of authority, saw no need to rock the revolutionary boat.

Connecticut is a place of beauty and rich in history. From covered bridges to places of worship and elite schools, there is much to explore in a state that isn’t much more than a postage stamp on the map of America.

Beginning early in the 1830s and accelerated when Connecticut abolished slavery entirely in 1848, African Americans began relocating to the urban centers for employment and opportunity. In 1832, Quaker school teacher, Prudence Crandall, attempted to create the first integrated schoolhouse in the United States by admitting Sarah Harris, the daughter of a free African-American farmer to her Canterbury Female Boarding School. This did not come without a price. Many prominent townspeople in Canterbury objected and pressured to have Harris dismissed from the school, but Crandall refused. In a show of protest, families removed their daughters from the school. Undaunted, Prudence Crandall opened the first school to fully educate African America girls excessively. In 1995, the Connecticut General Assembly designated Prudence Crandall as the state’s official heroine.

When I began to research recipe ideas to honor the great state of Connecticut, I was immediately drawn to the infamous Louis’ Lunch in New Haven. Opened as a small lunch wagon in 1895, Louis’ Lunch claims to be the first restaurant to serve hamburgers on toasted white bread instead of a bun. That struck a cord with me. As a young girl, I remember having hamburger sandwiches on white bread. When times were lean, everything from hamburgers to hot dogs were served on cheap white bread. Truth be told, hamburger sandwiches bring back fond memories. Not to mention less bread with more meaty goodness. The other thing I noticed that was popular in Connecticut was apple cider. Armed with information, the simple menu practically wrote itself.

Constitutional Tavern Lunch Menu
Hamburger Sandwiches with Cheddar Cheese Spread
Double Fry French Fries
Fresh Strawberry Milkshakes

Apple Cider Apple Pie


Hamburger Sandwiches with Cheddar Cheese Spread
Hamburger Sandwiches
1-1/3 lb Ground Chuck
Kosher Salt to taste
Black Pepper to taste
1 White Onion
1 large Tomato
8 slices White Bread
4 tablespoons Butter

Divide the ground beef into 4 equal portions. Form each portion into a rounded thick patty just slightly larger than the bread. (Think square with rounded corners). Season both sides with salt and pepper to taste.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil, place the burger patties on the prepared pan. Set aside and let patties come to room temperature.

Peel onion, slice into 8 rounds and set aside. Slice tomato into 4 nice slices, set aside.

While the burgers rest, make the cheddar cheese spread.

Cheddar Cheese Spread
16 oz Sharp Cheddar Cheese, finely grated
6 tablespoons White Wine
6 tablespoons Heavy Cream or more as needed
1-1/2 tablespoons Butter
3 tablespoons Deli Mustard

Finely grate the cheddar cheese. Set aside and let the cheese soften at room temperature.

Pour about an inch of water into the bottom of a saucepan set over medium heat. Place a glass bowl that fits snugly without touching the water over the pan to create a double boiler.

Whisk white wine, cream and mustard in the bowl of the double boiler.

Gradually add the cheddar cheese, stirring until completely melted and smooth. Remove from heat and let spread cool slightly white the burgers are cooked.

Adjust oven rack 4 inches below heat source, and heat broiler to High. Broil burgers about 3 or 4 minutes, watch closely so burgers do not burn. Once well browned on one side, flip and continue to broil for about 3 or 4 minutes.

Remove from oven, top each burger with 1 thick slice of onion. Broil for about a minute or so, just until the onion begins to caramelize. Remove from oven, carefully flip and place remaining onion slices on top. Place back under the broiler, caramelize.

Remove from oven, remove from baking sheet and keep warm.

To Toast Bread and Assemble Hamburger Sandwiches:
Arrange bread slices on the same baking sheet that was used for the burgers. The bread with soak in the fat and add flavor. Spread about a half a tablespoon of butter on top of each slice of bread.

Slice under the broiler for about 30 seconds to 1 minute, just long enough to toast. Remove toasted bread slices from oven.

Place four bread slices, buttered side down, on serving plates. Smear bread slices with a thick coating of the Cheddar cheese spread. Place the grilled patty, onions and all, on top of on slice of bread. Top with a slice of tomato and remaining slices of bread, buttered side up. Cut in half on the diagonal and serve.

Double Fry French Fries
4 or 5 large Russet Baking Potatoes
Vegetable Oil, for frying
Kosher Salt

Peel and rinse the potatoes. Then cut them into sticks by cutting the potato in 4 or 5 vertical pieces, and then cutting each piece into sticks. Place potato sticks in a large bowl and cover with cold water. Allow potatoes to soak at least 3 hours or overnight.

Drain off the water and lay the potatoes on 2 baking sheets lined with paper towels. Blot with paper towels to dry them. 

Heat a few inches of oil in a heavy pot to 300 degrees. Divide the potatoes into 4 batches, cook each batch until soft, 4 to 5 minutes per batch. They should not be brown at this point! You just want to start the cooking process. Remove each batch and drain on new/dry paper towels. 

Once all the potatoes have been fried at 300 degrees, turn up the heat until the oil reaches 400 degrees. When the oil is hot, start frying the potatoes in batches again, cooking until the fries are golden and crisp. Remove the potatoes from the oil and drain on paper towels. 

Sprinkle with salt and serve.

Fresh Strawberry Milkshake
3 scoops Vanilla Ice Cream
1/2 cup Whole Milk
3/4 cup chopped hulled strawberries fresh
1 tablespoon Sugar
Whipped Cream topping, if desired

Chill glasses in the freezer.

For each shake, place ice cream scoops and milk into a blender.

Clean, hull and chop the strawberries, add to the blender. Sprinkle sugar over the top. Blend until well-incorporated, deep pink and pourable.

Pour strawberry shake into the chilled glass, place in the refrigerator.

Repeat until all the desired strawberry shakes are poured into glasses. Top with whipped cream and serve with a straw.

Apple Cider Apple Pie
Classic Pie Crust
8 tablespoons Unsalted Butter
1/4 cup Solid Vegetable Shortening
2-1/2 cups Flour
1 tablespoon Sugar
1/2 teaspoon Salt
2 teaspoons Lemon Juice
3 oz. (1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons) very cold water
3 tablespoon Heavy Cream
12 small Sugar Cubes

Cut butter into 1/2-inch pieces, chill well. Cut vegetable shortening into 1/2-inch pieces, chill well.

Put the flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor; pulse briefly to combine. Add the butter and shortening; pulse just until coarse crumbs form, about 30 seconds. Add the lemon juice and water. Pulse just until moist crumbs form. Turn the dough onto a work surface and gently shape it into two equal disks about 4 or 5 inches in diameter. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least 1 hour or up to 1 day.

While the pie dough chills, make the apple filling.

Apple Cider Apple Filling
3 lb. Golden Delicious Apples
2/3 cup Apple Cider
2/3 cup packed Light Brown Sugar
1 teaspoon Cinnamon
1 pinch Ground Nutmeg
3 tablespoons Cornstarch

Peel, core and cut the apples into 3/4-inch slices, then halve each slice crosswise.

In a large nonreactive pot, mix the apples, all but 2 tablespoons of the cider, the brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring often, until the sugar has dissolved and the apples are evenly coated. Mix the cornstarch and remaining 2 tablespoon cider into a paste; add this to the apples. Stirring constantly, boil until the liquid is thickened and clear, about 1 minute.

Taste and adjust seasonings if needed. Remove from the heat and let cool.

To Assemble and Bake the pie:
Position racks in the low and middle spots of the oven. Set a foil-lined baking sheet on the lower rack to catch drips and heat the oven to 425 degrees.

Roll out one disk of dough as for a one-crust pie and line a 9-inch pie pan, leaving the excess hanging over the side. Cover loosely with plastic while you roll out the other disk between parchment.

Spoon the apple filling into the the shell. Brush the edge of the bottom crust with water. Roll the top crust around the pin and position it over the pie. Gently unroll, centering the dough over the filling. Press the edges together and, with scissors, trim both crusts 1/2-inch larger than the outer edge of the pie pan. Tuck excess dough under to shape a high edge crust that rests on top of the rim. Pinch-crimp the edges together.

Brush the heavy cream over the top crust. Coarsely crush the sugar cubes and sprinkle over the top, pressing lightly to secure the chunks. Cut at least three vent holes. Bake on the middle rack until the crust is golden and the apples are tender when pierced with a knife, about 55 minutes. If the top starts browning too quickly, tent the pie with foil.

Remove from oven and let pie cool on a rack to just warm or room temperature. Serve with ice cream or slices of Cheddar Cheese if desires.

Author: Rosemarie's Kitchen

I'm a wife, mother, grandmother and avid home cook.I believe in eating healthy whenever possible, while still managing to indulge in life's pleasures.

4 thoughts on “Beautiful Connecticut”

  1. Great tribute to a beautiful state. Connecticut is small but a real treasure, from the coast to the edge of the Berkshires in the west. I love the hamburger sandwich. I always loved the way the juice and (let’s face it) grease would soak into the bread!

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