A particularly special place to me at Thomas Jefferson’s home in Charlottesville, Virginia is…
“THE FISH POND”
The pond is very near Monticello…the main house of the third President of the United States, Thomas Jefferson. In fact, the pond is a very short walk from the house and a handy place for the cooks to obtain the fish that might be needed for dinner. After we toured Monticello, I sat on a bench beside the pond for about thirty minutes. My imagination ran wild as I envisioned the comings and goings to the pond. Jefferson had several ponds across his property, but surely this pond was the most interesting. Right?
Our daughter along with my very best friend from college toured the immense gardens and heard stories about the vegetables that Jefferson introduced from his time in Europe. Interesting, but nothing to compare with that “Fish Pond”. Our daughter thought that I had lost my mind. Actually, I was lost in thought about the residence that I had hoped to visit for a long time.
LOST IN THOUGHT ABOUT HISTORY AND HOW MUCH OUR DAILY LIVES HAVE CHANGED FOR THE BETTER. WE SHOULD BE SO VERY THANKFUL.
As it turned out, I learned something that they missed on the garden tour… the Fish Pond near the house was a holding place for fish. The pond is not just another decorative addition to the amazing architectural wonders at Monticello…the pond serves a very important use. Fish that are caught in the Rivanna River and other convenient streams are kept in the pond until a meal calls for them.
Dining with Mr. Jefferson…
Deviled Eggs with Anchovies
Mixed Garden Stuff with Monticello Dressing
A Pie Called Macaroni
Eggplant Napoleon with Herbed Ricotta in Tomato Cream Sauce
Monticello Apple Cake
***Sample Menu from Dishing Up Virginia***
Two Other Favorite Possibilities for Mr. Jefferson’s Dinner Menu…
***Pan-Seared Fish with Lemon and Butter Cream Sauce***
1/2 cup dry white wine or chicken broth
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
3/4 cup whipping (heavy) cream
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
1/4 cup cold firm butter, cut into 4 pieces
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
4 skinless medium-firm fish fillets (6 ounce each)…type of fish–your choice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/4 cup chopped and toasted hazelnuts
In 2-quart saucepan, heat wine, lemon juice and shallots to boiling over medium-high heat. boil uncovered for 4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until liquid is reduced by half.
Add whipping cream to pan and heat to boiling, stirring occasionally. Boil uncovered 6 minutes until sauce is thickened and reduced to about 1/2 cup. Remove from heat and add lemon peal. Beat in butter, 1 piece at a time, with wire whisk, adding the next piece only after the first has been completely beaten in and melted. When all of the butter has been beaten in, add 1/4 teaspoon salt and the white pepper. Cover to keep warm.
Sprinkle fish with 1/4 teaspoon salt; set aside.
In 12-inch skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat until shimmering and hot. Add fish and cook 3 minutes. Flip and cook 3 minutes longer or until edges begin to brown and fish flakes easily with fork.
To serve, spoon sauce over fish and sprinkle with nuts.
***Thomas Jefferson’sSweet Potato Biscuits from 1774***
This recipe is from the National Constitution Center (NCC), Philadelphia PA. According to the NCC, Thomas Jefferson’s biscuits were served at the first meeting of the First Continental Congress in 1774 and are served today at the famous City Tavern (built in 1773) located in Philadelphia’s historic district at 2nd and Walnut Streets.
1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, cut in small pieces
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 cup milk
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sweet potato, mashed (about 1 large Virginia Sweet Potato)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 cup pecans, chopped
***Preheat oven to 450°F.***
Combine the dry ingredients. Add butter with fork, food processor or pastry cutter until the texture is small crumbs.
Combine milk and sweet potatoes. Add to flour mixture. Add pecans.
Knead dough with your hands until it is a smooth mass. Roll out on a floured surface to 1/2″ thickness and cut with a 2″ biscuit cutter.
Place on a greased baking sheet 2″ apart.
Bake for about 10-15 minutes, or until lightly browned.