If you’re feeling young, scrappy, and hungry — or just hungry — while awaiting the Hamilton premiere, look no further. We’re here to help you make the story of tonight a success in a way that would make our Founding Father without a father proud.
Sure, you could entertain your premiere party guests with Hurricanes to drink, a Winter’s (Meat)ball dip, A. Ham-burgers from the grill with a side of You Will Never Be Satisfries, and end the night with a World Turned Upside Down Cake. (Because there’s no shortage of Hamilton food puns.) But history has its eyes on you, so let’s take a look at what the esteemed Alexander Hamilton might have feasted on while watching his eponymous musical.
While historians may not know much about what the first U.S Secretary of the Treasury actually ate — his writings rarely mention food — we can assume by his location and circumstances what he may have enjoyed throughout his life.
From the West Indies to New York City
As a child growing up relatively poor in the West Indies — first in Nevis and then on St. Croix — Hamilton likely would have been raised on stews, rice and peas, fresh island fruits, conch, and a cornmeal flatbread like Johnny Cakes.
Variations on Johnny Cakes, known by a myriad of names, can be found from the islands of Hamilton’s youth on up the Eastern seaboard all the way to Canada. When Hamilton arrived in New York City in 1772, it’s likely he would have discovered an adaptation of this island staple.
What would a Johnny Cake have tasted like in Hamilton’s time? Thankfully, there’s a cookbook to tell us. American Cookery, published in 1796, is the first known cookbook written by an American. Its author, Amelia Simmons, describes herself as “an American orphan” and was likely a domestic worker somewhere in New York’s Hudson Valley.
The book features recipes for early American staples like pumpkin pie, and suggests serving cranberry with turkey. It also includes a “Johny Cake, or Hoe Cake” recipe. Simmons’ recipe below uses shortening and molasses, something you won’t find in many Johnny Cake recipes today.
Working in the nation’s early capital: Philadelphia
Though Hamilton called New York City home for most of his adult life, he spent a considerable amount of time working in Philadelphia, even residing there temporarily when the city served as the nation’s capital. While it would be years before Hamilton could have enjoyed an iconic Philly cheesesteak on his lunch break, he most certainly would have savored its popular predecessor, Pepper Pot Soup.
“Pepper Pot is the most famous soup in American history that most people have never heard of,” Tonya Hopkins, food historian and Foodizen podcast host, tells Yahoo Life. “It originated in Africa, bloomed and blossomed in the Caribbean, and became the first signature dish of Philadelphia.”
“Pepper Pot women” were among the earliest street vendors in the city, lining the streets along the port. “Pepper Pot was made and sold for pennies per serving, almost entirely by free black women,” Hopkins continues. “This was the street food of Philadelphia at the time.”
There are many renditions of Pepper Pot Soup available online. Campbell’s even offered its own canned version from 1899 - 2010. Most recipes are similar in that they utilize affordable cuts of beef, leafy greens, lots of herbs, spices, and chili peppers native to the Caribbean.
Hopkins, who comes from a long line of cooks, says her recipe was based on a version she sampled at Philadelphia’s City Tavern, but then took on a life of its own.
“When I make a soup, I’m not the only person in the room,” says Hopkins. “It becomes a medium for me to communicate with my ancestors. The soup starts to make itself.”
Dinner in “the room where it happened”
What would a Hamilton premiere menu be without a dish from the room?
The song tells the story of the Compromise of 1790, made over a fabled dinner where Thomas Jefferson and James Madison met with Alexander Hamilton to discuss his federal taxation plan. As stated in the song, the men walked into dinner ‘diametric’ly opposed, foes’ but left with Madison agreeing to back Hamilton’s policy in Congress. In return, Hamilton would support moving the nation’s capital to the Potomac, so the Virginians could ‘work a little closer to home.’
Often considered America’s founding foodie, Thomas Jefferson was known for his elaborate dinner parties, prepared by enslaved James Hemings, the nation’s first French-trained chef. Hemings had traveled to France with Jefferson to study the culinary arts and served as the chef de cuisine at America’s first diplomatic embassy there. He is credited with introducing classic foods like French fries and ice cream to the fledgling nation upon his return.
Based on historical records, we know much of what was on the dinner menu on June 20, 1790, including capon stuffed with Virginia ham, boeuf a la mode, and a take on modern day profiteroles that author Charles Cerami describes in his book Dinner at Mr. Jefferson’s, as such:
“At the precise moment when the evening was approaching perfection came the universally favorite dessert — the delicious vanilla ice cream that still seemed like a miracle, for it was enclosed in a warm pastry, like a cream puff, giving the illusion that the ice cream had come straight from the oven,” Cerami writes. “It never failed to elicit cries from the groups of diners at Monticello, and it did not fail now. Even Madison gave a small squeal, and Hamilton positively exulted."
The recipe below pays homage to the dessert served as this famous dinner, with a modern day adaptation of Hemings’ ice cream recipe, and nod to Hamilton’s love of caffeinated beverages in the coffee fudge sauce.
This dessert is sure to please even those who will never be satisfied.
Regardless of what’s on your menu, be sure to raise a glass — or a shot — to freedom by enjoying Lin-Manuel Miranda’s masterpiece. Hamilton will be released on Disney+ at 12 AM PST (3 AM EST) on Friday, July 3rd.
JOHNY CAKE, OR HOE CAKE
Adapted from Amelia Simmons, American Cookery
Makes 12 cakes
2 cups cornmeal
1 cup milk
1/2 tbsp molasses
1 tbsp vegetable shortening
1/2 tsp salt
Mix salt and cornmeal in a medium bowl.
Scald milk (bring to just below a boil) and remove from heat. Whisk in molasses and shortening until dissolved. Let cool slightly.
Pour milk mixture into cornmeal and stir to thoroughly combine. Spoon mixture onto baking sheet in 12 2-3 inch circles.
Bake at 350 for 15 minutes.
PHILADELPHIA PEPPER POT SOUP
Recipe by Tonya Hopkins
Makes about 6 quarts
1 large cassava (peeled, cored and cut into chunks)
2 small sweet potatoes, diced
5 strips thick-cut bacon, cut in 1 to 2 inch pieces
1½ pounds stewing beef, cut into 1 or 2 inch cubes
3 tsp sea salt (or to taste)
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
½ tsp allspice
½ tsp ground cloves
¼ tsp paprika
½ tsp smoked paprika
1½ tsp onion powder
1½ tsp garlic powder
1 tbsp tapioca cornstarch
1 medium sized onion, diced
1 bunch scallions, greens diced, whites chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 poblano pepper, diced
1 each (small) red, yellow and orange bell peppers, diced
1 habanero* minced (don’t discard seeds to stir into simmering stew if you prefer more heat)
1 small to medium jalapeno minced
½ pound leafy greens, such as collards, kale, callaloo) stemmed and cut into strips
2 or 3 sprigs fresh thyme
Beef Stock (about 32 ounces or more to cover)
¼ cup dry red wine (optional)
In a small bowl, combine salt, pepper, allspice, cloves, paprika, onion and garlic powders. Season beef cubes with half the mixture, and set aside.
Peel and cut cassava, discarding hard, fibrous parts. Bring a medium size pot of salted water to boil, then add cassava chunks. Simmer until soft, about 15-20 minutes. Drain, coarsely smash to chunky consistency. Set aside.
While the cassava is cooking, brown bacon on both sides until just crisp in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Remove and set aside, leaving the rendered fat.
Lightly dredge seasoned beef in starch, then brown beef on all sides in the bacon fat a single layer in the pot. Brown beef in batches if necessary.
Add sweet potatoes, garlic, onions, peppers to the pot, sprinkling in the seasoning mix on top. Stir. Cover and let simmer until vegetables soften and become aromatic, about 5 minutes.
Sprinkle in additional starch (up to 2 tsps) for thickener, stir well.
Stir in stock, wine, fresh thyme leaves and cassava mash. Bring to just under a boil, then reduce heat and let simmer for 5 minutes.
Add bacon pieces, scallions and seasoned greens and continue simmering until greens are tender.
Remove from heat and let the soup rest for a few min before serving. Remove thyme stems before serving. Adjust with any additional salt, pepper and other seasoning to taste.
PROFITEROLES WITH CHOCOLATE COFFEE SAUCE
Pâte à choux:
½ cup water
½ cup flour
¼ cup butter
Vanilla ice cream:
1 qt heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup sugar
3 large egg yolks
1 vanilla bean, halved with beans scraped
Chocolate coffee sauce:
1/2 pint heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp butter
6 oz bittersweet chocolate, like Scharffen Berger
2 tbsp cocoa powder, like Valhrona
2 tbsp espresso powder
½ tsp vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
For the ice cream:
In a large saucepan over medium-low heat, combine cream, ½ the sugar, and vanilla bean (including the pod). Stir to combine and bring the mixture just to a boil.
In a metal bowl, whisk together the eggs yolks with the remaining sugar until the mixture thickens and pales.
Pour 1/3 of the hot cream mixture into the eggs yolks, whisking constantly. Then add another ⅓ of the hot cream mixture, continue whisking. Return this mixture to the saucepan and continue whisking over low heat until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon. Do not allow the mixture to boil.
Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature, then at least 2 hours or overnight.
Strain through a fine mesh strainer, and then freeze according to ice cream freezer/maker instructions.
For the sauce:
In medium saucepan over medium-low heat, combine heavy cream, butter, sugar and salt. Bring to a simmer and whisk in chocolate.
When chocolate has melted, add cocoa and espresso powder and whisk until no lumps remain. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Serve immediately or refrigerate and reheat before serving.
For the pâte à choux:
Combine butter and water in saucepan and bring to a boil. Add flour and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until the mixture forms into a ball.
Remove from stove and add one egg and a time, beating until fully incorporated.
Spoon dough onto a greased cookie sheet in circular shapes with the center slightly raised, 1 ½ inches apart.
Bake for 10 minutes at 400 degrees, then continue for 20 minutes at 350 degrees.
Once slightly cooled, cut in half and serve with a scoop of ice cream, drizzled with the sauce.
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