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Let me begin by saying that if you love olives, this recipe may be highly disappointing. However, if you love beef stuffed with bacon, then smothered with gravy, you’ve come to the right recipe.

Have I got your attention now? I thought so.

There are about a thousand different variations of the vintage Beef Olive recipe. Some have veal or pork stuffed into the beef-which sounds yummy and I might try it at a later date. But I picked this one because, frankly, I had beef and I had bacon! Also, I knew my husband would love it-and so would every other guy reading this blog.

This recipe comes from “The Virginia House-wife” by Mary Randolph, first published in 1824. I hope to get my hands on a copy in the near future. Mary Randolph’s volume was considered the most influential housekeeping book of the 1800’s. Incidentally, she’s also the first recorded person to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

Here is Mary’s recipe:
• fat rump of beef six inches long and half an inch thick
• 1 pint of good gravy
• brown flour
• 1 spoonful of butter
• 1 gill of red wine
• 2 spoonsful of mushroom catsup
• bread crumbs
• fat bacon chopped
• parsley
• a little onion
• some shred suet
• pounded mace
• pepper
• salt
• yelks of eggs

Cut slices from the fat rump of beef, beat them well with a pestle; make a forcemeat of bread crumbs, bacon, parsley, onion, suet, mace, pepper and salt; mix it up with the yelks, and spread a thin layer over each slice of beef, roll it up tight, and secure the rolls with skewers, set them before the fire, and turn them till they are a nice brown; have ready the gravy, thickened with brown flour and the butter, red wine, with the mushroom catsup, lay the rolls in it, and stew them till tender; garnish with forcemeat balls.

Don’t you love how she writes egg “yelks”?

I didn’t have a rump of beef lying around-but I did have a package of hamburger, and most of the other ingredients. I did some experimenting with the forcemeat, as there are no measurements recorded by Mrs. Randolph.

I’ll also use this recipe to introduce you to mace-not the chemical spray used to ward off bad guys-but the spice made from the dried covering of the nutmeg. You’ll find it at most big-name grocers. It’s a necessity in the vintage kitchen, as it was one of the most widely used spices in recipes written before 1900.

Here is my version:

• 1.5 pounds of ground chuck
• ½ cup of plain bread crumbs
• ½ pound bacon, fried, drained, cooled and cut into small pieces with kitchen shears
• 1 tablespoon of parsley
• 1 tablespoon dried minced onion, reconstituted in water
• 3 tablespoons butter, softened
• 1 teaspoon mace
• 2 egg yolks
• Salt and pepper
• One jar of commercial gravy, any flavor
• One 7 ounce can of mushroom pieces and stems
• 1/2 cup of red wine like Burgundy or red cooking wine

To make the stuffing, also known as “forcemeat”, mix the bread crumbs, bacon, parsley, onion, butter, mace, egg yolks and salt and pepper in a medium size bowl. It will look something like this when ready:

Next, take a handful of ground chuck and, on a flat plate, make a patty as flat as you can with the palm of your hand. Take a tablespoon of the forcemeat and place it in the middle of the flattened patty, flattening it also as much as you can with the back of the spoon, until it looks like this:

Roll the ground chuck up and place it in a skillet, sprayed with cooking oil, on medium heat. Repeat until you’ve used up all the ground chuck-you should have about eight patties.

Fry the patties until brown on each side, taking care when you flip them not to let them fall apart. Flatten the patties again with your spatula.

While the patties are browning, mix the gravy, mushrooms, and wine in a medium bowl. When the patties are brown, drain the fat from the skillet and then pour the gravy mixture evenly over the patties.

Cover the skillet and let simmer on low to medium low for about 20 minutes, until the meat is no longer pink. Serve with a spoon of gravy (or more!) ladled over each patty.

As you can imagine, this was a big hit with my husband. I served it with potato fritters-also smothered in gravy from the beef olive pan-a salad, and a slice of bread. It’s a step up from your ordinary hamburger or meatloaf meal and it was easy and quick to prepare-perfect for busy weeknights.  To make it easier, fry some extra bacon one morning before school-and set it back for this dish. Enjoy!

Next blog post: My very first bread-and an introduction to my new best friend in the kitchen.
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