Andrea Hunter Halgrimson column: Ralph Engel was a fine renaissance man, gourmet
Between 1955 and 1975, Ralph Engel was an instructor and professor of English at North Dakota State University. He lived in apartments before buying a house that had been made into a two-family dwelling. He remodeled it himself and lived there alone.
Between 1955 and 1975, Ralph Engel was an instructor and professor of English at North Dakota State University.
He lived in apartments before buying a house that had been made into a two-family dwelling. He remodeled it himself and lived there alone. He drove a rusted-out old Chevy that he called the Green Hornet.
Ralph was not only an esteemed teacher but he was also an art collector, an amateur carpenter, an avid gardener, a fan of foreign films, a birder and an excellent cook.
He loved to entertain and he was the first person I knew who had a subscription to Gourmet Magazine which, in those days, was about the only serious culinary publication around.
Ralph became part of our family and came often for coffee in the morning or drinks in the evening, and sometimes vice versa. He joined us at parties and holidays, taking over the carving of the Thanksgiving turkey.
In his living room, he had a coffee table with drop leaves that you could draw up into dining table height, open the leaves and it accommodated four to six people for a meal.
The last meal I remember him making for me was from a recipe he'd cut from an advertisement in Gourmet Magazine. I asked for the recipe and received an index card with the recipe pasted on one side and a picture of the dish on the other.
There was also a hand-written message on the card, "Andrea, I used whole wheat bread crumbs the last time, and I like them better than white. I do not strain the sauce, as you know, and the picture seems to back me up on that."
The recipe seems to have too many ingredients and steps by today's standards, but the outcome is worth the fooling around. It is delicious and I usually serve it with pasta and a salad.
I learned a great deal about cooking and entertaining from Ralph. But I also learned about the contemporary American novel in his classes at NDSU and I learned to appreciate the foreign films he and I attended at Moorhead State and the old Moorhead Theater. I learned about the birds and flowers from Ralph as well as my mother.
And I learned about art. When Ralph died in 1975, he left much of his substantial collection to North Dakota State University with some pieces going to friends. I have a large oil painting, "The Red Bowl" done by Kent Kirby. It hangs in our living room. I also have a large stack of old Gourmet magazines.
12 thin slices top round steak, about ¼ inch thick
¼ pound Italian salami, minced
¼ pound ground veal
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons softened butter
1 cup fresh bread crumbs
2 tablespoons minced parsley
1 egg, beaten
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
12 slices prosciutto
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 large clove garlic
1 large onion, chopped
2 carrots, cut in a small dice
1 bay leaf
1 cup dry white wine
1 can (28 ounces) plum tomatoes, sieved
Flatten slices of beef as thinly as possible.
Mix ground meats, cheese, 2 tablespoons of the butter, bread crumbs, parsley and egg. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper.
Place a slice of prosciutto on each piece of beef, spread with stuffing. Roll slices tightly and tie with string.
Heat oil and remaining butter together in a large skillet. Add garlic, onion, carrots and bay leaf. Sauté for a few minutes. Add beef rolls and brown well on all sides.
Stir in wine and cook over moderate heat until most of the liquid has evaporated.
Add tomatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 35 to 40 minutes, or until beef is tender.
Remove beef to a warm platter. Turn heat to high and cook pan juices until reduced and thickened. Pour over beef rolls and serve. Makes 6 servings.
Andrea Hunter Halgrimson writes a weekly food column for The Forum. Readers can reach her at email@example.com