Thursday, December 20, 2018

Mrs. Hering's Original 1890 Chicken Pot Pie Recipe that Launched Marshall Field's Food Service and the Walnut Room Restaurant.

As the real story is told: By 1890, Marshall Field's had established itself as a place where ladies were welcome to congregate. But there was just one thing missing: food. That's when Mrs. Sarah Hering came along. An enterprising clerk in the State Street millinery (hat) department, she had been trained in Field's "give the ladies what she wants" tradition of customer service. When she overheard two customers grumbling that they had nowhere to eat, she thought nothing of offering them the homemade chicken pot pie she had brought for lunch. She set up a table, served up her pie, and, without knowing it, started a restaurant - and a revolution. The ladies were so grateful that they convinced Mrs. Hering to make more pies for the next day telling her that they would bring friends to lunch and view the latest in hats the next day.
These ladies spread the word about the tastiest chicken pot pie they'd ever eaten, and soon Mrs. Hering was selling her pies at a counter in the millinery department. A young manager named Harry Selfridge (who would go on to found Selfridges Department Store in London, modeling it after Field's) was quick to recognize the potential of serving food to hungry guests, and thus keeping them in the store for more shopping. So he persuaded Mr. Field to try out the idea by opening a small tearoom in the building. On April 15, 1890, fifteen tables were set up on the third floor. There were eight waitresses and four cooks.
The four cooks of the "South Tearoom" at the State Street Marshall Field's store.
Each table was set with the finest silver tea service and every plate was adorned with a red rose. That day, fifty-six women turned up to lunch on corned beef hash, chicken salad, orange punch in an orange shell, and, of course, Mrs. Hering's chicken pot pies. Selfridge's hunch paid off. "The South Tearoom," now managed by Sarah Haring, became Chicago's first full-service dining establishment within a department store and was a runaway hit. It quickly expanded and within a year was serving five hundred guests a day. In the tradition of Mrs. Hering, many of the cooks in those early days prepared their specialties - from codfish cakes to Boston baked beans - in their own home kitchens and brought them in each morning.

In 1893 the South Tearoom was expanded to the entire 4th floor in the oldest section (Washington & Wabash) of the building – just in time for the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition, which Marshall Field was a major sponsor of the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition. The tearoom then served 1,500 people per day.
The Marshall Field’s South Tearoom in 1902. On the 4th floor of the oldest part of the store.
When it moved to its current location on the seventh floor, the tearoom expanded to seventeen thousand square feet. It took its new name from the Circassian walnut that was imported from Russia to panel the walls. The newly rebuilt south building that houses the Walnut Room today at Washington & State opened in September 1907. 

On the 7th floor it was first known as the "South Grill Room," then known as the "Walnut Tearoom," next as the "Walnut Grill," and finally as the "Walnut Room" in 1937. There were 6 tea and grill rooms that occupied the entire 7th floor.
Marshall Field in 1904. Corner of Washington & State - the old south building. Notice the old clock, it's not the one we see today.
Marshall Field in 1910. Corner of Washington & State - completed in 1907 - which houses the Walnut Room Restaurant on the seventeenth floor.
Learn about Marshall Field & Company State Street store history of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd corner clocks.

While not the first restaurant in a department store (as the misinformation on the Internet claims), it was the first elegant, full-service dining establishment within a department store, and its also the longest continuously-operating restaurant in the nation. It's been reported that the Walnut Room alone served up an average of 600 pot pies per day. Mrs. Hering's famous Chicken Pot Pie is iconic to the Walnut Room in Chicago.
About women dining unescorted by a man: Until about the 1920s it was unacceptable for a lady to dine unescorted while out in public. If a woman got a little peckish while shopping, she would need to return home to grab a snack. Before the Civil War, a space called a “Ladies Ordinary” was set aside for women in hotels. This, it was often stated, was to protect “respectable” women from being accosted or harassed by men or, even worse, taken for easily available women by male travelers, loungers, and dubious characters.  Beginning not long before the Civil War, restaurants started to cater to female shoppers who wanted lunch. Establishments called “Ice Cream Saloons” opened up near dry-goods emporia and the first department stores. They offered ice-cream, which was thought to appeal to women, as well as light meals. A key element of their efforts to attract women was that they did not serve alcohol. By 1900, coffee shops, tea-rooms, department store restaurants, and chain restaurants had a predominantly female clientele. Men might lunch at bars that offered “free lunch” with the purchase of drinks, at grills, clubs or at fancy restaurants. By the 1920s, most restaurants gave up the idea that they were protecting morals.
Originally called the "South Grill Room," is seen here in 1909. The bold selection of grilled foods was meant to distinguish the South Grill Room from the daintier tearooms. The restaurants' role was not to make money (they usually operated at a loss) but rather to lure hungry visitors into the store and give those already inside a reason to stay. Their upper-floor location required diners to navigate past enticing impulse goods while making their way upstairs. Because so many customers spoke of this restaurant by referring to its Circassian walnut paneling, it was later renamed the "Walnut Tearoom," next as the "Walnut Grill," and finally as the "Walnut Room" in 1937.
Another time of the year where Mrs. Hering's Chicken Pot Pie is very popular in the Walnut Room. The fountain is decorated for Easter. (year unknown)
Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D.



Mrs. Hering's ORIGINAL 1890 chicken pot pie recipe:
NOTE: This recipe was recalculated for 6 servings, using modern measurements, and I noted the modern-day substitutions in RED. The original recipe made 50+ servings per batch. For best results -- do not use substitutes.
FOR THE CHICKEN/BROTH:
1 (3 1/2 pound) frying chicken
1 carrot
1 celery stalk
1 small onion, halved
2 teaspoons salt

FOR THE DOUGH:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, diced
1/4 cup chilled lard (or substitute: vegetable shortening)
3 to 4 tablespoons of ice water

FOR THE FILLING:
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large onion, diced (about 1 1/4 cups)
3 carrots, sliced thinly on the bias
3 celery stalks, sliced thinly on the bias
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1/4 cup dry sherry
3/4 cup fresh green peas (or substitute: thawed frozen green peas)
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water

TO PREPARE THE CHICKEN/BROTH: 
Combine chicken, carrot, celery, onion, and salt in a large stockpot. Add cold water just to cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Decrease the heat to low and simmer 45 minutes. Transfer chicken to a plate and allow to cool. 

Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil for 20 minutes to concentrate the broth. Pass the broth through a fine-mesh strainer and discard the vegetables. When cool enough to handle, pull the chicken meat from the bones and shred into bite-sized pieces. 

TO PREPARE THE DOUGH: 
Combine flour, salt, and butter in the bowl of a food processor and pulse 5 times to combine. Add the shortening and pulse a few more times, until dough resembles coarse cornmeal. 
NOTE: Combine ingredients using a manual food mill or use a wooden spoon like they did in 1890s.
Transfer to a bowl and sprinkle with 2 1/2 to 3 tablespoons of ice water. Stir and then press together with a wooden spoon until the dough sticks together. A little at a time, add more water if the dough won't come together. Shape dough into a ball and then flatten into a disk. Cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes or up to 2 days before rolling.

TO PREPARE THE FILLING: 
Preheat oven to 400° degrees Fahrenheit

Place a large saucepan over medium heat and add butter. When the butter is melted, add the onion, carrots, and celery for filling and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes until the onion is soft and translucent. 

Add the flour and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. 

Slowly whisk in the milk and 2 1/2 cups of the chicken broth. Decrease the heat to low and simmer, stirring often, for 10 minutes. 

Add the chicken meat, thyme, sherry, peas, parsley, salt, and pepper and stir well. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. 

TO MAKE THE PIES:
Divide the warm filling among six 10-to-12-ounce pot pie tins or individual ramekins.

Place the dough on a floured surface and roll out to 1/4 inch thick. Cut into 6 rounds about 1 inch larger than the dish circumference. Lay a dough round over each pot pie filling. Tuck the overhanging dough back under itself and flute the edges with a fork. Cut a 1-inch slit in the top of each pie. Brush tops of pies with egg wash. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. 

Place pies on the baking sheet and bake 25 minutes, until pastry is golden and filling is bubbling. Serve hot.

Yield: 6 servings

More Marshall Field Firsts
  • Marshall Field's was the first to introduce the concept of the personal shopper, and that service was provided without charge in every Field's store, right up to the chain's last days under the Marshall Field's name.
  • Field's was the first store to offer revolving credit.
  • Marshall Field was the first department store in Chicago (State Street store) to install escalators, allowing customers to see the sales floor from an elevated view, either going up or down. Marshall Field paid $750,000 ($14,531,719 today) for their escalators in 1934. (The 1st escalator in the U.S. was installed in 1896 at New York's Coney Island. Bloomingdale's in N.Y. was the first department store in the U.S. to install an escalator in 1898.)
  • Marshall Field's book department in the State Street store was legendary; they pioneered the concept of the "book signing." 

7 comments:

  1. I could swear I remember them selling stamps to collectors in the 1960's. My father was a philatelist and studied postal history. I inherited most of his collection which includes hundreds of books on the subject as well as covers, stamps and albums.

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    1. Marshall Field's did sell stamps and coins. The department was by the book department. I bought many stamps as a kid in the late 1960s and 70s.

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    2. Thank you for this, Neil. Labor intensive recipe! I worked at MF State Street when I was in high school. Lots of awesome memories, even though working conditions weren't very good sometimes. ;0)

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  2. As always Neil, you have provided such great - and accurate history. (and I think I need to keep this recipe!) Thank you!!

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  3. Thank you for sharing this recipe. Brings back many happy memories of visits to Field's with my mom and, after she passed, with my son.

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  4. I knew there were not supposedtobe leaks in the pie!. Recently they were marketing the return of the original pie made with leeks. Awful! They also used a pate choux pastry top...

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  5. Made me think of how much I miss that store. Stamps & coins (collected both) check. Signed 1st edition books check. But what I really loved was spending time in the Chrystal department and fantasizing. So many beautiful things - Steuben, Lalique, etc. Just wonderful.

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