Cooking with the (Silent) Stars: Edward Everett Horton’s Tomatoes with French Garlic Dressing

We’re back with another silent era star recipe from Photoplay’s 1929 cookbook. This time around, I’ll be testing a recipe from one of the most famous voices of the sound era. Not many people know that he started in the silents.

(You can catch up on all my past taste tests here.)

Edward Everett Horton is a beloved figure in film, one of the great character actors. He started out in the movies in 1922 and was soon receiving top billing and everything but sound really gave his career some extra oomph. Was there ever a voice like his?

(I covered Mr. Horton’s career in my review of Lonely Wives.)

So, we know and love Horton but will we love his recipe just as much? Let’s find out!

As some of my readers are based outside the United States, I decided to add some explanations about two of the ingredients in the dressing.

Chili Sauce

This is a VERY American ingredient in the allegedly French recipe. These days, we tend to think of chili sauce as sriracha or something equally zippy but classic chili sauce is more tomato than chili and includes a variety of spices and sweeteners, plus a bit of vinegar. Here is a 1918 Fannie Farmer recipe to give you an idea of the contents.

Meatloaf, that oh-so American main dish, can have brown or red sauce on top. I am #TeamRedSauce because that’s what my mother made me as a kid and her topping was chili sauce. I kind of love it. (Other red sauce options include tomato sauce and ketchup. Meatloaf is a highly personal thing and nobody totally agrees on meats, fillings or sauce. We basically like what our mothers made us.)

Garlic

The recipe calls for a single kernel (clove) of garlic and the editors behave as though Horton was mainlining granulated garlic in his dressing room. At this point in American culinary history, garlic was more acceptable to the mainstream but still viewed with suspicion. Salad was the gateway garlic drug and cooks were encouraged to rub the bowl with a garlic clove held on the tines of a fork. (British food writer Elizabeth David quipped that it all depended on whether one was eating the salad or the bowl.)

Garlic continued to be treated with suspicion and the usual racism but the tide was turning. Servicemen during the Second World War brought back a taste for French and Italian cuisine, James Beard introduced garlic recipes to a hungry post-war nation and Julia Child’s popular French cookbooks helped push garlic into the mainstream.

But when this recipe was published, we were still in the “wave the garlic over the salad and then throw away” stage of the American diet. A clove INSIDE the dressing was very daring indeed. Well done, Mr. Horton!

(You can read more about the history of garlic in Garlic, An Edible Biography by Robin Cherry, a most enjoyable read.)

Dressing, not blood. Honest.

Everything came together pretty easily in this recipe. I mixed all the dressing ingredients in a glass jar, gave it a good shake and put it in the fridge.

For tomatoes, the weirdly long winter put me in a bind. My garden fresh tomatoes were planted late and so would ripen late, so I decided to see if the recipe would work with grocery store hot house tomatoes. I sliced them into eighths.

Hot house toms.

The recipe wasn’t totally clear as to whether the tomatoes are supposed to marinate in the dressing or be dressed with it before serving. I split the difference and poured it over the tomatoes 45 minutes before serving.

Sliced and ready.

Score: 2 out of 5. I just don’t feel that the dressing worked. The chili sauce felt superfluous for dressing the tomatoes and the whole thing would have been more successful with a simple vinaigrette. I feel that the overall concept of the recipe is sound but that the flavors in the dressing didn’t work. A pity.

Too much tomato?

Once my cherry tomatoes  are ripe, I’ll probably try this amuse-bouche made with a simple mixture of vinegar, oil and mint.

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2 Replies to “Cooking with the (Silent) Stars: Edward Everett Horton’s Tomatoes with French Garlic Dressing”

  1. I love Mr. Horton’s film work in a million different ways, but must agree that for good, fresh, ripe tomatoes (large, medium, or small) this dressing seems overkill. EEH’s recipe (sans tomatoes, of course) might make a nice marinade for grilled summer squash and mushroom kabobs, though. To push the point, adding a few more “kernels” from the stinking rose could only help 😉

    Observations:

    Growing your own cherry or grape tomatoes is absolutely where it’s at!

    Yes, yes, yes, to fresh mint with tomatoes!

    1. Yes, the dressing was pretty tasty, just not on tomatoes. I’m excited to try the recipe for the mint & tomatoes! I found it last year after tomato season was over and I have been waiting ever since.

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