The Food Maven Diary
Ratner's Vegetable Cutlets
I was not a fan of Ratner's, the famous Lower East Side dairy restaurant. You may have read my opinion in last Sunday's Newsday (Oct. 6), in the Currents section. My best line, if I say so myself was this: "The Associated Press claimed Ratner's closed 'for financial reasons.' I'll give you financial reasons: They charged $12 for lox and eggs, plus a usurious $1 extra for the onions. The nerve! Or the noive, as they used to say it on Delancey Street when, for good reason, the dish was called lox, eggs AND onions.
That said, I have been asked a zillion times if I know the recipe for Ratner's vegetable cutlets. Now that the joint is gone, I am bound to be asked a zillion times more. Now that there is no way to measure nostalgic imagining to reality, everyone will remember them as far better than they were.
To head off an avalanche of correspondence, I offer here the recipe as it was published in 1975, in The World Famous Ratner's Meatless Cookbook, by Judith Gethers and Elizabeth Lefft.
I know Judith Gethers. She's an accomplished Los Angeles-based food writer. She also is some relation to the family that owned Ratner's. As a professional and relative, Judith probably put these recipes, knocked down from institutional quantities, in the best light. This is to say, I made the cutlets and I am sure they are not what was served at Ratner's. They are better. They are made with canned vegetables and maztoh meal, standards items in our grandmother's panty. So they have a comfortingly nostalgic taste
I didn't eat them with gravy, which might make them more Ratner's-ish. (Sour cream certainly improved them, though.) Mushroom powder, which you certainly do not have in your pantry and is hard to get, is required for the gravy. Substitute some dried black mushrooms, the kind sold in plastic boxes in some supermarkets, if you want to get that flavor.
Ratner's Vegetable Cutlets
Makes 12 to 15 cutlets
6 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch cubes (about 2 pounds)
1/4 cup butter
2 medium onions, chopped (about 2/3 pound)
6 mushrooms, chopped
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can diced carrots, drained (see Arthur's Two Cents)
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can cut green beans, drained
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can peas, drained
2 cups matzoh meal (approximately)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Cook potatoes in boiling salted water for 20 minutes, or until tender. Mash.
Meanwhile, in a skillet, heat butter and sauté onions and mushrooms until tender.
Pour mushroom mixture into a bowl with mashed potatoes. Stir in carrots, green beans, peas and 2 eggs. Blend thoroughly. Add enough matzoh meal so that mixture can shaped into large patties. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Shape into 12 to 15 patties. Beat the remaining eggs well. Brush patties on both sides, coating thoroughly. Place on a well-greased cookie sheet.
Bake for 45 minutes, or until lightly golden browned.
Arthur's Two Cents: Canned diced carrots seem to be no longer available. Use sliced carrots and dice them.
Also: These reheat very well.
Ratner's Vegetable Cutlet Gravy
4 tablespoons butter
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, diced
1 cup chopped celery
1 green pepper, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 (1-pound) can tomatoes, undrained
3 cups Mushroom Water (see recipe below)
1 tablespoon mushroom powder
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
In a saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons butter and sauté onion, carrot, celery, green peeper and garlic until soft, about 5 minutes
Add tomatoes, mushroom water and mushroom powder. Simmer for 20 minutes.
Mix remaining 2 tablespoons butter and flour and enough water to make a paste. Stir into saucepan and cook until sauce bubbles and thickens.
Season with salt, pepper, and paprika.
Serve hot spooned over Ratner's Vegetable Cutlets.
Makes 4 cups
2 pounds mushrooms, chopped
1 quart water
In a large saucepan, combine mushrooms and water. Simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, until mushrooms are tender.
Strain broth and chill until ready to use. (Remaining chopped mushrooms may be chilled until ready to use in any dish.)