plantation cornbread 2

One of my favorite meals I recall as a kid was one my mother referred to as Plantation Cornbread. Comprised of ham, chicken, and mushrooms in a gravy spooned over a fresh-baked cornbread, this treat would usually grace our table not long after a holiday as a way to creatively use some left overs. My mother had somehow secured the recipe for this delicious dish that was served at the “Tea Room” in the Miller and Paine department store in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Originally established in 1889, the J. E. Miller & Co. was located on the southwest corner of 13th & O streets in the heart of the bustling capital city. Joined by Paine in 1898 the two formed their new brand and began making plans for expansion. Breaking ground in 1916 on an elaborate eight story building attached to the original store, the duo was very innovative and built a true shopping experience which included the first escalator in the state. Seven floors of merchandise including the bargain basement, the department store quickly became a destination. In sharp contrast to today’s McDonald’s inside the Wal-Mart, the grand department stores of the past commonly featured an elegant atmosphere for shoppers to leisurely luncheon. Located on the 5th floor with housewares, china, and glassware, the Tea Room was the place to dine. In between hunting for bargains, and getting a perm at the salon, shoppers would gladly wait for a table to experience the special of the day or savor one of the famous M&P cinnamon rolls.

Dillard’s purchased the Miller & Paine department store in 1988 and closed its doors shortly after. It was a great loss for the downtown shopping district of Lincoln, and the end of an historic era. Today the building has been re purposed into office spaces.

Example of a Department store Tea Room

1940 Tea Room Menu – image courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society

To prepare M&P Tea Room Plantation Cornbread:

  • 8 oz ham, diced
  • 8 oz chicken, diced
  • ½ medium onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8 oz mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 can Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 can Campbell’s cream of chicken soup
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon tarragon
  • cornbread, (Jiffy Mix is fast, easy, and reliable)

In a medium sauce pan, sauté chicken together with onions and garlic. Add mushrooms, ham, both soups, stock and milk. Heat to a slow boil, reduce heat and add tarragon. (add more stock or milk to adjust consistency) Salt and pepper to taste. Serve over cornbread.

The other item that Miller and Paine was very famous for was their cinnamon rolls. Here it the recipe that was rumored to have been used to create these wonderful pastries.

M & P Cinnamon Rolls:

  • 1 cake yeast
  • 2 ½ cups warm water (105 degrees – not hotter)
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup soft butter
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 6 cups flour
  • 5 tablespoons melted shortening
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • ¾ tablespoon soft butter
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Saigon cinnamon

Dissolve yeast in water. Add 3 cups sifted flour and eggs. Beat well. Add sugar, salt, and shortening. Then add last 3 cups flour. Mix. Let rise to double size. Work down and let rise again. Roll out to about 1/4 inch thick.

Cover rolled out portion with 1/2 cup soft butter and sprinkle with the mixture of 1/2 cup of sugar and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon. Roll tightly, sealing edge. Cut into 1-inch pieces for a shallow pan or 2-inch pieces for a loaf pan. Mix brown sugar with 1 tablespoon of water. Stir in 3-4 tablespoons of soft butter. Heat together, then put in the bottom of the pan and place rolls on top. Bake about 30-35 minutes in a 350 degree oven or until done. Turn upside down onto a waxed sheet before removing from the pan.

 

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