17 July 2012

The French Country Table

 Face it.  We will read any French cookbook out there.  It is a sickness. An addiction.  We love it and that is that.  By now, the biggest differentiation between French cookbooks is the photographs. 

Ryland, Peters and Small, always a favorite publisher for cookbooks, publish the French Country Table.   They understand the value of photos, good recipes and basic bookbinding.  The thick muted paper has an old-fashioned feel and is the perfect vehicle for a country cookbook. 

Writer Laura Washburn has taken many of the familiar French dishes and given them a bit of twist.   There is a roasted chicken, but with guinea fowl.  There is a gratin with macaroni (yes, it is just a macaroni and cheese).  The clafoutis is rhubarb instead of cherries.

The pictures are lovely.  It is no wonder that Martin Brigdale has won numerous awards on three continents for his food photography.  The photos show the food at its best!  

 Your carrots should look like the above left carrots, especially if you procured them from one the vegetable vendors pictured!
Carrots with cream and herbs.

2 lbs. mini carrots, trimmed, of medium carrots
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
a sprig of thyme
2 tablespoons crème fraise or sour cream
several sprig of chervil, snipped
a small bunch of chives, snipped
fine sea salt

If using large carrots, cut them diagonally into 2-inch slices.  Put in a large saucepan (the carrots should fit in a single layer for even cooking.) Add the butter and set over low heat.  Cook for three minutes, until the butter has melted and coated the carrots.  Half fill the saucepan with water, then add a pinch of salt and the thyme.  Cover and cook for 10 – 20 minutes, until the water is almost completely evaporated.
Stir in the crème fraise and add salt to taste.  Sprinkle the chervil and chives over the top, mix well and serve.

If you have ever passed one of those sad bags of “baby” carrots in vegetable section, now you have a great idea of what to do with them.  Whip up these carrots in cream and you, too, can transport yourself to the French countryside.

16 July 2012

The Mistress Cook

In 1867 Mrs. Beeton wrote the following:

“Men are now so well served out of doors – at clubs, hotels and restaurants – that, to compete with the attraction of these places, a mistress must be thoroughly acquainted with the theory and practice of cookery, as well as all the other arts of making and keeping a comfortable home.”

Peter Gray’s “mistress” is the 1950’s mistress of the house and not of merely the bedroom.  Peter Gray was indeed a “mistress” of all trades.  He became enamored of the culinary when he was a boy spending time in Paris.  He would eventually become a professor of Biological Science at the University of Pittsburgh.   Along the way he was a printer, bookbinder, gem cutter, fisherman and photographer.

In The Mistress Cook, Gray brought together a thousand recipes from twelve countries over six centuries.  The recipes are at once simple and familiar as well as exotic and complex.    There is an extended chapter at the end of the book devoted to spices and spice mixes.  There is a chapter full of sauces and stocks devoted to major and minor sauces. 

It is a book written in the 1950’s, so there are no lists of exact ingredients.  There are two pages of instruction for puff pastry.  According to Gray, the best way to learn to make puff pastry is the to do it over and over.  One does not become tennis pro by reading about tennis.  Go ahead and buy puff pastry.

This book is an excellent overview of the history of cooking and cooking techniques.  It is indeed what Gray set out to do, provide a vast collection of recipes over continents and time periods.  One would be best served to find a recipe and search out a modern recipe.

Here is a recipe for a favorite Southern fare – collards.


I am told by an elderly Southern gentleman of my acquaintance, that this leather-leaved survivor of the past can be rendered edible by boiling it for a week with fat pork.
Seriously, collards only need about 8 hours to cook!

Here is another recipe featuring my favorite cauliflower with the regal name, Crème du Barry. 

Crème du Barry

Cook a small cauliflower in slated water until it can conveniently be divided into florets.  Mix the florets with an equal volume of grated potatoes and a quarter of their volume of grated onion.  Put this mixture in a pan, cover it liberally with milk, and simmer until the vegetables are sludged.  Put it through a sieve or food mill.

Don’t you just love a recipe that has “sludged” vegetables?   Though not that appetizing, sludged is the perfect description for what these vegetables will look like when simmered.  There is not a cookbook publisher out there who would let an author describe veggies as "sludged" and yet it is spot on.

12 July 2012

The Breakfast Book

Who knows what sends us down the path to obsession?   I do know that one of the first cookbooks I bought with my own money was Marion Cunningham's The Breakfast Book.  I have vivid memories of the book because it is one of those "go to" books that I consult often.  I cannot help thinking of that book today upon hearing the new that Cunningham died.  

Marion Cunningham  New York Times obituary
 The best tribute I have ever read of Marion Cunningham came from her friend, David Lebovitz.  In 2006 he easily summed up what made her special.

Readers of Cookbook Of The Day know of our abiding love the egg.  One of my favorite egg dishes came from The Breakfast Book.  It is Marion Cunningham's Featherbed Eggs.  I always referred to them as "feathered" eggs.   This may well be the greatest recipe that any cook can have in their cooking repertoire.  First, it is incredibility easy.  Any man, woman, or child can assemble it with little effort.  Secondly, it can be customized to make it your own by adding virtually anything under the sun.  My particular favorite is sausage!  Finally, it is a "make ahead" dish and perfect for company.  

When you have guests staying over and you are dreading being the breakfast short order cook, simply whip this up in the final minutes of dinner prep.  Now is the perfect time to add your own touches.  Sausage, as I said before, steamed cauliflower, apple slices, use your imagination.   Cover the pan and set it in the refrigerator.   While the coffee is brewing, set your dish in a cold oven and in less than an hour you will have a glorious breakfast with little fuss and big rewards.

Featherbed  Eggs

6 slices white bread
Salt and pepper to taste
1 1/2 cups grated sharp cheddar, Gouda, provolone or Montery Jack cheese, or a combination
1 1/2 cups milk
6 eggs

Butter the sides and bottom of a 9 x 13-inch baking dish. Arrange the slices of bread in the dish, trimming the edges, if necessary. Sprinkle the bread with a little salt and pepper. Sprinkle the grated cheese evenly over the bread.

Combine the milk and eggs in a bowl and briskly stir until the mixture is all one color and completely blended. Pour the milk mixture over the bread and cheese. Cover and refrigerate for at least 6 hours, or overnight.

Baking the Featherbed Eggs: Because the dish will be chilled when you are ready to bake it, start it in a cold oven and turn the thermostat to 350 degrees. Bake for 1 hour, or until the bread custard is puffy and lightly golden. Check at 45 minutes, in case your oven is a little hotter. 

My favorite picture of Marion Cunningham was taken in 1987.  She is seated across from another cooking legend, Edna Lewis.  Oh to have been a fly on the wall, or the garden chair.

10 July 2012

Cookbook Redux


From time to time we are asked for additional recipes from cookbooks and generally we are happy to oblige.  We welcome all questions, though we have trouble sometimes with how to respond efficiently to comments, so here is an attempt.

Someone asked for an additional recipe from Southwest Tastes.

Can you please post the bbq potato salad recipe out of that book?  There is only one potato salad recipe, but it does have barbecue sauce, so here it is from The Salt Lick in Driftwood, Texas. 

Potato Salad

5 large Idaho baking potatoes
Salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon celery seed
1 large onion, peeled and diced
1/2 cup juice drained from dill pickles
1/3 cup barbecue sauce
1/3 cup vinaigrette salad dressing
1/2 to 1 cup mayonnaise, or to taste

    The day before serving, scrub the potatoes and boil them in salted water until tender but still slightly firm when pierced with a knife point;they should not be mushy.  Plunge them into ice water, and when cool enough to handle, peel them and cut them into 3/4 inch dice.
     Season the potatoes with salt, pepper, and celery seed.  Marinate the onions in the pickle juice for a few hours, or overnight in the refrigerator.  To serve, drain the juice and add the onion s to the potatoes.  Add the barbecue sauce and salad dressing, tossing to coat evenly.  Place back in the refrigerator at least one hour before serving, and just before serving, add the mayonnaise.  Adjust the seasoning and serve.
Enjoy! Send us photos of the finished recipe.

 A couple of people wanted to know how to reach us on e-mail:  lucindaville@gmail.com

Thanks to  Brocante Home for our housekeeping picture!

09 July 2012

Not A Cookbook -- A DERECHO

We are fine...no life lost.   Here is the info by the numbers:


bad ass storm 


days without water, phones, electricity


large trees down


degree temperature at its max


pounds of food lost


What a mess!   We are still in recovery mode, but we will be back up to speed, soon.
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