19 February 2014

Chez Maxim's

 "It was an accumulation of velvet, lace, ribbons, diamonds and what all else I couldn't describe. To undress one of these women is like an outing that calls for three weeks' advance notice, it's like moving house."

Jean Cocteau on the women dining at Maxim's

Rarely does a restaurant rise so high above its food as Maxim's has.  Say "Maxim's" and most people immediately know of the restaurant but rarely could they tell you a single dish on the menu.  It's no wonder, eating at Maxim's is a literary shortcut to convey wealth and worldliness.  From The Merry Widow to Fawlty Towers, from Ian Fleming to Quentin Tarantino the very mention of Maxim's fills the mind with wonder. 

Maxim's hay day may well have been the late 1950's and 1960's.  The "International Jet Set" made Maxim's their home away from home as the likes of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Maria Callas, Porfirio Rubirosa, Barbara Hutton, and Jacqueline and Aristotle Onassis were frequent guests.   It was during this era that Maxim's published their cookbook, Chez Maxim's.  It was quite a document in 1962.  The book is big and filled with recipes, stories, and photos including full page color photographs laid in. 

If there is a "famous" Maxim's recipe it may well be Potage Billy By.  According to the cookbook:

It was Louis Barthe, the former chef at Maxim's, who told me the story behind the Potage Billy By. In 1925, he was working in the kitchen at Ciro's, a restaurant in Deauville known for a special mussels dish with a particularly succulent juice. One day a very good customer, Mr. William Brand, decided to invite some American friends to Ciro's. Mussels are generally eaten with the fingers in France, using one double-shell as tongs to scoop the meat out of the others. As Mr. Brand wanted to spare his fiends this delicate operation, he requested that the juice be served without the mussels. It was such a success that during the days that followed, each of his guests returned separately to Ciro's and ordered the "Potage Billy Brand." For the sale of the discretion, it was placed on the menu as "Potage Billy B." and thus was born the "Potage Bill By" which has since become a classic of the French culinary tradition.
The soup was popularized in America by Pierre Franey.  In 1961, Craig Claiborne published Pierre Franey's recipe for "billi bi" in his New York Times Cookbook, declaring, "This may well be the most elegant and delicious soup ever created. It may be served hot or cold."

Franey's history of the soup list William B. Leeds as the soups' namesake, leading to years of conflicting stories.
"The story goes that a wealthy American named William B. Leeds lived off and on, in Paris and that his favorite restaurant was Maxim's. The menu listed a cream of mussel soup, and this was his choice on almost every visit. Leeds was a real favorite of the owner and as a result of his passion for the soup it was dubbed billi-bi, a version, of course, of Billy B."
A 1958 book about Maxim's written by Jean Mauduit states it was named for Brand.

Franey might have the namesake wrong but Claiborne may well have been right about "delicious."

Potage Billy By

1 1/2 cups Fumet de Poisson
2 qt. mussels
1 large onion
1 stalk celery
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 cup dry white wine
2 sprigs parsley
1/2 tsp. ground peppercorns

Scrape and wash the mussels thoroughly.  Mince the onion and place it in a deep saucepan along with the celery, wine, and pepper. Add the muscles, cover the sauce pan, and boil over a high flame for 6 minutes. Shake the muscles in the pan two or three times during the cooking process so that those on top go to the bottom and vice versa. When the muscles are open remove and drain them. Pour the liquid in the sauce pan through a fine strainer, return to the saucepan, and reduced to about 1 quart of liquid. Add the Fumet de Poisson and cream and reheat over a low flame until liquid comes almost to the boiling point, stirring continually with a wooden spatula. Season to taste.

Serve very hot without the muscles. This soup can also be served cold.
 Pierre Cardin eventually bought Maxim's and now it is more famous as a brand than a restaurant. 

17 February 2014

Pitt Cue Co.

OK, we saw this book quite a lot.  It seemed to be quite popular.  But in the end we let prejudice get in the way.  After all, what could Brits possible know about barbecue?  What a joke, right?  Then our fellow bloggers led us down the cookbook path.  We willing admit, it is not hard to lead us down that path.  Then one of our favorite bloggers, Matthew Rowley of Rowley's Whiskey Forge wrote about this book, Pitt Cue Co.

Rowley was in Britain and browsing in a bookstore when someone articulated my very prejudice, Why would you want to buy a barbecue book in Britain?  Well, Rowley says the authors, Tom Adams, Jamie Berger, Simon Anderson and Richard Turner, understand the credo of cue -- low and slow.  What makes the book interesting is their use of local ingredients.

Fine, but this what captured my attention:

Pickled Hot Dogs.  This was a first for me in a barbecue book, in fact, it was the first in a preserving book.  You had me at pickled hot dogs.... The other big plus, they never shy away from adding booze to anything.  They are very nose-to-tail.   They feature one of my favorite sides, hominy and cheese.  They put chicken skin on their deviled eggs.  They make barbecue sauce into jelly.  These guys are great.

The drawback to the book is that often lamented problem of the restaurateur as cookbook author.   When one is used to cooking in a big, fully equipped kitchen, with minions to run errands and cook for you, it is often a bit hard to translate that experience in a way that the home cook can accomplish it without ordering from said restaurant.

But did we mention they pickle hot dogs?

Our Pickle Brine

water                                   1.5 liters
cider vinegar                       1 liter
caster or demerara sugar    700g
sea salt                                30g
optional aromats (peppercorns, bay leaves,
fennel seeds, coriander seeds, mustard seeds,
star anise, cardamom pods, root liquorice)

Put all the ingredients into a large pan and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally until the sugar and salt are dissolved.

Pickled Hot Dogs

Our Pickle Brine              1 liter
hot dogs                           1kg
chillies                              3
garlic cloves                     4
sprigs of thyme                3

Put the pickle brine into a pan and bring to a boil.

Stack the hot dogs neatly in 2 large sterilized glass jars with the chillies, garlic and thyme spread evenly throughout the jars.

Pour over hot pickling liquid and seal the jars.  Leave to cool, then refrigerate for 1 week before eating.

 Did we mention they pickle hot dogs?  We sincerely apologize that we dismissed this book based on the nationality of the writers.  It is now our very favorite book on cue!
The authors of the book — restaurateurs Tom Adams, Jamie Berger, Simon Anderson and Richard Turner - See more at: http://matthew-rowley.blogspot.com/2013/11/bookshelf-pitt-cue-co-cookbook.html#sthash.geohmKEa.dpuf
The authors of the book — restaurateurs Tom Adams, Jamie Berger, Simon Anderson and Richard Turner - See more at: http://matthew-rowley.blogspot.com/2013/11/bookshelf-pitt-cue-co-cookbook.html#sthash.geohmKEa.dpuf
The authors of the book — restaurateurs Tom Adams, Jamie Berger, Simon Anderson and Richard Turner - See more at: http://matthew-rowley.blogspot.com/2013/11/bookshelf-pitt-cue-co-cookbook.html#sthash.geohmKEa.dpuf
restaurateurs Tom Adams, Jamie Berger, Simon Anderson and Richard Turner — - See more at: http://matthew-rowley.blogspot.com/2013/11/bookshelf-pitt-cue-co-cookbook.html#sthash.geohmKEa.dpuf
restaurateurs Tom Adams, Jamie Berger, Simon Anderson and Richard Turner - See more at: http://matthew-rowley.blogspot.com/2013/11/bookshelf-pitt-cue-co-cookbook.html#sthash.geohmKEa.dpuf
restaurateurs Tom Adams, Jamie Berger, Simon Anderson and Richard Turner - See more at: http://matthew-rowley.blogspot.com/2013/11/bookshelf-pitt-cue-co-cookbook.html#sthash.geohmKEa.dpuf

16 February 2014

Not A Cookbook - A Pie

Yesterday's cookbook, Pies and Tarts, inspired dinner. We dug into the freezer and found a package of puff pastry. During Christmas, we made lamb stuffed with chorizo made earlier in the year. There was a chunk of the stuffed lamb in the freezer that was thawed. There was a package of mushrooms and of course, beer.

The mushrooms were sliced and sautéd as well as half a chopped onion. The lamb was cut into chunks and tossed in the pan with a bottle of dark beer and cooked down. The puff pastry went into a springform pan. The lamb and mushroom mix went into the springform and the other piece of pastry went on top. It baked for 45 minutes. And we had a savory pie for dinner.


15 February 2014

Pies and Tarts


 I would have to say Stephane Reynaud is one of my favorite chefs.  I love, love, love his cookbooks.  I ordered Pies and Tarts from England in November.  It got lost.  I ordered it again and finally it arrived.  And just in time for the snow. Really, is there a better time to cook up pies than during the snow?  There are rabbit pies, beef pies, fish pies, cheese pies, apple pies, every type of pie one could ever want!  In fact, you will find pies that you never thought of and familiar pies put forward in new ways.

While Reynaud often has recipes that might feel overly complicated, he walks the reader through them in such a way as to make the most complicated concoction seem totally do-able.  All of his books have been like this.  The beautiful photographs often make the recipes in Pies and Tarts seem unobtainable, but following the straightforward instruction will turn you into pie rock star.

This is the cover pie:

Lorraine Pie 

2 packets puff pastry (500 grams)
4 French shallots 
4 garlic cloves
250 g veal topside
250 g  pork scotch fillet
1 bunch tarragon
1 sprig rosemary
2 sprigs thyme
200 ml Gewürztraminer wine
Salt and pepper
1 egg

Peel the shallots and garlic, then finely chop. Cut meat into strips about 1 cm wide.  Pluck the tarragon,rosemary and thyme leaves.  Marinate meat with shallots, garlic, herbs and wine. Season, cover with plastic wrap and set aside in the refrigerator 12 hours.

Divide dough in half and roll out two rectangles of the same size until about 3mm thick.  Line a baking tray with baking paper and lay one rectangle of dough on top.  Spread over the drained strips of meat with shallots, garlic and herb, leaving 1 cm border all around.  Whisk the egg and use to glaze the edges.

Cover with second piece of pastry. Seal the two rectangles of pastry dough by pinching edges.  Glaze them and roll the edges inward so they tick together.

 Criss-cross the dough lightly with the tip of a knife and glaze the top of the pie.   Bake at 180 C for 45 minutes. 

OK this is the British edition so veal "topside" is loin and pork "scotch fillet" is a simple shoulder.   In the US, most frozen puff pastry come in two sheets, so you need only one box.  We chose this recipe because we wanted you see the final product.  We don't eat veal, but Reynaud is French so he eats anything.  Today we are inspired and are heading into the kitchen for a beef and mushroom pie.
More later.


12 February 2014

Martha Washington Log Cabin Cookbook

In 1924 the ladies of the Martha Washington Guild organized a cookbook fundraiser.  The Martha Washington Log Cabin Cookbook was named for a small log cabin built in proximity to the Washington Memorial Chapel.  The chapel sits at Valley Forge to honor the some 3000 soldiers that lost their lives during the winter encampment.

The log cabin was set-aside as a tearoom or luncheon spot.  Unlike many of the spiral bound fundraising cookbooks, this one is bound in blue covered cloth with a paste down of the cabin on the front.  The recipes within come from the ladies of the guild and not from Martha Washington as one might think.

Since the log cabin was indeed a tearoom, the cookbook is heavy on light luncheon fare and filled with sweets.  These old fundraising cookbooks offer an interesting insight into the lives of women during the era.

The recipes are often very simple and based on the premise that the cook actually does the household cooking and already posses a lot of knowledge. 

Pork Chops and Fried Apples

Pork chops

Fry pork chops in the usual way.  Then in the same pan fry your apples, which have been peeled and cored and cut into slices about two-thirds of an inch thick.  When apples are browned on one side, turn carefully and brown the other side.  Serve on platter with chops.  Mix a little flour and water and make a gravy in the same pan.

There are a few “fill in the blanks” in this recipe like amounts, times, and temperatures.  If you do fry pork chops, however, this should be an easy idea to make your own.

11 February 2014

Savannah Seasons

Several years ago the popular book in the zeitgeist was 1000 Places to See Before You Die.  There were pyramids, mountains, camel races, and culinary adventures.  One of those culinary adventures was a visit to Savannah’s Elizabeth on 37th.   It is definitely one of those 1000 places.

After running a small restaurant in Atlanta with a loyal following and building a large law practice, the Terry’s decided they wanted a different life for their daughters so they uprooted to historic Savannah.  Elizabeth on 37th is housed in a stately old home.  Elizabeth Terry and her family live upstairs.  The restaurant is like walking into a friend's dinning room. 

After a series of accolades including the l995 James Beard Award as Best Chef in the Southeast, Elizabeth Terry with her daughter Alexis, wrote Savannah Seasons.  Before it seemed like such a remarkably “hip” idea, Terry sifted through old cookbooks, recipes and garden notes at the Georgia Historical Society.  She studied Savannah’s rich food history from scuppernongs to fig preserves, from juniper berries to Madeira, from Africans to Native Americans, gathering a deep understanding of the ways food impacted history.

Like many a great cookbook, the recipes in Savannah Seasons seem to be both old and familiar and cutting edge, simultaneously.  There are pickled onions – with cranberries.  There is a simple broiled fish – in a cinnamon marinade.  There are turnovers – with oysters and horseradish.  Take these exact recipes and update the format of this book and reviewers would rave about such a “new” take on Southern cooking.  

So take a new, old look at Southern fare, like this gumbo.

Hearty Okra Gumbo with Chicken and Shrimp

6 chicken thighs, roasted and shredded, bone and skin discarded
1 cup minced onions
3 tablespoons minced garlic
2 small yellow squash, cut into ¼-inch dice (1 cup)
2 cups sliced okra
4 cups Basic Chicken Broth
1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes in juice
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons olive oil
¼ cup cored, seeded, and minced green bell pepper
¼ cup minced fresh basil
1 pound large raw shrimp, peeled and deveined (12 ounces)
2 teaspoons hot chili sauce
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
½ teaspoon salt 

In a soup pot, combine the chicken, onions, 2 tablespoons of the garlic, the yellow squash, okra, chicken broth, diced tomatoes, tomato paste, and bay leaves. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes, until the vegetables are very tender. Remove the bay leaves. Set aside.

Just before serving, reheat the soup, then warm the oil in a large skillet and sauté the green bell pepper, remaining garlic, basil, and shrimp until the shrimp are just pink. Add the hot chili sauce, the lemon juice, salt, and the contents of the skillet to the hot soup.

Elizabeth Terry retired from the restaurant, but her spirit of generosity and rich southern hospitality live on.

10 February 2014

A Gourmet's Book of Beasts

A Gourmet's Book of Beasts is subtitled:

"Intriguing recipes for 57 different meats - with a natural history of each animal, its portrait from the world's finest art collections, and its culinary bibliography."

Alas, Faith Medlin published this cookbook/history in 1975. The beautiful objects from galleries and collections are reproduced in simple black and white. One does not get the full regal drama of crystal bowls engraved with bison or porcelain crab dishes or silver salt cellars of oyster shells.

This rather poor photo of a silver spoon with a bowl in the form of a scallop

by Antonio Gentility da Faenza pales in this form. Unfortunately, a clear photo does not exist in the Metropolitan Museum's database.


Still, A Gourmet's Book of Beasts offers up more than an odd recipe for the unfamiliar and familiar edible beast. You will learn about the animal. You will see art and artifacts associated with each animal. And, you will find a bibliography of cookbooks with an unusual array of recipes.

While rattlesnake or reindeer might not be you cup of tea, these scallops are quite easy and a bit exotic with the chilled fiddleheads.

Scallops with Fiddleheads

2 1/2 cups fresh or frozen fern fiddleheads
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
1 teaspoon white sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 pounds fresh scallops
3 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons dry vermouth

Combine water, vinegar, sugar, and salt in stainless steel or enameled sauce pan and bring to boil. Drop fiddleheads into boiling liquid. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for about 5 minutes. Drain and chill.

If scallops are the large variety, cut into 1/4-inch slices. Dry thoroughly. Combine flour, salt, and pepper in plastic or paper bag. Toss scallops in bag until thoroughly coated. Melt butter in large skillet. Over medium heat, sauté scallops for about 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Add vermouth, reduce heat, and simmer 5 more minutes, stirring gently. Divide onto 3 plates and sprinkle each serving with paprika. Serve with chilled fiddleheads.


You will probably never run across a tiger steak at the local Kroger's, but for your favorite food historian, A Gourmet's Book of Beasts is a welcome delight.


06 February 2014

The Things We Cook

Molly Sheehan from Green Hope Farm assembled a cool cookbook with a big collection of favorite farm recipes. When she offered to send me a copy, I jumped at the chance.
Molly has been at Green Hope Farm for nearly thirty years. The farm has a thriving business providing flower essences. What started as a place to raise children became a business, but most importantly, remained a place for family and friends. The Things We Cook reflects that love of family and friends as well as a strong sense of place.
There are vivid stories of Molly's grandmother, Kitty. Wild tales of her glamorous neighbor, Teddy. There is her son, Ben, a disinterested eater as a child,who grew into a great cook and who now cooks in Teddy's old kitchen. Like so many a farm, Green Hope provides a circle of life.
After collecting a pile of recipes, Alli Howe came into the picture. And picture she did. Alli hand illustrated each and every recipe in the book. The bold graphics give The Things We Cook a look that is reminiscent of The Moosewood Cookbook or the Tassajara Cookbook.

A quick glance at the recipe index and you will find it filled with almost as many names as recipes. Laura's Bean Dip, Pasta alla Norma, and Teddy's Chocolate Pudding. You will find: Elizabeth is our scone queen, Jim has the best hand at pastry, Vicki taught us how to use seaweed, the fattoush is from Catherine Boorady's family, and the Soubise is from Julia Child.


There is a traditional mac and cheese and this one.


Rosemary Goat Cheese and Chicken Macaroni and Cheese
One lb. pasta - shape of your choice
One quart half and half
Two Tbs. fresh rosemary, chopped
Two cups roast chicken, leftover from another meal works great here.
Eight ounces goat cheese
Salt and pepper
Put cream in a pot with rosemary and a pinch of salt and simmer until reduced by half. Add chicken and simmer another 30 minutes until sauce coats the back of a spoon. Cook pasta according to package directions and add to sauce along with the goat cheese. Toss and serve.
The Things We Cook is a delightful cookbook. It is an honest farm-to-table cookbook from someone who actually works a farm and actually puts food on the table for anyone who happens by. We would love to stop by and pull up a chair, but having this cookbook may just be the next best thing.
Check out Green Hope Farm at www.greenhopeessences.com.

05 February 2014

Beer and Good Food


On my recent trip to Charleston, I ventured into The Heirloom Collection, risen from the ashes or compost of the ever-popular Heirloom Book Co. Needless to say, I had to be dragged out. Before I left, shop owner, Carlye Dougherty asked that age old question that cookbook collectors ask: Why don’t people read/collect ______? The “blank” in our conversation was Myra Waldo.

Waldo wrote over 40 cookbooks from the 1940’s to the 1970’s. Many of her books have remained in print. In her job as the food consultant for Pan American World Airways, Waldo was the most traveled woman of the era. In 1954 she published The Complete Round-the-World Cookbook: Recipes Gathered by Pan American World Airways from the 84 Countries They Serve. Waldo had visited them all.

Much like Julia Child, James Beard, and Craig Claiborne, Waldo documented America’s newfound culinary curiosity. She saw this new interest in food after World War II as “the gradual maturity of our country, gastronomically speaking.” It is hard to believe that there is no biography of Myra Waldo.

One of my favorite Myra Waldo books is Beer and Good Food. Like so many of Waldo’s books, the recipes cover the far-flung reaches of the world, from Japanese Omelets to Turkey Mole. She takes us to Mesopotamia for the first written evidence of the brewing process right up through the first refrigerated train cars, use to move beer. On one page, there is an intricate recipe for Choucroute Garni, with sauerkraut, beer, 5 meats and a handful of spices. The next page is a Frankfurter Casserole with only 3 ingredients: sauerkraut, frankfurters and beer. They are a world of difference but very much the same dish.

Here is Waldo’s breakfast of champions.

Fried Breakfast Toast

4 slices white bread

1 cup beer

2 tablespoons sugar

2 egg yolks

½ cup warm milk

3 tablespoons butter

Trim the bread and cut in half. Soak for 5 minutes in a mixture of beer and sugar. Drain. Beat the egg yolks and milk together and dip the bread in the mixture.

Melt the butter in a skillet and fry the bread until brown on both sides. Sprinkle with powdered sugar if desired.

When you are out prowling around bookstores, do keep an eye peeled for Myra Waldo.


01 February 2014

Mouse Mousse

The jacket flap of Moose Mousse by Robert Gilbert tells the story.

"There is a rumor going around...that the trouble with most cookbooks was that they are too solemn. Accordingly, they put their heads together and produced this bouillabaisse of inspired nonsense, guaranteed to make a shambles of the kitchen."

Robert Gilbert and his co-conspirator, Nola Langner, put together a collection of rather "exotic" recipes, that are more flights of fancy than actual kitchen fare. Still, as they say, sometimes cookbooks are just too solemn.

The problem with this little book is that it is too lovely. It really is a shame that they didn't produce such a beautiful book of actual exotic recipes. But if you are in the mood for a strange recipe, give this a try.

Mouse Mousse
Pass a mousse through a fine sieve, add 3 beaten egg whites and a cup of light cream. Stir thoroughly and put into individual ramekins. Serves 53, more or less.

I have no source for a moose. If you want a great little cookbook, that will require no cooking, give this little novelty a try.


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