Friday, December 23, 2011

Never Judge a Book By the Cover...

One of the nicest perks about writing a food blog is that many major publishing houses contact you to ask if you would be interested in reviewing a new book that they have published and tell your readers about it. Sometimes I agree to do the review, other times if I don’t think my readers will enjoy the topic, I decline. There is never any compensation involved; I just do it for the fun of it and to keep a finger on the pulse of what’s new in the world of food. Once in a while, a request comes along that is a little out of the ordinary.

I was recently asked if I would look at a new book that was being published by Harper Collins, called More Than Words Can Say by Robert Barclay. The book is what I would categorize as a romance novel with a historical flare to it…what on earth would that have to do with a food blog. When I contacted the company, they said that there were some recipes in the book. I thought, why not?

 I always do cookbooks so this will be a little different. I received my copy of the book while I was out of town and didn’t get to it for a few days. Once I picked it up, I didn’t put it down until I finished. I don’t know why it intrigued me, maybe it was all the references to Syracuse, New York, or the fact that the author was from Upstate, New York, and that I guess after living here so many years, I am now an Upstate, New Yorker myself (albeit, I’ll never give up my Brooklyn roots.)

The book takes place in the 1940’s and in the present day through a series of flashback. Chelsea Enright inherits a cottage in the Adirondacks from her grandmother Brooke. She has no interest in the cottage and tells her grandmother’s attorney that she just wants to sell it. He tells her that her grandmother left a letter for her to read before making any decisions, and so she does. After the contents of the letter are revealed to her, she goes up to the cottage to check out the contents of the instructions left in her grandmother’s letter, thus uncovering some family secrets that she had known nothing about. In the course of staying in the cottage, she meets her new neighbor and tremendous changes take place in her own life as well. I don’t want to reveal too much more without giving away the entire plot.

However, in the course of discovery, she also received a copy of a handwritten cookbook of her grandmother’s from her mother. She takes the book with her as she embarks on her journey to uncover the person that was her grandmother. Her grandmother was an accomplished artist and cook. She kept a record of her recipes, naming them after prominent people involved in World War II, which also sets the background for the flashbacks. Chelsea begins to learn about her grandmother through her journal and her cookbook and begins to use the recipes and her discoveries to forge a new life for herself. Although, there are not too many recipes in the book, those that are there are intriguing. In fact, I am going to make the MacArthuroni this week. Who could turn down a great Mac and Cheese?

This book would make a great beach read, a great book club selection, and a great idea for a fun progressive dinner. I urge my readers to get a copy of the book, share it with a few friends, and then to a progressive dinner based on a forties theme party. Dress up in clothes from the forties and bring a recipe to share from that time period – perhaps discuss a family member that you had that was involved in the war, a grandmother who had a favorite recipe from the time, We all need an excuse to party today, but with the economy being what it is, money is tight – very much like the times described in the book…become creative and make your own recipes from your past and just have some fun with this – you won’t be disappointed.

 Here is a link to the book: Here are two recipes from the book that you might want to try as well:

MacArthuroni and Cheese Of all the recipes listed here, this one is the most surefire favorite. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like a nice dish of macaroni and cheese! This recipe is especially good, because it’s made with two kinds of mushrooms and Gruyère cheese. Just be sure to not skimp on the Gruyère, and use only good quality mushrooms. During World War II, General MacArthur made his famous pronouncement, “I shall return!” Make this dish correctly, and your guests will “return” repeatedly for second (and maybe even third) helpings!

 Total time: 1 hour 30 minutes Serves 6–8

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Good olive oil
½ pound shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and caps sliced into ½-inch pieces
½ pound cremini mushrooms, stems removed and caps sliced into ½-inch pieces
3 tablespoons cream sherry
Kosher salt
1 pound pasta, such as cavatappi
3 ounces white truffle butter
½ cup all-purpose flour
1 quart whole milk, scalded
12 ounces (4 cups) Gruyère cheese, grated
8 ounces (2½ to 3 cups) extra-sharp cheddar, grated
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 garlic cloves, chopped
3 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley leaves
1½ cups fresh white bread crumbs

Preheat the oven to 375˚ F.

Heat the butter and 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large (12-inch) sauté pan, add the mushrooms, and cook over medium heat for 3 to 5 minutes, until they are tender. Add the sherry and continue to sauté for a few more minutes, until the sherry is absorbed. Set aside. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add a splash of olive oil and a pinch of kosher salt. Add the pasta and cook for 6 to 8 minutes, until al dente. Drain well. While the pasta cooks, melt the truffle butter in a large (4-quart) saucepan and whisk in the flour. Cook for 2 minutes over low heat, stirring constantly with a whisk. Slowly whisk in the hot milk and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the white sauce is thickened and creamy. Remove from the heat and add the Gruyère, cheddar, 1 tablespoon salt, the pepper, and the nutmeg.

 Combine the pasta, sauce, and mushrooms in a large bowl and pour into a 10-by-13-by-2-inch baking dish. Place the garlic and parsley in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse until they’re minced. Add the bread crumbs and pulse to combine. Sprinkle the crumbs over the pasta and bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until the sauce is bubbly and the crumbs are golden brown. Serve hot.

MORE THAN WORDS CAN SAY. Copyright ©2012 by Robert Newcomb. All rights reserved.

Roosevelt’s Roast

Back when rationing was in effect, it was difficult to acquire all the ingredients for this one, named after FDR. But these days, it’s a snap! The trick with this one is the proper preparation of the bourbon-and-mushroom sauce. Don’t let it simmer too long, or you’ll run the risk of burning it. But do it right, and it will be worthy of serving at the White House!

Total time: 1 hour 35 minutes
Serves 4–6

2 to 3 tablespoons grapeseed oil, for searing
¼ cup coarse sea salt
¼ cup coarse cracked black pepper
1 whole beef strip loin, trimmed with some fat remaining

Bourbon-mushroom sauce (recipe follows)

Preheat the oven to 300˚F.

Add the oil to a sauté pan. Season the meat on all sides with salt and pepper. Sear the meat on all sides, 2 to 3 minutes each side. Place the meat on a sheet tray with a rack. Roast the meat for 30 to 40 minutes. Crank the oven up to 450˚ F and roast for an additional 15 to 20 minutes until crust forms and meat is nicely colored. When done, allow to rest for 10 minutes before slicing. In a small bowl, reserve the drippings for the bourbon-mushroom sauce.

Bourbon-Mushroom Sauce

5 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
1 cup cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 cup onion, finely diced
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
¼ cup bourbon
3 cups beef stock
1 tablespoon cracked black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, add 4 tablespoons of the butter. Add the garlic, mushrooms, and onion and cook for 4 to 5 minutes until nicely browned. Add the remaining ingredients and simmer. Before serving with the beef, add the reserved juice to the mixture.

MORE THAN WORDS CAN SAY. Copyright ©2012 by Robert Newcomb.  All rights reserved.

1 comment:

  1. That is great recipes, specially Bourbon-Mushroom Sauce i like the most and i am going to try at home. i write recipes too if you like to have cookies recipes then you can visit my blog.but thank you for the lovely recipe ..