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75th anniversary 'Joy of Cooking' a culinary celebration

 

Last updated 1/4/2007 at Noon



Amongst all the cookbooks of 2006 there are few that I could recommend with greater confidence than the new 75th anniversary “Joy of Cooking” (publisher: Scribner).

For myself, I can’t remember a time in adulthood that I’ve not known about and used “JOY” for a variety of reasons. Sometimes I’d need to know about a food I didn’t cook often and turn to the book’s section “Know Your Ingredients” for information. Sometimes “JOY” was a basic reference, a standard against which I could measure another recipe’s ingredients or techniques. And I’m sure that on more than one occasion in my early days of cooking I would find cooking techniques and information in “JOY” I’d not find anywhere else.

So, when I saw the 75th edition I gave it a close look. I mean, after all, I do NOT need another cookbook. However, within a few minutes of paging through the new “JOY,” I had to have it: 400 new recipes and all the others retested and updated for a total of 4,500 recipes “for the way we cook now,” as noted on the book’s familiar white and red jacket cover. So I gave myself “JOY!”

Diving into the book, I read it more purposefully than ever before. I learned that the original author was a St. Louis widow who took her life savings and self-published the first book. Irma Rombauer, with her daughter Marion, who tested the recipes and made the illustrations, sold this from Irma’s apartment. What courage and belief to try something that risky 75 years ago!

There is the addition of a chapter on nutrition (dear to my heart) as well as an expanded “Know Your Ingredients” chapter and another solid chapter on “Cooking Methods and Techniques.” These three chapters are almost like having a cooking school in your own kitchen.

Then, too, there is the unique “About” that precedes most basic recipes and foods. These hard-won tidbits and tips rule out lots of chaos and confusion in the kitchen. I mean, after all, who is going to teach you what potatoes to use for mashed potatoes and historically correct information about classic recipes as well as give charts for cooking grains, how to make homemade sausage and illustrations for dozens of techniques plus in-depth and current information about canning, preserving, freezing and even basics lists for kitchen equipment… and stocking your pantry?

In this ninth revision the authors had the opportunity and good fortune to receive advice and an endorsement of sorts from Julia Child, who wrote, “…the whys and hows [of cooking] are explained and that’s what makes ‘JOY’ a fundamental resource for any American cook.”

From cover to cover the 75th anniversary “Joy of Cooking” is a treasure you can give to yourself. Enjoy!

For basic comfort food, chocolate pudding fills the bill. This classic version is a keeper!

Old-Fashioned Chocolate Pudding

(“Joy of Cooking,” 2006)

4 servings

Have ready a 3-cup bowl or mold or four 5- or 6-ounce cups or ramekins. If unmolding the pudding, oil the small molds.

Combine in a medium heavy saucepan:

• 1 ¾ cups milk

• ½ cup sugar

• 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped

• 1/8 tsp. salt

Heat over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until the chocolate is melted. Mix together until smooth:

• 3 tablespoons cornstarch

• ¼ cup milk

Stir slowly into the hot milk mixture. Stirring constantly, heat over medium heat until the mixture just comes to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low, stirring briskly; bring to a simmer and continue to cook 1 minute. Remove from the heat and stir in:

• 1 teaspoon vanilla

Pour the pudding into the bowl or cups, then press plastic wrap directly onto the surface. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, 4 hours if unmolding, or up to 2 days.

The current generation didn’t invent ‘mac and cheese” …it’s been around for years. Here is a version better than any that ever came from a box.

Stovetop Macaroni and Cheese

(“Joy of Cooking,” 2006)

4 to 6 main course or 8 to 10 side-dish servings

Very cream, very cheesy. A large pot is essential in this recipe.

Cook in a large pot of boiling salted water:

• 2 cups (8 ounces) elbow macaroni

Drain and return to the pot. Add:

• ¼ cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces

Stir until well blended. Add and stir well:

• One 12-ounce can evaporated milk

• 3 cups extra-sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (12 ounces)

• 2 large eggs, lightly beaten

• 1 teaspoon dry mustard dissolved in 1 teaspoon hot water

• ½ teaspoon salt, or to taste

• ¼ tsp. ground red pepper, or to taste

Set the pot over very low heat and cook, stir constantly, until the sauce is smooth and the pasta steaming, 5 to 10 minutes. The sauce should thicken noticeably. Increase the heat slightly if the sauce is still soupy after 5 minutes, but watch it very carefully. Do not overheat or the sauce will curdle.

I couldn’t resist one of the author’s family favorites. It’s ideal for the chilly nights of winter.

MacLeid’s Rockcastle Chili

(“Joy of Cooking,” 2006)

8 to 10 servings

This is a Saturday night staple on Rockcastle River Gorge camping trips. Camp chef and good friend Matt MacLeid has also prepared it for us on the firepit at our Tennessee mountain home.

Cook in a large skillet until the cracklings are golden brown:

• 8 ounces bacon

Remove the bacon using a slotted spoon. Cook briefly in the drippings:

• 1 ½ pounds beef round steak, coarsely ground or chopped in a food processor

• 6 to 12 large garlic cloves, coarsely chopped

• 2 large onions, coarsely chopped

Add, scraping up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan, and stir until the foam disappears:

• One 12-ounce bottle dark beer

Remove all to a Dutch oven or other large pot. Stir in:

• One 32-ounce can whole tomatoes, with their liquid

• One 16-ounce can kidney beans, with their liquid

• One 16-ounce can Great Northern beans with their liquid

• One 16-ounce can pinto beans with their liquid

• 6 tablespoons ancho chile powder

• 2 tablespoons ground cumin

• 1 tablespoon black pepper

• 1 ½ cups water or one 12-ounce bottle dark beer

Simmer for about 3 hours, covered, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.

Season to taste with:

• Salt

• Pepper

• Hot pepper sauce

When the book first appeared 75 years ago, there were no microwave ovens. Today this small appliance is almost universally used. Here’s a fast version of an old favorite.

Creamy Microwave Cheese Sauce

(“Joy of Cooking,” 2006)

2 cups sauce

Use mild cheddar, extra sharp cheddar or Vermont white cheddar.

Combine in a microwave-safe bowl:

• 1 cup whole-milk yogurt

• 4 ounces cream cheese, softened

• 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (4 ounces)

• 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

• 1 tablespoon butter

• ½ teaspoon salt

• ½ teaspoon black pepper

• 2 dashes hot pepper sauce, or to taste

Microwave on high power for 1 ½ minutes. Let sit for 2 minutes, then whisk and microwave again on high for 1 ½ minutes. Let sit for 2 minutes, then whisk until smooth. If necessary, return to the microwave for 1 minute more.

 

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