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'The Best of Gourmet: Sixty-five Years'


Last updated 8/10/2007 at Noon

Such culinary bravado!

Just out of college and hardly knowing sauté from slice I subscribed to Gourmet Magazine, the most haute cuisine publication known. What happened is that I sliced, diced, iced, sautéed and julienne-cut by the magazine’s recipes, adding to my home economist’s foundational base and becoming, over time, a competent and nearly fearless cook.

My husband, Bob, and I would pour over each issue, select a few and then cook through the month. It was literally our “entertainment.” Looking back, I must guess that we even invited friends to come for dinner…not to sample a perfected menu…but one we were trying. Of course, one NEVER does that, do they? Experiment on guests. Horrors! That was many years ago.

Recently, Gourmet created “The Best of Gourmet: Sixty-five Years, Sixty-five Favorite Recipes,” (Conde Nast Books, Random House publisher) a cookbook with ravishingly beautiful photographs and recipes that stretch from 1941, the very beginning, to 2007 and lots more of the magazine’s most popular recipes and menus.

In the spirit of the past, I asked Bob to pick four or five of his favorites for this review. He couldn’t stop…so the review will be in two parts: part I this week and part II next.

In reviewing the book I wanted MORE of the old recipes…the really good ones that needed tinkering to bring ’round to today’s ways of cooking. I also found myself wanting more history of each recipe. Guess there are few (if any) at Gourmet today who were active in the early years.

As this two-part review progresses, I’ll point you to recipes that are NOT included for one simple reason: the recipes are way too long for printing in this column. One recipe would take the whole space! I’d prefer to offer you a greater variety. For example, Bob’s first chronological choice was from 1946, Chinese Egg Rolls, which the editors said reflected a clamoring for a “genuine version” of this delicacy from the 1940s. The recipe takes a full page!

Moving on in time, the 1952 Recipe of the Year was German Apple Pancakes. The book says, “These tender and not-too-sweet cakes fall somewhere between an American Flapjack and a crepe. Though they’re traditionally served for dessert (in Germany), we love them for a special winter breakfast, generously dusted with Cinnamon Sugar.”

I can also see them as a supper or brunch item garnished lavishly with fresh strawberries.

Special equipment noted is an adjustable-blade slicer to make thin 1/8-inch-thick matchstick pieces, noting also that you can do it by hand.

Gourmet’s German Apple Pancakes

¼ cup plus 2 tsp. sugar

½ tsp. cinnamon

1 cup all purpose flour

½ tsp. salt

1 ½ cups whole milk

4 large eggs

1 ½ lb. Gala apples (3 or 4)

2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice

¾ stick butter (6 tbsp.) unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces

Preheat oven to 200 degrees.

Stir together ¼ cup sugar and cinnamon and set aside.

Whisk together flour, salt and remaining 2 tsp. sugar in a large bowl. Add milk in a slow stream, whisking, then add eggs, one at a time, whisking well after each addition.

Peel apples, then cut into 1/8-inch slices with slicer [or by hand –JB] rotating around the core (discard core). Cut apples into 1/8-inch matchsticks and toss with lemon juice in a bowl. Fold apples and juice into batter.

Heat 1 piece of butter (1/2 tbsp.) in a 6-inch nonstick skillet over moderate heat until foam subsides, then add 1/3 cup batter, spreading evenly to cover bottom. Cook, reducing heat if browning too quickly and turning pancake over once with a thin flexible heatproof spatula until golden on both sides, about 4 minutes total.

Slide pancakes onto a platter and keep warm in oven. Make more pancakes with remaining butter and batter in same manner. Sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar mixture and serve immediately.

Serves 4-6 (about 12 pancakes).

We both adored the recipe for the 1956 winner: Butterscotch Chiffon Pie. However, it again was too complicated and long. So, we jumped over to 1965s winner: Baked Indian Pudding. This recipe has “history” for our family, as we all learned to savor it when my son, Elliot, was in prep school in the east. We’ve probably sampled a dozen versions, including this one, which Gourmet says may claim part of its heritage from “the famous Boston restaurant Durgin-Park. It’s a solid New England fare dessert. The earthy molasses and down-home corn flavor of the warm dessert is enhanced by a scoop of vanilla ice cream.”

I KNOW we will be making this pudding this fall!

Gourmet’s Baked Indian Pudding

½ stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter plus additional for greasing

6 cups whole milk

1 cup yellow cornmeal (preferably stone-ground)

½ cup robust molasses (not blackstrap)

1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar

½ tsp. salt

2 large eggs

¼ tsp. baking soda

Vanilla ice cream, as accompaniment

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Butter a shallow 11x7-inch (2 ½ qt.) baking or gratin dish.

Bring 3 cups milk to a boil with cornmeal, molasses, brown sugar, salt and butter in a 4- to 5-qt. heavy pot over moderate heat, whisking constantly. Remove from heat and whisk in remaining 3 cups milk.

Beat eggs with baking soda in a small bowl until combined, then whisk into cornmeal mixture. Pour batter into buttered dish and bake until puffed but still wobbly in the center, 45 to 60 minutes. (Pudding will sink slightly and set as it cools.) Cool to warm on a rack. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream. Serves 8 to 10.

Leaping forward to 1984, Gourmet selected an egg noodle and browned cabbage skillet dish for its annual award. Gourmet wrote, “Crunchy with poppy seeds and rich with browned Faye Levy, makes a great side for a pot roast or roast chicken…or a homey vegetarian meal in itself.”

The noodle combination would also go well with simple grilled beef, chicken or pork.

Gourmet’s Egg Noodles with Cabbage and Onions

1 ½ lb. green cabbage, quartered, cored and cut crosswise into ½-inch wide strips

2 tsp. salt

1 large onion, finely chopped (about 2 cups)

5 tbsp. unsalted butter

1 tsp. sugar

¼ tsp. black pepper

4 oz. wide egg noodles (about 2 ½ cups)

1 tsp. poppy seeds (optional)

Toss cabbage with salt in a large bowl and let stand, tossing occasionally, 45 minutes. Squeeze cabbage by handfuls to remove as much liquid as possible.

Cook onion in 4 tbsp. butter in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in cabbage, sugar and pepper, then cover, reduce heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, until cabbage is very tender, about 30 minutes.

Remove lid and increase heat to moderately high, then cook, stirring frequently, until onion and cabbage are golden, about 6 to 8 minutes.

While cabbage is browning, cook noodles in a 4- to 5-quart pot of boiling salted water until al dente. Drain noodles well and add to browned cabbage along with remaining l tbsp. butter, then cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until butter is completely melted. Add salt and pepper to taste, then sprinkle with poppy seeds, if using. Serves 4.


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