Trio of cookbooks goes back to basics of American cuisine

June 02, 1993|By Charles Britton | Charles Britton,Copley News Service

"The Bean Cookbook," "The Great American Pie Book" and "Meat & Potatoes" by Judith Choate (Simon & Schuster, $20 each).

Home cooking has seen a rebirth in America, and Judith Choate is one of the reasons why.

These three books are in a series called "American Kitchen Classics," and if they don't awaken a craving for chicken hash and sloppy Joes (to select at random from page 52 of "Meat & Potatoes"), then you're probably a closet flag-burner, and the angels will weep for you.

The photographers do their part in this enterprise, too. Many of the recipes are stylishly illustrated, adding a great deal to the effect of the volumes.

Let's give them a hand: Michael Grand, Dan Wilby and Peter Johansky.

One slight fly has landed in the preserves. The publisher presents these books as new. Not quite.

It turns out that "The Great American Pie Book" first appeared in 1984, in an edition from Yankee Books. This might explain my sense of deja vu on looking through these pages.

Otherwise, these books, offered in uniform editions, make a handsome addition to a cook's library, and the recipes seem quite useful.

The pie book, for example, begins with a handy section on the basics, not a bad feature in an era when the skill of making crusts is not necessarily passed down through the generations.

Once you get the fundamentals mastered, you can try your hand with this:

Veal and peppers pie

Yields 4 to 6 servings

2 pounds veal stew meat

4 tablespoons flour

salt, pepper to taste

4 to 6 tablespoons olive oil

3 green peppers, seeded and sliced

3 sweet red peppers, seeded and sliced (see note)

1 onion, minced

1/2 teaspoon basil

2 cups chicken broth

pastry for 9-inch double-crust pie

Dredge veal with flour, salt and pepper. Heat olive oil in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add veal and cook, turning frequently, to brown on all sides. Remove veal and drain all but about 2 tablespoons of fat.

Add green and red peppers, onion and basil; stir until vegetables begin to wilt. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.

Add chicken broth and cook about 20 minutes, or until veal begins to be done.

(Reviewer's note: I think the veal will take longer, perhaps as long as 1 1/2 hours, depending on cut.) If sauce is not thick enough, make a roux of 3 tablespoons flour and 2 tablespoons butter and whisk in, a bit at a time.

Heat oven to 500 degrees. When a medium gravy has been achieved, pour filling into pie shell. (Reviewer's note: I think it would be better to let the filling cool before filling the shell.) Top with a lattice crust. If desired, paint top crust with a wash made of 1 egg yolk beaten with 1 teaspoon water. Bake 15 minutes, then lower heat to 375 degrees for another 20 minutes.

Note: Green peppers may be substituted for the red, but the dish won't have the same appearance or quite the same flavor.

*

From "The Bean Cookbook" comes this elegant salad. Haricots verts are the tiny, French-style green beans, available at specialty supermarkets, usually at a startlingly high price. Regular green beans, the smaller the better, may be substituted. You'll find blood oranges, in season, in the same stores.

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