Restaurant chefs provide more than recipes in new cookbooks

November 08, 1995|By Peter D. Franklin | Peter D. Franklin,UNIVERSAL PRESS SYNDICATE

New York! New York! What a wonderful restaurant town!

And two of the very best-known eateries, 21 and Lutece, have new and enticing cookbooks out at the same time.

"The 21 Cookbook," by Michael Lomonaco with Donna Forsman (Doubleday, $35), is a rollicking good read, reflecting its celebrity-filled history. "The Lutece Cookbook," by Andre Soltner with Seymour Britchky (Knopf, $35), also notes the many celebrated patrons, but it's more focused on the preparation of fine food.

"The 21 Cookbook" includes more than 150 recipes, many from the days when the club was a speakeasy during Prohibition. The story of its design, with secret panels and doors to hide illegal hooch, is fascinating. Photographs, cartoons and stories of the rich and famous abound. One of my favorites concerns Jackie Gleason, a 21 regular, who stoked up at nearby Toots Shor's before retiring to Table 30 for dinner at 21. He would order a rib steak and a bottle of wine, "then drink straight bourbon until he was sound asleep. As best anyone can remember, for all the times [he] ordered, and paid for, a rib steak, he never once ate at 21."

Mr. Lomonaco, who introduces many of his own creations, has simplified the recipes, "without changing their essential natures, so that their preparation can be accommodated" by home cooks. There are plenty of chef's tips, menu and wine suggestions, too.

"The Lutece Cookbook" spends more time on Mr. Soltner, the equipment, techniques and ingredients he employs, and the 333 classic French and Alsatian recipes he has prepared for Lutece diners for more than 30 years.

Mr. Soltner's attention to detail is excellent, but the majority of recipes will require more than novice skills to match. He does suggest alternatives for hard-to-find ingredients, e.g., bouillon cubes, or even plain water, for any stock.

"The Lutece Cookbook" represents a valued addition to culinary literature, but its contents require more than just the ability to read.

"One of the all-time great comfort foods, Chicken Hash has been a staple at 21 throughout the restaurant's history," writes Donna Forsman, co-author of "The 21 Cookbook." It was very popular with the Monday-night opera crowd of years gone by. "Men in white tie and ladies in designer gowns would gather at 21 for Chicken Hash and scrambled eggs at midnight." Over time, the recipe has evolved from finely chopped chicken and a heavy bechamel sauce to this somewhat lighter version with larger pieces of chicken.

Chicken hash

Makes 4 servings

1 1/2 pounds skinless and boneless chicken breasts

salt and freshly ground black pepper

3 cups chicken stock

1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened

1/2 cup unbleached white flour

1/4 cup dry (not cooking) sherry

1/4 cup heavy cream

Season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper. Bring the chicken stock to a boil. Add the chicken breasts. Lower the heat to a simmer and poach the chicken breasts 20 minutes, or until fully cooked. Remove the chicken from the poaching liquid and cool completely before cutting into 1-inch cubes. Reserve the liquid.

Combine the softened butter with the flour, kneading them together into a paste. Return the reserved chicken stock to a boil and, using a wire whisk, carefully add the flour/butter combination in 1 tablespoon increments.

Cook 5 minutes, then add the sherry and cream. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper, and cook at a low simmer 10 minutes more. Add the diced chicken to the cream sauce, and cook an additional 5 minutes before serving.

VTC Chef Soltner of Lutece says this "light and refreshing" salad stimulates the appetite.

Mushroom salad with Swiss cheese

Makes 6 servings

1/2 pound mushrooms, washed, dried and sliced

juice of 1/2 lemon

3 1/2 tablespoons peanut oil

2 1/2 tablespoons vinegar

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1/2 teaspoon salt

pepper, fresh ground

1 pound Swiss cheese cut in strips about 1 1/4 -by- 1/8 -by- 1/8 inches

1 medium onion

1 scant tablespoon chopped parsley

Toss the mushrooms with the lemon juice.

Prepare a vinaigrette by whisking together the oil, vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper.

Combine mushrooms and cheese and toss with the vinaigrette. Refrigerate 30 minutes.

Just before serving the salad, peel the onion and cut it in fine rings. Arrange the onion rings over the salad. Sprinkle with the chopped parsley. Serve cool.

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