Racetracks' safe bets


Comfort foods are clear winners

April 23, 2003|By Stephen R. Proctor | Stephen R. Proctor,SUN STAFF

Horse racing can be tough on the nerves - and the stomach. A gambler who watches in agony as his horse quits one stride before the wire needs a little old-fashioned comfort food.

That explains why creamy soups and puddings are favorites at racetracks across America and highlights of Margaret Guthrie's Racing to the Table: A Culinary Tour of Sporting America (Eclipse Press, 2002, $24.95).

Guthrie's slim volume is reminiscent of John Shields' classic The Chesapeake Bay Cookbook, which offered a cook's tour of bay country. Her book may not be nearly as enchanting, but it comes in handy as Baltimore prepares for its share of the Triple Crown, the Preakness Stakes.

Guthrie takes readers to America's premier racing venues - including California, Kentucky, Florida, New York and, of course, Maryland - and introduces them to the people, traditions and recipes that give the region its character.

Along the way, readers pick up tidbits about racing history and customs - such as that soup is a racetrack staple not only because it is comforting but also because it can easily be eaten while one is scrutinizing the Racing Form.

Guthrie offers eight tantalizing soup recipes, everything from Okra to Oyster and Artichoke. A favorite of Baltimore horseplayers - Pimlico Chicken Noodle Soup - delivers a refreshing twist on a classic, enlivened by sage, lemon-pepper, Worcestershire sauce and cream.

The comfort-food theme also extends to dessert - especially those new old favorites, bread pudding and rice pudding. Delaware Park gives rice pudding a delicious treatment, with orange zest and raisins soaked in Grand Marnier adding a delicate citrus flavor to this creamy treat.

Racetrack denizens, of course, want more than comfort food, and Guthrie's 91 recipes cover a broad range, from signature dishes at restaurants favored by the gambling crowd to cook-and-carry recipes perfect for the Preakness infield.

She even includes recipes for favorite racetrack drinks - most notably the Kentucky Derby's Mint Julep - and, in a nice touch, a Christmas Mash recipe for a beloved pony.

Signature dishes include Shrimp Provencal With Goat Cheese, a favorite at No. 10 Downing Street in Aiken, S.C., where blue bloods send their horses for the winter. It's an elegantly flavored dish ideal for your next dinner party.

Others that sound tempting include Slow-Roasted Duck With Orange-Sherry Sauce from Louisiana and Parmesan-Crusted Chicken With Arugula-Tomato Salad from Southern California.

If infield fare is what's needed, Barbecued Meatballs, Rajun Cajun Chili, Chicory and Kidney Bean Salad or Mango-Papaya Salsa might be just the ticket.

Whatever cooks decide to try - based on my experience of testing three recipes - they should find the ingredients easy to round up, the directions easy to follow and the result delectable.

Shrimp Provencal With Goat Cheese

Serves 4

one 16-ounce box linguine

1/2 cup butter

1 medium onion, peeled and chopped

1 tablespoon chopped garlic

kosher salt, freshly ground pepper

1 cup dry white wine

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

36 medium shrimp, peeled, deveined, tails left on

1 cup seeded, diced tomatoes

1/2 cup sliced scallions

1/2 cup chopped fresh basil

8 ounces fresh goat cheese (see note)

Start cooking the linguine according to package directions. In a saute pan over low heat, place the butter, the chopped onion, garlic, salt and pepper. Cook with the lid on until the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes.

Add the wine, lemon juice and shrimp. Cook 3 minutes covered. Remove lid, stir the shrimp, add the diced tomatoes, scallions and basil leaves, and continue cooking for another 3 to 4 minutes, again with lid on.

Drain the linguine and divide onto plates. Place the shrimp mixture on top of the linguine. Reduce the liquid in the shrimp pan by returning to burner and leaving the lid off for 1 minute. Pour reduced liquid over the servings; crumble the goat cheese liberally over each serving.

Note: Goat cheese should be fresh without rind, but dry enough to crumble easily.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.