Chefs share what moms taught them


Book's recipes are crowd pleasers


May 12, 2004|By Holly Selby | Holly Selby,SUN STAFF

As everyone knows, the secret ingredient to any mother's cooking is love. It doesn't matter that at times she may have been trying to stretch a dollar, or tossing a meal together at the end of a long day from whatever ingredients she found in the refrigerator. She made it, and it was good.

From Tuesday Night Meatball Soup to Tunk-a-lee (soft scrambled eggs with peppers), the dishes described in Mom's Secret Recipe File (Hyperion Books, $17.95, 2004) are tasty, soul-warming and will lift your mood while, for the most part, doing little good for your waistline. The book includes more than 125 recipes offered by celebrity chefs - from Jacques Pepin and Mollie Katzen to Sylvia Woods and Chris Schlesinger - who, in turn, were taught to cook by a mother or other important woman in their lives.

If you're looking for approachable recipes for crowd pleasers such as beef Stroganoff or baked macaroni served with a side of family lore and dollops of advice like "Be careful not to embellish," this book is for you.

With his lemon-sour cream poundcake recipe, Art Smith reminisces about his family's tradition of freezing and mailing cakes to lonely relatives. Pepin offers dishes made with the most basic of ingredients - butter, eggs, potatoes - and post-World War II memories of his mother's running a restaurant when the menu was dictated by whatever was available.

But simple things combined often make the tastiest meals. For Marcus Samuelsson, chef and owner of New York City's Aquavit, a roast chicken dish served every Sunday by his Swedish grandmother is a favorite. Sweet potatoes mixed with apples, cardamom, fresh thyme and mint transform a meal that could seem ordinary into a study in contrasts: sweet and sour, familiar and exotic. Yogurt gives the rice in the dish heft and softens the spices' tang.

Swedish Roast Chicken With Spiced-Apple Rice

Makes 4 Servings


1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1/2 -inch cubes

1 large onion, cut into 1/2 -inch cubes

2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1/2 -inch cubes

2 shallots, coarsely chopped

1 garlic clove, chopped

1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh mint

2 tablespoons water

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 cardamom pods or 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

2 star anise

2 whole cloves or 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

2 black peppercorns

4 white peppercorns (or 4 additional black peppercorns)

1 teaspoon kosher salt

one 3 1/2 -pound chicken, preferably free-range


1 cup long-grain rice

1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more if needed

1 1/2 tablespoons yogurt

freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Blanch the sweet potato in boiling water for 2 minutes. Drain, rinse under cold water, drain again. In a medium bowl, combine ingredients from sweet potato through mint. Combine water and olive oil; add to mixture; toss to coat.

With mortar and pestle, crush cinnamon, cardamom, star anise, cloves and peppercorns with salt. Add half the spices to the mixture; reserve the rest.

Rinse chicken inside and out and pat dry. Remove excess fat. Lightly stuff bird's cavity with half the vegetable mixture and tie legs together with kitchen string. Place on a rack in a roasting pan and rub all over with reserved spices. Scatter remaining vegetables around chicken.

Roast for about 1 1/2 hours or until instant-read thermometer inserted into thigh reaches 160 degrees. After the first hour, or when vegetables in the pan are tender, remove and set aside in bowl. Check pan occasionally as chicken roasts, adding a bit of water if it becomes dry.

When the chicken is cooked, transfer to a cutting board. Remove the vegetables from the cavity and add to the vegetables in the bowl. Cover the chicken loosely with foil and let rest.

Add 1/4 cup hot water to the roasting pan, stirring well to deglaze. Pour the liquid into a measuring cup, skim off the fat, and add enough water to make 2 cups of liquid. Pour this liquid into a medium saucepan. Add the rice and 1 teaspoon salt and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook for about 18 minutes, until the rice is tender and all liquid is absorbed.

Fold the yogurt and reserved vegetables into the rice. Season with salt if necessary and pepper. Carve chicken and serve.

-- Adapted from "Aquavit and the New Scandinavian Cooking" (Houghton Mifflin, 2003)

Per serving: 759 calories; 55 grams protein; 32 grams fat; 8 grams saturated fat; 61 grams carbohydrate; 4 grams fiber; 157 milligrams cholesterol; 1,111 milligrams sodium

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