Friday, July 28, 2023

Hallie looks back at Chicken Marengo

HALLIE EPHRON: Decades ago, when I was newly married and inviting friends to dinner, in the days before you could search the Internet for recipes, my go-to cookbook was The Joy of Cooking, and my go-to dish was Chicken Marengo. (Chicken with wine, tomatoes, mushrooms, onions, and olives.) It's nearly impossible to screw up. And the Joy's recipe format (short, clear) is super accessible.

You can see from the stains on the page how many times I must have made it.

Then I got fancier with Julia Childs’s coq au vin (begin by rendering pork fat… and making my first acquaintance with shallots instead of onions).

On to Julia’s bouillabaisse (hello saffron threads), Michael Fields grilled butterflied leg of lamb with Greek lemon sauce (has to be marinated overnight), and on to the sublime New York Times lobster bisque.

All the while I have not been able to master the simplest things -- like fried chicken, and consistently crisp bacon, and brownies, and pie crust. Bread I've barely attempted. I'm sure it's because I had no one to watch in the kitchen (my mother didn't cook)... there are certain things you just can't get out of a book.

In your "salad days" did you have any go-to recipes for company, and how were you with the supposedly more straightforward stuff.

90 comments:

  1. I love to cook . . . my mom was a wonderful cook and I definitely learned a great deal from her.

    I always enjoyed trying the recipes in "The Joy of Cooking" but I don't remember having one particular "go to" recipe . . . by the time John and I were married, I had been cooking and baking [bread included] for years. These days, I still enjoy trying new recipes . . . and I bake the bacon so it's always crisp . . . .

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    1. Ah, baking the bacon... never occurred to me. And right now in this heat I do try to avoid turning on the oven.

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    2. Baking the bacon is foolproof. FOOLPROOF AND AMAZING, so agree, Joan. 325 on a baking sheet (WITH A LIP BECAUSE THERE IS LOTS OF OIL) for 15-17 minutes. Drain on paper towels. Be careful, the oil is so hot!

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  2. I could do the simple things, but anything complicated with the words "fold into", "sauteed ever so light", use more than one bowl, I couldn't do or handle.

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    1. Laughing here! Yup that would limit your repertoire. "Fold into" puts me off as well. Because it means you've probably had to whip whatever it is up into peaks and then fold something else in. Then who's to blame when the thing doesn't rise?

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  3. I had 5 years of cooking classes in school and I always helped my mom and I still use some of her recipes and my dad's to this day. I could never master her pie crust. She made a horrible lasagna and I made a good one. So when I invited them over for dinner that's usually what I made for them.

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    1. Revenge! My mother didn't cook anything unless she absolutely had to. Oh yeah, she could scramble a mean egg. So she was impressed when I made salad.

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  4. I lived alone in my first apartment at 20 in my second year at the University of Waterloo. My mom was not an adventurous cook mainly because my dad was a picky eater. But I was always a good baker so I could make muffins, cakes and pancakes from scratch as a teenager.

    On my own, I started making dishes that I never had at growing up. My go-to summer potluck dish was a tricolour rotini pasta salad with cooked ham, veggies & bottled Italian dressing (ugh). And I made a roasted leg of lamb with garlic, lemon and rosemary (not bad).

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    1. I'll have the lamb, thank you. Which has gotten SO EXPENSIVE that I haven't bought any for a year.

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    2. And in the meantime, pork is so cheap our Krogers has enormous loins and other cuts buy one, get one free!

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  5. Hallie, the Chicken Marengo sounds good. I love using olives in recipes. It sounds like you are very adventurous in the kitchen.

    Many of the recipes I used early in my marriage were ones I got from friends and relatives or found in the newspaper. I made a fantastic Mousaka and a yummy lasagna. But, when 9 year old Jonathan came home from camp and told us he needed to keep Kosher, lots of go-to recipes went away. We compromised back then to Kosher style, (I couldn't buy all new dishes, flatware, pots and pans) which we are still at home.

    More recently, we entertain in summer with things like Cold Sweet Potato and Apple Soup and grilled meat or fish, and in winter we still do a dinner party called Scotch and Stew. I always bake a special loaf when we entertain.

    As for baking, my pies are delicious. I make an all butter crust most of the time. I also bake layer cakes, cookies, brownies, quick breads, and follow a baking blog called Sally's Baking Addiction. I bake bread twice a week. If I had not been willing to keep trying, pie crust and bread would not be on the menu of things I bake.

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    1. OMG those baked goods sound fantastic... baking has never been my forte. Going to chec out Sally's Baking Addiction.

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    2. Yes I love Sally's baking addiction! And I agree Judy, you have to keep trying with baking.

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  6. Hallie, I made the Watermelon Sorbet, and it turned out delicious. I just used a simple recipe online, so let me know if you want the link.

    My dad taught me to make Swiss steak, and I learned to make mashed potatoes from my mother--whose job as the middle of nine children was to peel, dice, cook, and mash 10 pounds of potatoes every afternoon for dinner, and to make the gravy that went with it. Swiss steak was my go-to "fancy" dinner for years. Mother also made delicious fried chicken, and I learned how, but with my own twist and additions. However, I made no changes at all to the family potato salad recipe, and still make it exactly the same way. My grandson Zak is the sixth US generation in the Hungarian branch of the family to learn to make it. I cook a lot, but usually not French gourmet.

    The fanciest meal I ever made was ridiculously ambitious, but it turned out perfect. For his 90th birthday my father-in-law asked me to have a dinner party for his favorite people. Between his friends and our family there were 24 of us, and I made prime rib, Dutchess potatoes (from Joy), roasted Brussels sprouts, a frou-frou salad with pomegranate seeds, and appetizers beforehand. It's such a leap of faith to take a pricey cut of meat and trust that a 500 degree oven won't burn it, and turning that same oven off and leaving the meat in it will actually result in a cooked product.

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    1. Dinner for 24!?!?!?! I'm good up to 6 ... then I either make much too mucho much too little. But what snagged me was 10! Pounds! of potatoes! That dinner you made sounds wonderful. Mmmm Duchess Potatoes.

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    2. Karen, I tried that recipe for beef recently. Start it at 500 degrees then turn it off and leave it. It worked perfectly! Rhys

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    3. There is a roasted chicken recipe that is similar with fantastic results!

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    4. I am interested in the beef (see cooking for too many people, below.) What kind of beef and how big, or does it matter. What is the finished product - we all eat rare to medium rare, and I am usually cooking a whole tenderloin. Your recipe sound easier and with less watching than mine.

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    5. I have done something called Chinese chicken, a recipe from Adrienne Clarkson's mother. I don't know if you can google it, but it is the same - bring chicken up on high heat, turn it off and come back in 5 hrs - perfect.

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    6. Hallie, the same 10 pounds of potatoes got me, too. But you didn’t mention the part that really floored me - “EVERY afternoon for dinner”!

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    7. There were 11 people in my mom's family, plus my grandparents raised a Filipino kid for awhile. There were always at least ten people at the table, between friends and assorted other relatives. My mom can make amazing gravy, too.

      Margo, the loin I made was something like 18 pounds. I haven't made prime rib in eons, but there are loads of cooking sites with the directions.

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  7. I understand not being able to make "the simple stuff." Even though I grew up in Kentucky among fabulous southern cooks, I'm not. Cooking crispy fried chicken is an art form beyond my skills. Forget biscuits unless they come out of the Bisquick box or, more dependably, the can you smack on the edge of the counter. Also, FWIW, me cooking eggs to someone's preference is a total crap shoot. They can request but they then take what happens next.

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    1. Love those biscuits-from-a-can. The thing I love is popovers but I can ever get them quite right.

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    2. Lisa in Long BeachJuly 29, 2023 at 3:29 PM

      Once my husband made biscuits from scratch, I told him the cans had to be retired.

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  8. I lived with friends during college. We all started making whole wheat bread from the Tassajara Bread Book. And we were all vegetarians. When I started cooking for friends, I would make a quiche Lorraine from a vegetarian cookbook I had. Always reliable, always delicious, albeit rich with cream.

    I learned so much from those friends I lived with. I had never eaten a mushroom to my knowledge. My friend Nani would slice a pound or more and slowly saute them in butter for a long time. Absolutely fabulous.

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    1. I had a roommate once, a lovely woman who'd never had sour cream. She also had no sense of smell but still she was quite a good cook. Go figure.

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    2. How is it possible to cook without a sense of smell? That's a wonder.

      My first microwave, purchased in 1976, came with a fabulous cookbook. One of the recipes I still make is Quiche Lorraine, which was my reliably easy way to impress dates I wanted to cook for. Yes, even the crust is made in the microwave.

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    3. "crust made in a microwave" - sounds like Mission Impossible

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    4. The key is blind baking it with ceramic weights. Took me a long time to figure that part out!

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  9. Learned to cook when I was growing up. I remember baking with my Mom.

    Still, I did not know some things like "separating eggs" until I went to a friend's party in my twenties. She asked me to separate eggs and I asked her to explain. She explained that it meant separating the yolks from the egg whites. I learned something new!

    Though I learned from watching, when I read a recipe, sometimes I do not understand the directions. It is all trial and error, right?

    Learned that if I bake bacon, then I get crisp bacon.

    Diana

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    1. This reminds me Diana--we had to make muffins in home ec. The teacher told me to demonstrate the water displacement method. I had no idea what that was, so I showed her how my mother measured Crisco. That way was to put water in a measuring cup (say 1.5 cups) and add Crisco to the 2 cup mark. Turned out that WAS the water displacement method!

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    2. I've never heard of that! I do not get it...

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    3. Yep. That is exactly how my mother showed me to do it. A lot easier and more accurate than having to squish the stuff in a dry measure and than scrape it out, making sure to get every last bit.

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    4. Now why haven't I been doing this for the last 50+ years? Brilliant. It would work for peanut butter, too. Thank you!

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  10. I can’t remember not being able to cook, whether for two or twenty. I wonder if it’s not like being able to write or paint or sing or produce any other art form!?

    I use recipes mostly for inspiration, even for baking. Since I keep well stocked with everything, I can usually walk into my kitchen and produce a meal for as many as there are to feed

    Earlier this week my granddaughter and her SO were passing thru on their way back to Wyoming. Since arrival time was unsure — bad weather in the Adirondacks— I chose to make pot roast, something that I could hold almost indefinitely. They inhaled it as they’d been staying with his vegetarian family for two weeks! Secret to great pot roast? Braise in a cup of strong coffee. Makes best richest gravy ever!

    Did I mention that they are expecting another great grandson for me? Watch this spot!

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    1. Coffee? Who knew?? My pot roast has beer and Heinz chili sauce. But it is the perfect dish for sitting on the stove while you wait for company to arrive. Let us know when the grandson has made his appearance!

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  11. This discussion is so interesting, love hearing about how you all learned or didn't learn. We have some very talented cooks in this group! But Hallie, I wouldn't include fried chicken in the EASY category. I do think cooking and baking can be learned though, as my mother only cooked what was necessary to feed six...

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    1. Fried chicken is one of those things that LOOKS easy. Then you go try to do it...

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  12. Joy of Cooking (same food-splashed page for the same recipe) and New York Times Cookbook. I learned the basics from four years of summer restaurant kitchen experience. I used my mother's go-to beef Bourguignon recipe was for fancy dinners. Cooking was an adventure! When my son married and, with his very capable wife, hosted Thanksgiving dinner, I asked if knew how to carve the turkey. "Got it, Mom, I watched a You Tube video." Would we have been better off with videos instead of Julia Child on TV?

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    1. I do go to Youtube all the time for advice (how to seed a pomegranate; debone a chicken...)

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  13. I'm afraid there was a lot of prepackaged cooking going on when I first got married. It took a while for The Hubby and I to get adventurous.

    But my copy of the red-and-white checked Betty Crocker Cookbook has several of the same stained pages - chicken pot pie, most of the cookie pages, chicken and rice casserole come to mind.

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    1. We were cleaning out my mother’s cooking drawer and came across many local cookbooks from churches, Home and School, etc collected through the years. I decided to try the various recipes for meatloaf over the winter as all seemed to be slightly different. After about 4 trials I quit, as I think our palettes have changed over time, and what was tasty in 1960 is bland in 2023. Remember those were the days when we had never heard of any peppers except black, and if we even knew about mushrooms, there were from a can. Cheese was velveta and expensive and there was also a lot of Campbell soup involved…

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    2. Margo, several of those fundraising cookbooks have been donated to my Little Free Library. They're so funny to read through!

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    3. That's such a good point: our palettes changing over time. We never used hot pepper or soy or tofu or... And canned mushrooms, velveeta, canned soup: Feh. Having said that, I'll bet a lotof the recipes in Betty Crocker hold up. (I still make good ol' mushroom potatoes with Campbells cream of mushroom soup...yum)

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    4. Yes, a lot of creamed, canned soups. We still get a hankering for a couple recipes that use them. But yeah. For years, I didn't think fish came in anything other than a stick or those frozen breaded patties. I wouldn't eat fish until we bought a filet of salmon on a whim. No going back from that.

      But The Hubby still loves meatloaf.

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  14. Chicken Marengo was a dish that we (my twin and I) used to make for dinner on a regular basis. From about 6th grade on, we were in charge of nearly all the family meals. I always thought the dish was named after Napoleon's horse (I was a horse crazy kid) but actually it's from the battle of Marengo. Napoleon's chef made it for him after the battle. Napoleon later had a warhorse that he] named Marengo, after his great victory.

    I guess the Moosewood Cookbook would have been my guide during the salad days. Many of our friends and roommates were vegetarian, so I did a lot of vegetarian dishes. Spinach-ricotta pie or cauliflower-cheese pie with grated potato crust. My sister still makes their veggie lasagna recipe on a regular basis and we both make Kristina's potato salad from the Moosewood.

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    1. Yay for Chicken Marengo! And i love the Moosewood. Still use it all the time. There's a black bean soup recipe with oranges that sounds awful but it's really great. And a salmon and potato casserole that's my go-to brunch dish.

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    2. I've made their cauliflower cheese pie many times!

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  15. Cooking is my go-to when I want something to do, or am bored, or don’t want to finish something or really don’t want to vacuum…the list of good excuses of work to avoid when I just want to cook is endless. Morning activities (I don’t even think of doing anything until 10am, and don’t call as I won’t answer the phone), is to read Facebook, read various items of news, weather, SPCA, blogs, and then look at recipes. Included in that time wasting-effort is following the thread of every recipe that takes my fancy, and quite possibly saving the recipe in my ever-growing file folder. Supper or lunch may be one of those recipes or the recipe is saved because it might be good sometime.
    My mother cooked mostly from the Better Homes and Gardens red-checked binder type cook book. When I left home, I bought Fanny Farmer and that is my go-to – love the pound cake and chocolate sauce.
    Now I cook from any recipes, from anywhere, and with any ingredients – I served emu roast at a dinner party, having never cooked it or eaten it before. (it was delicious). Food served at my table is meant to be criticized – should I make it again or send the recipe to file 13. I probably won’t make it anyway, as a new recipe will turn up.
    The big joke is how well I followed the recipe – I am known to substitute or leave out ingredients if I don’t have them. Everything starts with a mirepoix of garlic, onions and jalapeno peppers, though I have to remember that other people’s palettes are not so adjusted to heat as ours are. The kids know that most recipes are not reproducible – by me or by them.
    I do make a roast beef dinner for 60-75 people every May – just follow the same old recipe and hope I don’t overcook the meat. I also put up with and fed 25 guests who lived in our house for a week for my son’s wedding. The kids were great and mucked in, but it still was a lot of work – and foolish meal preferences.
    There is however, one recipe that stands the taste and requests of time – my grandmother’s hard biscuit strawberry shortcake. It is one large biscuit ½” thick, made with butter and cream, cut in half and slathered in butter, and then served semi-warm. Absolutely not as good the next morning for breakfast, so you might as well eat it all now.

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    1. I think the more experienced you are as a cook, the more you're at ease substituting ingredents or leaving stuff out. But it always makes me laugh when I read in the comments of an on-line recipe, somethign like "I substtuted tofu for salmon"

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  16. Yum, I'll have to dig out my Joy of Cooking. It sounds fabulous.

    My mother was a gourmet cook. Seriously. She came from a time when women did not work, and she channeled her energy into cooking. That said, she refused to allow me into the kitchen. When I say I had no idea how to cook, I mean zero idea. The first time I made pasta I boiled water in a tiny saucepan (I was hungry and I figured it would cook faster) dumped in a pound of spaghetti and made paste. I was in high school at the time. I'm lucky my mother allowed me to stay in the house with the kitchen. She sure never let me near it again. When I was in college, I decided I wanted to see the Caribbean. The best way to do that was to sign on as a cook on a working boat. So I took all of my nonexistent cooking skills and got myself a job. Free passage in return for being the ONLY cook on board. It didn't take the sailors long to figure out if they wanted to eat, someone had to teach me to cook. To this day, give me a few ingredients and voila - a meal will appear. Those skills served me well in the aftermath of hurricanes and ice storms. My go to recipe for company was chicken marsala. I don't remember where the original recipe came from but it was a guaranteed crowd pleaser. It became known as engagement marsala. A much requested recipe by my single friends that almost always resulted in a proposal - go figure.

    Hallie - the secret to fried chicken is to have the oil HOT. You want to sear the coating so it creates a private oven to cook the chicken - I use about an inch of avocado oil because of its high smoke point. Soak your chicken in buttermilk - drain - pat damp - dip in seasoned flour mixed with a half teaspoon of baking soda and put in the hot oil in the pan. Don't crowd it. Cook about 7 minutes on a side depending on size. Bring your oil back to temperature between batches. I've made it this way in all kinds of skillets and in electric fry pans. Foolproof.

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    1. I LOVE THIS STORY! Thank goodness those sailors took you in hand or you'd all have starved (or been poisoned!) Thank you for the tips on fried chicken. And it has to be real buttermilk? (Not whole milk with a dash or vinegar?)

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    2. Thanks for the fried chicken tips, Kait!

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    3. whole milk with vinegar works fine!

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  17. My mom grew up in a large, multi-generational family and learned to cook from my grandmother and great-grandmother. When she had her own daughters, nothing was off-limits in the kitchen for us. I'm a follow-the-recipe-sort-of kind of person, except for baking--first time out, follow the recipe. Second time around, make it my own. But to this day I can't duplicate her biscuits or her fried chicken or her pie crusts.

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    1. Those are my stumbling blocks, too. Especially pie crust, because I LOVE pie.

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  18. Rhys: my mum made wonderful pastry so I learned that from her. My first entertaining as a young bride was always roast chicken with toast potatoes. You can’t screw that up. John made curries. I learned Malaysian rice dishes which were easy and also served good old staples like shepherd’s pie. Later my go to show off dish was paella!

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    1. I once made a paella that had absolutely NO TASTE. It all tasted the same: blah. Blindfolded I couldn't tell the chicken from a shrimp. So disappointing because it was SO MUCH WORK. I think it was the recipe, not the chef. But I would say that.

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  19. From Celia: what a kitchen of talented, inventive cooks are hiding their talents? Thanks Hallie for getting everyone to ‘fess up. I am loving the comments. As for me, well my mum didn’t really learn to cook till later in life. She grew up with servants at her home, then colonial life included servants so I can say she was not my inspiration here. But her younger sister, Pauline, who was my godmother and second mother did teach me a whole lot. She was a wonderful ‘plain’ cook and made the best Victoria sponge ever. As for me, sharing a flat in London when I was 17, it was cook or starve. The first thing I learned to cook for a dinner party of friends was spaghetti bolognese! And from there I progressed. The Constance Spry Cookery Book was a 21st Birthday gift along with Robert Carriers Great Dishes of the World. I was off and running. I never really had a signature dish and much to the horror of my new husband, I had no concern about cooking an untried new dish for guests. I wish I had kept a food journal but I didn’t. Now it’s all about getting something on the table in the evening and thinking up new ideas for Julia and JRW, which I love doing.

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  20. My go to is a baked mac and cheese (from scratch, naturally) from a recipe by an Italian friend of mine that is to die for...seriously. I do not enjoy daily cooking. I am not a savory person. That is the Hub's job while I make the side salad and veggies or corn bread, rolls, or popovers (oooh, popovers). But if we're talking baking, I'm all in. I am a master of all sorts of cakes, pies, cookies, tarts, souffl├ęs, meringues, bread (if it's a pastry), etc. Basically, the Great British Bake Off is my jam!

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    1. Jenn, this reminds me of my college days. Friends and I would bake mac and cheese on the weekends. Yum! Like you, I am more of a baker than a cook.

      Diana

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    2. Please, Jenn, someday share with us that baked mac and cheese.
      I like that idea that the world of eaters is divided into Sweet eaters and Savory eaters. I'm probably the latter.

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  21. My mother (born 1923) grew up in the deepest South with a family cook. Thus, she had zero idea of how to cook when she became a Yankee wife and eventually mother to five children. We had The Joy of Cooking and she tried valiantly but I don't recall her ever being much interested in food preparation. Feeding the family was simply a chore. She did spend a bit energy cooking for the inevitable cocktail parties of the 1960s and her go-to was boeuf bourgignon. Still, her thoughts were elsewhere and in 1971, at 48, she went back to school for her masters in social work at Yeshiva University, at the time the only university around that would let a woman get a masters part-time. Thus thereafter my mother with her strong Alabama accent would stand at the stove muttering, "Oy gevalt!" when results were disappointing. Her usual focus was lack of fuss. Broiled hot dogs with melted cheese?

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    1. That cracked me up! Imagining your mother Oy Gevalt-ing at the stove

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  22. SUCH a great question! My definite go-to was chicken kiev and fettucini alfredo. Both dishes are SO easy, and the gorgeous crispy browned chicken with its melted butter oozing out and the creamy alfredo together were beautiful and decadent. It had the downside of being a little last minute, with the final sauteing of the chicken rolls and the last-minute mixing of the alfredo, but SO worth it. I would make the chicken wraps --with egg wash and flour and bread crumbs, with cold butter and parsley rolled inside in advance, then saute them as the pasta was almost done. It was fabulous every time.
    Amd I LOVE chicken Marengo. And I did keep a dinner party journal for a while! Hmm. Where is it...

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    1. Fettucine alfredo is NOT easy! I've messed it up numerous times. Wondering if yours has cream, or egg but no cream ... and of course cheese. I do love it when it's well done.

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    2. MIne has butter, cream and cheese. And parsley. No egg. Does yours have egg?

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    3. I’ve made fettuccini alfredo once - using the recipe in The Vegetarian Epicure, Book 2. It was swoon-inducing delicious, and so rich that we went on a long walk afterwards to try to counteract it. When we returned, the apartment still smelled heavenly.
      I really should make it again.

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  23. Mom cooked and cooked well. I can replicate most of her dishes, though I do make a tweak every now and then. I add mushrooms at the end of my pot roast instead of the cabbage she added. I grew up with box mixed cakes but even those can tweated especially if you are baking 20 to 45 cakes a day, for the two weeks the fair was in town. My problem is similar to her's when she was a young bride. Cooking small is extremely difficult when you are used to cooking for four, five or more family members.

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    1. Yes cooking for 1 is a challenge that I've been facing... seems like I have ten times more leftovers than I can eat in one sitting. And after two repeats I'm sick of whatever the stuff is.

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    2. Deana here - our church had, at one time, a food concession at the fair. For years, talikng 30+, the ladies would bring in their best desserts to be divided and sold by the slice. Sometime in the early 70's it was decided that all the desserts had to be made in an controlled area that could be inspected. Public Health was going inspect 50 or more kitchens every year so the cake crew started. Believe me, we did nothing fancy.

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  24. My mother and my grandmother were both good, if somewhat eccentric, cooks. And as my grandmother lived with us from the time I was born, there were always two women in the kitchen and not much room for me. One of my most cherished childhood memories is sitting at the top of the stairs, reading a book, while listening to my mom and grandmother cooking and talking down below.
    Of course when I lived in my first apartment during college I had to call my mom and ask her how to roast a chicken! I had a large-format Sunset cookbook called French Country Cooking and those recipes made up a lot of my early entertaining dishes--Coq Au Vin, Boeuf Bourguignon, Quiche Lorraine. Then there was The Frugal Gourmet, and Laurel's Kitchen and Moosewood, the bibles for the hippie homemakers of the 70s and 80s. I have owned a copy of The Joy of Cooking since my twenties, but I don't think I've ever made a recipe from it.

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  25. I love this topic. My mother was a wonderful baker, her pies were unsurpassable. But everyday meals were ...ok? She went back to work when I was 10 or 11 and I quickly learned that if I wanted to eat something I liked, it was up to me. And I've loved cooking ever since, 60 years of fun. Fortunately my dear husband will try anything. And so polite. I have to ask 'Would you like that again?' to get an honest answer.
    Chris Wallace

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  26. I learned the secret to "Never Fail Pie Crust" from Mildred, a fabulous cook for the Bob Hope family in Palm Springs. The secret is to use ice water with a teaspoon of vinegar (not wine based) plus an egg as the liquid. She used Crisco, I've shifted to butter. Google it, you'll find recipes like this. Don't automatically add all the liquid, it depends on the humidity where you are. Chill before rolling out.

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  27. I hate to admit it but I don't remember any go to dishes from when we first married. I experimented a lot, so I do remember some epic failures. To this day I do not fry chicken. Back at the dawn of time in the early 70's I did find a yummy recipe in a New Orleans cookbook for King Ranch Casserole. A kind of Tex-Mex chicken casserole. It's great for a crowd and very popular with my family.

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  28. The Silver Palate’s Chicken Marbella with olives and prunes was a frequent dish…

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  29. My mother did not cook. she had emotional issues. I got Joy of Cooking in 1974 and tried the roast chicken for company ... but instead of buying a chicken, I bought poultry. It was un-chewable and I went around the corner (living in Manhattan) to the Cuban-Chinese restaurant and got take-out.

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  30. I’m from the Midwest. From my mom I learned to make a fantastic chuck roast with carrots, potatoes and lovely brown gravy, really good fried chicken. I make fantastic pie crust, but have had no success with yeast breads. I am most famous for my macaroni and cheese, which is delicious and creamy, and my Apple Betty from the Better Homes & Gardens cookbook (think red & white checked cover) from around 1970 - I won my husband’s heart with that one! And I can make a great lasagna, which I figured out for myself.

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  31. My go-to was a recipe from the Sunday NY Times magazine for chocolate mousse, which I modified over the years, but then stopped making because it called for raw egg whites which one doesn't eat nowadays because of salmonella. I was also big on flaming ducks (a recipe I sort of made up) and REAL (with anchovies) Caesar Salad (again, eggs are supposed to be cooked nowadays). As a food writer, I've had to test recipes, but I rarely follow them for myself; I just throw together what I have in the fridge. I did manage to reconstruct my grandmother's "logs," hard, cinnamon-dusted dunking cookies, after she died. I make them when I want them or miss her.

    Unless I'm asked to bring a side (inevitably potato and sweet potato paprikash or cranberry-orange relish) or a contribution to a synagogue potluck (that potato stuff or a cucumber and onion salad), I don't cook at all anymore. It's easier, and often cheaper, to pick something up.

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  32. My mother was a very good “southern style country” cook and loved to bake but had no patience in teaching me. I was to study, read, and play outdoors. When I married, “The Joy of Cooking” and the “Betty Crocker Cookbook” were my new text books. I still have them 60 years later, stained and treasured ( I married between my Junior and Senior years of College after promising my parents I would finish, which I did).

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  33. OMG, this is such a mouth-watering post! I love all the different backgrounds and experiences ... and dishes!! My mom was fantastic about letting me in the kitchen while she cooked, so I got loads of visual learning along with hands-on experience. Mom and Gram were great, basic cooks, and fabulous bakers, so that's how I began, too. I have Mom's 1955 Betty Crocker's Picture Cookbook, minus the cover and the first 30 pages, with the surviving pages covered in food splatters to indicate family favorites.

    In 1970 my mother-in-law introduced me to Joy of Cooking, specifically Yorkshire Pudding Cockaigne (made in the pan the roast cooked in, not a specialty pan, which always seemed more sensible to me). Then my husband got me Volume 1 of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and my go-to dish for entertaining became Coquilles St. Jacques a la Provencale. I'd been taught to carefully read over any recipe before I began, and did so with this one, so it really wasn't difficult. It was actually fun, especially with the accompanying scallop shells I got to serve it in.

    These days my cooking is much simpler, but I still like leafing through my cookbooks for enjoyment and inspiration. ~Lynda


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  34. My mother was great at opening a box and following directions… so I’m a decent but not adventurous cook. My go to back when I entertained was roast chicken or Cornish hens stuffed with lemon & rosemary. Roast pan potato’s & salad. Nowadays I like Alton Brown’s Shepherd’s Pie. And the easiest brownie recipe in the world is on the Baker’s unsweetened chocolate box.

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