An American Family Cooks: From a Chocolate Cake You Will Never Forget to a Thanksgiving Everyone Can Master

An American Family Cooks: From a Chocolate Cake You Will Never Forget to a Thanksgiving Everyone Can Master

by Judith Choate, Stephen Kolyer

With its irresistible recipes, gorgeous photographs, charming illustrations and narration by award-winning author Judith Choate, An American Family Cooks sets the table to which we all want to be invited.

Join award-winning cookbook author Judith Choate in the kitchen and at the table as she and her family of foodies celebrate the new American home cooking.

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With its irresistible recipes, gorgeous photographs, charming illustrations and narration by award-winning author Judith Choate, An American Family Cooks sets the table to which we all want to be invited.

Join award-winning cookbook author Judith Choate in the kitchen and at the table as she and her family of foodies celebrate the new American home cooking. Within its beautifully photographed and delightfully illustrated pages, one will find a sophisticated, yet cook-friendly variety of recipes that meld influences from the fundamentals of traditional home cooking, classic follow-to-the-letter French techniques, contemporary California cuisine, exciting ethnic dishes, holiday classics and the most simple and satisfying of family meals.

• An introduction from a veteran and much-published chef to the new American home cooking with a strong emphasis on organics and local and sustainable produce
 • Modern, produce-centric, organic, recipes—from French classics to California cuisine
 • Fundamental generations-old recipes and techniques no home chef should be without: stocks, stews, soups, pastries and cakes, canning and preserving
 • Richly photographed by renowned food photographer, Steve Pool; charmingly illustrated by Stephen Kolyer. 324 full color photographs, and 15 illustrations.

An American Family Cooks
will be the Featured Selection for The Good Cook Bookclub ‘s late September catalog (announce date 9/8/13, in homes approximately 9/25/13).

Table of Contents

Some Thoughts About How We Cook
Shopping, Ingredients, Supplies, and Techniques
Drinks and Nibbles
Chris Talks About Wine
Making Hootch
Cocktail Treats
Grilled Red Devil Quail
Olive Swirls
Spicy Bean Dip
Holy Guacamole
Scallop Seviche
Marinated Yogurt Cheese
Just Everyday Meals
Heirloom Tomato Salads
Every Night Salad
Octopus Salad
Braised Baby Artichokes
Boy Oh Boy! Bok Choy (Bok Choy Sauté and Bok Choy, Shiitakes, and Tofu)
The Chicken Pot Pie That Nana Made and We All Still Make
Pepper Steak
Beef Stew
Stuffed Cabbage
Mom’s Crook Neck Squash
Chris’ Paella
Roasting Chicken
Chicken Meets Lemon
Fried Chicken
Favorite Chicken
Chicken Under a Brick
Braised Lamb Shanks with Green Olives
Talking About Pork (Roast Loin with Garlic Scapes and Stuffed Pork Loin)
Pork Scallopine with Arugula Salad
Making Mole
Fancy Dining

Friday Still Means Fish

Steve’s Every Night Shrimp Creole
Dungeness Crab at Home
Soft Shell Crabs
Scallops with Roe and Fiddlehead Ferns
Linguine with Clam Sauce
Salmon with Curried Carrot Couscous and Green Purée
Cod Cakes
What Would We Do Without Pizza and Pasta?
Correcto Risotto – sample pages
Nana’s Potato Gnocchi
Butternut Squash Ravioli
Raw Tomato Sauce
Meatballs and Spaghetti
Pork in Milk
Eggplant Parmigiana
Braised Radicchio
We Can’t Forget the French

Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup Days

Impromptu Soups
Black Bean Soup
Butternut Squash Soup
Corn Chowder
Talking About Sandwiches
Really, Really Good Cheese Sandwiches
Thin Yellow Boys
Country Cooking
Newsom’s Country Ham
Fried Green Tomatoes
Corn Fritters
Digging Ramps
Waffles for Dinner
Annie’s Brown Bread
Looking Back
Chris on Vinegar
Pickled Asparagus
Easy Pickles
Making Old-Fashioned Relish
Fresh Fig Relish
Making Jams
Making Sausage
Boston Brown Bread
Banana Bread with Canada
Making Bread
A Short Order Cook; Isn’t Breakfast Great
Salt-Buzz Breakfast with Biscuits
Hash Browns
Mom’s Waffles That We All Still Make
Scotch Griddle Scones
Laurel’s Oatmeal Scones
Easy Cinnamon Rolls
We All Love Dessert
Chocolate Chess Pie/Cake
Devil’s Food Cake
Pineapple Upside Down Cake
Laurel Makes Everybody’s Birthday Cake
Lemon Meringue Pie
Shaker Lemon Pie
Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie and Some Others
Apple Pizza
Chocolate Chip Cookies
Ginger Cookies
Poached Pears
Mickey’s Big Birthday
Scotch Eggs
Greek Easter Bread
Uncle Kol’s Hors d’Oeuvres: Mini Black Bean & Corn Empanadas, Spinach-Feta Phyllo
Mickey’s Easter Dinner Menu: Grilled Leg of Lamb au Jus and Chimmichurri; Potato
   Gratin; Orange-Cumin Carrots; Grilled Asparagus; Roasted Baby Artichokes; Pearl
   Onions and Cremini Mushrooms
Chris’ San Francisco All-Day Thanksgiving: Champagne & Fried Eggs on Toasted
   Baguette with Shaved Truffles and a Drizzle of Honey; Iced Vodka & Caviar with
   Quail Eggs, Minced Red Onion, and Tiny Toasts; Traditional Turkey Dinner with All
   the Fixings
Perfect Roast Turkey and Gravy
My Stuffing
Brussels Sprouts
Cranberry Ice
Easy Rolls, At Least I Think They Are
Mickey’s Christmas Dinner: Pickled Oysters and Caviar; Gougères; Foie Gras Torchon
   with Quince Compote (Roasted Beet Salad for the Ladies); Lobster Bisque; Tournedos
   Rossini on Potato Galette; Tournéed Vegetables; Cheese Board with Grapes and Pears;
   Bûche de Noël
Making Fruitcakes for Christmas Giving
Date-Nut Bread
Cut-Out Sugar Cookies for Decorating
My Never-Fail Fudge

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The latest book by James Beard Award–winning chef and writer Judith Choate is an ambitious foodie family affair, written with her two sons, Michael and Christopher Choate, and photographed by her husband, Steve Pool. This expansive collection includes illustrations, narrative, and a diverse range of recipes from the Choate family kitchen, many of which have never been published before. A chapter on “Just Everyday Meals” gives readers American classics like the Chicken Potpie That Nana Made and We All Still Make, as well as Christopher’s Paella and a pork scaloppini with arugula salad. “Fancy Dining” includes veal chops with asparagus, morels, and pommes boulanger. In “Friday Still Means Fish,” the Choates share Steve’s Every-Night Shrimp Creole. There’s nothing unexpected in this volume, but there are plenty of appealing crowd-pleasers. Christopher, a wine distributor, shares tips and wine-pairing suggestions for specific meals throughout. (Oct.)
From the Publisher
“The charm of this book lies in the personal and lengthy narrative, Judie’s explanations before each recipe that let you know why it was chosen, who makes it the most, tricks and tips to make it your own. I actually found myself reading every single recipe just to hear more of their story…” —Amber Turpin, Civil Eats, November 28, 2013

"I want to be adopted by Judith Choate and her two sons. So will you, when you get to know them from endearing stories of life backwhen sitting down every night to Judie's heartwarming, traditional American home cooking kept these three people going through rough times. Her sons Mickey and Chris grew into hard-working dads and expert home cooks in their own right. Together, they've written acookbook as personal as a family scrapbook and as indispensable as The Joy of Cooking.I went straight for the heart andsoul of Judie's classic weeknight cooking: meatballs and spaghetti. The meatballs are light and flavorful...and abundant. What she said made about 20 two-inch balls made about 30 or more for me, so my freezer is packed! Her recipe for marinara sauce makes about four quarts, so you'll be well stocked after a simple simmering of Pomi tomatoes (absolutely no additives), dried basil, and lots of fresh garlic.There's probably not a meal you want to make that isn't in here" – The Good Cook Book Club

"A family that cooks together stays together—or so you’ll think after perusing this delectable collection of recipes by Judith Choate (who has worked on over 100 cookbooks) and her sons, who have followed her footsteps into the culinary world." – Lindsay Hunt, Associate Food Editor, Real Simple, "7 Favorite Family Cookbooks," September 3, 2013

"...full of invaluable recipes, beautiful illustrations and photographs, and sweet family insights. The Choate family truly does cook, and I am thankful to them for sharing." – Aleta Copestakes, The Sonoma County Gazette, November 1, 2013

"It is a beautiful book, and easily approachable for the home cook." – Steve Boss, Host, Great Taste Radio Show

“Judie has been a wife, a mother, a ghostwriter for dozens of chefs, a co-author for others and a cookbook author in her own right. This is her quintessential book, written with her family and photographed by a great food photographer, her husband. She has poured her knowledge, her efficiencies, her sense of the delicious, the doable and eminently servable, and her laughter into this ultimate family cookbook. From her kitchen to yours.” – Charlie Palmer, chef, restaurateur, hotelier
“Judith’s knowledge and history of ingredients and cooking is outstanding. Her ability to extract and portray the true flavors in a recipe by developing the dishes onto the pages for the readers is phenomenal!  She is in a league of her own and a hell of a wonderful woman!”—Chef David Burke

"An American Family Cooks shows the true spirit of what American cooking today should be. Family and friends honestly caring for each other. Passion about the food every step of the way. Sharing and passing on the great stories behind the traditions that arrive at the table. Creating new ones together for the next generation. Judie, Mickey, Chris & Steve, set a place at your table for me!"
—Chef Dean Fearing, chef-owner Fearing's at the Ritz-Carlton, Dallas

"To know Judie, Steve, Mickey, and Chris is to know that a family that cooks together is the root of all things important in life. This book shares the passion of a family that has experienced marvelous meals, great stories, world class ingredients, and great friends around their dining tables. Judie is the orchestra leader of her family, extended families, and a wealth of friends. Join her as she invites us to try simple but delicious recipes in the framework of great stories accompanied by Steve's stunning photographs. They will be your family as well after you have cooked with them!"
—Alain Sailhac, Dean Emeritus, The International Culinary Center in NYC
and Arlene Sailhac, Founder of the 33-year-old De Gustibus Cooking School

An American Family Cooks
will be the Featured Selection for The Good Cook Bookclub ‘s late September catalog (announce date 9/8/13, in homes approximately 9/25/13).

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Product Details

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Read an Excerpt

Excerpts from the Foreword and Introduction to
An American Family Cooks

by Judie, Michael, and Chris Choate
+ sample recipes!
Judie: Since I began cooking almost seventy years ago, I have seen so many changes in the American kitchen and marketplace.  I have an easy remembrance of the good old days when the refrigerator was truly the ice box, when bottled milk was left, undisturbed, on the doorstep (even in New York City), when basement shelves were lined with home-canned goods and most moms were housewives and prepared dinner at midday, suppers in the evening, and the whole family gathered for a formal, mid-afternoon Sunday meal after church.  Professionally, I have had the excitement of meeting the often factious but fashionable demands of catering meals for multitudes and the joy of working, either as a cook or a writer, alongside some of America’s most accomplished chefs.  The adventuresome palates of my children and our love of sharing great meals has been the icing on the cake.
All during my years of cooking, I have found that, for me, it is most rewarding when there is a crowd to feed.  I love holidays and celebrations and like nothing better than turning an ordinary weekday meal into an event by welcoming new people to our table.  My friendships continue to be glued together by a love of eating and through the warmth of the family table.  Throughout this book recipes will often reflect the enthusiastic sharing of tastes and adventures that so many wonderful friends have experienced with us. 
As you turn these pages, you will find that each one of us cooks in a very defined way.  My son Mickey is disciplined and rigorously follows French tradition.  As he has gotten older, he experiments and trusts his own instincts more, but no matter how relaxed, that veal chop will be sauced with the richest reduction you can imagine. His younger brother Chris, on the other hand (and, perhaps because he lives in California where pristine products are always available), is more straightforward in his approach with the grill and simply cooked meats and vegetables playing a great role in his meals. As I get older, I value nature’s bounty more than ever.  I buy organically-grown produce and purchase my raw ingredients from local farmers as much as possible.  I cook simply with an eye to good health.  But, I still like to finish the meal with a luscious dessert.
While I continue to cook with “a little of this” and “a little of that,” my sons keep asking me “Why?”, “How much?”, and “What for?”  I have written many, many cookbooks that answer some of these questions but nowhere have I been able to share the joy of cooking that we feel as a family when working side by side in the kitchen.  It seemed to me that it was time to combine our love of cooking and eating with my ability to write it all down.  Our irreverence and sense of adventure when it comes to food has brought a sense of joy and fun to the process, which is something always to be found at our table and, we hope, at yours. 
Michael:  I like to tease mom about her cooking being “la Cuisine Bonne Femme,” only because my own is so over the top.  While my cooking style has, in many ways, vastly diverged from hers, I wouldn’t have the passion for food that I do if it weren’t for her sharing the joys of the kitchen and family table with me from an early age.  Some of my fondest memories are of helping her prepare meat sauce for spaghetti on a Sunday afternoon, a recipe that I still use today with, of course, my own slight changes. Mom’s love of food and her passion for cooking is as much about family and friends and the now quaint notion of the shared table than it is the actual dishes she prepares.  I believe that it is something that we are in the process of losing in this country, but it has always been, and remains, a vital part of our family life.
My wife and I try, as much as two working parents can in this day and age, to sit down with our children for a family meal.  When they were little, my kids ate their share of chicken nuggets when we went out but a glance in our freezer won’t find any frozen dinners, processed chicken, or any of the myriad of, to me, bizarre quick and ready meals that fill the vast freezer isles of our local supermarket. And, to this day, my chicken “nuggets” are homemade. I think that as a result, my children do understand how much better a piece of home cooked chicken is than the store-bought variety, with their most-requested meal being “favorite chicken.”
Although both of my parents also worked, we still all sat down for a family dinner every night.  My father, a dyed in the wool Wasp, could not imagine a life where a family did not gather for a meal that began with a soup or salad and proceeded through a large hunk of meat with accompanying garnishes and sides and ended with a homemade sweet.  (I can still tick off the meats – standing rib roast, triple-thick rib lamb chops, goose, thin slices of calves liver, crisp on the outside and meltingly soft in the center, things I can’t imagine cooking after a day at work)!  But, more than the food at the table, there was conversation, connection, and shared experience.  I knew what it meant to be part of a whole.
Chris: To me, food and family are intrinsically linked.  Cooking is nothing more than tradition passed on from one generation to another and, in our family, my mom has just been very good at the passing.  For all of us, feeding family and friends is about caring, providing, and nurturing.  It is interesting that this emanates from the kitchen, the warmest room in the house.  The place where parties begin and, even now, often end.
So many of my early memories are centered on food.  I remember eating the same meal on the same night of every week (Monday was chicken, Tuesday was Swedish meatballs, and so forth.)  This probably wasn’t the case (in fact, mom says it wasn’t) but that is how I remember our meals.  This feeling of continuity gave me a sense of order and safety – it made me feel very cared for. As a child, I always looked forward to the weekend when mom would put a large pot of red sauce with meat to cook on the back burner.  She would start it early in the morning and it would simmer all day long.  I remember it being bright red, almost alive.  Throughout the day, I would snack on a hunk of crusty bread dipped into a cupful of this incredible sauce.  I continue this tradition with my daughter, Canada, now doing the dipping.

Friday Still Means Fish
Cod Cakes
Serves 6
Years ago I read Cod – A Biography of a Fish That Changed the World (by Mark Kurlansky) and became fascinated with the mystery and history of the fish. Whenever I cook cod I can’t help wondering if future generations will have the opportunity to experience its delicate flavor—can you imagine that schools of cod were once so thick that you could almost walk on the water? Apparently this was true for sturgeon in the Delaware River as well, where nary a fish can be found today. How much we can discover about ourselves and our history by learning how and why we eat what we eat.
As much as I love cod, I cook it rarely because Steve is allergic to any fish with scales (and, we’ve found, frog’s legs) and I don’t like to prepare a different dish for each of us. However, when we go off to the Provincetown (Massachusetts), which we do at least once a year, I can’t resist the beautiful catch in the local market. Since we are on the Cape, the cod is particularly pristine and I try to use it in as many ways as I can, with one of our favorites being meaty cod cakes.
In years past when I was doing restaurant consulting, one of the dishes I would always test a cook on was crab cakes. I think that along with roasting the perfect chicken, making the perfect crab cake really tests a chef’s mettle. To me, there is nothing worse than a mushy fish cake made with smashed up cooked seafood and over-stuffed with breadcrumbs or potatoes. I like to think that I take my own advice and turn out a pretty mean fish cake. Rather than create just one night’s dinner, I usually make a big batch so that I can have them on hand for future meals. Nothing better for a quick lunch than a crisp cod cake on top of a plate of salad greens.
Because of the addition of potatoes, all you really need to complete dinner is a salad or a sautéed green veggie and a lovely glass of sauvignon blanc. You can offer some tartar or other acidic sauce if you like. I sometimes serve with a homemade horseradish-mayo, but it really isn’t necessary.
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon canola oil plus more for frying
1 onion, peeled and diced
2 pounds cod (or other meaty white-fleshed fish), cut into a medium dice
2 cups mashed potatoes
½ cup sliced scallions
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
3 cups breadcrumbs
Heat the butter and oil in a small frying pan over medium heat. Add the onion and fry, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes or just until the onion begins to take on some color. Remove from the heat and set aside.
Combine the potatoes with the scallions and cooked onion in a large mixing bowl. Add the cod and gently stir to incorporate. Add the eggs and parsley and season with salt and pepper to taste. Mix just enough to combine—you don’t want to mash the fish.
Place the breadcrumbs in a large shallow bowl.
Using your hands, form the cod mix into cakes of equal size. I like mine to be about 3 inches in diameter and one inch thick. The mixture will be loose.
Working with one at a time, gently roll the cakes in the breadcrumbs.
Lightly coat a large frying pan with canola oil. Place over medium heat and when oil is hot, carefully transfer the cakes to the pan. Do not crowd the pan. If the cakes split apart a bit, just use a spatula to keep them together. The looseness and chunkiness of the fish is what makes these cakes so delicious. Fry, turning once or twice, for about 10 minutes or until the fish is cooked through.
Serve piping hot.        
Just Everyday Meals
Heirloom Tomato Salads
I discovered my most favorite way to eat a tomato when I was barely eighteen months old. I was sitting in the corner of the garden watching tomatoes being picked for canning. Imitating the women, I pulled a ripe one from its stem and put its warmth up against my nose to both feel and smell its pungency— it is a moment indelibly implanted in my mind. My mom pulled the tomato in half for me and sprinkled it with salt. “Taste,” she said. The juice was at once warm and cool, acidic and sweet, with the almost acrid smell of the greenery the perfect accent. I still think that there is no experience to compare with sitting outdoors eating a freshly plucked tomato bursting with the sun’s warmth, emitting the still green smell of the plant, with the flavor heightened by a sprinkling of salt. Coming in at a close second is that warm tomato placed on a thick slice of homemade white bread slathered with creamery butter and sprinkled with sea salt.
Here are two salads that highlight summer’s best. One is a contemporary take on my childhood favorite. It can only be made in the summer when tomatoes are perfection. And, that’s okay. We are too spoiled anyway, so a little waiting for something wonderful does us good. The whole family makes this salad and, basically, in the same way. Chris and I always include garlic, but Mickey tends to highlight the tomatoes. In the second recipe, the slightly tart, fruity flavor of the middle-Eastern spice, sumac, helps accentuate the sweet acidity of the tomatoes while the ricotta salata adds the necessary salt.
If you cube the tomatoes and eliminate the bread for either salad, the mixture can be used as a topping for bruschetta. We generally use balsamic vinegar but other sweet vinegars work well also and we all like a slightly spicy extra virgin olive oil.
Salad One: Heirloom Tomato-Basil Salad
Serves 6
2½ pounds organic, heirloom tomatoes, preferably a mixture of colors
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced, optional
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
½ cup fresh basil chiffonade
4 thick slices rustic bread, well-toasted
Wash the tomatoes well. Core and cut into cubes or into any style slice you like. Place in a nonreactive bowl. Add the garlic and season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside to marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes.
Add the olive oil and balsamic vinegar, tossing to coat. Toss in the basil and then the bread. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving with extra toast to dunk in the salad juices.
Salad Two:  Cherry Tomato-Ricotta Salata Salad
Serves 6
2½ pounds cherry or pear tomatoes, cored and cut in half, lengthwise OR plum tomatoes, cored, seeded, and diced
1 medium red onion, peeled and finely diced
¼ bunch flat-leaf parsley, leaves only, chopped
½ teaspoon ground sumac
6 tablespoons fruity extra virgin olive oil
¼ pound ricotta salata, crumbled
Coarse salt and cracked black pepper to taste
Combine the tomatoes, onions, parsley, and sumac in a large container. Add the olive oil, tossing to coat well. Toss in the cheese and let stand 5 minutes. Taste and season with salt and cracked black pepper. Serve immediately or store, covered and refrigerated for up to 8 hours.
Sidebar: What are heirloom tomatoes? For the most part, they are tomatoes raised from seeds saved from those days when tomatoes could just be tomatoes, not perfect, uniformly red and round, firm-fleshed, shippable globes. There are many, many different varieties, colors, shapes, and flavors. They might be red, yellow, multi-colored with stripes and speckles, purple, green, or pink. Heirlooms are generally misshapen or, at best, oddly shaped, but, oh, what flavor. Even supermarkets offer them occasionally along with very sweet and deeply flavorful, small cherry or pear-shaped tomatoes. But they really stand out at summer’s farm stands and farmer’s markets.
Chris on Vinegar: For years, I simply poured the remains of opened wine down the drain. As the volume increased from tastings that I do almost daily for my staff and customers, I decided that I should try to make vinegar. Partly it was a matter of economy as I hated to waste all that great (and sometimes not so great) wine, partly it was to create something of my own, and last, but not in any way the least, I wanted to have something that I had made to give to my friends and business associates at Christmastime - much as I had seen mom do throughout my life.
When I first started, it was simply pouring the remaining wine from a mix of bottles into a clean glass container. That led to buying a barrel and all of the vinegar making accoutrements. Then, Canada joined in and created a label for our brew. Our vinegar has been a great success – we are now getting requests for refills. The pleasure that we feel in creating something that is ours alone is even more rewarding.
Just Everyday Meals
The Chicken Pot Pie That Nana Made and We All Still Make
Serves 6 to 8
Chris: Longing for home on a chilly, foggy San Francisco afternoon, I decided to make a chicken pot pie. I was feeling a bit challenged as I wasn’t sure that I could live up to my pot pie heritage. Nana (aka “MooMoo”), mom’s mom, made the flakiest crust you have ever tasted and I had spent my teenage years living off of the acclaimed savory pies that mom made at her bakery. I called mom and got the basic recipe, did my shopping, and announced to my daughter Canada that we were going to have a “MooMoo” dinner. I was worried that I had overestimated my skills but forged ahead. I was aiming for Nana’s light buttery crust and a pie that could be cut into nice even pieces with just a modest oozing of gravy. But although the finished pie looked terrific, the crust wasn’t as flaky as I had hoped and the filling ran all over the place once I cut into it. Didn’t matter one bit—Canada loved it and so did I.
Determined to master the craft, we added chicken pie to our favorite menu list. After a few tries, I like to think that mine is now equal to Nana’s. I always use organic vegetables, but conventional can easily be substituted.
Canada: I love making chicken pie with my dad—it’s a family affair. My favorite job is peeling the potatoes. Then when it goes in the oven the clock just seems to move in slow motion. But it’s worth the wait, because when we finally sit down to eat, I feel immediately warm and cozy and I get filled up real fast. Eating the leftovers in my lunch the next day is great, too.
SIDEBAR from Judie: My mother made extraordinary pastry as did my father’s sister, Mary Frances. Their skill intimidated me and, until I decided to make pot pies commercially, I never made my own pastry, I would always ask mom to make it for me. So, when business called I had to spend many, many hours carefully watching her make her famous pie dough. She worked with me and my dear friend, Hu Pope, who would be making the pastry daily in the bakery, torturing us with her skill and our ineptitude. Of course, the fact that she never measured anything and kept telling us that it was all in the feel didn’t help either. We eventually got it, but I still believe that it was mainly the use of a big Hobart mixer and a commercial pie shell press, which kept our hot hands from touching the dough, that gave our acclaimed pastry the same flaky texture of her homemade dough. Years in the bakery eventually eliminated all intimidation and now I fearlessly tackle pastry making. I usually do a fine job but I still miss my mom’s touch. Since I made chicken pies every day for ten years, today I generally leave their preparation to the kids, except for those chilly days when I most miss my mom.
When I was a child, chicken pie was often made from leftover roast chicken and gravy. It is one of those homey dishes that can be made in almost any way— the chicken can be dark and white meat, all white meat, chopped, shredded, cubed, or turkey; the vegetables can be cubed, diced, sliced (Chris’ method), or chunked; mushrooms, fennel, squash, or other ingredients added. You get the picture. This is the basic recipe—it’s up to you to make it your own.
One 4-pound chicken, rinsed and cut into pieces (or 2 pounds boneless,
skinless chicken breasts cooked in about 3 cups canned, fat-free, low-sodium chicken broth)
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Nana’s Flaky Pie Crust (recipe follows)
4 organic carrots, well-washed, trimmed, and cubed
3 medium organic potatoes, well-washed and cubed
1 organic onion, peeled and diced
1 cup frozen petit peas, thawed
2½ tablespoons chicken fat or butter
2½ tablespoons sifted all-purpose flour
Place the chicken in a heavy saucepan, cover with cold water, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Place over high heat and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer, cover, and cook for about 1 hour or until the chicken is cooked through. Remove from the heat and strain through a fine sieve, separately reserving the chicken and cooking liquid. Set aside to cool.
While the chicken is cooking, make and roll out the pastry. Fit one piece into a 10-inch pie plate. Set aside.
When cool, remove and discard the chicken skin. Pull the meat from the bones and, if necessary, cut it into bite-sized pieces. Place the meat in a heatproof bowl and discard the bones. Set the meat aside.
Preheat the oven to 450ºF.
Pour 3 cups of the reserved cooking liquid into a large saucepan. Place over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Add the carrots, potatoes, and onion and again bring to a boil. Season with salt and pepper to taste, lower the heat, and simmer for about 12 minutes or just until the vegetables are barely cooked. Remove from the heat and stir in the peas. Strain the vegetables, separately reserving the vegetables and the liquid.
Place the chicken fat or butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. When melted, stir in the flour. When blended, whisk in 2 cups of the hot broth, cooking for about 5 minutes or until the broth has thickened. Pour the thickened gravy over the chicken meat. Add the vegetables, gently folding the mixture together. If the mixture seems too thick, fold in some of the remaining un-thickened cooking liquid.
Pour the mixture into the prepared pie plate. Fold the top crust in half over the rolling pin, lift, and place over the filling. Unfold to cover the filling and attach to the bottom crust by pressing the excess dough from the edge of the top and bottom crust together with your fingertips. Fold the pressed dough edge up and inward, making a rim around the edge of the pie. Starting at the edge opposite you, pinch the dough between your thumb and index finger around the edge of the pie at about ¾ inch intervals, forming a fluted design. (The pie may be made up to this point and stored, well-wrapped and frozen, for up to 3 months).
Place the pie on a baking sheet in the preheated oven and bake for 15 minutes. Lower the heat to 350ºF for an additional 20 minutes or until the crust is golden and the filling is almost bubbling out.
Mickey’s Big Birthday
Grammie’s Gargouillou (Homage à Bras)
Time does pass quickly, particularly when you are having fun. And, I can assure you I’ve had a lot of that; however, I woke up one day to realize that my first-born was going to be as old as I thought I was and that wasn’t such a riot. I couldn’t believe how many years had elapsed since I held that baby boy in my arms for the first time. But it so it was, and there was nothing to do but celebrate.
As we all now know, Mickey is the ultimate foodie so his 50th birthday celebration was based around all the foods and people he loves. The West Coast Choates (Chris, Heather, and Canada) flew in for the weekend and we all spent 3 days together. The first day we shopped in the Union Square Greenmarket in the morning (for Saturday’s feast), followed by lunch at Gramercy Tavern, one of Mickey’s favorite New York City restaurants. We then all reconvened in Mickey’s kitchen on Saturday to cook and cook and cook and eat and eat and eat and drink and drink and drink. The late morning started the festivities with champagne (Mickey’s favorite, Billecart-Salmon and Chris’ favorite Henriot) and oysters and went on throughout the day to complete eleven French-inspired courses.

Each of us had assignments, Grammie’s Gargouillou (Homage à Bras), an elevated arrangement of vegetables and fruit from the Greenmarket, was mine. This was a tribute to Chef Michel Bras (in case you don’t know him—a much esteemed French chef who owns Restaurant Bras in Laguiole, France), which we called “homage à Bras” as it was based on his famous vegetable dish “la gargouillou.” On the actual shopping day, I went to the Greenmarket with $200 in my pocket and had nothing left after buying all of the pristine veggies and flowers I needed for my composition. There is no recipe— you can, if you like, poach or steam some of the vegetables. Chef Bras gathers his from his garden and the surrounding countryside and lets their freshness shine. I left all of mine raw as they seemed to be able to stand as Mother Nature made them. I toasted a brioche to an almost inedible darkness to create some “dirt” for the plate. I then made a little sauce of puréed parsley, orange zest, a bit of orange juice, and extra virgin olive oil to add just a streak or two to the tray and to dip the delicate veggies in. It was almost too beautiful to eat.
What Would We Do Without Pizza and Pasta?
Meatballs and Spaghetti
Serves 6 to 8
I hadn’t made meatballs and spaghetti since the “boys” had left home until a few years ago when Steve seemed to crave the dish. Just like riding a bike, once you’ve made meatballs the recipe and the routine seem to be second nature so it didn’t take long before I had a freezer full of the little guys.
I remember being taught to make Italian style meatballs—we sometimes forget that there are other types—by a neighbor who was from southern Italy when I was about nine or ten. The one thing that she did that I don’t often see in a meatball recipe is to add a finely grated carrot. She also used a mixture of beef and pork with a little sausage but, nowadays, I use either very lean ground beef or lean ground turkey (which, by the way, if you are using for fat and calorie reduction, be sure to check the label or with the butcher—much of the ground turkey in the supermarket meat fridge is not particularly lean at all).
I make marinara sauce in batches so I always have a freezer full of this all-purpose tomato sauce. I only use and strongly recommend Pomi tomatoes for any tomato-based sauce as there are absolutely no additives, including salt. They are available in sterile boxes from most supermarkets.
With both meatballs and sauce on hand in my freezer nowadays you can count on me having the makings of a quick Italian dinner all year round.
Marinara Sauce
Makes about 4 quarts
¼ cup olive oil
Sliced or chopped garlic to taste (I generally use at least 10 cloves)
3 boxes Pomi strained tomatoes
3 boxes Pomi chopped tomatoes
About ¼ cup fresh basil leaves or 1½ teaspoons dried basil or to taste
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Red pepper flakes to taste, optional
Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven or other large nonreactive pot over medium heat. When just warm, stir in the garlic and cook for a minute or so – do not brown. Add the tomatoes and basil. Season with salt and pepper (and red pepper flakes, if using) and bring to a simmer. Simmer for no more than 15 minutes or just until nicely seasoned. Taste and, if necessary, add about ½ teaspoon sugar to heighten tomato flavor and additional salt and pepper.
Use as is for a pasta sauce or as a sauce for pizza or as a base for meat sauces, stews, or casseroles.
Makes about 20
2 pounds lean ground beef or turkey or a mixture of ground beef, pork, and veal
(you can add ½ pound of crumbled Italian sausage in place of ½ pound of the meat)
3 large eggs
1 small onion, peeled and grated
1 small carrot, trimmed, peeled, and grated
2 tablespoons minced fresh flat leaf parsley
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 cup fresh bread crumbs
Salt and pepper to taste
Approximately ⅓ cup cool water
Olive oil for frying (not extra virgin)
Place the meat in a medium mixing bowl. Add the eggs, onion, carrot, parsley, and garlic, mixing lightly to begin to combine. Add the bread crumbs and salt and pepper along with about half of the water. Mix gently to just combine but don’t over-mix or the mixture will tighten up and the cooked meatballs will be tough. If the mixture seems dry, add the remaining water. Gently and quickly form the meat mixture into 2-inch round balls by rolling it between your palms. Set the balls aside as they are formed.
Heat a thin layer of olive oil in a large cast iron or other heavy skillet. When very hot, but not smoking, begin adding the meatballs without crowding the pan. Fry, turning frequently, for about 5 minutes or until nicely browned on all sides. Using a slotted spoon, remove to a double layer of paper towel to drain. If necessary, wipe out the pan and add fresh oil to continue frying until all meatballs have been browned.
At this point, you can add them to a gently simmering pot of marinara sauce and cook for about 30 minutes or until the meatballs are cooked through and the sauce has taken on some of their flavor. Or you can freeze them for later use. If the latter, place the meatballs on a sheet pan in a single layer in the freezer. When frozen, pack in containers or resealable plastic bags. Label and date and freeze until ready to use.
We All Love Dessert
Devil’s Food Cake
Makes one 9-inch, 2-layer cake or 8-inch, 3-layer cake
Devil’s Food Cake was my childhood favorite breakfast – a big slice of cake with a glass of farm-fresh milk. Perhaps that’s why I was buying my dresses in the Chubbiette section! My mom always topped her cake with the traditional 7-Minute Frosting, which she made in a double boiler; I share her recipe as well as a quicker, easier version. With the latter, a heavy-duty, standing electric mixer will speed the process considerably. In our family, Canada has now made this cake her own, and it is quite wonderful for me to see it find a place in the heart of the next generation.
Nowadays, the favorite American bakery specialty appears to be Red Velvet Cake, which is nothing more than this old-fashioned cake with a mad dash of red food coloring. Mom’s recipe lacks the bright red color, but is moist, deeply flavored, and absolutely homemade delicious. And, inexpensive to make and keeps extremely well— if you don’t eat it for breakfast!
2½ cups all-purpose flour, sifted
½ cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1½ teaspoons baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
¾ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
½ cup light brown sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1½ cups sour milk (see Note)
Seven Minute Frosting (recipe follows) or Quick Seven Minute Frosting (recipe follows)
Preheat the oven to 325ºF.
Lightly spray two 9-inch round or three 8-inch round cake pans with nonstick vegetable spray (or butter and flour them). Line the bottom of each pan with a parchment paper round and lightly spray the paper with nonstick vegetable spray (or coat with butter).
Sift the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt together. Set aside.
Place the butter in the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with the paddle. Beat on medium until softened. Add the granulated and brown sugars and beat on medium-high until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the vanilla and beat to blend.
Lower the speed to medium and begin adding the sifted dry ingredients alternately with the sour milk, scraping down the sides of the bowl and beating until well combined. Place an equal amount of the batter into each of the prepared pans, gently smoothing the top of each one.
Place in the preheated oven and bake for about 25 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean.
Remove from the oven and let stand for 5 minutes. Then, invert onto wire racks to cool completely. Remove and discard the parchment paper.
When cool, place one layer, bottom up, on a cake plate. Coat with frosting and top with the final (or second) layer. If making a two-layer cake, completely cover with the remaining frosting. If making a three layer cake, coat the top of the second layer with frosting and place the final layer on top. Then, completely cover the entire cake with the remaining frosting.
Serve at room temperature. Do not refrigerate or the frosting will turn sticky and wet.
Traditional 7-Minute Frosting
3 large egg whites, at room temperature
1⅓ cups superfine sugar
¼ cup water
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
½ teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
If you have a double boiler large enough to hold the frosting, use it. Otherwise, fill a pot that is large enough to hold the heatproof bowl you will be using to make the frosting with enough water to cover about ⅓ of the bowl. Place over high heat and bring to a simmer.
Combine the egg whites with the sugar, water, corn syrup, and cream of tartar in a large heatproof bowl. Place over the simmering water and, using a hand-held mixer, beat on low until well-blended. Raise the speed and continue to beat until the mixture reads 140ºF on an instant-read thermometer. Add the vanilla and continue to beat for 7 minutes or until the mixture is glossy and holds stiff peaks when lifted. Remove from the heat and continue to beat for about 5 minutes or until cooled slightly. Use immediately. 
Quick 7-Minute Frosting
3 large egg whites, at room temperature
¼ teaspoon salt
⅜ cup superfine sugar
1⅛ cups light corn syrup
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Place the egg whites and salt in the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with the whip. Beat on low until frothy. Raise the speed to high and beat until fluffy. Add the sugar and beat until glossy. Then, add the syrup and vanilla and continue beating for about 5 minutes or until frosting is very glossy and holds a stiff peak when lifted. Use immediately.
We All Love Dessert
Apple Pizza
Makes one large pizza
This is my go-to fall and winter dessert; it never fails to please. I think I began making it when we owned MOM, our pie shop, and I would tire of making the same 3-inch or 9-inch double-crust pies. Since we were an all-American shop, I didn’t want to do a classic French tart so I devised this presentation. I cut the apples by hand so, unfortunately, each one has its own shape, but I do try to keep all of the slices fairly thin. I use whatever apples are local and in season that seem to be crisp and a bit tart, but I particularly like very large Honeycrisps. You can make the pie in a metal pizza pan or directly on a pizza stone.
1 recipe Nana’s Flaky Pie Pastry (see page TBD)
2 tablespoons Wondra flour plus more for dusting
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1½ pounds (approximately) crisp, tart apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
Juice of 1 lemon
3 tablespoons apple cider
3 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
Preheat the oven to 375ºF.
Lightly flour a clean, flat workspace using Wondra flour.
Place the dough in the center of the work surface and lightly flour the top of the pastry. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough out to a circle about 1 inch larger in diameter than your pizza pan. Carefully fold the dough over the rolling pin and transfer it to the pan. Gently fold in the edges and crimp.
Mix the 2 tablespoons Wondra flour with the cinnamon.
Place the apples in a large mixing bowl and sprinkle with the flour/cinnamon mixture. Add the lemon juice and cider and gently toss to coat. Drizzle in the butter and again toss to coat.
Carefully arrange the seasoned apple slices in slightly overlapping concentric circles over the entire top of the pastry.
Place in the preheated oven and bake for about 40 minutes or until the crust is golden and the apples are tender, caramelized, and beginning to crisp on the edges. Remove from the oven and let rest for about 15 minutes before cutting into wedges. Serve as is or with vanilla, caramel, cinnamon, or dulce de leche ice cream, whipped cream, or vanilla Greek-style yogurt.
Scotch Eggs
Although I am more than aware that Easter is an important religious holiday, I have always associated it with dying eggs. For as long as I can remember I have loved to color eggs and then have an Easter egg hunt after the bunny’s arrival. Well into my teens, Easter was a big deal in my family—I always got a new outfit (including shoes—either white or patent leather) to wear to church (to which there might have been two trips —one for the sunrise service and one later in the morning), the Easter bunny hid the eggs I had colored and generously left a beautiful basket filled with chocolate and marzipan, and my mom cooked up a feast to welcome spring— usually with a ham at the center of the table.
All these years later I still color eggs just for my own pleasure and to have on hand to make Greek Easter bread. But, I’m always left with the problem of what to do with all of the eggs that remain, particularly because doctor’s orders say I’m not supposed to eat them.
One of my mom’s favorite ways to use up an Easter basket of hard cooked eggs was to make Scotch eggs. I don’t know if this was because she was Scots, herself, or if it was just gave her a reason to make a fancy dish out of everyday food. Hers is less of a recipe and more of a simple guideline depending on how many left over Easter eggs you have, but if you’d like to try them, here is what you do:
Peel hard cooked eggs. Make sure that the outside is a bit damp and lightly dust them with flour.
Carefully enclose each whole egg with un-cooked, loose, breakfast sausage meat, making a thin, even layer. Then (as if that isn’t enough!) dip the eggs in beaten egg seasoned with pepper, and generously coat with breadcrumbs (Panko would be good to add that extra crunch).
Now comes the good part—this cardiologist’s nightmare gets deep-fried in a pot of vegetable oil.
Elegant ladies often served these with Mornay sauce (a simple béchamel sauce with a bit of shredded or grated cheese added, usually Gruyere or Parmesan).

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