Inn at Little Washington Cookbook: A Consuming Passion

Inn at Little Washington Cookbook: A Consuming Passion

by Patrick O'Connell
     
 

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This cookbook is the distillation of a life's work by a self-taught American chef who learned to cook by reading cookbooks and went on to become one of the world's most renowned chefs. O'Connell began his career with a catering business in an old farmhouse, cooking on a wood stove with an electric frying pan purchased for $1.49 at a garage sale. (The pan was used for

Overview

This cookbook is the distillation of a life's work by a self-taught American chef who learned to cook by reading cookbooks and went on to become one of the world's most renowned chefs. O'Connell began his career with a catering business in an old farmhouse, cooking on a wood stove with an electric frying pan purchased for $1.49 at a garage sale. (The pan was used for boiling, sautéeing and deep frying for parties of up to 300 guests.) This experience sharpened his awareness of how much could be done with very little. The catering business evolved into a country restaurant and Inn which opened in 1978 in a defunct garage and which is now America's only 5 star Inn.  Craig Claiborne raves, "the most magnificent inn I've ever seen, in this country or Europe, where I had the most fantastic meal of my life."

This is not a typical "Chef's Cookbook" filled with esoteric, egomanical, and impossibly complicated recipes which only a wizard with a staff of eighty would ever attempt to produce. Rather, the recipes assembled here make up a practiced, finely honed repertoire of elegant, simple and straight-forward dishes. Everyday ingredients are elevated to new heights through surprising combinations and seductive presentations. []A Consuming Passion[] propels the home cook into a new world of American Haute Cuisine and provides the formulas for reproducing it at home. Careful and detailed instructions, all written by the author, assure success.

Tim Turner's luscious photographs capture the playful but elegant spirit of the food and introduce the reader to some of the charming local characters who provide products for the Inn's kitchen as well as taking the reader on a delightful and romantic culinary journey throughout the Virginia countryside surrounding the small town affectionately known as "Little" Washington and reveals an America we thought was lost forever.

Editorial Reviews

bn.com
A Cooking Class with Patrick O'Connell

After watching Patrick O'Connell regale the audience at New York cooking school De Gustibus at Macy's with hilarious stories from his childhood and from his two decades running The Inn at Little Washington with partner Reinhardt Lynch, no one was surprised when he revealed that he grew up wanting to become an actor.

Great Pee-Wee Herman imitation notwithstanding, it's lucky for lovers of great food everywhere that his drama career was sidetracked by the catering business he started in the Shenandoah Valley, which eventually evolved into the sublime establishment known to its many devotees simply as The Inn. But even more entertaining than O'Connell's anecdotes to the audience of gourmands at De Gustibus were the fabulous dishes he demonstrated from his new book, The Inn at Little Washington Cookbook.

About Patrick O'Connell and The Inn at Little Washington Cookbook

Anyone who's tasted O'Connell's complex, impeccably fresh cooking will find it hard to believe he wasn't formally trained. "I learned to cook from books," he said. Now he's written his own. The Inn at Little Washington Cookbook is one of the most beautiful cookbooks to be released in recent years—it was nominated this year for a James Beard Award for Best Food Photography. Stunning images not only of the finished dishes but also of the Shenandoah countryside and of the fruits and vegetables from the Inn's gardens and nearby farms grace every page.

It's a pleasure to browse through, but cooking from it is even more satisfying. Though there are plenty of simple recipes, many of the dishes are challenging for the home cook; O'Connell's food is refined, with many layers of flavors, and the dishes are always beautifully garnished and presented. O'Connell deliberately wrote the book this way: "I think too many chefs' cookbooks are oversimplified," he said. "It's disappointing when you eat at a wonderful restaurant and you want to replicate a dish you loved exactly. It's impossible to do if it's been simplified too far in a book." So he's taken a different approach for the home cook. Each recipe is broken down into sections, or segments, so that you can do as much or as little as you want. "If you don't want to do the garnish, you can skip it," O'Connell said, "or do just one sauce instead of two. It's really very approachable...even for the novice cook."

About the Menu

O'Connell began the demonstration with a simple but delicious recipe for spiced pecans, which were used to garnish the cheese-course salads that followed the entrée. They were crisp and addictive, seasoned with cumin, brown sugar, and a hint of cayenne. "If they're too spicy for you," he said, "just cut down on the cayenne. It's a matter of taste. There's never any right or wrong about taste." The Miniature Caramelized Onion Tartlets were made with a heavenly croissant dough and filled with savory custard and caramelized onions cooked down nearly to jam. We drank a dry and refreshing sparkling wine, the Domaine Carneros Brut from the French producer Taittinger's vineyard in the Napa Valley, as we nibbled on the pecans and the tartlets. A lovely herbal Sauvignon Blanc from Napa's Cakebread Cellars was poured with the entrée, an elegant grilled poussin served over a lacy potato galette, accompanied by thin green beans dressed simply with nutty browned butter. Marinated in vinegar steeped with blackberries, the flesh of the little chickens had turned a gorgeous purply blue and was full of succulent flavor.

The poussin was followed by what O'Connell called the cheese course: the Miniature "Croque Monsieur" on Field Greens. It turned out to be an incredible dish—a small wedge of Brie that had been wrapped in filo dough and sautéed until crisp on the outside and deliciously runny within, contrasting perfectly with the cool, lightly dressed fresh greens. The spicy pecans were sprinkled atop. The dessert took the prize for the most visually arresting dish of the evening: the Rhubarb Pizza consisted of a round of flaky, sweet dough topped with sauce (rhubarb/raspberry puree in place of tomato) and thin strips of rhubarb, decorated with thin slices of strawberry to mock pepperoni, dried cherries instead of black olives, and toasted pistachios for green olives. O'Connell suggests bringing the pizza to the table hot, and offering guests a sprinkle of "Parmesan" (really grated white chocolate) as the final touch. Then he slices up the pizza in wedges, just like the real thing, and serves it with a lovely ginger ice cream.

Tips from Patrick O'Connell

  • An elegant idea for serving soup from The Inn at Little Washington: a demitasse espresso cup. "We offer a demitasse of soup to begin every meal at the restaurant. It's a wonderful way to get just a taste but to not take the place of a more complex appetizer," O'Connell explained. "I love the idea, and I always like to pass it along to others. It works well for cocktail parties, also: Bring out a tray with little demitasse cups and saucers with a beautiful seasonal soup—hot, cold, whatever. People can sip it and put it down. It's just the right amount."

  • A small bird like a poussin, quail, or game hen is particularly elegant when it's completely deboned first: "You can serve it with a knife and a fork and cut right through it-- people are so delightfully surprised," O'Connell said. Poultry shears and a small sharp knife are the best tools for this delicate job. Lay the bird breast side down and first snip off the wing tips at the second joint. Then use the shears to cut along both sides of the backbone to remove it completely. Flip the bird over, and with the knife, make a small incision along the center of the breastbone, and then remove the breastbone with your fingers. Remove the rib bones from the breast meat by gently running the knife point under the bones. Do the same thing with the thigh bone, keeping the knife point against the bone. You can leave the very last bone in the leg in place. "Your butcher can do this for you too," O'Connell said. The deboned birds lay completely flat, so they cook very quickly and burn easily. O'Connell advises "par-grilling:" grilling briefly to crisp the skin, then finishing in the oven.

  • Don't forget to take the time to appreciate the pleasures of working with food. "Food is therapeutic," O'Connell said. "All you have to do when you're having a bad day is touch food—grab some dough, or take the advice of a ladies' magazine that once said what to do if you're feeling suicidal: bake cookies. When you finish, you will be reconnected, you will feel like a productive human being. You will have basically performed a miracle—that's what the joy of it is."

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780679447368
Publisher:
Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
11/28/1996
Pages:
208
Sales rank:
504,954
Product dimensions:
9.39(w) x 11.79(h) x 0.90(d)

What People are saying about this

Larry King
One of the best and most romantic restaurants in the world is finally in print.
Mike Nichols
There are few places in the world where I would rather eat than The Inn at Little Washington.
Willard Scott
What a treasure this book is! Not only fastastic recipes, but a beautiful picture of our beloved Virginia countryside.
Craig Claiborne
Patrick O'Connell is one of the greatest American chefs. This beautiful book is an excellent reflection of the food he prepares and serves at The Inn at Little Washington.
David Brinkley
If there is a finer restaurant in the United States, I have not found it.
Daniel Boulud
Patrick O'Connell's style of cooking truly captures the harmony between the rich bounty of rural Virginia and the stylish elegance of The Inn at Little Washington. With this beautiful book, O'Connell raises his artistry to new heights.
Alice Waters
This book will transport you to the utterly extraordinary Inn at Little Washington, where the food depends upon local farmers and ranchers, whose glorious produce shines through these enchanging recipes.

Meet the Author

A native of Washington D.C., Patrick O'Connell began his culinary career at the age of fifteen, working in a neighborhood restaurant after school. As a drama student at Catholic University of America, he financed his education working as a waiter. In 1972, together with Reinhardt Lynch, O'Connell began a catering enterprise in the Shenandoah Valley that eventually evolved into The Inn at Little Washington.

A member of the prestigious Paris-based Relais and Chateau Association, The Inn received the first perfect score in the history of the Zagat rating system. The James Beard Awards named Patrick O'Connell Best Chef of the Mid-Atlantic region in 1993 and selected The Inn at Little Washington as Restaurant of the Year. O'Connell was one of the original inductees into "Who's Who of Food and Beverage in America." He lives in Washington, Virginia.

Tim Turner is a preeminent food photographer. His previous books include Charlie Trotter's and Vegetables also by Charlie Trotter. His photographs have appeared in Food and Wine, Bon Appetit and Ladies' Home Journal, among other publications, as well as numerous advertisements.

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