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Patrick O'Connell's Refined American Cuisine: The Inn at Little Washington

Patrick O'Connell's Refined American Cuisine: The Inn at Little Washington

by Patrick O'Connell, Tim Turner (Photographer)

Patrick O'Connell is often referred to as the Pope of American Cuisine. He is one of the pioneers in our country's culinary evolution over the last quarter century. Selecting The Inn at Little Washington as one of the top ten restaurants in the world, Patricia Wells hails O'Connell as "a rare chef with a sense of near-perfect taste, like a musician with perfect


Patrick O'Connell is often referred to as the Pope of American Cuisine. He is one of the pioneers in our country's culinary evolution over the last quarter century. Selecting The Inn at Little Washington as one of the top ten restaurants in the world, Patricia Wells hails O'Connell as "a rare chef with a sense of near-perfect taste, like a musician with perfect pitch." As a self-taught chef who learned to cook by reading cookbooks, he has a unique ability to write recipes that are easy to follow and that produce delicious results. In this groundbreaking work, O'Connell celebrates the coming-of-age of American cooking and illustrates that we at last have our own equivalent to the haute cuisine of the great chefs of Europe. He manages to demonstrate that reproducing his versions of refined American cuisine is not only surprisingly doable but often easier than replicating the classic American dishes we grew up with. O'Connell offers vastly refined versions of his favorite American food: Macaroni and Cheese with Virginia Country Ham, Wild Mushroom Pizza, Crab Cake "Sandwich" with Fried Green Tomatoes, Pan-Roasted Maine Lobster with Rosemary Cream, Veal Medallions with Country Ham Ravioli, and Warm Plum Torte with Sweet Corn Ice Cream. All the recipes use readily available ingredients and are written in a clear, easy-to-follow voice - the voice of a self-taught chef who wants to share his love of food and hard-earned expertise. But even more refreshing than the delectable recipes are O'Connell's musings on his upbringing, American food, and entertaining. Reading this warm, witty book is the next best thing to dining at The Inn at Little Washington. Cooking from it is even better!

Editorial Reviews

Twenty-six years ago, self-taught chef Patrick O'Connell opened a small restaurant in Little Washington, Virginia (population 192). Located in a former garage on Main Street, The Inn at Little Washington became a culinary landmark, gaining Mobil's five-star ratings year after year and winning Zagat's coveted top restaurant award in 2003. O'Connell, now a James Beard Award winner, has achieved personal fame far beyond his Virginia countryside origins: His book The Inn at Little Washington: A Consuming Passion is a bestseller. In Refined American Cuisine, the man Patricia Wells extolled as "a rare chef with a sense of near-perfect taste" shares his secrets, offering refined versions of his favorite American food.
Korby Cummer
Although he's one of the most celebrated professional chefs in the country, O'Connell taught himself to cook by reading the best books of the late 1960's and 70's, and at heart his food is gussied-up home cooking. Today's apprentice hosts and hostesses can impress their guests with his recipes for camembert triangles in phyllo dough and veal medallions with country ham ravioli. Maybe O'Connell's ability to tell a good story -- another key to successful entertaining -- will inspire them too.
The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
The great chef Patrick O'Connell went to college to please his parents. "They bought into the American dream, believing that their children should never have to toil, sweat, or perform physical labor," he writes in his extraordinary new cookbook (after The Inn at Little Washington: A Consuming Passion). Like many people of their generation, O'Connell's parents considered working in a restaurant to be a lower order of work that people resorted to if they couldn't get a higher education. But O'Connell, who taught himself to cook by reading cookbooks, became part of the revolution in American cuisine over the 25 years that changed that perception. Eventually (with his partner Reinhardt Lynch), O'Connell turned a former gas station in the Virginia countryside into one of the most sumptuous and original restaurants and inns in the world. There, happily sweating and toiling, he set about refining many of the dishes of his all-American Irish Catholic childhood: fish sticks on Friday night became Sole Fingers with Green Herb Mayonnaise. The recipes collected here, which O'Connell explains with warmth and simplicity and introduces with wonderfully funny memories from his baby boomer childhood, demonstrate that the greatest American cooking is more than a version of regional cuisine. Like Alice Waters and other pioneers in the American culinary revolution, O'Connell is obsessive about using fresh local meats and produce. But he adds another ingredient-a twist of insight and witty invention. O'Connell gives us Lilliputian Bacon, Lettuce, and Tomato Sandwiches; Macaroni and Cheese with Virginia Country Ham (and smoked gouda) and Spruced Up Turkey (which garnishes a brined turkey with spruce branches to impart a wild and woodsy taste). He shows that true refinement has to do with simplicity, with being exquisitely sensitive yet free enough from convention to perceive and to make just the right gesture. Arriving at a time when there is so much fear that European cultivation and ethnic depth is being wiped out by American brand name sameness, this cookbook is a jewel-and a watershed. O'Connell shows the world how deep and cultivated American cuisine can be. 230 photos. (Sept.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

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Read an Excerpt

Patrick O'Connell's Refined American Cuisine

By Patrick O'Connell Tim Turner

Bulfinch Press

Copyright © 2004 Patrick O'Connell
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-821-22845-5

Chapter One

Bourbon Pecan Waffles

Bourbon, buttermilk, and pecans give these waffles a deep Southern accent and a luscious taste and texture. Our favorite way to serve them is simply with pecan halves cooled in a little butter, bourbon, and maple syrup. Your guests just might be drawlin' for more.

Makes about 8 waffles

Pecan-Butter Syrup

1/2 pound (2 sticks) butter 1 cup pecan halves 1 cup maple syrup 1/4 cup bourbon


Nonstick cooking spray 2 eggs, separated 1 cup all-purpose flour 1 cup chopped pecans 2 tablespoons sugar 1/4 pound (1 stick) butter, melted 1/2 cup bourbon 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 2 teaspoons baking powder 1 1/2 cups buttermilk 1/2 cup creme fraiche (for garnish)

To Make the Pecan-Butter Syrup

1. In a 10-inch skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the pecan halves. Cook for about 3 minutes, stirring constantly, until the pecans are well toasted and lightly colored.

2. Just as the butter begins to foam, pour in the maple syrup.

3. Remove the skillet from the heat and carefully add the bourbon. Return heat and cook the mixture for 1 more minute. This syrup may be made well in advance and rewarmed before serving.

To Make the Waffles

1. Spray a waffle iron with nonstick cooking spray and preheat it. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.

2. In a mixing bowl, whip the egg whites to medium-stiff peaks.

3. Combine the egg yolks, flour, pecans, sugar, butter, bourbon, vanilla extract, baking powder, and buttermilk in a food processor and mix until smooth. Transfer this mixture to a large mixing bowl and fold in the egg whites.

4. With a ladle, fill the waffle iron with batter and cook until the waffle is golden brown, about 8 minutes. Place the waffle on a wire rack on a baking sheet and keep warm in the oven. Continue in the same manner until all the batter is used.

5. Serve the waffles with pecan-butter syrup and a dollop of creme fraiche.

Lemon and Black Pepper Risotto

This vibrant, refreshing, and lemony risotto can be made in advance, refrigerated for several days, and finished in a few minutes just before serving. It makes a wonderful first course, or it can be served as an accompaniment to grilled fish or chicken.

Serves 6

Risotto Base

2 cups chicken stock, Vegetable Stock, or water 2 tablespoons butter 2 tablespoons olive oil 1/2 large onion, minced 1 cup Arborio rice

To Finish and Serve the Risotto

1 1/2 cups (approximately) chicken stock, Vegetable Stock, or water 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese 2 tablespoons butter Salt and coarsely ground black pepper to taste 2 tablespoons lemon juice 1 tablespoon lemon zest Pale green leaves of celery hearts (for garnish)

For the Risotto Base

1. In a 2-quart saucepan, bring the stock or water to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat and keep the stock just below boiling.

2. In another 2-quart saucepan, heat the butter and oil. Add the onion and cook until translucent.

3. Add the rice and stir until it is evenly coated with the butter-oil mixture.

4. Slowly add the hot stock to the rice, 2/3 cup at a time, stirring constantly until the rice absorbs the liquid. This should take about 4 to 5 minutes for each addition.

5. When all the stock has been absorbed, remove the risotto from the stove and pour onto a baking sheet to stop the cooking and cool as quickly as possible. (The rice will still taste a bit raw in the center.) Refrigerate, uncovered, until cold. The risotto base can then be stored in a covered plastic container for up to 2 days.

To Finish and Serve the Risotto

1. Bring the stock or water to a boil.

2. Place the chilled risotto in a 4-quart saucepan over medium heat. Pour 11/2 cups of the boiling stock slowly into the risotto, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Continue cooking until the rice is just barely tender but still al dente.

3. Stir in the cheese and butter, adjusting the consistency with more stock if the risotto becomes too thick. Season with salt and coarsely ground black pepper. Remove from heat and add the lemon juice and zest.

4. Divide the risotto into 6 warm soup plates and garnish with celery leaves.

Bay Scallops with Mushrooms, Peppers, and Grilled Italian Sausage

I've always loved the lusty combination of scallops, peppers, and Italian sausage. In this dish we use tiny, succulent Nantucket Bay scallops and sometimes present them as a first course served in a scallop shell. If bay scallops are unobtainable, larger sea scallops may be substituted.

In order for the scallops to turn a lovely golden-brown color, it is essential that they be thoroughly dried before you attempt to saute them. A spritz of Pernod just before serving perfumes the scallops with the fragrance of fennel.

Serves 6

1/2 cup plus a few drops vegetable oil 3 sweet Italian sausages 2 red bell peppers, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes 2 green bell peppers, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes 18 white button mushrooms, quartered 1 tablespoon minced garlic 2 pounds fresh bay scallops Juice of 1 lemon 3 tablespoons butter 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

To Serve

2 tablespoons Pernod 1 cup Red Pepper Coulis

1. Pour a few drops of vegetable oil into a small saute pan, add the sausages, and cook over medium heat until they are lightly browned and cooked through. Drain the sausages on paper towels. Set aside and keep warm.

2. In a large saute pan, heat half of the vegetable oil over high heat. Add the peppers and mushrooms. Saute quickly for several minutes. Add 1/2 tablespoon of garlic and saute for 1 more minute. Remove from the pan and keep warm.

3. Slice each sausage on the bias into 1/2-inch slices.

4. In the same pan, add the remaining vegetable oil over high heat. Saute the scallops for several minutes until just lightly browned. Do not overcook. Add the remaining garlic and the peppers and mushrooms, and continue cooking for a few more minutes.

5. Add the lemon juice, remove from heat, and swirl in the butter and parsley. Add the sausage slices.

To Serve

1. Divide the scallop mixture among 6 serving plates and sprinkle the scallops with a few drops of Pernod.

2. Pool the Red Pepper Coulis around each of the plates and serve.


Excerpted from Patrick O'Connell's Refined American Cuisine by Patrick O'Connell Tim Turner Copyright © 2004 by Patrick O'Connell. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Award-winning chef and owner of the Inn at Little Washington, Patrick O'Connell is also the author of the best-selling cookbook The Inn at Little Washington: A Consuming Passion. He is the winner of the James Beard Award for Outstanding Chef for 2001.

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