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Monday, May 5, 2008

Introductions: James Beard


Hailed as "The Father of American Gastronomy" James Beard was born today, May 5, 1903, in Portland, Oregon. Normally, I would be posting a bit of biographical information and links for you to further explore. Perhaps, I would include a few recipes. I probably would go on and on not even realizing until the end of the post that it went on much longer than I had originally planned. Not today! Instead, I have decided to list a few resources for you to go off on your own. As for me, I am taking a different path.

As many of you already know, I have quite an assortment of cookbooks. At the moment, I can't announce how many of my books have been endorsed with an introduction by James Beard. There must be many. As a matter of fact, if you know of any, please let me know. The notion of exploring James Beard introductions struck me while I was preparing for Free Comic Book Day this past Saturday. The focus of that post was the Cartoonist Cookbook. (1966) In fact, the cartoon at the top, is from that book. The Cartoonist Cookbook is scented with a welcome by James Beard.

"I have often remarked that the small cookbooks published by various ethnic and professional groups have done more to stimulate our food traditions in this country than most of the major collections of carefully tested, very often emasculated, recipes by fine cooks and food scientists that appear on the market each year. There is character and a feeling of adventure in such a book as this, produced by an assemblage of cartoonist, of whom evidence a genuine flair for food and a few of whom show all the signs of being true gastronomes...One of the reasons I'm happy to write a word about this book is that I have always felt that a cartoon strip cookery column would be quite successful. As a matter of fact, Alfred Andriola has taken such an idea and incorporated it in the present volume. And in England, the well know writer of spy fiction, Len Deighton, who is also a serious cook, has been running a similar column in the Observer for some time..."

Sadly, I don't have my copy of Hors d'Oeuvres & Canapés by my side. But, since it is the first cookbook by James Beard, I did want to include a few recipes. Thank goodness, I do have a scan of it on my computer here in New York and also a few recipes. These are from the 10th edition, published in 1958 by M. Barrow & Co.

Danish Ham Rolls: Trim the excess fat from six paper-thin slices of Parma ham or Prosciutto, the delicately flavored Italian ham one may buy in almost any Italian grocery carrying smoked meats. Spread thin slices of smoked salmon over this till the ham is completely covered. Roll very tightly and cut into rolls about one onch long. Spear with a toothpick and chill before serving. This recipe will make twelve rolls. A little freshly grund, black pepper will do a lot to flavor the ham.
Curried Eggs: Melt one tablespoonful of finely chopped onion in one tablespoon of butter over a very low flame. Add one-andone half teaspoonfuls of fine Bombay curry powder and two tablespoons of thick cream and stir vigorously till it becomes a paste. Cool, and add to the yolks of 6 eggs which have been forced through a sieve. Add one teaspoonful of salt and two teaspoonfuls of finely chopped chutney and cream to a paste. Fill the egg whites with this mixture and top with grated fresh coconut.
Allumettes: "Allumettes are literally tiny fingers of puff paste baked with various toppings. while, according to the title, they should be the size of a match, they are about one-by-three inches."
Cut puff paste into strips about one-by-three inches. On each strip place a little fines herbes butter that has been well flavored with anchovy. Place one or two anchovy fillets on each allumette and bake in hot oven for ten or fifteen minutes or until well browned. Barquettes These are tiny boat-shaped pastries made from a semi puff paste and baked in tiny boat shaped pans. Clam Barquettes Heat one can of minced razor clams in double boiler. Add one-half teaspoonful of salt and one-half teaspoonful of freshly ground pepper. Add one cupful of heavy cream mixed with the yolks of two eggs and one-and-one-half teaspoonfulls of arrowroot powder. Stir gently till well thickened. Add one tablespoon of Maderia or Sherry. Fill barquettes with this mixture and sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese and place under the broiler to brown.

Next, I would like to share a recipe with you from a book titled Cool Entertaining. The author of this cookbook is Irma Rhode. Before Irma Rhode came to this country in 1928, she had been educated abroad at the cooking school of the Grand Duchess of Baden. When James Beard realized he wasn't going to make an awful lot of money as an aspiring actor, he began a catering business which revolutionized the way New Yorkers perceived cocktail food. In 1937, he opened a small food shop called Hors d'oeuvre Incorporated with Irma Rhode and her brother William Rhode. I would first like to share his introduction in Cool Entertaining.

I've known Irma Rhode for almost forty years. The day we met was very significant for me; in fact it changed my life completely. I had been invited to a cocktail party to meet Irma and her brother Bill at a time when I was looking for an idea to get into the food business, as were they. We discovered we were kindred spirits, and planned and finally opened our late-lamented shop, which we called Hors d'oeuvre Incorporated. Irma not only knew food, she had great scientific ability. Bill understood good living and had enough charm to win anyone's heart. I had ambition and a knowledge of food and personality. The three of us made a bold move and opened on East 66th Street, right next to the Cosmopolitan Club. It was a success! When war came we were forced to close. Bill Rhode went on to be one of the first editors of Gourmet magazine, I went to the wars and Irma did a great variety of things and our paths never crossed professionally again...This latest volume of hers is a very personal book; it's filled with Irma. There are recipes for a variety of cold dishes-a great many of which I enjoyed in Irma's home. It's a book for good entertaining-one that will be in the front line of my collection of cookbooks."

The pictured first edition of Cool Entertaining was published in 1976. I'm happy to say it is in excellent condition and it will probably stay that way as, I don't refer to it often. The main reason why I don't is because many of the recipes include the use of unflavored gelatin. Quite frankly, I'm not much of a gelatin cook. If I were to prepare a recipe from this book, it would have to be the Fish Pudding with Morning Glory Sauce. Although it too has gelatin as an ingredient, it sounds absolutely exciting. Another fine example is the Bloody Mary Meatloaf. The aspic which includes 12 ounces of V-8 juice, water, 2 envelopes of plain gelatin and 4 ounces of gin or vodka just doesn't appeal to me. I'm sure it will to others though. On page 11 of Cool Entertaining, Irma Rhode explains the legend embracing her recipe for Onion Rings.

Onion rings are one of the most popular hors d'oeuvres. The following recipe has been written up many times and is listed in the New York Times Cookbook as "Irma's Onion Sandwiches," but I cannot claim credit. The true story of the evolution of this recipe is as follows:
In the twenties, in a Parisian establishment described by Polly Alder as "a house that's not a home," two slices of onion, were served with the aperitifs to my brother Bill.
When in the thirties we started Hors d'Oeuvres Inc., he remembered the combination and we started testing. How thick the brioche slice, how thin the onion? What size cookie cutter? Two bites or a bite and a half? When my brother Bill, Jim Beard, and I finally had decided on these questions, there arose another one. How to dress them up? There always was a big bowl of chopped parsley around and, of course mayonnaise. I can still see Jim rolling the edges in mayonnaise and then he chopped parsley, and the new onion rings were born. But it all goes back to the thrifty madam of that establishment in Paris.

Onion Rings
6 slices of firm white bread, or 12 slices of challah
12 slices onion, very thin
approx. 1/2 c. mayonnaise
approx. 3/4 c. very finely chopped parsley
With a 1-1/2 inch cookie cutter, cut 4 rounds from a slice of bread or 2 rounds from the challah slices. Arrange them in 12 pairs. Spread each round with mayonnaise. Using a slicer or potato peeler, cut the slices of onions and put one on a bread round. Salt lightly, then top with the second round, sandwich fashion. When all 12 are assembled, spread some mayonnaise on a piece of waxed paper and have the chopped parsley ready in a blow. Take a sandwich between thumb and forefinger and roll the edges first in the thinly spread mayonnaise, then in the chopped parsley. Make sure there are no bare spots; if so, dab a bit of mayonnaise on the spot and dip again in parsley. Place on waxed paper or a flat tray or cookies sheet and cover with waxed paper. Chill well.
Note: If it's to hard to get very thin slices of onion perfectly round, part slices will do, too; use two parts. The thinness is important.

In closing, I have sifted through a cookbook published by the California Beef Council in 1984. Dear James Beard Recipes & Reminiscing From Your Friends and the Beef Industry. It is a soft cover book which pays tribute to James Beard. I wish I could show you the captivating pictures and flavorful recipes which the contributors have offered. Most of all, I wish I could share with you all of the wonderful stories and dedications his friends have so graciously written but, alas, they would lose flavor in translation. I did a quick look on the internet and it appears to be available for as little as $1.00! Here a few with their recipes.

...In these reminiscences and recipes from friends and associates, we hope to give a more intimate glimpse of this generous man and his world. We are proud to dedicate this book to Mr. Beard and trust he will forgive this bit of hero worship with his usual modest charm.-The Beef Industry Council
Julia Child (Mignons De Filet De Boeuf, Sautes Madere) "...he has done more for cooking in America than any one person in our history..."
M.F.K. Fisher (The 15-Minute Meatloaf (Plus 5) "...He is an historical fact gastronomically..."
Seppi Renggll (Stuffed Monterey Jack) "...For twenty years he has been a constant inspiration to me..."
Marcella Hazen (II Tapolon Di Borgomanero) "...he is the living embodiment of...the universally civilized force of good food..."
Cecilla Chiang (Mandarin Salon De Cuisine) "...he is the perfect guest..."
Alice Waters (Cold Grilled Fillet of Beef with Rocket Salad) "...Talking with James always confirms for me the rishness and variation possible in American cooking..."
Jean D. Hewitt (New England Pot Roast) "...Whenever, and wherever, we meet I look forward to...the latest gossip from the world of food..."

Resources

  • 1. James Beard Biography
  • 2. James Beard's Books (list spanning from 1940-1982)
  • 3. James Beard Trivia Quiz (kinda cute, I won 8 out of 10 what did you get?)
  • Recipes
  • 1. James Beard’s Raspberry Chicken
  • 2. James Beard's Favorite Roast Turkey
  • 3. James Beard's Cuban Bread
  • 4. James Beard's Pumpkin Pie With Candied Ginger
  • 5. James Beard's Chess Pie
  • 6. Cartoonist Cookbook (post)
  • 7. James Beard's Favorite Burger