I think it was probably during my short stint at culinary school that I first heard about James Beard. Comments here and there thrown in about this culinary master. At first I just smiled and nodded pretending I had some idea who these people were talking about. It was a while later when I acquired my first Julia Child cookbook, Mastering The Art of French Cooking that I really began to understand who this legend was.
James Beard, Judith Jones and Julia Child:
Image Credit to Alice Levitt
Maybe you’re young like me or at least young in the food world and are clueless who he is. To wrap up his life in a microscopic manner would be to say that he, “laid the groundwork for the food revolution that has put America at the forefront of global gastronomy. He was a pioneer foodie, host of the first food program on the fledgling medium of television in 1946, the first to suspect that classic American culinary traditions might cohere into a national cuisine, and an early champion of local products and markets. Beard nurtured a generation of American chefs and cookbook authors who have changed the way we eat.” -Quote from James Beard Foundation
He was the first true celebrity chef of America and a prime mentor for all those who followed in his footsteps.
While he passed away before I was even born, he inspired one of his student’s to found the James Beard Foundation the year after his death. Which among other things bestows the Beard Awards for many categories of food and beverage professionals…think the Oscar’s of the food world.
So he’s kind of a big deal in the food world. For a more full biography of him see this article.
When I found out that a new cookbook, The Essential James Beard Cookbook, compiling some of his best recipes was due to come out at the end of this month I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. With recipes from starters to desserts this little gem packs a major punch with over 450 recipes. It’s like a classic food bible….really check out the categories:
First Courses and Cocktail Food
Beef and Veal
Poultry and Game Birds
Fish and Shellfish
Pasta and Noodles
Rice, Grains, and Beans
Yeast and Quick Breads
Hot, Cold, and Frozen Desserts
Pies and Tarts
Cokies and Bars
Basic Stocks and Sauces
You can’t get much more thorough then that! This book is written in the classic style with no photographs but with plenty of stories and tips and suggestions along the way. While I appreciate the old style from the Chef’s perspective, I’m not normally a huge fan of actually cooking from them because I find them to run more like a list of ingredients…with no recommendations on what I should actually cook and no photos to inspire my decision.
I was very pleased to find great descriptions of the recipes as well as large additional information sections with very detailed information. The sections on souffles and homemade pasta for example are packed full of goodies like this:
“Don’t overfold or the egg whites will deflate. There should still be little bits of unincorporated egg white visible.”
It’s those little things that only experience will lend that really make a recipe great, I for one have never had success with a souffle perhaps for the very reason that when it says “fold in the egg whites” that is precisely what I did…..until they were ALL folded in.
This would be a perfect gift for a new cook or to yourself if you are wanting to learn the classics from a true legend.
I was also thrilled to be asked to team up with the California Olive Ranch who is partnering with us on the launch of this amazing cookbook! Which means one of you lucky winners is going to get some out of this world olive oil PLUS a copy of this cookbook too!
In our house we cook with olive oil almost constantly and I’m sad to say that lately have been buying the big bulk containers from a certain chain store that starts with a W. You know the whole frog in a tea kettle story right?
This apparently has been the story of our olive oil usage lately and I didn’t even realize it. After cooking with this new olive oil this month I have become quite disturbed by the low quality of the stuff we had been using. Yuck. Mr. Beard would have been appalled if he had tasted it.
We received a bottle of their Everyday Olive Oil and their Arbequina oil to try and were very impressed with both of them. We used the Everyday Olive Oil for well….pretty much all of our everyday cooking! It’s clean and fresh tasting without being overpowering in aroma or flavor. I am looking forward to trying it in the Olive Oil bread recipe that they have on their site too. They have all kinds of great recipes over there.
The Arbequina was also nice but definitely a different style, it was fruity and almost a bit floral in flavor and aroma. It would work well in certain marinades very well, I think Kevin’s orange juice marinade would be lovely with it (I’ll get him to try that soon and give us a report). We particularly loved it straight on our fresh salads with a simple Vinaigrette inspired by the basic recipe I found in this book.
- 6 tb Arbequina Olive Oil
- 1½-2 tb Pomegranate Red Wine Vinegar
- 1 tsp Salt
- ½ tsp Fresh Ground Black Pepper
- Minced shallots (preferable) or sweet onion
- Combine Arbequina Olive Oil and Pomegranate Red Wine Vinegar. Add more vinegar to taste if desired.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Mr. Beard maintains that no sugar should be added to a vinaigrette, but I tend to favor a smidge of honey and shallots in mine. If desired quickly saute the minced shallots in oil til just tender. Add minced shallots and honey to taste.
- If desired blend mixture to further incorporate shallots.
- Use immediately. Can be stored in refrigerator if absolutely necessary but is best made fresh.
I have been terribly upset that over these last two weeks as I have gone to look at these recipes and think about cooking them that I have been being so plagued with this morning sickness. Quite frankly almost everything that is meat based I am really struggling with right now and the smells of onion and garlic have been overwhelming for my stomach. I try to get down some protein each day because I know the baby and I need it but it’s difficult. Combining that with absolute exhaustion and I have quite honestly struggled with this review.
A few days ago I made a modified version of James Beard’s Famous Chicken with 40 cloves of Garlic for Kevin. It turned out pretty good according to Kevin (it was all I could do to cook it and style it), but I have attached the original recipe as I couldn’t taste it. I hope you will make it for your family soon!
- 8 chicken leg quarters
- ⅔ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 celery ribs, thinly sliced
- 6 sprigs fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh tarragon or
- 11/2 teaspoon dried tarragon
- ½ cup dry vermouth
- 21/2 teaspoons salt
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
- 40 garlic cloves, crushed under a knife and peeled
- Wash the chicken legs and thighs and thoroughly dry with paper towels. Put the oil in a shallow dish or a plate and turn the chicken in the oil to coat on all sides. Reserve the unused oil.
- Lay the sliced celery in the bottom of a heavy casserole or Dutch oven (not uncoated cast iron) with a tightfitting lid.
- Add the parsley and tarragon, then lay the chicken pieces on top. Pour the vermouth over the chicken, and add 1 teaspoon salt, the pepper, and the nutmeg.
- Pour the reserved oil into the casserole, then toss in all the garlic and sprinkle with the remaining salt. Put a piece of aluminum foil over the casserole and then cover to make a tight seal; or make a thick, heavy flour and water paste to seal the lid, and cover the lid and paste with another layer of foil.
- Bake in a preheated 375°F oven for 11/2 hours without removing the lid.
- The drippings were so lovely Kevin whipped up a quick pan gravy with a butter and flour roux. In a sauce pan add 2 tb butter and 2 tb flour for every 2 cups of liquid available. Cook down roux until light brown and then quickly add liquid while whisking. Reduce heat to simmer and allow to thicken as desired. Season and serve immediately with chicken, rice or mashed potatoes and a lovely side salad. Serve homemade bread to spread the garlic on.
Thanks again to St. Martin’s Press and California Olive Ranch for sponsoring this giveaway!