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Tuesday, March 26, 2024

BOOK/A TABLE - Cassoulet

One evening, a number of years ago, after we’d knocked back practically a barrel of bourbon, my friend took it upon himself to read Ernest Hemingway’s The Short and Happy Life of Francis Macomber to us. Despite the title, there was nothing short about it; he read for what felt like hours. (Just imagine: a massive breath or a pause for another sip of Maker’s Mark to add dramatic effect as he turned each weighted page with a licked index finger.)

Frankly, I hadn’t much cared for Hemingway at that point, and this soliloquy damned near put an end to my interest in him entirely until I read A Moveable Feast—here was the extraordinary life of Hemingway himself, part of the Lost Generation in 20’s Paris! And eating his way through all of it!

Among the oysters and white wine (and Zelda and Gertrude Stein, of course), there was also cassoulet, the hearty dish of white beans, duck, and sausage. While the creation of cassoulet is attributed to Carcassonne in the region of Languedoc, Hemingway spotted it on a bistro menu in Montparnasse.

Cassoulet is a slow process of braising meat and aromatics (taking nearly as long to make as it takes to have The Short and Happy Life of Francis Macomber read to you), but well worth it. I also think it’s essential to then let your cassoulet sit overnight before heating it up again in the oven to serve.

Rest assured, when I laid this sumptous pot on the dinner table for some friends recently, I had everyone’s attention.

My favorite version is here, but you might like Julia Child’s epic foray, Jacques Pepin's “quick version” or a simpler chicken variation here, which is more like a fricassee.

As Hemingway wrote to a friend in 1950, “If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.”

Do enjoy!

Wednesday, March 20, 2024

BOOK/A TABLE - A Spring Picnic

Spring is around the corner...can't you can feel it tickling your nose? 

Naturally, I returned to Kenneth Grahame's classic novel, The Wind in the Willows, concerning a collection of rather well-to-do animals at times skittering about, languidly discussing ideas, or extolling the virtues of nature. Such wonder! There's a grandiose, preposterous (while still quite amiable in his delusions) toad on the wrong side of the law, a couple of critters who nearly succumb to the sea in response to the siren song of the Sea Rat and his wayfaring ways. And also, lovingly wrapped in the pages--a pausing meditation on dawn.

And boy, do the little fellows love to eat! They rarely ever stop--if not eating, they're talking about eating, or talking about food while eating! I was enamored of the fat, wicker luncheon basket that the Water Rat and Mole share, its contents including, "cold tongue cold ham cold beef pickled gherkins salad french rolls cress sandwidges potted meat ginger beer lemonade soda water..."

We had a few friends over and I served such things as these one entirely civilized afternoon. Perhaps I skipped the tongue and potted meat and watercress but the package of DAK boiled ham, Pillsbury crescent rolls, thinly sliced cucumbers on buttered white bread, bread and butter pickle coins and figgy orange jam stepped in nimbly and rose most admirably! Pink fizzy lemonade, fruity seltzer water and a chilled Chardonnay-Viognier was fine indeed for our gathering.

I also happened to find an absolutely charming copy of The Wind in the Willows Country Cookbook (pub. 1983) on ebay, with recipes by Arabella Boxer and fine illustrations by Ernest H. Shepard. Contents reveal FOOD FOR varying occasions such as "...staying at home...excursions...the storage cupboard..." I found a recipe for Refrigerator Cookies from the latter section while perusing other things such as Snowfalls in Dark Woods, Leafy Summer Lettuce Snacks and Very Easy Flapjacks.

A guideline for Refrigerator Cookies may be found at by clicking here. The recipe is a little different in The Wind in the Willows Country Cookbook, which is made instead with 6 TB butter, 1/2 cup superfine sugar, 1 egg, 1 1/2 cups self-rising flower and a pinch of salt (dispensing with the cinnamon, walnuts, baking soda and cream of tartar called for on

"Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing--absolutely nothing--half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats..." And eating, apparently! Do enjoy!

Monday, March 18, 2024

Guinness Beef Stew with Horseradish Cream


We thought we'd like to make something special for St. Patrick's Day--and after just one bite of this beef stew from the New York Times Cooking app, we knew this is THE stew to do, for always! 

Flavored with Guinness stout, espresso and cocoa powder, the end result is not only delicious, but immensely satisfying. There are a lot of ingredients for sure, but they are all basically tossed into a large pot. The slow oven-braising does all the work to make a truly celebratory dish. 

And hello--Horseradish Cream? 

We also made Jim Lahey's fantatstic No-Knead Bread (recipe here) for dipping, substituting more Guinness stout for the water. It proved to be a great, wildly flavorful bread.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Oven-Braised Guinness Beef Stew with Horseradish Cream
Adapted from Sarah DiGregorio's recipe in the New York Times

Total Time - 3 hours
Yield: 6 servings

3 pounds beef chuck, fat trimmed and meat cut into 2-inch pieces
2 tablespoons plus ⅓ cup all-purpose flour
Kosher salt and black pepper
4 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus more as needed
3 large garlic cloves, chopped
2 dried shiitake mushrooms, halved (optional)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 teaspoons packed brown sugar
1teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon caraway seeds
½ teaspoon instant espresso powder
2½ cups Guinness or other stout beer
2½ cups beef stock or broth
2 fresh thyme sprigs
1pound red or Yukon gold potatoes, cut into 1- to 2-inch pieces
1 to 1½ pounds root vegetables, such as carrots, turnips, rutabaga, celery root and parsnips, peeled and cut into 1- to 2-inch pieces
1tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1teaspoon lemon juice, plus more to taste
¾ cup sour cream
3 tablespoons jarred horseradish
¼ cup minced scallions or chives

Step 1
Heat oven to 325 degrees. In a large bowl, combine the beef and 2 tablespoons flour. Season generously with salt and pepper and toss to coat. In a Dutch oven, heat 2 tablespoons vegetable oil over medium-high. Working in batches, add the beef and let it brown on two sides, about 2 minutes per side. Add a bit more oil if the meat sticks. (You can brown it on more than two sides if you have time, but browning it on two sides is enough to build flavor and texture.) Transfer the browned beef to a bowl or plate.

Step 2
Make the gravy: Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the remaining 2 tablespoons oil. Add the garlic, dried shiitakes (if using), tomato paste, brown sugar, cocoa, onion powder, caraway seeds and espresso powder. Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture is fragrant and evenly combined, 1 to 2 minutes. (Reduce the heat to low or remove from the heat temporarily if the bottom of the pan threatens to burn.) Add the remaining ⅓ cup flour and cook, stirring and scraping constantly, until the mixture forms a thick, dry paste, about 1 minute. Add the beer and stock. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil, whisking constantly to scrape any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Let it boil until smooth and thickened, about 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper and remove from the heat.

Step 3
Add the beef and any juices, thyme, potatoes and root vegetables. Cover and transfer to the oven. Cook until the beef and vegetables are tender, 2 to 2½ hours.

Step 4
Add the vinegar, Worcestershire sauce and lemon juice. Taste, and season with more salt, pepper and lemon juice if necessary. (If the stew tastes flat, add more lemon juice first, then more salt and pepper; acid is key to making it taste lively. It may need a surprising amount of salt, especially if you have used unsalted or low-salt stock.) Discard the thyme.

Step 5
Make the horseradish cream: Stir together the sour cream, horseradish and scallions in a small bowl. Season with salt. Serve stew in bowls with a spoonful of the horseradish cream on top.

Wednesday, March 13, 2024

BOOK/A TABLE - Gorgonzola Bread

Perhaps one of the most arduous treks in literature, Leopold Bloom’s journey in Ulysses by James Joyce, which roughly follows The Odyssey, takes place only in a single day.

I’m sure you know that sometimes during a long trip, a fella’s gotta eat. In the midst of Bloom’s meanderings through Dublin, loose under the heaventree of stars hung with humid nightblue fruit,’ he stops in for a quick bite at a pub. 

“A cheese sandwich, then. Gorgonzola, have you?” Bloom asks, humorously paralleling Odysseus’ battle with the Gorgons in The Odyssey.

If only he’d hastened to Hoexters for something more substantial, such as their Gorgonzola Bread, dripping with an absolutely luscious garlic gorgonzola cream bechamel!

Should you not be able to make your own journey to visit Hoexter’s on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, I’ve included a recipe below to try at home. Or follow the recipe here for a simple bechamel and spruce it up with garlic and the pungent cheese that Leopold Bloom craved.

Gorgonzola Garlic Bread

Adapted from


1 loaf French bread

1/3 cup salted butter softened

1/2 cup Gorgonzola cheese

2 cloves garlic minced

1/2 Tablespoon freshly chopped parsley or 2 teaspoons dried parsley

Freshly grated Parmesan cheese



Slice French bread into 8 slices. Lay each slice on a baking sheet. Set aside.

Cream butter and Gorgonzola cheese together in a medium bowl.

Stir in minced garlic and chopped parsley to cheese mixture.

Spread mixture evenly over each French bread slice.

Sprinkle tops with a little Parmesan cheese.

Place under broiler until cheese is melted and bubbly. (*Stay and watch the entire time to prevent burning!)

Thanks to Hoexter's for the photo!

Wednesday, March 6, 2024

BOOK/A TABLE - Gingerbread

From plate.

The one scene I actually remember from reading The Little House on the Prairie books occurs I think in the first of the series, Little House in the Big Woods: Laura was sitting in front of a super hot potbelly stove—transfixed by the fiery coals glowing so brilliantly, irresistibly orange that she just had to stick her hand in and grab one. Of course, the girl nearly reduced herself to cinders and reeled back in terrific pain. 

But lesson learned. To this day, I still think about her moment of impetuousness before handling hot pans or oven racks in my own kitchen!

I was reminded of it again when my friend mentioned the gingerbread he’d found in The Little House Cookbook: Frontier Foods from Laura Ingalls Wilder's Classic Stories by Barbara M. Walker. This particular recipe was inspired by a competition at the Redwood County Fair where Laura and Harriett Oleson vied for Best Gingerbread, with the pastor of Walnut Grove residing as judge.

Don’t look for spoilers here: you’ll have to read Wilder’s books for yourself to discover how the actual contest went. However, the authentic recipe for her scrumptious gingerbread is right at hand below, but please heed the lesson from our precocious pioneer and work gingerly.


Adapted from The Little House Cookbook


1 cup packed brown sugar cup

One half-cup shortening

1 cup molasses

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 cup boiling water

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon each ground ginger, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, and cloves

One half-teaspoon salt

4-quart bowl; 2-quart bowl; 9 by 9-inch baking pan


Preheat the oven to 350-degrees. Grease the baking pan. Blend the sugar and the shortening in the 1-quart bowl and mix in the molasses. Add the baking soda to the boiling water and mix well. Combine the flour and the spices and sift into the 2-quart bowl. Combine the sugar-molasses mixture with the flour mixture and the baking soda-water liquid. Mix the ingredients well and pour the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake for 45 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center of the gingerbread comes out clean.


Thanks Andrew Rozycki for the photo!