Posts Tagged ‘Patricia Wells’

Duck, Duck, Goose: Great Food Writing for Christmas

December 22, 2007

I’m a total foodie. I have a collection of probably about 50 cookbooks, most of which I’ve prepared only a few recipes from. But the secret to a really great cookbook is that it will be as much fun to read as it will be to cook from — because that is a cookbook to which you will return again and again. Christmas Dinner

But that doesn’t help me with my more immediate dilemma: What to make for the Christmas meal this year. Turkey, the obvious choice. Duck, last year’s dinner which was full of juicy deliciousness. Ham, with a sour cherry glaze. It’s too hard to decide. I need guidance. I turn to one of my very favorite books on the art and science of cooking: COOKWISE: The Hows and Whys of Successful Cooking by Shirley Corriher. This was her first book, and it won the 1998 James Beard Award for Food Reference and Techniques. But despite her clear expertise on why and how things work in the kitchen, I have a much more shallow reason for turning to her again and again. She’s a great storyteller. And if you’ve ever seen her on Alton Brown‘s food science show Good Eats, you’ll be as hooked on her southern accent as you will her advice.

If you want an example of Ms. Corriher’s advice wrapped in a story, try this one out, where she describes making a duck for her first Thanksgiving away from home and family:

I made a batch of dressing and stuffed it into the duck. It disappeared. The duck looked three-quarters empty inside. I decided this would not do. The dressing is one of my favorite things, and I wanted plenty. So I made another batch of dressing and put it inside the duck, too. The duck still looked quite empty. I ended up stuffing four batches of dressing into that poor duck.

After the duck had been roasting for awhile, we heard this great rrrrrrrmmmmmp — a strange muffled explosion from inside the oven. I jerked the door open. There to my wondering eyes appeared a huge mountain of dressing with just a few duck bones sticking out of it. The dressing had absorbed fat and absorbed fat and absorbed fat and expanded and expanded and expanded until the poor duck literally exploded. We could find only an occasional piece of duck meat or bone amid all the dressing.

She goes on to describe what sounds like an absolutely delicious way to prepare the duck so that it does not explode. It involves a caramel Grand Marnier sauce that I will leave you to salivate over as you imagine it. But this is not what I’ve decided I’m making for Christmas. No, I found a recipe in my SIMPLY FRENCH cookbook by Patricia Wells for Beef Tenderloin roasted in an herb-encrusted salt crust. Make sure you call first before you show up for dinner.

What are you all having? And what are your favorite books about food and cooking?