September 29, 2017

Dear friends,

The first serious cookbook I bought was “The New York Times Cook Book” by Craig Claiborne. I still use it whenever I want to make paella, chicken satay, country pate or mushroom bisque.

None of those life-altering recipes made it into the latest Times cookbook, described by the publisher as “All the best recipes from 150 years of distinguished food journalism.” I’m a fan of the book anyway, as are many others — it won a James Beard Award after it was published in 2014.

Yes, I’m dishing up old news. I admit that here in my cozy retirement backwater of Copley, Ohio, I did not hear of the book until two weeks ago, when a discount-book service, BookBub, offered the e-book version for a couple of bucks.

The full name of the book is “The Essential New York Times Cookbook: Classic Recipes for a New Century.” Editor Amanda Hesser, a former Times food writer, tested each of the 1,104 recipes in the book, along with many more that didn’t make the cut.
Unlike Claiborne’s Times cookbook, which covered just a decade, this one draws on recipes from 150 years.

This is not a food history book, although Hesser prefaces each chapter with a delightful timeline of a food’s progression through the newspaper’s pages. Hesser chose recipes that remain vibrant and enticing no matter the age. The recipe I tried, for Spicy New England Pot Roast, is from 1972, and it wears its age well. I can’t wait to try a legion of other recipes, from Hot Cheese Olives (baked olives in cheese pastry) to Pumpkin Black Bean Soup.

Although I already have a pot roast recipe I love, I will make this new recipe again because it is almost as delicious as mine. The spicy pot roast recipe has a strange list ingredients — cranberry sauce, horseradish, cloves, a cinnamon stick — that come together to produce a slightly sweet, richly-flavored gravy. Hesser writes, “I wouldn’t call this spicy — the horseradish mellows — but it’s certainly flush with candid warming flavors like bacon, cinnamon and cranberries.”

Well, I would call it spicy — not in the spicy-hot sense, but in the full-of-spices sense. It is fall-worthy and absolutely delicious.

SPICY NEW ENGLAND POT ROAST

  • 3 tbsp. flour
  • 2 tsp, salt
  • 1/4 tsp fresh-ground black pepper
  • 1 (4 lb.) boned and tied beef arm, blade or bottom round roast
  • 3 tbsp. bacon drippings or vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated horseradish or drained prepared horseradish (4-oz. jar)
  • 1 cup whole-berry cranberry sauce
  • 1 cinnamon stick, broken in two
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 16 small white onions
  • 1 bunch carrots, peeled and cut into 3-inch lengths
Mix the flour with the salt and pepper. Dredge the meat in the flour, rubbing it into all surfaces.

Heat the drippings in a Dutch oven or other heavy casserole and brown the meat very well on all sides over high heat. Pour off the drippings into a skillet and reserve.

Mix together the horseradish, cranberry sauce, cinnamon, cloves and broth and add to the meat. Bring the mixture to a boil, cover tightly and simmer gently for about 2 hours, or until the meat is barely tender.

Meanwhile brown the onions in the reserved drippings in the skillet. Add the carrots and cook 2 minutes longer. Remove from heat. When the meat is barely tender, use a slotted spoon to add the onions and carrots. Cover and cook for about 15 minutes longer, or until the vegetables and meat are tender. Serves 8.

GUT CHECK

What I cooked last week:
Three batches of pesto; ricotta cheese, sliced tomato and a fried egg on wheat-nut toast; cherry tomato and goat cheese clafoutis; grilled sockeye salmon, oven-roasted peppers, eggplant, cherry tomatoes and zucchini tossed with baby kale, vinaigrette and sea salt.

What I ate out last week:
Cream of wheat and a hardboiled egg, two bites of meat loaf, desiccated fruit cup and tomato soup, and an egg salad sandwich and vegetable soup, all as a patient at St. Thomas Hospital in Akron; tuna salad plate with cottage cheese and hard-cooked egg at Village Gardens restaurant in Cuyahoga falls; an Italian sausage sandwich with onions, peppers and marinara sauce at the Mum Festival in Barberton.

Note: Tony cooked a lot last week while I recuperated from shoulder replacement surgery on the 18th.  He made a shrimp stir fry, grilled salmon, spicy shrimp rice bowl and an amazing miso chicken and vegetable soup. You’ll note that I cooked a good bit, too, which should tell you that the recovery is going great. This week I was gifted with three days of mail-order meal kits, which I am going to spring on Tony. We’ll see if he can restrain himself from adding soy sauce to everything. I’ll report back next week.

THE MAILBAG

From Dona:
This question is not a joke. How can you tell when buttermilk has gone bad, in other words, gone sour? I never seem to use the entire carton in a reasonable time.

Dear Dona: Good question. For the answer, I turned to the folks at Cook’s Illustrated, who once went to great lengths to figure that out for a magazine article. The short answer: Buttermilk is good for about three weeks after opening the carton. You’ll know you’ve passed the limit when the milk begins producing blue-green mold.

Buttermilk lasts longer than regular milk because it contains lactic acid, which acts as a preservative, according to Cook’s. The flavor becomes less buttery as it ages, although the tang remains and even intensifies. Luckily, buttermilk freezes well, so there’s no need to toss out your leftovers.

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