How to celebrate without stuffing

JOHN HOFSESS December 1 1974


How to celebrate without stuffing

JOHN HOFSESS December 1 1974


How to celebrate without stuffing


When in need of some life-sustaining uplift, consolation for a world-weary spirit, some people call upon their clergyman, others visit their psychiatrist; I simply call the Maitre d’.

The art of dining, as opposed to merely eating, is one of the high points of civilization. Fresh food, artfully prepared and served, fine wine and conversation among friends, nourishes every part of the body and soul. It is a ritual we cannot afford to do without.

For about 30 years, since World War II, architects and home builders skimped in their designs and eliminated the dining room in most houses they built; apartment dwellers were given a “breakfast nook” to eat in. We developed an era of Big Macs, instant coffee, TV dinners, pizza parlors and Bromo Seltzer; it was an age of stunted culinary imagination. Those who never tasted anything better had no idea what they were missing.

The Seventies show signs of change in the eating habits of Canadians. In both new homes and apartments, a substantial “dining area” (if not a fully enclosed room) is making a comeback. Sales of dining suites are at a peak and there is strong revival of interest in fine china, crystal and antique silver as an expression of personal taste and delight in the beautifully crafted accoutrements of dining. Sales of cookbooks, home utensils such as hibachis, woks, fondue sets,

blenders, ice cream makers, and the like are brisk and rising. Like many another revolt against manners and standards of excellence, people are discovering that they abandoned too much in overthrowing the starched solemnities of past formal dinners, and are now faced with creating a modern style of dining — casual but resplendent, flexible as to mood and occasion. In addition, they are developing an increasing sophistication about nutrition, from calories to cholesterol. Once it became clear that the way to a man’s heart trouble was \ through his stomach, the search was on for meals that are both soundly nourishing and delicious.

The recipes given here add up to an ambitious meal fit to celebrate Christmas and New Year festivities, but they are easy to prepare and all (with the exception of the soufflé) can be made one or two days in advance, whenever time permits. Your guests are likely to find this meal an impressive departure from the customary turkey or ham, and (though you never need mention it) the meal is healthy as well as good-tasting. It’s a long, leisurely dinner, with each course served in small portions. In times of inflation, it makes even more sense to appreciate food to the fullest, and this meal with its alternating textures, temperatures and tastes is a celebration of food and our ability to enjoy it — a beginner’s lesson in the art of life.

Festive Salad and Dressing

Combine one Delicious apple, unpeeled but cut into small pieces, one cup of finely diced celery, one half-cup of chopped pecans or walnuts, and two to three cups of watermelon balls. Refrigerate, covered, until well chilled — will take about an hour.

Just before serving, whip one-half cup of heavy cream; one teaspoon of honey and one tablespoon of mayonnaise are folded in when cream is stiff. Fold into the chilled salad mixture, lightly, until all the items are coated. Then add cut-up red and green

glazed cherries (not maraschino cherries) over the top for a decorative effect. The varying textures of the salad (nuts, crisp celery, apple and soft watermelon portions) will likely make it an immediate winner with your guests. Again the emphasis is on lightness and nourishment, without a sodden filling effect.


made with Yogurt

The traditional Vichyssoise is made with heavy cream. A single serving provides so much cholesterol it could justifiably have its name changed to Killer Soup. The following recipe preserves the creamy texture and taste of this exquisite and classic soup, with scarcely a trace of cholesterol.

The success of this recipe depends upon good quality yogurt. It must be fresh and mild (preferably homemade). If you haven’t tasted fresh yogurt (made within 12 hours of eating) you haven’t tasted yogurt; it tastes sweet as milk (with no added sugar or honey) with no tartness whatsoever, and is thick and creamy in appearance, as firm as a baked custard. Many health stores sell homemade yogurt that will meet the requirements here.

In a heavy six-quart saucepan or soup kettle, simmer four cups of peeled and coarsely chopped potatoes, three cups thinly sliced leeks (white part plus two to three inches of the green) in two quarts of water and one teaspoon of salt, partially covered, for 40 to 50 minutes. Force the soup through a food mill and then pour back into the pan. Screen the soup a second time through a fine sieve, pressing it through with a wooden spoon or spatula. (Do not use a blender: the mixture will be too smooth.) Season with salt and fresh ground pepper, and stir in FT cups of plain, fresh yogurt. Chill the soup until very cold. Serve garnished with finely cut fresh chives.

If the quality of yogurt described here is not available, split the soup into two amounts: add three quarters of a cup of heavy cream to the one lot, and three quarters of a cup of plain commercial yogurt to the other. (They have to be kept separate as the yogurt culture would continue to grow in the lukewarm cream.) Just before serving, add equal measures from both lots. You will have a creamy taste and half the usual cholesterol. Vichyssoise made with yogurt is thick and rich tasting, although it has few calories. It is protein and vitamin rich.


with Onions and Mushrooms

As the first of two main courses, this delicious chicken dish, with its savory red-wine sauce, tender onions and mushroom pieces, steeped together for at least 24 hours, proves that gourmet cooking and sound nutrition are certainly compatible interests. The secret here is to follow all instructions carefully. and use a bottle of good red wine, such as Chateau de la Perrière (1969-70-71) in the four-to-five-dollar range, or, at very least, Mouton-Cadet. A cheap wine is no bargain in cooking; it succeeds only in cheapening the whole meal.

Remove the rind from a quarterpound chunk of lean, back bacon, and cut into sticks one inch long and about a quarter of an inch across. Simmer for 10 minutes in two quarts of water. Drain, rinse in cold water, and dry. Sauté slowly in an electric skillet (260 degrees) with two tablespoons of cooking oil. When bacon is lightly browned, remove to a side dish.

Dry and cut into halves, six deboned chicken-breasts. Brown on all sides in the hot fat (360 degrees). Season chicken with salt and pepper, return bacon to pan, cover and cook slowly (300 degrees) for 10 minutes, turning chicken once at the halfway point. Then uncover, pour in one quarter cup of cognac, and let it partially boil off.

Pour three cups of red wine into pan, and add one to two cups of beef bouillon (the canned variety will do) so that chicken is covered in broth. Stir in one tablespoon of tomato paste, one quarter of a teaspoon of garlic powder (or two cloves mashed), one quarter of a teaspoon of thyme and three bay leaves. Bring to a simmer, cover and simmer gently for 30 to 40 minutes.

While the chicken is cooking, drop 24 small white onions into boiling water. Let boil for one minute. Drain,

shave off two ends of onions, peel carefully, and pierce a deep cross in the root end with a small knife. This will keep onions whole during cooking. Heat two tablespoons of cooking oil in separate frypan. add onions and toss for several minutes until onions are lightly browned. Then add water to halfway up onions and one quarter of a teaspoon of salt. Cover pan and simmer for 25 to 30 minutes. Watch carefully to ensure that onions do not boil, as they will unravel.

While the onions are simmering, wash and trim one-half to three-quarters pound of fresh mushrooms (preferably the large, rippled variety known as French Creams). Remove base from stems, and cut caps into quarters and stems into bias chunks. Heat two tablespoons of corn oil (or safflower) margarine in frypan; when bubbling hot, add the mushrooms and sauté over high heat for three to five minutes, until lightly browned.

When chicken is done, drain out the liquid into a saucepan. Skim off any fat and boil down liquid, if necessary, to 2'A cups. This quantity represents a sauce of concentrated flavor. Remove from heat. Blend three tablespoons of flour and two tablespoons of margarine together in a saucer. Beat into the cooking liquid. Bring to a simmer, stirring for a minute or two until sauce has thickened. Scrape onions and mushrooms into sauce and simmer again to blend flavors. Then pour sauce over chicken. When cool, cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Shortly before serving, bring the mixture to a simmer, basting the chicken pieces with the dark, thick sauce. Be especially careful not to overcook. Chicken must be heated through, but do it at the lowest heat possible. Serve from covered casserole.


with Cherries

Roast a five-pound duck in a clay baker, following whatever recipe you normally would for fowl (omitting the dressing). Cool, then carve into bite-size serving pieces.

Take approximately four dozen fresh dark cherries (washed and pitted) and steep them in a sauce consisting of two tablespoons of fresh squeezed lemon juice, three tablespoons of fine cognac and two to three tablespoons of clover honey. Let them steep for 30 to 60 minutes.

While the maceration process is at work, prepare the following meat-flavored aspic. Sprinkle two tablespoons of unflavored powdered gelatin (two envelopes) over four cups of beef bouillon (canned variety), let soften for a few minutes, then stir over low heat until all gelatin granules have dissolved. Remove from heat and stir in three tablespoons of cognac. Let stand, covered.

Add the cherries and their maceration juices to the meat jelly. Heat, at below a simmer, being careful not to burst the cherries, for three to four minutes. Drain and chill.

Pour a thin (Vs inch) layer of warm jelly into a 12or 14-inch serving platter, and chill until firm. Arrange the peeled, carved pieces of duck over chilled jelly layer, and spoon a layer of the cold syrupy jelly over the duck. Chill 10 minutes, repeat, and add more duck pieces. Continue with this process of adding jelly, chilling, and building up layers in the aspic until all duck pieces are used. Dip chilled cherries into syrupy jelly and arrange over duck. Chill again. Garnish, when ready to serve, with frosted grapes, or parsley, or a ring of chopped up jelly.


Preheat oven to 400. Grease the bottom and sides of a two-quart soufflé dish with one tablespoon of corn oil (or safflower) margarine, then sprinkle in one tablespoon of grated imported Swiss cheese, tipping the dish to spread the cheese evenly on the bottom and side. Set the dish aside.

In a twoor three-quart saucepan (preferably enameled ironware) melt three tablespoons of margarine over moderate heat. When the foam begins to subside, stir in three tablespoons of flour with a wooden spoon and cook over low heat, stirring constantly for one to two minutes. Do not let the mixture brown. Remove the saucepan from the heat and pour in one cup of hot milk, beating vigorously with a whisk until the ingredients are smoothly blended. Add one-half tablespoon of salt and a pinch of fresh ground pepper, then return to low heat and cook, whisking constantly, until the sauce comes to a boil and is smooth and thick. Let it simmer briefly, then remove the pan from the heat and beat in four egg yolks, one at a time, whisking until each one is thoroughly blended before adding the next. Set the sauce aside.

With a large balloon whisk, beat six egg whites until they are so stiff that they form peaks (preferably in a copper mixing bowl, as it adds a valuable acid reaction which makes the egg whites mount voluminously). Stir a big spoonful of beaten egg white into the sauce to lighten it; then stir in all but one tablespoon of one cup of grated Swiss cheese. (Preferably fresh-ground in a cheese mill.) Then, with a spatula, lightly fold in the rest of the egg whites. Do not stir. Dip the spatula into the middle of the mixture, and lightly follow the contours of the bowl, coming up the side. Do this over and over until mixture is ready, but don’t decrease the volume of air whipped into the whites.

Gently pour the soufflé mixture into the prepared dish; the dish should be about three quarters full. Sprinkle the remaining tablespoonful of cheese on top. Place the soufflé on the middle shelf of the preheated oven and immediately turn down the heat to 375. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, • or until the soufflé puffs up about two or three inches above the rim of the dish and the top is lightly browned. Serve at once. Your guests have to wait for soufflés, since soufflés wait for no one. Bring the soufflé dish to the table (for the appropriate exclamations) and place it quickly upon a hot-plate pad. Using two large spoons, crack the crust into four sections and lightly scoop out portions for your guests.

Health Salad and Dressing

Vividly green and tangy, crisp and cool; a perfect companion to the Cheese Soufflé.

Tear the choicest leaves of endive (or escarole) and parsley for the base of the salad. (Swiss chard, raw spinach, beet tops and watercress, when in season, can also be added.)

Raw. unshelled peas can be used if available.

Add grated carrots, radishes, chopped spring onions, a garnish of green pepper rings and cut-up tomatoes. Adjust the amount of each ingredient to suit individual taste, but emphasize the greens.

What makes this salad come alive is ■ the dressing. Using a base of Lawry’s ! Italian salad dressing mix (which consists of sugar, salt, garlic, onion, spices and chilies) add two tablespoons of water, a quarter of a cup of apple cider vinegar, one third of a cup of golden wheat germ oil, and a second one third of a cup of sunflower seed oil mixed with safflower oil. Shake vigorously. This dressing is rich in minerals and V valuable oils, plus Vitamin E.


with Lemon and Cinnamon

One half-bottle of Mouton-Cadet Two tablespoons of fresh squeezed lemon juice

Two-thirds cup of honey

Two cinnamon sticks

Six medium apples, peeled, cored and


In a low-rimmed, wide saucepan, bring the wine, lemon juice, honey and cinnamon to a boil over moderate heat. Add the apple halves (a medium firm apple is best, as one wants the wine to be absorbed but not have the apple crumble in the cooking) partially cover the pan and reduce the heat to low. Cook at a slow simmer for approximately 15 minutes, spooning the wine over the apples periodically. Cool the apples in the syrup until ready for serving (refrigerate if you wish to serve them cold), then add a date, or a dollop of ice cream, in the core. Spoon sauce over apples and serve in sherbet glasses. It’s a light and spicy dessert, and goes well with an assortment of nuts and cheeses.