Sunday, April 17, 2011

Cookbook Library: With a Jug of Wine



With a Jug of Wine: An Unusual Collection of Cooking Recipes by Morrison Wood, "well known food columnist" -- it says so right on the cover.

I added this book to my cookbook library several years ago, excited to have found it at the big San Francisco library book sale at Ft. Mason (my favorite book event of the year when I lived in SF).  It is vintage and kitschy and I am excited to finally read it.

The book is organized like a regular cookbook, but pulls heavily from Wood's newspaper columns, which seem to have been written in the 1940s.  It was first published in 1949.  Mine is a 1961 "printing," but I do not think the content changed.

The recipes are short and simple, but interesting.  These are not the typical church supper recipes so prevalent in vintage cookbooks.  They are recipes Wood gathered from famous restaurant chefs of the day, caged off his friends, or concocted himself.

Wood introduces each recipe with a short essay describing the history of the dish or an amusing anecdote about the recipe.  The essays are full of high spirits and WWII-era joviality.  For example:
I think most Americans would shudder at the thought of eating squid, although the meat is twice as sweet as lobster and as delicate as frogs' legs. Let me urge you to unshudder and take a chance on squids a l'Amoricaine.
I'm a big fan of squid myself, and frogs' legs for that matter.  So he caught my attention with this one.  I love fried calamari (of course -- it's fried) and grilled, and have tried both at home without much success.  Braising squid is a much easier way to prepare this creature at home.

I have a basic braised calamari recipe from Cucina Rustica by Viana La Place, that is very tasty and easy to make, but I wanted to try something new.  Wood's recipe is similar, but uses white wine, a little brandy, and calamari steaks instead of tubes and tentacles.

I cut the recipe in half.  Here it is as in the book. 

SQUIDS L'AMORICAINE 

3 lb. squids
4 tbsp. olive oil
3 ounces brandy
2 cloves garlic
1 onion
3 carrots
1/2 bay leaf
pinch thyme
pinch oregano
1 cup solid-pack tomoatos
salt
pepper
1 cup dry white wine

INSTRUCTIONS (paraphrased): Start with three pounds of cleaned squid. Cut into "small cubes or strips."  I cut the steaks into 2" squares that did a shrinky-dink thing when cooked -- they shrunk to 1" square but plumped up to about three times as thick.

Lightly brown the chopped garlic in olive oil, then add squid, cover, and saute for about 10 minutes. Uncover and pour the brandy over the squid.  Light the brandy, let it burn out, then simmer for about 3 minutes.

Add chopped onion, chopped carrot, herbs, tomatoes, salt and pepper. Stir in the wine, cover, and simmer until squid is tender when tested with a fork (30 to 45 minutes).

Serve over boiled rice. Although I think toasted Italian bread is also very good.

NOTES:  This was delicious.  The steaks worked better for me than rings.  The calamari was very tender and sweet.  Yummy!  The only thing I didn't care for was that I used dry vermouth for the wine because I didn't have any other white wine and it made the dish slightly bitter. Hubby didn't notice, but I did.


This is the second of the books I'm reading for the Foodie's Reading Challenge, hosted by Margot at Joyfully Retired.


Thanks go to Beth Fish Reads for hosting a very fun weekly event:


WEEKEND COOKING



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