we still miss Gourmet! Some of my
earliest childhood memories are listening to my father reading aloud as he and
my mother ate vicariously at Gourmet’s table.
The magazine first appeared in 1941.
The United States entered the war shortly thereafter. Subscribers were urged to keep their
issues until the war ended. That way Gourmet’s readers could try the recipes
without wartime rationing. While devoted to food and wine, Gourmet also
covered “Good Living” which meant that many of my parent’s annual vacations
were built around Gourmet’s take on Madrid or Lisbon or London. As to its
recipes, while the country wallowed in dishes involving cans of cream of
mushroom soup, Gourmet took the high road. I can still hear my father reading,
on the subject of Peking Duck, “first wring the bird by its neck until it is
dead”. Gourmet was nothing if not
complete. In many ways, Gourmet was well
ahead of its time. This was driven home
to me with this take on pasta from 1990.
are certain recipes I obsess over. I
have folder marked “Re-Visit” and in it there must be at least five recipes for
baked pasta dishes. They all are
fundamentally the same. The pasta is
cooked and then a sauce is mixed into it, cheese is added to it and tops it and
the whole thing goes into a hot oven for 15 or 10 minutes. In my imagination,
it emerges with cheese bubbling up from under a crisp brown Parmesan
crust. The incredibly rich cream sauce
coats the pasta which is laden with the flavor of sausage or meatballs, pork or
beef. That’s how I imagine it until
reality takes over: Dried pasta sticks up out of a bare covering of cheese.
Inside the sauce is non-existent and were it not for the meat, it would hardly
be worth eating. This has been going on for years.
finally, in the most unimaginable place I found Baked Pasta Nirvana. In this recipe, luscious ripe tomatoes in big
chunks are mixed with slices of sweet Italian sausage. The pasta, tomatoes and sausage come together
in a creamy béchamel sauce. And an
entire layer of Mozzarella, hidden bang in the middle of the dish, pulls on
your fork like mozzarella in a pizza commercial. I did use the very last of the fresh tomatoes
when I made this dish. But I discovered
that canned plum tomatoes, drained of their liquid and cut into large chunks
are an admirable replacement and put this dish within reach year ‘round. And where did this amazing dish come
from? Why, Departures magazine!
wish you had seen the look on Andrew’s face when he asked what was for dinner
and I told him “Sausages and Potatoes”.
Was that a sneer or a recoiling?
Was he horrified or merely surprised?
You see, I had just that day received my copy of “Essential Pepin”
(Houghton Mifflin 2011), the 700 recipe volume that caps the illustrious career
of one the great ‘pioneers’ of good cooking in this country, Jacques
Pepin. Surely, Andrew must have thought,
you could do better than this, especially for a first choice in this incredible
collection. Surely in a book that
features virtually every French classic and an amazingly broad range of recipes
representing Asia, India, China-- I could have found something more profound than
sausage and potatoes. But it was a
winter night and I’d espied some beautiful fresh Italian sausages at the market
that day. And the whole dish looked