Great Cooks, Great RecipesAug 01, 2021 01:15PM ● By Cornelius O'Donnell
A wonderful friend had a terrific way of describing those splatters and spots one can accumulate as you chomp through a breakfast, lunch, or dinner. She called them Meal Medals. And there are similar splotches you pick up while preparing meals, so I am a dyed-in-the-linen believer in aprons. Over the years I’ve collected so many of these that I’m thinking of opening a shop and calling it Aprons Unlimited.
Many of you know that I was the spokesperson for Corning’s line of kitchen products. Lately, I’ve been rereading some of the recipe booklets that I’d hand out to viewers who came to the cooking demos I’d do all over our country—and even in places like Japan, Australia, Canada, and the Philippines. Ah, the memories of working in makeshift kitchens in department stores... Those in-store demonstrations were mostly devoted to seasonal favorites that were developed and rehearsed in the Corning test kitchens. I made so many of the same dishes so often I could chop, layer, stir, etc. and chat, all the while talking about product benefits. I was able to function on autopilot. One go-to source of recipes for me was James Beard, at the time probably the best known, along with Julia Child, American cooking professional.
Jim Beard and the Good Cooks Promotion
A bunch of us had a series of pow-wows to plan the advertising and promotion of the smooth-surface cooking ranges. One name of a possible spokesperson to lend a powerful endorsement for the new product was James Beard. Why? Because Jim was a big supporter of cooking with electricity rather than the more typical gas used by cooking professionals. (A friend of mine once assisted Jim in his demos in Cleveland. A local food columnist commented that, “I assume you cook with gas, Mr. Beard.” “Only at the point of a gun,” replied Jim.)
Once he was on board, Corning agreed to provide the appliances for the demos he gave to benefit non-profit organizations in addition to a series of television and print ads in which he was featured.
At about the same time, Bert Wolf, later a successful TV host, devised a marketing scheme called “The Great Cooks,” involving eleven of the top food and wine professionals in the land, with Jim Beard as the star performer. Rochester’s Sibley’s was one of several U.S. department stores (including Bloomingdales in Manhattan,) to open a “Great Cooks Boutique,” a shop within the housewares section. It was filled with all manner of gadgets and tools endorsed by those eleven eminent cooks, chefs, and wine experts. I remember picking Wolf up at the Chemung County Airport when he flew from New York to present his ideas to the Corning executives. He appeared in an outfit topped by a mink poncho. Regardless, Corning agreed to help with the publication of the Great Cooks Cookbook. In it were full-page color photos of the recipes the cooks provided, with the food cooked in Corning pans.
The Southern Living Show
Each year the editors of Southern Living magazine presented a week-long trade show in a big auditorium in Charlotte, North Carolina. Corning was represented by a large booth, and a participation in a three-times-daily cooking class by yours truly in the hall’s demo kitchen. So off I flew to this rather grueling week-long assignment. What made it even more nerve-racking was the gasoline shortage, then at its height. We needed a car to get from the hotel to the stores for supplies, and to the auditorium. There was no time for a long lineup at the pumps, so we were told to return the car when the fuel was low, and they would rent us a new one full of gas.
After having seen how effective Jim Beard’s food program had been in Rochester, I asked for, and he gave me, permission to make the onion sandwiches, the main course (see below), and a lemon cream roll. As you might presume, I later made these things all over the country. I’d prepare the main course shortly after people gathered, and while it was in the oven making delicious aromas and enticing more people to hear my spiel, I’d present several cooking tips and finish making a dessert. It was a dramatic program, and we were able to award the food to a couple of attendees who had drawn lucky numbers.
Sicilian Veal Roll
Using veal in a dish back then wasn’t as controversial as it is now. Make it with that meat or substitute skinned and boned chicken breast halves or braciole for the first layer of the recipe. You will need a source for good deli meats, but the end result is worth the effort.
- 3 large, very thin veal cutlets, from the leg, about 12x6 in.
- 1⁄4 lb. salami
- 1⁄4 lb. mortadella or bologna
- 1⁄4 lb. prosciutto
- 1⁄4 lb. Panko bread crumbs
- 2 fat garlic cloves, peeled and chopped (or rubbed through a microplane)
- Chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley
- 1-2 tsps. chopped fresh basil
- 5 or 6 hard-cooked eggs, peeled and left whole
- Olive oil
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 5 or 6 bacon slices
- 2 c. tomato sauce (canned or homemade)
Leave veal cutlets in whole pieces. Pound veal very thin using a mallet (or even a small cast iron skillet). Use the smooth side in a “pound and slide” motion. Arrange slices side-by-side (the long sides adjoining) so they overlap slightly. Pound overlapping slices thoroughly to press them together. Arrange overlapping slices of salami on the veal. Top with rows of sliced mortadella, then with sliced prosciutto.
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Sprinkle surface of meat with bread crumbs, garlic, parsley, and basil. Down the center place a row of the hard-cooked eggs. Sprinkle with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Roll up very carefully as for jelly roll, making certain that eggs stay in place in center. (The crowd loved this.) Place the roll in a lightly greased glass baking dish and top with bacon. Place tomato sauce, with whole garlic cloves, over veal. Bake for 1 hour. Remove to a platter and slice or serve from the baking dish. This is also exceptionally good sliced cold or at cool room temperature. Perfect for these warm days.
How about a simple and very summery dessert? Try this spooned over whatever fresh berries you can find.
- 1⁄4 c. granulated sugar
- 4 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
- Grated rind of 1 lemon
- 6 Tbsp. dry white wine or dry vermouth
- 4 Tbsp. fine brandy
- 2 Tbsp. medium dry sherry
- 2 c. (1 pint) heavy cream
- 1⁄2 tsp. grated nutmeg (grate your own, it is better than the “dust” in those tins)
Combine all ingredients except cream and nutmeg in a ceramic or glass mixing bowl. Allow to stand for at least 2 hours. Strain into a clean 2-quart bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat at medium low, adding the cream slowly. When soft peaks form, add the grated nutmeg. Serve in small glass bowls over berries. A little goes a long way. It’s even better (the sauce) made a day ahead and stored, covered.
Beard’s Most Famous Recipe
What to have with a cool glass of Rosé or Prosecco? Try making Jim’s Onion Cocktail Sandwiches. Here’s how, and I echo his caution: “I warn you: you can’t make enough of these. Even non-onion types love them.” I have made these with red onion slices that I’ve soaked for an hour in ice water and then dried well in a dish towel. That smooths out the taste.
With a biscuit cutter, cut very thin slices of firm white bread (Pepperidge Farm, for example) into circles about two inches in diameter. Spread each circle with a thin coating of mayonnaise—Hellman’s or your own. Peel sweet, mild onions. Slice very, very thin. I use a mandolin. Arrange a slice on one of the circles of bread, then top with another circle, mayo side down. Brush the edge of each little sandwich with mayo, then roll the edge in minced parsley. Arrange on a colorful plate. Top with a slightly damp linen towel if not serving immediately. Then watch them disappear...as I do now.