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A classic treasury of recipes gets up to date

Appeal of 'The Silver Palate' isn't so hard to figure out

Carol Huffman, owner of the Cheese Chalet in The Shops at Limestone Hills
   Carol Huffman, owner of the Cheese Chalet in The Shops at Limestone Hills.
The News Journal/JENNIFER CORBETT

Hello there, Salmon Mousse.

Nice to see you again, Linguine with Tomatoes and Basil.

And, look! It's my good old pal, Chicken Marbella.

Thanks, buddy. You've helped me through more than a few dinner parties.

To many home cooks, these classic recipes from "The Silver Palate Cookbook," which celebrates its 25th anniversary this month, are cherished keepsakes.

However, the paperback books containing the recipes aren't holding up so well.

Take Carol Hopkins's treasured, tattered copy.

After making 66 Silver Palate recipes -- some many times over -- Hopkins's favorite cookbook has split into two pieces. The worn paperback is now held together "with love, food stains and a rubber band," she says.

Workman Publishing has just released a silver-anniversary edition of "The Silver Palate Cookbook" with more than 100 photographs (Wow, Chicken Marbella -- in color!) and a bright cherry-red cover. A new introduction has been added. Authors Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins, who wrote the book with Michael McLaughlin, have included updates throughout the book to reflect today's contemporary tastes.

The cookbook, first published in 1982, was based on dishes created by Rosso and Lukins at the 165-square-foot Silver Palate gourmet shop that the pair opened in 1977 in New York's Upper West Side. (The shop has since closed.)

The unexpected menus and inspired flavor combinations instantly hit a chord with home cooks. At the time, ingredients like raspberry vinegar, mango chutney, sun-dried tomatoes and Szechuan hot chile oil seemed oh-so sophisticated.

The book had no photographs, but included Lukins' delicate pen-and-ink illustrations. Not everyone found them helpful.

A reader once called Lukins, now food editor of Parade magazine, and complained that the Decadent Chocolate Cake she had baked didn't look like the drawing in the book. Lukins assured her that the illustrations weren't meant to be exact portraits. It was the taste of the cake that counted. (Alas, there's no photo of the cake in the new book.)

Yet, many readers still found the contents a little more accessible than, say, Julia Child's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" (Knopf) and perhaps a little more cutting-edge than "The Joy of Cooking" (Scribner) or the red-plaid "Betty Crocker Cookbook" (Better Homes and Gardens).

There are now more than 2.3 million copies of "The Silver Palate" in print, and its enduring appeal isn't so hard to figure out.

"They were just really, really good recipes, and they weren't difficult to make," says Carol Huffman, who has been using the cookbook for almost 20 years.

When she and her husband Henry opened their gourmet takeout and catering business, the Cheese Chalet in Pike Creek's The Shops at Limestone Hills, in 1988, Carol Huffman considered "The Silver Palate" her "bible."

"We made many of the salads and recipes. To this day, two of our most popular takeout and catering entrees -- Lemon Chicken and Chicken Marbella -- are standards and are on every menu cycle.

"I could make Lemon Chicken blindfolded with one hand tied behind my back," jokes Huffman, who has updated the recipe and now uses boneless, skinless chicken breasts.

"I think I've made 3,000 of them. I put it on the menu, and it sells out. That's what everyone wants."

Huffman has two copies of "The Silver Palate Cookbook" -- one she keeps at home and one battered, stained copy, with pages missing, for the store.

"Anything that [the authors] said sold well in their store, that's what we would make. We just paged through it and said, 'What are going to make today?' We tried everything."

Now, Carol and Henry plan their own menus and recipes at the Cheese Chalet, which can be found at www.cheesechalet.de. They also have a changing variety of daily specials. And while Huffman still embraces "The Silver Palate," she admits, "I kind of moved on. Now, I'm into 'The Barefoot Contessa.' "

Good food and good times

Kandie Semmelman of Landenberg, Pa., formed a Supper Club in the 1980s using recipes exclusively from "The Silver Palate" and "The Silver Palate Good Times" (Workman, 1984) cookbooks.

"We all had infants and toddlers at the time, so it was a great way to get together at a host home to try new recipes, good wines and conversation without the expense of going out to eat. We shared the cost of a neighborhood baby sitter as well."

"Each member was responsible for some part of the dinner. The host would plan the menu and tell each guest which recipe to use and what page of the book it was on. We learned which dishes were more labor-intensive, which dishes transported well and which ingredients were hard to find. Janssen's [Market in Greenville] was our best bet for the harder-to-find ingredients. Since none of us had fancy kitchens, we had to think about the logistics of cooking and warming times.

"Once we took the group out to the local Point-to-Point steeplechase races at Winterthur Museum, and my Peppermint Soufflé with Bittersweet Chocolate Sauce was probably not the best dessert to serve out of doors! The Bishop's Cake, a moist pound cake, would have been a better choice, and I still make it frequently.

"Both books are still my favorites, and all of our children, now in their 20s, have an appreciation for well-seasoned and prepared dishes."

Whoa, man! Go chew on a mint!

Garlic breath that could scare a dog is one of Ronald F. Dodd's best memories of "The Silver Palate Cookbook."

"One summer evening, [my wife] Rebecca decided to make Silver Palate aioli. I am blessed among men, because from the time I bring in the first tomato [we garden extensively, maintaining both a pleasure and a provision ground], she makes mayonnaise until the last tomato is gone.

"This time, she not only made mayonnaise, but decided to make a batch of aioli, since the blender [our '76 Cuisinart] was already messed up and we had our own fresh garlic. I ate aioli on everything within reach that evening and remember not what was the main dish, but I have some fugitive memory of putting aioli on a small steak and perhaps on roasting ears (what we call sweet corn).

"I had an after-dinner reason to communicate with our next-door neighbors, who were finishing their dinner on their screened porch.

"I sat down on the top step, and was joined by their giant black Labrador, with whom I was particularly friends. He sat next to me on the step. I believe I had a tall-necked bottle of beer in my left hand, and I put my right arm around him -- I said we were friends, did I not?

"Upon addressing my first remark to him, with our faces on the same level, he closed both eyes and turned his head, got out from under my arm and moved off several feet.

"It was over a week before he wanted anything to do with me.

"Desolate, I ate more aioli later."

Borrowed, gone, not forgotten

Bonita Williams calls herself "a great fan" of "The Silver Palate Cookbook."

"It guided me through many dinner parties successfully. My family raved about my special cakes and my chicken dishes. My best friend, who also happens to be my cousin Barbr'ann Henery, 'borrowed' my cookbook 10 years ago. I have asked repeatedly for its return. However, she refuses.

"In the meantime, she has enjoyed the benefits of the ooohhss and ahhhss from her family during holidays, birthdays and just everyday life. 'Our' cookbook has become a running joke between us. I have given up finally and simply relinquished my rights to the sacred document. I have chosen to pursue a far better thing and simply purchased another copy for my exclusive use."

Contact Patricia Talorico at 324-2861 or This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it . Read her culinary blog, Second Helpings, at www.delawareonline.com/blogs/secondhelpings/blog.html.


LEMON CHICKEN

2 chickens (2 1/2 pounds each), cut into quarters

2 cups fresh lemon juice

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons salt

2 teaspoons paprika

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup corn oil

2 tablespoons grated lemon zest

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup chicken stock or canned chicken broth

1 teaspoon lemon extract

2 lemons sliced paper-thin


Combine the chicken pieces and lemon juice in a bowl just large enough to hold them comfortably. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator overnight, turning occasionally. Drain the chicken thoroughly and pat dry. Fill a plastic bag with the flour, salt, paprika, and black pepper, and shake well to mix. Put 2 pieces of chicken into the bag at a time and shake, coating completely. Shake off any excess flour. Preheat the oven to 350. Heat the corn oil in a frying pan or cast-iron Dutch oven over medium heat until hot. Fry the chicken pieces, a few at at time, until well-browned and crisp. This will take about 10 minutes per batch. Arrange the chicken in a single layer in a large shallow baking pan. Sprinkle evenly with the lemon zest and brown sugar. Mix the chicken stock and lemon extract together and pour around the chicken pieces. Set a thin lemon slice on top of each piece of chicken. Bake the chicken until tender, 50 minutes.

Makes 6 or more portions.

 
LINGUINE WITH TOMATOES AND BASIL
All recipes from Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins’ “The Silver Palate Cookbook 25th Anniversary Silver Edition” (Workman, $19.95).


4 large ripe tomatoes, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1 pound brie, rind removed, torn into irregular pieces

1 cup fresh basil leaves, rinsed, patted dry and cut into strips

3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely minced

1 cup plus 1 tablespoon best-quality olive oil

1/2 teaspoon salt, plus additional to taste

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 1/2 pounds linguine

Freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese for garnish (optional)


At least 2 hours before serving, combine the tomatoes, brie, basil, garlic, the 1 cup olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper in a large serving bowl. Bring 6 quarts salted water to a boil in a large pot. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil and the linguine, and boil until tender but still firm, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain the pasta and immediately toss with the tomato sauce. Serve at once, passing the peppermill and the grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese, if you like.

Makes 4 to 6 portions.


 
FRENCH POTATO SALAD WITH BACON

8 or 9 new potatoes (1 pound)

Salt to taste

1/4 pound bacon

1/4 cup finely chopped shallots

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons olive oil

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

1/4 cup chopped red onion

1/2 cup chopped fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley


Scrub the potatoes under running water with a soft brush. Quarter them and drop them into a large heavy pot of cold, salted water. Bring to a boil and cook until tender but still firm, 8 to 10 minutes after the water reaches a boil. Meanwhile, chop the bacon and sauté in a small skillet over medium-low heat until crisp. Remove the bacon and reserve. In the bacon fat remaining in the skillet, sauté the chopped shallots until tender but not at all browned, 5 minutes or so. Reserve the shallots and fat. When the potatoes are done, drain them and drop them into a mixing bowl. Pour the vinegar, olive oil, shallots and reserved bacon fat over the still hot potatoes. Season with salt and pepper and gently toss. Add the red onion and parsley and toss again. Cool to room temperature, cover and refrigerate. Before serving, bring back to room temperature, toss, correct the seasoning and add additional oil and vinegar if the salad seems dry. Sprinkle the reserved crisp bacon on top.

Makes 4 portions.
 
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