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The Best of Craig Claiborne: More than 1,000 Recipes from His New York Times Food Columns and Four of His Classic Cookbooks
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Craig Claiborne, in his New York apartment in 1990
La Belle Cuisine
"Epicure Craig Claiborne dead at 79," read the Associated Press
headline. Reading those words on January 23, 2000, made my blood run cold. I felt
though I had lost an old friend.
Unfortunately, I've never had the pleasure of Mr.
so why did I feel such a tremendous sense of personal loss? Was it
because he was from Mississippi, where I spent a large part of my life?
No, although that
was certainly a factor in establishing rapport between
us. His was always one of the
names I mentioned during the times I felt
it necessary to defend Mississippi when it was
under attack by those so grossly misinformed as to think that Mississippians are
ward, uneducated and lacking in both culture and mental acumen. Was
it because we
shared the same philosophy about food? Indeed it was.
And with good reason. When I was
becoming serious about cooking,
he was my primary mentor and played a large part in
knowledge of global
cuisine - mine as well as the rest of the country's.
We lost more than a "food writer" when Mr. Claiborne left this earth.
lost an extraordinarily talented, influential individual, a revolutionary
giant in the
culinary world. For those of you who may be unfamiliar
Mr. Claiborne and his work
(although that is unimaginable to me,
assuming you to be a lover of fine food), perhaps I
In addition to being a prolific author, he was the first male editor of
food section of the New York Times and remained on the Times staff
retirement in 1988. His journalistic acumen was backed up by
a solid formal food education
in Lausanne, Switzerland. Not only did
Mr. Claiborne write well, he knew whereof he wrote,
which, sadly, is
not always the case.
Part of the astonishing legacy left us by Craig
New York Times Cookbook, published in 1961 by
Harper & Row*,
now a classic. When I learned of Mr. Claiborne's death, I immediately
began to gather
up his cookbooks, more out of respect for him than for
my own pleasure -
although his books always bring me that. During the
process of browsing through some of my
favorite, well-worn cookbooks,
I was astounded to realize how very far ahead of his time
actually was. I
would venture to say that very few "average"
familiar with such things as Cacciucco in 1961. And it isn't
household word today! (And yes, I had to look it up myself:
Italian seafood stew.)
Or how about Riz à l'Impératrice?
Cabbage, sure. But Cabbage à la Bretonne? Sauerkraut?
By all means.
But Choucroute à l'Alsacienne is a far cry from ordinary sauerkraut!
Claiborne, like Julia Child, took us to places most of us never
dreamed of, broadened
culinary horizons, if you will. Epicure
indeed he was. He will be
sorely missed. (MG)
*The latest edition
(1990) of Craig Claiborne's renowned
New York Times Cookbook, published by HarperCollins:
New York Times Cookbook
The original 1961 edition of The New York Times Cook Book is
now out of print, but can be
obtained from used book dealers.
"Nothing rekindles my spirits, gives comfort to
my heart and mind,
more than a visit to Mississippi... and to be regaled as I often have
been, with a platter of
collard greens, fresh
corn on the cob,
sliced tomatoes with
French dressing... and to top it
all off with a wedge of freshly baked
(from the introduction to
Craig Claiborne's Southern Cooking
1987, Times Books, now out of print)
Craig Claiborne's Maque Choux
"One of the most typically Cajun dishes is called maque
I have never heard explained. It is primarily a vegetable
dish with corn
its principal ingredient."
16 ears fresh corn on the cob
4 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon peanut oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped bell pepper (green and red)
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
2 cups cored, chopped, ripe tomatoes
3 tablespoons heavy cream
1 teaspoon sugar
Cut corn kernels from the cob using sharp knife. Scrape cobs to
pulp. there should be about 8 cups. Heat 1 tablespoon butter and the oil
skillet and add the onions and bell peppers. Cook, stirring, until
wilted. Add the corn,
ground pepper, cayenne and thyme. Cook about
10 minutes or until corn starts to stick to
the bottom. Add tomatoes,
salt to taste, cream and sugar - stir. Cover and cook, stirring
about 10 minutes. Stir in remaining 3 tablespoons butter and serve
hot. Serves 10.
Claiborne's Eggplant au Gratin
Craig Claiborne, 1987, Times Books/
2007 Univ. of Georgia Press
1 eggplant (about 1 pound)
1/2 pound fresh mushrooms
3 1/2 tablespoons butter
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 1/2 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup heavy cream
freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
Tabasco to taste
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons bread crumbs
2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Peel eggplant and cut flesh into 1-inch
cubes, more or less. Drop cubes into boiling salted water and cook about
5 minutes, just
until cooked. Drain well.
Meanwhile slice mushrooms. There should be about 2 cups. Heat 1
tablespoon butter in skillet and add mushroom slices. Sprinkle with salt
and 1 teaspoon
lemon juice. Cook, stirring and tossing, until mushrooms
give up their juice. Continue
cooking until liquid evaporates. Set aside.
Melt 1 1/2 tablespoons butter in a saucepan and
add flour, stirring with
a wire whisk. Add milk and cream, stirring rapidly with whisk.
blended and smooth, add salt and pepper, remaining lemon juice,
nutmeg and Tabasco.
Stir in mushrooms and eggplant. Stir in egg.
Spoon into baking dish (8-inch pie plate).
Sprinkle with mixture of
crumbs and Parmesan, dot with 1 tablespoon butter. Bake 30 to
Index - Craig Claiborne recipes!
A Tribute to Julia Child
A Tribute to Eudora Welty
The Spice Cabinet
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