THIS IS one of those rare homes construction stories with a happy ending. Judith and Matthew Huxley finally completed their dream kitchen, and two weeks ago they held a dinner to celebrate. (She is the woman who writes those candid, pithy cookbook articles for this newspaper's book review section and he is Huxley, the son of Aldous, who works at the National Institute of Mental Health.) Their guests were the construction team: carpenter Richard Gilmore, dry wall specialist Robert Dapogny, Robert Pollard (of the Alexandria firm Pollard & Tolley) and Pollard's wife Nancy, who directs the La Cuisine cookware store in Alexandria. Not surprisingly, much of the conversation centered on kitchens and the people who commission them. According to Gilmore," with people holding onto old houses and fixing them up, it's opening up the custom construction business. The custom kitchen is coming into its own and a remodeling job could cost $30,000. (The Huxleys were quick to note theirs did not.) More and more the kitchen is being taken as seriously as any room in the house, maybe more seriously. The Huxleys, who now have a totally new kitchen complete with skylight, a six-burner stove, open shelving (access to which is gained by a wooden library ladder that runs along a metal track), enough countertop work surface to provide the deck of a sailboat and even a hand-built (by Matthew) rack for pot lids -- a convenience worth at least a dozen crock pots. "The whole thing please me," Judy Huxley said between courses. "It also pleases Matthew. After all, he designed it." Consturction took nearly seven months with about half that time given over to the detail work. This included building a one-piece, 18-foot shelf, cabinets of four different sizes, creating formica fronting unmarred by a single seam or screw, grates to mask an air conditioner and radiator. "Every drawer is a different depth," said Richard Gilmore, proudly. There were spirited 6 a.m. phone calls from the Huxleys, Pollard acknowledged in a toast, and some sharp disagreements. "Each proportion is traumatic if you are going to build something beautiful," Pollard explained. "The owners had some difficult ideas -- exposed cabinets, a ladder that had to be anchored strongly. We particularly like this job because we accomplished what the owners needed: a functional, working kitchen. It's contemporary but with simple linear proportions that are almost Georgian." "We were going to keep the old stove, get a J. C. Penney refrigerator," Judy Huxley said. "You can make do with a lot of things and turn out to have a lousy kitchen." The old kitchen continued to function until the new one was ready, so the Huxleys could cook at home throughout the construction period. The old oven and sink are still in place and the once-cluttered kitchen immediately adjacent to the dining room now contains a number of support features for entertaining, including a bar counter and glasses hung on pegs, an espresso machine, serving platters, storage for trays and canned foods, dish washer, freezer and at least part of Judy Huxley's cookbook collection. The new kitchen, where the cooking is done, is dominated by the Vulcan stove with its elevated broiler and a hanging display of copperware. Elsewhere are various showpieces of modern technology such as a food processor, pots and pans, spices, a large clock and an equally large timer originally intended for use in a photography studio darkroom. It's very impressive, but Judy Huxley, a woman who smokes, drinks, swears for emphasis keeps an outspoken vigilance against pretense, is careful to keep the setting in perspective. "Let's say it's an extravagance, an indulgence," she said. "It's nice to have, it's beautiful, but it will not make me a better or worse cook. We won't eat much differently. 'I don't think the food will be better. What it does provide is the capacity to do more. "There is space to put things down. The pasta machine is right here. It's a lot easier to pull it out. The KitchenAid is always on the counter. There are molds on the shelf, not downstairs. You see them and immediately think of doing things with them." The Huxleys entertain as they plan kitchens, together. Matthew is an expert at martinis and wine, at carving and clearing tables. He makes breakfast daily and is, according to his wife, "my biggest critic. He cares, he knows the difference. If Matthew thinks it's good food, I've succeeded. He's never lied to me -- sometimes I wish he would. I don't do anything, we do it. The style here is as much Matthew's as mine." As a cook, Judy Huxley has two simple maxims: "I use anything that works," she said, "and I'm not afraid to make mistakes. "If I want to eat a particular thing, I'll make it," she continued. "I'm not competing. I hate all that tension. You're not what you eat. You are what you are. I've tried the most outrageous things on groups of 12 or 14 people. If the group is wonderful together, the food is an extra. What it is really doesn't matter. During the course of the excellent dinner that night she forgot the watercress to garnish broiled strip steaks (she went to the refrigerator, brought it to the table in a plastic bag and doled out sprigs) and served the dessert slightly over-chilled. "I never think of dessert," she confessed."To me it's not real food. It's icing." She believes that cooks who wish to save money "have to be not afraid to try things" they find at the market. She shops in specialty stores such as Arrow Live Poultry and Potomac Butter and Egg, but also at the supermarkets. "In some ways I'm very chintzy," she said. "In others I don't care what I spend. High price does not necessarily equal quality. "If I see something new it gives me a good reason to go through all these cookbooks," she said. Her approach to the cookbooks before reviewing them is to "do it (a recipe) straight the first time, taste it and make notes. You have to give a writer the courtesy of doing what they say. All my books are written in.If it's not wonderful, I'll play with it. Often I'll try a recipe that seems particularly outlandish. You never know." One favorite has been adopted from a Marcella Hazan recipe that called for plunging a duck briefly to boiling water, then playing a hair dryer over the skin before roasting it. Instead of making Hazan's lemon duck, Judy Huxley paints it with honey liquified with water, dries that coating and cooks the duck in a very hot oven for about an hour. Crispy skin and moist meat are presented with hoisin sauce, rice and a stir-fried vegetable. Another favorite, less remarkable, is hamburgers made to a recipe by Julia Child. She cooks dinner whenever they are eating at home, either pulling frozen crab cakes or steak from the freezer before going to work, or buying fresh food on her way back from the office. Several recipes she used often follow. POULET SAUTE A L'ESTRAGON (4 servings) 4 chicken thighs 4 chicken legs (Or 8 boneless breasts substituted for the above) 4 tablespoons butter 1 tablespoon oil 1/4 teaspoon salt 2 tablespoons tarragon 1 tablespoon minced shallots 1/2 cup beef bouillon 1 cup whipping cream Dry chicken pieces thoroughly with paper towels and saute in 2 tablespoons butter and oil in casserole over moderately high flame. Bring to golden brown on one side and turn over and bring to golden brown on other side. Salt chicken pieces, return to casserole and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon tarragon. Cover and continue to cook for approximately 20 to 25 minutes, turning and basting frequently. Test for doneness. Place chicken on platter and keep warm. Pour out all but 1 tablespoon of cooking fat. Add shallots and stir slowly for 1 minute. Add bouillon and boil down to about 4 tablespoons, scraping up coagulated juices. Add cream and allow to boil just enough to coat the spoon lightly. Remove from heat and swirl in remaining butter. Add the rest of the tarragon and stir in. Put chicken parts back into the caserole and baste with the sauce. -Demonstrated at the Alliance Fracaise by Jane Cody BORSCHT 3 cups beef bouilon diluted with equal amount of water 1 pound stewing beef, cut into small cubes 1 bay leaf 1 can sliced beets 3 tablespoons oil 1 small head cabbage, shredded 2 carrots, sliced 2 onions, chopped Small can tomato sauce Salt and pepper to taste Parsley or dill Sour cream Boil stewing beef and bay leaf in bouillon and water. In a different pot boil beets in 2 cups water until beets lose their color. Drain, throw away beets and reserve liquid. Saute cabbage, carrots and onions in oil until tender. To the pan add tomato sauce, beef stock, beet juice to taste and salt and pepper. Cook for 1 hour or more and let sit for a day. Chill in refrigerator, skim off fat. Bring to boil. Serve with parsley or dill and a spoonful of sour cream. -From an Alliance Francaise demonstration by Emilie Amram VEAL WITH CHIVES 2 ribbed veal chops Flour 4 tablespoons butter diluted with 1 tablespoon peanut oil Salt and pepper to taste 1/2 cup dry vermouth or white wine 1/2 cup beef stock 1/2 cup finely cut chives 2 tablespoons chopped parsley Dredge chops lightly in flour and brown quickly in butter and oil. Season with salt and pepper. Add the dry vermouth, cover and simmer 15 to 20 minutes. Add stock, chives, parsley. Turn chops to coat them in the herbs. Cook until they shine. Lovely with home made noodles. -Adopted from "How to Eat Better for Less Money" by James Beard and Sam Aaron SAUCE VINAIGRETTE AUX OEUFS (Makes about 1 cup) Make a vinaigrette in a jar by combining: 4 parts virgin olive oil to 1 part lemon juice, lots of chopped parsley, chives and shallots in a food processor for a few seconds. Boil 2 eggs for 3 minutes, scoop out yolks (discard whites) and stir into the vinaigrette. Shake and let stand for about an hour. Good for broiled fish, especially salmon. -Adopted from Elizabeth David's "Summer Cooking" COLD CUCUMBER & CHERVIL SOUP (6 servings) 4 tablespoons butter 4 chopped green onions 4 cucumbers, peeled and sliced 1 cup water 1/2 cucumber, shredded 3 tablespoons flour mixed to a paste with cold water 2 cups hot stock (chicken, beef or a mixture of both) 1/4 to 1/2 cup dried chervil 1/2 pint heavey cream Salt and pepper Cook green onion in butter until soft. Add the sliced cucumbers and the water. Cook 20 minutes until soft. Put through the processor and return to pot. Add flour paste and hot stock. Bring to boil. Add chervil, salt, pepper and taste. Remember when correcting seasoning that when cold the taste will dull. Add cream and chill. SPLENDID FLANK STEAK (4 to 6 servings) 2 pounds of flank steak 2 cloves garlic, crushed 4 tablespoons soy sauce 2 tablespoons tomato paste 2 tablespoons peanut oil 1 teaspoon cracked pepper 1 teaspoon oregano Rub the steak with the ingredients listed. Broil for 4 minutes on each side under very hot heat. Carve on the diagonal. RAISIN SAUCE 1/2 cup raisins 1/3 currants 1 1/3 cups burgundy 1 tablespoon flour 1 teaspoon prepared mustard 1 teaspoon sugar 1/4 teaspoon each of ground cloves and nutmeg 1 tablespoon each finely chopped parsley and green celery leaves 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon Soak raisins and currants overnight in wine. Next day drain wine and reserve. In the top of a double broiler mix flour, mustard, sugar, spices (except cinnamon) and parsley and celery leaves. Stir in wine and cook over hot water, stirring constantly until mixture thickens and boils. Add raisins and currants and stir in cinnamon diluted with a little cold water. Let sauce boil for 1 minute and taste for seasoning. Serve with ham or other smoked meats such as tongue. -From Mrs. Edmund Purves