HERE are a few of James Beard's most beloved and most-often imitated recipes and, from his new pasta book, one of the most simple and most complex, which add up to two of the most delicious. BRIOCHE EN SURPRISE (20 servings)
James Beard has always credited eating an entire raw onion--when he was but a crawling baby--as his first gastronomic experience. It is fitting, therefore, that perhaps his most famous dish, devised in the infancy of his food career, was these onion sandwiches. 2 loaves brioche (substitute challah) 3 large bunches parsley Small white onions, as needed Mayonnaise Salt
Chill the loaves well in the refrigerator before slicing. Chop parsley, and slice some small white onions quite thin. You will need one onion slice or so for each little sandwich. Cut the bread in 1/4-inch slices, and then, with a small cutter, cut the slices into rounds (about 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 inches in diameter). Arrange the rounds on a board or table, and spread them with mayonnaise. On half of them place a slice of onion. Salt the onions, and top with a round of brioche, and press gently. Have a plate of mayonnaise and a plate of parsley ready. Now roll the edge of each sandwich first in mayonnaise and then in the parsley. The parsley should make a fairly heavy wreath. Arrange the sandwiches in a box or on plates, and chill, covered, before serving. If well packed, they will hold in the refrigerator for hours, or even overnight. BILLY'S COLE SLAW (6 servings)
Beard may be the only serious cook in America who doesn't own a wok; since his family employed Chinese chefs throughout his childhood, Beard reasons, he remains intimidated by Chinese cooking. But he has often included non-Chinese recipes, such as this one, from those Chinese chefs of his childhood.
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons dry mustard
Dash hot pepper sauce
6 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup wine vinegar
1 cup heavy cream
2 egg yolks
1 large cabbage or 2 small
Additional heavy cream or 1/2 cup mayonnaise (optional)
Heat olive oil in a saute' pan or skillet. Add flour and blend well. Add salt, dry mustard, a dash of hot pepper sauce and sugar. Mixture will look grainy but later smooths out. Stir in wine vinegar, continuing until the mixture thickens. Add heavy cream mixed with egg yolks and stir until well blended and smooth. Correct the seasoning and cool the sauce slightly.
Shred cabbage and blend this with the sauce. Let the slaw cool. Chill it for several hours and toss it thoroughly, thinning it with a little more cream if necessary or adding 1/2 cup mayonnaise if you wish. Drain well before serving.
Note: There are many possible additions for this cole slaw: 1 cup shredded green and red pepper; 1 cup shredded pineapple; 1 cup fine-cut scallions; 2 cups shrimp, 2 cups crab meat, 2 cups lobster meat, 2 cups cold salmon or canned salmon; 2 7-ounce cans tuna. MARBELIZED FRESH HAM (16 to 20 servings)
The fresh ham or leg of pork is a most satisfactory roast for a large number of people, and equally good hot or cold. The English and sometimes the Italians leave the scored skin on and roast it to a crisp, chewy perfection. I find this delicious, but most people prefer to have the skin removed.
This rather elaborate dish is best served cold. Roast it early in the morning and let it cool until evening, without refrigerating for at least several hours before serving. This is a good choice for a buffet party. 3/4 cup white raisins 1/3 to 1/2 cup dry sherry 8 garlic cloves 1/2 cup chopped italian (flat-leaf) parsley, packed 1 cup shelled pistachio nuts 12- to 15-pound fresh ham, boned rolled, and well tied 1 teaspoon crushed dried sage Coarse (kosher) salt, freshly ground black pepper 6 tablespoons unsalted butter 1/3 cup apple jelly 1 teaspoon crushed aniseed (optional)
Soak raisins in sherry to cover until puffed, then drain. Reserve sherry.
Chop 5 garlic cloves and the parsley rather coarsely, and chop 3/4 cup pistachio nuts very coarsely. Make deep incisions in the ham with a long, heavy, wooden-handled larding needle, turning the needle before removing it so that it makes small cavities in the meat--these need not be done in any pattern. Combine raisins, chopped garlic, parsley and chopped pistachios and stuff the mixture into the cavities with your fingers, packing it in as tightly as possible--a wooden chopstick is a good aid. Push in remaining whole pistachios here and there.
Mince remaining garlic and blend with the crushed sage. Rub the outside fat with the mixture, then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Put the ham on a rack in a roasting pan and roast in a 325-degree oven for 25 to 30 minutes per pound. Combine the sherry drained from the raisins, the butter, and the apple jelly in a small saucepan and heat gently until butter and jelly are melted. If you like the flavor of anise, add the crushed aniseed to the mixture--this will result in a more highly perfumed ham. Baste the ham every half hour with the mixture as it roasts. Keep the basting mixture warm while using it.
When the ham reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees (insert meat thermometer in the thickest part) remove it from the oven and let it cool. If you are going to chill the ham, brush it well with the pan juices, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Carve the ham into thin slices. They will be beautifully marbled with the mixture of raisins, nuts, and herbs. Crisp italian bread goes well with this meal, as does a fine sparkling wine--a good American or French champagne of a pleasant vintage. FROGS' LEGS TORTELLONI (4 to 6 servings)
These tortelloni are the creation of chef Seppi Renggli of the Four Seasons Restaurant. They have an absolutely sublime flavor, and I'm just mad about them. If you don't want to use frogs' legs, of course, you can substitute chicken ( 1/2 pound boneless), but the taste will be subtly different.
For the pasta: 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour 1/2 teaspoon salt 2 large eggs 1 tablespoon oil
For the tortelloni: 4 slices bacon 5 shallots, chopped 1 clove garlic, chopped fine 6 fresh sage leaves or 1/2 teaspoon dried sage 1 rib celery, diced 2 pounds frogs' legs 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 1 cup cooked spinach 3 tablespoons parmesan cheese 2 eggs 1 quart heavy cream 5 ounces gorgonzola cheese 1 quart chicken stock 1/2 pound snow peas, each cut into 3 lengthwise strips
Put the metal blade into the food processor. Measure in the flour and salt, and process briefly to blend them. Drop the eggs and oil through the feeding tube, and let the machine run until the dough beings to form a ball; around 15 seconds should do it. Once you've become familiar with the method, you'll be able to correct the recipe at this point. If the dough seems too sticky, add a tablespoon or two more flour. If it's too dry, add a few drops of water or part of an egg. Process again briefly.
Turn out the dough onto a floured surface. Notice that this method results in the yellowest and stickiest dough of all. That's because it's already half-kneaded. Dust your hands with flour and continue the kneading. Work for 3 to 5 minutes, adding more flour if necessary, until you have smooth ball of dough. Set it to rest under a dish towel or in plastic wrap.
Cut the bacon into 1-inch pieces and cook until crisp. Add the shallots, garlic, sage and celery. Stir over the heat for a few minutes and place the frogs' legs on top. Season with salt and pepper, cover, and cook for 20 minutes on the stove top or in a 375-degree oven. Set aside the frogs' legs until they are cool enough to handle. When you are able to pick the meat from the bones, add it with the spinach to the frypan, and cook over high heat until all the juices have evaporated. Stir in the parmesan cheese, taste, and correct the seasoning. Put the mixture in the bowl of the food processor, process well, and let cool.
Roll the pasta out by placing the ball of dough on a floured surface. Pat it into a flat disk and start to roll it with your rolling pin. Move always from the center to the edges of the circle, giving the dough a quarter-turn after each roll to keep the circular shape. Keep checking to be sure that the dough isn't sticking to the board. If it is, loosen with a dough scraper and dust with flour. When the dough is about 1/4-inch thick, the first stage is finished.
During the second stage, you will be pulling and stretching the dough instead of rolling it. Curl the far edge of the circle around the center of your rolling pin. Then roll the pin back toward you, wrapping some of the dough around it. Push and stretch it away from you as you unroll the dough. At the same time, slide your hands lightly out and in on the pin, stretching the sheet sideways. Don't press down. Pull out.
Turn the circle slightly after each stretch. You are trying to make a very thin sheet of dough, something like the thickness of good writing paper. It will be slightly transparent. You won't be able to read through it but, if you're rolling on a wooden surface, you should be able to see the grain of wood through the dough.
One way to be sure that you're rolling dough evenly and that it isn't sticking to the board is to check its color. If the color is more intense at the center of the circle than at the edges, it means that the dough is thicker there. That often happens when it has stuck to the board. Roll it up onto the pin (a dough scraper will be helpful). Dust the board with flour. Turn the dough face-down and flour its top side. Rub some flour onto the rolling pin. If the business of stretching and pulling and sliding your hands in and out seems too much for you to master, you can roll out the dough as you might a very thin pie crust. It takes a lot of work, because you'll be fighting the gluten's elasticity, but it can definitely be done.
Cut the pasta into 3-inch squares. Beat the eggs and brush the dough squares with the egg wash. Place a full teaspoonful of filling in the middle of each square. Moisten the edges, fold the dough in half, and press the edges together.
Bring the cream to a boil in a heavy saucepan and simmer until it is reduced by half. Then stir in the gorgonzola.
In a second saucepan, bring the chicken stock to a boil. Cook the tortelloni in it for 5 minutes, adding the strips of snow peas for the last half minute of cooking. Remove the dumplings and snow peas with a slotted spoon, and add them to the cheese-cream sauce. Shake the pan until each dumpling is well coated. RAISIN AND PIGNOLI SAUCE (For 1 pound fresh pasta) 3/4 cup olive oil 4 cloves garlic, chopped fine 1/2 cup pignoli (substitute almonds) 1/2 cup raisins Freshly ground pepper Freshly chopped parsley
Heat olive oil with garlic. Add nuts and raisins, and heat through. Serve over pasta, sprinkled with lots of fresh pepper and chopped parsley.