The Evolution of Cookbooks

blaire and adam

Blaire and Adam

January 14 – January 20, 2019

pantry pizza

Monday:                      Pantry Pizza – Cherry Tomatoes and Prosciutto with Shredded Fontina and Red Onions, Diced Poblano and Jambon Royale with Shredded Fontina / Arugula and Cucumbers with Champagne Vinaigrette

beans on toast

Tuesday:                      Bean and Tomato Ragu on Toast

pasta beans

Wednesday:                Rigatoni with the bean and tomato sauce from Tuesday

goat cheese and endive wheel

Belgian Endive with Herbed Goat Cheese      Don’t know what happened to pictures of         Tomato and Avocado Salad

Thursday:                    Tomato and Avocado Salad with Cauliflower Toasts


Friday:                         Lemon Salmon and Spiced Chickpeas

eggplant parmesan

Saturday:                     Roasted Eggplant Parmesan

Chicken Marbella.jpg

Sunday:                       Chicken Marbella with parsley potatoes and salad

Note:  We have, courtesy of Mauri, some of the photographs we wanted to show you last week.  As a reminder, these are pictures from Adam and Blaire’s wedding and they include Sydney, the ingenue, and Eddie, the happiest boy in the world.  Blaire and Adam are above, and you’ll find the other pictures beneath the “keeper” recipe for this week.


Well, the title above this post is a bit misleading.  I’m not going back to early American handbooks on cooking and housewifery, nor to the original arbiters of taste among the noble and wealthy in France.  You can consult Brillat-Savarin’s Physiology of Taste, if you wish, but don’t expect to get much help with tonight’s meal or this weekend’s dinner party.

I’m thinking of the books my mother and mother-in-law consulted, that we inherited.  These were, generally, small encyclopedias of cooking, covering everything from sauces to butchery to baking.  In The Joy of Cooking by Irma S. Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker you could also learn how to murder, disembowel and de-feather a chicken, how to cook a 100 lb. sea turtle, or that a Perfect Bourbon Manhattan made with Scotch is a Rob Roy and, if you add a dash of Drambuie, becomes a Bobbie Burns.  I’ve been suggesting to Beez for years that, if she were really a strong woman, she would raise and butcher her own chickens for the sake of the family.  Her busy career has not allowed her to get a handle on this yet – but now that she’s retired, sometime this Spring, don’t be surprised if you hear hysterical squawking from our back yard.

Basically, with these older cookbooks, you thought up something to cook, then consulted the book and cooked it.  Or, to be more accurate, you heated Stouffer’s pizza in the oven and made a salad, or bought Chinese take-out, or cooked hotdogs and macaroni and cheese for the kids, or grilled a steak, and, on special occasions, consulted these books to remember how to cook a turkey or make Irish stew or spice a ham.

Today’s most popular cookbooks are more inspiring and more useful.  They generally offer a point-of­-view and entire menus, from apps to dessert.  You don’t have to ‘think up’ dinner, just look at the pictures.  They can also be great fun to read, they have photography that will make you drool, instead of the confusing line drawings of the past, and the recipes are geared to modern appliances and the goods available in modern grocery stores.  AND, if they are written by Ina Garten, they are easy to follow and invariably serve up delicious food.

We’ve been working through Ina’s latest, cook like a pro:  recipes and tips for home cooks, and are delighted to report that after a dozen or so previous cookbooks, Ina still has lots to teach, and a bunch of great recipes to offer.  She is one hell of a franchise.

Below, you’ll find one of our new favorites from this book.

By the way, if you click on the “COOKBOOKS” tab above, you can read about more of our favorites and the books we’ve consulted over the years.  I promise to update it in the next three or four months.

chicken marbella plate

                CHICKEN MARBELLA

Now I’m going to contradict everything I just implied about old cookbooks.  I’ve just been looking through The Joy of Cooking, written in 1931, and if I had to have just one cookbook, this would be it.  The chicken recipe itself, which Ina has updated, is from nearly 50 years ago.  Our copy of The Silver Palate Cookbook by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins, copyrighted in 1970, contains the recipe Ina is working from.  This is a spectacularly delicious chicken dish – perfect for a dinner party but also a nice reward for your family, if they’ve been behaving themselves.  NOTE:  This chicken is wonderful as leftovers.

Timing:        You must marinate the chicken overnight – cooking takes 75 minutes

Ingredients:                                                       Serves 6

2 (4 lb. – a little heavier is just fine) chickens, backs removed and cut into 8 pieces

Note:  I will butcher your chicken for you for a fee of $1,250 and a bottle of Chateau Lafitte Rothschild.  If you are incompetent in this area, ask a butcher to do it for you or, if you must, settle for chicken pieces.

1 ½ cups large pitted prunes (our local market carries Sun Maid) – THIS IS A KEY INGREDIENT
1 cup large green olives, pitted (Cerignola or Castelvetrano)
½ cup capers with their juices
½ cup good olive oil
½ cup good red wine vinegar
1 ½ heads of garlic, cloves peeled and minced (Note:  I used 4 good sized cloves – maybe 1/3 of a head.  I think that’s enough to give the Chicken a good, earthy flavor, but if you like garlic as much as Ina obviously does, go crazy.)
6 bay leaves
¼ cup of dried oregano
½ cup light brown sugar, lightly packed (we used dark brown and would suggest less than ½ cup – maybe 6 tablespoons – the sugar is important, but we think ½ cup is a little too much)
1 cup dry white wine
Kosher salt and ground black pepper


Measure out the ingredients, except the brown sugar (you’ll be using it tomorrow) and butcher the chicken.  If you’ve bought chicken pieces, use a paper towel to dry them a bit before proceeding.

Make the Marinade:

Combine all of the ingredients except the chicken and the brown sugar in a large bowl or one of those jumbo plastic storage bags that you can seal.  Add the chicken.  Refrigerate overnight, turning the chicken (if in a bowl) or massaging it around, if in the storage bag, a few times to ensure that all the pieces get flavored.)  You know to squeeze all of the air out before sealing one of those storage bags, right?


Let the chicken come to room temperature for a couple of hours.  Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 F.

chicken marbella uncooked

Chicken ready to go in the oven

Place the chicken, skin side up, along with the marinade, in a single layer in a large roasting pan.  Sprinkle with the brown sugar, two teaspoons of salt, one teaspoon of pepper.

Pour the wine around (not over) the chicken – you don’t want to wash away the marinade or the sugar.

Roast for 45 – 55 minutes, or until internal temperature is 145.  Take the roasting pan from the oven and cover it tightly with aluminum foil and let rest for about 12 minutes.

Discard the bay leaves, plate the chicken, prunes, and olives on a serving platter, sprinkle with salt and serve with the pan juices.  We had some dressed arugula and cucumbers and some parsley potatoes with our chicken.  Oh – and a Rob Roy.


Sydney, the beautiful flower girl


Happy Eddie

4 thoughts on “The Evolution of Cookbooks

  1. Bill, would you mind changing my email to my personal address: Our new company system puts your blog in an Other section that I don’t look at everyday. I now have to search for your gem every week. Whenever you get a chance. Thanks.

  2. Bill – I enjoyed seeing the info on Chicken Marbella. We have the new Ina cookbook, and I have been eyeing this recipe and read how it goes back forever. Anyway, I plan to make it – and hoped I would have done so already. I hope to make enough to bring you some!

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