Believe it or not…there was a time when Food TV Network did not exist and television celebrity chefs were mostly found on PBS… Julia Child, “The French Chef”; Jeff Smith, “The Frugal Gourmet”; and Martin Yan, “Yan Can Cook”. Those were the 1980’s and in my hometown in Southwest Virginia ingredients for recipes were extremely limited. Mega grocery stores would not pop up in our city for another decade. Our local grocery store produce section consisted of iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, celery, onions and if we were lucky a cucumber. Fresh herbs were grown in the garden at home. Fancy cheese and wine were purchased at fancy food and wine gourmet stores because these items were not readily available at the grocery store.
Then along comes a cookbook that got home cooks like me excited about creating “fancy food” in our kitchens, “The Silver Palate Cookbook”. The authors, Julie Rosso, Advertising Director for a major textile firm in New York City and Shelia Lukins, a graduate of Cordon Bleu School in London, met when Rosso hired Lukins catering company to cater a press party. These two very talented culinarians opened their food shop “The Silver Palate” in 1977 on the Upper West Side in Manhattan. “We aimed for food that was beautiful as well as delicious.” First came the shop ~ to go orders and catering ~ then the canning and preserving ~ the bright red label adorning jars of marinara sauce, fancy mustard, salad “splash” dressings and chutneys…culminating with the cookbooks.
I read cookbooks like novels. I like to think of the recipes as the plot of the story and the ingredients as the characters. Sometimes the cookbook is full of love stories and sometimes full of mystery. The Silver Palate Cookbook has vignettes in the margins that bring the pages to life. The Silver Palate Tarragon Chicken Salad recipe is full of love for me. As I read this recipe, reminiscing about the times I made it for my then boyfriend and now husband, I remembered why I loved the recipe so much ~ baking the chicken in whipping cream! This method makes the chicken plump and juicy.
From the Silver Palatte Good Times Cookbook:
The French call tarragon the king of herbs. Its mild anise flavor is both mysterious and seductive ~ think of the best béarnaise sauce you’ve ever tasted! Tarragon also combines well with poultry, veal, eggs, and in a salad dressing with mustard and lemon.
Silver Palate Tarragon Chicken Salad
…dressy enough to serve as a main course; delicious enough to have in a sandwich; and so simple to assemble that you will make it often.
4 to 6 servings
Pre-heat oven to 350 degree Fahrenheit
Boneless whole chicken breasts, about 3 pounds
1 cup Crème Fraîche or heavy cream
1/2 cup dairy sour cream
1/2 cup Hellmann’s mayonnaise
2 celery ribs, cut into 1 inch long pencil strips
1/2 cup shelled walnuts
1 tablespoon crumbled dried tarragon
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Arrange chicken breasts in a single layer in a large jellyroll pan. Spread evenly with crème fraîche or heavy cream and bake in a pre-heated 350 degree Fahrenheit oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until done to your taste. Remove from oven and cool.
- Shred meat into bite-size pieces and transfer to a bowl.
- Whisk sour cream and mayonnaise together in a small bowl and pour over chicken mixture.
- Add celery, walnuts, tarragon, salt and pepper to taste and toss well.
- Refrigerate, covered, for at least 4 hours. Taste and correct seasoning before serving. I enjoy this chicken salad on a toasted croissant.
The Silver Palate Cookbook was followed by the Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook published in 1985; The New Basics Cookbook 1989; Silver Palate Desserts 1995; 25th Anniversary Silver Palate Cookbook 2007 (with full color photos – the original Silver Palate cookbook had pen sketches throughout the book). Lukins and Rosso went on to publish their own cookbooks after they “split the dishes” in 1988.
My favorite quote from Lukin’s cookbook Celebrate!
A woman should never be seen eating or drinking. Unless it be lobster and champagne… ~ Lord Byron
Another of my favorite recipes to pair with champagne is this one for delicate, crispy palmiers:
Palmiers with Honey Mustard and Prosciutto
You will love these light puff-pastry palmiers and the variation. Or let your imagination play.
Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
1 sheet puff pastry (18 x 11 inches), homemade or packaged
3 tablespoons honey mustard (I substituted Boars Head Chipotle Gourmaise – available in the deli section of the grocery store and doubled the amount to 6 tablespoons)
4 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons water
- Place the puff pastry on a work surface (I lightly flour my work surface so puff pastry will not stick to surface) and spread the mustard over the top. Arrange the prosciutto evenly over the mustard to cover all of the pastry, and then sprinkle with the Parmesan. Lightly press the cheese into the prosciutto with a rolling pin.
- Starting at one long edge, roll up the puff pastry like a jelly roll just to the middle of the dough; then roll up the other side in the same fashion making two rolls that meet in the center. Using a serrated knife, cut the rolls crosswise into 1/2-inch slices. Place the slices on cookie sheets lined with parchment paper and press lightly with your hands to flatten. Refrigerate for 15 minutes.
- Beat the egg and water together in a small bowl. Brush the top of each palmier with the egg wash. Bake until puffed and lightly golden, about 10 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Variation: Spread the puff pastry with 1/3 cup Basic Pesto and sprinkle with 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese. Press the cheese into the dough with a rolling pin and proceed as directed.
Basic Pesto Recipe
2 cups fresh basil leaves
4 medium-size cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup walnut meats
1 cup best-quality olive oil
1 cup freshly grated imported Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup grated imported Romano cheese
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Process the basil, garlic, and walnuts in a food processor fitted with a steel blade – or in 2 batches in a blender – until finely chopped.
- With the machine running, pour in the oil in a thin, steady stream.
- Add the cheeses, a big pinch of salt, and a liberal grinding of pepper. Process briefly to combine. Remove to a bowl and cover until ready to use.
Silver Palate’s Recommendations On When To Drink Champagne!
Of course I was especially interested in what occasions were their favorite to serve champagne and since I am writing this in the Spring…
- The first day of Spring
- Launching a new boat
- A tax rebate
- Spotting a rainbow
- Absolutely no reason at all!
One thing that has never changed in all these years…I LOVE CHAMPAGNE!
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