The Recipes of Madison County

Madison County

by Jane Hemminger and Courtney Work

(The following is provided by Oxmoor House)


How many of us, when watching the hit film "The Bridges of Madison County," longed to experience the same passion and depth of emotions as Robert Kincaid and Francesca Johnson? The simple life of an Iowa farm wife is turned upside down when she offers a glass of iced tea to a wayward photographer. From there, Francesca's kitchen becomes a central location as we witness the reawakening of a lifetime of intense feelings.

In the spirit of recapturing that sense of passion, Jane Hemminger and Courtney Work have created The Recipes of Madison County (Oxmoor House; September 15, 1995; $14.95/ hardcover). Hemminger and Work are Iowa residents who worked on the set as food advisors and prop caterers, and in their new book they offer hearty Midwestern-inspired recipes from the movie, as well as dishes updated for the '90s. With more than sixty recipes ranging from soups, salads and sandwiches to main dishes and desserts, they have provided the culinary inspiration for igniting emotional flames in your own kitchen.

The Recipes of Madison County is divided into chapters and menus designed to help you set a scene and recreate your own Madison County magic. "Sparking a Relationship," featuring Fresh Vegetable Spaghetti and homemade Mocha Fudge Brownie Bites, echoes Robert and Francesca's first meal together after her initial offer of iced tea. Wild Rice Stuffed Peppers, Tossed Garden Salad with Creamy Vinaigrette, Strawberries and Nectarines with Cream, and Pecan Dreams are the essential components of a passionate evening in "Just Between Two."

Of course, other types of relationships can be fostered through food, and Apple Brown Betty helps to instigate conversation in "have girlfriends, will gossip," as does the contemporary lunch menu of Shrimp and Feta Pasta, Spicy Curried Chicken Salad and Orange-Nut Bread. Traditional heartland food is represented with Chicken-Fried Steaks, Old-Fashioned Mashed Potatoes with Country-Sytle White Gravy, Green Bean Casserole, and Drop Biscuits in "conversation and comfort food." and Hemminger and Work both realize that some of the best gifts come from the kitchen, and to that end several recipes perfect for special occasions, including Yellow Cream Cake with Butter Cream Frosting and Apricot Coffee Crescents.

Courtney Work Courtney Work (left) and Jane Henninger
Authors of The Recipes of Madison County

The Recipes of Madison County is peppered with Work's illustrations along with both authors' own recollections of working on the movie set and behind the scenes tidbits. Also included are mood-setting tips, designed especially to help you establish the right atmosphere, whether it's a romantic dinner for two, a family reunion, or a lunchtime get-together with your friends.

Jane Hemminger is a food consultant and registered dietitian, and Courtney Work is a professional artist. They are the owners of The Green Bowl, a company based in Des Moines, Iowa, that produces gourmet foods. The Recipes of Madison County is their first cookbook.


Wild Rice-Stuffed Green Peppers

  • 1/3 cup chopped onion
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon butter or margarine, melted
  • 1-1/2 cups beef broth
  • 3/4 cup long-grain, brown, and wild rice blend
  • 1/3 cup sliced celery
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped carrot
  • 1 (14-1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup chopped zucchini
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon ground thyme
  • 2 large green peppers, stem ends sliced off
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons tomato juice (optional)
  • 1/4 cup grated fresh Parmesan cheese

Sauté onion and garlic in butter in a large saucepan until tender. Add broth, rice, celery, and carrot. Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat, and simmer 25 minutes or until rice is almost done. Remove from heat; stir in tomatoes and next 5 ingredients.

Place peppers in a saucepan; cover with water. Bring to a boil; cook 3 minutes or until crisp-tender. Drain; stuff with rice mixture. Place peppers in a 1-1/2-quart greased casserole; spoon any extra rice around peppers. Cover with foil; bake at 350 degrees F for 25 minutes or until tender, basting with tomato juice after 15 minutes if mixture seems dry. When almost done, remove foil, and top with Parmesan; bake 5 more minutes.

Yield: 2 servings.


Apple Brown Betty

Betties are baked puddings made of layers of sugared and spiced fruit (usually apple) and breadcrumbs. During the Depression years, many cooks would crumble leftover biscuits to use in this recipe; here we've used graham cracker crumbs instead.

  • 3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine, melted
  • 3 medium cooking apples, peeled and sliced (about 3 cups)
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice, divided
  • 1/4 cup water, divided
  • 1/4 cup raisins, divided (optional)
  • Whipping cream or vanilla ice cream

Combine brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, salt, lemon rind, and vanilla; stir until blended, and set aside.

Combine graham cracker crumbs and melted butter. Firmly press 2/3 cup crumb mixture on bottom of a greased 8-inch square pan. Top crumb mixture with half of sliced apples, and sprinkle with half of sugar mixture. Sprinkle I tablespoon lemon juice and 2 tablespoons water over top of sugar mixture.

Top with an additional 2/3 cup crumb mixture and, if desired, 1/4 cup raisins. Top with remaining apples and remaining sugar mixture. Sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons each of lemon juice and water. Top with remaining 1/4 cup raisins, if desired, and remaining crumb mixture. Cover pan with aluminum foil, and bake at 300 degrees F for 35 to 40 minutes or until apples are nearly tender. Remove foil, increase heat to 400 degrees F, and bake another 10 minutes or until mixture is lightly browned. Serve warm with whipping cream.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings.

Behind the Scenes

We call Apple Brown Betty our "interview food. " Just being familiar with this dish secured the catering job for us. Aware of actress Meryl Streep's concern for the environment, we chose to use orchard apples to prepare this great dessert!


Recipes from
The Recipes of Madison County
Written and Illustrated by
lane M. Hemminger and Courtney A. Work
Oxmoor House
$ 14.95/hardcover
September 15, 1995
ISBN: 0-8487-1506-3
Reprinted with permission

This page originally published as a FoodDay article in 1997.

Copyright © 2007, Forkmedia LLC. All rights reserved.

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This page modified January 2007

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