Country Suppers
Simple, Hearty Fare for Family and Friends

Country Suppers

Supper or dinner? Does it really make a difference what you call the evening meal? To Ruth Cousineau, author of Country Suppers: Simple, Hearty Fare for Family and Friends, the difference is a huge one. To find a good dinner, leaf through your Zagat's. To find a delicious supper, especially in Ruth's home state of Vermont, open up the paper and look under community activities and you just might find a Chicken Barbecue, Corn Festival, or Strawberry Social being held up the road apiece. These culinary gatherings are where friends are made, fine recipes are swapped, and luscious seasonal fare is served up with the local gossip.

Country Suppers is her collection of over 125 of these recipes interspersed with the whimsical folk art painting of Warren Kimble, another Vermont resident. Emphasizing local ingredients, Ruth provides scrumptious recipes for Cider-Glazed Carrots, Maple Oatmeal Bread, Ice-Fish Chowder, Stark Biddle's Drunken Lamb, Shepherd's Pie with Turnip-Potato Crust, and Caramel Apple Pie. There are also some unexpected recipes, like Jerk Chicken, Moussaka, and Muriel 's Chicken Soup with Kreplach. Rural Vermont is changing and ethnic foods are gently being folded into the batter of the country supper.

There are three outstanding dessert chapters which reflect the New Englander's sweet tooth. "Fruit Desserts and Preserves," "Pumpkin, Squash, and Maple Desserts, ' and "Chocolate Desserts." The Apple and Cheddar Pie has the best Cheddar crust recipe you will ever taste. Discover the rich Grandpere recipe (maple syrup dumplings) from Lorraine Kimble, the artist's wife. Indulge in Florence, Vermont, resident Helen Snyder's Chocolate Rugelach that she bakes these for her son's farm stand.

This book is laced with lovely bits of country wisdom, old wives' tales, and utterly useful tips on cooking and baking. Though the country supper is an essential part of rural America, you don't have to live near a Village Green to appreciate it. Many of these recipes are fated to become staples. Cousineau's book tells us what salt-of-the earth New Englanders have known for a couple of centuries: the best way to knit a community together is through sharing wholesome food with neighbors, both old and new. Even if you live in the city, the food presented by Cousineau is bound to make you new friends. You don't have to be in the country to know the joys of a country supper.

A great part of Ruth's research for Country Suppers involved eating her way through these seasonally based suppers in Vermont. She searched out the best meals, the best cooks, and best of all, she charmed them out of their best culinary secrets. Arriving as a stranger to many a meal, Ruth left and with a cluster of new friends, armloads of new recipes, and great culinary memories.

About the Author

Acclaimed author Ruth Cousineau spent the early part of her cooking career as executive chef of Fidelity Bank, Newark, New Jersey, and as a pastry chef in the Big Apple. Twenty years ago she and her family relocated to Rutland, Vermont. There, she has been in a food whirlwind as a restaurateur, food consultant, cooking teacher, and cookbook writer. Her book The Tomato Imperative! was a James Beard Award nominee, and her name has become almost synonymous with delicious seasonal recipes.


Stark Biddle's Drunken Lamb

Makes 10 to 12 Servings

Stark Biddle's Drunken Lamb

In total contrast to the roast leg of lamb, this leg cooks for hours, until it is so soft it can be eaten with a spoon! It is an old French recipe adapted by Stark to show off the beautiful lamb he and his wife, Ludie, raise on their farm, nestled on a hillside in North Shrewsbury.

6 large onions, peeled and quartered
6 carrots, quartered
6 bay leaves
1 bunch fresh thyme
One 7- to 9- pound leg of lamb, all visible fat removed
4 cloves garlic, peeled and cut into slivers
1 tablespoon salt
2 bottles dry white wine
6 large boiling potatoes, peeled and quartered
5 large, ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and coarsely chopped, or 4 cups canned diced tomatoes
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 425F. Place the onions, carrots, bay leaves, and thyme in a large Dutch oven or deep roasting pan big enough to hold the lamb leg. Make slits in the lamb with a sharp knife and stuff the garlic slivers into them. Lay the lamb on the bed of vegetables and sprinkle with the salt. Roast, uncovered, for 1 hour. Add the wine and reduce the temperature to 325F. Cover and cook for 2 1/2 hours. Add the potatoes and tomatoes and cook 45 minutes to 1 hour more. The meat should be falling off the bone and completely tender. Remove from the oven. Remove the bones, bay leaves, and thyme branches and skim the fat from the sauce. Adjust the seasoning and add pepper.

Country Tips and Tales:

A Dutch oven is a heavy pot or kettle on feet, used for roasting or baking: set above coals and with coals placed on lid to provide more heat.

- Frances Phipps, Colonial Kitchens, Their Furnishings and Their Gardens

Country Suppers
Simple, Hearty Fare For Family and Friends
by Ruth Cousineau
Illustrations by Warren Kimble
William Morrow & Co., $22.00/hardcover
270 pages; November 5, 1997
Recipes and photos reprinted by permission.

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This page originally published as a Global Gourmet Today column in 1998.

Copyright © 2007, Kate Heyhoe. All rights reserved.

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