‘Auburn Entertains’ cookbook still going in its 38th year

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The original owners of the Ampersand Gift Shop (pictured from left) are Lucy Littleton, Jeannie Blackwell and Helen Baggett Carlisle. In 1983, the three owners assembled the “Auburn Entertains” cookbook and had it reprinted on the 25th anniversary in 2008.

By Ann Cipperly

In 1983, the original owners of the Ampersand Gift Shop, Lucy Littleton, Helen Baggett Carlisle and Jeannie Blackwell, decided to create a cookbook that would showcase Auburn in content and design. While the gift shop closed years ago, the cookbook is still in print. On its 25th anniversary in 2008, the cookbook was reprinted with an introduction by Lucy’s husband, Taylor Littleton, who also wrote the introduction for the original printing.

Taylor, who was vice president of academic affairs (now called the provost), also selected quotations from  plays and poems of William Shakespeare used throughout the chapters.

Jeannie’s husband, Gaines Blackwell, taught in the School of Architecture, while William Baggett, Helen’s husband at the time, was a professor in the art department and the alumni professor.

Professor Baggott painted the watercolor of Samford Tower on the cover of the cookbook. Pen and ink drawings of familiar campus buildings on chapters were by Ray Dugas, who was in the art department in graphic design. 

In the 1983 edition, the introduction stated, “The style and character of entertaining guests are in many ways fashioned by the pattern of the academic year. Here the renewal of life comes not in the spring but in the fall. For it is then that the students return, together with the faculty, from their brief Indian summer holiday.

“Socializing them quickly moves to an intensity unmatched during the rest of the year because whether one is a fan or not, the football season is irresistible. Home games bring alumni by the thousands and scores of pre-game brunches, luncheons and post-game parties proceed apace.”

The cookbook also included recipes for Christmas, garden parties in the spring and at Lake Martin for informal faculty gatherings. These were held “when the quarterly exams have been graded and put away, when the town suddenly is strangely empty of students, when the sounds of life are softer.”

The introduction continued with, “Entertainment in Auburn is marked by the rhythms and conditions of life in a small university town, so it is characterized also by hundreds of homes each year by those less visible social occasions which, in their own mysterious way, help bind a community together.”

Looking back at when the cookbook was being assembled, Lucy Littleton recalled it was, “Set against an imaginary background of the rituals of dining in a small university town. It draws from scores of citizen cooks their favorite recipes in preparing for occasions. Sustaining to Auburn uniqueness are written contributions by university faculty.”

“It took the cooperation of the entire Auburn community to assemble all of these delicious recipes,” said Jeannie Blackwell.

Helen Baggett Carlisle added, “We spent a year compiling the recipes and testing them. We worked all day every Wednesday, and people would stop by to see what we were cooking. It turned into a fun adventure every week. Nancy Gardner typed the recipes for us and bartered for credit at Ampersand.”

When the cookbook was reprinted in 2008, the introduction looked back over the past 25 years. “Since this little book was first printed, the Auburn community has witnessed a sharp escalation of statistical growth-in its population and in the pace of the of its economy. This new condition has inevitably challenged that invisible network of fellowship, which has traditionally sustained here a certain cultural coherence and identified Auburn as what was in the first edition called ‘a special place.’”

The increase in the number of restaurants and catering was noted. “Entertaining ‘out’ often seems a parallel to entertaining ‘in.’”

Lucy added, “An essay attached to the 2008 edition suggests that despite the evolution over the years of the local restaurant scene and the innovation of the ‘take-out’, the diverse human content and familiar visibility of the book still in some way give it a distinctive place in Auburn authored history.”

“I can’t cook without ‘Auburn Entertains’” said Helen. “My family’s favorite recipes are all in that cookbook. We had such fun testing the recipes and always had plenty of volunteers to taste our results. I am proud that it has withstood the test of time and is still available.”

“Auburn Entertains” is available at J &M Bookstore and Amazon. Following is a sampling of recipes from the cookbook. 

Ann Cipperly can be reached at recipes@cipperly.com

Dill Dip in Bread Bowl

1 round muffuletta loaf or other round loaf

Pull out center and break into bite-size pieces, leaving about 1 inch along bottom and sides to form bread bowl.

Dip:

1¼ cups good mayonnaise

1 pint sour cream

4 Tbsp. parsley

2 tsp. dill weed

2 Tbsp. green onion with tops, chopped finely

2 tsp. seasoned salt

Combine and refrigerate at least 8 hours before serving. To serve, place bread bowl on large glass plate. Fill cavity with dill dip and surround bowl with bite-size bread pieces for dipping.

This dip is also good with vegetables, and a bowl of vegetables may be put next to the bread bowl for dieting dippers.

Salmon Loaf

1 loaf French bread

2 small bunches parsley

8 oz. whipped butter

Grated onion to taste

7½ oz. can red or pink salmon

8 oz. whipped cream cheese

Cut bread in half lengthwise. Scoop out bread, leaving about a 1-inch thick shell. Put bread that is scooped out through food processor, or crumble to make crumbs and reserve.

Remove stems from parsley and chop finely. Mix parsley, onion, butter and half the breadcrumbs together and put in half of bread boat, slightly mounding in center.

Mix salmon, cream cheese and other half of breadcrumbs and put in other half of bread boat. Put loaf back together and press firmly so sides go back together. Wrap tightly in French bread bag or foil and refrigerate overnight. Slice thinly with electric knife and arrange in rows on serving plate.

Decorate with parsley, carrot sticks, black olives and cherry tomatoes.

This sandwich was served at a fall luncheon of Holy Trinity Episcopal Churchwomen from a basket with the garnishes as above. It really was wonderful looking and tasty too.

Spinach-Stuffed Tomatoes

2 packages frozen chopped spinach

6 strips of bacon

8 tomatoes

1 onion, chopped

1 cup sour cream

Salt and pepper to taste

Tabasco

6 oz. grated mozzarella cheese

2 slices mozzarella cheese, cut in strips

Cook spinach according to package directions. Drain well. Shell tomatoes and chop insides. Drain shells; salt inside and turn upside down on paper towels. Cook bacon until crisp, drain and crumble. Save 2 Tbsp. drippings to sauté onions in. Add bacon and onion to spinach and tomatoes. Add sour cream, salt, pepper and Tabasco to taste. Add grated cheese. Fill shells with mixture. Top with strips of cheese. Heat in buttered pan until cheese is melted, about 20 minutes 350 degrees. May be made a day ahead. Serves eight.

Marinated Vegetable Platter

¼ cup wine vinegar

¼ cup salad oil

½ cup mayonnaise

1 hard cooked egg, grated

4 Tbsp. chives

1 can whole green beans

1½ tsp. prepared mustard

¼ tsp. salt

¼ tsp. garlic powder

1 can asparagus spears

1 can artichoke hearts

1 can carrots

Whisk together vinegar and oil. Add mayonnaise, mustard, salt, and garlic powder and continue to whisk. Fold in egg and chives, using vegetables listed or any other vegetables desired, drain and arrange them separately in a large Pyrex baking dish—do not mix them. Pour marinade over vegetables and refrigerate.

Claire DeBardeleben served this at a sewing club luncheon in the spring. It looked beautiful and tasted so good.

Chicken Arbor

2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

¼ tsp. dried basil, crumbled

¼ tsp dried tarragon, crumbled

¼ tsp paprika

Salt and white ground pepper

8 chicken pieces

1 Tbsp. oil

1 Tbsp. butter

2 small cloves garlic, minced

½ cup dry white wine

1 cup red grapes, halved and seeded

½ cup chicken broth

1 tsp. fresh lemon juice

1 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh parsley for garnish

Mix flour, basil, tarragon, paprika, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Add chicken and toss to coat.

Heat oil and butter in a heavy large skillet over medium high heat. Stir in minced garlic. Add chicken and sauté on both sides until light brown. Pour in wine. Cover and cook until chicken is done, about 5 minutes (test for doneness).

Add grapes, broth and lemon juice and continue cooking until heated through. Transfer chicken and grapes to a heated platter using slotted spoon.

Continue cooking sauce until reduced by half. Pour sauce over chicken. Top with parsley and serve. Serves four.

Serve with sauteed mushrooms and pan roasted potatoes.   

Pork Chops and Spaghetti

6 pork chops

12 oz. spaghetti

3 cloves garlic

2 cups tomatoes, peeled and chopped

1 6-oz. can tomato paste

1 tsp. salt

½ tsp. pepper

8 or more mushrooms, washed, dried, sliced

¼-½ cup red wine

Oregano to taste

Fry pork chops in butter or oil with garlic until golden. Remove chops, drain excess oil and sauté mushrooms. Add to mushrooms the tomatoes, tomato paste, salt, pepper and oregano and wine. Mix well and return chops to sauce. Remove garlic, and simmer covered for 45 minutes.

Cook the spaghetti until tender and drain. When chops are done, remove them from the sauce and stir in the spaghetti. Place spaghetti on platter, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and top with the chops. Serves six.

Coq Au Vin II

½ cup flour

1½ tsp. salt

¼ tsp. pepper

1 3-3½ lb. fryer, cut into serving pieces

6 slices bacon

6 small onions

8 oz. mushrooms, sliced

½ tsp. thyme

1 bay leaf

Parsley

4 carrots, scraped and halved

1 tsp. instant chicken broth or 2 chicken bouillon cubes

1 cup hot water

1 cup burgundy or red cooking wine

1 clove garlic, pressed

Mix flour, 1 tsp. salt and pepper and coat chicken by shaking in mixture in paper bag. Fry bacon in large skillet until crisp, remove bacon and brown chicken in bacon fat over medium heat. Remove chicken and sauté onions and mushrooms until tender (about 5 minutes). Drain fat.

Tie herbs in cheesecloth bag. Crumble bacon and stir bacon, herbs, and remaining ingredients into skillet. Add vegetables and chicken. Cover and simmer 1 hour. Spoon off fat. Serve in soup bowls with salad and crusty French bread.

I usually substitute a jar of small, boiled onions for the fresh.

Seafood Casserole

1 pound shrimp, boiled, cleaned and deveined

1 6½-ounce can crabmeat (or equivalent fresh)

1 cup mayonnaise

1 cup soft breadcrumbs

¾ cup milk

3 hard-cooked eggs, chopped

½ cup chopped onion

¼ cup sliced green olives

¾ tsp. salt

Dash pepper

½ cup soft breadcrumbs for topping

Mix all above ingredients just before baking. Top with ½ cup breadcrumbs. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes.

Barbara Wilson (Mrs. Stan)

This dish is a favorite for our New Year’s Day Football Buffet. The men and those women who wish may watch games to their heart’s content, while those who prefer to engage in conversation.

Kiwi Sour Cream Tart

Crust:

1 stick butter, softened

½ cup ground almonds

¼ cup sugar

1 cup unsifted all-purpose flour

Prepare crust by mixing butter, sugar and almonds until creamy. Add flour just to blend. Press mixture into bottom and up sides of a 9-inch tart pan; chill. Bake in 325° preheated oven about 20 minutes or until golden. Cool.

Filling:

3 eggs beaten

¾ cup sugar

¼ cup butter or margarine

½ cup lemon juice

1 cup (maybe a little more) sour cream

3 to 4 kiwis (fruit), peeled and sliced

Melted apple jelly as needed

In saucepan mix eggs, butter, sugar and lemon juice. Cook and stir over medium heat until mixture thickens, about 5 minutes. Pour into baked crust. Spread (after cooling lemon mixture) a layer of sour cream over lemon mixture and arrange sliced kiwi over the top of sour cream. Brush with melted apple jelly to glaze. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Pot De Creme

2 cups heavy cream

¼ cup sugar

Pinch salt

10 egg yolks

4 oz. sweet chocolate

1 Tbsp. vanilla

Put cream, sugar and salt in top of double boiler. Over hot water, bring this mixture to scalding. Remove from heat and cool. Melt chocolate over hot water.

Beat egg yolks until light and foamy. When cream mixture is cool, pour over egg mixture slowly, beating constantly. Add melted chocolate, return to boiler pan and stir constantly over low heat until mixture coats back of wooden spoon. Add vanilla.

Strain and plate in 10 pot de creme cups or demitasse cups and chill until it has a solid consistency.

A delicious rich dessert for seated dinner parties.

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