I've just bought this book for the princely sum of £4.50. From a little bookshop in the quaint Cotswold town of Chipping Camden, of all places. It's the 1961 edition of the official "Old Original Bookbinder's Restaurant Cookbook", by Charlotte Adams.
Bookbinder's was a distinguished American restaurant, first founded as a Philadelphia oyster saloon back in 1893. It's wikipedia entry describes its 1950s' heydey as ''a hot spot where red-jacketed waiters scurried through dark-panelled rooms festooned with photographs of VIPS; redolent of cigar smoke tinged with shellfish." This sounds very much my sort of place. I gather that the restaurant fell on hard times, lost its exclusive allure, became a tourist trap, and is now quite probably defunct. A pity, because I miss this sort of joint: the type of restaurant where a fawning mess-jacketed waiter might flamb-ay something jaw-droppingly expensive at M'sieur's very own table.
I've picked out two recipes at random, which I haven't tried yet, but, I think, with a bit of tweaking, could be good. The first one's for the obscene sounding "Crab Balls". I would suggest that you make these very small in size, and serve them as canapés- perhaps with some sort of a dipping sauce to go with them:
In a bowl mix together: one tablespoon of chopped green pepper, one tablespoon of finely chopped onion, one tablespoon of finely chopped celery, one tablespoon of minced pimento (ie sweet red pepper), and a teaspoon of fresh thyme leaves. Season with salt, black pepper and a dash of Worcestershire Sauce. Sweat in butter over a lowish heat for about ten minutes.
Sprinkle in four tablespoons of flour (this sounds like quite a bit, even too much; so I would suggest that you go easy on this) and stir in to the vegetable mix. Cook for a further five minutes. Next pour in a cup of milk, and stir until thickened (in effect you've made an old-fashioned white sauce). Then add a pound of crabmeat. Take off the heat, mix in well and chill the mixture in the 'fridge.
When it's cold enough, you take out the crab mixture and roll it into small balls. The balls are then dipped into beaten egg, coated with breadcrumbs- or even more authentically Yankee- crushed up cream crackers, and fried in deep fat until golden brown.
The second recipe is for "Bookbinder's Shrimp Chowder":
Sweat chopped onions in butter until golden, and put to one side. Make a smooth white sauce in the usual way from butter, two tablespoons of flour and four cups of hot milk. The sauce is then placed over a bain-marie, seasoned with salt, pepper and a blade of mace. Pre-Cooked shrimps (large prawns in England) are added and the whole thing cooked gently for twenty minutes. The mace is removed, and the chowder finished off with an extra cup of hot cream and the onion flavoured butter which you've previously strained off. On second thoughts, I'm not exactly sure about this recipe. It could be a bit bland: it's certainly a heart attack in a bowl- not that I'm one of those Cromwellian types pulsating with disapproval at any symptom of a sybaritic lifestyle. I'm not even sure if it's a genuine chowder; I suspect that it isn't.
In complete contrast, I had the most divine thing at the Canton yesterday evening. It was a vegetarian marrow gratin, served piping hot in one of those dinky orange Le Creuset dishes. Half a marrow- cut in half, and scooped out. Covered in Italian Borlotti white beans, and flavoured with a stock, perhaps, and most certainly salt and black pepper. Persillade (ie garlic and parsley finely chopped and crushed together) dotted the top, and the dish was finished off with grated parmesan and butter, before being flashed under a hot grill. At least, I think that how it was made. There may have been tomatoes in there as well. C'etait formidable.