15 September 2012

Weekend Cooking: Introducing Lee Bailey

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, beer, wine, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page. More information at the welcome post.

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Let's talk Lee Bailey. No, not the attorney but the cookbook author.

I first discovered Lee Bailey in the 1980s, when he wrote for Food and Wine magazine, among other publications. I always liked his recipes and his sense of style. As other people have noted, "Well before Martha Stewart, Mr. Bailey produced attractive books about how to entertain that drew much of their appeal from making glamorous cooking and presentation seem accessible to the uninitiated" (New York Times).

Unlike Stewart, however, Bailey often gives advice like this:
Puff pastry may be bought ready made in most food specialty shops so there is no recipe for it included here. And, frankly, unless you are a dedicated cook, I don't think it is worth making from scratch. (p. 102, California Wine Country Cooking)
I appreciate a man who recognizes that some things are just fine to buy.

I own three of his books (the ones shown here) and am sorry I didn't pick up more when they were readily available. I did however save many of his magazine and newspaper articles, so I have a decent collection of his recipes. (By the way, I couldn't find good cover images; thus the fuzziness.)

Bailey's books are known for their beautiful photography, not only of the food but of the table settings, rooms, people, and natural surroundings. I love that his cookbooks are arranged by complete menus. Depending on the book and recipes, he also writes about wine choices, the inspiration behind the meal, the right occasion to serve the meal, and so on.

I also like his writing style. Here Bailey is introducing his duck soup meal:
Of course the first thing I thought of when duck soup crossed my mind was the Marx Brothers movie of the same name. You'll probably be relieved to know that this is as far as the comparison goes. Duck soup in no joke. (p. 100, Soup Meals)
I can't lay my hands on Country Weekends, which is probably my favorite of the three (it's buried somewhere in the bookshelves!), so I can't quote from it, but Bailey's style is fairly consistent.

If you wander around used book stores, flea markets, or yard sales, keep your eye out for Bailey's cookbooks. No matter which one you find, I'm sure it will be great.

One of the soup meals I've made many, many times over the years is the Sausage and White Bean Soup Dinner. Here's the menu:
  • Piperade pie ("a tomatoey-eggy Basque dish"; a tart)
  • Sausage and white bean soup
  • Cottage cheese biscuits
  • Fresh figs marinated in lemon
I've never made the figs (though they look yummy), but I've made all the other parts of the meal. Although I'm not a very good biscuit maker, I've had great luck with Bailey's cottage cheese version, so I'll share the recipe here. I agree with his advice to eat them immediately while they're hot. Leftovers can be toasted.

Cottage Cheese Biscuits
Makes approximately 18 biscuits
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 6 tablespoons (¾ stick) butter, chilled
  • 1½ cups small-curd cottage cheese
Preheat oven to 450°F.

Sift the flour, salt, and baking powder into a large bowl. Cut the butter in with a pastry blender or two knives until it is the size of small peas. Stir in the cottage cheese all at once.

Drop by generous tablespoonfuls onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake until golden, about 15 minutes.

21 comments:

caite 9/15/12, 6:38 AM  

He sounds like an interesting foodie, and I am not familiar with his books...but now, don't you be running down my girl Martha! lol

Pierce 9/15/12, 7:19 AM  

One thing I enjoy is running across gems like this at flea markets or used book stores. I have a cookbook obsession and this is just the type that draws me in. Those cottage cheese biscuits are in the to-make pile as we speak.

bermudaonion 9/15/12, 7:52 AM  

I like his style and agree with him, some things just aren't worth the time they take when you can purchase them.

Beth 9/15/12, 7:58 AM  

I totally agree--why make life harder than it has to be? For some things, making from scratch just isn't worth all the trouble.

Thanks for sharing the biscuit recipe. I can't get cottage cheese here in France, but I wonder if I could substitute with something else?

Beth F 9/15/12, 8:06 AM  

I did a quick search and it looks like you can substitute farmer's cheese or ricotta cheese for the cottage cheese.

Carol @ Always Thyme to Cook 9/15/12, 8:23 AM  

Lee Bailey is one of my favorites! Great style. I have a number of his books in my collection, I keep a few on the coffee table. I don't have Soup Meal's, looks good, I'll look for it, the whole meal sounds delicious!

Joanna 9/15/12, 8:40 AM  

I've never heard of him but I love all chefs who buy stuff that's clearly not worth making from scratch! The cottage cheese biscuits sound great, though I'll have to do a post listing all the lovely recipes I now need to try!

Trish 9/15/12, 8:53 AM  

I'm not familiar with Lee Bailey but I'm always browsing the cookbook section at Half Price Books. I'm glad to see that his recipes have remained timeless and not dated. And agree--we'd drive ourselves crazy trying to make everything from scratch!

Cecelia 9/15/12, 11:38 AM  

I've decided that the best thing about Friends of the Library sales are the cookbook sections! So many older cookbooks that are absolute gems. I'll be keeping my eye open for Bailey from now on - thanks for the tip!

Linda 9/15/12, 1:42 PM  

Sausage and white bean soup. I need to find that cookbook.

Carole 9/15/12, 2:14 PM  

sometimes the older cook books are the best. thanks for hosting again - I have posted about one of my very rare expeditions into dessert making! It even involved pastry! Have a lovely week.

Fay 9/15/12, 3:12 PM  

As much as I like to cook, puff pastry has never been on my from-scratch menu. The prepared item is just fine.

Joy Weese Moll 9/15/12, 3:31 PM  

I didn't remember the name, but looking closely, I'm sure I had one or more of these checked out of the library in the 80s. I also made cottage cheese biscuits and they worked better for me than other ones -- probably the protein helped the rising action.

Beth S. 9/15/12, 4:53 PM  

He sounds like a delight to read! I definitely need to check out some of his cookbooks! I can't believe I've never heard of him before. And I love that he has a more casual/realistic approach to entertaining.

Peaceful Reader 9/15/12, 11:02 PM  

My mom has many back issues of Food and Wine; I should browse through and see if I can locate some of his articles. He seems like a treasure.
The biscuits sound simple and good.

Chinoiseries 9/16/12, 10:44 AM  

He seems like a non-nonsense cook! Your cottage cheese biscuit recipe seems doable (for someone who has practically zero experience in biscuit baking) so I'll give that a try soon.

Lisa 9/16/12, 11:51 AM  

I joined in this weekend with a cookbook review!

picky 9/16/12, 1:23 PM  

I'm not a foodie by any stretch of the imagination, so I appreciate his honesty in buy v. make.

I'm a convenience cook, and I'm picky, so I like a simple cookbook.

Today I joined Weekend Cooking for the first time ever (I think) at the request of Trish. Smoothies!

Les 9/16/12, 1:42 PM  

I have never had good luck with biscuits, so I'll be sure to give this recipe a try. Of course, I won't tell my husband that it includes cottage cheese. He's funny about that sort of thing and would think it's wrong to include in a recipe for biscuits! ;)

I love cookbooks with beautiful photography (Ina Garten comes to mind), so I'll be on the lookout for Lee Bailey's books. Thanks for the recommendation!

(Diane) bookchickdi 9/16/12, 1:46 PM  

I have never heard of Lee Bailey, the cookbook author. Thanks for bringing him to my attention, and I am going to try the biscuits.

Julie P. 9/17/12, 5:27 PM  

Those biscuits sound pretty darn easy and yummy!

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