At Blanchard’s Table: A Trip to the Beach Cookbook
Melinda and Robert Blanchard
Published: Jul 17, 2011
Category: Food and Wine
Melinda Blanchard is a home-taught cook, not a trained chef. That seems to make all the difference, because Blanchard’s Restaurant is apparently so remarkable that Caribbean-bound foodies go to Anguilla just to eat there. I’ve never had the pleasure. But I’ve been cooking my way through ‘At Blanchard’s Table,’ and with a dab of Coppertone instead of after-shave, I can almost convince myself I’ve had the Blanchard experience — the dishes that come out of Mel’s kitchen are that easy to reproduce.
I’m not the only Blanchard enthusiast here. “I’ve turned down almost every page,” my wife exclaimed, the night she read ‘At Blanchard’s Table.’ And that is saying something, for she was in The Business, is a Great Cook and a Harsh Critic, and reads cookbooks as if they had plots.
Blanchard’s recipes are simple and straightforward; she believes in quality ingredients, with very specific spicing. She’s considerate; she offers a page of “In a Hurry” suggestions for the harried home cook. And she’s budget-minded; she’ll suggest a tube of tomato paste rather than a can that you use, store and, when it grows a beard of foam, have to discard.
I’m tempted to say she’s a great regional cook — and then I come across a recipe that would work as well in her native Vermont as on Anguilla. Like baguette stuffed with sun-dried tomatoes, mascarpone and basil. The preparation is idiot-proof: puree the tomatoes, blend with the other ingredients, stuff into the baguette. And just as you’re thinking, “Hmmm… this would be a great spread,” she suggests that you break out the crackers and spread away.
Her three-mushroom soup — porcini, shitake, white — takes less than half an hour to prepare, but will be remembered by your guests for months. Her chicken salad with peas, peppers and hummus dressing is a relief from the ubiquitous Cobb salad. Roasted beet salad — with cranberry vinaigrette and blue cheese — is a revelation. Her lemon-pepper chicken can be prepared in ten minutes. She actually has some new twists on pasta. The melted onions in balsamic vinegar are astonishing alone or over mashed potatoes. And how can you not love a cook who names a recipe “very intense chocolate slab with Kahlua custard sauce.”
What to feature? Because it’s so easy and quick to make, I’ll choose a non-gloopy, very toothsome..
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 medium yellow onions, chopped
5 carrots cut into 1/4-inch slices
5 celery stalks, with leaves, cut into 1/4-inch slices
6 cups fresh corn kernels (about 10 large, or 15 small ears of corn)
3 cups vegetable stock
3/4 teaspoon salt (optional)
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 large red peppers, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
Fresh thyme for garnish
2. Strain the soup and place the vegetables into a food processor. Puree the mixture until it is fairly smooth, and return the puree to the soup pot.
3. Add the vegetable stock, salt and pepper, and bring to a boil. As soon as it boils, add the red peppers and simmer for 2 minutes. Serve hot. Garnish with fresh thyme.
Oh yes: And holler loudly for me to come to the table.
To buy “At Blanchard’s Table” from Amazon.com, click here.
To read about about the Blanchards’ other great book, "Cook What You Love," click here.