It’s never been novel to see Vermont-written lit. But this year brought an unusual bumper crop of local cookbooks on which to glut ourselves — many with recipes designed for seasonal foods. For the Winter Reading issue, we asked some of Vermont’s hottest cookbook authors about their own favorite food books and holiday treats.
Though her namesake bakery closed last year, readers are snapping up Bullock-Prado’s Confections of a Closet Master Baker: One Woman’s Sweet Journey from Unhappy Hollywood Executive to Contented Country Baker.
The Vermont Butter & Cheese Creamery president published In a Cheesemaker’s Kitchen: Celebrating 25 Years of Artisanal Cheesemaking from Vermont Butter & Cheese Company. The book benefits from Hooper’s friends in high places: She includes recipes from culinary luminaries such as Eric Ripert and Blue Hill’s Dan Barber.
The director of Nutrition Services at Fletcher Allen Health Care teamed up with the hospital’s executive chef, Richard Jarmusz, to write this year’s Cooking Close to Home: A Year of Seasonal Recipes. Yes, they’re experts in hospital food, but don’t expect spartan fare. Recipes include pumpkin bread pudding and cheddar-apple turnovers.
Chesman’s collaboration with Fran Raboff debuted in August and bears the tantalizing title 250 Treasured Country Desserts: Mouthwatering, Time-Honored, Tried & True, Soul-Satisfying, Handed-Down Sweet Comforts. Next summer, look for her healthier follow-up, Recipes from the Root Cellar.
Pearce and her husband, glassblower Simon Pearce, offer recipes in their book A Way of Living, along with descriptions of his craft and their home. Cooks too lazy to tackle the couple’s Horseradish-Crusted Cod and famous Sesame-Seared Chicken With Noodles can try them at the Quechee Simon Pearce store. A portion of the volume’s proceeds help support families touched by Down syndrome and learning differences.
Growing up, were there any books that encouraged your interest in food?
Bullock-Prado: My dog-eared copy of The Pooh Cook Book. It was lush with recipes for children, all with honey. My poor mother’s kitchen might as well have been Sticky Bear’s den after I finished baking.
Hooper: Mastering the Art of French Cooking! I cooked most everything from it when I was home from college.
Imrie: When I was getting into nutrition, it was Diet for a Small Planet. I’m embarrassed to say [this], but the whole homestead idea really appealed to me as a kid, like the food in Little House on the Prairie.
Do you have a favorite culinary holiday tradition?
Bullock-Prado: German springerle during Christmas. It’s a gorgeous cookie and ever so slightly dangerous. It gets spectacularly hard; I ended up losing a few baby teeth early. The intricate details on the cookie make for a gorgeous ornament if you’re not big on dental disasters.
Chesman: I’m Jewish, so that would be latkes. But I don’t think I really have a favorite. When I’m moved, I make them. I make chicken soup all the time. My kids love matzo-ball soup any time of year. I hate brisket. When I was growing up, we would call it that “gray meat.” It was fatty and horrible.
Imrie: We, as a family, for every year that I remember until recently [when] my mom passed away — Christmas Eve, we would have fondue. My dad would get a really beautiful piece of meat, and we’d have all sorts of wonderful dipping sauces. Really, it’s a very slow-eating meal. That was a special, once-a-year treat. I grew up in Montréal. For Christmas Day lunch we always had tourtière.
Pearce: To tell you the truth, we’ve always had Christmas roast beef. My family celebrated on Christmas Eve, and Simon’s family celebrated on Christmas Day, so we have big celebrations both days.
Simon had turkey growing up, and we have boys who don’t make it home for Thanksgiving anymore, so we do turkey with all the trimmings Christmas Day. We have multiple kinds of potatoes, ’cause Simon’s so Irish. We do a modified Irish breakfast on Christmas morning.
Hooper: Champagne, roast beef, Yorkshire pudding, bûche de Noël.
What’s the best new recipe you learned this year?
Chesman: How to make cha siu pork, from a book I edited for Ten Speed Press called Asian Dumplings: Mastering Gy?za, Spring Rolls, Samosas, and More by Andrea Nguyen. She wrote a seminal Vietnamese cookbook awhile ago.
Hooper: From our cookbook, spinach and mascarpone and salmon with the cucumber and crème fraîche sauce. Potato and leek gratin with crème fraîche that we have served in many a store/book demo. The fans are loving that crème fraîche. It is our secret ingredient.
Pearce: A very easy one for a pumpkin tart. You make the crust for it with ginger snaps. The recipe only has five ingredients. A friend of mine tried it for Thanksgiving, and she shared it with me.
What was your favorite restaurant dish this year?
Imrie: Oh, I have a favorite! At Trattoria Delia, the Spaghetti alla Pescatora. I just love that dish. But also at L’Amante, for the first time — I wanted to make it myself — I tried the stuffed zucchini flowers, which were just incredible.
Pearce: This sounds really weird, but it’s actually fantastic: bourbon-glazed pork belly with chestnut farro at our Brandywine restaurant in West Chester, Penn. We have a new chef who was executive sous-chef at the Gramercy Tavern.
Chesman: I just had an awful nice salmon over risotto at The Belted Cow. I think it was seared salmon on a bed of parsley risotto.
Bullock-Prado: I’m always blown away by anything at Hen of the Wood.
Hooper: In Bra, Italy, it was truffle season and we had fresh pasta with shaved truffles.
Is there any food item you would never include in a recipe?
Bullock-Prado: Dormice. I was reading up on the oldest cookbook known, Apicius, and therein is a delicacy that calls for fattening sequestered mice with figs and, voilà, dessert.
Chesman: No, there’s nothing I wouldn’t use. Well, Kraft mac and cheese, but that’s not really an ingredient. I’ve even used Velveeta. I wouldn’t say never about anything.
Hooper: I’m not big on tripe.
In terms of food, what is it that keeps you in Vermont?
Bullock-Prado: The gorgeous quality of food from our local farmers is unparalleled. Vermont has a general respect for food and its origins. We do real food right in Vermont.
Imrie: The abundance. Any season, pretty much anywhere in Vermont, you can get such abundance and variety, and it’s such a small place that you even know who grows it. I love that. I think it would be fun and useful to have a permanent indoor farmers market like the ones in Montréal. That, I think, would be great. Greek food is one thing that I do miss here.
Hooper: There is more that keeps me in Vermont than food, but the cheese here is pretty darn good. I grew up in Jersey and loved those tomatoes. I love a good cup of coffee, but by the time climate change allows us to grow coffee beans in Vermont, we’ll be under water.
Chesman: Vermont is the new California, but it’s not what keeps me in Vermont. It’s not about the food. I wish we had a Chinatown. Part of why Vermont is so great is because of what we don’t have — that we have to go elsewhere for it.
What are your culinary wishes for the New Year?
Bullock-Prado: I wish for my new commercial kitchen to be up and running before spring.
Hooper: My culinary wish is to hang out with friends and cook some good food. I also want to plant many more rows of leeks in the garden. Leeks are de rigueur in my kitchen.
Imrie: I wish to go to Spain. I’m not sure it will happen, but that’s what I wish. That’s a culinary area; other than general Mediterranean, I don’t really know anything about its food. I hope to take a bike trip around Spain. That’s how we like to do it, because then you can eat anything you want.
Chesman: I could hope for solving hunger, but that’s so PC. I could hope for dollar-a-pound lobsters, but that would hurt the fishermen. I guess I don’t really have any wishes.
Confections of a Closet Master Baker: One Woman’s Sweet Journey from Unhappy Hollywood Executive to Contented Country Baker by Gesine Bullock-Prado. Broadway, 240 pages. $24.
In a Cheesemaker’s Kitchen: Celebrating 25 Years of Artisanal Cheesemaking from Vermont Butter & Cheese Company by Allison Hooper and Steve Jenkins. Countryman Press, 112 pages. $19.95.
Cooking Close to Home: A Year of Seasonal Recipes by Diane Imrie and Richard Jarmusz. Diane Imrie, LLC, and Richard Jarmusz, 240 pages. $24.95.
250 Treasured Country Desserts: Mouthwatering, Time-Honored, Tried & True, Soul-Satisfying, Handed-Down Sweet Comforts by Andrea Chesman and Fran Raboff. Storey Publishing, 416 pages. $16.95.
A Way of Living by Pia & Simon Pearce with Glenn Suokko. Simon Pearce, 180 pages. $35.