I’m going to risk being very unpopular and say I’m not a fan of community cookbooks, except one: The Andover Cookbook.
In most community cookbooks, rarely do the recipes come with introduction or descriptions, or even a mention of how or why the recipe was worthy enough to be included in the collection. Unless you’re actually a part of the community and have eaten someone’s famous brownies, and – wow – there’s the recipe! – you don’t know where to begin.
The Andover Cookbook was like the Joy of Cooking in my family, my mother adopted so many recipes from it. I inherited a newer version in my mother’s pile of cookbooks, and began flipping through the pages and tasting my childhood: The chocolate chip pound cake we had when there were lots of boys around. The shrimp, green bean, tomato and feta cheese casserole we ate at our little kitchen table on Cape Cod seemingly almost once a month because I loved it.
Last week I made a stab at something that looked ridiculously easy in the cookbook – oven fish chowder. Throw everything into a pot, put it in the oven, and add warm cream. There seemed to be all kinds of reasons to try this, easy being the most important that night.
I followed all, served the stew, and sat down to my first genuine Proustian moment. One spoon of soup and I was at that East Sandwich kitchen table, looking out the window to the snow-covered apple trees, cardinals darting like flung red handkerchiefs at the bird feeder.
I hadn’t remembered the recipe in the cookbook, and I hadn’t remembered my mother even making it, but suddenly I was home. This was my mother’s stew. It tasted provincial and refined. Only my mother could find the easiest recipe in the world which happened to also taste like something one would be served in a Brittany restaurant.
I decided the butter, wine, parsley, bit of clove and the red onions all roasted together account for the French part. The intelligence in the recipe (efficient + deliciousness) comes from Andover. The memories are all mine.
Oven Fish Chowder
2 lbs. haddock or cod fillets
2 medium potatoes, peeled and sliced
3 T. parsley chopped
2 1/2 tsp. salt
4 whole cloves
1 garlic clove peeled and crushed
3 medium Bermuda onions, sliced
1/2 cup butter
1/4 tsp. dried dill
1/4 tsp. white pepper
1/2 cup dry white wine or vermouth
2 cups boiling water
2 cups light cream
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Put all ingredients, except cream, into a 6 quart casserole. Cover and bake for one hour. Heat cream to scalding and add to chowder. Stir to break up fish.