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Reading Food : Cookbook Favorites--The Volumes That Changed Our Lives

November 08, 1990|ROSE DOSTI | TIMES STAFF WRITER

My favorite cookbook author is James Beard. More than any other food person, I think Beard captured the essence of American cooking. Beard was not only a great green-thumb cook, but a mentor to every cook who read his books. About a corn pudding he writes in "James Beard's American Cookery" (Little, Brown): "This recipe for corn pudding, one of many versions, is from a family who have lived in Florida for generations. It uses canned cream-style corn, which many people favor for the pudding." How can you not try it?

Beard's love of American cooking became my love for American cooking. There is, actually, no other cuisine more to my liking than American cuisine because of its incredible range.

After assisting the late master French chef Dione Lucas at the Cordon Bleu cooking school in New York during the early '50s, helping bone chickens and enormous turkeys, prepare elaborate galantines , shape hot praline slabs into turrets for trompe l'oeil confection works, form quenelles into perfect egg shapes with two spoons, I turned to Beard for pure unaffectation in the simple American dishes, such as the Corn Pudding I often served with a roast as a young bride. Today's yuppie cooks will probably gag over the use of canned corn in the pudding, but fresh, out-of-season corn was unavailable in the '50s, and, besides, as Beard implies, it works better than fresh corn.

CORN PUDDING

(From "James Beard's American Cookery")

2 eggs

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1 tablespoon grated onion

1 teaspoon sugar

2 tablespoons butter

2 cups milk

1 (1-pound) can cream-style corn

Beat eggs with salt, pepper, onion and sugar. Heat butter and milk, and fold into egg mixture. Add corn and mix thoroughly. Pour into shallow 1 1/2-quart baking dish, set in pan of water and bake at 325 degrees about 1 hour, or until just set. Serve from baking dish. Makes 4 servings.

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