Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Cookbook Review: Hallelujah! The Welcome Table

Hallelujah! The Welcome Table
A Lifetime of Memories with Recipes
by Maya Angelou


I looked at the woman and gave her a lie as soft as melting butter. “Yes, I course. That’s all I know how to cook.”

The Creole Caf√© had a cardboard sign in the window that announced, “COOK
WANTED: SEVENTY-FIVE DOLLARS A WEEK.” As soon as I saw it I knew I could
cook Creole, whatever that was.

Desperation to find help must have blinded the proprietress to my age, or perhaps it was the fact that I was six feet and had an attitude that belied my seven¬teen years. She didn’t question me about recipes and menus, but her long brown face did trail down in wrinkles, and doubt hung on the edges of her questions.

"Can you start on Monday?’

"I’ll be glad to.’

"You know its six days a week. We’re closed on Sunday."

"That’s fine with me. I like to go to church on Sunday." It’s awful to think that the devil gave me that lie, but it came unexpectedly and worked like dollar bills. Suspicion and doubt fled from her face, and she smiled. Her teeth were all the same size, a small white picket fence semi circled in her mouth.

"Well, I know we’re going to get along. You’re a good Christian. I like that. Yes, ma‘am, I sure do:’

My need for a job stiffed my telling (confessing to) her that I mean to be a Christian but that I blow it every day. Instead, I asked her, "What time on Mon¬? Bless the Lord!"

‘You get here at five:’

Five in the morning. Those mean streets menaced by thugs who had not yet...................


And so begins one of the marvelous stories that accompany these recipes. In the story telling style that Maya Angelou has become so famous for, she shares her life and her kitchen memories as she shares her cooking. Maya Angelou is renowned in her wide and generous circle of friends as a marvelous chef. Her kitchen is a social center. From fried meat pies, chicken livers and beef Wellington to caramel cake, bread pudding and chocolate éclairs, the dozens of recipes included are all tried and true and come from Angelou's home and her heart. Hallelujah! The welcome Table is a stunning combination of the two things Angelou loves best, writing and cooking.

Here is a recipe from the book that we tried last night. It was VERY good.

Braised Short Ribs of Beef

5 pounds beef short ribs, cut into 3-inch pieces Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 teaspoon meat tenderizer
All-purpose flour
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 cups meat stock or water
5 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1 1/2 -inch pieces One 28-ounce can tomatoes One 6-ounce can tomato paste
2 large onions, diced
3 stalks celery, chopped
3 cloves garlic, diced
2 green bell peppers cut into large pieces
2 bay leaves
1 cup good cabernet sauvignon
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

Preheat oven to 350° F.
Season the meat with salt and pepper, sprinkle with meat tenderizer, and dust with flour. (I sprinkle meat tenderizer on all meat, since I expect it to be tough.) Brown it on all sides in oil in Dutch oven. Add stock; cover and bake in the oven for 1 hour.

Remove from oven and add carrots, tomatoes, tomato paste, onions, celery, garlic, bell peppers, bay leaves, and wine. Return to oven, and cook 1 1/2 hours, Meat should be very tender. Remove bay leaves, and adjust seasoning as needed.

On large serving dish, arrange vegetables around meat, and sprinkle with parsley.

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