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Read and Feed: 'The Way We Ate' — a century of recipes

Pecan Praline and Bourbon Caramel Sauce With Ice Cream.

Fany Gerson, lanewyorkina.com

Pecan Praline and Bourbon Caramel Sauce With Ice Cream.

THE BOOK: The Way We Ate amounts to a collection of 100 eclectic recipes provided by chefs, foodies, food writers and photographers, and even the mother of one of the authors, with a recipe ascribed to each year of the 20th century. Some of the names are familiar: Ruth Reichl (matzo brei), Daniel Boulud (beef shank terrine), Jacques Pépin (stuffed quail with grape sauce), and Melissa Clark of the New York Times (roasted leg of lamb with mint salsa verde). Most contributors are less well known, but their contributions also command attention. Chef Barbara Sibley, for example, author of the Mexican cookbook Antojitos (traditional Mexican snack foods), offers caldo de ostiones (oyster soup).

The authors, Noah Fecks and Paul Wagtouicz, created the website The Way We Ate (thewayweate.net) in 2011 and committed to preparing every recipe printed in Gourmet, which was published from 1941 to 2009. They cook, photograph and post two to five recipes a week, which means their project should take about 15 years. (See a video of the pair here: storyboard.tumblr.com/post/24060539656)

WHY READ: Connecting a recipe to each year of the 20th century must have posed a challenge, since few of the recipes bear any apparent connection to the year they represent. For example, rainy Sunday pork shoulder with sesame cole slaw, by twins Darin and Greg Bresnitz, creators of IFC's Dinner With the Band show, is connected to 1903 because the Wright brothers achieved the first powered flight that year. ("Here is a down-home, hearty feast that would have sustained two mechanically minded minds through days that weren't quite ready for flight, save for this bit of porcine delight taking off from their plates.") Roasted bananas three ways, by Gabriella Gershenson, a senior editor at Saveur magazine, is linked to 1933 because that's the year King Kong was released. Blintz-krieg duck — Chinese five-spice blintzes with tart cherry sauce by photographer Michael Harlan Turkell — is tied, inexplicably, to the film Holiday Inn, which appeared in 1942, while German forces were in the midst of blitzkrieg, or "lightning war." Though the gimmick that provides the structure of the book may be weak, many recipes appear tantalizing and inventive, and probably worth a taste.

MAKE IT: Fany Gerson, the Mexican-born chef and author of My Sweet Mexico, has transformed her love of sweets into a business she calls La Newyorkina (lanewyorkina.com.) Her contribution to the cookbook explains how to make Pecan Praline and Bourbon Caramel Sauce, as well as the ice cream to put it on.

Tom Valeo, Times correspondent

Read & Feed is a monthly column in Taste that matches possible book club selections with food to serve at meetings. If you have suggestions, send an email to features@tampabay.com. Put BOOK FOOD in the subject line.

>>Moderate

Pecan Praline and Bourbon Caramel Sauce With Ice Cream

For the pecan praline:

1 cup packed light-brown sugar

½ cup granulated sugar

½ cup heavy cream

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground cinnamon (preferably Mexican canela)

2 tablespoons water

1 cup pecan halves

For the ice cream:

2 cups heavy cream, divided

1 (3-inch) piece cinnamon (preferably Mexican canela)

¾ cup granulated sugar

Pinch of salt

1 cup whole milk

¾ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the bourbon caramel sauce:

2 cups granulated sugar

1/3 cup water

2 tablespoons light corn syrup

½ teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 ¼ cups heavy cream

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

3 tablespoons bourbon

¾ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Pecan praline: Mix the brown sugar, granulated sugar, cream, butter, salt, cinnamon and water in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and place over medium-high heat. Stirring constantly to prevent burning, cook until the caramel reaches the soft-ball stage — 238 to 240 degrees. Remove the pan from the heat and add the pecans, stirring vigorously and carefully with a wooden spoon or heat-proof spatula until cool and the pecans remain suspended in the candy, about 2 minutes. Pour the praline onto a parchment paper-lined or buttered sheet pan and allow to cool. Once cool, break into pieces by coarsely chopping with a knife or banging lightly with a rolling pin. Store in an airtight container until ready to use.

Ice cream: Put 1 cup of the cream in a medium saucepan with the cinnamon, sugar and salt and cook over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining cream, milk and the vanilla extract. Cover and chill the ice cream base in the refrigerator until you are ready to use it. Remove the cinnamon stick and freeze the ice cream in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions. Once ice cream is frozen, stir in the broken pieces of praline and store the ice cream in the freezer until ready to scoop.

Caramel sauce: In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, water, corn syrup and lemon. Stir over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved. Turn up the heat and continue to cook, without stirring, until the liquid begins to turn golden. Swirl the pan lightly and continue to cook, without stirring, until it reaches a dark amber color. Remove from the heat and add the heavy cream, being very careful to avoid spattering. Once the bubbling subsides, stir until the caramel is dissolved. Add the butter, bourbon and vanilla extract, stirring gently until it all comes together. Allow to cool slightly. Serve warm over the ice cream.

Source: Fany Gerson

Read and Feed: 'The Way We Ate' — a century of recipes 05/26/14 [Last modified: Monday, May 26, 2014 7:34pm]
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