From the beginning the collaboration between Pasanen and Gencarelli worked well. Although Chef Gencarelli had never produced his own cookbook, he helped his mentor and former boss, Todd English, world-renowned, charismatic executive chef and creator of many high end restaurants such as Olives, Figs, Blue Zoo at Disney World on two cookbooks. In fact, Gencarelli tells a story of his own every time he talks about his food. It was fun for me to work with Melissa, says Chef Rick, The book used my sensibility and training as a professional chef and Melissas ability to translate this into a simple set of steps that will resonate with the home cook. In fact, this whole process has actually helped me - to let the ingredients do their thing.
Pasanen and Gencarelli agreed that the structure of the book should be based on ingredients that reflect Vermonts agricultural heritage, hence, chapters on Savory Milk and Cheese, Lamb reflecting Vermonts enormous sheep production in the 1800's, and interestingly a chapter on Savory Maple and another on Sweet Maple. Whats the difference in the two maple chapters? Savory Maple recipes include everything from the Inn at Shelburne Farms popular Maple-Ginger Vinaigrette dressing to an absolutely fabulous Maple-Chipolte Scallops recipe. The Sweet Maple chapter blends traditional favorites such as Maple-Nut Granola, an updated and very kid-friendly recipe, with some interesting new recipes for Streuseled Maple Corn Muffins and a real favorite of mine, Maple Sugar Blondies.
Pasanen and Gencarelli established some criteria for their recipe choices - comfortable, country - not restaurant recipes - emphasizing old-fashioned from scratch preparation, yet updated for todays busy home kitchen. Wed think about Vermont ingredients like milk and cheese, according to Melissa, What can you do with milk - you may not even think of it as an ingredient. Then theyd go to work in Melissas kitchen - a home kitchen had to be the test kitchen to make this cookbook work. With Ricks experience we altered a European favorite - pork braised in milk - to Milk-Braised Chicken with Sage and Bay, says Melissa who points out that theres no chapter on chicken because it doesnt fit with Vermonts agricultural heritage, so youll find this recipe in the chapter on milk and cheese. The chicken braised in milk recipe is much quicker and easier than pork and makes use of locally grown herbs for a wonderful family meal.