Tag Archives: Cambridge Club

CHEF BRUCIA’S YAM PIE

You may be tired of pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving. That’s what Chef Giuseppe Brucia said many years ago. I have written about him before. He is an Italian trained in Switzerland, and was chef of Ristorante Firenze and the Cambridge Club in Shreveport, Louisiana. I attended one of his cooking classes nearly 40 years ago, and there he showed us how to make his substitute for pumpkin pie.

His English was not very good, and the recipe had been transcribed in a sort of shorthand by a volunteer who knew nothing about cooking. On top of that, measurements were either in restaurant terms or approximate, and some of the ingredients were restaurant grade not readily available to the home cook. Nonetheless, I tried to adapt the recipe so that it could be included in the family cookbook. Even with all of those disclaimers, I think you’ll enjoy making the pie – and eating it. Another warning, it is a bit complicated to make, especially the crust. You can save a lot of time and effort by simply using a ready-made pie crust. I’ve used a cake pan with removable bottom to give straight sides and to let the finished pie stand on its own, but without a fluted edge, the crust will shrink. A regular pie pan will work just fine.

RECIPES

Chef Brucia’s Sweet Pie Crust

Ingredients

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 11 ounces (22 tablespoons)  unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 3 ounces heavy cream
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon milk

Method

  1. Sift flour directly onto work surface. Make a hollow in the center
  2. Place the butter, salt, sugar, and egg in the hollow. Gently mix together with your fingers, being careful not to mix in the flour. Add 2 ounces of cream and incorporate into the mixture.
  3. With your fingers, gradually draw the flour into the mixture, continuing until all of the flour is incorporated and the dough holds its shape. Add additional cream as needed until the dough is smooth and soft.
  4. Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for at least one hour or overnight. Roll the dough to fit a 9-inch tart or cake pan. Arrange the dough so that it fits snugly without stretching. Run a rolling pin across the edge of the pan to trip the dough. The dough may shrink if you have stretched it while lining the pan.
  5. Bake blind in a 350° F oven for 12 minutes, weighting down the shell with aluminum foil filled with beans or pie weights. Remove from the oven, and remove the pie weights. Paint with a glaze made by mixing the egg yolk and milk together. Return to the oven for 2-3 minutes to brown. Remove from the oven and cool.

 

Chef Brucia’s Yam Pie

Ingredients

  • 1 large yam
  • ½ cup water
  • 10 tablespoons sugar, divided
  • 2 fresh oranges (should yield about ½ cup of stained juice)
  • 5 ounces (10 tablespoons) unsalted butter
  • 1 package (0.25 ounces) unflavored gelatin
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk

Method

  1. Peel and dice the yam into 1 inch cubes. In a saucepan, combine the diced yam with the water and 5 tablespoons of sugar. Bring to the boil and then simmer, covered, until the yam is soft. Drain the yam, reserving the cooking liquid. Puree the yam in a potato ricer, food mill, or food processor.
  2. Using a microplane, zest the oranges, setting the zest aside. Juice the two oranges, strain the juice, and set aside.
  3. In a small saucepan, combine the cooking liquid, orange juice, and butter. Bring to the boil, and heat until the butter is melted.
  4. Sprinkle the unflavored gelatin over ¼ cup cold water and let bloom for 5 minutes. Heat gently for 15 seconds in a microwave until the gelatin is dissolved.
  5. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg, egg yolk, and the remaining 5 tablespoons of sugar. Add the dissolved gelatin and whisk together.
  6. Combine the orange and egg mixtures and heat gently while stirring constantly until the mixture thickens. (About 155°F. Do not heat too fast or too high or you will wind up scrambling the eggs. If you wish, use a double boiler over not in boiling water.) Remove from the heat and stir in the yam puree and reserved orange zest until well incorporated.
  7. Pour the completed filling into the prepared pie shell. You may have some extra filling depending on how high the edge of the crust is. Don’t overfill. Refrigerate for at least one hour or until set.
  8. Cut into 6 to 8 wedges and serve by itself or with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.
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LEEK AND MUSHROOM SALAD IN THE STYLE OF THE CAMBRIDGE CLUB

Many years ago I did a lot of executive recruiting for my organization in Shreveport, Louisiana. Whenever someone –  especially a recruit– comes to Louisiana, he or she expects to eat well. Shreveport, like most cities in Louisiana, has a number of excellent restaurants specializing in a variety of cuisines, many with a Southern or Creole emphasis.

In my recruiting days, the Cambridge Club was the best of the best. It was actually a private dinner club run by two cousins from Italy, Vincent Campanella  ran the front of the house, and Giuseppe Brucia commanded (my choice of words) the kitchen. They were both trained at a famous Swiss hotel and restaurant school in Lucerne. How they got to Shreveport was anyone’s guess, but nobody cared because the setting, service, and food were so good.

On special occasions like birthdays, anniversaries, and celebrations I would take the family to dinner. They loved to go, first stopping at the front door of a beautiful house that evoked the Cotswolds to be greeted by a doorman who came out of a bright red English telephone booth and then escorted into a candlelit room with attentive waiters and delicious food.

Unfortunately, the Cambridge Club is long gone. Vincent retired years ago and Giuseppe opened his own place with a gigantic kitchen and dining rooms filled with patrons wolfing down huge plates of spaghetti and meatballs. Vincent and Giuseppe sold the Cambridge Club, and after only a few years it folded. That seems to be the story of so many legendary restaurants.

One of our family favorites on the Cambridge Club menu was a mushroom salad topped with a dab of red caviar. We talked Chef Brucia into giving us the recipe, and it was copied into our family recipe file in the teenage hand of our older daughter. Susan’s favorite salad was a leek and mushroom salad, but since our daughter runs from anything that remotely smells or tastes like an Allium, she did not copy that recipe.

What follows is a synthesis of the two recipes, minus the red caviar. But you should feel free to add that if you wish. The only other guidance is that the mushrooms absolutely must be peeled, not washed. That is much easier than it sounds. Just place the sharp point of a paring knife under the edge of the mushroom cap next to the gills, lift up and the thin covering strips away. Continue around the edge of the mushroom until it is completely peeled. That should take much less than a minute.  It is amazing how much more delicate peeled mushrooms become, how thin you can slice them, and how much more receptive they are to fresh lemon juice and the best EVOO (That’s what Sarah, Evan, and their cooks call extra virgin olive oil.)

RECIPE

Leek and Mushroom Salad in the Style of the Cambridge Club

Ingredients

  • white part of 1-2 large leeks
  • 2-3 large white mushrooms per serving
  • mesclun
  • juice of ½ lemon for each serving
  • 3 tablespoons of the best extra virgin olive oil for each serving
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano or Asiago of good quality
  • red caviar (optional)

Method

  1. With a very sharp knife, slice the leeks crosswise as thinly as possible. Rinse in a colander to remove any bits of sand and dirt. Refrigerate in ice water until ready to use.
  2. With a paring knife, peel the mushrooms. Slice crosswise as thinly as possible. Save the peelings for vegetable stock if you wish.
  3. Assemble the salad by placing a nest of mesclun on individual serving plates.  Drain the leeks. Divide the sliced leeks and mushrooms among the plates.
  4. Dress each plate with lemon juice and olive oil. Use salt and pepper if needed
  5. Top with slivers of Parmigiano-Reggiano or Asiago shaved as thinly as possible with a vegetable peeler.
  6. If you are feeling flush, add a dab of red caviar to the top of each serving. Remember, this is purely optional.

 

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