Something's Cooking

Living a food fantasy, CBS News Sunday Morning was admitted to the inner sanctum of Gourmet magazine.

"About the first thing I learned at Gourmet was that they take Thanksgiving very seriously," CBS News Sunday Morning correspondent Martha Teichner says.

This year's designated turkey taster went through about 40 turkeys to get the perfectly cooked bird. As Gourmet magazine's editor, Ruth Reichl, explains the November issue involved a clay pot.

"You've to go out and buy this giant piece of equipment, and then you've got to first cook [the turkey] in that [clay pot]," Reichl explains. "Then you've got to wrestle the turkey out of the clay pot. And yes, when you're done, you've got a really fabulous bird. But is it fabulous enough for us to ask our readers to do that?"

The answer was no, so the turkey was roasted the old-fashioned way, but with squares of butter carefully massaged under the bird's skin.

Gourmet was the first magazine of its kind in the United States. Mac Ausland was the founding publisher, but executive food editor Zanne Stewart, like everybody else at Gourmet, refers to Ausland as Mr. Mac.

"He started this magazine, an epicurean magazine in 1941, not a really good year for starting any kind of venture – with paper shortages looming," Stewart says. "But he felt there was room, even in 1941, for a magazine that would be devoted to what he felt was the good life. Hence, 'Gourmet the Magazine for Good Living.'"

Good living, that is, for men. On the cover of the first issue was a painting of a boar's head. And the magazine had numerous articles in the early years about cigars and game hunting.

Gourmet then was very different from Gourmet now. But if you go back through the magazine, decade by decade, what can be found is a culinary history of the United States.

Like Playboy magazine, Gourmet had its centerfold - every month a voluptuous menu. Recipes were written out in paragraphs. There were no lists of ingredients.

"Something about this graphic zucchini caught my eye in 1968 in Free Frazier Pharmacy in Santa Fe, N.M.," says Stewart, a 32-year veteran of Gourment magazine. "I snatched it up, paid for it and proceeded to fall in love."

What's not to love about a job where the research is checking out restaurants with your colleagues on the company. It is not only permitted but required.

Imagine deliberately going to work hungry, so you can taste all day. Zanne Stewart is in charge of Gourmet's eight test kitchens. She says she may taste dozens of food in a day.

"There's nothing like tasting 10 chocolate cakes first thing in the morning," she reveals.

It's tough work, but somebody has to do it.

Any recipe that might end up in the magazine gets tested continuously until it's right. Considering there are at least 70 recipes in every issue, that's a lot of testing.

Many people are curious to see the Gourmet magazine process at work. Two hundred and sixty people recently forked over $1,000 apiece for a three-day insiders weekend at Gourmet. They came to New York City from 34 states and Canada. Visitors were equally divided into males and females of all ages.

They got to be in the same room as their favorite celebrity chefs and they met the fruit detective. It was as if they were living an issue of the magazine.

For subscribers who've been feasting on the pictures for years and reading the recipes like poetry, it is reassuring to find out that there may be tricks of the trade, but there are no nasty little secrets at Gourmet. All the food photographed for the magazine is real – unlike those used in some other magazines that turn a blind eye to fake-food sculptures.

Ruth Reichl believes that all of the work isn't just glossy indulgence. She says it does matter that the pictures speak to the occasions in readers' lives.

She explains, "I feel like there's something that you pick up and you look at and it makes you hungry and it makes you want to run into the kitchen and cook that up and offer it to your friends, and it makes you feel like, 'Oh, this is so beautiful, and oh I can do that.'"

Anybody at Gourmet will tell you there's one ingredient you'll find in every dish that appears in the magazine. It's passion. If you happen to have a passion for chocolate, you can look forward to the February issue.

Some Recipes From Gourmet Magazine

Eggs Baked in Piperade

Piperade, a saucy tomato and pepper mixture from the Basque regions of France and Spain, is often paired with eggs.
Active time: 35 min. Start to finish: 45 min
1 large onion, chopped
2 red bell peppers, chopped
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon hot paprika
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 (14- to 15-oz) cans diced tomatoes, including juice
8 large eggs
3 ounce crumbled feta (3/4 cup)

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Cook onion and bell peppers in oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet, covered, over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, 7 to 8 minutes. Add paprika and garlic and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add tomatoes with juice and cook, uncovered, until vegetables are tender, 5 to 9 minutes.

Warm eggs (still in shell) in a bowl of hot water 5 minutes, then drain.

Transfer vegetables to a 3-quart shallow baking or au gratin dish and make 8 indentations in mixture with back of a large spoon. Crack an egg into each indentation and season with salt and pepper. Bake until egg whites are set but yolks are still slightly runny, 8 to 10 minutes. Sprinkle with feta and serve immediately.

Cooks' note:
The yolks in this recipe are not fully cooked. If salmonella is a problem in your area, bake until yolks are completely set.

Makes 4 servings.

November 2003

Applesauce Spice Muffins

Active time: 20 min. Start to finish: 45 min.

For muffins
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 stick (1/2 cup) plus 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 cup pecans or walnuts (3 1/2 oz), coarsely chopped

For topping
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Special equipment: a muffin pan with 12 (1/2-cup) muffin cups

Prepare muffins:
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease muffin pan.

Stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices, and salt in a bowl. Whisk together eggs and brown sugar in a large bowl until combined well, then add butter, a little at a time, whisking until mixture is creamy. Stir in applesauce, then fold in flour mixture until flour is just moistened. Stir in nuts and divide batter among muffin cups.

Make topping and bake:
Stir together all topping ingredients and sprinkle on top of muffins. Bake until muffins are puffed and golden, about 20 minutes. Cool in pan on a rack 5 minutes, then remove muffins from pan and cool slightly.

Cooks' note:
Muffins, cooled completely, keep in an airtight container at room temperature 1 day.

Makes 12 muffins.

November 2003

Mincemeat Sticky Buns

Active time: 20 min. Start to finish: 12 hours(includes thawing of bread dough)

1 large navel orange
1 (9-ounces) package condensed mincemeat, crumbled
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1 pound frozen white bread dough, thawed overnight in refrigerator, according to package instructions

Grate enough orange zest to measure 1 teaspoon, then squeeze juice from orange. Stir together zest, juice, and mincemeat in a bowl and let stand at room temperature, stirring occasionally, until liquid is absorbed, about 1 hour.

Spread 2 tablespoons butter generously over bottom and lightly onto sides of a 9-inch square baking pan and sprinkle bottom with 1/3-cup brown sugar.

Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface with a floured rolling pin into a 16- by 10-inch rectangle. Spread remaining 2 tablespoons butter over top of dough, then sprinkle evenly with remaining 1/3 cup brown sugar and crumble mincemeat evenly over sugar. Beginning from 1 long side, roll up dough into a log (like a jelly roll) and pinch seam to seal, then cut log crosswise into 9 equal slices. Arrange slices, a cut side down and about 1 1/2 inches apart, in baking pan. Cover pan with a sheet of wax paper and then a kitchen towel and let buns rise in a warm, draft-free place until they fill pan, about 1 1/4 hours.

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Remove kitchen towel and wax paper from baking pan and bake buns 30 minutes, then loosely cover with foil and continue to bake until cooked through, about 10 minutes more. Cool slightly in pan on a rack, about 5 minutes. Wearing oven mitts, invert a platter over pan and, keeping platter and pan firmly pressed together, invert buns onto platter. Carefully lift pan off buns. Cool buns to warm.

Cooks' note:
Buns can be baked 8 hours ahead. Cool completely in pan, then cover pan with foil. Reheat in same pan (keep covered) in a preheated 350°F oven until warm, about 10 minutes.

Makes 9 buns.

November 2003