New England cookoff winners add a dash of Yankee ingenuity

Ed Govostes whipped the wooden spoon around the steaming copper skillet. Under his careful eye, the minced vegetables and clams were nearing the right consistency - ready to be stuffed into slit chicken breasts. Mr. Govostes, a burly, jovial man whose regular calling is master plumber, shyly offered his hundred or so onlookers a cooking pointer or two. But his gravelly voice was lost in the din of Boston's Quincy Marketplace.

What brings a working man from Winchester, Mass., down to Boston to demonstrate his cooking skills?

The same thing that brought Irene Lewis up from Brackney, Pa., Kathy Hodapp from Belle Plaine, Minn., and Donald Newman from Little River, Calif.

All were first-place winners in Yankee Magazine's ``Great New England Cook Off.'' In total, 17 prizewinning cooks traveled to the Hub last week, courtesy of Yankee, to prepare their specialties before the mobs of tourists at the city's premi`ere food emporium.

Some were a little incredulous that their kitchen experiments had brought such recognition. ``I came up with it for my wife - as a small, Saturday night supper,'' said Ed Govostes, describing the origins of his Chicken Clam Breast Farci.

Mr. Newman, a lanky Californian from that state's rugged northern coast, was ``very surprised'' that his Smoked Salmon Chowder took a blue ribbon. He had thought it would be too non-traditional. But aside from the salmon, the ingredients are similar to those in good old-fashioned New England clam chowder. ``It shouldn't offend too many Yankees,'' he guessed.

Mrs. Hodapp devised her Fresh Rhubarb Cheesecake to solve (half solve, anyway) a perennial problem in her region: ``In Minnesota, we always have an excess of zucchini and rhubarb.'' She never would have dreamed of entering the dish in a contest, but her parents, Yankee subscribers, urged her on.

Other winners brought the confidence born of experience to the competition. Deedy Marble, an innkeeper from Ludlow, Vt., says ``thousands of guests'' have raved about her Gram's Graham Bread.

And Martha Davis of Inman, S.C., proclaiming herself ``the only real Southerner here,'' made only a slight change in her Yankee Cheesecake Soup for the contest. ``I use it in my home all the time,'' she said. Then, with a wink she confided, ``For the contest I put `Yankee' in front of it.''

The response to the cookoff, originally announced in the March issue of Yankee, was overwhelming, says Susan Peery, the magazine's food editor. Readers sent in 1,500 recipes. A panel of home economists narrowed the entrants down to 51 dishes - three in each of 17 categories. In August, a team of Boston-area food experts picked the first-place winners.

The dishes are a creative cross section of American home cooking. Some are simplicity itself; some border on the complex. When it comes to cooking, clearly, Yankee ingenuity knows no region.

Here's a selection of the winners: Yankee Cheesecake Soup 1/2 cup butter 3/4 cup chopped onion 1/2 cup finely chopped celery 1/2 cup flour 2 1/2 cups chicken broth 1 1/2 cups water 1/2 teaspoon salt 1 8-ounce package cream cheese, slightly warmed in double boiler 1 cup yogurt, slightly warmed 2 egg yolks, beaten White pepper Freshly chopped parsley

Melt butter in large pot over medium heat. Add onions and celery; saut'e until onions are soft. Stir in flour and cook an extra 3 minutes.

Add chicken broth, water, and salt. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, for 15 minutes.

Whisk cream cheese, yogurt, and egg yolks in a medium bowl until smooth. Gradually add 2 cups of the hot soup mixture, blending thoroughly. Return cheese mixture to soup mixture and stir over low heat until heated thoroughly. Do not boil.

Season with white pepper. Garnish with chopped parsley.

Serves 6. -Martha Davis, Inman, S.C. Gram's Graham Bread 11/2 cups graham flour (or whole-wheat flour if graham is not available) 2 cups regular flour 1/2 cup brown sugar 1/2 cup molasses 2 cups soured milk (to sour, place 2 tablespoons cider vinegar in 2-cup measure, full with whole milk, and let stand for 5 minutes) 2 teaspoons baking soda 1 teaspoon salt

Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl. Beat at medium speed with electric mixer until just blended.

Grease either a large loaf pan, 3 or 4 small loaf pans, or 40 miniature muffin tins. Pour batter into prepared pans.

Bake in a preheated 350-degree F. oven, about 20 minutes for miniature muffins, 30 minutes for small loaves, and 45 minutes for a single large loaf. Test loaves with toothpick or tester to be sure they are done.

Turn out after about 5 minutes and cool on rack, or eat warm. This recipe doubles well.

-Deedy Marble, Ludlow, Vt. Smoked Salmon Chowder 8 slices smoked bacon, diced 2-3 tablespoons unsalted butter 1 medium onion, diced 2 small leeks, white parts only, sliced and well rinsed 2 pounds new red potatoes, unpeeled and sliced, then washed and drained 4 cups fresh or canned chicken stock 2 cups fresh fish stock or 2 cups bottled clam juice (preferably unsalted) 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley 1 teaspoon dried chervil 1 teaspoon dried marjoram 10 ounces hot-smoked salmon, diced (not lox or cold-smoked salmon) 2-3 cups heavy cream Salt and pepper 1 tablespoon butter for garnish Pinch of chopped parsley for garnish

In a large Dutch oven or soup pot, saut'e diced bacon in unsalted butter over medium heat until brown and crisp. Remove bacon from pan with sltted spoon and drain on paper towels.

Pour off all but 1/4 cup of bacon fat and butter. Add chopped onion and sliced leeks and saut'e over low heat until transparent and soft. Add red potatoes, cover pan, and allow to saut'e gently over low heat for 3 to 5 minutes.

Uncover, add chicken stock and fish stock or clam juice, and all the herbs and simmer gently for 30 to 45 minutes or until potatoes are very tender. Add smoked salmon and reserved bacon and simmer for about 10 minutes more.

Enrich chowder to preferred taste and texture with heavy cream. Bring chowder to a simmer and correct seasoning with salt and pepper.

Garnish chowder with butter and chopped parsley. Serves 10 generously.

-Donald L. Newman, Little River, Calif. Apple Pie With Cider Pecan Crust Crust: 2 cups flour 2/3 cup shortening 1 teaspoon salt 1/2 cup finely crushed pecans 1/4 cup cold cider

Cut in flour, shortening, and salt, until particles are the size of giant peas. Mix in pecans; sprinkle dough with cider and mix gently until dough holds together. Divide dough into 2 balls and roll out. Filling: 7 firm, juicy, tart apples 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon 1/4 cup sugar 1/2 cup raisins 1/2 cup diced candied fruit 1 tablespoon lemon juice 1 tablespoon cold butter Topping: 1 egg yolk Cinnamon, Sugar

Pare, core, and slice apples. Toss them gently with spices, sugar, raisins, candied fruit, and lemon juice. Put filling into crust and dot with butter. Cover with top crust and make slits in it.

For topping, brush top with egg yolk and dust with cinnamon and sugar. Bake at 425 degrees F. for 50 to 60 minutes. Mrs. Ellen Sbalbi, Springfield, Mass.

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