Brooke Dojny may be petite, but she's not afraid to wrestle a sacred cow - traditional New England food. Clams, carrots, and pumpkins are bubbling in her kitchen seasoned with fresh ideas.
She is the author of "The New England Cookbook" (Harvard Common Press, $18.95), a work rooted in time-honored cuisine, but with branches into more modern Yankee fare.
Of this regional cuisine Ms. Dojny says, "We have a core of dishes we've been cooking here for 300 years. But now we have a melting pot with ethnic cuisines as well. There is such a heterogeneous mix here, so unique in diversity."
Dojny notes that the idea of a melting pot is something that has always been a part of the Northeast. She says the ingredients began folding together with the first Colonial settlers in the early 17th century and the local Indian tribes.
While most New England cooking stops to rest upon this early base as its repertoire, Dojny's historical journey takes the time to savor flavors from other shores including such ingredients as Portuguese sausage, Irish oats, Hungarian crepes, Cuban black beans, and Polish pirogi (filled pastry turnovers).
Throughout the book, Dojny inserts historical bits about New England food, people, places, and traditions.
As for the laborious preparation times that often epitomize New England cuisine, Dojny has made many recipes more accessible to contemporary cooks. While not all would make the "30-Minute Main Courses" cut (the title of her column in Bon Apptit magazine), she says, "I hope that people will be able to cook from this on weekdays as well as weekends."
A classic recipe like chowder or baked beans comes from an original source, she says, adding that a good interpretation of a recipe "remains true to the original intent and taste, but is brought up to date in the way it is made and is subtly changed to reflect dietary differences without sacrificing integrity."
Dojny has updated many traditional recipes by cutting back on salt and fat, making up for their absence with fresh herbs and lower-fat dairy products.
And if any Yankee critics feel she's flown the coop in her additions to traditional New England cuisine, Dojny says in her own defense, "This is not a book about ancient food, it's a reflection of the way people in New England eat today."
Shaker Roast Pork Loin with Cider-Sage Gravy
2 tablespoons coarse-grained mustard
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons chopped fresh sage or 3-1/2 teaspoons dried
1 bone-in loin of pork - about 5 pounds (Have your butcher cut through the chine bone to facilitate carving.)
1 or 2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1-1/2 cups apple cider or apple juice
1 cup chicken or beef broth
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Salt and ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Stir together mustard, oil, and 1 tablespoon fresh, or 1-1/2 teaspoons dried sage; spread paste over pork.
Set pork, fat side up, on a rack in a roasting pan. Place in oven and immediately reduce temperature to 325. Roast for about 20 to 25 minutes per pound, or until a meat thermometer inserted in the thickest part registers 150 degrees. Remove pork to a platter; cover loosely with foil.
Place roasting pan with drippings on a stove burner. You should have about 2 tablespoons of fat in the pan. If not, add butter to make up the difference. Sprinkle flour over the drippings and cook over medium heat, stirring, for 2 minutes. Stir in the cider and chicken broth, and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the brown bits. Stir in remaining 2 tablespoons of fresh sage or 2 teaspoons dried and the lemon juice and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Carve the meat, cutting down between the bones. Stir any accumulated juices into gravy. Pass gravy in a sauceboat at the table.
Northeast Kingdom Maple-Glazed Braised Turnips
3 tablespoons butter
1 cup chicken broth
3 tablespoons maple syrup
1-1/2 pounds small young white turnips, peeled and cut in half
1 tablespoon grainy Dijon mustard
Salt and fresh-ground black pepper
Chopped parsley for garnish
Melt butter in a large skillet with a lid or Dutch oven. Stir in the broth and maple syrup; bring to a simmer. Add the turnips, bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low and cook, covered, until the turnips are tender, 10 to 20 minutes. Remove turnips with a slotted spoon, leaving the liquid in the pan.
Boil the turnip liquid, uncovered, until it's reduced by at least half and is beginning to get syrupy. Whisk in the mustard. Return turnips to the sauce, stir to coat; season with salt and pepper to taste. Reheat gently. Serve turnips garnished with parsley.
Serves 4 to 6.
(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society