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New Classic Family Dinners

More Than 200 Everyday Recipes and Menus from the Award-Winning Campanile Restaurant

By Mark Peel with Martha Rose Shulman

New Classic Family Dinners

Every American city has its restaurants where people go for comfort food and family-style dining. In Los Angeles, it’s the rustically elegant Campanile, where hearty dishes such as macaroni & cheese, and bacon-wrapped meatloaf with mashed potatoes and creamed spinach are served for Monday Night Family Dinners, and grilled cheese night is held every Thursday.

In October, in celebration of the restaurant’s 20th anniversary, executive chef Mark Peel released New Classic Family Dinners, a book of his creative takes on homespun favorites. To Peel, this means juxtaposing textures and tastes. Whether it is hot against cold, crispy versus juicy, or sweet and spicy, the contradicting sensations stimulate the palate. Using fresh ingredients and absolute care, he also emphasizes the importance of mise-en-place, or, simply, the appearance of the dish. He showcases his unique take on the traditional in his recipes, yet incorporates the importance of preparation and finesse, evidenced in his “how to” guide for filleting fish.

Separated into courses, and further categorized by proteins, the colorful cookbook includes recipes that are mostly straightforward as well as vivid photography. While some show European roots, such as the Flemish Beef and Beer Stew (tenderized beef immersed in a dark, full beer layered with caramelized onions), most are for 50's-style comfort foods, including childhood desserts such as Boston Cream Pie and Peach Melba.

These dishes might not bring up memories of your childhood—which may include matzo brei or mole—but it’s fun to see what a La Tour D'Argent alumni and nominee for the 2008 James Beard Foundation Awards makes of what are considered traditional all-American staples. Tuna casserole, anyone?

Reviewed by Liz Lombardo


Flemish Beef & Beer Stew
(makes 4-6 servings)

2  pounds boneless chuck or round steak
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper                          
2  tablespoons all-purpose flour                            
2  tablespoons canola oil                                                  
4  ounces bacon, diced                                              
2  tablespoons unsalted butter
2  large or 3 medium onions, cut in half, then thinly sliced crosswise
1  tablespoon dark brown sugar
1  tablespoon cider vinegar
2 ¼  cups dark beer
A bouquet garni made with a bay leaf, a tarragon sprig, a few parsley
sprigs and a few thyme sprigs
6  ounces country bread, cut in ½ inch-thick slices
2  tablespoons Dijon mustard
Steamed or boiled potatoes, mashed potatoes or rice, for serving

Cooking Directions:

1.  Cut the meat with the grain into ½-inch-thick slices.  Season with about 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper, and lightly dredge into floor.

2.  Heat 2 tablespoons canola oil in a wide, heavy skillet over high heat and brown the meat for about 2 ½  minutes on each side, in batches so you don’t crowd the pan.  Set aside on a plate.

3.  Allow the skillet to cool slightly and add the bacon. Cook over medium heat until it begins to soften all the way through and render its fat, about 3 minutes, then add the butter.  When the butter begins to foam, add the onions and 1 teaspoon salt.  Cook, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan to deglaze, and turn the heat to medium-low.  Cook the onions gently until light brown, stirring often, about 20 minutes.  Add the beer and bring to a boil, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan.  Add ½ teaspoon salt and teaspoon pepper; and remove from the heat.

4.  Preheat the oven to 350˚ (or you can cook this over a low heat on top of the stove).  Layer one third of the onions on the bottom of a 3-quart casserole.  Layer half the meat over the onions.  Layer another third of the onions over the meat, and the remaining meat over the onions. Top with the remaining onions.  Insert the bouquet garni into the onions and pour on the liquid from the pan.  Cover the pot and place in the oven or over low heat and simmer gently for 2 ½ hours, or until the meat is fork-tender.

5.  Spread the slices of bread with mustard on both sides. Lay the slices over the top of the casserole in a single layer, and press them down slightly so they absorb some moisture.  Return to the oven for 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and serve with steamed or boiled potatoes, mashed potatoes, or rice and accompany with beer.

Top 10 Fall Beers

Autumn is the season for beer with cooler nights requiring heartier, more flavorful brews.
Three glasses of beer

(Updated: 10/19/09 SG)

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