A menu is a fascinating thing. In the proper perspective it deals with harmonies and values that are totally absorbing, and there are, perhaps, more dimensions to it than the casual diner is ever aware of. In its simplest form the considerations of a well-planned menu are three—texture, flavor and color. Repetition of either in the course of one meal is anathema to the whole concept.
It is a commonplace that if a custard pie of a savory sort is served in the course of a meal, it would not logically be followed by a custard or pie of any sort. If the soup that begins the meal is watercress, the green should be eschewed in the salad.
In a similar sense, if cheese is a prominent ingredient in the meal’s main course, the service of cheese should be avoided later. If the meal has been altogether heavy along the lines of a hearty stew and several courses, it would be best to select an ice or sherbet in preference to ice cream or a heavier dessert to end the meal.
Contrasts in color within the course of a meal are wholly desirable, although time was at the end of World War I when monochromatic meals were fashionable in certain European circles. One such meal, contrived to be monochromatically red, began with smoked salmon, followed by a cold rose-tinted cherry soup, rare roast beef with a hot purée of beets (blended with mashed potatoes), sliced tomato salad, a centerpiece of radishes and, finally, raspberry sherbet topped with red ripe strawberries. The whole meal was served on red china on red tablecloths in a red room, and it sounds absolutely awful. There is a certain humor in the fact that during a green meal in the same period Roquefort cheese appeared with the salad.
Perhaps the most interesting menus ever conceived are those that appeared during the siege of Paris. Almost anything that walked or crawled was considered edible, and the zoo is said to have been a prime and protean source for food. Thus a menu served on Christmas Day, in 1870, at the Café Voisin, rue Saint Honoré, included stuffed donkey’s head, elephant consommé, roast camel and jugged kangaroo.
It is fervently hoped that the menus in this book will be of value to the reader. There are more than four hundred of them in the menu section, and they embrace special dinners, international meals, simple suppers and menus for everyday dining.
But this is far more than a book of menus. It is a companion volume to The New York Times Cook Book, published in 1961. That edition contained nearly fifteen hundred recipes that had appeared in The New York Times during the decade 1950–1960. This menu cook book contains more than twelve hundred recipes culled from the thousands printed in the newspaper from 1960 to 1966. These are the best of the lot. Asterisks in the menu section indicate those dishes for which recipes may be found elsewhere in the book.
Like the recipes in The New York Times Cook Book, the recipes herein are derived from endless sources. Some are from international books on food, others from friends and many created in my own home and in The New York Times test kitchen. In several of the finest French recipes found here the hand of Pierre Franey, former chef at New York’s famed Le Pavillon restaurant and now a vice president of Howard Johnson, can be discerned. I have spent countless pleasant hours working and discussing food with him in the kitchen of my East Hampton home.
The work of Jean Hewitt, The New York Times home economist, has been beyond measure in testing and polishing the vast majority of the recipes in this volume. She is tireless, inspired and dedicated.
Miss Inez Krech did the honors of assembling, analyzing, putting together, pasting up, deleting and editing the material that follows, and for her burdensome, painstaking labor I have nothing but awe and gratitude.
Credits for the photographs go to The Times studio photographers, Bill Aller, Gene Maggio and Al Wegener, for whom I have the keenest personal and professional admiration. The drawings are those of Bill Goldsmith, an eminently talented illustrator and artist.
To Mrs. Velma Cannon of the food news staff, my heartfelt thanks for her invaluable aid and inspiration through the years in seeing to it that The Times recipes were put into proper order.
The New York Times
© 1966 Craig Claiborne estate. All rights reserved.