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'My Vermont Table' cookbook celebrates recipes with local ingredients from all 6 seasons in state

Unrepentantly maple fudge. (Raymond Prado)
Unrepentantly maple fudge. (Raymond Prado)

It’s mud season in Vermont — time to put on a pair of boots and head to a sugar house where the sap is boiling. Mud season, of course, is one of the six seasons in Vermont — yes, six! There’s also “stick season” in the late fall.

And each of these seasons is celebrated in chef Gesine Bullock-Prado‘s new cookbook, “My Vermont Table,” which comes out Tuesday.

Listeners may remember Bullock-Prado from her Food Network show “Baked in Vermont.” She’s also a culinary instructor and, at one point, owned a bakery there. All far from Hollywood where, in 1990, she started a movie production company with her actress sister Sandra Bullock. But it turned out that butter, flour and maple were a greater draw for her than the red carpet. And, as she tells Here & Now‘s Robin Young, she’s dedicted her latest cookbook to food and celebrations that are authentically Vermont.

“My Vermont Table” by Gesine Bullock-Prado cover. (Courtesy of Countryman Press)

Book excerpt: ‘My Vermont Table’

By Gesine Bullock-Prado

Unrepentantly maple fudge

This is an unrepentantly sweet treat, but there’s a balance in this fudge that is just perfect. The butter and caramel notes of the maple give it depth, the bitterness of the chocolate and the tartness of the cranberries cut through the sweetness, and the chips/pretzels bring a delightful salty crunch to the party. The silky yet firm texture of fudge is also unique and uniquely American, like maple syrup. It’s as if they were made for each other.

Serves 8.

Ingredients

  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 1 3/4 cups pure maple syrup, Vermont grade amber or dark
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1⁄2 cup crushed potato chips or pretzels
  • 1⁄2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1⁄2 cup semisweet chocolate chips


Instructions

  1. Line an 8-by-5-inch baking pan or dish with parchment so that the parchment overhangs two opposite sides of the pan. Spray with non- stick cooking spray. Set aside.
  2. Bring the maple syrup, butter, and salt to a boil in a large saucepan, stirring occasionally, and boil for about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the cream and continue to cook until the mixture reaches 245°F (the higher end of soft ball stage).
  4. Remove from the heat and allow to sit, undisturbed, for 5 minutes. Beat with a wooden spoon for 5 minutes, until thickened but not set.
  5. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking pan and immediately top with the potato chips, then the cranberries, and finally the chocolate chips.
  6. Allow to cool completely, about 2 hours, and then lift the fudge out of the baking pan, using the overhanging parchment. Cut into squares. Keep covered in an airtight container up to 2 weeks.

Biscuit casserole

This breakfast casserole combines all the essentials for a hearty breakfast in one dish. And it’s beautiful.

Biscuit casserole. (Raymond Prado)

You can trade out the potato tots for roast potatoes if you like, but there’s an ease to just tossing the lot together and enjoying your coffee as it bakes away.

 

Serves 6.

Ingredients

BISCUIT TOPPING

  • 5 cups (600 g) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting (I use King Arthur)
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon (from two 1⁄4-ounce packets; 14 g) instant yeast (I use Red Star Platinum Superior Instant Yeast)
  • 1 1⁄2 teaspoons coarse or flaky sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick; 113 g) unsalted butter, cold and cubed
  • 1⁄2 cup (92 g) shortening or lard, cold, cubed 2 cups (454 g) buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup


CASSEROLE

  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • One 32-ounce bag frozen potato tots (about 70)
  • 6 large maple breakfast sausages (approximately 1.8 pounds), removed from casings (I use Vermont Salumi Maple Breakfast Sausages)
  • 12 large eggs, whisked
  • Kosher salt (I use Diamond Crystal) and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup shredded sharp Vermont Cheddar
  • 4 tablespoons (1⁄2 stick) unsalted butter, melted


Instructions

MAKE THE BISCUIT TOPPING

  1. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, yeast, salt, and baking soda in a large bowl. Add the butter and shortening to the bowl and gently mix to coat the fat.
  2. Work the fat into the flour mixture by hand until the mixture resembles corn-

meal and there are pea-size bits of fat throughout the dough.

  • Whisk together the buttermilk and maple syrup in a small bowl, then pour over the flour mixture. Gently stir with a wooden spoon to just combine, making sure there are no flour clumps left. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
  • MAKE THE CASSEROLE

    1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Spray a 31⁄2-quart low-sided braising pan or deep ovenproof skillet with nonstick cooking spray and line with the potato tots. Bake for 20 minutes.
    2. In the meantime, brown the sausage in a large nonstick skillet set over medium-high heat, about 7 minutes. Drain the fat and set the sausage aside. In the same skillet over medium heat, cook the eggs, stirring, until that have a soft scrambled consistency, then salt and pepper to taste.
    3. Roll out the biscuit dough on a lightly floured surface into a 12-inch round. Use a knife to score the dough in a sun pattern (just a slight score; don’t cut all the way through).
    4. Remove the pan from the oven and spread the sausage in an even layer over top of the potato tots, then spread the scrambled eggs over the sausage. Sprinkle evenly with the grated Cheddar. Top everything with the biscuit dough round.
    5. Lower the oven temperature to 375°F and bake until the crust is deep golden brown, 35 to 40 minutes. Immediately brush with the melted butter. Let rest for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

    Omelet with butter-sautéed morels. (Raymond Prado)

    Omelet with butter-sautéed morels

    I don’t mean to brag, but if you walk past the fire pit and into the woods on our property in early April, keep your eyes peeled. There’s gold in them thar hills. Well, there are morels studding the ground. For as funky as morels look, they are incredibly hard to spot unless you know where and how to look.

    Morel mushrooms. (Raymond Prado)

    First, rotting logs are an auspicious sign and, second, slightly soggy soil, not wet, just extra damp, bodes well. If you’ve stumbled upon these conditions, squat down if your knees can take it and soften your gaze. Don’t try too hard. Relax, breathe deeply, and scan the ground nonchalantly. Morels never appear if you’re too thirsty for them. Once one comes into sight, you’ll marvel at how that weird craggy mush- room body wasn’t easy to spot, and then you’ll spot another and another.

     

    This, my sweet friends, is more exciting than gambling in Monte Carlo with James Bond or sunbathing on the deck of a bald tech tycoon’s yacht in St. Barts because not only are morels bona fide treasure (you’ll have to shell out over $30 for a pound), they are profoundly delicious and you are pretty much required to wear the coziest of clothes when you’re hunting for them. Sauté them with some butter, splash them with some umami-rich Maggi, ladle them over a picture-perfect French omelet, and you’ll feel like the richest Vermonter in the world.

    Serves 2.

    Ingredients

    MORELS

    • 2 tablespoons olive oil
    • 12 morel mushrooms (about 7 ounces), trimmed, cleaned, and cut in half
    • 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
    • 2 garlic cloves, minced
    • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
    • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
    • 1 tablespoon Maggi seasoning
    • 1⁄4 cup chicken stock
    • Salt


    OMELET

    • 2 tablespoons grated cold unsalted butter, divided (see directions)
    • 6 large eggs, divided
    • 2 tablespoons starch water, divided (see note) Salt
    • 2 tablespoon neutral oil, such as canola, divided
    • 2 tablespoons crème fraîche (I use Vermont Creamery) to finish
    • Fresh flat-leaf parsley


    Instructions

    MAKE THE MORELS

    • In a nonstick pan or cast-iron skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Cook the mush- rooms, stirring often, until slightly caramelized. This will take about 5 minutes.
    • Add the onion and garlic and cook until trans- lucent, about 2 minutes. Add the vinegar to deglaze and, with a wooden spoon, loosen any delicious brown bits from the pan. Add the butter, Maggi, and chicken stock and cook until the liquid reduces to a thick sauce that coats the back of the wooden spoon, about 2 minutes. Season with salt to taste.


    MAKE THE OMELET

    • Chill a stick of butter in the freezer for 5 to 10 minutes. Using the largest holes of a box grater, grate about 1 tablespoon from the stick of butter onto a small plate. Set aside.
    • Combine 3 eggs, 1 tablespoon starch water, and a generous pinch of salt in a bowl. Using an immersion blender, blend the eggs with the starch water and salt until completely smooth. Alternatively, whisk the mixture together really well. The finished omelet won’t have as refined a texture without the immersion. Stir in the grated butter.
    • Heat the oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat and add the egg mixture. Using a rubber spatula, constantly stir the egg mixture until more than half of it is cooked but there is still uncooked, liquid egg in the pan. Turn off the heat


    and smooth out the egg mixture, distributing the cooked and uncooked bits evenly. Place a lid on the pan and allow to sit on the unlit burner to finish cooking through, 2 to 3 minutes. If after 2 to 3 minutes there is still uncooked liquid egg in the pan, turn on the heat to low, replace the lid, and cook for 1 minute more. You do not want to brown the omelet, and the egg should still be very soft but not liquid. Using the rubber spatula, gently fold the omelet over a few times and slide onto a plate. Repeat with the remaining omelet ingredients for the second omelet. Top with 1 tablespoon crème fraîche, a few leaves of parsley, and half of the morels.

    NOTE: The secret ingredient here is the starch water. It brings bounce and tenderness to the omelet. If you don’t have starch water hanging out in your fridge (and if not, why not???), just leave out the water component entirely.

    Dog Team Tavern sticky buns. (Raymond Prado)

    Dog Team Tavern sticky buns: A historic Vermont recipe

    The Dog Team Tavern was built in the 1920s by Sir Wilfred and Lady Anne Grenfell in Middlebury, Vermont, and was made a mission house in 1931. It became a tavern in 1936 and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2002. It was a place of local legend. It had catered to the likes of Eleanor Roosevelt and Robert Frost. And as the years passed, it was frequented by the students of Middlebury College on parents’ weekend. It was famous for its generous portions of prime rib and its “relish wheel.” But perhaps most loved were the sticky buns, served as an appetizer. How can you not love a joint that serves sticky buns as an appetizer? Tragically, the tavern burned down in 2006 and has left a community longing for the sticky buns that once were. It’s around Thanksgiving that the online groups wax nostalgic for these sweet treats, with recipes exchanged and notes passed. The thing I love most about these is that they are soft as can be from the use of mashed potatoes and starch water from cooking the potatoes. Long live Dog Team Tavern sticky buns!

    Makes 18 buns.

    Ingredients

    DOUGH

    • 12 ounces (340 g) russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
    • 1⁄2 cup (99 g) granulated sugar
    • 2 teaspoons fine sea salt
    • 2 large eggs, beaten
    • 7 cups (840 g) all-purpose flour (I use King Arthur) One 1⁄4-ounce packet (7 g) instant yeast (I use Red Star Platinum Superior Instant Yeast)
    • 8 tablespoons (1 stick; 113 g) unsalted butter
    • Oil for bowl
    • Nonstick cooking spray


    STICKY

    • Butter for baking pans
    • 2 cups (426 g) light brown sugar
    • 1 1⁄2 cups (169 g) chopped walnuts


    FILLING

    • 2 cups (426 g) light brown sugar
    • 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
    • 1⁄2 pound (2 sticks; 226 g) unsalted butter, very soft

    Instructions

    MAKE THE DOUGH

    1. Boil the potatoes until fork-tender. Drain, reserving 11⁄2 cups of the cooking liquid (aka starch water), and allow the reserved cooking liquid to cool. Place a drum sieve or tamis over a large bowl and press the potatoes through the sieve with a bowl or D scraper. Add the granulated sugar and the salt to the potatoes and stir well to combine. Allow to cool.
    2. Combine the reserved cooking water and eggs in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Whisk to combine. Add the potato mixture and then the flour and yeast. Mix until the dough just comes together. Add the butter, a small piece at a time, and continue to mix until the dough is very smooth and shiny, about 10 minutes. Transfer the dough to a well-oiled bowl and turn the dough over to coat the dough completely in the oil. Cover with plastic wrap. Allow the dough to bulk ferment until doubled in size, about 1 hour. Transfer the dough to a parchment-lined sheet pan, spraying the parchment well with nonstick cooking spray. Press the dough so that it’s a rough rectangle. Refrigerate to firm up the dough, about 1 hour.


    MAKE THE STICKY

    1. Butter two 9-by-13-inch baking pans. Divide the brown sugar evenly between the two pans. Spritz the brown sugar with enough water to make a thick, wet paste. Divide the walnuts between the two pans.


    FILL AND BAKE THE BUNS

    1. Roll out the dough into a rough 14-by-18-inch rectangle, about 1⁄2 inch thick.
    2. Combine the brown sugar, cinnamon, and butter in a bowl, stirring to create a thick paste. Spread the mixture evenly over the dough, leaving naked a 1⁄2-inch strip along one long edge. Roll up the dough, starting at the long edge opposite the clean edge. Pinch the seam to seal. Cut the roll into 18 equal-size pieces.
    3. Arrange the rolls in the pans (nine in each pan with cut side down), separating slightly, cover with plastic wrap, and allow to proof until almost doubled in size, 45 minutes to 1 hour.
    4. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes or until the bun interior reads 200°F on an instant-read thermometer. Immediately unmold the buns onto two cooling rack–lined sheet pans.

    Maple bundt. (Raymond Prado)

    Maple bundt

    This cake is simple and delicious. Simply delicious. Use a decorative Bundt pan to bring it pizzazz, but make sure to spray the pan incredibly well with nonstick baking spray to ensure that the cake easily releases from the mold.

    Serves 8.

    Ingredients

    CAKE

    • Nonstick baking spray
    • 1 cup (226 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
    • 1 cup (198 g) granulated sugar
    • 2 1⁄2 cups (300 g) all-purpose flour (I use King Arthur)
    • 1 teaspoon baking powder
    • 1⁄2 teaspoon fine sea salt
    • 1⁄2 cup (156 g) pure maple syrup
    • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
    • 1⁄2 cup (113 g) whole milk
    • 1⁄2 teaspoon maple extract


    MAPLE GLAZE

    • 2 cups (227 g) sifted confectioners’ sugar
    • 3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
    • 1⁄4 to 1⁄3 cup heavy cream


    Instructions

    MAKE THE CAKE

    1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray a 10-inch Bundt pan with nonstick baking spray. Set aside.
    2. Cream the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until smooth. Add the granulated sugar and continue to cream, scraping down the sides of the bowl every now and again, until the mixture is light and fluffy.
    3. This can take 5 to 10 minutes.
    4. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl to combine.
    5. Transfer the flour mixture to a piece of parchment.
    6. Add the maple syrup to the butter mixture and mix well. Add the eggs, one at time, mixing until each egg is completely incorporated and scraping down the bowl after each addition. Add half the flour mixture and mix, then the milk and maple extract, and mix until incorporated. Add the remaining flour and mix until combined. Transfer the batter to the prepared Bundt pan and smooth the top with the back of a spoon.
    7. Place the Bundt pan on a baking sheet and bake until the cake springs back when gently poked, about 1 hour. Remove from the oven and allow the cake to rest in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a cooling rack to cool completely.


    MAKE THE MAPLE GLAZE

    1. Mix together the confectioners’ sugar, maple syrup, and 2 tablespoons of the cream in a small bowl until smooth. Add more cream, 1 teaspoon at a time, to thin the glaze to your desired consistency. Once the cake is completely cooled, place onto a serving platter and pour the glaze over the top.


    Excerpted from “My Vermont Table: Recipes for all (Six) Seasons” by Gesine Bullock-Prado Copyright © 2023. Used with permission of the publisher, Countryman Press. All rights reserved.

    This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

    Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.