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by Laurie Colwin (new edition, Penguin Fig Tree, 2012)


I don't want to say too much about Home Cooking (I have already been quoted on its jacket) because it is impossible to sum up in such a small space just why this book is required reading. Just believe me, it is. You cannot live without it - or certainly shouldn't have to.

Most of the book is to be read rather than cooked from, but I have chosen a recipe that is perfect for this time of the year.


Cornbread and Prosciutto Stuffing


At night some people count sheep and others read mysteries. I lie in bed and think about food. Often I make up menus. Sometimes I invent recipes. One night, while drowsily meditating on the issue of stuffing, it came to me: cornbread and prosciutto. Yes, that was it! The perfect stuffing. The next Thanksgiving, I tried it out.

"I'm stuffing the turkey this year," I told my sister. She was much relieved.

"What with?" she said.

"Cornbread and prosciutto," I said.

"I wonder what it will taste like," she said. I did not find this an encouraging response.


1. Make a rich stock out of the giblets, wing tips and neck (if you can stand not to roast it) of the turkey, along with some chicken parts and an onion. Let simmer for several hours.

2. Melt a stick of butter in a large saucepan and add two diced medium-sized yellow onions, one leek (white and tender green part) also diced, one fat clove of garlic, minced. Wilt these in the butter.

3. Add ½ pound of diced prosciutto (for people who do not eat pork products, dried funghi porcini and toasted pecans make an admirable substitute) and sauté briefly.

4. Slowly add the contents of two bags of cornmeal stuffing if you are lazy or the equivalent amount (about sixteen ounces) of fresh cornmeal stuffing if you are not, fresh ground black pepper to taste, a chopped scallion and a chopped-up head of Italian parsley, and sauté until the bread is coated with the butter.

5. Moisten with broth until fluffy but not wet. This is enough for a seventeen-pound turkey with some left over to cook in a pot as a side dish.


Before tasting it, I wondered if it was wise to cook from recipes that come to you when you are in a semiconscious state, but this stuffing was universally loved. It made everyone happy, and it made them feel that everything was right again. After all, an unstuffed turkey is like a jigsaw puzzle of the American flag with a piece missing right in the middle. Now I had been brought to my senses and all was restored to order.

The next year I caught my sister stealing spoonsful of it from the casserole, and if I hadn't stopped her, she would have stuck her fork right into the turkey cavity.

No one ever says: "Cornbread and prosciutto. I wonder what it will taste like."

Instead, they say the words every cook longs to hear: "This is wonderful. May I please have some more?"