James Beard's American Cookery


By James Beard

Foreword by Tom Colicchio

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The classic, must-have American cookbook from one of our greatest authorities on food.

James Beard was the “dean of American cookery” (New York Times), and he put practically everything he learned about cooking into this single magnificent–now classic–cookbook. JAMES BEARD’S AMERICAN COOKERY includes more than fifteen hundred of his favorite and most successful recipes, as well as advice on dozens of cooking questions, from choosing meats and vegetables to preserving fruit and making real cheeseburgers. A celebration of the roots of cooking in the American style, this repackaged edition features the original text and color illustrations, and a new foreword by Tom Colicchio. Like Mastering the Art of French Cooking and The Joy of Cooking, it is a standard reference no kitchen is complete without.


Books by James Beard

James Beard’s Hors d’Oeuvres and Canapés

Cook It Outdoors

Fowl and Game Cookery

The Fireside Cookbook

Paris Cuisine (with Alexander Watt)

James Beard’s Barbecue Cookbook

James Beard’s New Fish Cookery

The Complete Book of Outdoor Cookery (with Helen Evans Brown)

How to Eat Better for Less Money (with Sam Aaron)

The James Beard Cookbook

James Beard’s Treasury of Outdoor Cooking

Delights and Prejudices

James Beard’s Menus for Entertaining

How to Eat (and Drink) Your Way Through a French (or Italian) Menu

James Beard’s American Cookery

Beard on Bread

Beard on Food

James Beard’s Theory and Practice of Good Cooking

The New James Beard

Beard on Pasta

Love and Kisses and a Halo of Truffles (John Ferrone, editor)

Cocktail Food

The cocktail party grew out of the Prohibition era and out of the decline in entertaining with pomp and servants. At the same time new standards of living and a new tempo of living inspired informal, friendly gatherings of anywhere from ten to five hundred people for the purpose of sipping drinks and munching on small snacks. As we well know, these gatherings continue to this very day and have become so much a part of our lives that we take them for granted. Ironically enough, they can sometimes be as deadly as the most formal of gatherings. It takes imagination to throw a successful cocktail party, and part of the success depends on the quality of the food you offer.

With the advent of the cocktail party a new style of food was created—what is known in the trade as "finger food": quite simply, food that can be eaten with the fingers without dribbling over clothing, rugs, and furniture. Many of the snacks created for such occasions are excellent, and many of them are garbage. One owes it to his guests to know the difference. Some of the more evil items are commercial dips dreamed up by those who have a product to sell, and others are concoctions fabricated with pastry bag and tube on small bits of soggy bread or toast. These are to be avoided at all cost. Nevertheless, there are many good edibles in the realm of cocktail hors d'ocuvre. Experiment until you find items that are easy to prepare and are never left behind on the plate. Do not attempt a great variety. Content yourself with a few things well done and in sufficient quantity. Sometimes nowadays hosts offer fare more substantial than the usual snacks so that guests will feel reasonably fed. This has its advantage in preventing oversaturation, and guests can go home or on to other engagements without bothering about dinner.

A few simple rules: Provide small plates and plenty of paper napkins of convenient size. Serve food that looks delightful and tastes even better. Remember that highly seasoned food stimulates drinking, and substantial food moderates it.

For appetizer recipes in other chapters, see the index.

Raw Vegetables

Cocktail food falls into a number of categories. One of the most indispensable is raw vegetables. Americans are greater consumers of raw vegetables than any other people. It is natural, then, that vegetables have become an important part of the cocktail hour. At their best they are crisp and accompanied by a dressing or dip that is well seasoned and interesting (see Dips, Sauces, and Spreads, below). They have the appeal of being not too filling, and for the most part are not highly caloric.

The choice of items available for use in a raw vegetable bowl is bountiful. Naturally one should choose the most perfect the market affords, and they should be nicely cut, thoroughly cleaned, and beautifully arranged. It is best to set them in crushed ice in a container to keep them crisp and cold. They should not, however, swim in melting ice and water—if this occurs, the ice should be replenished. Here is a list of candidates for the raw vegetable bowl, to be served with a dressing or dip.

Artichokes. Tiny artichokes, quartered, with their chokes removed.

Asparagus. Tiny tips of raw asparagus have delightful flavor and texture and are good with a pungent sauce, or just with salt, plain or seasoned.

Avocadoes. Small finger avocadoes are excellent when thoroughly ripe. A receptacle has to be provided for the skins.

Fava beans. Select young beans and either remove them from the pods or leave them for guests to pod themselves. Serve with coarse salt.

Green beans. Tiny ones are quite delicious raw.

Broccoli buds. Chill and serve with a dressing.

Brussels sprouts. Tiny ones, nicely trimmed and crisped in cold water, are delicate in flavor and pleasant in texture.

Carrots. These are naturally a standby, for they seem to have been one of the first vegetables eaten raw by children. Who of my generation cannot remember pulling young carrots in a garden patch, wiping them clean, and eating them right there on the spot. Carrots should be cut in long julienne strips or in smallish wedges. Serve crisp and cold.

Cauliflower. Break into small flowerets. They must be fresh, white, and crisp.

Celery. Another staple, whether served alone or with other vegetables. Cut into strips or trimmed pieces.

Cucumber. Strips or slices of peeled cucumber are perfect for the vegetable bowl—best when seeds are removed and the flesh is cut in strips.

Endive. Quartered or broken into leaves, it is refreshing and pungent.

Mushrooms. A must in any collection of raw vegetables. Choose smallish ones, as fresh as possible.

Onions. Green onions, peeled and chilled, are essential for most vegetable platters.

Peas. Tiny sweet new peas, served in the pod or shelled.

Peppers. Seeded, stripped green or red peppers or tiny whole ones, both sweet and very hot.

Radishes. All the different forms of radishes—the little red ones with their plumage, if it is fresh; the long icicle radish; and the great black-skinned white radish, sometimes sliced and at other times shredded and blended with chicken fat. These are exceptionally good with other vegetables and served with a sauce.

Tomatoes. Cherry tomatoes, currant tomatoes, plum tomatoes, both the yellow and the red, are absolute necessities for a vegetable arrangement.

Turnips. Young turnips sliced thinly or cut in thin strips have great flavor and texture.

Watercress. Available in markets nearly everywhere in the States, and a decorative and peppery addition to a vegetable group.

Dips, Sauces, and Spreads

As I noted above, the dips and sauces conceived for vegetables are legion and frequently indigestible. However, there are several standard ones which can be depended upon and which lend themselves to variations. Most useful of all, perhaps, are the mayonnaises and other dressings (see page 75). See also the chapter on Sauces for such recipes as Elena Zelayeta's salsa fria, a superb cocktail dip.

Sour Cream Dips

There are several extremely good sour cream dips which may be used with vegetables. I'll eschew the obvious ones like the dried onion soup dip, clam dip, and others which have run the gamut of television and radio commercials.

Sour Cream Herb Dip I. To each cup of sour cream add ¼ cup each of chopped parsley and chives. Add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

Sour Cream Herb Dip II. To each cup of sour cream add ¼ cup finely chopped parsley, 2 finely chopped garlic cloves, and chopped fresh dill or dillweed to taste.

Sour Cream Roquefort Cheese Blend. This is ideal to make if you have dry ends of Roquefort cheese on hand. Merely shave them until you have a cupful or more, or crumble ½ pound fresh Roquefort cheese. Add ¼ teaspoon Tabasco or to taste, enough softened butter to make a smooth paste when creamed in the electric mixer or with a heavy fork, and about 3 or 4 tablespoons Cognac or bourbon. Blend this with 1 to 1½ cups sour cream, and add salt if necessary after allowing the mixture to rest for 2 hours.

Sour Cream Curry Sauce. Saucé 3 finely chopped shallots or 6 scallions, cut very fine, in 4 tablespoons butter until just limp. Add 1 tablespoon curry powder, or to taste, and blend well over low heat for 4 minutes. Stir occasionally. Add to 1½ cups sour cream along with 2 tablespoons chutney, and toss well. Correct the seasoning.

Note. Never add raw curry powder to such a dip. It will be far more subtle to the taste if first cooked.

Sour Cream Chili Dip. Sauté 1 cup very finely chopped onions in 4 tablespoons butter till just wilted and soft. Add 1½ tablespoons chili powder, 1 teaspoon ground cumin, ¼ teaspoon Tabasco, 3 tablespoons sesame seeds, and, if you like, ½ teaspoon oregano. Cook over low heat 3 or 4 minutes. Correct the seasoning and cool slightly before folding into 2 cups sour cream.

Liptauer (Cream Cheese Spread)

2 8-ounce packages cream cheese

¼ cup butter (½ stick)

2 tablespoons heavy cream

Chopped onion, chopped anchovy fillets, capers, chopped chives, radish roses

Mix the cream cheese, butter, and cream until fluffy. An electric mixer is good for this (use small bowl). Shape into a mound on a decorative dish and surround with the chopped onion, anchovy fillets, capers, and chopped chives. Decorate with radish roses. Serve with small pieces of rye bread (not sweet), thinly sliced.

Cheese and Ham Spread

1½ pounds grated Swiss Emmenthaler cheese

1 pound ground baked ham with some of the fat

2 teaspoons prepared mustard (Dijon preferred)

Mayonnaise to bind

Chopped parsley

Mix the cheese and ham well with the mustard, and blend in just enough mayonnaise to moisten and bind. Press into a bowl from which you can serve it, and chill for an hour or two. Sprinkle with chopped parsley just before serving. Serve with small slices of rye bread or pumpernickel, and provide knives.

Note. For other cheese spreads, see Cheese for Cocktails, page 13.

Shrimp Butter

2 pounds shrimp

1 teaspoon mace

1 teaspoon finely chopped onion

¼ cup finely chopped parsley

½ to 1 cup softened butter

Clean and devein the shrimp, and cook in boiling salted water for 3 or 4 minutes after they come to a boil. Cool and chop coarsely, and blend with seasonings and enough softened butter to make a thick paste. Chill, but remove from refrigerator an hour to an hour and a half before serving to soften the butter. Serve with small rounds of bread, Melba toast, and lemon halves or quarters.

Baked Liver Pâté

2½ pounds pork liver

3½ pounds fresh pork with fat

2 medium onions, finely chopped

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 teaspoon thyme

1½ tablespoons salt

2 teaspoons freshly ground pepper

½ cup Cognac

4 eggs

½ cup flour

Thin slices fresh pork siding

Pâtés have become exceedingly popular as cocktail food. This one is fairly simple and keeps well. Serve with toast or rounds of French or rye bread.

Grind the pork liver and meat with a good deal of the fat, using medium to fine blade of meat grinder. Mix in the next six ingredients well. Beat in the eggs one at a time, and stir in the flour. (All this can be done with an electric mixer.) Line 5 or 6 small 2-cup casseroles with thin slices of pork siding. (This is the same cut as bacon, but has not been salted and smoked.) Almost fill the casseroles, leaving room for expansion during baking. Top with more thin slices of pork siding. Cover the casseroles with several layers of aluminum foil that can be tied on tightly. Place them in a baking pan or dish deep enough to accommodate boiling water reaching slightly more than halfway up the sides. Bake in 350-degree oven for 2 hours. Remove from the oven and cool for 15 minutes. Remove the coverings, fit new foil inside the tops, and weight down until cooled thoroughly.

Quick Liver Pâté

½ pound braunschweiger (smoked liverwurst) at room temperature

½ cup butter at room temperature

2 teaspoons scraped onion

2 tablespoons finely chopped chives

2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley

2 tablespoons Cognac or bourbon

Put all ingredients into small bowl of electric mixer and mix well, or mash and mix with fork. Spread on bread for sandwich filling or on buttered cocktail rye, French bread, or Melba toast for appetizer. Decorate with tiny sprigs of parsley, small pickled onions, strips of green pepper, or strips of pimiento.

Or form into one large ball or two smaller balls or a log, then roll in chopped chives, parsley, or toasted chopped nuts. Wrap and chill until firm. Serve on a platter or cheese tray with crackers or cocktail breads.

To use as a dip, thin with sour cream or cream, and serve with crackers or potato chips. This can be frozen, wrapped in moisture-proof, vaporproof material. Stir after thawing.

Chili con Queso

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 28-ounce can Italian plum tomatoes

Salt and freshly ground pepper

2 cans peeled green chilies, finely chopped and seeded

1½ cups rich cream sauce

1 pound shredded jack or medium sharp Cheddar cheese

A Mexican dish that is excellent as a dip for breadsticks, corn chips, small pieces of crisp tortilla, or celery or cucumber sticks.

Combine the garlic, tomatoes, and salt and pepper to taste. Cook down 20 minutes over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Add the chopped green chilies. Cook and stir until the mixture is thick and pasty. Add the cream sauce and cheese. Serve warm from a chafing dish or electric skillet kept at low heat. Do not let it boil or the cheese will become stringy.

Cheese for Cocktails

We have always been good cheese eaters, although cheese has never figured as a separate course in our meals as it does in France. Cheese, for us, has been a snack, a luncheon food, an accompaniment to pies, and, of course, cocktail food. With the enormous variety of cheese to be found throughout the country now, it is a simple matter to assemble a staggering cheese board.

One thing most of us have not learned is the proper temperature for serving cheese. It should be at room temperature and not at refrigerator temperature. If you are serving it with cocktails, let the cheese stand out of the refrigerator most of the day. It develops full flavor and bouquet that way, which makes a great deal of difference in the pleasure of eating it.

If you are serving a cheese board or tray, be sure to have either one magnificent cheese—and that in sufficient quantity—or several cheeses which are varied in flavor, texture, and shape. For example, choose one cheese of high and rich flavor, a milder one of firmer texture and another which has a markedly different quality from either, and finally one which is mild, for those who think they like cheese but really only like the idea of cheese. Always serve butter with cheese, and it is a good idea to serve thinly sliced breads as well as good crackers.

Cheese logs or balls are completely American and have become important fixtures at cocktail parties. I know of several cheese purveyors and supermarkets in the countryside who have these already prepared for sale. However, they are rather amusing to make and are delightful to see when made correctly. Any of the mixtures may also be made into small balls and rolled in chopped nuts or in chopped parsley and chives.

Blue Cheese Spread, Dip, or Ball

¼ pound blue cheese at room temperature

½ cup butter at room temperature

1 small clove garlic, minced

1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley

2 tablespoons finely chopped chives

Few drops Tabasco

3 tablespoons Cognac or Armagnac

Blend all ingredients in small bowl of electric mixer or mix with a fork. This can be spread on buttered bread for sandwiches or on tiny pieces of toast or cocktail white or rye bread.

Or form into a ball, log, or small balls, then roll in chopped parsley or chopped, toasted nutmeats. Wrap and chill. Serve on a cheese tray or plate surrounded by small cocktail bread or crackers.

For a dip, add cream or milk, a very little at a time, and stir until of a good consistency for dipping crackers, fresh vegetables, or potato chips.

This spread can be frozen—see note under next recipe.

Cheddar Cheese Spread, Dip, or Ball

½ pound sharp Cheddar cheese, grated (2 cups)

2 canned peeled green chilies, chopped

½ canned pimiento, chopped

1 small clove garlic, grated

Few drops Tabasco

½ cup butter, softened

3 to 4 tablespoons Cognac, sherry, or bourbon

Salt to taste

Have all ingredients at room temperature. Mix in small or large bowl of electric mixer or mash with a fork by hand. If this seems too stiff to spread, add cream or milk, a very little at a time, until of a good consistency. Serve as a spread, or form into one large or two small balls or logs and roll in chopped toasted nuts or chopped parsley or chives. Serve on a cheese board or tray surrounded with crackers, cocktail rye bread, French bread, or Melba toast.

This can be made into a dip by adding more milk or cream, and is especially good with raw vegetables such as celery, carrot sticks, cucumber sticks, radishes, endive, cherry tomatoes, or sweet pod or snow peas.

Note. The cheese balls or spread can be frozen after wrapping in polyethylene freezer bags and sealing. Be sure to thaw several hours before using. The dip can be frozen in moistureproof or vaporproof freezer containers. It will appear to separate when thawed but can be stirred again to original consistency.

A Cheddar Cheese Log

3 pounds soft Cheddar cheese, grated

1 4-ounce can peeled green chilies, finely chopped

½ teaspoon Tabasco

Coarsely chopped walnuts

This is for a fairly large party, although leftovers can be saved for a couple of weeks by wrapping in plastic wrap and refrigerating.

Blend the cheese well with the chilies and Tabasco, and form into large sausage-like roll. Chop the nuts and spread on a piece of waxed paper or foil about 13 to 14 inches long. Place the cheese on the paper or foil and roll tightly so that the cheese collects the nuts. Pat extra nuts on with your hands to distribute evenly. Serve the roll with breads and crackers.

Cheddar Cheese Roll

2 pounds grated soft Cheddar cheese

1 tablespoons Dijon mustard or to taste

½ teaspoon Tabasco

½ cup finely dropped parsley

¼ cup finely chopped pimientos

Chopped pecans or pecan halves

Work the various seasonings into the cheese with your hands until it is a smooth mixture. Correct the seasoning. Form a long roll or ball of the cheese. Sprinkle a long piece of waxed paper or foil with the chopped or halved pecans and roll the cheese in the nuts.

Roquefort Cheese Log

2 pounds Roquefort cheese

1 pound cream cheese

½ pound butter

2 teaspoons dry mustard

¼ cup Cognac

Chopped parsley and chives

Crumble the Roquefort and blend well with the cream cheese, butter, and seasonings. Correct the seasoning to taste. I sometimes find it will take more mustard and more Cognac. Mold into a ball or roll and chill for a few minutes. Sprinkle parsley and chives on a piece of waxed paper or foil, and roll the cheese in the herbs until completely covered. Serve with breads and crackers.

Note. For storing, it is better to roll this in chopped nuts. Fresh herbs do not keep as well.

Vegetable Appetizers

See Raw Vegetables, page 9.

Baked Potato Hors d'Oeuvre

Scoop out the meat from baked potatoes, scraping the inside of the skins thoroughly, and cut the skins carefully into long strips about 1 to 1½ inches wide. Brush them lavishly with softened butter and sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper. Broil about 6 to 7 inches from the broiling unit until browned and crisp. Watch carefully. Serve hot.

Katherine Smith's Small Potatoes

One of the most satisfying snacks I have ever had with drinks was served in Washington at a party several years ago. It should become a classic.

Choose very small new potatoes and scrub them well. Boil them in their jackets until just pierceable. Remove. Hold each one with tongs or with a soft cloth and scoop out a little well in the top. The potatoes must be able to stand without rolling, so you may have to trim off a thin slice to form a base. Fill the hollows with sour cream blended with freshly chopped chives and crumbled crisp bacon, and serve. Or do not scoop them out, but serve as they are with a bowl of coarse salt and freshly ground pepper mixed. Either way they are excellent and filling.

Eggplant Caviar

2 rather good-sized eggplant

3 cloves garlic, crushed

1 medium onion, finely chopped

1½ teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

¼ teaspoon cinnamon

½ cup chopped parsley

2 tablespoons vinegar

6 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon grated lemon rind

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon chopped mint or basil

This is a Near Eastern dish which has become inordinately popular, perhaps because of the magic of the word caviar—for it is related to the real thing in name only. It is, however, a pleasant hors d'oeuvre.

Bake the eggplant whole in a 350-degree oven 1 hour, or until they are soft and cooked through. Slit them so the steam will escape. Peel, and chop them very fine. Add the seasonings and mix well. Let stand several hours or overnight in the refrigerator before using. Serve as hors d'oeuvre or with drinks, spooned on small bits of toast.

Eggs for Cocktails

Stuffed Eggs

From the beginning of good eating in this country stuffed eggs and pungent eggs have been part of the picture. Stuffed or deviled eggs were picnic fare and fare for the supper baskets prepared by cooks for basket socials. The attractively packaged baskets were auctioned off to raise funds for a new carpet for the church or a stove for the minister's house, and many a romance was started between an unattached lady and a man bidding for her pretty supper basket.

Deviled eggs were then a much enjoyed delicacy, and even today, if you have taken care to observe at a cocktail party, nothing disappears as quickly as the eggs.


  • "The bible of American cooking by 'the king of gourmets'."—Time
  • "...his chef d'oeuvre...should take a place on the narrow shelf reserved for major American culinary literature."—Washington Post
  • "I felt a shiver as I unpacked the new edition of James Beard's American Cookery, this big, fat, generous book, so like Jim himself. I just held it for a few minutes, remembering times in his kitchen, his big hand guiding mine in the motion of making mayonnaise with a fork. . . . It strikes me as timely that chefs who know only his image on a medal hung round their neck have this chance to see what James was cooking before they were born." Gael Greene, Insatiable-critic.com
  • "The beauty of this book is that it allows you . . . to experience firsthand what made James Beard special and unique. His voice can be heard through his no-nonsense recipes and the choices he made that celebrated even simple, humble dishes for what they were: good food." Tom Colicchio, 2010 James Beard Foundation Outstanding Chef and head judge on Top Chef, from the Foreword
  • "The tome's enduring popularity is due to the fact that it does more than deliver superb recipes, it digs deep into the history of American cuisine."—Fox News

On Sale
Oct 25, 2010
Page Count
896 pages

James Beard

About the Author

Until his death in 1985, James Beard was the nation’s most acclaimed chef and food writer. The founder and director of the celebrated cooking classes in New York that still bear his name, Beard wrote James Beard’s New Fish Cookery, The James Beard Cookbook, Menus for Entertaining, Beard on Bread, Beard on Food, and other works on the gastronomic arts.

Learn more about this author