When it's time for entertaining in the spacious dining rooms of the neo-antique Spanish and Italian villas of Palm Beach, on the verdant terraces of the resort's innumerable walled and hidden gardens and on the shaded afterdecks of the yachts that gravitate to this latitude for the winter season, the handiwork of a Paris Cordon Bleu alumna named Harriet Healy is nearly always in evidence. The petite Mrs. Healy is the founder of a select and fabulously successful cooking school on Via Mizner, which she operates as an adjunct to Edgar V. Archambeau's gift shop and decorating establishment called Au Bon Go√ªt. The purveyor of marvelous delicacies for parties, she has become the indispensable authority on matters of food and drink to most of the current generation of Palm Beach hostesses.
Here, as everywhere else, people with large houses find it increasingly difficult to staff them adequately, and in recent years many members of the winter colony have taken up residence in apartments. The help shortage, including a scarcity of skilled cooks, occurs at the same time as the general awakening—or reawakening—of interest in fine food which has been greatly in evidence throughout the country since World War II. In Grandmother's day there may have been a chef in the kitchen, today it's more likely do-it-yourself.
When Harriet Healy started her classes nine years ago they were enthusiastically subscribed to by the Palm Beach community. The specialties she teaches are the things her students like most to eat—principally classic French dishes, but with traditional procedures simplified and many inventive touches added. Her classes are held once a week from January through March for a maximum of 16 students per session. They have proved so popular that, at $12 a lesson, there is a waiting list of never fewer than 35 or 40 women.
Among many fine dishes included in the Au Bon Go√ªt curriculum (a number of these are published in a booklet entitled Good Taste by Harriet Healy, available for $2 from Au Bon Go√ªt, 15 Via Mizner, Palm Beach, Fla.) are unusual recipes that call for lamb or chicken to be pounded—and thereby tenderized—in the manner that veal is pounded and flattened before cooking to make scaloppine or escalopes de veau. The idea is familiar to patrons of the Colony restaurant in New York, where pounded lamb chops are a great favorite of the day. Here are some delicious variations on the same theme:
POUNDED LAMB AU BON GOUT
Order a double loin or rib lamb chop for each person to be served. Remove bone and all fat and gristle with a sharp knife (or have butcher do this). Place prepared chops of clear meat between two big sheets of wax paper on a breadboard. Pound gently and evenly with a potato masher or some other flat instrument until chops are spread to an even thickness of about half an inch.
After preparing sauce or garnish for the chops, cook them quickly in the same way you would cook minute steak or hamburgers—in a little butter melted in a sizzling-hot fry pan. For lamb that is pink inside, sauté about 2 minutes on each side. Serve as follows:
1. On foie gras toasts with currant jelly sauce
For four servings sauté 4 slices of firm-textured white bread, crusts cut off, in melted butter until "toasted." Spread with p√¢té de foie gras. Keep warm on a platter.
Heat a glass of currant jelly to the boiling point and stir in 1 scant tablespoon of potato starch dissolved in¼ cup cold water. Bring to boiling point again.
Place 4 hot pounded lamb chops on the prepared toasts. Cover each with the jelly sauce. Garnish platter with water cress.
2. In a border of curried rice
For 4 servings melt¾ of a stick of butter in fry pan. Add 1 cup unwashed long-grain rice and cook, stirring until rice is golden and the butter bubbles. Add 2 cans of consommé and 1 teaspoon curry powder. Cover and simmer for exactly 40 minutes.
Surround hot pounded chops with the curried rice on a platter and serve with chutney on the side.
3. With a béarnaise sauce
Place each chop on a piece of sautéed toast and top with a large spoonful of hot béarnaise sauce, made with fresh tarragon if possible. Sprinkle with chopped parsley.