Cookbook Review: Cooking with Regis & Kathie Lee (1993)


Dear heavens did I love Regis Philbin.  I didn’t have a crush on him or anything like that, but he had this crazy manic energy that elevated everyone and everything around him.  He’s probably best remembered for his long-running stint on daytime television but my days have been almost continuously consumed by school or employment since Live with Regis and Kathie Lee premiered in 1988.  I know Regis best from David Letterman, where he was a frequent guest but also made crazy out-of-nowhere cameos throwing candy to the audience and whatnot.  For those unfamiliar you can check out his nonsense below:

He wasn’t any more restrained on daytime television, acting the part of a caffeinated crazy uncle.   His first co-host was Kathie Lee Gifford, who was equally energetic but came off as more grounded than Regis.  Mrs. Gifford’s successor was Kelly Ripa, who – judging by personality only – could have been mistaken for Regis’ daughter.  Regis retired from his morning show in 2011 and passed away in 2020.  The Live! show lives on as Live with Kelly and Ryan.

So what business do Regis and Kathie Lee have writing a cookbook?  It’s not as crazy as it sounds.  Cooking with Regis & Kathie Lee (1993) contains a few recipes from the Philbin and Gifford families, but the book primarily compiles recipes from the frequent cooking segments on the show.  This includes recipes from well-known celebrities such as Phyllis Diller and Robin Leach to forgotten 90s personalities like the Love Chef and the Clever Cleaver Brothers.  They also include recipes from well-regarded celebrity chefs, including Madhur Jaffrey, Paul Prudhomme, and Bobby Flay.  Each recipe is accompanied by a brief biography of the original author as well as a summary of each guest’s appearance on the show.  Recipes and white space are filled with still snapshots from the show and ridiculous snippets from the hosts (i.e., What is Kathie Lee’s least favorite food?)

The time constraints of a short cooking segment mean that most of the recipes in the book can be prepared quickly.  Yes, the magic of television means prechopped vegetables and premeasured ingredients, but it also means there’s no complicated assembly or time-intensive technique.   There may be a long simmer or roast off camera, but “active time” tends to be manageable.  Most of the meals are weeknight friendly, and the rest only marginally more time-consuming.

The appeal of Cooking with Regis & Kathie Leein the twenty-first century is primarily nostalgia, but this is still a great book to cook from.  The best recipes, unsurprisingly, come from guests will culinary experience.  In addition to celebrity chefs, Live with Regis and Kathie Lee hosted a variety of prominent restaurateurs, contest winners, and nutrition experts.  Even the celebrities do an admirable job; Robin Leach’s vegetarian Mediterranean Eggplant Pie is both delicious and ambitious.  There are a few duds – Phyllis Diller’s Oyster Stew is basically canned oysters and cream – but you still get a sense of what fun it was to have Ms. Diller on the show.

The quintessential recipe from Cooking with Regis & Kathie Lee is Gelman’s Chicken Amore.  For the uninitiated, Gelman is Regis’ nickname for Live… Producer Michael Gelman.   Producers are typically behind-the-scenes sorts of folks, but Regis went out of his way to bring Gelman into the spotlight.  Gelman had been working with Regis since he was an intern, and wasn’t quite thirty when he took the reins as Producer on Live with Regis and Kathie Lee.  Thirty-odd years later he is Executive Producer on Live with Kelly and Ryan and still very much in front of the camera:

Gelman’s Chicken Amore was featured on the show’s Bachelor Cooking Week.  The description of the segment is so funny I had hoped to find this on Youtube, but we’ll have to settle for the book’s retelling:

On the production sheet, this segment was called “Gelmonster Gastroomics”.  Executive Producer Michael Gelman prepared this seductive recipe … decorating the kitchen, lowering the lights, and playing Ravel’s “Bolero,” [with] Michael and Regis [sporting] satin smoking jackets.  At the end of the segment, Gelman was surprised by three women in bikinis who covered him with kisses.

I imagine this segment would be received differently in the twenty-first century.  In the intervening years Gelman has married and has two grown daughters, and may be grateful that this clip isn’t making the rounds online.

Gelman was apparently a competent bachelor chef – his Chicken Amore is worth making with or without bikini models.  Chicken breasts are lightly fried cooked in a white wine sauce, lightly seasoned and dressed up with mushrooms and colorful vegetables.    The chicken and accompanying sauce are served over noodles.   There’s no butter or cream or cheese and yet the dish still ends up feeling rich and quite substantial, even with plain Jane chicken breasts.  My family thoroughly enjoyed this, and the leftovers were gone by lunch the next day.  Gelman’s original recipe uses olives, which are a no-go for one family member.  I’ve substituted capers instead, which seem to provide the same briny goodness without forcing me to make a second meal.  I’ve also substituted spaetzle for conventional wide egg noodles, which have the same eggy richness but also enough substance to soak up the sauce.  With conventional egg noodles the sauce rolls off like water on a duck’s back.

This dish is kind of an all in one – accompaniments should be simple.  A baguette will be nice to sop up the tasty sauce, and a simply dressed salad or green vegetable will help you feel better about carb-loading.   Enjoy!

 

Gelman’s Chicken Amore (adapted from Cooking with Regis & Kathie Lee, 1994)

    Ingredients

    Instructions

    1. Season chicken breasts liberally with salt and pepper. Dredge in flour and shake off excess.
    2. In a large cast iron pan heat olive oil over medium heat. Extra-virgin olive oil has a low smoke point so don't go crazy.
    3. Lightly brown chicken in oil, about three minutes per side, working in batches as needed. Shake off excess oil before removing from the skillet and set aside.
    4. Add mushrooms to oil and saute for 4-5 minutes until mushrooms start to sweat and give up their moisture. Add the chicken back to the skillet and spoon the mushrooms over top.
    5. Mix remaining ingredients (except for the spaetzle) and pour over the chicken breasts, ensure that vegetables are distributed evenly. Reduce heat, cover tightly and simmer for 30-35 minutes.
    6. While the chicken is cooking, prepare spaetzle accordingly to package directions in well-salted water.
    7. Serve chicken on top of spaetzle. Spoon sauce and vegetables over top.

    Cooking with Regis & Kathie Lee is still routinely available on Amazon.


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