Food, history combine in cookbook from The Peck House

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By Ian Neligh

Colorado lamb Dijon, raspberry barbecue shrimp with smoked corn salsa and Mrs. Peck’s beef and oyster pie: The award-winning recipes of the historic Peck House are back in a new cookbook.

Three years after retiring, Empire’s historic Peck House Hotel and Restaurant owners Gary and Sally St. Clair have put many of their most beloved recipes in “The Peck House Cookbook.” The book showcases about 100 recipes from their more than 33 years in operation.

“When we were closing, people kept saying, ‘You know that chicken marsala? Could I have that recipe? Because now that you’re closing, you don’t need it,’ ” reminisced Sally St. Clair. “And I kept saying, ‘No, I tell you what, we’re putting out a cookbook, so wait for that.”

The St. Clairs are hoping their cookbook appeals to those who have fond memories of the culinary episodes at the Peck House and to those who enjoy good food.

“There are people who would want the recipe book just because they like to cook,” she said. “But most of these people (interested in the cookbook) have actually tasted our food, stayed here and enjoyed the history.”

In the restaurant business, a chef rarely shares a signature recipe but sometimes sells them. While they didn’t give away any recipe secrets while in operation, the time had come to collect them into one book, St. Clair said.

It took three years just to get the recipes from her husband’s head, many of which he memorized over the years.

“On a snowy day I’d say, ‘Gary, do you think you could give me just five recipes?’ And he’d say ‘OK, but just five,’ because they were all in his head. Few were written down,” she said. Over three years, she collected the recipes, typed them, proofed and tweaked them.

“It’s just sort of an overview of what we did and the things that we had fun with,” St. Clair said. “Some of them we actually recreated again just to make absolutely sure (they were right).”

While the book has a variety of mouth-watering menu ideas from the restaurant’s past, St. Clair said her favorite was Shrimp Sara, which was named for her.

“Gary used to play a game with the kitchen (staff) at one point, where he said to the wait staff and the kitchen staff, ‘Give me some ingredients, and I’ll make up a dish and name it for you,’ ” she said. “I just told him ‘I liked curry, I liked shrimp,’ and he came up with Shrimp Sara. It was one of our most popular dishes.”

Contact Ian Neligh at couranteditor@evergreenco.com, and check www.clearcreekcourant.com for updates and breaking news.