The Recorder - Orange cook serving up good stories and meals

2022-07-05 19:07:36 By : Ms. Tracy Cui

Christine Noyes cuts vegetables in her Orange home kitchen. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Christine Noyes cuts vegetabls in her kitchen in Orange. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Christine Noyes’ beef bourguignon. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Christine Noyes of Orange started working in restaurants when she was 11. She started writing professionally only four and a half years ago. Nevertheless, she sees similarities between the two endeavors.

“Really, if you think about it, they’re almost identical,” she told me in a recent interview.

“You’re taking bits and pieces of a story and putting them all together the way you do with the food,” Noyes said. “I’m always at my best cooking when I’m just emptying the refrigerator … I think that kind of parallels with the way I write. It’s taking an idea or taking the ingredients until everything meshes.”

She started in food service at her grandfather’s restaurant in Manchaug, a village in the town of Sutton. She described it as “basically a family restaurant.” She added, “He had the best, absolutely the best fried chicken. My brother and I are the only ones that still have the recipe.”

She began as a dishwasher and moved her way up through cleaning clams and general food preparation to cooking. When I said that I had never cared for my job in college as a dishwasher, she disagreed with that opinion. She characterized dishwashing as a sort of Zen practice.

“In my later years, when I was working as a chef, sometimes when a dishwasher wouldn’t show up, I would wash the dishes,” she recalled. “Just to relax.”

Although she adored her grandfather, calling him a “teddy bear,” she noted that he was a taskmaster on the job. “He was very stern in teaching me about the restaurant business,” she said. “I had to do things the right way, and it was great for me.”

She moved on to other cooking positions before returning to her grandfather’s restaurant, where she and her brother ran the business and learned every aspect of food service.

Training isn’t everything, however, she observed, “There are some things that you can’t learn. I think I had a natural flair for what foods went together well,” she explained.

Her grandfather eventually sold the restaurant, and she ended up cooking at the Mountain Barn Restaurant in Princeton, where she worked for 15 years. While working there she met her late husband, Al.

She stayed in the restaurant business for several more years before she and her husband realized they had never had a day off at the same time in the entire course of their marriage. She moved on to food-related sales before the couple decided to open a sporting-goods store in Orange.

When Al Noyes died suddenly in January 2018, his wife started writing. “I honestly don’t know how it happened,” she remembered. “The whole time was so blurry.”

She woke up one night with a poem in her head and jotted it down. The next morning, she decided that she liked both the poem and the writing experience. She began work on “Close Enough to Perfect,” a memoir.

She also started writing and illustrating a series of children’s books about a bear named Big Al, who bears a striking resemblance to her husband.

When Marcia Gagliardi of Haley’s Publishing in Athol stopped by the sporting goods store one day, Noyes asked her advice about publishing her books. Gagliardi suggested that the author send her some material.

This began a partnership that led Haley’s to publish the Big Al books … and led Noyes to close the store so she could write full time.

Noyes and Gagliardi have also produced a mystery series featuring FBI analyst Bradley Whitman, a notable home cook himself.

“Bradley and I are a lot alike in the cooking department,” she told me. “He also uses cooking to think. So do I.”

In addition to all of these endeavors, Noyes is working on a romantic comedy. When she told me this, I marveled aloud at her productivity.

“I spend about 10 hours a day writing,” she laughed. “If I’m not writing, I’m cooking.”

Like her hero, Bradley, Chris Noyes tends to prepare enough food to “feed hundreds of people.” I have a feeling her relatives and neighbors don’t mind having this prolific cook and writer in their midst.

When I asked her for a recipe, she opted to share her hearty boeuf bourguignon (beef burgundy). This rich beef stew takes hours to prep and cook but is definitely worth the effort.

3/4 pound thick-cut bacon, cut in 1/2-inch pieces

2 pounds stew beef (1-to-2 inch cubes)

3/4 cup seasoned white flour (flour with salt, pepper, and granulated garlic to taste)

3 tablespoons olive oil (plus a little to coat the bottom of your Dutch oven)

6 to 7 large carrots, peeled and diced into 1/2-inch pieces

1 large sweet onion, diced into 1/2-inch pieces

3-1/2 cups sautéed onion bouillon stock (This is a bouillon paste. Mix it with water according to the container directions. You may substitute au jus or beef stock.)

2 cups beef stock, plus more if needed

1 teaspoon dried thyme (or 2 teaspoons fresh)

10 ounces baby portabella mushrooms, cut into bite-size pieces

1/4 cup fresh curly parsley, chopped

Place your oven rack on the bottom third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Pat the beef dry and toss it with the seasoned flour. Set it aside. Coat the bottom of a Dutch oven with olive oil and place it over medium to medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook until it is brown and crispy. Remove the bacon and set it aside.

Add the stew beef and brown it on all sides. Remove the beef and set it aside.

Add three tablespoons of olive oil to the pot. When the oil is hot add the minced garlic and shallots and cook for 1 minute. Stir in the diced carrots and the onion. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the merlot. Stir the vegetables with a heatproof spoon, scraping the bottom of the pot to release remnants. Allow the mixture to boil for several minutes. The sauce will reduce and thicken slightly.

Return the bacon and the beef to the pot. Stir.

Mix together the tomato paste, the sautéed onion stock, and the beef stock. Add them to the beef and the vegetables, making sure the solids are covered. (Add more beef stock if necessary to cover everything.)

Stir in the thyme, the salt, the pepper, and the bay leaves. Cover the Dutch oven and place it in the preheated oven. Cook the stew for 2-1/2 hours.

Remove the stew from the oven. Add the mushrooms and the parsley. Return the stew to the oven, and cook for an additional half hour.

Remove the stew from the oven and allow it to sit for 15 to 20 minutes before serving. Serve over mashed potatoes. Serves 10 to 12.

Tinky Weisblat is an award-winning author and singer. Her next book will be “Pot Luck: Random Acts of Cooking.” Visit her website,

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