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Culinary affections turn to American cuisine

After many years of focusing on foreign foods, Americans are turning their attention to the cuisine of their own land. From coast to coast restaurants featuring regional and traditional dishes and local produce in season are enjoying popularity with Americans and foreign visitors.

The latest to underscore this new emphasis on native cuisine is the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., one of the country's most prestigious culinary colleges. The ''other CIA,'' as it is sometimes called, has opened a restaurant called the American Bounty, which serves American cuisine.

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The a la carte restaurant has decor representing major regions of the United States - North, South, East, and West - and specialties of these areas make up the menu, which changes every day to take advantage of local produce and plentiful foods.

The restaurant was designed by Trish Wilson & Associates of Dallas. Kitchens occupying 2,000 square feet in a former office wing of the main building, Roth Hall.

The institute occupies a former Jesuit seminary built at the turn of the century overlooking the Hudson River. Diners in the new restaurant look out through floor-to-ceiling arched windows to an interior courtyard once used by priests and their students.

In the other direction, the view offers the glassed-in kitchen area where meats turn on rotisseries; bread, rolls, and pastry are baked; and hot desserts are prepared.

James Heywood and Timothy Ryan, Culinary Institute graduates who are in charge of the kitchen at the American Bounty Restaurant, emphasize, ''We will be using only fresh produce in season. No cherry tomatoes in February. And only American dishes will be served. No foreign dishes with American names.''

Regional and ethnic flavors that have become part of the complex American table are used extensively.

Like the CIA's Escoffier Room, which has a fixed-price menu of classic foods, the American Bounty is open to the public for lunch and dinner. The new restaurant is staffed by students in their final course before graduation. A course in regional American cooking was introduced last year.

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Searching out recipes for the American Bounty took Chefs Heywood and Ryan around the United States, talking about food with older residents, asking how their mothers and grandmothers cooked, consulting with food experts, and tasting specialties of local eating places.

''We have changed many of the traditional and regional dishes slightly,'' Mr. Heywood explained, ''making them more suited to the current trend toward lighter foods and fewer heavy sauces. We are especially interested in imaginative uses of fresh vegetables.

''The only dish we have left strictly alone is the New England boiled dinner, '' he continued, explaining, ''There's nothing that can improve that. But we make our own corned beef and use the old-fashioned gray variety, which may be new to some visitors. There was no red corned beef until the Army started curing the meat that way generations ago.''

It is, the chef said, ''practically impossible'' to estimate the cost of a meal at the American Bounty Restaurant because one diner may have a full meal and another just soup and salad. But prices do fall into the general range of the Escoffier Room where a five-course luncheon is $13.50 and a six-course dinner $29.50.

On opening day the menu included such dishes as Tomato and Celery Mousse with Herb Sauce, Poached Oysters, Crescent City; Ham Stuffed with Crabmeat and Corn, Maryland Style; New England Clam Chowder, New Orleans Gumbo Z'Herbes, and Amish Chicken and Corn Soup with Saffron.

On the main course list there were A New England Shore Dinner, Cajun-Style Shrimp Stuffed Mirliton, Medallions of Beef California, Barbecued Smoked Brisket of Beef Texas Style, and from the rotisserie there was Chicken Stuffed with Spinach, Mushrooms, Garlic, and Herbs.

The dessert menu included American Bounty Cake, Rice with Cream and Fresh Fruit, Warm Fresh Fruit Cobbler, and Homemade Ice Cream and Sherbet.

Chefs Heywood and Ryan shared some of the recipes in use at the American Bounty Restaurant, beginning with Chilled Sweet Potato Soup, a Southern specialty. Preparation time is about 45 minutes. Chilled Sweet Potato Soup 2 tablespoons unsalted butter 1 small onion, diced 1 stick celery, finely diced 2 quarts chicken stock 1 3/4 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and diced 1 cup heavy cream Salt and pepper

In a 4-quart saucepan, melt butter and saute onions and celery until brown. Add chicken stock and potatoes and cook 30 minutes or until potatoes are soft. Let mixture cool and then puree in a blender or food processor. Finish with heavy cream and adjust seasoning. Serves 10.

Jim Heywood developed a honey and mustard sauce which he says is ''an invaluable accompaniment'' for cold meats and poultry. Preparation time is 10 minutes and this amount is sufficient for one whole ham, served buffet-style. Honey and Mustard Sauce 1 1/2 cups honey 1 tablespoon prepared horseradish 1/3 cup prepared brown mustard 1 tablespoon soy sauce 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce 1 teaspoon lemon juice

Combine all ingredients and mix well. Serve with meat of your choice.

For a party snack, Heywood dips pieces of chicken meat in a flour and egg mixture and then in a mixture of crushed potato chips and bread crumbs, using 3/ 4 potato chips, and 1/4 bread crumbs. Deep fry chicken pieces and serve with honey and mustard sauce.

The popularity of berry cobblers, which originated in New England, has spread around the country, perhaps even around the world. The American Bounty Restaurant suggested whipped cream as a topping for blueberry cobbler, but vanilla ice cream is a worthy substitute. Blueberry Cobbler 1 pint fresh blueberries or any berry in season 4 tablespoons granulated sugar 1 cup all-purpose flour 2 teaspoons baking powder 1 cup granulated sugar 2 eggs 1/4 cup milk 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 1 teaspoon grated lemon rind 1 1/2 cups heavy cream, chilled 2 tablespoons confectioner's sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Wash and dry berries and place in a 2-quart ovenproof dish. Sprinkle with 4 tablespoons sugar.

Sift flour and baking powder together. Add sugar, eggs, milk, vanilla, and lemon rind. Beat with a wooden spoon until all ingredients are combined. Pour mixture over berries and bake in a 350 degree F. oven for 1 hour. Remove from oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes. Combine 2 tablespoons confectioner's sugar with heavy cream and whip until thickened. Serve with the cobbler. Serves 4.

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