American Classics

Texas-style Chili Mac

January 12, 2020

The first time my parents drove to the tiny Texas town where I would spend my early childhood, Dad got lost. He found a filling station and asked the attendant where Riesal was — pronouncing the placename “Rye-zel.” The man blinked at dad for a few moments and then, eyes wide with belated recognition, said, “Ohhhh! you mean REEEEE-zel!”  drawing out the eeeeeeeee’s in an impossibly wide-mouthed drawl. And so it was, we moved back to Texas. Mom had grown up in Houston and coached collegiate basketball in Texarkana. Then she made a serendipituous wide swoop North to coach at the University of North Dakota, where she met Dad. After a few winters there, she was very glad to get back to the Lone Star State. My brother and I benefited from the remoteness–and the heat. We ran around nearly naked for two years, in, and out, and all around the old wooden farm-house, with it’s big rooms, tall windows, and banana trees out back, where we used to sit on the porch steps and eat huge slices of Texas watermelon : ) And my mom’s good cooking. Continue Reading…

Holidays 2019

Holidaze! Sweets & Treats

December 20, 2019

The sun is shining in through the windows, lighting up the mixing bowls and rolling pins, cookie cutters and pudding tins on my slate kitchen table. It’s the Friday before Christmas. A “jolly good” time to do some Holiday cooking, don’t you think? If anybody want’s to join me now–or, is looking for some delicious recipe inspiration for Holiday meals over the next two weeks,  here’s a round-up of a few favorites.  There are cocktails: Not A White Russian,  snacks: Cheddar CrackersPub CheeseVintage Tea Sandwiches , savories: Wine-Poached Pear and Rosemary Tart, Sherried Crimini & Walnut LoafAncho-Braised Lamb shanks , empanadas picadillo hand pies,  duck and andouille gumbo, shortrib stroganoff, porkchops with sauerkraut + apple stuffing. There are fruited lovelies: Raspberry Foolwine poached pearsmincemeat tarts . Cakes– Monica’s All-Natural Red Velvet Cake, Melting Apple CakeDouble-Chocolate Bread Pudding with Barley Malt Caramel, Ginna’s Hubba Hubba Apple Cake, Apple Almond Cheese Tart, chocolate-covered Amarena cherries, German Chocolate Cake, Dressel’s Chocolate Fudge Whipped Cream Cake , Dreamsicle Cake, vintage no-bake refrigerator cakes, and of course, cookies! Fresh Cranberry BarsGingerbread CookiesJam Tart Bar Cookies, Old-Fashioned Butter CookiesLutz’s Raspberry Nut Bars,  Coffee and Molasses Dream Bars, Grandma Bertha’s Apricot Delights, Marshall Field’s Chinese Chews, Banoffee Tarts.  As you finish your year with loved ones far and near, remember that food is a love note that lasts. Cheers to you for the meals you create with that in mind. Happy, happy, Holidays, from Monica Kass Rogers!

Baked Treats

Fresh Cranberry Bars

December 19, 2019

From the Oleson-family-owned O&H Danish Bakery, just north of Chicago in Racine, WI, these bars are easy-good. Third-generation baker Eric Oleson was happy to share the recipe which he says has been passed down in his family for close to 100 years. The slices put two good things together: the Danish penchant for butter, with Wisconsin’s bounty of fresh cranberries. The bars only appear at O&H during the Holiday season. “It’s kind of a traditional thing,” says Oleson, who likes to serve these very-moist bars chilled with a dollop of whipped cream.

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Pouding Chômeur

Sticky Maple Pudding-Cake

December 5, 2019

Rich, sticky, sweet and gooey, it’s really like an upside-down cake, minus the fruit. Simple vanilla cake batter baked in a pool of maple syrup caramel , Pouding chômeur literally translates  as “pudding of the unemployed.”  First created by factory workers during the Great Depression using a handful of ingredients, it was for decades the sort of home-food fare that Québécois kept to themselves. Like Johnny Marzetti, the Cleveland area noodles-and-sauce hotdish that moms customarily put on tables, but most restaurants eschewed, this sticky maple pudding quietly endured out of the spotlight. Continue Reading…

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving!

November 23, 2019

They come from far and near, to gather together. Family, friends–and for those who lack either: the community of those with big hearts to share both. Happy Thanksgiving! I’ve gathered here not just the original recipe for Senator Russell’s  Sweet Potatoes, but am also including links for more dishes to grace your giving table. Enjoy!  Jalapeno Creamed Spinach Sunchokes Two Ways , homemade sausage and sage stuffing, Roasted Bone Poultry Gravy , Marvelous Mashed Potatoes Spiced Butternut Squash Pie,  Southern Sweet Potato Pie, Chocolate French Silk Pie and Butterscotch Pecan Meringue Pie.

Senator Russell’s Sweet Potato Casserole

Calling down to Georgia’s State Capitol offices and the Culinary History Society of Georgia, nobody could comment on the gustatorial habits of Richard B. Russell, Jr. (1897 – 1971), the famous politician this  much-requested dish is named for. (In case you need a refresher, RBR was in public office for 50 years as a legislator, governor of Georgia and U.S. Senator, was best known as national defense expert, and was proudest of his work advocating for the small farmer and for soil and water conservation. Russell also authored and secured passage of the National School Lunch Program in 1946.) But tracking down this recipe, one thing is sure: Richard Russell had a sweet tooth.  Continue Reading…

On The Side

Boston Baked Beans & Brown Bread

November 12, 2019

Despite the unfortunate  Phaseolus vulgaris moniker—the American Common Bean category includes bunches of beloved, native-to-the-Americas beans: navy, red kidney, pinto, great northern, marrow, & yellow eye, plus garden variety edible-pod beans (string, stringless and snap.) It’s not clear which of these the New England colonists first stewed in a pot, but we do know baked navy beans started with Native Americans. The Narragansett, Penobscot, and Iroiquois wrapped navy beans in deerskins—or put them in earthenware pots, along with venison, bear fat and maple syrup and then baked the lot in hot-stone-lined pits. Puritans eschewed the deerskins, but took to bean-pot cookery because the long, slow cook times meant housewives could prepare the beans a day ahead, and in so doing, stick to Puritanical no-cooking-on-Sabbath rules.

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Sweet Things

Deconstructed Pumpkin Pie (Pumpkin Mousse, Maple-Pecan Brittle + Sugared Pie Crust Twists)

October 31, 2019

There are people out there who don’t like pumpkin pie. (Cue collective Midwestern gasp!) But there are other  pumpkin possibilities. And since making this lovely dessert for my family one Halloween of years past, my boys have asked for it again and again.  Roasted-pumpkin mousse layered with maple pecan brittle and cinnamon sugar “pie crust” twists, I suspect this will be the classiest pumpkin you’ll put in your mouth this Fall.

 

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Classic Casseroles

Johnny Marzetti Casserole

October 7, 2019

Johnny Marzetti could very well be America’s best loved and longest standing comfort casserole. A mix of ground meat, tomato sauce, garlic, onion, cheese and noodles, the dish has populated community cookbooks nationwide for decades. It’s been called Salmagundi, Hamburger Hotdish, Elbow Goulash—even Irish Monkey (!) But as the story goes, Johnny Marzetti is both the “real” name of this dish, and, the name of one of Columbus, Ohio’s most prominent early businessmen whose brother Joe and sister-in-law Teresa had a restaurant called Marzetti’s. I just wrote a cover story for the food section of the Chicago Tribune on this : ) Please enjoy the story of the men, the myths, and the legendary dish–and  do try my version! Unlike bland, community-cookbook renditions which often include processed cheese food and canned soup in the ingredient list, my version gets its deep, rich flavors from fresh herbs, garlic, a blend of Italian sausage and ground beef, red wine and the real star: oven roasted and caramelized tomatoes and onions—the best possible way to transform these vegetables into flavor-packed morsels of goodness. Continue Reading…

Gone But Not Forgotten

Madison Guerrilla Cookie (….or comes close!)

October 3, 2019

I first posted this story exactly three years ago. In the interim? I’ve had another dozen letters from Madison Guerrilla Cookie fans asking me to repost it. So! here you go. Enjoy.

I just had a great conversation with Monica Eng of WBEZ about how people’s recollections of recipes they loved, but lost, can sometimes eclipse their experience of the actual recipe : ) I once spent weeks tracking down a recipe from a long-closed-restaurant for a mushroom barley soup that ran in the Tribune more than 30 years ago and didn’t exist in searchable archives. I was thrilled when I finally found the thing, complete with the actual dated clipping. I typed it up, e-mailed the recipe to the guy who requested it and in short order, got a reply stating that the recipe was the wrong one. “The soup I remember,” said barley-soup lover, “had much more bacon in it.” Ha HAH! And so it goes. Recipes are fluid things, as are our memories of them.  Not always entirely accurate. Or could it be that the cook the night barley-soup-lover had the dish, went “off recipe” and was extra generous with the bacon?

Well,  relatedly, the recipe for the Madison guerrilla cookie is of that ilk. First created by Mary MacDowell (UW MA ’67) riffing on ingredients from 1960s Tigers Milk protein bars, MacDowell shared the recipe with ’64 UW graduate Ted Odell, who tweaked the ingredients and baked them for the Quercus Alba Bakery. Hearty and filling, the cookies were sold in six- and twelve-pack sleeves through the Mifflin Street Co-op and other University of Wisconsin shops and became a student staple.  I should say, a MUCH beloved student staple. Continue Reading…

Pie Revival

Key Lime Pie

August 29, 2019

The story of Key lime pie is delightfully odd, including Cuban sponge “hookers”, mystery aunts, canned milk and curing. The classic filling: sweetened condensed milk, egg yolks & lime juice, has been around since the mid 1800s.

Key limes, those leathery little yellow-green golf balls otherwise known as Citrus aurantifolia, once thrived in the Keys as a commercial crop. That was before the local lime growers figured out they could make more money running tourist fishing boats, and sold off their groves. Key lime trees still grow in Key West backyards, but the big groves are in Mexico Continue Reading…