About Monica Kass Rogers

The "Lost Recipes Found" lady

Lemony Roast Leg of Lamb with Orzo

Given a mix of cultural backgrounds, our Easter dinner table has flipped between ham and lamb. I recently posted an awesome retro recipe inspired by Will Roger’s brown-sugar ham-baked-in-a-crust, so now it’s time to give you an equally delicious lamb recipe. Telly Savalas, known best for his ’70s television tough-cop, Kojak, spoke to United Airlines’ Mainliner magazine in 1974 of his childhood memories of Greek feasts prepared by his mother and aunts. One of his favorites from their repertoire? Lemony leg of lamb. Stuffed with garlic and basted with lemon, the meat takes on a mahogany hue as it roasts. We’ve tested Telly’s family recipe  and updated it just a bit so that you can serve it with a tomatoey orzo, or, one spiked with preserved lemon.

Preserved Meyer Lemons

Preserving lemons in salt is an ancient practice with delicious results.  I have yet to make the tagine I want to make with preserved lemons, because my partly-Armenian husband–who is crazed for salted lemon–keeps eating them before I can get to it! Slivers of both the salted fruit flesh and soft rind are SO good added to dressings (I use preserved lemon in the soy-cream for my Fennel, Pear, Jicama & Celery salad) stirred into soups, topping lamb shanks, etc. It takes three weeks for the lemons to cure, so get started now!

Pimiento Cheese Cherry Bombs

My mom loved the stuff. She didn’t overindulge, but pimiento cheese was definitely in the fridge throughout most of my childhood. She kept it alongside jars of pickled jalapenos so hot the vinegar brine made my eyes burn just walking by. I always liked the flavor of pimiento cheese, but found the texture boring. Which explains this recipe: I’ve crunched it up a bit by adding chopped jicama and cilantro to the mix. I like to use two kinds of cheddar (extra sharp yellow & aged white) plus the obligatory mayonnaise, a big, fat, jarred pimiento diced fine, a splash of the afore-mentioned pickled jalapeno juice, and some mustard, green onion, & black pepper. Stuff that into your little tomatoes and serve them with more jicama sticks and you’ll have a snack/appetizer much more interesting than white bread sandwiches!

Brandied Prune Cake with Buttermilk Glaze

This warm, nutty spice cake with it’s soused bits of brandied prune is over-the-top delicious when you add the tangy, buttermilk glaze. Prune cake is a vintage recipe people ask me for a lot, behind the scenes.  (I think they’d ask me up front, except admitting they like prunes still has this funny stigma with some people.) This brandied version of prune cake is my own, adapted from a 1940s recipe card in my home collection. But the idea of adding a tangy buttermilk glaze comes from writer Michael Rosen.  Placing a pan of boiling water in the bottom of the oven while this bakes enhances the moist texture. A good cake for a rainy day!

Bill Kim’s Korican Sancocho Soup

I love this soup. It mixes the best things: comfort with excitement; Korean spice with Puerto Rican nourishment;  smooth/mellow textures with crunchy/zesty accents. Beloved Chicago chefs Bill Kim and Yvonne Cadiz Kim, of  Urbanbelly, bellyQ, and Belly Shack,  frequently create dishes that merge elements from their cultural backgrounds. But this one is special for two more reasons: It originated with Yvonne’s mom Lola (Bill adapted it), and, it’s something that Bill likes to eat when looking for a comforting dish at home.

Make a BIG pot of this—the flavors deepen through the week. But get some extra sausage and chicken to add to the leftovers. “The first day we make this everybody picks out what they like best—the meats, usually,” says Bill. “So, after a day, I just cook more meat to add in.” And don’t skimp on the recommended garnishes! The hot sauce, lime juice, fresh cilantro, avocado, and plantain chips add brightness and fresh flavors to the mellow soup base: “The right accents over the top are what really makes this soup sing!”

Southern Buttermilk Biscuits with Country Ham OR Brown-Sugar Ham

Pull these soft little clouds of biscuit hot from the oven, slit them and fill them with salty country ham, or sweet/salty brown-sugar ham for a brunch opener or simply as a very-special snack. It’s your choice–we’ve included all three recipes:  a lovely light Southern biscuit, traditional thin-shaved country ham, and a more-to-Midwestern tastes brown-sugar ham adapted from an old Will Rogers recipe.

Making a country ham is quite an undertaking! Salt-cured, hickory smoked and aged for 10 months, country hams have to be soaked a good 24 or more hours, scrubbed, submerged in water and cooked for another 9 hours or so, and then wrapped and cooled for another day before being sliced paper thin, like prosciutto.  We had ours shipped from Rice’s a third generation family-owned and operated business that lays claim to being “the oldest retail business still in operation in Mt. Juliet, Tennessee.”

The brown-sugar ham we made as the centerpiece for a Will Rogers dinner theatre at our houseconcert space (the Pig & Weasel,) was a delicious discovery we adapted from a recipe Will Rogers once shared in the 1931-published Beverly Hills Women’s Cookbook. To make it we covered the ham in a brown sugar/mustard/vinegar paste, wrapped the entire ham in a simple flour & water dough, and then baked it for 5 hours.

And the biscuits are our favorite version of Nathalie Dupree’s extra-light hand-rolled biscuits, combining lard and butter with buttermilk in the dough. For more Nathalie possibilites, do get the book she co-authored with Cynthia Graubart

Blue Ribbon Caramel Pecan Cinnamon Rolls

In a typical day, Shelby McCreedy might deal with, oh, money laundering, public indecency, intoxication, and some kind of theft. A special agent for the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation,  McCreedy “deals with bad guys all day.” But at home? It’s all about cooking: “I’m like Betty Crocker—with a gun,” she jokes.

Shelby is a cop who cooks. She cooks to decompress. She cooks to re-create for her family the culture of grown-at-home, scratch-made goodness she grew up with spending summers on her grandparents Iowa farm. And she cooks to win, as these Caramel Pecan Cinnamon Rolls show. Enormous but feathery-textured, buttery, and crammed with toasted pecans, caramel, and cinnamon, McCreedy’s sticky buns won the top prize in the Tones Best Cinnamon Roll Contest at the Iowa State Fair. It took her three tries to win the contest, and a lot of years collaborating with cooking  mentor and neighbor Shari before that. “We call Shari’s kitchen the laboratory,” says Shelby.

She also credits her grandmother “who always tried to get me to come in to the kitchen to learn how to cook when I was a kid. Back then, I always preferred baling hay or tending the livestock with grandpa, but now, I’ve returned to the things grandma taught me and am teaching my own children.” Grandma would be proud.

 

Pomegranate, Mint & Fennel with Warm Spiced Honey

With their bright red color, tart-sweet flavor and jewel-like good looks, pomegranates are the perfect fruit. High-fiber & high-vitamin-content and the ability to swing sweet or savory makes them a trendy ingredient today, but pomegranates have figured in story and symbolism for thousands of years. Poor Persephone (of Ancient Greek myth) was tricked by Hades to eat just six pomegranate seeds—enough of a rule-breaker ( rule was “you eat in hell, you stay in hell”) to doom her to six months of darkness every year. Later in Judaism, pomegranates came to symbolize fruitfulness, and in Christianity, Christ’s suffering, death and resurrection.

Since pomegranates are in season in North American climes during the winter months, we’ve put them through their paces at Lost Recipes Found as both a savory-sweet side-dish—Pomegranate, Mint & Fennel with Honey-Spiced Drizzle, and, as a deeply-flavorful Pomegranate, Raspberry & Orange dessert sauce for a fudgy cake with fluffy meringue and candied orange threads.

This vibrant salad puts the anise-crunch of fennel with fresh mint, cayenne-spiced warm honey and lots of fiber-rich, pomegranate jewels. Don’t add the hot honey drizzle ’til you’re ready to serve.

Liberty Gastropub Meaty Baked Beans

I just hosted a vintage-recipe dinner based on foods Will Rogers liked, as part of the Pig & Weasel arts incubator and houseconcert series we run out of our home. Among the dishes served? Rich and meaty navy beans. Rogers didn’t have this recipe from chef Tom Condron in the ’20s or ’30s, but would have loved it!

Born and raised in London and cooking by the time he was 14, chef  Condron of the Liberty Gastropub in Charlotte, N.C., has worked under four Michelin-trained French chefs. That gives these “baked beans” a pedigree–they’re really a cassoulet. Put the kettle on early in the morning on a rainy day to start the ham stock and by suppertime, you’ll have this rich, meaty stew ready. At the Liberty, Condron serves the meaty beans with different cuts of pork every night, working his way from tip to tail of the whole hog. You can also serve this as a sidedish as we did–with a full dinner of ham, mac & cheese & greens–but there’s enough meat in this stew to make it a meal in itself.

Coconut Rice Pudding Pie

Necessity did mother this invention. Wanting to make a semi-special old-fashioned dessert but with no time to run to the store, I did a quick fridge inventory: plenty of eggs, no cream, surplus leftover rice and coconut. Hmmmm. Some kind of custard pie? No time to make a crust. Rice pudding? No cream. Still, I remembered having had rice pie once, and thought, what about doing a sort of coconut custard version, with a make-it’s-own-crust? Eureka! This, then, is the lovely result. Made with coconut cream (extra-thick, condensed, no-sugar-added coconut milk) and soy butter, this pie is dairy-free and firms up to a very nicely-textured, easy to slice dessert that tastes good hot or room temperature (cold it’s not as good.) The flour, coconut and rice in the mix collaborate to make a nicely browned top and bottom “crust.” I grate plenty of nutmeg over the top to add fragrance and pretty speckles. Our cupboard had no raisins in it the day I made this, but we think rum-plumped raisins would be a nice addition.