About Monica Kass Rogers

The "Lost Recipes Found" lady

Alt Spanikopita: Kale Pie with Onion & Preserved Lemon

Having fiddled with phyllo to make those beloved butter-brushed triangles of spinach-and-feta-stuffed spanikopita, I can say with no hesitation: I’d much rather put everything in a pie crust. Since we’ve got a garden full of fresh kale, it seemed smart to keep rolling with the variation and swap in kale for the spinach. This lemony kale & onion pie–spiced with a bit of dijon mustard and enriched with French feta, is the result. Since I’ve got preserved Meyer lemon handy, I used that in the filling, but, the recipe works fine with just fresh lemon juice, too.

Preserved Meyer Lemons

Preserving lemons in salt is an ancient practice with delicious results.  My partly-Armenian husband–who is crazed for salted lemon–eats this on almost everything. 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, and used in my alternative to spanikopita: Kale & Onion pie.  It takes three weeks for the lemons to cure, so get started now.

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Duck & Andouille Gumbo with Potluck Garlic Bread

Atlanta press calls Chef Ford Fry an “empire builder.” And it’s true. Fry has seven restaurants now open (two on the way) several of which regularly show up on national foodie Best-Of lists.  The first time I talked to Fry we discussed greens (which Ford’s really good at) for a food story I was writing. The second time, we chatted about Southern seafood. And the third?  Recipes that taste just as good as leftovers as they did the first time around.  That’s when Ford gave me this gumbo recipe. It is gutsy, smoky-rich and loaded with flavor–but interestingly enough, doesn’t have any okra in it. Serve it over white rice with snipped scallions and Ford’s Potluck Garlic Bread.

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Kentucky Derby Chocolate Pecan Pie

Was Derby pie named for the hat or the horse race? The horse race. But a hat does figure in the original name of this rich chocolate nut pie. First created in 1950 at the Melrose Inn in Prospect, Kentucky, by Walter and Leaudra Kern with some input from their son George, the pie–first made with chocolate and walnuts–sparked debate in the family, with each family member wanting to name it something else. To resolve the conflict, everybody tossed their favorite name into a hat: The slip that got plucked was inscribed, “Derby Pie.” A huge hit, the pie anchored the Kern family baking business, lasting long after they sold the Inn.  Protecting their rights to the pie, the Kern’s copyrighted the name “Derby Pie” in 1969, and still sue usurpers. But many home-baked  chocolate-nut pie creations have safely circulated under different names in the intervening decades.

We baked ’em all, tweaking and experimenting as we went: some we made with corn starch and bourbon in the mix, others with flour and vanilla. Some with walnuts; others pecans. All are enriched with chocolate. While the version made with cornstarch had a lovely, meringue-like cookie crust on top, Our favorite tested version (below) uses flour instead of cornstarch, plus high-quality chocolate, toasted pecans and vanilla. If you still want that Kentucky bourbon spike? Whisk a little into the whipped cream garnish.

Brown Derby Original Cobb Salad

From Hollywood’s Brown Derby restaurant and named for its owner, Robert Howard Cobb, the Cobb Salad is the original chopped salad. A mix of finely chopped watercress, curly endive, Romaine and iceberg lettuces topped with crisp bacon, hard boiled egg, tomato, chive, chicken breast, Roquefort cheese and avocado, the original was served with house-made French dressing– more akin to red wine vinaigrette than the sweet orange stuff you might find on a salad bar.

There’s some dispute about the recipe’s genesis. Was the first Cobb salad made by Cobb himself, when he was rummaging through the restaurant’s cooler to throw together a late-night snack in 1939, or, by the restaurant’s executive chef Robert Kreis, who created it for the restaurant’s 1929 launch? Either way, the Cobb is one of America’s longest-standing salad favorites, inspiring dozens of different renditions.  We like the simplicity of the original, not weighed down by too much extra meat or cheese.



Natchitoches Pork Pies

Food writer/cookbook author James Villas’ pork-opus cookbook  “Pig,” from John Wiley & Sons, won a James Beard award for good reason. All 300 of the recipes start with a good story, include some Southern bit of food history, and–frankly–are worth the trouble to make. To get you enthused, here’s a sample: some of tastiest half-moon, Louisiana-style, fried pork pies you’ve ever had. Eat some. Then buy the book.

Another Cheesecake like Little Jack’s

From the time it opened in 1905, until it closed in 1962, Chicago’s Little Jack’s restaurant was a force in the Chicago restaurant scene. At its peak in the ’50s, the sprawling three-dining room restaurant reportedly served between 600,000 and 1 million meals annually. Named for John H. “Little Jack” Levin (1887-1971), a Chicago Park District commissioner from 1946 to 1969, the restaurant & bar had its own cigar and whiskey labels, and was the first to offer air-conditioning. But Little Jack’s is best remembered for its Mrs. Little Jack’s cheesecake. I’ve tried multiple times to get the original recipe from the family, but thus far, the closest I’ve come was a note from one of the Levins saying that a recipe I featured came close, but wasn’t the real deal. So….here we go again! Yet another, “cheesecake like Little Jack’s.”


Last week, Lorraine Gregory, a lovely 87-year-old now living in Alsip, called to tell me that she had a Mrs. Little Jack’s cheesecake recipe given to her by a woman named Bev who used to work for the Levins.



Lorraine’s been baking the cheesecake for decades. Her own memories of Little Jack’s go back to the 1940s when her sister Ruth used to go out ballroom dancing and capped the evening with a slice of the cheesecake. “Back then, Little Jack’s was in a neighborhood that was not a place you’d want to be alone. A little dicey,” says Lorraine. “My family just loves this cake. It’s really simple to make.”



Double Chocolate Stout Pudding & Barley Malt Caramel

Complements of the skilled pastry team that fills the kitchens of the American Club resort’s various restaurants with can’t-say-no-to-that desserts, this kicks bread puddings up several notches. You might think the stout and barley malt would add a bitter note, but nope–the stout deepens the chocolate flavor and the barley malt, sweetness.

Maple-glazed Corned Beef with Champ (Potatoes & Green Onion)

You could buy a hunk of grocery-store corned beef and follow the package instructions….or, you could try this lovely version.  Rich and simmered in spices, this basted-in-maple-syrup version of the old classic, is a sweet/savory treat. My friend Rolla, who has a Jewish background, usually makes this for her family along with chicken-crackling enriched mashed potatoes, topped with more of the maple-y gravy. I’ve followed Rolla’s recipe for the beef, but decided to pair it with Irish champ–potatoes mashed with snipped green onions that have been gently simmered in milk. (For the meat: Rolla says, “it’s gotta be a whole brisket–first cut is too lean.”) And as a side-dish? How about some “bashed neeps” as my Irish lovely Majella O’Dwyer likes to call them. If corned beef isn’t your thing, this lovely Irish stew from Ballymaloe House, is a good alternative.


Ballymaloe House Irish Stew

Cherished recipes are like ripples, each one an echo of the original wave-making stone that broke the surface. This Ballymaloe House lamb stew recipe is the surface-breaking 1940s original, later published in Gourmet magazine (1960s) and then again in Ruth Reihl’s 2004-published volume featuring six-decades of Gourmet recipe bests. When LRF reader Iness wrote in search of the recipe, I reached out to Darina Allen, head of the Ballymaloe Cookery School in Shanagarry, County Cork, Ireland, author of Irish Traditional Cooking (just republished in a revised edition from Kyle Books) and part of the family running Ballymaloe House hotel and restaurant.

According to Darina, the stew recipe was given to her mother-in-law Myrtle Allen by neighbor-lady Madge Dolan in the 1940s. It became a staple at both Ballymaloe House  and at the Ballymaloe Cookery School. While lamb stew is extremely common in Ireland with regional variations from county to county, (no carrots in Northern Ireland; barley added for extra sustenance in other places) this version differed from others of the period because  the meat and vegetables are browned in hot fat before stewing, making the finished dish much more flavorful. The stew is delicious served up immediately after you make it, and is just as good warmed up the next day. Might be a nice alternative to corned beef for St. Patrick’s Day, right?