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Brunch Bunch

Banana-Stuffed French Toast with Strawberries

May 23, 2022

Since debuting in 1971 at Disney’s Polynesian Resort, Tonga Toast–a cinnamon-sugared chunk of flash-fried, banana-stuffed breakfast bliss–has always been a top seller. Michael Thompson, a Polynesian Resort chef for seven years, can’t give out exact sales numbers,  but sums: “Let’s just say we receive our bananas by the pallet load!”

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Poultry Possibilities

Grandma’s Sunday Supper (Chicken Fricassee with Vegetables & Light Slaw)

August 8, 2020

When I grew up in nineteen-seventies Chicago, Sundays were family days. We’d drive to Grandma’s little brick bungalow on the South side and aunts, uncles, and cousins would gather. While the grownups talked, we kids would run to the corner park to climb on and jump off anything we could find. Bored of that, we’d play blind-mans-buff, or, some sort of ball game in the alley until we lost the ball.  Continue Reading…

Vegetarian Bests

Sherried Mushroom & Walnut Loaf

March 30, 2020

I once lived in a big, pale-green commune of sorts, where vegetarian was how you cooked, if you cooked at all. (Raw food was the other way most people ate.) The best meals were communal, and one recipe I loved for its fabulous flavor was this sherried mushroom-walnut loaf—delicious hot with gravy and veg, and just as good cold, sliced like an elegant pate. Several moves later, I missed the recipe enough to recreate it for my family. During these close-quarter months, this is a great healthy option for you to make: A mix of sherry-steeped baby bella (crimini) mushrooms, onions, brown rice and walnuts baked into a loaf with sage and parsley, this is a moist and meaty meal. Top it with mushroom gravy made with more criminis, onion, sherry and stock, and serve it with some mashed potatoes and garlic spinach on the side.

Makes 1, 9 x 5 loaf; 8 servings

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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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Pie Revival

Mile-High Strawberry Pie

August 9, 2019

Max Hess, Jr. was the P.T. Barnum of the department store world, a master at selling with flamboyance and showmanship. Following in the footsteps of his father Max and his Uncle Charles, who founded the Hess Bros. department store chain in 1897, Max Jr. made shopping there an entertaining experience, with flower & fashion shows and “every week a different celebrity,” says Jill Youngken, assistant director and chief curator at the Lehigh Valley Heritage Museum, keeper of Hess-history esoterica. Under Max’s watch (1932 to 1968) Zsa Zsa Gabor, Gina Lollobrigida, Rock Hudson and Johnny Carson all made appearances. Continue Reading…

Must Have Noodles

Shortrib Stroganoff

January 20, 2019

For many during childhood, “company coming” unexpectedly meant mom whipping up the 2-cans-of-condensed-soup-ground-beef-bacon-&-sour-cream stroganoff.  Although that was a comfort classic for then, this deeply-flavorful short-rib rendition elevates this dish to gourmet status you’ll enjoy now. A slow-braise with red wine & sherry, rosemary & thyme, mushrooms & bacon, crème fraiche & truffle oil, it is very, very good.  For best results, make the short ribs the day (or night) before you plan to serve the dish.

And since you like stroganoff? Here’s another, classic versionto try, with the story of the original stroganoff.

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Must Have Noodles

Veal Stroganoff

January 20, 2019

When Count Pavel Alexandrovich Stroganov wasn’t busy commanding the Russian infantry in Napoleonic Wars, he feasted: Historians suggest that an early version of the stroganoff the world came to love was served in Stroganov’s family kitchens for a good number of years before it was published in a Russian cookbook in 1871. Early stroganoffs specified beef cooked in sour cream, with a little mustard, flour & butter and not much else. But by 1927, when the dish was first published in America (in The Congressional Club Cook Book: Favorite National and International Recipes), it had evolved to include onions, mushrooms, stock, Worchestershire sauce and even a little pureed tomato. Our version builds on a recipe that Gourmet magazine published in 1963. Like the early versions of the dish, it’s made with tiny cubes of meat (we chose veal) simmered in butter.

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Meaty Mainstays

Ancho-Braised Lamb Shanks

January 5, 2019

It’s 12th night tonight! I’m not in baking mode–running about in the sunshine with my boys–so no kings cake,  but tomorrow, will make this wonderful dish in keeping with the Spanish tradition on Epiphany (Reyes) of eating one last feast of the holiday season, including slow-roast lamb. This  “low & slow” fabulosity is a dish you can start in the morning and feast on at dinner.  You’ll put it in the oven with a full gallon of chili-spiked braising liquid which, simmered down for four hours, still leaves plenty to reheat and glaze the shanks for several reprises. Served with little pearls of Israeli couscous, rich gravy & a sauce of preserved lemon, mint, garlic and Greek yogurt, these ancho-spiced shanks make a meal full of bright flavors.

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Salad Days

Brown Derby Cobb Salad

April 2, 2018

From Hollywood’s Brown Derby restaurant and named for its owner, Robert Howard Cobb, the Cobb Salad is the original chopped salad.  If you had it at the restaurant, you know it was a mix of very finely chopped watercress, curly endive, Romaine and iceberg lettuces topped with crisp bacon, hard boiled egg, tomato, chive, chicken breast, Roquefort cheese and avocado,  served with a house-made “French” dressing that was more akin to red wine vinaigrette than the sweet orange goo labeled “French” on a salad bar. Our home-cook version is chopped less fine, but features all of the original ingredients. Continue Reading…

Cake Walk

Melting Apple Cake

October 18, 2016

Baking recipes usually frown on softer apples, specifying instead that you use Granny Smith. But this fragrantly spiced, fabulously flavored and pleasingly textured cake makes beautiful use of varieties such as Roma, Cortland or MacIntosh which have tender flesh. This is also good with apples that you’ve had in a bowl on the counter for a while– that last bit of the bushel you picked!

The apples partially “melt” right into the cake as it bakes. Putting it over the top? The caramel flavor of the maple-brown-sugar frosting goes supremely well with the apples and spice in the cake. Stacked, the layers make a towering apple amazement—homey indulgence of the best sort. Note: For best release, I line the cake-pans with well-greased parchment—sides AND bottoms.

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