Sunday, December 28, 2014

What to make for Christmas Dinner, Prime Rib Roast of course, King of the Yuletide Dinner Table

It was the night before Christmas and all through the house we were getting ready for Christmas and running like loons.

Yes that is not the real story but it was ours every year. And for this exact reason I elect to serve the King Daddy of all meat dishes for Christmas Dinner on Christmas day, the Prime Rib Roast. Why you say, well because it's actually easy that's why!

Many people look at large roasts with utter terror. Most of that terror stems from a fear of how to cook a large roast. How long to cook a large roast. And lastly what to do to it to make it delish.

Well the answers to these are actually fairly simple. And here they are.

One what methos do you use?
You can cook a large beef roast in one of two ways, either low and slow or high heat and rather quickly. I like the later cause it gives you a nice crust. That being said let me say it's really all about temperature especially when you do the faster method so buy yourself a good meat thermometer.

Two,  so how long so you cook it?

Well if you start with a 4 to 5 pound roast you would cook it for 30 mins at 450 degrees to sear the outside. Then reduce the heat and cook for 15 to 17 mins per pound after that checking 15 mins before the end of the total cooking time to see what you temperature is. Once it hits 120 to 130 remove it from the oven and cover it with foil. Let it rest as the temp. will climb to between 120 and 130. That should be perfectly Medium rare to rare.

What do you do to make it delish?

Well there are several things but simple salt and pepper can be very easy and delish. If you want you can try to add a rub.
This should be applied 1 hour into the total cooking process. Just remove the roast from the oven quickly slather it with your rub and then place back into the oven.
Resume cooking time from there.
A simple rub I use is mayo, horseradish, dijon, rosemary and salt and pepper. I mix this into a thick wet paste and slather the beast with it after an hour. The reason I don't put it on from the get go is it will burn if it's at the high temparature for too long.

So I hope that help you if you are going to make a roast during the Christmas season. It's all about easy sides and yummy salads and Christmas Dinner is a snap.

Rub for Rib Roast

1/4 cup mayo
1/2 cup Dijon
1/2 cup Horseradish prepared
4 stems of fresh rosemary leaves finely chopped
1 teaspoon of worchestershire
1 big splash of soy sauce
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 table spoon pepper

Mix and slather over the roast after 1 hour of cooking.

Enjoy Ya'll

Monday, December 8, 2014

Tree Trimming Goes Better With Truffled Polenta, Mushroom Ragout and a Basted Farm Egg!! And some thoughts on Christmas.



So it's the holidays and as per usual I am following in my family tradition of putting up the tree the weekend after Thanksgiving.

The period of time leading up to Christmas has always been a magical time for me. It's somehow still magical even though I find myself very busy. I try to catch up a little with friends and enjoy the season even as I find myself sometimes consumed by at work.

Christmas and the season that surrounds it until New Years is a time of relaxing and reflecting in my world. I find that during the holidays one is faced by a myriad of emotions and thoughts. There are the obvious ones like "what a great time of year" or "Gee it's so festive and so great to see people".  Family time seems better... for a moment. And things we alone have come to know and cherish, our own secret Christmas joys, are played out again for us like they are every year. Moments we have perhaps known since childhood or moments connected with a special place, time or person.

Then there is the darker side of the holidays. Time in the quieter moments when we all seek shelter from darker things that can come to light in a time that breeds reflection. Loved ones lost. Relationships not healed. Feelings of loneliness and isolation for some. Dreams not yet realized or shattered. Financial or work stress. Family drama. Kids and the challenges they can bring. Dreams of going elsewhere with no perception of how to get there. Realizing what you want and realizing what you don't have. These can be sobering and especially painful during the holidays.

Yes Virginia, these are parts of Christmas that no one likes to talk about. Is it any wonder that so many people find themselves in what the experts call a state of holiday seasonal depression. It takes what should be a lovely time of year and makes it painful and unpleasant for many people.

But I wonder if sometimes we are missing the point with Christmas. I mean what is this holiday really all about anyway. Certainly not eggnog and brightly wrapped gifts. Neither is it a time set aside for brooding over ourselves and selfishly delving into the dark and comfortable abyss we all like to settle into sometimes cause if just feels good, familiar and easy to do so.

Nope this holiday is about celebrating the birth of Jesus. That's it, that's all. It's not about celebrating with friends and family, giving gifts or any of that other stuff. It's about commemorating the birth or the mystery of the birth of the savior of the world as noted by the Christian religion.

Now that's a big idea. However,  it's certainly not a coincidence I think looking at history that it coincides with the Winter Solstice celebrations from the older and more ancient religions of the world. Nor is it strange that the myth of a god being born to save the world doesn't only exist in the Christian faith. But is predated by many other faiths that held this belief. But regardless of where it came from or what traditions the early church adapted to make people more comfortable with the ideas of the faith it remains today a holiday that celebrates the birth of the baby Jesus.

Born in the cannon of belief to save all men and women regardless of color or race or culture or creed. A universal gift for all people. Now that's really a big idea. I had a minister growing up who taught that God's love is so boundless, all people will have the option to "enter into glory" should they choose. Also he taught that there is no action ever in this life that can separate us from God's love. It took me years to understand something of what that meant. I still don't always understand it. But I think of it this way. That essentially when it says in the bible,"That God so loved the world ( aka. us) that he gave his only begotten son that through him the world might be saved", that's what it meant.

So it was a gift or the concept of a gift that started all of this.  Albeit a big gift, a divine gift it was simply a gift. Thus giving gifts at this time of year represent the larger idea of the gift of Jesus. That's lovely I think. Whether you are a Christian or not it's still "the thought that counts" and understanding why we give each other gifts is a good thing. We give gifts because we care about each other.

Which brings me back to what I like to do when faced with the dark side of the holidays. I like to give. Hospitality, gifts, parties, meals, and sometimes just my most important possession, my time. That's right my time. Something I can never get back. Something that I could choose to spend on anyone, especially myself. But I choose to give it to someone other than myself. In essence I reach beyond my own woes and find that in giving of myself I get more back than if I had just done something nice for myself. Sharing that time with someone else is my favorite thing to do.

Of course my way of doing that often revolves around breaking bread with other people. So this year as I put up my tree I invited a friend who does not put up a tree to join me for a tree trimming party. It was fun and we got to connect and talk about real things in real time. And she got to enjoy a little cheer that she would have not had otherwise.  That's a small example but sometimes just being a listening ear or spending time together with someone you can give more than any gift could ever deliver. It's about loving someone. Cause love is a verb not an adjective.

So no matter what faith you might be as we go through this season lets remember that love is what it's all about. Giving love to those we know and maybe those we don't know. Certainly our country and our world could use a little love and some healing right now. People seem so set on hating. But Christmas is about love. Love that changes. Love that forgives. Love that uplifts. And love that is shared and passed amongst us all. They say that love is a gift. So if you are in possession of it realize you have something amazing that represents the core of what Christmas is all about. So think about that and share some cheer.

Here's a brunch recipe from my Tree Trimming party perfect for a holiday season morning, maybe even Christmas morning. It's fast and easy and it's very tasty. Enjoy Ya'll!

Truffled Polenta with Mushroom Ragout and a Basted Farm Egg ( for 6 )

What you will need:

1 8oz package of polenta ( yellow)
4 cups water
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons pepper
2 pound mushrooms sliced
1 medium onion diced
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried Rosemary
1 stick butter
2 cups grated cheese ( I used half parmesan and half cheddar)
1 cup ricotta cheese
truffle oil
6 eggs

Directions:

For the Polenta
Boil water and salt liberally
Pour polenta into the pot with a whisk stirring constantly until it thickens
Turn heat to low and cover pot stir occasionally to keep from sticking
When done add butter salt to taste, pepper, Ricotta , the grated cheese, and truffle oil to taste
Hold warm.

For the Mushrooms:
Heat frying pan
Add oil and then onions then mushrooms some salt and pepper and the dried herbs and cook till softened
Hold warm

When ready to serve
Cook eggs as if you were making Sunnyside up eggs. When the whites have just started to firm up add a few teaspoons of water to the pan and cover for about 2 minutes, then serve over the polenta with a little of the mushrooms


  

Monday, November 24, 2014

Thanksgiving: Yes Virginia... It is a Real Important Holiday....And the Food!!!

A few days ago a friend I was out with made mention that she was getting overwhelmed by the holidays and all the flurry around them. She then said "As soon as December starts it's all over for me". I looked at her and said well, this week is Thanksgiving aren't you already a little overwhelmed. To which she replied, "Oh Thanksgiving isn't a real holiday". "It's just a day that people overeat and then sit around wishing they were dead and undoing their pants, while they watch sports".

I was shocked but as I asked around what people thought of this line of thinking, several concurred. They thought of Thanksgiving as a non significant holiday and a tradition celebrating American gluttony. I was actually shocked by this. I mean not one of them said, "I don't celebrate Thanksgiving". Not one of them said, "I am not going to overeat and sit around and watch the game". But it was more that none of it had any meaning for them that made me really shocked. I mean, if there if a real American holiday, it would be Thanksgiving in my book.

Not even the Fourth of July has as much clout for me. Thanksgiving is the original day set aside to remember how blessed we are not only in this land but in our lives. The fourth commemorates our country's independence and individual liberty. Thanksgiving commemorates our Country's very survival and Being as well as our individual and collective happiness. If the Pilgrims had not survived the winter and stayed the course in settling here. There would be no USA, no fourth of July, nothing we know as our country would be here.

Is it a made up holiday as we know it today? Absolutely it is! But what holiday isn't. The importance of any holiday depends on what meaning we attach to it. So that is what I set out to think about for myself and the following is what I discovered.

Thanksgiving means many things to many people. For me it is perhaps my favorite holiday. Bigger than Christmas, Easter, New Years, Halloween, etc. etc. And not just because of the food element although of course for me that plays a big roll. The reason it is my favorite holiday is because it makes me stop and ponder such questions as, where am I in my life and the process of living it? Am I happy? Who is important to me? Who do I love and how am I showing it? Who do I remember as being important to me in my past? And Who came before me and made all this possible? What memories and stories of those who came before me do I have? Am I aware of being grateful to them? Am I aware that because of them I have a better life? Am I loving those who are present in my life not just on this day, but everyday?

Thanksgiving is a looking back holiday yes, however it should also be a looking at the now holiday. It is in short a national day of reflection. Reflection over what we have. What we have been given. What we are grateful for and why. It is also a nod to the past. And all those who made it possible for us to enjoy what we have today. It sort of rolls the intention behind all national holidays into one, Memorial Day, Labor Day, The 4th of July, Veterans Day and so forth. Not because those should not be celebrated separately, but because all of them are about gratitude. And Thanksgiving is ultimately about gratitude.

So if Thanksgiving is about more than just national gratitude, how do we make it personal. Well we can make it about being together with people we love and care about. We can make it about celebrating family and friends. Maybe just maybe it's about taking a day and instead of looking at the glass as being half empty, choosing to look at it as half full. In short affirming the positive and the uplifting and sidestepping for a day the temptation to compare and despair and be resentful about anything.

And of course Thanksgiving is about food and bounty and celebrating that bounty. However, I think it's important to recognize that the original intention of celebrating bounty by the Pilgrims was to celebrate having survived a grim and deadly Winter and a hard year. It was not about excess. It was about working through whatever obstacles were in the way. It was perhaps the celebration of the original American work ethic and celebrating the fruits of that ethic. The same work ethic that has been driving this country ever since. Work hard, reap rewards and give back. Those values continue today.
So I think Thanksgiving should be a very meaningful holiday to us as Americans. Not only on a national level but also very much on an individual level.

So this year as you are sitting down to your feast in whatever fashion you might do that. Eating to much and watching the game. Gathering with family and friends maybe, or even just by yourself. Take a moment to be grateful.  Give thanks for something that means something to you. Make it personal and make it positive. Let go of fear, doubt, resentment, and anger for one afternoon and look at whatever God, the Universe or higher power energy you might believe in hath done. Acknowledge that just for you. And be grateful. Peace Ya'll!!


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Late Summer Yellow Tomato Sauce Makes For A Very Yummy Dish

It's that time of year again.You know my favorite time, Fall. The snap in the air happened last week. This time of year always reminds me of three things. Switzerland, College and the Shenandoah Valley, or the first day of school as a kid. I mean those are all random things I realize but the Fall brings memories from those places out. It's a time when we start to draw in closer as the chill demands we spend more time inside. It's a time of great transitional beauty. For the autumn leaves never linger too long. So they must be enjoyed when they happen. A lesson in living in the now. And of course it brings out the cozy fall and late summer recipes using the last of the season's bounty or relishing the new heartier crops which will see us into winter. For some reason tomatoes are a vegetable that transcends Summer and embraces fall. Moving from summer tomato salads and salsas to soup and sauces. And where there is tomato sauce there is Italian food.

Now I was raised in a Southern American home. Not an Italian American one. And like most Americans in the 1960's and 70's we did not know from Italian food. Spaghetti and Meatballs or Red Sauce and Lasagna were the dishes that we really knew about. There were others like Chicken Parmesan and of course Italian Salad dressing via the "Good Seasons" dressing mix. But for the most part Italian food in all it's glory was not a known quantity unless you lived in the northeast or near some Little Italy in some larger city.

As I have said before on this blog my Italian food epiphany came when I was in Switzerland. It was there as a young man I made acquaintance with a a lovely young family from the Italian part of Switzerland who took me under their wing and taught me all about making delicious Italian food at home. Lasgana and Spaghetti were never the same. And the new dishes like polenta and gnocchi gained a place in my appreciation of all things Italian.

Now while I learned a great many new things I also learned that spaghetti sauce has various incarnations ingredients and flavor profiles. But the classic sauce that American Italian home cooks transformed into what we know today as American Style Spaghetti and meat sauce was a sauce called Bolognese sauce. Classic Bolognese sauce which is credited to the city of Bologna in Italy is a rich vegetable laden tomato sauce flavored with wine into which is incorporated ground veal, pork or beef. It's rich hearty consistency makes it perfect with tube pasta such as penne or long flat noodles such as tagliatelle and even in some versions has a touch of cream in it to enhance it's rich meaty flavor and mouth feel. It is pretty much what we as Americans would consider Spaghetti sauce or Ragu although our version bears little resemblance to the original sauce.

I have been a fan ever since I first tasted it and have tried over the years to come up with a version that I can call my own. This version I believe takes a solid version of this sauce and turns it a little bit on it's head with the addition of yellow tomatoes as a base for the sauce. I first encountered yellow tomato sauce when I ate at Butter in NYC. I thought it was very cool to see this contrast in color with what we normally think of as Tomato sauce. As many of you who read my blog know I am a big fan of color in food. I love it when food make a statement by merely showing up on your plate. And making spaghetti sauce with yellow or orange tomatoes will certainly achieve that for you.

The other element that I like to add to this sauce is the use of Italian Sausage in the sauce instead of plain old ground beef. I just think it gives the sauce a lift. And to balance the sweetness of the yellow tomatoes I like to add touch of vinegar to give the sauce a background flavor. And of course to add richness a good measure of olive oil.

So here is my humble recipe. It's not fussy I don't remove the skins from the tomatoes or strain it or anything crazy. But it does require a little prep and patience. I hope you enjoy Ya'll.

Forrest's Yellow Tomato Bolognese Sauce for Pasta

  • 4 lbs yellow and orange cherry tomatoes, larger cherry tomatoes cut in half (skins will not be a problem if you use larger tomatoes you will have to blanch and peel them.
  • 4 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 medium carrot finely chopped
  • 2 stalks celery minced
  • 6 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 8 teaspoons fresh basil chopped divided ( some for garnish)
  • 1/2 cup white or vermouth
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  •  1 pound ground Italian Sausage or sausages removed from the casings.
  • 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup good olive oil
  • 1/8 cup cream
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese divided
Heat oil in a medium sized sauce pan. Add onion, carrots and celery and cook for about 6 to 8 minutes. Then add the garlic, and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, or until garlic blooms and all else has begun to soften. Add tomatoes, basil, wine and salt, and stir well to combine ingredients. Simmer, uncovered, over medium-low heat for 1 hour, 15 minutes, stirring frequently to help break down the tomatoes. You can use the back of a wooden spoon to help break down the tomatoes as they cook.
In the meantime in another pan cook off sausage and drain the fat off. hold till ready to combine.
Once the tomato sauce is done cooking remove from heat. Divide the sauce 1/2 and 1/2. Take the one 1/2 and place in a blender. Whirl till smooth then with motor running slowly add the vinegar, the parmesan and the then the olive oil. Process till smooth.
In a pot combine the pureed sauce with the remaining sauce and stir in the sausage and cream. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste. Reheat and serve over your favorite pasta.Garnish with more fresh basil and cheese.  Enjoy Ya'll!!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Twice Baked Potato Pizza With Bacon and Scallions....Absolute Sin!!

I love pizza! Yes that savory Italian pie that has captured America's heart is also dear to mine. My love for it is all wrapped up in my own personal food history with it.


I have early memories of my Mom and Dad making pizza on weekends at home for us when we were to cash strapped as a young naval family to go out to pizza parlors.

I have later memories of eating at a specific pizza place we would go to when I was in 6th or 7th grade in Vienna, Virginia in the Washington DC area before we would go to the movies as  a family.

I also have memories of gathering around the tables of the local Pizza Hut restaurant with pitchers of soda pop and communally shared pies after youth group meetings in High school every Sunday night.

I have memories of dirt cheap and in retrospect awful pizza in college, as well as my memory of my first "real" pizza in Italy when I traveled there for the first time as a very young man.

And recently I have enjoyed living in NYC, where good old fashioned New York Pizza mixes freely with artisan pie establishments. Pizza is easy, good, cheap and yummy. And unless you are on a diet or have some dietary issues it's like my Italian friend says, "Who doesn't like Pizza?"

Now things have come full circle for me as I  love making pizza and home these days. Mostly because it's so easy and you can try all sorts of things So obviously I love the fact that nowadays for the home you can easily buy either pizza dough or really good prepared par baked crusts and flatbread doughs. These make creating a great home pizza that much easier because you can focus on the toppings and not worry so much about the crust. And lets face it it's the toppings that are the best part of any pizza.

I have a great old time recipe for home dough on the blog if you want one but I am using these pre-baked crusts from the store lately and I love them. This recipe came about as a result of having my Italian friend Angelo Musco the now actually famous modern artist over for dinner. He and I are always trying to do things that are special each time we host each other and other friends for dinner. So this pizza recipe was my way of doing something a little bit special. It also took the onnis off of me for having to produce anything remotely traditionally Italian. This is because he has such strong opinions about the food of his homeland I am remiss to try and rise to that standard. But twist it, turn it out a little bit differently and that's OK. I don't get the eye!

This recipe came into my mind because we had had twice baked potatoes at an event for work that week and it got me to thinking about the baked potato pizzas I had read about in the media as happening at certain restaurants around the country. But I wanted to do it a step beyond what I had seen in the media. No mashed potatoes for my pizza, no this would be the twice baked miracle variety I love so much.

So a twice baked potato can be simple or elevated. I love them, they are my favorite way of making baked potatoes. So I figured why not just put that on a pizza with some smokey bacon and fresh scallions and call it a day. But to elevate the filling I took a cue from my favorite mashed potato, the colcannon irish mash. Potatoes colcannon are mashed potatoes filled with the usual suspects, butter, cream but with the addition traditionally of sauteed cabbage and onions. I decided to make my filling with butter, cream, creamed leeks and cheese. Rich and satisfying.

TO make the pizza it could not be easier. You simply slather the top of your dough with the potato mixture and bale it till bubbly and slightly browned. Then top it with the smoky bacon bits and chopped scallions. Easy as pie. pizza pie that is. So here is the recipe, enjoy you all.

Twice Baked Potato Pizza

You will need:

4 medium Yukon Gold potatoes or Golden or German Butter potatoes
2 leeks white and light green parts only
1/2 cup soft goats cheese
1/4 stick butter
whole milk about 1/4 cup
1/2 cup white sharp cheddar cheese
3 strips applewood smoked bacon cut up into strips and cooked off
3-4 scallions chopped both white and green parts
Taleggio Cheese 1/2 cup cut into small pieces
Rosemary leaves abour 1 tablespoon coarsely chopped
truffle oil to taste


To make potatoes: (Will make about 2 small to medium pizzas)
Peel and chop and boil then while hot mash with the other ingredients, first the butter then milk then goat cheese and cheddar then fold in leeks. Then cool mixture to RT.

To make the leeks:
Chop leeks into "coins" and saute in butter till soft and silken

To make the pizza

I purchase a predone flat bread or pizza crust for this. It is the easiest way to make this at home. Trader Joe's has a good one but you can buy any brand and use it.

To assemble:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and oil a pizza pan

Spread potato mixture over the crust generously but don't go crazy! Then dot the top with the taleggio, bacon and white parts of the scallions and rosemary.

Bake for 14 to 18 minutes till slightly browned.

Remove from the oven sprinkle the top with the scallion pieces and top with the truffle oil lightly.

Serve immediately

Enjoy this, as a friend who tried it said " it's like eating absolute sin". And it is!  Enjoy Ya'll!





Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Scallops Picatta with a Potato Cake a Northeastern Twist on an Italian Classic

Provincetown is the embodiment of the North Eastern shore town. It's quaint. Streets lined with flowers and white picket fences are everywhere. Wood shingles cover the houses with a blanket of texture while trees and grass seem to embrace them as if they grew out of the ground instead of being built. The water is everywhere and the color of the sky if a blue that I have never seen anywhere else before. Artists have come here for over 100 years for that light and after experiencing it myself I can see why. After arriving in Ptown, as it's affectionately known, I find myself relaxing and slowing down. Quiet morning walks are to be had as well as the bustling crowds on Commercial Street of tourists and their families making it a diverse place to visit. This mix of people from all over and from all sorts of backgrounds make it a melting pot and it is in a word fabulous.

The nice thing about Ptown is that there are lots of things to do compared to many other beach communities. Art galleries, unique shops and a diverse mix of food options are all there making a day trip both fun and interesting.

Now food is everywhere in Provincetown.  It's amazing. There is every level of every dinning experience possible from Lobster Roll shacks to full on sit down dinner establishments. In short you won't go hungry.

Now the other thing I love to do while in Provincetown is to cook up some dinners at home. So every Summer I put together at least 2 nights of meals. This Summer I am cooking up a seaside meal which will be both gourmet and delicious. Combining my love of scallops and my love of the Picatta preparation from the Italian cooking school. Picatta is normally used for white meats like veal or chicken. The meat pounded thin sometimes dredged in flour then cooked lightly with a caper and white wine butter sauce. It is delicious. But this year I thought I would change it up by substituting fresh sea scallops for the veal. And I thought while I am at it I would substitute a potato cake for the pasta that normally comes with the dish. It will be on the menu next week at the Ptown house and I will report back as to how it was received. Till then enjoy the recipe Ya'll. See you in a week.

Forrest's Scallop Picatta with Gratin Potato Cake

For the Scallops

You need 3 to 4 sea scallops per person depending of the size

This makes 4 servings

12 large sea scallops
2 Tablespoons Old Bay Seasoning or favorite seafood rub.
2 Tablespoons Olive oil
1/4 cup vermouth or dry white wine
1/4 cup stock can be chicken or seafood
Zest of one lemon
2 to 3 Tablespoons Capers
1 Tablespoon chopped flat leaf parsely
1 Tablespoon Basil leaved chiffonade
dash of red chili flakes per your taste
pinch of sea salt
pinch of pepper
Maldon Salt for finishing
1/2 stick unsalted butter

Method:

Pat Scallops dry and then rub with the seafood seasoning

In a med hot pan heat olive oil then sear the scallops on both sides work in batches to not over crowd the pan you want the scallops to sear not steam and do not over cook. A rule of thumb is the scallops should pull away from the pan easily when done.
Remove from the pan and reserve on a plate.
To the same pan add the wine, the stock, lemon zest, capers, red pepper and a half of the herbs. Add Salt and pepper. Cook till the liquid had reduced by about a third. Add the butter and whisk to incorporate.
Return scallops to pan and heat through
Serve over the potato cake, garnish the scallops with the extra herbs and the Maldon salt and accompany with some sauted spinach.
Enjoy Ya'll!

Gratin Potato Cakes ( takes some work but oh so worth it)

4 to 6 white fleshed potatoes
1 small white onion very finely diced
1 clove garlic
1/2 stick butter melted
dash of nutmeg
1/2 cup swiss cheese
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
salt and pepper
butter for lining tins


Using a Madoline slice potatoes very thinly and place in a bowl of salted water before using drain and pour onto a dish towel to dry.
Add butter to skillet and cook diced onions will translucent add garlic and cook a few minutes till it blooms.
Take off the heat.
Butter a large muffin tin or individual foil muffin cups
Place one layer of potato in each cup season with salt and pepper add small layer very super thin of the butter onion sauce, then add a very little bit of cheese
Layer the remaining potatoes with the sauce and cheese into each cup like lasagna.
Divide evenly between the cups and press down to secure
Preheat oven to 400 degrees
Bake the potato cakes for about 35 to 45 mins of until tops are browned well and bubbling.
Remove from the oven and cool about 10 to 15 mins this allows the cakes to set up.
To serve place the cakes turn out onto a plate
Serve with the scallops and spinach.



Sunday, July 6, 2014

Kale Salad with a Bacon Vinaigrette or Healthy Meets Happy

So as I have stated Kale is a small obsession of mine these days. Well not just mine but the whole country, especially chefs. Last Summer I spent several weeks coming up with two new Kale salads. Now I still love those but I was in the mood for something a little different yesterday. I wanted something meaty and something substantial. So I got to thinking about how much I loved the old 1980's spinach salad. You know the one with bacon bits, chopped boiled eggs and mushrooms served with a warm bacon vinaigrette dressing. It was iconic in the 1980's and nothing says love on a salad like bacon.

I mean my first remembrance of this sort of spinach salad was eating it on the Ocean Liner that my family took when we returned to the mainland on from Hawaii. I remember three things from the dining room of that ship. Perfect scrambled eggs in the mornings for breakfast, hearts of lettuce salad with blue cheese dressing and crispy bacon and tomatoes and the warm spinach salad of which we speak. Of course I remember all the fun things we got to do on the trip but from a food perspective those were my memories.

Later when I worked at the Magic Pan I came across another version of this salad. I chronicled this in an entry on this blog which you can see here: http://cookforrestcook.blogspot.com/2012/10/magic-pan-spinach-salad-1980s-superstar.html

This was of course the eighties. A time of glamor and cultural explosion. This decade defined forever the American obsession with opulence and elegance in it's modern forms in all areas of American life, fashion, homes, lifestyle and food. In the food arena superstar chefs were born and new and exciting tastes, ingredients and food fusions came into the limelight. Wolfgang Puck draped salmon on pizza and Le Cirque served pasta with spring veggies creating a revolution, one that continues yet today.

So that brings us up to today and to my new Kale Salad. So I will warn you this is not your Mother's Kale salad, not that many mothers made Kale salads for us. It's a hearty dish. Kale and green cabbage and finely chopped mint leaves combine to make a sensational  greens base for red onion, fresh mushrooms chopped hard boiled eggs and bacon bits. This all topped off with a warm tarragon bacon vinagrette. In a word it's a meal!

So when you want a salad as a meal or a hearty side dish give this one a try. Enjoy ya'll!


Kale Salad with Warm Tarragon Bacon Vinaigrette

For the Salad

1 small bunch Kale leaves stripped off the stems and chopped into ribbons
2 cups very finely shredded green cabbage leaves
1/4 cup finely chiffonade of mint leaves
1/2 red onion finely diced
1/2 pound fresh white mushrooms sliced
2 hard boiled eggs finely chopped
3 pieces of bacon cooked and chopped into bits

For the warm Bacon Vinaigrette

1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup Tarragon vinegar
3 Tablespoons melted bacon fat
1/4 teaspoon sugar
juice of half a lemon
1 tablespoon Dijon Mustard
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon dried parsley
salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients except bacon fat and whip till smooth and emulsified
Heat Bacon fat in a skillet
Add the mixture and whisk to combine
Heat through and pour over the salad and toss well
Serve immediately! Enjoy!















Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Summer Burger Journal, Cheeseburger Sliders with Caramelized Onion Jam and Mustard Bernaise Sauce


Ok it summer it's finally warm enough to get outside and get grilling. And what says summer grilling more than a delicious burger. Well that being said these burgers I am going to tell you about today actually came about because I needed to make a goodbye dinner for a friend of mine who was leaving the city. The weather had warmed up enough that I thought we are golden to be back up on the roof of the building and celebrate with the first al fresco dining experience of the Summer. But no Mother Nature did not see fit to give us a nice day and the rain drove the party inside. So while this is a burger recipe it it I suppose not limited to the grill.

Sliders are one of those things that are associated with all kinds of things. Diners, drive in's, old school Hamburger joints and within the last 10 years bar food. A slider is technically a mini hamburger or cheeseburger. They are usually adorned with some special toppings and served in multiple batches. One rarely eats one slider. More like 3 or more.

My first real contact with sliders came while living in the South. There is a chain of burger joint drive throughs called Crystal Burger. They are the southern version of the White Castle burger also a main stay of slider lore. While White Castle burgers are steam cooked on a grill with onions and served with ketchup. Crystal burgers are cooked with the onions and served with dill pickle chips and mustard. It's the southern flavor take on the slider. I prefer the Crystal take to White Castle but whatever.

Well there have been so many famous people making burgers that I can't even pretend that what I will bring to the table has not done somewhere in some fashion by someone else. But like when I posted my famous "Forrest Burgers" recipe found on this blog, you can bet that this and every burger recipe I ever give you will be decadent and delicious.

This one is no exception. I love a burger that has substance and is saucy and juicy. I also like a burger that is composed. That meaning the chef prepares the burger with toppings to create a flavor profile much like any other dish a chef prepares. You don't choose how you get it you just get it that way end of story. So I dressed this burger up with toppings and my "secret sauce".

It starts with a buttered and grilled till toasty brioche mini bun. The patty is cooked medium rare and blanketed with melted cheddar cheese. Then the toasted bun is garnished with a dallop of mayo, and squirt each of Catsup and of BBQ sauce, caramelized onions, and then smothered in a Bernaise that has mustard and tarragon in it.

 It's so juicy and delicious it's a crazy. And they are little guys. You can't eat too many. Or you can't eat enough!

So if you want to try your hand at something new and gourmet for a dinner party. Ramp up your burger game with these little babies. They are sure to make you very popular with your guests or family. Enjoy Ya'll!


Forrest's Mini Burger Sliders with Caramelized Onion Jam and Mustard Bernaise Sauce

For the Burgers

1 pound 80/20 ground chuck formed in 8 small patties
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons onion powder
2 teaspoons garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste
4 slices American or Cheddar cheese cut into 4 pieces each.

Mix meat and spices together well
Form 8 well shaped patties
Season with the S&P

Heat grill or grill pan till medium hot.
Place burgers on the grill pan and cook for about 2 to 3 mins a side for medium rare
After to have flipped the burger the first time place 2 pieces of cheese on it. When its just melting it's done remove and place on the bun.

The Buns

Buy Mini Brioche buns ( Trader Joe's, Whole foods) or mini potato rolls
Using room temperature butter lightly butter the buns
Grill the buns in a pan until they are nice and toasty the reserve
When ready to build lightly spread mayo on the bottom bun and place a smal squirt of each Catsup and BBQ sauce on the Bun. The place some of the onion Jam on the bottom bun.

Onion Jam

Cut up 1/2 of a large red onion into thin ribbons
In a pan heat equal parts oil and butter add onions cook slowly over medium high heat till soft then add 1 tablespoon each balsamic vinagar and honey
Stir into onions add some salt and stir in then reduce heat to low and slowly cook will caramelized and delicious.

Mustard Bernaise

In a bowl soften 2 Tablespoons Dried Tarragon with 3 tablespoons of hot water let sit 5 mins.
In a blender add 4 tablespoons tarragon vinegar ( if you have it if not red wine vinegar. Add 1 tablespoons chopped shallot and 1 Tablespoon Dijon Mustard add the tarragon and water and pulse till blended
Melt 3/4 of a stick of butter
With blender running slowly pour the butter into the blender
When thick and combined place in a metal bowl and if not using right away keep warm over simmering water.

To complete the sliders place the patty on the bottom bun and drape the burger in the sauce. Place top bun on and present right away to eat. Yum Yum Yum!




Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Original California Cuisine, Sunset Magazine Remembers When.


BEFORE Alice Waters picked her first Little Gem lettuce and Wolfgang Puck draped smoked salmon across a pizza, California cuisine meant something else. 

This is the first statement in a article from the NY Times article chronicling the influence Sunset Magazine has had on informing people about what California Cuisine is all about. The article goes on to examine the original California Cuisine based largely in grilled meats, salads and avocados from the article. It's really amazing how this magazine kept up with the lifestyle and cooking trends of the largely little known but very coveted West coast lifestyle. Through the 50's and 60's the mystic of the West was something that Eastern readers could only glimpse through it's pages. And largely it helped to inform those who had moved into this state in alarming numbers during this time on how that state's culture was devleoping. Even in a sense what it meant to be a modern Californian.

There is mention of "Patio Style" Cooking being the central theme in this early 50's and 60's home food movement in California. However there are also mentions of some old-school California dishes grilled BBQ turkey, cioppino, barbecued oysters, Crab Louis and fish tacos included amongst the descriptions of Tri-tip Sirloin Santa Maria Style, patio salads with citrus and Date Milkshakes. 

The point made was in the article that unlike in the East there was an ease and casual nature to dining and entertaining in California in the 1960's. No fussy white table clothes were on the menu and no ornate china and silver set ups. Also the point was that anyone could be a Californian by embracing this new open thinking, outdoor casual way of lifestyle and cooking which was showcased non better than by Sunset Magazine. It's readership included amongst others, my Parents, who loved the style and ease which Sunset put at the forefront of their articles. Especially since we lived in warm climates where outdoor dining was a way of life and not just a special occasion. These ideas flourished in our home.

Sunset was one of the first magazine's I remember being in our house growing up. It remained the one my folks held onto. They had every volume from 1965 on in bookshelves in out house. As of late my Mother tried to give them to the local library, but sadly they were not interested and they ended up in the recycling. Before we threw them out I flipped through some of the older ones just to see what was up and made an interesting conclusion. Nothing was so radically different from the magazines I read today. Sure the stories and the articles were specific to the time but the themes and the overall ideas were the same we see in todays lifestyle magazines everywhere. 

As far as cooking is concerned I give you a recipe for your summer BBQ. that if you try will give you a little bit of the taste of the old Californian style. Make sure you use the powdered garlic and parsley cause it just won't taste right otherwise. Give it a try it's an old staple in my house growing up even through we never called it by it's proper name. Enjoy Ya'll.

Santa-Maria Style Grilled Tri-tip
Based on the original Sunset Magazine recipe served 8


2 tablespoons garlic powder
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons dried parsley
1 beef tri-tip (2 to 2 1/2 pounds), preferably with some fat on one side. ( you can find this cut at Trader Joe's a California based chain or else you will have to get your butcher to cut it for you)
1. In small bowl, mix garlic powder, salt, pepper and parsley; rub well into meat. Let stand 30 minutes at room temperature.
2. Meanwhile, soak 2 cups red oak chips in water for at least 20 minutes (optional). Prepare a medium-size fire on one side of a charcoal or gas grill. Add chips to fire, if using. Set tri-tip over fire, fat side up (with a gas grill, close lid), and brown well, 3 to 5 minutes; turn over and brown other side.
3. Move meat over area of the grill without fire, cover, and turn every 10 minutes or so, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part registers 125 to 130 degrees, 25 to 35 minutes.
4. Place meat on cutting board to rest at least 15 minutes. Slice across the grain.
Note: Red oak chips are available online from susieqbrand.com.


Saturday, May 17, 2014

California Dreaming: Why Alice Waters is so famous for what someone else does!

You take your first step into Chez Panisse in Berkeley California and you realize that nothing you thought about this Mecca to Farm to Table prepared you for the meal you will have there. While incredible and delicious it is the mere simplicity of the food and indeed the quality of the ingredients that makes Chez Panisse an iconic dining experience.

As I traveled through California this last trip I was again struck by the amazing quality and variety of produce available to Californians. It makes the New Yorker head reel to look at the variety and quality which even with our many green markets we never see because of the climate! My friend's in San Diego got a package from their local CO.OP. which made my poor shopping baskets at the supermarkets in New York pale in comparison.

The meal at Chez Panisse was simple enough. The starter a salad of warmed blanched asparagus, roasted morel mushrooms, prosciutto, baby rocket ( Arugula) and a brilliantly lemony dressing. The Main a "Stew" of roasted lamb loin and fresh peas and carrots with a risotto cake. And dessert fresh Strawberries and an ice cream profitole. Delicious, fresh and simple simple simple. But what made it so good were the ingredients. That's the magic os Chez Panisse. Simple preparation of deliciously fresh fresh fresh food. No spice profile, no ridiculous preparations, no smoke and mirrors, just amazing ingredients.

So for a moment during and after the meal I sat and pondered how Alice Waters has become an icon in the food world. I have read her books. No super fancy tricks there, just straight forward preparations. Elegant for sure. High end definitely. But simply letting food speak for itself while enhancing it's natural qualities with spices and preparations seemed genius to me somehow. I somehow wondered how this was so different and how we as a country had gotten away from this knowledge as we slid into a abyss of Applebee's and TGI Friday's food preparations soaked in salt and oil and lacking any finesse. Not to say those places are all bad. But I will say kinda bad. They certainly represent a commercial food engine using frozen foods and commissary driven preparations to deliver standards and a consistent product. But is it good, well if I am honest in a word, no. Is it all bad, no but it's rarely good or good for you.

So Alice Waters is really famous for what some farmer does. I mean she didn't grow the food. The meat, dairy products and produce that enter her kitchens are the fruit of someone else's labor. But what she and her chefs do is prepare them in such a way that no one can miss the impact their quality has. And she is famous for championing this trend. That's her real fame. Reminding us that good food is better in every way for us. Just like out forefathers knew, but never thought about because it was always there.

So I have some new inspiration for my own cooking at home. Not that I will pretend that I don't enjoy convenience foods and that I will never eat at Red Lobster again ( cause I will ) but at least in more ways and at more times I want to be aware of cooking things that speak for themselves and find simpler preparations.

I have no recipe today just these thoughts. As we progress towards the summer and grilling season I will endeavor to find some fresh recipes lighter and built around natural flavors. See you then.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Napa Valley and the best Pork Chop I have ever had....Mongolian Pork Chop from Mustards Grill!



Napa Valley. Oh the visions it can bring to mind. Long lazy roads and green and brown hills covered with trees and grass. Fields of grape trees and arbors laden heavy with grapes juicy and ready to give up their nectar. Wine flowing in covered and shady tasting rooms and patios and the smell of wood grills cooking meats and vegetables fresh form local farms and fields.

Grilling really is a singular smell there with all the apple wood casting it's scented purfume through the air. It fills every corner of the small towns around dinner time and really makes one hungry for meat. Yes that's right wine and meat is a very good combination. Tasty to say the least.

I recently visited Napa with my brother and sister in law and we had a really amazing time. We ate lunch at the famous Rutherford Grill and then went to a private tasting at Hall vineyards where we were treated to samplings of many of their delicious and richly aged wines. Very good indeed. And after picking up some wine to go we traveled back towards the San Francisco area and stopped just inside of Napa at Mustards Grill for dinner.

Now I had eaten at Mustards many years ago and had the opportunity to try their signature dish. So when I heard we were going to Mustards I announced to my Brother and Sister in Law that I had been there before and remembered how good the Pork chop was, In fact I said I remember it being really good. Well funny to see upon arrival that the pork chop is the most famous thing on the menu. And they have served over a million. And there is a reason for this. Because it's amazingly good! What's particularly good are the asian spices used to make the chop's marinade and the sauce all mixed up with traditionally western flavored side dishes like red cabbage and mashed potatoes.

I loved this dish also because of the name. For me it conjures up memories of "Mongolian BBQ" as form of cooking done at restaurants of the same name. As a boy my family did a lot of things offered on the bases as entertainment. One of the rare treats was when we would go to the Mongolian BBQ night at one of the local officers clubs. There you would select your meal from a cold food bar, meat veggies etc. Then you would carry it to a cooking station where it was cooked atop what looked like a metal kettle drum the size of an oil barrel with fire under it.

This pork chop recipe is perfect for your up coming bbq season. It's not mine but I mean to own it! Try it and be inspired!

CHINESE-STYLE MUSTARD SAUCE:
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup mustard powder, such as Colman's
  • egg yolks








Put the sugar and mustard in the top of a double boiler and mix with a whisk. When well combined, whisk in the egg yolks and vinegar. Cook over simmering water, stirring occasionally, for 10 to 15 minutes, until it is thick enough to form ribbons when drizzled from the spoon. Remove from the heat and allow the mixture to cool. When cool, fold in the creme fraiche. Keep refrigerated until needed. Makes about 2 cups.


Mongolian Pork Chop from Mustards Grill

  
  • Six 10-ounce center-cut double pork chops
  • cup hoisin sauce
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves and stems, minced
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons tamari soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • tablespoon sesame oil
  • tablespoon sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons black bean chilesauce, such as Lee Kum Kee
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons peeled and grated fresh ginger
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • teaspoon hot sauce, such as Tabasco
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
  • scallion, white and two-thirds of the green parts, minced
  • Braised red cabbage and mashed potatoes, for serving
  • Trim the excess meat and fat away from the ends of the chop bones, leaving them exposed. Put the pork chops in a clean plastic bag and lightly sprinkle with water to prevent the meat from tearing when pounded. Using the smooth side of a meat mallet, pound the meat down to an even 1-inch thickness, being careful not to hit the bones. Alternatively, have your butcher cut thinner chops and serve 2 per serving. 

    To make the marinade, combine the hoisin saucecilantrosoy sauce, sherry vinegar, rice vinegar, oil, sugarblack bean chile sauce, ginger, garlic, hot sauce, pepper and scallions in a bowl and mix well. Coat the pork chops liberally with the marinade and marinate for 3 hours, or up to overnight, in the refrigerator 

    Preheat the grill to medium-high heat. Place the chops on the grill for 5 minutes on each side, rotating them a quarter turn after 2 or 3 minutes on each side to produce nice crosshatch marks. It's good to baste with some of the marinade as the meat cooks. As with all marinated meats, you want to go longer and slower on the grill versus shorter and hotter, because if the marinated meat is charred, it may turn bitter. The pork is ready when it registers 139 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer. 

    Serve the pork chops with braised red cabbage and mashed potatoes. Offer Chinese-Style Mustard Sauce on the side for dipping. 

Friday, April 4, 2014

A Hawaiian Style BBQ treat, Huli Huli Chicken, To everything turn turn turn.....



Huli Huli Chicken is a Hawaiian treat for the upcoming Spring and Summer months not to be missed. Huli-Huli Chicken is one of those great "only-in-Hawaii" foods. When we moved to Hawaii, because my Father got stationed here, we were embarking on a culinary and cultural journey that was hard to imagine. Hawaii was probably one of the most ethically mixed places one could imagine. No where was this more evident that at the Church we came to call home for the four years we lived there. Chinese and Japanese, Filipino, Tongan, Korean, Hawaiians, Black, Hispanic and of course White people. It was a vibrant community of faith and a great congregation for a young family such as my Parents had. We learned a lot about many cultures and cultural traditions and culinary traditions through our Church. Enhancing not only our souls but our temporal lives as well. 

The Women in the household, my Mother and Grandmother ( her Mother who had come to live with us) also made inroads in the greater community beyond the Naval Base where we lived. For example my Mother became active in the community lobbying for better television programing for children. She launched an entire campaign to get the local stations to carry Captain Kangaroo. Meanwhile, my Grandmother helped found the first official Senior Citizen organizations while in Hawaii, the Silver Bells. She had some excellent experiences through fellowship, food and travel which really enhanced her life. And got to help a lot of people connect who otherwise never would have. 

One of the hallmarks of living and being a part of a vibrant church was the potluck fellowship dinners that seemed to happen often as I recall. My family certainly got a lot of exposure to various types of foods from various cultures. Oh no ordinary church supper foods here. No! Here there were Lumpia, which are Filipino egg rolls and Kimchi beef dishes along with amazing fried rices. These were of course peppered by the normal mainland dishes offered up by the naval wives and other folks like fried chicken, green bean casserole, rolls and and array of salads. Not to mention all the baked goods, Jello molds and sweets form various households. All in all an amazing introduction to church potluck suppers I must say!

One other element of food which was introduced by way of this church experience was a method used to fundraise. That method I am referring too and which was used often as a fundraising platform was to host a big bbq dinner an sales event which would sell something called Huli Huli chicken. Now Huli means turn in Hawaiian. And that was appropriate. For the method used a large roadside grill to grill the chickens in a large rotating cage on a spit. Great clouds of dark charcoal smoke engulfed the grills as they would turn in the parking lot of the church slowly roasting the marinated birds to perfection. 

Huli Huli chicken was the brain child of one man according to him. You see in 1955, Ernest Morgado of Pacific Poultry barbecued his version of teriyaki chicken for a farmers gathering. 
The chicken was such a hit, it became a favorite Hawaii fundraiser, raising perhaps millions over the ensuing years for schools, churches, softball teams and hula halau (hula groups).

Huli-Huli chicken all but disappeared after Morgado legally claimed his rights to the trademark, and started marketing a bottled sauce under that name.

Of course, you can still buy Huli-Huli-style chicken in the Islands, practically anywhere you see billows of great-smelling smoke emanating from a large roadside grill. It won’t be called Huli-Huli Chicken. But that's pretty much what it is.


This is a marinade recipe just eyeball it but these are good starting measurements.

The recipe is enough for about three chickens, split in half.  You can use chicken pieces which is what I usually use. Marinate your chicken for at least a half-hour up to 3 hours or even overnight.
                               

                               1/2 cup pinapple juice
                               1/3 cup ketchup
                               1/3 cup soy sauce

                               1/4 cup brown sugar
                               1/4 cup honey
                               1/4 cup sherry
                               
1-2 Tbsp. sesame oil
                               1-2-more pieces ginger root, crushed
                               3 cloves garlic minced
                               Worchestershire sauce to taste
                               Sriracha or Asian chili paste (or red pepper flakes) to taste
                               Lemon juice about 1/2 a lemon

Brush the chicken with the remaining marinade while cooking over a grill. And don't forget to huli the chicken.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Robert Lewis Stevenson, Hawaii,the Waiola Tea Room and Chicken Salad


Robert Louis Stevenson wrote a lot of books about adventure. Adventures which took place in far away places, and in historical settings, and featured Freedom Fighters, Evil Counterparts, Ladies Fair, Pirates and young heroes. Stories that boys, who were spending lots of time reading came to love and devour with ravenous abandon.

One of those boys was me. I came to love stories like Treasure Island, The Black Arrow and Kidnapped whose young boy heroes were within the realms of my imagination, just like me. I was transported to exotic Islands in the Pacific or the Caribbean, the dark smokey fields of Scotland or onto Ships filled with Pirates. His books were easy to read and classic in their approach to historical drama and adventure. Popular in his day, he continues to be an inspiration for boys and girls growing up and reading his books today. Sailing away in their imaginations to amazing adventures, just as I did.

Now you who have been following my blog for awhile know that as a young boy I lived in Hawaii. I grew up as a navy brat and that experience shaped many of the ways I actually view the world.

Being a military brat can be a difficult thing for a kid. For example you move around a lot. You have to start over at schools. You have to make new friends every 2 years or so. Not to mention that you have to find ways to carry a sense of home with you every time you move without being able to rely on physical surroundings to support you in that.

It's about creating relationships which while being on the one hand are temporary, are also real and necessary. Family relationships also become elevated in their importance. It's a balance. And one which is typically never perfectly walked by people. Most military brats I know all have issues perhaps stemming from the manner they were raised. On the other hand, they also develop social and interpersonal skills that help them to succeed and shine in various parts of their lives. Skills, that other people raised under more traditional circumstances might not develop till later in life. It's a trade-off of sorts. But it's a trade-off, that is like many things in life, is the result of reacting to and dealing with circumstances. Circumstances One as not chosen, but has been handed.

Like many my experience as a navy brat took me all over, but Hawaii was the one place, that as a young boy of 7 to 11, was most pivotal. It was definitely the place that I had many life affirming and exciting experiences. Aside from the natural beauty and the weather, living on a naval station, going to school, and doing the things a boy of that age does. I had my first exposure to many cultures. Asian and Pan-Asian cultures mixed with Pacific Island peoples as well as the Anglo Natives living there since the time of Captain Cook, and lots of military and tourists.

So what does all this have to do with Robert Louis Stevenson? Well while looking for a warmer climate to help his weak respiratory system. He spent time in the Hawaiian Islands where he became good friends with the King and his Daughter. He lived for a time as a guest on a plantation which today is a famous 10 acre park and tea room called the Waiola Tea room. There you could have high tea or lunch, browse the gift shop, roam the grounds and even see a hut where Stevenson lived while he was staying there. It's run today by the Salvation Army as a park and is a really nice thing to do if you are visiting Oahu. It's definitely old school with table clothes in white or pastels hanging baskets full of flowers or plants and an older cliental but nonetheless a really neat experience. It was a place we took visiting relatives and friends for an authentic old Hawaii experience like my Aunt Lucy and Cousin Priscilla when they came to visit. And back in the 70's when I was there it was more military wives and ladies who lunch, than grannies and senior citizen, but I can't speak for it today.

Needless to say as a boy this was endlessly cool, great paths and historical structures to explore. And then there was the really yummy food. One of the dishes that I remember really well was the house baked Breads and the Curried Chicken Salad supposedly based on the original tea sandwiches served back in the day. At Waiola Tea Room this salad was piled onto really good homemade wheat bread and was served with a delicious mayo, sliced tomatoes and crisp lettuce. As a boy it represented everything yummy and elegant about having lunch at the Waiola Tea Room. And I never forgot it.

So today I want to offer up my family's version of this classic Old Hawaiian Tea Room offering. I love fussy little teas sandwiches cause I think they are really fun. And while this recipes is not really based on anything but my recollections of that Waiola chicken salad, it is still fun to imagine Robert Louis Stevenson sitting on the porch of that old house with his hosts the King and Queen of Hawaii back in the time. Enjoying tea and a sandwich like this. For the recipe and as a benchmark my Grandmother made a great curried chicken salad. This was from my Grandmother's hand written cookbook. It's the recipe that was served to Queen Elizabeth II when she visited Charlotte N.C. in 1976.  So I hope you enjoy this and have some of your own adventures recreating chicken salad fit for a King or Queen. Just take a moment remembering Old Hawaii in your kitchen.

Grandma's QE II Curried Chicen Salad Recipe ( circa 1976 )

2 cups chopped cooked chicken cut into 1/2 inch dice
1/2 cup water chestnuts sliced
1/2 pound white seedless grapes halved
1/2 cup toasted almonds slivered
1 8 oz. can pineapple chunks juice drained
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
1/2 cup finely diced red onion ( optional )

Dressing
3/4 cup Mayo ( or greek yogurt )
1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder ( Use Madras powder if you like it hot )
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons soy sauce

Mix ingredients add dressing and salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate for 3 hours or more before serving

Enjoy!