Sunday, February 27, 2011

"Rao's Cookbook" - Minestrone

Date I made this recipe: February 26, 2011

Rao’s Cookbook – Over 100 Years of Italian Home Cooking by Frank Pellegrino, Preface by Dick Schaap and introduction by Nicholas Pileggi
Published by: Random House
ISBN: 0-679-45749-6
Recipe: Minestrone – p. 34

As “promised” in last week’s blog, this week’s recipe selection is from Rao’s Cookbook. Rao’s is an Italian eatery in East Harlem, New York.

Just like last week’s risotto, minestrone was not something anyone in my family made. I don’t know why that is, especially since my Sicilian grandparents had a huge garden, but it is. Instead, my grandma made pasta e fagioli (pasta and beans). My Aunt Rose reports that whenever she (Aunt Rose) had a baby, my grandma would fix pasta e fagioli for my grandfather to eat while she was gone and then hit to road to help my Aunt Rose with the new addition. And by all reports, grandpa didn’t seem to mind at all (and really, if you tasted the recipe, you wouldn’t, either!)

Perhaps minestrone was never an item of the family table because it does take some work to chop all those vegetables. In fact, it occurred to me that some people will not want to make this recipe because it is a little labor intensive but you should. It’s very good and so healthy, too!

Just like the mushroom risotto recipe, some substitutions were made: instead of fresh fava beans, I used frozen lima beans. And don’t ask my why my grocery store was out of fresh zucchini but they were and so I used more potatoes. And at $5.99 a can, San Marzano tomatoes were out of the question and so I substituted a $2.99 can instead and I doubt that anyone could tell the difference. These days, 3 bucks is 3 bucks! I also like macaroni in my minestrone and so I boiled a small amount of shell noodles that I had handy and added them to my bowl. Yum-my!

I think my brain is frozen as of late because it took a while for it to sink in that the Academy Awards are on Sunday (tomorrow). (First I spaced out President’s Day, then the Oscars—what’s next?) Don’t ask me how I could miss that event what with the endless press and speculation and whatnot but I did. And normally, I would make something that was Oscar-worthy and blog about it but the beauty of this cookbook is that I don’t need to because…

Rao’s is so noteworthy that anybody who is anybody in the acting world has eaten there. In fact, the cookbook is filled with quotes from the rich and famous: Woody Allen, Vic Damone, Fran Drescher and the like. And I hate to be the one to break it to you, but reading this cookbook is about as close you’ll ever get to eating at Rao’s, never mind mixing and mingling with celebrities. The place is tiny, everyone has their own table (so to speak) and if you don’t, you just about have to have a note from God to get in on any given night. I don’t have a table and I don’t have a note and so there it is. So just like the “losers” on Oscar night, practice your “I’m so happy for him/her” look and just suck it up!

Now if this cookbook and recipe doesn’t do it for you as a consolation prize, then you can always go out and purchase one of Rao’s bottled sauces from your grocery shelf (depending on where you shop). But just like those San Marzano tomatoes, the sauce is expensive (to my budget) so I say buy the danged book, buy the ingredients and make the recipes yourself. You’ll thank me later! (Or you can thank me now – your choice: “I’d like to thank the Academy… and Rao’s…and Ann without whom none of this would be possible….”)

Minestrone – serves 6 to 8
½ cup fine-quality olive oil
1 cup chopped onions (note: I had some leftover Spanish onion from the risotto so I used half Spanish and half yellow onion for this dish)
1 cup chopped whole leeks
¼ cup minced Italian parsley
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
2 cups peeled and diced tomatoes
2 cups diced carrots
1 cup diced celery
1 cup diced zucchini
1 cup fresh fava beans
1 cup fresh or frozen green peas
2 cups canned imported San Marzano Italian plum tomatoes, with juice
4 cups Chicken Broth or water (Note: if you have this cookbook and want to make homemade broth, see the recipe on p. 8)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 to 2 cups cooked cannellini or kidney beans (Note: if you have this cookbook and want to make homemade beans, see the recipe on p. 12. I have the book and I still used canned beans!)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
¼ cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese

A note from Ann: many cooking shows stress the important of evenly chopping or dicing or slicing your vegetables and you will want to follow suit (to the best of your ability) because you want everything to cook evenly. So be prepared that dicing your vegetables may take a while longer than you’d like but you’ll be happy that you went to the trouble. Besides, I find chopping or dicing to be particularly relaxing!

Heat oil in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. When hot, stir in onion, leeks, parsley, and thyme. Lower heat and sauté for about 5 minutes or until onions begin to brown.

Add the remaining vegetables, one at a time and sauté each for about 3 minutes: potatoes, carrots, celery, zucchini, fava beans, and peas. When all the vegetables are sautéed, stir in tomatoes, broth and salt and pepper. Bring to a boil then lower the heat and simmer for about 1 hour, until soup is quite thick. (Note: when I made this soup, it was pretty thick to begin with given all the vegetables in it, so you may need to add a bit more broth or water than called for so that you don’t end up with a stockpot of vegetables).

Add cooked beans, mashing some against the side of the stockpot with the back of a spoon as you stir them in. Cook for an additional 5 minutes. Remove from heat and sit in basil. Serve sprinkled with Pecorino Romano cheese. (And if you want macaroni in your minestrone, start cooking it separately before you add the beans so it finishes at the same time as your soup. Place some of the macaroni on the bottom of the bowl add the soup and then the cheese.)

Thursday, February 24, 2011

"White House Chef - Eleven Years, Two Presidents, One Kitchen" - Wild Mushroom Risotto

Date I made this recipe: February 23, 2011

White House Chef – Eleven Years, Two Presidents, One Kitchen by Walter Scheib and Andrew Friedman
Published by: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
ISBN: 978-0-471-79842-2
Recipe: Wild Mushroom Risotto – p. 130

So Monday was President’s Day, a day celebrated by all of 5 people (including my mail delivery person) and a day, naturally, where we in Minnesota were once again dumped on by snow. Actually the snow started on Sunday and that snowstorm was partly responsible for this dish being made.

To back up: I am a fan of Top Chef (when I’m not yelling at the TV over who was wrongfully eliminated) and a couple of weeks ago, the cheftestants had to make an Italian dish to satisfy the owners of Rao’s restaurant, located in East Harlem, New York. And since I happened to have the Rao’s cookbook on hand (published in 1998), I thought this would be a fine time to make something out of the book in honor of that episode.

Well, as per usual, I ended up in the valley of indecision – what to make, what to make? I noted that Rao’s had a couple of recipes for risotto but decided against making that recipe for several reasons: 1) my people are from Sicily and we don’t do risotto. Northern Italians make risotto; 2) I hate standing at the stove stirring the thing. It makes my arms fall off and my arms were already sore from snow shoveling; and 3) most importantly, one of my favorite cheftestants, Tre Wilcox, was eliminated for not cooking his risotto properly and this made me mad and so I was determined to pout and find something else to make.

And so I narrowed down my selection to two choices, neither of which was risotto and planned to grocery shop on Sunday after I met with a friend for our weekly business planning meeting at Barnes and Noble (we’re starting a consulting business together).

Any who, when I rolled into the Barnes and Noble parking lot at 10 a.m. the sky was clear as a bell. Actually, it was overcast but to Minnesotans, that’s the next best thing to being clear at this time of year. But by the time I left at 2:30, it was blowing a gale and by 5:00 it was a total whiteout. So grocery shopping was the last thing I wanted to do at that hour and so I didn’t! Problem solved. I would just wait until Monday.

But wait! All of a sudden it dawned on me that Monday was President’s Day and perhaps I should cook from the White House Chef book that’s been sitting on the shelf? Brilliant!

Except…I had a really hard time finding something to make from this book. Many recipes called for several items to be made for the complete dish, for example, chicken and biscuits, sweet potato filling and homemade ravioli and whatnot and I just was not in the mood to make multiple things. And then there were several recipes calling for bison (not a fan—I mean, it’s a modern-day Wooly Mammoth, no?!) and a few calling for veal chops. Veal is hard to find in these parts and expensive so that was a no. So once I eliminated those items plus complicated dishes plus summer dishes (there’s optimism and then there’s reality), I was left with…what the ?? Risotto??? Nooooo!

Yup. So I photocopied the recipe, checked my larder and was all set to go shopping on Monday to make risotto in honor of President’s Day.

Except…Monday was another stormy day and my husband informed me when he got home around 4 that our alley hadn’t been plowed yet. Those who live in these parts know what that can mean to you and your car—if the alley hasn’t been plowed yet, you can get stuck in it. Nothing more embarrassing than that let me tell you…well, except if the alley is plowed, oftentimes the plow creates a wall of snow at the end of the alley that one must clear, kind of horse jumping. And so you gun it (the car) toward the end of the alley with the hope that your speed and momentum will help you get over the wall because if you don’t, you get stuck on that very same wall. And don’t snicker-we’ve all done it. And talk about an award winning photo—I’m not kidding when I say that your car can look like a beached whale, tires spinning uncontrollably with you (and all the neighbors who witnessed this) shoveling to get you off the damned thing. I hate winter!

Anyway, so shopping on Monday was out of the question. So that left Tuesday and so I shopped on Tuesday (hooray!) but then was out of the house Tuesday night and so that left Wednesday for prep and cooking. And hey, if the paper couldn’t get delivered on Monday because of the storm, then I think I get a pass for celebrating President’s Day two days later! As far as I know, nobody has started a movement, similar to Christmas, to have every day be President’s Day, but I am ready to lead the charge—just say the word!

As to the recipe, there are two things that you should know: morel mushrooms, one of the intended mushrooms, do not grow at this time of year. And when they do grow, you will likely need to find them at a farmer’s market because I don’t recall too many grocery stores carrying them. And so I had to substitute and there was really nothing I could think of to use that would bring out that earthy flavor that wild mushrooms impart. And so the flavor was good but not as great as it could have been.

The other thing you should know is that I thought that the lemon zest masked the taste of the mushrooms. Perhaps it wouldn’t if I had used the right mushrooms but at this time of year, beggars can’t be choosers.

Other than those two things, I liked the dish and would make it again if I had the right mushrooms. I also liked that this recipe does not use parmesan cheese and that’s a good thing as it would have been too heavy.

One last item about the recipe: I did not make the roasted garlic puree that the recipe called for. I’m sure it was good but because of time constraints, I started this dish later in the evening and just wasn’t in the mood to roast garlic. But if you have time, I think you should.

So that’s how my intention NOT to make Rao’s risotto turned into me in fact making a White House Risotto on President’s Day! Fear not, readers, for I will be making a Rao’s recipe in the next few days.

And speaking of the White House, the entire time I was reading this book, I couldn’t help but marvel at the sheer stamina of those working in the White House kitchens. It’s one thing for me to putter around my kitchen, deciding on a whim to ashcan something like the roasted garlic puree, but it’s another to do that in such a famed kitchen serving presidential families as well as state visitors day after day after day. Yikes. Toques off to you, chefs!

Wild Mushroom Risotto – serves 4
For the mushrooms
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon very finely chopped garlic
1 tablespoon very finely chopped shallot
6 ounces mixed wild mushrooms, such as morels and chanterelles, wiped clean and cut into bite-size pieces (about 1 cup)
¼ cup dry white wine
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the risotto
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/3 cup finely diced Spanish onion
1 tablespoon finely diced shallot
1 cup Arborio rice or other risotto rice
¼ cup dry white wine
5 to 6 cups homemade or store-bough low-sodium chicken or fish stock, simmering in a pot on a back burner
2 tablespoons crème fraiche or heavy cream
2 tablespoons grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon roasted garlic puree
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the garlic puree
1 head of garlic
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper

Saute the mushrooms: Heat the oil in a 10-inch, heavy-bottomed saute pan set over medium heat. Add the garlic and shallot and sauté until softened but not browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms and sauté until they begin to give off their liquid, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the white wine and let it reduce until nearly dry, 3 to 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Monday, February 14, 2011

"Favorite Southern Recipes of the Duchess of Windsor" & "Chocolate - A Little Indulgence" - Smothered Chicken and Hugs N' Kisses Torte

Date I made these recipes: February 14, 2011 (Valentine’s Day)

Some Favorite Southern Recipes of The Duchess of Windsor with a foreword by The Duchess of Windsor
Published by: Gramercy Publishing Co.
© 1942
Recipe: Smothered (with love?!) Chicken – p. 46

Chocolate – A Little Indulgence
Published by: CQ Products
ISBN: 13: 978-1-56383-230-7
Recipe: Hugs N’ Kisses Torte – p. 104 - 105

Unless you are living under a rock, you know that Prince William, Queen Elizabeth II’s grandson and Catherine (Kate) Middleton are going to be married in April. And today, the press was all atwitter about who the bridesmaids would be and duh, of course the maid of honor is her sister, Pippa, and William selected his brother, Harry, to be his best man (actually, in England they are called “supporters.”) And there was much rejoicing.

But Wills (and Kate) and even Chuck (and Di) would not have been in the positions they are in (grandson and son to the current Queen) if not for Chuck’s Uncle David, formerly known as King Edward VIII of England. (Full name: Edward Albert Christian George Andrew Patrick David. Wow - only 7 names?!)

King Edward, you see, was quite the gad about town and was at yet another party when he met and fell in love with an American, Wallis Warfield Simpson, a divorcee twice over. And just like that he up and quit the throne for the woman he loved. I mean who does that? Because “if I were King of the For-rest…” (Thank you, Wizard of Oz), I don’t know as I’d give up my golden throne and all the accoutrements that come with it for some average-looking American socialite. But give up the throne he did and they married (and got demoted to Duke and Duchess of Windsor) and spent the rest of their lives in “exile” (so to speak), traveling the world and living the high life. Meanwhile, Wallis became one of the most hated women in England and so okay, you’re a Duchess, but honey, was it worth it?

Stepping into the suddenly vacated post of King was Edward’s younger brother, Albert, who just happened to be Elizabeth II’s father. Albert (whose name was changed to King George VI) never, ever expected to be King and it is said that the Queen Mum (Elizabeth’s mother) never forgave Wallis for forcing her fragile husband into the throne. Actually, the entire Windsor clan was quite pissed and I do not mean “pissed” as in “drunk” (as the Brits call it). I mean royally (hahaha) ticked off at Wallis. Quite.

For those of you who have seen the recent movie blockbuster, The King’s Speech, you’ll know that King George suffered from a stammer. Luckily the man was able to overcome it to speak to his people during WWII and encourage them to be brave and to solider on and work together and stiff upper lip and all that. But he also smoked and was not in the best of health and when he died at an early age, Elizabeth took over the throne and still reigns today.

So before we go any further, a few bits of trivia:

 The current Queen is technically known as Elizabeth II because another Elizabeth came before her – Elizabeth I, King Henry VIII’s daughter.

 As another aside, the current Queen should thank her lucky stars that Henry decided his daughter would be Queen. Most of the time the title fell to the King’s son and if there wasn’t a son, it fell to the next male relative. Henry didn’t have any sons that lived and so the first Queen Liz got the job. But believe it or not, there are currently monarchies around the world that still hold to the idea that the crown goes to the man. We don’t have time to go into what I think about that.

 Don't ask me why but I recently had not one but two people as me why a Queen’s husband is never a King. Queen Elizabeth II’s husband, Philip, is not King Philip but rather Prince Philip, and that’s because the male spouse of a sitting Queen can never be higher in rank than the Queen herself. When the Queen dies, the crown passes to either the son (e.g. Prince Charles will become King Charles when the Queen dies) or a daughter (e.g. Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden will become Queen when her father, King Carl Gustaf dies. Her mother, the current Queen, Queen Sylvia, does not inherit the throne. That being said, if a sitting King marries, his wife is called Queen. Okay, so now that we got that all cleared up…)

 Despite the fact that I have not one drop of British blood in me, I am a major Anglophile…actually make the Royalphile (if there is such a word…and spell check suggests there isn’t). I began reading about the British Royal Family when I was a teenager. I also watched Prince Charles’ investiture as Prince of Wales on our black and white TV back in 1969And finally, I knew all about Camilla Parker Bowles, Prince Charles’ second wife, way before you did because several publications (Time, Life and Newsweek) ran several articles about Prince Charles’ love life and she was one of the named contestants in hot contention to be “Mrs. Queen of England.” (Diana was barely born at the time of these articles). And even though King Edward VIII abdicated the throne in 1939, there were enough articles after the fact to keep me busy reading for years and years.

Anyway, back to our story: so without a kingdom to rule, the newly-named Duke and Duchess of Windsor took to traveling the world over and spent a lot of time in America where they were the toast of the town. And somehow the Duchess found time to pull together recipes for this cookbook. And after seeing a promo the other day for The King’s Speech, I remembered that I had this book and thought it would be perfect to cook from it for Valentine’s Day seeing as how King Edward abdicated the throne for “the woman I love.” And believe it or not, they were married for 35 years, separated only by his death in 1972. Awwww……

And speaking of royalty…the second cookbook I chose to cook from for the chocolate portion of our program was purchased at the Minnesota History Museum after I attended an exhibit about chocolate. And chocolate is tied to royalty as follows: European and English royalty sponsored trips to the New World by explorers and conquistadors and whatnot and these explorers discovered that chocolate was being used by Mexican and Latin American indigenous tribes as currency (and as indicators of wealth) and thought it would be a great idea to bring it back to their own countries. At first people were lukewarm about eating chocolate because it was unsweetened (and only consumed by the very wealthy) but once someone figured out to add sugar to it, it became incredibly popular and now companies all over the world are churning out chocolate in record form to be purchased and given to Valentines today and every day as a sign of love and affection. And again with the awwwww…..

And speaking of awww….this cookbook contained recipes for beverages, appetizers, main dishes and dessert, all of which contained chocolate, but it was the recipe for this Hugs N’ Kisses Torte, made with Hershey’s Kisses, that spoke to me. Who doesn’t love a kiss on Valentine’s Day?!

I’ll eventually get around to seeing the movie (and therefore the events leading up to King George taking the throne) but for now, here are the results of my latest attempts in the kitchen. The chicken was incredibly tender but alas, lacking in flavor so salt and pepper were in order. The torte on the other hand, had lots of flavor, namely sugar. But that is one taste sensation that is fine by me!

Enjoy…and Happy Valentine’s Day…and God Save the Queen. Quite.

Smothered Chicken – approximate yield: 5 to 6 portions
1 large stewing chicken
Salt, pepper
½ cup thin cream (thin cream is basically Half and half)
4 tablespoons chopped celery
½ cup sliced carrots
¾ cup milk (although the recipe doesn’t say, you should use whole milk if at all possible)
1 teaspoon parsley
Sage (The Duchess does not give an amount nor does she say whether to use leaf sage or rubbed sage. You decide.)
Few drops of onion juice

Have chicken disjoined as for frying. Season with salt and pepper and a dash of paprika. Roll in flour and brown quickly in fat, then place in baking dish. Add remaining ingredients. Cover the dish tightly and bake in a hot oven (400F) for about 2 hours or until chicken is tender. When it is done, uncover and brown top. Add more milk while cooking if necessary. Serve from the baking dish.

Chicken may be cooked in the morning, for one hour, placed in the refrigerator, and an hour before dinner returned to oven to finish cooking.

Hugs N’ Kisses Torte – makes 8 servings
1 (8 oz) package Hershey’s kisses, unwrapped
½ C. plus 1/3 C. heavy whipping cream, divided
2 tsp. butter, softened
½ tsp. vanilla
1 (10 ¾ oz.) loaf frozen pound cake, partially thawed
10 Hershey’s Hugs, unwrapped (Note: I’m not sure what these are and a search of Hersey’s website didn’t help. Since they were only garnish, I left them off.)

In a medium saucepan over low heat, place unwrapped Hershey’s kisses and 1/3 cup heavy whipping cream. Cook, stirring frequently, until chocolate is melted and smooth. Remove from heat and stir in butter and vanilla, mixing until butter has completed melted. Transfer mixture to a medium bowl and place in refrigerator until mixture is firm enough to spread, about 1 hour. Meanwhile, slice thawed pound cake horizontally into 3 even layers. Place bottom layer on serving plate and top with 1/3 of the chocolate filling, spreading evenly. Top with second cake layer and spread another 1/3 of the filling over cake layer. Place remaining cake layer on top.

In a medium mixing bowl, beat remaining ½ cup heavy cream at medium high speed until stiff peaks form. Fold in remaining chocolate mixture, mixing gently until well incorporated. Spread mixture over top and sides of cake and place in refrigerator about 6 hours. Garnish top of torte with Hershey’s Hugs chocolate before serving.

Monday, February 7, 2011

"The Tail-Gate Cookbook" - Salt-fried Hamburgers with Cheese Sauce

Date I made this recipe: February 6, 2011 (Super Bowl Sunday)

The Tailgate Cookbook by April Herbert
Published by: Funk & Wagnalls
© 1970
Recipe: Salt-fried hamburgers with Cheese Sauce – p. 21-22

Okay, fair warning: I will get around to talking about today’s recipe but first a word about my (Green Bay) Packers: Woo Hoo!

Okay, I suppose that was really two words but who cares? My boys won Super Bowl 45 (I don’t do Roman numerals) last night against those evil Pittsburgh Steelers. Wow. Double wow!

So of course I watched the game but then again, I didn’t. See if you can follow this logic: I’ve been to Lambeau Field three times in the last couple of years, the last time being this fall against the Detroit Lions. And each time, I go in full battle gear: Cheesehead, green and gold beads, Packer jersey or t-shirt or sweatshirt, depending on the weather. Short of dyeing my hair or painting my face, I am good to go. (By the way, my husband inadvertently wore a “Lion’s blue” (team colors) shirt to the game and was lucky to walk out of Lambeau alive. It was cool enough for him to wear a jacket the entire game and that was a good thing!)

But when it comes to watching the game I get superstitious as does the rest of my family. I used to wear my Cheesehead while watching but then we’d lose the game. And I used to wear my Packers apparel but then we’d lose the game. And so I quit wearing anything Packer-related since I wanted them to win their games, particularly this one.

I also believe, as does my brother, the ultimate Packer fan (and shareholder), that if we watch the entire game on TV, we will jinx them, especially if things aren’t going well for us. Yes, I know, rather odd. On the other hand, we could both argue that it’s nothing more than brilliant strategy on our part. My solution is to flip between one channel and the next during the course of the game; my brother’s solution is to leave the room for a while!

So…the game started out great and my husband, the world’s most reluctant Packers fan there ever was tuned in as well. He never watched sports before marrying me and cannot believe the person I become when I watch the game. (For the record, when you marry a Verme, you marry the Packers. That is just the way it goes. It’s a total 2 for 1 deal).

Anyway, he says I go crazy and I totally disagree. I mean, define crazy? I am just an exuberant fan. I yell at the TV, I armchair coach--is there a Packer fan out there who doesn’t do that? Nope.

Okay, so as I was saying, the game started out great. We got a touchdown and then we intercepted a pass and got another touchdown. FAN-tastic! But then the Steelers came back and got a touchdown right before halftime and Grrrrr. This was not so fantastic.

So the halftime show started and Zzzzzzzz. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Black Eyed Peas but they were not their best and really - was it too much to ask that we just get on with the game already?

The Packers came out to start the 2nd half and got the ball on the kickoff and within minutes, mere minutes, they got three penalties. They looked sloppy, very, very sloppy. And my stomach started to churn. And then the Steelers woke up and started playing better and my stomach really started to churn. And so I told my poor husband that it was time for me to start flipping the channel because to my logic, if I quit watching the game so intently, we would prevail. And people believed it or not the man was peeved—peeved! He was peeved because he didn’t want to watch the game in the first place (because I get “so crazy”) but now he invested all this time and effort only to have me flip a station to channel 10 so I can watch a rerun of The Closer, one of our favorite shows and then flip back again. There’s no satisfying some people.

Anyway, if you ask me, the Packers should be damned glad that I did that. I watched The Closer for a few minutes and then flipped back to the game. “Well this is much better” thought I, as the Packers got another touchdown. So back I went to The Closer. But then I flipped back again and again and ouch—things were not so hot. And so I got myself into a “to watch or not to watch” conundrum (that is the question) and was just totally undecided about what to do and what to watch and oh….did I mention that I went and poured my first martini? (Talk about being thrown off one’s game!)

By this time, I was giving the “Last” button on my remote a workout. And now Pittsburgh was closing in and the score was 25 to 31. Holy crap! Time for more gin!! And then I flipped back to the game Pittsburg had the ball…and so I flipped back again and again and damn it—Pittsburg still had the freaking ball and the clock is ticking down to the 2 minute warning…and then it’s a minute something. I could hardly stand it. Never has a minute seemed so long! I started welling up and praying (as Packer fans do) “Oh Lord, please. Pleeeeeeeeeeeease.” And apparently God heard my plea because the heavens opened up their quarterback threw an incomplete pass that landed in Tramon William’s hands (he’s a Packer) and voila! We got the ball back with about 30 seconds to go in the game and….Victory!!! (For the record, I do know their quarterback’s name but the spelling is hard and he is with the enemy so what do I care? I call him something else anyway…and it’s not nice so I won’t print it.)

And there was much rejoicing and rejoicing and rejoicing! Wow. Super Bowl champions! I love it!

As to the meal, this was an absolute no-brainer. Last year, a friend gave me a used copy of today’s book – The Tailgate Book. I must say that I know that tailgating menus have ramped up a bit but honestly—cold cucumber soup at a tailgate party? Beef Bourguignon at a tailgate party? Peaches with mincemeat at a tailgate party? It just seems so…well, let’s say it’s not likely on a tailgate menu in Green Bay, home of beer and brats and cheese.

And so, the winner of the Green Bay Packer indoor tailgate party was…burgers with cheese sauce! These were easy to make and fun to eat. And my husband, the world’s most reluctant Packer fan, inadvertently cemented this dish in the Packer (tailgate) Hall of Fame by adding green pickle relish to the top of his cheese. It was so pretty with that green and gold and I teased him that he really was a true fan after all because I sure didn’t think to add the relish! He says “not” and has already asked me when the season starts up again (“Duh honey – August”) but not out of interest, oh no—he’s dreading the start already! On the other hand, I cannot wait. In the meantime, I am basking in the glory of that win, an absolute bright spot in an otherwise cold and grim February (as was my green and gold burger.)

Life is good.

Salt-fried hamburgers - serves 4
1-2 tsp regular salt or garlic salt
1 pound ground beef or hamburger

Sprinkle 1-2 tsp salt in frying pan, and place on very high heat until salt begins to brown. Add 4 large hamburger patties, and sear on both sides; lower heat and cook to desired doneness. Add cheese sauce.

Cheese sauce – serves 4
1 ½ Tbs. butter
1 Tb. Flour
½ cup milk
Dash garlic salt, pepper and Worcestershire sauce
4 oz. cheddar cheese, slivered

Melt the butter over very low heat. Add flour and then milk (add the milk gradually) and then the spices (garlic salt, pepper and Worcestershire). Add cheese, stirring constantly and remove from heat as soon as cheese is melted. Serve immediately. (You should start making the cheese sauce while your burgers are cooking).