Sunday, January 27, 2013

2013 Inauguration Dinners in two parts: "The White House Chef Cookbook" & "Secrets of the White House Kitchens"

Date I made these recipes:  January 21, 2013 – Inauguration Day

The White House Chef Cookbook by Rene Verdon
Published by:  Doubleday & Company, Inc.
© 1967
Recipe:  Shrimp Napoli – p. 102

Secrets from the White House Kitchens – A Celebration of Foods Enjoyed at The White House & the People Who Lived There by John R. Hanny
Published by:  LaMarque Publications
ISBN:  978-0-9829293-0-8
Recipe:  Turkey Hash – p. 32

You would think that after what appeared to be the longest election cycle ever for the office of President of the United States, that I would then keep track of the Inauguration, right?  Wrong.  I am ashamed to say I almost blew it and that would have been sad because I’d have to wait four more years to get to use my two White House cookbooks.

Let me set the stage:  the week before the Inauguration, I attended a Continuing Legal Education Class (CLE) on the topic of how corporate counsel (i.e. lead attorney for the company) should deal with social media in the workplace.  The class was one hour long but it could be one minute and I’d still be chaffing at the bit to get out of there.  I liken these classes to detention:  you sit and doodle and crack your gum and hum a few tunes then after an hour, the principal lets you go home or at least out to play with all your friends.  Sadly, all attorneys everywhere are required to take a certain number of credit hours within a specified period (in Minnesota, it’s 45 hours in 3 years) and so off I went to do my time.

Although the topic sounded interesting (some don’t sound interesting at all and those are the ones to avoid), our class did not get off to a good start.  The moderator introduced four panelists, two of whom work on employment law issues involving the use of social media at work by employees and two worked on corporate website use and issues (also involving social media).  The moderator said that questions were encouraged and by God, right out of the gate, a fellow class attendee, let’s call her “Wanda,” shot her hand in the air and we were off and running.  Wanda was an older lady (you can be older than dirt but if you are still practicing law, you need the credit hours) and I think Wanda was confused about the topic and therefore in the wrong room.  Her first question to the panel was really a statement:  “Don’t employees know that their employment is at-will (i.e. at the will of the employer)?”

Huh?  Wanda, dear, you know this is a class about SOCIAL MEDIA, right?  So what the heck does at-will employment have to do with social media?  (Answer:  nothing).  The panel looked stunned.  Wanda asked her question again.  The moderator said “Would anyone like to take a stab at the question?”  One panelist replied “I’m not sure I understand the question.”  (She was not alone there!).  Wanda said “Employment is at-will, right?”  “Ye…essssss????,” said our still-confused panelist.

Apparently, that was all Wanda wanted to know because she appeared to be satisfied with that answer.  Sadly though, this was not the last we heard from Wanda.  Question two was another brain-bender:  “Why are people using social media at work?  Don’t they know they are supposed to be working?”  Wanda, don’t let anyone tell you that you are not the sharpest tool in the shed because you are.  I’m here to tell you.

Actually, what I wanted to do was throw something at Wanda.  She must have asked at least six more questions in that hour’s time, none of them related to the topic at hand.  Now, I want to tell you that the rush to the exit at these CLE’s is usually pretty strong  but this time around, when that hour was up we had ourselves a stampede!  (And I had myself one credit toward my total but sheesh, what I had to put up with!).

You’re probably wondering what the heck this has to do with anything (kind of like Wanda’s questions) and so I’ll tell you.  I got very bored and brought out my calendar, thinking, as I am wont to do, of what to make that weekend and to see if there were any “themes” I could use.  So I flipped through it and saw that we were approaching Valentine’s Day and Groundhog’s Day and….Martin Luther King’s Birthday.

And this is how I remembered that Obama’s Inauguration was being held on MLK’s birthday this year – ta da!!!  So thank you, Wanda, for allowing me to become so tired of you that I checked my calendar and got today’s theme, Inauguration food, using two of my White House cookbooks.

Let’s start our White House tour with the first book I pulled off the shelf:  The White House Chef Cookbook by Rene Verdon, chef to the Kennedy family who also spent some years cooking for LBJ as well.  Some of you will recall that Jackie Kennedy was very fond of France and French cooking and when she and Jack moved into the place, it was French food, all day, every day.  Actually, while the cookbook is loaded with French food, there are a fair number of recipes from other cultures represented that seemed to have snuck in there – Mon Dieu!

This cookbook was loaded with so many potentially good recipes that it took me a while to choose something.  I finally decided that Shrimp Napoli was what I was looking for and my husband concurred.  But I still had to find a recipe from the second White House book on my list:  Secrets from the White House Kitchens.

This book, written by food consultant to the presidents, John R. Hanny, starts with recipes from FDR’s administration and ends with a few from the Obama 1 administration (Obama 2’s administration started today – January 21, 2013).  As a history fan, I greatly enjoyed seeing food trends and so allow me to give you a sample of recipes from each administration:

FDR (Franklin Delano Roosevelt) – Martha Washington’s Crab Soup; Scotch Broth; Oyster-Stuffed Chicken and the recipe that I made – Turkey Hash
Harry Truman – Macaroni and Cheese; Tuna and Noodle Casserole (; meat loaf and I need to make this some day – Grape and Lemon Jell-O Mold
Dwight D. Eisenhower – Quail Hash; Chipped Beef in Mushroom Sauce (the proverbial and often hated Army dinner); Gettysburg Beef Stew and Brownies
JFK (John Fitzgerald Kennedy) – Pate of Duck; Consomme Julienne; Cod Chowder; Veal Chausser; Boston Baked Beans
LBJ (Lyndon Baines Johnson) – Broiled Doves; Pedernales River Chili; Roasted Suckling Pig; Pork and Corn Bread Ring; Chess Pie
Richard M. Nixon – Crab Meat in Canape Shells; Pompano (fish) en Papillote (Paper Bag); Sweetsbreads en Brochette; Herbed Cottage Cheese Salad
Gerald R. Ford – French Fried Deviled Eggs; Lobster Thermidor; Ruby Red Grapefruit Chicken; Indian Pudding
Jimmy Carter – Mexican Menudo Soup; Deviled Pig’s Feet; Sweet and Sour Meatballs; Hush Puppies; Seafood Salad
Ronald Regan – Hamburger Soup; Osso Bucco; Roast Beef Hash; Paella a la Valenciana; Crème Anglaise au Kirsch
George Herbert Walker Bush – Roast Pheasant with Brandy and Cream; Sherried Quail Casserole; Onion and Cheese Pie; White House Muffins
Bill Clinton – Shrimp Fried Rice; Lobster Figaro; Cheese and Chili Burgers; Pizza Sandwich; Candied Baked Apples
George W. Bush – Baked Potato Soup; Pressed Duck; Boston Codfish Balls; Cowboy Cookies
Barack Obama – Cheese Puffs; Guacamole; Chicken Soup with Avgolemono Sauce; Roast Pork with Dumplings and Sour Cabbage (and not one danged dessert)

Some observations:  FDR came from a wealthy family and yet his fare, along with Harry Truman’s and Dwight Eisenhower’s is pretty conventional.  That might be due in part to them having survived the Great Depression. Eisenhower’s food was pretty no-nonsense and one would expect that from a Five-Star General who spent a vast majority of his adult life engaged in battle. (Since I love history, I just had to Wiki Eisenhower and then five-star general and it’s fascinating.  Check it out!)

As you would expect with a French chef in the White House, JFK’s was a lot fancier and yet he also added a lot of simple (and beloved) recipes from his home state of Massachusetts.  LBJ seemed to stay true to his Texas roots but Richard Nixon started ramping it up a bit on the fancy food side as did Gerald Ford; we started seeing a lot more lobster dishes on the menu after Nixon took office.

Carter’s food was a mix of regional and “fancy,” as was Regan’s although I have to tell you that the first recipe on the list for Regan, Hamburger Soup, surprised me.  I did not see that coming.  I might have made the Hamburger Soup if not for one thing:  hominy.  I’ve eaten it and don’t like it and if I don’t like it, I will not make it.  At any rate, this recipe was pretty simple fare for a president who gave many people the impression that he and Nancy were living the high life in the White House.  Some of you may recall the White House china “scandal” that erupted when Nancy Regan decided to swap out the White House china with a new pattern of her own.  Apparently this china was paid for by private contributions but that hardly helped the public relations team dealing with the outcry.

By the time we got to the last four presidents, Bush I and II, Clinton and Obama, we saw a lot more personal favorites and a lot more regional food on the menu, perhaps because each president felt more comfortable asking for this food than his predecessor.  Today’s White House chefs also have a much larger culinary repertoire than before to appeal to the tastes of the First Family as well as visiting dignitaries.   My impression of the White House chef of old was that he (now a “she” by the way) was not someone to be messed with but today’s presidents (in actuality, the First Ladies do the majority of the menu planning - still) want what they want when they want it and so they get it.  Did you want to be the one to say no to former President Bill Clinton when he asked for a Tabasco Burger?  I didn’t think so!

So as to today’s recipe selections, once I set my mind on the Shrimp Napoli, then I needed to find something from the Secrets from the White House Kitchens book and that was no easy task.  As I said to my husband, “We’re going to have a hard time pairing something with the shrimp,” and I was right.  Just when I decided the heck with it, just make two completely different dishes, we reviewed the book one more time and Andy suggested the hash and it was a great idea.  Both recipes were similar in nature (one had shrimp, one had turkey), the preparation was about the same, the texture was about the same and neither had spices that would clash with the other.  Perfect!  We enjoyed these recipes and you will, too.

Shrimp Napoli (4 to 6 servings)
6 tablespoons of butter
3 tablespoon olive oil
½ cup chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1 ½ cups raw rice
¾ cup white wine
2 ½ cups boiling Chicken Broth (this book contains the recipe for chicken broth but I used stuff I had on hand and just heated it until it…boiled!)
1 pound raw shrimp, shelled and deveined
1 ½ teaspoons salt
Pepper to taste
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Heat 4 tablespoons of butter and the oil in a heavy casserole.  Add the onion and cook until shiny.  Add the garlic and the rice and cook till the rice just starts to take on color.  Add wine and cook over medium heat until wine is absorbed.

Add one-half of the broth and cover.  Cook gently for 15 minutes without stirring.  Add the shrimp, salt, pepper, cayenne, pepper and remaining broth.  Stir lightly with a fork.  Cover.  Simmer until rice is tender.  Stir in cheese and remaining butter.  Serve immediately.

Turkey Hash – serves 6 (Author’s note:  Good recipe for Thanksgiving leftovers)
3 cups diced cooked turkey
4 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
½ cup heavy cream (Ann’s Note:  use 1 cup – I’ll tell you why below)
½ cup soft bread crumbs
½ cup chopped green pepper
½ cup chopped onion
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
½ teaspoon ground sage
½ teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in the saucepan, blend in flour and cream and stir until thickened.  (As I noted above, you’ll want to use a full cup of cream.  When I added the ½ cup the recipe called for, the cream was absorbed immediately into the flour and started to ball up—which is fine if you are making cream puffs, but not so fine if you are making a sauce.  The additional ½ cup of cream will give you the sauce you are looking for.)

Add the turkey and all other ingredients except the remaining butter.  Melt the 2 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet and add the turkey mixture.  Saute uncovered for 25 minutes.  If desired, brown the top of the hash under the broiler before serving.

Ann’s Note:  What you end up with is more like a Thanksgiving stuffing than a hash but that’s okay, it’s the taste that counts.

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