Years ago my aunt Geri put together a cookbook of family recipes and made copies for each wing of the family. Though the recipes are sometimes rough (how much is a handful of flour?) and occasionally flawed (isn't this supposed to have milk in it?), we all cherish the book and use it often, especially at holidays. This past Easter I cracked it open to use my great-grandmother's recipe for Welsh cookies, strange things that are actually more like currant-filled griddle cakes. One by one, each aunt came into the kitchen and “helped out” with her explanation as to why my cookies ... well ... sucked compared to Grandma Rhea's. (Cooking is a competetive sport in my family and we play rough.) To her credit though, my mom might have thought my cookies were too small, too dense, or too dry but she alone kept quiet on the subject and for that I toast her today. I only hope someday I have kids to ruin Welsh cookies for me while I bite my tongue.
So in this great spirit of family tradition, or rather a kinder, gentler spirit, I asked several local chefs and restaurant owners to contribute recipes that meant something to them and their moms. I'd give you the recipe for Welsh cookies but then I'd have to come over to your place and criticize you the whole time. ...
Smoked Turkey Sandwiches with Havarti, Apple Butter and Fennel from Johnny Orr of Relish
Orr's mom provided the inspiration for this unusual turkey sandwich. When Chef Orr was putting together his menu she recalled a little place in Iowa where she had eaten a similar sandwich. Orr switched the bread from baguette to honey wheat slices and added the shaved fennel and green apple for crunch. At Relish he uses a mandoline to slice the fennel wafer-thin but a sharp chef's knife can come reasonably close.
Makes 4 large or 16 small sandwiches
8 pieces wheat berry sandwich bread
1 batch apple butter (recipe follows)
1/2 pound smoked turkey breast, sliced
4 large but thin slices Havarti cheese
1 bulb fennel, shaved or thinly sliced
1 tart green apple, peeled, cored, seeded and thinly sliced
1) Toast the bread, if desired and spread one side of each piece with apple butter. Layer other ingredients evenly and top with second piece of bread.
2) To serve at a buffet, cut into quarters or use petit four cutters to make attractively-shaped mini-sandwiches.
Deviled Eggs from Kelly Burton and Jennifer James of Graze
Jennifer says she was interested in cooking from a very early age. She would often hang out in the kitchen and ask her mother to show her how to cook whatever she was making, like these deviled eggs. A favorite of Burton mère et filles, the eggs are a tradition on the holiday table. Back when Jennifer first learned to make these eggs her impulse was to top them with chocolate chips. Nowadays she and Kelly prefer jalapeño relish.
Makes 24 deviled egg halves
1 dozen large eggs
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 pinch freshly ground black pepper
1) In a large pot, arrange eggs in a single layer and pour over them enough cold water to cover by 1 inch. Cover the pot and bring water to a boil. When it reaches a boil, turn off the pot and let the pot stand for 15-17 minutes. The hot water should cook them through.
2) Drain completely and cover with ice water until eggs are completely cooled.
3) Peel and halve eggs. Pop yolks out of whites and into a mixing bowl. Using a large fork, mash yolks together with mayonnaise and mustard. Add salt and pepper to taste.
4) Spoon yolk mixture into whites and top with whatever you like.
Guiso Pork Chops from Tony Nethery of Monte Vista Fire Station
This is how Tony Nethery's mom makes slow-cooked pork chops. It's one of this young chef's top three favorite dishes from his mom's repertoire. Nethery's mom served this with mashed potatoes or white rice, zucchini and yellow squash. No matter what vegetable you choose, Tony suggests going with mashed potatoes.
Serves 4-6 as a main course, more as part of a buffet
1/2 medium red onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
4-6 pork chops
1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 green bell pepper or poblano, seeded and diced
1 celery stalk, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 Roma tomato, cored and diced
1 (16-ounce) can plum tomatoes
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 cups water
1) In a very large, deep frying pan or Dutch oven set over low to medium heat, sauté onions and garlic until they become fragrant.
2) Add pork chops and sear until browned on each side but not cooked through. If the pork chops are big and the pan is small you will need to work in batches.
3) Add peppers, celery, carrot and fresh tomato; cook for about 5 minutes.
4) Add canned tomatoes, cumin, salt, pepper and just enough water to barely cover pork chops. Bring mixture to a boil, cover and bake for 1 to 1 1/2 hours at 350° F. The meat should be so tender you can cut it with a fork.
If you don't have whole spices you can substitute 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves and 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice. Don't substitute dried rosemary if you don't have fresh, just leave it out.
Makes 2 cups
4 1/2 pounds tart green apples, peeled, cored and chopped
3 cups apple cider or juice
2 cups sugar
1/2 stick cinnamon
3 whole cloves
3 allspice berries
2-inch sprig fresh rosemary
1) In a large stockpot over medium heat, combine the apples, cider and sugar.
2) Using the wide, flat blade of a chef's knife, crush the cinnamon stick, cloves and allspice berries. Wrap spices in cheese cloth or secure in a metal tea ball. Add to the apple pot. Cook until apples are very tender, about 15 minutes.
3) Remove spice packet from the apple pot. Push apples through a food mill or purée in a blender or food processor, adding cooking liquid as necessary.
4) Return purée to the empty apple pot and cook over medium until mixture is reduced and darkened, about half an hour.
Curried Chicken from Trong Nguyen of Café Da Lat
The Nguyen family is originally from the northern part of Vietnam but they were forced by the war to move repeatedly, each time farther and farther south. The youngest of 10, Trong was born in South Vietnam, near Nha Trang, a seaside town known for its beautiful white sand beaches. Curried dishes are popular in the south where, unlike Indian or Thai curries, they tend to be more aromatic than outright hot. Serve this dish over rice, rice vermicelli or stuffed inside a French roll.
Serves 2 as a meal or 4 as an appetizer
1/2 pound beef or chicken, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon oyster sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried Madras curry powder
1 tablespoon corn oil
1/2 onion, sliced
1 stalk celery, sliced
1/2 cup water
Green onions, for garnish
1) While you chop vegetables (or for 15-30 minutes), marinate meat in garlic, sesame oil, oyster sauce, sugar, salt, pepper and curry powder.
2) Add corn oil to a wok over high heat. Stir-fry onions for 30 seconds. Add meat and marinade; fry for another 1 1/2 minutes. Add celery and water; continue frying until meat is cooked through. Garnish with green onions.