Sunday, October 30, 2011

On the Move: From Waterfront to Inland - Spring 1974

Sadly we had to leave our Haycock Point residence due to the house being sold. Marc and I decided to find a home to buy. The properties in Branford were too costly so we ventured inland. We found a home we loved, a Cape Cod style sitting on acreage in Bethany Connecticut. At the time the house was not for sale, but it had a lease option to buy. We decided to take the lease option.

The kids loved the big yard. A riding mower was a must which we found one in the small garage under the house. The boys were excited to be able to use it to mow our large yard.
We had a row of Lilac trees - my most favored flower. I used them when in season for various events.

For me the kitchen was the best, close to being a commercial kitchen without the commercial stove, ha, ha. It had high ceilings where we hung pots and pans and plants, it was so homey. It also had room for a kitchen eating area. The dining room was for special occasions and homework. At times all 7 children would sit and do their homework with a lot of squabbles, needless to say.

Marc bought me a butcher block table to put in the middle of the kitchen and I was ready to do more teaching. I also did what is now called “The Chef at Home.”  I would prepare an entrée for my client and write out the instructions on how to heat or finish cooking the dish. I would then deliver the entrée to the client’s house and voila, the host or hostess finished it when needed. This was favored by a lot of my clients in the Woodbridge, Bethany area. I made some great friends who are still in contact with me or me with them. It never ceases to amaze me how food is a bond for family and friends. Entertaining was big in those days.

New York City was still a big part of the year 73/74. I became a consultant for restaurants like Maxwell Plum. Whenever the Chef created a new entree I was his taster before he presented the entrée to the owner, Le Roy. This was a fun job. I also did test cooking for the magazine: “Pleasure of Cooking”. The magazine was published by Cusinart in Greenwich Connecticut.

Marc and I also liked to entertain. One of our guests’ favorite dinners was when I made Shrimp with Grapes in a Curry sauce. My menu went like this:

A clear soup - like chicken broth with Madera wine served in a champagne glass (low rimmed). The entrée was served with a rice pilaf, a salad always after the entrée, dessert.  

I have to say that my children knew when to pitch in. One night I woke up to noise from my kitchen and discovered my son Steven chopping carrots, celery and other vegetables, mind you it was 2 a.m. He knew I needed all that for a stock I was going to cook the next morning. Boy I was so teary eyed and grateful to that boy.  He was all but 11 years old.

In a later blog I will enlighten you on some of my other children who became my support
system. I could never have done what I have done without the help and support of my children as well as Marc my husband. Here is my Curried Shrimp and Grape recipe.

Curried Shrimp with Grapes

6 to 8 large shrimp per person, peeled, cleaned and tail removed
1 to 2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 shallots or 1 sweet small onion
2 tablespoons curry powder, or to taste
1 cup chicken broth or fish stock
1 to 2 cups heavy cream (room temperature)
½ to 1 pound green seedless grapes, removed from stem and washed

Clean and rinse shrimp, drain. In a heavy frying pan melt the butter with the olive oil, on medium heat. Add the curry powder and stir for about 1 minute on low heat.Add the shallots and saute for about 2 minutes do not brown. Turn heat to medium low and add the shrimp, sauté quickly about 1 to 2 minutes – do not overcook.

Remove shrimp from pan and save in a bowl, keep warm. Add the stock and scrape the curry of the sides and bottom of the pan, and simmer for about 7 to 10 minutes on medium low heat.

Add the heavy cream mixed with 1 tablespoon of the hot broth slowly into the pan with the broth on low heat and simmer for about 5 minutes until sauce thickens slightly. Add the grapes cook for 1 minute re-add the shrimp and heat through. Serve

Makes 4 to 6 servings
Rice Pilaf or Couscous is great with this entrée; a Gewürztraminer will compliment this curry dish. Bon Appetite

Note:  You can prepare everything ahead up to an hour except adding the grapes and shrimp the last minute before serving.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

How a career in the Food & Hospitality Industry Evolved!

New York City 1973.
In the back of my mind I always wanted to own a “Soup Restaurant.” Once settled in Connecticut, I ventured to New York City. On one of these excursions my friend Ingrid met me and my Father, yes he was visiting from Germany, at a Soup Restaurant called La Potagerie, the creation of Jacque Pepin. The restaurant was hopping and the soups were very tasty. I made it a point to meet one of the owners who doubled as a host. On a later date I met Pepin as well.

New York City became very instrumental in how my career in the food and hospitality industry evolved. As a cooking teacher I read everything I could about cooking. One evening I was on the train back to New Haven from New York reading the Cosmopolitan magazine. The gentleman sitting next to me asked, “Why do you read that magazine?”

My prompt answer was, “Would you believe for the food section?” I followed up by saying, “I read every magazine for the food section first.” He than asked me a lot of questions about recipes and cooking. As it turned out, he was the publisher for Glamour Magazine, a Conde Nast publication.  I was invited to visit the magazine. I took him up on the invitation and met some great people at Conde Nast.

The Glamour magazine’s food section was in need of improvement. Ralph gave me some recipes to test cook, which I did and the Editor in Chief at the time was not a happy camper.

I would have loved to cook in the Vogue magazine kitchen which was the best in the building, but it was not to be.

When Estee Lauder launched the fragrance Aliage I did the catering at Glamour magazine. The kitchen was so small it was a good thing I did the prep the day before.

I made my Ham & Cheese au Croute. (The recipe will follow) The food was praised as well as the whole set up for the event. The party went on and on and I knew Ralph wanted it to end so I did what my Mother used to do when she wanted our guests to leave - she opened all the windows. Of course at Glamour that was more difficult.  For extra emphasis, I then took a broom and started to sweep.  It worked - the guests got the message. It also worked for me. This was a fun event and to this day Aliage is still my favored fragrance.

Because of the success at this event I was asked to cater a dinner at Mr.  & Mrs. Newhouse Sr., on Park Avenue. How much fun! I was looking forward to that, and was not disappointed to work in such an impressive environment. Going food shopping with Mitzi in a limousine was an experience by itself.

Of course other high powered parties followed this one in New York City, Connecticut and later in California. More about that some other time.

Ham and Cheese au Croute

Preheat oven to 350*

2 ½ cups flour
3 cups cottage cheese (very dry)
1 ½ to 2 sticks unsalted butter (cold)
1 ½ lb lean ham (cubed)
1 to 1 ½ lb Gruyere or very good Wisconsin Swiss cheese (cubed)
1 egg yolk
1/4 teaspoon water

Measure the flour into a deep bowl add the cottage cheese. (If you can’t find dry cottage cheese take a clean kitchen towel and squeeze the cheese until dry. Cut the butter into small pieces and add to the cottage cheese flour mixture. Combine all ingredients with your hands in about 2/3 minutes. Form a ball, place on a plate and cover with saran wrap and refrigerate overnight or at least for 6 hours.

When ready to bake, butter a 2 quart to 3 quart Pyrex pan; roll out the dough on a pastry sheet or on foil paper dusted with flour, also dust your rolling pin with flour. (The dough is very sticky). Transfer to the Pyrex pan peel of the pastry sheet.  Thee dough needs to overlap the pan on all sides.

Fill with the cubed ham and cheese. Cover with the overlapped dough, clean the edges with a sharp knife and make 1- inch strips from the left over dough. Cover the dish with the strips crossway about ½ inches apart. Brush the top with egg yolk mixed with the water and bake for 35 to 45 minutes until top is lightly browned and cheese is melted.

Note: You can finish the dish the day before, cover and refrigerate. When ready to serve make sure you take it out of the refrigerator at least 30 minutes before baking.

The Pyrex dish can not go very cold into a hot oven.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

A nice salad and a crisp wine make this a great party dish.