Thanksgiving with POTUS and FLOTUS....

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President 44: Obama

Here we are at the end of our almost year-long journey of squirrel soups, pickled eggs, corned beef, and butter cakes. The palates on Pennsylvania Avenue have been as varied as ours Presidents. Thankfully, we have finally moved past our Colonial obsession with French cuisine to embrace our own American epicurean identity. The Obamas have been the crowning example of this movement.  Sick from the toxic election stew we must continue to slurp down for a couple more days, let’s have one last wholesome meal with the First Family. From next Tuesday on, who knows what will be on the menu.

Though the President has been seen eating pizza, drinking brews, and having the occasional cig, it has been the First Lady’s dedication to a healthy lifestyle that has been the center of the Obama White House culinary legacy.  Her “Let’s Move” initiative, an effort to get kids up and exercising, and the buzz around her thriving White House kitchen garden, have put a refreshing focus on nutritious eating.  The garden has boasted amazing seasonal harvests and includes the first White House beehive, which is home to 70,000 bees. The Obamas give the sweet stuff away to guests and the President even home-brewed a White House Honey Ale with it. When it comes to family meals, the Obamas enjoy salmon and steak with a host of fresh veggies (broccoli is a favorite).  The President’s 2009 inaugural dinner was inspired by Lincoln; a pheasant and duck served with sour cherry chutney. Mario Batali cooked up the last official White House dinner a couple of weeks ago, with beef braciole taking center stage and butternut squash ravioli also making an appearance. For a healthy snack, the President grabs trail mix or nuts. The girls enjoy sushi and the First Lady has a weakness for fries but a dedication to avoiding them. 

For this final installment, I have put together some favorite Presidential fall sides to enjoy with your family. I want to give a big thanks to the team at the Library of Congress (especially Miss Connie Carter) for their help and a big thanks to you, the reader, for cooking alongside me. For those interested in pursuing their own culinary time travel, the LOC has remarkable collections of 19th and 20th century books, magazines, newspapers, and prints which are publically accessible and well worth a look.  The Library’s 9-page Presidential Food: Selected Resource Guide (which is available online) started me rolling, and its knowledgeable culinary historians provided the fuel.   I will continue adding Presidential recipes to my site, www.thecurioustastebud .com, including the favorite dish of the victorious candidate. God Bless the Belly and God Bless the United States of America.

The Obama’s Fall Feast

Fall harvests make for the best time of spreads. Here are some of the Obama family’s favorite sides: roasted sweet potatoes and collard greens. They are adapted from American Grown:  The Story of the White House Kitchen Garden and Gardens Across America Hardcover ,” by Michelle Obama . Her version uses a smoked turkey leg rather than the traditional ham hock. I prefer bacon, though it adds a bit of fat. My changes are in italics. I have found they are best served with a pork loin (which is easy to throw in the slow cooker).

First Lady Collard Greens

My changes are noted in italics

Ingredients

·         4 slices bacon, chopped,

·         1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

·         1 medium onion, finely chopped

·         6-8 cups veggie stock

·         6 cloves garlic, minced

·         2 bunches collard greens, well washed, large ribs removed, torn into bite-size pieces

·         Salt and freshly ground black pepper

·         Hot sauce, for serving

·         Apple cider vinegar, for serving

Directions

·         In a large pot over medium-high heat, add chopped bacon and stir over medium/high heat. There should be enough fat in the bacon, but if not, add a drizzle of olive oil.

·         When the bacon is crispy, remove from the pot and set aside. Keep fat in the pot.

·         Add the chopped onion and garlic and cook until translucent, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the collard greens and 6 cups veggie stock and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and cook for about 40 minutes, uncovered, stirring occasionally. If you need more stock, add when the 6 cups have cooked down.

·         Season with salt and pepper.

·         Serve with your favorite hot sauce and a splash of apple cider vinegar.

Easy Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Goat Cheese

·         2 medium sweet potatoes

·         2 glugs olive oil

·         Salt and pepper to taste

·         2 spring rosemary, chopped

·         2 Tbsp soft goat cheese

Directions

·         Preheat the oven to 400F

·         Peel and chop sweet potatoes into bite sized pieces

·         Toss potatoes in olive oil, cinnamon and rosemary

·         Place in roasting pan and put in oven for 45 mins, turning once.

·         Add goat cheese to top and return to oven for 5 minutes.

 

George W. Bush Cheeseburger Pizza.. Yuck

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President 43: George W. Bush

January 20, 2001 – January 20, 2009

There is one food companion so loyal; it is there with us late at night and still there in the morning. It is pizza and we love it so much that across the country Americans consume an average of 350 slices per second. From Hawaiian to meat lovers, there are plenty of topping options, but President Bush said why stop there? Behold a child’s dream and a Neapolitan nightmare: the cheeseburger pizza. It comes complete with mustard, ketchup, and pickles. Cristeta Comerford, a White House chef since 2005, told reporters about the questionable combo during his tenure. “For dinner, the President loves what we call home-made ‘cheeseburger pizzas’ because every ingredient of a cheeseburger is on top of a margherita pizza.” This bizarrely constructed hodge podge of a pie has made huge inroads. Most Pizza chains now have one on the menu and many of them are the most calorific selection. The Bacon BBQ Cheeseburger pizza from Pizza Hut weighs in at 650 calories a slice.  In the same breath, Comerford also noted the Presidents dedication to working out. A slice a day does not keep the doctor away. 

The Bush family started with the Clinton’s White House Chef, Walter Scheib. The chef was known for sophisticated and rather complex cuisine. After some stylistic disagreements, he was replaced. “If you had a grilled cheese, a peanut butter and honey, and a BLT,” Scheib told reporters, “pretty much you’ll cover the culinary universe as far as [President Bush] is concerned.” There was also the issue of the scallops. The First Lady was not a fan and the more they appeared on the table, the less she enjoyed them. What she did enjoy was fresh American produce, with beets being a favorite. She also loved fresh pea soup with mint. The family was no fuss to feed, happy with comfort staples and repeat favorites. 

Unsurprisingly, the Bush family also was (and still are) great fans of Tex-Mex; the spicier the better.  Huevos Rancheros were a particular weekend favorite which made the table most Sundays after church. Their first state dinner was appropriately given for Vicente Fox, President of Mexico. Crab and chorizo, followed by a pepita crusted bison gave both families familiar flavors they enjoyed. For snacking, it was tex-mex chex, a twist on the classic that the family created at the Texas Governor’s mansion. With hot sauce, cumin, and Worcestershire sauce, handfuls of it are quick to disappear. 

I had planned on doing Tex-Mex but this dish was too bizarre to ignore. I have included the White House pizza dough recipe and simple instructions for the assembly thereafter.  I have enjoyed more pizza than the average bear, but I think I would give this one up for President Garfield’s squirrel soup or Fillmore’s pickled eggs. You have to try everything once.

If you are in DC October 29th:  Please join “Soulfood Scholar” Adrian Miller and I on the morning of October 29th as we share recipes and explore the legacy of African American White House chefs at the Smithsonian Food History Weekend. A complete guide to the presentations and events can be found here.

George Bush’s Cheeseburger Pizza

Dough recipe from: White House Chef by Walter Scheib and Andrew Friedman

Pizza Dough

  • ½ cup plus 2 Tbsp warm water
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tspactive dry yeast (not quick-rising)
  • ¼ tsp honey
  • 1 ½ cups bread flour
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt 
  • Cornmeal to dust the pizza stone

Toppings

  • 4 Tbsp. crushed tomatoes
  • 3 ounces mozzarella
  • 5 basil leaves, torn
  • 3 strips bacon, cooked till crispy then crumbled
  • ½ lb. ground beef, browned
  • 1 large pickle, sliced
  • Sprinkle of catchup and mustard
  • 1 ½ ounce shredded cheddar, optional

Put a pizza stone on the center rack in the oven. (If you don’t have a pizza stone, use an inverted 12 inch cast iron pan that’s been greased with olive oil). Preheat oven to 450F

Put 2 Tbsp. of the water, the flour, yeast, and honey in a stainless steel bowl. Stir together, cover with plastic wrap, and let stand in a warm place until doubled in size (20 minutes).

Add the bread flour, oil, salt and remaining ½ cup water, stir together, cover, and let it double again (20 minutes.)

Knead the dough a bit to get any air out. Roll out the pizza dough on a heavily floured surface until ½ inch thick. Let sit for 15 mins. before baking. 

Top the dough with crushed tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil.

Bake for 12 mins. Add bacon, beef, pickles, and additional cheddar (if desired). Return to oven for additional 3 mins. 

Dress with ketchup and mustard. Serve.

Posted on October 25, 2016 and filed under main event, time travel, pizza.

It's Tea Time

Sweet Melissa's Orange Blossom and Honey Scones

  • 1 cup self-raising flower

  • 1 tsp baking powder

  • 2 oz butter

  • 1 large egg

  • 2 tbsp whole milk

  • 1 tsp orange flower water

  • 1 generous tbsp honey

 

  1. Preheat oven to 200/395F C
  2. Sift the flour and baking powder together and rub in the butter until it resembles breadcrumbs.
  3. Beat the egg, orange blossom water, honey and milk together with a pinch of salt and pour into the flour mixture - it may be a little dry so add a dash or so of milk.
  4. Combine until you have a smooth but fairly dry dough.
  5. Turn out onto a floured surface and press flat until a good inch thick.
  6. Using the rim of a glass cut out the scones and put them flour-side up on a prepared baking sheet.
  7. Brush the tops with a little milk and place in the oven for 10-15 minutes (I find they are done much closer to 10 than 15, but you could have a slow oven).
  8. Turn out onto a cooling rack and serve cold with clotted cream and cherry jam.
Posted on September 28, 2016 and filed under baked sweets, brunch, dessert, snacks, world travel.