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
· 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
· 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
· 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.