We love to entertain but one of my favorite occasions is Mother’s Day Brunch with the ladies. It’s a wonderful time to bring together all of our friends who don’t have another Mother’s Day engagement and treat them to a special day.
This year’s menu was tons of fun to create and prepare, including a few brunch appetizers around our kitchen butcher block to allow it to warm up a bit before enjoying some beautiful spring sunshine on the deck.
Mother’s Day Menu
Brie and Chevre cheeses with pumpernickel bread
Norwegian Gjetost cheese
Asiago bagels with salsa cream cheese
Strawberries with Grand Marnier whipped cream
Scrambled eggs with dill and smoked Alaskan salmon
Chef Tom’s Lyonnaise hash browns
Chocolate covered strawberries (thank you Elizabeth and Candace)
Winder Farms Orange Juice
Thanksgiving is always an amazing feast in our home, with a regular group of family and friends who have been joining us for over 20 years. In the leadup, my friend Chef Richard and I match minds over Mexican lunches at El Chubasco while paging through the Bon Appetit Thanksgiving issue, debating which turkey it will be. After many years of shoveling way too much food onto the table, we’ve tried to come to our senses as of late and keep it simple. Well, maybe a bit simpler. It’s hard to keep two passionate chefs tied down when it comes to Thanksgiving.
I call it Italian season. When the leaves have fallen from the trees and the first snows are blanketing the mountains, it’s time to stock up on pastas and tomatoes, preparing for the hearty meals of winter. The storm windows are closed and the house takes on a wonderful aroma as the pasta sauce festers on the stove.
There are very few questions to be asked at a Wisconsin fish fry. When our perennial schoolteacher turned waitress Darlene comes by our table at The Waterfront near Hayward, the only thing you have to say is ‘deep fried.’
Friday Fish Fry is a Wisconsin tradition. We schedule entire vacations around it. It’s so popular at spots like The Waterfront on Grindstone Lake, that lines are already forming by opening time of 4:00 p.m. Six hours later, as many as 400 people may pass through the tiny Northwoods bar.
The menu is simple: deep fried cod, french fries, cole slaw and rolls. For the record, you can also choose broiled fish and baked potato (or twice baked). But that would not be in tradition. Nearby Pine Ridge is also now including chicken – sacrilegious yet popular.
There are many legends on the origin of Friday Fish Fry. Being Catholics, we tend to believe that it grew out of the former ritual of no meat on Friday (now observed only during Lent). Friday Fish is a popular church or civic group meal even today.
Each community has its favorites. And those favorites change! When I first arrived in the Northwoods in 1977, my memory is going to fish at Dick-Sy Manor on highway 77. A few years later it was Lost Land Lake Lodge. And we spent many a Friday at Trailways.
In more recent years, our son-in-law’s family’s restaurant, The Waterfront, has led the way in Hayward.
The Friday of our Hayward vacation we thought we would beat the crowds by arriving before 5:00 p.m. There wasn’t a single parking spot in the lot, and boats were arriving like a flotilla. An hour wait – not bad, actually. By 5:30 p.m. there wasn’t a square inch of space on the bar or out on the patio.
In the tiny kitchen, Diane was rolling through the orders while another cook kept the deep fryers going with batch after batch of beer battered cod and fries. As always, Darlene kept one step ahead of us on beers and fish, snaring a plate of extra deep fried fillets for the table to share.
Fish fries are more than just the food. It’s about socializing and sharing stories, watching the kids jump off the dock to swim and relaxing with a Leinies while watching the sun set over the lake. It’s talking about the Badgers and Packers, while trash talking the Vikings and Bears at the expense of the tourists.
You leave stuffed but rejuvenated, with a reminder of the hospitality that made Wisconsin famous.
The Fourth of July is perfect for a mid-summer cookout. The beauty for us is that if fireworks are important, we can watch them from the deck after dinner! This year’s cookout was another extravaganza, with more food than you can imagine as Chef Tom and Chef Richard combined for a fine BBQ. Checkout the lineup below. Sorry, too busy cookin’ and eatin’ to get any pix. Thanks to Carey for helping man the grill!
Everyone likes waffles, especially with exotic toppings. It was a perfect way to kickoff the Fourth of July on the deck – a beautiful holiday weekend in Park City. It was a day of food, wrapping up with a fantastic All American BBQ.
This recipe is a modification of many I’ve tried over the years, starting with a basic Strawberries Romanoff recipe that came with a waffle iron we bought nearly 25 years ago. It’s super simple and makes for an out-of-the-ordinary breakfast.
CHEF TOM’S WAFFLES WITH STRAWBERRIES ROMANOFF
The waffle recipe can be your own favorite or simply the “side-of-the-box” recipe from a package of Bisquick. But … just before putting into the griddle, mix in a couple egg whites (whites only) that have been whipped. It will dramatically lighten the batter. Also, add in some almond or vanilla extract (capful or two) to the batter mix.
Use heavy whipping cream, blended with an electric mixer. For a pint-sized carton of cream, mix in about a half cup to full cup of powdered sugar. And a touch of extract can’t hurt.
This is where you can have some fun. You can easily vary this to your liking. You’ll be amazed at the bouquet of tastes you add to the strawberries.
Pint of strawberries, sliced to your liking
1/4 cup liqueur (Grand Marnier, Couintreau, etc.)
Peel and zest from one orange (tip, zest the orange first, then squeeze the juice)
1/4 cup juice from an orange
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon powdered sugar
Simply combine the sliced strawberries with all ingredients. Allow to stand up to a couple hours. You can also prepare it just before serving.
Cook the batter in a waffle iron. Put a dollop or two of whipped cream along with a spoonful or two of strawberries. For garnish, sprinkle orange zest on the top and maybe add a sprig of mint to the plate.
Mother’s Day is a very special occasion, and a perfect opportunity for an amazing meal. A couple times a year, Chef Richard and I match minds for a small plates evening. The concept is always good, but usually we bring too much food to the table. We hit it pretty well this time around, with a six-course evening with each stage being just the right amount. Small plates create a bit more work, but allow you to showcase more tastes.
We especially like to entertain small plates around our kitchen butcher block. But we had a few too many guests, so we went with the fancy eatin’ table for the ladies, while Chef Richard and I hung out in the kitchen.
It was a wonderful evening. Enjoy!
Prosciutto with Melon and Asparagus
This is a fabulous salad, albeit labor intensive, that Chef Carole loves to make. The centerpiece is melon wrapped in prosciutto, mixed with white and green asparagus, raspberries and arugula, with shaved Parmesan reggiano, balsamic and raspberry vinegar and orange juice. You can find it in Salads from Parragon Books.
Porcini Dusted Scallops with Cauliflower Puree
A month ago Carole and enjoyed a fabulous small plates evening at the Beach Bistro on Anna Maria Island in Florida. The highlight was a signature dish – porcini dusted scallops on a bed of cauliflower puree. We love scallops and this was a fabulous new recipe for our repertoire. It’s simple to prepare. Simply brush the scallops with white truffle olive oil, and dust with powdered porcini mushrooms (create the powder by breaking up dried porcinis with mortar and pestle), and pan sear in the same olive oil. The cauliflower puree is simply mashed cauliflower. Here’s a simple recipe from Epicurious.com.
Chef Richard opened with a fabulous eggplant. The eggplant was grilled, then rolled with riccota cheese and a marinara sauce inside. Exquisite!
White Asparagus Risotto
I’ve long been a fan of white asparagus since being introduced to spargel season in Bavaria many springs ago. White asparagus, which is produced by depriving normally green asparagus of sunlight, has a much creamier taste. I experimented with this dish a few months ago. It simply involves a traditional risotto with onion, white wine and chicken broth, but with about 1/2-inch pieces of white asparagus mixed in. My friend Emeril has a similar recipe if you need notes. With white asparagus, do peel the outer layer and chop off the tough bottoms.
Herb Roasted Leg of Lamb
Chef Richard wrapped up the dinner small plates with an amazingly rich herb roasted leg of lamb, which we served with the risotto. The lamb had been marinated in oil, wine and herbs, then roasted to medium rare to medium. It was a great combination with the risotto.
Lemon Meringue Ice Cream Pie with Pecan Crust
Every meal is simply a step-by-step path to dessert by Liza. Everytime Bon Appetit puts a scrumptious dessert on its cover, it’s time to call Liza and get her baking. We’ve had this dessert before and would welcome it again. Ice cream pies are generally pretty easy to make – simply melt ice cream into a shell. This one is a bit more complex, with the addition of lemon curd and a meringue, fired before serving with a blow torch. This is worth checking out – from April, 2007 Bon Appetit, based on a similar dish at Jamie’s Restaurant in Pensacola, FL.
Wines and Beers
Chef Richard and I went the dark beer route for the evening, focusing on our favorite Ayinger Dunkel (dark). For the ladies, we selected one of our favorite light starter wines, a Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand. This is one of those super bargain wines, selling in the $15-20 neighborhood but tasting more than double that price. Our next white was a bit bolder, one of our standard Clos du Bois Chardonnays.
It was another beautiful night on the deck tonight – perfect for a visit from our niece Emily from Illinois. Emily and sister Charlotte visited Utah about 12 years ago, when they were 13-14. So it was wonderful to have her back as an adult, fresh from another international adventure leading her high school French students on a tour of France and Italy.
The strange part about the cast on Emily’s foot is that she has no idea how she broke it!