June 5, 2020

A la Carte: Pineapple Upside-Down Cake is Perfect for Parties!

Lee White

I remember the first time I went to the Fancy Food Show at the Javits Center in New York City. I had taken the train into the city, grabbed a cab and arrived at 10 in the morning. It is the biggest food convention in America and I thought I could see everything in one day. By early afternoon I was bushed and my feet hurt. It was lunch time and I  picked up a sandwich 

On my way back to the vendors, I saw cookbook authors autographing their books, including a stunning black woman laughing and signing her book. I picked up B. Smith’s Entertaining and Cooking for Friends and stood in line. As she signed my book, she asked what I did and where. “I’m a restaurant reviewer in New London, Connecticut.” With a smile as bright as the cavernous light-filled lobby, she suggested I have dinner with her and her husband at their restaurant that evening. Oh, I wish I could, I said, but I have to get a train to get home. “Oh, stay at our place in the city and go home tomorrow,” she suggested. 

I didn’t, but I have always wished I had. She was a lovely hostess and presided over at least three restaurants (New York, Union Station in Washington and the Hamptons). She had a television show for many years. She wrote cookbooks and her first, and my first of hers, is stained with ingredients of recipes I have cooked. Barbara Smith died, at 70, February 23, 2020, in her home in Sag Harbor, NY, with her husband, Dan, by her side. She had suffered with dementia for many years. People called her “the black Martha Stewart.” Martha could only wish.

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

From B. Smith’s Entertaining and Cooking for Friends by Barbara Smith (Artisan, New York, 1995)


¼  cup unsalted butter, melted
½  cup firmly packed light-brown sugar
7 slices canned pineapple (reserve one-half cup juice for cake)
13 candied cherries (I like maraschino cherries)


2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½  teaspoon baking soda
½  teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
¼  teaspoon ground cloves
½  cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
½  cup heavy cream
½  cup reserved pineapple juice
whipped cream, for garnish if you like

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease the sides of a 9- by 13-inch round baking pan with nonstick cooking spray or melted butter.

For the topping: beat the melted butter and brown sugar together in a small bowl. Spread this over the bottom of the prepared baking pan. Arrange 6 pineapple slices around the edge of the pan and one slice in the middle. Place a cherry in the middle of each pineapple slice and the rest between the slices around the edge.

To make the cake: Stir together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ginger and cloves in a large bowl. In another larger bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy (I use my big KitchenAid for this for about 4 minutes). Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Using a spatula, alternatively fold in the flour mixture and the heavy cream and pineapple into the butter and sugar mixture until well blended. Spread the batter over the pineapple slices and bake for 1 hour or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Let the cake cool in the pan for 5 minutes. Then run a sharp knife around the edge to loosen the cake, invert a serving plate over the cake pan and turn the cake and plate over together. Remove the cake pan. Serve warm with whipped cream.

(If you have a little time, visit Coffee’s on Route 1 in Old Lyme and pick up a pint of Reed’s ginger ice cream. It is amazing with this cake.)

About the author: Former Old Lyme resident Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant.  She currently writes a cooking column called A La Carte for LymeLine.com and also for the Shore Publishing and Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day. 


A la Carte: May Means Meatballs … and Sausages and Gravy!

Lee White

It is May and May usually means lots of sunshine and warm evenings.  It is my favorite season of all, because trees are budding out, tulips are bright and gorgeous, lilies and irises are two weeks away as are lilies of the valley, mu birth flower. I am grateful that the people who sold me my condo, whom I knew from the yacht club, were gardeners. The best I can do is add a few annuals, but they planted the perennials, including a healthy and lush bright red azalea. 

I am also seeing much more wildlife than I’d ever seen in the six years I have lived in Groton. Driving down Rte. 1 and turning a right on my way to Eastern Point Beach, I watched a male fox ambling across the road, heading toward a small apartment complex. I turned another right to watch him and noticed a man on a walker in the fox’s way. I honked my horn so the man would not collide with him.

This morning, before I walked into my office, I looked at the parking lot and spied a turkey, the first I had seen in our complex. It was a young tom, in no hurry at all. I waited another 10 minutes and didn’t see another. I am feeding birds a bit longer than I usually do. (I take away the feeders and suet and add hummingbird feeders, although I haven’t seen one ever.) I am especially thrilled with catbirds and neon yellow finches. It is warm enough to open the outside faucets so I can add water to the bird bath, which they like. 

On the other hand, I still turn on my electric blanket. There is a reason we are told never to plant basil until Memorial Day. This past weekend, I wanted a make a good red sauce with meatballs and sausage. And I have everything for the dish, including pork chops, chopped beef and Italian sausage. If you have just one or two of the meats, the dish will be still fabulous.

Photo by Fidel Fernando on Unsplash.

Sunday Gravy with Sausages and Meatballs

Adapted from Johanne Killeen and George Germon, “On Top of Spaghetti,” (Morrow, New York, 2007)

Yield: Serves 4 to 6 as a main dish

One-quarter cup extra virgin olive oil3 pork chops (total weight 1 to 1 and one-half pounds)
1 and one-quarter pounds Italian sweet sausage, halved horizontally
1 cup chopped onions2 large garlic cloves, peeled and minced
½ teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes (or crushed) tomatoes
6-ounce can tomato paste
Cheese finds from Parmigiano-Reggiano or bits of Pecorino Romano (optional)
Mary’s meatballs
1 pound dried spaghetti or rigatoni, cooked
freshly grated Pecorino Romano

Heat oil in large heavy-bottomed stockpot. Add pork chops and sausages and brown on all sides. Transfer chops to a plate. Toss onions into pot with garlic, fennel seeds and salt. Saute over moderate heat, stirring frequently and scraping up any bits, until onions are soft and golden.

Put chops back in the pot with any juices. Add tomatoes, 2 cups water and tomato paste. Drop in rinds if you have any. Cover pot, bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Gently drop meatballs, a few at a time, shaking the pot to make room for the meatballs. Cover all the meatballs, cover pot and simmer for an hour or more. 

To finish sauce, take out chops, remove bones and chop of the meat and add to sauce. Check for seasoning. Ladle sauce over hot pasta and dust with cheese.

Mary’s Meatballs

Yield: makes 26 to 28 meatballs

12 ounces ground beef
4 slices white sandwich bread, crusts removed, cut into tiny cubes (I used challah)
three-quarters cup milk
three-quarters to 1 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano
8 fresh basil leaves, torn into small pieces
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 egg, lightly beaten
fine sea salt and pepper to taste

In a large mixing bowl, combine beef, bread and milk. Add cheese, basil, parsley, egg and salt. Mix gently but thoroughly. Form into small meatballs, no larger than one and one-half inches in diameter.

About the author: Former Old Lyme resident Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant.  She currently writes a cooking column called A La Carte for LymeLine.com and also for the Shore Publishing and Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day. 


A la Carte: Asparagus & Tomato Frittata Tempts the (Locked-Down) Tastebuds

Since this shelter-in-place began in March, I have been frantic about getting tested. I knew it might not do much good, but without being tested, there was no yardstick to find out how many people might be sick. Our illustrious president, at the beginning of his press briefings, said anyone who wanted to be tested would be. Of course, he was lying.

But a couple of weeks ago, Groton paired with PhysiciansOne Urgent Care to test 200 people who would, online, answer questions and give their insurance numbers, a credit card and their social security number. I did it, even though I was nervous about it. After I was accepted. I called our mayor, Patrice Granatosky, and asked if I’d done the right thing. She called me back a few minutes later and said the company was a good one and was sure everything was fine. 

I did get tested in my car at Fitch High School at 9 a.m. on Sunday. It was just the nasal swab, not the finger stick that would tell me if I had had the virus, but something is better than nothing. There were no lines, it took no more than 30 seconds, and I will get the results in a few days.

But here is the great thing about living in this city. I told Patrice I had gloves (whenever I have a doctor’s visit, I nab a few to take home; when I cut hot peppers I use disposable gloves), but I had ordered masks two weeks before and my California daughter was sending me one, but I didn’t have a single one to use.

Half an hour later, Patrice called me from my condo’s parking lot; she had found a mask her neighbor made. Who has a mayor who would go out of her way to do that, I ask? I gave her a banana cake with candied ginger, hazelnuts and chocolate chips. 

Let’s face it, that’s all I can really do: bake and cook. I found this recipe in an advertisement for Kohl’s. I am looking for lots of food that contain vegetables and protein. I had lots of eggs, grape tomatoes (love ‘em), potatoes and asparagus. I think it will feed four, but I ate it in two days.

Roasted Asparagus and Tomato Frittata

1 pound cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
Olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound asparagus spears, cooked
2 shallots, finely chopped (I used Vidalia onion)
1 pound potatoes, peeled and cut into ½-inch cut, cooked*
10 eggs
4 ounces shredded Parmesan, Romano or Gruyere

Preheat oven to 425. Toss tomatoes with oil and salt. Spread onto a sheet pan and roast until blistered, about ten minutes. Reduce heat to 350.

Reserve 1 spear of asparagus. Chop remaining into ½ inch pieces. Heat a 12-inch non-stick skillet over medium-high with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add shallots and a little salt. Cook until golden, 5 to 6 minutes. Add chopped asparagus and potatoes. 

In a medium bowl, beat eggs with a little salt and pepper. Pour into skillet. Stir until eggs thicken. Top with tomatoes and reserved tomatoes and reserved asparagus spear. Bake in oven 14 to 16 minutes. Top with cheese and cut into wedges.

*I might use frozen hash browns, instead, and cook them with the shallots.

Lee White

About the author: Former Old Lyme resident Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant.  She currently writes a cooking column called A La Carte for LymeLine.com and also for the Shore Publishing and Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day. 


A la Carte: Something Special for Easter? How About Sweet Honey Chicken with a Hint of Curry?

Well, it has been an interesting two weeks. 

I spend quite a time on Facebook with friends and family. My family seems fine. My brother and I do not talk often. This has little to do with the fact that we are not close. I like him and he likes me, but eight years is a big number. He went to college when I was nine and, except for vacations, he never really came back to Troy. After college, I moved away and just went back to see my parents.

In any case, he did call last week. He is sheltering in place with his lady friend and they are content. So am I. His children and mine are far away but all are fine. 

I feel closer to my friends on Facebook. Mike DiMauro, The Day’s sports editor, talked about making marinara vodka sauce two nights ago and shared a picture. He thought it might be as good as the one he gets at Filomena’s in Waterford. When I go to Filomena’s, one of my favorite restaurants, I usually get the chicken piccata.

Funny, too, is the fact that I had made marinara vodka sauce the same evening Mike did. I made it with penne and shared it with my neighbors. (I put the pasta on the red bench outside my porch; my neighbors walk out, pick up the dinner and take it home.)

After I ate hot dogs and peanut butter and jelly sandwich for three days, I began to cook with abandon. I made pounds and pounds of vegetables I had in the freezer. I made from-scratch baked beans with bacon, three different pasta sauces and some risotto 

I also made the first chicken dish I’d ever made without a recipe. I had everything I needed except real chicken breasts. I did have some boneless skinless chicken, but it fell flat. This is an easy dish, but it needs the bones and skin from thighs and/or breasts. I think you will like this recipe.

Chicken with Honey and Curry

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Butter a large baking pan (I use Pyrex 8” by 11” or bigger) with butter and set aside. 

Preheat oven at 350 degrees.

10 to 12 thighs
3 large chicken breasts, skin and bone on, cut in half
salt and pepper to taste
4 ounces (1 stick) butter
4 tablespoons good curry powder
one-quarter to one-half cup honey, to taste

Wash and dry chicken pieces. Place skin side up in buttered pan and add salt and pepper. Place in oven.

In the meanwhile, in a saucepan melt butter with curry and honey. Keep warm.

After 10 minutes, pour sauce on top of the chicken pieces. Begin to baste the chicken pieces with the sauce every 10 minutes or so. Bake chicken for a total of 50 to 60 minutes, when the chicken pieces have a dark, golden color.

Place cooked rice in a large, attractive bowl. Place chicken pieces over the rice, then pour the sauce all over the chicken and the rice. Serve immediately.

Lee White

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant.  She currently writes a cooking column called A La Carte for LymeLine.com and also for the Shore Publishing and Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day. 



A la Carte: The Irrestible Magic of Maple-Apple Blondies

Wow, three days of watching movies at The Garde:- The Farewell (wonderful) and Jojo Rabbit (which I was wary of seeing but, at the end, fell in love with it).  Then I saw Bombshell, but I liked the television adaptation about Roger Ailes/Fox better (The Loudest Voice). The Showtime movie made Russell Crowe (as Ailes) even more of an animal.

It was a busy week, but I found time to get to Shop-Rite and bought a rotisserie chicken, lots of vegetables (two big heads of cauliflower, which I cut into florets to parboil and freeze), green grapes, bananas and apples, along with pork cutlets and hot Italian sausage. When I got home, I wanted something sweet, so I made these blondies, below.

I tasted just one and will take the rest to a meeting. Nothing decadent is left in the house, except four pints of Haagen Dazs and Ben & Jerry’s.

Maple-Apple Blondies

From 100 Best Apple Recipes (Better Homes & Gardens, Meredith Co., 2019)

Yield: 36 bars

Nonstick cooking spray
¾ cup butter
2 medium apples, peeled, cored and chopped (about 1 and ¾ cups)
1 cup packed light brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup pure maple syrup
2 eggs
2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1 recipe for maple icing

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 13- by 9-inch pan with foil, extending the foil over edges. Lightly coat foil with cooking spray. In a medium saucepan, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter over medium heat. Add apples and cook about 12 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Remove apples from saucepan and set aside.

In the same saucepan, melt remaining butter over medium heat. Remove from heat and stir in both sugars and maple syrup until smooth. Stir in eggs and vanilla until combined. Stir in flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda. Stir in cooked apples. Spread batter in prepared pan.

Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until evenly browned and edges are puffed. Cool in pan on a wire rack. Spread maple icing over bars. Let stand until icing is set. Use edges of foil to lift uncut bars out of pan. Cut into 36 bars. 

Maple Icing

In a small bowl, stir together 2 cups powdered sugar, ¼ cup maple syrup and 2 tablespoons melted butter. Stir in enough milk (about 2 tablespoons) to make a thin spreading consistency.

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant.  She currently writes a cooking column called A La Carte for LymeLine.com and also for the Shore Publishing and Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day. 


A la Carte: Pepperoni Pasta is Easy to Prep, Delicious to Eat

The other Sunday, I drove to the Mystic Marriott to judge the chocolate gala to benefit Fairview in Groton, I used to call rest homes like Fairview old persons’ homes.  Now that I am actually an old person, there are other names that sound nicer, like independent or assisted living. Some years ago a friend told me that when she gets old, she wants to be at Fairview, with its gorgeous view of the Thames River. And when her time comes, she said, she wants someone to wheel her down the rolling green hills right into the river.

These days she might have a different take, since Fairview’s many-acred “campus” is gorgeous and has single houses which people buy long before they need any assisting at all. And among the hundreds of people who paid to get a sugar rush that Sunday, Fairview will fund activities for the very active residents there. 

The chocolate was pretty delicious, gorgeous and, for two of the competitors, mighty edgy. The biggest awards went to Franck Iglesias, executive pastry chef at Foxwoods, and Mark Vecchitto at Octagon, housed at the Mystic Marriott. By the way, we three judges (including The Day’s Rick Koster and Maurice Beebe, who was chef/owner of the late North End Deli) did not know whose chocolate we were eating; the establishments were numbered and only at the end did we know who was whom.

As with most dessert contests, by the end of the day I mostly wanted a hamburger. In truth, I got home and ate a tuna sandwich, because there were no leftovers in my refrigerator. With more weather events ahead, food to be make for a friend after surgery, and some dishes to take for a party coming up, it was time to cook.

This is one of my first ever pasta dishes. My nephew made it for me first, about 30 years ago, from Jeff Smith’s first cookbook. I have adapted it so much that I consider it my own. I will double the recipe for my friends and as leftovers for myself. 

Pepperoni Pasta

Yield: serves 4 to 6

2 to 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium-sized sweet onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 28-ounce can of whole or diced tomatoes
1 or so jigger of vodka (optional)
one-half pound thinly sliced pepperoni (buy the pepperoni sliced at the supermarket’s deli counter)
salt and pepper to taste
one-quarter teaspoon cayenne pepper (more if you like it spicy)
one-quarter cup heavy cream
1 to 2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
lots of freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Romano cheese
1 pound pasta (I like rigatoni or penne, but any pasta will do)

Photo by sheri silver on Unsplash

Place a big stockpot full of water on the stove and bring to a boil.

In the meantime, in a large skillet, warm oil, then add onion and garlic. Cook over medium-low heat until translucent (try not to brown the herbs.) Add the entire can of tomatoes; while warming, mash tomatoes if you are using whole tomatoes rather than diced tomatoes. When hot, add vodka and cook for about four minutes, at which point most of the liquor will have evaporated. Toss in pepperoni and stir; cook for another few minutes. Add salt and pepper, to taste, and beginning adding cayenne pepper, tasting each for amount of spiciness. 

In the meantime, when water is boiling, add quite a bit of sat (a few tablespoons), then add pasta. Stir until water comes back to a boil, drop heat to medium and cook until al dente (a bit of chewiness).

While pasta is cooking, add heavy cream and stir until a pretty coral color. Turn heat to low and cover. When pasta is al dente, drain but keep half a cup of pasta water to add to sauce if necessary. Add pasta to sauce (or vice versa). Toss well, adding pasta water if you want to thin it a bit. Add fresh basil and cheese; serve immediately, with more cheese so people can add more to their bowls.

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant.  She currently writes a cooking column called A La Carte for LymeLine.com and also for the Shore Publishing and Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day. 


A la Carte: A New Dish for a New Decade — Roasted Shrimp, Caulifower with Quinoa

Like many of you, I have made one or two or more resolutions. I, for one, am on that intermittent fasting. I don’t eat before 11 a.m., nor after 7 p.m. This is an easy diet for me: I like lunch more than breakfast and I often am in bed at 8:30, where I read for at least two hours. So dinner at 6-ish works for me. I have lost around seven pounds since mid-December, even with the holiday parties. 

My friend Judy promises to watch less television and learn how to use more of her computer’s abilities, especially Google maps, since she is an assessor. I am promising myself that I will buy fewer shoes and clothes. All summer long I wear my jelly sandals, of which I have around 15 pair, and in the winter I wear boots outside. I never wear shoes in my condo, even when the temperature hovers around 20 degrees. As for clothes, my Nordstrom, Nordstrom Rack and Macy’s have zero balances.

Almost everyone I know are getting into plant-based food meals. I eat chicken and fish a few times a week;  I have a hamburger or a lamb chop maybe once a week. I do like pasta and chili, whose main ingredients are the beans and the pasta rather than meat balls or pork. I also have stopped at Burger King a few times for that Impossible Burger. With the mayonnaise-based dressing, onion, lettuce and tomato, I don’t miss the burger at all. Truth to be told, I only order my burgers at Haywire in Westbrook.  Once Jack Flaws opens his new place in Centerbrook, I will be a true carnivore, if only for a few hours.

Today, though, I will be making this for dinner. This recipe comes from the free magazine from Stop & Shop. I had just read on Facebook that Ina Garten now only serves shrimp that she has oven-roasted. Evidently Stop & Shop’s test kitchen thinks the same way.

Roasted Shrimp and Cauliflower with Quinoa Tabbouleh

From Savory by Stop and Shop, January 2020

Yield: serves 4

One-half cup dry quinoa, rinsed
3 cups cauliflower florets
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
One-quarter teaspoon salt and pepper
1 cup fresh parsley
1 pound frozen, peeled deveined raw shrimp, thawed
One-quarter teaspoon salt and pepper
One-quarter teaspoon smoked paprika
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Cook the quinoa according to package directions.

In a medium bowl, toss the cauliflower with 2 tablespoons oil, salt and pepper; reserve bowl. Arrange on a large rimmed baking sheet in single layer. Roast 15 minutes.

Meanwhile. Very finely chop parsley and add to a large bowl. In the same bowl cauliflower was in, toss the shrimp with the smoked paprika, 2 tablespoons of oil, and salt and pepper.

Once cauliflower is roasted, push cauliflower to one side of baking sheet and arrange shrimp in a single layer on other side. Roast 5 minutes until shrimp are cooked through and cauliflower is tender.

Fluff the quinoa and add to bowl with parsley. Add lemon juice and remaining 1 tablespoon of oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve the shrimp and cauliflower over the quinoa .


A la Carte: A Day for Dauphinois (aka Scalloped Potatoes)

If you are reading this column today, you know that yesterday was Christmas. If you have little ones, they probably woke you up at dawn, to let you know that Santa had arrived.

When our little ones were young, we spent Christmas with my husband’s sister in East Bloomfield, N.Y. We arrived on Christmas Eve, early enough to get to my in-laws’ church in Rochester. There my husband turned the pages of the lovely old pipe organ as my father-in-law played.

After that, we all drove to Roslyn’s house. Our children, our parents and we slept everywhere—kids in sleeping bags in the living room and family room, our parents in the bedrooms upstairs/ Doug and I slept in a Sofabed  two rooms away from the living room (that room, much later, became the bird room, but that’s another long story).

I’m not sure how Ros made this happen, but no presents were open until we had a full breakfast, waffles or pancakes or French toast, bacon and sausage and, for us, gallons of coffee. Then the fun began.

Wrapping paper and bows filled the living room and the kids squealed. We adults opened our gifts one at a time, exclaimed how thrilled we were with every present. We showed each of our treasures to the others. And every year we gave Roslyn a special one—always a gag gift, often naughty. She was supposed to show them to our parents.  Sometimes she didn’t.

Dinner, around 4 p.m., was easy: often prime rib, which came out of the oven as we turned the heat to 450 degrees. Then we placed the pan of Yorkshire pudding, which, of course, is not a pudding at all. Sometimes it was a ham, instead. If it was, there would be scalloped potatoes, which everyone loved. 

Today I am making a big ham for my neighbors, their son and his teenage daughter. If I could have gotten one, it would be a spiral sliced, Honey Baked Ham. It may not be local and it may be overly sweet, but I love that ham. There will be sweet potatoes and mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese (for my neighbors’ granddaughter), lots of vegetables and for dessert something special—perhaps crème brulee or chocolate pots de crème. The next day I will make a very French scalloped potatoes with slivered left-over ham nestled inside.

I love this recipe! (See below)

Gratin Dauphinois

From A Passion for Potatoes by Lydie Marshall (Harper Perennial, New York, 1992)

1 large garlic clove, peeled and minced
2 pounds Yukon Gold or russet potatoes, peeled and sliced one-eighth- to one-sixteenth-inch thick
1 and one-half teaspoons sat*
1 and one-third cups half-and-half cream
1 tablespoons cold butter
One-half cup heavy cream

Yield: serves 4 to 6 

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter a 2-quart rectangular or oval dish 14 by 8 by 2 inches.  Scatter the minced garlic in the dish.

Overlap 3 layers of potatoes in the pan, sprinkling salt between each layer. Dribble in the half and half, barely covering them. Dot the top with butter.

Bake in the middle of the oven for 45 minutes. Pour the heavy cream on top of the potatoes and tilt the pan to baste the top layer. Bake for 45 minutes more, or until golden brown.

*If you are adding ham to the gratin, leave out the salt in the recipe, but serve with a nice finishing salt at the table.

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant. She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for LymeLine.com, and the Shore Publishing and the Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day.


A la Carte: Time for Turkey? Sure, But What to do With the Left-Overs — How About Making Turkey Hash Salad?

Oh, my, Thanksgiving is upon us, although it is late this year. As you read this, you actually have an extra week to buy your turkey and make the stuffing (I make the stuffing the day before, refrigerate it and stuff much of it into the cold turkey). I have made roasted turkey almost every way possible. I have brined it, roasted it upside down before turning it upside, baked it is plastic bags and wrapped the top in cheesecloth. I have bought Butterball and organic turkeys.

Here’s what I do now. I buy the least expensive turkey, usually about 12 to 16 pounds. I always buy my turkey frozen. My deal is this: the fresh turkey at the supermarket may have been in the cooler for many days. My turkey was probably frozen before it got to the supermarket.  I do thaw the turkey in the refrigerator for at least three days.

Usually, by the morning of Thanksgiving, I think it has thawed, but it hasn’t and my hands are frozen and sore by the time I get the bag of giblets out of the cavity. I stuff the turkey, baste it with butter and white wine. If the white meat is a little dry at the end, I figure that the gravy, the moist stuffing and the buttery mashed potatoes will turn that meat luscious. 

If you want my Turkey 101, its gravy and its stuffing, e-mail me at leeawhite@aol.com. As for my favorite leftover, it is a turkey sandwich and its sides, at least three to four inches tall. My second favorite, if you have enough of everything, is to make a casserole and eat it on Sunday. If you are sick of turkey, freeze the casserole.

Also, you can make so much mashed potatoes, then freeze the potatoes in 1 cup packets and make mashed potato bread. For that recipe, e-mail me.  And here is another recipe. It’s delish. 

Turkey Hash Salad

From Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins, The New Basics Cookbook (Workman, New York, 1989)

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

5 teaspoons Dijon mustard
one-half cup red wine vinegar
1 cup light olive oil (or other good vegetable oil)
12 small red potatoes
one-half teaspoon kosher or sea salt
2 teaspoons coarsely ground black pepper
12 large cloves garlic
8 ounces bacon cut into one-half-inch pieces
one-half cup finely chopped red onion
one-quarter cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
3 cups coarsely shredded cook turkey
1 bunch arugula, rinsed, trimmed and patted dry
2 bunches watercress, rinsed, trimmed and patted dry

Whisk mustard and vinegar together in a small bowl. Slowly pour in three-quarters of the oil, whisking constantly. Set the vinaigrette aside.

Prick the potatoes all over with the tines of a fork. Combine remaining one-quarter oil, salt and 1 teaspoon of the pepper in a bowl. Add potatoes and toss until well coated with the mixture. Place the potatoes in a shallow roasting pan and bake, uncovered, for 1 hour, turning occasionally.

Remove potatoes from the oven and allow them to cool. Then cut them into one-half-inch slices and place in a large bowl. 

Place the garlic cloves in a small saucepan. Cover with water, bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Drain, allow to cool. Then peel.

Saute bacon in a heavy skillet until crisp. Transfer bacon to paper towels to drain, reserving the fat.

Add garlic cloves to bacon fat in the skillet and cook over low heat for 2 minutes. Remove with slotted spoon. Discard the fat.

Add red onion, parsley, remaining teaspoon of black pepper and the vinaigrette to the potatoes. Toss gently.

Add turkey, bacon and garlic cloves. Gently fold all ingredients together.

Arrange the arugula and watercress on a large serving platter and place the salad on top. Serve immediately.

About the Author: Lee White, a local resident, has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant.  She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for the Times and Shore Publishing newspapers, and Elan, a quarterly magazine, all of which are now owned by The Day.


A la Carte: Add Flavor to ‘Everything’ with Chile Crisp, Basil Pesto

I have written two recipes for today’s column. The recipe for chile crisp is from a writer, who always has a jar of it in his refrigerator. He puts it on everything from “eggs, guacamole [and] pizza.” It does seems spicy, so if you make it, try a little less than a quarter cup of red pepper flakes, although I like spicy, especially for breakfast.

The other recipe is the basil pesto I have made for decades. I use it in all my red sauce recipes, often in stews and love it by itself for pasta. I don’t have a garden this year, but friends are giving me big handfuls of basil and my pals on the board of education gave me a gift certificate for superb olive oil at Capizzano in Pawcatuck. I have a bag of pine nuts in the freezer. My food processor does all the rest.

Chile Crisp

From ‘Bon Appetit,’ August, 2019

4 small shallots, thinly sliced
cloves from 2 heads of garlic (yes, heads of garlic)
6 star anise pods
2 cinnamon sticks
1 and one-half cups vegetable oil
2 inch knob of ginger
one-quarter cup red pepper flakes
2 teaspoon soy sauce
2 teaspoons sugar

Yield: 2 cups

In a medium saucepan, toss shallots and garlic over medium heat along with star anise pods and cinnamon sticks and vegetable olil. Cook, reducing heat as needed to maintain a gentle simmer and swirling pan occasionally until shallot and garlic are browned and crisp, 20 to 25 minutes (it is important to go slow.)

Peel and very finely chop ginger. Mix in a medium bowl with red pepper flakes, soy sauce and sugar. Strain shallot mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into ginger mixture. Let shallots and garlic cool in sieve (they will crisp further.) Add to sauce.

Advance preparation: chili crisp can be made one month ahead. Cover and chill.

Making basil pesto. Photo by Artur Rutkowski on Unsplash

Pesto alla Genovese

(from ‘365 Ways to Cook Pasta’ by Marie Simmons, Harper Collins, New York, 1988)

I triple or quadruple (or more) and freeze pesto in small zipper plastic bags. The pesto will last for more than a year and will thaw in minutes.

Yield: 1 cup or enough for 1 pound of pasta

2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
1/3 cup pignoli (pine nuts)*
1 large garlic clove, chopped
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup freshly grated armesan cheese**

Finely chop basil, nuts, garlic and salt in a food processor. With processor still running, add oil in a slow, steady stream through the feed tube until mixture is thoroughly blended. Transfer to a bowl and fold in the cheese.

Freeze in tiny freezer bags. When ready to use, you can thaw the pesto in freezer bag between your two hands.

*Pine nuts are very expensive but worth it. However, walnuts can be used. The flavor will be different but still tasty.

**Please do not use the grated cheese that comes in those containers that sit on the supermarket shelf. You cannot believe what a difference fresh, high-quality cheese makes. A good supermarket will grate Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese for you (I have them grate Parmigiano-Reggiano and Romano together, which drives purists crazy) and you can store the cheese in an air-tight container in your refrigerator or freezer. Even better, buy a small chunk and grate it yourself as you need it.

About the Author: Lee White, a local resident, has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant.  She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for the Times and Shore Publishing newspapers, and Elan, a quarterly magazine, all of which are now owned by The Day. 


A la Carte: Spice Up Summer With These Carb-Free Chicken Lettuce Wraps

Photo by Brenna Huff on Unsplash.

My first visit to Stone Acres for my CSA [Community-Supported Agriculture] on a warm, pretty afternoon and it would have been perfect had not my old hip hurt. Fortunately, the parking lot is just a hop, skip and jump to the farmstand.

As I walked to the stand, I saw Stonington First Selectman Rob Simmons and his wife take some visitors on a tour of the farm. Someday I would love to see the farm; instead, I patted a sweet black Labrador and talked to a young girl, who explained that that Lab wasn’t hers. “I have a yellow lab,” she explained. “Is your lab as nice as this one,” I asked. “Yes, she said, “but not as mellow.” 

As I showed my receipt, I was given a dark green fabric-zipped tote I could use for all of my CSA goodies over the summer. That week there were fat gorgeous strawberries on a counter and baggies of herbs. In the refrigerator I chose lots of different types of lettuces, some blue mushrooms (local, but not from the farm), some blue cheese from Mystic Cheese Company, and French radishes.  Each week there will be more and more choices. This is going to be a terrific summer of cooking and eating.

Over the weekend I did little walking and, for the first time, I finished the Sunday New York Times on Sunday. I also went through The Day, four weeks of the New Yorker and my latest edition of Bon Appetit. While that magazine, and most other June magazines, are called the grilling issue, I found some incredible salad ideas in Bon Appetit, including one with cantaloupe and snap peas.

Then I noticed this recipe that could be ready to eat in under 20 minutes and carb free, using my favorite lettuce, Bibb or butter lettuce.

Spicy Chicken Lettuce Wraps

From Bon Appetit, June/July, 2019

Yield: 4 servings

2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon sambal oelek or Sriracha
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar (light brown sugar will do)
1 teaspoon fish sauce
3 scallions
2 garlic cloves
1 pound ground chicken
Salt to taste
Butter or Bibb lettuce leaves, thoroughly washed and dried
For serving: lime wedges and ramekin of Sriracha for a little more heat

Mix together the soy sauce, sambal oelek or Sriracha, sugar and fish sauce in a small bowl and set aside.

Trim the dark green parts of the scallions and slice thin. Set aside this part for serving. Thinly slice the white and pale green parts. Finely chop the garlic cloves.

In a skillet, heat the oil over medium Cook scallions and garlic, stirring occasionally, until softened (a little color is okay), about 3 minutes. Add ground chicken and lightly season with salt. Cook, breaking up with a wooden spoon and tasting occasionally, until chicken is cooked through, 5 to 7 minutes. Add reserve soy sauce mixture and cook, tossing occasionally, until liquid is almost completely reduced, about 2 minutes.

Serve in a platter with lettuce leaves topped with chopped dark green scallions.

About the author: Lee White (left), a former resident of Old Lyme, has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976.  She has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant.  She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for the Shore Publishing newspapers, and Elan, a quarterly magazine, all of which are now owned by The Day.


A la Carte: Thinking Delicious Dessert? How About Date Walnut Bread with Buttermilk Sorbet?

This is a difficult time of year for me when I bake. I want fresh rhubarb, strawberries and blueberries (although the last I usually buy frozen because I don’t care for fat, cultivated blurriest, preferring  Wyman’s frozen wild blueberries).

With no fresh fruit, I made two lemon loaf cakes from Ina Garten’s recipe. I took the cakes to meetings and they were eaten in no time.

Loaf pan cakes or breads are easy to make and, unlike most cakes, require no frostings. In addition, once you follow the recipe (flour, sugar, butter, egg and liquid), you can add dried fruit, nuts, coconut or chocolate or cinnamon chips.

I also noticed that I have too many cartons of buttermilk and too many plastic bags of walnuts. So I made the date nut bread along with this delicious buttermilk sorbet. Imagine it as dessert with the date nut cake or the nut bread sliced with cream cheese and pineapple as a tasty lunch.

The sorbet does, however, require an ice cream maker. Buy an inexpensive one, or borrow one from a friend.

Date Walnut Bread

I will double this recipe, make two loaves and use buttermilk instead of regular milk;

2 cups flour
1 tablespoons baking powder
one-half teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (you may use ground if you don’t have fresh)
5 tablespoons light brown sugar
5 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 cup finely chopped walnuts (I use a small wooden bowl and a mezzaluna)
1 cup chopped pitted dates (I chop them with a little flour so they are not sticky)
1 egg
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons melted butter

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and grease a 9-inch loaf pan (I use Pam in the blue can).

Sift together flour, baking powder, salt and nutmeg. Add brown sugar and mix. Add nuts and dates and stir together. Beat together egg and milk and add to dry ingredients, along with butter. Blend just enough to moisten the mixture. Pour into prepared loaf pan and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until top is cracked and a wooden skewer comes out dry. (I use these wooden skewers instead of toothpicks since the latter are too short to get to the bottom any bread or cake.) Cool slightly and invert onto a wire rack.

Buttermilk Sorbet
(From Martha Stewart Living, February 2000, page 193)

Yield: 1 and one-half  quarts

1 and one and three-quarter  cups sugar
2 cups water
2 cups buttermilk
1 and one-half teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Combine sugar in a medium saucepan with 2 cups water. Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves completely, about 10 minutes. Increase heat, and bring just to a boil. Remove from heat and let cool.

In a large bowl, combine sugar syrup with buttermilk and vanilla. Transfer mixture to an ice cream maker and

Follow manufacturer’s instructions to freeze.

When freezing is complete, transfer sorbet to an airtight container  and place in freezer for at least one hour. Sorbet will keep frozen for up to two weeks.

About the author: Lee White (left), a former resident of Old Lyme, has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976.  She has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant.  She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for the Shore Publishing newspapers, and Elan, a quarterly magazine, all of which are now owned by The Day.


A la Carte: So You Want to be Creative With Chicken? Add Chili and Citrus!

When I was maybe eight- or nine-years-old, if I ever felt a little “nauseous,” or a bit sick to my stomach, I would ask myself if I wanted a bacon, lettuce and tomato (BLT) sandwich. If I didn’t want one, I knew I was sick.

When I was much older, a BLT is still my favorite sandwich and I will make an entire pound of bacon, let it cool on paper towels, then put all of it in a plastic bag and place in the crisper of the refrigerator. That way, when I needed a BLT, I would use nuke three or four slices and keep myself happy.

I don’t make pounds of bacon any more. My preferences these days are tuna, turkey or chicken sandwiches. Tuna I could eat every day but there is that problem with mercury. Instead, I make a roast chicken just so I can have chicken sandwiches for days. So when I saw an entire feature on chicken in the new Bon Appetit, I tried the one below, since I had every single ingredient. It was great and the leftover chicken will be one amazing sandwich.

Chili-and-Citrus-Rubbed Chicken with Potatoes

From Bon Appetit. April 2109, page 81

3 and one-half pound to 4 pound chicken
Kosher or sea salt
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
Zest of 1 small orange and 1 small lemon
One-quarter cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon mild red pepper flakes (like Aleppo-style)
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
Three-quarter cup low-sodium chicken broth (I now use Better Than Bouillon)
One-half cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon tomato paste
4 garlic cloves, crushed
2 pounds medium Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley

Pat chicken dry with paper towels and season generously inside and out with salt. Place on rimmed baking sheet and let sit 1 hour on room temperature.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Coarsley grind coriander and fennel seeds in spice mill or with mortar and pestle. Transfer to small bowl and add zests, oil, pepper flakes and paprika; mix well. Pat chicken dry, then rub all over with spiced oil.

Whisk broth, wine and tomato paste in a cast-iron skillet or 3-quart enameled cast-iron baking dish to combine. Place chicken in center and scatter garlic cloves around. Roast chicken, turning halfway through and adding an additional one-quarter cup water, if pan seems dry, until chicken is golden brown and instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of breast registers 155 , 50 to 60 minutes (temperature will climb to 160 degrees as chicken rests). Transfer chicken to a cutting board and let rest 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, strain liquid left in pan through fine-mesh sieve into a heatproof measuring cup or bowl; discard anything in sieve. Taste, season sauce with salt, if needed. Set aside.

Place potatoes in a large pot and pour in cold water to cover by 1 inch. Add large handful of salt and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are fork-tender, 25 minutes. Drain and transfer potatoes back into pan.

Cut potatoes into large pieces. Pour reserved sauce over potatoes. Add parsley, season with salt and gently toss to combine. Place chicken on a platter and serve potatoes alongside.

About the author: Lee White (left), a former resident of Old Lyme, has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976.  She has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant.  She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for the Shore Publishing newspapers, and Elan, a quarterly magazine, all of which are now owned by The Day.


A la Carte: Whether It’s Easter or Passover in Your Home, Lamb is Always Lovely!

Boneless rolled leg of lamb always makes a perfect Easter meal — but, as Lee explains, it doesn’t have to be boneless! Photo by Mike Tinnion on Unsplash

It seems lately that Christian and Jewish holidays seems to happen within weeks, or days, of the year.

For those who think that Hanukkah is like a Jewish Christmas, it is not. And Passover is nothing like Christian Easter either. Rather, the Jewish calendar and the Christian calendar (the latter is actually the Gregorian calendar) are not the same. I was born in the Jewish year 5704. I have no intention of telling you how old I am, but if you ask a Jewish person, perhaps that person will tell you how old I am.

More important, both holidays mean that families usually sit down together for dinner. While many of those who make Easter dinner will chose ham as the entrée of choice. Jewish people will not. But both holidays might choose lamb.

In the early 70s, I bought a book about how to cook French dishes in an American kitchen, meaning that we mostly buy our food at American supermarkets. So when you see the recipe calls for Campbell’s beef consommé, that I what I used for decades. If you do, try to get a canned consommé that is low in sodium. I now use More Than Boullion. I have used many of the recipes in that book, but my favorite is the one below.

Sometimes I buy boneless lamb, but the recipe is pretty much the same. I do suggest that you use a meat thermometer and the internal temperature of the roast should be 120 to 125 degrees for medium-rare, or 130 to 135 for medium.

Gigot d/Agneau a l’Ail (Leg of Lamb with Garlic)

From Charles Virion’s French Country Cookbook (Hawthorn, New York, 1972)

Yield: Serves 6 to 8

1 5- to 7-pound leg of lamb
8 cloves of garlic cut lengthwise into slivers
Salt and freshly ground coarse black pepper
Vegetable oil
3 cups brown sauce or canned beef consommé (I use Campbell’s)
2 cups cream sherry (does not have to be Harvey’s Bristol, but it should be cream sherry)
8 small new potatoes
4 tablespoons sweet butter

  1. Take leg of lamb out of refrigerator 3 to 5 hour before cooking time. Meat must always be at room temperature before roasting or broiling.
  2. Insert pieces of garlic all around the leg by making tiny incisions and pushing the garlic underneath. Season meat with salt and pepper. Pour on a little vegetable oil and let meat marinate until ready to roast.
  3. Meanwhile, simmer together stock or consommé and the cream sherry until liquid is reduced by half. This will be your basting sauce and gravy base.
  4. Place the lamb in a roasting pan and roast in a preheated 450 degree oven with the oven ajar. Turn frequently and baste with vegetable oil and fats accumulated during roasting. When the outside is brown and crisp, approximately 45 minutes later, take the meat out of the oven and place it in another roasting pan. Use the pan with the accumulated lamb fat to roast potatoes (separately from the lamb) for 1 to 1 and a half hours.
  5. Put butter on the meat and let it stand until 1 hour before you are ready to eat.
  6. Reduce oven temp to 300 degrees. The lamb should roast slowly now so that it will remain rare and juicy.
  7. Place lamb in oven and turn it every 10 minutes, basting with the stock-sherry sauce. Compute the approximately roasting time by figuring 20 minutes per pound, subscripting the 45 minutes for the first roasting.
  8. When cooked, take the meat out of the oven and let it stand for 10 minutes. This helps keep the meat juices inside. Then slice the meat and arrange on a hot platter.
  9. You should have approximately 2 cups of gravy left. Pour some of it, piping hot, on top of the roast. The rest should be served in a sauceboat. Surround the meat with vegetables (he suggests lima beans) and potatoes which have been roasted in the lamb fat from the first roasting. Serve immediately.

About the author: Lee White (left), a former resident of Old Lyme, has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976.  She has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant.  She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for the Shore Publishing newspapers, and Elan, a quarterly magazine, all of which are now owned by The Day.


A la Carte: Hard to Believe, But You Can Make Mac & Cheese Glamorous! Lee Shows us How …

The perennially popular mac & cheese. Photo by Hermes Rivera on Unsplash.

I don’t remember tasting mac and cheese until I was 14- or 18-years-old. i.e., high school or college cafeterias. Nobody made it in my house. I remember asking for it when I was fairly little, but at my house it was made with cottage cheese, sour cream, maybe butter, cinnamon and egg noodles. Basically, it was unconstructed noodle kugel.

When I was married the first time, I cooked the boxed Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. When it was done, I put it into a Corning glass pot, sliced a tomato down the middle and ran some breadcrumbs around the tomatoes. For me, that was cooking and garnishing. Then my-then mother-in-law showed me how to make a white sauce and I made mac and cheese from scratch. (She also showed me how to make pork roast on top of sauerkraut, take it out of the oven, take them apart and add applesauce to the sauerkraut. I still make it the same way. It is delicious.)

Of course, almost everyone loves mac and cheese. As I get older, I take a lactase pill before I eat mac and cheese, as many do these days. And I will make sure I have the ingredients to make all the recipes in this month’s Food Network Magazine, of which the one below is the yummiest.

Glam Mac and Cheese

From Food Network Magazine, March 2019, page 48

Yield: serves 4

12 ounces fusilli
Kosher salt
One-third cup diced pancetta
1 small handful of fresh thyme
3 scallions, thinly sliced
3 tablespoon unsalted butter
3 tablespoon all-purpose flour
Pinch of ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon mustard powder\
Three-quarters whole milk (2 percent is fine)
1 and one-quarter cups heavy cream
7 ounces dulcelatte or gorgonzola cheese, crumbled (about 1 cup)
4 ounces parmesan cheese, grated (about 1 and one-half cups)
Freshly ground black pepper
One-quarter cup breadcrumbs
1 handful chopped fresh parsley, for garnish

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water. Cook just less than al dente, as the pasta will be cooked again in the oven. Reserve 1 cup cooking water, then drain pasta, return it to the pot and set aside.

Fry the pancetta in a medium skillet over medium heat until it just starts to brown and crisp up, then add thyme and scallions and cook for an additional 3 minutes. Add the skillet’s contents to the pasta.

For the sauce, put butter, flour, nutmeg and mustard powder in a small saucepan set over medium heat and cook, stirring, until butter has melted. Mix milk and cream together in a pitcher and add a little to the flour and butter in the saucepan, stirring well. Keep adding milk mixture bit by bit, stirring well each time (be sure to get into the “corners”of  the pan, as flour often lurks there). Once the sauce has fully come together, turn up the heat and boil for a minute or two. The sauce will thicken. Remove pan from the heat.

Add two-thirds of both the cheeses to the sauce while it is still hot and combine well. (It may be a bit lumpy, that is fine.) Season to taste with salt and pepper and add to the pasta mix. If the cheese sauce thickens too much, add some of the pasta water. Stir everything together and spoon into 4 large ramekins in a shallow 3-quart casserole.

Sprinkle the top with the rest of the cheese and the breadcrumbs and bake in the oven for about 20 minutes, or until the cheese starts to bubble and the topping goes brown. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve.

About the author: Lee White (left), a former resident of Old Lyme, has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976.  She has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant.  She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for the Shore Publishing newspapers, and Elan, a quarterly magazine, all of which are now owned by The Day. 


A la Carte: Best (Recipe) of 2018’s Best … Says Lee

Many, many years ago, I did a radio show with Johnny London on WICH out of Norwich, Connecticut. We began with an hour and, after the first year, it turned into two hours. 

I grew up with radio, although my parents did get a television in 1948. But we had radios everywhere in our house—we had clock radios, a radio in the kitchen and a “console” radio in our dining room. My mother liked to iron, and we had an ironing board that came out of the kitchen wall.

When I was little, I would sit on the linoleum and play with my toys. One was a little truck or engine that you could spin back and forth a dozen times, then let it go and it would flew into my parents’ master bedroom, usually hitting on a door, the bottom of their bed or into a closet. After a few years, the linoleum in the kitchen had to be replaced.

While my mom ironed and I played with toys, I listened to the radio. In the evening, it was Dr. Christian and Jack Benny and Red Skelton. On Sunday morning, I would lie on dining room rug and read the “funnies” as the mayor of Albany read the Times-Union the same way Mayor LaGuardia did in New York City.

But back to my own radio show: I had guests in the room with me, or I would talk on the phone to chefs, cookbook authors and restaurant owners. And readers would call with questions.

Often Johnny asked me if I would run out of recipes. But, like the music made from just seven notes, one never runs out of recipes. This was a great year for cookbooks, but choosing my favorite wasn’t difficult.

Sweet Chili Chicken Thighs

From “Everyday Dorie” by Dorie Greenspan (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Boston and New York, 2018)

2 tablespoons canola or neutral oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped and dried
1 and one-half to 3 peeled fresh ginger, minced
2 garlic cloves, germ removed and minced
Fine sea salt
One-quarter cup white wine
8 chicken thighs, with or without skin and/or bones, patted dry
Freshly ground pepper
One-half cup Thai sweet chili sauce*
One-third cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard 
1 to 1 and one-half teaspoon Sriracha*
Sliced scallions and crushed red pepper flakes, for serving (optional)

Warm 1 tablespoon of oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat Add onion, ginger and garlic, season with salt, and cook, stirring until they soften a bit and are translucent but not browned, about five minutes

Add wine, increase the heat and cook, stirring, until most of the wine evaporates, about three minutes. Again, don’t color the onion mixture. Transfer ingredients to a bowl.

Return pot to medium heat and add remaining oil. Place thighs in the pot and brown on all sides, adding more oil if necessary. (If the thighs will be crowded, do this in two batches.) Pour and discard oil. If you have burnt bits of the bottom of the pots, remove chicken and scrub the pot, then return chicken to it.

Return the onions mixture to the pot, along with any juices that accumulated, add the chili sauce*, soy sauce, mustard and Sriracha* and stir to blend. Season lightly with salt and pepper and clap the lid on.

Turn heat down top low and cook, basting occasionally, for 30 minutes, or until chicken is opaque in the center; an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh should register 165 degrees.

Transfer to a platter (or serve right on the pot) and spoon over some of the juice. Add scallions and pepper flakes (optional). Pass the rest of the sauce at the table.

*I always have both sweet chili sauce and Sriracha in my pantry.


A la Carte: Got Leftovers? How About a Turkey Casserole?

Perhaps you are reading this column on the morning after Thanksgiving as you drink your cup of coffee or tea. It has been quite a few years since I sat with the newspaper and figured out which I should do first. I have been in my condo for almost five years and only created Thanksgiving dinner once, and only for around six or seven of us.

Many, many years ago, when my own daughter was still in elementary school, there would have been at least four little ones (two nieces, one nephew and Darcy) or up to 10 or more (more nephews, nieces, two step-sons, one step-daughter and all their parents). Even when the little ones became high schoolers, we still did Thanksgiving. Although there were extra bedrooms, there were sleeping bags filled with humans on floors everywhere.

The last Thanksgiving enormous dinner was in Old Lyme, just a few months before I sold the house and moved into my condo. That crowd included more than 20 friends and family. Many of the family members stayed over the weekend, and, except for a few sandwiches, there were no leftovers.

These days turkey day happens at my daughter-in-law’s condo in Newburyport. My stepson and Nancy have divorced, but it is amicable. My Massachusetts granddaughters will be there (one already graduated from college and living in Boston, the middle a senior at Clark in Worcester and the baby now a freshman at UMass in Amherst.) There will be leftovers, but I will leave them in Massachusetts, because I bought two Butterballs at BJs.

As you read this, one is thawing in my refrigerator, the stuffing is in the freezer, the gravy is made (with an Ina Garten recipe made with no turkey juice, which she calls a base. I will add that base to the basting as Mr. Tom comes out of the oven. With the mashed potatoes, vegetables, gravy, stuffing, turkey and cranberry (I love the canned kind for this casserole), I will make at least two or three casseroles.

Because I never grew up with casseroles, I actually like these better than the original meal. Here is my go-to recipe for this and any kind of meat leftover this winter.

Photo by Jonathan Pielmayer on Unsplash

Turkey Leftover Casserole

3 to 4 pounds of turkey, dark or white meat, slices or chunked, divided
2 pounds of vegetables (beans, turnips, Brussels sprouts, corn or squash), divided
2 to 3 pounds of mashed white potatoes and/or sweet potatoes, divided
1 to 2 pounds stuffing, divided
1 can of cranberry sauce (or made-scratch) cranberry sauce, divided
Leftover gravy from Thanksgiving, or packaged or carton gravy

In a large casserole dish (or a big gratin dish or a big Tupper-type holder), begin to layer the ingredients. I begin with a little mashed potato, then turkey, some gravy, vegetables, mashed potatoes, stuffing and a few slices of cranberry sauce. I end with mashed potatoes and drizzled with gravy, if you still have some. Each casserole will feed at least four to six people.


A La Carte: ‘Tis the Season for Some Scrumptious Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread!

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread

Writing can seem like a lonely profession, but if you are a journalist, it never is. I always wanted to be a journalist and go to either Michigan State or Northwestern. Unfortunately for me, I got a New York State Regents Scholarship and my father, who wasn’t sure I wanted to be a student (I liked the social part but not so much the academics), told me to pick a college in the state college or university system since, at that time, it was free tuition and the scholarship would pay for my room, meals and fees.

He was sort of correct.

Eventually I finished my degree years later at the University of Rochester, where work got me free tuition. As an English major, I still wanted to be a journalist, but I liked my job and liked the fact that I made a bit more money than a journalist. I began writing, free-lance, and found that there was nothing lonely about being a food writer. I began as a restaurant reviewer; a decade or so later, I became more interested in what goes on in a home kitchen rather than a restaurant kitchen.

I love cooking and I love writing about food. Most of all, I love food writing for newspapers, because my readers e-mail me information about ingredients and recipes and tell me they like me (yes, there are Sally Field moments). Last week I heard from two farmers, the owners of 18th Century Purity Farm in Plainfield and Moosup and Scotts’ Family Farm in Essex. They both said they grow the Lodi apples I wanted, but its season is early and short, and the apples were gone by mid-September.

I put both of the farms on my calendar for the week after Labor Day, 2019. Also that week, my editor, Lee Howard at The Times in New London, said a reader was looking for a recipe for chocolate chip pumpkin bread. I played with a recipe. The recipe called for two nine-inch pans but, even at one hour, it was gushy in the middle. The next day I made it again and put the batter in three-loaf pans.

Perfection … and delicious … and dairy-free.

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread

Adapted from Food Network Kitchen

3 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs, lightly beaten
16 ounces canned pureed pumpkin (not the pumpkin pie filling)
3 and one-half cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
One-half teaspoon ground cloves
Two-third cup water
2 cups chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour three 9-inch loaf pans (I use Pam with flour, the blue can). Stir (I use my KitchenAid low) the sugar and oil. Stir in the eggs and pumpkin. In a separate bowl, whisk the flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, nutmeg, allspice, cinnamon and cloves. Blend the dry ingredients and the water into wet mixture. Fold in the chocolate chips. Divide the batter into the loaf pans. Bake until cake tester comes out clean, about 1 hour. Let stand 10 minutes. Remove from the pans and cool.


A la Carte: Looking for an Incredible Dessert? Look No Further Than ‘Banana Split Cake’

Sample a piece of delicious Banana Split Cake!

Almost every Friday evening, I share an early dinner with friends from Groton and Noank at Sneekers. As I have mentioned before, the food is really good and the prices are easy on the wallet. The two owners, Annie and Rhonda, have been friends for years and they opened Sneekers over 30 years ago. They and our favorite waitress, Kelsey, take good care of us and all of their customers.

Before we decide what we will have for dinner (from a regular menu, a specials menu and an Early Dinner menu), we peruse at the blackboard dessert menu,  often ordering at the same time with our entrees, since the three or four special sweets disappear pretty quickly.

The cakes and pies are made elsewhere, we think. It is said that the sweets are made by Rhonda’s sister or cousin. I have often asked. Rhonda and Annie who makes the cakes and pies. In response, they smile. I think they think I might put the information in my columns. They are probably right. In any case, the cakes are always three layers, often creamy, sometimes fruity. The fillings are heavenly and the frosting ethereal. The plate is decked with whipped cream and maraschino cherries.

Last week it was a cherry lemon cake. Kelsey gives us four forks and we share one slice. As we talked, one of our group mentioned a cake her mother made, with Cool-Whip, pineapple and cherries, similar to an ice box cake. I have a similar recipe, too, and it contains  bananas.

My mother used to make a pistachio pudding cake. It was a box cake and baked in a Bundt pan, so there was no filling and, since my mother baked rarely, no frosting, either.

When I got home, I found the Cool-Whip recipe in my files. It requires no baking and is incredibly easy and yummy. I rarely use Cool-Whip, but it works well with this dessert. Do feel free to use real whipped cream. (By the way, if you add a scant teaspoon of dry instant pudding to the whipped cream, it will stay whipped for a couple of days without weeping.)

Banana Split Cake

I think this recipe was given to me by Barb Boynewicz of Stonington. It is an incredible dessert.

Yield: 12 to 14 servings

3 sticks (each 8 tablespoons) butter, preferably unsalted, separated
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
2 cups confectioner’s sugar
2 eggs
1 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
1 20 ounce can crushed pineapple, drained and squeezed
4 bananas, sliced
1 large container Cool Whip
1 cup walnuts, chopped
10 maraschino cherries, halved

Melt 1 stick butter and add graham crumbs. Form a crust in 9- by 13-inch baking pan.

Put 2 sticks butter, confectioner’s sugar, eggs and pure vanilla extract in a bowl and beat at high speed with an electric mixer for 10 minutes. Spread mix over graham cracker crust.

Spread crushed pineapple over filling. Place sliced bananas over crushed pineapple. Cover with container Cool Whip, Sprinkle top with walnuts and placed cherries on top.

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerator for 16 to 20 (or somewhat more) hours.

About the Author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant. She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for LymeLine.com and the Shore Publishing and Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day.


A la Carte: Bake the Best Big, Chewy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies!

Big and chewy oatmeal raisin cookies

A few days after I made banana bread (about six overripe bananas I had, to which I added five overripe ones from Noank friends), I decided it was time to make cookies. (By the way, all four of the banana breads left my homes to friends’ kitchens, because I didn’t want to eat them.) Alter all, I had already thawed two pounds of unsalted butter and, while looking for the chocolate chips (wafers, actually), I saw an unopened package of cinnamon chips and an unopened package of candied ginger.

So I searched for my favorite oatmeal cookie recipe and could not find it under any headings—oatmeal, cookie, cinnamon, nothing. And it wasn’t in my paper file, either. Is it possible I never wrote about them? Anything is possible, I guess, so I found the same book I had used for the banana bread and didn’t even have to use the index; I just leafed through the nearly 600 pages and it opened to Big and Chewy Oatmeal Cookies. I have probably made that recipe so many times that it had three or four different stains on it and maybe some of the pages were damp too.

As with many recipes, I double this one. They freeze beautifully. I pay little attention to raisins (not crazy about raisins, anyway) and for this recipe I use those two ingredients I love: cinnamon chips and candied ginger. How much of each?  The recipe calls for one and a half cups of raisins, so I use 1 cup of cinnamon chips and half a cup of candied ginger; I chop the latter coarsely with a sharp knife. But you can use any combination for this recipe or none at all if you just want a delicious oatmeal cookie

Big and Chewy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

From The Best Recipe by editors of Cook’s Illustrated (Boston Common Press, 1999)

Yield: about 18 large cookies

1 and one-half cup all-purpose flour
One-half teaspoon salt
One-half teaspoon baking powder
One-quarter teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
One-half pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup light brown sugar*
1 cup granulated sugar*
2 large eggs
3 cups rolled oatmeal
1 and one-half cups raisins (optional)

Adjust oven racks to low and middle positions and heat oven to 350 degrees. Line two large cookie sheets with parchment paper. (I use Silpat instead of parchment.)

Whisk flour, salt, baking powder and nutmeg in medium bowl.

Either by hand or with electric mixer, beat butter until creamy. Add sugars, beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in eggs, one at a time.

Stir dry ingredients into butter-sugar mixture with wooden spoon or large rubber spatula. Stir in oats and optional raisins (or chips or candied ginger or dried cranberries).

Working with generous 2 tablespoons of dough each time, roll dough into 2-inch balls. (I often make smaller cookies.) Place balls on parchment- lined cookie sheets, leaving at least 2 inches between each ball.

Bake until cookie edges turn golden brown, 22 to 25 minutes. (Halfway through baking, turn cookie sheet from front to back and also switch them from top to bottom.) Slide cookies, on parchment, to cooling rack. Let cool at least 30 minutes before peeling cookies from parchment.

*I have found that three-quarter cups of both sugars is plenty sweet enough