People think that because I’m a chef, we must eat “gourmet” food all the time. Not! Remember, I have to cook for my family, just like you have to cook for yours. And just like yours, every person in my family has different tastes; only one of them matches mine and they don’t live with us anymore.
My oldest child loves to eat like I do – lots of vegetables and grains and mostly vegetarian. But a serious lactose intolerance limits their dairy intake and I often make a meal out of a beautiful cheese plate. This one is in graduate school and doesn’t live with us. But they are a great cook and, to be honest, does a much better job of eating healthy all the time than I do. For them, every Sunday is “shop and chop” day – they prep all their meals ahead of time, bring a healthy lunch to school every day and never eat junk food.
Child number two exists mostly on junk food. He eats meat, bread, macaroni and cheese, and hot sauce. The only vegetables that cross his palate are lettuce, on a sandwich or in a Caesar salad, onions on anything, Israeli salad without tomatoes, and avocado, but only as guacamole. Oh, and potatoes, but only if they’re twice baked and loaded with cheese. He will eat fish grudgingly, but only because those twice baked potatoes are usually on the side. And he puts hot sauce on everything. He snacks on a baguette with hot sauce on every bite. He drinks only Dr. Pepper and the occasional hot chocolate.
My husband mostly goes along with everything I cook, but grumbles about the vegetables, except Brussels sprouts and roasted potatoes. His favorite meal is roast chicken, which he then loves to eat cold for lunch – but only the dark meat.
One of today’s recipes is a perfect example of our family-eating dynamic. The recipe for this Italian Chicken Bake originally came from 365 Chicken Recipes cookbook, which actually only contains about twenty recipes with variations. When the kids were at home, it was a frequent Shabbat dinner, because it goes together quickly and bakes in one dish.
The dish includes cut up chicken on the bone, Jacks Italian sausage, onions, peppers, garlic, and canned tomatoes. Child number one eats the sausage (a rare meat treat) and the vegetables, especially loving the roasted tomatoes.
Child number two eats the sausage and onions, maybe a chicken thigh, and makes sure there is no trace of tomato on any bite.
Husband eats everything except the tomatoes, plus roasted potatoes on the side. I’m the only one who eats everything.
So, of all the other “gourmet” dishes in my repertoire, what do I really cook on a regular basis?
Meatloaf. Every family has their favorite recipe; in my extended family we argue about whose is best. Mine is topped with a “fancy” glaze of ketchup and honey. Instead of one large meatloaf, I usually make several smaller ones, so there are more ends, which are everybody’s favorite part, and more surface area for glaze.
Another favorite is the second recipe today – Tomato Rarebit. The sauce recipe came from the Cincinnati Enquirer almost forty years ago. The whole dish is a replica of a special that was served at James Tavern, which is now Parker’s in Blue Ash. After I graduated from college, I worked at The Tavern, as we called it, for three years as a bartender and server. It was owned by Stouffer’s – yes, the frozen food, Stouffer’s. Although most of the food was made fresh, one favorite special was Fried Perch with Spinach Soufflé and Rarebit Sauce. You can still buy the soufflé and the sauce in the frozen food section at Kroger.
Because I had saved the sauce recipe from the paper, I made it instead of using the frozen; it has the addition of tomato soup, which I love. And instead of the spinach soufflé, I just use plain frozen spinach. The fish also comes frozen; I use Gordon’s or Mrs. Paul’s battered fillets. So you can see, this is not a completely scratch meal and it certainly isn’t gourmet. I would never serve it to company, but it’s my husband’s second favorite meal and the one I make when he’s mad at me.