Tag Archives: Frog

A Mother’s Day Tribute

My  mother died on March 23, 2010.  She was a remarkable women. Here are three “notes” from At Home that that illustrate ways my mother influenced my understanding of home entertaining plus her recipe for Stuffed Cabbage.

‘Tis not the Food; ‘Tis the Appetite
In 1954 in our new home in the Crestwood section of Yonkers, my mother commissioned murals painted on her kitchen and pantry walls based upon illustrations in James Beard’s Fireside Cookbook. One of those illustrations is included in this book’s dedication. Another mural’s caption would daily remind me that “’Tis not the food but ’tis the appetite that makes eating a delight.”

My Bar Mitzvah
My two primary memories of my bar mitzvah are that my knees literally shook as I recited my havtorah and that the party afterward in my parents’ home was for family and friends of my parents. Setting a nice table and cooking well were always important to my mother. It was at her table that I first understood the nature of hospitality. But it was on my first day of Jewish adulthood that I learned that parties—even your own—are for other people.

Henny’s Girls
In 1979 my father died of a stroke on The Fountain’s golf course in Lake Worth, Florida; his ashes are scattered there. My mother, 10 years his junior, had years ahead of her and a new life to build. Her first summer as a widow, she journeyed to Williamstown, Massachusetts, with friends Nora and Beatie for a month in the Berkshires. Just before they left, my mother wondered if they were going to return next year to Williamstown, and if so, if she should buy a home rather than rent. By the next day, she owned a small Victorian fixer-upper next door to the Williams Inn. Every spring through fall for the next decade, she operated A House on Main Street, a small bed and breakfast. Later, tired of making bran muffins and ready for a change, she sold the inn. The following spring, she set up her warm-weather residence in Philadelphia, where other than me and my small family, she knew no one. Ever resourceful, my mother joined a group planning a Paris trip. (My mother is probably one of the few people who’s gone to Paris to meet Philadelphians.) It was at the trip’s reunion that she scanned the group, made up primarily of younger-than-her single women, and announced that every Sunday evening—a time she perceived as most lonely for singles—her table would be set for anyone who wanted to come. Thus was founded a group of wonderful women, self-named “Henny’s Girls,” whose common point of reference is my mother. My mother has enriched their lives with good food, like her stuffed cabbage and charred eggplant dip (see page 79) and lively conversation. They have, in turn, enriched her life with affection and devotion. Most recently, back in Lake Worth, she is working on establishing a chapter of Henny’s Girls South.

Henny’s Stuffed Cabbage
The night we opened Frog in 1973, my mother prepared her delicious sweet and sour stuffed cabbage rolls as Frog’s debut special. Over the years they have become a staple on our Rosh Hashanah menu, but there is no reason to restrict these wonderful morsels to that holiday. One roll makes for a nice first course; two or three for a filling entrée. Sometimes we make thumb-sized versions and serve them as hors d’oeuvres.
do ahead Stuffed cabbage is best when made at least one day ahead and reheated before serving. It can also be stored in the freezer for up to one month. Defrost and reheat in a 325º oven.

Cabbage Rolls
1⁄3 cup cooked white rice
1 large head green cabbage
6 gingersnaps
1⁄2 cup water
1 pound ground beef
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1⁄2 cup ketchup

1 cup chopped yellow onion
1 cup sauerkraut
15-ounce can whole tomatoes, drained
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1⁄2 cup light brown sugar
6 gingersnaps, crumbled
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
1⁄4 teaspoon pepper
1⁄2 cup ketchup

1 Cut out the core of the cabbage and place in a pot. Nearly cover with water and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer until leaves can be parted easily, about 5 minutes. Remove cabbage, drain and peel off softer leaves. If inner leaves are still stiff, return to water and repeat. Pat leaves dry.
2 Make the filling: crumble gingersnaps in water to form a paste. In a bowl, combine paste, rice, beef, salt, brown sugar and ketchup.
3 To form the cabbage rolls, lay a leaf flat on a clean surface. Place about 3 tablespoons of mixture in the center of each leaf. Fold the two sides over the filling and then roll tightly and set aside, seam side down. Repeat with remaining ingredients, reserving the smaller leaves for the sauce.
4 Preheat oven to 350º. Chop reserved small cabbage leaves and set aside. Rinse sauerkraut well, squeeze out water and set aside. Gently squeeze tomatoes to remove some juice, then tear tomatoes apart.
5 To make the sauce, heat oil in a deep sauté pan and add onion. Cook until onion begins to brown, about 10 minutes. Chop reserved cabbage, add to pan and continue cooking until nicely browned, about 5-10 minutes more. Mix in sauerkraut, tomatoes, brown sugar, gingersnaps, salt and pepper. Continue cooking slowly for 15 minutes, adding water if it gets too thick.
6 To assemble, spoon half of the sauce into a baking dish. Place cabbage rolls in a single layer, seam side down. Cover with remaining sauce. Make a ribbon of ketchup across the top of the rolls. Cover with foil.
7 Bake for at least 2 hours. Remove foil after 1 hour and add as much as 1⁄2 cup water if cabbage appears too dry.
8 Serve hot or hold for one day and reheat in a 325º oven.
serves 6-8

After the core is removed, the whole cabbage head is briefly cooked in boiling war to soften leaves so that you can separate them from the head and roll. If removing  individual leaves becomes difficult, just return the head to boiling water again to further loosen leaves. Once removed from the head, if they are not soft enough to roll you can return them to the water to further soften.

It is important to pat dry the leaves. Dry leaves are easier to roll. Also, residue water could thin down the sauce.

Slowly saute onions until lightly browned and caramelized to bring out their maximum sweetness. Take care not to burn.

Cabbage leftover from the whole head — leaves too small to roll — get chopped and added to onions to be used in sauce.

Continue cooking until cabbage lightly browns.

The cabbage leaves will run the gamut from large outer leaves to smaller inner leaves. To make more uniform rolls you can use two small leaves together to make a larger roll. Try to keep the stuffing together and don’t worry too much of you have formed a perfect roll. As my mother used to say, “It all gets mixed up in the stomach.” If you want to make all smaller rolls, cut large leaves in half.

Here’s a very helpful tip: The outer leaves are best for making large cabbage rolls, but outer leaves tend to have very sturdy ribs that are difficult to soften without overcooking the leaves. To solve this problem, turn the leaves so that the inner side is face down and the outer side — now face up — exposes the sturdy rib. With a sharp knife, make a series of slits in the rib without cutting all the way through. Turn the leaf over and toll. The slits now make that much easier

Place a generous amount of sauce in over-proof baking dish.

Place cabbage rolls over sauce, top with move sauce and a ribbon of ketchup.

Cover with foil and bake for the initial two hours. Then remove foil, add some water if sauce appears  too thick and bake uncovered for an additional hour.

The finished product.

Next: Don’t Try This At Home: Behind the Scenes at the Dad Vail Regatta.

Thank you for visiting.

Your Home Entertaining Coach

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Reading Terminal Market Moments

I have a wonderful and bright (as in smart and sunny of disposition) new assistant named Britt. Britt was one of those Craig’s List miracles — an apparent random choice that resulted in a match seemingly made in heaven. Britt’s mother related to her the day Commissary Carrot Cake sent her into labor with her brother. Stories abound at the intersection of my past forty professional years and the lives of many. One of the joys of sitting in Reading Terminal Market selling At Home is the stories related to me by the many people who stop to chat.

From Prep Baker to Food Editor
Over the years thousands of young people have worked for me. It is especially gratifying to hear of stories of how careers connected to food blossomed from seeds planted in our kitchens and restaurants. One visitor this weekend related the direct line from teenage baker’s assistant in The Commissary to food editorship of a major metropolitan newspaper.

Julia and Me
It is the familiar cover of The Frog Commissary Cookbook that is what catches the eye of Reading Terminal passers-by. Frequently this leads to a re-counting of the well-worn condition of their well-used copy of my original book. It seems like a fair proportion on Philadelphians have such a copy. Here’s a favorite: “I have two very worn cookbooks. One is Julia Child’s and the other my Frog Commissary Cookbook.” Now that’s pretty good company! I tell people At Home is The Frog Commissary Cookbook with twenty-five years more experience.

A Family’s Passages
Most gratifying are intersections with the lives of families. One such family related how Frog Commissary catered their wedding…and then their son’s Bar Mitzvah. And lo and behold, there’s their son…a Harvard graduate who spent a year working at Pixar and now visiting from Chicago where he is studying for an advanced degree in math. (It must have been the excellent food!)

International” Oatmeal Cookie Tasting
Then there was the “International Cookie Tasting.” A table visitor related how, in her search for the perfect oatmeal cookie, she carefully selected and baked from four recipes. She sent the cookie samples around the country to scattered friends — including one in London, thus “international.” Being friends, they dutifully filled out and returned the enclosed evaluations. The winner – hands down — was from The Frog Commissary Cookbook.

A Call from the Past
One table visitor recounted how a friend from far away heard me on Radio Times last Wednesday, which reminded her of Philadelphia and her long forgotten friend. This lead to a call — after ten years. Very sweet.

If you have similar memories –career choices, first dates at The Commissary, marriage proposals at Frog, family outings and occasions — please share them with me and others as comments on this blog.

Personal Moments
As book owners know, running along page bottoms where short recipes permit are short notes where I share my own memorable moments. This note is about my meeting my wife, Christina. Sunday, November 29th was Christina’s and my first anniversary. After our wedding we went to Congress Hall in Cape May for a brief honeymoon. That’s where we are this Monday.

Sometimes You Get Lucky!
On a June Saturday we catered a small wedding luncheon for Lenni and Perry at the Rosenbach Museum and Library on tree-lined Delancey Place. Lenni was an old friend who had testified on our behalf at the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board license hearing for little Frog in 1973. The first course was the pea soup with beet heart described on page 109. A spectacular lobster salad followed, making for a lovely luncheon. The next day, Lenni and Perry held a party for their “B-list” at El Vez, a stylish Tex-Mex restaurant. I was on the B-list. Normally, I wouldn’t have gone, as I’m more interested in working behind the scenes than attending big parties. But a wedding planner who had helped with Saturday’s luncheon was also invited, and she was a friend, so I decided to drop by—a life-changing decision. It was at El Vez—amidst margaritas and mojitos, nachos and enchiladas—that I first saw Christina. As she would soon tell me, it was not actually the first time we had met. Our prior meeting was in Lenni’s backyard, where I was cooking on the very best gas grill I ever cooked on—a near-religious experience, from which even Christina’s amazing eyes could not distract me. But at El Vez, it was all apparent and captivating: the eyes, the smile, and, of course, the wit and charm. She told me that Don and Frog Commissary had almost catered two of her almost-weddings. By New Year’s Eve we were engaged. Setting the date proved to be a longer process, but Frog Commissary would finally get to cater a Christina wedding.

Happy Anniversary Gracie.


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Chapter 4 — Soups

We’re down to 14 days until At Home by Steve Poses: A Caterer’s Guide to Cooking & Entertaining ships from Kentucky. That means 14 of 19 chapters still to preview.

Section 2 is all about Getting the Meal Started. It includes three chapters. Chapter 4 — Soups offers thirteen delicious soup recipes plus a spread about Mastering Soup Purees. Chapter 5 is Tossed Salads & Dressings. Chapter 6 features Composed First Courses — cold and room temperature recipes meant to be arranged, ideally on individual plates.

You may have noticed that our recipes are presented in a somewhat unconventional way. I always objected to the standard presentation of listing recipes in the order of the recipe steps when you have to do things to ingredients before you even get to the steps. In a kitchen we do all of the chopping, dicing, etc. in advance of starting the actual cooking or assembly and I think that way makes the most sense. So, our ingredient list always starts with those ingredients that have implicit steps like chopping, etc. In addition, the ingredient is presented in boldface so that it is easy to scan an ingredient list. Finally, in the recipe steps the first time you use and ingredient, the ingredient is presented in boldface. I think it’s just a smarter way to present a recipe.

So, what follows is a recipe, note — today it’s a bottom note. Bottom notes are occur occasionally throughout the book and are autobiographical. Then, of course, there’s a Pascal Lemaitre illustration.

Gingered Butternut Squash Bisque
A bit of fresh ginger and five-spice powder enhance the natural sweetness of that hourglass shaped fall staple, butternut squash. Serve in an acorn squash bowl for a stunning presentation.
do ahead Soup can be made up to four days ahead, stored in the refrigerator and reheated.
2 medium butternut squash, halved and seeded
11⁄2 tablespoons finely chopped ginger, divided
2 cups finely chopped onion
1⁄2 cup finely chopped celery
3⁄4 cup finely chopped carrot
1⁄4 cup olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons five-spice powder
11⁄2 quarts vegetable broth
1 teaspoon salt
1⁄2 teaspoon white pepper
1⁄2 cup heavy cream

1 Preheat oven to 350º.
2 Place squash on a baking sheet. In a small bowl, combine 1 tablespoon ginger, 2 tablespoons oil and the five-spice powder. Rub squash with spice mixture. Roast squash in oven until tender, about 30-45 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
3 In a large skillet, heat remaining oil. Add onion, celery, carrot and remaining ginger and cook until vegetables are soft, about 10-12 minutes.
4 Scrape squash from skin and transfer flesh to blender jar. Working in batches, combine with cooked vegetables and vegetable broth and blend until smooth. Transfer blended mixture to a large soup pot.
5 Season mixture with salt and white pepper. Over a moderate flame, bring soup to a simmer, then stir in cream. Serve in warmed bowls.
serves 6-8

View more recipes from At Home.

A Frog Is Born
On the evening of April 4, 1973, my little Frog was born. It would be years before I’d actually place a sign on the building. Instead, we were “the place on 16th Street with all the plants in the front window.” Highlights of Frog’s opening-night menu included onion soup, calf’s liver with mustard sauce and rack of lamb lifted from La Panetière. Our paella and canneloni recipes came from a Time-Life cookbook. My mother made a batch of her stuffed cabbage. The wine list included bottles of Mateus and Mouton Cadet, plus several selections by the glass—a Philadelphia first. On other nights we offered quiche, brochette of beef and Thai chicken curry, a blend of spices and French béchamel. It was the birth of what became known as fusion. By today’s standards, it wasn’t much. But served by energetic kids anxious to please, the food at Frog, and the restaurant itself, was something new, a soldier on the front lines of a restaurant revolution. Versions of Frog would appear in cities across America.

Picture 4

This is Pascal’s illustration for Mexican Clam Chowder.

Tomorrow: I am going to skip ahead to Chapter 10Braises, Casserole & One-Dish Entrees — so that I can share my recipe for Holiday-Ready Brisket in plenty of time to plan for your Rosh Hashana.

Looking ahead – Sunday we will pick-up our countdown order with Chapter 5 – Tossed Salads and feature our recipe for Fatoush – our chopped version of the traditional Middle Eastern tomato and cucumber salad with a wonderful dressing of lemon, mint and olive oil.

If you purchase a book between now and the end of the month you will receive a signed, numbered first edition. Books will never be available in bookstores. You can buy it now in our online shop. Who knows, one day that may be a collector’s item and you’ll be able to sell it on eBay for big bucks! When you buy the book, you will receive access to our At Home Online. And just wait until you see that!

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Thank you.


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