Posts Categorized: Food

Underwood Family Marinade

grilling marinade

Marinade for Grilling
(vegetables, chicken legs or thighs, pork, lamb)

By Kristine Jepsen • Photos by Aryn Henning Nichols • Illustrations by Lauren Bonney
Originally published in the Summer 2016 Inspire(d)

grilling marinadeThe best recipes, they say, are those known by heart. And the most practiced cooks often work by feel, adapting ideas and recipes to the quality of ingredients, the intensity of the heat as they pass their hand over it – even the ambient temperature of the kitchen. Asking such a cook to write down a go-to recipe – like this marinade for grilled meat or vegetables – is a little like asking for the sequence of his or her DNA.

Fortunately, Decorah chef-of-all-trades Kristen Underwood is used to introducing herself – and improvising. “I’m a professional actor and director by training and a…a…theater entrepreneur by vocation,” she says with a laugh. Since landing in Decorah in the mid-1990s, she’s taught at Luther College, launched Upstart Crow Theatreworks for young actors, co-founded ArtHaus, the local arts education center, and become a speech and drama coach at Decorah High School. On the culinary side, she crafted several beloved lunch favorites working in the deli of Oneota Community Food Co-op and later became an instructor in the store’s kitchen classroom. These days, she’s the covert caterer of dinner parties, business meetings, and other cozy affairs.

grilling marinadeKristen got professional fluidity from her dad, Troy, the originator of the grilling marinade he’s shared with Kristen, she’s shared with numerous friends, and we’re sharing here. An electrical engineer, Troy’s spent a full career in hardware retail before developing and implementing point-of-sale software, mostly for small businesses, in the San Francisco Bay Area.

When he ran a hardware store, in Kristen’s growing-up years, he sold kettle grills and, over time, became quite handy with tongs himself. His bride, DeAnn, is a third-generation native of California’s central coast who grew up on ranch cookouts of grilled chicken and steak, served with green salad, garlic bread and fresh salsa – in the tradition of the area’s Portuguese and Mexican settlers. “Maybe that’s when our family grilling tradition really started,” Kristen muses. “Whatever the origin, it was just something we did – and did together.”

Technique, however, differed between Kristen’s parents. “Both my parents like – no, love – to eat, and both cook, but my mom uses recipes, while my dad almost never does. His style is to sort of flow from an idea.”

The marinade, for example, he picked up in a quaint butcher shop in Provence, France. He went in for some fresh lamb, Kristen explains, “but he wanted it deboned, and while he was waiting, the butcher and another customer, and then another customer – as happens in French culture – got into a heated discussion of the best ways to prepare it.”

Troy, however, did not speak French at the time – he and DeAnn had just begun a tradition of vacationing there with friends. “So he did a lot of smiling and nodding, and chiming in with ‘Ah, oui!” with enthusiasm until he got out of the store with the idea that it involved ‘marinade,’ ‘garlic’ and ‘mustard.’ That was the starting point. He went to work and came to his own conclusions through trial and error.”

Try it!

If you’ve never ventured into the kitchen without a precise recipe, let this one be your entrée, so to speak:

  1. Dollop some dijon mustard into a bowl and stir in several cloves of minced garlic (and herbs, if using).
  2. Thin the mustard with tamari (or lemon juice) until runny but not too thin. (Too thin, Kristen says, results in ‘liquid mustard,’ in which case, add more mustard and wind up with a larger volume. If you don’t catch it in time, don’t worry! Your marinade may just be saltier, not a disaster.)
  3. Whisk in olive oil – adding in a slow, steady stream – until marinade has body again and clings to the spoon/whisk/side of bowl.
  4. Slather thickly on sliced vegetables (like zucchini, onions, eggplant, mushrooms, red peppers), boneless pork loin, lamb chops, or chicken pieces (especially boneless thighs) up to several hours – or right before – grilling.

“Best results come from indirect heat, so we prefer charcoal grilling,” Kristen writes. Get all the coals really hot, then spread them evenly under the cooking surface. If using a gas grill, heat up all the burners, then turn them all down to medium and grill in the center.

“The beauty of cooking with an inexact recipe like this is that it’s pretty forgiving.”

One rookie misstep, Kristen says, is to use heat that’s too direct – it will scorch the garlic in the marinade, giving the whole affair a bitter flavor.

Another no-no is applying the marinade to meats or vegetables that don’t lay very flat on the grill. “This works for chicken pieces – especially boneless thighs – but not whole chicken,” Kristen says. Too steep a vertical angle, and the marinade slides off as it cooks.

And don’t be tempted to mix all the ingredients together at once. “My dad tried that, thinking it would save time, but of course, the olive oil wouldn’t incorporate,” Kristen says. “If you’ve ever tried to make salad dressing, you know it has to be poured in slowly, while whisking or stirring, to emulsify.”

The best thing to do, Kristen says, is just try it. “The beauty of cooking with an inexact recipe like this is that it’s pretty forgiving.” And this, too, is true to family lore.

“My dad’s command of French is almost the stuff of legend now,” she says. “Twenty-seven years of visiting Provence – staying in the same house with the same friends – and he’s still not what you’d call fluent. But while my mom and I – who’ve studied French – might hesitate, trying to be correct, my dad’s just bold. He’s asking what he wants to know in whatever cobbled-together dialect tumbles out. Dutch, Italian, German, same thing,” she says, grinning. “We call him ‘Larry Linguist.’”

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Kristine Jepsen is a freelance writer and editor – read more at kristinejepsen.com. She did not know, prior to writing this story, that burnt garlic was so easy to prevent. One additional tip: this marinade complements meats broiled in the oven, as well.

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PRINT RECIPE HERE
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Read more Roots of Food: Family Recipes and Stories here!

Grandma Henning’s Potato Salad

PotatoSalad_Top

Norma Esther Schmidt Henning’s
Magical Potato Salad

Photos & text by Aryn Henning Nichols • Illustrations by Lauren Bonney
Originally published in the Summer 2016 Inspire(d)

GrandmaHenningGrandma Henning was one of the hardest-working women I’ve ever known. She and her husband, Irvin, raised six kids – 20 years spanning between all of them – on a farm in Ludlow Township outside of Waukon, Iowa.

The big white farmhouse was where grandma grew up – her parents bought the property in the early 1900s. It had five bedrooms, a food cellar, apple orchard, and big garden filled with potatoes, onions, asparagus, and other vegetables. There were cows, hogs, and chickens – my dad and his brothers and sisters grew up eating their own eggs and drinking their own milk.

“We didn’t buy much at the grocery store,” my dad, Ron Henning, says. “Back then, most of the farms were that way – a little bit of everything.”

PotatoSalad_IllustrationsBut it was mainly a dairy farm. There was a great big kitchen – it had a couch on one side next to a rocking chair, and a great, big, well-worn wooden table that would seat at least eight. The chairs were a mis-matched mixture of metal and different shades of wood.

“It was kind of an all purpose room,” my dad says.

“Did grandma like to cook?” I ask. “Ha, well.. I don’t know…” Dad says. “She liked to cook certain things. She really liked making bread – it was sort of therapeutic. Once a week she had one of these big metal bread pans and she would knead up the bread and make eight to 10 loaves and some sort of sweet rolls.”

“Eight to 10 loaves of bread a week?!” I ask.

“Yeah, we’d eat one loaf of bread at breakfast alone. We’d cut it up and put it on the grill – we didn’t toast it – and eat it with eggs and fresh milk. For dinner, everybody’s favorite meal was mashed potatoes, some sort of meat, and some sort of vegetable. We rarely had dessert.”

All of that was before my time, of course. When I knew Grandma Norma, she was living in an apartment above my dad’s auto shop in downtown Waukon. I’d go to work with dad (in lieu of daycare), and when I got too annoying for his crew, I’d be sent up to Grandma’s. I’d ask her about all her plants – she had a ton. She’d tell me the names of each, one-by-one, and then she’d fix me something for lunch. It was always simple, served up on her round, flowered cloth-covered table in her eat-in kitchen.

After, we’d go back on the patio to check on flowers out there, or for a quick walk around town. Walking was Grandma’s only mode of transportation, besides rides from friends and family; she never wanted to learn how to drive. Finally, she’d send me back down to my dad – usually because she needed to get going for a volunteer shift at the Senior Site in Waukon, or with the ladies groups at Zalmona Church.

For church events and at Henning family reunions, Grandma would often bring potato salad. I remember the first time I tasted her recipe. I raved (like I do), “Oh my goodness, Grandma! This is the most amazing potato salad I’ve ever had! What magical ingredients are in this?”

My introduction to this potato salad happened to coincide with my college efforts at becoming a cook, and Betty Crocker had been tutoring me in the potato salad genre that summer.

Grandma scoffed a bit, just like my dad does these days, their German heritage shining through, “Auck. It’s nothing special.”

“No seriously, Grandma! What’s in this? Is it a secret? Is it illegal?!” At this point, she’s either starting to get a little miffed or totally embarrassed at my gushing.

“Well, there’s potatoes, you know. And eggs. And salad dressing. I put a little evaporated milk in there too,” Grandma says.

“Evaporated milk?! That’s it! I must get this recipe,” I exclaim.

I asked grandma about it a few times after that, but we both always forgot to follow through on it. Grandma Henning eventually moved into an assisted living apartment, but still walked and volunteered quite a bit. The reunions became less frequent, though, and by the time she passed away in 2008, I had never gotten the recipe.

So when we decided to write about generational recipes for this Inspire(d), I immediately thought of that magical potato salad. And I pestered my dad, aunts, and uncles to get the details for me. There were calls to family friends made, and some digging through recipe files, but eventually, we found it! You can imagine my excitement! It was one of those “as many potatoes as you can fit in your pan” sort of recipes, so I’ve nailed it down a bit more for you here. I truly can’t wait to bring this to family reunions for years to come! Enjoy!

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Aryn Henning Nichols loves cooking and telling stories. How lovely to do it all at once!

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PRINT RECIPE HERE
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Norma Henning’s Potato Salad

(Says Aunt Kim: “This was probably her take on the Schmidt family recipe. She made it from memory and didn’t have it written down.”)

Boil 6-7 medium red potatoes in well-salted water, drain and allow to cool
Boil 3-4 eggs and cool

Cut up potatoes and boiled eggs (smaller pieces are my preference)

Mix 1/2 cup mayo (or salad dressing) with 1/4 cup evaporated milk
Add 1 tbls plain yellow mustard
1 tsp sugar
2 tsp white vinegar
Finely chop 1 medium onion and 2 stalks celery

Mix all together and enjoy.

Tip: Really salt the boiling water well – you can add salt to the finished potato salad, but I find adding extra salt makes the potato salad runnier the next day.

Read more Roots of Food: Family Recipes and Stories here!

Rhubarb Torte Recipe

RhubarbTorte

It’s a baking kind of day here in the Driftless Region. I don’t know about you, but there are about six ripe bananas in my freezer that need to get used, and my rhubarb is on its very last stalks. Since we’re officially into summer now, let’s say goodbye to spring. Go ahead and pull that last rhubarb up, warm the kitchen (I’m seriously wearing a fleece right now), and make this yummy treat!

This has been my go-to rhubarb recipe since it was introduced to me in 2009. It’s called a torte, but it’s unlike any torte I’ve ever made before. My grandma has a similar recipe, but this one is from my good friend Kristin Torresdal’s grandma, Grace Torresdal . If you do it right, it creates a magical top crust all by itself! Try it out, and please let me know if you have any questions.

Rhubarb Torte by Grace Torresdal (transcribed by Kristin Torresdal)
*For a 9×9 pan

Preheat oven to 350

• Wash and cut rhubarb (recipe calls for 2 cups but Grandma says she usually uses close to 3)
• 1 c. cake flour (or improvise and use 1 c. minus 3 tbsp regular flour); and then add 3 tbsp corn starch…this approximates consistency of cake flour
• 5 tbsp powdered sugar
• 1/2 c. butter

MIX AND BAKE CRUST 15 mins @ 350 degrees (Ed. note: It seems pretty crumbly when you put it in the pan, but once you pat it down and bake it, it does indeed form a solid crust. Sometimes I bake it a few minutes longer because I like my crust to be nice and firm…)

WHILE BAKING CRUST, MIX THE FOLLOWING IN THE ORDER GIVEN

(Ed. note: that “order given” part is really important. Mix each ingredient after you’ve added it – this seems to be the secret to the crust “magically” appearing in the oven.)

• 2 eggs
• 1 3/4 c. sugar
• 1/4 tsp salt
• 1/4 c flour (regular, not cake) – Grandma says ‘I throw in an extra, heaping tsp because otherwise it can get runny…especially if we’ve had rain lately and the rhubarb is moist)
• 3/4 tsp baking powder
• Rhubarb (2-3 cups, as you prefer, cut up)

Spread the filling over the crust and bake @ 350 for 30-35 minutes – Grandma says it generally takes hers 35-40 minutes because she doesn’t like it too runny…and top gets crispier…in that case, I recommend letting it sit a bit so the rhubarb juices from below rise to the top…yum!
Serve with ice cream or cream (if you can possibly handle any more sweetness!)

rhubarb

 *9×13 INCH PAN RECIPE (follow steps above using the measurements below)

• 1 1/2 cake flour (it’s still adequate to take out 3 tbsp regular flour and replace with 3 tbsp corn starch)
• 7 1/2 tbsp powdered sugar
• 3/4 c butter
• 3 eggs
• 2 5/8 c sugar
• 1/2 tsp salt
• 3/8 c flour (heaping tsp extra)
• 1 1/8 tsp baking powder
• 3-4 c rhubarb, cut up

I know Kristin, her grandma, and of course the team at Inspire(d) hope you enjoy this recipe, and this lovely, cool day!

XO,
Aryn