Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Sunday Dinner Questionnaire: Shirley Doogue

Shirley Doogue: snake wrangler/cake baker.
I met Shirley Doogue at my family's dinner table fifteen years ago.  She and her husband Jim had come to Virginia for their son's wedding to my sister and we all had dinner together the first night they arrived.  After dinner, Shirley and Jim presented me with a cigar box and said, "We found this at a garage sale and we thought you might like it."  Inside the box was a 1950's David White Stereo Realist Camera.  It was the first stereoscopic camera I had ever held, much less owned.

It took me almost a year to track down a repair person who could get the camera into running condition and then to figure out how to use it.  It is still one of my favorite cameras and one of the best, and most unexpected, gifts I have ever received.

Shirley is someone I wish I knew better.  And not just because she knows how to shop.  She's also an incredible baker who makes memorable cakes for her grandchildren every year.  I know this because two of her grandsons happen to be my nephews and I always love seeing the photos of her creations.  Here are just a few of her masterpieces.
Sean's 5th birthday cupcakes.
Jack's 7th birthday cake, October 2010.
In addition to being a great baker, Shirley is also somewhat of an expert on Swedish food, although I'm sure she would disagree with the use of the word "expert".  When my sister first joined the Doogue family she regaled us with stories about the Swedish dinner they ate each Christmas Eve.  It was full of mysterious and unknown foods and I loved hearing about it.  Shirley sent me some amazing photos of something called "Pressed Sylta", which I'll be posting in the near future--- as soon as I get a few more details about it's history (and a recipe.)  In the meantime, be sure to check out her recipe for Swedish Fried Kale at the end of this questionnaire.  

The Official Sunday Dinner Questionnaire: Shirley Doogue

1. What is your favorite food to eat?
 I must say I think it's roast chicken or turkey with stuffing, cranberries, potatoes, gravy, green beans, and butternut squash!   I believe the reason that is my favorite is because it reminds me of the times when our family would be together including an aunt, uncle, and cousin, and we would linger at the table.  However, I am a carbohydrate junkie, so anything with pasta would be a close second!!

2. What is your favorite food to cook? 
An unusual answer for this forum, but my favorite thing to cook is a new recipe!!  I love trying new things, and I usually try new recipes at least once a month.  However, some of my most often cooked dishes (which I guess you could say are favorites in a sense) are lasagna, jambalaya, chicken piccata, chicken marsala, tomato avocado and feta crostini, herbed and spiced roasted beef tenderloin, baked brie with apricot and cranberry. 

3. Who or what is your greatest culinary influence? Why is he/she/it an
inspiration to you?
I would have to say it is my older sister.  She is an amazing cook and sets the most beautiful table.  When my son was one year old, she made a potato salad house, a carousel cake, and hard boiled eggs that looked like penguins!  She has been my inspiration for making birthday cakes for my sons and now my grandsons, but she has also given me some wonderful recipes.

4. What is your favorite kitchen utensil and why do you love it?
I think my favorite kitchen utensil would be a spoon because I use so many of them when I cook!  I have a favorite spoon I use when mixing that has been in my home for years and I use spoons to taste while cooking!  Knives are a close second!

5. What did you eat for dinner this past weekend?
A new recipe for white cheddar cheese with apple conserve, Waldorf salad,  filet mignon, baked potato with sour cream, and roasted asparagus with grated parmesan cheese.

6. When you were growing up, did you eat Sunday dinner or another meal that brought your friends and family together on a regular basis?
We did eat Sunday dinner every Sunday afternoon.  It always consisted of  meat, potato, and a vegetable.  We also ate dinner every night as a family when I was growing up.  I tried to do that with my children too, but as they got older, there are so many other things that they have to fit into their schedule!  I also fondly remember buying corn on the cob from a local farm, and shucking it on the back porch.  Then we would eat it and only it for Sunday supper.

7. I do not have a vegetable garden.  I tried growing some heirloom tomatoes from Linda Lutz by drying the seeds and planting them in the Spring.  The plants did grow, but the tomatoes weren't nearly as nice as Linda's!  I don't think I prepared the soil as I should have.  And now we have deer that eat our gardens, so I probably won't be trying vegetables again for quite some time!! 

8. What is your ultimate food fantasy?
Hmm...I think my ultimate food fantasy would be to go to Tuscany and sample wonderful Italian food along with delicious wine!!

9. If you could choose to have any person living or dead prepare a meal for you, who would it be? What would you want to eat?
I think it would be my Swedish grandmother (whom I never met), and the dinner would be a Swedish smorgasbord!

10. Fill in the blank: "The most important element of a good meal is:________."
The company! 

Fried Kale or Cabbage 
(although "Sauteed Kale" is a more accurate description)
by Shirley Doogue

2 heads of cabbage sauteing in pan
There are no exact measurements in this recipe.  My aunt who gave me the recipe did lots by look and feel.  You can also use 2 heads of cabbage instead of 2 bunches of kale.

  • 2 bunches kale chopped (or 2 heads of cabbage)
  • 1 stick of butter
  • scant 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 1 teaspoon vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Finished product, which had reduced to 1/4 original volume.
  • Melt butter in  saucepan.
  • Add brown sugar, molasses, vinegar, salt and pepper to taste.
  • Stir until all ingredients are combined.
  • Add chopped kale (or cabbage) and stir to coat.
  • Cook on medium until kale starts to reduce, stirring occasionally.
  • Lower heat to low and cook for approx. 6 hours, stirring occasionally.  The volume will reduce substantially and it should be brown when done.