Making a White House-worthy dinnerIt’s a pretty safe bet that I’ll never eat dinner at the White House, but I did get to eat a White House dinner. In May, at the Long Term Care Association convention in Bismarck, I ate a meal that was planned and prepared with the help of Walter Scheib, a former White House chef.
It’s a pretty safe bet that I’ll never eat dinner at the White House, but I did get to eat a White House dinner. In May, at the Long Term Care Association convention in Bismarck, I ate a meal that was planned and prepared with the help of Walter Scheib, a former White House chef.
Scheib, the author of “White House Chef: Eleven Years, Two Presidents and One Kitchen,” was hired by First Lady Hillary Clinton and maintained his position until 2005.
Scheib now writes a blog called TheAmericanChef.com and travels across the United States speaking about his days as a White House chef. The dinners are similar to ones he made for the Clinton and Bush families and for events during their administrations.
During the Long Term Care Association event in Bismarck, Scheib shared stories about cooking for Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton and George W., Laura, Barbara and Jenna Bush. The event, called “A White House Dinner Conversation,” featured four courses. Scheib a story about each course.
The first was Red Curried Sweet Potato soup, a blend of Asian flavors and lemongrass, that was the signature soup for Chelsea, who became a vegan as a teen. The second course, Tequila Glazed Mmoked Angus Tenderloin with warm Fruit Salsa and Chipotle-Corn Sauce, was created by Scheib when he had to quickly prepare a meal for the Bush twins who invited their friends over for State-like dinner.
Because Scheib thought Jenna and Barbara also were out of town, he was short of food when the twins requested he make dinner. He found sirloin steaks in the fridge, cut them and prepared a sauce of honey, lime juice and tequila. He then cut corn off the cob and mixed it with chipotle chili peppers.
Despite the short notice, “the dinner went well,” Scheib said.
In the European tradition, the third course of the White House Conversation dinner was Orange and Sweet Onion Salad and Manchego Tamale Tart — two dishes Scheib developed for the First families. Dessert was Peach and Blackberry Cobbler, a favorite of Bill Clinton’s, and Honey Lavender Ice Cream.
Eating the meal and hearing the stories about his days working in the White House were about the closest I’ve ever come or likely will come to being a White House insider. I enjoyed feeling like one for a couple of hours in Bismarck.
Here are a few recipes (from “White House Chef, Eleven Years, Two Presidents and One Kitchen”) similar to dishes that were part of the meal in Bismarck:
Thai-Spiced Sweet Potato Soup
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon chopped shallot
1 tablespoon grated, peeled fresh ginger
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
½ tablespoon grated lemongrass (white base portions, only, outer layers peeled and removed)
1 kaffir lime leaf (available at Kalustyans’s, phone (800) 352-3451 or at www.kalustyans.com)
1 to 3 teaspoons red curry paste (to taste)
1 cup peeled, diced sweet potato (from about 1 large sweet potato)
About 4 cups homemade or store-bought low-sodium vegetable or chicken stock (for a nonvegetarian version)
½ cup unsweetened coconut milk
2 tablespoons honey
Juice of two limes
Freshly ground salt and pepper
Scallions for garnish (optional)
Heat vegetable oil in medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Add the shallot, ginger, garlic, lemongrass, lime leaf and 1 teaspoon of the curry paste (for a spicier result, add 1 to 2 teaspoons of curry paste). Cook, stirring until shallot and ginger are tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Do not let the ingredients brown. Add sweet potato and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add stock and coconut milk. Let simmer until potato is very tender (a thin-bladed knife tip should easily pierce the center), 20 to 30 minutes. Remove pot from heat and blend with a handheld immersion blender until smooth. (You also can process soup, in batches, in a food processor — be sure to leave tube open to allow steam to escape.) Strain through a fine-mesh strainer into a clean medium saucepan. If it seems excessively thick (like a puree), thin it slightly with additional stock. Stir in the honey and lime juice and season to taste with salt and pepper. (It’s best to serve soup freshly made, but you can keep it covered, at room temperature, for up to 4 hours. Reheat gently, before serving.) To serve: ladle soup into bowls and garnish with scallions. (3 scallions, green parts only, finely sliced crossways)
Orange, Jicama and Red Onion Salad with Cilantro Dressing
1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup orange juice
¼ cup sherry vinegar
½ cup chopped cilantro leaves
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground coriander
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Salt and freshly ground pepper
4 large, seedless Navel oranges
1 cup thinly sliced red onion
1 cup julienned peeled jicama
1 tablespoon finely diced seeded jalapeno pepper
1 cup loosely packed arugula leaves or baby spinach leaves
In a small bowl, stir oil, orange juice, vinegar, ¼ cup cilantro, cumin, coriander and cinnamon until well-blended. Season to taste with a few dashes of hot sauce, salt and pepper. Peel oranges and cut crosswise into 3/8-inch slices. In a large bowl, combine the onion, jicama, remaining ¼ cup of cilantro, jalapeno and arugula or spinach. Drizzle with dressing, toss gently and thoroughly. To serve, divide orange slices among four salad plates, arranging in a single layer. Top each portion with salad and serve. For a buffet, replicate presentation on a large platter or put the oranges and salad in a bowl and toss together gently.
Tropical Fruit Salsa
1 tablespoon olive oil
¼ cup thinly sliced red onion
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1 teaspoon chopped jalapeno pepper (remove seeds for a less spicy salsa)
¼ cup diced pineapple
¼ cup diced mango
¼ cup diced papaya
¼ cup diced plum tomato
2 tablespoons freshly chopped cilantro leaves
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon hot sauce
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Over medium heat, warm oil in a medium, heavy-bottomed saute pan. Add red onion, garlic and jalapeno. Saute, until softened, 2 to 3 minutes. Add pineapple, mango, papaya and plum tomato, toss and cook for 2 to 3 minutes to heat through. Add cilantro, lime juice, cumin, coriander and hot sauce, toss quickly, and remove from heat. Season with salt and pepper and serve warm, but not too hot.
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