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Cooking for Madam: Recipes and Reminiscences from the Home of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis
Chapter One: January
Winter Dinner after Sledding in Central Park
When I first came, we almost never spent winter weekends in the city. That's what the New Jersey house was for. We went there if we weren't going somewhere on the Christina. That year the boat was moored in the United States, and Mr. Onassis liked to spend time on the boat, with us flying in. That way we could go someplace interesting and beautiful and warm and still have privacy.
In the summer we were never in New York. When John and Caroline were young, we were in Greece. Later we went to Hyannis — until 1980, when the house on Martha's Vineyard was built. When we were going to Greece, we would come back in August and go to Hyannis until September. Then we'd have to come back to New York because school was starting. On Martha's Vineyard or in Hyannis or in Greece, there was always swimming, sailing, water skiing, running on the beach. There were other sports the children did with their cousins, like football or touchball or baseball.
On winter weekends we went skiing a lot, at Hunter Mountain, which is near, in upstate New York. We went Friday and came back Sunday night. I took John more than Caroline. She was three years older so she went to boarding school three years sooner. I still had her on vacations, but I had more of him.
I remember John and I went to France one year to ski with the Kennedys and Mrs. Lawford. And then another year the family went all together to Switzerland except for Mr. Onassis, who couldn't come. They all skied very well. They still ski. John goes very often. Caroline started to take her girls over spring break when they were about to be nine and seven. They're starting good and early.
After a while Caroline and John wanted to stay in the city on weekends during the school year for birthday parties or whatever, and we began having playtime in New York. On weekends we went to the park, and after school I'd pick the children up around three o'clock and take them to the park to play for an hour or so. The whole family has a lot of energy, so we were always out doing things.
We never went ice skating. Maybe roller skates, but I don't remember. We may have once or twice, but it was not something we did regularly. We went sledding on that hill behind the Metropolitan Museum. Caroline and John loved that. Sometimes the cousins who lived nearby would come too, or sometimes their friends.
In September, October, until the cold came, maybe until Thanksgiving, we went once a week to Central Park so the kids could play tennis; they had a teacher named Mr. Fenton, I remember. We would walk all the way up to the tennis courts followed by the Secret Service. There were lots of them because each child had one. I think they changed every eight hours, so we always had two at a time. The chief, Mr. Walsh, who had met me in Newport, was in charge of them all. We're still in touch with him. He lives in Boston now, but he calls me all the time.
When we came back home we always had some sort of a teatime. Especially with children, you give them a snack or you give them tea. When it was cold outside, we had hot chocolate with whipped cream and marshmallows. Both marshmallows and whipped cream in the same cup. Children love that. More is mooshy. More is sloppy. It had to look generous.
And always CINNAMON TOAST. I always remember John and Caroline and cinnamon toast around teatime.
I made it with toasting bread — thin-sliced good bread like Pepperidge Farm or Arnold — that you toast first and then you put some butter on it and then you sprinkle it with one part cinnamon and three of sugar. Then you put it under the broiler until it starts to bubble. And you have to eat it hot.
That would keep them until dinner.
When I started working on this book, I asked Caroline and John what their favorite foods had been. Caroline said creamed chicken with rice and peas, and John remembered loving chipped beef on toast for lunch. For both of those I made a béchamel sauce and mixed the chicken or meat into it. They also liked chicken Kiev with kasha, roast beef with Yorkshire pudding, and beef stroganoff, and when they were very young, they liked veal scallops stuffed with sausage and cooked with carrots, then served with noodles. And when John was little, he loved sloppy Joes. Even before I really knew how to cook, I made them for him. I put chopped meat and onions on a hamburger bun, then poured sauce over it all. I guess in those days I probably used Ragú. I told John that was not going to go into this book.
These were not the kinds of food Madam liked to eat. She preferred what John called her "diet food," light, good food. But Madam would eat creamed chicken or beef stroganoff because they were what her children wanted and her children were everything to her. And meals were a time for the family to be together. Nancy Tuckerman told me that before I came, Mrs. Kennedy used to have a big map of the world hanging in the dining room, and she would sit with the children while they ate and show them, on the map, the places their father had traveled when he was president.
The two meals here are from later, when I was cooking. This is the food Madam liked on a cold night. There would be a fire in the dining room, which was cozy. And the table looked cheerful, covered with a flowered chintz cloth. Madam had those in several colors, and she would tell me to use the brown or the pink or whatever. There was a bottom cloth that went to the floor and stayed on all the time, and then another cloth on top of that. The top cloth was the same fabric but didn't come down as far; it just covered the top of the table and hung down a little. There were two or three of the top cloths in each pattern, so after a meal the top cloth, which was the only one that might have gotten dirty, could be taken off and laundered and a new one put on. The bottom cloth never got dirty, so it stayed.
And there were always candles, red or ivory or blue, mostly the square Cape Cod candles. We generally used some big candlesticks that I think might have been a wedding present when Madam married John Kennedy. I never really knew what they were until I read a description in the auction catalog that said they were Napoleon III, made of ormolu and patinaed brass. Madam always liked beautiful things around her. They didn't have to be fancy, but she cared about details. For instance, she didn't like the look of big vegetables. So for a dish like Scallops Baked with a Julienne of Vegetables, if I could only find big vegetables, I had to cut them up.
You can ask your butcher to butterfly the lamb or do it yourself. If you do it, it means slitting it lengthwise the whole length of the loin but not all the way through. Place the lamb, cut side up, on a horizontal surface, open it like a book, and flatten it out as much as possible, then season the inside with salt and pepper.
In a small food processor, grind together the parsley, rosemary, and garlic until they are a very fine mince. Spread this down the center of the loin, then very carefully roll up the loin, starting at one long side. This is seasoning more than filling, to give a taste to the lamb. Try to keep it in place. Tie the roll every few inches with kitchen string to help it hold its shape.
On top of the stove, but in a roasting pan, brown the lamb on all sides. This will take about 5 minutes. Then place the browned meat in the oven and roast for 20 minutes. This will make a nice rare, pink roast.
Remove from the oven and keep the lamb warm for 10 minutes before removing the strings and serving.
This dish, which I was taught by Jean Claude Nedelec of Glorious Food, I always served with the rolled lamb. It's a variation on the classic lamb with beans and, I think, even better.
Preheat the oven to 350°.
Stir the minced shallot, garlic, and parsley into the beans. Begin drizzling the olive oil over the top. You may not need the whole amount. You want all the beans to be coated lightly but not swimming in oil.
Bake for 20 minutes or until the beans are tender. This will depend on the beans, but begin poking with a fork after about 15 minutes. When the beans are cooked, the shallot and garlic should disappear and the parsley just be little green flecks.
Arrange the tomatoes in a lightly oiled baking dish and place under a preheated broiler for anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes. They are ready when the skins retain their shape and the filling is lightly browned.
Serves 4 to 6
In a saucepan large enough to hold all the plums submerged in syrup, stir the sugar into two cups of water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, add the zest, and simmer for 5 minutes.
Prick each plum twice with the tines of a fork, then place them carefully in the syrup. Cover and let simmer to poach for 5 minutes.
Let the plums cool in the syrup, then slip off their skins, which should be easy to do. Return the skinned plums to the syrup and let them steep until you are ready to serve. These can be served at room temperature or chilled.
I used to serve these in a wonderful gold vermeil bowl that reflected the color of the plums beautifully.
Serves 4 as a main course, 8 as an appetizer
Start by preparing the tomatoes. Bring a saucepan of water to a boil and lower the tomatoes in, one at a time, for no more than 5 seconds. When the tomatoes are removed from the water, you should be able to slip the skins off. Then squeeze the seeds out and chop the pulp that remains. You should have about 1 1/2 cups. Put it into a small bowl.
Add the minced parsley, basil, and garlic.
Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a saucepan. Add the julienned celery, carrots, turnips, and leek. Before you julienne the vegetables make sure you wash the leek very carefully. They hold soil. Each bit of the julienne should be about 2 inches long and very, very thin.
Season with salt and pepper, then cover the pan. Over low heat sweat the vegetables for about 5 minutes or until they are soft.
While they are sweating, rinse the scallops and pat them dry.
I cooked and served this dish in scallop shells I got in France, but if you don't have them, you can use 4 small (3-inch) ramekins, the kind individual crèmes brûlées are often served in.
If you are making this dish for 4, arrange one-eighth of the vegetables in the bottom of each of whatever four containers you have chosen. Cover each with one-eighth of the tomato mixture, then arrange a quarter of the scallops over that. Season with salt and pepper, then cover with another one-eighth of the vegetables. Top everything with the last eighth of the tomato mixture.
Place the containers on a baking sheet or jelly roll pan and bake in the middle of the oven for about 5 minutes. This is ready when the liquid is bubbling and the scallops, if you can see them, have become opaque.
Carefully pour the liquid out of each shell or ramekin, then replace it on the baking sheet. Top each with a quarter of the remaining 1/2 tablespoon butter.
Return to the oven and bake for another 5 minutes or until the butter is bubbling.
Transfer the ramekins onto individual serving plates, fluff the contents with a fork, then garnish each with a little chopped parsley.
Serves 4 to 6
Beat the cream cheese with an electric mixer until it is light and fluffy. Slowly beat in the confectioners' sugar. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape the seeds into the mixture. Beat them in.
In another bowl, beat the cream until it holds its shape, but isn't stiff. Add the whipped cream to the cream cheese mixture and fold them together gently.
Cut a piece of cheesecloth large enough to line the mold and drape over the sides. Soak the cloth in ice water, then wring it out, and line the mold with it. Fill the lined mold with the cream cheese mixture. Fold the flaps of cheesecloth over the top of the dessert, place the mold on a plate to catch the drainage, and refrigerate until you are ready to serve.
To make the sauce, defrost the raspberries, then put them in a blender with the currant jelly and Framboise. Blend well, then pour the sauce through a strainer to remove the seeds.
To serve, unmold the heart onto a round serving platter and place strawberries all around the rim. Serve the sauce separately in a bowl with a ladle.
Copyright © 1998 by Marta Sgubin
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