AT THE TABLE WITH SARA MOULTON

I'm pretty sure Sara Moulton is one of the friendliest and most knowledgable chefs, television personality and cookbook authors we've ever had as a guest on At the Table. I could have dished with her for hours. She makes home cooking fun and easy. No pretense and plenty of tips. Plus she worked with Julia Child of years - oh, the stories!

Listen to the podcast here


HAROLD MCGEE AND ME

I am a McGee Geek. And proud of it. I have pored over and consulted his books for years. When I wrote my book, Snacks: Adventures in Food, Aisle by Aisle, Harold was gracious answering all of my queries. 
Every chef I know has a copy of On Food and Cooking in his/her kitchen. 
You should, too. 
This is one of my favorite At the Table interviews - ever. Listen here:
At the Table with Harold McGee

AT THE TABLE WITH FOOD & WINE'S DANA COWIN



Dana Cowin, Editor in Chief of Food & Wine Magazine, joins us At the Table to dish about the upcoming Best New Chefs issue. I will be in New York City when they announce the winners on March 31st! On this podcast, Dana explains how daunting it is to select the best new chefs in America year after year. It's a lot of fun, but requires serious eating - sometimes three dinners in a day.

We also talk about her new book, Mastering My Mistakes in the Kitchen: Learning to Cook with 65 Great Chefs and over 100 Delicious Recipes I confess I was dripping with envy hearing about her kitchen time with David Chang, Thomas Keller and Alice Waters, to name a few. 


Listen here or click on the podcast tab. And remember - Food is fun! 

AT THE TABLE WITH RUTH REICHL



You may know Ruth Reichl from Top Chef Masters, but she's best known as an author, editor of Gourmet, and restaurant critic for both the New York and Los Angeles Times.

Guess what what Ruth won't review?  And what she thinks of YELP?

Listen to the At the Table podcast.

Subscribe to At the Table with Wolf and Smothers on iTunes here or click on podcast tab.


OSCAR AND ME

My daughter and I ate lunch at the Carnation Cafe earlier this year. As first time annual passholders, we no longer feel the need to cram in as many rides as possible. We enjoy the people watching just as much as the thrills. After securing a prime patio table with a view of Main Street, she ordered baked potato soup and I chose chili, in honor of Walt. 

After a few bites, the chef approached us. Small in stature, possessing a grin wider than the Cheshire Cat, he extended his hand and introduced himself as Oscar. Five minutes into our conversation I realized that he was The Oscar, the longest employee at Disneyland. A legend. We chatted for another fifteen minutes before I realized I wasn't the only guest in the restaurant. (I admit I get goofy when it comes to food.) As we parted I vowed to see Oscar every time I came to Disneyland. It's a vow I share with legions of other fans. Our mutual mantra: It's just not a day at the park without visiting Oscar.



Six months later I sat down with Oscar in a corner booth at the Carnation Cafe. This time it's an interview. Although technically more formal, it's as if we are at home, chatting over coffee.


My first question was the obvious. I wanted to know what brought Oscar to Disneyland in 1956, one year after the park opened. With a twinkle in his eye he told me that is was his then girl friend Shirley Ann. She was working at Disneyland and he followed her to California where they were married. Shirley Ann has the distinction of being the person that made Walt's milkshakes. "Chocolate was his favorite and he liked them a little runny." Oscar added, "I don't know if he ever paid for them."

Oscar arrives to work very early, long before the Carnation Cafe opens. The cast members who work alongside him treat him like royalty. The mutual affection is obvious. When the park opens, Oscar steps outside and waves to the guests on Main Street.



It's more than a ritual. It's part of his business. "When they see me, the place fills up."

With someone as beloved as Oscar, I am surprised there is only one item on the Carnation Cafe menu with his name on it, an all American breakfast featuring the usual suspects of eggs and bacon. That observation seemed to hit a spot deep in his heart.

"A lot of people, I think they want something special from me, with my name on it. It's only on the breakfast menu, not the lunch menu. They want something special from me. They're always looking for something with my name on it, but it's not there."

What was named for him in the past that he misses now? "A long time ago, in the 60s, there was a lunch item called Oscar's Choice. It was a spinach salad with Roquefort and fruit. It sold really good," he recalled.

Flashing forward,  I wondered what item he’d like to see on the Carnation Cafe menu as his legacy. His answer was swift, simple and consistent, “A salad."

And so I decided to create a salad fit for the man that has given so much to others.

First I looked to another iconic Oscar, the Swedish King for whom Veal Oscar was named.  I included  many of the standard ingredients in the recipe (although I omitted the veal.). Crab was a natural. Oscar shared that when he celebrated his 50th anniversary as a Disneyland employee at Club 33, there was a bountiful seafood buffet - he loves seafood -  however he was hesitant to eat anything from it. "It's too expensive." It was only after the urging of one of the executives, insisting that it was for him, that he indulged. 

Next I borrowed the other classic component of the dish - asparagus. 

Lastly, I turned the traditional Bearnaise sauce into a vinaigrette using the key elements: White wine vinegar (with a lemon option - my preference), shallot and tarragon. The yolk, usually used to thicken the sauce, is replaced here with hard-boiled eggs.


Salad Oscar with Country Bearnaise Vinaigrette

One of Oscar's favorite Disneyland attractions is the Country Bear Jamboree. 

¼ cup white wine vinegar or lemon juice
1 tablespoon shallot, minced
1 tablespoon tarragon, minced
¾ cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste.
2 cups chopped romaine
6 cups mixed greens
8 asparagus spears, grilled or steamed
4 hard-boiled eggs, halved
1/2 pound crab meat (when crab is not in season, substitute with grilled chicken)

To make the vinaigrette:

Put vinegar or lemon juice in mixing bowl. Add shallots and tarragon. Slowly whisk in olive oil.
Season with salt and pepper. 


To make the salad:
Mix romaine and greens. Separate into four equal servings, two cups each, on chilled plates. Make an X with two spears of asparagus on top of lettuce. Place egg halves on the sides of the plate. Form an O for Oscar with a portion of the crab meat. Drizzle vinaigrette on top of all. Serve immediately.


As retirement nears (there is no set date), Oscar hopes to be remembered with a permanent display of his trophies and recipes. Perhaps a Main Street window with his name on it, however he was hesitant to count on that. I took him outside and pointed above the entrance to the Carnation Cafe. Together we giggled. Yup, that would be the perfect place. Fingers crossed. After all, Disneyland is the place where dreams come true...


















NATIONAL SANDWICH DAY

It's National Sandwich Day! Why not make a Soupwich? It's a combo of a grilled cheese and tomato soup from my book SNACKS: Adventures in Food, Aisle by Aisle. 

SOUPWICH
Mmmm mmmm good!

Serves 4 as a Soupwich or 12 as an hors d’oeurve

1 stick butter, room temperature
¼ cup Campbell’s Tomato Soup, condensed (i.e. straight from the can)
1 tablespoon onion or shallot, minced
2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
8 slices bread, I prefer English Muffin bread, French or sourdough
Olive oil

Mix butter, soup and onion.




Spread one tablespoon of tomato soup butter on each slice of bread.

Put ½ cup cheddar cheese on four of the slices and close.

Press on Soupwich to seal it.

Using a pastry brush, lightly paint the outside of the Soupwich on both sides with olive oil. Alternately you can use soft or melted butter.

Heat a heavy or non-stick skillet on medium high. When it is hot, add Soupwich.

Squish and flip a few times until browned on both sides and the cheese is melted.




POSTSCRIPT:
*If you are serving the Soupwiches as an hors d’oeurve, remove the crusts and cut on the diagonal.
*Go ahead and make the rest of the soup. Be sure to fill the can ¾ full, not all the way to the top.

CELEBRITY SNACKER: Carl Reiner


I started collecting celebrity snack stories as a sequel to my book, SNACKS: Adventures in Food, Aisle by Aisle. I made a list of favorite folks I might be able to approach and Carl Reiner was at the top. I met the master of comedy a few times at industry events and once had the pleasure to cook lunch for him and his wife Estelle. (A simple grilled chicken sandwich with my garden tomatoes and arugula.) I called our mutual pal, Aimee, and asked her to make the pitch. Minutes later - yes, minutes - Carl called me. His gleeful recollection of his mother's signature recipe, and every detail it required to prepare it correctly, reminded me why food is fun(ny):


“My favorite snack is potlojel. It’s a Romanian eggplant dish that my mother made when I was a kid growing up in Brooklyn. I hated it then, but now I can’t get enough of it! It’s traditionally served in the middle of a salad, although I like it with an avocado. A spoonful of potlojel then a spoonful of avocado.  Just like that until the avocado is gone. It’s a simple recipe if you follow it to the letter. Here’s the letter.”

RECIPE:
One eggplant
One or two lemons
Two to three thick slices finely chopped onion
Three to four tablespoons of olive oil
Salt and pepper
A glass-canning jar

"You gotta use a gas stove. If you don’t have a gas stove you’re outta luck. Put the eggplant on the flame. Turn it from side to side until it’s squishy and steamy. You know it is done cooking when you can easily insert a fork."

"Next, take the eggplant to the sink and run some cool water. Carefully peel the eggplant. All the skin has to be gone and the little black specks, too."

"Slice the eggplant lengthwise. Hit it with the juice from one or two lemons. Whatever you like but the point is to keep the eggplant light. Dark eggplant is ugly and the lemon keeps it from getting that way."

"Get a big plate and put the eggplant on it. Beat it with a wooden spoon and keep smashing until it is pulverized. That’s the way my mom did it and I like to do it this way, too. You can use a blender if you’re careful only to mix only for a second or two. Put the eggplant mixture in a glass jar. Add the onion, olive oil, salt and pepper. Stir with a fork in the jar. Cover and refrigerate."

Thank you, Carl. You're a national treasure. And your potlojel ain't bad, either.