My father is quite the jokester. If he is in the room, chances are someone is crying from laughter. I often tease him and tell him that, even though he is 61 years old, he is worse than the most mischievous child and for some reason, he stopped maturing after the age of 4. Despite his hilariously child-like demeanor, he is a highly intelligent man, a man who can solve the most complex mathematic equations without blinking an eye, who possess a keen ability for reasoning, who is fiercely proud of his Italian American heritage, who loves family and friends, and who is loved and respected by all who know him. From family to friends to former colleagues to the butcher to the baker, everyone loves Bob.
However, I often catch the brunt of my father's antics. He will call me several times a day to talk to me about American Idol, Flava of Love, From G's to Gents or Charm School. Did I mention that he is 61 years old? If I don't answer the phone, he accuses me of having a "Dad Blocker" on my cell phone to filter his calls and tell me not to answer, and when I do answer, he tells me that I am boring and would rather talk to Jack (he's joking, of course. I think.) When viewing my website redesign, he proceeded to tell me that my cartoon image looks like she is holding two turds, that it looks like someone chewed up Oreos and spit them out in my lemon cup custard, that prunes give you diarrhea, and that my cauliflower soup looks like an eye disease. All the while, he was cracking himself up. Although we were communicating by phone, I could envision my fathers bout of laughter, his eyes squinted as tears of laughter got caught in the creases around his eyes, his shoulders shaking vigorously as he hunches over and wipes the tears from his eyes.
I can't help but crack up, either.
Although my father lives to make fun of me, he also is extremely supportive of whatever I want to do. When I wanted to join the army (a whole other story), he stood by me, although I knew it broke his heart (luckily, for him, I didn't go through with it). When I wanted to go to one of the most expensive universities in the country to get an acting degree, he told me that when I was famous that he wanted a million dollars. But now, as I work towards fulfilling my dream in working in the food industry in someway shape or form, my father tells me of recipes or figures out a way for me to get my own cooking show. But my favorite is when I come home to visit, where I enter my childhood bedroom and am be greeted by a brand new cookbook sitting on my bed. For me, that is the biggest support he could give me. That little gesture means the world to me.
This was the first cookbook my father ever bought me. My father is not a foodie, but when I saw David Burke's name on this book, I squealed with delight. David Burke is one of the top chefs in New York City, a master of New American Cuisine. This book takes one dish and presents it three ways - Classic, Contemporary, and Second Day Dish. For example, Classic Macaroni and Cheese is a Baked-Horseradish Cheddar Macaroni and Cheese; Contemporary is a Macaroni and Cheese Tartlette with Mushroom and Truffle Oil; and the Second Day Dish are Macaroni and Cheese Fritters.
I highly recommend this book. Funnily enough, my father got it for .25 at a garage sale. I was shocked. He put it perfectly. "I guess the saying is true. One man's trash is another man's treasure."
How right he is.
Macaroni and Cheese Tartlette with Mushroom Veloute` Adapted from David Burke's New American Classics
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 pound cremini mushrooms, cleaned, stemmed, and cut into 1/4 thick slices
1/2 pound oyster mushrooms, cleaned, stemmed, and pulled apart
1/4 pound chanterelle mushrooms, cleaned, stemmed, and pulled apart
2 tablespoons minced shallots
Mushroom Veloute` (recipe to follow)
4 cups hot, cooked elbow macaroni
1/2 pound fontina cheese
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 pound button mushrooms, cleaned and chopped
1/2 cup finely diced onion
1 1/2 teaspoons salt plus more to taste
4 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon truffle oil (optional)
Brown the butter in a large saute` pan over medium-high heat, taking care that it remains golden brown and does not burn. Add the button mushrooms and saute` for 4 minutes. Stir in the oyster mushrooms and saute for 2 minutes, or just until they have wilted slightly. Stir in the chanterelle mushrooms and saute` for 3 minutes. Add the shallots and saute` the mixture for another 4 minutes. Stir in the Mushroom Veloute`. Add the macaroni. When well combined, stir in the cheese and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Generously fill each tart shell with the macaroni mixture. Sprinkle the bread crumbs over the top and place the filled shells under the preheated broiler. Broil for about 1 minute, or until the tops are crusty and golden brown. Remove from the broiler and drizzle the tops with truffle oil. Garnish with fine herbs and serve.
Heat 4 tablespoons of the butter in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the mushrooms and onions and season with salt to taste. Cover and allow the mushrooms and onions to sweat their liquid for 10 minutes, taking care that they do not brown. Raise the heat to medium and stir in the cream. Cook for about 25 minutes, or until the liquid has reduced by one quarter. Remove the pan from the heat, and strain the contents through a fine sieve, discarding the vegetables and reserving the cream.
Heat the remaining butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for about 4 minutes, or until the mixture has formed a pale golden roux. Whisk in the reserved cream mixture and cook, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes or until the mixture is thickened. Strain it through a fine sieve into a clean container. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. Set it aside until you are ready to use it. The veloute` may be made up to 2 days in advance and stored, tightly covered and refrigerated.