Thursday, March 6, 2008

One Hot Dish

I hope you've studied your American Century Cookbook and did your Internet research because it's time for a POP QUIZ on presidential food preferences!

1.) Which American president’s favorite food is broiled swordfish with lemon butter?

A. William Howard Taft
B. Richard Nixon
C. Jimmy Carter
D. Ronald Reagan

2.) What is George W. Bush’s favorite food?

A. Cheeseburger Pizza
B. Chicken enchiladas
C. Peanut butter and honey sandwiches
D. Hamburgers

3.) Match the Roosevelt with the favorite food:

1. Franklin D.
2. Theodore

A. Roast suckling pig
B. Boiled salmon with egg sauce

4.) Which president’s favorite food is that mid-century American classic, Beef Stroganoff?

A. Harry Truman
B. Dwight Eisenhower
C. John F. Kennedy
D. Lyndon B. Johnson

5.) Bonus Question: What's the favorite food of the 44th President of the United States?

A. Shrimp and grits
B. Boca Burgers
C. Pizza with pepperoni and onions
D. Fried squirrel


1.) He wore a cowboy hat well, but is it really any wonder that the golden boy from Hollywood would love chichi food? That’s right, President Reagan adored grilled swordfish and other California cuisine (his second favorite dish was roasted vegetable pizza). Lobster Newberg (surely you remember it?) turned Taft on, while Richard Nixon favored Beef Wellington, a dish that pretty much defines the discreet charms of the bourgeoisie. Jimmy Carter liked himself some real down-home cookin’: buttermilk biscuits and Brunswick stew, a Southeastern specialty with lima beans, okra, corn, and, traditionally, squirrel and rabbit meat.

2.) This was a trick question (not unlike the Bush presidency itself). Dubya favors both PB and honey sandwiches and Cheeseburger Pizza, an artery-clogging whopper that was invented by reality show contestants as a marketing scheme. (N0t unlike the way that certain activities of the Bush presidency have felt). The other two foods -- chicken enchiladas and hamburgers -- are Big Boy Billy Clinton's favorites.

3.) He might have been born a millionaire, but Franklin Delano enjoyed the simple pleasures: boiled salmon with egg sauce (would it have hurt his cooks to at least poach the fish?!). Theodore, on the other hand, ate like the wealthy man he was. Only a young pig roasted to crispy-skinned perfection could satisfy his palate.

4.) Truman was a true salt-of-the-earth type who favored meat loaf and tuna noodle casserole, while Eisenhower was known to crack his creepy smile for quail hash. As faithful readers know, dirty-mouthed Lyndon B. was like a pig in shit when Lady Bird cooked him up a pot of Pedernales Chili. That leaves JFK as the lover of one hot 20th century dish, Beef Stroganoff -- that is, when he wasn't "loving" the hot blond dish of the moment. More on Beef Stroganoff in a moment, but first, the answer to the bonus question...

5.) Senator Obama makes a mean chili and he likes fried chicken, but his favorite food is shrimp and grits. Senator Clinton's favorite snack is Boca Burgers (though this Wesleyan girl also likes lamb). Senator McCain could polish off a whole pepperoni and onion pizza pie by himself, with a plate of shrimp on the side. And only Governor Huckabee could have fried squirrel meat in a popcorn maker in his college dorm room.

So the answer is ... ?


Beef Stroganoff, thin strips of lean beef served in a sour cream sauce with, traditionally, mushroom and onion, was a pervasive force in American cuisine from the 1930s to the 1980s. (I remember eating it -- or scheming ways to NOT eat it -- at my grandma's house for Sunday suppers).

The roots of the dish are in 19th century tsarist Russia but it took post-WWII American economic boom time to elevate it to iconic status. James Beard, that late, great bear of a gastronomical god, laid out his recipe in The James Beard Cookbook, 1959.

Mr. Beard's Beef Stroganoff is certainly a crowd pleaser, but if you ate enough of it you'd end up looking like, well, Mr. Beard. When I took the recipe on this past Monday, I decided to try to reduce the fat, but I had doubts that it would work. (Comfort foods are fattening for a reason).

I replaced steak with lean turkey cutlets, used low-fat sour cream, and reduced the butter by one third. And I am happy to report that it turned out so deLIGHTfully well, I think even JFK would approve. (Of course, for him I'd change out of my Monday sweats, which are good enough for my roomies but not Mr. President, and into my lipstick-red polka dot dress and high, high heels.)

I served the dish with rice pilaf (from a box) and a very American salad of butterleaf lettuce, button mushrooms, baby carrots, toasted pepitas, and a light coating of Ranch dressing. The meal recalled meals gone by without being weighed down with nostalgia.

Low(er)-fat Turkey Stroganoff

1.5 lbs turkey cutlets or breast meat
4 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon olive oil
3-4 tablespoons chopped green onions
1/4 cup white wine
2 dashes Worcestershire Sauce
4 drops of hot sauce
1 1/2 cup low fat sour cream
Salt and pepper, to taste
A few sprigs of parsley

  1. Slice turkey into strips, as thin as possible. (About 2 inches by 1/2-inch and 1/4-inch thick).
  2. Melt 3 tablespoons of the butter and the olive oil in a deep-sided skillet over high heat. (The oil will help prevent the butter from browning.) When good and hot, add the turkey strips and fry until cooked through, about 4 minutes. Fish out the turkey strips and keep them warm.
  3. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter and green onions and cook 1 minute. Then add the white wine, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, sour cream, and a good shake of salt. Stir well and heat through, but don't boil or the sour cream will curdle. Just before serving, give it a few good cranks of freshly ground black pepper and garnish with parsley. Pour the sauce over the turkey strips and serve immediately with rice, rice pilaf, or egg noodles.


Danny said...

McCain was also in the news a few weeks ago for being good on the grill with baby back ribs.

These politicians, so multifaceted

Kimberly Ann said...

I'm so glad you shared all this great trivia and the revamped recipe. I love stroganoff but I eat more turkey than beef, so this fits the bill. Thanks!

Copeland said...

Oh my GOSH I just came across your blog looking for my close friend (another Leah Sherman!) Leah Sherman's blog and I *love* what you're doing! I will come back and send you some awesome Amish and southern recipes...

Sophie said...

Your blog is so cute. I like how u all cook from vintage cookbooks; I collect 'em. :)