by Scott Ingenito
I walk into my apartment after a long day at work, tired, frustrated, relieved that my work week is over, I look down at my table and see something that always makes me smile- The newest issue of FOOD NETWORK Magazine has arrived! I do what I always do when it arrives, quick thumb through the pages to see what’s inside, so I know which pages to dive into later. I come across something that strikes me, A COOKOUT FOR THE TROOPS
Sunny couldn't stop crying when she got the call from the vice president's office; cooking for war veterans means more to her than just about anything. "When you're raised in a military family and you see up close how war affects everyone, you learn what it really is to be an American," she said. "Veterans hold a very special place in my heart."
Food Network Star Chef Sunny Anderson, an Air Force veteran who comes from a big military family, gets the assignment of life:
Cooking for wounded war veterans at the Vice President’s house
This was something I got really excited about; in my current job as a federal officer I have the honor to work side by side with some of the amazing veterans who have served our country, I also see the affects their service has on their friends and families when they leave for deployment. Some of these soldiers are even younger than me and going off to serve our country and no matter your view on the war, you have to respect and support these brave young men & woman. I read this article and was very impressed, it made me even more excited to seek out the goal I have had to put together an event like this for troops in my area.
” I’ve learned to keep it simple” Sunny says in the article, she wanted to make the food easy so she’d have time to talk to the troops. ” To meet people who are helping protect our country means so much to me” she said. “whether you are for or against the war, you have to honor someone who will go off and fight for us”
Below are some of the amazing dishes prepared by Sunny, the Bidens, and the special U.S. Navy Chefs who also cooked for the event. Recipes courtesy of Sunny Anderson, Joe and Jill Biden for Food Network Magazine.
The Bidens' Home The picnic took place at One Observatory Circle, the vice president's residence — probably the most heavily guarded home in America after the White House.
An Emotional Invitation "Veterans hold a very special place in my heart.
A Crowd of Heroes The idea for the cookout came about after the Bidens visited a group of veterans at Walter Reed Army Medical Center—and casually mentioned hosting a party at their place. Not only did they come through with the invitation, they did the troops one better and asked Food Network star Sunny Anderson, an Air Force veteran, to help plan the meal.
Sweet-and-Spicy Pecans Recipe courtesy of Joe and Jill Biden for Food Network Magazine. Ingredients 1 large egg white 2 cups unsalted pecan halves 2 cups unsalted roasted cashews 1/2 cup sugar 1 tablespoon ground cumin 3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon Kosher salt Directions Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F. Beat the egg white with 1 tablespoon water in a large bowl until foamy. Add the nuts, sugar, cumin, cayenne, cinnamon and 1/2 teaspoon salt and mix well. Spread the mixture on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake until the nuts are mostly dry but still slightly sticky, about 40 minutes. Remove the nuts from the oven and stir. Reduce the temperature to 200 degrees F. Return the nuts to the oven and bake until crisp, about 30 more minutes. Stir to loosen the nuts from the baking sheet; cool completely on the sheet.
Sunny's Vegetable Chips With Blue-Cheese Chips. Ingredients For the Dip: 1/2 cup heavy cream 1 8-ounce container sour cream 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice 4 ounces blue cheese, crumbled 2 scallions, finely chopped 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper For the Chips: Vegetable oil, for frying All-purpose flour, for dredging 2 medium to large beets (1 red, 1 yellow), peeled and sliced 1/8-inch thick Kosher salt 1 sweet potato, peeled and sliced 1/8-inch thick Directions Make the dip: Blend the heavy cream in a blender until slightly thickened. Add the sour cream, lemon juice, blue cheese, scallions and garlic powder and pulse to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and chill 2 hours. Make the chips: Heat 1 to 2 inches vegetable oil in a large pot over medium heat until a deep-fry thermometer registers 350 degrees F. Rest a cooling rack on a baking sheet lined with paper towels. Spread some flour in a baking dish, add the beet slices and toss. Tap off the excess flour, then fry the beets in batches (don't overcrowd the pot), stirring occasionally to make sure they don't stick to each other, 3 to 5 minutes, or until the fizzling around the chips slows down. Transfer the chips with a slotted spoon to the rack and season with salt. Let cool at least 5 minutes; the chips will crisp up as they cool. Return the oil to 350 degrees F between batches. Replenish the oil, if necessary, and return to 350 degrees F. Dredge the sweet potato slices in flour and fry in batches, stirring, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to the rack, season with salt and let cool. Serve the chips with the blue-cheese
The Bidens' Pasta Caprese. Navy chefs whipped up this Pasta Caprese salad using mixed heirloom tomatoes and fresh mozzarella cheese. Ingredients 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice 1 shallot, minced 1 small clove garlic, minced Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper 1 teaspoon sugar (optional) 2 pounds mixed heirloom tomatoes, cored, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch pieces 1 pound pasta, such as campanelle, penne or fusilli 12 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/2-inch pieces 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest Directions Whisk the olive oil, lemon juice, shallot and garlic in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Add sugar, if desired (depending on the sweetness of your tomatoes). Add the tomatoes and gently toss. Marinate at room temperature, about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook as the label directs. Drain in a colander and run under cold water to stop the cooking. Add the pasta and mozzarella to the tomato mixture and toss. Stir in the basil and lemon zest, and season with salt and pepper. Refrigerate, tossing occasionally, until serving.
Sunny's Sweet Minted Tea.. Sunny gives her sweet tea a twist with a simple mint syrup. Ingredients 1/2 cup sugar 1/2 bunch fresh mint, plus leaves for garnish (optional) 3 black-tea bags Lemon slices, for garnish (optional) Directions Combine the sugar, mint (stems and all) and 1 cup water in a small pot. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, cover and let steep 30 minutes. Discard the mint; refrigerate the syrup until ready to use. Put 2 quarts water in a pot and add the tea bags. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then remove from the heat, cover and let steep 20 minutes. Discard the tea bags. Pour the tea into a pitcher and add the mint syrup to taste. Refrigerate until cool. Serve the tea over ice. Garnish with lemon and mint, if desired.
Sunny's Pulled-Pork Sandwiches. To turn out moist, flavorful meat for her famous sandwiches, Sunny cooks the pork at a low temperature for several hours. :: - Ingredients For the Pork Sandwiches: 1/2 cup spicy brown mustard 1/4 cup honey Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper 1 tablespoon Hungarian paprika 3 cloves garlic, minced 1 7-to-9-pound bone-in pork shoulder, skin removed 10 crusty rolls, split Coleslaw, for serving For the Barbecue Sauce: 2 tablespoons unsalted butter 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil 4 medium onions, chopped Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper 8 cloves garlic, minced 1 teaspoon Hungarian paprika 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar 1 cup apricot preserves 1 cup ketchup 2 teaspoons hot chili sauce (such as Sriracha) 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar Directions Prepare the pork: Combine the mustard, honey, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 tablespoon pepper, the paprika and garlic in a bowl. Prick the pork on all sides (including the fat) with a paring knife, about 1/2 inch deep. Brush all over with the mustard mixture. Tightly wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 6 hours. Unwrap the pork, place in a roasting pan and bring to room temperature. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 250 degrees F. Transfer the pork to the oven and pour 1 inch hot water into the pan. Cook 3 hours, adding water as needed to maintain 1 inch. Remove the pan from the oven, add water if needed and cover tightly with foil. Return to the oven and cook 6 more hours. Turn off the oven and let the pork rest inside, about 1 hour. Meanwhile, make the sauce: Melt the butter with the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions, season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, 6 to 8 minutes. Add the garlic and paprika and cook 2 to 3 more minutes (reduce the heat if the garlic starts to brown). Stir in the brown sugar, preserves, ketchup and chili sauce, stirring after each addition. Bring to a simmer, then stir in the vinegar. Add salt to taste. Remove the pork from the oven and take the meat off the bone. Coarsely shred the meat using 2 carving forks. Toss with some of the barbecue sauce and pan juices and season with salt and pepper. Serve on rolls with coleslaw.
The Bidens' Grilled Pizzas. Everyone loves pizza! The Bidens' grilled version is a great choice for a picnic: It's low-maintenance, quick and hand-held. :: - Ingredients For the Dough: 1 1/4-ounce packet active dry yeast 5 cups all-purpose flour 1 tablespoon sugar Kosher salt 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for the bowl For the Toppings: 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing 6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced Pinch of red pepper flakes 1 28-ounce can whole San Marzano tomatoes 1 bunch fresh basil, leaves torn Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper 1 pound fresh mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced and drained on paper towels 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese Directions Make the dough: Put 1 1/2 cups warm water (110 degrees F to 115 degrees F) in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment. Sprinkle the yeast over the water and let stand until foamy, about 10 minutes. Whisk the flour, sugar and 1 teaspoon salt in a separate bowl, then add to the yeast mixture along with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Mix on low speed until the dough starts to come together, about 1 minute. Increase the speed to medium low and mix until the dough starts to look smooth, about 1 minute. Increase the speed to medium and mix until the dough is smooth and elastic, 4 to 6 more minutes (it should stretch 3 inches without breaking). Transfer to an oiled bowl and cover with a damp towel or plastic wrap. Let rise in the refrigerator overnight. Lightly press down on the dough, then divide into 6 balls. Put on a baking sheet, cover and refrigerate until ready to grill. Meanwhile, make the toppings: Heat the olive oil in a pot over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook 3 to 5 minutes. Crush the tomatoes into the pot with your hands; add the juices. Rinse the can with 1 cup water and add to the pot. Add a handful of basil and season with salt and pepper. Increase the heat to medium and simmer until thickened, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool slightly. Preheat one side of a grill to high and the other to medium. Brush 2 baking sheets with olive oil; stretch each dough ball into a thin oval (about 8 by 11 inches) on the sheets. Brush the tops of the dough with more oil. Working in batches, grill the dough over high heat until bubbly on top and marked on the bottom, 3 to 4 minutes. Flip the dough onto the cooler side of the grill. Quickly top each crust with tomato sauce and mozzarella and cover until the cheese melts, about 2 minutes. Transfer the pizzas to a cutting board; sprinkle with the Parmesan and remaining basil.
Sunny's Patriotic Berry Trifle. ::This red-white-and-blue dessert comes together quickly and is the perfect way to showcase summer berries. Ingredients 1/4 cup plus 2/3 cup sugar 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice 1/4 teaspoon almond extract 1 premade angel food cake, cut into 1-inch slices 1 pound cream cheese, at room temperature 2 cups heavy cream, at room temperature 2 pints blueberries 2 pints strawberries, hulled and sliced Directions Heat 1/4 cup sugar, the lemon juice and 1/4 cup water in a saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring, until the sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat and stir in the almond extract. Brush both sides of each slice of cake with the syrup. Cut the slices into 1-inch cubes. Beat the remaining 2/3 cup sugar and the cream cheese with a mixer on medium speed until smooth and light. Add the cream and beat on medium-high speed until smooth and the consistency of whipped cream. Arrange half of the cake cubes in the bottom of a 13-cup trifle dish. Sprinkle evenly with a layer of blueberries. Dollop half of the cream mixture over the blueberries and gently spread. Top with a layer of strawberries. Layer the remaining cake cubes on top of the strawberries, then sprinkle with more blueberries and top with the remaining cream mixture. Finish with the remaining strawberries and blueberries, arranging them in a decorative pattern. Cover and refrigerate 1 hour.
As you can see, this event was well received and stocked with some great savory summer cuisine, what better way to honor our wounded veterans than to have such a high profile character like our Vice President set up this amazing event. I for one was very impressed, and I hope to one day be able to coordinate an event like this where I can gather our heroes and show my appreciation for the hardships they endure so that I am able to live the way that I do.
Thank you so much for reading this post, and I hope next time you see one of our brave armed forces soldiers you also thank them!