Do you remember goulash with hamburger and Velveeta cheese? Or Bologna rings with canned green beans, or tuna casseroles? James Duffey does, and recalls these meals with fondness as the ones his Irish grandmother served to a hungry family of seven in Wisconsin. The recipes for these simple dishes appear in the opening pages of his new cookbook, The Party’s in The Kitchen, accompanied by heartwarming memories of those early years.
“This is really a memoir about my relationship with food, growing up in my Irish immigrant grandparents’ home, of living in the Midwest,” Duffey says.
“It’s a story about good time, family and eating.” he adds, noting, “My son and daughter don’t get it—for those of us who grew up in that age, those were the common diets in the 50s.
Breezy writing includes stories of “Halloween Chicken” and “No Irish Pope?” along with his collection of recipes gathered over the years. He recalls college days when “A group of us would gather and cook—and have a party in the kitchen. We always urged each other to get off the track, find something different. It taught me to enjoy good food and good food with others.” He kept notebooks over the years and has enough material for more volumes.
Whimsical watercolor and pencil drawings – done by Duffey—add to the book’s charm. “I like the unusual formatting of doing all my own illustrating,” he proudly states. As for those serious tomes with foodie photographs to drool over, Duffey says, “It’s very enticing, of course. But I thought this would be kinda fun. I don’t have an audience with expectations.”
The opening essay, “A Cooking Journey,” gives insight into his culinary background with his family and friends “This book should be entitled “seriously, seriously, foolishly simple” …and salting in a bit of nonsense along the way,” he writes. He advises readers to make their own adaptations as they go along, using the word ‘recipe’ loosely. When his brother and nephews gather to cook, “It’s more like hockey practice. We’re a quirky bunch,” he quips. Experiment and play—and maybe one day you’ll give those measuring spoons to the little kids.
On the practical side, he offers lists of Essentials—items that need to be in your “Permanent Cupboard,” “Permanent Basket,” and “Permanent Fridge.” Happily, these will see you through most of the recipes that follow. Duffey also sprinkles in helpful hints about cookware, utensils, and where to find unusual ingredients.
From here, recipes follow a familiar progression, starting with fish (Mary’s Sunday Salmon, Chinese Shrimp with Peanuts, Cashew Crusted Flounder), then moving to chicken and pork (Curry Chicken, Chicken Mole, Pan Fried Pork Tenderloin), and beef (Beef Machaca, Pappardelle with Bolognese). With the variety of food styles and cultural adaptations included, cooks are sure to find appealing recipes for many tastes. There are chapters devoted to “Buds and Spuds”—fresh veggies, potatoes and rice. Tempting selections include Szechuan Broccoli, Eggplant Rollatini, or Arborio Rice and Butternut Squash. But don’t look for desserts—they’re not routine for his family. He prefers cheese and suggests choices to be paired with ports or sherries.
Duffey hasn’t eaten fast food in 20 years. “I’m not a snob, it just doesn’t taste good. It’s about having a good relationship with food. The idea is to make it enjoyable—experiment. Make a sauce; use one or two drops of Sriracha on that ham. Enjoy making dinner!”
The Party’s in The Kitchen by James Duffey
Visit thepartyinthekitchen.com to order the book and/or chef’s aprons.
The book is also available locally at Barnes & Noble in Glendale, The Lark, Artisan Center in Cherry Creek North and at amazon.com
Duffey selected two recipes for Colorado chefs:
4 large bone-in chicken breasts, room temperature, rubbed with salt and pepper and set aside in a glass bowl
7 oz quality peach preserves
2 tbs light soy sauce
2 tbs Dijon mustard
3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
2 jalapeños, stems removed, halved and seeds removed and coarsely chopped
4 peaches, halved and pit removed, then quartered
4 oz each of Grand Marnier and peach brandy
1. In a food processor or blender fitted with a steel blade, puree peach preserves, soy, mustard, garlic and jalapeños.
2. Add half the blended mixture to the chicken breasts for 1 hour at room temperature.
3. Prepare the peaches and have a shot of Grand Marnier with your guests.
4. Get the grill set by having half the surface at 375 degrees direct heat and the other half-indirect heat only.
5. Here is where the fun begins. It’s easy. Place the marinated breasts bone side down on the indirect heat and grill for 20 minutes, then flip and grill skin side down for 10 minutes. If you have a meat thermometer, check that the breasts are 140 degrees in the center, or semi-firm to the touch.
6. Place the breasts bone side down and, using a brush, coat the skin with the preserve marinade and grill over the direct heat for 5 minutes. If inclined, have another shot of Grand Marnier.
7. Time to grill the peaches over the indirect heat, mindfully protecting those fruits from overcooking. A turn or two is next.
8. Now go nuts and baste both the chicken and peaches as you please with the remaining marinade, peach preserves and brandy, and grill another 3-5 minutes. It will be perfect.
Good French-cut racks of lamb contain about 8 bones and have a nice layer of fat on the outside. This layer of fat is a bit of a mischief, and that is why we always grill them on a hot grill over indirect heat. Do this in your oven broiler one time and you’ll understand. Trim about half the fat away before marinating the racks overnight in a shallow glass pan, turning them 3-4 times during the marinating process. Don’t overcook.
To marinade two racks of lamb, combine the following:
5 oz olive oil
2 tbs red wine vinegar
6-8 garlic cloves, corsely chopped
2 tbs Dijon mustard
1 tbs lemon juice
1 tbs ginger, fresh minced
1 small yellow onion, sliced thin and cut crosswise
Fresh rosemary and thyme (leaves from 5 sprigs of each)
Grill to suit your tastes. Medium rare is recommended.
Joy Lawrance is a freelance writer living in Golden who happens to love peaches with Grand Marnier and rack of lamb. She will surely be trying these recipes.
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