The White House Kitchen

I have never posted an article on Comfort Table before, however, I felt like I just had to share this selection from  I am always curious about what other people are eating—am I the only one checks out other people’s carts in the grocery store??—so I found some of the fun facts in this article especially entertaining!  For instance, Nancy Reagan often skipped the main course to eat only dessert! 

Additionally, I like learning the White House kitchen details like who is doing the cooking, what they are cooking, and for how many people.  (Did you know the White House has five full time chefs?!)  I admire the Obamas choice of a young chef with a fresh attitude towards food.  And I really like the fact that this type of subject-matter is getting media attention.  



Let’s hope the White House kitchen has an extra apron on hand: The Obamas have asked Sam Kass, a 28-year-old Chicago native who was their private chef, to pack up his knives and head to Washington. The New York Times reports:


Mr. Kass, one of the new breed of chefs who are concerned about the environment and about poor eating habits in this country, has been quoted as saying people in his profession should take the lead in tackling public health issues. “Not only is there an unconscionable amount of people who remain hungry, there’s even a larger population, mostly poor, who are faced with obesity, diabetes and various other problems from overabundance.”

Kass will join Cristeta Comerford, who was appointed by the Bushes in 2005 as the White House’s first female executive chef. And it seems the big building will have plenty of room for them both. According to the official White House site: “With five full-time chefs, the White House kitchen is able to serve dinner to as many as 140 guests and hors d’oeuvres to more than a thousand.” The Obamas are known for their commitment to healthy eating, but what about other presidents? Some top chef secrets from across the Web below:

First family favorites
Chef Rene Verdon, who served under the Kennedys, is usually considered the first official White House chef. His impact was substantial. Anne Lincoln writes in “The Kennedy White House Parties“:


In a house which had rarely received any genuine compliments on its kitchen, M. Verdon soon established a reputation for haute cuisine with his superb dinners, luncheons, and buffets.

But even in the kitchen, the president called the shots. According to the Chicago Sun-Times:


President Kennedy was particularly fond of Verdon’s Boston clam chowder, even though the chef pleaded with the president to let him serve it with less flour, says the 84-year-old Verdon, now living in San Francisco.

Walter Scheib, who served under both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, reveals that the presidents with opposing political views weren’t so far apart on their culinary choices. Bush enjoyed any kind of Southwestern fare, from beef tenderloin to enchiladas, while a pre-heart-surgery Clinton also liked the spice, especially beef and ribs. But the first ladies, he told “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” “were always on diets.”

Easy bake to fine dining
While the first ladies usually choose the executive chef, there’s clearly a relationship that develops between the whole family. Scheib, who wrote “White House Chef: Eleven Years, Two Presidents” after leaving the White House, said that W., famous for his nicknames, called him “Cookie.” And, just like any job, some days are harder than others. Scheib says the White House is a full-service kitchen: “We did everything from a bag of popcorn to a state dinner for 900 … and everything in between.”

Sweet tooth
When your dining room serves as a meeting ground for dignitaries from around the world, there’s a lot of room for creativity. Roland Mesnier, who was head pastry chef to five U.S. presidents, described some of his more amazing creations to NPR: chocolate coaches for the queen of England, sugar giraffes for the president of Kenya. When asked which White House residents were calorie-conscious, he revealed that Nancy Reagan, well-known for her svelte figure, would skip the main course so she could have dessert.

Mesnier also gave away some of Clinton’s culinary secrets to the Chicago Sun-Times:


President Clinton “loved dessert” and sometimes would push aside the fresh fruit cobblers Mesnier made to gobble down a chunk of chocolate cake, the pastry chef says. The president’s puffy-eyed allergic reaction became a clue for Mesnier that he had been a “naughty” eater, he says.

Kitchen confidential
For all its perks, the executive chef may not be the most lucrative gig in government. The New York Times wrote in 2005:


The pay, $80,000 to $100,000 a year with no overtime, for what is essentially a private family chef who occasionally has an opportunity to show off at a state dinner, is well below what top level chefs can earn on the outside.

But Scheib says that pay wasn’t much of a concern. He told ABC News that he took the job for “the singular honor to serve the first family. Most chefs don’t get to do that in a lifetime.”



Lamb Sliders with Tzatziki


The slider trend is still hot—almost all bars have a signature version.  Max & Dylan’s actually has an entire portion of the menu devoted to sliders!  From BBQ pork to Buffalo Chicken, sliders are ubiquitous.  I hadn’t ever thought about having sliders anywhere but in a bar until today when I was flipping through my Sunday Night Football Cookbook and saw these lamb sliders.  Sliders for dinner?!  What a fun idea!  What better way to kill the Sunday blues than with  tasty little bites of Greek heaven!

These burgers were a big hit!  The patties were small so the lamb stayed moist and delicious.  And the tzatziki is fresh, cool, and crisp.  It is a wonderful contrast to the lamb.  There was something so fun about eating sliders at our own dining room table!  I will definitely make these again—I think they would be the perfect component of a Superbowl spread!


  • 1/2 cup plain Greek-style yogurt (I prefer Chobani)j
  • 1/2 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 3 tablespoons grated cucumbers
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl.  Set aside.

Lamb Sliders

  • 2 pounds lean ground lamb
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds, toasted
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste


  • 10 small round rolls, split

In a large bowl combine all burger ingredients and mix together with your hands.  Form the mixture into 10 small thin patties.  


Spray the grill pan with non-stick spray.  Heat the pan over high heat.  Add the lamb burgers and cook for about 2 minutes on each side—or until done.  Place a burger in each roll and top with tzatziki.  Serve immediately.


Adapted from The Sunday Night Football Cookbook.

Chicken Marsala over Macaroni


I have been a major blog-delinquent—I apologize!  I made this meal for my sweetheart’s birthday at the start of the month and I am just now posting it!  Tsk tsk tsk! 

Enough chastising, however, and on to the grub!

My husband really enjoys Chicken Marsala and orders it fairly regularly at restaurants.  I hadn’t ever really thought about making it until I received The Best of America’s Test Kitchen 2008 as a holiday gift which features a straightforward and simple recipe for the dish.  This recipe was easy and yielded delicious, flavorful, and juicy chickenAnd the sauce is so tasty!  (I made extra to serve over the macaroni.)  I think this is a great special occasion dish and the best part is you won’t be shackled to the kitchen.  I don’t think it took more than an hour to make!  (Don’t hold me to that estimate, though—it could be skewed.   The reason: well, let’s just say the chicken wasn’t the only one in the kitchen soaking up the wine!!!) 

This is one of those dishes that made me really excited—for some reason I didn’t expect it to be as great as it was!   

One note before I get into the recipe: I served this over Bucatini because that is what I had on hand.  I would suggest that you use a smaller shaped macaroni, like penne or rigatoni.  The long noodles were too slippery for such a light sauce.   

Chicken Marsala over Macaroni:

  • 8 chicken breasts
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 8 ounces white mushroom, quartered*
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3/4 cup sweet Marsala wine**
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth***
  • the juice of one lemon
  • fresh parsley to taste

Get your water boiling.

Tenderize the chicken breasts in a plastic bag (or pressed between two pieces of saran wrap) by hitting with a meat tenderizer or a rolling pin.   (You will want to pound them down to about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick.)

Pat them dry and season both sides of each with salt and pepper.  Coat them in flour and shake off the excess.

Heat about one tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet.  Place four cutlets/breasts into the skillet and cook until golden brown–about 2-3 minutes on each side.  Set aside and cook the remaining four cutlets in the same manner.

Boil your pasta.

Melt one tablespoon of butter in the now empty skillet.  Cook the onion and mushroom over medium-high heat about 5 minutes, or until the onions are translucent and the mushroom are brown.   Add the garlic and cook for about 1-2 minutes.   Transfer this mushroom mixture to a bowl.

Deglaze the pan with the Marsala wine and broth, by adding it to the empty skillet and scraping the pan (using a wooden spoon) to get all of the brown tasty bits into the sauce.  Bring to a boil over high heat and cook until sauce reduces by about half. 

Reduce the heat to medium, add the chicken (and any accompanying juices) to the skillet and heat until the chicken is warmed through.  Remove the chicken from the skillet and set aside.

Remove the skillet from the heat and whisk in the remaining two tablespoons of butter, lemon juice, parsley, and mushroom mixture.     

Place macaroni in serving bowl.  Top with chicken.  Pour sauce over the top. 



*I used two containers of pre-sliced white mushroom from the produce department.

**I used double (maybe even triple this amount) in order to have enough sauce for the pasta.

***I used an entire medium size carton of chicken broth.


Recipe adapted from The Best of America’s Test Kitchen 2008.  You should buy it!

Ice Cream Burgers aka “The Chipwich”


Happy New Year!!!!!!!!!!! 

What better way to ring in the New Year than with cookies, ice cream, and candy—all in one bite!!!! 

If you are looking for something fun to do with your kids during the last few days of school vacation, you may want to give this a whirl.  Ice cream burgers are simple, fun, delicious, and allow for creativity.   There are so many options–the combination possibilities* are endless!

Step One: Make cookies.  Any kind you like.  I stuck with classic chocolate chip, however, oatmeal raisin, peanut butter chip; even sugar cookies would all work well.  (Also, this a great way to revitalize left over holiday cookies!)

Step Two: Choose your ice cream.  (Or even better–MAKE your ice cream!)  I went with cookies and cream, but simple vanilla, mint chocolate chip, strawberry–any flavor would be just fine.

Step Three: Choose your toppings.  This is the kids’ favorite part!  Set out several bowls containing an array of “dipping” options.  Mini chocolate chips, jimmies, sprinkles, mini M&Ms, coarse sugar, chopped up candy bars, nuts…let your imagination run wild.

Step Four: Have fun!!!  Getting your cookies to be perfectly round can be a challenge but that shouldn’t inhibit the fun.  Encourage the kids to use their imaginations and make interesting combinations.

Nestle Toll House Cookie Chipwich:

(Yields about 5 dozen cookies = about 30 chipwiches)

  • 2  1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 sticks butter (1 cup), softened
  • 1.5 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1  3/4 cups (11.5 oz bag) milk chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl.  Set aside.  Beat butter, sugar, and vanilla extract in a large bowl until fluffy.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Gradually add flour mixture to wet mixture until combined.  Carefully stir in chocolate chips. 

Scoop one tablespoon of cookie dough and quickly make a ball with it by rolling in the palms of your hands.  (It is important to do this quickly so you don’t melt the butter.) Place on an ungreased cookie sheet.  Rolling the dough into equal size balls allows all of the cookies to be the same shape in size.  This is important for making chipwiches because you want both sides of the sandwich to be the same shape and size. 

Bake 9-11 minutes.  Cool completely on wire racks.

Once completely cool, take one cookie and use a small spoon to scoop ice cream onto it.  Press another cookie on top.  Then the fun begins!  Roll the chipwich in the candy topping(s) of your choice.  The more toppings you have available, the more fun!


To store, either wrap tightly with plastic wrap or place in sandwich bags and freeze.

*Some combination ideas:

  • sugar cookies, vanilla bean ice cream, rolled in sugar crystals
  • oatmeal raisin cookies, cinnamon ice cream, rolled in chopped walnuts
  • chocolate chunk cookies, mint chocolate chip ice cream, rolled in mini-chocolate chips
  • peanut butter cookies, chocolate ice cream, rolled in chopped peanuts
  • orange white chip cookies, orange sherbet, rolled in coconut

Have a fun, happy, and healthy 2009!!!