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Dads in the kitchen

By Autumn D. F. Hopkins

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- On Father's Day, it's traditional to treat dads to dinner out -- or at least to a home-cooked meal.

But now more dads are taking food into their own hands. We're not just talking about throwing steaks on the grill, but full-fledged, recipe-reading cooking.

More men are sharing or even taking over the kitchen in their homes for a variety of reasons. Some began cooking out of necessity, some from curiosity, some from a love of food and some for an artistic outlet. Regardless of the reason, more and more dads are in the kitchen and more and more families are enjoying the benefit.

Pete Kosky, father of one and a history teacher at South Charleston High School, jokes about absorbing his cooking skills via osmosis but, in fact, he says he learned to cook "Being around my grandfather, who was a great cook, and from many of my dad's camping buddies, who were great camp cooks."

He also did a stint at Five Corners, learning to cook from Jack "The Greek" Louizou.

"It's something that's always come naturally to me," said Kosky. "I've taught myself a lot, however, I enjoy watching others cook. I ask a lot of questions, it is a natural process."

Kosky says cooking for one is not nearly as enjoyable as cooking for family and friends, and he enjoys the cooking process far more than eating the finished product.

He likes to cook for his family -- wife Ariana Kincaid and their daughter Claire -- but his specialty is campfire cooking, which allows him to share his talent with many. He takes pleasure in experimenting with different techniques like roasting meat on a spit and cooking a variety of food in the coals and cast iron/open flame cooking.

One of his family's favorites is his whole-wheat biscuits, which he perfected through experimentation over the year.

By day, single dad David Broughton works for West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources; by night, he cooks for his teenage daughters Cierra and Marissa. When Broughton found himself divorced, he said he realized he could not allow his children to subsist on dry cereal and frozen dinners. So he stepped up and began customizing recipes on his own.

For Broughton, learning to cook was a combination of experiences.

"It has been a mixture of being taught some recipes from older family members, watching friends cook and plenty of trial and error on my own. I started by watching my grandmother and just continued the process from there. I am still learning every day."

Although he isn't a vegetarian, Broughton said when he was in his 20s he learned many of his favorite recipes from hippie friends who were vegetarians. Three of his family's favorite meals are milk gravy and toast, tofu Alfredo and an original dish he calls Slightly Healthier Stuffed Peppers.

Aaron Robinson, new dad and Charleston lawyer, is a man of many talents, one of which is a lifelong love of gourmet cooking.

"My whole family cooks very well. My mother has a passion for cooking and cooked huge, delicious family dinners. My father cooked most of the day-to-day meals. Both can cook pretty much any recipe put in front of them.

"They taught me and my younger brother technique and how to improvise and create. When my parents were working too late to get home to make dinner, we cooked dinner ourselves. My brother is now attending the Culinary Institute of America. We take food very seriously."

Robinson cooks most every night for his wife, Maureen, and infant daughter, Alice, but he also loves to cook for a crowd of friends because it's a chance to try out new dishes.

My own dad, Shirley Furby, specializes in novelties, like candy or desserts. These days he cooks less for the nutritional value and more for the artistic whimsy.

Growing up, I remember my dad making the occasional breakfast of French toast or popcorn on the stove on Saturday nights. My mother was the regular preparer of meals.

A lifelong athlete and workaholic, my dad began to cook when he became disabled about 10 years ago.

He said, "My daughter influenced me to try a vegetarian diet to help manage my pain. I tried it for a while, cooking lots of vegetarian meals. Eventually I decided the lifestyle wasn't for me, but in the process I had discovered something about myself: I enjoyed cooking, especially desserts."

He is a huge fan of the "Barefoot Contessa" Ina Garten and re-creates many of her desserts like her rich, buttery bread pudding, a hit at every family gathering, and a complicated light and flavorful crème brûlée.

Dad said probably his biggest success has been with homemade biscotti.

"I tried the first easy biscotti recipe that came up on Google. I tweaked it a little, adding almond slivers, adjusting the icing, and it goes over well with most folks especially my wife, who insists I cook it continually."

He still makes the occasional savory dish and has two original creations he returns to time and again: a pork tenderloin, and a soup he calls "Vegetable Stew, A Hearty Winter Treat," which he insists must be served with corn bread slathered with butter.

***

My dad and the other cooking fathers shared favorite recipes:

Shirley Furby's Vegetable Stew, A Hearty Winter Treat

     1    can Italian spiced stewed tomatoes

     10     small red potatoes, washed and cut into chunks

     1/2     large purple onion, chopped in large pieces

     3     zucchini, medium sized, washed and chopped in large pieces

     3     small yellow squash, washed and chopped in large pieces

     1    can of French cut green beans, drained

     1    can of yellow corn, drained

COMBINE all the ingredients in a large sauce pan.

ADD 2 to 3 cups of water or vegetable stock.

ADD Durkee seasoning salt to taste.

COOK about 2 hours until vegetables are tender.

LADLE into bowls. Serve with corn bread and butter.

Pete Kosky's Whole-Wheat Campfire Biscuits

     2 1/2     cups whole-wheat flour

     1    cup plain white flour (self-rising or not)

     2    to 3 teaspoons baking powder, less if you use self-rising flour

     1/2     stick butter (not margarine)

     10     ounces of buttermilk

     Oil or Crisco

MIX dry ingredients together. Cut in the butter, add buttermilk and knead ingredients together; set aside.

BUILD a fire with charcoal. When the coals are hot, dig a hole the diameter of your cast-iron skillet with a lid or Dutch oven, about 2 inches deep.

PLACE 12 charcoal briquettes around diameter of the hole. Grease inside of pan.

PAT the dough out on a floured surface about an inch thick and cut out biscuits with a biscuit cutter or a floured drinking glass.

PLACE biscuits in pan, then place the pan in the hole. Cover. Shovel heaps of coals on the lid.

COOK for about 20 minutes.

David Broughton's Slightly Healthier Stuffed Peppers

     6    bell peppers, any color

     1    box of couscous (preferable one that has a Mediterranean flavor)

     Shredded mozzarella cheese

     Grilled chicken cut into bite-size pieces

     Nonstick spray

HEAT oven to 350°.

PREPARE couscous according to package directions and set aside.

WASH the peppers and cut the tops off. Scrape the seeds out of the peppers, scraping the seeds off the tops; reserve. Lightly spray the peppers with oil inside and out.

FILL the peppers, using a spoon, alternating layers of couscous, mozzarella and chicken. End with a topping of cheese.

REPLACE the tops of the peppers and sit them upright on a baking sheet.

BAKE at 350° for 45 minutes. This leaves the pepper cooked but still slightly crunchy.

Aaron Robinson's Roasted Chicken

     1     fryer chicken, about 4 pounds

     1     tablespoon ground cumin

     2     teaspoon garlic powder

     1     teaspoon oregano

     1/2     teaspoon smoked paprika

     1/2     teaspoon ginger powder

     1/2     teaspoon soy sauce

     2     tablespoon olive oil

     1    lime

     6     cloves garlic

     3     tablespoon butter

HEAT the oven to 500°.

SEASON the chicken liberally with salt and pepper.

COMBINE cumin, garlic powder, oregano, smoked paprika, ginger powder, soy sauce and olive oil.

COAT the skin of the chicken with the mixture. Fill the cavity of the chicken with the lime, garlic and butter.

ROAST for about 10 minutes per pound, checking temperature until the temperature registers 160° at the deepest part of the breast. If the chicken is browning too much, cover lightly with foil -- however, the chicken will still be delicious, preferable to some, with charred skin.

ALLOW chicken to rest for 10 minutes before carving.

Reach Autumn D.F. Hopkins at autumn.hopkins@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1249.


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