Showing posts with label Henry Haller. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Henry Haller. Show all posts

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Ronald Reagan Macaroni and Cheese

On the evening of January 11, 1989, President Ronald Reagan delivered his Farewell Address from the Oval Office at the White House. In it, he spoke reverently of the past, of his accomplishments during his eight years in office, and of his vision of America’s promise.

Near the end of his address, Reagan turned his attention toward patriotism, freedom, and the future, and said that “All great change in America begins at the dinner table” in the daily conversations between parent and child. This is what he said:

My fellow Americans...we're about to enter the '90s, and some things have changed. Younger parents aren't sure that an unambivalent appreciation of America is the right thing to teach modern children. And as for those who create the popular culture, well-grounded patriotism is no longer the style. Our spirit is back, but we haven't reinstitutionalized it. We've got to do a better job of getting across that America is freedom - freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of enterprise. And freedom is special and rare. It's fragile; it needs protection.

So, we've got to teach history based not on what's in fashion but what's important: Why the Pilgrims came here, who Jimmy Doolittle was, and what those 30 seconds over Tokyo meant...Let's start with some basics: more attention to American history and a greater emphasis on civic ritual. And let me offer lesson No. 1 about America: All great change in America begins at the dinner table. So, tomorrow night in the kitchen I hope the talking begins. And children, if your parents haven't been teaching you what it means to be an American, let 'em know and nail 'em on it. That would be a very American thing to do...


After leaving office, Reagan and his wife Nancy quietly retired to a mansion on a private, tree-lined street in the exclusive community of Bel Air, California. Despite the many elegant State Dinners that he surely must have become accustomed to during his two terms of office, those who were close to the president say that he retained a childhood taste for Meatloaf, Hamburger Soup, and other simple foods of his youth.

One his "all-time favorites," however, according to White House Chef Henry Haller, was Macaroni and Cheese, so much so that Reagan requested that a dish of it be delivered to him while he was recuperating at a hospital after being seriously wounded in an assassination attempt that took place on March 30, 1981, less than 100 days into his presidency.

“The dish was served in the manner the President prefer[ed],” Haller explained, “with the noodles well cooked and covered with a light cheese spiked with mustard.” If you’d like to serve up some of President Reagan’s Favorite Macaroni and Cheese for dinner tonight while talking to your kids about what it means to be an American, here is the original recipe from The White House Cookbook by Henry Haller:

½ pound macaroni
1 tablespoon butter
1 egg, beaten
3 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup warm milk
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dry mustard
½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
A pinch of paprika

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a 2-quart casserole dish. Add macaroni to 2 quarts of boiling salted water and cook for 10 minutes. Drain well in a colander. Transfer to a mixing bowl. Stir in butter and beaten egg. Add 2-1/2 cups of the grated cheese.

In a small bowl, combine milk with salt, mustard and Worcestershire sauce. Spoon macaroni and cheese into the prepared casserole. Pour milk mixture over and sprinkle top with the remaining cheese. Sprinkle with paprika.

Bake on middle shelf of preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes, or until macaroni is firm to the touch and the top is crusty and browned. Serve at once, either as a light entree accompanied by a hot green vegetable and a crisp salad, or as a side dish with Hamburgers or Meat Loaf.

FAST FACT: Also injured in the assassination attempt was White House Press Secretary James Brady who suffered a gunshot wound to the head, while a Secret Service Agent was shot in the chest and a Washington, D.C. police officer was hit near the spine. Historians at the Miller Center say that "as Reagan was rushed to George Washington University Hospital for emergency surgery, administration aides downplayed the severity of the injuries. According to Political Affairs Director Lyn Nofziger, Reagan was in good spirits, at one point teasing the medical staff, 'Please tell me you're Republicans.'"

Credit: Ronald Reagan wearing cowboy hat at Rancho Del Cielo, Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum (1976)

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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Jimmy Carter and "The Grits Factor"

Even before Jimmy Carter and his family moved into the White House, reports in the press "began to highlight the Carters' Southern style of life and the public was forewarned that the White House would soon serve grits to guests."

According to White House chef Henry Haller, grits were included on the menu for the Carters' first breakfast at the White House. A staple dish for the Carters and their Southern visitors, grits, as Haller tells us, "soon became standard fare for White House guests from all over the world. The White House kitchen quickly realized that many of the Carters' distinguished visitors really expected to be served grits, and most were pleasantly surprised to discover they actually liked the taste of the ground hominy dish."

The key to preparing palatable grits, according to Chef Haller, is to avoid a watery product by cooking completely and stirring often. Grits, as many southerners would surely agree, taste great served hot with lots of melted butter or baked with a flavorful cheese.

Because President Carter was fond of Grits Baked with Cheese, this dish was often included on the Carter family's weekend breakfast menu. If you would like to whip up a batch, here is simple recipe to try from The White House Family Cookbook by Henry Haller:

4 cups chicken bouillon
1 cup enriched white hominy
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
2 cups grated sharp cheddar
4 eggs yolk
1/4 to 1/2 cup cold milk
4 egg whites, at room temperature

Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease inside of a 2-quart casserole dish. Bring buillon to a boil in a 2-quart saucepan; add grits gradually, stirring with a wire whisk. Reduce heat and continue cooking, stirring vigorously, until mixture thickens. Cover and cook for 15 minutes, sirring often. Remove from heat and add Worcestershire sauce, butter, and 1 1/2 cups of the cheese, stirring until well-balanced.

In a small bowl, blend egg yolks with 1/2 cup of milk. Pour into grits and mix thoroughly; add more milk if necessary, thinning to the consistency of cream of wheat. In a clean, dry bowl, beat egg whites until stiff. Fold into grits. Pour into prepared baking dish. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup of cheese. Bake on middle of shelf of preheated oven for 30 minutes or until fluffy and brown. Serve at once and enjoy!

FOOD FACT: According to an article in the New York Times, grits is "the first truly American food." When a sea-weary group of English settlers came ashore at Jamestown, Virginia in the spring of 1607, they were reportedly greeted by a band of friendly Indians offering "bowls of a steaming hot substance consisting of softened maize seasoned with salt" and bear grease. The settlers liked it so much they quickly adopted it as a part of their own diet and "set about devising a milling process by which the large corn grains could be ground into smaller particles without losing any nutriments." Today, of the 150 million pounds of grits milled each year in the United States, more than two-thirds (or one hundred million pounds!) is consumed in the South.

Source: Henry Haller, The White House Family Cookbook, Henry Haller [New York: Random House, 1987)

Credit: Oil Portrait of Jimmy Carter by Herbert E. Abrams (1982) White House Historical Association (White House Collection)