February 18, 2013

Have you ever thought about what it would take to be the White House chef? Not only would the chef need to create menus to impress heads of state, but also food to impress the First Lady and First Kids. Most importantly, the chef needs to know how to take orders from a very powerful and sometimes particular diner: the president of the United States.

In honor of Presidents Day I've gathered a few recipes that fall under the category of presidential favorites.

George Washington

Presidential Term April 30, 1789-March 4, 1797

Cherry Bounce

Legend says when Washington was a little boy he used a hatchet to chop at the trunk of his father's cherry tree. When asked about the tree, Washington exclaimed, "I cannot tell a lie, I did cut it with my little hatchet!"

Cherry Bounce is one of the few recipes known to have been used by the Washington family. A recipe for cherry bounce was found in Martha Washington's recipe book. This brandy-based drink was popular in the 18th century. It is said General Washington packed a canteen of it for trip west across the Allegheny Mountains.

½ quart bourbon

1 quart tart/pie cherries (pitted if wanting to use the cherries too)

1 ½ cups sugar

jar with lid

Place cherries and sugar in the jar and mix. Add bourbon and stir together. Seal the jar. Place in a dark warm place. Stir daily until sugar is dissolved.

Some recipes recommend aging for several months, three minimum. It was often made and timed to be ready at Christmastime. After a few weeks it's delicious. Drink it when you want it and enjoy the boozy cherries too (great on ice cream).

Makes approximately 1½ quarts

John F. Kennedy

Presidential Term Jan. 20, 1961-Nov. 22, 1963

Clam Chowder

Born in Brookline, Massachusetts, JFK grew up in the Northeast where clam chowder is popular with locals. Kennedy loved clam chowder, and according to White House chef Rene Verdon, Kennedy asked for it every Friday.

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 medium onion, finely diced

2 celery stalks (reserve tender leaves) trimmed, quartered lengthwise, then sliced into 1/4-inch pieces

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 cups chicken or vegetable stock

2 (10-ounce) cans chopped clams in juice

1 cup heavy cream

2 bay leaves

1 pound Idaho potatoes, cut into 1/2- inch cubes

salt and freshly ground black pepper

Pan Toasted Croutons:

2 to 3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2 baguette, cut into 1-inch cubes

3 tablespoons freshly chopped flat-leaf parsley

salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat the butter in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and celery and saute until softened, mixing often. Stir in the flour to distribute evenly. Add the stock, juice from 2 cans of chopped clams (reserve clams), cream, bay leaves, and potatoes and stir to combine. Bring to a simmer, stirring consistently (the mixture will thicken), then reduce the heat to medium-low and cook 20 minutes, stirring often, until the potatoes are nice and tender. Then add clams and season to taste with salt and pepper, cook until clams are just firm, another 2 minutes.

For the Pan Toasted Croutons:

Melt the butter in a large skillet and toss the bread cubes in the butter until browned and toasted, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add parsley and season with salt and pepper.

Ronald Reagan

Presidential Term Jan. 20, 1981-Jan. 20, 1989

Monkey Bread

Monkey Bread was a favorite baked treat of Reagan's when he served as President. Typically Reagan was known for low-fat, high-bran breakfasts, but he knew when to splurge on this gooey bread.

4 cans refrigerated biscuits

1 cup packed brown sugar

1 1/2 sticks butter (3/4 cup)

1/2 cup white sugar

2 tablespoons cinnamon

1/2 cup raisins (these are optional, it's great with or without them)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9-10 inch tube pan. Mix white sugar and cinnamon in a medium sized plastic bag. Cut the biscuits into halves or quarters and place six to eight biscuit pieces in the sugar cinnamon mix. Shake well. Arrange pieces in the bottom of the greased pan. Continue layering until all the biscuit pieces are coated and in the pan. If you are using raisins, place them among the biscuit pieces as you are layering.

In a small saucepan, melt the butter with the brown sugar over medium heat. Boil for 1 minute. Pour over the layered biscuits. Bake for 35 minutes. Let bread cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a plate. Pull apart and enjoy.

George W. Bush

Presidential Term Jan. 20, 2001-Jan. 20, 2009

Huevos Rancheros

Bush, a Texan at heart, enjoys a Sunday meal of huevos rancheros, a Tex-Mex classic. Huevos meaning "eggs" and rancheros meaning "rancher's" is a traditional meal served mid-morning on rural Mexican farms.

4 (6- 8-inch) soft corn tortillas

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1 (16 oz) can black beans, rinsed and drained

1 chipotle chili in adobo sauce, diced; or 1/2 teaspoon crushed

1/2 cup mild salsa

4 large eggs, fried

2/3 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese

1 ripe avocado, sliced

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Put the tortillas on a baking sheet and place in the oven to warm (cover with foil if you don't like crisp tortillas). Toast the cumin in a small, dry saucepan over medium heat until aromatic, about 3 minutes. Add the beans and chipotle or crushed red pepper (if using). Remove the tortillas from the oven. Spoon some beans onto each tortilla then top each with some salsa, one fried egg and some cheese. Bake until the cheese has melted. Serve with the avocado.

Barack Obama

Presidental Term Jan. 20, 2009-Present


This version of chili has been floating around the internet as the Obama family chili recipe that the president has been making for years.

1 large onions, chopped

1 green peppers, chopped

3 garlic cloves, chopped

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 lb ground turkey or 1 lb beef

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon ground oregano

1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric

1/4 teaspoon ground basil

1 tablespoon chili powder

3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

tomatoes, several depending on size, chopped

1 (15 oz) can red kidney beans

Saute onions, green pepper and garlic in olive oil until soft. Add ground meat and brown. Combine spices together into a mixture, then add to ground meat. Add red wine vinegar. Add tomatoes and let simmer, until tomatoes cook down. Add kidney beans and cook for a few more minutes. Serve over white or brown rice. Garnish with grated cheddar cheese, onions and sour cream.