Thursday, June 12, 2014

The Men Who Influenced the Way I Cook – Father’s Day 2014

Pork Medallions with Capers
For Father’s Day I wish to honor some of the men who influenced the way I cook. My husband Meakin would fall at the head of that list. When I met him, the extent of my cooking skills was meager to say the least. Meakin grew up in a gourmet family and his father Jim was an executive in New York City with a three martini lunch kind of expense account and ate in all of the top restaurants in the city. Obviously I had a lot of catching up to do. Meakin told me if you can read you can cook. “Give cooking a try,” he said, “and if you make something we can’t eat, I’ll take you out.” It sounded like a good deal to me and it worked out well.

Meakin’s Dad Jim

Jim was a tremendous influence on the way I cook. In the early seventies he was the one who first introduced me to the different varieties of lettuces available at the markets, such as romaine, spinach and varieties of baby lettuces. It was Jim who taught me how to make a French vinaigrette, now a staple in my kitchen. An avid cook himself, Jim dreamed of his own cookbook and during the fifties and sixties wrote down many of his favorite recipes in pencil on lined paper and stored them in a 3 ring binder. In 2002 I took those faded copies and typed them into a Word document and, along with Meakin and his two brothers, we were able to have Jim’s cookbook “published” for the family. Needless to say he and all of us were thrilled.

I would like to share one of Jim’s recipes that he created after his cookbook was finished. He put together this very flavorful dish for us one day when we were visiting. In honor of Father’s Day, may I present my father-in-law Jim Hoffer’s pork medallions with capers.

Jim's Pork Medallions with Capers

Pork Medallions with Capers
Jim Hoffer – serves 4, 3 slices each
Printable Recipe

16 ounces pork tenderloin, cut into 12 slices
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon oil
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons (or more to taste) chopped fresh rosemary
½ cup apple juice, preferably organic
½ cup water
1 tablespoon drained small capers

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Slice pork tenderloin into 12 medallions and between pieces of wax paper, pound flat. Season on both sides with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a non-stick 12” skillet and brown the pork slices, taking care not to crowd the pan (may have to do in batches), turning once, until almost cooked. Remove the pork slices to an ovenproof dish.

Add chopped garlic to the hot oil in the skillet, sauté for a minute, then add the flour and stir to make a roux, then add apple juice and water and stir until incorporated. Pour the sauce over the pork slices and bake for 15 to 20 minutes.  Remove slices to a serving dish and sprinkle with drained capers. Taste the sauce for seasonings, correct as necessary, then spoon over pork and serve right away. Easily doubled or tripled. French Potato Salad, recipe here, makes a nice accompaniment.

Craig Claiborne's Shrimp & Grits
Craig Claiborne

One of the most popular posts on My Carolina Kitchen is Craig Claiborne’s Low Country Shrimp and Grits, link here to the post and recipe. Early on in our marriage Jim gave me a copy of Craig Claiborne’s The New York Times Cookbook, complete with notes above his favorite recipes. The New York Times Cookbook sold over three million copies and was eventually translated into seventeen languages.

“Craig Claiborne was the founding father of the American food revolution. From his first day in 1957 as the food editor of the New York Times, Craig Claiborne was going to take his readers where they had never been before. Claiborne extolled the pleasures of exotic cuisines from all around the world, and with his inspiration, restaurants of every ethnicity blossomed.

So many things we take for granted now were introduced to us by Craig Claiborne— the Cuisinart, chef’s knives, crème fraîche, arugula, balsamic vinegar, even the salad spinner. He would give Julia Child her first major book review. He brought Paul Bocuse, Paul Prudhomme, and Jacques Pépin to national acclaim. He turned home cooks such as Marcella Hazan, Madhur Jaffrey, & Diana Kennedy into stars.” - from Amazon.

To read more about Craig Claiborne and his influence on the way we eat, I highly recommended a fascinating book apply named about his life – The Man Who Changed the Way We Eat: Craig Claiborne and The American Food Renaissance, available at Amazon and bookstores everywhere.

Morrison Wood's Chicken Marengo

Morrison Wood

My first cookbook was With a Jug of Wine by Morrison Wood, one of Jim & Meakin’s favorite cookbooks. Born in Chicago, Morrison Wood was the author of “For Men Only!” a syndicated column for the Chicago Tribune. I’m on my fourth copy of the cookbook and I still go to it often.  Many of his recipes are of French origin. In my opinion Morrison Wood was one of the best at writing an introduction to a recipe and an inspiration for today’s writers. Like Ina Garten, his recipes always worked. One of my all time favorites in Jug of Wine is Chicken Marengo pictured above, the famous French dish invented by Napoleon’s battlefield chef to celebrate Napoleon’s success in northwest Italy in 1800. You may remember this dish – link to post and recipe here. Chicken Marengo is one of the most popular dishes on the blog.

Morrison Wood's Chicken Country Captain

Another great from Morrison Wood is Chicken Country Captain, a Southern dish filled with spices and a Low Country’s favorites. You’ll find it served in restaurants and home dining rooms throughout the southern cities of Charleston, South Carolina and Savannah, Georgia. Both lay claim to this Southern classic, which may have been brought to America by a ship’s captain ferrying spices from the Far East. Link to post and recipe here.

My husband Meakin

I’ve obviously saved the best influence for last – my husband Meakin. He is the one that inspired my love of cooking in the early days of our relationship. He and the cookbooks I read, including Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, taught me how to cook. Our philosophy has always been that “we do everything together.” My Carolina Kitchen will celebrate its sixth anniversary this fall and I don’t know what I would do without him. We share responsibilities in the kitchen and work together as a team. I have always found food prep relaxing, so it is I who does the most of that.  Because of my persistent back pain in recent years, Meakin steps in and does a great deal of the actual cooking when I can no longer stand or I get tired. I choose the recipes, style the plates with Meakin’s sharp eyes closely watching, and then he painstakingly photographs each dish. Afterwards when I’ve finished writing the posts, I depend on him for the final critique before it goes live. Without Meakin’s help there would be no My Carolina Kitchen.

Cheers to all of the men who inspire our cooking! 

For all the dads out there, Happy Father’s Day. Have a great weekend everyone.  

This will be shared with Foodie Friday at Rattlebridge Farm, Miz Helen’s Country Kitchen Full Plate Thursday, and Foodie Friday at Simple Recipes.    


  1. I loved this post, Sam!
    I have a friend who claims (still) she can't cook and I have said the same thing Meakin said to you: if you can read, you can cook. I decided after many years, she just wasn't interested. Luckily, her husband doesn't care. (which is probably why she never changed.) You are blessed to have Meakin!
    Morrison Wood's book With a Jug of Wine is one of my favorites too and I use his recipes all the time. So few people know about that book. Mine is in tatters.

  2. You are lucky to have so many influential men in your kitchen virtually and in real time. This is a wonderful tribute to all the men in your lie Sam. Wouldn't we love to get our hands on the family cookbook!!!

  3. I am always dismayed when a woman, especially, states that she can't cook. More recently, I feel the same about a man!! I love the fact my husband and both of our sons are wonderful cooks. I feel like I've hit the jackpot with your post today.


  4. What wonderful men in your life and what wonderful recipes!

  5. Wonderful stories, about these special guys! It was nice to learn more about you as well, and thanks for the links to the dishes you featured from each of the cooks.

  6. Such a touching post Sam. I really enjoy cooking with someone that likes to cook. One of the things I learned about cooking if it does not turn out quiet the way I wanted, if I know it is a decent recipe, I make it again, and again until I get it right. I did not do that when I was younger.

    Happy Blog Anniversary. Now off to check out Morrison Wood's Chicken Marengo.


  7. I had never heard of Mr Wood..Thanks for all this info:)

    Love the cookbook story and how you honor those 2 very special men in your life..

    That Meakin..I tell ya..he sounds like a keeper:) You both lucked out with each other Sam:)
    The mutual love and respect and care shine through always here at your Carolina Kitchen.
    A pleasure to witness.

  8. What a fun post, and all these recipes look amazing!

  9. All of the dishes look wonderful. I just made shrimp and grits the other night! It was fun learning more about the men in your life.

  10. The pork and capers sounds wonderful. (All the recipes sound wonderful, in fact.) I will definitely try this one.

  11. Wowwwww!!!!! to you and your husband and the love of food you share so well.

    1. What wonderful post Sam, your husband and his father sound like wonderful men. And all the dishes look wonderful.

  12. I enjoyed reading this great post Sam.

  13. Sam, This was a very nice Father's Day post... My favorite recipe...and it really sounds your father-in-law's pork and capers creation. Have a great weekend! Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

  14. What a delightful post, Sam! My father was a great cook and I learned a lot from him. All my brothers also enjoy cooking--and growing their own vegetables in fabulous gardens, as does my son--so the cooking gene has definitely been passed down in my family. It must be so nice to have all of your father-in-law's favorite recipes in his cookbook. That will be a true family heirloom! Your FIL's pork medallions look fabulous.

    I also own a Craig Claiborne NY Times Cookbook! It is another treasure!

  15. Great post Sam. I can verify that Meakin is a good cook. His breakfast was amazing! Beautiful dishes.

  16. A lovely post and mouthwatering food! A tasty and refined pork dish.



  17. What a wonderful and generous post Sam. I love that "if you can read you can cook" I'm going to tell that to my daughters! Wonderful pork dish.

  18. What a sweet post Sam. I love that all these men have influenced your wonderful cooking skills. The pork medallions look amazing!

  19. I love this post. My father never cooked that I know of. Only one of my four brothers cooked but he was pretty good. Not like your family, however. All of these dishes look so enticing I even want to cook them. Your blog is fantastic, Sam, and I read it all the time even when I don't have time to comment. I love that you and Meakin do the cooking and the blog together.

  20. A nice tribute to the men and everything looks great Sam! Gotta tell ya, the Chicken Marengo made me say "OMG" out loud! That looks amazing and I know I'd love it:@)

  21. Meakin sounds like a wonderful husband (and I'm sure that he is). What's not to love, when a man says he'll take you out if you make something you can't eat! All of these recipes look amazing, and I have to tell you that I've had a hankering for shrimp and grits. Your recipe will be pinned to fulfill that one!

  22. What a sweet and delicious post! I love what you cook and the plating is just gorgeous, Sam. Shrimp with grits looks so very GOOD!

  23. This, I am sure, will be another of your most popular posts. Except for Craig Claiborne, women were the real inspiration in my family, although I have to say that it was my husband who gave me his cookbook. I don't know where we would all be without him and his column in the NYT. As to your husband he is a treasure. You can see his love for food through his photos. Wish I could get my Sous Chef to pay more attention to her plating!

  24. I love this post, Sam! I love hearing about other people's journeys with food. You had some great mentors! I always enjoying you blog!


  25. What an excellent tribute to all the great men in your life who taught you to cook. It was wonderful of your father-in-law to educate you and then for you to publish his cookbook! And Meakin sounds the best! You're one lucky lady to have them in your life! My father liked to cook and so does Bill now and then, but I learned from the women in my family, mainly Mom. Have a great weekend!

  26. Lovely pork dish and fab pic! Cheers from Carole's Chatter

  27. I've not thought about the influence of men on my cooking, but like for you, it is true, particularly with so many of today's top chefs being male.

  28. What a wonderful post, Sam, and a great collection of recipes. For the bad reputation have as the world assumes that only women can cook (although where men chefs fall into this theory I never understood), it is wonderful to see how many men around us are fabulous cooks. Those who have most influenced me in the kitchen, taught me to cook and bake have also been men. Thanks for this post.

  29. You are so fortunate to have had two such culinary-inspirated men in your married life, Sam! I wish I did too but at least my husband helps with the grilling and does a great job of clean up :-) I have The New York Times Cookbook but I had never heard of Morrison Wood either. It's too bad there isn't more information about him available online but I was able to find a couple of his newspaper columns which were very interesting. Cheers to Meakin and all the men out there who inspire us!

  30. Sam this is a really amazing and lovely post and you are lucky to sharing this with your husbsnd!:)

  31. What a great - and delicious - tribute to the men who have inspired you. I would love to see more of the recipes you preserved from Jim in the future.

  32. You and Meakin are a great team, Sam. I loved this post. Thanks for sharing with us.

  33. So wonderful that you put your father-in-law's recipes together for the family. My husband was raised by his dad who used to say, "If you can read, you can cook." It's not true. He's a lovely man, but he still isn't much of a cook. I think reading cookbooks gets you started... it's chutzpah and a good nose that makes you a cook. I really loved this post.. thank you sincerely for sharing it with us on foodie friday.

  34. What a wonderful post and a great tribute to the men who have influenced you!

  35. this is such a lovely post :-) love your blog, and your fab

  36. See and dream to eat this delecious meal... maybe someday, I will really eat this meal... zero meal

  37. This is a lovely post! The dishes look delicious and it great to have the history and memories attached to them.

  38. what a wonderful post! So sweet and what amazing meals to share with your family and all of us! I love the pork medallions! They look so delicious with those flavors

  39. Hi Sam,
    I really enjoyed your post and the lovely tribute to these outstanding men in your life. The Pork Medallions will be a big hit with our crowd, this is a delicious dish. Thanks so much for sharing this awesome recipe with Full Plate Thursday and come back soon!
    Miz Helen

  40. That Meakin is a keeper! What a great guy, what a great post Sam!

  41. Great post Sam. I've made a version of all of these except for that Country Captain. I've seen recipes and never tried it. Thanks for the reminder that it needs to go on my list.


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