When I started interviewing people for Salty Brownies I knew that I wanted to interview our friend Jeff. First of all I knew that he has a passion for cooking and secondly he’s a hoot to chat with. He’s from Iowa, like most of my husband’s family, and we’ve been blessed to become really good friends with him and his fiancé Michelle, who is actually one of Chris’ cousins from Iowa. When I married my husband I kind of giggled about all his family being from Iowa. I’d been there, there’s lots of corn. An absurd amount of corn, but even though it’s a big staple in people’s diets up there, they make some MEAN corn and I love it up there now. Chris’ family, the beautiful state and yes, the corn.
What were your first memories in the kitchen?
Mom cooking. Wearing an apron. Listening to the radio. Whistling away. It was a regular Norman Rockwell.
Any stories of amazing turnouts or disasters?
The most ambitious meal I ever made was pan seared Bay Scallops on a bed of white beans, bacon, and spinach. I had never cooked scallops before, so I was worried. End of the day, I was quite impressed with myself. Another amazing turnout was a Southwest Sheppards pie. It was spicy and used sweet potatoes instead of white ones. Kind of a flyer, but it was delicioso.
Disaster. Pretty much anytime I try to cook fish. When the smoke clears the apartment reeks and I’m usually on my way to McDonalds. I make the worst tilapia you’ll ever taste.
Anything that you love that most people think isn't good at all?
Ice Cream. I know most people can’t stand the stuff, but I find it to be delicious.
What are you afraid of cooking and what's your best dish?
Omelets. They intimidate the pants off me. I think I’ve made 1 presentable omelet in my life. Coinsidently, I make some mean scrambled eggs with cheese and ham!
What do people say about your cooking?
Work in progress. Michelle says I’m better than I think I am. I don’t get too crazy. But things usually turn out pretty well. I hope to eventually graduate to a blow torch and liquid nitrogen….but I think that’s a way down the road yet.
Anything special that people make in your part of the country?
Corn on the cob, loaded with butter, Cajun spices, salt and pepper. Num. Nothing makes me feel more like I’m at home than getting after a couple ears of corn.
What are your family holiday menus like?
Ham and Turkey. Sometimes ma would throw in a lasagna to keep things interesting. Cranberries, potatoes (sweet and normal both) green bean casserole, rolls, and this ridiculous pistachio jello type thing that had chunks of God knows what in it. It always reminded me of Aunt Bethany’s jello mold in Christmas Vacation. She makes it every year without fail, and every year it’s the only thing I don’t have.
Describe a holiday meal at your house
Chaos. Lots of yelling. Panic from my mother. But in the end, a spread like you couldn’t believe. The woman makes the best turkey gravy in the world. That stuff goes on EVERYTHING at our Thanksgiving table.
Who do you like to cook for or if you could cook for anyone who would it be?
I would love nothing more than to have dinner with Michael Jordan, Dave Matthews and Albert Pujols. Brats and Steaks sounds about right.
What would be your last meal?
Filet, tempura vegetables and garlic mashed potatoes from Sidney Street Café in St. Louis.
If you could eat anywhere in the world where would it be?
The food in Paris was pretty darned good. Looking forward to our honeymoon in Ireland and sampling lots of fish n’ chips, Sheppard Pies and the like.
Anything that's in your freezer or fridge that would surprise anyone?
Worcestershire sauce. Not really a surprise. But I couldn’t think of anything and Worcestershire is fun to say.
What's your guilty pleasure when it comes to cooking or baking?
Sampling. Maybe a little too much sometimes.
When did you eat your veggies?
Sparingly for the first 25 years of life. Michelle has turned me on to them though. Broccoli and Cauliflower are my favorites. Being from Iowa, corn was obviously always a staple. And I’m coming around on peppers. Especially banana and red. Yummy.
Are there any foods that you don't like at all?
Waterchestnuts. Ehh. Worthless. No flavor, just awkward crunching when you don’t expect it. The dammed things are opaque, so they sneak up on you. They’re like a bad tasting ninja.
Cheese or Chocolate?
Chocolate covered cheese.