My colleague Karen Croke, who has three teenage boys, was smitten by the title of a new cookbook, “Mad Hungry: Feeding Men & Boys.” So she tested a few recipe on — who better? — her own family. Here’s her story: How to feed the hungry man or boy.
Karen’s story in full, after the jump.
Mothers of boys have one thing in common: they don’t have a lot of time to read cookbooks.
Boys eat a lot and they eat often, and the only time they really want to make conversation is to complain when the refrigerator is empty and they’re hungry. Mad hungry.
Clear the counters and make time to at least look through Lucinda Scala Quinn’s new book, “Mad Hungry: Feeding Men & Boys, Recipes, Strategies & Survival Techniques,” ($27.95, Workman). It’s full of quick recipes using fresh ingredients that will sate those huge appetites. There’s also plenty of practical advice for busy cooks — how to stock a “guy pantry,” and season an iron skillet so that it never needs cleaning.
Scala Quinn, by the way, knows her stuff. She’s the executive food director for Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia and a cohost of PBS’ “Everyday Food.” She’s also the mother of three boys, who love to eat what she serves and have now learned to cook for themselves.
Her recipes are easy to follow and cover breakfast, lunch, dinner and down-home desserts. They are stick-to-their-ribs delicious, but not in a boring good-for-you-oatmeal-kind way, which is something boys see through right away.
Sprinkled among the recipes are nuggets of info, such as how to keep cereal fresh after they tear open the bags, how to fry the perfect egg, and why you should never be caught without bacon.
I decided to take her book for a little test drive since my four guys, who are 14, 16, 19 and 54, are always hungry, yet cast a wary eye on things they’ve never heard of or can’t pronounce. Escarole? “Not eating it,” they say. Polenta, figs, capers? Hello. Ask them even to boil water and there’s indecision: what pot, how high should the burner be, what’s the water for?
I was also looking for a healthy way to quell the incessant grumblings of “there’s nothing to eat,” so they won’t take a trip to the mini-mart for Cup-O-Noodles. And like many people who cook on demand day in and day out, I’ve been making the same dishes for what seems like decades (sorry, kids!) and my repertoire was in need of an overhaul.
So I tried three recipes from the book: Crunchy Sesame Chicken Wings, Italian Fries, and a German Apple Cake, with help from my 14-year-old Matt (who also went off assignment and baked Scala Quinn’s Old-Fashioned Apple Pie, all by himself).
All were easy to pull together with easy-to-find ingredients, and the results were stunning: a tasting panel of seven starving teenaged boys ate every last morsel of all four dishes. And, better still, it held them until dinner!
Beyond that, says Scala Quinn, there’s value in sitting down together for a home-cooked meal made with love. “No matter how busy you are,” she writes, “saute that onion, rip up fresh basil, or slow-roast a pork shoulder. That’s all it takes to fill their sense memory and make your family feel good for a lifetime.”
I can do that.
German Apple Cake
Makes 1 (8-inch) square cake
1 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon coarse salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 3/4 cups sugar, divided
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Juice of 1/2 lemon
3 to 4 tart apples such as Granny Smith, Cortland or Winesap
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter an 8-inch square pan or equivalent-sized baking dish.
In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. In a medium bowl, cream together the butter and 1 cup of the sugar. Stir in the eggs and vanilla. Add the flour mixture and beat until combined. Spread the mixture evenly in the prepared pan.
In a small bowl, combine the remaining 3/4 cup sugar with the cinnamon. Squeeze lemon juice into a medium bowl. Peel, core and slice the apples into the bowl. Add the cinnamon-sugar mixture and toss to thoroughly coat each apple slice.
Arrange the apple slices on top of the batter in overlapping rows, pressing lightly into the batter.
Bake for about 45 minutes, until a cake tester or toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan, on a wire rack for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.
Crunchy Sesame Chicken Wings
Makes 20 wings
20 chicken wings
3 large eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 cup sesame seeds
[0xbd] cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons coarse salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs
2 to 3 garlic cloves, minced
Hot sauce, for serving
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Place the chicken wings in a large bowl. Add the eggs and toss to coat. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or coat the pan with oil.
In a small bowl, combine the sesame seeds, flour, salt, cayenne, bread crumbs and garlic. Dip each wing into the sesame mixture to fully coat. Place the coated wings side by side on the prepared baking sheet.
Bake for 30 minutes and increase the temperature to 400 degrees. Cook until the wings are golden brown and sizzling, 20 to 30 more minutes. Immediately remove the wings from the baking sheet while hot. Serve with hot sauce.
Serves 6 (if you are very lucky)
Scala Quinn’s brother Jim is responsible for these addictive fries.
6 or 7 Idaho potatoes, peeled and sliced into Ÿ-inch thick french-fry style strips, soaked in cold salted water
4 tablespoons ([0xbc] cup) extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon dried Italian herbs or some combo of dried oregano, thyme, marjoram and basil.
2 cups freshly grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves, finely chopped
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) salted butter cut into 6 cubes
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Drain the potatoes and pat dry with paper towels. Spread 1 tablespoon of the olive oil on each of 2 rimmed baking sheets and spread out the potatoes. Overlapping is fine.
Sprinkle the dried herbs evenly over the potatoes. Liberally spread the cheese and parsley on top. Drizzle the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil over the cheese. Scatter the cubed butter around the pans.
Bake until the potatoes are golden brown, rotating the pans after 30 minutes, for 45 to 50 minutes total. Use a spatula to lift off the potatoes with all the crusty cheese adhered to them. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot.