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Cooking with Myra: Desserts, dishes for that special day

June 14, 2010 at 1:14 a.m.
Updated June 15, 2010 at 1:15 a.m.

Chicken and Artichoke Crepes

CANDIED GINGER HEARTS2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened

1/2 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed

1/2 tsp. ground ginger

2 cups all-purpose flour

Dash of salt

3/4 cup, plus 2 Tbsp. finely chopped candied ginger

Confectioners' sugar for sprinkling the cookies

In a bowl with an electric mixer, cream together butter, brown sugar and ground ginger until the mixture is light and fluffy and add the flour and the salt. Beat the dough until it is just combined and beat in the candied ginger. Halve the dough, roll out each half 1/4-inch thick between sheets of wax paper, and freeze the dough on baking sheets for 10 to 15 minutes, or until it is very firm. Working with half the dough at a time, remove the top sheets of wax paper and cut out cookies with a 21/4-inch, heart-shaped cutter. If the dough is cold the cookies will retain their shape. Place the cookies 2 inches apart on the baking sheets, bake them in batches in the middle of a preheated 300-degree oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until they are pale golden, and transfer them to a rack. Roll the remaining dough and make more cookies. Refrigerate the dough if it becomes too soft. Let the cookies cool completely and sprinkle them with the confectioners' sugar, sifted.


6 Tbsp. of butter

1/2 cup of diced sweet onion

1/2 cup of sun-dried tomatoes, sliced thinly for extra garnish

1 (14-oz.) jar of marinated artichokes, drained and diced

1 clove of garlic, minced

1/4 cup of all-purpose flour

11/4 cups of whole milk

11/4 cups of chicken broth

2 cups of diced or shredded cooked chicken

1/2 cup of vermouth or white wine, divided

1/2 tsp. of salt

1/4 tsp. of white pepper

1/2 cup of Gruyere cheese, grated

1/4 cup of parsley (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Saute onions in oil in a medium skillet over medium heat until onions are softened and slightly caramelized (about 5 minutes). Add garlic and cook for an additional minute. Add artichokes and tomatoes and saute for 2 minutes longer. Deglaze pan with 1/4 cup of vermouth (or wine). Stir until wine is absorbed into the vegetables. Set aside.

Next make the sauce: Heat butter in 2- to 3-quart pan over moderate heat. When the foam subsides, whisk in flour. Cook for several minutes (5 to 10), until mixture is golden in appearance. Gradually add milk, remaining ¼ cup of wine and chicken broth and simmer for 5 to 8 minutes. Reserve 1/2 cup of sauce setting aside. Add chicken and vegetable mixture to sauce in the pan. Heat mixture another minute and add salt and white pepper. If mixture becomes too thick, add a little more milk slowly.

Assemble crepes: Add 1/8 of the mixture inside the first crepe. For an impressive presentation, roll up each side vertically and then horizontally. This process is like you are making a burrito. Repeat with remaining crepes. Arrange crepes side by side in an oiled 9x13-inch baking dish. Drizzle each crepe with 1 Tbsp. of reserved sauce and 1 Tbsp. of cheese. Bake for 20 minutes or until cheese melts. Before serving, garnish with slivers of tomato and parsley.

CREPES3/4 cup of all-purpose flour

1 Tbsp. of melted butter

11/4 cups of skim milk

2 eggs

3/4 tsp. of salt

Combine all ingredients into a blender and mix until well-blended. You may also combine them by hand. If combining by hand, mix the eggs and milk separately and combine slowly with the dry ingredients. Mix in the melted butter last. Important: Refrigerate the batter for at least 30 minutes.

Place your pan on a medium-hot burner. Brush with butter, then pour 3 Tbsp. of batter into the pan. Remove pan from heat and swirl pan until batter coats bottom of pan. Place pan on burner and when batter turns light brown then flip and cook for 15 seconds on the other side.


12 cups fresh strawberries, hulled and quartered

11/2 cups sugar

1 Tbsp. lemon juice

6 egg yolks

1/4 cup Grand Marnier liqueur

1 pint heavy cream

1 prepared pound cake

2 cups blueberries

To make the syrup, use 8 cups of the fresh strawberries. Combine these with 1 Tbsp. of lemon juice and place in pan over medium heat. Stir and mash strawberries and allow to boil for about 5 minutes. The strawberries should be bright red and soft. Allow this mixture to cool. Strain the pulp out and discard. Transfer the remaining juice or syrup in a container in the refrigerator. Cut pound cake into cubes about 2-inches by 2-inches.

In a double boiler, whisk yolks and sugar together until very thick and creamy. Remove from heat and whisk in Grand Marnier. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to cool. Whip heavy cream until thick, and add some whipped cream to the egg mixture to lighten it. Spoon the remainder of the whipped cream into the cooled egg yolk mixture and gently fold. Refrigerate until serving.

Place about 1/2 cup of the strawberry syrup in a bowl with the fresh berries and gently toss. In a large bowl or individual serving glasses, place pound cake cubes, then berry mixture, Grand Marnier cream and repeat layers. Refrigerate about one hour so the flavors will meld.

By Myra Starkey

I feel like a runner who has just completed a major relay. I trained for the event by putting in countless hours, carefully selecting what I would wear and helping to coordinate the wardrobe of my team, and had my times down to the minute. I am not talking about a marathon or even a 5K, but Hannah's wedding.

The event was June 5, and I enjoyed it immensely, but I'm happy that it's over. Just like training for a race, I was able to lose about 10 pounds running around like a crazy mother-of-the bride should. I did my best to calm myself by remembering that in any big event, there would be a few glitches, but the important thing would be that they would be husband and wife.

One of the most difficult things for me, leading up to the wedding, was preparing the guest list. There were so many people that I wanted to invite, but since the church was small, we had to limit the numbers. After including our large families and Hannah and Ben's list of friends, we didn't have a lot of extra space.

But the wedding day was a delight. We had a lot of out-of-town relatives on both sides. Our day started with five sleepy bridesmaids waking up in our house after having stayed up late talking in what all knew would be the last night of freedom for Hannah.

My friend, Suzi, from Yoakum, was responsible for the majority of the floral arrangements, and because she has large gardens, I chose only to supplement her stock with a few zinnias for the tables.

My friends and I had decorated Schroeder Hall on Friday, the day before the wedding, with paper lanterns, old couches, shutters, windows and lights. We were under the capable hands of Connie Wood who had agreed to decorate for the reception. We served as her workers as she created a "Hannah look," which I would describe as shabby chic/retro. Hannah is my eco-friendly child who hates to see things thrown away that could be salvaged for decorating. The previous week, Hannah and her creative friend, Paige, had been busy making paper flowers out of old medical and law books to use at the reception.

I was happy when Saturday, the big day, arrived so I could do "wedding fun stuff," while my friend, Janet, and her sister, Cheryl, finished decorating the hall.

While I was dining at the lovely bridesmaids luncheon at Penni's house with 16 ladies, including moms and grandmothers, the remaining group had a Texas-size barbecue, hosted by Taylor's parents and sisters at their Guadalupe River ranch.

Groomsmen and the out-of-town guests dined on ribs, brisket, smoked chicken and all the trimmings, while Hannah and the ladies group sat down to beautiful linens and china.

I know I am not a princess, but I sure felt like one as I delicately sipped the chilled soup from china tea cups. Penni, Kathleen, Fran, Tenna and Patty gave the bridesmaids brunch for Hannah.

We started with nutty cucumber soup served in tea cups. Artichoke and chicken crepes were served with a bechamel sauce and a salad of radicchio, watercress and arugula. For dessert, the hostesses served an impressive berry trifle with Grand Marnier cream.

Since our stomachs contained butterflies because of the upcoming nuptials, the hostesses had prepared delicious, candied ginger shortbread hearts sprinkled with confectioners' sugar. Ginger is known to settle the stomach, so I felt I had the right to eat all my treats as I left the brunch.

The girls departed the brunch to return home to rest awhile before they had to don their bridesmaids attire, and I ferried Hannah to the hairdresser so she could be picture worthy.

I sat patiently in the side chair as Ellie curled and twirled her hair, seeming to fasten each and every strand in place with bobby pins. I looked at my beautiful daughter who was giving up her single life to be wed to her best friend.

She was obviously anxious about events that would never happen. What if no one came? What if the flowers didn't arrive? What if the food was bad? What if ...? I assured her that all would go as planned and that it was best not to worry, but to breathe deeply and cherish the moment.

As I drove her home, I realized how blessed I am to have a daughter who has found someone who loves her as much as we do. We spoke only briefly about suitcases and airplane tickets, and then she ran upstairs to the room where she grew up to get dressed.

After a time, she came back down stairs dressed as a lovely bride. Her friends were trailing behind her, holding up her dress. She was holding her veil so I could place it on her head, as instructed.

The photographer was waiting downstairs and took some pre-church photos of her leaving our house and crossing the street to the same place she went to school for 10 years, Trinity Episcopal.

The school and church is conveniently located just across the street from our back door. Hannah wanted to be married in the church where she sat as a little girl from kindergarten through eighth-grade. I found it interesting to think how she had grown up and that even though she was still my daughter, she would leave that church after the ceremony as Mrs. Ben Smith.

Cindy decorated the church with white flowers along the center aisle and larger arrangements up front. Hannah's bouquet was "bowl of cream" peonies, perfect for a foodie like her.

The first interesting event of the wedding occurred as Ben's 2-year-old nephew, the designated ring bearer, was ready to transport the groom's ring down the aisle to the front.

The ring was tied to the special pillow, and he was slinging it around while having a mini-tantrum at the back of the church, and then had to be lead down the aisle by Ben's 4-year-old niece and her dad. The ring became airborne and landed only a few rows up from the back of the church.

He continued down the aisle, not even realizing he had lost his treasure.

Paige, Hannah's maid of honor, witnessed this and tried to signal me with raised eyebrows, but I was oblivious to the spectacle and just smiled back. Cindy, our flower lady and ceremony director, simply ducked forward and stretched to reach it in time to give it to Hannah who carried it down aisle.

In 32 minutes, it was over. Ben kissed his new wife as the preacher introduced them as Mr. and Mrs. Smith.

It was time for the fun part of the evening; food and drink, dancing and live music at Schroeder Hall. Ric Tinney, of Goliad, catered it and the food was interesting and delicious.

I had waited patiently for cake since that is one of my favorite foods at weddings, and Hannah's cake was divine.

Near the end of the evening, we all paraded outside to send the new couple on their way. We lined up in two long rows with sparklers in hand, and as they readied to proceed between the lines to their waiting car, a slow-moving shooting star tracked across the sky just above their path. There was a collective gasp as people pointed into the sky, and then the newlyweds raced down the line, jumped into the car and drove away into the night to begin their new life together.

I realize that after any achievement, it is time to rest and reflect. I am much wiser than when I started this process almost 11 months ago. I know now that it takes a community of family and friends to pull off a modern-day wedding event. I will probably never be able to repay all the favors and friends who helped me marry off our only daughter.

I feel certain that Hannah is marrying into a wonderful family who loves her and will cherish her life as we do. I think that a successful wedding is wonderful, but to know your child has chosen well is the best gift of all.

We continued with another celebration last weekend for the spectacular wedding of Casey and Caleb. I have known Casey and her parents for years, and it was such a joy to see her wed to Caleb and to celebrate with friends and their families. I felt different being at a wedding that I did not plan or help with. I noticed Tammy tearing up and understood exactly how she felt at that moment. At the end of the evening we were treated to a fireworks display. I danced with Taylor, but I admit I had my eyes on my children, the original ones and my new one, Ben. I asked Spencer if he was enjoying himself, and he replied, "This is such a fun wedding reception, and I don't even have to clean up!"

Myra Starkey lives in Victoria. Write her in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901, or e-mail



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