Santa makes a mean tiramusa

By Joe Stumpe

For years, Tim Churchill has enjoyed baking Christmas treats for family and friends, often using recipes learned from his Greek in-laws. A few years back, another holiday mission came along: he got asked to play Santa Claus for McConnell Air Force Base’s Christmas party.

“They were looking for a Santa, and I fit the suit, so…” Churchill joked.

Then, growing serious, he said: “I sit there and see kids for four hours. It’s very moving, to say the least. They’ll say things like, ‘What I’d really like is to have my dad home for Christmas.’ I get a lot of that. I’ll say ‘Your dad would like nothing more than to be home, but he’s doing a job that’s very important. He’ll be home as soon as he can.’”

The Wichita native, a brand manager for Berendsen Liquid Power, has enjoyed cooking since his own childhood, when he discovered Julia Child and the Galloping Gourmet on TV. With both parents working, he said, “I spent summers either eating cold bologna sandwiches or learning to cook.”

He remembers going to supermarket as a teenager determined to prepare clam linguini for his parents, only to find the Safeway at Hillside and Douglas stocked nothing closer than smoked oysters. “They ate it. I know they were being nice.”

Churchill met his wife, Adrienne, in a Wichita laundromat. From her family, he learned to cook great dishes such as spanakopita, keftedes (meatballs) and Greek butter cookies. “Her dad and mom and grandma were all great cooks and I learned a lot from them.” In Greek cooking, he noted, “Lemon, olive oil and garlic are the cure for everything.”
Churchill and his daughter, Samantha, a former bakery manager, “talk about food all the time.” He and Adrienne like to start their Saturdays by picking up supplies at The Spice Merchant, Seafood Shoppe, Crust & Crumb bakery in Newton and local farmer markets in season. When it comes to eating out, Nu-Way, Dempsey’s Burger Pub and LeMonde Café are frequent stops. “We try to buy local whenever we can,” he said.

TIRAMISU

Tim Churchill’s version of this popular no-cook Italian dessert is tasty any time of year.

Cocoa powder

Filling: 

2 pkgs. (8 oz. each) mascarpone cheese at room temperature

1 pkg. (8oz.) cream cheese at room temperature

1 tablespoon instant espresso powder

2 tablespoons rum or almond flavored liqueur (optional)

1 cup powdered sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla

Layers:

1 pkg. (24 count) crispy ladyfinger cookies

2 cups strong coffee, cold

1 tablespoon rum or almond flavored liqueur (optional)

Directions:

To make filling, mix all ingredients until smooth. Before assembling, add liqueur to coffee, if using.

To assemble, take a ladyfinger and dip quickly in the cold coffee Place in bottom of 9×9-inch cake pan or baking dish. Repeat with cookies, using about half the package, until bottom of pan is filled.

Spread half of filling mixture over cookies. Dust with cocoa powder.

Repeat with remaining cookies, coffee mixture and filling. Dust top with cocoa powder and chill 1-2 hours before serving.

Olive Oil Poached Chicken Thighs

At first glance, this recipe seems to call for an outlandish amount of olive oil. But the olive can be strained and used again to fry other foods after cooking, and also used to flavor savory dishes such as mashed potatoes. Store strained oil in a sealed container in the refrigerator.

8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs

1½ cups plus tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided use

Worcestershire sauce

Salt and pepper, to taste

2 sprigs each fresh thyme, sage and rosemary

4 cloves garlic, smashed

2 shallots, roughly chopped

Marinate chicken in mixture of 2 tablespoons olive oil, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper for at least 30 minutes or up to several hours. 

To cook, brown all sides of chicken in a large oven-proof skillet. Add 1½ cups olive oil, the herbs, garlic and shallots. Cover skillet and bake at 350 degrees for 1½ hours.

Carefully remove chicken from oven and hot oil in pan and place on rack to drain before serving. Bone should easily pull out of thigh.

Squash Casserole

3-4 cups diced zucchini and yellow squash

1 medium onion, diced

2-3 cloves garlic, minced

Salt and pepper

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

½ cup mayonnaise (can substitute sour cream or strained plain yogurt)

1 cup gruyere cheese, shredded

Topping:

¾ cup shredded parmesan cheese

½ cup panko crumbs (or crushed potato chips)

Cajun seasoning, optional

Saute onion and garlic in olive oil until translucent. Season to taste with salt and pepper

Add mayo and cheese. Transfer to casserole dish. Top with cheese, panko crumbs and Cajun seasoning, if using. Bake uncovered 30-45minute or until the top is crisp and golden brown.


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