For the fifth year in a row on Monday at the Easter Egg Roll, the bottom of the South Lawn was transformed into a Presidential Cooking Academy as President Obama and First Lady Obama's White House chefs and six guest chefs wowed crowds of families with recipe demonstrations in the outdoor Kids' Kitchen. Food Network star Anne Burrell shared her recipe for Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe Pesto & Italian Sausage (printed below). In the process, Burrell shattered a glass ceiling as she became the first woman guest chef to cook alongside Mrs. Obama at the White House. (Above, Mrs. Obama watches as Burrell makes history)
Today show's Al Roker served as sous chef in the white-tented kitchen, as he did for the two previous Rolls where Mrs. Obama joined other chefs for demos. This year's event, like each Easter fest since Mrs. Obama launched Let's Move! in 2010, was devoted to nutrition and physical fitness, with the theme "Be Healthy, Be Active, Be You!"
Burrell is a hard-as-nails taskmaster on her hit TV shows, Secrets of a Restaurant Chef and Chef Wanted, but she crossed her fingers for luck and squinched her eyes, miming panic as Mrs. Obama sampled her creation. After the First Lady announced her approval of the rich dish--"Mmmm, that's good, very goood"--Mrs. Obama did what she dubbed "the flavor dance," shimmying in place. Burrell was thrilled, and the delighted, standing-room only crowd of parents and kids cheered the win.
Her signature mop of white hair bobbing, Burrell fairly bubbled as she explained her recipe, doing acrobatics with her saute pan. It uses pistachio nuts chopped in a food processor with blanched broccoli rabe, Mascarpone, Parmigiano, spicy pork sausage, and what Burrell calls a "big fat finishing oil." She liberally poured Whole Food's 365 Organic brand "100% Italian" Extra Virgin Olive Oil at the White House. Any kind of pasta can be substituted for the orecchiette, Burrell said. "Like spaghetti," Mrs. Obama suggested.
The recipe secret, Burrell explained, is that she slightly undercooks the pasta in the same water used to blanche the rabe ("it saves dishes"), then adds the pasta into the pan with the pesto and sausage in order for the ingredients to "get together and make a little hug" for a stronger flavor.
"Y'know, a little love in your food makes everything taste better," Burrell said.
"I like loving my food," Mrs. Obama declared, and after Roker
announced "that's a sixties song," suddenly the First Lady was singing a culinary version of "Put a Little Love in Your Heart," and holding her microphone out so the smart-phone wielding audience could do some kitchen karaoke. They did, after getting over the fact that the First Lady was not only cooking in their presence, but now crooning, too. (Above, Mrs. Obama sings to the crowd as Burrell and Roker accompany)
Mrs. Obama, of course, emphasized the nutritional value of Burrell's dish, and noted that for those who are not veggie lovers, the dark green rabe is essentially hidden.
“The thing is, kids, it doesn’t taste like broccoli,” Mrs. Obama said. "It tastes like cheese." She asked the crowd if they’d make the recipe at home.
There were shouts of "yes;" the audience was already stunned that they were lucky enough to get a close look at either Obama at the jam-packed Roll, and now they were being asked to rate a celebrity chef. Burrell's dish, Mrs. Obama confided, would also make a terrific date-night dinner in addition to tricking kids into eating their veggies.
"It looks grown up. It looks sophisticated. This could be a date-night dinner," Mrs. Obama said. "Y'know, a little wine, some candle light..."
There's no better source for romantic dinner advice than a woman whose husband constantly and publicly dotes; minutes before she joined Burrell, the President introduced his wife to the crowd as the "star of the Obama family."
As the demo came to a close--Mrs. Obama was due to read Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs to kids elsewhere on the busy South Lawn--Burrell presented her with a copy of her bestseller, Cook Like A Rock Star, which contains the recipe.
"I'm going right up to the White House and cook!" Mrs. Obama said brightly, holding the book, and the audience burst into laughter.
"How many people believe that's gonna happen?" the First Lady quipped, and got more laughs before departing with waves, trailed by a chorus of cheers.
Though White House Executive Chef Cris Comerford is female, women guest chefs at 1600 Penn have been few and far between for the last four-plus years. This year's 135th anniversary Roll had more women chefs than any previous eggstravaganza. Food Network star Ina Garten, radio talk show host and restaurateur B. Smith, and Asian cuisine specialist Katie Chin also dazzled the crowds, who were standing in rain and fairly high winds by Monday afternoon as the beautiful Spring weather suddenly swerved to winter.
DC chef Spike Mendelsohn and 14-year-old chef Flynn McGarry also strutted their stuff during outings in the Kids' Kitchen, which sits close to Mrs. Obama's Kitchen Garden in the 'Play With Your Food' area of the Easter Egg Roll.
Burrell has visited the White House before, but not to cook. And last month she competed in the Great American School Lunch Challenge in Washington, DC, an event for the Let's Move! campaign held at Partnership for a Healthier America's annual child obesity summit at a local hotel, emceed by Let's Move! Executive Director Sam Kass. (Above, the crowded Kids' Kitchen as Mrs. Obama joined Burrell and Roker)
But later on Monday afternoon at the Roll, when Burrell demonstrated her First Lady-pleasing recipe again, she aired what might amount to a bit of Let's Move! heresy.
"It's not all about vegetables," Burrell said as she explained the dish to a new audience. "We need to have some fatty delicious stuff too."
Burrell clapped her hand over her mouth, giggling. "Am I allowed to say that at the White House?!" she asked.
Last year, the First Lady joined New York chef Marcus Samuelsson in the Kids' Kitchen as he demo'd his recipe for shrimp tacos, and in 2011, she helped legendary French chef Jacques Pépin cook healthy crepes. Roker was on hand both times.
Chef Anne Burrell's Easter Egg Roll Orecchiette
with Broccoli Rabe Pesto & Italian Sausage
For the Pesto:
*2 bunches of broccoli rabe, tough lower stems removed, coarsely chopped into 1-inch lengths
*1/2 Cup chopped Pistachios
*3/4 Cup freshly grated Parmigiano
*1/4 Cup Mascarpone
*Extra virgin olive oil
For the Pasta:
*Extra virgin olive oil
*1/2 Pound Italian sausage, sweet or spicy, casings removed
*1 Pound Orecchiette Pasta
*Big fat finishing oil
*Freshly grated Parmigiano
|Burrell pours 'big fat finishing oil' into the pan|
For the Pesto:
1. Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Drop the rabe into the water, give it a swish, and remove it immediately, saving the water to cook your pasta in later.
2. Reserve a cup of the rabe. Toss the rest in a food processor and pulse, pulse, pulse until you have a coarse paste. Add the pistachios and Parmigiano and purée until smooth. If it seems dry, drizzle in a little olive oil while the machine is running. Add the mascarpone and pulse until combined; taste for seasoning. It should be slightly bitter, nutty, and creamy at the same time. Reserve.
For the Pasta:
1. Coat a large sauté pan with olive oil and bring to medium-high heat. Add the sausage, using a spoon to break it up, and cook until brown and crumbly, 8 to 10 minutes.
2. Bring your broccoli rabe water back to a boil and toss in the pasta, cooking for 1 minute less than the package recommends. Drain the pasta and add it, along with ½ cup reserved pasta cooking water, the reserved rabe, and two-thirds of the pesto, to the pan with the sausage. Stir to combine and cook until the water evaporates and the pesto is clinging to the pasta. Remove from the heat, drizzle with some big fat finishing oil, sprinkle with more Parm, and stir vigorously to combine. Divide among bowls and serve immediately.
Serves 4 to 6, depending on portion size.
*Prep time: About 30 minutes
A video of the demo:
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*Photos by Eddie Gehman Kohan/Obama Foodorama; pasta photo courtesy of the White House