“Thanks for a wonderful first-time experience,” I was told by a nice woman as her husband was helping her put on her winter coat, “Do you think you could point out your chef?”
Of course, I replied and walked her (as I do with so many of our guests) behind the photo display case of The Paddle Pups to the kitchen. “Phoebe, wave your hand — someone wants to see who you are.” Up over the stacks of dishes, there was a hand holding a pair of tongs. Then, around the prep table she bounded to greet my new friend. At 5 feet one inch, it’s hard to see Phoebe when she’s working “the line” and she knows it.
A quick “Hi! … I’m Phoebe. Thanks for coming in” and she was back in front of the stove top with all her sauté pans in their flaming grandeur.
“She’s a tiny little thing. Where did she get her interest in cooking?”
Chef Phoebe spent her summers in the little hamlet of Keene Valley, N.Y. where her parents had a summer home. Every Sunday, as she tells it, her mother, father, older sister, Kathy, and she would hop in the car in mid-morning for the short trek over to Three Pines — her grandparents’ classic Adirondack summer home.
“When we would arrive, my grandparents would be sitting on their screened-in porch that ran the length of the house, hovering over The New York Times, patiently awaiting the commencement of yet another crossword puzzle competition,” Phoebe said. “All my family loved outwitting each other. I, on the other hand, wanted nothing to do with the game-at-hand. So, I would get my Aunt Phoebe (yes, she had an Aunt Phoebe) out of bed — she didn’t care for crosswords either — and we made it our Sunday task to prepare lunch.”
“We would open the fridge in all its glory … what an assortment of leftover foods from the past week’s dinner parties. My grandmother called them ‘orts’!” Webster’s dictionary definition of an ort: “a morsel left at a meal.”
The way she tells her story one can tell she truly loved the time she got to spend with her aunt and rising to the various occasions of making something delicious and unique with their orts.
“We concocted up so many different lunches but I particularly remember going after the liverwurst. It was such a curious food to me at such a young age. What would go with liverwurst, I recalled asking my aunt one morning. And, we figured it out, solving our own puzzle of sorts — rye bread (always Pepperidge Farm, not toasted), mayo (you know, Hellman’s), mustard (always Grey Poupon), lettuce, tomato and red onion (fresh veggies from Aunt Pru’s River Meade Farm) and voila!”
So, there you have it. Our Phoebe, along with her Phoebe, would make something out of the orts for their Sunday ritual of feeding the crossword competitors. Then, these two cohorts would take their lunch to the huge hammock that stretched between two of the three enormous pines in the front lawn: “We would eat our sandwiches, or whatever, and sing show tunes … laughing out loud and wondering what was so fun about doing the The New York Times crossword puzzle.”
Here’s Chef Phoebe’s recipe for her delicious country chicken salad using some of the orts in her walk-in refrigerator here at The Paddle.
Chef Phoebe Bright and Mandy Hotchkiss are co-owners of the Blue Paddle Bistro in South Hero. You can reach them at Mandy@bluepaddlebistro.com or 372-4814.
County Chicken Salad
- 2 pounds chicken (chunky chopped)
- 2 tablespoons cooking oil
- 2 ounces shallots (cut)
- 1 cup white wine
- ¼ cup scallions (chopped)
- 1 cup celery (chunky chopped)
- 3 ounces dried cranberries
- 3 ounces walnuts (roughly chopped)
- ¾ cup mayo
- 1 ounce. horseradish
- 1 ounce sour cream
- salt and pepper to taste
- In a warm sauté pan, add the oil and shallots.
- Cook shallots until soft, adding a little white wine.
- Toss in the chicken and sauté.
- Slowly, continue adding the remainder of the wine.
- Cook chicken through, leaving it moist.
- Cool chicken in fridge.
- In a bowl, add the remainder of the ingredients, including the chicken.