Diners attending any of three candlelight inaugural dinners will be treated to a menu best described as "donor's delight," a compilation of dishes intended to honor major Bush campaign fundraisers.
The chef's challenge: 4 courses and 12 brand names, representing millions in donations
By Deanna Swift
WASHINGTON, DC—Just call him the "Iron Chef" of the White House. Executive Chef Walter S. Scheib III is facing a major culinary challenge: how to create an inaugural menu that pays tribute to the brand names of a dozen top Bush campaign and GOP donors. From Coca Cola to Krispy Kreme doughnuts and Pilgrim's Pride turkeys, Scheib's dishes must satisfy the most powerful appetite on Capitol Hill these days: the taste for money.
"I've never had to create dishes that include soda, doughnuts and canned fruit before," says Scheib, who received his training at the Culinary Institute of America, and cooked at the Capitol Hilton in Washington and the Boca Raton Club before accepting the honor of "top toque" in the White House kitchens. But he says he's not worried. "I've already changed the way I cook and have given up all French recipes. This should be a snap," says Scheib, referring to the White House's ban on béchamel and beurre blanc after France refused to support the administration's decision to go to war in Iraq. (Click image, left, to view menu.)
But preparing a meal that includes not one, but two varieties of doughnuts can test the mettle of any chef, Scheib concedes. Krispy Kreme Inc. gave more than $90,000 to the Republicans in 2004, while Dunkin Donuts has been a long-time GOP supporter. Scheib's solution: use the Krispy Kremes as the basis for Snowballs in Hot Fudge, a sauce made from Nestlé Nesquick, the product of another major donor, Nestlé CEO and Bush 'pioneer' Joe Weller.
Dunkin Donuts old-fashioned cake doughnuts, meanwhile, will become part of a sweet and savory stuffing for an old-time turkey dinner. The birds: Pilgrim's Pride Whole Butter Basted Turkeys. Pilgrim CEO Lonnie Pilgrim was a Bush pioneer in 2004, pledging to bring in more than $100,000 in contributions to the Bush/Cheney campaign.
Figuring out how to incorporate Coca-Cola into the meal was an altogether different matter, says Scheib. "It's a refreshing cola beverage, there's no doubt about it. But how do you cook with it? I had no idea." In the end, Scheib used the Coca-Cola as the basis for a brine, thus killing two birds, so-to-speak, with one stone. The Pilgrim's Pride Whole Butter Basted Turkeys benefit from their overnight soda bath, while Bush 'ranger' Barclay T. Resler, Vice President of Government Relations for Coca-Cola, gets some much deserved credit for rounding up more than $200,000 in campaign contributions.
Tastes like money
Not every dish was as challenging as the Coca-Cola brined Pilgrim's turkey with Dunkin Donuts old-fashioned cake doughnut sweet and savory stuffing. Pacific Seafood's Sockeye Salmon seemed like a natural match with Dole canned pineapple (Pacific Seafood's CEO Frank Dulcich was a Bush pioneer as was Dole CEO David Murdock). And Asher's Candies Chocolate Covered Mini-Pretzles—inspired by Asher CEO and pioneer Robert Asher—seemed like a logical companion to the Krispy Kreme Snowballs with Nestlé Nesquick hot fudge sauce.
Finally, there were some foods that the chef knew to stay away from. Scallions from Kentucky wholesaler Castellini Co., owned by Bush fundraiser Robert Castellini, were a no-no—green onions from the company were linked to an outbreak of hepatitis A at a Chi-Chi's restaurant in Pennsylvania last year.
Instead, chef Scheib has asked Safeway CEO and Bush ranger Steven Burd to select a trio of fresh greens from his supermarket chain for the salad course of the inaugural dinner. "If anyone knows the green stuff it's Burd," says Scheib.
Inaugural ticket holders attending one of three candle-light dinners being held in honor of President Bush's second swearing-in will have an opportunity to sample these donor delicacies. For Bush supporters who aren't lucky enough to have tickets, this recipe for old-fashioned White House turkey will give you a taste of Scheib's one-of-a-kind menu.
Coca-Cola brined Pilgrim's turkey with Dunkin Donuts old-fashioned cake doughnut sweet and savory stuffing
1 1/4 cups salt
1 quart Coca-Cola
2 bay leaves
1 medium onion, peeled and halved
1 10- to 12-pound Pilgrim's Pride Whole Butter Basted Turkey
1. Place salt and Coca-Cola in a large deep pot and whisk until salt crystals dissolve. Whisk in 4 quarts cold water. Pin bay leaves to onion halves with cloves and add them to brine. Let mixture cool to room temperature.
2. Add Pilgrim's Pride turkey, placing a large heavy pot or sealed zip-top bag filled with cold water on top to keep bird submerged in Coca-Cola. Place pot in refrigerator and marinate overnight.
Dunkin Donuts old-fashioned cake doughnut sweet and savory stuffing
6 cups Dunkin Donuts old-fashioned cake doughnuts, chopped
2 cups diced onion
1/2 cup butter
2 cups cranberries
2 teaspoons dried rosemary
1/2 tablespoon dried sage
1 cup chicken broth
Cook onion in butter or margarine over low heat until soft. Add doughnuts, cranberries, rosemary and sage, chicken broth, salt and pepper to taste. Mix gently but thoroughly.
Remove Pilgrim's Pride turkey from Coca-Cola brine. Thoroughly rinse turkey under a slow stream of cool water, rubbing gently to release salt and soda residue, both inside and out. Pat skin and both interior cavities dry.
Remove neck and giblets. Begin lightly spooning doughnut stuffing into the neck cavity, then into the body cavity. After the bird has been stuffed, secure the legs to the tail. If the band of skin is not present, tie the legs securely to the tail with string. Twist the wing tips under the back of the turkey so they won't overcook.
Roast turkey, breast side down, in a preheated 325 degree F oven for 2 hours. During this time, baste legs and back twice with Coca-Cola.
Deanna Swift can be reached at email@example.com