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Wichita couples’ wining and dining forges a lifetime bond

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Monday, June 23, 2014, at 2:17 p.m.
  • Updated Monday, June 23, 2014, at 2:17 p.m.

Photos

SEAFOOD PAELLA

Feeds 10

1 teaspoon paprika

1⁄4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Salt to taste

4 cups of vegetable stock

4 6 oz. sole fillets, halved lengthwise

2 large pinches of saffron threads

Fresh ground black pepper to taste

1 pound dry chorizo, sliced and halved, 1⁄4 inch thick

24 shrimp, 16/20 peeled and deveined

8 small squid, sliced crosswise into 1⁄4 inch rings and tentacles halved

2 medium yellow onions chopped fine

4 garlic cloves minced

2 cups Arborio or other short grain rice

1 cup frozen peas

1 pound littleneck clams, scrubbed

1 pound mussels, cleaned and debearded

1⁄2 pound lump crabmeat, well drained shells removed

2 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley

In a large bowl, mix paprika, 1 tablespoon of the oil and 1⁄4 teaspoon of salt. Add the vegetable stock. Arrange the sole in a single layer in a shallow baking dish. In a bowl, combine one tablespoon of oil with 1 pinch of the saffron. Drizzle the oil over the fish and hold for later use.

In a saucepan, combine the vegetable stock with the remaining pinch of saffron and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer, cover and keep warm.

In a 14 inch paella pan or cast-iron skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil. Add the chorizo to the pan and cook until lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Transfer the chorizo to a platter

Pour off and reserve excess oil leaving a thin layer and saute peeled shrimp for about 3 minutes, until firm. Place on platter with chorizo. Saute squid until white throughout, about 2 minutes. Transfer squid to platter with shrimp and chorizo. Return 2 tablespoons of the reserved fat to the pan. Add the onion and garlic and season with salt and pepper. Cook until translucent or about 5 minutes. Transfer the onion and garlic to the platter

Return 2 tablespoons of the reserved fat to the pan. Stir in the rice and cook over moderately high heat for 2 minutes. Add the chorizo, squid, onion, garlic, shrimp and all juices from the platter. Stir in the peas. Gently pour the warmed stock into the pan, cover, and cook for 10 minutes on medium heat.

Place the mussels and clams into the rice. Cover and cook for 10 minutes over medium heat. Arrange the sole fillets and crabmeat on the rice. Cover and cook for 5 for minutes until the sole is cooked and the rice is tender. Remove the pan from the heat and let the paella rest for 5 minutes. Discard any mussels or clams that have not opened. Garnish the dish with the chopped parsley and serve immediately.

Adapted from Food & Wine magazine, November 2008

LEEK, PROSCIUTTO AND CHEESE EMPANADAS

Makes 12 servings

2 1/4 cups chopped well-rinsed leeks, white and pale green parts (about 1 1/2 pounds, untrimmed)

6 tablespoons sliced prosciutto or ham

3 tablespoons olive oil

9 tablespoons water

salt and pepper, to taste

6 tablespoons mild white cheddar cheese, grated

3 sheets (about 11/2 pounds) frozen puff pastry, thawed

2 large eggs and 2 teaspoons water to make egg wash

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

In heavy skillet, cook leek and prosciutto in oil over moderate heat, stirring, until leek is softened. Add water and cook, covered, over low heat until soft, about 10 minutes. Pour off excess water. Remove skillet from heat and add salt and pepper to taste. Let cool completely and stir in cheese.

Roll out sheet of puff pastry on lightly floured surface into 12-inch square. With 4-inch round cutter, cut out 4 rounds. Repeat with remaining 2 sheets of pastry.

Divide filling among rounds, mounding it in center, and brush edges of rounds with water. Fold rounds in half, pressing edges together firmly, and crimp edges with tines of fork to seal. Empanadas may be prepared up to this point 1 day ahead and chilled, covered.

Arrange empanadas on dampened baking sheet and brush each with egg wash. Prick top of each empanada several times with fork. Bake in upper third of oven until puffed and golden, 12 to 15 minutes.

Provided by Cindy and Barry Schwan

INSALATA D’ESTATE

Makes 6 servings

3 large tomatoes, peeled

3 large navel oranges, peeled

1/2 cup diced red bell pepper

1/2 cup diced yellow bell pepper

6 cups mixed fancy greens

1 tablespoon plus 3 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil, or to taste

1 tablespoon plus 3 teaspoons balsamic vinegar, or to taste

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

3 tablespoons thinly slivered fresh basil leaves, or to taste

Remove tomato cores. Cut each tomato lengthwise in half and then into thin wedges. Set aside in shall bowl.

Thinly slice oranges crosswise and set aside in shall bowl.

Dice bell peppers and set aside in shallow bowls.

Place washed and dried salad greens in large bowl. Just before serving, toss with 1 tablespoons each of oil and vinegar and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Drizzle tomatoes, oranges and bell peppers with remaining oil and vinegar to taste. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Divide salad greens among 6 plates. Arrange orange slices and diced peppers in center of each salad. Surround with tomato wedges and sprinkle each salad with basil.

Note: If vine-ripened tomatoes are not available for this traditional summer salad, tomatoes may be omitted.

Adapted from “All Around the World Cookbook’’ by Sheila Lukins (Workman, $18.95)

MIXED ANTIPASTO

Makes 6 to 8 servings

MARINADE:

1 large garlic clove, minced

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1/2 teaspoon crumbled dried rosemary

1 teaspoon crumbled dried basil

1 teaspoon crumbled dried oregano

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper, or to taste

1/2 cup olive oil

salt and pepper, to taste

ANTIPASTO:

3 large carrots, cut diagonally into 1/4-inch thick slices

2 small fennel bulbs, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch thick slices

2 roasted red bell peppers, cut into strips (see note)

2 roasted yellow bell peppers, cut into strips (see note)

1 jar (12 oz.) peperoncini, rinsed and drained well

3/4 lb. black or green brine-cured olives, or a combination

1/4 lb. sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, drained and cut into strips

3/4 lb. mozzarella cheese, cubed

1/2 lb. pepperoni, cut crosswise into thin slices

2 jars (7 oz. each) marinated artichoke hearts, rinsed and drained well

1/3 cup minced fresh parsley leaves

To make marinade: In small bowl whisk together garlic, vinegars, rosemary, basil, oregano, crushed red pepper and salt and pepper to taste. Add oil in a stream and whisk until marinade is emulsified.

In large saucepan of boiling water, blanch carrots and fennel for 3 to 4 minutes, or until they are crisp-tender; drain and plunge into bowl of ice and cold water. Let cool and drain well.

In large bowl, toss together carrots, fennel, roasted peppers, peperoncini, olives, sun-dried tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, pepperoni, artichoke hearts, marinade and minced parsley until antipasto is well combined. Chill antipasto, covered, for at least 4 hours or overnight. Transfer to platter and serve at room temperature.

Adapted from Gourmet magazine, November 1991

When the members of one of Wichita’s longest-running gourmet groups started meeting for monthly dinners in 1994, they only sort of knew each other.

They were a thrown-together collection of couples with loose business or social ties who had only one thing for sure in common – a love of wine, food and cooking.

Twenty years and hundreds of racks of lamb, reduction sauces, salads and Sauvignon blancs later, the group – made up of Scott and Betsy Redler, Barry and Cindy Schwan, Guy and Beth Bower and Frank and Cathy DeSocio – is still meeting on an almost monthly basis. But much has changed during their years of shared dinners.

For one, they’ve all become close friends. They’ve spent every New Year’s Eve together for the past two decades and have watched each other’s children grow from toddlers to college graduates.

They’ve also grown from young professionals on the rise into positions as some of Wichita’s most successful business people and fixtures in the foodie community. Scott Redler is a co-founder of the Freddy’s Frozen Custard chain, and Betsy is a past Junior League president who serves on a number of boards. Barry Schwan is president and owner of House of Schwan, and Cindy serves on several local boards. Cathy DoSocio is the CEO of Joma Bowling and owns the Alley and Northrock Lanes, and her husband, Frank, is the executive director of the Bowling Proprietors’ Association of America. Guy Bower is one of the founders of the Wichita chapter of the American Institute of Wine and Food, and Beth is the AIWF programs chairwoman and coordinates The Eagle’s popular holiday cookbook each year.

The members of the gourmet group, which first met in 1994, recently got together to celebrate their 20th anniversary and marked the occasion by preparing the same menu they did when they were featured in an 1996 Wichita Eagle story about the growing trend of gourmet clubs. The dinner took place at the Schwans’ east-side home, where the group gathered the last time they prepared that meal: mixed antipasto, empanadas, a fresh salad with Alouette croquettes and heirloom tomatoes, and a hearty paella chock-full of mussels, squid, shrimp, mussels and sole.

Though the menu was the same, nothing much else was. The cooks laughed as they looked at a framed copy of the newspaper from 1996, which included photos of them preparing the dinner. Cindy had lost her floral curtains and 1990s-esque counter tops, she noted with relief. The men had lost hair, and along with it, hair color, they noted with less relief.

The membership of the club also is slightly different. Founding members Betsy Redler and Sherri Pledger met in Junior League and realized they shared a love of cooking. They persuaded their husbands Scott Redler, who at the time was working as director of operations for Latour, and Clayton Pledger to start the gourmet group.

Betsy Redler had worked with Guy Bower at Evers Wine and Spirits at Piccadilly Market, knew he was an avid foodie, and invited him and Beth Bower to join. The Pledgers were friends with the Schwans and asked them if they were interested. After the Pledgers moved to Alabama in 1997, the Schwans asked the DeSocios to take their place.

“We’re still not sure they’re the right ones for our group,” Barry Schwan joked.

The group has followed the same basic rules since it started: the couples take turns hosting, and the host is responsible for the main course. The other three couples rotate bringing appetizer, salad and bread, and dessert. All couples bring wine, and at the beginning of the group, they adopted a rule that bottles must cost $10 or less.

That rule has long since been abandoned.

“What’s amazing is that our menus have really evolved. Today, we all put more effort into going different and exotic. We put more into the flavors,” said Scott Redler, who expertly fried the breaded Alouette croquettes, the highlight of the salad. “There’s a different budget, too.”

When the Schwans first joined the club, they said, they were fairly intimidated. Though both were avid home cooks, they felt pressure to bring dishes that would wow their new friends.

“When we first came in, we were so nervous,” Barry said. “Cindy and I would spend hours cooking the entrees the day before because we had to test them.”

As they’ve all gotten to know each other, those fears have faded a bit, the Schwans said. The group has suffered through several bad recipes, overcooked tenderloins and general disasters. But memories of the bad dishes are muted by two decades of memorably wonderful ones – fresh gnocchi, fried lobster tail in tempura batter, mushroom potato pancake topped with beef tenderloin and Gorgonzola cheese sauce.

“Even if there’s a bad course, there are plenty more good ones to make up for it,” Cathy DeSocio said.

“The Schwans are always relieved when they eat what we make,” Barry added with a laugh.

When they first started meeting, the couples all had young children, so fancy New Year’s Eve plans were out. They started a tradition of getting together with all the kids on New Year’s Eve, cooking a big meal and launching fireworks. Even today, all the members try very hard to never miss a New Year’s Eve together.

The group works, the members said, because both members of all four couples are interested in food and cooking. At the anniversary dinner at the Schwans’, the men were in the kitchen alone finishing up the paella while the women chatted and sipped wine in the dining room.

The group advises those interested in starting a similar gourmet group to choose members who are interested in cooking and food, even if those people aren’t members of your closest social group. Twenty years down the road, they very well could be.

“The most important thing is getting together and sharing dinner with friends or with family,” Guy Bower said. “And that’s what we get to do with this group.”

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