ROSSFORD - To say Carol Gruss is part of a food-loving clan is to barely scratch the surface.
|Carol Gruss poses with her signature chicken cacciatore. (Photos: Shane Hughes/Sentinel-Tribune)
She and her seven sisters and three brothers, along with their parents, numerous in-laws, aunts, uncles and cousins, have just published their second family cookbook, titled "Family, Food, Fun."
The first one came out in 2002 and included more than 30 contributors and 181 pages. It was such a hit through word-of-mouth that the initial printing completely disappeared and a second printing was ordered in 2006.
Oldest sister Diane Hudson, co-owner with her husband of Hudson's Market in Cygnet, shared breakfast-oriented family recipes in the June 14, 2011 Cook's Corner.
Now it's sister Carol's turn to uphold the family cooking honor.
She's definitely equal to the task, as she's got multiple recipes in the new cookbook, including her favorite versions of chicken cacciatore - today's Cook's Corner offering - as well as beef brisket and guacamole.
Gruss and her siblings grew up on a farm near Fostoria.
"My first memories of cooking were 4-H and then home economics in high school. Then I was around other people who had a real joy in cooking," Gruss offers. "My sister Rose (Metzger) took French cooking classes at BGSU and it just lighted a fire in me."
Gruss, now a medical lab technician with one daughter and two granddaughters, enjoys trying "new and different things - when I have time. It's fun to make something, not just the usual meatloaf or the usual spaghetti."
So when Metzger came up with the idea of the siblings getting together to create a Cooking Club, Gruss was thrilled.
"We take turns hosting. It's all family - my sisters, brother, sister-in-law and also my parents, ages 85 and 84," who just celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary.
"It's a chance to get all together. We've done it two, three times a year the last three or four years, and it's just been a fun experience to be together and share."
Gruss and her family have gotten many good recipes out of the Cooking Club, "and they are in the (new) cookbook."
"This chicken cacciatore was a dish I served for one of our supper clubs. The theme was rustic Italian food."
Gruss acquired the recipe about a year ago from Food Network television chef Giada de Laurentis.
Gruss and her husband Joe tried it and immediately loved it.
"The chicken stays so moist (and) the sauce is so flavorful. My husband uses extra sauce and just pours it over pasta" it tastes so good with its blend of capers, tomato, oregano, fresh basil and white wine.
"I chop everything pretty fine," Gruss said of the vegetables in the dish. "I like to get all that ready before I even brown the chicken. Then it goes pretty fast."
Admittedly, the chicken cacciatore "takes a little effort," but not a supreme amount. Gruss estimates about 20 minutes preparation time.
Instead of cooking the dish in a covered skillet on top of the stove, as called for in the recipe, she opts to roast it in a pan in the oven. This alternate method has "no impact on the flavor; not at all."
Besides the rustic Italian theme, another time Joe and Carol Gruss co-hosted the Cooking Club their theme was "comfort foods."
Other members of the family are either handed specific side-dish recipes to make for the theme meal, or simply asked to contribute a salad or whatever.
"The idea of the Cooking Club is to move away from the familiar and make something new, out of your comfort zone," said Gruss.
Post-dinner, "we sit down and talk about their experience with the recipe and how hard it was to make, if there was an ingredient that was hard to find, if you'd make it again."
Gruss also has a great recipe for scones in the 2013 cookbook which she made "when we've done some family teas. All the ladies have gotten together for teas, worn hats, etcetera."
The new cookbook is expected to disappear again pretty quickly, because the family's friends and neighbors, plus Hudson's Market customers, all know how good the recipes were in the original cookbook.
The 2013 cookbook, with 450 recipes, "is on the same order as the previous one," said Hudson, who deliberately ordered 50 extra copies "because last time people were upset with me that I didn't have any available" when they stopped by the market to buy a one. They are $8 apiece.
The cookbook was compiled by Gruss's double-first-cousin Debbie Anderson and Metzger, her sister.
"A lot of the men in the family have recipes in this one," said Gruss. "My husband put in a recipe for Red Rooster, a slushy drink that has vodka and cranberry juice in it."
4 chicken thighs
2 chicken breasts
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
1/2 cup flour
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 large red bell pepper, chopped
1 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3/4 cup white wine
1 (28 oz.) can diced tomatoes with juice
3/4 cup chicken broth
3 Tbsp. drained capers
1 1/2 tsp. dried oregano leaves
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
Salt and pepper the chicken pieces, both sides. Dredge in flour to coat. Heat olive oil in large skillet. Add the chicken pieces and brown approximately 5 minutes per side, in batches if needed. Place browned chicken on a platter and set aside.
Add bell pepper, onion, and garlic to the skillet and saute until onion is tender, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add wine and simmer until reduced by half (approximately 3 minutes).
Add tomatoes with their juice, broth, capers and oregano.
Return chicken pieces to the skillet and turn them to coat with sauce. Bring the sauce to a simmer. Continue simmering covered, over medium-low heat until chicken is done, about 30 minutes. *
When chicken is done, place it on a platter and pour sauce over, sprinkle with basil and serve.
* I don't have a big enough skillet so I transfer all to a pan and roast it in the oven at 350 for an hour.