The hottest culinary ticket in the county last week had to be the annual International Dinner hosted by the Middleton Township Homemakers Club.
|Elaine Frobose with her Czech pork dish. (Photos: Enoch Wu/Sentinel-Tribune)
This club - which hosts a theme menu from a different country each year - was the subject of a Cook's Corner column back in March of 2009, when the gals decided to serve a meal made entirely using recipes that had appeared in the Cook's Corner at some point.
This year's focus was the Czech Republic, or as everyone still seems to think of it, Czechoslovakia.
The 32nd annual dinner, it was shared by 12 lucky women and hosted by Barb Limes.
Everyone agreed the menu was enhanced by the fact that two of the club members - Elaine Frobose and Dee Robison - are themselves of Czech descent with clear childhood memories of how the country's specialties should taste.
Robison was charged with making the dessert, traditional Czech bar cookies called Kolacky.
And Frobose, naturally, was invited to prepare the main entree, a deliciously seasoned pork roast called Veprova Penne which is considered the Czech national dish. It was hers since she and her family are the owners of Frobose Meat Market in Pemberville, and her own grandmother came to America from Czechoslovakia as a girl.
"I don't exactly remember my grandmother making a pork roast like this, but I remember her using a lot of onion and caraway seeds in her cooking," which are the flavor hallmarks of this juicy, satisfying meat dish.
Grandmother, whose name was Frances Valasek, "was 13 when she came over on the ship with her little brother," about 9 years old.
"Their parents were already over here in the U.S. They had been living with their grandparents in the meantime, and she didn't want to leave her own grandmother because she knew she'd never see her again. But their parents had called for them" so the two youngsters had to set out overseas, alone.
Most club members at the May 7 dinner brought something Czech for "show and tell."
"The most Czech thing I have is my 85-year-old mom, so I brought her," Frobose said.
Mom, Ann Puse, currently lives in Pemberville, and brought along some items she picked up during a trip back to her native country in the 1960s.
She showed off ornate cut glass, traditional painted goose and duck eggs, and a photo of Grandmother Valasek in traditional Czech dress.
Puse gave thumbs up to her daughter's version of the Veprova Penne, and so did everyone else.
"They loved it."
It was fellow club member Marian Frobose who actually found the recipe on the Internet, "so it's not a family recipe," but Elaine Frobose has decided it tasted so good that's the way she'll prepare pork roast from now on.
"When I was cooking it and I could smell those caraway seeds popping, it really brought back memories of how my grandparents' house smelled."
That made her mouth water.
The other club members contributed Sopsky, a Czech salad; Bramborova Kure (mushroom soup), Braboracky (potato pancakes), creamed peas, Cervene zeli (sweet and sour red cabbage), and delightful caraway rye bread.
Another guest at the dinner table was Marian Frobose's sister, Josephine Schmitz, who told about a trip to Czechoslovakia that she took in 1997.
Elaine Frobose says she remembers the flavors of the caraway rye bread, the red cabbage and, of course, the Kolacky (cookies) from her grandmother's table.
Something else she remembers Grandma Frances making was dumplings.
"They're not like Bisquick dumplings. They're huge - like five inches in diameter. She would serve them with horseradish gravy or chicken gravy. And us little kids would get tomato gravy 'cause we didn't like horseradish."
Their grandfather, by contrast, couldn't get enough 'radish in his gravy, "so my grandmother used a lot.
"I have the recipe and I did make it last Christmas for my mom. I used a cup of horseradish and I thought that was enough."
The horseradish for the gravy must be fresh grated, Frobose insists. "But when you're grating horseradish, it's powerful. When I was making it I texted my cousins: 'Grandma was a saint!' It's ten times worse than onions" for pain and teary eyes. "And she used to make that every week."
The Frobose family opened their meat market in 1999 and currently all four of the kids - three sons and a daughter - are involved in the business.
Elaine Frobose handles the bookkeeping, payroll taxes "and I'm the gofer."
She's also the main cook at home, which is no burden.
"I very much like cooking, and I like to try new things" from magazines, her growing cookbook collection, and word of mouth. "That's what makes it fun, being creative."
For those planning to make the pork dish, Frobose Meat Market always recommends that cooks use a meat thermometer.
As far back as Frobose can recall, the recommendation has been to cook pork to an internal temperature of 160 degrees.
"But (former county Extension agent) Doris Herringshaw was there and she said now the recommended temperature is 140.
Frobose said she stuck with 160 for the pork roast pictured on this page.
"I like it really cooked; fork tender. At 160 degrees it won't be dry, it'll be moist."
(Czech pork roast)
6 lb. pork shoulder roast
1 onion, diced fine
2 Tbsp. caraway seeds
Salt and pepper, to taste
Brown pork roast in a skillet to seal juices. Be sure to brown on all sides.
Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees.
Lay the pork shoulder, fat side up, in a roasting pan. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cover the top with onions and caraway seeds, patting the seeds firmly into the surface. Add water to the roasting pan, pouring to a level 1/4 of the way up the pork roast. Bake in oven for four hours. Meat is done when meat thermometer registers 140-160 degrees.
Let roast set for 10 minutes, then slice and serve.