Recipes From a White House Chef

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Dine like a president as Walter Scheib, former White House chef and author of "," shares these mouth-watering recipes fit for the White House!

Favorite Recipes for the Clintons:

• Pecan-Crusted Lamb with Morel Sauce and Red-Curried Sweet Potatoes

(Serves 4)

This was a karmic dish selection for my White House audition lunch because it turned out that Mrs. Clinton’s favorite meat is lamb. Her taste for spicy food made the curried sweet potatoes a big hit as well. The dish sparked my brief but all-important dialogue with the First Lady following the lunch.

It was meant to show what kind of food I thought we could pull off for a state dinner, and it obviously did the trick in helping me get the job. (The original also featured a mix of spring vegetables, which I’ve omitted here for simplicity’s sake.) For less formal occasions, you can serve these components family-style rather than plating each dish. You can also simply spoon the potato puree onto the plates rather than piping it out of a pastry bag.

For the Pecan Crust

2/3 cup pecan halves (about 2 ½ ounces)

⅓ cup fresh white bread crumbs

Pinch of ground cumin

Pinch of cayenne

Pinch of ground coriander

Pinch of freshly ground black pepper

For the Lamb

One 8-rib Australian lamb rack (about 1 ½ pounds), trimmed of excess fat

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon canola oil

1 ½ tablespoons Dijon mustard

½ tablespoon honey

¾ teaspoon roasted garlic puree

(see box, page 23)


1. Make the breading: Lightly toast the pecan halves in a small, heavy-bottomed sauté pan over medium heat until fragrant, 3 to 4 minutes. Let cool, then transfer to the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade and pulse to a medium-fine grind. Transfer to a medium bowl. Add the bread crumbs, cumin, cayenne, coriander, and pepper and stir to combine. Set aside. (At this stage, the breading can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 24 hours. Let it come to room temperature before proceeding.)

2. Precook the lamb: Preheat the oven to 325°F. Season the lamb on both sides with salt and pepper. Heat the canola oil in a large, heavy-bottomed sauté pan set over high heat. Add the lamb and sear well on both sides, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate and let cool.

3. In a small bowl, stir together the mustard, honey, and roasted garlic to make a glaze. Using a pastry brush, paint the glaze onto the meat portion of the lamb. Coat the lamb with the pecan breading by rolling the meat in the breading and lightly pressing it on by hand. (Be careful to not get any glaze or breading on the bones or it will scorch and blacken them.)

4. Put the lamb in a roasting pan and roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part reads 135°F to 140°F, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and let rest for 8 to 10 minutes.

5. To serve: Put the sweet potato puree in a pastry bag fitted with a medium tip, if using. Reheat the sauce, if necessary. Slice the lamb between the bones to make 8 chops. Pipe or spoon about 3 tablespoons of sweet potato puree in the center of each of four dinner plates. Place two lamb chops on each plate, spoon some sauce and mushrooms around the lamb, and serve.

Red-Curried Sweet Potatoes

(Serves 4 as a side dish)


2 medium sweet potatoes (about 6 ounces each)

1 ½ cups orange juice, preferably freshly squeezed

2 teaspoons packed light brown sugar

About ¾ teaspoon red curry past, depending on desired heat level

3 tablespoons coconut milk solids

(skimmed from the top of a can of unsweetened coconut milk)


1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Arrange the sweet potatoes in a single layer on a baking sheet or baking dish. Roast until tender to a knife tip, about 1 hour. Remove from the oven and let cool. Peel the potatoes and transfer them to the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Puree until smooth, then push them through a fine-mesh strainer set over a large bowl, pressing down with a rubber spatula or the bottom of a ladle to extract as much puree as possible.

2. Put the orange juice and brown sugar in a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat and cook until reduced to a syrup, about 10 minutes. Stir in the curry, then fold the mixture into the sweet potato puree.

3. Transfer the puree to a large saucepan over medium heat. Thoroughly fold in the coconut solids. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture dries to piping consistency, 3 to 4 minutes. (At this stage, the puree can be kept warm in a double boiler set over simmering water for up to 2 hours.)

4. Serve with a spoon, or transfer to a pastry bag fitted with the medium star tip.

Morel Sauce


3 ounces lamb stew meat, cut into ½ - inch cubes

1 tablespoon chopped shallot

¼ cup cabernet sauvignon or other full-bodied red wine

Freshly ground black pepper

2 sprigs fresh thyme

1 cup veal demi-glace (available from specialty grocers or online; see Sources, page 302)

1 teaspoon roasted garlic puree (see page 23)


1 teaspoon canola oil

1 ounce morel mushrooms, trimmed and cleaned


1. Heat a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the lamb stew meat and cook, stirring often, until well browned, about 5 minutes. Add the shallot and cook until softened but not browned, about 3 minutes.

2. Add the wine and stir, scraping up any flavorful bits stuck to the bottom of the pot. Add a pinch of pepper and the thyme. Simmer until the wine is reduced by three quarters. Add the demi-glace and the garlic puree and simmer until reduced by one fourth.

3. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer set over a bowl and season to taste with salt and pepper. Keep covered and warm. Discard solids.

4. In a sauté pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Sauté mushrooms 3 to 4 minutes until tender. Add to sauce. Serve. Add the sautéed morels before serving. (Sauce can be cooled and refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 24 hours. Reheat gently before proceeding.)

To Make Roasted Garlic Puree

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Put a head of garlic in a small ceramic baking dish or ramekin. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon water and season with salt and pepper. Cover with a lid or aluminum foil and bake until the cloves are soft, about 40 minutes (a small, thin-bladed knife will easily pierce right through). Remove the dish from the oven. When the garlic is cool enough to handle, separate the cloves and squeeze the garlic out of the papery skin. Mash smooth with a fork. One medium head of garlic will yield 3 to 4 tablespoons of puree. The puree can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days. Stir leftover puree into soups and sauces, or into softened butter for an extra-flavorful spread.

• Porterhouse Steak with Béarnaise Sauce and Onion Rings

(Serves 4)

When Mrs. Clinton was out of town, we delved into our secret stash of very special steaks that were reserved for the boss only. The weight in the recipe is not a typo; we served 24-ounce cuts to the president, and his plate always came back clean. (If you’re serving smaller appetites, use smaller steaks, but make sure they’re still at least 1 ¼ inches thick. Or figure on one large steak serving two people.)

Both the steak and onion rings should be served piping hot, so I suggest frying the onion rings while the steak is marinating, or if you have a helper on hand, have one person grill the steaks while another is frying the onions.


4 dry-aged, prime porterhouse steaks, at least 1 ½ inches thick (24 ounces each)

2 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Onion Rings

Béarnaise Sauce


1. Preheat the boiler, or prepare a charcoal grill for grilling, letting the coals burn until covered with white ash, or preheat a gas grill to high.

2. Meanwhile, brush the steaks with oil and let sit for 15 minutes at room temperature. Season the steaks with salt and pepper.

3. Broil or grill the steaks to desired doneness; an internal temperature of 135°F will give a nice, medium-rare steak. Time will vary greatly based on how powerful your grill or boiler is and how thick the steaks are, but it should take about 8 minutes per side.

4. To serve, put one steak on each of four dinner plates. Set a stack of onion rings alongside and pass the béarnaise sauce in a sauceboat or bowl.

Béarnaise Sauce

(Makes about 1 ½ cups)

If you clarify the butter and make the tarragon-shallot reduction ahead of time (up to one day), you can make the sauce while the meat is resting at room temperature. Refrigerate the butter and reduction in airtight containers until ready to use -- a useful trick to time the finished sauce to coincide with the steaks.


¼ cup chopped fresh tarragon leaves

3 tablespoons dry white wine

3 tablespoons tarragon vinegar, champagne vinegar, or white wine vinegar

2 tablespoons chopped shallots

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 large egg yolks

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, clarified



1. Put the tarragon, wine, vinegar, shallots, and pepper in a small saucepan set over medium heat. Bring to a simmer and let simmer until reduced by half, 2 to 4 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and let cool slightly to avoid scrambling the egg yolks in the next step. (At this stage, you can also let the reduction cool completely and refrigerate it in an airtight container overnight.)

2. Put the yolks in a medium stainless steel bowl, add the vinegar-shallot mixture to the yolks, and whisk together well.

3. Bring a small saucepan of water to a simmer, place the bowl on top and whisk the yolk and vinegar mixture over the heat until it thickens and becomes frothy. Move the bowl over and away from the simmering water periodically to keep eggs from scrambling.

4. Once the mixture is frothy, begin pouring in the clarified butter, a little at a time, whisking it in and continuing to periodically remove the bowl from the simmering water. Once all the butter has been incorporated, season it to taste with salt, cover, and keep it warm.

To make clarified butter

Put unsalted butter in a saucepan over medium heat, let it melt, and bring it to a simmer. Skim off and discard the froth (whey protein) that rises to the surface. Continue to skim until no further froth is produced. Let the butter rest for 5 minutes so that all milk solids sink to the bottom, then strain the melted butter through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl or storage container, leaving the milk solids in the pot. You will lose about one quarter of the volume you begin with; so 2 sticks (1 cup) of butter will yield about ¾ cup clarified butter, and so on. I recommend starting with at least 2 sticks of butter (it’s difficult to work with any less in the pot). Extra clarified butter can be cooled and refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks. Use the extra to dress cooked steaks and shellfish.

Onion Rings

(Serves 4 as a side dish)

You can liven up the onion rings by seasoning the flour with Cajun spices, cayenne, or anything else you like. Note that the onions need to soak in buttermilk for one hour before being battered and fried.


1 large Vidalia or other sweet onion, cut into ¼-inch-thick slices and separated into rings

2 cups buttermilk

Vegetable oil, for frying the onion rings

1 cup all-purpose flour

Salt and freshly ground black pepper


1. Put the onion rings and buttermilk into a medium bowl and let the onions soak for 1 hour at room temperature, or cover and refrigerate overnight.

2. Fill a deep-fryer with oil according to the manufacturer’s directions and preheat to 350°F. (Alternatively, fill a large, deep cast-iron skillet with oil to a depth of 3 inches and heat until a thermometer registers 350°F.

3. Season the flour with salt and pepper. Drain the onion rings and toss in the flour just to coat, shaking off any excess. Fry in small batches until golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon, drain on paper towels, and season with salt.

-- Favorite Recipes for the Bushes:

• Filet of Beef With Three-Peppercorn Sauce

(Serves 4)

To welcome President Bush to the White House, we made this dish using one of his favorite cuts of meat as part of the Inaugural Day buffet, served just hours after the ceremony.


1 center-cut beef tenderloin, 1 ½ to 2 pounds, trimmed and tied at 1-inch intervals with kitchen string

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon olive oil

Three-peppercorn Sauce (recipe follows)


1. Preheat the oven to 425°F.

2. Season the beef generously with salt and pepper.

3. Heat the oil in a large, heavy-bottomed sauté pan over high heat. Put the tenderloin in the pan and brown on all sides, 5 to 8 minutes total. Set aside the sauté pan; do not wash.

4. Set a rack in a roasting pan and transfer the tenderloin to the rack. Roast in the oven until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center of the tenderloin reads 140°F for medium rare, 15 to 20 minutes, longer for more well done. Transfer the tenderloin to a cutting board and let rest for 7 minutes.

5. While the tenderloin is resting, return the sauté pan in which it was seared to the stovetop and heat over medium-high heat. Ladle in ½ cup of the sauce and cook, scraping the bottom of the pan to loosen any flavorful bits. Bring to a boil and let boil 2 to 3 minutes. Strain the liquid through a fine-mesh strainer into the rest of the sauce.

6. To serve, snip off and discard the kitchen string and slice the tenderloin into ½ -inch slices. Place 2 or 3 slices on each of four dinner plates. Spoon some sauce over each serving and pass any remaining sauce alongside.

Three-Peppercorn Sauce

(Makes about 1 ¼ cups)


½ tablespoon olive oil

1/3 cup diced carrot

1/3 cup diced Spanish onion

2 tablespoons thinly sliced leek, white part only

2 tablespoons chopped shallot

½ tablespoon chopped garlic

1 ½ teaspoons crushed mixed peppercorns (black, green, and pink)

2 sprigs fresh thyme

½ bay leaf

2 tablespoons Cognac

2 tablespoons red wine

1 ½ teaspoons balsamic vinegar

2 cups homemade or store-bought low-sodium beef or veal stock

Salt and freshly ground black pepper


1. Heat the oil in a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the carrot, onion, leek, shallot, garlic, and peppercorns, and sauté until the vegetables are tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in the thyme and bay leaf and cook for 30 seconds.

2. Add the Cognac and red wine. Bring to a boil and continue to boil until almost completely reduced, about 3 minutes.

3. Add the vinegar and stock, raise the heat to high, bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer until reduced by one third, about 30 minutes.

4. Strain the sauce through a fine-mesh strainer set over a bowl and discard the solids. Season to taste with salt and pepper and keep covered and warm.

• Huevos Rancheros with Fresh Tortillas and Red Beans

(Serves 4)

President and Mrs. Bush frequently enjoyed this mainstay of Texas cooking after church on Sundays. Make the red beans first as they take about an hour to cook.

For the best results, use a tortilla press for this recipe, or use quality store-bought corn tortillas (available at specialty markets and well-stocked supermarkets).

For the Beans

½ pound dried red kidney beans

1 tablespoon corn oil

½ cup diced Spanish onion

1 tablespoon chopped garlic

About 4 cups homemade or store-bought low-sodium chicken or beef stock

2 teaspoons chipotle puree (or less if less heat is desired)

1 tablespoon ground cumin

½ tablespoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 bay leaf

For the Ranchero Sauce

1 tablespoon corn oil

½ cup diced Spanish onion

1 tablespoon chopped garlic

¼ cup diced roasted poblano chiles

2 tablespoons diced roasted jalapeno pepper

1 ½ cups diced ripe plum tomatoes

1 cup homemade or store-bought low-sodium chicken stock

2/3 cup homemade or your favorite store-bought tomato sauce

1 tablespoon ground cumin

½ tablespoon ground coriander

Hot sauce

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice

For the Tortillas

1 cup Maseca brand Corn Masa mix

(available at most grocery stores)

2/3 cup water, at room temperature

To Serve

8 eggs, scrambled, poached or fried in pairs

½ cup grated manchego or Monterey Jack cheese

2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves


1. Make the red beans: Put the beans in a colander and rinse under cold running water. Drain, transfer to a medium bowl, cover by 2 inches with cold water, and let soak overnight. Drain.

2. Heat the oil in a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and sauté until tender, about 3 minutes.

3. Add the beans, stock, chipotle puree, cumin, coriander, oregano, and bay leaf. Cover and simmer over low heat until beans are very tender, 45 minutes to 1 hour. If the beans start to become dry, add a little more stock; they should remain soupy throughout. Remove from heat; remove and discard the bay leaf.

4. Meanwhile, make the ranchero sauce: Heat the oil in medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and sauté until tender, about 3 minutes.

5. Add the chiles and sauté for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and sauté for 3 minutes. Add the stock, tomato sauce, cumin, and coriander. Bring to a boil over high heat, then lower the heat and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes.

6. Season to taste with hot sauce, salt, and pepper. Remove from the heat and keep covered and warm. Just before serving, stir in the lime juice.

7. Make the tortillas: In a medium bowl combine the masa mix and water and stir vigorously for 3 minutes.

8. Divide the dough into 8 to 10 equal-size balls and cover with a damp towel to prevent them from drying out.

9. One at a time, put one ball of dough in a tortilla press between two sheets of plastic wrap and press to flatten to about 6 inches in diameter and 1/16 inch thick. Repeat until all dough balls are pressed.

10. Heat a 12-inch ungreased cast-iron pan over medium-high heat. Remove a tortilla from the plastic wrap and place in the pan. Cook for 20 to 30 seconds on each side, cooking it through, but only until just warm. Repeat with remaining tortillas. As they are done, stack them on a plate and keep them covered and warm.

11. Preheat the broiler.

12. Put one tortilla on each of four flameproof plates, top with 3 tablespoons of ranchero sauce, then with a portion of two eggs. Top with some of the grated cheese. Flash under the broiler just to melt the cheese. Repeat with the remaining tortillas, sauce, egg and cheese.

13. Sprinkle some cilantro over each serving and serve, passing the extra tortillas and beans alongside.