What’s Cookin’ ORHS

Passed down from generations and cooked to perfection, the family recipes of three ORHS students from different backgrounds are bound to make your mouth water. 

     I’ve always loved the idea of family recipes. Every year, my family comes together to make our version of Choreg, an Armenian Easter bread. My sisters, cousins, and I are the ones in charge of preparing the dough for the oven. Using Easter-themed cookie cutters or braiding it in a traditional way, we’ll shape the dough before giving it an egg wash, sprinkling it with sesame seeds, and popping it into the oven. To be honest, I don’t like the bread that much, but I love the idea of making something Armenian and spending time with my family. 

     I was curious to see if other Oyster River students had similar experiences with their families and whether they had any unique dishes to share. Lo and behold, multiple students have family recipes that they not only find delicious, but that allow them to connect with their family and their heritage. 

     Alessia Garofalo’s (‘22) family makes plenty of Italian dishes, but one of her favorites is frittelle. Frittelle is a simple but savory fried dough served with ham and cheese that Garofalo describes as an “elevated panini.” It is a very casual dish, often eaten at home at gatherings with friends and family or sold at small street carts found in Italy. Although Garofalo first learned how to make Frittelle from her father, the family recipe comes from her grandfather. 

     Garofalo enjoys making frittelle because it’s a big food in Italian culture, and it brings her and her cousins closer to her grandfather. “I remember when I would go visit my Nonno when I was younger. One of the first things he would say to me was that he was making frittelle,” says Garofalo. “When my cousin and I were in Florida to visit him last year, he was so excited to teach my cousin how to make them. It was so adorable.” 

     The family recipe may look simple at first glance, but Garofalo says the small details that go into cooking the frittelle are what make it special. For example, although some families let the dough sit for only half an hour, Garofalo warns that the shorter the amount of time the dough sits, the denser it gets. For this reason, her family likes to let the dough sit for a few hours to make it as light and fluffy as possible.

     Another nuance within the family’s frittelle recipe is the water temperature. “The main thing with Italian cooking is that there are no exact measurements. In this recipe, the water temperature is supposed to be about 112 degrees, and to test that you dip your finger in the water. If it feels too hot then it won’t be right for the dough. It’s supposed to be a little bit warmer than lukewarm,” says Garofalo. 

     Garofalo also likes how Frittelle is the perfect example of how Italian dishes can vary across Italy. “Fritelle from the region that my Nonno is from is very different from where it would be in Northern Italy.  And where I’m from, they would be served sweet and savory, but it is more often than not sweet,” she explains.  

     In Ethan Yu’s (‘22) family, seaweed soup is a staple. This dish is a traditional Korean soup consisting of seaweed, beef, soy sauce, garlic, and salt. Seaweed soup is very common in Korea. Although it is mainly eaten on someone’s birthday, it can also be eaten as an everyday meal.  

     The recipe itself may seem basic, but Yu says that it’s easily customizable, and that different ingredients can be added to personalize the soup. The Yu family will either add rice to their soup for extra flavor, or on the side, they will have kimchi. Kimchi is salted or fermented vegetables like cabbage that adds an element of spice to the meal.

     Yu’s mom is the one in charge when it comes to making the seaweed soup. Every year, she will make the recipe for each member of the family on their birthday. Although Yu has never helped his mom prepare the meal, he loves eating it and how it brings back fond memories of childhood birthdays. “Ever since I was a child, I’ve had it. I’ve grown up with it and it tastes good, so I get happy when [my mom] makes it,” says Yu.  

     Yu also emphasizes the importance of dishes like seaweed soup in his life. “Korean food is what connects me to my Korean culture. Growing up in America, I feel like I kind of missed out on that, so this is something I can hold on to,” says Yu. 

     Although seaweed soup may seem unappealing to some, Yu encourages people to try it if they get the chance. “You have to try it before you judge it. Seaweed soup is better than it seems,” Yu says. 

Chinese chicken curry takes the cake as Sofia Sarzosa’s (‘22) favorite family recipe. Served over rice, the dish is a blend of tender chicken thighs, savory curry sauce, and rich spices. The dish has become very common in China and around the world, which Sarzosa attributes to its rich flavors and varying textures. 

     The family’s chinese chicken curry recipe originates from Sarzosa’s great-grandma. The recipe was then taught to her grandma, her grandma’s brother, and finally her mother. Although the recipe has been passed down, Sarzosa’s family struggles to recreate it exactly how her grandma makes it. “We still haven’t mastered it. It’s kind of sad because it’s one of our favorite dishes, but maybe one day we’ll be able to replicate it perfectly,” says Sarzosa. 

     When Sarzosa does get the rare chance to have her grandma’s curry, she loves it, especially considering how much the dish helps maintain her connection with her grandma and with China. “[The dish] has helped me connect to my Chinese heritage, mainly when my grandma comes to visit. She loves to cook and she’s always asking my brother and I what we want her to make that night. It’s either the curry, fried rice, or this fish dish with corn, but the curry is my absolute favorite,” says Sarzosa. “She’s starting to develop Alzheimer’s too, but the curry is something she always remembers how to make, and that’s really cool to see.” 

     Overall, the Sarzosa family enjoys chinese chicken curry because of its rich flavors that they don’t get to taste very often. “What I like about it is the taste and the flavors. The combination is something that all of us really enjoy about the meal, and it’s especially important to us because of how few times we actually get to eat it. That helps keep the magic of it,” Sarzosa says. 

     As someone who loves the idea of family recipes, I decided to recreate each recipe myself. Check out the video on the MOR Youtube channel to see my attempts, and find each recipe down below to expand your own culinary horizons! 

Frittelle Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup hot water 
  • ½ tablespoon yeast 
  • 1-1 ¾  cup of flour

Directions:

  1. Stir together hot water and yeast together 
  2. Add flour and mix together with a spoon 
  3. Take mixture in hands to form with dough and cover with a damp towel for a few hours 
  4. Roll pieces of dough into little balls and flatten them out like pancakes 
  5. Fill a pan with oil (enough to cover the bottom of the pan) and fry each piece until the edge is golden brown
Seaweed Soup Recipe

Ingredients: 

  • Beef (Sirloin Steak) 
  • Oil 
  • 5 cups of water (boiled) 
  • Soy sauce 
  • 1 tablespoon of garlic (minced) 
  • Seaweed 
  • A little bit of Salt 

Directions:

  1. Cut beef into pieces and stir with oil. 
  2. Add soy sauce next, then minced garlic and stir more. 
  3. Boil water and then add seaweed.
  4.  Keep boiling for 3 minutes. 
  5. Add salt. 
Chinese Chicken Curry Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 6 pieces boneless chicken thighs 
  • 4 big red potatoes 
  • 1 small red onion 
  • 1 pc of scallion 
  • 1 tablespoon of curry powder
  • 1 can of coconut milk 
  • 1 teaspoon of chopped ginger 
  • Pinch of salt 
  • Pinch of pepper 
  • 1 tablespoon of soy sauce 
  • 1 teaspoon of cornstarch 
  • Pinch of sugar 
  • 2 bay leaves 
  • Water 

Directions:

  1. Cut chicken into small pieces (2”) 
  2. Season Chicken with salt, pepper, soy sauce, sugar and cornstarch
  3. Chop ginger, onions, scallion 
  4. Put 1 tablespoon of vegetable or coconut oil in pot – when it’s hot add ingredients on step 3 
  5. Saute until it’s brown then add seasoned chicken 
  6. Brown the chicken 
  7. After it’s brown add curry powder and potatoes 
  8. Finally add coconut milk. Use coconut milk can after it’s empty and add ½ can of water to dilute the coconut milk 
  9. Simmer until  chicken is ready (about 15 minutes)
Choreg Recipe

Ingredients: 

  • 1 cup whole milk 
  • 1 cup unsalted butter 
  • 1 cup margarine 
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • ½ cup of lukewarm water 
  • 2 teaspoons white sugar 
  • 2 packets of dry yeast 
  • 6 eggs 
  • 6 cups flour 
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder 
  • 1 ½ tablespoons mahlab 
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt 
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seed

Directions: 

  1. In a saucepan combine milk, butter, and margarine. Heat until butter and margarine are melted. Stir in 1 cup of sugar then set aside to cool to lukewarm. 
  2. Mix 2 teaspoons of sugar in warm water. Sprinkle the yeast over the surface and let it stand until frothy. 
  3. Crack 5 eggs and break up yolks. Slowly pour in heated milk mixture and continue whisking. Add yeast mixture and stir until blended. 
  4. Combine flour, baking powder, mahlab, and salt. Make a well in the center and pour in the wet mixture. Stir until dough forms. Then, need for about 10 minutes and place in an oiled boil to rise for about 2 hours.
  5. Once the dough has doubled, punch down again and let it rise until it doubles again. 
  6. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and roll out the dough. Cut dough into desired shapes then brush with a beaten egg and sprinkle with sesame seeds. 
  7. Bake with love for 25 minutes!