Tuesday, November 13, 2012
COOKING WITH THE STARS: DENNIS DAY
EVEN WHEN HE COOKS, DENNIS HAS EAGER AUDIENCE--HIS BIG FAMILY
By Freida Zylstra
Hollywood--Dennis Day is one performer who never has to worry about a full house when he is singing his do-re-mi's or when he is practicing the ABC's of cookery.
"With nine eager and always hungry sons and daughters I'm assured of an audience," he says. "I like to barbecue-broil steaks and chops, make endless varieties of Dagwood sandwiches, and originate marinating sauces."
"Dennis is no menace in the kitchen," Mrs. Day adds. "He often does the weekly marketing and is an excellent host when we entertain."
Dennis, whose real name is Eugene Dennis McNulty, was born in New York City. He began singing as a child at family, school, and church affairs. He graduated with honors from Manhattan college and after serving in the navy resumed his singing career on radio and in night clubs. It was Mary Livingston who "discovered" Dennis for the Jack Benny radio shows. In 1948 Dennis married Peggy Almquist. The Days' nine children are 17 years old, 16, 15, 13, 11, 10, 7, 4 and 2. The family lives in a rambling two story ranch house in a canyon in West Los Angeles. They have a stable with two horses and enjoy their swimming pool and outdoor patio, barbecue and game area.
"We recently remodeled our kitchen to accomodate cooking n a grand scale," Dennis said. "We now have three ovens, two warming ovens and two dish washers--not counting my wife."
When the Days entertain they consider 20 or 30 an average group around the table--"and usually more than half of them are children," Dennis commented.
Because of the differences in the children's schedules, Mrs. Day usually cooks and serves in shifts. She has a great collection of recipes and dishes that keep or "hold" in the warming ovens.
"We like Italian foods--lasgna and other baked casserole specialties," Dennis said. "Peggy and I like to study foreign cookbooks for new ideas."
Among Peggy's favorite casseroles are wild rice baked with chunks of creamed chicken and mushrooms and a casserole of hard cooked eggs, sliced in a rich cream sauce with shreds of either turkey or ham.
One of the Days' favorite hors d'oeuvres is made of small, thinly sliced white bread rounds, toasted on one side, buttered on the other, and spread with a seasoned mixture of beaten egg whites, grated swiss cheese, finely grated red and green peppers, and minced parsley. The mixture is spread on the bread rounds, topped with a few bits of chopped raw bacon and then slowly broiled until browned.
"This one is different," Dennis commented. "Guests love it, but never know for sure what it is."
A popular make-ahead vegetable dish that the Day family likes is baked zucchini. "It's a delicious combination with almost any other meat or main dish," Peggy said.
Her recipe follows:
BAKED ZUCCHINI CASSEROLE
1 1/2 pounds fresh zucchini
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 onion, chopped, sauteed
2 cups tomato sauce,
(combine Italian and Mexican tomato sauce, or season to taste with oregano or basil)
1 cup seasoned cracker or bread crumbs
6 to 8 slices mozzarella cheese
Cut washed squash in quarters and saute lightly in butter, covering to steam cook, about 3 or 4 minutes. Place in baking dish and sprinkle with parmesan cheese and sauteed onions. Cover with sauce and top with crumbs. Heat thoroughly in oven at 325 degrees for about half an hour. Just before serving, place slices of mozzarella cheese on top and heat just enough to melt cheese...