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Low Mileage Kitchen: Prized party food from a tell-all book

Having party? Make mushroom strudel. | Al Podgorski~Sun-Times

Having a party? Make mushroom strudel. | Al Podgorski~Sun-Times

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From the Farmstand

The year-round Chicago’s Downtown Farmstand, 66 E. Randolph, offers Midwest-grown foods and other locally produced edibles, including those used in this recipe. Cooking classes are offered through the World Kitchen program (chicagoworldkitchen.org). Reach the Farmstand at (312) 742-8419, or go to chicagofarmstand.com.

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Updated: January 8, 2012 8:00AM



It’s party time. Invitations have been issued. It’s time to think about menus.

Long before I became a professional chef and caterer, I hosted annual holiday parties with long lists of guests, foods served and elaborate decorations, and I recorded all of them.

I love looking through my very tattered notebook. It has pages for every major party I’ve hosted. The menus and guest lists are all there, as are timetables for every step. There are sketches of the table, the serving dishes used and a few notes and comments from guests over the years.

The memories are barely contained between the covers. I can chart my life, current events and lifestyle changes as I moved from young suburban wife to each of the coasts and back again to Chicago — who was important in my life, what style of cooking I was doing, even notes about who was allergic to what ingredient.

When I went to culinary school, the recipes became more sophisticated. When I lived in California, the decorations were more casual. Later, I inherited some well-loved family tableware, which appeared on holiday tables from then on. It’s all documented in The Book.

It’s time to pull it out and add the page for 2011.

What has never changed is the long list of buffet foods served for the Christmas party. And one thing that has appeared on that list every year is Mushroom Strudel.

The original yellowed newspaper clipping is in The Book, along with its first appearance — Christmas 1972, served to 38 guests along with 23 other items.

Working with phyllo dough is intimidating to many, but don’t let that stop you. Just work quickly and keep the dough lightly damp.

You might change the filling to suit your own guest list, but don’t tell me about it. I’m a traditionalist, and I love having this on the list year after year, just as it is. Thankfully, my records show that guests love it, too.

Judith Dunbar Hines is the director of culinary arts and events for the Chicago Office of Tourism and Culture, which operates Chicago’s Downtown Farmstand.



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