Bill Griffin and Louise Walters are adventurers of the culinary variety.
They have enjoyed meals at restaurants around the world, but they believe the meals they prepare at home for themselves and friends are just as wonderful. They even have a website dedicated to their joy of cooking at home.
“Food is a common denominator. It brings all sorts of people together, even across cultures,” Walters said during a recent dinner at their home off Highway 44 near Rapid City. “Even when you can’t speak another language, you can communicate with food.”
Walters and Griffin know from experience. They spent last summer in the southwest of France in the village of Estaing. The couple speak très peu (very little) French, and some of their dinner guests in France spoke very little English.
However, they said the words “yum” and “ummm” needed no translation.
Although their website is about being an everyday gourmet, Griffin and Walters see themselves as foodies, known as amateurs who simply love food for consumption, study, preparation and news.
Griffin and Walters came to their love of food on different paths. Griffin grew up in a suburb of Washington, D.C. His mother was a stay-at-home mom, but after a financial setback, she entered the work force, leaving Bill a latchkey kid.
“I learned to cook over the telephone,” he said. “My mom and dad both worked six days a week.”
When Griffin would get home from school, his mother would talk him through cooking the evening meal for the family.
“A lot of cooking is about not being intimidated,” Griffin said.
Griffin perfected his cooking skills in Boston while attending law school.
“Boston’s got great restaurants, but I didn’t have time to stop between work and going to class,” he said. “On Sunday, I would make a week’s worth of food.”
Griffin admits his culinary talents went to sleep for awhile, but have re-emerged since he married Walters in 2008 and the couple remodeled the kitchen of their home, called Rancho del Cielo, last year.
They also transformed half of their covered patio into an outdoor kitchen and dining area.
Walters was born in San Diego but grew up in Pierre. She moved to California in 1986 and lived there for 16 years, launching her association management firm, the MacWalters Company, in Sacramento.
Her business dealing with lobbyists, legislators and staffs in the state capital required lots of entertaining, which she often did in her home.
“My interest in food evolved from there,” she said.
She returned to Rapid City in 2000 to help her aging parents.
“I didn’t really know what I was going to do, but I knew they needed me,” she said.
Walters worked for the Rapid City Area Chamber of Commerce, then enrolled in college. She graduated in May 2010 with a Bachelor of Science degree in legal studies from National American University and is a full-time student in NAU’s master’s degree program on her way to a Ph.D. in organizational behavior.
Griffin, a business professor at NAU, said since he has known Walters, he has been impressed with her fantastic food taste.
“She really enjoys flavors,” he said.
Walters concurs, saying, “That helps you blossom in culinary adventures.”
During a recent culinary adventure in their home, Walters created a picture-perfect mixed greens salad while Griffin worked his way through a recipe called Beef Stroganoff for Frank and Clare. (Frank owns the home in Estaing, France, where Walters and Griffin spent last summer.)
Griffin sautes onions, then mushrooms, before turning up the heat on a pan for the beef.
“The best way to ruin stroganoff is to use stew meat,” Griffin said as he gently placed fillets into the pan. “Using rib eye or fillet takes it from ordinary to extraordinary.”
The two perfected their culinary skills last summer during a one-day course, “Cuisine de Amis” or “Cooking for Friends,” at the Le Cordon Bleu Academie d’Art Culinaire in Paris.
“We spent a full day with the school’s master chefs,” Griffin said. “Under their personal tutelage, we learned the fine points of preparing and presenting special dishes like pan-seared bass with seasonal vegetables.”
Griffin says the school has an impressive setup, where students can watch the chefs first prepare the menu items in a kitchen with mirrors that show the pots on the stove and other areas of preparation.
The fish was cooked in parchment, a preparation Griffin had not before used.
Griffin and Walters downplay their Cordon Bleu training as just another leg in their lifelong culinary adventure.
“We’re not trying to do things exactly right; we’re just trying to cook them so they taste good,” Griffin said.
Here are some of the couple’s recipes, with their cooking notes.
Dynamite Pasta Sauce
“We have an imaginary dog named Dynamite. We named this recipe after him. It has a strong flavor, and it is quite delicious. It takes about 15 minutes to make this.”
1/2 cup Asiago cheese at room temperature (Italian style, shredded)
1/2 cup Beemster cheese, shredded, at room temperature (from England, available at Smith’s Liquors)
1 clove fresh garlic, finely chopped
1/4 cup chopped small red onion
3 tablespoons sweet cream butter
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 cup chicken stock
2 tablespoons powdered milk
1/16 tablespoon whole nutmeg; grate a just a “whisper” from the nut
Start with the butter in an 8-inch sauté pan (nonstick). Heat the butter and melt it until it is bubbly. Add onion and sauté for a minute. Add garlic and sauté for two minutes. Add the cup of chicken stock and bring it to a medium boil. Heat the liquid until it has lost half its volume (4 to 5 minutes). Add the lemon juice. Add powdered milk. Use a wire whisk to stir the powdered milk and break up the lumps. Add the cheese. Turn off the heat. Use a wire whisk and stir the chicken stock and cheese until the cheese is melted. Now it is ready to serve.
“There are a couple of variations that would be good. One is to substitute heavy cream for the powdered milk. Another would be to add fresh basil. Chop it into thin strips and serve it on top of the pasta and sauce. We might try this sauce poured over chicken or beef fillets.”
Buffalo Shank Pot Roast
“Shank can be tough, whether you cook veal shank, beef shank or, as in this recipe, bison shank. However, if you use a slow, wet cooking process, the meat eventually becomes tender. Buffalo is leaner than beef or lamb. So, there is no need to include a step to remove grease.”
2 bison shanks
1 yellow onion, chopped into pieces about 1 inch long
1/2 pound potatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 carrots, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 celery stalks, cut into
1-inch pieces (optional)
8 to 10 ounces tomato sauce
1/2 cup red wine
1 tablespoon each table salt, garlic or granulated garlic, dry spice mix or rub for red meat
Place the bison shanks, frozen or thawed, in a medium-size slow cooker. They add 1/2 pound package of homemade tomato sauce, which they make during harvest season from fresh tomatoes that are roasted with garlic and onion and then frozen. Eight or 10 ounces of canned tomatoes (they prefer peeled and diced, with no added sugar) would work, too. To the slow cooker, add 1/2 cup of chopped onion and a 1/2 cup of red wine. Cook it overnight on the low setting. The next morning, cut carrots and potatoes into 1-inch pieces and added them to the slow cooker. Add spices. Cook on low for another 2 hours. Then it is ready to eat.
“Fortunately, this recipe made enough for four portions, so we were able to enjoy it for two dinners. It produced some of the best-tasting gravy we have ever had (there was no need to add flour). When we ladled it from the Crock-Pot, it was somewhere between pot roast and beef stew. Very tasty!”
“Ruth is a dear friend of ours. She is from Bolivia. Ruth and her mother are grand hostesses. They make you feel welcome, and they feed you so well. We named this dish in honor of Ruth. This is a casserole dish. From beginning to end, it takes only an hour to assemble and cook.”
1 pound boneless chicken, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 16-ounce jar medium taco sauce
4 tablespoons cornmeal
1/2 half large yellow onion, chopped
4 ounces sliced Colby-Jack cheese
4 ounces sliced cheddar cheese
12 to 16 ounces tomato sauce
Place 1/2 jar of medium taco sauce in the bottom of a 12-by-12-inch casserole dish. Place the chicken pieces on top of the taco sauce. Sprinkle cornmeal on top of the chicken, then top with onion. Add cheeses, then tomato sauce. Place the lid on the casserole, and put it in the oven for about 45 minutes. Once you see the liquid boiling, it is ready to remove from the oven.
“This dish is mildly spicy. The flavor is wonderful. The corn meal gives it an interesting texture. We served this in different ways. First, we served it over linguine pasta. Two evenings later, we served it over rice. Both were good.”
Beef Stroganoff for Frank and Clare
1/2 cup yellow onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/2 pound fresh mushrooms, sliced
8-10 ounces beef (not stew meat)
1 (8-ounce) tub creme fraiche
Saute onions and garlic in olive oil on medium heat; don’t brown. Cook until onions are translucent. Remove from pan. Set aside. Cut the beef into pieces about 1/2 inch thick and 1 inch long. Saute the beef in the pan in which you cooked the onions and garlic. Use medium-high heat. Cook the pieces about 1 minute on each side. The objective is to cook the beef on the outside while keeping it pink on the inside. Remove the beef from the pan and set aside.
Saute the mushrooms in olive oil or butter in a large fry pan on medium heat. The mushrooms should be cooked, but not crispy. When the cooking of the mushrooms has been completed, add the creme fraiche. Stir it in with the mushrooms. Once the mixture has become warm, add the onions and garlic. Do a taste test. Add enough salt to please your palate. Add the beef. Stir until everything is at serving temperature.
“We marinated the meat for two days in a mixture of red wine, soy sauce, olive oil and roast beef spice mix. Because the beef had been marinated, we did not need to add salt or spices.”