So much of what brings us back to our childhoods are the fond memories of the food we enjoyed growing up. Whether Mom was a gourmet cook or a casserole queen, her food was the best. When we asked our Editors to share their favorite memories of Mom’s cooking, the responses came fast and furious, a tribute to great Moms everywhere. We’d love to hear from you in a comment below. What was your Mom’s best dish?
Heidi Raker, Bergen county: My mother Marcia was a very good cook, even though my palette was pretty narrow as a kid. My favorite meal was fried veal chops. I’d help her bread the chops (seasoned flour, egg and breadcrumbs) and then once they were fried, she’d toss in sliced potatoes to crisp up in that flavored oil. The smell of frying veal was intoxicating and I will never forget that crunchy, juicy goodness and chomping on those bones. What a treat that was! I loved being her sous chef and enjoy the same with my kids today.
Alison Heller, Cape May County: My mother had a cookbook titled “365 Ways to Cook Chicken.” Most meals were inspired by that book. Sometimes though, she would make my Grandfather’s homemade macaroni and cheese, letting me not-so-stealthily sneak cubes of Velveeta from the counter. When she served it, the cheese bubbled on top under a dark crust. As simple as it is, that macaroni and cheese recipe has always brought us together as a family.
Beth Christian, Burlington County: My mom got more into cooking once we were grown and she had more time to play around in the kitchen. She started relying less on convenience foods and started cooking different vegetables. She got me totally hooked on roasted beets (which I believe she learned about from one of Mark Bittman’s cookbooks). If you have grown up with those soggy jarred beets, give roasting a try. Mom tops hers with a little crumbled Gorgonzola cheese-yum! Thanks, Mom!
Melissa Beveridge, Monmouth County: The smell of dumplings, frigadellas (aka German frikadellen), and mashed potatoes wafting out of the kitchen will always remind me of my mom and my grandma. Only about three dumplings actually ever made it to the table (we would have to “taste” them while she was cooking). The meal still brings back all those Sunday family dinners where we would just enjoy each other, and eat, a lot. Thanks for the memories and the recipes mom!
Kerry Brown, Burlington County: Everyone loves my Mom’s Pineapple Upside-Down Cake. Prepared and cooked in a cast-iron skillet, it starts on the stove where the butter and brown sugar are melted together. This simple combination will transform during baking into a sweet and gooey caramelized topping on the finished cake. Golden pineapple slices are arranged on the bottom of the pan and a bright red maraschino cherry is popped into the center of each ring. Vanilla cake batter is poured over everything and then placed in the oven to bake.
When cool, the finished product is inverted onto a cake plate and slides easily out of the well-seasoned pan. As a kid I was very impressed the first time I saw this . . . the ‘bottom’ of the cake is now the sweetly decorated top. Such a classic – simple, pretty and delicious!
Michelle Stavrou, Union County: The dish my Mom is known for is her macaroni and cheese. My brother has requested it more times than I can count and it’s become a staple at holiday gatherings. There’s something about my Mom’s Macaroni and Cheese that makes it not just delicious, but comforting as well. I have the recipe so I can recreate it whenever I want, but it never tastes quite as good as when my Mom makes it.
Veronique Deblois, Morris County: My mom, Diane, is an amazing cook. Growing up in Quebec, Canada, she cooked classic Quebecois dishes and added her creative spin on them. While her style of cooking leans towards comfort, she often dresses up dishes to give them an upscale vibe. One of my favorite meals made by mom is her mushroom stuffed whole filet of beef with mashed potatoes, peppercorn sauce and cauliflower au gratin. This became my birthday menu while a teen and I love it to this day.
Jennifer Malme, Cumberland County: My mom’s cooking was very typical for the seventies – she was a casserole queen! I remember coming home from school to the enticing aromas of scalloped potatoes, spinach gratin, lasagna, and stuffed peppers. Her baked beans are still a family favorite! Since my own family is so picky (they dislike “sauce”), I still go home to Mom when I want to enjoy the comfort food from my childhood.
Michele Errichetti, Atlantic County: Mom was a great “everyday” cook, by that I mean she was a firm believer in eating a “balanced meal” every day, making it from scratch as much as possible. She wasn’t a gourmet cook, she made American food staples! Meat loaf, mashed potatoes and string beans with bread crumbs, roasted chicken with roasted potatoes and carrots, pork chops with sauteed cabbage, and apple sauce, t-bone steak with baked potato and broccoli, and every meal had a salad with oil and vinegar! She instilled cooking fresh food with fresh ingredients that I still adhere to till this day! Thank you Mom, I know you are listening!
Sheila Hill, Monmouth County: During the week, my mom would stick to basic, no-frills meals. On Sundays, however, she kicked it up a notch in the kitchen. I loved her Pennsylvania Dutch-style chicken pot pie. It’s not your typical chicken pot pie. There is no pie plate. No crust. It was similar to a thick soup. My mom would roast the chicken to perfection. While the chicken was roasting, she sauteed onions and celery and prepared the dough by combining flour, water, and an egg. I always helped roll out the dough and cut the squares. The combination of fresh chicken, a hearty broth, tender vegetables, and big, thick squares of dough was heavenly. I’ve tried many times to replicate the recipe, and but it never comes close to mom’s.
Terry Krongold, Passaic County: My Mom was a good cook but an excellent baker. All my baking skills I owe to her. To this day, I still bake some of my most cherished recipes from her. Her Apple Crumb Cake was always a staple at summer BBQs, and at Christmas, her Half Moons, Love Knots, and Crispeles were always on the table. But her most famous dessert was her cheesecake. This is the recipe I built my dessert catering business around, and the recipe people request most. Thanks, Mom!
Gina Glazier, Middlesex County: My mother was and still is a wonderful cook. She and my father raised both my brother and I pretty much in the kitchen! One of the best meals she ever made us was probably her chicken parmesan. Her marinara alone was enough to make me happy but when partnered with the pan-fried chicken cutlets and fresh melted mozzarella, it was outstanding. I distinctly recall always dipping my pieces of “mozz” into her sauce while it was simmering, which was like our appetizer course before the main meal was served. To this day, we spend most of our time together in the kitchen and because of her I truly feel the kitchen is the heart of my home. Thanks Mom!
John Howard-Fusco, Ocean County: Mom was a good cook, but she was an even better collector of recipes. She rarely, if ever, strayed one grain of salt more or less from what was written on the page. So as much as I want to give Mom a big smooch on the cheek for her oh so good lasagne, the person who created the recipe should get a smooch as well. That being said, Mom did a wonderful job recreating a stick-to-your-ribs, healthy-yeah-that’s-a-laugh lasagne that was always a family treat. And even now, when Mom makes lasagne when we visit, or if she brings it over to our house for dinner, it’s a gesture of love that will keep us together around the table for hours. Then again, we have no choice – we’re physically incapacitated after a slice or two. Thanks Mom.
Kate Morgan Jackson, Bergen County: My mother is the most adventurous cook I know! As a kid, every morning I would stumble into the kitchen and there she would be, surrounded by cookbooks and planning dinner. We grew up with sandwiches made from the sourdough starter that was always on our counter, and we knew the taste of frogs legs and stuffed grape leaves and scallion pancakes. Back then, there were days when I wished I could just have peanut butter and jelly on Wonder Bread like all the other kids…today I realize that her exotic meals made me the enthusiastic eater that I am today. This morning she is bringing her famous Irish scones that she and only she can make to our three generation Mother’s Day brunch…my mouth is watering already! Love you, my amazing mother.
Deborah Smith, Executive Editor: My mother, Lonnie, was not a huge fan of cooking. Given the fact that she was a single mom, fixing dinner at the end of her work day just wasn’t high on her fun-things-to-do list. Now being a working mom myself, I totally get it. That is probably what made those days when she’d refrain from the Campbell’s Cream of something soup recipe and reach for her recipe book so special. My Brother and I had a few favorites which I still make today. Her lasagna was a dish I started making in High School. Her meatloaf comes from Better Homes and Garden and is a sure bet. I think my love of cooking came from the smell of the house on those special days.