For Theresa Fessler, cooking is as much a love affair as it is a family affair.
By MARY G. PEPITONE
Special to The Star
Married for 29 years to Bob with three grown children Stephen, Sean and Meghan the Fesslers savor the precious time they spend together as a family in the kitchen, both in preparing meals and eating together.
But, at least once a week, close friends become like family as people typically gather for Sunday dinner at the Fessler home.
Bob is undaunted by at least 10 more tucking in at their table.
We enjoy entertaining: the preparation, the cooking, the conversation and camaraderie, he says. Theresa is the mastermind with the menu and the heart of the entire operation.
Residence: Lees Summit
Occupation: Academic coordinator for Rockhurst High School
Special cooking interest: Entertaining epicure
Is love always in the air when Bob and you cook and entertain together? We have been doing Sunday dinners for friends and family so long together that it is more like a well-oiled machine. Our friends have dubbed our home Fesslerville since it is the destination for so many every weekend.
I love that cooking is something creative that Bob and I do together, and it also keeps us connected. We will open a bottle of wine and get cooking. Its always fun to try new recipes, too. Our group of friends will taste anything.
How did once-a-week dinners with friends become a tradition in your home? I grew up near Cleveland and always enjoyed my subscription to Bon Appetit magazine. My father would shop with me on the weekend to get the ingredients, and then, on Sunday, I would cook a meal out of the magazine.
After Bob and I were married, we moved around a lot for his job: Boston, Miami and now Kansas City for 13 years. Since we were far from family, we decided to have Sunday dinners with new friends we made since they became like family to us.
Its a tradition weve kept all these years. And weve kept those friends from nearly 30 years ago, too.
Did your group of friends help choose this recipe to share? I chose this grilled chicken recipe because it is truly a favorite of everyone family and friends included and its a suitable, versatile dish for year-round presentation. I simply adjust the side dishes depending on the availability of fresh local food, seasonal produce, the weather and whatever guests might request.
For this time of year, I think my Creamy Wild Rice and Roasted Dill Carrots complement this chicken. Also, Bob loves an excuse to grill outside on his Big Green Egg, his ceramic charcoal cooker.
Do you also branch out from a meat-and-two-veg cooking style? I love to cook almost any type of food, including different ethnic foods, all with varying degrees of difficulty and ingredients. Recently, I did a Thai-themed Sunday night dinner and a Seattle Seahawks-inspired menu for the Super Bowl, with seafood.
My primary purpose is to enjoy the preparation and serving, but by and large the goal is to have our family and friends gather to eat and simply enjoy one anothers conversation and company. This feeds everyones soul. Our favorite quote from Penzeys Spices sums it up: Love people. Cook them tasty food.
Bobs Grilled Herb-Roasted Chicken
Makes 4-6 servings
1 (4-pound) young, whole fryer chicken, spatchcocked and pressed flat (see notes)
1/2 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons finely-chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, stems removed
3 tablespoons finely-chopped fresh sage leaves
3 tablespoons finely-chopped fresh rosemary, stems removed
2 tablespoons finely-chopped fresh thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
The night before cooking, coat entire chicken in olive oil. Mix parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, salt and pepper together in a small mixing bowl to create a rub.
Coat rub mixture over entire oil-covered chicken. Place into a large resealable plastic bag and place in refrigerator overnight to allow chicken to marinate.
Prepare a hot fire in a charcoal grill and set grate on highest setting, or set a gas grill to 350 degrees. Place chicken skin side down on grill for 15 to 20 minutes or until skin is crispy and brown.
Turn chicken over and grill an additional 25 to 30 minutes or until the internal temperature in the breast measures 165 degrees with an instant-read meat thermometer.
Place chicken in roasting pan and cover with aluminum foil for 15 to 20 minutes to allow juices to reabsorb.
Serve with wild rice and roasted carrots.
Notes: A spatchcocked chicken is one in which the backbone has been removed, from tail to neck, so the bird lies flat.
This can be prepared in oven set to 350 degrees using 4 pounds of bone-in breasts and leg-quarters.
If using dried herbs instead of fresh, use teaspoons instead of tablespoons.
Per serving, based on 4: 447 calories (56 percent from fat), 22 grams total fat (5 grams saturated), 137 milligrams cholesterol, 1 gram carbohydrates, 47 grams protein, 441 milligrams sodium, 1 gram dietary fiber.
Mary G. Pepitone is a freelance writer who lives in Leawood. She also writes a nationally syndicated home column. Email her at email@example.com to nominate a cook.