Jodie Stockwell enjoys cooking for legions of family and loyal friends.
Stockwell was married for 33 years to the late Bobby Stockwell, a retired Army lieutenant colonel. She continues to savor time with her family, which includes seven children and 15 grandchildren.
Born in Salina, Kan., Stockwell has her food roots firmly planted in the Midwest and continues to appreciate the simple pleasures in life. But her husband’s military career meant that she also amassed recipes from her travels around the world.
Residence: Overland Park
Occupation: Church director of catechumenate and liturgy
Special cooking interest: Hostess with the mostest.
So how do you make cooking and entertaining at home look so easy? There’s a lot of time and work that goes into making meals and entertaining, so I like to do as much as I can beforehand. It may look effortless, but preparing a meal really takes planning. I like to set a pretty and welcoming table well in advance.
I grew up in a military family and also raised my children the same way, as we traveled the world with Bobby, and home was always where he was stationed.
With all your world travels, why do you enjoy entertaining so much at home? I learned early on that if you want to make friends, you cook and entertain at your house. And those friends became and still remain like family to me. I did a lot of entertaining of other officers and their wives when Bobby and I were starting out.
My obsession with blue Delftware started when we were in Holland in the mid-1970s. But you don’t have to use fancy china and silver to entertain. The key is to make people feel comfortable in your home.
Tell me about this recipe you’ve shared. I chose Salmon en Papillote because it is not only a family favorite, but it is also easy. The salmon can be prepared ahead of time and baked at the last minute. I like to serve this on Christmas Eve, because it is festive and is literally the first “gift” people open. This recipe comes from my friends who live in Cannes, located in the French Riviera.
I know some folks use aluminum foil, and that is fine, but the parchment holds in all the juices, looks pretty on the plate, and is delicious when served with saffron rice, bundles of green beans wrapped in bacon, a big salad and bread. “Papillon” is French for “butterfly,” and each packet of Salmon en Papillote on the plate looks like butterfly wings.
It’s not a heavy meal but a very satisfying and delicious one. Even children like it, as the salmon takes on a buttery lemon flavor, with snippets of dill, onion and capers.
You have an extended family of nearly 30 that all stayed with you during Christmas. What is your secret to cultivating a close family? Our faith is a big part of our family, but when the children were growing up, I always wanted to create a beautiful table and good food for them to eat at dinnertime, so that at least once a day we could sit and be nourished together.
This recipe shows that busy families today can prepare something good to eat, and I believe it makes a difference. I always felt that nothing was “too good” to be used with the children. We didn’t eat with plastic utensils or paper plates, but served meals using silverware and china. Breaks and spills are just part of life. I’ve raised some great cooks, too, so I sometimes have more help in the kitchen than a girl needs.
I travel to Europe at least once a year and stay with friends that Bobby and I made when we were stationed overseas. But I am a Kansas girl at heart, and through all of my travels and experiences I still believe there’s no place like home.
Mary G. Pepitone is a freelance writer who lives in Leawood. She also writes a nationally syndicated home column. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org to nominate a cook.
Salmon en Papillote (in “curl” paper)
Makes 4 servings
4 (8-ounce) salmon filets
1/4 cup Dijon mustard, divided
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon pepper, divided
4 tablespoons butter, divided
1 white onion, sliced into 8 sections
1 lemon, sliced into 4 sections
1/2 cup capers, divided
4 sprigs fresh dill
Cut 4 15-inch squares of parchment paper. Fold each sheet in half and, using scissors, cut out a half-heart shape. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Place 1 heart-shaped piece of parchment paper onto a large baking sheet. Place a salmon filet skin-side down on the right side of the heart-shaped fold. Spread filet with1 tablespoon Dijon, and season with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Top filet with 1 tablespoon butter, 2 sections of white onion, 1 section of lemon, 2 tablespoons capers and 1 sprig of fresh dill.
Fold left side of parchment over salmon and, starting at the top of the “heart,” fold edges together, twisting paper together at the bottom to create a sealed packet. Continue process with remaining salmon filets. Place all sealed packets onto baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes.
Place packets directly onto dining plates and allow diners to each open their individual packets before eating.
Per serving: 223 calories (62 percent from fat), 15 grams total fat (8 grams saturated), 80 milligrams cholesterol, 2 grams carbohydrates, 20 grams protein, 409 milligrams sodium, trace dietary fiber.