PARKERSBURG - The kitchen is the heart of the home for many, and for Jane Burdette and her family cooking really is a family affair.
Burdette said she learned to cook from her mother, Jewel, and also took cooking lessons at the former Hope Natural Gas Co. and in school through home economics classes.
The family takes cooking seriously, and apparently the cooking gene runs in the family because Burdette, her sister Mary Sprouse as well as her niece Katie and nephew Joseph all love to spend time in the kitchen whipping up their favorite recipes, many of which came from Jewel's files. And Jane, Mary and Joseph have all participated in The Parkersburg News and Sentinel and Marietta A.M.'s Cookbook competition.
Joseph, 13, took second place in the soups category at the 2011 competition with his Fresh Pea Soup, and was the youngest entrant. Last year he was grand champion with Tony's Chocolate Pecan Pie also taking took second place in the desserts category. He was the youngest known grand-prize winner for the contest and said he got the recipe from his grandma's recipe files. He will be a judge at next year's competition.
Following in his footsteps, sister Katie, 8, can't wait to enter the cooking competition.
Not to be out done by the younger set, in the 2011 competition, Mary earned a first place in the main dish category with her chicken, shrimp and sausage jambalaya, and Jane received a third prize in the main dish category with her recipe for Coq au Vin.
Aunt Jane noted proudly there were more than 400 recipes last year when her nephew received his grand-prize award. "My mother would be very proud of him," she said. "He donated a large part of the proceeds to the St. Margaret Mary Church's food pantry," Burdette said.
Burdette said she usually tries to follow a new recipe to the letter, "unless it's totally off the wall," but after that she freely substitutes ingredients to taste.
Katie likes to make anything that involves cracking eggs, Burdette said. Joseph likes to work with spices and herbs, and Mary prefers baking.
Although they all have their own favorites, the family likes to prepare meals together.
"There is at least two of us in the kitchen all the time," Burdette said.
Burdette actually had her kitchen enlarged to accommodate the family's love of cooking, knocking down a couple of walls, taking part of a back porch for the kitchen and adding ovens; she now has three in the kitchen.
"Now there's plenty of room for everyone. We like to have people over, and there's always someone just stopping by. There are some people who just show up around dinnertime," she said with a laugh.
"Everyone helps out, and I've found cooking can also be a learning experience for the kids, because it involves reading and math with fractions and measuring. They are actually learning without even knowing it," she said.
"My mom wouldn't let anyone leave our house without eating something first, and I've always enjoyed the socialization around food," Burdette said.
Burdette said she doesn't have a favorite type of food category she enjoys more than others.
"But I do try shortcuts on recpies if they are very complicated or have ingredients in them that are not readily available, although she added she and her sister have been known to go on some scavenger hunts in search of ingredients for a new recipe.
"We adapt the recipes to meet our needs," she said.
Burdette said she's not opposed to trying even something that, on the face of it, may sound a little odd.
"I tried a recipe that had pears, goat cheese and bacon in it which may sound a little strange, but even people who said they don't like pears ended up having three helpings so I guess it was pretty good," she said.
Burdette, who has Muscular Dystrophy, said after more than 40 years in a wheelchair she's adapted to doing things a different way to get it done, and that includes food prep and cooking. She sometimes makes use of assistive devices when needed. She has cabinets on rollers, uses crockpots and toaster ovens a lot, to make it easier.
"Life moves so fast and we are all involved with so many different activities it's difficult nowdays, but we try to slow down and enjoy cooking and eating together. I like to eat out too, but you can save a lot of money eating at home and it's nice having everyone in the kitchen working together," she noted.
In addition to being involved with all her family's activities, Burdette has a long history of community service and advocating for accessibility for those with disabilities. She's also involved with politics at the local and state level, currently serving as the chairwoman of the Wood County Democratic Executive Committee.
Burdette was the first student in Wood County schools to attend regular classes while in a wheelchair. She earned degrees from Parkersburg Community College, Glenville State College and West Virginia University. Over the years, she's worked with nonprofits as a consultant. She is a former YWCA executive director, vice president of Burdette Funeral Home, rehabilitation services manager for SW Resources and recruiter/fundraiser for the Muscular Dystrophy Association.
Among her current activities, Burdette serves on the Wood County Commission on Crime, Delinquency and Corrections; Democratic Women's Club; Parkersburg League of Women Voters; Parkersburg Community College Board of Advisors; West Virginia University Alumni Association; Glenville State College Alumni Association; Parkersburg Community College Alumni Association; West Virginia University - Parkersburg Alumni Association, and Parkersburg High School Class of 1973 Reunion Committee. She also enjoys sewing, reading and participates in a number of activities and groups through St. Margaret Mary Catholic Church.
Burdette shared a couple of her recipes with the newspaper:
Coq Au Vin
1 1/2 cups peeled baby carrots
3/4 cup chicken broth
1 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste
5 slices of thick-cut bacon, cut crosswise into strips
10 ounces small button mushrooms, wiped clean
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
2 teaspoons fresh thyme
1 bag (1-pound) frozen pearl onions, thawed
1 cup dry white wine
1 cooked rotisserie chicken, cut into 8 pieces
3 tablespoons chopped parsley
Place carrots in a microwave-safe bowl with 1/2 cup water; cover bowl with vented plastic wrap. Microwave on high 4 to 5 minutes, until crisp-tender; drain. Mix broth and tomato paste in a small cup; set aside.
Meanwhile, in a large, deep nonstick skillet or Dutch oven, cook bacon until crisp; remove with a slotted spoon to a paper towel. Cook mushrooms, garlic, rosemary, and thyme in bacon drippings in pot over medium-high heat 6 minutes, or until lightly browned. Add onions; continue to cook three minutes.
Raise heat to high; add wine to skillet and deglaze, scraping up browned bits from bottom of skillet with a wooden spoon. When wine boils, add broth mixture, stirring to incorporate. Add chicken pieces and carrots; bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer five minutes, turning chicken once or twice. Transfer to a serving platter. Sprinkle with bacon and parsley.
Pears with herbed goat cheese
1/2 pound goat cheese
1/4 cup chopped mixed herbs such as parsley, thyme, and chives
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
12 baby pears12 slices bacon, about 1/2 pound, cut in half
2 tablespoons honey
Arugula or dandelion greens, for garnish
Heat the oven to 375 degrees F.
In a small bowl, mix the goat cheese, herbs, and 2 tablespoons olive oil; season with salt and pepper. Halve the pears and scoop out the seeds and cores. Stuff each pear half with about a tablespoon of the cheese. Wrap each stuffed pear with a slice of bacon and place it on a baking sheet. Drizzle some olive oil over the pears and season them with salt and pepper. Bake them until the pears are tender and the bacon is crisp, about 25 to 30 minutes. Place the pears onto a platter, drizzle with the honey, and garnish with the arugula.