Karen Goettsche makes spicy sausage dip
Passion for cooking, entertaining
In a neat stack, piled in front of her on the kitchen table, Karen Goettsche is showing me years of dinner party menus filed alphabetically by guest.
Goodness knows, she wouldn't want to serve a dish twice to the same guest. What fun would that be?
Ah, here's an interesting evening: dirty martinis, lime and coconut crab cakes, roasted onions with blue cheese, beets, pork loin in mustard crust and maple blueberry parfait. Sounds like a lineup worth repeating, with a different set of friends, of course.
Karen and husband, Jerry - she cooks, he cleans - love to entertain friends in their spacious Inverness home where they are enjoying retirement with Tucker, a miniature Schnauzer puppy, and Cookie, a chatty parrot who can say "C is for Cookie."
"We always feel the greatest honor is to have someone invite us over, and we feel the same way," says Karen. "We have friends from 40 years ago; it's just a real comfort."
A from-scratch cook with a knack for organization, Karen is a bundle of energy, barely sitting down as we sip coffee in the kitchen and I sample one of today's recipes, Sausage, Jack and Cheddar Dip in mini-quiche cups.
Oh yes, it's good.
Hors d'oeuvres are a specialty from Karen's "laboratory," a well-stocked kitchen where she keeps enough food in a full-size freezer to survive for weeks. She opens the freezer door and gives me a tour, pointing out the hors d'oeuvres section, the homemade meals like spaghetti sauce, chili and soups ready in a moment's notice and raw meats from a warehouse club neatly repackaged in freezer bags.
Her enormous spice cabinet pays tribute to a lifetime of experimentation with things culinary.
"I especially like to try things I've had in restaurants and recreate them," she says.
Her global cookbook collection is organized by country: China, Greece, Mexico, South Africa, Thailand and so on.
"Whenever we travel she always gets at least one," says Jerry.
Dinner parties typically include one other couple, but sometimes as many as four. Karen sets a formal table but everyone dresses casually, presumably in loose clothing.
The evening begins with at least two or three appetizers, a mix of hot and cold, and drinks, followed by soup or salad, entree and dessert.
"I have always believed you should buy the best ingredients you can get your hands on," says Karen.
She never tests a recipe in advance, trusting that her longtime friends have enjoyed enough "keepers" at her house to keep coming back, even if they encounter a loser.
This week's recipes are all from the winner's circle: the aforementioned mini-quiches, which can also be served as a dip, her twist on duck with plum sauce and a simple chicken quiche made with sour cream and Swiss cheese that's available at dailyherald.com/food.
If this is what she eats to maintain her energy, I'm all over it. But Karen says it isn't the food that gets her moving.
"When I'm passionate about something, it has its own energy."