David McCallum wins applause by slicing and dicing

The Star Ledger, Jan. 22, 1986
by Bette Spero

David McCallum, an ingratiating actor on stage, proves to be just as charming a chef in the kitchen.

McCallum entertained, as well as instructed, a bevy of women who turned out for his "class" at the Kings Cookingstudio in Short Hills.

Despite his culinary skills, the Scottish actor scotched any ideas that he was about to give up the stage for the "cooking circuit."

Rather, he hosted the Kings event purely out of loyalty to the Paper Mill Playhouse in Milburn. He is starring there until Feb. 9 in the farce, "Run For Your Wife."

Women (there were no men in the audience) paid $40 each for the pleasure of watching McCallum perform behind a kitchen counter and produce such appetizing delicacies as "David's Dip," "Beef Broccoli" and "Orange Freeze."

All proceeds of the afternoon are to be donated by Kings to the Paper Mill.

Joanna Preuss, director of Kings Cookingstudio, supervised the culinary operations.

A trio of Cookingstudio chefs--Florence Denzer, Dolores Cameron and Christina Dean--assisted McCallum in everything from cutting up oranges to washing the dishes.

Preuss praised McCallum for knowing his cooking cues.

"It's a pleasure to talk to him about food," she enthused. "He even has his recipes on a computer, complete with eaters' comments."

McCallum, born in Glasgow, was brought up on "stick to the ribs" fare. "In Scotland when the wind was blowing and your knees were red, that was the sort of hearty food that you ate," he recalled.

Since then, his gastronomy as well as his geography has changed. Now a New Yorker, he opts for light, healthful eating--plenty of salads, little red meat.

He still does up a meal, though, like a full-scale production. At his Long Island home, his commercial cooking stove is separated from the dining table by a six-foot-wide "island."

"That way you're not banished to the kitchen," he laughed. "You can enjoy your guests while you cook."

His selections for Kings were simple but elegant, designed to solve the dilemma of unexpected guests suddenly arriving at lunchtime, and expecting to be fed.

He began with dessert, using fresh fruit as a setting for a "sherbet surprise." McCallum noted he discovered the pleasant culinary ploy while dining at an outdoor cafe in Rome.

One cuts the top off a big, bright orange, scoops out the pulp (which is discarded), fills the cavity with gobs of orange sherbet, replace the "cap", and puts the "orange surprise" into the freezer until serving time.

The meal's "first act" is almost as easy as its climax. "David's Dip" is a crunchy combination of raw vegetables chopped up in a food processor and mixed lightly with mayonaisse. It is served cold on plain, crisp crackers.

At Kings, McCallum used green pepper, carrots, celery, radicchio, parsley, a green apple and cheddar cheese. Dissatisfied with the lack of a "strong vegetable" dominating the flavor, McCallum opted for scallions. They added the desired zest.

"I don't know about you, but I clean out the refrigerator every couple of weeks," he quipped. "There's always a green pepper that gets left and a couple of carrots. One day I put everything in the Cuisinart and it came out jolly good."

For his entree, McCallum chose a stir-fry Chinese dish, "Beef Broccoli."

"What I love about Chinese cooking is it's very quick, very good and looks so pretty," he explained. "What you can do in terms of stir frying vegetables is up to your imagination."

McCallum's imaginative touches included flavoring safflower oil with a clove of garlic and a slice of ginger; using fresh, cold chicken broth as a liquid, and searing the flank steak for about 30 seconds.

"I always curse myself for cooking it too long," laughed Chef McCallum.

Basically it's a swift and simple meal.

While the white rice cooks about 20 minutes, McCallum deftly chops up a whole, fresh broccoli and a large Spanish onion, and cuts one large flank steak into strips.

A few tablespoons of oil, flavored with garlic and ginger, are heated in a wok. The strips of steak are seared swiftly and set aside to be kept warm in a microwave oven.

The oil is reflavored with fresh garlic and ginger. The onion strips, then the broccoli chunks, are added a cooked quickly. A couple of tablespoons of dry sherry are added, followed by a pint of chicken broth thickened with one ounce of cornstarch and flavored with one ounce of soy sauce.

Last but hardly least, the steak is place on top of the mixture, completing the tableau and making the dish ready for the table. The fluffy white rice, by now ready, is served in a separate dish garnished with fresh parsley. It's as pretty a picture as an Impressionist painting.

The Kings cooking students couldn't wait to "dig in" to such a delightful dish. The sound of their forks clattering against their plates were music to McCallum's ears. It was better than applause, which he got in abundance.

David slices and dices