BARBARA BLANCHETTE'S MONKEY BREAD
3 12-oz. pkgs. of refrigerated buttermilk biscuits*
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1 stick (8 T.) butter or margarine
Preheat oven to 350°F and grease Bundt pan. Cut biscuits into quarters. Roll in mixture of sugar and cinnamon. Melt butter or margarine and combine with brown sugar. Put biscuit quarters in Bundt pan and pour melted butter and sugar mixture over top. Bake for 30-40 minutes. Remove from pan, pull apart and eat warm.
* UNH variation: Fresh, or frozen and thawed, pizza dough
Ever since Barbara Blanchette's children were small, she has made monkey bread for them each Thanksgiving and Christmas morning. So when UNH offered parents a way to send in recipes that could eventually be made in the dining halls, Blanchette knew it had to be the one for the pull-apart bread covered in brown sugar, cinnamon and butter.
The only thing is, she forgot to mention it to her youngest son, Brian Shamberger '09, a psychology major at UNH.
"He went to dinner one night and he was just so excited there was monkey bread there," Blanchette says. "He called me and said, 'You're not going to believe what they had in the dining hall tonight!'"
Blanchette is just one of many parents who have offered students a little taste of home. Another, Deb Bernacchia, gave UNH a favorite family vegetarian dish—broccoli pasta casserole.
Certainly when Blanchette and Bernacchia sent along those recipes, they didn't foresee that over the years thousands of students would routinely be eating mega-versions of their home-cooked specialties.
Since the program began more than a decade ago, the policy has been "to name the dish after the person who sends it in," says Ralph Coughenour, director of UNH Culinary Services. The name, along with nutritional information and any allergens, is displayed in the serving line next to the dish.
"If something comes in and it's doable, we'll give it a try," he says. "We ask ourselves, 'Can we produce it for 6,000 people across the campus?'" At least 50 to 75 times a year a recipe is submitted—by mail, telephone or at http://unh.edu/dining/parents/submit-recipe.html—that university chefs are able to envision as a replacement for a "slow mover," Coughenour says.
That's where Bernacchia's broccoli pasta came in. Looking for a vegetarian dish, Coughenour says they decided to give it a try. "The students love it," he says. "We actually use it quite a bit."
Ditto for the monkey bread. Made with pizza dough, white and light brown sugar, cinnamon and shortening, the bread is created from scratch, like much of the food served at Philbrook, Stillings and Holloway Commons dining halls, Coughenour says. "We make it for almost every special meal."
If a recipe seems like it could be a winner—and can be made in batches large enough to feed a campus—it is given a try. There are plenty of winners, as evidenced by a 108-page cookbook published a couple of years ago for Family Weekend by University Hospitality Services, showcasing recipes from UNH parents that have taken a turn in the dining halls.
"We do look at anything and everything that comes across our desk, but we don't use everything," Coughenour says. "Every once in a while we get something with lobster or another item that is not cost effective."
The ultimate litmus test is provided by the students' palates. "If it works and the students like it, we'll keep reproducing it," he says. And that means some parents' names acquire a kind of immortality. "It's my claim to fame," jokes Blanchette.
DEB BERNACCHIA'S BROCCOLI PASTA CASSEROLE
1/4 cup minced garlic
2 T. olive oil
4.5 lb. broccoli, chopped
3 lb. rotini pasta, cooked until al dente, drained
2 tsp. kosher salt, or salt to taste
1 tsp. black pepper, ground
Sauté garlic in olive oil—do not brown. Steam broccoli for about 3 minutes and then add to oil. Reheat pasta in the steamer for 5 minutes and add to broccoli and oil. Mix well. Serve warm.