Mel’s Diner

Sharp Knives, Raw Meat and Fire


So, it’s that time again.  That Cookbook Thing II‘s next chapter is a near perfect brunch dish, maybe something for a big breakfast – Rapee Morandelle.  What?  What is a rapee?  It sounds like some kind of thin sword, maybe something guys named Desmond or Thurston use for exercise practice at the club.  What it is is a quiche with no crust, a gratin or, if you come from the corner of 10th St and 2nd Avenue, a potato kugel.

It’s also very good.  It’s a simple dish with eggs, grated potatoes, ham (thereby making it not TOO much like a potato kugel), cheese, onions and herbs – all mixed and baked together into a yummy happiness.


  • ½ cup onion, finely minced
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • ½ cup cooked ham, diced (3 ounces)
  • 4 eggs
  • ½ clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp fresh parsley chopped and/or chives and chervil
  • 2/3 cup Swiss cheese, coarsely grated
  • 4 tbsp whipping cream, light cream or milk
  • Pinch of pepper
  • ¼ tsp Salt
  • 3 medium potatoes, (about 10 ounces) peeled and coarsely grated
  • 2 tbsp butter to plus ½ tbsp butter cut in little pea sized dots

Here’s what everything looked like before I started:


  1. Cook the onions slowly in butter and oil for 5 minutes or so over low heat, until tender, but not browned.
  2. Raise the heat slightly and add the ham and let cook a moment more
  3. Beat the eggs in a mixing bowl and add the garlic, herbs, cheese, cream or milk, and seasonings. Blend in the ham & onions
  4. Peel the potatoes and grate them. Squeeze out the excess water.  Stir them into the egg mixture. Check seasoning.
  5. Heat 2 tbsp of butter in the dish. Once foaming, pour in potato and egg mixture.  Dot with last bit of butter pieces.
  6. Bake for 30-40 minutes in preheated oven until top is nicely browned.

So, I made a few small changes.  I didn’t feel like cooking a whole ham for a measly 3 ounces, so I used Irish bacon from a local smokehouse.  It was just as fatty and just as good as anything Julia used in 1961.  I also used a whole clove of garlic (why not?) and Ementaler cheese and I used the chives.  I cooked mine in a 12 inch pan as prescribed and found the pan too big.

The dish cooked quicker than expected and came out a bit thin.  BUT, it did taste good.  Mary from Cooking For Five made it with me and couldn’t stop eating it.  My daughter (who is 9) patted my shoulder and said I could make it again.

Also, it was a simple dish.  I think so many people are afraid to cook from Mastering The Art of French Cooking because they think everything in it is soooo complicated  This proves it’s not.  Open the book, take a look around.  Sure, you want to make something complicated – it’s there.  But it doesn’t have to be.  Simple is good, too.  That’s the Art of French COUNTRY Cooking – simple.

Thanks again to all my friends in this:

PS – Here’s the first two posts:

PPS – We have recieved honorable mention as part of Julia’s 3rd annual birthday celebration from Lisa over at Champagne Taste


August 11, 2008 Posted by | Friends, Recipe, That Cookbook Thing II | 5 Comments


Well, let it never be said that I welched on a marker.  Last night I made Sherry’s Alphabet Soup and it was quite good.  It takes a special kind of fun person to think of recreating a kid’s classic soup and makes me miss knowing her even more.

I made just a few changes (as you knew I would) to her wonderful recipe, but nothing Earth shattering.  I CAN’T STAND lima beans, so they were jettisoned, I didn’t have any celery (how did that happen?) and all I had was canned peas, so they were added at the very end just to warm them.  Other than that, I was true to Sherry’s recipe.


  • 1 medium onion, chopped fine
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 15 ounce can chopped tomatoes
  • 4-5 cups chicken stock
  • 1 medium yukon gold potato, chopped small
  • 1 carrot, chopped small
  • 3/4 cup corn kernels
  • 1/2 of a 7 ounce package of alphabet pasta
  • Pinch of herbs, if you wish.  I used dried thyme [not me!]
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup peas

Saute the onion, thyme, and garlic until soft, about 5 minutes, over medium heat. Add the can of tomatoes, including the liquid, and the stock. Simmer for about 10 minutes, then use a hand mixer or food processor to make the broth smooth. (You don’t have to do that, if you don’t want to.[I didn’t])

Add the celery, potatoes, corn, and peas to the stock base, and cook at a low simmer for 15 minutes.  Add the pasta to the soup and cook according to package directions–about 4 minutes, usually.

I brought the leftovers to work and a few people laughed at me, but they were the losers – it was great!  Thank you, Sherry, for bringing me back to my childhood – I loved it!  Again, God Bless you – you still bring joy to this world. – MPM

July 30, 2008 Posted by | Friends, Soup | 3 Comments


I didn’t know Sherry Cermak.  I had never heard of her blog What Did You Eat?, I never tracked back to her whenever one of my friends mentioned her and I have never been to Davis, California.  To me, Sher was just one of those names you see off to the side of your friends blog and I’m worse off for it.

Sherry died last week of a sudden heart attack and it has thrown the little corner of the WWW I lurk about in into a tailspin.  Visiting her blog now (too late, I know), I can see why.  She was such an open and fun person, I can only imagine what a joy it was to know her.  Do a quick Google search and you will be blown away at her interests and accomplishments.  And c’mon, anyone who rescues squirrels HAS to be wonderful.

She also had a lot of fun recipes on her blog.  And in memory of her, Sara and Mary are hosting a “We Love Sherry” day, asking people to make one of her recipes, share memories, etc.

And I can do none of those today.  As I mentioned, I didn’t know of Sherry and I’m leaving for Maine in a few minutes, thereby assuring that I can’t even make one of her easy recipes.

But, as Sky Masterson said, I give you my marker.  As Nathan explained it, “A marker isn’t just a piece of paper that says, ‘I.O.U. [one recipe post] signed [Michael].’ It’s like a pledge that a guy can’t welch on it. It’s like not saluting the flag!”

So, look for my post of either her Tomato Alphabet Soup or Southern Baked Beans before August 3rd.

PS – Goodby, Sherry.  It has been said, “Light one candle and the world is not the same”, but, blow that candle out and the world is that much darker and colder, too.  God Bless You.

July 27, 2008 Posted by | Friends | 2 Comments