On this day Seventy-Six years ago; the planned D-Day invasion was launched. I had always thought the “D” meant Do or Die Day. It fits. As it turns out, the “D” in D-Day doesn’t stand for anything in particular, at least not a stand-in for a word. V-E Day is short for Victory in Europe Day; V-J Day means Victory over Japan. But the “D” in D-Day is just a letter.
The term D-Day isn’t even from World War II. It has been used by the U.S. Military as early as World War I to designated the launch date of a mission. The use of the letter “D” keeps the actual date out of the hands of spices while acting as a placeholder until an actual date has been chosen. The same can be said for the term H-Hour.
The plans for what we now refer to as D-Day were years in the making. Initial plans for what was called Operation Sledgehammer were first considered in 1942, with a projected launch date sometime in 1943. The plan was to cross the Channel in an effort to help the Soviet Army and establish a second front. Operation Sledgehammer was scrapped in favor of hitting North Africa first, then Europe through what was considered it’s soft underbelly; Italy.
Two months before the June 6th D-Day launch, a dress rehearsal of the Normandy Invasion was carried out on an evacuated beach in England. Known as “Exercise Tiger”, 749 U.S. Troops lost their lives. A fleet of German E-Boats got wind of the exercise and turned the mock invasion into a real blood bath battle, and gave a glimpse into what was to come.
Officially named “Operation Overlord”, the real D-Day was the largest amphibious invasion in military history. The combined forces of American, British and Canadian troops involved 6,939 ships and landing vessels, 2,395 aircraft and 867 gliders to deploy 156,115 troops. In anticipation of some sort of invasion, Nazi forces set up a 2,400-mile line of bunkers, landmines, beach and water obstacles to hamper Allied efforts. It is estimated that four million landmines were planted along Normandy’s beaches alone.
D-Day was many things to many people. It was bloody, ugly and saw an end to many a young man’s life on both sides of the battlefield. It was also a turning point in the war. Less than a year later, Germany would sign an unconditional surrender.
To rightfully honor this day, it would take a huge amount of various dishes to represent all those who fought and died. Instead, I’ve used Poulet à la Normande as the foundation for my menu. While conflicts continue; it is my heart-felt prayer that one day the world can learn to live as one; respecting our differences while embracing our cultural contributions to the tapestry of human existence.
For Italy – Italian Salad with Creamy Dressing
For France – Poulet à la Normande
For America – Warm Garlic-Herb Pull Apart Bread
For Germany – Apfelkuchen (Apple Cake with Apricot Glaze)
Italian Salad with Creamy Dressing
1 tablespoon Mayonnaise
1/4 cup grated Parmesan Cheese
1 tablespoon White Wine Vinegar
1 tablespoon Sugar
1 tablespoons Dried Parsley
1 teaspoon Roasted Garlic Powder
1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1/2 teaspoon White Pepper
1/8 teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes
1 Lemon, juiced
1/4 cup Olive Oil
1 tablespoons additional Olive Oil
Place the mayonnaise, Parmesan Cheese, vinegar, sugar, parsley, garlic powder, salt, white pepper, and red pepper flakes to a blender. Cut lemon in half, squeeze both halves into the blender. While blending, slowly drizzle in the olive oil through the opening in the blender lid. Blend until ingredients are fully emulsified and slightly thickened. Transfer dressing to a sealable glass container such as a mason jar or glass salad dressing vessel.
2 bags pre-washed Italian Salad Blend (Romaine with Red Cabbage)
3/4 cup Grape Tomatoes
1/4 to 1/2 cup Niçoise or Kalamatas Olives (see note)
6 Pepperoncini, whole
1/2 small Red Onion
Freshly grated Parmesan Cheese
Note: Black olives can be used as a substitute for the more expensive olives.
Empty one bag of Salad Blend into a large chilled salad bowl. Scatter some tomatoes and olives over the Salad Blend. Empty the second bag, scatter remaining tomatoes and olives over the salad. Arrange Pepperoncini over the salad.
Cut onion in half, peel one half while retaining the other have for another purpose. Slice into rings or half-moon slices as desired. Scatter onion around the top of the salad. Toss well to blend.
Just before serving, grate Parmesan Cheese as desired over the top of the tossed salad. Serve with dressing on the side.
Poulet à la Normande
4 Chicken Quarters (4 legs; 4 thighs)
Kosher Salt to taste
2 Fuji Apples
1 large Yellow Onion
4 tablespoons Butter, divided
1/4 cup Flour for dredging
1/2 cup Apple Brandy
2 cups Apple Cider (the cloudy type)
1 teaspoon dried Thyme
1/2 cup Heavy Cream
Sprinkle salt over the chicken pieces and let sit for 20 minutes at room temperature.
Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Peel, core and slice apples into wedges; set aside. Peel onion, slice lengthwise (tip to root) into wedges; set aside.
Heat 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large, oven-proof sauté pan over medium heat. Add the apple slices and sauté until they turn a little brown around the edges, turning occasionally. Sprinkle the apple slices with a little salt. Set aside on paper towels to drain.
Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter into the empty sauté pan over medium heat. As the butter melts, swirl the pan. Dredge the chicken in flour and place the pieces, skin side down into the pan. Fry chicken until golden, about 5 minutes over medium to medium-high heat, adjusting heat as necessary to get a golden color on the skin. Remove the browned chicken from pan and set aside.
Add the onion wedges to the empty pan and increase the heat to medium-high. Spread the onion slices out in an even layer to cover the pan. As the onions cook they will release moisture that will help deglaze the pan of the browned bits from the chicken. Sauté the onions, stirring occasionally, until they just being to brown, about 5 minutes.
Add the brandy to the pan. Using a wooden spoon, scrape any remaining browned bits off the bottom of the pan. Let the brandy boil until it has reduced by about half. Add the cider and bring it to a boil.
Sprinkle in the thyme. Add just a pinch of salt to the cider. Arrange the chicken legs in the pan so the skin faces up and is not submerged by the cider-brandy mixture. Place in the oven and cook, uncovered, for 40 minutes.
Lower oven temperature to 300 degrees. Remove the pan from the oven. (Watch out for the hot handle!) Remove the chicken pieces from the pan and transfer to a platter. Place chicken back into oven uncovered while you finish the sauce.
Place the pan back on a stove-top burner on high heat. Add the apples and sprinkle with thyme. Allow sauce to boil down until it’s reduced by half. The sauce will begin to thicken slightly, almost syrupy.
Cook another 5 minutes on high, then lower heat and add the heavy cream. Stir until well blended.
To serve, divide the apples and onions with the a little sauce on individual plates, top with a piece of quarter chicken piece. Pour any remaining sauce into a gravy boat and pass at table-side.
Warm Garlic-Herb Pull Apart Bread
1/2 cup softened Butter
2 tablespoons fresh Italian (flat-leaf) Parsley, divided
1 tablespoon fresh Basil
2 Garlic Cloves, minced
2 teaspoons White Wine Vinegar
1 (16-oz) Round Sourdough Bread Loaf
1/2 cup Mozzarella Cheese, shredded
1/2 cup Parmesan Cheese, shredded
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil; set aside.
Place softened butter into a mixing bowl. Chop the parsley. Place 1 tablespoon in the bowl with the butter, reserve remaining tablespoon. Chop the basil, add to the butter. Mince the garlic, add to the butter. Add the white wine vinegar. Using a fork, mashed butter to blend well with the herb seasoning. Set aside.
Using a serrated knife, cut bread into a crisscross pattern, cutting to but not through bottom of bread. Place on prepared pan. Sprinkle cheeses between all cuts in bread, and spread butter mixture between all cuts and on top of bread.
Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until cheese is melted and bread is crisp. Sprinkle with remaining 1 tablespoon parsley. Serve immediately.
Apfelkuchen (Apple Cake with Apricot Glaze)
Apple Cake Batter
1/2 cup Currants
3 tablespoons Dark Rum
2 teaspoons Vanilla Extract
1 Lemon, zested and juiced
4 Apples, divided
3/4 cup Unsalted Butter, room temperature
3/4 cup Granulated Sugar
2 cups Flour
3 tablespoons Baking Powder
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt
Heat oven to 325-degrees. Using the bottom of a 10-inch round cake pan with removable bottom as a template, cut a piece of parchment paper to line the bottom of the pan. Spray paper with cooking spray on both sides. Place the parchment paper in the bottom of the cake pan, set aside.
Combine the currants, rum and vanilla extract in a microwavable bowl. Zest the lemon directly into the currant mixture. Cut the lemon in half, juice over the currants. Microwave for 30 seconds to heat. Let currants steep in the hot rum mixture while the batter is made.
Peel and dice 1 apple into 1/2-inch diced pieces. Set aside. Peel and slice remaining apples into decorative slices for the top of the cake. Either cut each apple into 8 wedge slices or cut apple in half, then cut each half into thin slices. Set aside.
Cream butter and sugar with a paddle attachment until light, fluffy and a pale yellow. In a separate bowl, crack eggs. Add eggs, one at a time, to the creamed butter; paddle until completely combined before adding the next egg. Set creamed butter aside.
In a mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Gently fold the dry ingredients into the creamed butter mixture.
Fill the prepared cake pan 3/4 of the way full. Arrange sliced apples in a decorative pattern on top. Place cake in the heated oven to bake for approximately 50 minutes to an hour or until cake tester inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.
Remove from oven and let sit in the cake pan for 5 minutes. Run a knife around the edge to loosen, then lift the bottom to turn the cake out onto a wire rack. Let cool completely, then place on a cake plate. Set cake aside and make the glaze.
1/4 cup Apricot Preserves
1 tablespoon Water
Powdered Sugar as needed for dusting
Place the apricot preserves in a bowl with 1 teaspoon of water; warm in the microwave for 15 seconds, stir well. Strain glaze into a small bowl. Using a pastry brush, glaze the top of the cake with the apricot preserves.
When ready to slice and serve, dust with powdered sugar just prior to serving.