AUBURN – Diane Landry, who loves to help others, says cooking is one of her favorite ways to show that she cares. She has cooked for three different rehearsal dinners and for a friend’s funeral.

This Cook of the Week won’t accept payment for this labor of love as she says “that’s what I can do,” to help someone out. As the youngest of five children, said she’s accustomed to cooking in quantity.

Landry’s earliest memories of cooking are when she was 5 years old. Her mom would stick her in the kitchen sink and have her peel the potatoes.

“I was happy as can be to sit and peel – it’s still my job to bring the potatoes to a family function.” With all of this experience, Landry offers advice for cooking potatoes and avoiding a “mushy potato salad.” In cooking, says Landry, it’s often the “techniques, not the ingredients” that can make a dish taste good.

Here’s her advice: “Don’t try and bring your potatoes to a rapid boil on high. Bring to a slow simmering boil and don’t add salt until the water is boiling, or you will ruin your pans. Then turn off the heat and let the potatoes sit for 10 minutes before draining.”

Landry has several must-haves in her kitchen, including a gas stove and a grill. She loves her fine-quality knives. And, if she cooks outside of her home, she brings her own cookware.

Landry, a real estate broker with Coldwell Banker Millett Realty of Auburn, lives in Auburn with her 17-year-old son, Sam, and her three cats. She also has a grown daughter, Chelsea. When she isn’t working or cooking, she enjoys being out at the lake, walking or playing the piano.

Blueberry cake

4 eggs

2 cups sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup shortening

2 teaspoons vanilla

3 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

2/3 cup milk

4 cups wild Maine blueberries
3 or 4 tablespoons sugar
Method: Separate the eggs, placing four egg whites in a medium mixing bowl and the four egg yolks in another large mixing bowl. On very high speed, use mixer to beat egg whites till they form stiff peaks. Set aside. Add the sugar, vanilla and shortening to the bowl containing the egg yolks and beat on a high speed till creamy. In a separate bowl, sift flour, baking powder and salt. Alternately, add the flour mixture and the milk to the egg yolk mixture. Beat on a low speed for 2 minutes, scraping the sides of the bowl. Then fold in the blueberries. Gently fold in the egg white. Pour into a 13-by-9-inch glass baking pan that has been greased and floured. Sprinkle the 3 to 4 tablespoons of sugar evenly over the cake and bake at 350 degrees for 50 to 60 minutes. Check with a toothpick to make sure it’s done. If there is uncooked batter or many damp crumbs on the toothpick, the cake should be cooked a little while longer and then checked again.

Diane’s note:

There are many methods to separating an egg, but the real trick is being sure that none of the yolk gets into the egg white. I simply break the egg in my clean hand over a bowl so the yolk stays in my hand. But do what ever method you like.

Old-fashioned potato salad

5 pounds, unpeeled red potatoes

1 bunch of celery hearts, finely chopped

1 large Vidalia onion (any sweet onion), finely chopped

1 dozen eggs

2 tablespoons relish

1 tablespoon yellow mustard

1 cup more or less of mayonnaise (not too much)

1 to 2 teaspoons garlic powder

2 teaspoons fresh ground pepper (more if you like)
Kosher salt
Method: In a saucepan, place the dozen eggs carefully in the bottom, trying to make just one layer of eggs. Cover with water (about 3 inches). Bring to a boil. Then turn off the heat and cover. Set a timer for 10 minutes. Then run cold water over eggs and let them cool completely. Peel and chop eggs.
In a 10-quart stockpot, place washed potatoes in cold water. The water must be at least 4 or 5 inches above the potatoes. Place on medium heat and bring to a slow, rolling boil. Add 2 tablespoons of kosher salt. (Do not add salt until the water is boiling or it will pit your pans.) Reduce heat and simmer for about 30 minutes or until the potatoes are tender. (Do not boil potatoes on high heat.) Strain and cool unpeeled potatoes for about an hour; you also could cook them the day before making the salad.

Peel the cooled potatoes and chop in about 2-inch pieces. Place potatoes, eggs, celery and onion in a large bowl and mix together. Sprinkle with 3 teaspoons kosher salt, pepper and garlic powder. Then add the relish, mustard and mayonnaise and gently mix. Taste to see if it needs more salt; if so, add it 1 teaspoon at a time. Refrigerate till ready to eat.

Diane’s gourmet burger

2 pounds fresh (not previously frozen) 85 percent lean hamburger

8 quality hamburger rolls

1 pound softened butter

1 head garlic (not a clove – the entire head)

1 tablespoon sun-dried tomatoes (in a jar in olive oil), drained

2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped

1 teaspoon kosher salt (other salt may be substituted)
1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
Method: Unwrap butter, place in a bowl and bring to room temperature.

Cut top off head of garlic and place in 350-degree oven. Bake for 30 minutes or until garlic is very soft. Cool for 15 minutes and squeeze garlic into softened butter. Add sun-dried tomatoes and basil to bowl with garlic butter and mix thoroughly by hand. On a 2-foot sheet of wax paper or parchment paper, spoon out butter mixture to form a log about 2 inches in diameter; roll tightly using the paper to form the log. Take the paper-wrapped butter and wrap it in plastic wrap and place in freezer for at least 4 hours.

Divide hamburger into 8 equal portions Slice the frozen butter into half-inch slices and place in the center of the burger, making sure to completely surround the frozen butter with hamburger to seal it.

Sprinkle burgers with kosher salt and ground pepper on both sides.

Preheat grill to medium heat; place burgers on grill and reduce the heat to low, cook for approximately 5 minutes or until moisture forms on the top, then flip them and cook for an additional 4 to 5 minutes.

Diane’s note:

Never cut or pierce the hamburgers, and do not press down on them with a spatula because this will make your meat dry and tasteless. To check for doneness, press on your palm then gently press your burger. They should feel the same, and I promise it will be cooked to perfection.

Toast the bun because these hamburgers are extra juicy. Top with your favorite cheese and hamburger toppings. Butter may also be used on top of grilled steak. This makes more garlic butter than you need for this recipe. Freeze the rest and use for burgers again.

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