This weekend I'm faced with the challenging combination of a home team going to the Super Bowl and a dozen teenaged Redskins fans, my son included, in the house watching the game. "We'll be hungry, Mom," was my only instruction for preparing the all-important halftime meal.

Not for me the last-minute anxieties of hamburger or a homemade pizza. I'll cook up this menu well in advance, set it on the hot plate and leave them to cheer the Redskins to victory.

The Pennsylvania Dutch have a way with stews, adding spices, dried fruits, and often a touch of sour vinegar or lemon juice to balance the sweet. With a rich meat like pork, the combination is perfect. Stews like this are remarkably simple, needing almost no attention during cooking. They reheat well and the flavor mellows on keeping.

What could be more satisfying than pork stew with corn meal and cheese? Here yellow or white corn meal is simmered with milk to a smooth mush, then left to set and cut into squares. When layered in a dish and sprinkled with cheese and butter, the squares bake to be deliciously brown and fragrant, resembling Italian polenta. They are a good accompaniment to beef stew as well as pork, or make a warming winter appetizer.

Salad in winter can be a puzzle if faded hothouse lettuce is to be avoided. Root vegetables come into their own in mixtures like this classic beet, Belgian endive and watercress salad. Less expensive curly endive can replace the Belgian endive, and in Europe, where the salad originates, velvety lamb's lettuce, also called ma~che, is used instead of watercress -- excellent if you can find it. All the vegetables can be prepared ahead, but do not toss them with dressing until the last minute as the beets will bleed their color.

Aunt Ruth was a character I met when visiting the Pennsylvania Dutch country. A grand old lady she was, whose children profited from her talent for cooking by selling her wares in the local farmers' market. When I was there, the day's offering was a moist apple pandowdy flavored with molasses and turned out like an upside-down cake. I've added to the mix some tart rhubarb, just coming into season. Served plain or topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, it's a tactic bound to succeed with Super Bowl fans. Timetable

The ultimate in make-ahead menus, with all the dishes cooked in advance.

Up to three days before serving: Make pork stew.

Up to two days before serving: Prepare cornmeal squares. Cook beets and make dressing for salad. Bake apple and rhubarb pandowdy.

Fifty minutes before serving: Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Forty minutes before serving: Reheat pandowdy in oven.

Ten minutes before serving: Remove pandowdy and keep warm. Raise oven heat to 450 degree and brown squares. Reheat the stew.

Just before serving: Add butter to stew. Toss the salad. PENNSYLVANIA DUTCH PORK STEW (12 servings)

Dried apples or pears are an excellent addition to this stew.

4 pounds boned pork shoulder

6 tablespoons flour

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Salt and pepper to taste

2 tablespoons oil

3 cups stock or water, more if needed

8 ounces pitted prunes

6 ounces dried apricots

2/3 cup raisins

Juice of 1 lemon

1/4 cup ( 1/2 stick) butter, cut in pieces (to finish)

Cut pork in 1 1/2-inch cubes. Season the flour with nutmeg, salt and pepper and toss pork in it until well coated. In a flameproof casserole heat oil and fry pork cubes, a few at a time, until well browned. Replace them in the pan and add stock or water. Cover the pan, bring to a boil, and cook in a 325-degree oven for 1 hour.

Meanwhile, put dried fruits and raisins in a bowl, pour over boiling water to cover and leave to soak. After 1 hour, drain fruits and stir them into the pork, with more stock or water if the pan seems dry. Cover and continue simmering 1/2 to 3/4 hour longer until pork and fruits are tender.

Add lemon juice to sauce and taste for seasoning. The stew can be refrigerated up to 3 days or frozen.

To finish: reheat stew on top of the stove. Take from the heat and add the butter, shaking the pan so the butter melts and mixes into the sauce.


Yellow or white cornmeal works equally well.

2 quarts milk, more if needed

1 onion, studded with 2 cloves

1 bay leaf

1 teaspoon peppercorns

Pinch grated nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 cups cornmeal

6 egg yolks

2 cups grated cheddar cheese

2 tablespoons dijon-style mustard

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, melted

In a saucepan, bring milk, onion, bay leaf, peppercorns, nutmeg and 1/2 teaspoon salt to a boil. Cover, leave over low heat to infuse 15 minutes; strain. Thickly butter a 10-by-15-inch jellyroll pan or tray.

Return milk to the pan and gradually whisk in cornmeal. Bring to a boil and simmer, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until mixture is thick but still falls easily from the spoon, 5 to 8 minutes. Note: Mixture should not be sticky; if necessary, add more milk.

Take pan from the heat and beat in the egg yolks, one by one, so they thicken in the heat of the mixture. Stir in half the cheese with mustard and taste for seasoning. Spread mixture in prepared pan to form a 1/2-inch layer. Brush top with half of melted butter and chill 2 hours or until set.

Warm pan over the heat to melt butter. Cut mixture in 2-inch squares. Arrange the squares to overlap in a shallow baking dish. Pour over remaining melted butter and sprinkle with remaining cheese. The squares can be refrigerated 2 days or frozen.

To finish: Heat oven to 450 degrees or light the broiler. Bake or broil the squares until browned and very hot, 7 to 10 minutes. ENDIVE, BEET, AND WATERCRESS SALAD (12 servings)

Leaving all the root and some of the stem on beets reduces the amount of juice lost during cooking.

1 1/2 pounds beets

1 1/2 pounds belgian endive, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1 cup walnut pieces, coarsely chopped

2 bunches watercress, tough stems discarded


1/4 cup vinegar

2 teaspoons dijon-style mustard

Salt and pepper to taste

3/4 cup oil

Wash beets and trim all but 2 inches of stems and tops. Wrap the beets tightly in foil and bake in a 400-degree oven until tender, about 1 hour. Let cool in their wrapping. Peel and cut into 1/2-inch cubes.

For the dressing: Whisk together vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper until mixed. Add oil in a thin stream, whisking constantly so dressing emulsifies and thickens slightly. Beets and dressing may be kept covered in the refrigerator up to 2 days.

Just before serving, combine beets, endive, walnuts and watercress in a bowl. Whisk dressing until reemulsified. Add to salad and toss.

For extra spice, add a half cup of chopped candied ginger to the fruit.


2 pounds apples, peeled and thinly sliced

1 pound sliced rhubarb

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup dark molasses

3 cups flour

1 cup sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

2 eggs

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, melted

1 cup milk

Put apples and rhubarb in a bowl, sprinkle with nutmeg, cinnamon and salt and toss to mix. Spread fruit in a buttered 3-quart shallow baking dish and drizzle molasses on top.

Cover dish with foil and bake fruit in a 350-degree oven until tender when pierced with a fork, 30 to 40 minutes.

Mix the flour, sugar and baking powder in a bowl and make a well in the center. Add eggs, butter, and half the milk and stir, gradually drawing in the flour to make a smooth batter. Stir in remaining milk.

Pour batter over fruit and continue to bake, uncovered, until batter has set and a skewer inserted in the center of the batter comes out clean, 25 to 35 minutes. Pandowdy can be refrigerated up to 2 days.

If necessary, reheat pandowdy in a 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes.

It can be served in the dish, or turned out on a platter as an upside down cake.