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Home Cooking with Ingrid Mahar

Home Cooking is a regular feature on The Front Burner that offers a peek at how home cooks around the Fredericksburg area work in their kitchens. If you’d like to answer our questionnaire, download it here and return your responses to with a digital photo of yourself, or pass it along to anyone you think would like to participate.

Name: Ingrid Mahar

Tell us who you are and why you cook.

Co-owner of Poppy Hill Tuscan Kitchen. I used to cook out of necessity, obviously–I needed to eat and my chef husband [Poppy Hill chef Scott Mahar] worked nights–there is only so much take-out a person can (and should) eat. Then came the family and my entire motivation changed. I care now about creativity at home; making sure that I am inspired in the kitchen so my kids are equally inspired to eat has been a major driver when in the kitchen. Plus I like to know I am exposing them to different types of food.

Describe your cooking style in three words.

I am all over the place on this one — I love a complex French recipe one minute and then next thing I know, I am buying one of those check-out line “30 suppers in the crock pot” magazines. Depends on the day, what is going on and how much time I can dedicate to cooking (and quite frankly, how cooperative my kids are!).

How did you learn to cook?

Mom and grandma; but mostly through my husband, who is the most excellent chef I know.

Favorite cookbook?

Favorite cookbook of all time: The Joy of Cooking — nothing compares for not only recipes but techniques of home cooking.

Right now: Around my French Table by Dorie Greenspan, but truthfully, this list could go on for pages – my husband and I are avid cookbook collectors.

What is one dish on your menu this week that you’re excited about?

Steak frites, mussels mariniere, spring mix with Anjou pears, blue cheese and herb vinaigrette (I told you–I am on a French kick!)

What is one thing that must be in your pantry at all times?

Olive oil

What one kitchen gadget could you not live without?

8-inch chef’s knife

It’s 6 p.m., the people in your household are hungry and you just walked in from work and need to get something satisfying on the table as soon as possible. What’s your favorite thing to whip up in this situation?

A casserole that is anything but high-brow but oh-so-comforting and quick: Ritzy Chicken Casserole. It is made with a crust of Ritz crackers and lots of butter, chicken (left over or whatever you have on-hand), and a sauce of sour cream, cream of chicken soup, chicken broth, thyme, salt and pepper. 30 minutes in the oven and it is golden bubbly goodness. Add a little salad on the side and you are done with dinner.

It’s a snowy Sunday, you’ve just done the grocery shopping and have the rest of the day to spend in the kitchen cooking a meal that will bring comfort. What’s for dinner?

Hachis Parmentier (say what??) OK: It is the French version of a shepherd’s pie–pretty similar to the ground beef and vegetable classic, only with the added deliciousness of a sausage layer under the mashed potatoes. I would also make some yeast rolls, and for dessert–profiteroles with hazlenut and chocolate gelato, drizzled with dark chocolate sauce and sprinkled with way too much powdered sugar.

What is your favorite dish to make for pot-luck dinners?

A baked pasta dish for dinners and for brunch/lunches, I always do a quiche.

Do you have a favorite food source in the Fredericksburg region?

Snead’s Farm — Spring is king for Snead’s asparagus, and summer brings sweet berries and lush tomatoes from Emmit and his family. I also have to mention the Kitchen at Whittingham downtown for the best kitchen wares selection around.

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  • rnargi

    Just a quick note to say THANK YOU for Poppy Hill. By far the only Italian/Mediterranean restaurant worth frequenting in Fredericksburg. I’ve lived here for 24 years now and finally there is a restaurant that rivals any I’ve visited in NYC, Boston, D.C., etc, I truly value your establishment!

  • Bob Mercurio

    You are a smart woman. I have only lived here for 8 years and could not agree more. I grew up in New York and my father was in the Restaurant Business and I have yet to find another Restaurant like Poppy Hill. Anyone who reads this and hasn’t tried it–GO NOW!!!!!!!!