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Meal planning

Rack of lamb-delicious and festive!

Rack of lamb is usually an entree reserved only for special occasions.  However, this recipe is so easy that it can be prepared ahead of time and popped in the oven for 40  minutes before you’re ready to eat  (25 minutes of cooking time and 15 minutes  of resting time) ….leaving you time for entertaining.

"Happy Easter" chocolate bar center piece
“Happy Easter” chocolate bar center piece

Easy rack of lamb recipe

Rack of lambFrom: GalleyChef.org
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
4 20minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
20minutes 15minutes
Servings Prep Time
4 20minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
20minutes 15minutes
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Season the racks of lamb with salt and pepper. Let stand at room temperature for 1 hour. In a bowl, stir together the bread crumbs, rosemary, salt and pepper. In a small bowl mix the mustard, egg and garlic. Preheat an oven to 375°F. Brush the meaty side of each lamb rack with 1 Tbs. mustard mixture.
  2. Pack the bread crumb mixture onto the meaty side.
  3. In a large fry pan over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil until just smoking. Add the lamb racks, bread-crumb side down, and brown on both sides, about 2 minutes per side. (you can prepare the lamb up to a day ahead of time and stop here, then finish 40 minutes before you're ready to eat.) Bake in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer the lamb to a carving board, cover loosely with aluminum foil and let rest for 15 minutes. Carve the racks into double chops and serve immediately. Place the racks, bread-crumb side up, on a rack in a roasting pan. Transfer to the oven and roast until the crust is nicely browned and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat, away from the bone, registers 130°F for medium-rare, 20 to 25 minutes, or until done to your liking.
Recipe Notes

When placing the racks in the roasting pan, set them so the bones are crossed at the top.

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Slather on  plenty of dijon  mustard mixture before pressing in  the bread crumbs.
Slather on plenty of dijon mustard mixture before pressing in the bread crumbs.
Sear the  rack of lamb before baking.
Sear the rack of lamb before baking.

Other  ideas:

Color a couple of dozen eggs and load them up in a big bowl to offer your guests  with a cocktail  before dinner.  Deviled eggs are always a welcome treat as well.  Caesar salad is a delicious  and lite accompaniment with this spring-time meal.   Other great  ideas: roasted root vegetables, asparagus, rosemary roasted potatoes or garlic mashed potatoes.

Dessert:

Solid chocolate bunny surrounded by jelly beans and chocolate truffles on antique flow blue china.
Solid chocolate bunny surrounded by jelly beans and chocolate truffles on antique flow blue china.

 

Thanksgiving Dinner with Friends and Family

“For each new morning with its light,                                                                         For rest and shelter of the night,                                                                                   For health and food, for love and friends,                                                              For everything Thy goodness sends.”

~Ralph Waldo Emerson

We have a small family, (4 members to be exact!)  so at Thanksgiving, it fills my heart with joy to invite friends to my table to fill the room with laughter and love.  According to what traditionally is known as “The First Thanksgiving,” the 1621 feast between the  Pilgrims and the Wampanoag indians consisted of  turkey,  waterfowl, venison, fish, lobster, clams, berries, fruit, pumpkin and squash.  Keeping with tradition, my menu this year includes roast turkey and stuffing (not to be confused with dressing),

Turkey stuffed with Italian Sausage Stuffing
Turkey stuffed with Italian Sausage Stuffing

whipped potatoes and gravy (not to be confused with mashed), cranberry sauce

Cranberry Sauce
Cranberry Sauce

(not to be confused with Cranberry jelly), scalloped oysters,

Scalloped Oysters

green bean casserole,

green bean casserole2apple pie with rosemary and thyme

apple pie3and to wash it all down with, an ice-cold Gewürztraminer to go with the turkey, champagne with the apple pie and some roasted chestnutschestnuts sauteed

with sparkling apple cider to nibble on while waiting to sit down.  This may sound like a huge undertaking to some, however, with a few little tricks, this meal can be accomplished stress-free.  I start two days in advance to get the grocery shopping done.  Then I  peel the chestnuts, and make the cranberries.

Chestnuts sauteed in butter with rosemaryFrom: GalleyChef.org
Print Recipe
Chestnuts sauteed in butter are savory, salty caramelized treats. The rosemary makes it a perfect holiday snack.
Servings Prep Time
2cups 3minutes
Cook Time
5minutes
Servings Prep Time
2cups 3minutes
Cook Time
5minutes
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Melt butter in a saute pan over medium-low heat. Add chestnuts and toss to coat well. Season with salt and saute until dark golden brown on both sides. Sprinkle in the rosemary, remove from heat, let cool. Chestnuts can be stored in an air tight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
Recipe Notes

See "how to" to peel fresh chestnuts.

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It’s all about organization.  The next day the apple pie is made, the stuffing is made, and the turkey goes into the brine.

Apple Pie with Rosemary and ThymeFrom: GalleyChef.org
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
8people 30minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
1hour 1hour
Servings Prep Time
8people 30minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
1hour 1hour
Ingredients
For the filling
Instructions
For the pie crust
  1. Sift together flour and salt into a food processor. Add the lard and butter and pulse until the size of small peas. Gradually add ice water, until dough comes together in a ball. Shape into 2 balls, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for at least one hour. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Roll out 1 pastry ball and line the pie pan with it. Pour filling into pie dish and dot with butter. Roll out remaining pastry and fit to top of pie. Pinch the edges closed. Slice three holes down the center to allow steam to escape. .
  2. Fit aluminum foil around the edges to prevent burning. Bake for 20 minutes, reduce heat to 375 and bake for 20 minutes, remove foil and bake another 20 minutes. Remove and let cool.
For the filling
  1. Combine apples, sugar, thyme, rosemary, salt, corn starch, lime juice and lime zest in a large bowl and set aside for 1-2 hours.
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Brine - the best way to impart moisture and flavor From: GalleyChef.org
Print Recipe
Brining is a technique used to tenderize and flavor meats prior to cooking.
Prep Time
10minutes
Prep Time
10minutes
Instructions
  1. Place all the ingredients into a pot and heat just until boiling to dissolve the salt and sugar. Stir and let cool.
Recipe Notes

After this mixture cools, add flavors to this basic recipe to impart a taste that suits your individual palate.  Anything goes.  Some suggestions are: garlic cloves, peeled and crushed;a small onion, thinly sliced;1 lemon, thinly sliced;1 orange, thinly sliced;cloves

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Thanksgiving morning I prep the turkey and get it in the oven.

Turkey roasted for Thanksgiving dinnerFrom: GalleyChef.org
Print Recipe
The best turkey I've ever had. The breast meat is so moist, it melts in your mouth.
Servings Prep Time
10people 10minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
4hours 24hours
Servings Prep Time
10people 10minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
4hours 24hours
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. The day before you roast the turkey, make a brine and let the turkey sit in the brine for 12-24 hours. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Take the giblets out of the turkey and wash the turkey inside and out. Remove any excess fat and leftover pinfeathers and pat the outside dry. Stuff the turkey with Italian sausage stuffing. Make a pocket between the skin and the breast and stuff with stuffing. Place the turkey in a large roasting pan. Brush the outside of the turkey with oil. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and rosemary. Tie the legs together with string and tuck the wing tips under the body of the turkey. Roast the turkey 1 hour then tent it with foil and cook another 3 hours, or until the juices run clear when you cut between the leg and the thigh. Remove the turkey to a cutting board and cover with aluminum foil; let rest for 30 to 40 minutes. Slice the turkey and serve.
Recipe Notes

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I make the scalloped oysters

Scalloped oysters, the perfect holiday side dish!From: GalleyChef.org
Print Recipe
Scalloped oysters are rich and creamy with a hint of peppery heat.
Servings Prep Time
6people 15minutes
Cook Time
30minutes
Servings Prep Time
6people 15minutes
Cook Time
30minutes
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Drain the oysters into a 2 cup measuring cup reserving the liquid. Set the oysters aside.
  2. Add the cream to the liquid. Add all of the seasoning. Combine the crackers with the melted butter. Butter a 9 inch square pyrex baking dish and set aside. To assemble: Put 1/3 of the crackers into the baking dish. Then add half of the oysters spreading them out evenly over the crackers. Pour 1/3 of the liquid evenly over the oysters. Add another 1/3 of crackers, then remaining oysters, then 1/3 of the liquid and finish with remaining crackers and pouring the last of the liquid over the entire dish. Bake 30 minutes until the top is golden brown. Let rest for 10 minutes before serving.
Recipe Notes

Saltines can be used in place of the Ritz crackers for a lighter, less rich effect.

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and green bean casserole,
Green bean casseroleFrom: GalleyChef.org
Print Recipe
Fresh crunchy green beans in a creamy cheese sauce make this dish perfect for Thanksgiving, Christmas, or any family gathering.
Servings Prep Time
8people 15minutes
Cook Time
30minutes
Servings Prep Time
8people 15minutes
Cook Time
30minutes
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Blanch the haricot vert until they are al dente, about 3 minutes. Melt 3 T butter in a dutch oven. Add flour. Stir and cook until the flour is a light brown color. Stir in the salt, onion, sour cream and green beans. Transfer the mixture to a casserole dish.
  2. Spread cheese over top. Add 1 T melted butter to bread crumbs and parmesan cheese, mixing thoroughly. Sprinkle over casserole. Bake for 30 minutes until golden brown and bubbly.
© Galley Chef All Rights Reserved
and peel and cut the potatoes.  When the turkey comes out of the oven to rest (about an hour), everything else goes into the oven and I start the mashed potatoes and gravy.  
Mashed Potatoes and GravyFrom: GalleyChef.org
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
4people 20minutes
Cook Time
20minutes
Servings Prep Time
4people 20minutes
Cook Time
20minutes
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Fill a large bowl with cold water. Peel the potatoes and plunge them into the water as you finish peeling them. Fill a large saucepan half way with water. Cut the potatoes into ½ inch pieces. Add them to the saucepan as you cut to keep them from oxidating and turning brown. Bring the potatoes to a boil over medium heat. Lower the heat and cook for 20 minutes or until they are fork-tender. Drain the potatoes in a colander. Use a Foley Food Mill for a light and silky consistency. Add the butter, cream and salt.
For the Gravy
  1. Melt 3 tablespoons of butter in a saucepan. Add 3 tablespoons of flour to the melted butter and cook it for a couple of minutes until it’s a light golden brown. Add 2 cups of chicken or turkey stock to the pan. Continue to cook and stir until the gravy thickens. Salt and pepper to taste. (if you are cooking a turkey or chicken, use the drippings from the bottom of the pan in your gravy.
© Galley Chef All Rights Reserved
That’s it.  No worries.  Be sure to get an extra big turkey so everyone will have left overs to nibble on the following day.  My favorite way to eat left over turkey? A turkey melt, with stuffing, cranberries and mozzarella cheese on rye bread.  So when you do your grocery shopping, be sure to get plenty of rye bread and mozzarella! Cheers!

 

Anthony Road Wine Company Martini-Reinhardt Selection Dinner

“A gourmet meal without a glass of wine just seems tragic to me somehow.”

― Kathy Mattea

On Saturday, June 28, 2014 Anthony Road Wine Company had their 12th annual Martini-Reinhardt Winemaker’s Selection Dinner.  The idea is to pair wines by renowned head winemaker, Peter Becraft and consulting winemaker, Johannes Reinhardt with delicious food prepared by Finger Lakes chef Samantha Buyskes.

Martini Reinhardt Selection Dinner (18)

The winery is owned by Ann and John Martini.  Perched high on a hill overlooking beautiful Seneca Lake and surrounded by flowers, gardens, and wild life. It was somewhat of a surreal experience standing in the midst of all this beauty with a glass of 2013 dry rose in one hand and a zucchini, feta & mint fritter in the other.  Some of the other captivating hors d’oeuvres were:  artichoke & caper deviled eggs, kale dip with crudité and asian lettuce wraps.

Dining with a view of the vineyards and lake.
Dining with a view of the vineyards and lake.

Dining was on the terrace overlooking the lake and vineyards with live music by quartet 442.

Martini Reinhardt Selection Dinner (23)

We started with a smoked trout & scallop napoleon layered with Yukon gold potatoes, and paired with a 2008 semi dry Riesling – the Governor’s Cup winner, excellent! (my favorite of the night)….and the presentation……. astounding!

Smoked trout and scallop napoleon layered with Yokon gold potato
Smoked trout and scallop Napoleon layered with Yukon gold potato
2008 Semi Dry Riesling-Governor's cup winner
2008 Semi Dry Riesling-Governor’s cup winner

Next came buccatini with white bean, asparagus, shiitake mushrooms, lovage & Parmigiano Reggiano. For those who have not heard of lovage, this is a trendy new herb that chefs are using.  It has a celery-like flavor – perfect with the 2013 dry Riesling which had lemony notes and other citrus aromas.   Try this recipe.  It’s easy and delicious.

Buccatini with white bean, asparagus, shitake mushrooms, lovage & parmesanFrom: GalleyChef.org
Print Recipe
This deliciously hearty dish is earthy and creamy with the bright celery-like flavor of lovage - unforgettable!
Servings Prep Time
6people 10minutes
Cook Time
10minutes
Servings Prep Time
6people 10minutes
Cook Time
10minutes
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Heat a pot of water until boiling. Add 1 tablespoon salt and 1 tablespoon olive oil to boiling water. Add pasta to boiling water and cook for 8 minutes until al dente; drain.
  2. Meanwhile, heat ¼ cup butter with the remaining 2 T olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and asparagus, salt and pepper and cook for a few minutes until asparagus starts to soften. Add white beans and riesling and cook for about 4 minutes allowing the wine to cook down a little and the alcohol flavor to be removed. Toss in the pasta and lovage and mix it all thoroughly. Pour into a large serving bowl and top with parmesan cheese.
Recipe Notes

Celery leaves can be substituted for lovage.

© Galley Chef All Rights Reserved

The grilled flatbread with goat cheese, broccoli rabe, mozzarella and red pepper oil was superb.  With just the right amount of char on the crust this pizza went beautifully with the 2013 pinot gris.  The Pinot gris was light and delicate with lingering notes of mango balancing out the richness of the cheese.

Grilled flatbread with goat cheese, broccoli rabe, red pepper oil and mozzarella
Grilled flat bread with goat cheese, broccoli rabe, red pepper oil and mozzarella

Chef Buyskes’ grilled lamb loin chops with lamb sausage, lentils and artichokes were over the top.  The 2012 Merlot with heady blackberry and dark cherry aromas and flavors of cherry and vanilla was a match made in heaven.

Grilled lamb chops with lamb sausage, lentils and artichokes
Grilled lamb chops with lamb sausage, lentils and artichokes

A simple but fabulous, ginger ice cream with blueberry compote and lavender shortbread, garnished with candied ginger was the grand finale. The sweet ice cream melts on the tongue, while the heavenly blueberry compote adds a surprisingly lively note which is balanced by the lavender shortbread. The Anthony Road 2012 Martini-Reinhardt Selection Riesling paired beautifully with it.

Ginger ice cream, blueberry compote and lavender shortbread
Ginger ice cream, blueberry compote and lavender shortbread
2012 Martini-Reinhardt Selection Riesling
2012 Martini-Reinhardt Selection Riesling

After each bite of food and each sip of wine, it was clear to me that the artisans making these delicacies, do so with a passion rarely seen. By the end of the evening I felt nothing but blessed for having had such an overwhelmingly inspirational feast.

“Seize the moment. Remember all those women on the ‘Titanic’ who waved off the dessert cart.”
― Erma Bombeck

 

Colorado Grass Fed Leg of Lamb, Potatoes Dauphinoise, Asparagus, Puree of Carrots and Strawberry Tart

 

 

“Dining with one’s friends and beloved family is certainly one of life’s primal and most innocent delights, one that is both soul-satisfying and eternal.”   Julia Childs

The convergence of Spring, Easter, family and friends resulted in one really spectacular meal. This past weekend we celebrated Easter with tender grass-fed Colorado leg of lamb, cheesy potatoes dauphinoise, asparagus with lemony butter, puree of carrot – light as a feather and spiked with cream, and that quintessential dessert, strawberry tart, with sweet pastry cream that melts on the tongue , and heavenly strawberries spiked with orange liquor adding a surprisingly peppy note that balanced the richness of the cream.

Easter dinner guests 2014
Easter dinner guests 2014

It  was finally time to taste that leg of lamb which had been roasting in rosemary and garlic  with its heady aromas for over an hour.  At the table we relished the sight of all the colorful dishes.  I had been looking forward to this meal and the company of friends and family all week.  Both elegant and colorful with flavors that pop ….. this meal is  a memory maker!

Carrots Pureed with butter and creamFrom: GalleyChef.org
Print Recipe
Servings
8
Servings
8
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Place 3 carrots in a pot. Cover with water and add 2 teaspoons salt. Bring to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes. Carrots should be tender to the point of a knife.
  2. Drain.
  3. Line a bowl with cheese cloth.Place carrots in a food mill and strain on top of the cheesecloth.
  4. Tie the corners of the cheesecloth. Push a stick through it and let it hang in a deep vessel to drain the pulp of excess moisture for 2 hours.Lift and press to extrude more liquid. Use the liquid for vegetable stock in soup. Place the pulp in a saucepan. Add heavy cream, butter, salt, and pepper to taste. Heat slowly on low heat and serve hot.
Recipe Notes

Prepare a day in advance.

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I tried to find a local butcher that had grass-fed lamb but that was like trying to whip cream with a toothpick.  I ended up ordering the lamb on-line from an organic Colorado farmer.   For the best looking presentation, I trimmed about an inch of flesh from the shank bone.  The fell is a thin outer layer of fat that you find if you buy an untrimmed leg from a butcher.  It’s very  tough so it’s important to remove all of it.  Trim the excess  fat that lies beneath the fell as well, leaving enough to enrich the meat and gravy.

Leg of lamb stuffed with feta cheese, pine nuts, apricots and mintFrom: GalleyChef.org
Print Recipe
The rich umami flavor of roasted lamb and mint with creamy, tangy feta cheese and the crunch of pine nuts. Delicious!
Servings Prep Time
6 25minutes
Servings Prep Time
6 25minutes
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Cut six 2-foot lengths of butcher's twine. In a small skillet sauté apricots and shallots in butter 1 minute or until lightly browned. Transfer to a small bowl and mix well with feta cheese, pine nuts and mint; season to taste with salt and pepper.
  2. To butterfly the lamb. Arrange the lamb on work surface, inside facing up. Cut through to the bone. Then around the bone on each side to open it up.
  3. Place a sheet of plastic wrap over lamb and pound with a meat mallet to flatten meat slightly, if needed, until leg is a fairly even thickness. Remove plastic wrap and generously season inside and outside of lamb with salt and pepper.
  4. Mound stuffing mixture lengthwise along one side of lamb; roll up lamb over stuffing, tucking in ends.
  5. Space 5 pieces of twine under lamb roll and tie them firmly, starting at outside and working in. Tie roll lengthwise with remaining piece of twine. In a roasting pan set over 2 burners, heat oil over high heat. Add lamb roll and sear all over, about 6 minutes in all. Transfer lamb to a rack and set down in the roasting pan. Roast until brown and tender and an instant read thermometer reads 140 degrees F for medium rare, about 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes, basting occasionally. Remove from oven and let sit, covered loosely with foil, 10 minutes. To serve, discard strings, slice in 12 pieces and serve
© Galley Chef All Rights Reserved

I  purchased two legs so, with any luck, I would have leftovers to make shepherds pie.

Potatoes Dauphinoise, a French TraditionFrom: GalleyChef.org
Print Recipe
A creamy, nutty potato side dish elegant enough to impress the most discerning individual, yet rustic enough to serve any time.
Servings
8
Cook Time Passive Time
1hour 12hours
Servings
8
Cook Time Passive Time
1hour 12hours
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Finely slice the potatoes using a mandoline and set aside in water until ready to use. Combine the cream, milk, nutmeg, garlic and a pinch of salt and pepper in a large saucepan and bring to the boil. Once boiling, remove from the heat and set aside. Strain the water off the potatoes and layer inside a small oven dish lined with parchment paper, sprinkling gruyere cheese between each layer and being sure to overlap each layer as you go. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Pour enough of the cream mixture over the potatoes to cover and bake in the oven for 45 minutes or until slightly golden on top and tender through the middle. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Weigh down with butter, cheese or any other heavy square object and set aside in the fridge to press for up to 12 hours. Reheat the potato dauphinoise in the oven set to 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Divide into portions and serve immediately as a side dish.
Recipe Notes

* Make this a day in advance and reheat for your party. For a variation, layer with cooked mushrooms and truffle cheese.

© Galley Chef All Rights Reserved

The potatoes dauphinoise are classic.  They need to “rest” for 12 hours while under a press, so they make a great “do ahead” party dish.  In the unlikely event that there are leftover potatoes,  heat up a stack for breakfast with a poached egg on top.

Asparagus with lemon butter
Asparagus with lemon butter

Check out the beautiful spring-like feel to this dish of asparagus.  Line up cooked asparagus spears and drizzle with lemony butter (lemon zest and butter) for an unforgettable presentation.  Serve warm or at room temperature. 

Strawberry Tart with Pastry CreamFrom: GalleyChef.org
Print Recipe
Scrumptious fresh strawberries make this a spring-time favorite.
Servings Prep Time
8 35minutes
Cook Time
25minutes
Servings Prep Time
8 35minutes
Cook Time
25minutes
Ingredients
For the Tart
For the pastry cream
Instructions
For the tart
  1. Combine the flour, sugar, and salt in a small bowl and place in the freezer for 30 minutes. Put the flour mixture in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add the butter and shortening and pulse about 10 times, or until the butter is in the size of peas. Add the ice water and process until the dough comes together. Dump on a well-floured board and form into a disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for at least 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Roll out the dough and fit into 4 (4 1/2-inch) tart pans with removable sides. Don't stretch the dough when placing it in the pans or it will shrink during baking. Cut off the excess by rolling the pin across the top of each pan. Line the tart shells with a piece of buttered aluminum foil, butter side down, and fill them with dried beans or rice. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove the beans and foil, prick the bottom of the shells all over with a fork, and bake for another 15 to 20 minutes until lightly browned. Set aside to cool.
  2. Before serving, fill the tart shells with the pastry cream. Arrange the berries decoratively on top of the cream. Melt the apricot jelly with 1 teaspoon of water and brush the top of the tarts. Sprinkle with pistachios, if using, and serve.
For the pastry cream
  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the egg yolks and sugar on medium-high speed for 4 minutes, or until very thick. Reduce to low speed, and add the cornstarch. With the mixer still on low, slowly pour the hot milk into the egg mixture. Pour the mixture into a medium saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the mixture thickens, 5 to 7 minutes. Don't be alarmed when the custard comes to a boil and appears to curdle; switch to a whisk and beat vigorously. Cook, whisking constantly, for another 2 minutes; the custard will come together and become very thick, like pudding. Stir in the vanilla, orange liquor, butter, and heavy cream. Pour the custard through a sieve into a bowl. Place plastic wrap directly on the custard and refrigerate until cold. Yield: 2 cups
© Galley Chef All Rights Reserved

I didn’t think I would have room for the Strawberry Tart, but I managed to squeeze it in!

Happy Spring! Happy Easter!

 


 

 

Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner

Last night we had our annual “Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner” party to benefit The Opera Society for Florida Grand Opera.  Yogi, our little 12 pound Doxi-Poo, was the official greeter.  The first guest to arrive was Roy Simmons.  Yogi greeted poor Roy with so much gusto that I thought Roy was going to have a heart attack!  Yogi’s enthusiasm continued when Nancy and Wes Fetzer arrived with their little Australian Labradoodle named Schatzi.  The two of them get along famously.  Hanna and Jay Zukowski joined the party with  arms opened as Yogi rushed to greet them.  Tony and Mary Ann Stefanelli also joined us along with Michael Asser.

The theme of the meal was “A Trip to La Scala”.  There is a restaurant in Milan named La Scala that is famous for their smoked tuna so I decided to prepare that for the first course.  The preparation got a little tricky since I didn’t have a smoker and needed to jerry-rig one.  On top of that, I live in a condo and the rules are, NO FLAMES ON THE BALCONY. I decided to smoke the tuna at my office.  (I have plenty of outdoor space there) I used a small, table-top, Weber grill and put just enough charcoal in the bottom that it would fit one half of the grill.  I wrapped the smoking chips in foil, leaving both ends open to let the smoke out.  Then I filled a half-sheet foil pan with water and molded another half-sheet foil pan to fit criss-cross at one end on top of the pan with the water.  The sushi-quality tuna went into that pan drizzled with a little bit of olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper.  When the coals were ready, I moved them all over to one side at the bottom of the grill, then added the smoking chips, then the my concoction of water and tuna with the tuna on the opposite side of grill away from the heat source.  Voila,  it worked, I got a really good smoke in a short amount of time with little heat resulting in a buttery, melt-in-your-mouth, mouth feel with a hint of smoky flavor.  This dish was garnished with lemon and served with a crostini, extra virgin olive oil, sea salt and a 20-year-old V.S.O.P balsamic vinegar  aged in wood and reduced by half.  I paired this velvety smooth dish with Whispering Angel rose from Cotes’ De Provence, a light, dry and crisp wine that cut through the smokiness of the tuna and gave it great balance.

Delicious smoky tuna with twenty year aged basalmic vinegar reduction, olive oil and lemon.
Delicious smoky tuna with twenty year aged basalmic vinegar reduction, olive oil and lemon.

The second course was creamy pappardelle with leeks, bacon, tarragon and pernod.  Preparing it is easy, finding that shape was yet another challenge.  I finally found it in a local Italian specialty store.  My original recipe did not call for tarragon or pernod, but since I had the tarragon on hand, I decided to go for it.  This dish really has a lot of zing to it because you have the pernod and tarragon kind of playing off each other on the palate.  It is the best pasta I’ve ever had.  I served it with Orvieto Classico, a delicate, fruit and floral white wine, accented with hints of pears.

Papardelle with Leeks and BaconFrom: GalleyChef.org
Print Recipe
 
Creamy, pasta with smoky bacon. This is the best pasta I've ever had!
Servings Prep Time
8-10 20minutes
Cook Time
6minutes
Servings Prep Time
8-10 20minutes
Cook Time
6minutes
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Heat oil and butter in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add bacon and cook, stirring often, until fat is rendered and bacon is crisp, 5-8 minutes. Add leeks and season with salt. Increase heat to medium-high and cook, stirring often, until leeks begin to brown, 5-8 minutes. Add cream, tarragon, pernod and 1/2 cup water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until sauce is thickened and coats the back of a spoon, 5-8 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Drain pasta, reserving 2 cups pasta cooking liquid. Add pasta, Parmesan, and 1 cup pasta cooking liquid to sauce and stir to coat. Increase heat to medium and continue stirring,adding more cooking liquid as needed, until sauce coats pasta.
© Galley Chef All Rights Reserved

To cleanse the palate, I prepared a basil-mint-lemon sorbet.  It’s a delicious, well balanced flavor combination that is rarely thought of.  The sorbet stole the show.  Everyone raved about it and I even had a few requests for seconds!

Basil Mint Lemon SorbetFrom: GalleyChef.org
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
10 10minutes
Passive Time
20minutes
Servings Prep Time
10 10minutes
Passive Time
20minutes
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. In a small saucepan, combine the water, sugar, lemon zest and lemon juice. Bring to a simmer and cook until the sugar is dissolved, about 10 minutes. Add the basil and mint and set aside to steep for 3 minutes. Strain syrup through a fine mesh sieve and set aside to cool. Transfer to the refrigerator until thoroughly chilled, then process in an ice cream machine. Transfer to a freezer-proof container with a lid and freeze until ready to serve.
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Veal Milanese with arugula, tomato, shaved red onion and lemon vinaigrette came next.  This has always been one of my favorite entrees.  When I go to Italy, it’s the one dish that I lean toward 4 out of 7 nights a week.  For me, it’s one of those dishes that I just can’t get enough of……and soooo easy to make.  My secret is in the breading, I always add Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and fresh basil to my bread crumbs.  It not only gives it a flavor lift, but it also provides a really crisp texture.  I served a Chianti Classico with the veal from Tuscany.  It had a distinctive red berry aroma with a hint of licorice and spice.

An icy cold frozen Limoncello was served next.   Limoncello is a digestive and considered to be the national drink of Italy.  It is made by steeping lemon zest in grain alcohol then adding simply syrup.

Tiramisu
Tiramisu
 

Last but not least, we arrived at the dessert course.  When I think of Italian desserts, only one comes to mind, Tiramisu. This wonderful, creamy, coffee-flavored sweet makes everything right with the world!  I have tried many Tiramisu recipes, but this one, is by far the best.  And there you have it…….a meal fit for an Italian Prince or Princess.  Buon appetito!

The best tiramisu I've ever had!From: GalleyChef.org
Print Recipe
The best tiramisu I've ever had!
Servings
15
Servings
15
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Combine egg yolks and sugar in the top of a double boiler, over boiling water. Reduce heat to low, and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring constantly. This is your sabayon, remove from the heat and whip yolks until thick and lemon colored.Add Mascarpone to whipped yolks, beat until combined. In a separate bowl, whip cream to stiff peaks. Gently fold the whipped cream in the mascarpone sabayon mixture and set aside.
  2. Mix the cold espresso with the coffee liquor and dip the lady fingers into the mixture just long enough to get them wet, do not soak them! Arrange the lady fingers in the bottom of a 8 inch square baking dish (or 6×9)
  3. Spoon half the mascarpone cream filling over the lady fingers. Repeat process with another layer. Refrigerate 4 hours or overnight. Dust with cocoa before serving
Recipe Notes

The ingredients can also be layered into individual serving glass serving dishes such as martini glasses for a festive and fun presentation.

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Birthday Celebrations

A loved ones birthday is always a special day. Have you ever thought about what makes birthdays so special?  When you think about it, they’re a great opportunity for friends and family to get together and celebrate the birth of those people who are near and dear to our hearts.  Add to that, a great meal to share with each other and you have a worthwhile gathering. Growing up, my Mother would ask me and my sisters every year what we wanted for our birthday dinner.  We would always request something that we relished, like lobster or steak.  Year after year she made us feel overwhelmingly special on our birthdays by carrying out this practice.

This week a good friend had a birthday.  Keeping with the tradition, I asked her what her favorite meal is.  “Steak” was her enthusiastic reply.  That is how this birthday meal began.  One by one, menu items were added to complete the perfect meal designed just for her.

2003 Dom Perignon

We got the party started with a bottle of 2003 Dom Perignon and a birthday toast.  For dinner, we started with the classic steak-house wedge salad with blue cheese dressing and crumbled bacon.  Filet Mignon was the main attraction.  It was wrapped in bacon and cooked to a medium-rare temperature then topped with a gremolata (garlic, parsley and lemon) compound butter.

Compound Butter GremolataFrom: GalleyChef.org
Print Recipe
Gremolata is an Italian garnish of raw, finely chopped garlic, parsley and lemon zest. It is usually sprinkled over slow-cooked braised meats, as in the Italian dish osso bucco, but it also makes a good garnish for grilled fish or chicken. Here, we are adding it to butter to make a compound butter for grilled steaks.
Servings Prep Time
4 5minutes
Servings Prep Time
4 5minutes
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl. Turn it out onto a sheet of plastic wrap and roll into a tube about 1 inch in diameter. Refrigerate until ready to use. When ready to use, slice off 1/2 inch piece and add to hot steaks while resting.
Recipe Notes

This compound butter can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a month.  Use it as needed to add flavor to steaks, fish, pork, chicken, or use it to cook omelettes.

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great wine

The steak was paired with asparagus and creamy hollandaise sauce and a big bold 2004 Groth Cabernet Sauvignon.  For dessert, the cake was brought out, we sang “Happy Birthday” and  a wish was made.  The cake was a rich, dark chocolate sachertorte with raspberry filling and whipped almond cream flowers.

SachertorteFrom: GalleyChef.org
Print Recipe
Dark chocolate and raspberries come together to make this dense cake a sensational hit among chocolate fanatics.
Servings Prep Time
12 20minutes
Cook Time
35minutes
Servings Prep Time
12 20minutes
Cook Time
35minutes
Ingredients
Cake
Rasberry filling
Frosting
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350n degrees. Butter and flour a 9 inch cake pan. In a bowl, combine the chocolate and butter and melt over a double boiler. Set aside to cool. In a mixer, using a wire whisk, whip the egg yolks and 3 tablespoons of sugar until light and ribbony. Beat in the chocolate mixture.
  2. In another bowl, beat the egg whites and salt until soft peaks form. Slowly add the remaining 2/3 cups of sugar and continue to beat until stiff peaks form. Fold in the flour to the chocolate mixture and then fold in 1/3 of the egg whites into at a time until it's thoroughly incorporated. Pour into prepared cake pan.
  3. Bake for 35 miinutes or until done. To check for doneness, insert a paring knife or toothpick in the center of the cake. It should come out dry. Remove from the oven and cool on a rack.
To make the raspberry filling
  1. Puree the raspberry preserves in a food processor and stir in the liquor.
  2. After the cake has cooled, slice it horizontally into 3 equal layers. S
  3. Spread half of the raspberry filling on the bottom layer. Top with a second layer of cake. Spread the remaining raspberry filling and top with the last layer of cake. Chill for an hour.
To make the frosting
  1. In a bowl, combine the chocolate and butter. Melt over a double-boiler. Bring the cream to a boil. Sitr into the melted chocolate. Cool until it reaches glazing consistency. Spread over and around the cake. Chill for 30 minutes before serving. Serve with whipped cream or ice cream.
Recipe Notes

Eduard Sacher completed his culinary training in Vienna with the Royal and Imperial Pastry Chef at the Demel bakery and chocolatier, during which time he perfected his father's sachertorte recipe. The cake was first served at the Demel and later at the Hotel Sacher, established by Eduard in 1876. Since then, the cake remains among the most famous of Vienna's culinary specialties.

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Nancy showing appreciation

It is a privilege and an honor to be asked to celebrate a birthday with a friend.  This is one birthday celebration that will undoubtedly go down in my book as one of the most memorable.

Celebrating Christmas with family and friends

Twas the day before Christmas and all through the house, was the smell of food baking with the exception of grouse.  The cookies were placed by the chimney with care, for all Christmas guests who soon would be there.  OK so I’m not a poet!  What I am, though, is a person who loves to cook.     The anticipation of Christmas coming has always been a source of inspiration.  This year was no different.   In planning the menu, I wanted the food to be festive, interesting, luscious and a little over the top, yet traditional.  For traditional, I decided to go with eggs Benedict, Quiche, gravlax, bloody marys and roasted chestnuts.

 chestnut shelling

For festive, there were ginger bread eggnog martinis. I thought miniature cheddar grit soufflés in their own little ramekins and prosciutto wrapped figs with balsamic reduction would be interesting and what could be more “over the top” then Blueberry – goat cheese – basil pie.

Blueberry Goat Cheese Pie

I needed a vegetable to round off the nutritional aspects of the meal so cauliflower gratin was thrown in for good measure. Oh, and one more thing, something special for my husband……….a raspberry crumb cake. He always has had a sweet tooth.

Gravlax with capers and mustard-dill sauce

Gravlax with capers and mustard-dill sauce

With all the food on the table (except the eggsBenedict, which were made to order), family and friends gathered enthusiastically to celebrate.  My daughter made a scalloped oyster dish that has been in our family since I was a small child.  A neighbor friend of ours shared the recipe with my Mom and Dad that had been in her family for generations.  We loved it so much, it has become a tradition.  My daughter’s boyfriend contributed a scalloped potato dish with a beautiful golden-brown crusty cheese top.

What a wonderful Christmas day it was. There is always an undeniable heartfelt connection when sharing food and conversation with friends and family.

As everyone left I heard them exclaim “Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good bite !”