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Wednesday, February 21, 2024

BOOK/A TABLE - Boeuf en Daube


I was so enamored with Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse I decided to make the Boeuf en Daube featured in it. Fantastic! Funny thing is, the protagonist Mrs. Ramsey is rather concerned her dinner will fall to ruin because the children are late to the table—but the dish is really best when refrigerated overnight, re-heated over a low flame and served at leisure. Similar to Boeuf alla Bourguignon (from Burgundy, 'natch), this preparation of beef is from the Provence/Languedoc region in the South of France.

“Mrs. Ramsay...peered into the dish, with its shiny walls and its confusion of savoury brown and yellow meats, and its bay leaves and its wine, and thought, This will celebrate the occasion...” 

Or any occasion you like!


Boeuf en Daube 

Adapted from goodfoodstories.com

Ingredients:

2 1/2 pounds beef chuck, cut into 2-inch cubes
3 tablespoons olive oil
10 cloves garlic, minced and divided
4 slices bacon, chopped into lardons
1 small red onion, peeled and diced
2 medium carrots, peeled and thinly sliced into rounds
3 ounces (85 grams) shiitake mushrooms, roughly chopped
2 ounces (57 grams) roughly chopped pitted olives of your choice
1 tablespoon capers, rinsed
1 14.5-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 cup red wine + additional wine as needed
1/2 cup beef broth or water
1/4 cup brandy
3 sprigs fresh thyme
2 dried bay leaves
10 sprigs parsley
1 teaspoon whole peppercorns
1 teaspoon cornstarch (optional)
cooked egg noodles and/or crusty bread and butter for serving (optional)

Method:

Place the beef, olive oil, and half the minced garlic in a sealable gallon-size plastic bag. Marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes to an hour (or overnight in the refrigerator). 

While the beef is marinating, you can prep your veg.

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.

In a large, heavy-bottomed pot such as a Dutch oven, cook the bacon over medium heat until crispy. 

Spoon out the bacon and reserve, but leave the fat in the pan.

In batches, add the marinated beef to the pan and cook for about five minutes, turning the meat so all sides are browned but not burning your garlic. 

Transfer the cooked beef and garlic to a bowl.

Add the onion, carrots, mushrooms, olives, capers, and remaining garlic to the Dutch oven. Cook for 8-10 minutes, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are soft.

Add the tomatoes, wine, broth, and brandy to the Dutch oven and bring to a simmer, scraping up all the yummy browned bits. 

Return the beef and bacon to the Dutch oven.

Add the thyme, bay, parsley, and peppercorns to the Dutch oven. If you don’t like them floating around in there, you can make a bouquet garni by wrapping them in cheesecloth (or a coffee filter or empty tea bag), tying it closed with butcher’s twine.

Cook in the oven for 3 hours, until the beef is so tender you can pull it apart into shreds with a fork.

If you find your stew doesn’t have enough liquid once it’s done, add a bit more wine; if you have too much liquid, thicken it with a teaspoon of cornstarch that’s been whisked with a little water to make a slurry.

Do enjoy!



Wednesday, February 14, 2024

BOOK/A TABLE - Oysters Rockefeller


Happy Valentine’s Day!

I was in 5th grade when I first read Agatha Christie’s Sleeping Murder and I remember feeling like I'd woken up in a whole new world. My mother and her friends all read Christie’s exciting books and Sleeping Murder had just come out in paperback. Entering a copy seemed a portal, or at least a glimpse, into adulthood. I was so intrigued—and also a little terrified—by the story of a young woman brought to live in a new home that seems more than a little familiar to her. I have never looked at Playtex rubber gloves the same way again.

In Christie’s books, so often the air is rich with cyanide, pistol smoke, and the perverse, ringing shock of discovering a dead body at a reserved English country house. Among the self-satisfied men in pressed flannel and women dressed in sphinxlike smiles, at least one of them has murder lurking in their desperate hearts when committing le crime passionnel—the crime of passion.

So what else to serve on Valentine’s Day but the impassioned oyster, long considered to be an aphrodisiac? Do these Oysters Rockefeller right and your beloved might be so enamored, they might let you...get away with murder! At least enjoy them as Hercule Poirot perhaps did in Christie’s fiendishly clever Murder on the Orient Express. In Karen Pierce's fabulous book, Recipes for Murder, she reveals Poirot does confess on the famous train that “the food was unusually good...”

 
 

Check out Karen Pierce’s Recipesfor Murder—66 Dishes that Celebrate the Mysteries of Agatha Christie for an Oysters Rockefeller recipe...or shucks, consider the one I’ve included below.

Oysters Rockefeller 

Adapted from Gourmet

“The original recipe for oysters Rockefeller, created at the New Orleans restaurant Antoine's in 1899, remains a secret to this day.” 

Makes 8 first-course servings

1 garlic clove

2 cups loosely packed fresh spinach

1 bunch watercress, stems trimmed

1/2 cup chopped green onions

3/4 cup (11/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

1/2 cup dry breadcrumbs

2 tablespoons Pernod or other anise-flavored liqueur

1 teaspoon fennel seeds, ground

1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce

1 pound (about) rock salt

24 fresh oysters, shucked, shells reserved

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Step 1. Position rack in top third of oven and preheat to 450°F. Finely chop garlic in processor. Add spinach, watercress and green onions to garlic. Process, using on/off turns, until mixture is finely chopped. Transfer mixture to medium bowl.

Step 2. Combine butter, breadcrumbs, Pernod, fennel and hot sauce in processor. Process until well blended. Return spinach mixture to processor. Process, using on/off turns, just until mixtures are blended. Season with salt and pepper. (Can be made 8 hours ahead. Cover; chill.)

Step 3. Sprinkle rock salt over large baking sheet to depth of 1/2 inch. Arrange oysters in half shells atop rock salt. Top each oyster with 1 tablespoon spinach mixture. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake until spinach mixture browns on top, about 8 minutes.

Do enjoy!



Wednesday, February 7, 2024

BOOK/A TABLE - Venetian Pancakes

 


I’d like to tell you about my secret love affair with British authoress Barbara Pym. I’m not sure how we met, but in the last year I have delighted in the companionship of all of her wonderful books.

The stories (written mostly in the 50’s; a few posthumously) are deceptively simple, revolving around the goings-on in small English villages—like Agatha Christie, but without the murder—and involve above all, I think, the little earthquakes we all experience in our daily lives and our attempts to connect to others and reveal what is in our hearts. In the meantime, there are one’s concerns about the handsome new vicar, jumble sales and sherry parties, which character will wind up with whom—and how they all come together to eat!

I recently discovered both Barbara’s sister Hilary Pym and Honor Wyatt published The Barbara Pym Cookbook, compiling actual recipes that Barbara made and featured in her books. I’ve enjoyed making many of these dishes myself, so look here for further posts about what to serve at your next supper or afternoon tea. In the meantime...use these thin Venetian pancakes (like crepes!) to layer in your favorite lasagna recipe instead of pasta sheets—or butter them up with cinnamon and sugar for a different kind of treat. As Sybil Forsythe remarks in A Glass of Blessings, they needn’t be “thin enough to read a love letter through.”

VENETIAN PANCAKES

Adapted from The Barbara Pym Cookbook

Ingredients:

2 eggs

1 cup milk

1 cup flour, sifted

Method:

Beat together eggs and milk, then add to flour and stir just to combine. Spread a thin amount at a time on a lightly greased griddle or in a skillet and cook through. Slide your pancake out on a plate and repeat. Makes six or seven large, thin pancakes.

Do enjoy!


Wednesday, January 31, 2024

BOOK/A TABLE - Chicken Hash


I've been away from the blogging world for a little while, working on a new psychological thriller--but I'm still hungry, all the time. 

Please BOOK/A TABLE here with me, as I take you from page to plate, offering dishes sprung from great works of literature! 

First up is a recipe for Chicken Hash adapted from Party of the Century by Deborah Davis. I made a light version of the heart-stopping dish The Plaza served in 1966 at Truman Capote's Black and White Ball, in honor of FEUD: Capote vs. The Swans, premiering tonight on FX, available to stream on Hulu next day. 

RECIPE FOR PLAZA CHICKEN HASH (My comments for the lighter version in italics. The Campbell's additions lower the fat content tremendously.)

Makes 4-5 servings

4 cups finely diced cooked chicken (grab a rotisserie chicken and start shredding!)

1 1/2 cups heavy cream (1 can Campbell's cream of mushroom soup mixed w/ 1 can of skim milk)

1 cup cream sauce (1 can Campbell's chicken gravy)

2 teaspoons salt

1/8 teaspoon white pepper

1/4 cup dry sherry

1/2 cup Hollandaise Sauce (1 Knorr packet w/ 1 cup skim milk as directed on package; skip the incorporation of butter)

I ADDED 1 package sliced mushrooms and 2 shallots, sliced thin

Method:

Saute mushrooms and shallots in 2 tablespoons butter with a glug of olive oil in large, heavy skillet. Add chicken, cream (mushroom soup), cream sauce (chicken gravy) and seasonings. Cook over moderate heat, stirring often, for about 10 minutes.

When moisture is slightly reduced, place skillet in a moderate oven, 350 degrees, and bake for 30 minutes.

Stir in sherry and return to oven for 10 minutes. Lightly fold in Hollandaise sauce and serve at once.


Do enjoy!



Monday, August 15, 2022

Gazpacho Goodness



This is my go-to summer favorite for years now--try with a 28 oz. time-saving can of whole peeled San Marzano tomatoes, ease up on the olive oil if you'd like, but by all means enjoy, whatever you do! 

Gazpacho Andaluz
Adapted from Saveur
SERVES 4

Probably invented in Seville, gazpacho was originally served at the end of a meal. Though there are many versions of this soup, "the traditional, tomato-based Andalusian variety is the one you want to find on your table on a hot afternoon or warm evening. It's salad in a blender; summer in a bowl"...!

1 slice country-style bread, about 1" thick, crusts removed 

2 small cucumbers, peeled, seeded, and chopped 

2 lbs. very ripe tomatoes, seeded and coarsely chopped 

1 clove garlic, peeled and chopped 

2 tbsp. sherry vinegar 

1⁄2 cup extra-virgin olive oil Salt

Optional garnishes: 1⁄2 green pepper, seeded and finely diced; 1⁄2 cucumber, peeled, seeded, and finely diced; 1 cup 1⁄2-inch croutons; 1⁄2 small white onion, peeled and finely diced; 1 small tomato, seeded and finely diced

1. Soak bread for 12 hour in a small bowl in water to cover. Squeeze out moisture with your hands.

2. Purée bread, cucumbers, tomatoes, garlic, vinegar, olive oil, and 1 cup water in a food processor until very smooth.

3. Push purée through a coarse sieve with the back of a wooden spoon. Gazpacho should be fairly thin. Season to taste with salt.

4. Chill gazpacho in refrigerator for at least 2 hours. Adjust seasoning. Serve in individual glasses, or in soup bowls with garnishes on the side.

This article was first published in Saveur in Issue #7

Tuesday, July 5, 2022

A Sumptuous Summer Salad




This salad was so beautiful and delicious, each bite a different delight! The method is simple too and only requires just a touch of artistry when composing--summer does the rest.

Scatter fresh arugula leaves on a platter, shred some proscuitto, slice up ripe stone fruit (we used white peaches) and arrange artfully. Drop a luscious orb of burrata cheese on top--if you are not familiar with burrata, it's high time you become well-acquainted. A ball of mozzarella cheese holds a treasure of luscious stracciatella and cream, which oozes out when cut open. Yes! Drizzle some olive oil and a squeeze or two of lemon over the whole thing and season with some freshly ground black pepper and Maldon sea salt flakes. Add your favorite herbs if you like, or add some fennel fronds to the mix. 

Instead of stone fruit, perhaps you have some juicy melon on hand? Try that with some fresh figs and take a bite out of summer! 

    


Thursday, February 24, 2022

Tonight's Menu - Outstanding Rib Roast

I did a little rearranging not so long ago (one night when I couldn't sleep) and removed our dining room table. But then we were having guests over for dinner in a few days, so what to do until the new table arrived? Well, gougeres at our apartment for appetizers and wine and then move across the hall to our friends place for a proper sit-down! I set their table the evening before and prepped as much as I could ahead of time so our migration would be quite effortless. Here is what was on the menu, with links: 

Tonight's Menu 
Serves Six 

Gougeres - serve with an inspiring red wine 
Yorkshire Puddings with Lobster in a Vanilla Chive Sauce - a little bit of a twist here; I used the sauce to pour over the Yorkshire Puddings instead of the Bread Pudding the recipe suggests 
Standing Rib Roast (four bones), unwrapped from packaging and let dry for 2 hours in fridge sprinkled with salt, pepper and Bavarian Seasoning from Penzey's, cooked until internal temp was 135 degrees--let stand for 20 minutes 
Boston Cooking School Brownies and slivers of Harvey Wallbanger Cake that I revived from an old post, topped with pistachio ice cream. 

What an outstanding evening we had indeed! 

 Soundtrack: Dexter Gordon, Ballads; Stanley Turrentine, The Spoiler; Miles Davis, Birth of the Cool; Horace Silver and The Jazz Messengers