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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Philadelphia Story, Part Two

Crêpes! Whether slathered with sweet, gooey Nutella, stuffed with bananas and a dusting of confectioners sugar or filled with country ham and Swiss cheese as we traipse into the savory version of things, we love them. A dear friend from Eastern Europe furnishes us with the buckwheat variety on occasion and we have no problem downing them with a few dollops of creme fraiche and a dot of black paddlefish caviar--or using them to make blueberry blintzes with farmer's cheese for breakfast.

A few years ago I was on the train to D.C. when I overheard a diminutive wraith confess to his parental unit, "yes, I like pancakes, but I much prefer crêpes." And he trilled his 'R's when he said it--think of Stewie from Family Guy. Anyway, I have to agree with our petite garcon on his preference of crêpes over pancakes.

I seem to recall that the pair got off the train in Philly and if they still live there, the child must be in Ritalin-stoked anticipation of the Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts. With a tip of the chapeau to the theme "Paris: 1910-1920", this highly celebratory, introductory festival inspired by the Kimmel Center will present Crêpes & More! Crêpes, a host of pastries, coffee and hot chocolate will be proffered from a stylish Parisienne food cart. From April 8 - May 1 there will be two opportunities to stuff yourself daily on these French treats in the Kimmel Center Plaza: every morning from 11:00am - 3:00pm and after a brief respite, 5:00pm - 8:00pm.

And like most of the best things in life, the Crêpes & More event is free! I'm sure we can all agree that is something we "much prefer!"

Make your own crepes with a recipe below adapted from Alton Brown on Good Eats via (Although I daresay it is a great recipe, it is one that is not affiliated in any way with the feasts found at PIFA.)

C'est magnifique! Stay tuned as ventures forth in its coverage of PIFA through May 1.

This post is supported by Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts (PIFA). Please like their facebook page and follow them on twitter!

Makes about 17-22 crepes
2 large eggs
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1 cup flour
3 tablespoons melted butter
Butter, for coating the pan

In a blender, combine all of the ingredients and pulse for 10 seconds. Place the crepe batter in the refrigerator for 1 hour. This allows the bubbles to subside so the crepes will be less likely to tear during cooking. The batter will keep for up to 48 hours. Heat a small non-stick pan. Add butter to coat. Pour 1 ounce of batter into the center of the pan and swirl to spread evenly. Cook for 30 seconds and flip. Cook for another 10 seconds and remove to the cutting board. Lay them out flat so they can cool. Continue until all batter is gone. After they have cooled you can stack them and store in sealable plastic bags in the refrigerator for several days or in the freezer for up to two months. When using frozen crepes, thaw on a rack before gently peeling apart.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Goin' Coconuts

Although Cousin Jane now lives in Key West, she still remains a wonderfully staunch New Englander, as a woman of a certain age with a stylish sense that evokes more retiring movie queens of another era. What a comforting joy it was to see her after so many years and to stay at her cozy bungalow (with a pool off of the lanai!) when Baby and I went to visit. If you read my previous post, you know that we were hanging with some other dames, other golden girls such as my dear mother, and two cousins that I hadn't seen for some time. Baby and I decided to take them to Pepe's for brunch one morning as it seemed to be one of Jane's favorite places to visit and no wonder--they treat her like the Queen of England and the rest of us as her ample court! What looks like a modest shack on the outside is actually teeming with guests inside who fill the wooden booths and spill past the sturdy bar onto the sun-dappled, charmingly ragtag garden patio that feels nautical in tone, almost like a galley kitchen but with lattice-work, curious chirping blackbirds, and bursting deep pink bougainvillea. With a whiff of scandal, a Bloody Mary or two and perhaps a Mimosa, we sat enjoying each others company as much as traditional Eggs Benedict, a ham, cheese and onion stuffed omelet and waffles topped with fruit.

Jane introduced us to Charlie who has long made all the desserts at Pepe's. She sat down with us and told us all about the pies that she makes at home a few miles away and delivers back to the restaurant. Here she is about to make the brief trek and fill that pie pan (one of many for the day)!

We had to try the Coconut Cream Pie that everyone clamors for, and with good reason. Charlie shared the recipe below and I've also included the recipe for Pepe's Coconut Bread that was featured in Gourmet magazine so you can really go coconuts.

Thank you, dear Jane for sharing Pepe's with us!

Coconut Cream Pie

6 egg yolks
2 tsp. coconut extract
1 cup sugar
6 heaping tbs. cornstarch
6 cups half & half
2 cups flaked and sweetened coconut

Two prepared graham cracker crusts

Mix together the eggs and the coconut extract and set aside. In heavy saucepan combine sugar, cornstarch and Half & Half. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. When mixture is bubbling, add one cup of the milk to the eggs to warm the egg mixture. Return all the egg mixture into the milk and continue cooking. Stir with a whisk constantly until well combined and mixture is bubbling again. Remove from heat and stir in coconut. Cool to room temperature and turn into 2 graham cracker pie crusts. Chill. Serve topped with whipped cream.

Makes 2 pies, 12 servings, 6 per pie.

And while we're at it, why not try...

Pepe's Coconut Bread
Featured in Gourmet magazine
Makes: 1 loaf Serve toasted or warm, freezes well
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp. coconut extract
1 cup fancy shred coconut
1 cup sour cream
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder

Cream together butter and sugar. Beat in eggs and extract, then the sour cream. Add the coconut. Fold in the flour, baking powder and soda. Turn into lightly greased loaf pan and bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes or until done. Makes 1 loaf-10 slices

Suggested Substitutions: omit coconut extract and coconut. Use maple extract and walnuts for Maple Walnut bread. Use lemon extract and 1 tbsp. poppy seeds for Lemon Poppy Seed bread. Use vanilla extract and any fruit such as peaches, pears, cranberries, etc for other changes.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Well, La Te Da!

I was recently in Key West to visit my Mom who was in turn staying with our cousins! Baby and I headed down because I hadn't seen my cousins in over ten years (one in her 80's, another in her 70's and my other devilish cuz, my old partner in crime, who is more toward the 40-ish side of things). Besides having met my Mom, Baby had never met any of these cousins. What fun we all had together, me seeing Key West for the first time!

Baby and I were told by our New York friends that at some point we had to stop into La Te Da on Duval Street and sit at the outdoor bar, perhaps eat in the restaurant or take in one of the drag shows, which are apparently legendary. We only got as far as the bar however, but made new friends while we sat, and chatted with our bartender Robin, who has long staked her claim there and is the kind of gal who knows everybody's name. Our friends told us about her famous Mimosas, so of course we had to try one. Delicious! I thought I ought to post it here on Evenings With Peter in the event you don't have a trip to Key West planned in the immediate future. Here triple sec is added into the mix, setting it apart from the usual Mimosa--I'd also suggest trying Cointreau instead. Please toast to my wonderful Mom and cousins, would you?

Robin's Mimosa
Here's what to do, as Robin explained it to us: Fill a 15 oz. red wine glass or coupette with ice. Add 3/4 oz. triple sec, a splash of orange juice and top with Champagne. Prepare to be involved throughout the remainder of the afternoon. Cheers!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Philadelphia Story, Part One

Please join me as we take a somewhat slight departure on Evenings With Peter from the general reportage. Destination? The Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts! From April 7th to May 1st, this three-week festival will feature a staggering number of free and ticketed activities (135 events and 1,500 performing artists to be exact) all over Philadelphia, centering around the theme "Paris: 1910-1920." Behold the stunning reproduction of the La Tour Eiffel, housed under the glass roof of the Kimmel Center poised to celebrate the effervescent wonder that is Paris as well as honor the world of art, that so brilliantly includes music, theater, fashion, food, and film.

An extraordinarily generous 10 million dollar grant from The Annenberg Foundation is bringing together such programs as the premiere collaboration between the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Pennsylvania Ballet; ?uestlove from The Roots teams up with chantoosie Keren Ann and of course, the circus is in town! La Compagnie Transe Express and Grounded Aerial are sure to make you flip. Et naturellement, there is the cuisine to consider--PIFA's Culinary Component invites participating restaurants and visiting master chefs to whip up a batch of thrilling dishes while the ballroom at the Academy of Music plays host to the Bistro Academie event.

C'est magnifique! Stay tuned as ventures forth in its coverage of PIFA through May 1.

This post is supported by Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts (PIFA).

Please like their facebook page and follow them on twitter!

Boeuf a la Bourguignonne

To sup on winter's harvest while we may, what better dish to serve than a hearty Boeuf a la Bourguignonne to warm us up? This is not difficult work by any means; have your butcher do the hard stuff by cutting up your beef chuck into 2-inch pieces. Do plan ahead however as in this case, patience and time are the best ingredients. It is essential that the beef marinates for 24 hours as the recipe below suggests and in my opinion, throw in another day to cook it first. Allow it to reach room temperature and then return to the fridge. Overnight, miracles happen as the fat forms, creating a precious blanket for the night. Skim the fat off and simmer the dish back to health slowly on the stove top over a low heat for a few hours and discover the heart of France!

For accompaniment, we roasted a host of vegetables lightly coated with grapeseed oil in a 350 degree oven for well over an hour--asparagus, Brussels sprouts, and butternut squash all went in, with roasted tomatoes and wild mushrooms toward the end when reheating just before serving. We also tossed the lot with beets and finished the dish with handfuls of fresh herbs such as tarragon, marjoram, thyme and chives.

As we prepared dinner, we lit candles for a more intimate setting as the sun went down.

And of course gorgeous flowers came out, the culprits here being green hydrangeas, presented in a cherished Burleigh ware pitcher with an Asiatic Pheasant pattern.

As the wine continued to pour, we filled the table with homemade chocolate cookies courtesy of the boys from Baked and served scoops of Tahitian Vanilla and Malted Milk Ball gelato via Ciao Bella.

Bœuf à la Bourguignonne
Adapted from Saveur magazine

My comments in italics

SERVES 4 – 6
3 lbs. beef chuck, cut into large pieces as I mentioned, have your butcher do it for you!
1 large yellow onion, peeled and finely chopped not so fine, it is after all a hearty, rustic dish
2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped again, they needn't be chopped terribly fine
2 cloves garlic, peeled why not use more?
1 bouquet garni (see below) look into cubes of bouquet garni imported from Europe, much easier to use, or a cube of vegetable stock
1 bottle good red burgundy we ran out of wine so also used beef stock which was great!
6 oz. lean salt pork, diced bacon will work too
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1⁄3 cup flour
1 lb. small white button mushrooms, stems trimmed and caps peeled
Throw in potatoes sauteed in bacon fat with some chopped parsley too.

1. Make the bouquet garni by wrapping a 6" piece from green part of a leek, 3 sprigs parsley, 3 sprigs thyme, 1 bay leaf, and 2–3 peppercorns in a square piece of cheesecloth, then tying into a pouch with kitchen string.

2. Put beef, onions, carrots, garlic, and bouquet garni in a large bowl and add wine. (If using a cube of stock, add in two cups of water.) Using your hands, mix all the ingredients together, then cover bowl with plastic and refrigerate for 24 hours.

3. Remove beef from marinade, reserving marinade, and dry well on paper towels. Fry salt pork in a large pot over medium heat until crisp, about 7 minutes. Season beef with salt and pepper to taste. Add to pot and brown on all sides, about 7 minutes. Sprinkle in flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 3 minutes. Add marinade and 2 cups water (if you used the cube of stock, the water is already in there) and bring to a boil over high heat, scraping up brown bits. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook until meat is tender, about 3 hours. Add mushrooms and cook for 30 minutes more. Remove bouquet garni before serving.

Soundtrack: Horace Silver and the Jazz Messengers; Stanley Turrentine, The Spoiler; Lounge Jazz Collection; Herbie Hancock, Cantaloupe Island; Various Artists, Blue Note Revisited.

This recipe was first published in Saveur in Issue #30.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Chicken Cassoulet

Et voila, the second anniversary of my blog!

To commemorate the event, once again I made cassoulet, in order to fondly remember the first evening I ever wrote about on Evenings With Peter. And just get a gander at the marvelous set of cassoulet bowls that Baby and I snagged from a rock bottom sale at Williams-Sonoma, cassoulet baking dish included! Forsaking duck confit, I made this version with bone-in chicken thighs, not with the suggested chicken leg quarters. Here they are about to be browned in the cassoulet baking dish with a little olive oil.

As I had overbooked myself, I made the cassoulet on Thursday and let it cool before refrigerating so all the ingredients could get to know one another for the dinner on Saturday. We subbed Polish boczek and krayana for the the bacon and sausages, respectively. Into the oven you go, dear!

At our dinner party, we first sampled cold foie gras and then seared foie gras au Perigord with a drizzle of blood orange olive oil, which worked out quite well--spread over thinly sliced baguettes naturally. Baby and I served the cassoulet with a salad of shredded Boston lettuce and a warm bacon vinaigrette (a version of Michael Lomonaco's Shallot and Champagne Vinaigrette--1/4 cup red wine vinegar, 1 tb Dijon mustard, 1 tb sugar, 4 peeled shallots, 1/4 tsp salt, 1/4 ground black pepper--all thrown into a blender and then slowly incorporated with 1/2 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup bacon grease).

Once bringing the cassoulet back to room temperature on the day of the dinner and then adding the bread crumbs, reheating for the additional 30 minutes was a snap. As my guest observed, the resulting cassoulet was like the classic, but also like a fricassee; in fact, the best of both!

We had lemon sorbet with a sprinkling of thyme for a gentle refresher afterward.

Thanks to folks for reading Evenings With Peter!

Chicken Cassoulet
Adapted from Le Creuset

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped smoked bacon strips
1 lb herb flavored pork or beef sausages
2 medium red onions, sliced thickly
3 medium carrots, sliced thickly
2 garlic cloves, crushed
8 leg quarters of chicken, divided into 2 pieces and skinned
2 14.5 oz. cans of diced tomatoes and their juice
1 14.5 oz. can of cannellini beans, drained
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 rounded teaspoon dried thyme
3 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
2 cups coarse white breadcrumbs
Freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oil in the cassoulet dish, add the bacon and sausages and fry both until they are lightly browned. Add the onions, carrots and garlic and continue frying for 2-3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer these ingredients to a plate.

Add the chicken pieces to the hot oil and brown evenly. Return the other ingredients together with the chopped tomatoes, beans, tomato paste, thyme, 1 tablespoon of the parsley and some seasoning. Stir well. Cover and transfer to the oven for 1 1/2 hours or until the chicken is tender. Remove the lid.

Mix together the breadcrumbs, remaining parsley and plenty of seasoning. When the chicken is tender, scatter this evenly over the top and return the open pot to the oven for 30 minutes, or until the top is pale golden brown.

By all means, add flowers to welcome any new season such as the burgeoning spring!

Soundtrack: Esperanza Spalding, Chamber Music Society; Peggy Lee, Classics; Sarah Vaughan, Personal Collection; Rumer, Seasons Of My Soul; Marilyn Maye, The Lamp Is Low

Monday, March 7, 2011

Moules & Me

Mussels! Or as the French say, les moules! I plucked these beauties from the shore of Muscongus Bay in Friendship, Maine after having ignored their bounty for years. As much as I've always cherished steamed clams with melted butter and raw oysters, I was never interested in eating the mussels possibly pulled from the shore growing up. All we ever did was cut our feet on the shells when trying to swim in the absolutely frigid waters and tug through the mud which was like quicksand (we eventually wised up and got those surfing shoes).

When I finally tried mussels, I fell in love. Simply steamed in white wine is perfection but I have also availed myself of the smoker that my parents have to impart an entirely different flavor.

Goat Town, a restaurant in Manhattan, was the impetus for writing this post. There, the delicious mussels are beer steamed with Berkshire bacon, mayonnaise, parsley. I don't know the exact proportions but the cooking method is always pretty much the same: after scrubbing the beards off of your mussels (a particularly arduous task by the way), throw everything into a pot! Put on the stove over medium low heat and when the mussels open, they are done. Sop up the resulting broth with a hearty and rustic grilled baguette.

My friend Reggie and I happened to be talking about our love affair with mussels the other day and she further submitted these recipes to me adapted respectively from the South Philly Grill and Osteria Romana.

South Philly Grill Mussels
2 lbs. of wild Atlantic mussels
¼ cup of water
1 bottle clam juice
Small bunch of parsley
6 garlic cloves
3 tbsp. olive oil
Crushed red pepper to taste
Tomato paste (optional)

Saute finely diced garlic in oil, add chopped parsley. In a big pot pour water, add cleaned mussels. Pour in cooked garlic, parsley and oil mixture. Add clam juice. Add red pepper flakes to taste. Serve with a loaf of Italian bread. Add lots of red pepper for a spicy dish that will make you sweat. Great with beer. Some people like to have a little bit of a red sauce, so add tomato paste for this.

Osteria Romana Mussels
This recipe is served with game, roast or grilled meats. A young chef made the mistake of making the Whiskey Sauce for mussels and accidentally made a superb sauce. It was her famous dish at Osteria Romana, a popular restaurant in Philadelphia throughout the eighties. Whiskey Sauce is courtesy of La Cucina, The Complete Book of Italian Cooking.

1 small bunch parsley
2 garlic cloves
1 small onion
¼ tarragon
1 tbsp. butter
3 tbsp. flour
A little milk
¼ cup cream
2 egg yolks
Salt and pepper
¼ cup whisky
2 tsp. Dijon mustard

Finely chop the parsley together with garlic. Chop the onion into fine dice and add this to the parsley and garlic with the tarragon. Heat butter and sauté onion and herbs for a few minutes. Blend the flour in a little milk and stir this into the ingredients in the pan to obtain a smooth mixture. Now stir in the cream and continue mixing over a very low heat, then remove from the heat. With a hand or electric which and add the egg yolks one at a time, then add salt and pepper to taste. Place over a bain-marie and continue heating, stirring constantly until sauce thickens, but do not allow to boil. Pour in the whisky a little at a time and lastly add the mustard. Remove from heat and serve warm in a sauceboat.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Goat Town - Next Magazine Review

Goat Town
511 E 5th St, 212-687-3641,

A little bit of trivia: the great author Washington Irving came up with the moniker of Gotham for our fair city, based on the translation from the Dutch of “Goat’s Town”. More recently, owner Nicholas Morgenstern and chef Joel Hough (who both share the same birthday as Irving) named their American bistro Goat Town in tribute to this nugget of knowledge. And the only goat on the menu is in the meatballs but we’ll get to that later.

Porcelain subway tiles envelop the booths like draping fondant icing and are much more comfortable than you might think. There is no hard liquor on the menu—although there are crafty cocktails created from wine and beer—but we hardly felt its absence, settling in for a slightly sweet Vouvray “Fleuve Blanc” ($13/glass, $49/bottle) that well suited our icy tray of Naked Cowboy Oysters (M/P) from Long Island. Fresh, cautionary tomatillo cut the saltiness of our bivalves, with horseradish and actual Radishes ($7) served with an eager complement of sea salt butter and brown bread. Perfection! Bouchot Mussels ($13) completed our menu of mollusks, steeped in the most divine broth of beer, bacon, mayonnaise and parsley.

The house white Muscadet ($7/glass, $27/bottle) wisely took a back seat to beautiful Steak Tartare ($12), which was richly red, mixed with an organic egg yolk, verdant parsley, opinionated onions and rye bread to spread the whole thing on. Goat Meatballs ($11) were tinged with allspice and nutmeg, sharing the plate with a puree of cannellini beans and fried rosemary. The medium rare Burger ($14) was meatloaf sized (so were the accompanying fries!) and topped with pickled red onions, bibb lettuce, an affectionate blue cheese and a house-sauce of mayonnaise and creamy horseradish.

Sautéed Arctic Char ($20) featured a fine confluence of fennel, fingerling potatoes and leek barigoule, a slowly braised stew of white wine, coriander and herbs with a dash of smoked paprika thrown in for good measure.

We found the GoatTownChocolateTorte ($9) with bourbon, crème fraiche and an outrageous, additional “dip” of Salted Caramel Ice Cream ($6/two scoops) wickedly cataclysmic and had us, well…practically bleating like goats!

First published in Next magazine.