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Saturday, November 26, 2011

Turks & Caicos Conch Festival 2011

While vacationing in Turks and Caicos, our timing was right that we were lucky enough to attend the 8th Annual Conch Festival in Provo. Just across the road from the beach in the Blue Hills area, we stuffed ourselves with a number of conch dishes, including the Princess conch from Bay Bistro, filled with mushrooms and a garlic cream sauce, and topped with Parmesan cheese, red pepper pesto and a sprinkling of parsley. It was easy to understand why the clever conch concoction was the winner of the year!

LinkWe also enjoyed a sampling of the classic island Friger-Gie stew, with coconut, milk, and plantains. The glorious Grace Bay Club's Anacaona restaurant provided a spicier, reinvigorated ancient-style conch stew, made with Scotch bonnet peppers and lime juice in a rich red sauce.

Here's the cavorting conch-loving crowd inside the tent!

Chef Eric Vernice from the Regent Palms was kind enough to provide us with his recipe for:

Corn and Conch Chowder with Saffron
Serves 6

1 lb tapped conch
1 turnip
2 onions
2 fresh ears of corn
2 garlic cloves
1 Yukon gold potato
2 TB flour
1 cup heavy cream
1 tsp sambal oelek
1 tsp saffron
1 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 cup white wine
salt and pepper
1/2 lb butter
3 TB olive oil

Tap the conch and place it in a pressure cooker with one turnip sliced in half and one onion sliced in half. Add 1/2 cup of water, salt, and cook for 20 minutes.
Dice the remaining onion, garlic. Take the corn off the cob, add the butter and olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add all the vegetables. Once the conch is pressure cooked, dice it and add to the vegetables. Season with salt and pepper, then add all the spices, the flour, white wine, and cooking liquid from the conch. Add the cream and simmer for 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, outside there was a mojito contest afoot...Bay Bistro took the honors for their cocktail as well.

And here's Baby clowning around with a conch shell across the road!

Needless to say I suppose, when we left, we were quite conked out!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Turkey in Turks!

Baby whisked me away to Turks and Caicos islands for an incredible Thanksgiving vacation this year. We stayed in Provo with friends for a few days and also shacked up at the breathtaking, sprawling Grace Bay Club resort. While our hosts assumed their respective posts working on a holiday that is not necessarily celebrated there, Baby and I hit the supermarket for groceries and set to work ourselves, to create our Thanksgiving candlelit midnight supper! The chalkboard with the menu above is my handiwork, and the price per person listed on the lower right hand corner was merely foolishness.

Here's our table in the glorious sunshine garden, before we set up and descended for the feast.

While our neighbor created Jamie Oliver's Dinner Lady Carrots and Soldier Leeks with Bacon next door, Baby injected our 22 pound turkey with sherry and melted butter and stuffed it full of onions, oranges, lemons, tangerines, rosemary, parsley and thyme. I got a good handful of softened butter and gently rubbed it underneath the skin and yes, I tore a bunch of parsley apart and further placed it under the skin as well to form a heart shape.

We trussed our Tom with kitchen twine...and into the oven it went to ruminate for a few hours!

Having acquainted ourselves with the kitchen and putting out plates, utensils, serving ware and the cooking tools we'd need ahead of time, I made my usual Sweet Potato Tipsy and went out to set the table, while Baby made his mashed potatoes with herbed butter and Alouette creamy cheese and amazing cranberry-cherry-orange compote.

When guests arrived, Baby served a sentimental platter of Pigs & Blankets, the way his mother used to make, with the dogs wrapped up in Pillsbury puff pastry. Yellow and grainy mustards went alongside with a sort of ketchup sauce that I made up from a carton of sensuously red Kumato tomatoes that also veer toward black pearls in color, some balsamic vinegar and crystallized pineapple that was on hand.

Behold the beast with the parsley heart gracing its proud breast!

How quickly it was ravaged! And it was so tender, I daresay it was the best turkey I ever had. For me, the injection of sherry and butter is essential, and the bird also must be monitored with a meat thermometer.

Our table at night! And what a flurry it was!

The tryptophan clearly kicked in somewhere around here.

Our guests delighted in lemon and coconut Pepperidge Farm cakes, the old store-bought dressed up with some fresh blackberries and raspberries.

For leftovers the next day, we pored over turkey sandwiches wedged into local rolls and I pureed the Lady Carrots and Soldier Leeks with gravy and heavy cream for a marvelous soup.

And somehow we managed to keep Coco away from raiding everything until it was time for her to have leftovers of her own, which she devoured!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Shouldn't You Just...?

Take the time to research a little about where your newly wedded friends are spending their honeymoon and give them a gift certificate at an exquisite restaurant there to create a memorable evening for them while they are away enjoying connubial bliss?

Modern advice on etiquette for the not-so-new millennium.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Play Reading and Chili Party

Bringing back a tradition of something my friends and I used to do years ago, as passed down by our respective parents, Baby and I threw a play reading party of The Bad Seed and served three kinds of chili. Over the course of the week leading up to the evening, I made and froze my usual Chasen's chili, made a riff of a Mexican posole (found as Swamp Chili in the pages of this year's Food & Wine issue from October) the night before with cans of Great Northern and kidney beans subbing for the chicken and pork, which was truly amazing. I also made an inspiring pumpkin chili--a new recipe for me that I'd recently been told about. It would be a fun surprise for Thanksgiving, don't you think? Baby made a basket of delicious mini cornbread bundt cakes, from a box of Jiffy mix with a can of creamed corn as a clever, secret ingredient. We all played our parts to the hilt and then dug in to the feast of chili!

Serve any of these over Fritos and put ramekins of sour cream, shredded cheeses, and chopped scallions all about your table.

Chasen's Chili

Swamp Chili (Poblano-and-Spinach Posole)

Pumpkin Chili
Serves 6
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small yellow onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, cored, seeded and chopped
2 jalapeños, seeded and finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 pound ground white or dark meat turkey
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, with their liquid
1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin purée
1 cup water
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Salt and pepper to taste
1 (15-ounce) can kidney beans, rinsed and drained

Heat oil in a large pot over medium high heat. Add onion, bell pepper, jalapeños and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until tender, about 5 minutes. Add turkey and cook until browned. Add tomatoes, pumpkin, water, chili powder, cumin, salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low and add beans. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes more. Ladle chili into bowls and serve.

Roasting peppers!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Lancashire Lamb Hotpot

Whilst Baby was in London, he happened to see an episode of Lorraine, the British talk show hostess where her guest was fellow countryman and chef Dean Edwards cooking up a lamb hotpot. Once Baby told me about Mr. Edwards' recipe, we were both thusly moved to make it ourselves for a few friends.

My comments and conversions are in italics along with the hearty, outstanding recipe below.

The table was set with an air of festivity and reasonable aplomb...

With the candles lit, the wine poured and the guests seated, Baby began by digging in to another meat pie!

Lancashire Lamb Hotpot
Adapted from Dean Edwards
Serves 4

2 lbs. lamb pieces (such as neck fillet), diced and seasoned
Vegetable oil
2 onions, sliced
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
2 large carrots, peeled and diced
1 tbsp plain flour
500-600ml lamb stock 2-3 cups
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
Salt and pepper
3 large maris piper potatoes, sliced ½ cm thick 3 large baking potatoes will suffice, sliced to about an 1/8th of an inch. We used our highly efficient Cuisinart Elite Collection food processor with thin slicing blade to make short work of it
30g unsalted butter, melted Roughly 2 TBS or to taste

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius/ gas mark 4. That's 350 degrees
In an oven proof casserole dish add a splash of vegetable oil then brown the diced and seasoned lamb pieces, this may have to be done in batches. Remove from the pan and set aside.
Add the sliced onion, thyme, bay leaf and carrots and cook until browned and softened - this will take approximately 5 minutes. Add the flour and cook out for a minute or so then add the stock and Worcestershire sauce. Bring up to the boil and season with salt and pepper. Return the meat to the pan and stir. We used an additional pan, lined it with potato slices and returned the meat and added the vegetable mixture into that before layering the potatoes on top in as described in the next step here
Layer on the potatoes in an overlapping fashion and season. Place a lid on top and cook in a preheated oven for 1 ½ hours.
After this time, remove the lid and brush with the melted butter. Return to the oven for 20-25 minutes or until the potatoes are crisp. Serve with some seasonal vegetables.

Do enjoy!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Savor Borgata's Taste of American Classics

Behold Bobby Flay!

Baby and I went to Atlantic City last weekend to cover the Savor Borgata food celebration which also included, perhaps not so incidentally, several extracurricular activities. We stayed at the lovely and totally fun The Water Club at Borgata hotel and apart from having a drink spilled on me from a balcony high above at MIXX nightclub, trying a dreadful cheesesteak and an egregious Italian Special at the legendary White House on the Boardwalk, wickedly bruising my thumb that got caught in a door, and not winning a dime in the casinos the whole weekend, over all I had a most delicious time. Although I realize that what happens in AC is supposed to stay there, I still would like to share.

We tried our collective hands at gambling on Friday evening before tossing about a few martinis and stuffing ourselves full with Porterhouse steaks, asparagus with hollandaise sauce, and creme brulee at Old Homestead. Guest chef Bobby Flay indeed threw it down over an intimate Lunch & Learn cooking demonstration Saturday afternoon at Bobby Flay Steak, in the adjoining Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa. He instructed us on how to make a sumptuous, down home three-course dinner which consisted of: shrimp and grits with bacon and scallions; chicken cutlets with Kentucky ham and arugula enveloped in an American triple creme cheese; and a bourbon praline profiterole with buttermilk ice cream for dessert. It was fantastic and naturally there was wine too. These recipes may be found in Bobby Flay's Bar Americain Cookbook.

After having a Mai Tai or two in Geoffrey Zakarian's Sunroom located in the hotel (and a dip in the pool!), we went to meet the man himself Saturday night at Savor Borgata's Taste of American Classics in the event center featuring a host of Borgata's chefs. He started us off with a Short Ribs Sloppy Joe with Gingered Cole Slaw, then we delved into the following and washed it all down with a few sips of Raspberry Juleps made with gin and even a plastic cup of good old Michelob brew. Here are the other tasting delights that the Borgata chefs prepared:

Marc Vetri (Vetri Ristorante) - Seafood Fritto Misto with Clams, Fluke and Squid
Michael Schulson (Izakaya, A Modern Japanese Pub) - Maine Lobster Roll with Celery, Tarragon and Brioche; Classic Chicken Pot Pie w/ Mushrooms, Peas and Puff Pastry
Romeo DiBona (Old Homestead Steak House) - American Kobe Beef Hot Dog with Apple Slaw and Beef Chili; Maine Lobster Mac & Cheese
Michael Mina (Seablue) - Cioppino with Dungenous Crab, Clams, Shrimp, Black Bass, Thyme-scented Oyster Cracker; Chillen Kumomoto Olive with Tabasco Emulsion, Crushed Avocado, Mussel and Crisp Bacon shooter
Wolfgang Puck (Wolfgang Puck American Grille) - American Wagyu Beef Meatloaf with Garlic Mashed Potatoes and Onion Rings; Shrimp Pasta with Spicy Tomato Sauce
Bobby Flay (Bobby Flay Steak) - Mustard-Molasses Glazed Pork “Chop” with Green-Chile Apple Butter and Sour Mash Sauce
Stephen Kalt (Fornelletto Cucina & Wine Bar) - Sausage and Pepper Hero; Arancini; and Eggplant Parmigiana; Cannoli

Here's master Wolfgang Puck serving up the masterly pasta in rich, classic red sauce:

Raise a glass and a fork to Savor Borgata--and thanks to the wonderful folks at Nancy J. Friedman PR for all!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A Friend Writes...

About easy dinner recipes prepared in no time. Thanks, Melissa!

The majority of people try to do as much as possible everyday. When you have a very demanding career, getting through the task can be very demanding. With a list full of all that we have to do, getting home and immediately relaxing can be very tempting. Still, there's no escaping from having to prepare something to eat, especially if you have kids at home. Finding easy dinner recipes that can be prepared quickly seems to be the perfect solution!

Keep Pantry Foods
You can never go wrong when you stock your home with the most basic staple foods such as hamburger meat or macaroni and cheese. These classic favorites are available almost anywhere in your local supermarket and groceries. What’s the best thing about them? You can prepare them in a variety of dishes in a few minutes! It is common knowledge that hamburger meats are one of the most excellent protein-rich foods. Working and strenuous activities will drain your energy and spend all the calories of energy that you consumed. What’s good about having hamburgers around the house is that it takes less effort to prepare. They’re very convenient for moms who don’t have a lot of time. For more variety in preparing hamburger meat, try making meatballs, pepper cornbread, and hamburger stroganoff.

As for the macaroni and cheese, this one is a classic favorite among children and adults alike. It works like magic, especially if you try to experiment and add in different herbs and sauces. This can be rosemary, garlic, or pesto. If you prefer a healthier version of macaroni and cheese, try adding carrots as recommended by Food & Wine in order to trim down its fat content. You can also try adding hamburger meat, shrimp and scallops, hot dogs, and lobster.

Grocery Store Meals
If you would like to avoid the kitchen, you can always go check out your local grocery store and observe what sort of meals they have to offer. Sprouting like mushrooms almost everywhere, it is never hard to find a grocery store that offers a variety of products. It's easy to find mouth-watering and fresh food prepared on the spot as well as gourmet products on high-end stores.

When time is of the essence and there's not much of it to spend on cooking, pop into a local grocery store and buy a delicious rotisserie chicken. This goes well when accompanied with some green beans, potatoes, and pasta salad. In the mood for some vegetables? Salads are definitely a good choice. For dessert, serve some ice cream with sliced ​​fruit on the side. It won’t take a long time to prepare but it goes a long way! With grocery stores, just follow the aisles, buy, and serve.

You may contact Melissa at

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A Very Special Peter Luger Birthday

Someone very near and dear to me (okay, it was me) had a birthday recently and a bunch of my friends and I packed into several cabs and made our way to Brooklyn, to celebrate with meat at Peter Luger. This joint tucked under the bridge has been around for over 100 years and is more German beer hall than stuffy steakhouse. The charming waiters carefully instruct/demand what to order and in what size shared portions. Plates and silverware are flung about on rustic, ancient tables and the whole experience is completely marvelous.

Martinis and bottles of Pinot Noir went 'round the table as we sampled a platter of sliced tomatoes and onions, a salad of mixed greens that we doused with a gravy boat of gorgeous blue cheese dressing, and swooned over dazzling, thick slices of Luger's own sizzling bacon.

Here are our Porterhouse steaks, enough to feed an army! It was served with a side of German fried potatoes, similar to hash browns.

After our sprawling dinner, Luger's special "Holy Cow" hot fudge sundae had us simply mooing! Just look at it! Can you imagine? I never got to snap a shot of the cheesecake--it was devoured so quickly!

What a joyous celebration, surrounded by friends!