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Sunday, January 27, 2013

A Rollicking Reader's Digest Dinner


What an evening! I pulled this menu together from an old Reader's Digest cookbook "Secrets of Better Cooking" first published in 1973. The volume was handed down to me by my elderly cousin years ago and I absolutely treasure it. The menu was all laid out as what to serve for a specific occasion and I did very little tinkering to it.

Tonight's Menu
Caviar Eggs
Truffled Green Beans with Mushrooms
Mashed Potatoes
Baked Ham with Black Raspberry Glaze
Cinnamon Orange Savarin

I wanted to set a very 70's dinner party table, reflective of the menu, so conveyed this carefully, with copper serving ware and white candles wedged in candlesticks from Scandinavia, balanced by sturdy white free-form plates, with a wooden bowl filled with whole pink grapefruit as the centerpiece. 


We started out in our living area with stuffed eggs topped with caviar. Cook 12 eggs, cool and cut in half, putting the yolks in a small bowl. Mash with 4 TB mayonnaise, 1 TB Dijon mustard, a hearty minced shallot and season with salt and pepper to taste. Stuff the eggs and serve over a nest of greens. Now, what else would you serve with caviar? 

Vodka! The nips seen here were frozen in a tray of ice cube blocks and then lit with battery powered votives in the ice bucket to create an illusory, nearly preternatural effect. It was a great idea that I felt conclusively added to the merriment.



Here's a frozen bottle of Ketel One standing on its own.

We also provided frozen shot glasses as a vessel for those that might not wished to have their vodka quite so straight.


Onto the dinner, and the sides:

I don't mind confessing that I used a few oven-ready pans of mashed potatoes from Fresh Direct with only a little added butter. As everyone professed their love for it, I sat quietly, apart from other conversation, merely thanking them but otherwise didn't say a word about it! Baby kept mum as well.

I sauteed a host of wild mushrooms in butter, olive oil and randy truffle oil to toss in with a batch of green beans.

The 8 1/2 pound ham, as seen above, was uncooked, not smoked, and sat in a 450 degree oven until an internal temperature of 140 degrees was reached. It was not exactly as I expected it to be--our ham was more like a pork loin roast. But for just the six of us, we ate the whole thing anyway, so I guess it was good enough, with crispy skin and a black raspberry glaze (added the last half hour of cooking) outfitted with a frock of apricots escoffier strewn about the edges of the serving platter. This decorative side of apricots is easily made: dried apricots are boiled in 1/2 cup water, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/3 cup cider vinegar, 1 cinnamon stick, slices of fresh ginger, 1 1/2 teaspoons whole cloves and 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg. Chill and bring to room temperature when ready to serve as your garnish.

Bottles of rose were uncorked!

So to cut back in time a bit: several hours before the party, I launched into my savarin to be reserved for dessert with vigor, as one must when exploring unknown territory (I had never attempted this cake before), here briskly beating four eggs until fluffy to put the wheels in sweet motion.

The brilliant cinnamon orange savarin! I wasn't sure what to expect at the outcome, but it turned out that I arrived with a very good tea cake. I filled the center with plump maraschino cherries as much for fun as to add a stroke of color.

I just loved this table...

And our rollicking night spent together!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Brrrrrrrrrrr-Roast Beef Sandwiches!


Perfect for a wintry day! And goodness, just how delicious. Outrageously so! I spied this in last week's New York Magazine, there it was, just calling my name. It's all very easy to make, the roast is the only thing that takes time, but that's just the slow time involved to cook the meat; there's no fussing over it at all. And it's really only two hours of agonizing over the amazing aroma wafting through the kitchen, desperate to dig in. Do laundry or tend to the garden to take your mind off of it. But there are other simple things to do involving this wondrous creation, such as making the Henry Bain sauce and the pico de lettuce to be later stuffed in a warm baguette.

Click here for the full story about Mr. Henry Bain and his classic sauce/condiment, both of which hail from Louisville. 

The roast, all rubbed down, ready to go in the oven. Seen here before...

Off-Oven Roast Beef
1 beef roast, like top, eye or bottom round, approximately 3 pounds
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
Red-pepper flakes to taste

Remove roast from refrigerator. Preheat oven to 500 degrees.
In a small bowl, mix together salt, pepper, garlic, olive oil and red-pepper flakes to create a kind of paste. Rub this all over the roast. Place beef in a roasting pan or cast-iron skillet, fat-side up, and put in oven. Cook undisturbed for 5 minutes per pound.
Turn off oven. Do not open oven door. Leave roast to continue cooking, undisturbed, for two hours.
After two hours, remove roast from oven. Slice and serve alongside, ideally, a watercress salad, some skillet-fried potatoes and a small tureen of Henry Bain sauce.
4 to 6 main courses, with leftovers for sandwiches 

Making Mr. Bain's sauce at a slow simmer until just thickened, while cooking the meat. This sauce is cooled down and refrigerated until ready for use.

Henry Bain Sauce
1/3 cup mango or peach chutney, best available
4 tablespoons of your favorite steak sauce
4 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
4 tablespoons chili sauce
2 tablespoon ketchup
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Hot sauce, to taste
4 tablespoons chopped watercress, optional

In a small pot set over medium heat, stir all the ingredients except the watercress. Heat until slightly thickened, then remove from heat. Allow to cool and refrigerate until ready to use.
Just before serving, if you like, stir chopped watercress into the sauce.

...And after! The juicy roast, having sat in the oven off-heat for two hours.  


Pico de Lettuce
1 head romaine lettuce, cleaned, dried and cut into chiffonade
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
1 small red onion, or half a medium-size one, peeled and sliced very thin
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon olive oil
Pinch of salt

Put the lettuce into a medium-size nonreactive bowl. Set aside.
In a small nonreactive bowl, combine the other ingredients and whisk to emulsify. Taste and adjust seasonings.
Mix together the lettuce and the dressing and allow to sit, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes. Drain off some of the juice that will accumulate at the bottom of the bowl. Use on a sandwich.
While the roast rested, I heated up loaves of par-baked bread for the sandwiches.

Here's our meaty friend at rest on a carving board having been transferred, soaking up all the juices.

All there is left to do is to slice the meat, slather the bread with the sauce and top with the nostril-tingling dressed lettuce, having essentially pickled the onions and garlic with the acid from the lemon juice. Once everything comes together--consummate this marriage and EAT!

Thanks to the Times for such an outstanding outing!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Play Reading - Auntie Mame


It was that time of the month again--for our play reading.  We skipped December because of all of the holiday bustle and launched once again triumphantly with Auntie Mame. The friend of mine slated to play Mame was unfortunately out of town but as I already had about 10 other takers who could show up, what was a host with the most supposed to do? I leapt into the gargantuan role myself as my other friends assumed their roles, all 40 of them!

The story involving the eccentric aunt in question revolves around a blithe spirit who suddenly finds herself in charge of her young nephew, after the death of her brother--naturally, hilarity ensues in this classic play. The action spans as many locales as it nearly does decades: there's always a party in the certifiably chic apartment at No. 3 Beekman Place in Manhattan; a wild fox hunt races full gallop Down South in Peckerwood; bigotry is confronted in Connecticut and a honeymoon that takes years traipses across the globe. I set the table as such: festive flutes and knocked over martini glasses were filled with pearls as simulated spirits; a riding hat was perched on a bottle of Champagne immersed in ice near a vintage fox hat; a map of Connecticut served as a centerpiece; candles and candlesticks from Marrakesh and Africa took fair care of the international aspect. 

When the Great Depression hit, Mame lost everything in the crash of '29 and decided she needed Christmas a little early (with Thanksgiving not even upon them), so I created a snowy wreath at the bottom of our punch bowl from fir boughs, artificial pine cones with berries and shredded coconut.

The famous quote from the play is "Life is a banquet!" My menu was based on the idea of a 50's cocktail party, with some help from Saveur magazine's feature "Midnight in the Parlor of Bourbon and Rumaki" in issue #71. Note the rumaki in the top picture, with marinated chicken livers and slivered water chestnuts enraptured by bacon. The recipes may be found here but I definitely dabbled on my own and took liberties with the finely composed party menu that was so elegantly and enticingly written about. To nibble on, Baby also made cheese straws from puff pastry dough, with a little garlic powder and Old Bay seasoning.

Cheesy artichoke dip with Stacy's pita crisps!

These crab spoons were a delight. I mixed canned lump crab meat with some chopped shallots, mayonnaise and a little Dijon mustard. For a topper, Baby and I cut out little leaves from the remainder of the puff pastry dough and sprinkled them with a blend of shredded Gruyere and Swiss cheeses before tossing them in the oven. Suddenly we found ourselves with instant gougeres!

We used black forest ham instead of prosciutto, as the Saveur menu suggests, with cream cheese and olives stuffed in our rolls, presented in a checkerboard fashion with dried cranberries and mixed nuts filling out the periphery of the platter.

Delicious prepared whitefish courtesy of Blue Hill Bay was spread into leaves of Belgian Endive, anchored by a host of grape tomatoes and outfitted with parsley. Sort of like another wreath, don't you think?

And of course, my version of the Flaming Mame with tequila, grapefruit syrup and bitters and a touch of incendiary absinthe made sure we were all lit, even before the Champagne toast at intermission.

My only regret is that I neglected to take any pictures of the Chex mix. Well, one must live, anyway!

Soundtrack: The Andrew Sisters, Songs from the Roaring 20's; Tommy Dorsey, Greatest Hits; Noel Coward, An Evening with Noel Coward; Lalo Schifrin, Mambo in Paris. 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

What's On Your Coffee Table?

Is it the January issue of Interior Design magazine? Open to the page featuring the extraordinary designer Benjamin Noriega-Ortiz chatting about my novel the pale of memory? I hope so!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

C is for Cookie

And these White Chocolate-Macadamia Nut Cookies found in the pages of the December 2012 issue of Saveur are good enough for me--and just about everyone I know, as I gave most of them away so as to avoid devouring the entire utterly scrumptious batch! We added peanuts into the mix, and I suggest you do too.

White Chocolate-Macadamia Nut Cookies
2 cups flour
1 tsp. kosher salt
¼ tsp. baking soda
1½ cups packed light brown sugar 1½ cups sugar
16 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
2 eggs
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
1½ lb. roughly chopped white chocolate
1 lb. roughly chopped roasted and salted macadamia nuts

1. Whisk together flour, salt, and baking soda in a bowl; set aside. In a large bowl, beat sugars and butter on medium speed of a hand mixer until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition until smooth; beat in vanilla. Add dry ingredients, and beat until just combined; stir in chocolate and nuts.

2. Heat oven to 325°. Using a 1-oz. ice cream scoop or 2 spoons, portion and shape dough into balls, and place balls 2½" apart on parchment paper-lined baking sheets. Bake until golden brown, about 14 minutes.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Shouldn't You Just...?

read my new novel, the pale of memory? It's utterly harrowing!

“A period suspense novel, as cleverly pulled off by an expert at the genre.”

 Michael Musto, Village Voice columnist

“Hitchcock’s Vertigo with sexy, dangerous young men. Had me hooked from page one.”
Charles Busch, author of The Tale of the Allergist's Wife
***Recipient of the iUniverse Editor’s Choice Award***

THE PALE OF MEMORY by Peter Halsey Sherwood (iUniverse; On Sale: September 7, 2012; $13.95 USD) is a suspenseful, bracing novel set in a mid-90's Manhattan still hovered over by a dreadful affliction. What starts out as a caper in which the Hardy Boys themselves might have embarked upon turns into a reckless mission of obsession that evolves into a dangerous love affair with dire consequences. From the perspective of a voyeur, the reader peeks into the world of the questionable protagonist, a young man named Scott or ‘Scotty’ to his friends, as he attempts to hide his secrets and transform a new lover in an ultimately futile effort to recreate the past. In a swirling pool of lies amongst all of the characters, nothing is what it seems at first as perceptions are revealed and confronted with haunting vigor. As the reader discovers through Scott's slowly exposed mania, his life has been one stained by a curious, confusing past that eventually brings THE PALE OF MEMORY to a devastating crescendo.

Available on, and,,,,

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Next Magazine - Le Perigord Review

Le Périgord
405 E 52nd St @ First Ave, 212-755-6244,

Filled with the spirit of the holidays, we whisked ourselves away to Le Périgord, situated in a comfortable, quiet nook just northwest of Beekman Place. There, we encountered a warm welcome from the gracious maître of the manor and an arsenal of waiters sporting starched white jackets with napkins draped over their regimented forearms. Plump roses in full bloom quietly graced the tables as we were seated at our banquette. What a way to come in from the cold! From there we watched longtime patrons  from the neighborhood sweep in, mostly women of a certain age bathed in black sable, and the host greet every one of them with a firm handshake and an air of recognition.
I toyed with a Grey Goose martini and my fella relaxed into a full-bodied red Gigondas while we slathered butter on civilized slices of brioche, anticipating the cuisine of longstanding chef Joel Benjamin, whose impressive résumé includes time at legendary restaurants Lutèce and La Côte Basque.

However, my ears soon pricked up like a rabid pinscher and my mood swiftly changed at the piercing death rattle of a confused, brittle fussbudget who apparently was contemplating strychnine over selections from the prix-fixe menu. We moved tables straightaway (which is something I never do), far across the room, as assisted by our equally aggrieved server. It hardly mattered anyway as we ended up dining with a better view of the moneyed complacency in attendance; what Tom Wolfe coined, in part, as “social x-rays.”

Frogs’ legs were game little leapers accompanied by a perfectly delicate risotto flavored with aromatics. Roasted lobster claws topped the hefty, buttery-soft lobster tail with pale strands of enoki mushrooms. It was surrounded by a medley of sautéed zucchini, carrots and yellow squash in a coriander lobster broth—which bordered more on a subtle bisque.

Sizeable seared quail was stuffed with minced wild forest mushrooms, which helped keep the bird moist, and black truffle sauce served to suit our fancy. Softened, shaved celeriac was a keen and serviceable side. We considered the Dover sole that we saw rolled out in hammered copper chafing dishes to tables nearby, but opted instead for something that went more along the ways of winter: we summoned the hearty, beating breast of the hunter and ordered medium rare, mildly musky venison cloaked in venison jus with a soupçon of black truffles. Melted cranberries in sugar, wilted red cabbage and peppery Brussels sprouts that were just fork-tender were ideal accompaniments.

I doubt anyone loves the idea of a dessert trolley more than I do, and on this mode of transportation we found at least a few treats that we had to try. Armed with wicked, generous pours of Armagnac (which we sipped on, in a slow revel) we picked from said trolley an offering of oeufs à la neige, the meringue confection, with an apparently Pollack-inspired spray of caramel lightly spattered on top of it. More meringue followed with the lemon tart and a fun layer of toasted marshmallows. Pear tart tartine arrived with a vanilla butter crust and an amiable resolution that, after lingering for more than three  hours, we should probably go home.

Short Order: An elegant, classic French restaurant in a secluded spot on the Upper East Side.

Peter’s Picks: mushroom-stuffed fat quail with black truffle sauce; buttery roasted lobster tail.

Peter’s Pans:
We moved to another table because of the decrepit, shrieking woman with dietary restrictions that was seated at a banquette all too near to us.

Prices: $65 Prix Fixe; Alcohol: wine, full bar.

First published in part in Next magazine.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Next Magazine - The Year in Dining

My top restaurant picks for 2012!

(Clockwise from top left; Alison Eighteen, Armani, Angolo Soho, Sushi Masaru.)

These dining rooms are as diverse in cuisine as they are in location, spread all over town and filling both intimate and soaring spaces. Our favorites were found in grand hotels, a designer emporium on Fifth Avenue, pauses through the Flatiron District and a little place on the Lower East Side.

Loi (208 W 70th St, 212-875-8600, is filled with exploratory, fantastic fare in a soothing oasis that summons the Mediterranean. Slurpy spoons of creamy sea urchin are drizzled with fragrant olive oil, moussaka is slowly cooked with minced meat in béchamel sauce, and buttery Dover sole with charred eggplant, yellow peppers and zucchini is utterly captivating.

Dining in the beautiful Isola (9 Crosby St, 212-389-0000, at the Mondrian Soho hotel is nothing less than enchanting. Executive chef Victor LaPlaca mainly pulls inspiration from the Amalfi coast, serving porcini-stuffed ravioli love notes embraced by a heartbreaking veal ragu and a ravishing sirloin to be slowly savored like an indecent caramel.

Every Japanese dish presented by executive chef Masato Shimizu is a gift at 15 East (15 E 15th St, 212-647-0015, Cold soba noodles float in a rapturous pond of caviar, salmon pearls and sea urchin; sea urchin makes a poignant risotto with sumptuous matsutake mushrooms; foie gras and miso duck terrine borders on the obscene.

As the Olympics played on, we were thrilled to discover that Alison Price Becker returned victorious with Alison Eighteen (15 W 18th St, 212-366-1818,, offering velvety vichyssoise, lobster salad with citrus and yellow-curry-tinged yogurt sauce, hickory smoked Berkshire pork chops with peach-fig jam and outrageous polenta with wild mushrooms. Alison 18 scores an 18!

Housed in the Iroquois hotel, Triomphe (49 W 44th St, 212-453-4233, is a classic New York supper club, led by forward-thinking chef Jason Tilmann: plump chicken livers with sherry-braised onions, scallops with melted foie gras butter, and richly red Chateaubriand with mustard laced béarnaise sauce to start; delectable chocolate croissant bread pudding with caramel toffee gelato to finish.

We swooned over the lobster at La Piscine (518 W 27th St, 212-525-0000, this summer on the gorgeous rooftop at the Hôtel Americano. The crawling creatures from the grill are done to perfection, with a drizzle of fruity green olive oil. In between dips of hummus, tzatziki, baba ghanoush and taramosalata, take a dip in the pool.

During a torrential downpour, we lingered inside the starkly elegant Armani/Ristorante Fifth Avenue (717 Fifth Ave, 212-207-1902) over several glasses of excellent wine that prefaced tender stalks of white asparagus in silky chervil zabaglione and smoky duck carpaccio; sweet foie gras and duck agnolotti with sage and white butter sauce and olive-crusted lamb loin; ending with pristine orbs of white peach sorbet.

Grilled, moist quail at comfortable Angolo Soho (331 Broadway, 212-203-1722, certainly suited the fall season, so rich and full of warming spices, perched atop rugged, chewy faro and handsome dates. The pork chop was a meaty beauty, brilliant and of epic proportion, sharing the plate with caramelized fennel and heated cherry peppers.

We flew into Fatta Cuckoo (63 Clinton St, 212-353-0570,, having rescheduled reservations after Hurricane Sandy. A Pee-Wee’s Playhouse setting meets the Lower East Side with wonton-wrapped seasonal vegetable ravioli, juicy brined and battered fried chicken and a host of scrumptious desserts such as grasshopper mousse, made by owner Leah Tinari’s mother.

Owner and chef Henry Yang helped close out the year, transforming Chelsea’s Alpha into Sushi Masaru (169 Eighth Ave, 212-627-8887,, a civilized dining room with the feel of an art gallery, befitting the beautiful plates of seared scallops with XO cognac and truffle oil, foie gras with supremed oranges, tuna tataki and fluke with seaweed and marinated rice.

First published in part in Next magazine. Photo credit: Gustavo Monroy.