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Friday, March 22, 2013

Making Mahi Mahi

The Post-It I left on the counter when Baby and I crossed paths was inscribed simply, "Would you like mahi mahi for dinner tonight? With lemon, parsley, garlic and crushed olives that we already have?" When I returned home, I saw he had written over it in a lime-green Sharpie pen, "YES!"

Terribly easy and boy, was it good!

Start with heating up a 350 degree oven. The frozen, vacuum-sealed mahi mahi (two decent servings) from Trader Joe's reclined for a while in the refrigerator for much of the day in anticipation and was quickly thawed in warm water before being placed in an enamel lined Le Creuset tarte tatin pan to rest and acknowledge the salt and pepper dashed on both sides.

Meanwhile, a fistful of mixed olives went into a skillet with garlic and olive oil over medium heat and chatted until they'd softened up after a fine simmer; about 15 minutes or so.


More pepper went into this. I threw parsley to wilt on top and tossed the whole thing about as I gently browned the mahi mahi briefly in a little butter and olive oil over medium heat, flipping once. I deglazed by adding about a half cup of bouillon. The olive, garlic and parsley mixture went into the tarte tatin pan and the whole thing went into the oven until cooked to our preferred doneness. It's all very fast work; really only a few minutes, until you smell that it's ready to come to the table. Once out of the oven, let it sit for a moment or two with a judicious spray of lemon which enhances the vibrant finished fish so it may ring the alarum bell to announce, "Dinner is served!" Green beans and a pillow of mashed potatoes are a perfect accompaniment, as is a dry Riesling.

Making Mahi Mahi...mmm...Do enjoy!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Cassoulet 2013


I absolutely loved making this version of cassoulet in celebration of my blog's anniversary--and enjoyed eating it even more! Courtesy of Saveur magazine, the recipe may be found here

Making cassoulet is sincere, honest work. I fully admit to being slow in the kitchen, but as I have said before, I don't think cooking is a race or a competition. Even though this recipe is very straight forward, despite all the time it took with simmering, stewing, bubbling and whatnot, there was hardly any wait time--I never sat down! You can gun this at seven hours, but this cassoulet should have time to rest overnight, so plan on making it the day before you intend to serve it.

There were already four game limbs of duck confit chilling out in our refrigerator and I devised a very simple way make confit, found here. We didn't have dried great northern (or any small white beans) so I used canned, adding them in later so as not to become overly mushy--and it saves some time too in the cooking process.

Quartered onions and thyme become well-acquainted with ham hocks, covered in water with some salt and pepper.

More onions met up with a browned pork bones (not a ham bone as the recipe suggests) in a heavy bottomed pot. I also subbed bacon ends and bits instead of pork rind.

This part was great: about a cup of garlic cloves went into the blender with another onion and 1/2 cup water to create a paste. I was concerned at first that it was a little watery, but the minute it heated up in the pan with the browned sausage links, it was devastatingly aromatic and so delicious as I dug a spoon into it to give it a taste.

Once everything came together it cooked for three more hours before completely cooling and going into the refrigerator to sleep overnight. It was slowly reheated for another three hours the following afternoon and was timed served to our guests at dinner time without the slightest effort--and more than a moment to catch up over relaxing cocktails. 

Happy Anniversary, Evenings With Peter! And thanks to dear folks for reading!

Soundtrack: C'est Chic! French Girl Singers from the 60's; Diva soundtrack.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Play Reading - All About Eve

This month we took to the living room to enact All About Eve, the scintillating classic drama about a neurotic, aging (she's only turning 40!) actress and the young upstart who schemes to uproot her life. The reading was different this time, we weren't reading from a copy of a staged play--I had found a transcript of an old Lux radio play, edited to fit the format--and actually featured the star of the film, none other than Miss Bette Davis.

As the legendary New York restaurant '21' figures into the film, I was inspired to create a menu from one of my favorite cookbooks, '21' of course, that was given to me by a dear friend years ago, with recipes by chef extraordinaire Michael Lomonaco. I set the table to mimic the tables at '21' with red and white checkered napkins, and cocktail napkins and stirrers from the joint that a bartender was kind enough to give me when I had recently visited. And of course there was a wide-rimmed martini glass for decoration.

Tonight's Menu
Chilled Relish Tray (celery, radishes and black olives)
Butter Lettuces with Peas & Shallot Champagne Vinaigrette
London Broil with Roasted Shallots
"Cold Cocoa" Cups

I filled a copper gratin pan with crushed ice and placed my dish of appetizing raw vegetables upon it before we began reading, as we caught up with a few glasses of wine.

Simple butter lettuces with peas served as a wonderful salad, dressed with Lomonaco's utterly distracting vinaigrette.

A London Broil steak was cooked well enough in an attempt to evenly gauge everyone's taste for doneness. Our off-oven preparation may be found here from a great New York Times article. The recipe for accompanying roasted shallots was pulled from the '21' cookbook and tasted like we had entered a Parisian bistro when paired with the meat.

The shallots before, performing a merry dance all on their own, quite bouncing about, as they sauteed in butter...

And after, being roasted in the oven with sugar, butter, salt, pepper and chicken stock for about 40 minutes until they become such a lovely gold brown.

The meat of the matter!

The '21' flourless chocolate torte that we intended to make had some issues--Baby and I couldn't unmold it from the pan! Julia Child once lamented (more or less) that "cooking is one disaster after another!" But as with any recipe, calmed assurance, control and a touch of ingenuity must also be added to the list of ingredients. We scooped the torte out of the pan as there was nothing wrong with it except for its unwillingness to budge, and into some elegant cups from a vintage coffee service. We topped this with spurts of whipped cream and blossoms of dark chocolate curls for a truly fabulous dessert.

It started out this way,  with sugar and corn syrup brought to a boil.

Ten whole eggs goes into this torte, beaten in an electric mixer to a frenzy!

Melting the chocolate in a double boiler until it turns to...

shimmering chocolate silk for the rich base of your torte!

Although our torte wasn't what we had hoped for, and it pained us to disrupt our confection in such a way as we did, nobody was the wiser and practically licked their cups clean. So don't tell everybody all about our evening.

Soundtrack: Atlantic Jazz, Hits of the 50's; Jorge Bolet, Lizst, Piano Works, Vol. 1; Applause, Original Broadway Cast.