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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


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)


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.”


Adapted from The Barbara Pym Cookbook


2 eggs

1 cup milk

1 cup flour, sifted


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!