Wednesday, August 29, 2012

"Corn this Way"

One of the biggest pleasures of summer is sweet and delicious corn on the cob! If you are taking the time to grill or barbecue, why not try "Smoked and Roasted Corn?" It is so easy and a nice spin on traditional corn on the cob! Perfect served with Tom's Tri-Tip with Lemon-Thyme Vinaigrette or Memphis-Style Spareribs!

Smoked and Roasted Corn

Serves 4


4 ears of corn
Small handful of wood chips (mesquite, hickory, or whatever you like)


Soak the wood chips in enough cold water to cover for at least an hour before grilling.

Remove the silks, but not the husks, from the ears of corn.

Replace the husks around the corn. Take a thin strip of husk and tie the ends closed.

Soak the ears of corn in water for a few minutes before grilling.

Prepare a charcoal grill to medium, medium-hot. When ready, add the wood chips to the coals and lay the ears of corn on a rack over the coals. Cover and cook them, for about 30 minutes, turning them occasionally.

To serve, just peel back the husks and revel in it's sweet smokiness!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Lobster, a Sea Captain, and an Anagram!!!

Continuing my trilogy of East Coast classics, I must include the sumptuous "Seafood Newburg!" Seafood Newburg is an American dish made of seafood, butter, sherry, and cream. It is deliciously seductive, and has an interesting history! The dish was created by Ben Wenberg, a West Indies sea captain, who brought the recipe to chef Charles Ranhofer of Delmonico's Restaurant in New York in 1876. The original recipe was made only with lobster, and was added to the menu as "Lobster a la Wenberg," in honor of Ben. It was an immediate hit! However, after a "falling-out" between Wenberg and Charles Delmonico, the dish was removed from the menu. After endless requests by customers for the dish, it was restored to the menu and renamed "Lobster a la Newberg," reversing the first three letters of the captain's name. Somehow, by 1897, the dish was better known as "Lobster a la Newburg."

In addition to becoming a staple of hotel dining rooms in the United States, it was among the most popular dishes served in the American Pavillion at the Paris Exposition of 1900. It then began appearing in French cookbooks, referred to as "Homard saute a la creme." The original recipe was made with clarified butter, cream, lobster, Madiera, salt, pepper, cayenne, and thickened with egg yolks. To see the original recipe, click here! The modern version is now made with a variety of seafood, a roux as a thickener, and sherry instead of Madiera. When I am fortunate enough to spend Christmas with my in-laws on the East Coast, my mother-in-law always makes this on Christmas Eve, and serves it over puff pastry shells! (I know, she's awesome!) In addition to adding some sliced button mushrooms (as my mother-in-law does), I have also added a generous pinch of cayenne, in honor of the original. I highly recommend serving it over puff pastry shells for a stunning presentation! Feel free to mix and match any seafood of your choice! It's fabulous!

Seafood Newburg

Serves 6


1 package Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry Shells, cooked according to package directions
1 stick (4-ounces) unsalted butter (plus more, if needed)
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups light cream
1/2 cup dry sherry, such as fino or amontillado
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
Generous pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 pound sea scallops, muscle removed, and halved horizontally
1/2 pound haddock or hake fillet, skinned and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (I skipped the fish and replaced it with 8-oz button mushrooms, thickly sliced)
1/2 pound medium shrimp, shelled and deveined
1/2 pound lobster meat, cut into bite-size pieces (I used 8-ounces jumbo lump crab-meat, instead)
Generous pinch of cayenne, or to taste
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste


For the cream sauce
Melt 4 tablespoons of the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook for 1 minute. Whisk in the cream and sherry and bring to a simmer over moderately high heat. Whisk in the paprika and nutmeg over low heat. Cook, whisking often, until no floury taste remains, about 5 minutes.

For the seafood
Meanwhile, in a large saute pan, melt the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and saute until golden. Using a slotted spoon, remove the mushrooms from the pan and set aside. If the pan is dry, add another couple of tablespoons or so of butter, until melted. Add the scallops and haddock (if using) and cook over moderate heat, stirring gently, until the haddock starts to turn white, about 3 minutes. Add the shrimp and lobster (or crab) and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the cream sauce and mushrooms and simmer over low heat until the seafood is cooked, about 3 minutes longer. Season with salt,  pepper, and cayenne to taste. It will look like this:

To serve
Place one pastry shell on each plate, and generously top with the seafood and cream sauce. Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from the former Inn at Isle au Haut, Maine.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

It's Something in the Water...

Continuing my East Coast theme, besides the White Pie, I also fell in-love with Philly Cheesesteaks! I have tried recipe after recipe trying to duplicate those delicious, beefy, cheesey, oniony sandwiches, but to no avail. None of them taste authentic. Perhaps it's the bread they use, made with Philadelphia water, just like New York bagels, which are impossible to duplicate without New York City water. If anyone has a great recipe for a Philly Cheesesteak, please send it my way! So, while I can't show you a great recipe for a Philly Cheesesteak or New York bagels, I can give you an excellent recipe for "New York Cheesecake!"

This recipe for a New York Cheesecake requires not one, not two, not even three, but four, 8-ounce packages of Philadelphia Brand Cream Cheese, making quite a rich and dense cheesecake, balanced perfectly between the graham cracker crust and the cherry topping! Yum! This recipe is also fantastic for parties, as it easily serves 12!!! To help prevent the cheesecake from cracking while it bakes, place a 9"x13" pan of water on the lower rack of the oven, then run a knife around the edge of the cheesecake after you pull it out of the oven! If these tips still result in a cracked cheesecake, no worries, the cherry topping will cover any imperfections! You'll love it!

New York Cheesecake

Serves 12

For the crust
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons butter, melted

For the filling
4, 8-ounce packages Philadelphia Brand Cream Cheese, softened
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
4 eggs
1 cup sour cream

For the topping
1, 21-ounce can cherry pie filling, or 3 cups whole strawberries, stems removed

For the crust
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Mix the crumbs, sugar, and butter together, and press into the bottom of a 9" springform pan. Bake for 10 minutes. Set aside.

For the filling
Beat the cream cheese, sugar, flour, and vanilla at medium speed with an electric mixer until well blended. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing at low speed after each addition, just until blended. Blend in the sour cream and pour over the crust.

Bake in the oven for 1 hour and 5 minutes to 1 hour and 10 minutes, or until the center is almost set. Remove from the oven, run a knife around the rim of the pan to loosen the cheesecake. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.

For the topping
Remove the rim of the pan. Carefully top with the cherries, using a spoon to remove them from the can, leaving excess syrup behind, or top with the strawberries, stem-side down, and serve!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

What I learned from "The City of Brotherly Love!"

Years ago, in my Environmental Consultant days, I lived outside Philadelphia and worked primarily in New Jersey and New York, the holy grail of contamination and East Coast style pizza! It was then that I fell in-love with the East Coast classic, "White Pie." The white pie is a pizza covered in roasted garlic, mozzarella, ricotta, salt and pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil; not to be confused with "Pizza Bianca," which is plain dough, baked with olive oil, rosemary, and Kosher salt, a Roman classic. I don't live on the East Coast anymore, so I had to create my own recipe for a white pie, which is pretty close to the original! If you love garlic, you'll love this pizza!

White Pie

Makes 1 large pizza


1 head roasted garlic, see Techniques
8 ounces grated mozzarella cheese, use the best quality you can get
About 5 ounces whole milk ricotta cheese, use the best quality you can get
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil, for drizzling


Prepare pizza dough. Preheat oven to 500 degrees with rack on the lowest setting. When the dough is ready, roll it out as thin or as thick as you like it. Place it on an oiled baking sheet. Drizzle with a glug of olive oil and spread the roasted garlic across the dough with the back of a spoon, leaving room for the crust. Top with the grated mozzarella and dollops of the ricotta. Sprinkle with a generous pinch of salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Bake according to My Basic Pizza Dough instructions. When done, add a drizzle of olive oil and allow to cool slightly, for the best flavor. Enjoy!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Crikey! It's Craggy!

Concluding my "Beautiful Bistro Menu," which started with Creme de Carottes au Cumin (Carrot and Cumin Soup) and followed with a beautiful Pan-Fried Sea Bass with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce and Broccoli Puree, I wanted something unusual for dessert; specifically, "Craggy Chocolate Cake." This cake, also from French Taste: Elegant Everyday Eating, by Laura Calder, is not your typical chocolate cake! It is a perfect concoction that creates a meringue-like exterior with a fudge-like interior! The cake cooks like a souffle, rising to all heights, then sinks when it cools, creating it's interesting crackled appearance. This decadent cake screams for a generous dollop of whipped cream, flavored with a little vanilla and confectioners' sugar! It's the perfect ending to a beautiful meal!

Craggy Chocolate Cake

Serves 8


7 ounces (200g) 70%-cacao bittersweet chocolate, chopped
7 ounces (200g) butter, softened
4 eggs, separated
1 cup (200g) sugar
Lightly sweetened whipped cream, for serving


Heat the oven to 375 degrees (190C). Line the bottom of an 8" (20cm) springform pan with a parchment round cut to fit, then grease and flour the pan.

Gently melt the chocolate in a bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water, then beat in the butter a piece at a time until smooth. Remove from the heat. In a separate bowl, beat the yolks with half the sugar until thick, pale, and ribbony. In yet another bowl, beat the whites to soft peaks. Scatter over the remaining sugar, and beat to a stiff meringue.

Slowly whisk the chocolate mixture into the yolk mixture. Stir in a spoonful of egg whites, then pour the chocolate mixture over the egg whites, and gently fold together with a spatula. Pour the batter into the pan, and bake until the top is set and the cake feels firm, 40-50 minutes. (My oven takes 40 minutes, keep an eye on it, it is inclined to over-browning!) Run a knife around the outside edge, then let it sit on a wire rack until cool. The cake will sink down, and the top will crack appealingly. Unmold, and serve.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Chilean Sea Bass, Why Do You Taste So Good?

Continuing my "Beautiful Bistro Menu," I wanted to make something special for my man, who loves Chilean sea bass. This elusive fish, aka., Patagonia toothfish, is not only hard to come by, because of over fishing, but is also d*** expensive! However, when I saw it at my local Whole Foods Market, who reportedly buys from a sustainable fishery certified by the Marine Stewardship Council, I just had to splurge! After the initial shock of the cost, and a rude old bag cutting in front of me in line (don't you hate that), I decided to make Laura Calder's "Pan-Fried Sea Bass with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce and Broccoli Puree." This recipe was very easy and darn pretty to look at! Although, with the strong flavors of the roasted red pepper sauce and broccoli puree, I think halibut would be a perfect substitute, and a lot kinder to your wallet! Don't forget to check back for the dessert!

Pan-Fried Sea Bass with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce and Broccoli Puree

Serves 4

For the red pepper sauce
2 red peppers
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 shallot, minced
3 tablespoons white wine
6 tablespoons chicken stock
Lemon juice, to taste
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For the broccoli puree
1 head broccoli, about 14 ounces
1 leek, washed and trimmed, see Techniques
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon butter, plus more to taste
Zest and juice of 1 lemon, to taste

For the sea bass
4 fillets sea bass (or halibut), about 4 ounces each
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil

For the red pepper sauce
Preheat over to 400 degrees. Set the red peppers on a baking sheet and roast until the flesh is soft and the skin is puckered, 35-45 minutes. Remove the peppers from the oven and put them in a bowl covered with plastic wrap. Set aside for 10 minutes to sweat. Remove the plastic wrap, peel and seed the peppers. Cut the flesh into pieces and set aside.

Heat the oil in a saute pan. Add the shallot and cook until soft. Deglaze the pan with the white wine and cook 1 minute. Add the stock and the cooked red pepper. Cook for 5 minutes. Cool slightly, and puree in a blender. Season with the lemon juice, salt and pepper, then transfer to a small saucepan to reheat in a few minutes.

For the broccoli puree
Bring a pot of water to a boil. Cut the florets off the broccoli stem in even sizes. Salt the pot of boiling water, add the broccoli and leek. Cook until very tender, about 10 minutes. Drain. Drop in the butter and puree with an immersion blender. Taste and adjust the salt. Add pepper, lemon juice and lemon zest, to taste. Serve the broccoli puree hot as a bed for the fish.

For the fish
Season the fillets with salt and pepper. Heat the butter and oil in a skillet (non-stick works well here). Fry on both sides until golden and cooked through, about 4 minutes per side. 

To serve
Add a spoonful of broccoli puree to the center of each plate and top it with the fish. Swirl the red pepper sauce around the plate and enjoy!

Recipe adapted from French Taste: Elegant Everyday Eating, by Laura Calder.

Monday, August 6, 2012

One Cool Cat!

I just couldn't resist sharing this adorable cat, and her hat is awesome! If only I could get my cat to do that... in Paris... we could go to a bistro together! Do they allow cats in bistros in Paris? Maybe not, but you can always dream!

So, while I'll probably never get my cat to ride on my bike, I did put together a beautiful bistro menu:

I started off with a very unusual and surprisingly complex tasting soup, "Creme de Carottes au Cumin," or "Carrot and Cumin Soup." This recipe comes from Steak Frites and Classic French Bistro Cooking, by Pierre-Yves Chupin. Chupin writes, "Made with fresh, flavorful carrots, this easily prepared soup has a delightfully sweet flavor. Try it and see; your guests will ask for more!" Well, my kids ate it well enough, but my husband, who swears he hates cumin, did ask for more!!! Little did he know the secret ingredient! This soup, which I served with a baguette, paired very well with the entree! Don't forget to check back for the rest of the menu!

Creme de Carottes au Cumin (Carrot and Cumin Soup)

Serves 4


8 medium carrots (1 lb) washed, peeled, and cut into chunks
1 cup (8 oz) full-fat creme fraiche
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Salt and fresh ground black pepper (I used white pepper)


Place the carrots in a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove the carrots from the pot and place them in a mixing bowl. Add the creme fraiche, the cumin, and a quarter of the cooking water (I used 1 cup of the cooking liquid). Mix well. (I used my immersion blender.) Season and serve lukewarm or cold.