Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Gratin Dauphinois' Healthy Cousin

Everyone loves potatoes! Mashed, boiled, fried or baked, they are usually loaded with butter and heavy cream, not exactly good for you. So, when you want a creamy potato dish that isn't loaded with fat, make "Pommes de Terre a la Boulangere", or "Boulangere Potatoes". This is an old French classic. The story goes that you would take your pan of potatoes to the local baker's oven (once the daily bread was finished) and roast your meat on a higher rack, letting the juices flavor the potatoes. How resourceful! The result is a creamy potato dish layered with sweet onions, slowly roasted in beef broth until slightly crisp on the edges. It's so savory, you won't miss the cream!

Boulangere Potatoes

Serves 6


3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 onions, sliced
2 pounds thinly sliced potatoes (a variety of potatoes looks nice, too)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Handful chopped fresh thyme
2 cups beef stock or chicken stock (beef is more authentic)


Heat the oven to 300 degrees. Melt half the butter with the olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat, and gently fry the onions until soft and lightly golden, about 15 minutes. Spread half of the onions in the bottom of a medium shallow casserole. Layer half of the sliced potatoes on top, season with salt and pepper, and scatter over the thyme. Build another layer of onions, then a final one of potatoes, and finally pour in the stock. Dot with the remaining butter. Cover with foil, and bake until all the liquid has been completely absorbed, 2 to 3 hours, removing the foil for the last hour.

Recipe from French Taste: Elegant Everday Eating, by Laura Calder.  For Gratin Dauphinois, click here.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Dolphin Potatoes?

"Gratin Dauphinois" is a specialty of the former Dauphine region of France. Dauphine was located in southeastern France (now Isere, Drome, and Hautes-Alpes), and was an independent state from 1040 to 1349. After joining France, it maintained autonomy until 1457. Dauphine was ruled under the Counts of Albon, whose coat of arms bore a dolphin, thus the name. This luxurious potato dish, loaded with butter, cream, and Gruyere cheese, is definitely as extravagant as it is delicious! This is a classic, you should know! 

Gratin Dauphinois

Serves 6


2 1/4 pounds baking potatoes (I prefer Yukon Gold potatoes!)
1 garlic clove, crushed
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus extra softened butter for the dish
2 1/2 cups half-and-half
Kosher or sea salt, to taste (about 2 teaspoons)
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 cup (4 oz.) freshly shredded Gruyere (use really good imported Gruyere, if possible)


Heat the oven to 300 degrees.

Peel the potatoes and slice them thin using a mandoline or a food processor. Place the potato slices in a large bowl of cold water and move them around to get rid of excess starch. Drain well and dry thoroughly; use a salad spinner or else put the slices in a kitchen towel, gather the corners together, go outside, and swing your arm as fast and vigorously as you can. (I get my husband to do this for me, which makes me laugh, everytime!)

Rub a large shallow baking dish with the garlic clove and a little butter.

Put the butter with the cream in a large saucepan and bring just to a boil. Finely dice what's left of the garlic and add it to the butter and cream, along with the sliced potatoes, salt, and pepper. Gently simmer for 8 minutes.

Transfer to the prepared dish, spread evenly and top with the Gruyere. Bake for 1 1/2 hours, or until golden brown and bubbly. 

Recipe from My French Kitchen, by Joanne Harris and Fran Warde. For Boulangere Potatoes, click here.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Turkey is NOT from Turkey!

Around 1519, conquistador Hernando Cortez returned to Spain with a bird introduced to him by the Native Americans of Mexico. The peculiar bird confused all of Europe. The French thought it was from India and so named it dindon, from Poulites d'Inde. The Germans, Dutch, and Swedes agreed that the bird was Indian, they named it kilcon after Calcutta. By the time the trend reached England, rumor had it that the bird was from Turkey, and so that became its name. However, the Wild Turkey is native to the forests of North America, and the Ocellated Turkey is native to the forests of the Yucatan Peninsula. 

So, what better cuisine, than that of Mexico, to utilize your leftover turkey? In fact, I roast a turkey every year, just to make these delicious enchiladas! Everyone I've ever given this recipe to, makes these after Thanksgiving, every year! Serve with refried beans, leftover corn souffle (which I always have after Thanksgiving), a big green salad perked up with orange segments, sliced red onions and sliced avocados. Beer and/or sangria, chips, salsa and guacamole round out the meal. Enchiladas buena!

The Great After-Thanksgiving Turkey Enchiladas

Serves 6


For the sauce
3 tablespoons canola oil
1 1/2 cups finely chopped onions
1, 28-oz can enchilada sauce
5 plum tomatoes, seeds removed and finely chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped canned chipotle chiles
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

For the enchiladas
3 cups coarsely shredded cooked turkey
2 cups grated Monterey Jack cheese (divided into 1 1/2 cup and 1/2 cup)
3/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup finely chopped onions
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 canola oil
12, 5-6" corn tortillas


Heat 3 tablespoons oil in a large saucepan or soup pot over medium heat. Add 1 1/2 cups onions and saute until tender, about 5 minutes. Add enchilada sauce, tomatoes and chipotles. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Cover; simmer 20 minutes, stirring often. Remove from the heat. Stir in 1/2 cup cilantro. Season sauce with salt and pepper.

Mix turkey, 1 1/2 cups cheese, sour cream, 1/4 cup onions and 1/2 cup cilantro. Season with salt and pepper.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat 1/2 cup canola oil in medium skillet over medium heat. Cook 1 tortilla until pliable, about 20 seconds per side. (Don't fry them!) Drain on paper towels. Repeat with remaining tortillas.

Spread 1/2 cup sauce in 13x9x2" baking dish. Making one at a time, spoon 1/4 cup turkey mixture in the center of each tortilla. Roll up tortilla and arrange seam side down in baking dish. When all the enchiladas are nestled in neatly, spoon 2 1/2 cups sauce over the enchiladas. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup cheese. Bake enchiladas until heated through, about 30 minutes.

Rewarm remaining sauce in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Transfer to a sauceboat. Serve enchiladas, passing sauce separately. Delicioso!

History of the turkey from Recipe from Bon Appetit.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

"One-Pan" and a Fire Extinguisher

I had good intentions. In fact, I'd already written a spiel about eating Thanksgiving in a restaurant, table for 2, how sad. So, I wanted to show you how to make a "One-Pan Thanksgiving Dinner", for people in small kitchens or without family nearby. However, after nearly burning up my kitchen in a cognac blaze, (I should have removed the pan from the heat before adding the cognac), maybe reservations aren't such a bad thing! The recipe I made was Turkey Paupiettes with Chestnuts and Brussels Sprouts. It wasn't very good, tedious, bland, and had a "brainy" appearance. I don't recommend it.

However, the recipe suggested serving the paupiettes with a squash or pumpkin puree. My husband detests pumpkin, so I made roasted sweet potato puree. Honestly, they are simple (and not hazardous), and were the best thing on the plate! This picture isn't Bobby Flay's "Whipped Chipotle Sweet Potatoes", but; were made the same way (without the chipotle) and plainly mashed with a potato masher. After realizing I was going to have to replace my burnt and shriveled range hood, grease filter, screen things (if you find the need yourself, Lowe's carries them in the stores - thankfully), I just didn't care anymore. Wine?

Whipped Chipotle Sweet Potatoes

Serves 8-10


5 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes, scrubbed
1 tablespoon (1 1/2-2 chiles) minced chipotle chiles in adobo, or to taste, mashed to a paste (these are sold in small cans at the store)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon-size pieces, at room temperature
1 teaspoon salt


Adjust the rack to the middle and preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil and butter a shallow, 2-quart glass or ceramic baking dish.

Pierce each potato several times with a fork, place on the baking sheet, and bake until very soft, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Remove the potatoes from the oven and reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees.

When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, halve them and scoop the flesh into a bowl. Beat the potatoes, chile paste, butter, and salt with an electric mixer on medium speed just until smooth. Spread in the prepared baking dish. Bake until hot, 20 to 25 minutes. Serve immediately. 

Monday, November 21, 2011

Italian Thanksgiving for 8

If you've ever made a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, you know it's a lot of work. And if you only have one oven, as I do, it really creates a challenge timing everything perfectly. Add relatives and it's enough to bring tears! But guess what? You don't have to roast a whole turkey, when you can make "Turkey Osso Bucco". I know traditional osso bucco uses veal shanks, but it is a wonderful method of preparing turkey, as well. The turkey is braised with vegetables, fresh herbs, wine, and stock, then topped off with an aromatic gremolata. Trust me, this recipe tastes as good as your house will smell! No one will miss the often bland roast turkey! To make it a complete holiday meal, I would start with an antipasto platter, then serve it with a simple green salad, risotto or polenta, or even mashed potatoes, and plenty of crusty bread to mop up the amazing sauce! Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc would compliment it nicely. End it with a slice of pumpkin pie and you'll have a unique and memorable Thanksgiving, with a lot less trouble!

Turkey Osso Bucco

Serves 8


1 half-breast of turkey, cut into 4 pieces (ask your butcher)
2 turkey thighs (or 6 thighs, if you don't want to use the turkey breast, thighs will ensure it is moist and flavorful)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/3-1/2 cup all-purpose flour, for dredging
Canola oil, enough to coat the bottom of your pan
1 onion, finely diced
2 carrots, peeled and finely diced
2 celery stalks, finely diced
1 generous tablespoon tomato paste (I buy Amore Tomato Paste in a tube - great invention!)
1 cup dry white wine (I use Madiera - I love it with turkey and think it adds better flavor than white wine)
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth (or less depending on the size of your pan, see below)
1 large fresh rosemary sprig
2 large fresh thyme sprigs
2 bay leaves
2 whole cloves

1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Zest of 1 lemon
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
Pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Pat the turkey pieces dry with paper towels to ensure even browning. Season the turkey with salt and pepper, then dredge in the flour, shaking off any excess.

In a heavy roasting pan or any oven-safe pan large enough to fit the turkey pieces in a single layer, heat enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan, over medium/medium-high heat. Add the turkey and brown on both sides. Transfer to a plate and reserve.

To the same pan, add the onion, carrot, and celery. Season the vegetables with salt and cook until they are tender, about 6 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and cook for 1 minute. Stir in the wine and simmer until the liquid is reduced by half, about 3 minutes. Return the turkey to the pan. Add enough chicken broth to come two thirds up the sides of the turkey pieces. Add the herb sprigs, bay leaves, and cloves to the pan. Bring to a boil, then cover the pan with lid (if it has one) or cover tightly with foil and transfer to the oven. Braise until the turkey is fork tender, about 1 hour and 45 minutes, turning after 1 hour.

When the turkey is almost done, combine the gremolata ingredients in a bowl with fingers. Slice the turkey (it's so tender, it usually falls off in pieces) and arrange in shallow serving bowls. Season the sauce to taste with salt and pepper (go very light on the salt, because the gremolata is salty), and ladle some over each serving. Sprinkle each serving with a large pinch of gremolata.

Recipe adapted from Giada's Kitchen by Giada de Laurentiis.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Fine! I Give In!

I was reading one of my new cookbooks the other day, and there it is AGAIN: "Spaghetti Aglio E Olio," a.k.a., "Spaghetti with Oil and Garlic" or "Spaghetti with Garlic, Chili, and Oil." I think I've seen this recipe in at least 6 or 7 of my cookbooks; but, have never made it because I thought, "How good can that be?" Well, I sat down my book and made a bowl for my lunch. I have to admit, it is an alluring pasta dish. So simple. So pure. You really do focus on the flavor of the pasta, and the heat is nice, too. This would be elegant as a first-course in an Italian menu, or even just for lunch. This dish is served without cheese, but a tablespoon of seasoned breadcrumbs makes a nice addition.

Spaghetti Aglio E Olio

Serves 6 (as a first-course)


1 pound spaghetti
6 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2-1 teaspoons chili pepper flakes
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil (use the best you've got, it's important here)
2 handfuls flat-leaf Italian parsley, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Seasoned breadcrumbs, for serving (optional)


Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the spaghetti, until al dente.

Meanwhile, fry the garlic gently in the oil over medium-low heat until the garlic is yellow, about 3 minutes. Add the chili pepper flakes, and turn the heat to low until the pasta is done. Remove the garlic.  As soon as the pasta is done, drain it and tip it into the pan and toss with the oil and parsley. Season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Lazy Daze

Where I live, we've already had our first freeze. Brrr! I've been packaging rescued green tomatoes, wrapping each individually in newspaper, and putting them in a cardboard box with an apple (emits ethylene gas which helps stimulate ripening). I put the box in a cool spot and wait for the tomatoes to ripen. But you have to check them everyday, inevitably, one will go bad, just toss it. It all seems so sudden. My basil's gone, geraniums gone, trees are bare, and the days are shorter. It makes me long for the season past. At times like these, I make Spaghetti with Tomato Confit, Basil, and Parmesan. It reminds me of those lazy hours, lingering in the sunshine.

Spaghetti with Tomato Confit, Basil, and Parmesan

Serves 4 (This begs for a crusty baguette.)


1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more (about 1/4 cup) for serving
1 red onion, cut into 1/2-inch dice
6 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
18 fresh basil leaves, plus 1/4 cup for serving (if large, cut into thin ribbons)
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
About 50 cherry tomatoes, rinsed and patted dry
3 teaspoons Kosher salt
2 teaspoons sugar
1 pound spaghetti
2 cups loosely packed arugla or baby spinach
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan for serving


Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.

Heat the 1/4 cup oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat. Add the whole basil leaves and red pepper flakes and stir well.

Toss the tomatoes with the 1 teaspoon of the salt and the sugar and place in a 8"x12" roasting pan, lined with foil. The pan should be large enough to hold them in a single layer. If they won't fit, use another roasting pan and more oil. Spoon the onion mixture over the tomatoes. Add enough oil to come halfway up the tomatoes. Roast until the tomatoes are very tender, about 2 hours. Stir once, gently, during the roasting. You can roast the tomatoes up to 6 hours ahead.

Bring a large pot of water with the remaining 2 teaspoons salt to a boil. Add the spaghetti and stir constantly until the water returns to a boil. Cook until the pasta is al dente, about 7 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the tomatoes and onion in a large saucepan over low heat. When the pasta is done, drain and transfer to the saucepan with the tomatoes. Add the arugula or spinach. Toss well. Add the basil and toss again.

Serve immediately in warm shallow bowls with Parmesan sprinkled over the top.

Adapted from The Tomato Festival Cookbook, by Lawrence Davis-Hollander. I love this!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Eggs Benedict and a Bloody Mary

I've heard rumors, but is it really possible to make hollandaise sauce in a blender? The answer is YES! All these years, I've been whisking and carefully trying to create this beautiful sauce over a water bath, gently monitoring it's progress, hoping I wouldn't curdle or split the sauce. No wonder I only make it on special occasions! Well, not anymore! Try it, you won't believe it!

Blender Hollandaise

3 egg yolks
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup melted butter
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons chives, chopped
Pinch of cayenne or Tabasco sauce (optional)

Put the egg yolks, salt and pepper in a blender. (An immersion blender/cup works even better!) With the blender running, slowly drizzle (literally drop by drop) in the butter until emulsified. Stir in the lemon and chives. Taste and adjust seasoning. Hold the sauce in a bowl of hot water or thermos, until ready to serve. Seriously, it's that easy!

*You must use very fresh eggs, as this is a raw sauce.

Friday, November 11, 2011

I'm A Sucker For Cow's Doing The Jig

Concluding my "Irish Dinner Night", I finished the meal with Ben & Jerry's Dublin Mudslide ice cream.

Who knew that this ice cream shop, which opened in 1978, in a dilapidated gas station in Burlington, Vermont, would last this long, and make some of the best ice cream, EVER! Normally, I'm a purist and insist on making everything from scratch, but sometimes you just have to let go and serve something easy. In fact, I don't think I could beat this decadent flavor! There's no shame in serving this; in fact, do the jig and serve it proudly! Yum!

Monday, November 7, 2011

A Salmon Forest with Arugula Leaves?

Over the weekend, I had one of my best friends over for "Dinner Night"! She is Irish and brought her new boyfriend! We had a great time! My friend hates to cook and requested I make some of my favorite "Irish"-inspired recipes. Here's the menu:

I started with luxurious "Smoked Salmon Rolls with Arugula, Mascarpone, Chives, and Capers". These are so beautiful and delicious! Make the mascarpone mixture ahead, but assemble the rolls right before your company arrives. Otherwise, the arugula goes limp and looks disgusting! (Believe me, I know!)

Smoked Salmon Rolls with Arugula, Mascarpone, Chives, and Capers

Serves 6 as an appetizer, 12 as an hors d'oeuvre


5 oz. mascarpone cheese (about 2/3 cup)
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and drained
2 tablespoons minced fresh chives
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
12 oz. smokes salmon, cut into 24 thin slices, 2-3 inches on the short side (I use presliced salmon)
48 small, tender arugula leaves


Mix the mascarpone with 1 tablespoon of the capers, 1 tablespoon of the chives, and the lemon juice in a small bowl. Season well with salt and pepper.

Lay the salmon slices out on a cutting board with one of their short sides facing you and with plenty of space above and below each slice. (You can do this in batches.)

Put a spoonful of the mascarpone mixture on the narrow end of a slice. Lay 2-3 arugula leaves, fanned slightly, across the mascarpone, so that the leaves will extend several inches from one end of the roll. Roll up the salmon slice and stand it upright, leaves pointed up, on a serving platter. Repeat with the remaining slices.

When ready to serve, sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon chives and 1 tablespoon capers, and enjoy!

Recipe from In the Hands of a Chef, by Jody Adams and Ken Rivard.

*Keep checking my blog for the rest of the recipes from this menu!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Save your Palate! Go Green!

Now you know they're good for you, but what do you do with tomatillos? A lot! These tangy little beauties are primarily used to make salsa and sauces in three ways:
  1. Briefly boiled for a bright, green salsa and sauce, perfect for chips, chicken, fish, tacos, tostadas, and enchiladas;
  2. Roasted for a rich, slightly browned salsa and sauce, perfect for beef, pork, and lamb;
  3. They are also great for braising things, e.g., pork and even brisket!
When I was in California, recently, I was astonished to see some of my extended family devouring a tomatillo salsa, and not having a clue what it was or how to make it. Well, let's make a basic simmered tomatillo salsa, a.k.a, salsa verde!

Simmered Tomatillo Salsa (Salsa Verde Cocida)

Makes 2 cups. Salsa will keep in the refrigerator for up to a week. If frozen, whiz it up in a blender or processor to restore it's smooth texture.


1 pound green tomatillos
2 garlic cloves, peeled
3 serrano chiles, or more to taste
1/2 cup cilantro leaves
1/2 cup white onion, roughly chopped
1-1/2 teaspoons Kosher salt, or to taste
1-1/2 tablespoons canola oil


Remove the husks (usually a little sticky) and pull off the stems from the tomatillos. Wash them.

Bring the tomatillos, garlic, and serranos to a boil in a medium pot of salted water.

Lower the heat and simmer about 10 minutes, until the tomatillos have softened slightly and lost their brightness everywhere except on the indented stem, like this:

Reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid, and drain everything in a colander, allow to cool slightly. Cut the stems off the serranos and place everything, along with the 1/2 cup cooking liquid, in a blender or food processor and process until smooth. Add the onion and 1 teaspoon salt, pulse a few times. (You don't want to completely lose the onion texture.)

Heat the oil in the pot you used for boiling over medium, medium-high heat. When hot enough to make a drop of the puree sizzle, stand back, and pour it all in at once. Bring to a simmer and stir constantly for about 6-7 minutes, until it thickens and deepens color. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. Stir in the cilantro, taste to see if it needs salt, usually does, about 1/2 teaspoon or so. Now, it's ready to serve!

Adapted from Rick Bayless's Mexican Kitchen (one of my favorite cookbooks, EVER!)