Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year!

(I recommend viewing this in full screen!)

Brilliant!!! I can't do that, but I can make this festive "Limoncello Sparkle!" This lovely cocktail is perfect for New Year's Eve! I love it! See you next year!

Limoncello Sparkle

Makes 1 cocktail


1 ounce limoncello (An Italian lemon liqueur - love it!)
1/2 ounce Cointreau
Long lemon peel, for garnish


Combine the limoncello and Cointreau in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake until well chilled (about 30 seconds) and strain into a champagne flute. Top with champagne. Garnish with the lemon peel. Voila!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to everyone who follows Dinner Night! 

Special thanks to the United States, Russia, Germany, Netherlands, and Canada (my biggest followers), as well as everyone else! Let me know if you're making these recipes in the comment section or just reading my blog! I'd love to hear from you! Happy Holidays!

Eat, Drink, and Be Merry!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Lucky Peasants!

There is no way, I would let Christmas arrive without making Beef Bourguignon (aka., Beef Burgundy, Boeuf a la Bourguignonne). Beef Bourguignon is best made a day ahead, which makes it ideal for my holiday menuThis is a rustic peasant dish from the Bourgogne countryside of France, featuring the region's Charolais cattle and local red wine. This stew consists of beef, braised with carrots, onions, and red wine, then finished with bacon, pearl onions, and mushrooms... nothing could be more luxurious! Julia Child said it "is the best beef stew known to man." I agree! 

I have made almost every Beef Bourguignon recipe out there, (except, for one containing fish sauce... that's just wrong), and prefer Laura Calder's recipe, from French Taste: Elegant Everyday Eating. Traditional accompaniments include buttered noodles, rice, and mashed potatoes; but, I like it just as it is, with a sprinkle of parsley, a nice glass of red wine, and lots of crusty bread.

*The most important part of Beef Bourguignon is to take the time to properly sear the beef. This takes me about 30-40 minutes! Plan for it. This also makes a royal mess! Plan for that, too. Another note: Sometimes, depending on the wine used, it can acquire a slight bitter note, which can be corrected with 1/2 - 1 teaspoon of sugar.

Beef Bourguignon

Serves 8-10


For the stew
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 pounds boneless stewing beef, such as chuck or sirloin tip, cut into large chunks (pick a roast with a lot of marbling!)
4 garlic cloves, lightly crushed
1/4 cup flour
1 bottle red wine 
4 cups beef stock
1 bouquet garni (bay leaf, parsley stems, and thyme), click here for more information
2 carrots, peeled and halved
2 onions, peeled and halved
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For the garnish
1 tablespoon olive oil, more if needed
6 to 8 slices bacon, cut into lardons
40 pearl onions, peeled
1 pound button mushrooms, halved or quartered if large
Chopped flat leaf parsley, just before serving


For the stew
Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Heat the oil in a large dutch oven or stockpot with a tight-fitting lid, over medium-high heat. Working in batches, brown the meat well on all sides, removing to a bowl as it's browned. It should look like this:

When the meat is done, reduce the heat to medium-low, add the garlic and saute for 1 minute. Add the flour, and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Stirring constantly, pour over the wine and the stock. Add the bouquet garni, carrots, and onions. Return the meat to the pot, cover, and bake in the oven until the meat is very tender, about 3 1/2 hours.

For the garnish
Heat the oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Fry the bacon until cooked but not crisp. Remove to a bowl. Add the onions, and saute until browned all over; add to the bacon. Finally, brown the mushrooms, and add to the bowl. Deglaze the pan with 1/2 cup water, reduce to a spoonful, then pour over the garnish. Set aside.

To finish
When the meat is done, remove it from the pot. Strain the stock, discarding the vegetables and bouquet garni. Pour the liquid back into the pot, and boil until thick enough to lightly coat a spoon. (Feel free to add a cube or two of demi-glace, to take it over the top!) Return the meat to the pan with the garnish. Cover, and simmer until the onions are tender and the flavors have blended, about 10 minutes. Adjust the seasonings. Refrigerate overnight. The next day, reheat gently, adjust seasonings, and serve with a sprinkle of parsley.

Recipe adapted from Laura Calder's French Taste: Elegant Everyday Eating.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Dreaming in Dalmation

A few Christmases back, I was fortunate enough to experience one of the most amazing meals I've ever had, at The Inn at Little Washington! The Inn was created by, self-taught chef, Patrick O'Connell and Reinhardt Lynch in 1978, and is located in the tiny town of Washington, Virginia, in a former gas station/country store. The ambiance is reminiscent of an extravagant English manor, with the kitchen staff donning their signature dalmatian patterned chef apparel, a tribute to Rose, their dalmatian and mascot of The Inn. The whimsical, creative, and unbelievably delicious food is truly a delight! If you ever have the opportunity, you should go!

For my holiday menu, "A Burst of Camembert on Baby Greens," from Patrick O'Connell's Refined American Cuisine, seemed the perfect fit. It is my favorite salad/cheese course, ever! I could eat this everyday!

A Burst of Camembert on Baby Greens

Serves 6, The Camembert Triangles can be made a day ahead and refrigerated!


1 small wheel (about 9 ounces) Camembert, chilled
2 sheets phyllo dough
1/4 pound (1 stick) butter, melted (clarified butter would be best)
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
2 cups assorted baby greens, washed and dried
1/4 cup Sherry Vinaigrette, recipe below
Toasted pecans, for garnish


For the Camembert Triangles
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut the wheel of Camembert into 6 triangles. On a cutting board, lay out one sheet of phyllo dough and brush it with some melted butter. Place a second sheet of phyllo on top of the first and brush it with butter, reserving about 4 tablespoons of the butter. Quickly, wrap up the phyllo, save for another use.

Using a sharp knife, cut the buttered phyllo sheets into 6 strips, about 2 1/2 inches wide. Place a triangle of Camembert on one end of each phyllo strip. Fold one corner of the dough over to cover the cheese and form a triangle shape. (This is a little tricky, just do the best you can.) Place the triangles, seam side down, on the baking sheet and refrigerate until ready to serve.

To Serve
In a small heavy-bottomed saucepan, reduce the balsamic vinegar by half and set aside.

In a large skillet, heat about 4 tablespoons of the remaining melted butter over medium-low heat. Add the pastry-wrapped cheese pieces and cook for 30 to 45 seconds on each side until just golden. Using tongs, remove the cheese triangles from the skillet and drain on paper towels.

Place the greens in a large bowl, lightly dress them with the Sherry Vinaigrette, and place a small mound of greens in the center of each plate. Place a warm cheese triangle on top of each pile of greens. Drizzle the reduced balsamic vinegar around the greens and garnish with the pecans. Serve immediately.

Sherry Vinaigrette

Makes 3 cups. (I know there is a lot of ingredients, but if you can swing it, it's worth making! It's delicious!)


2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/2 tablespoon copped shallot
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1 1/2 tablespoons dry sherry
2/3 cup sherry vinegar
1 cup salad oil (like canola oil)
2/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup walnut oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste


Whisk all the ingredients together in a large stainless steel bowl. Transfer to a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Store in the refrigerator and shake well before using.


Over the weekend, I had a holiday dinner party! Here's the menu:

I started the meal with "Potato Crepes with Smoked Salmon." I made the batter ahead of time, and cooked them up just before my guests arrived. I topped them with creme fraiche and capers, but caviar would be fabulous, too! These pretty hors d'oeuvres, and plenty of champagne, really started my party off right!

Potato Crepes with Creme Fraiche and Caviar

Makes about 20-30, depending on how thin you want the crepes.


12 oz. pureed cooked potatoes
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 large eggs
3 large egg whites
1/4 cup heavy cream, or as needed
1-2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
Kosher salt and white pepper, to taste
Pinch of grated nutmeg
6 oz smoked salmon slices
1/2 cup creme fraiche
capers or caviar, to garnish


Combine the potatoes and flour in a mixer. Add the eggs one at a time, and then mix in the whites. Adjust the consistency with cream to that of a pancake batter; season with the salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Stir in the chopped dill.

Coat a nonstick pan or griddle lightly with oil. Pour the batter as for pancakes into silver-dollar-size portions. Cook until golden brown and turn and finish on the second side, about 2 minutes total cooking time.

Serve the crepes warm, each topped with a smoked salmon slice and garnished with a small dollop of creme fraiche and capers, or caviar.

Recipe from Hors d'Oeuvre at Home, by The Culinary Institute of America.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Magic in the Ice Box

Ice box cookies have been around since the 1920s, when ice boxes became widely available. These old fashion treats are always welcome in your freezer, to pull out when something special is desired, like during the holidays. All you do is slice off as many cookies as you'd like and bake them up. Nothing could be easier! One of my favorite ice box cookies are "Lacy Nut Cookies." These cookies spread like mad and remind me of delicate stained glass. They are very oily, so I recommend letting them completely cool before serving. While they are warm, you can roll them around the handle of a wooden spoon, you can cut them with cookie cutters, and, when cool, you can dip or drizzle them with melted chocolate. Let your imagination soar! In addition, these delicate beauties add a welcome crunch to ice cream!

(I had to add a meringue mushroom, this one smudged with cocoa to add a "rustic" effect! They're so cute!)

Lacy Nut Cookies

Makes about 4 dozen


1 cup plus 5 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 1/4 cups confectioners' sugar
1/4 cup corn syrup
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups chopped nuts (almonds, blanched hazelnuts, or pecans)


In a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium speed until fluffy. With the mixer running, add the corn syrup. Turn speed to low. Add flour; mix to combine. Add nuts; mix to combine. 

Place an approximately 12"x16" piece of parchment on a work surface. Spoon dough across the middle of the parchment. Fold the parchment over the dough, and using a ruler to slide evenly, press and roll the dough into a log. Freeze at least 30 minutes before baking.

Remove parchment from the log. Slice into 1/2"-thick rounds. Place rounds on a baking sheet, 4 at a time, 3 1/2" apart. Bake until golden and lacy, about 12 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Bake or freeze the remaining dough. Store cookies in an airtight container up to 2 weeks.

Adapted from Crafts and Keepsakes for the Holidays, by Martha Stewart Living.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Meet Bee and Dee

I tried to research the history of peppermint bark, but found nothing. However, I did find this:

Well, that should give you a pretty good idea how to make peppermint bark, but that's not exactly how I do it. I add peppermint extract and half of the crushed peppermint to the white chocolate, and top it with the remaining crushed candy. You can also drizzle dark chocolate across the top, if you feel the urge. This is one of the easiest recipes, ever! It's just as good, if not better, than any you could buy at the store! It also makes a nice gift!

Peppermint Bark:


2, 10-12 oz. bags of white chocolate chocolate chips
1, 10-12 oz. bag of dark chocolate
12 large candy canes, crushed (pop them into a plastic bag and bash away, get your kids to do it)
1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract


Line a 11"x17" baking sheet with parchment paper. Melt the dark chocolate in a microwave safe bowl, about 15 seconds at a time, stirring after each interval. When smooth and melted, spread dark chocolate evenly across the parchment. Place the pan into the refrigerator until set.

Meanwhile, melt the white chocolate the same way. When melted, quickly stir in the peppermint extract and half of the crushed candy canes. Spread evenly over the dark chocolate. Sprinkle over the remaining candy, pressing in gently, and allow to cool completely. You can chill it in the refrigerator until both layers are set and firm. Break or cut into pieces (I use a very sharp chef's knife), and voila!

*Note: Sometimes when breaking or cutting the peppermint bark, the chocolate layers may break apart. Some people say you should let it sit overnight before cutting, some people say you should cut it while the white chocolate is still slightly soft, and some people say they've never had any problems. Well, I've had mine split apart before, and you know what, it's still delicious! Good Luck!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Dinner Chez Moi

I am excited to announce that for my birthday, I received Laura Calder's new cookbook, Dinner Chez Moi: The Fine Art of Feeding Friends. I have been chomping at the bit to get my hands on it!

I immediately began flipping through this charming cookbook; and, to my surprise, there is an entire section devoted to birthday cakes!!! How fitting! So, completing my Birthday Menu, I made "Coconut Cake with Marshmallow Icing." I have never made marshmallow fluff before, and was a little worried about drizzling hot sugar syrup into beaten egg whites. However, it turned out great! This cake has a subtle coconut flavor, is moist, refrigerates very well, and the texture is amazing! If that's not enough, it's pretty and delicious! 

Coconut Cake with Marshmallow Icing


For the cake
3 cups cake-and-pastry flour (e.g., Swans Down)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup coconut milk

For the icing
2 egg whites
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the topping
Toasted coconut (spread out 2 handfuls of coconut on a baking sheet, bake at 400 degrees, stirring occasionally until evenly browned, watch it!)


Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line the bottoms of two 10" cake pans (I used 9", and it was fine) with parchment paper.

For the cake
Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt into a bowl. In a separate bowl, and preferably using electric beaters (I used a stand mixer, scraping down the sides regularly), beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, 1 at a time, then beat in the vanilla. Alternately beat in the dry ingredients and the coconut milk, adding about a third of each at a time. Divide the batter between the pans and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Cool on racks.

For the icing
Put the egg whites and cream of tartar in a bowl. Put the sugar and water in a saucepan and boil until a drop in a cold glass of water forms a soft ball (238 degrees F, if you use a candy thermometer, which I did). Remove from the heat. Beat the whites and cream of tartar to peaks (again, I used a stand mixer), then continue beating while pouring the syrup in a thin stream. Add the vanilla at the end. 

Place a cake layer on a serving plate. Spread some icing on top and sprinkle over a handful of toasted coconut. Top with the second layer, and ice the sides and top of the cake. Strew some toasted coconut on the top to decorate.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Suave Poivre

What's the best steak I've ever had? "Steak au Poivre," and I made it! Yes, I don't mean to gloat, but for my birthday menu, I had to pull out all the stops! Steak au Poivre is yet again, another French classic, that I adore and have been making for years! Basically, it is a tender cut of beef, like fillet, coated with crushed peppercorns and topped with a Cognac cream sauce. Yum! I served mine with mashed potatoes and harticot verts.

Because this is a fairly simple dish, the magic happens when you buy the steak. You must use the very best, highest quality, thickest steak you can find (aka., the most expensive). Now, I must tell you that depending on the thickness of your pan and the thickness of the steak, it is almost impossible to tell you an exact cook time, but I'll give you a good estimate. Click here for more information on cooking the perfect steak. Don't forget that you must let your steak rest 5 minutes before serving, which allows you time to make the sauce. Steak au Poivre is really easy, and absolutely delicious! Once you make it, you'll want to make it again, and again.

Steak au Poivre

Serves 4


5 tablespoons coarsely cracked peppercorns (Use a pepper mill set on a coarse grind, or place in a kitchen towel and bash with the bottom of a heavy pan or rolling pin.)
4 slices beef fillet, each 1 1/2-2" thick
Kosher salt
1/4 cup (2 oz) unsalted butter, plus 1 tablespoon
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup Cognac
1/2 cup beef stock
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard (optional, but I like it)
1 cup heavy cream


Spread the peppercorns on a plate. Moisten the meat very lightly on top and bottom with oil. Press the fillets into the cracked peppercorns, top and bottom. Push the peppercorns into the meat and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Sprinkle the fillets with salt. Combine the 1/4 cup butter and oil in a heavy saute pan or frying pan over high heat. Do not use a non-stick pan or you won't have any fond. (The caramelized bits on the bottom of the pan.) When the pan is hot, add the fillets. Reduce the heat to medium high, and brown on all sides, about 3-5 minutes per side. (When searing meat, be careful to avoid blackening the fond or your sauce will taste burnt. Adjust the heat to medium high, so it will sear but not scorch the pan juices.)  Place the fillets on a separate pan and place in the oven until desired doneness, about 5-7 minutes for rare, 10 minutes for medium rare, and so on. (Use the palm test!) Remove the pan from the oven, remove the steaks to a cutting board and let rest.

Meanwhile, pour off the excess fat from the heavy saute or frying pan and return to high heat. Remove the pan from the burner, carefully pour in the Cognac. Return to the burner. With a wooden spoon, deglaze or scrape the pan to dislodge any browned bits. Add the stock, mustard, if using, and the cream and reduce by half over high heat. Whisk in the remaining tablespoon of butter, taste, season with salt and pepper, if necessary. Plate the fillets and pour that amazing sauce over each. Proudly serve!

If you missed my Birthday Menu, click here!

Monday, December 5, 2011

What I Want to Eat on My Birthday!

As you may or may not know, my birthday was last Friday; and, I made a menu that I would enjoy:

I was looking for a light first course featuring crab, and stumbled upon "Crab Louie Salad," also known as "Crab Louis Salad," and "King of Salads." I had never heard of it before! Apparently, this is a famous west coast specialty, and a favorite of James Beard, that began popping up on restaurant menus somewhere between 1904 and 1917. In my research, I found that there are many versions of this salad, but the star ingredient is Dungeness crab (a delicacy of the region). The remaining ingredients vary widely, but consist of some variation of the following:
  • Lump crabmeat,
  • Crab Louie, Thousand Island, or Russian dressing,
  • Romaine, Iceberg, Boston, or Endive lettuce,
  • Fresh tomatoes,
  • Boiled eggs,
  • Cucumber,
  • Asparagus,
  • Olives, and
  • Avocado.
I chose Wolfgang Puck's version because it looks fantastic! I thought it was the perfect starter for a heavy main course. It tasted fresh and really stimulated my palate! This would also be perfect on a hot summer day!

Crab Louie

Serves 4


8 oz. jumbo lump crab
3 tablespoons Crab Louie dressing (recipe below), Thousand Island or Russian dressing
2 tablespoons fresh chives, chopped
1 large (may need more depending on size) vine-ripened tomato, diced and well drained
1/4 cup red onion, finely diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pinch of sugar
1 teaspoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
16 red endive leaves (I couldn't find red, so I had to use white.)
1 whole avocado, diced
1 ring mold (click here for more information)


Pick through the crab meat thoroughly and remove any shells. Place the crab in a small bowl, and fold in the dressing and chives. Set aside. In a separate bowl, combine the tomato, onion, olive oil, salt, pepper, sugar, and parsley to make a nice relish.

To plate:
Set the ring mold (or in my case, a can) in the center of the plate. Place 4 endive leaves around the mold, creating a flower pattern. Spoon 1/4 of the crab mixture in the mold, pressing down with the spoon. Next, spoon in 1/4 of the avocado, pressing down. Finally, spoon in 1/4 of the tomato relish, pressing down. Now, carefully lift the mold and smile! Repeat with the remaining 3 plates.

Crab Louie Dressing

1 1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup chili sauce
3 tablespoons minced green bell pepper (or sweet relish, if you prefer)
3 tablespoons minced green onions with some green tops
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
Salt and pepper, to taste

Mix all ingredients. Refrigerate until ready to use.

You may also like Crab and Avocado Salad.