Saturday, January 10, 2015

A Bittersweet Start To The New Year

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About the only thing that is showing any beauty or color in the garden are the ornamental kale and cabbage I planted last Fall.  They are putting on quite a show!

At the end of October 2014

Mid December 2014

Early January 2015 

Meantime, back at the house....a pipe burst during the freeze we had the last couple of days and it happened to be in Mother's new apartment.  A piece of the wall in the guest bedroom had to be removed together with all the molding around the floor.  Additionally,  the padding for the rug and some of the hardwood floor in the rest of the apartment have to be replaced.  We have six large and noisy fans drying the floors and MM is back upstairs.  After seven months of problems and delays, we got to enjoy the place for less than two months.  Now we are back to square eight and another big expense.

The nostalgia that engulfed me at the beginning of the year has now turned into a full fledged depression.  Madame Mere and I both agree that someone down there doesn't want us moving into their old space.  The time has come for some drastic measures and a serious cleansing!

My new cleaning crew

Back in a bit.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

About Last Night...

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While taking down some of the Christmas decorations today, my eyes lingered on this photo of my parents at a New Year's Eve party in Havana in the 1950's.  She must have been in her late twenties and my father in his early 30's.  It is one of many favorites of the two of them. The expression on my father's face is so typical and just the way I remember him.  And Madame Mere, so stylish in her black dress and pearls.   No wonder she has aged so well, just look at that skin.

I wish we still dressed up like that when it comes to New Year's Eve.  It was so civilized.  Somehow jeans and a sweater don't do it for me when it comes to opening a bottle of Champagne...or sitting down to caviar, Duck A l'Orange and a Grand Marnier souffle.  That's what we had last night, for MM had her heart set on a special dinner and I concurred! Today she's on chicken soup and soda crackers, but she insists it was not "the rich food".

It is interesting the time we spend decorating our houses for the holidays and yet we shun doing the same for ourselves.  It can't be about cost, since what you pay for some of the "casual clothes" I see advertised today can definitely buy you a cocktail dress or two. I think a bit of rebellion or a quest for individuality has a lot to do with this because "dressing up" doesn't take more time than "dressing down" and you'd be surprised how different people act in the former from the way they behave in the latter.  In my book, as far as New Year's Eve is concerned, clothes do make the man (or woman). It would be wonderful to see a little glamour back in our lives.

If you notice a tinge of nostalgia in this post, you are quite right.  Maybe the news and events of the past years have me yearning for the time of my childhood, or maybe I am just tired of the way people dress today,  I'm always a little down on the first day of the new year but I always bounce back,  I'll be chirpier in a couple of days and back in the saddle!

Have A Happy New Year!

But...I was all dressed up!

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Roast Duck Legs With Honey, Vinegar And Caramelized Apples

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I bought four duck legs last week with the best intentions of turning them into duck confit for pates and cassoulets in the future;  but I got lazy and decided instead to roast them and serve them with a sauce.  After glancing through a few cookbooks, I came upon this recipe from Marie Blanche de BrogliePrincess de Broglie, and decided to give it a try.  Her cookbook, The Cuisine of Normandy, is out of print, but I promise to post more of her fabulous recipes at a later date. The original recipe is for Magrets de Canard Saint-Wandrille,  the latter being a Benedictine monastery founded by Count Wandrille in 649.

Since we are nearing the end of the year I thought I would share it with you as it is a good candidate for New Year's Eve.  It is simple and easy enough to put together wherever you are spending the holiday and definitely up a notch or two to make it special.  You can accompany with wild rice and a vegetable like roasted Brussels sprouts.

 I have substituted duck legs for duck breast this time, but feel free to use either.   It's a great recipe and quite different from the way I usually serve duck.  This New Year's Eve, I am going to save the orange sauce for Crepes Suzette!

Serves 4*


6 duck legs (whole with thighs) or 4 boneless duck breasts
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/3 cup cider vinegar
2 Tb honey
2 Cups duck stock or rich brown chicken stock
6 TB butter
4 apples
Lemon juice
1 1/2 cups sugar
about 1/3 cup tap water
3/4 cup ice water

Preheat oven 425.

Season duck with salt and pepper.  In a heavy iron skillet brown the legs or breasts over medium high heat starting with the skin side down to render fat.  The meat should be cooked rare, 3 to 4 minutes on each side.  Remove the duck to a heated plate and cover it with foil to keep warm.

Pour the fat out of the skillet (but save it for later use!) and deglaze pan with the vinegar.  Add the honey and stock and reduce the liquid to about 1 cup.  Whisk the butter into the sauce, a tablespoon at a time. Pour sauce into a bowl and wipe the pan with a paper towel.   You will be using the iron skillet later.

Peel, core and quarter the apples.  Trim the quarters into football shapes and rub them with the lemon juice.

In a saucepan,  combine the sugar with enough tap water to moisten it.  Cook over low heat until it reaches a deep golden color.  Quickly add the ice water, but be careful to stand back from the saucepan as it will spatter.  Add the apples and cook them in this caramel until tender.  (if you don't want to go through this, cook the apples in brown sugar and water...a little Calvados or brandy wouldn't hurt!)

Return duck legs to skillet and roast in the preheated oven for about 10 minutes.  (Her recipe doesn't call for this but I cannot stand rare duck, and roasting crisps up the skin.  You might want to do less time if you are using breasts)

To serve, arrange duck legs, or breasts, on platter, pour sauce over them and surround with caramelized apples.


If you cannot buy individual legs or breasts, cut up a couple of ducks, cook what you want and save the rest for later use.  Don't forget to keep the liver for pate!

I suggest 6 legs for four people as they can sometimes be quite small.  The worst that can happen is you will have one or two left over which can be used in a salad or as an addition to beans.   

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Perfect Poached Salmon In A Bernaise Sauce

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I am rushing around this morning baking like crazy for the week ahead.  Yesterday I made the traditional black beans for the Christmas Day family lunch as well as cocktail cheese biscuits AND this easy poached salmon for dinner.  I bought a piece large enough to use the leftovers for the salmon mousse I will be making tomorrow for Madame Mere's guests from out of town.  Yes, MM is entertaining in her new apartment already! who would have thought...

This recipe was perfect and very easy to make.  The salmon should be cold so plan ahead, but it is also very good at room temperature.  I have to confess that  I simply did not have the time to cool it properly and I made it primarily to have leftovers for the the salmon mousse I will be making today.   One caveat, though...the cooking time in the recipe is different from that in the video.  Bake it for 15 minutes unless you like a  medium rare salmon which is very sophisticated but not to my liking.   It will still be very moist.

I love Alex Hitz but he is a big proponent of using salted butter in his cooking and I am not.  I prefer to control the salt myself and I have been cooking too long to change all my recipes now.  It is silly to buy one pound of salted butter just to make his recipe, so adjust the salt in the Bernaise sauce accordingly if you decide to use unsalted.

The recipe appears in this month's House Beautiful.

Perfect Poached Salmon With A Bernaise Sauce

For the Poached Salmon
Yield: 6 to 8 servings


2 tablespoons minced shallots
2 pounds boneless, skinless salmon
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
1½ cups white wine
2 tablespoons salted butter, cut into quarters


Preheat the oven to 375° F. Add 1 tablespoon of shallots to a 9" x 13" baking dish and spread them out evenly.
Season the salmon on each side with the salt and pepper, then place it in the baking dish. Spread the remaining shallots on top. Pour the white wine over the salmon and dot the fish with the butter. Lightly press a sheet of wax paper onto the top of the salmon.
Bake the salmon for 10 to 12 minutes, (notice in the video he says 13-15 mins.) until cooked through but still rare. Remove it from the oven, pour off and discard the liquid, and let the salmon cool. When cooled, cover the fish with plastic wrap and refrigerate it for 3 hours or up to 3 days. Serve with the béarnaise sauce.

For the Béarnaise Sauce
Yield: 1 cup


¼ cup white wine
¼ cup white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon minced shallots
1½ teaspoons dried tarragon
⅛ teaspoon ground black pepper
⅛ teaspoon plus ½ teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) salted butter
4 egg yolks
1 tablespoon water
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 pinch ground white pepper


1. In a large, heavy saucepan over high heat, combine the white wine, vinegar, shallots, tarragon, black pepper, and ⅛ teaspoon salt and boil until the mixture is thick and sticky, like syrup. Remove from the heat and set aside.
2. Melt the butter over medium heat in a heavy saucepan.
3. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade, combine the egg yolks, water, lemon juice, ½ teaspoon salt, and white pepper. Process until thick, about 2 minutes.
4. When the butter has melted and is bubbling, pour it slowly into the food processor, with the processor running, until an emulsion forms.
5. Remove the sauce to a warm bowl, stir in the tarragon mixture, and serve immediately.
Top photo House Beautiful
other Lindaraxa

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Christmas Gifts...Dan's Mustard

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This year, instead of sending friends some of the jams and fruits I canned this summer, I decided to surprise them with something really special...Dan's Mustard.  No, Dan is not my husband nor is he even a friend.  I have never met Dan but I've worshiped him for more than three decades.

Dan's Mustard was one of the first things made when Hay Day opened its Westport, Connecticut store.  Together with its Peasant Bread it was one of its most popular products and probably sold enough to serve with all the salamis and ham sandwiches eaten in Connecticut. The recipe was created by the brother of one of the owners, Sally and Alex Van Rensselear, and has been in the family for years.

A bad picture of the original store in Westport but the only one I could find

Hay Day was my favorite place to go for a free Saturday lunch after a week of commuting to my job in New York City.   It was Martha Stewart's also.  She lived just around the corner from the store in those early days before she became really famous and moved to Bedford, New York.  When the neighbors started to complain about the film crews and the noise of her menagerie, off she went to greener pastures. The town cheered and life returned  to the way it was supposed to be in Westport, Connecticut.  We still had Paul Newman and he blended in just fine. Did I ever tell you he and Madame Mere picked corn in a field all by themselves one afternoon? She came back with two bushels.  But I digress...

Hay Day started as an apple farm that later sold pies, and later sold bread, and know the drill.  One thing they did, before anyone else caught on to the idea, was offer samples of their products, beautifully paired and displayed for everyone to taste.  Not just little samples, SAMPLES. You could have lunch and dessert and not spend a penny.  But we all did, plenty of it.  It was an expensive free lunch but two hours later you walked away with a smile on your face and a copy of the Rural Times, the store's weekly newspaper.  It had recipes and menu suggestions and tons of information on what was in season.  They also had classes and featured guests chefs and speakers at their kitchen as early as the late 70's.  No one was doing this at the time, not even Grace's or Balducci's in New York City and Barefoot Contessa was still a dream.  The place was like a club, you never knew who you were going to run into.

One of these days I will dig through all my boxes and look for some of the Rural Times I saved from those days.  They were beautifully illustrated and written by one of their staff.  The store eventually opened two or three other branches, one in  Greenwich that I remember, but they were not even close to the charm of the original one in Westport.  They merged with another group similar in size to theirs, next with Balducci's  and eventually sold out to a group of New York investors.

Together with this mustard. my favorites were the dips and the cookies, all made from scratch with the best ingredients. I can still taste the Oriental Dip and the crisp Chocolate Chip cookies. ( Don't get me going or we will never get to the recipe).  It was also there that I learned to pair Black forest ham with Brie and Dan's mustard on pumpernickel bread, a favorite and elegant combination in those days.

Now, let me give you a little advice.  Make the recipe exactly as it's written and use Coleman's dry mustard.  Don't be tempted to try as you cook, cool and save.  This is not chocolate sauce and you will burn your tongue over and over again, as I did five times, knowing full well it was hot (as in spicy). Trust me, it's foolproof and comes out just like the original.  Don't say I didn't warn you!

Dan's Mustard - Recipe from Hay Day Country Market, Westport Conn.
Makes: 2 cups

  • 1 cup (loosely packed) dry mustard, preferably Colman's English Mustard
  • 1 cup distilled white vinegar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse (kosher) salt

  1. In a mixing bowl, stir the mustard and 1/4 cup of the vinegar together to form a paste. Then gradually add the remaining 3/4 cup vinegar, whisking until smooth and thoroughly incorporated.
  2. Beat the eggs in another mixing bowl. Add the sugar and salt, and blend with an electric mixer on high speed until thick and lemony in color. Add this to the mustard mixture and whisk to combine thoroughly.
  3. Pour into the top of a double boiler, and cook over simmering water, whisking occasionally and scraping down the sides of the pan as needed, until smooth, glossy, and thickened to the consistency of a thin custard, about 30 minutes (the mustard will continue to thicken as it cools). Remove from the heat, allow to cool thoroughly, pour into a clean jar, and refrigerate until ready to use. Tightly covered, it will keep well for months in the refrigerator
Bright Ideas
Serve with grilled hot dogs, braised bratwurst, or sausages.

Use as a sandwich spread. It's great with smoked turkey, almost any kind of cheese, and ham. (Try it with  Black Forest ham and sliced ripe brie on freshly baked rye or pumpernickel smeared with a generous amount of Dan's Mustard.)
 Recipe from: The Hay Day Country Market Cookbook
by Kim Rizk

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Easy Chocolate Brownies With Peppermint Bark

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Christmas is a time to simplify, at least when it comes to baking.  Let's face it, we have the front door to decorate, the tree to pick out and trim, all the sales, virtual and otherwise, to hit before everything is gone, presents to buy and wrap, rooms to decorate, silver to polish, and on and on.  Some of us like to bake goodies to have around the house when guests drop in or to wrap and send to family and friends.  The whole process can take up to Spring if you are not careful and pace yourself. Remember you have Christmas dinner to host and that's when you really want to shine. Save yourself for that.  That's the main event and what all of us really look forward to.

I make tons of these every year for the holidays.  They are festive, yummy and, no matter the age, our family and guests really enjoy them .  They travel well so they are perfect for packaging and they make excellent hostess gifts. If you are having a holiday party, these are a great addition to the dessert table;  AND if you are having weekend guests put some of these in a box or on a plate next to their bedside table.  You couldn't ask for more!

The original recipe is simple enough and you can go that route if you want.  Better still, the Ghirardelli mix is quite good so why not save time.  Either way, you will be pleased with the results.

Chocolate Brownies with Peppermint Bark Original Recipe


1 1/2 cups Ghirardelli 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Chips
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter (12 tablespoons)
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

8 Ghirardelli Peppermint Bark SQUARES™ chocolates, chopped into large chunks (for the brownies)

18 Ghirardelli Peppermint Bark SQUARES™ chocolates, broken in to large chunks (about 8 pieces per square) (for the finishing)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9 x 13 inch baking pan with foil and grease with pan spray.

In a medium saucepan, bring 2 inches of water to a gentle simmer. Put the 60% chips and butter in a heatproof bowl and set it over (but not touching) the simmering water. Stir the mixture with a rubber spatula until the better is melted and both ingredients are completely combined. Turn off the heat and leave the bowl over the warm water.

 Sift together the flour and baking powder and set aside.

In a large bowl whisk together eggs, salt, sugar and vanilla. Add the egg mixture to the chocolate mixture and whisk together gently. With a spatula, fold in the flour. Immediately pour ½ the mixture into the prepared baking pan and spread it evenly. Next, sprinkle the chopped peppermint bark over the batter and then pour the remaining batter over this. Spread evenly.

Bake for 15-20 minutes. The center should be fudgy but not dry. Remove from the oven and cool for 10 minutes.

Place Peppermint Bark chunks on top of warm brownies and allow them to soften for 1 minute. Using a spatula, gently swirl the melting Peppermint Bark to create swirls of melted chocolate.

Refrigerate for 1 hour. Trim the 4 edges of the brownies by 1/4 inch. And cut into 18 squares.

My Easy version:

1 Box Ghirardelli's Triple Chocolate Brownies
1 tsp. Peppermint Extract
16 Perppermint Bark Squares
Crushed Peppermint Candy

I used a 9x9 square pan (glass)

Follow the directions on the box .  Add a teaspoon of the peppermint extract to the batter.  Cook as directed.

With the brownies still hot from the oven lay the peppermint squares side by side and touching on top so the will melt.  Place back in the oven for a minute or two until almost melted.  Take out and swirl with spatula or tooth pick.  Sprinkle the crushed peppermint candy on top. Wait until cooled to cut.

Trim the 4 edges of the brownies by 1/4 inch. And cut into 16 squares.

Notes: If you lay the squares whole instead of broken up, they take about 4 minutes to melt in the oven.  If you go that route, take brownies out about 5 minutes before they are done so they won't over cook. 

Original Recipe from Ghirardelli
This post originally appeared on my blog My Kitchen By The Lake December 2013

Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Idle Hours...Barbecued Oven Braised Brisket

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Although I should be posting a recipe for Thanksgiving leftovers, I thought you might be feeling the same way we feel in this house by now.  Anything but!

In spite of the fact that Madame Mere's apartment IS FINISHED, I still spend my days waiting for FEDEX, UPS, or some other delivery service delivering merchandise she has ordered through the various catalogues

A corner of the great room where she sits in my daughter's big chair is now her designated office. Mail, new issues of Hola, Veranda and House and Garden, with dog eared pages of ideas for the future decor of her rooms, sit in neat stacks on a tv table.  Then there are the catalogues, including Ballards, which she insists on pronouncing "Ballarde" in spite of my corrections, to no avail.  At the bottom of the pile are her insurance statements and claims, her bills and checkbooks.  The world stops for her when her favorite telenovela, India, is rerun on Telemundo from 12 to 2 while she has lunch and her lady in waiting hems her curtains.  We should all be so lucky.

She has now roped me into watching this popular soap opera but I do so, upstairs in my study, while I check my emails, work on the blog and get dressed.   Three o'clock is the magic hour when I  get in the car and go, anywhere, to see what real people do with their lives.  Sometimes I take her with me to shop for her things; others I just wander, aimlessly.

Today we are waiting for her rug from "Ballarde" which is to be delivered between 11:30 and 3:30, another wasted day.  She has already announced we are going to get our nails done after that. but we don't.  The rug arrived, we both hated it and I spent the rest of the afternoon arranging to have it picked up and ordering a new one.

I have been using the idle hours to make something that needs to be in the oven for a long time and these days are perfect for that.  I can't stand to waste time and braising a piece of meat for three hours is my idea of justifying the time. This oven braised beef brisket was posted on My Kitchen By The Lake blog a long time ago and I have made it a couple of times to rave reviews from the family.  I think it is time it appears on Lindaraxa.

Brisket is a large flat cut that comes from the chest of a steer, just below the chuck.  Its a tough fatty piece that when cured in a brine is called corned beef.  Because it is impossible to overcook, brisket is a favorite of home cooks, particularly for Sunday family dinners.

What is known as the first cut, thin cut or flat cut is leaner than the less expensive second cut aka the point cut.  This is what is preferred for this recipe because its more flavorful, and succulent.

You don't need to be a great cook to make this, just lots of time on your hands or a Madame Mere in your life.  Mashed potatoes and my aunt's Caramelized Baked Apples will make you look like  a real Betty Crocker.

Barbecued Oven Braised Brisket


1.4 lbs beef brisket, preferably second cut
1 tsp salt
3/4 tsp black pepper
2 TB vegetable oil
1 large onion halved lengthwise and thinly sliced.
1 cup beef stock
1 cut tomato sauce or tomato juice
1/3 cup cider vinegar
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1 TB Worcestershire sauce
parchment paper


Preheat oven to 325 degrees

Pat brisket dry and rub salt and pepper all over it.

In a hot skillet add brisket and brown on each side.

Place brisket in 13 in x 9 in baking dish.

Add onion to skillet and stir frequently until browned, 7 to 8 minutes.

Add beef stock, bring to a boil and deglace pan scraping bits for 1 minute.  Stir in remaining ingredients  and bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally.

Pour sauce over brisket ,cover with sheet of parchment paper and cover tightly with foil.  Braise in the oven , turning meat once, until fork tender, 3 to 3 1/2 hours.

Transfer to a cutting board, let rest for 20 minutes and slice across the grain.  Spoon sauce over it before serving.

The brisket is best if made the day before and up to 4 days before.  Reheat in a 350 degree oven for 1 hour.

Photos Lindaraxa


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