Sunday, January 31, 2010

Chicken Marbella...Memories of the Past

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The other day, as I was looking at recipes for an extraordinary chili to add to the Super Bowl Menus And Recipes, I was reminded of an old standby, a favorite of the l980's...Chicken Marbella.  Oh my, how times have changed, and yet again, how good recipes can withstand the passage of time!

The Silver Palate Cookbook is one of the top 10 best-selling cookbooks of all time. Sheila Lukins and her business partner, Julee Rosso, wrote it two years after they opened one of the nation’s first gourmet takeout shops of the same name in New York City. The book helped demystify and popularize gourmet cooking for millions of home cooks upon its publication in 1982 and continues to do so today. It is considered THE American cookbook of the Eighties. I don’t know anyone who doesn't have a dog-eared, sauce-splattered copy of it in their kitchen arsenal. The recipes are innovative and accessible at the same time, using unique combinations of ingredients and advocating rich and bold flavors with a Mediterranean flair.

Chicken Marbella was perhaps the most popular main dish served at the store and perhaps the main reason most of us bought the book in the first place (but not the only!).The melange of ingredients in this recipe — chicken pieces, olives, capers, apricots and prunes with cilantro, garlic, oregano and brown sugar cooked in white wine — was so enticingly different from the standard dinner-party fare of the day that it was a sensation every time it appeared on the menu. Slightly exotic, the dish won over home cooks because it looked beautiful,  tasted and smelled heavenly, and, perhaps most important, it was simple to make. You could just throw all the ingredients into a Pyrex casserole dish and marinade overnight, then bake for about an hour. It was, and still is, foolproof.


Sheila Lukins invented the dish in her pre-Silver Palate days, she said, when she was catering for single men in New York.

“I needed stuff that could be put together, marinated and then baked off the next day,” she recalled in a phone interview.

Lukins liked to cook sweet and savory dishes, like those she sampled on her travels in Spain and Morocco.

“That combination of fruits and olives, brown sugar and wine, it was just kind of a natural for me,” she said. “But it was very unusual here. It was shocking.”

Once the cookbook was published, the Chicken Marbella turned up at dinner parties and picnics (it’s good at room temperature, too) all over the nation. The cookbook went on to sell 2.5 million copies and it is still going strong with a Silver Edition published a short time ago.  I own that one too.



Sheila Lukins died last August, at age 66, of brain cancer.  Here's to you Sheila and thanks for the memories!


Makes about 10 servings


Ingredients

4 chickens, 2½ pounds each, quartered, or 16 pieces, breasts, thighs, drumsticks

1 head of garlic, peeled and finely pureed

¼ cup dried oregano

coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

½ cup red wine vinegar

½ cup olive oil

1 cup pitted prunes

1 cup dried apricots (optional)

½ cup pitted Spanish green olives

½ cup capers with a bit of juice

6 bay leaves

1 cup brown sugar

1 cup white wine

¼ cup Italian parsley or fresh coriander (cilantro), finely chopped

Directions

In a large bowl combine chicken quarters, garlic, oregano, pepper and coarse salt to taste, vinegar, olive oil, prunes, olives, capers and juice and bay leaves. Cover and let marinate, refrigerated, overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Arrange chicken in a single layer in one or two large shallow baking pans and spoon marinade over it evenly. Sprinkle chicken pieces with brown sugar and pour white wine around them.

Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour, basting frequently with pan juices. Chicken is done when thigh pieces, pricked with a fork at their thickest, yield clear yellow (rather than pink) juice.

With a slotted spoon, transfer chicken, prunes, olives and capers to a serving platter. Moisten with a few spoonfuls of pan juices and sprinkle generously with parsley or cilantro. Pass remaining juices in a sauceboat.

To serve Chicken Marbella cold, cool to room temperature in cooking juices before transferring to a serving platter. If chicken has been covered and refrigerated, allow it to return to room temperature before serving. Spoon some of the reserved juice over chicken.



— From “The Silver Palate” (Workman, 1982)

Friday, January 29, 2010

Bouchon's Tarte Au Citron

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There are different ways to make a lemon tart. At Bouchon, the French Laundry, and Per Se, they use a sabayon method, in which the eggs are first cooked with the lemon juice and sugar over hot water, then the butter is gradually incorporated — an easy method that results in a consistently good lemon custard or curd. The crust is made with sweet and nutty pine nuts, which I think are the perfect balance for the rich, tart custard.

Now, you know how I hate to bake pie crusts, particularly if they entail working all that flour and butter back and forth.  Not in this case...this crust is eeeasy!

First make the crust recipe below. This entails cooling time, so plan ahead.  The recipe will make three pie crusts but you can't halve it  for it only takes one egg.  Freeze the rest for another day.


For the Pine Nut Crust

Ingredients:

10 ounces (2 cups) pine nuts
1/3 cup sugar
1 pound (3 cups) all-purpose flour
8 ounces unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


Preparation

Place the pine nuts in a food processor and pulse a few times. Add the sugar and flour and continue to pulse until the nuts are finely ground. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl.

Add the butter, egg, and vanilla extract and mix to incorporate all the ingredients (the dough can be mixed by hand or in a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment). Divide the dough into three equal parts. Wrap each piece in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 10 minutes before using. (The extra dough can be frozen, wrapped well, for up to 1 month.



Preheat the oven to 350°F. Generously butter and flour a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom and refrigerate it while the oven preheats.

Remove the tart pan from the refrigerator. Use your fingertips to press the chilled pine nut dough evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Trim off any excess dough.

Bake the crust for 10 to 15 minutes, then rotate it and bake for another 10 to 15 minutes, or until it is golden brown. Remove the crust from the oven and let it cool while you make the filling. (There may be some cracks in the crust; they will not affect the finished tart.)


For the Lemon Sabayon:

Ingredients

2 large eggs, cold
2 large egg yolks, cold
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
6 tablespoons (3 ounces) cold unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces


Procedure

Bring about 1 1/2 inches of water to a boil in a pot that is slightly smaller than the diameter of the bowl you will be using for the sabayon. Meanwhile, in a large metal bowl, whisk the eggs, yolks, and sugar for about 1 minute, or until the mixture is smooth.

Set the bowl over the pot and, using a large whisk, whip the mixture while you turn the bowl (for even heating). After about 2 minutes, when the eggs are foamy and have thickened, add one-third of the lemon juice. Continue to whisk vigorously and, when the mixture thickens again, add another one-third of the lemon juice. Whisk until the mixture thickens again, then add the remaining lemon juice. Continue whisking vigorously, still turning the bowl, until the mixture is thickened and light in color and the whisk leaves a trail in the bottom of the bowl. The total cooking time should be 8 to 10 minutes.

Turn off the heat and leave the bowl over the water. Whisk in the butter a piece at a time. The sabayon may loosen slightly, but it will thicken and set as it cools. Pour the warm sabayon into the tart crust and place the pan on a baking sheet.

Preheat the broiler. While the sabayon is still warm, place the tart under the broiler. Leaving the door open, brown the top of the sabayon, rotating the tart if necessary for even color; this will take only a few seconds, so do not leave the oven. Remove the tart from the broiler and let it sit for at least 1 hour before serving. Serve at room temperature or cold.

Cooks note:

Although it doesn't say so in the recipe, you can always make a light meringue and decorate the top in some nice fashion as in the photo above before you put the tart under the broiler.  You can also add some grated lemon rind.


Recipe courtesy of Epicurious and Bouchon
Photo: Bouchon

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Le Cirque, Creme Brulee, Restaurant Week & Twitter!

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Although people sometimes laugh when I tell them I have a Twitter account, the truth of the matter is these people don't realize how much money a tweet can save you, especially if you are friends with Gael Green.  Just last week my tweeter pal Gael let me know that Le Cirque had extended their Restaurant Week $26 lunch $35 dinner menu until February 26.  Now that's what I call a friend...and that's what I call tough economic times.  $26.07 for lunch?  in New York? at Le Cirque? No way!


Gael Green


Well friends and neighbors, if you don't take advantage of this, you are crazy.  Granted, Le Cirque was never one of my favorites, although I had a marvelous pheasant risotto there a few years back, but the food is terrific and the presentation out of this world.  I much preferred La Grenouille or La Cote Basque, which were just as wonderful but a bit more subdued.  Granted, you are never going to get out of there for less than $50... remember you do have to tip and tip well, pay tax and as long as you are there, have a glass of wine, or two.  Still...that is a great price to lunch at one of New York's finest, and if I still lived there, I would be lunching there today.  Here's what you get:





Restaurant Week Winter 2010


Lunch $24.07

Dinner $35

Menu


APPETIZERS

Cannellini Bean Soup

apple, walnuts, and hon shimeiji mushrooms

Roasted Golden Beet Salad

gorgonzola mousse, pear, and spicy cashews

Sautéed Maine Shellfish

fregola Sarda and red pepper-yuzu broth

Chicken Parfait

porcini gelée and poppy seed crackers

Venison and Pistachio Sausage

celery root and pickled cherries


MAIN COURSES

Diver Sea Scallops

butternut squash purée, broccolini, and bacon jus

Salmon Fillet Confit

sumac crust, jicama, and citrus broth

Berkshire Pork Belly

spicy lentil salsa and radish salad

Bavette Steak

parsnip purée, sweet and sour mushrooms, and watercress


DESSERTS

Tiramisù

Baba au Rhum

citrus fruits

Crème Brûlée Le Cirque

Milk Chocolate Milles Feuilles


What would you have?  I wonder how many takers for the Pork Belly!

If you are still wondering whether to go or not, look at these and think again!


Mint Gazpacho with Bacon and Mushroom Foam Topping



Burgundy Snails in Garlic Herb Butter



Terrine of Foie Gras


Brioche to go with the Foie Gras Terrine


Sea Bass Wrapped with Crunchy Potatoes




Duck Magret


Lemon Soufflé



Chocolate Soufflé




Pistachio Cream and Chocolate Cake




Strawberry Souffle



After Dinner Goodies

Now, I didn't take these pictures, wouldn't dream of bringing a camera to a restaurant, any restaurant.  This was a dinner enjoyed by a group of 6 friends who went on a gambling trip to Las Vegas and visited the restaurant during their stay.

If you are still thinking, while I'm making my reservations, here's the recipe for the creme brulee.  Have fun!  By the way, Le Cirque is also on Twitter!



Le Cirque's Creme Brulee

Serves 8

Ingredients

2 cups heavy cream

1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise

Pinch salt

4 egg yolks

1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar

8 teaspoons turbinado sugar, for glazing

Directions


Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.

In a medium saucepan cook the cream with the vanilla bean and salt over moderate heat until the surface begins to shimmer. In a large heatproof bowl, blend the egg yolks and granulated sugar with a wooden spoon. Slowly add the hot cream mixture, stirring gently. Strain the custard into a large measuring cup; skim off any bubbles.

Arrange 8 shallow 4 1/2 --inch wide ramekins in a roasting pan. Slowly pour the custard into the ramekins, filling them almost to the top. Set the roasting pan in the center of the oven and carefully pour in enough hot water to reach halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Cover the pan loosely with foil and bake for about 1 hour, or until the custards are firm at the edges, but still a bit wobbly in the center.

Transfer the ramekins to a wire rack to cool completely. Cover and refrigerate until cold, at least 3 hours or up to 2 days.

Preheat the broiler. Set the ramekins on a baking sheet and blot the surfaces of the custards to remove any condensation. Using a small sieve, sift 2 teaspoons of the turbinado sugar over each custard in a thin, even layer. Broil the custards as close to the heat as possible until the sugar is evenly caramelized, 30 seconds to 2 minutes. Let cool slightly and serve at once. If using a deeper 3/4 -cup ramekins, bake the custards for about 20 minutes longer and reduce the sugar topping to 1 teaspoon per custard.

Photo: Google

Monday, January 25, 2010

It's Game Time!...Super Bowl Menus and Recipes

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Okay it's almost here, the most anticipated sports weekend of the year... the Super Bowl! (yawn).   Frankly, I just sleep through it, play bridge or go to the movies.  I am not a football fan, but I am an avid baseball (Yankees!), tennis and golf fan, and oh yes...the Olympics are coming, must get ready for that.   I have decided that it's not so much the sports I like but the competition.  I am intensely competitive... inherited it from my mother, the one who doesn't like broccoli anymore, like old "41".

Perhaps the only thing I like about the Super Bowl is the food, and then again, not that much.  I am a fan of Chili, especially on a cold winter night;  but as I'm getting on in years, Turkey Chili has replaced  Beef Chili in my repertoire.  And the dips, love those too! I'm so glad dips are back.

 
If you are on a budget and have a big plasma TV, you have just hit the jackpot.  There are lots of budget friendly recipes for this event so make a list and invite those you must, particularly the ones who hate to dress up for your dinner parties.  This is the time for casual and jeans, men... the only time!  Beer and wine are the drinks of choice and I don't know of a single male guest or fan who doesn't show up at one of these parties without a six pack under his arm. Testosterone and beer must go well together. I never allow guest to bring anything to my dinner parties but this is one occasion when it is okay and even fun to let them participate and show off some of their favorite recipes...it is that informal.  So take advantage of this economically- friendly, entertaining opportunity and invite everyone you owe.  There is no excuse  for not reciprocating and paying back all those invitations you've had during the last year.

Flickr
Here are some suggestions of things you can bring or serve.  They are all on this site or in my country blog, My Kitchen By The Lake.



Appetizers and Hors D'Oeuvres

Thai Fried Chicken Wings With Hot And Sour Sauce

Salads



Desserts

-OR -

Have a Sundae Bar !

and let everyone fix their own!!


If you want to keep it simple, serve only vanilla ice cream, (already scooped and served in a big bowl) and have different sauces (Hot fudge, Caramel or Butterscotch, and Strawberry)Make sure you have pecans or walnuts, whipped cream and some fun toppings such as Sprinkles, Oreo cookies, Heath Bar Crunch...you get the point!




Sunday, January 24, 2010

Lunch on a Tray - Baked Eggs With Prosciutto, Spinach and Parmesan Cheese

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Just because there is only one of you doesn't mean you shouldn't eat well or even entertain yourself everyday.  Why should you miss out on one of life's greatest pleasures just because there is no one else around to cook for?  My friends have always kidded me that I am the only person they know who actually makes dinner for herself every night.  First of all, I enjoy cooking and secondly I like to pamper myself.  Sometimes it may be a nice bubble bath but most of the times it is food!  That doesn't mean it has to be a fattening recipe either. Most of the things that I make for myself are healthy and nutritional and they surely beat a Happy Meal any day of the week.  As to the presentation...well, for me its 50% of the whole experience.

To begin with, I always have my breakfast tray set up so when I wake up in the morning I can have my coffee in style in no time.  That way I can take it to any part of the house, whether it is the bedroom or my office and enjoy it while I catch up on the morning news.  This is the same tray that doubles later on in the day for afternoon tea while I watch my favorite Food Network shows after the market closes.   It has a quilted cotton placemat which I throw in the washing machine when it's stained, my favorite coffee cup, a creamer, sugar bowl, silver butter dish, miniature salt and pepper shakers and, of course, a small stainless steel coffee pot, just like the ones they have at the nice hotels. In the summer when there are plenty of flowers in the garden, I have a small vase which I change every couple of days.  Really, no joke.  It is always set up and ready to go.



Sometimes if I'm trading or working on my blog, I will have lunch on this tray in my small home office.  One of my favorite things to have midday is eggs, particularly baked eggs.  They are nutritional, low in fat and give you lots of energy for the rest of the afternoon.  I have already posted a recipe for baked eggs but these I made last week on an inspiration.You can tell how much I liked them by looking at the last photo.  They took no time to prepare and 8 minutes to bake in the toaster oven...the same time it takes to make a boring and fattening sandwich!  They were also made with ingredients I already had in the refrigerator so they were economical to boot!

Do take the time to pamper yourself a little bit, you'll feel great afterwards.  Whenever I'm asked for the name of the person who gave me something beautiful I have around the house I always have the same answer ...the one who loves me best...Me!

Serves 1

Ingredients

1/2 slice of pancetta 1/4 in thick
1 TB chopped onions
butter for the egg dish
2 eggs
1 TB. chopped frozen spinach
1 TB Parmesan cheese
2 TB heavy cream (optional)
Salt and Pepper to taste

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut up the pancetta in small pieces. Saute with the onions in a small skillet.  Butter the egg dish and break the eggs into it.  When the pancetta is almost crispy add to the eggs.  Break up the frozen spinach and distribute over the eggs.  Finish by adding the Parmesan cheese a TB of heavy cream over each egg dish (optional) and the salt and pepper.  Cook in a preheated toaster oven or regular oven at 400 degrees for 8 minutes or until the whites are fully cooked and the yolk soft.  Ovens vary so watch closely!  Eggs should always be baked at a high temperature for best results.  Also bring out of the oven on the soft side, remember they continue cooking after you take them out.






















Friday, January 22, 2010

Smoked Salmon Spread

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In Christmases past,  I used to serve smoked salmon with all the accoutrements...  then one day i got wise.

Yes, it was beautiful to set out the salmon in a long silver platter, with chopped red onions, capers and lemon slices so everyone could fix their own on small slices of pumpernickel bread.  But the next day, what a mess! So I thought of incorporating everything into a spread or a ball, at least for more casual occasions, and presto, problem solved!

Serves 8

Ingredients

8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

1/2 cup sour cream

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 tablespoon minced fresh dill

2 TB chopped red onions

A dash of Worcestershire Sauce

2 TB capers

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/4 pound (4 ounces) smoked salmon, cut in 1/2 inch pieces

Directions

Cream the cheese in an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment until just smooth. Add the sour cream, lemon juice, dill, onions, Worcestershire Sauce, salt, and pepper, and mix. Add the capers and smoked salmon pieces and mix well. Chill and serve on pumpernickel small toasts or crackers.

If you can find it, I prefer Norwegian salmon; it's less salty than other smoked salmon.  Costco has wonderful and economical smoked salmon under their Kirkland label.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Let's Give Sweet & Sour Pork a Break!

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A staple of Chinese menus, Sweet and Sour pork is the second most researched Chinese food on Google after Beef and Broccoli...who would have thought?!  It is the first Chinese dish I ever had and liked in the days when Chicken Chow Mein was the definition of Chinese cooking.  It is also one of my daughter's favorites and she lived in San Francisco! But she's used to the recipe I make at home and that recipe comes from no other than Martin Yan, the Chinese version of Julia Child.

Nowadays, the mere thought of ordering this dish defines you as an amateur or country bumpkin, perhaps because there are so many awful and syrupy versions kicking around and so many more exciting dishes on the menus of most restaurants. .  Not even my favorite takeout in NYC, Pig Heaven,  can offer a palatable version.  Needless to say, I never order it out. I am a closet sweet and sour pork aficionado.

I cook Chinese food fairly often at home even though we have a pretty good takeout here in Atlanta called Chin Chin.  I figured out long ago that the most important thing in Chinese cooking is getting organized as the actual cooking is fairly simple and takes no time.  Chop everything first, combine your sauce next while the meat is marinading, and if you are serious about Chinese cooking, have all the staples on hand .  Things like rice vinegar, rice wine, soy sauce, plum sauce, oyster sauce and others will get you through most Chinese dishes.  I have a basket in the pantry where I store all my Chinese ingredients so when I'm ready to go, they are at hand.












There are as many versions of Sweet and Sour Pork as there are of chili. The dish originated in Guandong Province, and it is quintessential and classic Cantonese, as well as being perhaps the most well known of all Chinese recipes. The secret of an authentic sweet and sour pork lies in the perfect balance of the sweet vs. sour taste of the sauce. To master this dish, it’s not about the technique of stir-frying nor the use of the freshest ingredients, although both are equally important and wouldn't hurt. The sweet and sour sauce is the soul of this dish. If you fail on the sauce, you fail the dish.  Now that I've given you courage and hopefully, determination, go for it!




By the way, don't be put off by the catsup and Worcestershire Sauce, they are regularly used in Asian cooking

Serves 4

Ingredients:


1/2 lb. pork tenderloin (cut into bite size pieces)
1/2 tsp minced garlic
1/2 tsp. minced ginger
1/2 green bell pepper (about 2 oz. and cut into 1 inch dice)
1/2 red bell pepper (about 2 oz. and cut into 1 inch dice)
1/2 yellow onion cut into 1 inch dice
1 cup fresh/canned pineapple chunks (cut into small pieces)*
Oil for frying

Marinade:

1/2 cup corn starch
1 egg

Sweet and Sour Sauce:

3/4 cup tomato ketchup
6 TB sugar
3 TB Chinese rice vinegar
1 TB Lea and Perrins Worcestershire Sauce
2 TB fresh lime juice
1 TB soy sauce


Method:

Cut the pork tenderloin into pieces and marinade with the ingredients for 10  minutes.

Mix the sweet and sour sauce ingredients well and set aside.

In a deep skillet, add in the cooking oil enough for deep-frying ( about 2 inches). Once the oil is hot, deep fry the pork pieces until they turn golden brown 3- 4 minutes. Dish out and drain on paper towels.

Heat up a wok and add in some cooking oil. Make sure you coat the sides of the wok. Add in the minced garlic and ginger and stir fry until light brown (20 secs), then follow by the bell peppers and onions. Stir fry until you smell the peppery aroma from the peppers (2 to 3 mins) and then add in the sweet and sour sauce to coat vegetables. As soon as the sauce thickens, transfer the pork into the wok and stir well with the sauce. Add the pineapple and do a few quick stirs, dish out and serve hot with steamed white rice.

*For a nice twist, I sometimes substitute mango for pineapple, when in season.

Recipe adapted from Martin Yan
All photos Lindaraxa

Monday, January 18, 2010

Welsh Rarebit...More Comfort Food!

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Photo: Rea Drummond

Welsh Rarebit or Welsh Rabbit is a traditional English dish often eaten as a midnight snack.  I love to have it for lunch or as a light supper when we've had a heavy midday meal.  For some reason, it reminds me of our life in Connecticut and of my father who simply adored it.  Perhaps that is why it came to mind last week after the light dusting of snow we had on the ground here in North Georgia.

The dish is said to have originated in Wales in the 18th century. The first recorded use of the term Welsh Rabbit was in 1725, but the origin of the term is unknown. It may be an ironic name coined in the days when the Welsh were notoriously poor;  only better-off people could afford butcher's meat, and while in England rabbit was the poor man's meat, in Wales the poor man's meat was cheese.

Welsh Rarebit is a vintage throwback to Sunday dinners and cocktail parties in the 1950’s. I’m certain this is why I remember the dish being so popular in my home.  Also, if you come home with a hangover, this will take care of it  in no time.  Just make sure you always have some in the freezer, whether it's your own or the one made by Stouffer's which is pretty darn good.   Leftovers are great over steamed cauliflower or broccoli and kids just adore it...must be the beer!


Serves 4

Ingredients

1 pound Cheddar, Double Gloucester or other English cheese, grated
6 tablespoons butter
2 tsps. Dijon mustard, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
4 tsps. Worcestershire sauce, or to taste

1 12 oz bottle  strong dark beer, like Guinness
4 egg yoks
4 to 8 pieces lightly toasted bread
1/4 tsp paprika

Method

1. Put butter in a saucepan on top of a double boiler over medium heat and ad grated cheese, mustard, cayene and Worcestershire sauce. Beat eggs into the beer and add to the melting cheesse.  Cook until smooth. Taste for seasonings and adjust to desired sharpness.

2. Remove from heat and pour over toast.  Sprinkle some paprika on top.  Serve immediately.

Note:   You can also put under the broiler until bubbly after you pour over toast.
Please use a good dark beer like Guiness stout...light American beer just won't do!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Bridge Night...Lentil Soup with Chorizos and Sherry

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One of my biggest pleasures in life is a game of bridge with dear and close friends.  I have been playing since I was in school and have been lucky that both my former spouses also played.  I even won a tacky trophy a few years back playing duplicate at one of those Bridge Championships held all over the country.  Nowadays, I try to host a table at home at least once a week. I will give up a dinner or cocktail party any day of the week for an evening of bridge anytime, anyplace.

On Friday or Saturday nights, when none of us is otherwise engaged, we will get together late in the afternoon for a game of bridge and dinner.  Obviously, these have to be followed by simple and robust dinners, since nobody wants to stop for even a minute to let the hostess spend too much time in the kitchen and waste precious time;  yet, whatever is served, has to carry the group until none of us can keep our eyes open.  With age, this has gotten to be ealier and earlier.

 Hearty dishes that can be made ahead and warmed up at the last minute are very appropriate for this kind of evening.  One of my favorites is lasagna, the other is this lentil soup with chorizos and sherry.  I usually serve a green salad with cheese afterwards and a light dessert or homemade cookies.  You don't want to get too full and give the opponents an edge!

Serves 4


Ingredients

2 carrots, sliced and chopped

2 stalks celery, sliced and chopped

1 large onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

1 ham or smoked pork bone

2 tablespoons olive oil (you will need extra to finish the soup)

2 cups dried lentils

6 cups chicken or vegetable broth

Salt and pepper, to taste

1 chorizo

1/2 Cup Dry Sherry

Olive oil

Saute carrots, celery, onion, and garlic in hot olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat 5 minutes or until tender. Add the ham or smoked pork bone and brown on both sides.  Sort and remove any debris from lentils; rinse under cold running water. Add lentils and broth to vegetable mixture; bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes, or until lentils are tender.  Slice the chorizo in 1/2 inch rounds, add some olive oil to a small skillet, brown the chorizo.  Add the sherry and reduce to half the amount.  Add the chorizo and sherry reduction to the lentils.  Cook for another 5 - 10 minutes.  Serve.  After you serve in the bowls, add a little olive oil on top.

Serve with a crusty baguette and a robust red wine.

Photo:  Google Images

Friday, January 15, 2010

Haiti Needs Our Support NOW! ...Here's How to Help

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Please take some time today to do something for the people of Haiti by encouraging fellow bloggers and subscribers to make a contribution to this enormous catastrophe. We can't, in due conscience, continue blogging and posting recipes when there are so many in this impoverished country who are going by without food or medical assistance. They need our help NOW.

You can give directly to UNICEF here. Even easier, you can text 90999 with the word "Haiti" to donate ten dollars to the American Red Cross; the charge will appear on your phone bill.  My preference is Doctors Without Borders, but it's up to you.  No matter, do something.

 Right now. You're sitting right there. It will hardly take a minute

.


“If you can't feed a hundred people, then just feed one.” ~Mother Teresa

Photo:  New York Times

Florentine Steak Marinaded in Balsamic And Rosemary

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If you are a meat lover like me, just around this time of the year you'll begin to crave a nice juicy steak, just like the ones we grilled in the summer.  When I started this blog in the Spring, I started a bi weekly series called Saturday Night on the Grill. Remember those?  We'll, I'm beginning to miss them.

Unfortunately, if you left the grill outside hoping for a warm day in January, you will find that it is by now covered with a nice crust of snow from last week's storms.  Hmm...  When I lived in a small New York apartment many years ago, I purchased one of those nice indoor grills that never seemed to get hot enough to deliver an acceptable steak.  Years later, I discovered a nice trick that most chefs use to deliver those great steaks you are willing to pay a king's ransom for.  It's simple, you first sear the meat on top of the stove in your iron skillet, and then finish it by roasting  in the oven for another 20 to 30 minutes, depending on what kind of carnivore you are.

In the summer, I will kill anybody who puts anything more than Worcestershire Sauce and pepper on top of my steak.  In the winter... well, all bets are off.  This is the time to experiment with all those marinades you wanted to try in the summer but were afraid to use on a $10/lbs New York Strip.  Mine is fairly simple: balsamic vinegar, olive oil, rosemary, a little Worcestershire Sauce (my best friend) and some salt and pepper.  For a cut of meat, I find that porterhouse is  the best cut to cook on the stove...it certainly is the tastiest!

Yes your home will smell a bit for a short while, but that's what all those Diptyke candles are for...use them.  There's no nicer accompaniment to this kind of steak than pommes frittes, and a nice salad, or better yet, creamed spinach.  You should really accompany this meal with an  Italian Chianti from the region, preferably one with firm tannins such as the Banfi Chianti Classico.  A robust California Cabernet will also do the trick, although it will not transport you to Florence when you close your eyes.  All you need to round up the meal, if you are willing to spend a little extra time, is the Pear's Babette I posted a couple of nights ago.





Serves 4

Ingredients

1 cup balsamic vinegar

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 cup finely chopped rosemary

1 TB Worcestershire Sauce

1 3 lbs or 2 1 1/2-pound porterhouse steaks,

2 teaspoons kosher salt

2 teaspoons coarsely ground pepper


Directions 

In a sturdy resealable plastic bag, combine the vinegar with 1/2 cup of the olive oil and the rosemary. Add the steaks, seal the bag and refrigerate overnight, turning the bag several times.

Preheat the oven to 425° and bring the steaks to room temperature. Heat a grill pan. Remove the steaks from the marinade and season with the salt and pepper. Rub the side with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Sear over moderately high heat until nicely charred on the top and bottom, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer the steak to a roasting pan and roast for about 30 minutes, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the tenderloin (the smaller section) registers 125°.  Transfer the steak to a carving board and let rest for 10 minutes. Slice the steak across the grain and serve immediately.

Adapted from Food and Wine
Photo: Flickr/creampuffsinvenice

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The "21"' Club Chicken Hash With Gruyere Topping

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Continuing with the posts on restaurant recipes, possibly the one closest to my heart is the "21" Club in New York City due to so many memories and ties between my family and that of its former owners, the Kriendlers.



21 West 52nd Street


My grandmother's brothers, Marcelo and Jorge Sanchez, dubbed the Cuban Sugar Kings by the New York press in the years preceding WWII, wreaked havoc in the city in the 30s 40s and 50s.  Only Fidel Castro managed to stop them.  From El Morocco, to the Stork Club, to Le Pavillon and "21" those two managed to set the town on fire on their numerous visits to NYC at a time when sugar was king and Havana was the playground of movie stars, playboys, society couples and entertainers from all over the world.


The Bar

 In those days, "21" was not what it is today.  It was an elegant speakeasy where anybody who was anybody could get a drink and have a good time, even during the days of Prohibition.  Somewhere along the line, my uncles became great friends of Jack and Luisa Kriendler and when they visited New York City, stayed at their apartment over the "21" Club. They enjoyed the place so much that one of them, my uncle Jorge, had one of the  rooms in his Miami Beach home decorated with round tables and 21's signature red checked table cloths. I inherited a bunch of them and used them for picnics and casual entertaining in the 70's not paying much attention to their provenance until I lost them in a move together with some of my grandmother's linens.  You certainly never know what you have until you loose it, but then again, we had already lost so much...


The famous barroom with its checkered tablecloths


 Due to the family's extensive sugar business in Cuba, it was this same uncle, Jorge Sanchez, after whom the term "Sugar Daddy" was coined for sticking $100 bills in the garters of New York show girls.  He married one of them,  my aunt Brownie, who was a Ziegfield Follies girl in the 1920's.





In 1934,  Charlie Berns, the club's co owner, created '21' Brands, a liquor importing/distilling/distributing company. Its first salesman was then-aspiring actor David Niven. Another "salesman" in the 1950's, was my father and two of his friends, who represented "21" Brands in Havana.  Nice work, if you can get it.....


One of the famous toys over the Bar


Years later, in the early 80's,  I frequented  "21" often with my then husband and his former roommate from Deerfield, one of the Kriendler's sons,  and was once fortunate to be invited to a family wedding in the upstairs apartments.  Somehow, we always hit "21" after the theater, or late at night after a cocktail party, so this Chicken Hash was a favorite of mine. I will always remember Bruce waiting at the door to greet us on those freezing winter nights.


The cellar then


The first version of the club opened in Greenwich Village in 1922, run by cousins Jack Kreindler and Charlie Berns. It was originally a small speakeasy known as the Red Head. It wasn't until 1929 that the club moved to its present location at 21 W 52nd St. and changed its name to "Jack and Charlie's 21".  It was the place to "hang out" for playboys and debutants, as well as members of cafe society, movie stars and anybody who was anybody in those days.  For its wonderful history, including its infamous raids during Prohibition, visit their site here.


The cellar today


Even though "21" was sold years ago to Orient Express, I am happy to see the Chicken Hash is still on the menu for a mere $36...chicken feed!  It is also nice to see there is a dress code of sorts still enforced, although the tie requirement was abolished last year. I will miss the tie policy at ‘21.’ It held up an example of what etiquette should be. "The tie drawer in the “21” cloakroom — where generations of patrons have repaired their faux-pas — is as much a part of the restaurant’s lore as its checked tablecloths and the ceiling dangling with dozens of obsessively dusted toy airplanes, ships and football helmets. The restaurant’s publicist, Ms. Biederman, said it would continue to proffer ties to the needy who preferred them."


LeRoy Neiman was a frequent visitor and patron throughout the years



The bar, LeRoy Neiman

I don't know how the food fares nowadays with all the changes by the new owners.  It was never a place for great food, just good food;  but it was a fantastic place to meet with your friends and see and be seen.  Possibly, the original Mortimer's, now also defunct.  For a review of the new "21" I will have to defer to my friend reggiedarling who was there very recently.  He is a good source.


Creamy Chicken Hash

Ingredients:

1 ½ lbs skinless, boneless chicken breasts

salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

3 cups chicken stock

1 stick unsalted butter, softened

½ cup unbleached white flour

¼ cup dry sherry

¼ cup heavy cream

1 ½ lb grated gruyere

½ tsp fresh grated nutmeg


Method:

1. Season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper. Bring the chicken stock to a boil. Add the chicken breasts, and lower the heat to a simmer. Poach the chicken breasts 20 minutes or until fully cooked.

2. Remove the chicken from the poaching liquid and cool completely before cutting into one inch cubes. Reserve the liquid.

3. Combine the softened butter with the flour, kneading them together into a paste.

4. Return the reserved chicken stock to a boil, and using a wire whisk, add the flour/butter combination in one‐tablespoon increments.

5. Cook 5 minutes then add the sherry and cream.

6. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Whisk in the cheese and nutmeg. Remove from heat once cheese is melted.

7. Fold in diced chicken.

8. OPTIONAL CRUNCHY TOPPING: Top with additional cheese, and brown lightly under broiler.

9. Serve with spinach and wild rice. Many patrons prefer the hash served over white toast (no crust) instead of wild rice.


Photos courtesy of the "21" Club

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