Monday, November 30, 2009

The Four Seasons' Chicken And Shrimp Curry

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I can't say enough about this curry.  Words or pictures cannot fully convey the magnificent taste, aroma and texture of this dish.  Obviously, I wouldn't expect any less of The Four Seasons, but frankly, this recipe just blew me away.  It is an elegant yet authentic curry, one you can count on.  I am sorry the photo is a bit blurry.  To tell the truth, I was so anxious and excited to try it my hands were shaky and every picture turned out blurred.  After the third try, I just couldn't be bothered...all I wanted to do was sit down and eat the whole plate!

I adore curries, but Indian cuisine is not one I grew up with so naturally I am always looking for authenticity more than anything else .  When I started testing curry recipes awhile back somehow they never had the taste I was used to.  It wasn't until I came upon Madhur Jaffrey's book on curries that I realized I was thinking of the British version of the dish,  the one they call  Chicken Tikka Masala .  This recipe, on the other hand is halfway between the English sahib's cream curry and the true curries of the East.  Just what I was looking for!

Curry (IPA:/ˈkʌri/) is a generic description used throughout European and American culture to describe a general variety of spiced dishes  best known in Indian cuisines, especially South Asian cuisine. Curry is a generic term, and although there is no one specific attribute that marks a dish as "curry", some distinctive spices used in many, though certainly not all, curry dishes include turmeric, cumin, coriander, fenugreek, and red pepper. The word curry is an anglicised version of the Tamil word kari. It is usually understood to mean "gravy" or "sauce", rather than "spices".  In most South Indian languages, the word literally means 'side-dish', which can be eaten along with a main dish like rice or bread.(Wikipedia)

Curry's popularity in recent decades has spread outward from the Indian subcontinent to figure prominently in international cuisine. Consequently, each culture has adopted spices in their indigenous cooking  to suit their own unique tastes and cultural sensibilities. Curry can therefore be called a pan-Asian or global phenomenon, with immense popularity in Thai, British and Japanese cuisines.  Just this past week, Europe celebrated National Curry Week, something I found out just as I was finishing this post.  Talk about coincidences...

The popularity of curry among the general public was enhanced by the invention of "Coronation Chicken" to commemorate the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953. Curry sauce (or curry gravy) is a British use of curry as a condiment, usually served warm with traditional British fast food dishes such as chips. Curry sauce occasionally would include sultanas.  According to legend, one 19th century attempt at curry resulted in the invention of Worcestershire sauce.  In 2001, Robin Cook proclaimed Chicken Tikka Masala Britain's National Dish.

One of the things I like about this recipe is that the heat does not overwhelm the rest of the spices.  I have always believed that a dish that is too hot is just an excuse for a bad recipe.  Let's face it, how can you possible taste the rest of the ingredients when you are worried about putting out the heat in your belly!.  This has enough to notice but not overwhelm.  It is perfectly balanced so as not to offend anyone at the table.  Also the mix of chicken and shrimp is a delight and every bite leaves a  a different sensation in the palate.  Nothing like the unexpected.  Although you could make this all shrimp or all chicken, I wouldn't.   The mix of the two is one of the things that makes this dish different... don't change it.

The "boys" or condiments are my contribution.  They are what I like with my curry. The restaurant accompanies it with marinated fruits consisting of pineapple, kiwi etc., which although creative, is unnecessary for the full enjoyment of this dish.  Just accompany with raisins, chutney (I used Major Greys) and slivered or blanched almonds... perhaps coconut flakes.  Notice that the main curry sauce has no sugar.  The sweetness comes in the condiments, something I like because it gives us the opportunity to adapt it to our taste.

I have tweaked the procedure of cooking this dish a little to eliminate a few pots and pans.  Let's face it, we just don't have as many sous chefs or dishwashers in our kitchens as the Four Seasons does.  In the end it wont make a difference and it will make your life a lot easier. 

This is the kind of recipe you want to serve at a small dinner party for 8 or if you are having a couple of tables for a sit down dinner of 12 or sixteen.  You can easily double it and also make it the day before.  Accompany with white or jasmine rice and a simple salad.  It's a wonderful and festive main course to have on hand for the holidays. 


1 Tb olive oil
1 tsp. coriander seeds, toasted in a dry skillet for 5 minutes
1/2 tsp white peppercorns
2 whole cloves
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp. cumin seeds
2 TB curry powder'1 tsp chopped fresh ginger'1/2 clove of garlic
1/8 whole nutmeg
2 tsps. kosher salt
1 quart chicken stock'1 cup dry white wine
2 cups heavy cream
4 TB unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup clarified butter
4 8oz. whole boneless chicken breasts, cut in 1 1/2 by 1/4 inch chunks
1 1/2 lbs medium shrimp, peeled and deveined

The "boys"

Slivered Almonds
Major Greys' Chutney
Coconut flakes


In a skillet heat the oil.When hot add the coriander seeds, white peppercorns, cloves, red pepper flakes and cumin seeds.  Stir to avoid burning, then add curry powder, tossing to blend.  Place in a spice mill or coffee grinder with the ginger, garlic, nutmeg and salt.  Grind to a powder, set aside.

In a deep saucepan boil and reduce stock and wine together, to 2 cups.  In a separate pan reduce cream to 1 cup.

In a clean pan melt the butter, add flour and cook stirring 2 minutes.  Mix in prepared curry mixture, add the reduced stock and cream.  Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring.  When sauce is thick and smooth, strain through a fine sieve into a clean saucepan.

Melt 2 TB butter in a large skillet and saute chicken, tossing until seared on all sides.  Remove to a plate.  Heat another 2 TB butter and saute shrimp for 1 minute.  Return chicken to skillet and saute together for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring.  Spoon the sauce over the shrimp and chicken mixture, bring to a boil, stirring and serve at once with rice.  Place chutney, slivered almonds, raisins,  and coconut in individual dishes and add your favorites on top of the curry.

Note: This recipe is dedicated to my Westie friends Snowy and Vivi Jr. and their Moms who give me so much laughter and happiness, day in and day out.  I hope you enjoy it.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Four Seasons Restaurant - New York City

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The Four Seasons is one of the most fascinating, elegant and spectacular restaurants in the world.  Its sumptuous decor, its breathtaking innovations, its remarkable originality have all combined to make it an institution, a unique restaurant where the clientele includes heads of state, celebrities in all of the arts, men and women of achievement, and where the food is admired by gourmets, critics and fellow restaurateurs all over the world. Behind that institution lies a philosophy of food--a concept of freshness, of originality of simplicity and seasonal variation.

It began as a dream in several minds, including the architect Phillip Johnson, the owners of the Seagram Building where it resides, and Joe Baum, the pivotal personality of an organization called Restaurant Associates.  The dream, in short, was of a restaurant of peerless magnificence for New Yorkers, a restaurant whose food was splendid and whose very ambiance mirrored the seasons of the year.

Whether one dines or lunches in the Bar Room, where simple broiled food takes a seat of honor, or in the Pool Room where the menu is much more involved and its presentation much more spectacular, there is the comfort of knowing that the food being served has been prepared with great relish and eaten with true appreciation by a large discerning clientele,  including me!

The Bar Room

The first time I dined at the Four Seasons was in the early 60's while at boarding school.  An old uncle invited my parents and me during Spring break and we ate in the Pool Room.  All I can remember was the beauty of the decor.  You have to remember that when it first opened, the Four Seasons was not only innovative but also revolutionary.  It was Spring and darn it if they didn't have dogwoods or cherry blossoms in bloom all over the room! 

Throughout the years I dined or lunched several times, mainly in the Pool Room, and visited the bar on numerous occasions to meet colleagues and friends.  I was lucky my office at the time was only a couple of blocks away.  It is a lunch with my Mother, however, that is the most memorable of all the occasions I visited the restaurant.  We were cutting through 53rd Street after a doctors appointment, and we were hungry and tired.   When I saw where we were, I steered her right through the door and up the stairs without giving her a chance to say no.  It was pretty late in the lunch service, just a few tables of stragglers remained in the Bar Room and Pool Room, but we were taken to a table and served as if we were the queens of New York.  That is class. No rush, no sly glances, absolutely perfect crab cakes, Bloody Marys, espresso and petit fours.  We left around 4 p.m.sleepy and happy, each with a box of petit fours, a gift from the Four Seasons.  Since that day,  every time we eat crab cakes, we look at each other and smile...good, but not as good as The Four Seasons!

The Pool Room in Spring

The Pool Room in Summer

The Bar

There is much to tell about the Four Seasons, too many stories, too many fabulous dishes that I can't possibly cover in one post; but I wanted to give you some background behind the recipe that is coming up next, Chicken and Shrimp Curry, created by Chef Seppi Renggli, the restaurant's first chef.

To read more about The Four Seasons, I have included  a wonderful article in New York Magazine's November 1986 issue, pg. 42. 

When the Four Seasons first opened in 1959, it was top of the line, the first of the new breed of restaurants to succeed the legendary Pavillon.  Today, it is one of many fine restaurants in the city, where the food is not necessarily the best, but where you will find a glimpse of everything that makes a legendary restaurant great... and if you peek into the Grill Room, you will see many of the people whose minds, power and drive run some of this country's greatest enterprises.

Thanksgiving Leftovers...Turkey Tetrazzini

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On or about Day 4 or 5 after Thanksgiving, when you start reconsidering whether you will ever eat turkey again, this casserole begins to sound appealing.  It is also about the time when you dig out what's leftover of the turkey carcass in the refrigerator and hate to throw away all the nice meat around the bones.  It is also the day when you are too tired to contemplate making turkey croquettes and freezing them for an off day during the holidays.  Yes, the day has arrived to make turkey tetrazzini, an old fashioned casserole which consists of egg noodles or spaghetti, turkey, mushrooms and a cream sauce.  I know it sounds old fashioned and passe', but everything has its time and place, and turkey tetrazzini's is on Thanksgiving + 4.

Tetrazzini is an American pasta dish that is thought to have been invented in San Francisco and named after the famous opera singer of the early 1900s, Luisa Tetrazzini, who lived there for many years.  There must be something between food and opera singers since so many dishes were named after them!

Serves 4 to 6


12 oz spaghetti, linguini or other pasta

12 ounces mushrooms, sliced (about 4-5 cups)

1 medium shallot finely diced (optional) added 11/30/2012

8 TB unsalted butter ( plus another 3 TB to saute mushrooms)

8 TB  all-purpose flour

3 cups of milk

1 cups chicken broth

1/4 cup dry sherry (or vermouth or dry white wine)

3 cups coarsely chopped cooked turkey

1 small jar chopped pimentos OR 1 cup frozen peas

2/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan (divided into 1/3 and 1/3 cups)

1/3 cup shredded Gruyere cheese

2 Tbsp lemon juice

Salt and Pepper

Ground nutmeg (optional)

1/3 cup fine fresh bread crumbs (or panko)

Freshly chopped parsley for garnish (optional)


1 Preheat oven to 375°F. Start heating 2 to 3 quarts of water for the pasta. Add 1 teaspoon of salt for each quart of water.

2 Cook the mushrooms  (and shallots) in 3 Tbsp of the butter over medium heat, stirring, until all of the liquid the mushrooms give off has evaporated, 5-10 minutes. Set aside.

3 In a large, heavy saucepan, melt  8 TB of butter. Stir in the flour, and cook the mixture over low heat, stirring, for 3 minutes.

4 About now, put the pasta into the boiling water you've heated. Follow the package directions and cook until al dente. While the pasta is cooking continue on with the recipe.

5 Into the saucepan with the butter and flour, slowly whisk in the milk, broth, and the sherry. Bring to a simmer and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, for about 5 to 8 minutes.

6 When the pasta is ready, drain it. In a large bowl combine the pasta, the sauce, the mushrooms, the turkey, and the pimentos or peas. Stir in 1/3 cup of the Parmesan and the 1/3 cup of Gruyere cheese. Stir in the lemon juice. Add salt and pepper to taste. Note that if you have been using unsalted butter, and/or unsalted or low sodium stock, you will need to add more salt than you might expect. Just keep sprinkling it in until it is seasoned to your taste. Add a pinch of ground nutmeg if using, again to taste. Transfer the mixture to a buttered 3-quart casserole.

7 In a small bowl combine well the remaining 1/3 cup Parmesan and the bread crumbs. Sprinkle the mixture evenly over the tetrazzini, and dot the top with 1 tablespoon butter, cut into bits.

8 Bake the Tetrazzini in the middle rack of the oven for 30 to 40 minutes, or until it is bubbling and the top is golden.

Garnish individual servings with chopped parsley.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Ralph Lauren Thanksgiving Table

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Just came across this beautiful table setting and couldn't resist the urge to share it with you.  I have china very similar to this... if only I could find it amongst the boxes in the garage!!!

Don't Sweat the Small Stuff...Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

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The First Thanksgiving At Plymouth, 1621

Well, the big day is upon us and all that is left is the actual cooking of the turkey and a couple of last minute   dishes.  Everything should be ready by tonight.  The table set, the cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes and  stuffing in the refrigerator, and the pies in the freezer, if you made them ahead.  The only things really left for tomorrow are the creamed onions, the turkey and the gravy.  Oh yes, and the mixed salad, but that takes no time. In 24 hours it will be all over and with good luck and lots of work, it will be a success.

 Don't worry about the little things. All that people will remember about the food is "Was she good or was she bad! " They will remember the good stuff and promptly forget the disasters.  What they will appreciate first and foremost is being around family and friends.

I am leaving you with a wonderful post I found just in time for the holidays.  Read it carefully and if you follow these steps, you have nothing to worry about.  Just remember, on Thanksgiving Day the pilgrims made peace with the indians.   If only for one day, so can you!

Have a Happy Thanksgiving and thank you for visiting Lindaraxa's Garden!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Thanksgiving...Cranberry Orange Sauce

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This simple recipe just takes a few minutes and surely beats the one we buy in a can.  There are times when Im willing to cut corners, just like in the frozen pearl onions for the gratin, but not here.  Really, after you have gone through all that trouble, go the extra mile and make this for your dinner, even if you can't stand the sight of another pot!

 8 Servings    Prep: 5 min   Cook: 10 min


Zest and juice of 1 orange
1/2 cup sugar, plus more if desired
Pinch salt
One 12-ounce bag fresh cranberries, rinsed


In a medium saucepan, heat 1/2 cup water with the orange zest, orange juice, sugar and salt over medium-high heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the cranberries and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the cranberries burst and the sauce has thickened slightly, about 7 minutes. Sweeten with more sugar, if desired. Let the sauce cool to room temperature.  Refrigerate overnight and bring back to room temperature before serving.

The sauce can be made a couple of days ahead and kept in the refrigerator.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Gratin of Pearl Onions With Gruyere

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Creamed onions are a seasonal favorite, especially at Thanksgiving. Pearl onions, traditionally any white onion less than 1 1/2 inches in diameter, are best for this dish. A number of different-colored pearl onions are available at well-stocked markets today, including white, yellow and purple.  I just use the Birdseye frozen pearl onions which taste just as good as the fresh.  If I wanted to stay really American, I would use an American cheese but Gruyere is so good in gratins I'm willing to make an exception.

Serves 6.


2 lb. pearl onions, fresh or frozen

5 Tbs. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter

1 yellow onion, minced

 2 1/2 Tbs. all-purpose flour

2 cups of whole milk

1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

1 cup shredded Gruyere Cheese

3/4 cup fine dried white bread crumbs



If you are using fresh onions, here's what you have to do:

Bring a saucepan half full of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pearl onions and cook for 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, scoop out the onions, rinse with cold water and drain. Reserve the water in the pot. Trim off the ends of each onion, then cut a shallow X into each trimmed end. Squeeze each onion gently to slip off the skin. 

Bring the water back to a boil. Add the onions, reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, until the onions are soft when pierced with a knife, 15 to 20 minutes. Using the slotted spoon, transfer the onions to a bowl.

If you are using frozen onions, which I highly recommend, just follow package directions, cook and drain.

Position a rack in the upper third of an oven and preheat to 375°F.

In a saucepan over medium heat, melt 4 Tbs. of the butter. Add the minced onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 7 minutes. Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until well mixed and bubbling, about 2 minutes.  Add the milk and cook until the sauce boils and thickens slightly, 3 to 4 minutes. Add 1/2 cup of the cheese. Add the nutmeg and season with salt and pepper. Add the pearl onions, adjust the heat to a gentle simmer and cook until the onions are hot, about 3 minutes.

Transfer the onion mixture to a 2-quart baking dish and sprinkle the bread crumbs and the rest of the cheese evenly over the top. Add a dash of paprika. Cut the remaining 1 Tbs. butter into 6 equal pieces and dot the bread crumbs evenly with the butter. Bake until the crumbs are golden and small bubbles appear along the edges of the dish, 15 to 20 minutes. Serve immediately.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

How to Set the Thanksgiving Table and Why: The Short Course

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I am posting a wonderful article by Florence Fabricant published in the New York Times 6 years ago.  It not only details how to set a table  but also the reasons behind it.

It is interesting how those of us who were asked to set the table by our mothers at an early age continue to enjoy doing so later in life.   I developed such a passion for table settings that nowadays I have a  room full of different patterns of china, table cloths, glasses and centerpieces that cover every occasion and then some.  I am still unpacking and sorting but once I find the photos I promise to post pictures of past Thanksgivings. 

The only thing I can add to Faricant's articles is my pet peeve for colored tapers.  Except for holidays such as Christmas, Halloween (black!) and Thanksgiving, I prefer cream or off white candles.  Concentrate your colors in the china, the flowers, the napkins and whatever else is on the table. 


Published: Wednesday, November 26, 2003

WHEN I was growing up, a treat for me at Thanksgiving was setting the table. My mother spread out a thick white and gray damask cloth she said an aunt had brought from Germany (and which I now treasure). Then she would take down the special French dinnerware.

And I would set to work.

I was not more than 7 or 8 years old, but by then I knew exactly what to do,how to space the plates evenly and place the silverware properly, simple lessons that once ingrained are impossible to forget or to forsake.

In planning for Thanksgiving, more thought must be given to the menu and the guest list than to the niceties of setting the table. Unlike a social dinner party, the Thanksgiving meal will proceed regardless of whether there are enough matching plates or glasses.

Even if you do not own silver flatware for 12 or will wind up borrowing from a neighbor or a parent, what does matter when the plates, flatware, glasses and napkins finally do go on the table, is that they should not be placed helter-skelter but should follow certain conventions. It will make the table look more formal. And a nicely set table to greet the guests as they are seated will start things off in an orderly fashion on an occasion that often threatens to descend into chaos.

And if there are children involved at the holiday, for those who are too young to baste a turkey or help peel potatoes, learning to set a proper table offers an excellent opportunity to participate in the preparation of a festive, traditional meal.

The practice of table setting simply guarantees each dinner guest the same number of knives and forks and plates and glasses, to be used in the same order. In the Middle Ages, before the fork, there was no need for such conventions; dinner guests brought their own knives. (Forks were introduced in Italy in the 11th century, and finally came to France, it is thought, in Catherine de Medici's luggage.)

The particulars of today's conventions have evolved from Victorian times, when the family dinner and the social dinner acquired great importance, especially in England. In great houses, the setting of the table became almost ridiculously elaborate, as shown in the 2001 film "Gosford Park," which had butlers of that era wearing white cotton gloves so as not to smudge the silver and crystal, and actually using yardsticks to position each plate and fork, a detail the first lady, Laura Bush, noted during her visit to Buckingham Palace.
There is no need to go so far.

What we have been left with is what I will call the basic setting for a dinner table.

Traditionally, of course, a proper table is covered with a cloth. Tablecloths originated in Rome and represented wealth and dignity during the Medieval period. Damascus in Syria produced the best cloths, called damask, like my family heirloom. Centuries ago, several tablecloths were laid one on top of another, each to be removed after a course. This practice is still followed today in some cultures, in North Africa, for example. Then in early 18th century England, very fine wood tables were meant to be shown off, so doilies, named for D'Oyley, a London draper who is said to have invented them, came into use. These in turn became place mats.

On to the plates. The plate is the flat dinner plate, which evolved from wooden trenchers, which were in turn preceded by slabs of stale bread.

The plate is then flanked by knife and tablespoon on the right and usually two forks on the left. Utensils are placed to make picking them up and using them efficient and simple. The knife should be turned so the blade edge is on the left, next to the plate, a consideration dating from when knives were razor sharp. The forks, a larger dinner fork and a smaller salad fork, are placed in order of use from the outside in. In France the forks and spoons are usually turned so the tines and bowls face down.

(At Windows on the World, the late Joe Baum insisted that the tables be set with the knife, fork and spoon together on the right.)

However they are placed, in our culture, utensils are necessary as the intermediary between fingers and food. And they should never be held tightly grasped in one's fist.

To the left of the forks, there can be a small bread and butter plate with a butter knife placed across it near the top. Though butter is never served at a formal dinner or banquet and bread is optional, Thanksgiving is different. Aunt Alice may have made pumpkin bread, or Uncle Brent may have brought biscuits or cornbread, so the bread plate is useful.

For the dessert service these days, a teaspoon with the handle on the right and a dessert or cake fork with the handle on the left are often set horizontally above the dinner plate. The dessert fork and teaspoon can be omitted from the setting and added later, after the main dish has been cleared.

Now, glassware. Two glasses, a larger one for water and a smaller one for wine, should be positioned above the knife, with the wineglass to the right of the water goblet. Stemmed glassware is a sign of refinement. But until well into the 19th century, no glassware was placed directly on the table. It was lined up on a side table and offered by servants, already filled.

A napkin, simply folded, and for a nice dinner, cloth, never paper, might go to the left of the forks, but the 1960 edition of Emily Post's Etiquette insists the napkin belongs on the dinner plate itself. And she also noted that fancy foldings are in bad taste. Today, unless lobster is on the menu, the custom of tying a large napkin around one's neck is no longer accepted at a formal dinner, as it was in the 18th century. Napkin rings once held napkins that were reused, but are now merely decorative.

There are other niceties of the table that deserve to be observed. Only wine can be placed on the table in its original bottle. Water, juice and other drinks should be decanted into pitchers or carafes.

Thanksgiving is also a time when everyone pitches in, and not just the children who might be given the chance to set the table. In these servantless days, as an expression of helpfulness, guests tend to leap up to remove plates and bowls at the end of a course. That is fine, but when it comes to clearing the table, it's considerate to wait until everyone has finished eating. It will help to make a dinner that often comes with an array of built-in tensions a little more relaxed, and gracious.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Sweet Potatoes with Marshmallows in Orange Cups

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This is an integral part of the Thanksgiving menu posted a couple of days ago.  You can either cook the puree as a casserole or scoop into orange cups topped with marshmallows and pecans for a stunning presentation.  Either way its a delicious side dish for Thanksgiving!

Serves 6


4 large sweet potatoes (about 4 lbs.), peeled and cut into chunks

 1/2 cup  milk

1/4 cup orange juice

4 Tbsp unsalted butter

2 Tbsp brown sugar

1 tsp kosher salt

1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg

1 bag (16 oz.) large marshmallows

4 large oranges



1. Preheat oven to 350ºF.

2. Place sweet potatoes in a medium-size pot. Cover with cold water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Lower heat to a simmer and cook until fork-tender, about 20 to 25 minutes. Drain.

3. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, heat milk and butter until warm but not simmering.

4. Return the potatoes to the pot and add warm milk mixture, orange juice, sugar, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Using a handheld mixer, whip until creamy. Add more milk if necessary.Transfer to a greased 4-quart baking dish.  Top with marshmallows, spacing them about 1 inch apart and pushing halfway in.

5. Bake until marshmallows are golden brown, about 30 minutes.

6. If you want to go all out, cut thin slice from top and bottom of each orange to make flat surfaces. Cut oranges in half. Use the juice for the puree. Scoop out pulp; . Place orange cups on 2 baking sheets. Divide sweet potato mixture equally among cups. Top each with a marshmallow and 2 pecan halves. Bake until beginning to brown, about 30 minutes.

Double or triple the recipe depending on the number of guests. Correct the spices

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Thanksgiving Menu

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This has been my menu for years, with the only variation being the stuffing, which I alternate from year to year and the second pie which is usually pecan or apple. Pumpkin pie is de rigueur! I don't serve a first course, just cocktails with nuts or cheese straws. To me the meal is heavy enough and does not need heavy hors d'oeuvres or a first course, particularly soup. You will notice that I serve a green salad at the end, something that my children requested years ago and which, I must admit, helps tremendously with the digestion of this heavy meal.

For a red wine, a domestic Pinot Noir is very nice if you like reds or a domestic Chardonnay if you prefer white. A French rose is economical and goes well also with this meal. Make sure you don't serve a very dry wine, especially if you are serving sweet potatoes and cranberry sauce.

Spring Greens with Lemon Vinaigrette

Thanksgiving Pear Chestnut and Sage Stuffing

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Whether to call the starch dish dressing or stuffing is a perennial debate at Thanksgiving tables. The term stuffing is usually used when it is cooked inside the turkey, while dressing is typically cooked in a baking pan. But the name also varies depending on what part of the United States you are from. People who hail from the East and South are more likely to call it dressing. Whatever term you use, the dish is a favorite on Thanksgiving tables from coast to coast.

I alternate between this delicious pear and chestnut stuffing, and another more traditional one with apples and sausage.  This year, the pears have it. 


1-lb. loaf rustic country bread, torn into

1/2-inch pieces

1/2 lb. pork breakfast sausage, casings

1 Tbs. unsalted butter

1 large yellow onion, cut into 1/2-inch dice

1 large carrot, cut into 1/2-inch dice

3 celery stalks, cut into 1/2-inch dice

1 Bosc pear, cored and cut into 1/2-inch dice

1 cup peeled and chopped steamed or roasted

1/3 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1/3 cup chopped fresh sage

4 Tbs. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted

4 cups chicken or turkey stock

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste


Spread the bread out on a baking sheet and let dry overnight.

Preheat an oven to 375°F. Butter a large, shallow baking dish.

In a large sauté pan over medium heat, brown the sausage, stirring and crumbling with a fork, until cooked through, 5 to 6 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl.

In the same pan, melt the 1 Tbs. butter and add the onion, carrot, celery and pear. Sauté, stirring occasionally, until tender, 7 to 8 minutes. Transfer the mixture to the bowl with the sausage. Add the chestnuts, parsley, sage, melted butter, stock, salt and pepper and stir to mix. Add the bread and stir to mix well.

Transfer the dressing to the prepared baking dish and bake until golden and crispy, about 1 hour. Serves 10 to 12.

Note: If desired, you can pack the dressing loosely in the body and neck cavities of the turkey. Secure the neck flap with kitchen string or pin it to the back with toothpicks or trussing pins. Tying the legs together will help hold the stuffing in the body cavity. For turkeys weighing 16 lb. or less, add 30 minutes to the total roasting time. For turkeys weighing more than 16 lb., add 1 hour to the total roasting time.

Adapted from Williams Sonoma

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Thanksgiving...Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie

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Now that I live in the South, the DEEP South, I think it would only be appropriate to have pecan pie as my other dessert this Thanksgiving.  I have been mulling whether to have pecan pie or chocolate pecan pie or chocolate bourbon pecan pie and the choice was made for me last night by my friend Libby Wilkie who publishes the beautiful blog An Eye for Detail.  Isn't that what friends are for? Although I have to admit that the bourbon part is my contribution. Who wouldn't exchange that for vanilla extract, especially on Thanksgiving!

Pecan trees are so abundant in this part of Georgia that they are all over my son's backyard.  The area where he lives used to be a pecan farm in the middle of what is now a suburb of Atlanta.  Maybe I can get them to gather some  for me, since, after all, the pumpkin pie filling is a product of our visit together to the pumpkin farm last month.  Talking about home grown pies!

One of the most important things about this pie is toasting the pecans beforehand.  Really, do go the extra mile, it makes a world of difference as far as flavor is concerned.  Place whole or halved pecans on an ungreased sheet pan and toast in a 350 degree oven for 10-12 minutes, stirring a few times until light brown and fragrant. Let cool and set aside.

 Don't scrimp on quality when it comes to making the best chocolate pecan pie for the holidays. As important as toasted and roasted pecans are to this pie, so is the type of chocolate used. Gourmet chocolate would include such brands as; Lindt chocolate, Ghirardelli chocolate and Callebaut chocolate. Mini chocolate chips are easy to use, and shaved or finely chopped dark chocolate works well too. These two ingredients -- toasted or roasted pecans and gourmet chocolate -- will be the deciding factor between a so-so chocolate pecan pie and a knock-your-socks-off, have-to-have-some-now chocolate pecan pie! A few drops of bourbon won't hurt either.

Servings:  8 - 10


1 deep dish 9 inch basic pie crust

3/4 cup gourmet chocolate chips or shaved dark chocolate

1 1/2 cup toasted pecans, shelled and chopped in half if desired

1/3 cup butter, melted

3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed

3/4 cup Karo light corn syrup

3 large eggs

3 TB Bourbon


Preheat oven to 350 Degrees F with rack in lowest position.  Prepare pie crust ahead of time  whether you are making one or buying one already made such as Mrs. Smith's. Place toasted pecans in the bottom of the unbaked pie shell (don't worry, they will rise to the top when the pie is fully baked ). Sprinkle chocolate chips or shaved chocolate over the pecans. Place the pie crust on a baking sheet to prevent drips and set aside.

Melt butter in a medium saucepan. Turn off heat. Add brown sugar, stir until dissolved and pour into a large mixing bowl. Mix well with the whisk attachment.

Add corn syrup and mix again. Scrape.

Mix in bourbon and eggs, beating to mix well, but not foamy.

Carefully pour batter over the chocolate chips and pecans, being careful not to disturb them.

Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 50 to 60 minutes or until top is slightly browned and puffed up. This will fall during cooling.  Make sure you let the pie cool on a wire rack for at least 4 hours.

Chocolate Pecan Pie cuts best when it is chilled. Use a sharp knife. Let cool completely before wrapping. This pie freezes well, so make extra!


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Thanksgiving...The Classic Pumpkin Pie

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Now that Halloween is over, we can start worrying about Thanksgiving.  Even if you have a relatively small family, the problem is always the same...the venue and the participants!  When my children were little, it was great, we went to my mother's and that was the end of that.  Now that some of them are married and have families of their own or live far away, it is always a hassle.  The one thing that is for certain, as far as I'm concerned, is the menu.   That is what I like the most about this surprises on that front, except for a few variations, from time to time. And  no choices, except when it comes to the pies...

 I am always surprised at how many people, faced with the choice of apple, pumpkin or pecan pie, will more often than not choose the apple pie.  Why?? You can have apple all year long, pecan as well, but pumpkin! To me, pumpkin pie, next  to the turkey, is the essence of Thanksgiving. 

The poor pies never get the respect and attention they deserve.  Let's face it, we are so stuffed and comatose after the meal that nobody wants to hear about pie.  The whole thing is a cardiac arrest waiting to happen. Think about's all carbs, except for the little pieces of turkey that are the excuse for everything else. I, for one, could do without the turkey and just concentrate on the side dishes and dessert.  I usually do!

 This time, I am giving the pies the respect they deserve.  They are first on the lineup so you'll have plenty of time to think about them.  By the way,  no apple pie in this lineup... that's for another day!

The perfect pie begins with the perfect crust—one that is tender and flaky. Cutting the butter into the flour mixture is a key step. The butter must be cold and hard; if it warms up and softens, the flour will absorb it, become sticky and yield a dense, tough crust. I recommend mixing the ingredients in a food processor. It allows you to work quickly so the butter doesn't have a chance to soften. And by running the machine in short pulses, the processor won't heat up and melt the butter.

This year I have tons of fresh pumpkin puree waiting in the freezer.  As a matter of fact, I already have the pie filling also frozen and ready to go.  That way one of the desserts is out of the way and now all I have to decide is whether to bake pecan OR chocolate pecan pie for a second dessert.  What a dilemma!


For the dough:

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 tsp. salt

3 tsp. sugar

12 Tbs. (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter,

cut into 1/2-inch pieces

4 1/2 to 6 Tbs. ice water

1 egg, lightly beaten

For the filling:

2 1/2 cups pumpkin puree (from about 1 1/2 cans, each 15 oz.) or fresh 

3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 Tbs. plus 1 tsp. all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp. salt

1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. ground ginger

1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg

1/4 tsp. ground cloves

3 whole eggs plus 2 egg yolks

1 cup heavy cream

1/3 cup milk

1 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract

1 Tbs. brandy

Lightly sweetened whipped cream for serving


To make the dough, in the bowl of a food processor, combine the flour, salt and sugar and pulse to blend. Add the butter and process in short pulses until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add 3 Tbs. of the ice water and pulse twice. The dough should hold together when squeezed with your fingers but should not be sticky. If it is crumbly, add more water, 1 tsp. at a time, pulsing twice after each addition.

Turn the dough out onto a work surface. Cut off one-third of the dough and shape into a disk. Shape the remaining two-thirds of the dough into a disk. Wrap the disks separately with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Position a rack in the lower third of an oven. Place a cookie sheet on the rack. Preheat to 400°F.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and let stand for 5 minutes. Place the large dough disk between 2 sheets of lightly floured waxed paper and roll out into a 12-inch round about 1/8 inch thick. Brush off the excess flour. Transfer the dough to a 9-inch Emile Henry deep-dish pie dish and fit the dough into the dish. Trim the edges, leaving a 1/2-inch overhang. Fold under the excess dough and, using your thumb, decoratively flute the edges. Using a fork, gently poke holes in several places on the bottom of the crust.

Place the small dough disk between the same 2 sheets of waxed paper, flouring the paper if needed, and roll out the dough to 1/8 inch thick. Using a 1 1/2-inch leaf cutter, cut out about 32 small leaves. Using the back of a paring knife, score leaf veins on each cutout. Brush the edges of the pie crust with the beaten egg, then arrange the leaves on the edges. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze for 15 minutes.

Line the pie crust with parchment paper or aluminum foil and fill with pie weights. Place the pie dish on the preheated cookie sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the parchment and weights and bake until the crust is light golden brown, about 5 minutes more. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely, about 30 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 375°F.

Meanwhile, make the filling: In a large bowl, whisk together the pumpkin puree, brown sugar and granulated sugar. Add the flour, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves and whisk until smooth. Add the eggs and egg yolks and whisk until combined. Add the cream, milk, vanilla and brandy and whisk until smooth. Pour the filling into the cooled pie crust.

Place the pie dish on the preheated cookie sheet. Bake until the filling is set, about 1 hour and 15 minutes, covering the edges of the crust with foil if they get too brown. Transfer the pie dish to the wire rack and let the pie cool completely, about 4 hours, before serving. Accompany each slice with a dollop of whipped cream.

Serves 8 to 10.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Kitchen.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Martin Yan's Cashew Chicken

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There's a Chinese restaurant and takeout in New York City called Pig Heaven.  It is to me, the best takeout on the East Coast.   I have never eaten at the restaurant, but have been ordering out since 1986.  I have always meant to eat there but why bother when I can have such marvelous Chinese in the comforts of my home.

One of my best friends, who still lives in NYC, laughs when I come to visit her. She knows on my first night in town, dinner is always takeout from Pig Heaven and always the same thing, Cashew Chicken and Orange Beef.  I once tried something else, can't remember what, but it wasn't the same.  It is a fantastic combination, and I'm lucky my friend also agrees!

Miami, in spite of what some people may think, doesn't really have a great takeout or restaurant.  Yes Mr. Chow has opened on the Beach, but who wants to go through all the hassle and pay such horrendous prices.  That defeats the whole purpose of Chinese on a Sunday night.  So, as I mentioned before, I have armed myself with a wok, and various cookbooks and tackled Chinese cuisine!

Martin Yan is one of my favorite authors.  Not only are his dishes delicious and quick but he lays out each recipe in a very simple manner.  Once you make one or two, you understand the mindset.  With Chinese, it's all about preparation, for the actual cooking really takes no time at all.  You chop the ingredients, make a sauce, stir fry separately, first meats, then vegetables, add the sauce, combine and you are done.  There really is no reason to be intimidated by it and it is not as complicated or time consuming as you think.  If you have a wonderful takeout near you, don't bother, but if you don't read on!

This popular dish, probably number one for Chinese take-out, is easily mastered at home. My preference is to use unsalted cashews. If your market doesn't stock them, reduce the soy sauce to compensate for the salt. I've made this recipe many, many times.  Don't leave out or add's terrific!



1 tablespoon soy sauce

2 teaspoons Chinese rice wine OR dry sherry

2 teaspoons cornstarch


3/4 pound boneless, skinless chicken

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 teaspoons minced ginger

2 teaspoons minced garlic

1 small onion, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1 small red bell pepper, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1/2 cup chicken broth

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 teaspoon sesame oil

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon cornstarch dissolved in 2 teaspoons water

1/2 cup roasted cashews OR blanched almonds, toasted


Combine all marinade ingredients in a bowl.

Cut chicken into 1/2-inch cubes. Add chicken to marinade and stir to coat. Let stand 10 minutes.

Place a wok over high heat until hot. Add vegetable oil, swirling to coat sides. Add ginger and garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 10 seconds. Add chicken and stir-fry 2 minutes.

Add onion, red pepper, and broth. Cover and cook until vegetables are tender-crisp, about 2 minutes. Add soy sauce, sesame oil and sugar. Mix well. Add cornstarch solution and cook, stirring, until sauce boils and thickens. Add nuts and mix well. Makes 4 servings.

Note:  His recipe gives you the option to use almonds...I wouldn't.  Maybe later on when you want a variation ; but the combination of these ingredients with the cashews is too perfect for words!  I also prefer the wine to the sherry for a more authentic taste.  It is found in the Chinese section of most supermarkets.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Tracking my Jardale Pumpkin From Farm To Table - Pumpkin Spice Bread With Walnuts

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The beautiful Jardale pumpkin which my friends at the pumpkin farm gave me a few days ago is now pumpkin pie and Pumpkin Spice Bread!  I can't believe I did it but I roasted the pumpkin yesterday, strained it, drained it and froze it for a later use, just like my friend Patti Londre recommended.  All in all, I got 4 Cups of pumpkin flesh, 2 1/2 for the pie and 11/2 Cups for the bread.  I did follow their advice and mixed the pie filling before I froze it, that way I won't have much to do before I serve it on Thanksgiving.

The pumpkin bread was a cinch and a welcomed addition to my afternoon tea.  By the way, it gets better and better everyday that goes by.

Before it went in the oven---look at the beautiful orange color!

and the contrast with the blue- gray of the skin

After they came out of the oven

After mashing...look at the water in the bottom!

the end result just after it came out of the oven

cooling on the window sill

just couldn't wait to try!


1 1/2 cups (210g) flour

1/2 teaspoon of salt

1 cup (200 g) sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup (1/4 L) pumpkin purée*

1/2 cup (1 dL) vegetable oil

2 eggs, beaten

1/4 cup water

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon allspice

1/2 cup (1 dL) chopped walnuts or almonds*

* To make pumpkin purée, cut a pumpkin in half, scoop out the seeds and stringy stuff, lie face down on a foil or Silpat lined baking sheet. Bake at 350°F until soft, about 45 min to an hour. Cool, scoop out the flesh. Drain on top of a colander for a couple of hours. Freeze whatever you don't use for future use.


1 Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Sift together the flour, salt, sugar, and baking soda.

2 Mix the pumpkin, oil, eggs, 1/4 cup of water, and spices together, then combine with the dry ingredients, but do not mix too thoroughly. Stir in the nuts.

3 Pour into a well-buttered 9x5x3 inch loaf pan. Bake 50-60 minutes until a thin skewer poked in the very center of the loaf comes out clean. Turn out of the pan and let cool on a rack.

*This time I used almonds

Makes one loaf. Can easily double the recipe.

Fresh Pumpkin Puree on Foodista

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Set the House on Fire With Apple Fritters!

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In the mid 60's, my mother set the house on fire making apple fritters.  Really, almost to the ground.  Needless to say, she hasn't made them ever since.  One night she left the frying pan on while she went down to take some to my grandmother and forgot all about it.  We ended up living in a hotel for the next 3 months!  First we lost all our things when we left Cuba, then we lost whatever we had managed to bring out, including our miniature Pinscher, Red, who went back to the house looking for her. You can't ever bring the subject up when she's around; but last night, I finally succeeded in getting the recipe out of her.

This year she is coming for Christmas and I think I will surprise her with some...or maybe not.  I do want to start off on the right foot and forty years might not be enough time....

I am really sorry that it has been off our repertoire,  for it is the kind of recipe that delights everybody, particularly children.  At home we usually served them as a side dish, especially if we were having roast pork or chops.

I have such an abundance of apples from our trip to the Kinsey Farm that tomorrow is going to be apple day...homemade apple sauce for my granddaughter and apple fritters for the rest of us kids! 

Yield:  About 32 fritters


1 cup all-purpose flour

3 tablespoons granulated sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup cold beer (not dark)

10 cups vegetable oil

2 apples (1 lb), peeled, cored, and sliced n 1/4 inch thick round slices

Confectioners or regular sugar for dusting


Stir together flour, granulated sugar, and salt, then add beer and whisk to combine. Heat oil in a 5-quart heavy pot until thermometer registers 375°F.

Dip apple slices in batter, shaking off excess, and fry, about 8 at a time, until golden, about 1 1/2 minutes on each side. Transfer fritters with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain. Serve warm, dusted with confectioners or regular sugar and don't forget to turn off the stove!

Apple Fritters on Foodista

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Fancy Leftovers... Polenta Fries With Marinara Sauce

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If you have been subscribed since the beginning, you know by now that I am a big fan of leftover meals.  By that I don't mean reheat and serve the same thing the following night.  Uh uh, I mean redress into something as good or even better.  The last recipe I posted was for creamy polenta.  If you refrigerated or froze the leftovers you are ahead of the game; and if you happen to have frozen some marinara sauce when you last made it, well, this recipe is a walk on the beach!  For those of you who didn't, you can still make this, just plan ahead two hours which is the time it will take for the polenta to firm up in the fridge.

Yield: 6 servings


3 cups Basic Polenta, recipe follows

Flour for dusting
2 cups olive oil, for frying
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano

1 cup  Marinara Sauce


Lightly oil an 11 by 7-inch baking dish. Transfer the hot polenta to the prepared baking dish, spreading evenly to 3/4-inch thick. Refrigerate until cold and firm, about 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F.

Cut the polenta into 2 by 1-inch pieces. Dust lightly with flour. Heat the oil in a heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Working in batches, fry the polenta pieces until golden brown on all sides, about 3 minutes per side. Using tongs, transfer the polenta pieces to paper towels and drain. Place the polenta pieces on a baking sheet and keep warm in the oven while cooking the remaining batches.

Transfer the polenta pieces to a serving platter. Sprinkle the polenta with the Parmesan cheese and salt. Serve, passing the marinara sauce alongside.

Basic Polenta:

6 cups chicken bouillon

1 teaspoons salt

1 tsp. rosemary

1 3/4 cups yellow cornmeal

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/4 Cup shredded Parmigiano Reggiano

Bring 6 cups of beef or chicken bouillon to a boil in a heavy large saucepan. Add 1 teaspoons of salt, and 1 tsp of rosemary. Gradually whisk in the cornmeal. Reduce the heat to low and cook until the mixture thickens and the cornmeal is tender, stirring often, about 15 minutes. Turn off the heat. Add the butter, the cheese and stir until melted.

Note:  Polenta also comes ready made in tubes found in the Italian section of your supermarket.  They are pretty good.  In that case serve the fried rounds in plates wih forks and spoon some sauce on top and sides.

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