Sunday, November 20, 2011

Thanksgiving On The Move

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So last year we had Thanksgiving on the road and this year we have it on the move...literally.  Yes dear readers we are moving over the Thanksgiving holiday.  Actually, the big move is on Friday which means that while all of you are out shopping the sales I will be packing and moving.  If it weren't for the fact that the new house is beautiful and my daughter is over the moon, I would be having a hissy fit, as they say here in the South.  In spite of the ruckus, there is no way I will be forfeiting my favorite holiday dinner.  It will be simpler and easier, but the basics will be there. If I had a fabulous restaurant nearby, well I might consider going out, but there is no such thing within 60 miles of where I live.

I will tell you that the one time I managed to have a spectacular Thanksgiving at a restaurant was in London, at Claridge's, in the early 90's.  I was there on business and managed to coincide with my friend Silvia who happened to be there for meetings also. There must have been a crisis or something because it is strange that both of us would have been away for Thanksgiving and in London at the same time. In any event, I was staying at Claridge's and invited her to come over and have dinner with me.  We were offered a choice of the regular or Thanksgiving menu and being the more adventurous I opted for the latter. Well, let me tell you, never have I ever had such a delicious Thanksgiving dinner in my life.  It was worth ordering just to see the enormous silver domed serving trolley rolled over to your table and a  perfectly cooked turkey sliced by the maitre d'  who was as elegant and, well, butlery as Anthony Hopkins in The Remains Of The Day.  What a treat and one I highly recommend if you happen to be on that side of the pond.  But I digress...

This year's Thanksgiving will be spent very far from those surroundings but it will be just as special, for I will be celebrating in the company of my daughter who has just bought her first house.  Unlike years past when I spent hours cooking and setting the perfect Thanksgiving table, this year's dinner will be probably enjoyed on a simple card table and rattan folding chairs surrounded by cardboard boxes and masking tape.    But there will be a real tablecloth and fresh napkins, wine glassses and silverware and the simple meal will be just as enjoyable as those of the past for there is nothing in this world that I would rather be doing than exactly what I will be doing this coming Thanksgiving Day. 

For those of you going the normal route, there are plenty of Thanksgiving recipes on the blog and I encourage you to take a look at some past menus here and here.  More on table etiquette and table setting can be accessed by entering Thanksgiving on the Search box.  I might be offline for a while but I will be back...promise.  It all depends how long it will take Comcast to get us back on.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving, don't burn the turkey and, above all,  don't sweat the small stuff!

Photo Southern Accents


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

An Autumn Dinner For Four...Winter Veal Stew With Mushrooms, Sage And White Wine

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Talk about comfort food, this is the kind of main dish you want to serve on a cool autumn night with a great bottle of wine and a roaring fire.  That's what we did just last night.  It is also the perfect addition to an elegant buffet and goes perfect with a simple white rice with basil and mozzarella cheese.  A bottle of Brunello de Montalcino and the Caramelized Roast Pears for dessert round up a magical evening!


(for 4 persons)

2 Tbs finely chopped shallots or yellow onions
2 Tbs of olive oil
2 Tbs of butter
1 1/2 pounds shank or shoulder of veal, boned and rather lean, cut into 1-inch cubes
3/4 cup all-purpose flour, spread on a dinner plate or on waxed paper
18 medium dried sage leaves
2/3 cup dry white wine
1/2 tsp salt
Freshly ground pepper (4 twists of the mill)

I cup frozen peas
Mushrooms in cream


First prepare the mushrooms in cream. Set aside until needed.

In a deep skillet, sauté the shallots in the oil and butter over medium-high heat until translucent but not browned.

Dip the pieces of veal in the flour, coating them on all sides and shaking off excess flour. Add to the skillet, together with the sage leaves, and brown well on all sides. (If all the meat won’t fit into the skillet at one time you can brown a few pieces at a time, but dip them in the flour only when you are ready to put them in the skillet.)

Transfer the meat to a warm platter when browned.

Turn up the heat to high and add the wine to the skillet and boil briskly for about 30 seconds, scraping up and loosening any residue in the pan.

Turn the heat down to medium and add the browned meat, salt and pepper.

Cover and cook gently for about 1 hour, turning and basting the meat from time to time, adding a little warm water if necessary. (I added a little extra wine here also). The meat is done when it is tender at the pricking of a fork.

About 5 minutes before it's ready, add the peas first, cook for 5 minutes and then add the mushrooms.  Stir and cook for a minute or two. Remove from the heat and let it rest for at least 20 minutes before serving.

Mushrooms in cream

1 1/2 lbs mushrooms
1 1/2 TB. shallots finely chopped
2 1/2 TB butter
1 1/2 TB. olive oil
Ground pepper
1/2 Cup heavy cream

In a medium skillet sautee mushrooms and shallots in butter and oil on medium high..  When the mushrooms have absorbed most of the fat turn to low.  Add salt and pepper and sautee until their juices begin to come to the surface.  Raise the heat again and cook shaking the pan for another 2 to 3 minutes.  Add the heavy cream and cook fr another 2 to 3 minutes until part of the cream has been absorbed and the rest has thickened lightly.  Transfer to a platter and serve over toast immediately OR add to the veal stew at the end.

This recipe really serves 6.  Use as much as you want to for the stew and save the rest.

Serve with Rice With Basil and Mozzarella

Recipe adapted from Marcella Hazan


Saturday, November 12, 2011

Banana Cake With Banana Cream Frosting

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I have been looking unsuccessfully for a recipe for banana cake with cream frosting ever since I can remember.  Years ago when we came to this country and I was a very young girl I fell in love with a banana cake which  you could buy in the frozen section of any supermarket.  It was none other than Sara Lee's Banana Cake.  After awhile I sort of outgrew it and years later I tried it again and somehow it did not seem to be the same.  I don't know if Sara Lee changed the recipe or if my taste buds grew more sophisticated.  But the idea has stayed in my mind, particularly since my son loves banana cream pie.  I wonder if somehow he has inherited the banana gene from his mother.

I have looked for a good banana cake recipe in every cookbook I own and and all over the Internet.  Nothing.  So I picked out one that seemed to have the basics and proceeded to go from there.

What you want is a really light cake with a banana cream frosting that is on the creamy side and not too stiff.  I have substituted the regular flour for cake flour and followed the instructions on the box to make sure the measurements are right.  Originally the recipe called for 2 1/4 cups regular flour* which is the reason for the extra tablespoon you see in the ingredients.

The second ingredient that has been changed is the  shortening, primarily because I didn't have any on hand.  Shortening is supposed to make cakes lighter but the butter worked great in this case.

Finally, I have added a ripe banana to the frosting as I recalled that this was the game changer in the recipe of my dreams.

The recipe can also be baked in two cake pans, with frosting in the middle, for a different twist.

All in all, my best critic, who is my daughter, adored it and that is a lot coming from someone who doesn't like desserts!

Serves 16

  • 2 1/2 cups plus 1 TB. cake flour*
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup mashed very ripe bananas (about 3)
  • 3/4cup buttermilk or sour milk*
  • 1/2cup shortening or butter (i used latter)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 eggs


1. Grease and lightly flour one 13x9x2-inch baking pan; set pan aside.

2. In a large mixing bowl stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Beat the butter in an electric mixer on low speed, add the sugar, mix until combined. Add the mashed bananas, and vanilla.  Add eggs, mix well, then add the buttermilk.  Add the flour mix slowly and beat on medium speed for 2 minutes. Pour batter into the prepared pan.

3. Bake in a 350 degree F oven for about 35 minutes for 13x9-inch pan or till a wooden toothpick comes out clean. Place cake in pan on a wire rack; cool thoroughly. Frost with Banana Cream Frosting. Makes 12 to 16 servings.

Note : If you don't have buttermilk on hand, substitute sour milk in the same amount. For the 3/4 cup of sour milk needed, place 2-1/4 teaspoons lemon juice or vinegar in a glass measuring cup. Add enough milk to make 3/4 cup total liquid; stir. Let the mixture stand for 5 minutes before using it in a recipe.

Banana Cream Frosting

1/2 cup butter
1 8 oz pck. cream cheese or Neufchatel (1/3 less fat)*
1 mashed banana
1/2 tsp vanilla vanilla
3 1/2 cups confectioners sugar

First mix the butter and cream cheese.  Add the banana well mashed.  Add vanilla and sugar. If the frosting is too stiff, add 1 TB. sour cream.  I purposely used Neufchatel cheese to make the frosting lighter.

Put in the refrigerator until about an hour before ready to serve.

The cake keeps best in the refrigerator.  I have frozen half, frosting and all.  I will let you know how it turns out.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A Tale Of Two Turkeys...Stuffed Turkey Breast With Chestnuts And Prunes

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On weekday mornings I usually get up fairly early, get a strong cup of coffee and turn on CNBC for the usual dribble on Greece, Italy,  gold and everything bad that is going on in the world economies.  This morning the news was all about "Mario's gaffe" last night. Mario? what Mario? a new Prime Minister for Italy? Did Berlusconi finally throw in the towel? Nothing doing, this was none other than our friend Mario Batali, the well known cookbook author, chef and owner of several restaurants in New York, most of which none of us can afford.

Apparently last night at a Time magazine event promoting its Person of the Year issue,  our culinary friend nominated the food writer Michael Pollan, then went on to say:

"But I would have to say that who has had the largest effect on the whole planet without us really paying attention is the entire banking industry, and their disregard for the people that they're supposed to be working for."He added: "The way the bankers have toppled the way money is distributed – and taken most of it into their own hands – is as good as Stalin or Hitler and the evil guys."


The reaction from Wall Street was swift and merciless. Bankers took to their Blackberries and Bloomberg terminals to sound off and organise a boycott. This message was sent out across trading floors:

"Celebrity Chef Mario Batali Says Bankers As Bad As Hitler, Stalin … a list of his restaurants – *B&B Ristorante *Osteria Mozza *Babbo *Otto *Bar Jamon *Pizzeria Mozza *Carnevino Italian Steakhouse *Tarry Lodge *Casa Mono *Tarry Market *Del Posto *Mozza2Go *Esca *Manzo *Lupa – cancel all reservations … pass the word."

On Twitter, the reaction was also fast and furious.

"Wow. Mario Batali pisses off the only people who can afford to eat at Del Posto," wrote one.

Later Batali took to Twitter to "clarify" his views.

"To remove any ambiguity about my appearance at yesterday's Time Person of the Year panel, I want to apologise for my remarks," he wrote. "It was never my intention to equate our banking industry with Hitler and Stalin, two of the most evil, brutal dictators in modern history."

Mario, Mario, Mario...what where you thinking?! Talk about biting the hand that feeds you!

So, if you are not a banker and have always wanted to eat at one of his restaurants, this might be your only chance.  But don't tell them who sent you. I still have some "Nazi" friends who might not return my phone calls if they find out and who knows when I may need them.

So talking about turkeys, here's a great recipe for a Sunday family dinner or Thanksgiving for a small crowd.  Enjoy!

Tacchino Ripieno...Stuffed Turkey Breast With Chestnuts and Prunes

Serves 10-12 people
  • 1 (5 to 6 pound) whole turkey breast, removed from the bone, halved and butterflied by your butcher
  • Salt and pepper
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil plus 1/4 cup
  • 1/2 pound pancetta, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground pork shoulder
  • 10 Italian prunes, pits removed, cut into quarters
  • 12 chestnuts, roasted, peeled, and halved
  • 2 cups fresh bread crumbs
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
  • Freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoons each chopped fresh rosemary and sage
  • 2 cups dry white wine plus 1 cup
1/2 cup brown chicken stock, recipe follows

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 1/2 pounds chicken wings, backs, and bones
  • 3 carrots, coarsely chopped
  • 2 onions, coarsely chopped
  • 4 ribs celery, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 1 bunch parsley stems


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

In a 12 to 14-inch saute pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat until smoking. Add the pancetta pieces and cook until golden brown, about 7 to 9 minutes. Add the ground pork and cook until starting to brown in its own fat, stirring regularly. Drain all but 4 tablespoons of the fat from the pan, then add the prunes and chestnut, and continue cooking for 8 minutes, until the prunes start to really soften. Remove from the heat and allow to cool, about 20 minutes.

Add the bread crumbs, the Parmigiano, the eggs, the pepper, nutmeg, and herbs and just bring together, stirring with your hand. Over-mixing here can result in a lead torpedo for a stuffing, so don't.

Place the 2 turkey pieces on a cutting board and divide the stuffing between them.

Roll each of the breasts like a jelly roll and tie them firmly with butchers twine.

Place the 2 breasts, skin side up, on a roasting rack in a roasting pan and pour 2 cups wine over them.

Season with salt and pepper, and place into preheated oven and cook uncovered until dark golden brown outside and a meat thermometer reads 165 at the thickest part of the breast, about 1 hour, plus or minus 10 minutes.

Remove and allow to rest 15 minutes before carving.

Add remaining 1 cup of wine to the roasting pan and deglaze, scraping with a wooden spoon. Add chicken stock and cook for 5 minutes. Add the 1/4 cup remaining oil and season with salt and pepper.

Carve turkey into 1-inch slices and serve with pan sauce.
In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat the oil over high heat until smoking. Add all the chicken parts and brown all over, stirring to avoid burning. Remove the chicken and reserve.

Add the carrots, onions, and celery to the pot and cook until soft and browned.

Return the chicken to the pot and add 3 quarts of water, the tomato paste, peppercorns, and parsley.

Stir with a wooden spoon to dislodge the browned chicken and vegetables bits from the bottom of the pan.

Bring almost to a boil, then reduce heat and cook at a low simmer until reduced by half, about 2 hours, occasionally skimming excess fat.

Remove from heat, strain, and press on the solids with the bottom of a ladle to extract out all liquids.

Stir the stock to facilitate cooling and set aside. Refrigerate stock in small containers for up to a week or freeze for up to a month.

Yield: 1 1/2 quarts

Mario Batali recipe

Friday, November 4, 2011

Caramelized Roast Pears...A Simple Fall Dessert

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Dessert recipes don't have to be complicated and time consuming to be spectacular.  The recipe here is a case in point and one that can be prepared on the spur of the moment for a dinner in the middle of the week.

Buy a can of roasted caramelized pecans or toast some almonds in the oven to sprinkle on top.  The pears can bake while you are getting the rest of the dinner together.  Don't be tempted to add anything other than a drizzle of heavy cream.  It's really all you need.

Serves 4


4 firm-ripe pears (any variety)
1 Tbs. unsalted butter, softened
2 Tbs. plus 2 tsp. honey
1/2 cup sweet dessert wine, such as a late-harvest Muscat or a Viognier Doux

Roasted Caramelized Pecans (crushed) or slivered almonds (optional)
1/3 to 1/2 cup heavy cream, at room temperature, for serving


Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 375°F. Peel, halve, and core the pears.

Smear the butter over the bottom of a 9x13-inch baking dish or small roasting pan. Set the pear halves cut side down in the dish.

Drizzle 1 tsp. of honey over each pear half. Pour in the sweet wine. Roast for 40 min.

Remove the dish from the oven and, using pot holders, tilt the dish so the juices pool in one corner. With a spoon, baste each pear with some of the juices.

Continue to roast until the juices cook down to a glazy consistency and the pears are very tender and take on a light toasted color, another 15 to 20 min.

Lift up the cut side of a pear; it should look nicely caramelized. Turn off the oven and leave the pears in the oven to keep warm until serving time (the liquid will continue to thicken and the pears will brown a bit more).

If the juices have completely evaporated at serving time, add a Tbs. or two of hot water to the pan and swirl to recreate a syrupy glaze. Drizzle the glaze over each pear. Add the pecans or almonds if you wish.

Serve warm and pass a pitcher of heavy cream to pour over. Leftovers are good eaten at room temperature or warmed gently.

Adapted From Fine Cooking      
January 1, 2006

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