Friday, December 30, 2011

New Year's Eve...Lobster Thermidor

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Mother and I have been dreaming of lobster sice she arrived ten days ago. There is a wonderful recipe in Gourmet magazine circa the 1970's for a lobster in Pernod sauce that we both adore but somehow I have lost my recipe and hers is back in Miami, buried heaven knows where. As an alternative, we have decided to cook another old favorite for New Year's Eve, Lobster Thermidor...the long version. It will be served with a simple green salad and our favorite Veuve Cliquot Champagne. Nothing but a chocolate mousse for dessert will do on this ocassion!

So many steps are involved in the preparation of a really splendid lobster Thermidor, no wonder it costs a fortune in any restaurant.  For the recipe to be authentic, it must include mustard, preferrably powdered, Cognac,  and cheese at the end.  I have found no better recipe than the following one from Julia Child.

Lobster Thermidor is not a particularly difficult dish to execute,  though it is a bit time consumming but well worth the effort.  One major advantage is everything may be prepared in advance and heated up just before serving.

In this recipe the meat is stirred in hot butter before it is sauced, thus turning a rosy red. Buy lobsters weighing a good 2 pounds each, so the shells will be large enough to hold the filling.

I want to take this opportunity to thank you for visiting my blog and to extend to all of you my warmest wishes for a happy and healthy New Year!

Lobster Thermidor
Servings: Serves 6
  • Covered, enameled or stainless steel kettle with tight-fitting cover or stainless steel saucepan
  • enameled or 4-cup stainless steel saucepan
  • 1/2-quart enameled
  • Wooden spoon
  • Wire whip
  • 3-quart mixing bowl
  • 12-inch enameled or stainless steel skillet
  • Shallow roasting pan or fireproof serving platter
  • 3 cups dry white wine or 2 cups dry white vermouth
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 large onion , thinly sliced
  • 1 medium carrot , thinly sliced
  • 1 stalk celery , thinly sliced
  • 6 sprigs parsley
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 tsp. thyme
  • 6 peppercorns
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh or dried tarragon
  • 3 live lobsters , 2 pounds each
  • 1/2 pound sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 1 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 5 Tbsp. butter
  • 6 Tbsp. flour
  • 1 Tbsp. cream
  • 1 Tbsp. dry mustard
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
  • 4 to 6 Tbsp. more whipping cream
  • Pinch cayenne pepper
  • 4 Tbsp. butter
  • 1/3 cup cognac
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan or Swiss cheese ( I use Gruyere, trust me)
  • 2 Tbsp. butter , cut into bits
Steaming the lobsters: Simmer wine, water, vegetables, herbs, and seasonings in the kettle for 15 minutes. Then bring to a rollingboil and add the live lobsters. Cover and boil for about 20 minutes. The lobsters are done when they are bright red and the long head-feelers can be pulled from the sockets fairly easily.
While the lobsters are steaming, stew the mushrooms slowly in the covered saucepan with the butter, lemon juice, and salt for 10 minutes.

The sauce: When the lobsters are done, remove them from the kettle. Pour the mushroom cooking juices into the lobster steaming juices in the kettle and boil down rapidly until liquid has reduced to about 2 1/4 cups. Strain into the 4-cup enameled or stainless steel saucepan and bring to the simmer.

Cook the butter and flour slowly together in the 1 1/2-quart saucepan for 2 minutes without browning. Off heat, beat in the simmering lobster-cooking liquid. Boil, stirring, for 1 minute. Set aside. Film top of sauce with the cream.

Split the lobsters in half lengthwise, keeping the shell halves intact. Discard sand sacks in the heads, and the intestinal tubes. Rub lobster coral and green matter through a fine sieve into the mixing bowl, and blend into it the mustard, egg yolks, cream, and pepper. Beat the sauce into this mixture by driblets.

Return the sauce to the pan, and stirring with a wooden spoon, bring it to the boil and boil slowly for 2 minutes. Thin out with tablespoons of cream. Sauce should be thick enough to coat a spoon fairly heavily. Taste carefully for seasoning. Set aside, top filmed with a spoonful of cream.

Sautéing the lobster meat: Remove the meat from the lobster tails and claws, and cut it into 3/8-inch cubes. Set the skillet with the butter over moderate heat. When the butter foam begins to subside, stir in the lobster meat and sauté, stirring slowly, for about 5 minutes until the meat has turned a rosy color. Pour in the cognac and boil for a minute or two, shaking the skillet, until the liquid has reduced by half.

Final assembly: Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Fold the cooked mushrooms and two thirds of the sauce into the skillet with the lobster meat. Arrange the split lobster shells in the roasting pan. Heap the lobster mixture into the shells; cover with the remaining sauce. Sprinkle with cheese and dot with butter. The recipe may be prepared ahead up to this point and refrigerated.

Place in upper third of 425-degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes, until lobster is bubbling and the top of the sauce is nicely browned. Serve immediately on a platter or serving plates.

From Mastering The Art Of French Cooking by Julia Child
Table setting Carolyn Roehm
Photo Dorling Kindersley

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas In The NEW House!

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I can't believe it....we are ready! well, as ready as we are going to get.  Madame Mere arrived two days ago and whipped everyone into shape.  Amazing how many orders can come out of a mouth.  Then she wondered why we were all so tired. 

Yesterday we looked into some of the Christmas boxes for leftovers to set the table.  A few balls that we never use anymore were found and some glass garlands from past decorations.  The only china at hand was Verdures from Raynaud since the other four sets I have, including the one I usually use for Christmas, were unpacked in the basement.  I have yet to find the wine goblets but there's still 24 hours 'till Christmas Eve.

On Christmas Day the grandchildren and the rest of the family will arrive for the traditional Cuban lunch of pork, black beans and turrones.  Fortunately that is a less formal ocassion.

This year we have two Christmas trees, one in the great room and a smaller one in the dining room.  I will post better pictures later when the light is better.  The ones I took yesterday were much too dark to make them justice.


Well Madame Mere is calling, we are off to the grocery store to pick up the leg of lamb and finish up. And to think just a couple of months she fell and broke her foot.  Amazing....

Merry Christmas to all of you dearest friends and remember...Don't sweat the small stuff!

I wonder how many days Madame Mere will be staying with us...

Friday, December 16, 2011

Reprise...Christmas Eve Table And Menu

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Lindaraxa Photo

The first Christmas in the new house is just around the corner and the good news is I am mostly unpacked.  The bad news is I don't have the stamina to even think of a creative new menu for this year's dinner.  Why bother when there are so many good ones from past years including this one from 1999.   One of the first rules of no hassle entertaining is to serve what you are familiar with and this menu has passed the test with flying colors.

Last year I made a standing rib roast with Yorkshire Pudding, a first for me;  but then again, I did not have the added stress of setting up a holiday table and overnight guests for the weekend including Madame Mere, as one of my friends likes to call her.  Next week will be spent digging out and polishing the silver,  making the pate, and organizing the dreaded beds for everyone to sleep! 

 In years past, I used to go all out for Christmas Eve and entertain my family and very close friends on a grand scale.  It was a formal affair and everybody would dress up to the hilt! Luckily,  I have a Sheraton dining table  with two leaves which will seat twelve comfortably and a smaller table for six was set up in the library. We would start with cocktails on the terrace, laid out buffet style, and move later into the dining room for dinner.  I have to say that even though it took a lot of planning and work, I enjoyed it tremendously.  I think the rest of the family did too.  It was a night meant to set all our problems aside and enjoy each other's company.  We always had the best intentions of making it to Midnight Mass but somehow nobody had the stamina to do so after all that food!

It has been awhile since I have entertained like this and frankly, looking at the pictures makes me a little sad and nostalgic.  But times change and so do lifestyles and I am blessed to have been able to do it and have the pictures and memories.

This year it will be celebrated on a much smaller scale, in another town and definitely without any outside help. We are getting together on the 25th instead of Christmas Eve as these are the plans that fit everybody this year.  It will be wonderful anyway and I will get to spend it with my brother and his family, something I haven't done in years.  I also have a new granddaughter which surpasses any Christmas I have ever had.

Christmas 1999

Smoked Salmon
Pumpernickel Toasts
Capers, Onions, Sour Cream, Lemon Slices

Pate de Foie Gras

Spiced Roasted Pecans

Champagne Veuve Cliquot, Cocktails


Cream of Chestnut Soup
with Creme Fraiche

Roast Leg of Lamb with Rosemary
Mint Jelly

Gratin Dauphinois

Haricots Verts With Toasted Almonds

Chocolate Mousse

Brazo Gitano

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

(Dreaming Of) A Tree Trimming Party...Beef Stroganoff

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I don't know why I am writing a post about a tree trimming party that is so off the charts it's not even funny.  We have a tree, bought this weekend from our friends at the Kinsley Family Farm, and we certainly have enough friends to invite to a party.  I just don't have the energy nor the enthusiasm at this point to think of such an event, particularly when my mother is arriving in less than two weeks! She calls every day to find out how the move is going when I know, deep down, that what she really wants to know is if I'm completely unpacked!   What is it about mothers that can put the fear of God in daughters of any age?! Lordy be, I am a mother and a grandmother and still,  just the thought of Mother coming over to a disorganized house is enough to send shivers up my spine.  So I unpack boxes and more boxes and dream of a party that will never be.

A tree trimming party is the perfect excuse for a holiday get together.  Not only will you be paying back all those invitations, but you will be also getting ornaments for your tree...for free!  Talk about killing two birds with one stone...

A classic of the 1950's,  Beef Stroganoff is the perfect recipe for a holiday buffet where you want guests to drop in and share in the fun of helping to decorate (and finance!) your tree.  If you still have a silver chafing dish buried somewhere in the attic, this is the time to bring it out.  It is something that is easy to prepare and can be made early in the morning and heated in the chafing dish or on top of the stove.  Just be careful warming it up or the meat will overcook. Now if only I could find mine....

Sterling Chafing Dish - Tiffany's

I would serve a  simple green salad afterwards with some fantastic cheeses (Stilton a must!)  and nuts.  Follow with homemade Christmas cookies for dessert. A nice Burgundy would go rather well with this menu.


1 2 1/2-pound piece beef tenderloin, well trimmed, meat cut into 2x1x1/2 inch strips
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter 
1/4 cup finely chopped shallots
1 pound small button mushrooms, thickly sliced*
1 cup canned beef broth
2 tablespoons Cognac 
3/4 cup sour cream 
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard 
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill

12 ounces wide egg noodles 
1 tablespoon paprika


Pat meat dry with paper towels. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Heat oil in heavy large skillet over high heat until very hot. Working in batches, add meat in single layer and cook just until brown on outside, about 1 minute per side. Transfer to rimmed baking sheet.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in same skillet over medium-high heat. Add chopped shallots and sauté until tender, scraping up browned bits, about 2 minutes. Add button mushrooms. Sprinkle with pepper and sauté until liquid evaporates, about 12 minutes.

Add beef broth, then Cognac. Simmer until liquid thickens and just coats mushrooms, about 14 minutes.

Stir in sour cream and Dijon mustard. Add meat and any accumulated juices from baking sheet.

Simmer over medium-low heat until meat is heated through but still medium-rare, about 2 minutes.

Stir in chopped dill. Season to taste with salt and pepper
Meanwhile, cook noodles in large pot of boiling salted water until tender, about 8 minutes. Drain.

Transfer to bowl. Add remaining 4 tablespoons butter and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper.

Divide noodles among plates or transfer to chafing dish. Top with beef and sauce. Sprinkle generously with paprika

*I use a mixture of wild mushrooms

Adapted from Gourmet Magazine
Images Getty (top) and Google

Friday, December 2, 2011

Pate Mousquetaire...Duck Pate With Calvados And Prunes

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Just a quick note to say I'm alive and well, though exhausted and overwhelmed from "the endless move".  And endless it has been. 

We got here a week ago and are still surrounded by boxes and what have you.  Moving in town is worse that moving across the country, that I can attest to.  When you move far away everything has to be packed in boxes, even the garbage! Don't laugh, I have arrived at the other end and found a waste paper basket full of discards.

I don't know how I'm going to unpack, decorate and receive my mother in two week's time.  Something has to give and that something is, sad to say, blogging. But I will try to stop by and drop off a recipe or two of things I think you will enjoy making for the this pate.

This recipe comes from one of my favorite cookbooks, now sadly out of print, La Cuisine de Normandie by Princess Marie Blanche de Broglie. It is typical of the area of Gascony and uses all the flavors typical of the region: duck, prunes and Armagnac. The sweetness of the prunes plays well with the rich duck meat in this savory recipe. It is simple to prepare and makes quite a splash. 

Keep it ready in the refrigerator for family or guests and take some to the home of special friends, particularly if invited for Christmas Eve Dinner.

If you are a new subscriber, search around the site for Christmas recipes and ideas of the past three years.  There's plenty to keep you busy.

Now back to the boxes...ugh.

Serves 6


4 1/2 - 5 pound duck, boned, or 2 large duck breasts and 2 dark chicken quarters, including thighs and drumsticks

1/2 cup Calvados

1/2 onion

2 shallots

1 apple, peeled and cored

1 tablespoon butter

10 ounces loose sausage, try a mild "country" sausage

1 egg

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Allspice to taste

Thyme, to taste

1 tablespoon minced fresh sage or 1/2 teaspoon dried sage

6 prunes, pitted and quartered

1 small bay leaf

2 whole sage leaves

2 strips bacon or skin from chicken


Remove the meat from the bones of the duck and chicken. Cut one duck breast into 1/4-inch strips and the rest of the meat into chunks. Marinate the meat in the Calvados for at least one hour.

Mix the onion, shallots and apple; sauté them gently in butter. Using a grinder or food processor, chop the chunks of meat coarsely. Combine this meat, the sausage and the onion-apple mixture. Moisten it with the egg, add the seasonings and the Calvados, and mix well. Fry a small patty and check the seasoning.

Place 1/3 of the mixture on the bottom of an oiled 3 1/2 cup loaf pan or terrine. Then place half of the breast strips and the prunes on top, lengthwise; cover with another third of the meat mixture, and repeat. Put the bay leaf and sage leaves on top and cover with the bacon or chicken skin and foil.

Bake the paté in a water bath in a preheated 325 oven until done, about 1 1/2 hours. Weight the pan until the paté is cool (Note: use another pan with a can of tomatoes on top). Refrigerate it for a day or two before serving.

Serve on very thin white toast.

From "The Cuisine of Normandy" by Princess Marie-Blanche de Broglie
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