Saturday, May 18, 2013

Halibut En Papillote

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This is one of the few Easters I have ever spent away from home and, food wise, one of the most exciting.  Not only did I not have to cook for a crowd but I was served a dish that reminded me of a technique I haven't seen in years....  En papillote! 

My neighbor and friend is Swedish and, although she has been here for a number of years, she still adheres to a few European traditions such as fish on Easter Sunday instead of the traditional ham we serve here in the States.  Can you imagine halibut for eight en papillote?  Rather than make individual packets which can be a chore for eight, she overlapped the filets and cooked them in one.  I think we settled for 30 minutes and it was perfect.  So good I can't remember the rest of the menu.

En papillote was a technique popular in the fifty's and sixty's, particularly in the bastions of Haute Cuisine like the iconic Le Pavillon.  I remember my grandparents always ate there when they came to New York and if my parents were in town,  they got to tag along.  From there everyone went to El Morocco, although my grandmother always pleaded a headache much to my grandfather's delight.  Unlike her brothers, she was not much of a night clubber preferring to stay at the hotel to rest up for another day of shopping.

En papillote (French for "in parchment"), or al cartoccio in Italian, is a method of cookingin which the food is put into a folded pouch or parcel and then baked. The parcel is typically made from folded parchment paper but other material, such as a paper bag or aluminium foil, may be used. The parcel holds in moisture to steam the food. The moisture may be from the food itself or from an added moisture source, such as water, wine, or stock.

This method is most often used to cook fish or vegetables, but lamb and poultry can also be cooked en papillote. Choice of herbs, seasonings and spices depend on the particular recipe being prepared.

The pouch should be sealed with careful folding.

Although restaurants know how much panache en papillote brings to a dish, there is an additional beauty, one appreciated by too few home cooks: it is fast and uncomplicated in its execution, once you get the knack and understand the principles that underlie the method.

When food is sealed in paper, it cooks in its own juices. It is a more flavorful approach than ordinary steaming and less restrictive than cooking in a hermetically sealed pot. There is no water beneath and no lid above. Ingredients cook quickly because they are surrounded by moist heat. As the package is heated, the air inside expands, and the flavors of the ingredients are swept into it, swirling and mingling, with no escape. The ingredients are, in a sense, cooked with flavored air and form a sauce purely of their own essence.

Yesterday when I went to Costco I found fresh halibut, much to my delight.  I couldn't wait to get home and start on my little pouches.   The end result was memorable, better than I remembered.  

Here is what I did:

You will need parchment paper to make the pouches.  Don't be a sissy, parchment is more elegant than tinfoil and it's a cinch to do the pouches.  Watch this.

Cut the fish in half so you can layer the pieces one on top of the other. Figure on 1/2 lbs per person. For this recipe I used about 3/4 lbs halibut and it was too much to finish (although I did).  The Sous Chef got a bite and she almost bit my hand off.

Take 1 lemon and slice it thin.  Also thinly slice some red and yellow peppers. A TB of minced shallots might be good too!

Lay your paper out as instructed.  Sprinkle some olive oil.  Lay a piece of the fish on the paper.  Salt and pepper. Cover it with overlapping lemon slices and a spring of tarragon.

 Lay the other half of the fish on top. Salt and pepper.  More overlapping slices of lemon and top with the peppers.

 Lay a spring of tarragon (or two) on top and sprinkle with more olive oil.  Add about 2 TB. dry Vermouth or white wine.  If you are not watching your weight you might add a tad of sliced butter.  Fold the pouch as instructed.

Cook at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes.  Time will depend on the amount of fish you are cooking.  When you start smelling the fish it's done!

The possibilities are endless.  I am not too excited about cooking meat or poultry en papillote but fish? is the best.  My halibut tasted as if it had come out of the water just that afternoon!  I am going to dig into some of my old French cookbooks and get more ideas.  En I come!  Oh, and I pans to clean. I was truly in heaven! Thanks dear Karin.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

A Red Carnation For Mother's Day

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Mother's Day is celebrated throughout the world in many ways and on many different days.  The holiday was started in Grafton, West Virginia in 1907 by Anna Jarvis  as a tribute to her mother, Ann Maria Reese Jarvis who founded The Mothers Day Work Clubs to improve health and sanitary conditions.  The clubs also treated, fed and clothed wounded soldiers during the U. S Civil War.

She grew disenchanted after the commercialization of the holiday and actively campaigned against it.  According to her New York Times obituary, Jarvis became embittered because too many people sent their mothers a printed greeting card. As she said,
A printed card means nothing except that you are too lazy to write to the woman who has done more for you than anyone in the world. And candy! You take a box to Mother—and then eat most of it yourself. A pretty sentiment.
—Anna Jarvis.

She never married and had no children.

In Pre Castro Cuba we had what I thought was a  beautiful tradition.  Everyone got dressed and went to church wearing a carnation in honor of one's mother.  Red if your mother was alive,  white if she had passed away.  Better than a printed card no?

In honor of my favorite Madame Mere,  tomorrow I will be proud to wear a red carnation. 

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Salmon Rilletes

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 A few of you asked for the recipe for the salmon rilletes.  It is from the famous New York restaurant Le Bernardin and can be found in Eric Rippert's cookbook On The Line which you can buy here .


  • 2 cups dry white wine
  • 1 tablespoon minced shallot
  • 1 pound skinless salmon fillet (preferably wild), cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 3 ounces smoked salmon, cut into 1/4" pieces
  • 1/2 cup (or more) mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoon thinly sliced fresh chives
  • 1 tablespoon (or more) fresh lemon juice
  • Fine sea salt and freshly ground white pepper
  • 1 baguette, thinly sliced, toasted


  • Bring wine and shallot to a boil in a small saucepan over high heat. Reduce heat to low; add salmon. Gently poach until salmon is barely opaque in center, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Strain poaching liquid through a fine-mesh sieve; set aside shallot and discard liquid. Place salmon and shallot in a large bowl; cover and chill until completely cooled.
  • Add smoked salmon, 1/2 cup mayonnaise, chives, and 1 Tbsp. lemon juice to salmon and shallot. Gently mix just to combine (salmon will break up a little, but do not overmix or a paste will form). Season to taste with salt, pepper, and more mayonnaise and lemon juice, if desired. DO AHEAD: Rillettes can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.
  • Serve rillettes cold with toasted slices of baguette.

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Saturday, May 4, 2013

A Mother's Day Menu... Navarin Printaniere

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Navarin Printanier, a most delectable lamb stew with its carrots, onions, turnips, potatoes, peas, and green beans, is presumably done in the spring when all the vegetables are young and tender. But as it can be made any time of the year, it is not a seasonal dish any more thanks to deep freezing. The written recipe is long as each detail is important if the navarin is to taste like a French masterpiece. But none of the steps is difficult and everything except the addition of the green vegetables at the very end may be made ready in the morning although I prefer to do it the day before. The stew can then be finished in 10 to 15 minutes just before dinner time.

With the stew serve hot French bread, and a red Beaujolais or Bordeaux wine, a chilled rose, or a fairly full-bodied, dry, chilled white wine such as a Macon, Hermitage, or one of the lesser Burgundies.

Navarin Printanier is one of Madame Mere's most favorite recipes.  That and anything shrimp. I have been making Julia Child's recipe for her ever since I can remember.  It is always met with a big smile.

As with all long recipes, read it through to the end before you start. I have adapted the recipe format to make it simpler for you.

Here is a menu that I think works particularly well on this occasion or for a Spring lunch.

Mother's Day Or Spring Lunch Menu

Le Bernardin Salmon Rilletes
Navarin Printanier

Other Mother's Day Menus here. here and here.

Julia Child's Navarin Printanier

For 6 people
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

3 lbs. Lamb stew meat
2 to 4 Tb rendered fresh pork fat or cooking oil

A 10- to 12-inch skillet
A fireproof covered casserole large enough to hold the meat, and all the vegetables to come

Cut the lamb into 2-inch cubes and dry with paper towels. The meat will not brown if it is damp. Brown a few pieces at a time in hot fat or oil in the skillet. As they are browned, place them in the casserole.

1 Tb granulated sugar

Sprinkle the lamb in the casserole with sugar and toss over moderately high heat for 3 to 4 minutes until the sugar has caramelized. This will give a fine amber color to the sauce.

1 tsp salt

1/4 tsp pepper

3 Tb flour

Toss the meat with the salt and pepper, then with the flour. Set casserole uncovered in middle level of preheated oven for 4 to 5 minutes more. This browns the flour evenly and coats the lamb with a light crust. Remove casserole and turn oven down to 350 degrees.

 2 to 3 cups brown lamb- or beef-stock or canned beef bouillon

3/4 lb. ripe, red tomatoes, peeled, seeded, juiced, and chopped (1 cup of pulp), page 505; or 3 Tb tomato paste

2 cloves mashed garlic

1/4 tsp thyme or rosemary

1 bay leaf

Pour out the fat; add 2 cups of stock or bouillon to the saute skillet. Bring to the boil and scrape up coagulated saute juices. The pour the liquid into the casserole. Bring to the simmer for a few seconds shaking and stirring to mix liquid and flour. Add the tomatoes or tomato paste and the other ingredients. Bring to the simmer for 1 minute, then add more stock if necessary; meat should be almost covered by liquid.

Put the lid on the casserole and set in lower third of preheated oven; regulate heat so casserole simmers slowly and regularly for 1 hour. Then pour the contents of the casserole into a sieve set over a bowl. Rinse out the casserole. Remove any loose bones and return the lamb to the casserole. Skim the fat off the sauce in the bowl, correct seasoning, and pour sauce back into casserole. Then add the vegetables which have been prepared as follows:

6 to 12 peeled "boiling" potatoes

6 peeled carrots

6 peeled turnips

12 to 18 peeled white onions about 1 inch in diameter

While the lamb is simmering, trim the potatoes into ovals 1 1/2 inches long, and cover with cold water until ready to use. Quarter the carrots and turnips, cut them into 1 1/2 inch lengths, and, if you have the patience, trim the edges to round them slightly. Pierce a cross in the root ends of the onions so they will cook evenly.

Press the vegetables into the casserole around and between the pieces of lamb. Baste with the sauce. Bring to the simmer on top of the stove, cover and return to the oven. Regulate heat so liquid simmers slowly and steadily for about an hour longer or until the meat and vegetables are tender when pierced with a fork. Remove from oven, tilt casserole, and skim off fat. Taste sauce again, and correct seasoning.

1 cup shelled green peas

1/4 lb. or about 1 cup green beans cut into 1/2-inch pieces

3 quarts boiling water

1 1/2 Tb salt

While the casserole is in the oven, drop the peas and beans into the boiling salted water and boil rapidly, uncovered, for 5 minutes or until the vegetables are almost tender. Immediately drain in a colander. Run cold water over them for 2 to 3 minutes to stop the cooking and to set the color. Put aside until ready to use.

(*) May be prepared ahead to this point. Set casserole aside, cover askew. Bring to the simmer on top of the stove before proceeding with recipe.

Shortly before serving, place the peas and beans in the casserole on top of the other ingredients and baste with the bubbling sauce. Cover and simmer about 5 minutes or until the green vegetables are tender.

Serve the navarin from its casserole or arrange it on a very hot platter.


The preceeding navarin is a model for other stews. You may, for instance, omit the green beans, peas, and potatoes, and add navy beans or lentils simmered in salt water until almost tender, or canned kidney beans, then finish them off for half an hour with the lamb.

Excerpted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle and Simone Beck with permission from Alfred A. Knopf. All rights reserved.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Ode To A Mockingbird

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At first I wanted to kill him, now I worry when I don't hear him at night.  He sings his heart out, under my window every night, all night.  At first he kept me up,  now I sleep like a baby knowing he is somewhere around.  He sings at night, all day long and even in the rain...and all this in his quest for a mate.   Now that I know why he sings it breaks my heart.

There are nights when he sounds like Pavarotti AND Friends with the New York Symphony and Zubin Mehta at the helm.  He came into my kitchen one day, a balmy April afternoon when the sky was clear and the breeze was blowing into the house from the back door I had left opened while I made lunch. That is when I fell in love.  Now I worry if I don't hear him.  Is he still around, did he find a mate, will he have babies? shudder (!).  Pavarotti and friends... what a nightmare!

Of course I'm talking about a mockingbird. THE Northern Mockingbird to be exact.   Being a city girl,  at first I thought he was a nightingale.  After all it sang at night, all night.  But those do not habitate North America.  Oh the things one learns when one does not live in a condo!

The Northern Mockingbird, the most well known representative of this family above the equator, is known scientifically as Mimus polyglottos, which comes from the Greek “mimus” to mimic, and “ployglottos” for many-tongued. The song of the mockingbird is actually a medley of the calls of many other birds. Each imitation is repeated two or three times before another song is initiated. A given bird may have 30, 40 or even 200 songs in its repertoire, including other bird songs, insect and amphibian sounds, and even the occasional mechanical noise.

Part of the mockingbird’s advantage over other avians is physical; it uses more of the muscles in its vocal organ, the syrinx, than most other passerines do, many more than non-passerines like raptors or waterfowl. But the mockingbird also has a mind for music. It’s been theorized that this species has more brain matter devoted to song memory than most other birds do. Why does the mockingbird sing? The vocal mimicry trait seems to indicate that lyrical flow is an especially potent aphrodisiac in mockingbird circles, although some lonely males warble and whine the whole night through when unable to find a mate. 

Well!  Now we know.  At first,  I seriously considered finding a way to shut him up.  Seriously, when one can't sleep at 3 o'clock in the morning for more than a week the mind works in strange ways. The next morning the thought process changed to a quest for a mate.  Just where did  one find a female mockingbird?  A pet shop? Mail order bride?  Amazon! they have everything! Seriously, deprived of sleep a person's thought process can go bonkers.

And then one day I heard a commotion down below and the Sous Chef going nuts.  A flutter, wings flapping against the walls of the great room and there he was.  I just knew it was HIM,  my tormentor.  But then I saw him so helpless, so frightened and soooo small I couldn't believe such a little thing could have so much firepower.  Finally after a couple of attempts and a little push from the Sous Chef and me, off he went into the wild blue yonder to sing for yet another day...and night.

See him in the orchid?

Let' s face it, neither one of us was ready for this

Get me outta here!!!

Sitting on my daughter's experiment for growing (?) and obviously not working 

Poor thing, this photo broke my heart!
When the big rains came a couple of days ago,  I could still hear him singing in the middle of the downpours.  I haven't heard him today...perhaps and hopefully he is on an extended honeymoon!

Here is a cool site for more info and stories about mockingbirds!

And here is a concert .  I know, beautiful, but not at 3:00 am!
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