Monday, June 23, 2014

Healthy Halibut Hits the Spot!




                In May we went on a three week road trip, up the east coast, visiting all our children. In between we made stops in Philadelphia and New York City.  I don’t think I have to tell you that we ate very well along the way, with most meals including a glass or two of wine.
               It was not a happy day when we got home and I stepped on the scale.  So I was delighted to realize that spring had come and with it the opening of farmers’ markets. The one closest to me is the Agricenter. Another good sign of spring is that the Paradise Seafood truck is there every week, Wednesday through Saturday. 
                In the barn, I picked up a couple of bunches of lovely Treviso-type kale.  Then I went to the Paradise truck looking for scallops, but Ted the Fish Man had beautiful halibut filets. I couldn’t resist. But then I had to come up with an amusing preparation, easy and tasty of course, but almost equally important, healthy.  Looking through old recipe files, I found this one, an Italian-inspired sauce, perfect for the flavor and texture of halibut.
                I used blood orange flavored olive oil.  This is available in several locations around town. I got mine at Bazaar, in Carriage Crossing, but Mighty Olive, in Laurelwood, will also have it in stock. If you choose to make it with plain olive oil, double the amount of orange zest and you’ll still be very happy with the results.  I have mint flourishing in a pot near my herb garden.  If you don’t, you can use two packages (around one ounce each) from the supermarket, or go to the Winchester or Cordova Farmers Market and get a package with enough for this recipe for around $2.00.
                This sauce can be made a bit ahead, but no more than an hour or so. Because of the acid the mint will turn dark and have a less than pleasant texture. 
                The filets were so lovely that I made 8-ounce servings. After making the side dishes, it was obvious to me that that was going to be too big a serving. After I took the picture you see here, I cut all the servings in half and served them from a platter.  Only one person took seconds.  I suggest a 5- to 6-ounce serving per person.
Later I took the remaining fish, flaked it, and added the remaining sauce, the crumbs left over from the crust preparation and a beaten egg.  I fried up a tiny taste and it was really yummy.  I made croquettes on a baking sheet and froze them.  Sometime soon I will partially thaw them, brown them quickly in a bit of olive oil and put them on top of a salad for a good dinner on a hot summer night.
                For the crumbs, I used French bread slices that I toasted lightly.  That way you’ll get a better golden color for the crumb crust in the short time it takes the fish to bake. I had a container of pistachios on hand. I loved the flavor they added to the crust, but you can substitute almonds, or leave out the nuts entirely and you’ll still love it.
               For our side dishes, I made a rice pilaf and sautéed the kale in a little garlic and olive oil.  They made for a lovely meal…and oh! So healthy!

Pistachio Crusted Halibut with Orange Mint Salsa Verde

For the fish:

3 to 4 1” thick slices toasted baguette
1/3 cup pistachios
2 teaspoons blood orange olive oil
A few leaves of mint
About 1 ½ pounds halibut filet, about 1” thick, cut into four portions

For the sauce:

1/3 cup onion, very finely minced
½ cup blood orange olive oil
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons grated orange zest
½ cup fresh orange juice
1 cup (loosely packed) fresh mint, minced
Orange slices and more mint sprigs for garnish

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  In a food processor, make crumbs from the toasted baguette. Add the pistachios, 2 teaspoons blood orange olive oil and the few leaves of mint. Pulse until nuts are coarsely ground.
Place the halibut skin side down on a well-oiled baking sheet.  Divide the crumbs among them, patting lightly to make them adhere. You may not need all of them.
Combine all the sauce ingredients and whisk together.  Let set for at least 30 minutes or up to an hour for flavors to meld. 
When ready to serve, bake the fish until just barely cooked through, ten to twelve minutes. Put a pool of the sauce on each of four dinner plates.  Remove the fish from the baking sheet with a spatula (most of the skin may stick to the pan). Place on top of the sauce, garnish with orange slices and mint sprigs and serve immediately.  Serves four.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Onion-Coconut Milk Soup--A Brunch Pleaser



       Once again we have a recipe that comes from the French culinary magazine “Cuisine et Vins de France.”  I’ve had a subscription for years and love leafing through back issues looking for amusing things to cook. 
                This one came from the November 2011 issue.  I was doing a brunch menu for our church Weekday Gourmet connection group and wanted something a little different to start.  For brunch menus, I like a soup that you can serve in cups or mugs and this fills the bill. Soups with chunks of most anything in them are a little difficult to sip gracefully. 
                I made a few changes--I’m sure you’re not surprised.  The biggest one was to replace minced fresh lemongrass with the lemongrass paste from the produce section of most supermarkets.  We’ve used it and the ginger paste in several recipes before.  Lemongrass is a bit fibrous, so you have to get down to the softer part and mince really finely if you’re using fresh. The nice paste-makers have done that for us.  It’s also hard to find outside oriental markets, but if you want to use fresh lemongrass, substitute three stalks.
                I also changed to 2% milk instead of whole.  Coconut milk is rather high in fat, so it’s still plenty rich tasting. If you’d like to cut the fat even further, you may substitute light coconut milk instead, and use 1% milk.  The trick of simmering the onions instead of sautéing them in lots of oil also cuts down a bit on the fat.
         I know this seems like a lot of onion, but in our group we had one member who doesn’t care for onions and she was quite happy with it. We had another who claims to hate coconut, and she loved it.  You just never know, do you?               

Creamy Onion-Coconut Soup

1 ½ lbs. onions, peeled and chopped
¼ cup olive oil
Salt and pepper
¼ cup water
4 tablespoons lemongrass paste
1 cup coconut milk
3 cups 2% milk
Two limes

                In a Dutch oven, warm the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions, stir to coat with oil and cook about two minutes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and add the water. Cover, lower heat and simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. 
                Stir in the lemongrass paste and cook a couple of minutes, stirring.  Add the coconut milk and 2% milk.  Bring to a slow simmer and cook, uncovered, for about 10 minutes, or until the onions are tender. Stir frequently.  In a blender or with a hand blender, purée the soup.  Bring back to a simmer.
                Ladle into soup cups or bowls.  Grate lime zest over each. Cut one of the limes into six wedges to garnish each cup and serve immediately. Serves six.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Savory Spanish Smoked Paprika Adobo Chicken



           My favorite chicken part is the leg-thigh quarter.  I’ve given you several recipes for it in the past.  There are several advantages over the more popular breast, in my opinion. First is flavor. Not only does the meat itself have more flavor, but since it needs to be cooked a little longer, any sauce, rub, herb or other seasoning has a chance to penetrate the flesh.
                Another advantage to this particular recipe is that it needs very little attention once it has been popped into the oven, making it a great dish for a company dinner. 
                As I did with earlier recipes, I put some flavorings under the skin.  You may not be a skin-eater, but I always encourage cooking any chicken part with the skin on. It retains moisture, and can always be peeled off after cooking.
                This recipe is very Spanish in its flavors.  Be sure to use the Spanish smoked paprika called pimentòn. It’s available in some supermarkets, specialty markets or at Penzey’s.  This adobo marinade is also wonderful on pork or full flavored seafood. 
                Spanish-style chorizo is a dry sausage, like a salami. The fresh (raw) Mexican-style chorizo won’t work in this. I used the chorizo from a package of sliced Spanish-style deli meats from Fresh Market. It also includes jamon serrano (a prosciutto-like ham) and salchichon.   I'll use the jamon and salchichon for sandwiches sometime in the next few days. If you can’t find the Spanish selection package, use sopressata or other Italian salami. 
                I used a combination of yellow and red grape tomatoes because I like the contrast and slight difference in flavor.  If you’d rather just use one full container of the red ones, the dish will still be delicious.

Spanish Chicken in Adobo

 Adobo marinade:
8 cloves garlic, peeled, finely chopped
1 tbsp. kosher or sea salt
3 tbsp. Italian (flat) parsley leaves
1 ½ tbsp. Spanish smoked paprika
1 tsp. dried oregano, crumbled
1/3 cup olive oil
To finish:
6 chicken leg quarters
6 thin slices Spanish chorizo or other salami
6 thin slices Swiss cheese
2 tbsp. olive oil
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 cup minced onion
¾ cup dry white wine
2 15-oz. cans chickpeas, drained
½ container yellow grape tomatoes
½ container red grape tomatoes
1 bag baby arugula

                Place all marinade ingredients except the olive oil in a food processor and pulse to chop finely.  Drizzle in the olive oil and pulse a few more times.  Remove 3 tablespoons of the mixture and reserve.
                Loosen the chicken skin on each piece and place one each of cheese and chorizo underneath, with the cheese closer to the flesh.  Place about a tablespoon of the adobo under the skin and spread it all around.  Use the rest of the mixture to rub all over the outside surface of the chicken and place in an oiled baking pan. Cover and reserve at room temperature for up to an hour. You may also do this in the morning and refrigerate, taking it out of the fridge about an hour before baking.
                In a heavy skillet heat the 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and stir a couple of times.  Add the onion and cook until the onion is soft but not at all browned.  Add the reserved adobo marinade and cook, stirring, a couple of minutes.  Add the wine and chickpeas and simmer until the wine is reduced by about a third.  Turn off the heat and stir in the tomatoes.
                Preheat the oven to 400o. Place the prepared chicken in the oven and roast for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 375o. Continue to roast for another 30 minutes, then pour the chickpea mixture into the pan, scraping any bits that might cling to the pan.  Spread the chickpeas around the chicken, shake the pan a couple of times and continue to roast for another 15 minutes.
                To serve, place a handful of arugula on each plate. Top with the chicken, then ladle the chickpea mixture with their juices over the top.  Serve at once with crusty bread to soak up the sauce.   Serves six.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

A wonderful way to finish a meal!



             I’m not much of a dessert maker. Frankly, if folks are still hungry by the time we get to dessert at my house, I sort of get my feelings hurt.  But I’ve been going through notes from our trip to France last fall.  And there was one thing that I enjoyed that I’d never had before: a chocolate marquise with speculoos chunks.
                I went looking for marquise recipes but most had raw eggs, with the whites whipped to lighten the mixture.  I was pretty sure the one we had didn’t have the eggs.  Finally I went to the website of the culinary magazine “Cuisine et Vins de France” and found a recipe that was perfect.
                Speculoos are Belgian cookies, a sort of molded spice shortbread.  I couldn’t find them here but the popular Biscoff wafers are available in most local supermarkets.  They’re also a spice cookie, the ones you used to get on Delta Airlines back when they gave you more than one little bag of pretzels.  That’s what I used and they were perfect.
                There are several advantages to this dessert.  First, it is quick and easy to make.  And although good chocolate isn’t cheap, it’s still a fairly inexpensive recipe per serving. It can be made days ahead with no loss of quality, in fact it was better the second day than the first. And most important: it is REALLY yummy. 
                The original recipe suggests that you serve it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or with crème anglaise, a rich vanilla custard sauce. Both seem like overkill to me, especially the crème anglaise.  I scattered a few raspberries on the plate and added a dollop of whipped cream and nobody complained.

Chocolate Marquise with Biscoff Wafers

 1 8.8-ounce package Biscoff wafers
4 3.5-ounce (total 14 oz.) good quality dark chocolate bars (at least 60% cacao)
3 ounces (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1 ¼ cups heavy cream
A large pinch ground cinnamon
Whipped cream and raspberries for garnish

                Spray an 8x5 loaf pan with cooking spray and line with plastic wrap. 
               With your fingers, crumble the wafers into chunks.  With a knife, chop the chocolate coarsely.
                In a saucepan over medium-low heat, bring the cream and butter to a bare simmer.  Add the chocolate and continue to stir with a heat-proof plastic scraper until smooth.  Add the cookie chunks and the cinnamon and mix together. Pour into the prepared loaf pan.
                Let cool a bit, then refrigerate for at least 6 hours.  To serve use the wrap to unmold the loaf.  You may need to wrap a hot towel around the outside to loosen.  Slice ¾-inch thick, put on individual serving plates and garnish with berries and whipped cream.  Serves 12.


Monday, May 19, 2014

Apricot-Lavender Pork



                 A while back, we hosted a wine tasting for the Alliance Française, featuring wines and dishes from the South of France.  One of the dishes I made was a pork tenderloin with an apricot-lavender compote.  It was adapted from the cookbook “Chocolate and Zucchini,” from Clotilde Dusoulier.  The book, her first cookbook, was named after her very entertaining blogof the same name, posted in both French and English.
                She presented it as a dessert dish, intended to be served over pound cake, or with crisp cookies.  It is delicious that way, but I wanted a sauce for pork tenderloin, so I made a few changes. It was such a hit that when we hosted our monthly dinner club the next weekend, I made it again.  Once again it was deemed delicious.
                Lavender is a very versatile herb but one rarely used in the US, partly, I’m sure, because it’s not easy to find. The only place I know to buy food-grade lavender in Memphis is at Penzeys, on Poplar near Kirby Parkway.  It is sometimes available in hobby stores to be used in sachets or other crafts. You must not cook with that.
                If you are planning an herb garden for this summer, you might consider adding a couple of lavender plants. For culinary purposes, I like the English lavender variety.  It grows well in full sun, and once established, tolerates drought well.  If the winter isn’t too harsh, it will probably even come back next year.  As a bonus, the plants are very attractive. 
You can use the blossoms fresh or dried in a variety of dishes—it is particularly tasty with lamb or pork. Dried blossoms are lovely finely ground and mixed with sugar to be used in butter cookies, cakes or as a sweetener for lemonade.
I served the pork dish with rice pilaf and asparagus that I roasted after drizzling with herbes de Provence infused olive oil that I got from Bazaar, an olive oil and balsamic vinegar shop in Collierville’s Carriage Crossing. I used the same oil to coat the pork.  It gave a subtle herbal flavor that was the perfect complement to the apricot sauce.

 Pork with Provençal Apricot-Lavender Compote

 3 1/2 to 4 pounds pork tenderloin
3 tablespoons herbes de Provence olive oil (or plain olive oil)
Kosher or sea salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 small shallot, finely minced (about a heaping tablespoon)
1 tablespoon each white and dark brown sugar
1 pound dried apricots
1 pinch kosher or sea salt
1 pound dried apricots
1 cup dry white wine
2 cups water
2 teaspoons dried lavender blossoms. 

               With a small sharp knife, remove the silver skin from the pork tenderloins. Rub with oil and sprinkle lightly with salt.  Allow to rest until ready to roast.  Preheat oven to 450o.  About 30 minutes before serving, place the pork on a rack in a baking pan.  Roast for 20 minutes, or until the internal temperature is 145o-150o.  Remove from the oven and let rest, tented with foil, for five minutes before slicing.
                In a deep skillet, melt the butter over medium heat.  Add the shallots and cook until starting to get tender, about 5 minutes.  Add the sugar and let it melt, without stirring, for five minutes.  Add the apricots and stir to coat.  Add the salt, wine and water. Bring to a simmer and cook until the apricots are tender, about 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the apricots to a bowl. Add the lavender to the liquid and simmer for 5 minutes, until the liquid is slightly reduced.  Return the apricots to the liquid, let simmer another minute or two. 
                To serve, place the pork on warmed plates, top with the apricots and drizzle with the hot liquid. Serve immediately.  Serves 8 to 10. 

 


Saturday, May 17, 2014

Savory Lentil Apple Salad


           A few weeks ago, I tried a recipe for a lentil salad with apples and a slightly creamy curried salad dressing. Although not bad, it wasn’t something I loved enough to write about. But it was visually appealing with the red apples so when I needed a side dish for a sort of Middle Eastern dinner, I tried it again.
      This time I used a different spice mixture, and left out the cream. I love the flavor of cardamom and ground coriander together, so I thought I’d try that. Normally I would use lemon juice to keep the apples from turning brown but oddly (for me) I had no lemons. Instead I used the juice and zest of a small orange. It was a perfect complement to the dressing.
       I used sherry wine vinegar, since it’s not as sharp as the red wine vinegar called for in the original recipe, and added a touch of honey. If you don’t have sherry vinegar, cider vinegar would work, but you might want to add a bit more honey to your dressing. Mix the salad all together and taste.
       For salads, the best lentils are the green French lentils, also known as “lentilles du Puy.” They don’t need to be soaked and stay firmer after cooking than brown ones. They are available at Fresh Market and some supermarkets. If you want to use the brown lentils, watch very carefully near the end of cooking to make sure they don’t turn mushy.
       I love this salad. I served it slightly warm for the dinner, but leftovers were good straight from the fridge for a couple of days. This would be a perfect dish for a picnic, when the weather finally turns a little warmer.
       Lentils are high in protein and fiber so it would also make a great lunch on a bed of greens.

Middle Eastern Lentil-Apple Salad

1 cup green lentils
4 cups water
1 tablespoon kosher or sea salt
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup minced shallot (or red onion)
1 ½ teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon ground coriander
¼ cup sherry wine vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
2 crisp red apples (Gala or Fuji)
1 small orange, rinsed off and dried

       Sort through the lentils to make sure there is no debris. Put the lentils, water and salt into a saucepan. Bring to a simmer and cook until just barely done. This could take as little as 15 minutes or up to 25, depending on the age of the lentils. Start tasting after 15 minutes.
       Meanwhile, over medium heat, heat the olive oil in a large skillet and cook the shallots until soft but not browned. Add the cardamom and coriander and cook, stirring, about a minute. Add the wine vinegar and honey, bring just to a simmer. Turn off the heat and reserve in the pan.
       Grate the zest from the orange into a medium bowl. Squeeze the juice and put ½ cup into the bowl. Cut each apple into eight wedges from blossom to stem end. Turn the wedges on the side and slice. Add to the bowl with the orange juice and toss to cover all the surfaces of the apple.
       When the lentils are done, drain and then put into the pan with the shallot mixture. Toss together, then add the apples with all the juice and zest of the orange and toss again.
       I didn’t think it needed salt but taste and add salt if needed. If serving warm, let it sit for about 10 minutes, then taste to see if you think it needs a touch more honey.

Serves 6 to 8 as a side dish, or 4 as a main dish

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Yummy Spanish Pork Tenderloin

               I think I’ve told you that upon the retirement of my husband at the beginning of September, we spent some time visiting our favorite parts of France. One of my much-loved areas is the South of France, and one of my favorite towns there is Aix-en-Provence.
                One evening we wandered into a nice little square that had several cafés and open air restaurants. After a leisurely apéritif in one of the cafés, we chose a restaurant for dinner, Tapas Café (www.tapascafe.com). As you might guess, it features the small plates of Spain. We ordered an assortment of goodies and sat and enjoyed our selections, which came one or two at a time, as they were ready.  One of the dishes was an evening special, “Lomo de Cerdo con Chorizo a la Parilla.”  It was a pork tenderloin that had been stuffed with diced chorizo, rubbed with the smoked paprika of Spain, skewered to keep it closed, and grilled. Served with a sauce of red bell pepper, it was my favorite plate of the evening.
 


            Recently I thought I’d like to try something similar but the weather didn’t cooperate. It was too windy and rainy to grill.  No problem. I could easily do it in the oven.
Then I went shopping for Spanish chorizo. It’s a dried sausage, like a salami, unlike Mexican chorizo, which is a fresh sausage needing to be cooked.  I found it, but it was expensive. Enough to make this dish would have been around $12.  Pepperoni is similar enough in taste and texture for a dish of this sort. You can go to the deli counter of almost any market and ask for sandwich pepperoni.  Have it sliced a bit less than ¼-inch thick and dice it.
                So, a few recipe changes, a rice pilaf and a green veggie, and we had a lovely dinner for friends. All we needed was the weather and ambiance of the South of France!



Spanish-Inspired Pepperoni-Stuffed Pork Tenderloin

 2 pork tenderloins (total 2 ½ to 3 pounds)
5-6 ounces sandwich pepperoni
¼ cup good fruity extra virgin olive oil
½ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
¾ cup diced onion
½ cup diced red bell pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoon Spanish smoked paprika
1 cup dry white wine

                Preheat the oven to 400o.  Trim the silverskin from the pork tenderloin and cut the tenderloin almost in half lengthwise, being careful not to cut it all the way through.  Set aside.
                If there is a casing on the outside of the pepperoni, remove it.  Cut into cubes a bare ¼-inch across. In a heavy skillet, heat the olive oil over low heat. Add the pepperoni cubes and cook, stirring occasionally, until they have rendered their fat and are crispy, about ten minutes.  Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon, leaving as much of the oil as possible in the pan. Let them drain on a paper towel.
When cooled, place them in a bowl with the parsley and toss to mix.  Sprinkle the inside of the pork with salt and pepper.  Stuff with the pepperoni mixture.  Tie at about 1 ½ inch intervals to close.  
In the fat remaining in the pan, brown the pork on all sides, especially the top.  Place in a baking dish.  In the same pan, cook the onion, bell pepper and garlic until soft but not browned.  Add the smoked paprika and cook, stirring, for a couple of minutes. Scrape into the baking dish, surrounding the pork tenderloins. 
Deglaze the pan with the white wine, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom. Pour over the pork.  Place in the oven and roast until a meat thermometer reads 145o. This will probably take 20-30 minutes but start checking after 15 minutes. You may want to cook it longer, but 145o is high enough health-wise and gives you very moist and tender pork that is still a bit pink inside. Let the pork rest about five minutes, then slice, plate, and drizzle the pan sauce over each serving. Serves 6-8. 

 

Thursday, April 24, 2014

A fun cooking class at Bazaar!


Last week I presented a cooking class at Bazaar Olive Oil on two evenings, featuring their great selection of olive oils, including some tasty infused ones, and balsamic vinegars.

The theme of the class was appetizers and first courses (and one sweet) from around the Mediterranean.  We had ones from Turkey, Sicily, Morocco, Spain and France.  For dessert, we had tiramisu from Italy. 

Several folks who saw the photo above, which came from the Bazaar Facebook page, asked for the asparagus recipe.  Later, I'll post a couple of the others but for now, here it is!

SPANISH-INFLUENCED ROASTED ASPARAGUS WITH CILANTRO SAUCE

1 ½ pounds fresh asparagus  
1/4 cup chipotle olive oil                                       
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Cilantro Sauce:

1 cup crème fraiche                                                    
½ cup cilantro, minced                                                  
2 tablespoons Persian lime olive oil
1/2 cup purchased salsa verde
Grated zest and juice of one lime
 
A handful of grape tomatoes, quartered

 Preheat the oven to 400o.  If the asparagus is thin, just cut off the tough lower part.  If it’s fat asparagus, trim off the very bottom and then peel about 1/3 of the way from the bottom with a vegetable peeler.  Brush the chipotle oil on the asparagus, put in one layer on a baking sheet and bake until just barely tender crisp, depending on the thickness. Let cool to room temperature.

For the dressing, mix all the ingredients in a blender or food processor and pulse several times to just combine.

Arrange the asparagus on a serving platter.  Drizzle the dressing across the center of the spears and garnish with the tomatoes. Serves 8 as a first course.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Cocktails--Before and After Dinner!


Back in the fall, I published two cocktail recipes that came from our wine dinner group, one to start the dinner with, and one to finish. I’ve gotten several emails from folks who had tried them, liked them and asked for more.  So here are two, one pre- and one post-prandial.
 
 

                The first was also served as the starter for our wine dinner group. Months and months ago, I picked up a bottle of saffron gin from France at a liquor store in another city.  It sat in our liquor cabinet because I didn’t know what to do with it. When my turn came around for a starter cocktail for our wine dinner group, I took a sample of the gin to my favorite bartender, Chris Ferri at Southward.  He came up with an excellent idea: a honeydew melon gin fizz. 

                The saffron gin isn’t widely available, but this drink would be equally delicious with regular gin.  I know there are those who think they don’t like gin, but nobody in our group complained. Give this a try before you automatically switch to vodka, as another non-gin loving friend (who hadn’t tasted it yet) suggested.

                The dessert drink came from a visit to Louisville with my sister.  That’s home for us, and we try to get back once in a while.  We have a friend, Chef Dallas McGarity, of the excellent Marketplace at Theater Square, who lets us know where we need to dine (other than his restaurant) while we’re there.
 
 

This time he directed us to The Place Downstairs. It hasn’t been open long but already has quite a reputation.  We had an excellent dinner.  When we were finished we still wanted to chat a bit but didn’t want to tie up a table on a busy evening. We adjourned to the lounge for a decaf French press coffee.  The restaurant manager, Ricky Moir, treated us to a Bourbon Ball Coffee.  The bourbon ball is a popular candy-type confection in Kentucky, and lots will be served at Derby parties over the next few weeks.  The coffee had all the right flavors: bourbon, of course, whipped cream flavored vodka and dark crème de cacao, and a fluff of whipped cream on top.

This was served in a large “café au lait” sized cup and the recipe is geared toward that.  That’s a lot of alcohol, so I served it to my guests in cappuccino cups, so that the recipe below made two servings.  That would be your call.

 Honeydew Ferri-Fizz

4 ounces honeydew melon juice (see note)
8 ounces saffron or regular gin
1 bottle sparkling wine (cava or prosecco)
8 honeydew melon balls

                Shake the honeydew melon juice and gin in a shaker with ice until very cold. Strain into 8 champagne flutes.  Divide the sparkling wine among the glasses.  Place the melon balls on a skewer and garnish each drink.  Makes 8.

 Note: If the honeydew melon isn’t very ripe when you buy it, let it set at room temperature for four or five days to ripen.  Cut in half, discard the seeds and use a melon-baller or spoon to make the garnish. Place the remaining melon flesh in a blender and puree.  Strain through a fine sieve. Keep the juice and discard (or eat) the remaining pulp. You’ll have more juice than you need for eight drinks, but it keeps well in the fridge.

 Ricky’s Bourbon Ball Coffee

 1 ounce Four Roses (or other Kentucky) bourbon
1 ounce whipped cream flavored vodka
1 ½ ounce dark crème de cacao
8 ounces coffee, preferably French roast
Whipped cream

              In a coffee cup, mix the bourbon, vodka and crème de cacao.  Add the coffee, stir, and top with whipped cream. Makes one large serving or two cappuccino sized servings.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Creole Crawfish Treats!



                A few weeks back I wrote about a Southern Louisiana dinner with my wine group.  I not only filled in for the person designated to bring dessert, which resulted in my “Pumpkin Pie in a Glass.” I also brought a first course to complement the theme.
                I made a recipe I’ve been making since my long-ago days of living in New Orleans. If memory serves, it came from the local newspaper, The Times-Picayune, although I can’t find anything similar online.
In my recipe software files, it’s listed as “Crawfish Bella Luna.” Bella Luna was a beautiful restaurant in the French Market in New Orleans. It had a great river view and a very talented chef.  Unfortunately, it was badly damaged at the time of Hurricane Katrina and never re-opened.
                The recipe calls for a pound of crawfish tails. You can buy them frozen in many supermarkets, or ask the seafood department of your favorite market to order them for you. Due to current news items, I would avoid any from China. I got mine from Thomas’ Meat Market in Collierville. The ones they sell are from Spain, and I felt quite comfortable using them. 
                The recipe includes what is known in Creole cooking as “the trinity”: celery, onion and bell pepper. You could save a bit of prep by using a 12-ounce bag of frozen Creole mirepoix. It’s usually in pretty big pieces, just drop the frozen contents of the bag on your chopping board and run a sharp knife through it. It will take a bit longer to cook through, since you’ll have a good bit of moisture to cook off before the vegetables start to cook. But it has the advantage of saving a good bit of chopping time.
               This is one of those recipes that can be made a day ahead and refrigerated, making it good for a cooperative dinner, as our wine dinner group is.
                We served it as a seated first course. I put a handful of arugula with a light sherry vinaigrette on the side.  If you wanted to make it a lunch or brunch main course, just make the salad bigger and add grape tomatoes, slivered red onion and a sprinkle of feta or gorzonzola cheese. 
Crawfish Bella Luna
 3 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup onion, very finely minced1/3 cup celery, very finely minced1/3 cup green bell pepper, finely minced1/3 cup green onion, with some of the green top, finely minced2 plump cloves garlic, minced½ cup mayonnaise¼ cup Zatarain’s Creole (or other whole grained) mustard1 tablespoon flat-leaf parsley, minced2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce1 tablespoon Creole seasoning, such as Tony Cachere’s1 egg1 pound frozen crawfish tails, defrosted in the bag½ cup heavy creamSweet paprika for garnish
               Preheat the oven to 350o. Heat the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the butter. When just starting to sizzle add the onion, celery, bell pepper, green onion and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are just starting to get tender, about 5 minutes.
               Remove from the heat and whisk in the mayonnaise, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, Creole seasoning. Mix well, then whisk in the egg. Add the crawfish tails and all the juices from the bag and toss. Divide among 8 half-cup ramekins. Pour two tablespoons of heavy cream on the top and sprinkle with paprika. 
             
Bake until browned and bubbly, about 15 minutes. Serve with crusty bread or baguette toasts.
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