Tater Salad Season

It’s Memorial Day weekend here in the US and the unofficial beginning of the Potato Salad Season. I love potato salad and I have eaten a lot of different kinds and summer just makes it taste better. My Aunt Kate made a great German potato salad, my mother-in-law Jane made a fabulous eggy potato salad. But I even think deli potato salad, though not always the greatest, has its place in the potato salad pantheon. I experimented with a lot of salads over the years hoping to create my own style. Sometimes I tried to copy Jane. Mine was not bad but never like hers. I eventually discovered James Beard’s Old-fashioned Oregon Potato Salad and made that for a while but now I think my salad has evolved into combination of Jane and Jim.

So what to make for this weekend? Mine, Jane’s, Jim’s or something new. Curt follows the New York Times food column and he handed me a printout of Melissa Clark’s Lemon Potato Salad with Mint. Looked interesting, looked easy. I tried it and it is good enough to share. Here goes.

I halved the recipe for the two of us but I am posting the full recipe in case you are having company.

Lemon Potato Salad with Mint

2 lbs potatoes
Juice of one lemon, more for serving
1 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
1/2 C extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup thinly sliced scallions, more for serving
1/4 C torn mint leaves, more for serving
1/4 tsp Turkish pepper ( I used Aleppo)

All this plus potatoes

All this plus potatoes

Step 1: Boil potatoes in salted water until just tender. Drain and cut potatoes into 1 1/2 inch chunks as soon as you can handle them. Important note: Dressing is going on hot potatoes.

tatersStep 2: In a bowl whisk together lemon juice, salt and olive oil.

Step 3: Transfer hot potatoes to a large bowl and toss with dressing, scallions, mint and pepper. Let cool to room temperature or refrigerate. Just before serving, top with additional lemon juice, scallions, mint and pepper.

Ready to eat

Ready to eat

It was quick and tasted great. We paired it with burgers, done on the grill, and accompanied it with a nice Petit Syrah. burgerI think we have a new favorite but for tomorrow I think I’ll try Jane’s salad with our ribs.

Advertisements

Picadillo Alfredo

Warning! This is an experiment.

The NY Times recently published a recipe by Sam Sifton for Picadillo which he calls the ultimate Cuban comfort food.  Picadillo is a sort of sloppy-Joe kind of stew made from ground meat (picadillo means mince), tomatoes, raisins, olives and liberally seasoned with cinnamon, cumin and other warm spices.  To my taste, it sounds like a Persian inflected dish (who often combine meat, fruit and spices) via Spain (remember, that Arabs held sway in the Iberian peninsula for nearly 700 years).  Mr. Sifton suggests serving it with rice.  OK, but I couldn’t quite get my head around picadillo as a stew.

Recently Jeanne made spinach enchiladas which were quite tasty.  Her enchiladas prompted me to think of picadillo as a stand in for the filling of an enchilada-like presentation.  Of course, I couldn’t follow the typical enchilada routine by covering the filled tortillas with a tomato and chili sauce as the picadillo has plenty of tomatoes in it already.  So, why not invert the order of things?  Enchiladas often have cheese in the filling so why not put the cheese on the outside.  But I didn’t want to just bury the tortillas in shredded cheese.  How about something creamier?  I’ve got it – Alfredo sauce!  I know, it’s not Cuban.  It’s not even Latino.  But it creamy cheesy good.  And you can buy it in a jar, ready to go.

For the picadillo I followed the NY Times recipe to a “T”, just cutting it in half to accommodate our more limited table (and so as to not have too much left over in case my experiment was a bust).

Ingredients.1

Ingredients (see NY Times recipe for complete list)

Minced garlic, diced Chorizo and chopped onion

Minced garlic, diced chorizo and chopped onion

Beef, tomatoes, onions, chorizo, garlic and seasonings saute away

Beef, tomatoes, onions, chorizo, garlic, raisins, olives and seasonings saute away

Fill tortillas with a geneous 1/4 cup of picadillo mixture

Fill tortillas with a geneous 1/4 cup of picadillo mixture

Put rolled, filled tortillas in a baking dish with a thin layer of Alfredo sauce underneath and a generous layer over the top

Put rolled, filled tortillas in a baking dish with a thin layer of Alfredo sauce underneath and a generous layer over the top

Sprinkle a light layer of grated cheese (I used a Mexican blend but cheddar would be fine).  Bake in a pre-heated oven at 350˚ F. for about 30 minutes or untll the Alfredo sauce is bubbly and lightly browned.

Not pretty but pretty tasty. A little garnish would have been in order but I forgot to take this picture until I was on my second Picadillo Alfredo.

Not pretty but pretty tasty. A little garnish would have been in order but I forgot to take this picture until I was on my second Picadillo Alfredo.

Not much to look at but pretty yummy.  I think the picadillo mixture could serve other purposes – maybe an Cuban sloppy-joe?

Watermelon what?

Every once in a while some food idea crosses my mind that I file for future reference but quickly forget about. Later something will poke my memory and that idea will resurface.watermelon-1

We were in the grocery the other day and the store had a special on mini-watermelons. I know, what am I doing looking at watermelons in the middle of winter. I know they come from somewhere in Central America and their carbon footprint is heavy, but they looked pretty good and the price was good so I bought one …. so much for eating local.

Anyway, I saw those watermelons and into my head pops the idea of watermelon steak. Huh?  Somewhere I had heard of such a thing and I thought it would be worth trying. If it didn’t pan out I figured at the very least we could add some to a salad or eat it fresh for dessert.

But, when I got home that idea of watermelon steak kept floating around in my head but I didn’t really know where to start so I did an internet search and, lo and behold, there are lots of sites that feature watermelon steak. Most referenced a restaurant near Boston called 51 Lincoln that seemed to have originated or, at least, featured a pan-seared watermelon steak as an appetizer or small plate.

If you have read our blog before, you know I’m always up for something different.  This watermelon steak, as imagined by 51 Lincoln and repeated by many other blogs, certainly was a strange sounding dish and one I wanted to try.

I spent some time scanning the many variations. Some recipes called for marinating the trimmed blocks of watermelon in cream sherry overnight or at least for several hours.  Some cooked the “steaks” on a grill or directly in a saute pan.  But in many the “steaks” were roasted in the oven for 2-1/2 (yes, two and a half) hours at 350˚ F.  I settled on a shorter marinade, 2 hours in the oven and a finishing sear in the saute pan.  Here’s what it all looked like.

Watermelon "steaks" marinating in sherry

Watermelon “steaks” marinating in sherry for 3 hours

Watermelon "steaks" seasoned with salt and pepper and a pat of butter and ready for the oven

Watermelon “steaks” seasoned with salt and pepper and a pat of butter and ready for the oven

"Steaks" after 2 hours at 350˚. Note that the color is still quite bright, even redder than the raw watermelon

“Steaks” after 2 hours at 350˚. Note that the color is still quite bright, even redder than the raw watermelon but without any sear

"Steaks" searing briefly in a skillet

“Steaks” searing briefly in a skillet

Watermelon steak appetiser

Watermelon “steak” served with an avocado, blood orange, clementine and tomato salad with feta cheese

Now, most of you would probably think (I certainly did) that after that amount of time in the oven the watermelon would be cooked to a mush.  But not so.  Remarkably the melon held up quite well.  It shrinks a bit but the color remains bright and the texture is transformed.  The melon was no longer grainy the way fresh watermelon is.  Rather it takes on a decidedly firmer texture not unlike the linear grain of fresh beef or raw tuna.

A strange dish but one worth trying, if for no other reason than to say you did.

Just a Little Nutty, vol. 2

banner

Tomato/Almond Pesto

This is another recipe adapted from one I found in Bon Appetite (November 2015). The original recipe called for cherry tomatoes and quite a bit more than I use here. I wanted more almond, less tomato to come through in the final product. This pesto was intended to be a dressing on blistered green beans.  We tried that and it was fine but I thought it was better as a dip for crudites (I kept sampling it with the raw green beans before I cooked them) so I present it here as a dip but feel free to use it however you think will be tasty.

Ingredients; Kumato tomatoes are described as brown

Ingredients; Kumato tomatoes are described as brown

2 medium sized tomatoes (I used Kumato Brown Tomatoes because they’re the best available in Green Bay at this time of year), seeded and cored, and cut into 1/2″ pieces.
1/4 C. roasted, unsalted almonds
1 large clove garlic, finely minced
2 Tbs. olive oil
2 Tbs. Sherry vinegar (or red wine vinegar)
1 tsp. sweet paprika
Pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
Salt and pepper

Cut about 1/4″ off both ends of the tomatoes.  Remove the core and the jelly/seed part.  Cut the tomato flesh from the walls and ends into 1/2″ pieces.  chopped

Place the tomato pieces into a cold nonstick saute pan and put on medium-low heat.  Leave the tomatoes to heat; they will release much of their water and gradually turn soft.  DO NOT vigorously stir.  You want to leave the cooked tomato in recognizable pieces.  Set aside to cool completely.

Grind the almonds in a food processor or blender to a fine chop or coarse meal consistency.  Finely mince the garlic.

Add half of the cooled tomatoes, all the almonds, garlic, olive oil, vinegar, paprika and cayenne (if using) to a mixing bowl.  Stir to combine well and mash the tomatoes somewhat.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Put in the remaining half of the tomatoes and stir gently, trying to keep the tomato pieces somewhat whole.

dip

Finished dip

Serve as a dip for raw or lightly cooked vegetables; as a sauce for grilled meat; or as a spread on thin slices of crusty bread.

This can be made up to several hours in advance.  It may store well in the refrigerator but I’ve never had any left over to find out.

Smoked paprika might be an interesting substitution for the sweet paprika. I’ll update you on that if I try it. In the meantime stay tuned for more “nutty” recipes.

Just a Little Nutty, vol.1

Walnut/Parsley Pesto

About a year ago Jeanne subscribed to Bon Appetit magazine. We had some extra airline miles or reward points, who knows, so she thought we would take a chance on a new subscription. I was skeptical. We have a subscription to Saveur, and in the past we have gotten Fine Cooking, Gourmet, and the much-missed Cuisine (now defunct). But for some reason Bon Appetit seemed to be equated with Good Housekeeping in my mind. But surprise, surprise, we have gotten some fine recipes out of this publication. The December issue arrived the other day and the theme splashed across the cover was “Cookies!”. So of course it was the holiday issue and I immediately said there wouldn’t be much to cook from this issue.

However that evening there I was with the magazine open on the counter and ingredients for a Bucatini with Walnut-Parsley Pesto gathered next to it. As I browsed past the Buche de Noel and the Ombre Rainbow cookies this recipe jumped out and I knew it sounded good and that we pretty much had everything needed to prepare it.  Of course, with some make-do substitutions.

First off, we had two sizes of bucatini, a long,hollow, macaroni-like pasta, but not enough of either size to make a meal. So, I used both. Luckily, even though they were technically of different overall diameters, the wall thickness of each was the same and so they would cook at the same rate.

noodles

Bucatini, big (right) and small (left)

Now onward to the recipe, with a few apologies to Bon Appetit.

Ingredients

Adapted to yield 2 servings

  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • 2 Piquillo peppers and 2 Piparras peppers.  The original recipe called for 3 pickled Calabrian peppers or 1/2 Fresno chile with seeds.  Calabrian peppers seem to be the darling of the food world these days but we didn’t have any.  The Piquillo are sweet pimento-like peppers and Piparras are small pickled, mild, chili-like peppers.  We used Matiz brand of both.  Pimento and Pepperoncini, seeded, would be an acceptable substitutions.
  • 1 large garlic clove, finely grated
  • 3/4 ounce Parmesan, finely grated (about 3/4 cup)
  • 2 – 3 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley, plus more
  • Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
  • 3/8 pound bucatini or spaghetti (about 6 ounces), broken in half lengthwise
Ingredients measured and ready to go

Ingredients measured and ready to go

Preparation

  • Preheat oven to 350°. Toast walnuts on a rimmed baking sheet, tossing occasionally, until fragrant and slightly darkened, 8–10 minutes. Let cool.  You can do this in a dry skillet too but watch carefully so you don’t scorch the walnuts.
  • Reserve 2 Tbs. of the walnuts.   Pulse remaining walnuts in a food processor or blender until very finely chopped (but not pasty). Reserve remaining walnuts for serving. Remove stems from Piparras peppers; add Piquillo and Piparras peppers to food processor. Pulse until coarsely chopped. Transfer walnut/pepper mixture to a medium bowl and stir in garlic, Parmesan, oil, and parsley. Season pesto with salt and pepper.  Taste to adjust seasoning.  You should be able to taste the walnuts, garlic, cheese and parsley without any one of them taking over.  Try to avoid eating the whole bowl before proceeding with the rest of the recipe.

    Ingredients, chopped and mixed waiting for the pasta to be cooked

    Ingredients, chopped and mixed waiting for the pasta to be cooked

  • Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente.   Drain, reserving 1 cup pasta cooking liquid. Return pasta to pot and add pesto along with 1/4 cup pasta cooking liquid. Toss, adding splashes of cooking liquid as needed, until pesto coats pasta and sauce is glossy.
  • Crush reserved walnuts with the flat side of a knife. Divide pasta among bowls and top with walnuts and more parsley.
  • Do Ahead: Although the pesto can be made ahead, and kept covered and refrigerated for up to 2 days, it hardly seems necessary.  The prep takes little time, there’s no actual cooking involved and the pesto will taste best when freshly make.

I usually like to add a bit of protein so with this dish I coated a few shrimp with Korean chili sauce (G0chujang ) and fried them separately.

Chopped peppers, Shrimp in Koran chili sauce

Chopped peppers, Shrimp in Koran chili sauce

Now when Jeanne cooks a new recipe it is very important that there is a picture. She measures her success on how close her finished dish looks to the photo. I, on the other hand, cook from the recipe.  Pictures are nice but not essential. In this case I think Jeanne would be pleased at how close my shoot-from-the-hip attitude matches the photo.

2plates

Left: Magazine photo from the December, 2015 issue of Bon Appetit magazine.  Right: Curt plating (before adding shrimp)

The final plates that came to our table had the shrimp. Bon Appetit!

plate1

This post begins a series that will center around nuts.  I was please with this dish and, my addition of a couple of shrimp notwithstanding, it’s a pretty simple meatless meal.  The nuts add a richness and texture that is appealing.  The recipe got me thinking about nuts in other well known or not so well known dishes.  In the future I will follow my nose and post some other nut based, flavored or inflected dishes that I hope you will like.

Dessert Baby!

While browsing through the seemingly millions of posts on my Facebook since the day before, I happened upon a picture of a Dutch Baby. No, not an infant from the Netherlands but a really wonderful looking pastry. It reminded me of a savory dish called a sausage puff that one of the cooks in our original eating group served us.

The caption under the picture said this was essentially a sweet popover. After a little research I found a few other facts about a Dutch Baby. It was sometimes called a German Pancake, a Bismarck or a Dutch Puff, derived from the German pfannkuchen. The “Dutch” part is not so much a reference to the Netherlands but a corruption of the word for German, ‘Deutsch”, as in Pennsylvania Dutch, who were German/American immigrants.

Well we were having a friend over for dinner the next night and I thought this would make a fine dessert, even though it is usually considered a breakfast or brunch treat. The original recipe (from Williams-Sonoma Taste) served 4 but since there were only going to be three of us and this was going to be served after dinner, I felt it needed to be cut down so in my recipe the measurements in parenthesis are what I used. So here is my version of a:

Dutch Baby with Fresh Berries

5 Tbls unsalted butter (3 Tbls)
3/4 C flour (1/2 C)3 eggs (2)
3/4 C milk (1/2 C)
1 tsp vanilla (2/3 tsp)
2 Tbls sugar (4 tsp)
1/2 tsp salt ( a big pinch)
Confectioner’s sugar
Assorted berries

Preheat oven to 450 degrees
Put the butter in an ovenproof 12 inch fry pan. I used a 9 inch cast iron pan. Place in oven for 5 minutes to melt the butter. (Don’t put in too early because you don’t want to burn the butter but just get it melted and hot).

While the butter melts, combine the flour, milk, eggs, vanilla, sugar and salt. (This recipe uses a blender but I used a whisk. Just blend or whisk till all lumps are gone.)

Remove the pan from oven and CAREFULLY pour the batter into the pan. Return to oven and bake until sides are puffed and dark golden brown, 15 -20 minutes. I went the full 20 minutes plus some since it seemed the center wasn’t done. However that was just some residual butter floating around. It was done! So don’t be fooled.

Be sure to have your guests gathered in the kitchen when you take it out of the oven because it is an amazing sight but will deflate fairly quickly.

A Dutch Baby, hot out of the oven

A Dutch Baby, hot out of the oven

Done and ready to cut.

Done and ready to cut.

Williams-Sonoma would have you put a dollop of crème fraiche in the middle, sprinkle with berries and dust with confectioners sugar before you cut. I, instead, divided it into serving sections, and added the berries and sugar once it was on the plates. Tasted great, looked great. And that browned crust may look stiff but was surprisingly soft.

servedEnjoy.

Fried Chicken

Do you ever get tired of gluten free, fat free, raw, whole grain, baked not fried, low carb, ….blah, blah, blah. All of that is good, sure, but sometimes you just get a hankering for….fried chicken. Curt had that urge last week. I bet as a kid I had fried chicken at least twice a month. But now I couldn’t remember when we last had fried chicken, not even the Colonel’s, so damn it, it was time!

Curt decided to use just boneless thighs and breasts. He first seasoned the chicken with three blended seasonings from Penzey’s Spices, Balti, Mural of Flavor and Tandoori.
spiceBalti: coriander,garlic, ginger, cumin, Ceylon cinnamon, mustard, cardamom, clove,fennel,fenugreek,chamushka, star anise, cilantro, anise seed and bay leaf

Mural of Flavor: 12 spices and herbs, shallots,onion, garlic,lemon peel, chives, orange peel

Tandoori: coriander, cumin, paprika, garlic, ginger, cardamom, saffron

Then the chicken was drenched in flour which had been seasoned with paprika, turmeric and salt and pepper. The pieces then went into buttermilk and back into the flour mixture.

chicken2Once the oil was at 350 degrees, the chicken went in.

chicken1After ten minutes, turn.

chicken4Now 8 – 10 minutes on this side. Once you deem it cooked through, drain on some paper towels and put on a serving plate. Now don’t get distracted by the local news on the television in your kitchen because your fried chicken will get a bit dark like ours. The good thing is it still tasted wonderful. We had ours with cole slaw and bisquits. Yum. Today -fried chicken, tomorrow -back to salad.

chicken3

Justified, Corn Slaw and Bourbon

Raylan & Boyd

Raylan & Boyd

Last night we joined friends, Richard and Patricia, for the finale of Justified. If you are not familiar with Justified, it is a series on FX and that is based on a story by Elmore Leonard. Briefly it’s the “adventures” of Raylan Givens, a Federal Marshal who is part lawman, part killer (in the name of the law of course) and Boyd Crowder, all around drug dealer, bank robber, preacher, general bad guy and killer (not in the name of the law). They are also charmers, sweet-talkers and skinny as hell. For the past five seasons we have joined our friends for dinner, alternating cooking duties, and have watched the happenings in the hollers and the mine and the towns of Harlan County Kentucky. It has been a fun ride.

Last night our dinner for the final shootout was sandwiches and slaw. Not just any sandwiches, grilled cheese sandwiches. Not just any grilled cheese sandwiches, smoked turkey, caramelized fennel, gala apple jam and Gruyère grilled cheese sandwiches. Oh lord, were they good. Our contribution was salad and Curt decided to go with a corn slaw from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty More cookbook. We never relayed to each other what we were making but the two couldn’t have gone together better if we planned it that way. Here’s the slaw with a few variations.

Corn slaw

Corn slaw

CORN SLAW

7 Tbls white wine vinegar
4.25 cups shredded cabbage
3 small carrots, peeled and cut into fine strips
1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
3 cups fresh corn (or frozen if you don’t have access to fresh)
2 red chiles, finely chopped
We did not have red chiles but our substitute was really good. We used a Tbls of CENTO cherry pepper relish, chopped even finer.
1 1/3 cups cilantro leaves
2/3 cup mint leaves
olive oil
Salt & pepper

Put the vinegar and a scant cup of water in a small saucepan along with one Tbls of salt. Bring to boil then remove from heat. Place the cabbage and carrots in a bowl and pour in 2/3 of the salty liquid. In a separate bowl, pour the remaining liquid over the onion and set both bowls aside. After 20 minutes, rinse the vegetables and onion well, pat dry. Place together in a salad bowl.

If you are using fresh corn, grill it in a pan, cool and cut from cob and add to the salad bowl. Or cook your frozen corn till just al dente. Cool and put in salad bowl.

Cherry pepper relish

Cherry pepper relish

DRESSING

3 1/2 Tbls mayonnaise
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 Tbls lemon juice
1 clove garlic, crushed

Whisk all the dressing ingredients together, pour over the salad and stir gently. Add the chile, cilantro and mint, along with a grind of pepper. Give it another stir and serve.

Notes: I’ve mentioned what we did for chiles. We were short on corn so we only had about 1 1/2 cups in our salad but the full amount of corn would have been great. Also we used a little more carrot.

So what does the bourbon in my title refer to? Well, Justified is set in Kentucky after all (the bourbon state of America) and they certainly drank enough bourbon in the course of five seasons. So as the last episode progressed and certain deeds were done and particular characters bit the dust we sipped our Knob Creek straight bourbon whiskey. And when the final credits ran we tossed back our final shot.

Knob Creek Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Knob Creek Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Pie (Pi) Day

“Saturday, March 14, 2015 will be a very special Pi Day – one that only comes along once every 100 years! This year, not only does the month and day of the date (3/14) correspond to the digits in the mathematical constant, the digits in the year do too. If you write the date in the month/day/year format, then the digits of the date 3/14/15 correspond to the first 5 digits of pi: 3.1415.
But that is not all. This year’s Pi Day goes a step further – at 9:26:53 am and 9:26:53 pm, the date and the time will exactly correspond to the first 10 digits of pi: 3.141592653.”  -thanks to TimeandDate.com

When I read that I thought it was pretty amazing but you know what is more amazing?

Pie!

sliceof pieMy son called today because he wants to make a steak and kidney pie for a Pi Party he is attending on Saturday. He usually calls his Dad, the chef around here, when he has a cooking question. Curt tried to help him out even though he has never made a steak and kidney pie. Bottom line the hardest task will be finding kidneys.  But we sent him recipes anyway, for steak & kidney pie, along with Beef Bourguignonne Pie and Cock-a-Leekie Pie. Nathan said he already had a recipe for a cheese pie, not a quiche, which he was going to try in addition to the S & K pie. Sounded interesting so we said if it turns out send us a picture…and the recipe.

Some of the recipes we sent him came from my February issue of Bon Appeitit magazine which gave me a head start on my pie making last week when I made a “Carmelized Garlic, Spinach and Cheddar Tart” from the same issue. Except, I substituted onion for the garlic. The garlic was supposed to be the hero of this dish (and I like garlic) but three heads of garlic just wasn’t getting me excited. So, after wresting the kitchen from my husband’s clutches, I pretty much followed this recipe except for the onion, the creme fraiche and the fancy crust. If you wish to see the original recipe it is linked above. Below is my variation.

pie1Onion, Spinach, Cheddar Tart (quiche)

Pillsbury pie crust (because I just don’t have my Grandmother’s ambition)
4 large eggs
1 large onion (cut into wedges)1 Tbls olive oil
1 Tbls balsamic vinegar
1 Tbls pure maple syrup
1/2 tsp dried rosemary or (1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary if you have fresh)
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme ( I had fresh thyme )
freshly grd black pepper
6 oz. sharp cheddar cheese
2 cups baby spinach (torn in pieces)
3/4 C sour cream
3/4 C heavy cream

Unroll one of the Pillsbury crusts and line a 9″ pie pan. Turn up the edges and crimp with a fork. Line with parchment paper and fill with pie weights or dried beans and bake at 450 degrees for 20 minutes. I crimped aluminum foil on the edges so they wouldn’t dry out or over bake, the one problem I have with pre-made dough. If crust bottom is not dry after 20 min. put it in for about 5 more minutes without the paper and beans. Remove, let cool.

Meanwhile put the onion wedges and olive oil in a pan and cook till the onions start to soften and turn a light brown. The wedges will fall apart but still will be in bigger pieces than if you cut slices. Add vinegar and 3/4 -1 cup water, bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer till onion is really tender. Add maple syrup, rosemary, thyme and salt and pepper. Cook until liquid is syrupy but there will still be onion pieces present, maybe 5 minutes.

Take your cooled crust and scatter the cheese over the bottom, top with the spinach. Whisk the sour cream, the cream and the 4 eggs in a medium bowl, season with salt and pepper. Pour over spinach…it does fit. I was at first unsure and only used three eggs and then realized I needed the fourth. Add the onion mixture evenly on top.

Bake at 350 till custard is set and golden brown in spots about 40-45 minutes. I put foil on the edges again for part of the time. Cool on wire rack.

a serving of pie

a serving of pie

Because of the sour cream the custard will be very soft, not firm like a straight egg custard, but trust me, it is cooked through and tastes yummy.

For Saturday, official Pi Day, I am planning on making Shepherd’s Pie. That is if I can reserve my spot in the kitchen.

Dinner was Served

It has been a week since Curt and I were shopping and cleaning and prepping for our Foodie Group dinner. But last Saturday did finally arrive. There were a few minor blips like forgetting the salad forks (my husband suddenly turned into Emily Post as the salad was served) and not spreading the vegetables out on the dinner plates (that remaining empty area next to the potatoes looked like we missed something). But everything tasted good and there was a lot of lively conservation and laughter, so I think it was a success.

We got so caught up in the cooking and plating and serving that I didn’t take any pictures but here is my table setting. It was fun having the dinner on Valentine’s Day.

tableAnd I know I was being coy about the menu last week but now that all is finished, this is what was served.

UntitledThe salad was very good, the potatoes were interesting, the carrots and beets could have been more attractive though they tasted good, the meat was fine but not special and maybe a little overdone. I could have had a 2nd and a 3rd of dessert but restrained myself. But in my opinion, the star of the evening was the chowder. Curt based the chowder on an escargot/mushroom appetizer he had at Le Petit Chatelet when we were in Paris. This restaurant is right next to the famous “Shakespeare and Company Bookstore.” You can get a glimpse of it in the last seconds of Woody Allen’s movie, “Midnight in Paris.”

credit: Paris for Epicureans, 2014

credit: Paris for Epicureans, 2014

In Paris, Curt’s soup/chowder appetizer arrived with a puff pastry on top and was quite amazing.  Hidden under the puff pastry crust was a rich escargot and mushroom chowder.

Escargot en Croute: le Petit Chatelet, Paris

Escargot en Croute: le Petit Chatelet, Paris

We tried doing the puff pastry top but that was pretty much a failure so our version had puff pastry croutons instead. And since snails are not a widely shared taste treat in our group, Curt used side-stripe shrimp and sea scallops instead. It was truly wonderful. Sorry about the lack of photo but here is the recipe we served.

Seafood & Wild Mushroom Chowder after le Petit Chatelet
serves 6

1 quart corn stock
Mushrooms: 1/2 c. Chanterelle, 1/4 c. Morel,
3/4 c. Chicken of the Woods, 3/4 c. Brown Beech  – all cut into bite-sized pieces
1 large shallot, minced
4 large sea scallops, quartered
12 small shrimp, we used side stripe
1 c. heavy cream
3 c. seafood stock (Swanson’s or homemade)
white pepper
salt
saffron, pinch
2 T. flour
2 T. olive oil
2 T. butter
1 dash hot pepper sauce, like Frank’s

Saute chanterelles in 2 T olive oil till tender, add 2 T. flour and cook to make roux. Add 1 T. butter & remaining mushrooms and saffron.  Cook I minute, stirring. Add corn & seafood stock. Stir to incorporate roux. Simmer 20 minutes. (to this point all can be done ahead)

Add scallops, shrimp & hot pepper sauce, cook 5 minutes.
Add cream & 1 T. butter, bring to a light simmer.

Serve with puff pastry croutons & a drizzle of shellfish oil.

For croutons, just buy a commercial puff pastry. Cut dough into 3/4 inch squares and bake according to directions on the box.

Shellfish oil is made by combining a pile of shrimp, lobster. or crab shells in a sauce pan with 1/2 C. grape seed or canola oil, 1Tbs. tomato paste and 1/2 tsp. of smoked paprika.  Saute for 10 minutes.  Remove from heat and let sit until cool.  Strain out the shell bits and reserve the oil for garnish on chowder or soup.

Note: We had corn stock that we made at the end of last summer from fresh corn cobs after we cut off the corn kernels for freezing.

Hope your Valentine’s Day was as fun as ours.