A few weeks ago in Paris I sampled a delicious leek and potato soup at a Left Bank restaurant called Les Sellae. Although potato soup cooked with leeks is a classic winter offering in France, the inventive chefs had enhanced their version with contemporary touches by finishing the potage with swirls of Taleggio cream plus sprinkles of crispy speck (an Italian deli meat similar to prosciutto) and fresh dill. I tried recreating the soup with good results in Paris, and once home in New England prepared it again with a few tweaks. As I took sips of this hearty, warming soup, I had a Eureka moment when I realized that it would be perfect to serve for The Super Bowl this coming Sunday!
The soup takes about 45 minutes start to finish, and can be prepared a day ahead. I replaced the speck with prosciutto and sautéed the julienned slices several hours ahead. For the Taleggio cream, I simply melted bits of the tangy Italian cheese in simmering cream at serving time.
To round out the menu, add a salad of mixed greens tossed in a lemon and shallot dressing, a warm crispy baguette, and a bowl of pears, grapes, or apples served with your favorite homemade cookies.
What I love about the French is their willingness to absorb the best of other cuisines—whether specialty dishes or ingredients–into their own culture’s cooking. Today, it’s not uncommon to see lemongrass, yuzu, or burrata featured on Parisian menus. And, the French have their own versions of such all-American favorites as hamburgers, cheesecakes, and crumbles. Creative interpretations of gazpacho and risotto abound as well. In fact, I made my own version of risotto with French accents this past week!
For Winter Risotto with Chanterelles and Pancetta, I sautéed those golden, trumpet-shaped fungi along with brown mushrooms and shallots, then seasoned the mix with fresh rosemary. This risotto, prepared traditionally with arborio rice and simmering stock, took 15 to 20 minutes to cook, but was worth the effort. When done, the sautéed mushrooms Continue reading
Since our arrival in Paris last week, my husband and I have eaten with little attention to calories. We’ve swooned over slices of silken-smooth foie gras and rich, cream-laden soups. We’ve sampled perfectly roasted duck, fork-tender braised lamb, and tried cheeses from every corner of France. And, we’ve finished meals with decadent desserts, including the French New Year’s favorite, gâteau des rois (the kings’ cake). After these indulgences, we needed to change to lighter fare, if only briefly! So, inspired by the many green grocers on our street, I made a bountiful main course salad served with pan-seared salmon fillets.
For the salad I chose a trio of bitter greens, including radicchio, frisée, and Belgian endive, and balanced them with some milder mixed lettuces. Slices from a juicy pear added a Continue reading
Although I am not hosting Christmas dinner this year, I am helping cook it with my son, who has decided that herb-rubbed and roasted beef tenderloin served with creamy mashed potatoes and root vegetables will anchor the menu. We haven’t discussed desserts yet, but I know what I am going to suggest– a scrumptious hazelnut and coffee tart that can be baked a day ahead. And, it is also easily transportable by car.
I first sampled this special tart a few weeks ago when my friend, Sigi Schutz, served it at a dinner. One bite and I was smitten. Of course, I asked for the recipe, and was surprised to learn how simple it was to prepare. She didn’t specify ingredients for the crust so I used a favorite dough of mine, first baking it blind (without the filling) as she directed. For the filling, Continue reading
The week before Thanksgiving my husband and I hosted our annual dinner for his freshman class at Amherst College. This year along with worrying about getting food cooked for fifteen, I was also concerned about the weather. Forecasters were predicting a hearty snowfall for the night of our party. Since we live two miles from campus, we were keeping our fingers crossed that the storm would start later than expected.
Luck went our way with the students arriving around 6, and no snow in sight. For appetizers I had set out a wheel of Camembert, halved and stuffed with chopped Medjool dates, dried apricots, and toasted walnuts, all scented with orange zest. Toasted baguettes slices and apple wedges made fine canvases for the stuffed cheese. A big dish of rigatoni baked with a spicy tomato sauce, a salad of mixed greens and shaved fennel tossed with lemon and olive oil, and a basket of warm artisan breads followed. Still, no snow.
But when the desserts–pumpkin brownies served with vanilla ice cream and caramel Continue reading
Although our family savors every morsel of our annual Thanksgiving feast, they look just as forward to the days after, when we indulge in turkey sandwiches prepared with the leftover bird. Over the years we’ve tried quite a few combinations—classic hot turkey combos composed of mounds of turkey set atop toasted bread, all topped with pan gravy. Other times we’ve assembled Dagwood-style turkey clubs, and also sampled turkey and cranberry panini. Two more favorites—Turkey Reubens and Turkey Salad Sandwiches with Fennel and Walnuts on Whole Wheat—are featured here today.
I’ve posted the recipe for the Reubens on more than one occasion on this blog. The idea is simple—roast turkey replaces traditional pastrani in this version. You spread sourdough or rye slices with a dressing prepared with purchased mayo and chili sauce, then add sliced Gruyère, sliced turkey, and purchased sauerkraut. To finish, you sauté the sandwiches in butter and oil until hot and golden brown, then serve them warm garnished with kosher dills and potato chips.
For the other, leftover turkey is diced, then combined with chopped fennel, walnuts, and Continue reading
Like most cooks, I always include a pumpkin dessert at our family’s Thanksgiving celebration, but often it’s not a traditional pumpkin pie. In years past, I’ve prepared frozen pumpkin mousse parfaits, whipped cream-filled pumpkin roulade, pumpkin brownies, and dense pumpkin spice cake as finales for this holiday meal. This year, though, I’ve decided on pumpkin pots de crème with a pecan toffee crunch topping, a recipe I created more than a decade ago.
These pots de crème take only a few minutes to assemble, and about 40 minutes of unattended time in the oven. A simple custard mixture made with purchased pumpkin puree, aromatic spices, and a good splash of bourbon, is ladled into individual ramekins, which are placed in a water bath to bake until set.
The garnishes, however, truly distinguish this dessert. Chopped toasted pecans combined with toffee bits are sprinkled over the silky, smooth custards while warm. Then they are chilled and topped with dollops of whipped cream.
Beside their delicious pumpkin taste, these pots de crème have several other advantages for cooks. They can be prepared two days ahead and kept refrigerated until needed. (You’ll just need to top each one with whipped cream at the last minute.) Plus, a single recipe yields twelve servings, enough for a crowd. So, keep these scrumptious creations in mind when you plan your menu for November 22th.
Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!
Fall has been slow to arrive in New England this year. Throughout September there were many days when temperatures reached the 80s and 90s, and the air conditioning was kept running. My cooking—which included grilled dishes and plenty of salads–was more redolent of summer than autumn. Finally, this past week the weather turned brisk and chilly, signaling the arrival of the new season and the time for me to change my menus. Along with roasting rather than grilling meats, I’ve been making hearty soups like the creamy cauliflower soup featured here today.
When we invited good friends for a kitchen dinner last weekend, I offered, as a first course, bowls of this smooth, ivory-hued potage topped with sautéed cauliflower florets and sprinkled with toasted bread crumbs and parsley. (The fall theme was continued with roast , Continue reading
.Across the ocean in London, where my husband and I spent this past week, fall apples had starring roles on restaurant menus and were featured in food magazines as well. At Tom’s Kitchen, in Chelsea, I ordered a creamy, smooth chicken liver mousse served with a deep golden applesauce and a sprinkle of crunchy granola. At Elystan Street, another restaurant near by, an apple and Damson plum crumble caught my eye. Then in the British food magazine, Olive, I spotted roast rack of pork paired with apple/horseradish sauce and a toffee apple cheesecake. So, when I returned home, apples were on my mind, and I knew exactly what I wanted to cook—sautéed chicken cutlets and apple wedges served with a fresh cider sauce.
The recipe is simplicity itself. Apple wedges, with their skins left on, are cooked in a little Continue reading
When I was a young, beginning cook (several decades ago!) one of my first kitchen triumphs was learning how to make a Sachertorte—a celebrated Viennese chocolate torte with an apricot filling, coated with a rich chocolate glaze. Recently the memory of this cake served as inspiration for a new recipe. If the pairing of chocolate and apricot was so successful in a cake, why not try it in a tart, I reasoned! It took several tries and quite a few hours in the kitchen to work out the details, but eventually I pulled a glorious shinny dark chocolate and apricot tart from the oven.
The crust, made with butter and cream and no water, is rich and bakes to a light golden brown. It will take a little extra time as the pastry crust gets baked first with foil and beans, and again without the beans, and once more with a thin layer of apricot preserves spread over the bottom of the tart. Once the crust is pre-baked more apricot preserves are Continue reading