About Me

I have been cooking my way through life for over 50 years, beginning with mud pies as a child. I've turned a corner now and feel a Renaissance in my life. Recipes and Random Thoughts is my personal spin in a blog about how to prepare good food and how it prepares you for life. I want to share with you, honest to goodness food punctuated with perspective from the special memories and moments that have marked my journey.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

New Year's French Scrambled Eggs with Caviar

Eggs are the best way to experience caviar and caviar goes with champagne and champagne goes with New Year's.  I think it's a grand idea to ring in the New Year at midnight with something to soften the effects of a bottle of champagne and salute the wee hours of unknown history with the indulgence of caviar. It's either the end of the world or a brave new world we are about to face and I prefer to face either with champagne and caviar.  So just after midnight and the kissing and so forth has subsided, I whip up this sublime French version of scrambled eggs for a cozy group of bon amis before we all crash.  The French provoke the eggs to curdle with gentle steam and enrichment of either cream or milk and, of course, butter, to produce a delicate, silky version of  the mundane most are familiar with.  Anointed with caviar and creme fraiche it's a warm way to welcome whatever is coming our way at dawn.  Happy New Year!

Consider two eggs per person

8 eggs at room temperature
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup milk
2 tsp butter, cut into teaspoon size

Creme fraiche and caviar for serving

 Over a double boiler,  heat the milk until just scalding. Do not allow the mild to touch the water. Cook by hot steam.  In a separate bowl beat the eggs, salt and pepper.  Drop in half the butter bits.  Add the rest of the butter bits to the scalded milk and then the egg mixture.  Stir over steam with a spatula constantly  around the edge and bottom until the eggs begin to curdle.  Transfer to a warm plate and garnish with creme fraiche, chive, and your choice of caviar.  Serve immediately with toast points and another glass of champagne if before 2 a.m. or a mimosa if it's after 6 a.m.

Happy New Year and Keep Cooking!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Chicken Liver-Green Peppercorn Pate'

Too many years ago at a summer concert, a friend who was a Cordon Bleu alum pulled out this pate' for us to nibble on as the orchestra warmed up.  I remember it as one of those gastronomic awakenings.  It wasn't bland, gummy chicken livers pureed into paste.  It was a lively, smooth spread marked with the a subtle difference of green pepper corns.  I immediately asked for the recipe and it is my one and only chicken liver pate'.

The apple doesn't fall too far from the tree since I first learned to enjoy pate' as my mother prepared it for a New Year's party back in 1968.  It was quite different from this but the basic elements where there and I was hooked.  When I prepared this version for her she went wild, so it will be part of our Christmas menu.  This pate' breaks out of the mold and adds that bit of spice without being overwhelming.

Take note, that water packed green peppercorns are no longer available (as far as I can tell) but the dried version, soaked in water, produce the same effect.

 5 tsp water packed or dried green peppercorns soaked in 1/2 cup water for 24 hours, then drain.

6 tbls unsalted butter
1/2 cup minced onion
2 garlic cloves minced
1 tsp dried thyme

Melt the butter in a skillet and sautĂ©  onion, garlic, thyme 2 minutes over medium heat.  Turn heat off and set aside.


1/2 cup fresh celery leafs
10 back pepper corns
2 bay leafs
6 cups water

Bring to a boil and reduce to simmer for 10 minutes

Add 1 lb. chicken livers.  Simmer, slightly, 10 minutes and drain.  Discard celery leafs, pepper, and bay leafs.

Combine, cooked chicken livers, butter mixture, 4 tsp. of soaked green pepper corns in a food processor with:

2 tbls cognac
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp all spice
1/4 cup heavy cream

Process until smooth, then add 1 tsp remaining soaked green pepper corns.

Pour into a mold and cover with plastic wrap.  Chill at least 4 hours and leave out 30 minutes before serving.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Best Gingerbread Cookie Dough

I've baked a lot of cookies and made many gingerbread houses over the years and this is a great cookie dough to work with and makes a very tasty cookie that stands on it's own without fancy icing  or just a simple powdered sugar glaze.  This dough is for cookies and not sturdy enough for gingerbread  houses. I found this recipe on Food.com.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Mix in a separate bowl, combine:

3 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbls ground ginger
1 3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves

In a mixer with paddle attachment, combine:

6 tbls room temperature unsalted butter
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 egg at room temperature
1/2  cup molasses
2 tsp vanilla

Add the dry ingredients a little at a time and mix until just absorbed.  Wrap dough in plastic and let rest at room temperature for at least two hours and up to eight or up to four days in the refrigerator.
Divide dough in half and rewrap unused half and return to refrigerator.

Roll out on floured surface with floured rolling pin to 1/4 inch.  Use cookie cutter to cut into shapes.

Bake 7-8 minutes, depending on size of cutter.  Let sit on baking sheet for 1or 2 minutes after removing from oven before cooling on a wire rack.  Cool completely before decorating.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Good Gravy!

Elevate simple to sensational with a couple of ingredients you normally don't indulge in - cream and cognac.  Most cooks use butter on a regular basis but cream is reserved for desserts and holidays. Cognac or brandy; most don't keep on hand but worth the investment for foodies, if not something you drink along with a cigar.

A chicken breast, simply seasoned with salt and pepper, then browned in a mix of butter and olive oil, then finished restaurant style in a 350 degree oven is a fine, preparation for any family meal.  My husband and I enjoy this frequently but it's the holidays and I'm really looking for ways to dress up the basics.  So I served it with this lovely sauce and my husband's said, "Hmm, really good."

Here's the scoop!

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix 1/2 tsp pepper and 2 tsp Kosher salt and season two skin on chicken breasts with ribs (I prefer skin on without ribs, which you or your butcher will have to do).
Brown breasts in 2 tbls butter and 2 tbls olive oil over medium high heat in a heavy skillet.  4-5 minutes per side. Bake for 35-40 minutes.

Remove from the oven to a plate and tent.  Pour off all but 1 tbls fat.  Saute in the pan until juices released (4-5 mins):

1 tbls minced shallot
8 oz.sliced porcini mushrooms


1/2 cup chicken essence or stock
deglaze the pan and bring to a simmer

Add 1/4 cup cream and and heat to simmer. Add 1/4 cup brandy or cognac and heat to simmer stirring frequently and sauce is reduced and slightly thickened.  Correct seasoning.  If you use essence, there is little seasoning to do.

Spoon over chicken and serve immediately.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Coquilles Saint Jacques

This is an elegant, classic first course served in scallop dishes or as a main dish served in individual gratin dishes.  I first encountered Coquilles Saint Jacques at a lovely old inn in my father's home town.  I was about 12 and, once again, introduced to sophisticated dishes not served at home.  It was love at first bite.  It's meant to prepared with scallops and I used bay size. They fit the presentation better than the larger variety.  I happen to keep seafood stock in my freezer but clam juice is an acceptable substitute, better yet, poach the scallops in water, onion, halved whole lemon and pepper corns and bay leaf, then reserve the stock.  Add brandy for the holiday season and rock on.

* see bonus seafood stock at the bottom

4 tbls unsalted butter
1/2 cup minced shallot
2 cloves minced garlic
8 oz sliced mushrooms (your choice)
1/4 cup sliced green onions
1/3  cup all purpose flour
1 tbls curry powder
1 tsp white pepper
1 1/4 cup seafood stock
1/2 cup cream
1/4 cup brandy
salt to taste
1 1/2 cups Panko bread crumbs
1/4 cup fresh chopped flat leaf Italian parsley
1/2 cup grated Gruyere cheese
1/4 cup good olive oil
2 lbs bay scallops

Melt the butter in a large fry pan and add the shallots when the butter foams.  Cook stirring frequently for 2-3 mins then add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds before adding the mushrooms.  Continue to toss the mushrooms, shallots and garlic until the mushrooms release their liquid and are soft.  Add the  green onions, curry, white pepper and combine.  Add flour and combine; cook for 1 minute.  Add the seafood stock slowly and stir until smooth.  Add the cream and bring to simmer.  Add the brandy and salt to taste.  Bring just to the boil and reduce heat.  In the mean time, butter 6 ramekins.  Mix the bread crumbs, chopped parsley and gruyere with the olive oil. Divide the scallops and sauce evenly amongst the ramekins and top with bread crumb mixture.  Arrange on a rimmed baking sheet and place under a preheated broiler for 4-5 mins. Serve immediately.

Seafood Stock

1 lb fish frames and shrimps shells (heads, if you are brave)
1 onion peeled and quartered
1 lemon split in half
10 whole pepper corns'
1 bouquet garni
Cover with 6 cups water cold water.  Make sure ingredients are covered

Bring to a boil and reduce to simmer.  Reduce to 1 quart.  Strain through cheese cloth and cool.  Freeze  up to 6 months.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

High Spirits for the Holidays; Cooking with the "Hard Stuff"

The holidays are the time to bring out the "hard stuff" - alcohol, not red or white wine but the distilled libations that give your recipe a real kick.  I'll never forget popping one of my aunt's bourbon balls as a kid by mistake.  Nobody told me not to and I had to run to the bathroom to spit it out.  I wasn't ready for the "hard stuff".   I was about 8 when my mother worked on Brandied Fruit from Thanksgiving to Christmas.  As the fruit fermented, our kitchen smelled more like a bar than home.  I couldn't understand anyone ruining perfectly good fruit with something that smelled that peculiar.  On Christmas Eve, it was finally ready and served with ice cream and pound cake.  I took a timid sample and, promptly but discretely, spit it into my napkin.  I was always exposed to more sophisticated foods from an early age and, apparently, my parents where not adverse to food prepared with alcohol.  I was never admonished not to taste or try any food, for that matter, I was always encouraged just to sample a bit and have an opinion.

Now, I'm putting bourbon in the pecan pie, rum in the cake and sherry in the creamed turkey and  pulling out the brandy to dress up the sauces.  I usually reserve brandy for coq au vin but I feel like making a silky sauce tonight that is excellent with beef or chicken.  It's the season to make everything extra and over indulge.

Spirits add that touch of elegance that make any holiday dish special so if you are making oysters Rockefeller, buy Pernod; a dessert soufflé,
buy Grand Marnier and be sure to spike the eggnog.  I've recently heard a remarkable recipe for goose marinated in gin!! I'm hoping to make Syllabub this year.  Stay tuned.  My spirits are HIGH for the holidays!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Creamed Turkey with Sherry

This recipe was the post-Thanksgiving dish served when I was growing up so, I decided to give it a whirl tonight as I'm mulling the left-over turkey.  I  thought it was as good as the big roast turkey and the sandwiches that followed the next day.  The trick here, as I've tried to emphasize repeatedly, for any good sauce, is to have homemade stock or "essence" in the freezer.  I always strain and reserve the juices from a cooked chicken and vegetables.  I let the fat rise and chill in a refrigerator, then scrape off the fat and reserve the gelatinous essence in the freezer.  The essence is already seasoned and is far superior to any store bought flavor booster or bouillon.  It's a great kitchen habit and the mark of a superior cook well worth the effort.  Invest in a "fat separator" to assist you and it will set you apart when it come to soups and sauces.  My mother and grandmother added sherry to this sauce to make it "gourmet".  I never think of the left-over turkey as repetitious but an opportunity to keep the holiday going.

2 tbls unsalted butter
1 cups diced onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp fresh minced thyme or 1/2 tsp dried
1 pint sliced mushrooms of choice
2 tbls flour
1 cups chicken stock or essence
1/2 cup half 'n half
2 cups cooked turkey, diced or shredded
2 tbls sherry
salt & pepper to taste

Melt the butter over medium heat in a 10 inch fry pan and saute' the onion for 4-5 minutes, then add the garlic and thyme.  Cook another minute stirring frequently.  Add the mushrooms and cook until their liquid is released and they are soft.  Add flour and combine with vegetables until smooth.  Add stock and stir to make a smooth sauce.Add the half n' half and bring to a simmer.  Add the turkey and sherry.  Heat to simmer, adjust seasoning and serve over cooked brown rice.