Thursday, December 10, 2015

French Scallops with Chestnuts and Apple Cider Sauce

            Since I’ve had the knee surgery I’ve been spending a lot of time sitting with it elevated, often with an ice pack on it.  I’m starting to seriously miss my pots and pans and wooden spoons.  I’d found a recipe that sounded interesting and was quick and easy.  I sent my hubby to the Paradise Seafood truck for scallops and called Bryson and Laretha Randolph to come share it. 

If you’ve read my blog and my columns in the Commercial Appeal, you may remember that Laretha and I have done a lot of cooking together in the past, resulting in many good dishes to share with you.  When I told her what I wanted to try her comment was “That sounds weird.” 

I’d found the recipe in a French culinary magazine, Cuisines et Vins de France.  I have a subscription and love it.  The good thing about this recipe is that you can cut the apples, then rest a bit. Make the apple juice sauce then rest a bit.  Sauté the chestnuts, then rest a bit. 

When you’re ready to eat, just sauté the scallops, heat up the sauce in the sauté pan and put it all together.  At first, we just used a few of the apple sticks to garnish, but when we tasted it we realized that the tartness and crunch of the apple was an important part of the appeal of the dish, so use the whole apple for four servings.

American apple cider vinegar is sharper and less apple-y than French cider vinegar.  I was out of the French style and I haven’t found it anywhere in Memphis now that Mantia’s is gone.  I used sherry wine vinegar. You can order Delouis French apple cider vinegar on Amazon.  It’s worth it! If I make this again before mine comes in, I’ll use one tablespoon of the sherry wine vinegar and one of American cider vinegar. 

I’m not going to give you the whole “dry” versus “processed” scallop lecture.  If you’ve forgotten it, you can find ithere. 

You can buy the cooked chestnuts in jars at Fresh Market, Whole Foods, the Williams-Sonoma outlet and some supermarkets.  I always buy whatever is left on sale at the end of the season because I love to use them in other dishes.  One of my favorites is a chestnut-scallop soup. And just recently with Ana Miller, I made an absolutely fabulous Portuguese chestnut torte.  Try them all…but try this one first!!

Saint-Jacques Rôties aux Châtaignes et
Pommes Granny-Smith
(Scallops with Chestnuts and Granny Smith Apples)

 Half a large lemon
1 Granny Smith apple
2 tablespoons sugar
1 ½ cups apple juice or cider
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons butter (plus one tablespoon more if needed)
1 jar cooked chestnuts (12-15 ounces)
1 ½ pounds dry scallops

          Squeeze the juice from half a lemon into a medium sized bowl of chilled water.  Rinse and dry the apple.  Cut it in half from stem to blossom end.  Remove the core and cut into thin sticks, dropping them into the lemon water as you work.  Set aside.

          Sprinkle the sugar over the bottom of a small pan.  Place over medium heat and cook without stirring until the sugar is medium dark brown.  Remove from the fire and pour in the apple juice (caution: it will splatter!) and vinegar.  Place over medium heat and cook, stirring frequently, until the caramelized sugar melts into the sauce.  Set aside.

          In a skillet, over medium heat, melt half the butter.  Add the chestnuts and stir until they start to get a little crispy on the outside and are warmed through.  Set aside.

          When ready to serve, in another large skillet melt the rest of the butter over medium-high heat. Pat the scallops with a paper towel to remove any liquid on the outside.  Add the scallops, in batches if necessary to keep from crowding.  Cook until the bottom is nicely browned. Turn and cook a couple of minutes more, until barely cooked through.  Better to undercook than to overcook!  Remove to a warmed bowl, tent with foil and set aside. If doing in two batches, you might need to add the extra tablespoon of butter to the pan.

          Pour the sauce into the scallop pan and bring to a simmer, scraping the bottom with a wooden spoon to dissolve any browned bits.  Add the chestnuts with any butter or liquid in the pan.  Stir constantly until everything is heated through. 

          Divide the chestnuts among four flat soup bowls.  Nestle the scallops in among the chestnuts.  Ladle the sauce over the top and garnish with the apple sticks.  Serve immediately.  Serves four.


Thursday, December 03, 2015

"Pig Candy," Because...Bacon!!

You probably know that I’m in the middle of recovering from knee surgery.  I’m feeling pretty good, but get tired very easily, so I’ve missed my pots and pans and wooden spoons.

         At physical therapy on Monday Zach, my therapist, was talking to a colleague about brown sugar bacon.  I told them it was called pig candy, that I had made it several times, and that I’d bring them a recipe.  I did more than that. Today I made it and took some to them.  I’m their new favorite patient, I’m pretty sure.

The first time I had this was at least five years ago. My son, Christopher, lives in Massachusetts, and every summer he has a “Bacon-Beer Fest.” The rules are that you must bring something made with bacon, and a six-pack of beer to share that you haven’t had before.  I don’t remember who brought it, and it wasn’t exactly this recipe, but it disappeared in a heartbeat.

There are many versions. I’ve been making it this way for a couple of years and like the combination of flavors.  Other versions call for tongue tinglers other than the creole seasoning I use:  black pepper, cayenne, ginger, to name a few.  And as I write I bet hot Spanish smoked paprika would be fabulous. I’m going try that next time.   

         Once made, it’s at its best eaten within a few hours.  You can refrigerate it, and it will still be delicious, but it will soften up some.

         Leftovers (Ha! Who am I kidding? Leftovers?) are great chopped and sprinkled on a salad. Or sprinkled on baked sweet potatoes or roasted Brussels sprouts. I have a friend who said she’d chopped hers finely and put into deviled eggs.  


“Pig Candy” New Orleans Style

½ cup dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon dry mustard powder
1 teaspoon creole seasoning, like Tony Chachere’s
1/2 pound thick cut smoked bacon (I like Wright’s)

         Preheat oven to 350o.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and place a cooling rack on top.  Spray heavily with cooking spray.

         In a plastic bag place the brown sugar, mustard powder and creole seasoning and mix well.  Drop the bacon in one slice at a time and toss.  Take it out and make sure there aren’t any bare spots on either side.  If so, pat a bit of brown sugar on it and place on the rack.  Don’t let the bacon strips touch.

         Bake on the top rack of the oven for about 20 minutes.  Then watch pretty carefully until the bacon is done and just crisp but not too brown. In my oven, with the Wright’s bacon I use, it takes 25-27 minutes.

         Remove the pan from the oven and let cool briefly.  Then remove the bacon carefully to a surface lined with parchment or waxed paper.  While still slightly warm, use cooking shears to cut each slice into four or five pieces.  And hide them from yourself until the guests get there!

Friday, October 23, 2015

A Portuguese Dessert for the Season!


Back in the summer, when we were in Portugal, I picked up a couple of cooking magazines.  I’m sure that doesn’t surprise anyone who knows me.  But although I can cook out of French (of course), Italian and Spanish magazines and cookbooks, Portuguese had me stumped.

But I had a source to help me.  Ana Miller, the wife of our church pastor, is from Brazil, where the language spoken is….Portuguese!  She translated several recipes for me at my request, and this week, she, Pastor Will and their daughter came with a few friends so that I could test them.

Everything turned out well, but the dessert was a total treat.  Rich, yes, but this recipe would easily serve twelve. 

I used a jar of roasted chestnuts.  It’s the season; starting around now you can find them at Fresh Market, Whole Foods, Williams-Sonoma and some supermarkets.  At the end of the season every year I buy up all I can find at half price because I have lots of ways to use them: chestnut ravioli, chestnut stuffed onions, or a chestnut scallop soup. 

I made the dessert in the morning before the dinner, but the next day the leftovers were still perfect, so you can easily make this a day in advance.

If the recipe isn’t rich enough, or sweet enough, you can add a dollop whipped cream, but really, I don’t think you’ll need it!


(Portuguese Chestnut Torte)

 For the base:
4 egg yolks plus one large egg
½ cup sugar
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
Butter and flour for the pan

For the filling:
3 envelopes unflavored gelatin
1 12-oz jar cooked chestnuts (see note)
1 can sweetened condensed milk
2 cups heavy whipping cream
¼ tsp salt
1/3 cup ruby port (or dark rum)
Powdered sugar and cocoa powder to sprinkle

Preheat the oven to 350 o.  Butter a 10-inch spring-form pan.  Dust with flour, shaking out the excess. 

In a bowl, beat the egg yolks briefly with an electric mixer.  Gradually add the sugar and beat on medium-high speed until creamy and lightened, about five minutes. Gradually add the sifted cocoa powder and beat until well mixed, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed.  Pour into the prepared pan and bake for a about 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Let cool, then remove from the pan and reserve.  Wash the pan and butter the inside.  Cut a piece of parchment or waxed paper to fit inside the base.  Place the cooled base back into the pan.

Wash the mixer beaters and place with a large bowl into the freezer to chill (this makes the cream whip faster). 

Put about ¼ cup of water into a wide flat bowl.  Sprinkle the gelatin slowly over the top.  All the gelatin should be moistened.  If the top isn’t, sprinkle with additional water until it is.  Set aside. 

Reserve four chestnuts and put the rest into a food processor with the condensed milk.  Process until completely mixed and pretty smooth. 

Scrape the gelatin into a small pan with the port.  Warm over low heat just until the gelatin is melted.  Pour into the chestnut mixture and blend well. 

In the chilled bowl with the chilled beaters, whip the cream until stiff peaks form.  Fold the chestnut mixture into the cream just until there are no streaks.  Pour onto the cake base in the pan.  Cover and chill until completely set, 4 to 6 hours.

To serve, remove the sides.  Dust first with powdered sugar, then lightly with cocoa powder.  Coarsely chop the reserved chestnuts and spinkle in a circle about halfway from the center to the edge. 

NOTE:  If you prefer to use fresh chestnuts, start with about 1 ¼ pounds. Cut an X on the flat side of each.   Cook in lightly salted water until soft, 8 to 10 minutes.  Let cool, then remove the shells and skin.  Proceed as above.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

A refreshing cocktail for the end of summer!

I have spoken many times in the past of my wine dinner club that meets monthly.  This past Saturday, we met at the home of Jerry and Jeanene Feinstone.  The hostess sets the theme, and this month it was “End of the Summer Produce.”   It was my turn to bring the opening cocktail. 
I have made this a few times since it was in the article I wrote for “A Cookout for 10 for $100,” and loved it every time.  The watermelon I used was one of those cute seedless ones, about 12” in diameter. 
There were 10 of us at the dinner.  This quantity offered refills for anyone who wanted them, and I think everyone accepted the offer.  And there was still a cup or so left over.
This is very refreshing with the watermelon and the lime juice.  Once you’ve made and chilled it, taste.  Depending on the ripeness and sweetness of the watermelon, you might need a touch more simple syrup, or a little more lime juice. 

Watermelon Daiquiri
1 medium seedless watermelon
1 cup fresh lime juice
1 cup simple syrup
3 cups light rum
2 limes, each cut into six wedges
 Before juicing the watermelon, use a melon baller to make a dozen or so melon balls from the heart of the melon. Alternately, cut a dozen 1” chunks. Juice the watermelon as above. You should have at least ten cups juice. Place in a refrigerator container.  As you squeeze the lime juice, add the squeezed halves (wash the limes before squeezing) to the container.  Add the lime juice and simple syrup.  Stir in the rum and chill well.
 When ready to serve, shake the daiquiris with ice in a cocktail shaker. Strain into ice filled glasses. Add a cocktail pick with a melon ball and a lime wedge on it to each drink.  Makes about 12 servings.          
 NOTE: For simple syrup, put one cup sugar and one cup water in a saucepan. Bring to a simmer and stir until sugar has dissolved. Let cool before using.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Easy, tasty Basque Pinxto!


      We recently returned from a five week trip to Spain and Portugal.  One of the aspects of Spanish food we loved was the tapas (in most of Spain) or pinxtos (as they call them in the Basque area).  They varied greatly from region to region. 
       But in most regions, there was some version of a stuffed piquillo pepper.  They are widely available--I got several jars on sale for $2.49 at my local Kroger store. This is a particularly easy version, a pinxto, since we had it in San Sebastian, in the heart of the Basque region.  And wow!! is it good!
     No recipe.  Preheat your oven to 425. Line a baking sheet with parchment and spray or brush lightly with olive oil.  Drain the peppers and pat them dry.  Cut a good full-flavored Brie into strips abour 1/4" thick.  Put each most of the way into a piquillo.   Arrange them on the baking sheet and bake until the cheese is just soft.  Place on untoasted slices of baguette, drizzle with apricot preserves and sprinkle with slivered fresh basil.
     That's it.  I served it to our church connection group and there were lots of licked fingers but not a single crumb of any of the dish left on plates.
      I'm thinking it might not make such a bad brunch dish, the stuffed pepper atop a slice of baguette "French-toasted," perhaps with a bit more preserves than I put on the appetizer serving. 
       Either way, trust're gonna love it!!

Monday, June 29, 2015

Terrific Spanish Tuna!

You may know that we've very recently returned from an extended vacation (five weeks) in Spain and Portugal.  We had a lovely time and ate some great food.  We were in a number of different culinary regions but there was one constant: the ensalada mixte. 
It is a plate of lettuce--sometimes mixed greens, sometimes straight iceberg or romaine--topped with any number of goodies: roasted beets, cucumber, tomato, red or white onion, pickled or lightly cooked carrots, and more.  The one constant was a quartered hard-cooked egg, and a lot of very tasty tuna.

The photos here are two sides of the same salad. It was one of the best we'd had, and I asked about the tuna, which didn't taste like our normal canned tuna.  I was told it is bonito, line caught and hand packed.  I checked in a grocery and it is about 4€ a jar.  I fully intended to get some...but let it slip and didn't. So sorry!!

A blast from Mantia's past: Fish Tacos!

       It is hugely gratifying to know that even though Mantia’s has been closed for over five years, there are folks who still remember it warmly.  Not so long ago, I ran into one of our most loyal guests. She lamented the loss of the fish tacos we served every Wednesday. And shortly afterwards, along came another with the same sentiments.  Then just recently, I got an email from a third, wanting to know if I’d ever given out the fish taco recipe. No, I hadn’t, but why not now?
               Our menu listed it as “Grilled Fish Tacos with Piña Colada Cole Slaw, Sliced Roma Tomato and Chipotle Aioli.”  We used soft flour tortillas at Mantia’s, but I like the crunchy corn ones. Either way, use the taco-sized tortillas (6- or 7-inch) rather than bigger burrito or quesadilla size.  They are easier to eat without getting too messy.
               We made the aioli using pureed canned chipotle chiles.  However, one can, even the small size, would make enough aioli for the whole neighborhood.  Now I use chipotle Tabasco sauce instead when making these at home.  If you want to use canned chipotles, you can freeze the leftover chiles in an ice cube tray.  You might find that you like the aioli well enough to use on sandwiches and, thinned with a little white wine vinegar, as a salad dressing.
               The cole slaw dressing recipe makes enough for four bags of cole slaw mix. Any remaining dressing will keep for weeks in the fridge.  This slaw is good served with almost any kind of BBQ flavored grilled meat, or try it instead of plain mayonnaise in chicken salad.
               We used tilapia filets, which are tasty, and are thin enough to cook quickly without drying out.  But it’s a farm-raised fish, and I’ve gotten a little wary of most farm-raised fish.  I went to see Ted the Fish Man at the Paradise Seafood Truck and he recommended grouper.  I cut the filets into ½-inch thick slices and it was perfect. 
               With football season here, this is a great dish to serve at half-time for hungry fans of your favorite team.  You can make the cole slaw and aioli earlier.  Then you can cook the fish filets quickly by your preferred method.  Easiest for a crowd would be to run them under the broiler.  The best flavor would come from cooking the filets in a grill basket over medium heat, but if it’s too hot or too cold or too wet to fire up the grill, I would cook them in a skillet or on a stove-top griddle. 

Mantia’s Fish Tacos
Servings: 8 tacos

Cole Slaw:

1 8.5-ounce cream of coconut (found in the drink mixer aisle)
1 6- to 7-ounce can crushed pineapple, undrained
1 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 14-ounce bag cole slaw mix (the kind with carrots in it)

Chipotle Aioli:
¾ cup mayonnaise
Juice and finely grated zest on one lemon
1 to 2 tablespoons chipotle Tabasco, or to taste (see note)

To finish:
1 ¼ pound firm mild-flavored white fish filet, no more than ½-inch thick
2 to 3 tablespoons packaged taco seasoning
8 taco-sized corn or flour tortilla
2 ripe Roma tomatoes, sliced
1 bunch cilantro, leaves removed from stems

1. Make the cole slaw. In a blender or food processor, combine the cream of coconut, pineapple, mayonnaise and mustard.  Puree until smooth.  Mix one-fourth of the dressing with the bag of cole slaw mix. Mix well and chill for at least an hour. Reserve the rest of the dressing for another time.

2.  Make the chipotle aioli: whisk together the mayonnaise, lemon juice and zest and chipotle Tabasco (or pureed chipotle chiles).  Chill at least an hour.

3.  When ready to serve, dust the fish filets with the taco seasoning.  Cook by your preferred method. Spread a heaping tablespoon of the aioli on the tortilla or taco shell.  Add the fish and top with cole slaw. Tuck in a slice or two of tomato.  Serve immediately, passing the cilantro for each person to add to taste.

NOTE:  If you prefer to use pureed canned chipotle chiles in the aioli, start with two teaspoons and add more to taste.



Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Another great meal--well earned!

     Today was our first full day in Porto, Portugal.  It was a long and physically challenging but most enjoyable day.  We had a little laundry that needed to be done so we got sort of a late start, after our breakfast of coffee and very amusing pastries from the bakery around the corner from our apartment. Sorry, we ate them all up before I thought about taking pictures

We started out by a tour of the local market, and I’ll post more about that later.  Then a walk down the prime shopping street and to a couple of churches and other landmarks that Tom will talk about on Facebook.  We wanted to have lunch at the restaurant of the Taylor-Fladgate port cellar, Barao de Fladgate which was very highly recommended.  But it turned out to be quite a trek on foot.  On this view, if you look very carefully, to the right of the tallest tower, you will see two small rectangular towers.  These are the steeples of one church we walked past.

Then down toward the long bridge you see in the background, and across it. 
Up the hill and along the avenue at the top of the hill.  Then we wound our way around and up and down. 
You may not be able to see how steep this hill is that Tom made me climb, but at least then we had to go down the other side. 
By the time we got there we were both ready for a seat on the terrace.  It was a bit windy but pleasant enough.
As we were seated, the server placed tastings of white port, olives, bread and butter on the table.  This wasn’t our first rodeo, so we knew we’d be charged for them, but it was pleasant to sit out and nibble, and in the whole scheme of things…
The menu had way too many things I liked but we narrowed it down. Tom had fish soup, which was light and only a bit creamy, with herbed toast cubes to add to it. 
 I chose a chilled melon soup, with “Iberian ham dust” and rosemary.  It was thin but certainly almost all melon, with the addition of a crispy slice of Iberian ham added.
The main course took quite a while to arrive, but we were chatting, admiring the scenery and in no hurry.
Tom’s main course was “Deconstructed Cataplana.”  A cataplana is a piece of copper cookware, a sort of clam shell thing with clamps to close the sides to steam seafood (or whatever). He had several mussels, a couple of head-on langoustines, a few shrimp, big chunks of two different fish, all in a very tasty sauce with a good bit of tomato, a tiny bit of cream, and a very pleasing amount of spice.
My main course was turbot, a fish I love.  Several nice slices were seared and set atop a wonderful sauce (I must try to make it myself) of chives, white port wine reduction, ginger and balsamic vinegar.  Oh yum.  It came with a square of dauphine potatoes and sautéed baby zucchini and corn. 
          Desserts were tempting but we were getting chilly in the wind, so we went in to sign up for the cellar tour and tasting.

You probably won’t be surprised to learn that after the tour and tasting, we took a cab back to the apartment for our afternoon hour or so of rest!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Easy and delicious crab rolls!

I've written many times about the "Third Saturday Wine Dinner Club."  This weekend we met at the home of Mary and Joel Smith.  April is our anniversary date, and we are now marking the beginning of our eighth year, missing very few months along the way.

 As a reminder, the host couple sets the theme and makes the main course.  Last month's host brings a cocktail and the other three couples sign up for either first appetizer, seated first course and dessert. 

The theme was "Like a Virgin."  We were to make a recipe we'd never made before, and bring a wine we'd never tasted.  I chose to make the seated first course.  After lots of looking through torn-out recipes and stacks of cookbooks, I chose a recipe from the magazine "Cuisine et Vins de France."  It was a cucumber-crab roll.  While a bit pricey, it was fast to make and pronounced delicious by all.

 I bought fresh jumbo lump crab from Paradise Seafood.  The recipe as published calls for 10.5 ounces (300 grams) for four servings, but I was making 10 servings.  I got two pounds of crabmeat, so we'll have crab cakes for dinner tomorrow!

 Although the recipe didn't call for it, I had a bag of the mini-peppers I love to stuff with hummus or Boursin for appetizers.  I diced one red one and sautéed with the shallots. It was a felicitous addition.

 The magazine says to use a mandolin or very sharp knife to cut the cucumbers.  Perhaps your knife skills are better than mine but I'm not sure I could have cut them thinly enough for this recipe.  Salting and letting them sit for a while makes them more pliable but the first couple I did on a thicker setting would have been difficult to roll.

 The recipe doesn't call for it but I put a handful of arugula on the plate and topped it with the crab rolls. 

The whole procedure for 20 rolls took well under an hour, and since it must be done at least a couple of hours ahead, it's perfect for special guests.  You know how I hate to be stuck in the kitchen when my guests are in the living room eating appetizers and having a good time without me! 

Rouleaux de concombre au crabe

(Crab Cucumber Roll-Ups)

To serve four people (two rolls each)

2 cucumbers
12 ounces lump crabmeat (fresh, frozen, or canned)
1 package fresh chives
2 shallots (to equal about 2 tablespoons chopped, sometimes
         the shallots in our markets are enormous)
¼ cup finely chopped red bell pepper
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Juice and finely grated zest of one orange
4 tablespoons good fruity olive oil
1 large pinch ground ginger
1 large pinch sweet (as in not hot) smoked paprika
Salt and pepper


2 tablespoons honey
6 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame seeds, lightly toasted

Wash the cucumbers. With a mandolin or very sharp knife, cut the unpeeled cucumbers into very thin lengthwise slices.  Discard the first and last ones, from the outside and if there are a lot of seeds, the very center ones as well.  You should have about 8 slices from each cucumber. Lay the slices out on paper towels and sprinkle lightly with fine salt and let set while preparing the filling.

Drain the crab in a strainer. With scissors, cut the chives crosswise into small pieces and set aside.  Peel and chop the shallots. Heat the butter in a skillet and cook the shallots for 6 to 8 minutes, or until tender. Let cool. 

In a bowl, whisk the orange juice and olive oil together.  Mix in the reserved chives, shallots, crab, ginger and paprika.  Toss to combine well. 

 Pat the cucumber slices dry.  On your work surface lay them out two by two, overlapping.  Divide the crab mixture among them, placing each portion at one short end of the slices.  Roll up, place seam side down, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least two hours. 

When ready to serve, at the last moment, slightly warm the honey, soy sauce together.  Place the rolls on a serving platter or divide among four individual plates and drizzle the sauce over them. Sprinkle with the sesame seeds and serve at once.