Archive for the ‘Holiday’ Category

After the new year, I got a hankering to make a lobster bisque which is something I have never tackled before. The extent of my lobster experience (other than eating it) has been my grandfather’s annual “Lobster Fest” birthday celebration.  The tradition, started by our New Englander Uncle Bob, began with a birthday dinner one year for granddaddy who loved his “lobsta” so much that it became an annual family tradition. Aunt Mary Anne and Uncle Bob hosted dozens of guests, bringing in live lobsters and clams from Maine. The precious seafood was served up hot and fresh on top of newspapers with plenty of warm, drawn lemon butter.

Maine Lobster

I looked to the beloved Julia Child for a lobster bisque recipe and unfortunately, couldn’t find it in my cookbook.  I did, however, find a simple and elegant lobster stew recipe.  Oh such richness!  If you are like me and don’t like to spend Valentine’s Day out in restaurants fighting crowds for bad service and mediocre food, this could be a great entrée to make at home.

Lobster Stew
Adapted from Julia Child’s “The Way to Cook”
2 cooked 2-pound lobsters, females if possible, with their tomalley and roe (about 2 cups of lobster meat)
12 Tbs butter
1 ½ Tbs minced shallots or scallions
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
A big pinch of fresh, chopped tarragon
½ to 2/3 cup or more of heavy cream
1 tsp or so of tomato paste (if needed for color)
5 ½ cups half-and-half or light cream

Julia gives a couple of helpful tips about lobsters.  First, she recommends female lobsters so that you can make use of the roe for coloring and flavor.  It’s the roe that provides the pinkish color in soups and stews.  Second, Julia says that steaming lobsters is better than boiling.  She recommends steaming the lobsters for about 10 minutes or so.  A good test to check for doneness is to grab a small leg and taste the meat.  If the leg meat is done, the lobster is done.  Take the lobsters out and let them cool. Shell them, and cut 6 thin slices of tail or claw, cover, and refrigerate for final decoration.  Cut the remaining meat into bite-size pieces, and set aside.  Push the roe, if you have it, and the tomalley (the green stuff) through a sieve, and reserve

Melt 4 tablespoons of the butter in the frying pan, stir in the sieved tomalley and roe, and sauté slowly over moderately low heat for 5 minutes – it will turn a beige-pink; beige only if you have no roe.

Fold in the lobster meat and shallots or scallions, season lightly with salt, pepper, and tarragon, and fold in the remaining tablespoons of butter.  Continue the slow sauté another 5 minutes or so, gently folding the lobster in the butter as the roe gradually turns the meat a salmony pink.  Let this cool to tepid.

Meanwhile, heat the cream to tepid – the same temperature as the lobster meat.  Then, by small dribbles as though making mayonnaise, begin ladling the cream into the lobster meat, folding gently and continually while the cream absorbs the butter and takes on a pale lobster hue.  (You should blend in a little tomato paste here if needed for color – i.e., if you do not have female lobsters.) Season to taste with salt and pepper, and let cool, then cover and refrigerate.

Julia says to refrigerate since she recommends making this soup a day or 2 in advance so that the flavor has time to set in.

Serving: Folding gently, bring the stew slowly to below the simmer for 2 to 3 minutes.  (Meanwhile gently warm the reserved pieces of lobster meat in butter.) Taste the stew again for seasoning, and ladle the stew into hot soup cups or plates.  Rapidly float on each serving a slice of chilled butter on which you place a piece of lobster tail or claw.  Accompany with warm toast or English muffins. In the picture below, I actually finished the soup with fennel fronds.

Soup finished with fennel fronds


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It is our 2012 New Year’s resolution to resurrect the blog!

Let me catch you up: I moved to Denver and got married (no biggie).  Jenny moved across the country and got a new job (as did her hubby).  So, between those life changing events and a family emergency or two, we were busy little bees this year! But enough excuses – let’s talk about the thing that is so near and dear to everyone’s heart – food.

We last left you with a post about the 1st Annual Drogue Holiday party.  I am proud to report that our 2nd annual Drogue Holiday party was also a success.  And since we left you last year at Christmas time, it’s fitting that we pick up where we left off – at New Year’s.

Every New Year’s day, Mimi opened her home to anyone who was interested in some simple “good luck” black eyed peas.  According to my Mary Mac’s Tea Room cookbook (thanks, Dad!,) this Southern tradition dates back to the Civil War.   Apparently Union troops would strip the land of all stored food and destroy whatever they couldn’t carry with them.  The  Northern soldiers didn’t consider “field peas” a suitable source of food.  So these “field peas” became known for good luck!

Seasoned with salt pork and hog jowls or pork hocks, Mimi served her peas over white rice, and topped them with stewed tomatoes.  The goal is to eat at least 12 peas (one for luck during each month in the year).  Happily, this goal isn’t hard to attain.  Mimi also served her famous cornbread as a sopping accessory (with jalapeno or strawberry jam) as well as fresh scallions to gnaw on/freshen your breath.

So this year, we will carry on the tradition.


Black-Eyed Peas
Adapted From Mary Mac’s Tea Room

1 small smoked ham hock
5 ounces of fatback (salt pork)
1 small yellow onion, diced
4 cups dried black-eyed peas
1/2 teaspoon of white pepper

Bring a stockpot two-thirds full with water to a boil over medium-high heat.  Add the ham hock, fatback, and onion and return to a rolling boil.  Add the black-eyed peas and let cook, uncovered for approximately 1 hour, or until the black-eyed peas are tender.  Add salt and pepper if desired.  Serve with slotted spoon over white rice, and top with stewed tomatoes.  See below for recipe.

Mom and I have debated about whether Mimi used canned tomatoes or whether she blanched tomatoes and stewed them fresh.  I can specifically remember Mimi teaching me to blanch tomatoes. I can’t imagine why she would have been doing that except for a recipe that called for stewed tomatoes.  We came to the conclusion that Mimi used canned tomatoes (sometimes her own and sometimes store-bought) just because it would be tough to find good tomatoes in December.  So, the choice is yours.

In case you need a quick 101 on blanching: bring some water to a boil, add the tomatoes for a minute or 2, remove and immediately submerge in cold water.  This makes the tomatoes really easy to peel, core, and seed.

Dried black eyed peas

Salt pork and pork hock


Stewed Tomatoes
2-3 cans of diced tomatoes, or 8-10 whole tomatoes, blanched and diced
1 onion – diced
Dash of white vinegar
A few pinches of sugar
1/2 stick of butter
tomato paste (optional)

Cook the diced onions in butter for quite some time.  You want the onions to begin to brown so that they take on that really sweet buttery flavor.  Add the tomatoes and stew for a while.  You may want to add a spoonful of tomato paste depending on the thickness.  Add vinegar and sugar to taste.  The tomatoes should take on a tangy taste.  Stew for 30-40 minutes.  This can be done ahead of time.

Happy 2012!

Happy 2012!!!

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Mike just celebrated his company’s second birthday this year.  In fact, we just realized that the official birthday of Drogue Medical is the same day as our (upcoming) wedding day: October 2.  Although Drogue just turned two, we held the company’s first annual holiday party on Friday.


I decided that I wanted to make one of Mike’s very favorite dishes, osso bucco.  This is no small feat especially given that I had  never made it on my own before.  And, instead of making traditional osso bucco out of veal shanks, we decided to serve pork shanks.  This was inspired by a meal we enjoyed at Ristorante Arivederci, while visiting with my sister and bro-in-law in San Diego.  There were many firsts for me on this trip: first time I had osso bucco with pork shank, first time visiting my sister since she moved to L.A., first time staying at the Del Coronado.  And the first – and last – time I bought a wedding dress!

After diligently scouring all of my cookbooks and even looking through one of my mother’s cook books from Italy, the osso bucco recipe that I decided to use (and modify) was from Epicurious.

But rather than trying to make osso bucco for the first time at Drogue’s first holiday party, I decided to practice – first on girlfriends, then on Mom.

And after all of that practice, I’ve decided that the key to this dish is to cook it long enough.  The magic number for attempt number three?  Seven hours.  That’s right, I cooked it for three hours on Thursday night and four hours on Friday.  Thank goodness for delayed start on my oven.

There were three major differences between what I cooked and what the recipe called for.  I used turnip roots in addition to the other veggies, inspired by another version of the recipe that I’d uncovered in my research.  I also didn’t use the gremmolata – for no other reason than I just didn’t want to.  And lastly, I preferred to keep some of the veggies rather than completely discard them once the dish was cooked.   I served them in a mash form (pureed) on top of and around the shank.  So, here’s my recipe for what Mike calls Porko Bucco.

Osso Bucco
Adapted from Epicurious.com

8 to 10 large 2 1/2-inch-thick pork shanks, each patted dry and tied securely with kitchen string to keep the meat attached to the bone
All-purpose flour for dredging the veal shanks
7  tbs. unsalted butter (plus additional if necessary)
3 tbs. olive oil (plus additional if necessary)
1 1/2 c. dry white wine
1 1/2 c. finely chopped onion (use a food processor to almost puree)
3/4 c. finely chopped carrots (use a food processor to almost puree)
3/4 c. finely chopped celery (use a food processor to almost puree)
4 turnip roots, peeled and finely chopped (use a food processor to almost puree)
1 tsp. minced garlic
3 to 4 c. chicken or beef broth
1 1/2 c. peeled, seeded, and chopped tomato or 1 1/2 cups drained canned plum tomatoes, chopped
1 cheesecloth bag containing 6 fresh parsley sprigs, 4 fresh thyme sprigs, and 1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp. salt

Season the veal shanks with salt and pepper and dredge them in the flour, shaking off the excess. In a heavy skillet heat 3 tablespoons of the butter and 3 tablespoons of the oil over moderately high heat until the foam subsides. In the butter, brown the pork shanks in batches, adding some of the additional butter and oil as necessary and transferring the shanks as they are browned to a platter. Add the wine to the skillet, boil the mixture, scraping up the brown bits clinging to the bottom and sides of the skillet, until the liquid is reduced to about 1/2 cup, and reserve the wine mixture in a small bowl.

In a flameproof casserole just large enough to hold the veal shanks cook in one layer the pureed onion, carrots, celery, garlic and turnips in the remaining 4 tablespoons butter over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are softened.   Add the pork shanks with any juices that have accumulated on the platter, the reserved wine mixture, and enough of the broth to almost cover the shanks (about 1/2-3/4). Spread the tomatoes over the shanks, add the cheesecloth bag, the salt, and pepper to taste, and bring the liquid to a simmer over moderately high heat. Braise the mixture, covered, in the middle of a preheated 325°F. oven for 7 hours, or until the pork is tender. Transfer the shanks with a slotted spoon to an ovenproof serving dish, discard the strings, and keep the shanks warm. Strain the pan juices into a saucepan, pressing hard on the solids to squeeze any liquid from them, and skim the fat. Boil the juices for 15 minutes, or until they are reduced to about 3 cups, baste the shanks with some of the reduced juices, and bake them, basting them 3 or 4 times with some of the remaining juices, for 10 minutes more, or until they are glazed.

I make a risotto with shallots and serve it with a red wine/mushroom reduction sauce.  Then I place the shanks on top of the risotto and top it off with the basting sauce and mashed/pureed veggie mix which makes for a grand presentation.  Served with a nice arugula salad – this meal is divine!

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This is for all of my fellow students out there!  As a precursor to finishing my last week of classes this semester, I decided to make some delicious cookies for classmates (teammates, y’all!) and professors.   I invited two girlfriends from Denver to assist in my self-proclaimed Cookie Festival.  The menu consisted of the following: sugar cookies from Thomas Keller’s Bouchon cookbook, snowballs, chocolate-covered peanut butter balls, snickerdoodles, and Mimi’s icebox cookies.  Except for Mimi’s cookies,  everything went off smashingly.  I made my grandmother’s cookies not once but twice and botched them both times…down the sink they went!  However, I think I figured out the problem and will give it a third try in the very near future (and of course post the recipe and photos).

In the meantime, here are some photos and recipes for the cookies that managed to stay out of the sink starting with the sugar cookies:

Thomas Keller’s Sugar Cookies (Biscuits Au Sucre)
Makes around 36 small cookies

  • 8 tablesppons (4 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 teaspoon confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean, split
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

The cookie dough can be made in a standard mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large bowl with a handheld mixer.  Combine the butter and confectioners’ sugar and beat until blended.  Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean with a paring knife, and add the seeds to the bowl, and mix until combined.  Continue to add flour until the dough comes together in a smooth mass and no longer sticks to the sides of the bowl.  Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for about an hour to firm up slightly.

Dust a pastry board with flour.  Halve the dough and roll each piece into a log 6 1/2 to 7 inches long and about 1 inch in diameter.  Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm enough to slice.  (Hint: The dough can be frozen up to a month).

Put a rack in the center of the over and preheat the over to 325 degrees.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.  If the logs have been frozen, let them stand at room temperature until soft enough to cut without crumbling.
Mix the granulated sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl.  Cut each log into 16 to 18 slices about 3/8 inch thick.  Coat each slice with the cinnamon sugar and place on the baking sheets.  Bake, in two batches, for about 20 minutes, or until light golden. Transfer to racks to cool.  Store in airtight container.

Next we made some snowballs…


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