A Lemon Spin on Mignonette

Last night, we had our annual family lobster feast. While much of my family still goes for the butter-lemon sauce, I have taken to the sharper taste of mignonette. This year, we played around with the ingredients a bit and I really liked the outcome.

Lemon Mignonette
1 large shallot (or 2 small ones), finely chopped or minced
1/2 cup of red wine vinegar
juice from 1 lemon
splash of balsamic vinegar
pinch of black pepper

Mix the ingredients together and let it rest for 20 minutes before serving so the shallots have a chance to sweeten the vinegar.

Homemade Eggnog

Store mixes just can’t compare to homemade. It is a general rule that is hard to beat, and eggnog is no exception. Every season I try to find an excuse to make a version of my grandmother’s simple eggnog recipe. This weekend, we had a small gathering to let kids run amuck and I treated myself and the other parents to the following variation:

5 large eggs
3/4 cup superfine sugar
1 pint light cream
1 pint heavy cream
ground nutmeg
ground cloves
dark rum

Separate the eggs whites and yolks.

Combine the yolks with the sugar and beat until very pale.

Beat in 1 cup of bourbon, 1/2 cup of brandy and 1/2 cup of dark rum.

Stir in the light cream and half of the heavy cream, a pinch of ground cloves and two big pinches of ground nutmeg (about 1/4 tsp).

Beat the rest of the heavy cream until stiff and fold in.

Beat the egg whites until stiff and fold in.

Add additional nutmeg and liquor to taste. If memory serves for this latest batch, I added in an additional 1/4 cup bourbon, 1/8 cup brandy, 1/8 cup rum on top of the above amounts. (note: if you add more liquor, keep the ratio 2 parts bourbon to 1 part brandy, 1 part rum)

Rosemary, garlic and mustard pork roast; Happy Holidays 2009


I spent days scratching my head over what to make for Christmas dinner, and decided to go with a classic pork roast.  With the Battle for Cold/Flu Pass raging in this house, full guns ablazing, we didn’t actually have Xmas dinner until two days *after* Christmas (naturally, we didn’t make elder munchkin wait that long to open her presents).  Still we have managed to have a very nice holiday season.  I hope you have as well.  Here is the recipe for the pork roast:

Rosemary, garlic and mustard pork roast

4 or 5 lb boneless pork loin (of course, recipe will work for smaller roasts as well)
garlic cloves, peeled
1 to 2 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped
1 to 2 tbsp grain mustard
olive oil
apple cider vinegar
white wine or dry vermouth

To marinate the pork, start by slicing some garlic cloves into little pointy-ended stakes. With a paring knife, poke a hole in the pork and the stuff the garlic piece inside. Do this all over your pork loin, spacing them out by an inch or two depending on your love of garlic. Then rub about a tablespoon of kosher salt (less if using fine table salt), the mustard and the rosemary all over the pork. Place in something you can put in the fridge, then drizzle olive oil and a couple tablespoons of apple cider vinegar over the top. Cover and place in the fridge for one or two days.

To roast, remove the pork from the fridge, place in a baking dish, and let it come to room temperature for about 20 minutes while you pre-heat the oven to 450F. Roast the pork for 15 minutes, then pour 1/2 cup of wine or vermouth over the top.  Turn the heat down to 325F.

It should take the pork about 2 hours to cook, although start checking with an instant read thermometer earlier.  Every half hour or so, spoon the liquid from the baking dish over the pork.  If the dish is dry, add a little more wine or water.  Remove the pork and let it rest (place a piece of foil on top to keep it from getting to cold while you finish any remaining parts of the meal) when the instant read thermometer gets to 145F or 150F.

To make the gravy: add some water and wine/vermouth to the baking dish, a small amount of flour (maybe a quarter to half a tsp) and a pinch of salt and deglaze the dish on the stove top (note: if you are using ceramic, then get a heat diffuser rather than having the dish right on the flame).  Remove the excess oil — one simple method is to pour it into a measuring cup and then pour off the oil that rises to the top.

We served this with some brussel sprouts, parboiled and then sauted with champagne wine vinegar, and roasted potatoes.


I hope that this post sees you all well, and happy holidays from our family to yours!


Thanksgiving Pt 2: Potato & Fennel Gratin

While much of our Thanksgiving dinner was pretty traditional to our family, Lisl and I decided to change up the usual scalloped potato dish and add fennel to the gratin. Stacey, of Stacey Snacks, mentioned that Ina Garten had a great recipe, and I found a version on the Food Network website. I made a few changes, reducing amounts and layering rather than mixing in a bowl (I just love how attractive the layered approach looks when it comes out of the oven).

The results received universal approval from the adults at the table (munchkin, not so much, but the three-year-old palate is a frustrating thing to cook for). This was a convenient dish as well since I was able to bake it 90% done before the turkey took over the oven, and then just finish it off while the turkey rested.

Potato & Fennel Gratin, adapted from Ina Garten

4 to 6 medium-large idaho/russet potatos
1 large fennel bulb
1/2 large spanish or vidalia onion
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
2 cups gruyere cheese, thickly grated
1 3/4 cup heavy cream
salt and pepper

Thinly slice the onion. Remove the fronds and 1/4″ of the base of the fennel, cut in half, remove the core, and then thinly slice.

Preheat oven to 350F.

In a saute pan, heat the butter and olive oil on medium-low and cook the onions and fennel for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. While this is cooking, thinly slice (1/8″ or 2mm thick) the potatoes.

Butter the bottom and sides of a baking dish and place a first layer of potato, slightly overlapping each piece like fish scales. Sprinkle some gruyere cheese, a small amount of salt and pepper, and pour a little cream. Add a layer of half of your onion and fennel, and repeat with the cheese, salt, pepper, and cream. You will add another layer of potato, a layer of onion/fennel, and a final layer of potato, interspersing each one (including the top) with cheese, salt, pepper, and cream.

Place in the oven and bake for 1.5 hours until the top is nicely browned and the potatoes are very tender.

sliced potato

Grandma House’s Egg Nog

This is another recipe my Mom picked up from our Maryland Grandmother. Every time I make it, I seem to reduce the amount of liquor and still wind up with a potent creation. The original recipe had a lot more “sauce” than this version.

1 quart light cream
1 quart deluxe eggnog mix or heavy cream
12 eggs, yolks and whites separated
1 1/2 cup super-fine sugar
1 pint whipping cream
dark rum

» Beat egg yolks and sugar until yolks are very pale
» Add booze in the following proportions to taste: 2 parts bourbon to 1 part brandy and 1 part dark rum (my original note says 1/2 quart bourbon, 1/4 quart brandy, 1/4 quart rum but you might start with less and add to taste). Beat mixture as you add liquor.
» Add light cream then eggnog mix (or heavy cream).
» Beat whipping cream until thick and add to mixture
» Beat egg whites until stiff and fold in two thirds of the egg white
» Before serving whip up rest of egg whites and add
» grate nutmeg on top and serve.

Grandma’s Oyster Stew

This is a traditional Christmas dinner appetizer for our family, and it is really more of a soup than a stew. As with most recipes, all the amounts below can be changed to fit the taste you are looking for.

2-4 tb butter
1-2 cups diced onion or leek
1/2 – 1 cup chopped celery
3 pints oysters and their liquid
2 cups milk or half-and-half
1 cup cream
1/2 cup white wine or vermouth
1/8 tsp white pepper
worcestershire sauce
thinly sliced mushrooms (optional, but we love the addition)

» Saute onion/leek, celery and mushrooms (if used) in butter in large soup pan.
» Add liquid and oysters and cook on low heat until the oysters float. Flavor with salt (to taste), pepper, and a few drops of worcestshire sauce. Add chopped parsely just before serving.

Mom’s Thanksgiving Turkey

My mother took this recipe from the New York Times in 1973 (John Hess, 11/15/1973)

Making the broth
The turkey neck and giblets
3 cups water
1 large, quartered onion
1 sliced carrot
A few parsley stems
1 bay leaf
Take the turkey neck and giblets and cook with 3 cups of water along with onion, carrot, parsley, and a bay leaf.
Simmer for 1 to 1 1/2 hour. (optional: add chicken or veal broth)

Making the stuffing
The turkey liver, minced
1 pound pork sausage (without casing)
1 cup sliced onion
1/2 cup very thinly sliced celery
1/2 tsp thyme
1 loaf good bread
1 cup sliced black olives
1 cup broken walnut
1/2 cup chopped italian parsley
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp ground pepper
1/2 cup of stock broth
2 tbsp of cognac or 2-4 tbsp madeira/port
finely chopped green apple
large handful of cremini or white mushrooms, chopped

1. Toast the bread and let it partially dry, then cut into small squares (or vice versa)
2. Brown sausage and then add onion, celery and thyme
3. Combine everything else

Cooking the Turkey
»Stuff the turkey then truss with heavy needle and thread. Bring wings close to body and tie legs up and together.
»Wipe bird and rub it with softened butter. Salt and pepper all over.
»Lay bird on its side in an oven-proof platter of same size.
»Roast a 10-12 pound bird about 2 hours. Roast a 15-16 lb. bird about 3 hours. Cook at 450 degrees (F) for 30 minutes then turn down slightly. Every 15 minutes flip bird to other side and spoon fat from pan over bird. If browning too quickly, turn down to 400 degrees (F) (or 350 degrees if still cooking too fast). Give yourself 30 minutes at end to finish sauce and further cook bird if not completely done.
»Place turkey on warm platter. Remove excess fat from pan with a spoon and then add remaining stock. Simmer over high heat and reduce (but not too far). You can also add 1/4 cup red wine.

Update 11/28/09:

Having just gone through another Thanksgiving, I thought I would write down what I did differently while it was fresh in my mind.

I wanted to make my stuffing completely from scratch rather than use store-bought breakfast sausage.  The key is making this ahead of time so that the flavors have a chance to meld, so I would advise making it Thanksgiving morning.

1 pound ground pork
1 large spanish onion, diced
3/4 to 1 cup celery, diced
3 cups country bread, toasted and cut into small cubes
1 cup black olives, diced
1 cup walnuts, chopped
3/4 cup white or cremini mushrooms, diced
1 granny smith green apple, peeled, cored and diced
1/2 cup chopped italian parsley
1 to 2 tsp fresh thyme (to taste)
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 to 2 tsp kosher salt (to taste)
1/2 tsp ground pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 cup of stock broth
2 tbsp of cognac

In a large pot (I like using my big dutch oven), brown the sausage, adding the salt and thyme. Add the chopped onions and cook for a few minutes, then the celery, then everything else. Cook on medium-low heat on the stovetop for 40 minutes to an hour. Add more broth if it starts to dry out excessively and stick to the pan. Turn off the heat and let the flavors meld, and reheat prior to the meal.

I no longer stuff the turkey with the stuffing — you end up having to dry up the turkey to make sure the stuffing is fully cooked and safe.

For the turkey, we rubbed it all over with butter and liberally sprinkled it with salt and pepper, then stuffed it with onion and trussed it with kitchen twine.  We cooked it on its back for 30 minutes at 425F, and then lowered the heat down to 350F and kept on turning turkey every 30 minutes.  Remove the turkey when a meat thermometer reads 160F deep in the thigh (make sure the thermometer is not touching a bone).  Loosely cover with foil and let it rest for 30 minutes before carving and serving.