Posts Tagged ‘Home’

It’s a spring thing

March 23, 2013

It's a spring thing

The local fish monger had shad fillets and roe sets today. Just what I wanted for dinner.

I melted a couple of tablespoons of sweet butter in a large skillet with an equal amount of olive oil. When it got hot, I placed the shad fillet in the skillet skin side down. I had already salted and peppered the fillet.

I spooned some of the butter/oil over the top of the fillet and, after two minutes on the stove top, I placed the skillet in a pre-heated, 350 degree oven.

For the roe set, I had soaked them for an hour or so in some cool water with a hit of fresh squeezed lemon juice. Then I rinsed the set and patted it dry.

I gently separated the sacks and dusted them with some flour seasoned with white pepper and salt.

I heated up some bacon fat in small skillet over medium low heat and placed the roe set into the fat.

Meanwhile, I pulled the pan with the fillet out of the over and set it back on the stove top over medium heat. I let it cook for a couple of minutes and then poured in about 3 ounces of white wine. Turning the flame up to medium high, I let the wine reduce by half. Then I added a couple more tablespoons of butter and a few ounces of heavy cream. I removed the fish to a plate and kept it warm while continuing to sitr and reduce the wine/butter/cream mixture.

The roe set I turned over just as it was crisping up…about three minutes. I let the roe continue to cook for another three minutes or so and then removed from the heat.

As the sauce thickened, I added some finely chopped parsely, tasted for seasoning and salted and peppered as needed.

I napped the fillet with the sauce and sprinkled on more chopped parsely.

The roe set I placed on the side of the plate with the fillet. I had a small sprig of bronze fennel I got out of the garden that I minced up and sprinkled over the top of the roe.

As an accompaniment, I sauteed some oyster mushrooms and put them on the plate as well.

Spring had sprung!


A brisket for all seasons

February 19, 2013


Who doesn’t love beef brisket?

Here on the East Coast, most people know and like it brined (corned beef). In Texas, it is a prime cut for long slow cooking (smoked). And then, of course, the ultimate brined and smoked brisket that is steamed (pastrami).

Years ago during one of our trips to New Orleans, we dined at Tujague’s. Reportedly the second oldest restaurant in a city known for all levels of dining, Tujague’s is more of a local favorite than a “tourists must visit” kind of place. It is not often written about in the foodie mags. It is, in its own way, a classic and one that in my opinion is worth seeking out.

One of the house specialties at Tujague’s is their “boiled brisket.” Nothing could be more humble in name yet more superlative in flavor.

Sometime after that trip, I discovered, on the restaurant’s website, their recipe for this dish. Since that time, I have made this brisket at least once year, usually served with latkes as part of my Hanukkah celebration honoring the Jewish part of my heritage. It amuses me that I prepare a New Orleans Creole brisket recipe to celebrate Hanukkah. This provides a rare opportunity for me to combine my love of New Orleans, my French (my maternal great-great-grandparents entered this country at the port of New Orleans) and my Jewish family.

Recently, I had been overtaken by a strong craving for the brisket and so we purchased a seven pounder from the local BJ’s and I cooked it up for Sunday dinner with friends.

Preparing for our trip next month, yesterday I happened to be checking, the website of the New Orleans Times Picayune. In one of those quirky little coincidences,. I came across a story about the passing of one Steven Latter, the proprietor of Tujague’s It was interesting to read about how he and his brother took over the restaurant without any real food service experience and preserved this treasure.  Mr. Slatter (who, by the way, was Jewish) eventually bought his brother out to become the sole owner. Reading about him made me a little sad that I hadn’t actually met him as I think we might have enjoyed each other’s company.

I read the story and was contemplating what it might mean for the future of the restaurant. Sometimes, owners can be more than just the “boss” at a restaurant; they may provide the very soul of the establishment. As I mused on this, I noticed a link to a story from last year that talked about how great the “brisket sandwich” was. The sandwich was basically a roast beef poor boy/po’boy (the New Orleans version of a “hoagie” or “sub”) made with the house brisket and available only at the bar.

Aha!  Now I knew what I would do with some of the leftovers from Sunday’s brisket.

This noon, I ran out to Italian Peoples’ Bakery and picked up a loaf of their stick bread.

Back home, I made the sandwich and I was not disappointed.

Thank you, Mr. Slatter, for keeping Tujague’s traditions. 


Boiled Brisket Po’ Boy

  • 12” length of good French or Italian stick bread sliced almost but not quite all the way through and opened up.
  • 5 ounces of leftover boiled brisket (see recipe below) warmed, slightly
  • Chopped lettuce
  • Fresh tomato slices
  • 2 Tbs Creole mustard (or dark, coarse grained mustard)
  • 2 Tbs mayonnaise
  • 2 Tbs prepared horseradish (or two taste)

“Dress” the bread with the mustard, mayo and horseradish. Add slices of tomato in one layer, then a light layer of lettuce. Cover evenly with slices of brisket (I warmed mine for one minute in the microwave). Close bread, using back edge of long knife to kind of stuff the filling back in while pressing down on the top of the bread with the palm of your free hand. Cut into two lengths and enjoy.  (I ate this myself but it would probably feed two normal people)

Boiled Brisket ala Tujague’s

  • Fresh beef brisket (about 4 pounds)
  • 2 onions sliced
  • 2 ribs celery chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 3 sprigs parsley
  • 3 bay leaves
  • ½ tbs. salt
  • 12 whole black peppercorns

Put the beef brisket in a coup pot, having trimmed excess fat. Add the onions, celery, garlic, parsley, bay leaves, salt, and peppercorns. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Turn down heat and simmer slowly for 2 ½ to 3 hours or until brisket is very tender. When the brisket is ready, remove it form the pot, drain, and slice to serve. Serve brisket with horseradish sauce on the side.

Horseradish sauce

  • ½ cup horseradish
  • ½ cup Creole mustard
  • 1 cup Catsup.

Blend and chill.


A good night for a good woman’s chicken

January 11, 2013


It’s that time of year again when my mind and tastes turn to all things New Orleans. Carnival season officially started on January 6 (3 Kings Day/Epiphany) and runs until Mardi Gras…the day before Ash Wednesday. Even as I fret about the post holiday “bloat”, I find myself planning if/when I’ll make a King Cake; who I will share Muffalettas with; when I’ll make my next batch of “Jersey Street Gumbo,” etc. My pre-dinner Negroni or Manhattan morphs into a Sazerac; the medieval influenced Christmas carols segue into the second line and rumba rhythms.

Therefore, it really wasn’t a surprise that the daily question of “what do you want for dinner tonight” was answered with a dish from the Cajun/Creole canon. “Chicken a la Bonne Femme.”

I’m told the name means “Good woman’s chicken” or “Good wife’s chicken.” What it is, is just plain G-O-O-D!

While there are myriad vTalkAboutGood!ersions of preparing this dish, we have always stuck with the recipe we found in this book:

We picked this up on our first trip to New Orleans back in 1989. We bought its sequel on our second trip a year later. We use them as much for reference and inspiration as we do for actually preparing all the recipes from them. The recipe for Chicken Bonne Femme is one we do go back to often. It’s a little labor intensive but rustic, satisfying and oh so tasty. Unfortunately, this recipe is for a company-sized meal (serves 8).

On this damp, chilly night when we were craving the dish, we sought a way to scale it down.

Using what we had at the ready, we were able to put together a very tasty rendition of this homey dish just the right size for us.

Give this a try…the “small version” for two. Add a bottle of wine and simple salad. It’s a real big easy…

Chicken Bonne Femme (for two)

(Poulet bonne femme pour deux)

  • 3/4 to 1 pound chicken thighs
  • 2 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, scrubbed, skin left on, sliced about 1/4 inch thick
  • 1/4 pound thin sliced pancetta
  • 1 medium yellow onion sliced thinly
  • Salt, pepper and red (cayenne) pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a 10 inch, ovenproof skillet, cook the pancetta slices over medium low heat until nicely browned. Remove from pan and reserve.

Increase heat to medium and in the fat that has rendered out from the pancetta, lightly brown the chicken thighs (about 3 minutes per side.) Season well with salt, pepper, and red pepper. Remove from pan and reserve.

Brown the sliced potatoes in the remaining drippings 2 or 3 minutes per side. Add a little olive oil if need be to prevent the potatoes from sticking. Remove from pan.

In same skillet, layer some of the chicken thighs, the potatoes, some of the crisped pancetta and some of the onions. Repeat layers as needed to use up ingredients.

NOTE: don’t be afraid to season the potatoes as you layer them into the pan; you can be assertive with the seasoning of this dish.

Cover the pan and place in the pre-heated oven. Bake for 40 minutes. Remove cover and bake for 10 more.

Remove from oven and plate up. Serves 2.

Sausage pie

April 7, 2012

Note: This entry is slightly revised from a note I posted on Facebook a few years ago. It was, in fact, the seed from which this blog sprouted.

Sausage pie

As I was growing up, holidays and family gatherings were as significant for the food served as for the actual “reason” driving the get-together.  Easter was no exception.  We would often go out to the cemetery for a sunrise service, then visit my grandfather’s grave before starting the rounds of visiting various relatives.

Easter bread, pastiera, and “sausage pie” were seemingly on the table everywhere we went that day.  The last one was my favorite and I could never get enough.  My mom quizzed my great aunts and cousins for their recipes.  She had to transcribe an oral tradition distilled through years of experience to come up with a written recipe.  I still have the ragged copy she sent me when I was in college so I could make my first attempt at this family tradition.

Well used recipe from Mom

Over the years, I’ve read dozens of variations on this theme known by several different names (pizza rustica, pizza chiena).  One variety uses cubes of Italian lunch meats and cheese in place of the crumbled sausage and I make that every so often.  Still, each spring I make the recipe I got from Mom who got it from her Aunts-in-law and their children.  I don’t know how many of my cousins still make this treat, I hope many.

Easter “Sausage”  Pie


  • 2.5 pounds of flour
  • 1 tsp. pepper
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 package of yeast dissolved in warm water (approximately 2/3 to 1 cup)
  • 2 eggs
  • ¼ pound butter melted

Mix all ingredients to form soft dough.  Cover and let rise in draft free place (overnight).


  • 2.5 pounds Italian sweet sausage (out of casing)
  • 2.5 pounds Italian hot sausage (out of casing)
  • 3 pounds of ricotta
  • 8 eggs
  • Parsley
  • Grated cheese

Beat eggs and add to ricotta.  Mix in sausage, parsley and grated cheese until well blended.
Roll out dough (NOTE: this is a covered pie. Be sure to reserve dough to roll out and cover once the shell has been filled), fill, cover.  Brush top of pies with beaten egg, prick top to vent.  Back in 400 degree oven for 15 minutes, then lower temp to 375 until done (approximately one hour more).

Yield: 1 8 x 13 pie or 3 really full 8×8 pies.

Buon Pascale!

I hate Mondays (sometimes)

December 20, 2011


While I don’t normally think the worst of the first day of the work week, sometimes they just don’t get off to a good start. It had been one of those days.

By the time I was grabbing my second cup of coffee, I was getting agitated with various and sundry “things.” A walk to city hall and then the bank to take care of a couple of errands chilled me a little but upon returning home found the aggravation level going up again due to some computer “issues.”

The question came up about dinner and was solved with grabbing a couple of boneless, skinless chicken breasts out of the freezer. Sort of.

The way the day had started I thought it might be advisable to come up with something more pleasing than some dry old sautéed chicken breasts accompanied by some yellow rice or a baked potato.

I started taking a mental inventory of what we had on hand in the pantry and a plan began to take shape. Something warm and comforting. And out of the ordinary.

Chicken paprikas came to mind. While I had eaten paprikas (veal or chicken) dozens of times, I had never made it. Well, once, I just sort of dusted some cut up chicken breasts with paprika, browned them off and made a quick pan gravy with some stock and a little butter/flour roux. I knew there was more to the dish so I did a quick Google and looked at the first entry that came up.

It was a link to this entry on I had just about everything I needed, except sour cream. But there was a half of a half pint of light cream in the fridge. I bet I could make this work.

So, using the recipe provided by the late BoxO’Wine on, I put together what I referred to as my “half a**sed chicken paprikas” for the two of us. It passed the test. It might not be 100% authentic but I gotta tell ya it was quite tasty.

There can be no denying, the key is good paprika and I was fortunate to have not one but three tins of Spanish smoked paprika purchased through La Tienda. This assortment of La Chinata paprika includes one, 2.5 ounce tin each of sweet, bittersweet and hot paprikas. And I put all three to work.

The paprikas smelled great while it was cooking (and that was no small feat because I was also braising the brisket for the next night’s Hanukkah dinner and IT smelled pretty good too). I wished I had a bottle of “Bulls Blood” on hand to go with the dish. A California Merlot would have to do.

It was a pretty good ending for what had started off as a less than spectacular day. Not bad for a half-a**ed attempt at a classic.

Half A**ed Chicken Paprikas (for two)

  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into pieces approximately 1/4 inch thick
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 2 tablespoons Spanish smoked paprika, 1 each sweet and bittersweet
  • fresh ground black pepper to taste
  • salt to taste
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 or 2 tablespoons of butter
  • 1 small onion, sliced thinly lengthwise
  • 1 tablespoon Spanish sweet, smoked paprika
  • 1/8 teaspoon Spanish hot, smoked paprika (can use cayenne pepper in a pinch)
  • 1 can (14.5 oz) chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup sour cream (or, in a pinch light cream)

Mix flour, paprikas, salt and black pepper in a plastic bag large enough to hold all the chicken slices.  Add the chicken, seal the bag and toss to coat evenly.  Remove the chicken and reserve the seasoned flour.

Add oil to Dutch oven or large skillet and heat over medium high flame until shimmering. Place chicken in pan and brown on each side.

Remove the chicken pieces from the pan and set aside. Add butter and a little more oil to the pan. Once butter has melted, toss in onions sweet and hot paprika (or cayenne) and a pinch of salt. Sauté until the onions have softened, 2 or 3 minutes.

Add chicken back to the pan along with the can of chicken stock.

Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to simmer.  Cover and cook for 15 to 20 minutes.

Remove from heat and let paprikas cool down.

Whisk the reserved flour into the light or sour cream until well blended and smooth.

Add small amount of liquid from pot into flour/cream mixture and stir until mixed thoroughly. This tempers the dairy product so it won’t break when you add it, stirring constantly, back into the pot.

Simmer 5 minutes. Ladle over egg noodles.  Pour some nice, but not expensive red wine and accompany with a tossed salad.

Serves 2 (with a little left over for lunch the next day).



July 31, 2011

The real life application of the “reality television” conceit.

Years ago…before there was The Food Network; before “reality TV” took over the networks, broadcast and cable, there was real life.

Years ago, I found myself home alone on a Saturday night. The wife was away for the weekend visiting with her parents at their then full-time residence in Pennsylvania‘s Poconos (Note: “the Poconos” are often referred to as mountains but, in truth, they are just a time-worn and eroded plateau.  Or so my geologic-oriented friends tell me). As dinner time came, I started rummaging around in the kitchen and pantry to find something to prepare for my evening meal.  The result of my in-house foraging was a smoked oyster risotto.  But that is a story for another day.

Today’s installment is about a similar situation but with just a little more planning and that includes using what was on hand with one quick trip to the market.

My in laws have long since relocated to the far reaches of Montgomery County, PA.  It’s about an hour’s drive from our home in Trenton.  They’ve been dealing with some health issues and my wife went out today to stay with them for about a week.  Thinking about dinner tonight, I decided to grab some sort of seafood…a lovely 3/4 pound tuna steak.

After yesterday’s trip to the local farmers’ market I had on hand at the house some Jersey peaches, moderately hot banana peppers, tomatoes and a very interesting spanish spice mix called “pinchito” seasoning.  There was also a handful of locally grown romano beans.

This put me in mind of a meal I had on one of our trips to the Florida Keys…a kingfish steak with a mango/habanero salsa.

I fired up the grill and took one of the peaches, cut it in half and removed the pit. I washed off one of the banana peppers. Once the grill was hot, I put the peach halves…flesh side down, and the chile on the grill.

In the meantime, I rinsed the tuna steak and dried it then dusted it with some pinchitos seasoning that I bought from La Tienda.  Both sides.

When I could smell the peach caramelizing, I flipped it over.  I also turned the pepper so it would char all over. While they roasted, I diced up a tomato and tossed it into a bowl.

Once the skin of the peach was charred and the pepper roasted, I took them off the grill and put my cast iron skillet on to heat.

I skinned the peach halves and rough chopped them.  The pepper I skinned and removed the top, seeds and membranes.  That also got chopped and tossed into the bowl with the peach, tomato and a splash of “juice” left over from a container of salsa from the mexican stall at the market.  Stir and let sit.

Now the pan was smoking hot.  I added a little olive oil and then,, once the oil was hot,  laid the tuna into the pan.  Two minutes a side and dinner was ready.

I plated up the tuna steak, topped it with some of the salsa and added the beans which I had prepared earlier (boiled in salted water for 4 minutes, drained tossed with salt, pepper and peperoncino and a drizzle of garlic/rosemary infused olive oil then placed in the fridge to chill).

The wine cellar is a little light on whites right now, but I had this bottle of Nissely Classic White (2008) from a wine tour of Lancaster County we had taken last year.  Dinner was served.

It filled the belly and brought some contentment even though my beloved spouse was gone on the eve of our 24th wedding anniversary.

Lox and eggs

June 8, 2011

 Growing up, Sundays around our house had a fairly predictable and comfortable routine.  We weren’t church folk…the combined result of a very mixed religious background and my father’s work schedule. 

Dad worked Monday through Saturday…including many evenings. Sundays truly were his “day of rest.”  As long as you could count visiting with family and catching up on house and garden chores “rest.”  

We’d get up and go through the Sunday papers…even as a kid, I would read at least the comics; get dressed and then head intoTrenton to visit my grandmother. 

We’d pick her up and run around to Palat’s Dairy on the corner of Cooper and Market Streets. 

Palats Dairy Photo Courtesy Trentoniana Collection

“And for you,” Mrs. Palat would ask, peering over the counter that was taller than she was. 

Our order was pretty standard:  ¼ pound of lox and a ¼ pound of nova (less salty); some creamed herring and a nice, plump, golden scaled, smoked whitefish. The quantities might increase depending on whom and how many were expected to be at table that morning.

Palat’s was a wonder to me.  The aroma when you walked through the door was like nothing else on earth.  I would love to have the opportunity to breathe deeply of that salty, dusty, garlic air once more.

From there, we’d walk down the street to Kohn’s bakery and then on to Kunis’ to gather the fixings for breakfast. Bagels, “half moons” and some onion rolls from one bakery; maybe a nice loaf of pumpernickel too; then some fruit or cheese Danish and some sticky buns from the next. 

Kohns Bakery Photo Courtesy Trentonian Collection

Kunis Bakery Photo Courtesey of Trentoniana Collection

I guess today this would be considered preparations for “Brunch” but back then it was just our Sunday breakfast.
Shopping done, we’d return to Grand mom’s house onFerry Street.  Aunt Evelyn might get the task of pulling the flesh from the whitefish while Grand mom started the lox and eggs.  To this day, the aroma of onion softening in butter sets my mouth watering in a true Pavlovian response. 

I love lox anyway and how I can get them.  But lox and eggs and a bagel on a Sunday morning; sitting at the table with extended family and friends.   Now that’s heaven on earth. 

Lox and eggs

¼ pound smoked salmon chopped fine
⅓ cup onion minced
4 tbs butter
8 eggs, lightly beaten

Melt the butter in a large frying pan and add the onion.  Cook over medium heat until the onion is soft and translucent.  Add the salmon and stir.  Immediately pour the eggs into the pan, stirring to mix everything and evenly.  Reduce heat if necessary and continue to move the eggs around the pan until they are just cooked through but still moist.  Serve family style with good bagels, sweet butter and/or cream cheese.  Serves 4

Bourbon caramelized onions

April 5, 2011

I was running around like crazy and needed to figure out what to have for dinner.  Aha! Onion Soup!  (Specifically, this recipe for Soupe à l’oignon gratinée) Perfect!

I didn’t think we had any onions at home so stopped at the market to pick some up.  Not sure how many I needed, I called home and asked Ann.  Unfortunately, she was busy and couldn’t put her hands on the recipe quickly enough, so I just bought a whole mess of onions and headed home.

Turned out, we did have onions on hand…nearly enough to make the soup.  Now we had a surplus and had to figure out what to do with them.

Ann suggested I make up a batch of my bourbon caramelized onions.  Why not?  They keep well (I freeze small batches) and they are great on burgers (grill season is nearly upon us) or pizza’s/focaccia.

Here’s what I do:

Thinly slice a couple of medium to large onions (any regular old onion will do: red, white, yellow).  In a large skillet over medium flame, heat enough olive oil to cover the bottom to not more than 1/4 inch depth.  Melt in two or three tablespoons of unsalted butter.  Add the sliced onions (they should sizzle but not splatter) and stir to coat evenly with the oil/butter.*

Keep an eye on the onions and stir every couple of minutes so they don’t stick.  The water will cook out of the onion slices and they will soften.  Reduce the heat when the onions start to take on some color and keep stirring occasionally.

When the onions have turned a rich color (past golden…on towards mahogany), and have become nutty and sweet tasting, remove from pan and place into a bowl.  This can take 25 minutes or so. Return the pan to the stove and carefully pour in a 1/4 cup of good bourbon (Maker’s Mark is particularly suited for this).  Stir to loosen and dissolve the goodness left in the bottom of the pan.  Continue stirring until the alcohol has burned off and the bourbon has reduced and thickened.  Pour over onions in the bowl and stir to blend.

*Some recipes suggest seasoning the onions with salt, pepper and/or sugar.  You can. I don’t.

Waste not

November 16, 2010

Ann’s brother and sister-in-law were visiting the other day and after a great afternoon touring the Grounds for Sculpture, we returned home for a dinner of roasted beef tenderloin, caramelized onions in red wine sauce, green beans and mashed potatoes.

When I buy tenderloins I trim them myself and cut into filets or roasts as the menu dictates.  This always leaves me with the “chain,” the ends and various odd sized pieces of good meat that I hate to waste.

I also had a stick of Italian bread, some peppers and some mushrooms in the fridge (I’d forgotten about them when making dinner for us) and some provolone cheese. For lunch today, I decided to put those trimmings to good use and make a version of a cheese steak*.

In a large skillet I heated a few tablespoons of olive oil over medium high heat.  To that I added one Italian frying (Cubanelle) pepper and one jalapeno pepper, both sliced lengthwise.  In went a small yellow onion sliced thinly.  I hit them with a little salt and pepper and tossed them in the oil for three or four minutes. 

In the meantime, I took the stems off of the shitake mushrooms and cut the toughest parts off of the oyster mushrooms.  The peppers and onion got pushed to one side and I added the mushrooms to the pan.  Another sprinkle of salt and pepper was laid over the mushrooms and they were stirred occasionally.

While the mushrooms cooked, I made sure the beef trimmings were free of fat, silver skin and any other undesirables.  Then I sliced the bigger pieces very thinly (as if for stir fry…and this would have been easier if I had thought to partially freeze the meat first. Oh well).  The smaller pieces were just rough chopped into bite size pieces. 

Mixing the mushrooms in the pan with the peppers and onion, I then pushed everything to the side and added the meat.  More salt and pepper and frequent stirring to brown the beef on all sides followed. 

Once the meat was done, I mixed it up with the mushrooms, peppers and onion and laid two slices of provolone cheese over the top.  Once the cheese melted into the mixture, I loaded it all into the bread, which had been sliced lengthwise. 

It wasn’t as pretty as it should have been, but it was a tasty use of “leftovers” fit for a king.

Take that “Pat’s,” “Geno’s,” “Jim’s,” “Rick’s,” et al!

*Remind me sometime to share the story that lays claim to Trenton as the home of the steak sandwich.

Another all day sandwich

October 23, 2010

Salame and eggs doesn’t seem to be as common or popular as when I was younger, but it still makes a great anytime sandwich.

Follow the directions for the pepper and egg sandwich, substitutinng about 4 ounces of kosher or hard salame for the cubanelle peppers.