Titanic failure… or success

Whew… 7 courses, 10 guests, so many hours… I must say it went off better than I anticipated. Most importantly, I think everyone had a wonderful and memorable evening. After a very tough 2014, I realized it is “later than you think” and I’m trying to realize each day’s blessings and create memories with family and friends. A fine example… my friend (lizard friend) Eddie IV, one day you are king of the flower pot… catching moths and bugs every night by the breakfast nook window and growing back your tail…that some awful dog named Beau removed, and the next day your friends (me) are lamenting your demise due to the attack by the aforementioned BAD DOG… Beau. Eddie loved life!  Anyway… creating events and enjoying each day is so very important!

Back to the dinner

The Menu

First Course
Oysters a la Russe • canapes a’l’amiral

Second Course
Consomme Olga

Third Course
poached salmon with mousseline sauce

Fourth Course
filet mignon lili • potatoes anna • pea puree

Fifth Course
punch romaine

Sixth Course
asparagus salad with Dijon vinaigrette

Seventh Course
ice cream • chocolate dipped éclairs

My favorite course was the cold poached salmon with mousseline sauce. I usually eat my salmon hot off the grill or out of the oven. Poaching it in a court bouillon (lightly flavored white wine and vegetable stock) kept the delicate flavor and texture of the salmon. I used a Scottish Salmon from Norway as opposed to Alaskan Salmon. It was beautiful…as you will see. The mousseline sauce is a hollandaise with whipping cream added before serving. Another favorite course was the asparagus salad, also served cold with a vinagrette. I kept this course in the meal because my husband Jay loves asparagus. It was served after the beef filet. Blanching the asparagus and then chilling it kept all the great flavor.

I owe much of the success of this event to my son Jay. He worked alongside me all day on Saturday as my sous chef. I always tease him when he is in the kitchen, about how long it takes him to do tasks. He is a perfectionist and thinks recipes should be followed exactly… I don’t. He peeled vegetables, piped the pastry cream into the eclairs, researched the proper table setting and folded napkins, all in a short span of time!  He also helped me plate each course throughout the evening… and because he is so intrigued by facts and history, he now knows much more about the Titanic and the food on the Titanic than I do.

My husband Jay did a little research about the champagne served on the Titanic and we toasted the evening with  Heidsieck Monopole Blue Top Champagne. Each of our couples brought a wine pairing for their assigned course and really outdid themselves. We sampled some wonderful wines that enhanced the meal.

It was definitely a night to remember! If you are considering serving the Titanic dinner… remember to enjoy all the preparations and focus the memories you are creating. Bon Appetit!

p.s. take lots of pictures… my biggest regret is forgetting to take pictures of each course. Next time :) To answer my own question, I would definitely say the evening was a success.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

A Meal of Titanic Proportions

On Saturday, April 18th… 103 years and 1 day after the RMS Titanic tragically sank after colliding with an iceberg on her maiden voyage destined for New York City, I am cooking a 7 course menu from the last meal served in the 1st Class Dining Room, for 10 people. This will be the inaugural meal for the new Sanderling Drive Dinner Party Group. On many, many occasions my husband Jay has requested this meal… My usual response is, “are you crazy”, “it would be too much work”, “NO”. When one of my neighbors mentioned starting this plan to share hosting a dinner with some of our neighbors, the Titanic meal came to mind and I offered to be the first hostess. So…today is Thursday, yesterday I cooked my beef stock for 7 hours and today I will be making the court bouillon to poach the salmon in along with a long list of other tasks to accomplish today. I LOVE cooking! This will be a daunting challenge for even a seasoned chef. It will not be a perfect meal because there are always things to improve on. I have scaled back the menu from 10 courses to 7…since I don’t have a sous chef and I would like to enjoy dining with my guests. Each couple attending is bring a wine to pair with their assigned course and a champagne toast will kick off the evening. If you would like to take on this task, no fear… there are lots of places to look online for assistance! The recipes are available along with suggestions on how to break down all the tasks into an organized, hopefully efficient plan. I’m depending heavily on this. You can look at http://downtonabbeycooks.com/2012/04/05/game-plan-for-hosting-a-1st-class-titanic-tribute-dinner/ , and I am also relying on a great blog: http://www.thedragonskitchen.com/2012/04/complete-first-class-titanic-menu.html and… I did get a used copy of “Last Dinner on the Titanic” it is a great resource for all things Titanic. It even has that timetable I mentioned, and most likely I am behind schedule. We will have period music playing and even though my home most definitely not super fancy… I am polishing my silverware and have put all 4 leaves into my dining table. We mailed out the boarding passes to our guests and cleaned some thing that only usually get attention during the holiday :).  I am hoping that after Saturday evening the only mention by my husband about the Titanic Last Dinner will be, “that was great”. One  good thing… I can finally use the lovely chef’s toque that my friend Suzanne bought me for Christmas!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

     more pictures and updates to follow.

Life > Lemongrass > meatballs

2014-03-12 08.13.13I love cooking with lemongrass… in all forms. I buy it fresh whenever I see it and I alway keep a “tube” of it in the fridge. Look in the fresh produce area of your grocery store for herbs that come in squeeze tubes– almost as good as fresh and they are so handy when I am in the middle of a recipe and missing fresh herbs.

Lemongrass: lemony, yes… light, fresh, tart. I use lemongrass in most of my Thai or Vietnamese dishes, it provides so much flavor, especially when combined with ginger, garlic, citrus juice and fish sauce. One of my favorite dishes is Lemongrass Pork Meatballs in Lettuce Cups.

Dinner a few night ago:

Lemongrass Pork Meatballs in Lettuce wraps

Rice Noodles with red peppers, scallions and shiitake mushrooms

Pickled radishes and shallots

Lemongrass Pork Meatball
1 lb ground pork
1/2 chopped cilanto
4 TBLS finely chopped lemongrass
2 shallots minced
black pepper to taste

The great thing about these meatballs is that they are mostly pork… no breadcrumbs or fillers. They are juicy and tasty and go great with hot or cold noodles and with lots of fresh herbs.

Mix all the ingredients together and either saute in a pan with 2 TBLS oil or bake in a 375 oven for about 20 minutes. I like to saute them so I can keep a close eye on them and make sure they stay juicy.

The SECRET SAUCE
It is only the most magnificent sauce ever! Vietnamese table Sauce goes on everything…

1/4 C of fish sauce
1/4 C of lime juice
1 stalk of lemongrass finely chopped
3 TBLS brown sugar or light brown sugar
1 clove of garlic
1 TBLS of freshly grated carrot
2 tsp finely chopped Thai chiles (adjust for your heat tolerance)

add all the ingredients and let set for 30 minutes or more… I keep a jar of it in the fridge.

PICKLED EVERYTHING
You can do a quick pickle very easily…
fresh veggies along with a mixture of vinegar, sugar and spices like cinnamon, cloves, star anise, peppercorns, etc.
Heat up the vinegar and sugar and spices just till the sugar dissolves and let cool. Add your choice of julienne veggies like: onions, radishes, cucumbers, etc and let them sit for as little as 20 minutes… I keep a jar of “pickles” in the fridge and add them to salads, sandwiches and meatballs.
ENJOY! Bon Appetit :)

Rock Them Fellers

photo (24)

Improving on the mighty raw oyster… puhleeeese. Freshly shucked with a little splash of tabasco, it’s such an amazingly simple and sumptuous bite. From my title, you may know where I’m going with this, there is that legendary creation that most definitely comes close; Oysters Rockefeller.

Thank you Antoine’s for moving to New Orleans, most likely that contributed to your culinary exploration of  ocean creatures and choosing the oyster when the shortage of snails demanded creative solutions.  Created in 1899 by Jules Alciatore, son of the restaurant’s founder and named after John D. Rockefeller because of the ultra-rich sauce, Oysters Rockefeller continues to elicit ooos and aaaahs from food enthusiasts everywhere.

I resisted the temptation to stray from that most purist of briny goodness,  the raw or slightly steamed oyster with hot sauce on a saltine, for many, many years. While on a trip with my husband in California some years ago and driving along the coast north toward Mendocino, we stopped at an “oyster shack” to try some highly recommended West Coast oysters.  When they arrived, we asked about sauce… hot sauce, cocktail sauce… crackers? “No, we don’t have those, how about Mignonette Sauce?” I had been eating oysters all my life and never heard of it, but its delicious on oysters… shallots (on my favorites list) pepper (top of my list) and vinegar. But back to O. R.

Good food drives most of our travel plans; it’s just so important! Most of the time the reward of “finding” a great new place or exciting, delicious dish is well worth the time it takes to research and fit meal opportunities into our itinerary. I hate to admit it, and will most definitely correct it on our next trip to New Orleans, but we have never dined at Antoines. I LOVE New Orleans and the amazing food options from muffeletta sandwiches from the market to super fine dining available throughout the city.  Galatoires on Bourbon Street  has very good fellers and they surprised me when I asked for a recipe and my waiter handed me a postcard with their recipe, apparently they have been approached before. I will try that one… but I haven’t yet. Presently, my favorite place for Oysters Rockefeller is in Savannah at Vic’s On the River. I enjoyed a plate 9 days ago and that prompted my decision to cook some last night. Vic’s was kind enough to share a list of ingredients they may or may not use in their’s but no recipe. So as usual, I searched some recipes online looking for what I would imagine to be the very best representation. I ended up going with a recipe on Bon Appetit and making a few variations.

Here is the recipe… a starting point, I almost never follow a recipe exactly… I like to add my favorite ingredients where I can and make the dish my own.

INGREDIENTS
1 garlic clove
2 cups loosely packed fresh
spinach
1 bunch watercress, stems
trimmed (I didn’t use any… but added extra spinach)
1/2 cup chopped green onions
3/4 cup (11/2 sticks) unsalted
butter, room temperature
1/2 cup dry breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons Pernod or other
anise-flavored liqueur ( I used Sambuca)
1 teaspoon fennel seeds, ground (no… I couldn’t locate mine, so I added an little extra Sambuca)
1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce (I did a Tablespoon)

1 pound (about) rock salt
24 fresh oysters, shucked,
shells reserved
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
cheese

PREPARATION
Position rack in top third of oven and preheat to 450°F. Finely chop garlic in processor. Add spinach, watercress and
green onions to garlic. Process, using on/off turns, until mixture is finely chopped. Transfer mixture to medium bowl.
Combine butter, breadcrumbs, Pernod, fennel and hot sauce in processor. Process until well blended. Return spinach
mixture to processor. Process, using on/off turns, just until mixtures are blended. Season with salt and pepper. DO
AHEAD Can be made 8 hours ahead. Cover; chill.
Sprinkle rock salt over large baking sheet to depth of 1/2 inch. Arrange oysters in half shells atop rock salt. Top each
oyster with 1 tablespoon spinach mixture. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake until spinach mixture browns on top, about 8
minutes.
ORIGINAL RECIPE on BonAppetit

It was amazingly easy! I wish I had found larger oysters, and will try to get better ones next time. We really loved this first attempt at making these at home… so fresh and bright and delicious. If you LOVE oysters, you should get to shucking and give these a try.

p.s.
My very, very favorite and unforgettable oyster dish is the wood-fired spicy roasted ones at Cochon in New Orleans… if you planning a visit you should definitely stop in!

The Goods

So many goods… Here in Savannah, Ga. Good atmosphere, sights, food, shopping. spending the weekend, loving the weather and the company:) and that it is only a 5 hour drive from home, but it’s the “Deep South”.

20140222-164041.jpg

20140222-164112.jpg

20140222-164134.jpg

20140222-164157.jpg

20140222-164217.jpg

The Last Fresh Leaf

2014-02-19 17.22.17-1Sun… yes

70+ degrees… yes
Waiting till for Spring to plant my garden boxes… no
Luckily, they can be protected should we have a freeze here in sunny Florida.

One thing leads to another; That defines my cooking style. Go to the produce market and see the loveliest of plums or peaches…make a tart. Fresh stalks of lemongrass = a Vietnamese influenced dish… and so it goes.

Yesterday was really lovely and warm and my earthboxes were not so lovely; stringy 4 ft. tall tomatoes plants with 3 tiny blooms at the very top, bright yellow dill flowers and woody basil stalks. Time for re-planting. I like to wait till the very, very last possible harvest before tearing out everything and starting new. Even the tiniest of gardens can add so much wonderful flavor to home-cooked meals. So… I planned to make spaghetti, my husbands favorite, but as I picked the very last of the sweet basil and purple basil and picked some of the last meyer lemons from my tree I decided to keep it light and fresh; basil chicken with mushrooms and artichokes over porcini mushroom egg pasta. Bon Appetit :)

Earthboxes great for small, super productive gardens!

Is This the Secret Sauce?

2014-02-17 19.05.48-1

Why yes… yes it is.

I always make a “secret sauce” with rack of lamb; sweet, savory and sometimes with a little heat and au jus. My husband always ask, “is this the secret sauce?” And of course it is… secret for the day, not the same as last time though. I’m not one to stick to a recipe. Cooking for me is a creative endeavor… just like painting. I look at the possible ingredients for the meal, find some inspiration in my pantry and fridge and go with it.

Rack of lamb looks a little intimidating… I finally bought it a few years back after enjoying it at a restaurant. I decided it was just red meat and I can cook most any other kind, so why not. Not much pre-cooking preparation is needed. I like to make a mix of freshly ground peppercorns and kosher salt, freshly minced rosemary and lemon zest… that’s it, add  enough olive oil to make a thin paste and slather the racks on both sides. Let them rest in the fridge for 30 minutes or longer.
My “special sauce” will remain secret… ha ha. seriously, it will. I will again say that I love sweet and savory, like garlic and shallots and red wine, honey…cherries mmmm. Make a sauce from the flavors you like and after you have cooked your racks of lamb either on a med/hot grill or in a 425 oven for about 25 minutes (if you have a convection option, use it) , let them rest for 15 to 20 minutes, then slice between the bones and add any jus or meat drippings to your sauce.

I usually make roasted potatoes with rosemary and pepper… tonight I used pink and wild black peppercorns :) I also made one of my favorites… garlic green beans.

Buy good quality ingredients, season with fresh herbs and good quality spices, and you will have good food!

next time… musts for your pantry!

Okay,You Asked For It

OKAY… not everyone asked, but at least 3 people I know asked why I’m not blogging about food… and gardening and some of the other activities that I get involved in, besides art. So here I am. This new blog will be replacing my art blog and including so many other things.

  • cooking
  • the beauty of ingredients; peppercorns, mushroom, shallots (one of my favorites), did I say peppercorns?
  • cleaning  no, no
  • birds and bird activity
  • weiner-dogs
  • baking
  • canning
  • ART OF COURSE