I made this classic French stew back in December. My parents and grandmother were coming into town and I wanted to make a special dinner to celebrate the occasion. I also had to work the day that they were coming for dinner and as such, didn’t have a lot of time to spend in the kitchen.
Bouillabaisse fit the bill. I spent a little over an hour on the fish stock and broth the day before and on Saturday night, while everyone sipped cocktails, chunks of fish, jumbo scallops, tiny clams, juicy shrimp, and lobster went into the pot to cook. A memorable and delicious dinner was ready in minutes.
I’m of the belief that recipes should be shared. I never omit an ingredient in a requested recipe or leave out a critical step so that the final product isn’t quite right. I need all the good karma I can get and consequently tend to share all of my cooking secrets. With that being said, my moral philosophy on recipe sharing has been severely tested with this tart. To put it mildly, I’ve been a bit selfish. It’s understandable though. While you’ll never hear me claim that a particular recipe is my favorite (there are far too many wonderful dishes for that), if I had to list my top five this one would be at the top of the list.
For weeks, my husband and I talked about what we were going to eat for Easter. He was excited for a traditional Easter dinner and I was thrilled to cook for fun and not for an upcoming class or dinner. We were counting down the days.
And then I got a call to do a last-minute dinner party this week . My client wanted to host a Mexican-themed dinner party and with only days to plan, I sadly told North that we would have to postpone Easter dinner for a later date. Rather than spring greens and tender lamb, we would be eating chicken barbacoa, borracho beans, and Mexican rice on Easter Sunday.
Call me tacky, but all I wanted to make for Valentine’s day was a red soup that could be garnished with a heart made from cream. A soup like this, I thought to myself, would be the ultimate culinary expression of my love. Borscht, the soup made from fresh beets that originated in Russia and Poland, is red and thus became my soup of choice. This despite the fact that my special valentine hates beets and would not be compelled to eat them just because I used them in a soup that was cute and holiday-appropriate.
Christmas has arrived! I’ve opened gifts, I’m sitting by a fire, and my belly is so full from Christmas breakfast it is hard to move. I may have eaten just a little too much, but it’s hard not to overindulge. In my family, holiday meals follow strict traditions. There is always a juicy beef tenderloin for Christmas dinner and breakfast always includes my mother’s over-the-top adaptation of Moravian sugarcake. Each part of the meal is sacred and it’s not Christmas (or Thanksgiving, or Easter) without the meals that have become so much a part of that holiday’s tradition.
So what makes up a Sawyer family Christmas breakfast? There is lots of strong coffee and tart Texas ruby-red grapefruits (a wonderful gift from the in-laws!). Scrambled eggs are loaded with cheddar cheese, creamy grits with milk and butter, and there is plenty of Moravian sugarcake and country ham with red-eye gravy.
I consider myself to be an adventurous cook. I’d much rather try a new recipe than make the same thing twice, let alone again and again. My husband finds this slightly annoying and dinner parties always have an air of suspense, but usually the result of my constant craving for something new equals lots of great tasting dishes on the table.
For all my culinary diversity however, I am downright boring when it comes to salad. Frankly, I rarely give it any thought preferring instead to throw it together right before dinner with whatever is at hand. Typically, this involves pre-washed mixed greens (yes, I’m also lazy when it comes to salads), tomatoes, carrots, onion, and some celery. Sprinkled with salt, pepper, and granulated garlic and then tossed with olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette, it’s fast, easy, and tastes good. But it’s never the highlight of the meal. Continue reading
On Friday, I had the good fortune to have lunch with my grandmother and cousin in Winston-Salem, NC. We ate at a delicious little restaurant called Bernardin’s where the highlight of the meal was dessert: a wonderful strawberry shortcake. With a crumbly biscuit, expertly whipped cream, and, of course, ripe strawberries, it was plate-scraping good.
As food has the power to do, this shortcake also brought back memories. My grandmother told about how she and my grandfather would tell their four children that strawberry shortcake wasn’t very good, so they could have more of the cake for themselves. I know this story is true, because my father, one of the four victims, can’t see strawberry shortcake without lamenting those lost years without shortcake thanks to his parents deception. My grandmother then told us about our great great grandmother Ivey’s strawberry biscuit roll. She claimed it was delicious and backed that statement up by telling about one guest who was so absorbed in eating a piece of this dessert that he did not notice that the family dog was eating his pants under the table. Having never tasted, let alone heard about this family recipe, I realized that my grandmother had made a lifetime habit of keeping shortcake recipes secrets.
It’s not often that you find yourself without plans for a holiday which is why we took full advantage of the situation. On Saturday, we decided to celebrate Independence day by enjoying a delicious picnic while watching the fireworks at our local park. We knew we wanted it to be a picnic to remember, but North raised the bar when he suggested that we make sushi. Homemade sushi? At a picnic? Surely this is heaven!
To give you some background, we’ve made sushi before. Once. Two years ago for Valentine’s day we opted to avoid the restaurant scene and instead spend the money we would have spent on a four course meal for the finest, sushi-grade tuna in Charlotte. We spent a lot of money on that hunk of fish, but it was not money well-spent. Tuna discarded, we found ourselves rolling up pieces of imitation crab meat and cucumber around 11 p.m. that night in a desperate, and rather pathetic attempt, to feed ourselves. While not the most memorable Valentine’s day, it remains unforgettable. It also put an end to our desire to make sushi at home, as we came to the conclusion that sushi was one of those things that was worth paying someone else to do.
You can make hollandaise sauce in a blender. It’s easy, really hard to mess up, and quick to make. Perhaps its only flaw is that it can be a little thicker than a hollandaise done by hand. But where is the love?
Food for me is demonstrative. In my book, cooking from scratch means I love you. The more time you spend on a meal the more you care. Right?
Maybe. But I’m pretty sure that the breakfast I cooked from scratch for my husband on Saturday morning didn’t exactly scream love. I’m commuting between Charlotte and Charleston for work this summer and as a result, we aren’t seeing each other except on the weekends. So my idea was to wake up early on Saturday and surprise North with one of his favorites, eggs Benedict.
We’ve been pinching pennies recently, but a homework assignment for school allowed us to spoil ourselves this weekend. I had to prepare a classical French entree and my husband’s prayers were answered when I chose to make steak au poivre. It’s one of his favorites and it quickly became one of mine.
Perhaps its because steak isn’t part of our daily fare, but the 12 ounce New York strip was something special. The cracked pepper coating that I pressed into both sides made a dark, black crust. In the pan it caramelized and gave the steak a nice crunch that provided the perfect contrast to the soft, red center that literally melted in your mouth. The fat in the meat and the sauce coated my tongue luxuriously creating a silky mouthfeel. While twelve ounces of steak had seemed like more than enough, we found ourselves dreading the point at which we would have to take our last bite. In typical fashion, I quickly finished mine off and sat hungrily staring at my husband’s while he exhibited great self control. Continue reading