Holiday dinner during a pandemic

Yesterday was Easter.  We normally celebrate Easter with my family and my sister and her husband usually host.  They do a lovely job but in this current state of social distancing, we obviously could not be together.  (We had to settle for a virtual cocktail hour.)

The menu presented a bit of a challenge as the “typical” Easter dinners of a ham or a leg of lamb would provide an obscene amount of food for 3 people.  So we opted for a rack of lamb, our traditional potato gratin and glazed carrots (requested by Samantha.)  Keith set our kitchen table with a tablecloth, our wedding china and candles to keep things festive and I put on a spring dress.  It wasn’t the same as being with everyone but we enjoyed our meal.

Rack of lamb with merlot sauce

  • 1 rack of lamb per 2 people (Samantha only ate one chop so 1 rack worked.  If she was a bigger fan of lamb I would have made 2)
  • 1/4 cup panko
  • 2 TB chopped parsley
  • 1 tsp chopped mint
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 TB olive oil
  • canola oil
  • 1 TB Dijon mustard

Preheat oven to 400.  Season lamb with salt and pepper.  In a heavy oven-proof pan, heat canola oil over high heat on stovetop.  Sear lamb, meat side down for 3 – 4 minutes.  Put lamb in oven and roast for 7-8 minutes.  Remove and flip lamb over.  Return to oven for another 7 minutes.  Remove and rest for 5 – 10 minutes.  Spread with Dijon mustard.  Mix panko, herbs, garlic and olive oil together and spread mixture over the Dijon.  Broil for 1 minute and serve with:

Merlot sauce

  • 1 loin lamb chop (ask the butcher to cut it into pieces – you will use it for the sauce)
  • canola oil
  • 1 shallot, sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • 1/2 cup Merlot
  • 1 tsp crushed black peppercorns
  • 1 sprig rosemary
  • 1 qt chicken stock (preferably homemade)

In a heavy saucepan, heat oil over medium high heat and brown lamb on all sides.  Remove to a plate.  Reduce heat to medium and add shallots.  Cook until soft – about 3 minutes.  Add garlic and stir.  Return lamb to pan and add wine, pepper, and rosemary.  Bring to a boil and cook until wine is reduced to about 1/4 cup.  Add stock and bring to a boil.  Turn heat to low and simmer for about 90 minutes until reduced to about 1 cup.  Strain through a fine sieve and clean saucepan.  Heat right before serving for about 5 minutes for further reducing.

Potato Gratin

This is one of our family favorites!

  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 lbs baking potatoes, peeled and sliced thin (a food processor speeds the process)
  • 1 cup grated Gruyere cheese
  • 1 cup of cream

Preheat oven to 350.  Cut garlic clove in half and rub shallow porcelain dish with garlic.  Spread half of the potatoes in dish.  Top with half of cheese and half of cream.  Spread with remaining potatoes and top with remaining cheese and cream.  Sprinkle with pepper.

Bake 50 – 60 minutes.  Gratin should be golden on top.

Glazed carrots

  • 3 TB butter
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 TB honey
  • 1 pound baby carrots or carrots cut into pieces

Melt butter and add garlic.  Stir until garlic is just cooked.  Add honey and combine well.  Toss with carrots and put on a foil lined tray.  Cook at 400 for 25 minutes.

Here is the dinner and our festive table:

Catching up

We started the New Year with a little more entertaining.  Keith’s sister and her family came to town on Friday.  We don’t get together often enough and we wanted to give them a nice meal.  We reprised the slow cooked filet of beef from Christmas Eve with Keith’s parents and reused the basil parmesan mayonnaise.  With it we served potato gratin and a green salad.  Here is the recipe for the potato gratin:

Potato Gratin

  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 lbs baking potatoes, peeled and sliced thin (a food processor speeds the process)
  • 1 cup grated Gruyere cheese
  • 1 cup of cream

Preheat oven to 350.  Cut garlic clove in half and rub shallow porcelain dish with garlic.  Spread half of the potatoes in dish.  Top with half of cheese and half of cream.  Spread with remaining potatoes and top with remaining cheese and cream.  Sprinkle with pepper.

Bake 50 – 60 minutes.  Gratin should be golden on top.

Not health food for every day but nice for a special occasion.

Last night we had a classmate of Samantha’s and her parents over for dinner.  We don’t know them well so I wanted something likely to appeal to almost any palate.  I opted for one of my winter favorites and a great company dinner – braised chicken over rosemary polenta.  I’ve made this before and always gotten rave reviews.  Here are the recipes for these:

Braised chicken and polenta

  • 4 bone in chicken breasts, washed and patted dry and cut in half
  • 3 TB olive oil
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 2 oz pancetta, chopped
  • 2 tsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp fresh sage, finely chopped
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 5 whole cloves
  • 1 1/2 TB tomato paste
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 2 cups chicken stock

Season chicken with salt and pepper.  Heat 2 TB olive oil in a heavy saucepan and cook chicken until browned on both sides.  Remove from pan and place on a plate.  Pour off the fat from the pan.  Add remaining 1 TB olive oil and add onion, pancetta, rosemary, sage, bay leaves and cloves.  Saute 5- 10 minutes or until onions are browned.  Add wine and scrape pan brownings.  Add tomato paste and stir in.  Return chicken to pan and add chicken stock.  Bring to a boil and then simmer 20 – 30 minutes or until chicken is done.  Serve over:

Rosemary polenta

  • 2 TB butter
  • 2 TB olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp minced rosemary
  • 3/4 cup chicken stock
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 4 TB grated Parmesan cheese

Melt butter and olive oil.  Add garlic, red pepper flakes and rosemary and saute for 1 minute.  Add milk and chicken stock and boil.  Add cornmeal and whisk, stirring over low heat.  Remove from heat and stir in Parmesan cheese.

Grace tried it and liked it.  I was hoping that this would rub off on Samantha but she stuck to chicken tenders and applesauce.

Easy Entertaining

We are having company for dinner tonight – a family whose children go to school with our daughter.  Their 6 year old son is in her class and their daughter is a little older.  I wanted to keep things simple.  We’ll feed the kids chicken tenders and let them watch a movie while we eat.  Here is the menu for the grown ups:

Grilled flank steak, potato gratin and green salad

I made a new marinade for the flank steak

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 minced shallots
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 TB rosemary, chopped

Combine all ingredients together.  Poke holes in the flank steak using a fork.  Sprinkle steak with kosher salt.  Rub marinade into steak on both sides and refrigerate until ready to grill.  When ready to grill, wipe off marinade so it doesn’t burn and grill until done.

Potato Gratin

  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 lbs baking potatoes, peeled and sliced thin (a food processor speeds the process)
  • 1 cup grated Gruyere cheese
  • 1 cup of cream

Preheat oven to 350.  Cut garlic clove in half and rub shallow porcelain dish with garlic.  Spread half of the potatoes in dish.  Top with half of cheese and half of cream.  Spread with remaining potatoes and top with remaining cheese and cream.  Sprinkle with pepper.

Bake 50 – 60 minutes.  Gratin should be golden on top.

We’ll have a simple green salad (after the potatoes, we need something with fewer calories!) and I made the Barefoot Contessa’s Orange poundcake for dessert.

Looking forward to a relaxing evening!

Christmas Eve dinner

In talking to people over the last few weeks, I’m always interested to find out what they are cooking over the holidays.  Beef tenderloin is a very popular choice – it’s delicious, it’s luxurious and you can cook it ahead of time.  It was our entree for Christmas Eve last year and I’m repeating it again this year.  Here is my Christmas Eve menu with a few options depending on your mood:

Smoked salmon on toast points

We have a small number of adults on Christmas Eve so smoked salmon with sides is doable.  If you have a bigger group, try the salmon spread.

  • smoked salmon about 2 oz per person
  • thinly sliced white bread, toasted
  • sour cream
  • capers, drained
  • red onion, minced
  • hard boiled eggs, minced

Serve salmon on a plate surrounded with accompaniments and small forks.  This is great for a small group – for a large group make the salmon spread which will be posted shortly for Christmas dinner.

Salmon Spread

My mother-in-law got this recipe in Alaska.  It’s a great way to serve smoked salmon to a group and can be made a few days ahead and stored in the refrigerator.

  • 1 8 oz package cream cheese, softened
  • 8 oz smoked salmon
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp dill
  • 1/4 tsp tabasco
  • 1/4 cup chopped black olives

Mix all ingredients.  Press in a mound or a bowl for shape and chill.  Serve with crackers.

Roasted beef tenderloin with red wine sauce

  • Beef tenderloin (about 1 lb per person is generous and allows leftovers)
  • vegetable oil
  • salt and pepper

If using whole tenderloin, cut in half.  Preheat oven to 475.  Using a heavy roasting pan with vegetable oil, start the beef on top of the stove over 2 burners.  Sear about 2 minutes a side so beef is browned on all sides and then cook in oven for about 20 minutes or until internal temperature is 125 for medium rare.  This can be prepared ahead of time.  NOTE: If you have someone who likes their meat more done, you can cut off a portion and wrap it in aluminum foil when it comes out of the oven – it will get more done or you can put carve and then cook in your oven or toaster oven for a few more minutes.

Red wine sauce

  • 1 cup red wine (Merlot or Cabernet)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup butter, chopped into small pieces
  • 1 TB minced chives
  • 1 tsp dried tarragon

Combine wine, bay leaves, salt and pepper and boil over high heat.  When reduced to about 2 TB, remove from heat, remove bay leaves and whisk in butter.  Whisk continuously to keep from separating.  Add in chives and tarragon.  Watch closely – this can burn quickly.  I’ve tried to make ahead of time but find it’s easier to make at the last minute to reduce the risk of separating.  If it does separate, try adding a small amount of cold water.

Roasted onion sauce for beef 

This is another excellent sauce with the meat.  You can make it ahead of time and it is excellent with leftovers on sandwiches.

  • 2 large onions
  • 2 TB butter
  • 2 TB flour
  • 3/4 cup cream
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 3 TB capers, drained
  • 1 tsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 TB fresh tarragon leaves, minced

Preheat oven to 475.  Line a baking pan with aluminum foil and roast onions for 2 hours.  Let onions cool and then discard the outer layers, stems, root ends and juice remaining in the ban.  Puree the onions in a food processor until smooth. Transfer mixture to a saucepan and bring to a boil.  Boil stirring until puree is thick and liquid has evaporated.

In a small saucepan, melt butter over low heat.  Whisk in flour and cook, whisking for about 3 minutes.  Add cream and wine while whisking and simmer sauce whisking for about 5 minutes. Sauce should be thick.  Remove from saucepan and stir in capers, vinegar and tarragon.   Stir in onion puree.  Sauce can be made the day before and kept refrigerated.  Reheat when ready to serve.

Haricots verts with shallots

  • 3/4 lb haricots verts, ends trimmed
  • 2 TB butter
  • 1 TB olive oil
  • 2 – 3 shallots, finely chopped

Blanch beans in boiling water for 2 minutes.  Drain and plunge into cold water to stop cooking and drain.

Melt butter and oil in a large pan and saute shallots for 5 – 10 minutes until browned.  Add beans to shallot mixture and season with salt and pepper.  Serve hot.

Arugula salad

I debated between the haricots verts and the arugula salad

  • 1 Shallot
  • 1 TB Sherry Vinegar
  • 3 TB Olive oil
  • Arugula
  • Parmesan cheese

Chop shallot and add to a small jar with vinegar and olive oil (for a milder dressing increase olive oil to 4 TB).  Wash arugula and spin dry.  Toss with dressing and top with shavings of parmesan.

Rosemary popovers

  • 1 1/3 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/3 cups milk
  • 5 TB melted butter
  • 4 tsp fresh rosemary leaves, minced

Preheat oven to 350.  Combine flour, salt, eggs, milk and 4 TB of butter in a blender for about 30 seconds.  Brush popover tins with remaining butter and heat in oven about 5 minutes.  Fill tins half full with batter and sprinkle each popover top with rosemary.  Bake 45 minutes or until golden and crisp.

Potato Gratin

The potato gratin is always a hit and would provide a good starch option in place of the rosemary popovers.

  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 lbs baking potatoes, peeled and sliced thin (a food processor speeds the process)
  • 1 cup grated Gruyere cheese
  • 1 cup of cream

Preheat oven to 350.  Cut garlic clove in half and rub shallow porcelain dish with garlic.  Spread half of the potatoes in dish.  Top with half of cheese and half of cream.  Spread with remaining potatoes and top with remaining cheese and cream.  Sprinkle with pepper.

Bake 50 – 60 minutes.  Gratin should be golden on top.

I’ll serve cookies from my baking spree for dessert.

Happy Father’s Day and Blog milestone

Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there.  Thanks to all of my blog followers – we passed a major milestone.  On Friday I recorded 10,000 hits which feels like a lot to me.  Particularly since those of you who subscribe and receive it in email aren’t getting counted as hits.  I appreciate the support – it makes it more fun for me.   If you enjoy the blog, please tell a friend who you think might like it too!

We are going to have dinner with my parents tonight so my mom and I are collaborating on the food.  I’m making the roasted shrimp cocktail and bringing marinated portabello mushrooms to grill.  My mom got Porterhouse steaks to grill and I’m making chimichurri sauce.  She is making her amazing potatoes and mocha mousse.  Here are the recipes for everything:

Roasted shrimp cocktail

  • jumbo shrimp (4 or 5 per person)
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • cocktail sauce

Peel shrimp leaving the tails on.  Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast at 400 for about 10 minutes or until pink.  Serve room temperature with cocktail sauce.

Grilled marinated portabello mushrooms

  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1/4 cup chopped basil
  • 4 portabello mushrooms, brushed clean and stems removed

Whisk together first 4 ingredients and combine with mushrooms.  Marinate for 1 – 4 hours at room temperature.  Grill about 3 – 4 minutes a side.

Grilled Porterhouse steak with Chimichurri sauce

  • 1 Porterhouse steak for every two people
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 large bunch of parsley
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 TB dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
Marinate steaks in Worcestershire sauce.  Grill to desired doneness.
For chimichurri sauce, chop garlic in a food processor until finely chopped.  Add parsley and spices and chop.  Place mixture in a bowl and stir in oil and vinegar.  Serve with steak.
Potato Gratin
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 2 lbs baking potatoes, peeled and sliced thin
  • 1 cup grated Gruyere cheese
  • 1 cup cream
Preheat oven to 350.  Rub a shallow gratin dish with garlic.  Layer half of the potatoes in the dish and top with half of the cheese and half of the cream.  Repeat with remaining ingredients.  Bake for 60 minutes and serve.  This is very good with any meat or poultry dish.
Mocha Mousse
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 1/2 tsp instant coffee
  • 6 oz semi sweet chocolate chips
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream, whipped to stiff peaks
Combine sugar, water and coffee in a saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat.  Boil for 2 minutes.  Put chocolate chips in a blender and add sugar syrup.  Blend for 10 seconds.  Add eggs and blend for 1 minute.  Fold into whipped cream and freeze, at least overnight.  Serve.
Enjoy!

Happy Easter!

My sister and brother-in-law are hosting Easter dinner.  They are both very good cooks so I know that dinner will be delicious.  I’m not sure about the whole menu – I know about the appetizers because I’m bringing them and I believe my sister is making a bunny cake.  I also know that we are having lamb with gravy and mint sauce and potato gratin.  I love lamb and was shocked to see an article in the paper yesterday that said 40% of Americans have never tried it.  If you are in that 40%, I challenge you to try it.

One of the things to consider when making lamb is how many people you are serving.  For a small group, you can grill chops (we marinate ours in Worcestershire sauce).  If you have 6 – 8, you could make a rack of lamb (sear the meat on top of the stove and then roast in the oven until done and then cover with Dijon mustard and herb seasoned bread crumbs and broil for a few minutes).   Lamb should definitely be pink and juicy – if you have someone who likes their meat more done, you can always cut some off and pop it in the oven for a few minutes.

For a bigger group, you’ll probably want a leg of lamb.  I’ll find out how my sister fixed hers and update you tomorrow.  The last time we fixed a leg of lamb, we did a boned leg using the recipe below:

Roasted leg of lamb

  • 3 TB mixed peppercorns (white, red and black)
  • 1 1/2 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1/2 cup mint leaves
  • 6 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1/2 cup raspberry vinegar
  • 1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
  • 1/2 red wine
  • 1 boned leg of lamb
  • 2 TB Dijon mustard
Crush 1 TB of peppercorns and combine with rosemary, mint, garlic, vinegar, soy sauce and red wine.  Marinate lamb all day or overnight, turning a few times.
Remove lamb from marinade and reserve marinade.
Preheat oven to 350.  Crush remaining peppercorns.  Spread mustard on meat and cover with crushed peppercorns.  Put the roast in a shallow roasting pan and pour marinade around meat.  Bake for about 18 minutes per pound or until a meat thermometer registers 130 for medium rare meat.  Let stand for 15 minutes and carve.  Serve with pan juices.
Lamb definitely marries well with mint.  Many people like mint jelly but I prefer mint sauce.  My mother made the mint sauce for dinner tonight using the recipe below:
Mint sauce
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 TB white vinegar
  • pinch salt
  • generous 1/4 cup chopped mint
Boil water, sugar, vinegar and salt to make a syrup.  When thick add mint and simmer.
We will also have our family favorite potato gratin.  Here is the recipe for that:
Potato Gratin
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 2 lbs baking potatoes, peeled and sliced thin
  • 1 cup grated Gruyere cheese
  • 1 cup cream
Preheat oven to 350.  Rub a shallow gratin dish with garlic.  Layer half of the potatoes in the dish and top with half of the cheese and half of the cream.  Repeat with remaining ingredients.  Bake for 60 minutes and serve.  This is very good with any meat or poultry dish.
I’m sure our food will be delicious and we will enjoy being with family.  I hope you have had a happy Easter holiday and eaten well!

Sunday dinner

Tonight we’re having company for dinner.  My daughter has a “big buddy” at school, a fourth grader who takes the kindergartener under their wing.  Samantha is very attached to her big buddy so we thought it would be nice to have her and her parents over for dinner.  When I spoke to them on the phone I asked if they had any food allergies or dislikes and was told no.  I asked Samantha to be my little spy and ask Kellie what she likes to eat but I wasn’t comfortable that she was a reliable witness.  The grownups are having leg of lamb and potato gratin.  My 5 year old will not eat that so she is having pasta.  Her big buddy will have a choice between pasta and lamb.  (I’m hoping she eats the lamb because if she does, Samantha might just decide she should eat it too.)  Everything can be done ahead of time except carving the lamb and we should have leftovers for another night this week.  I’m roasting some shrimp for an appetizer course (I have hummus and pita chips for the kids) and the gingerbread is in the oven now.  We’re looking forward to a nice evening.

Roasted leg of lamb

  • 3 TB mixed peppercorns (white, red and black)
  • 1 1/2 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1/2 cup mint leaves
  • 6 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1/2 cup raspberry vinegar
  • 1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
  • 1/2 red wine
  • 1 boned leg of lamb
  • 2 TB Dijon mustard
Crush 1 TB of peppercorns and combine with rosemary, mint, garlic, vinegar, soy sauce and red wine.  Marinate lamb all day or overnight, turning a few times.
Remove lamb from marinade and reserve marinade.
Preheat oven to 350.  Crush remaining peppercorns.  Spread mustard on meat and cover with crushed peppercorns.  Put the roast in a shallow roasting pan and pour marinade around meat.  Bake for about 18 minutes per pound or until a meat thermometer registers 130 for medium rare meat.  Let stand for 15 minutes and carve.  Serve with pan juices.
Potato Gratin
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 2 lbs baking potatoes, peeled and sliced thin
  • 1 cup grated Gruyere cheese
  • 1 cup cream
Preheat oven to 350.  Rub a shallow gratin dish with garlic.  Layer half of the potatoes in the dish and top with half of the cheese and half of the cream.  Repeat with remaining ingredients.  Bake for 60 minutes and serve.  This is very good with any meat or poultry dish.

Potato Gratin

This is not low calorie but it is delicious with steak or chicken.  A last hurrah before the New Year’s diet starts!

Potato Gratin

  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 lbs baking potatoes, peeled and sliced thin (a food processor speeds the process)
  • 1 cup grated Gruyere cheese
  • 1 cup of cream

Preheat oven to 350.  Cut garlic clove in half and rub shallow porcelain dish with garlic.  Spread half of the potatoes in dish.  Top with half of cheese and half of cream.  Spread with remaining potatoes and top with remaining cheese and cream.  Sprinkle with pepper.

Bake 50 – 60 minutes.  Gratin should be golden on top.

This was the potato dish we had Christmas Eve with Beef Tenderloin.  It is a family favorite.  I’m happy to have leftovers to enjoy with our roast chicken tonight.