Belated Birthday Present & Flourless Chocolate Cake

Mom_JohnnyTomorrow is my birthday. Before you get all excited and plan a surprise (although, who am I to stop you), it’s not one of the big ones. I’m not entering a new decade or even a half-decade. Now, if my birthday is tomorrow, then my brother’s is not far off. I had just turned seven when John joined the family. He was a few weeks early, but lucky for me, he arrived after, not during, my birthday party.

Children’s birthday parties have changed quite a bit since I was seven. We passed from one year to the next without bouncy castles, magicians or adventure parks. When it came to fun and games, pin the tail on the donkey was more or less it. PB&Js and fluffernutters were as haut as the cuisine got. The cakes were homemade or, in our house, homemade with the help of Duncan Hines or Betty Crocker. The ice cream came in little paper cups with wooden spoons that looked a lot like mini tongue depressors.

All of that changed the year I turned seven. With Mom ready to pop, Dad magnanimously offered to take my birthday party to the movies. The Community Playhouse showed a children’s film on Saturday mornings. What could be better? Or easier? My birthday fell on a Friday that year so the celebrations were postponed a day.

Although he was clearly over his head, Dad somehow managed to get seven little girls in party dresses into the family station wagon and a few miles down the road to the theater. Even more miraculous, he singlehandedly secured a box of Junior Mints or Milk Duds and a seat for each of us. Exhausted by the effort, I assume he napped through the film that might or might not have been 101 Dalmatians. I seem to remember seeing Cruella and the puppies at about that time.

After the movie, the house lights jolted Dad awake and he herded us out to the parking lot and into the car. As far as I know, he didn’t lose anyone. After a quick stop at the house to pick up Mom, we headed out to Route 9. While Mom had been happy to let Dad take us to the movies, she was pretty sure that lunch with seven seven-year olds was beyond his pay grade. Okay, make that six seven-year olds; my older sister was part of the party. Regardless of whatever tests of skill or smarts Dad had already mastered, Mom knew that a gaggle of giggling girls could easily take him down. At nine, Brenda might have been a cool number and more than a bit bossy but she and Dad were outnumbered.

With Mom now firmly in charge, we burst into the lobby of Valle’s Steakhouse. The site of countless celebrations, Valle’s was the backdrop for part two of the festivities. Unheard of on Jackson Road, this birthday party was going out for lunch! To a restaurant!

True to form, no sooner had we sat down but all or most of us needed a trip to the ladies room. With her enormous belly pushing us along, Mom guided us through the cavernous dining room. As we chatted and giggled, took our turns, washed our hands and giggled and chatted some more, a kind (and kind of mischievous) woman looked over at Mom and said, “I hope for your sake that this next one’s a boy.”

My brother was born a few days later. It was still dark out when Brenda nudged me awake with the news. She was obviously very excited and asked me if I was too. I told her no, rolled over and went back to sleep. Some children would have welcomed him as a belated birthday present; not me. Yes, his imminent arrival had given me the fanciest party in the neighborhood but that couldn’t make up for two simple facts. He stole my bedroom and made me a middle child.

Bon appétit!

Flourless Chocolate Cake
Big or not, don’t all birthdays call for cake? Enjoy!
Serves 12-16

9 tablespoons butter plus more for the pan
10 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
2 teaspoons instant espresso powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
6 large eggs, at room temperature and separated
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons cognac
Pinch salt
Garnish: heavy cream, lightly sweetened or not and whipped to soft peaks

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Lightly butter a 10-inch springform pan, line the bottom of the pan with a round of parchment paper and butter the paper. Wrap the pan in two layers of heavy aluminum foil.

Put the chocolate and butter in a heavy saucepan and, stirring frequently, heat on very low until about 2/3 melted. Remove the pan from the heat, let sit for a few minutes and stir until smooth. Stir in the expresso powder and cinnamon and set aside to cool slightly.

Put the egg yolks and 1/2 cup sugar in a bowl and beat with an electric mixer until pale and frothy. Beat in the vanilla and cognac. Whisk the chocolate mixture into the egg yolks and sugar.

Clean the electric mixer’s beaters and beat the egg whites and salt until thick. Add remaining the sugar and continue beating until stiff but not dry.

Stir about 1/4 of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture. Gently fold in the remaining whites. Pour the batter into the prepared springform pan and place it in a roasting pan.

Add boiling water to the roasting pan to come halfway up the side of springform pan. Bake at 37 degrees for 10 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 350 and continue baking for 35-40 minutes.

Remove the cake from the roasting pan and place it on a rack to cool completely. Unwrap the foil, remove the side of springform pan and transfer the cake to a serving plate.

Cut the cake into thin wedges and serve with a dollop of whipped cream.

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One Year Ago – Lemon Roasted Chicken Thighs
Two Years Ago – Panna Cotta with Strawberries
Three Years Ago – Decadent Mac & Cheese
Four Years Ago – Seared Scallops with Roasted Pepper Sauce
Five Years Ago – Creole Shrimp & Cheesy Grits
Six Years Ago – White Bean Dip
Seven Years Ago – Warm Chocolate Pudding

Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

Do you have any special plans for a winter vacation? Feel free to share!

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2016

A Night at the Oscars & Crostini with Beef Tenderloin & Stilton

Susie_MaryBeth_snowWinter is not a particularly glamorous time of year in New Hampshire. We spend our days bundled up in bulky sweaters and heavy socks. Before leaving the house, we don jackets that turn us into Michelin Man clones. With very few exceptions, everyone has a chronic case of hat hair. Thank goodness, relief is on the way. No, not an all-expense paid trip to the Caribbean. A golden knight, commonly known as Oscar, will soon swoop into our living rooms and rescue us with a little razzle-dazzle.

The Oscar awards are a great time to invite your friends and neighbors over for a star studded evening. After the Super Bowl, it is the most watched show on television. We could all use a little infusion of glitz and glitter in our otherwise fleece and down-filled lives. At least for one night, we can watch beautiful people in elegant gowns and tuxedos. The show will be filled with tension and melodrama. There will be music, laughter and a few awkward and interesting moments.

Ask everyone to come about 7:00 to watch the stars sashay down the red carpet. It is the perfect opportunity to feast your eyes on the good, the bad and the ugly of Hollywood fashion. Encourage debate and take a poll for best and worst dressed. Then it is on with the show.

While many hosts stipulate black tie and gowns at their Oscar parties, formal attire is certainly not required. If black tie isn’t your thing, costumes can be fun. Ask your guests to dress as their favorite star or pretend they are an extra in one of this year’s best picture nominees. You’ll have everything from saris to football jerseys, Civil War uniforms, kufiya and camouflage gear. Since the show always seems to go on and on and on, usually ending well past my bedtime, a pajama party works for me! Whatever you do, consider offering prizes for best and worst dressed, most creative or funny.

Not sure about your Oscar party menu? Let the movies inspire you. Use the best picture nominees as a guide and put together an international, and very memorable, evening. No, you don’t need to serve stale bread and gruel for Les Misérables. The key is to let the movies inspire you, not tie you down. Feel free to take a lot of poetic license. Celebrate Amour and Les Mis with French food. Enjoy a taste of India for the Life of Pi. Honor Argo and Zero Dark Thirty with Middle Eastern delicacies. Whip up your favorite recipes from the Deep South in deference to Django Unchained. Add some Creole treats for Beasts of the Southern Wild and a batch of corn cakes, a favorite of President Lincoln. Finally, think football food but take it up a notch for Silver Linings Playbook. Your friends will be delighted.

champagneDon’t worry, nine nominees does not mean you need to stress over a nine course meal. A buffet is a great idea for an Oscar Party. Let everyone wander over to the table and nibble at leisure. Stick to finger food and dishes which are easily eaten with a just fork or spoon. By all means, go glam with the cocktails. Put the champagne on ice or get creative with a special Hollywood inspired cocktail. To pull everything together, dress up your table with a bright red runner, bring out lots of candles and maybe add a few Oscar statuettes from the party store. Your guests will love it.

 Enjoy a wonderful evening, filled with fun, glitz and glamor  cheers and jeers, mixing, mingling, sipping and nibbling. On with the show and bon appétit!

Don’t forget to print up plenty of Scorecards for you and your guests!

Crostini with Beef Tenderloin & Stilton
A very distant relation to the infamous Philly Cheese Steak, these elegant, little sandwiches will make a great addition to your Oscar Party. Enjoy!
Makes 16 small open-faced sandwiches

Olive oil
1 red onion, thinly sliced
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 pound mushrooms, sliced
4-6 ounces crumbled Stilton
1 ounce cream cheese at room temperature
1-2 tablespoons sour cream
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Thinly sliced baguette, toasted
About 12 ounces thinly sliced beef tenderloin, filet mignon or New York strip steak
Arugula

Crostini_Beef_Tenderloin_Stilton_01Heat a little olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the onions, sprinkle with thyme, season with salt and pepper and toss to combine. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook slowly, stirring occasionally, until the onions are golden brown. Remove from the heat and reserve.

Heat a little olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms, season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring frequently, until the mushrooms are golden brown. Remove from the heat and reserve.

Put the cream cheese, sour cream and mustard in a bowl, season with salt and pepper and stir to combine. Add the Stilton and stir again to combine.

Assemble the Crostini: Spread a little of the Stilton mixture onto each slice of toast, add 3-4 arugula leaves and top with beef. Garnish with caramelized onions and serve.

You can prep the onions, mushrooms, Stilton spread and beef and the toast baguette slices early in the day and assemble at the last minute when your guests arrive.

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One Year Ago – Flatbread with Mushrooms, Caramelized Onions & Spinach
Two Years Ago – Lemon Cheesecake
Three Year Ago – Pork Tenderloin with Mushrooms
Four Years Ago – Raviolis in Broth with Meatballs & Escarole
Or
Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

What are your plans for Oscar night? Let’s get a conversation going.

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook as well as a day in the life photoblog! In addition, I hope that you will take a minute to learn about my philanthropic project Eat Well-Do Good. © Susan W. Nye, 2013

Weekend Special – Super Bowl Sunday

And just like that it’s Super Bowl Sunday. Except for a few lone, hopelessly football-impaired people, everyone but everyone will be watching the game. Even those who don’t’ really care about football will watch the game. If only for the commercials or the halftime show.

footballFan or not, it wouldn’t be a Super Bowl without a happy crowd crammed around a wide screen with a few beers and some fabulous food. (Super Bowl Sunday is second only to Thanksgiving for great food traditions.)

So what’s on your Super Bowl menu? Looking for a little inspiration? Here are a few ideas:

Start with finger food! Always a crowd pleaser, try my Grilled Corn, Black Bean & Avocado Salsa with a few chips. Or step it up a notch with my delicious Flatbread with Mushrooms, Caramelized Onions & Spinach. And don’t forget the chicken wings … I’ve got two great recipes … try one or both … Spicy Tequila Wings and Hoisin Wings.

By half time, maybe before, you’ll be ready for the main event. How about chili or chili or maybe more chili? I’ve got two great chicken chilis. Give my My Favorite Chicken & Black Bean Chili or My Other Favorite Chicken & Black Bean Chili. Had enough chicken? Try my Red Bean Chili with Pork & Butternut Squash.

Serve the chili up with crispy Jicama Slaw, Crunchy Slaw with Cilantro & Peanuts or a delicious Salad with Apples & Grapes.

Eventually, you’ll be ready for something sweet! Finger food is always a good idea. How about a brownie? Try my <a href="https://susannye.wordpress.com/2012/05/01/puttin-on-the-ritz-espresso-brownies/&quot; target="_blank"Espresso Brownies or Peanut Brownies (or both) for a tasty finish to a great game.

Enjoy the game and bon appétit!

What will you be serving on Super Bowl Sunday? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going.

Want more? Click here for more seasonal menus! For a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog Click Here!

© Susan W. Nye, 2013

Weekend Special – Get Out the Grill!

Finally, it is now really, truly, officially summer! It’s time for fun filled days and long, lazy evenings on the deck or on the beach. Enjoy dinner around the picnic table while the sun slowly sets. After dinner, relax under the stars and watch the fireflies dance.
.

Pleasant Lake at Sunset

Stumped on what to cook this weekend? Here are a few ideas!

To Start:
My favorite all time summer appetizer has got to be Summer Rolls with Vietnamese Dipping Sauce. They take a bit of time and a bit of practice to get the hang of it but they are just wonderful.

The pick-your-own strawberry farms are now open! Looking for a festive cocktail to start the evening? How about a Strawberry Tini or a Strawberry Smoothie for the kids (or for dessert)?

The Main Event:

Moving on to dinner, think pork chops hot off the grill. Let them marinate overnight and they will be tender and juicy. My Grilled Mustard Pork Chops are sure to please. Or if you like it a little spicy, try my Spicy Barbeque Sauce. (It’s great with both chicken and pork.)

A nice crispy slaw is the perfect side dish for your grilled chops. Both Jicama Slaw and Asian Slaw are great choices and will add some crunch to your meal.

Sweet Finish:
Load up on ripe sweet berries for a song. Spend an hour or two in the fields picking your own and then head home to make Strawberry Gelato.

Have a great weekend!

Bon appétit!

Strawberry Tini
Serves 2

6-8 fresh strawberries
2 ounces vodka
1 ounce strawberry (or raspberry or orange) liqueur
4 ounces limeade or lemonade
Splash of club soda or sparkling water
Garnish: fresh strawberries

Put the strawberries, vodka, liqueur and limeade in a blender and process until smooth.

Pour the tini into a cocktail shaker (optional: strain the tini through a fine-mesh sieve into the shaker to remove the seeds) with 3-4 ice cubes. Shake vigorously and strain into a chilled martini glasses, add a splash of club soda and garnish with a fresh strawberry.

For a big crowd, blend a big batch of strawberries, vodka, liqueur and limeade in advance. Strain or not and store the mixture in the freezer. No need to fuss with a cocktail shaker, pour directly into martini glasses, top off with a little club soda and garnish with fresh berries.

Strawberry Slushie
Serves 1

6-8 fresh strawberries
4 ounces limeade or lemonade
1 teaspoon honey (optional)
6-8 ice cubes
Garnish: fresh strawberries

Put the strawberries, limeade and honey in the blender and process until smooth. Add the ice cubes and process until smooth. Pour into a festive glass and serve.

What are serving this weekend? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going. To make a comment, just click on Comments below. I’d be delighted to add you to the growing list of blog subscribers. To subscribe: just scroll back up, fill in your email address and click on the Sign Me Up button. You’ll get an email asking you to confirm your subscription … confirm and you will automatically receive a new story and recipe every week.

Want more? Click here for more seasonal menus! In addition, I hope that you will take a minute to learn about my philanthropic project Eat Well-Do Good. © Susan W. Nye, 2011

Foliage Season – Time to Gather Around the Table & Tex-Mex Braised Beef

Last week I was puttering around my kitchen and it dawned on me that fall is the perfect time to entertain. This epiphany happened as I prepping and getting ready for one of my Eat Well-Do Good dinners. All in all, it was a delightful afternoon. A cool breeze was stirring the kitchen curtains. The foliage outside my window was taking on a decidedly golden hue. And I was happily chopping up a butternut squash to roast with a little bit of olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

I figured there must be at least a dozen good reasons to cook and entertain in the fall. Here are my top three:

One:
During the summer, my kitchen can (and frequently does) start to feel like an inferno by 11 a.m. Fall is a welcome respite. Even on a gorgeous, Indian summer day, my kitchen is a comfortable and cozy place to spend the afternoon. Instead of hot and cranky, I am cool, calm and relaxed when my first guest rings the bell.

When the weather cools down we all look forward to soups and slow cooked stews. With a little bit of upfront effort you can cook up a delicious dinner of marvelous comfort food. While dinner bubbles, you can relax and enjoy your guests. There is little or no last minute rushing around with grills to light, fires to tend or lots of different serving dishes to sort out. When the time is right, pull out your ladle and serve up a tasty one pot meal.

Two:
There are wonderful fall vegetables at the farmer’s market, farm stand and supermarket. I love leafy greens and you can find them in abundance. Lovely bouquets of chard and mustard greens and heads of escarole, chicory and radicchio are all in season. These leafy greens are great sautéed in a little olive oil with a hint of garlic, spicy pepper flakes and a splash of lemon juice.

Another favorite, newly harvested winter squash are in the market. Beautiful blue Hubbards and tasty butternuts are piled high. Squash is great in soups, risotto and stews. And don’t forget all the fun and funky gourds and pumpkins. They make wonderful decorations for your table and front stoop.

Not to forget, for at least for a week or two more, many of our favorite summer treats are still available. Instead of a simple ear of corn on the cob, think about adding kernels to a yummy chowder, chili or stew. Roasting is a wonderful way to enjoy the last of the fresh, local green beans and zucchini.

Three:
After a busy summer, we are all getting back to normal. Or as normal as some of us get. Since many friends and neighbors have been away enjoying a special summer vacation, it’s fun to reconnect. With suitcases emptied and back in the attic, it’s time to share stories of trips, travels and adventures.

On the other hand, we all know at least a handful of snowbirds. To avoid the cold New England ice, snow and wind, these fair-weather friends and family members head south for the winter. It’s time to grab them for one last meal before they fly south until May.

As for me, with lots of family and friends coming and going, summer on Pleasant Lake is a fantastic time of year. However, as wonderful as summer is, I have to admit there are many summer days and nights when hectic is the ultimate understatement. Fall is calmer, quieter and a lot less frantic. I’m delighted to share a more relaxed me with friends around my table.

I hope that you are enjoying fall and will think about inviting a few friends around your table soon.

Bon appétit!

Tex-Mex Braised Beef, Black Beans & Fresh Corn
Serves 8-10

Olive oil
3 onions, chopped
1-2 tablespoons (or to taste) minced jalapeno pepper
2 tablespoons (or to taste) chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons (or to taste) cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon (or to taste) crushed chipotle chili flakes
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 ounce (1 square) unsweetened chocolate
3 pounds London broil, cut about 2 inches thick
2 cans (28 ounces) crushed tomato
1 cup dry red wine
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup sour cream
3 (15-16 ounce) cans black beans (about 4 cups), rinsed and drained
4 cups fresh corn kernels (about 8 ears) (it’s okay to use frozen corn when fresh is not available)
Garnish: fresh chopped cilantro

1. Heat a little olive oil in a large, heavy casserole over medium-high heat. Add the onions, jalapeno pepper and spices; cook, stirring often, until the onions soften, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute more. Add the tomatoes, bay leaf, oregano, brown sugar and chocolate to the pot. Stir well and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, while you brown the beef.
2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
3. Pat the beef dry and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Heat a little olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat; add the beef and brown well on both sides, about 5 minutes per side.
4. Transfer the beef to the casserole with the sauce. Add the red wine to the skillet and deglaze by bringing to a boil and scraping up the brown bits for about 1 minute. Add the wine to the casserole and simmer uncovered for 5 minutes.
5. Cover the casserole and transfer to the oven. Cook, turning the beef once or twice, for 1 hour.
6. Put the sour cream in a small bowl. A few spoonfuls at a time, whisk about 1 cup of the sauce into the sour cream and then add back to the casserole. Add the beans to the casserole. Return to the oven and cook for 1-1 1/2 hours more, until the beef is very tender.
7. Remove the meat from the casserole. Stir in the corn kernels and return the casserole to the oven while you slice the beef. Cut the beef across the grain in thick slices and arrange in a deep serving platter or individual bowls, top with beans and corn, garnish with cilantro and serve.

This dish can be made 2 or 3 days ahead. Bring to a simmer on top of the stove and then transfer to a 350 degree oven and heat until warmed through.

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One Year Ago – Spicy Chicken Stew
Two Years Ago – Chicken Chili

Do you like to entertain in the fall? Tell me about it.I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going. To make a comment, just click on Comments below.

I’d be delighted to add you to the growing list of blog subscribers. To subscribe: just scroll back up, fill in your email address and click on the Sign Me Up button. You’ll get an email asking you to confirm your subscription … confirm and you will automatically receive a new story and recipe every week.

Feel free to visit my other, cleverly named blog, Susan Nye’s Other Blog, or website www.susannye.com. You can find more than 200 recipes, links to magazine articles and lots more. I hope that you will take a minute to learn about my philanthropic project Eat Well-Do Good. ©Susan W. Nye, 2010

Fun and Snow Games & Pork Tenderloin with Mushrooms

It’s been a crazy winter. A winter when up is down and down is up. El Niño has brought snow to the south with flakes flying from the nation’s capital to Florida, Mississippi and Alabama. And in New England, where we expect snow, we’ve had drought followed by rain followed by drought. On top of the dearth of snow, the winter winds have been fiercer than ever. Of course, it could be my imagination but it seems to me that we’ve suffered more than our fair share of windy days. I swear I’ve come this close to being blown off course more times than I care to count. Somehow I’ve managed to avoid lift-off and an inadvertent trip to Kansas or Oz.

Way out to the west, California is drowning in rain. And up to the north in British Columbia, it may be February but Vancouver and the neighboring mountains are in the middle of a spring thaw. Not great news for the Olympics. In spite of the rain, fog and grey skies the Olympic spirit is soaring over the Canadian Rockies.

Maybe it is because I grew up on skates and skis but the winter games are always a special treat. When we were kids we spent all day Saturday on the slopes. When we were too tuckered to take even one more run, we headed home to watch the professionals. With a mug of hot chocolate and a bowl of popcorn, we sprawled in front of the television and watched the joys of victory and the agonies of defeat. It was a weekly ritual.

Now I either need to subscribe to a whole lot more channels or I need to do a better job at ferreting out the skiers, bobsledders and speed skating on the channels I have. Except during the Olympics. Once every four years I can get my fill of winter sports. I can tune into the artistry of the figure skaters one night and the terrifying speed of the bob and luge the next. The ski jumpers, downhill skiers and the speed skaters are amazing with their power and control at high speeds. And then there is the pure joy and whimsy of the snowboarders.

Yes, I know they are serious athletes. Yes, I know that they train hard throughout the year and have been at it for most of their lives. I even know that there is big money involved with sponsorships and endorsement contracts. But in spite of all that, there is something about the spirit of snowboarding that reminds me of being a kid on the mountain.

It doesn’t take all that much imagination to picture your favorite snowboarders at nine or ten. They were the kids with hats askew over unruly curls, unzipped jackets flapping in the breeze and arms flailing. And most of all, theirs were the smiles so big and broad they could light up the greyest day. Or maybe I’m just remembering my own fun-filled childhood on the slopes.

I’m a skier and always have been. Even though I’ve never tried snowboarding, I was pretty raggle-taggle as a kid and maybe I still am. But there’s at least one thing I knew then and still know; there’s nothing like fresh snow on the mountain to bring out a smile and inspire joy.

Enjoy the Olympics. May it be filled with lots of joyful victories and not too many agonizing defeats. Bon appétit!

 Pork with Mushrooms and White Wine Sauce

Bring friends and family together for an Olympics party. Pork tenderloin with mushrooms and white wine sauce is a sure winner; quick, easy and delicious. Enjoy!

Serves 6

Olive oil
1 pound mushrooms, cleaned, trimmed and sliced
1 shallot, finely chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
2 pork tenderloins, about 1 pound each
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, minced
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
1-2 tablespoons cold butter, cut in small pieces
2 tablespoons Cognac (optional)

Heat a little olive oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium high heat. Add the mushrooms and shallots, sprinkle with salt and pepper and sauté until lightly browned. Add the garlic and sauté for 1-2 minutes more.  Remove the mushrooms from the pan and reserve.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Add a little more olive oil to the skillet and raise the heat. Sear the pork tenderloins on all sides until nicely browned. Transfer the pan to the oven and roast for 10 minutes or until the pork’s internal temperature reaches 140-145 degrees. Remove the pork from the pan and let rest for 5 to 10 minutes before slicing.

Transfer the skillet to the stovetop – be careful the handle will be hot. Add the wine to the skillet and deglaze the pan over medium-high heat. Whisk in the mustard and herbs. Return the mushrooms to the skillet, toss to combine. Bring to a simmer and cook until the liquid is reduced by about half. Stir in the cognac and butter. Whisk to combine.

Cut the pork into 1/2-inch slices and serve immediately with the mushroom sauce.

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One Year Ago – Raviolis in Broth with Meatballs & Escarole

Do you have a question? An idea, a few thoughts or an opinion you’d like to share? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going. To make a comment, just click on Comments below.

I’d be delighted to add you to the growing list of blog subscribers. To subscribe: just scroll back up, fill in your email address and click on the Sign Me Up button. You’ll get an email asking you to confirm your subscription … confirm and you will automatically receive a new story and recipe every week.

Feel free to visit my other, cleverly named blog, Susan Nye’s Other Blog, or website at www.susannye.com. You can find more than 200 recipes, links to magazine articles and lots more. I hope that you will take a minute to learn about my philanthropic project Eat Well-Do Good. ©Susan W. Nye, 2010

Celebrate the Season & Braised Beef with Root Vegetables

Halloween is but a distant memory; Thanksgiving and Black Friday have come and gone. We are now in the long stretch to New Year’s Day. Long stretch my eye; it is just a blink away. I always say that getting ready for Thanksgiving dinner (and eating it) is a marathon not a sprint. Well, getting through December isn’t a sprint and it isn’t a marathon; it’s more like a triathlon. Change that, it’s more like a pentathlon or an obstacle course or a three ring circus. Or maybe all of the above.

The holidays are a wonderful excuse for a party but pulling it off can be a challenge. As I a nurse a tryptophan hangover and sip a very strong caffè latte, I realize that now is as good a time as any to offer a few hints to help you survive kitchen craziness and enjoy your own party.

December is a great time to celebrate the spirit of the season. Enjoy some laughs, share old memories with family and friends and make some new ones. To cut down on party-induced stress, start with the knowledge and confidence that it is YOUR party and it is YOUR kitchen. There are no rules, no dos, no don’ts (unless you make them).You call the shots.

If your signature beef tenderloin or lobster pie isn’t in the budget this year, don’t despair, don’t cancel the party or spend money you don’t have.  Change the menu. A beautiful seafood stew or braised beef is a comforting substitute and easier on the pocketbook. Make it with love, serve it with a smile and your guests will embrace the change.

The colorful and endearing Julia Child is frequently quoted and just as often misquoted. She was fun, funny and gave America the confidence to give classic French cooking a whirl. In spite of all that, you should feel free to ignore one of her more famous lines, “You’re alone in the kitchen.”  When one of your guests offers to bring an appetizer or dessert, don’t be a stoic. It is more than okay to breathe a sigh of relief and gratefully accept. It’s also okay to invite friends into the kitchen to help stir a pot, toss a salad and open a bottle of wine. Or just keep you company and share a laugh while you bustle about with last minute preparations.

Most important, take a lesson from Santa, make a list and check it twice. If you are like me, you’ve had those times when you made too many trips to the store. First you realize that you forgot the olives. Then you run out of milk. Just when you think you’ve made your last trip, you discover you’re out of cinnamon.  With all you you’ve got to do and all you have on your mind, your life will be easier if you invest a little time in a plan. And write it down.

The shopping list is just the start. The devil is in the details and I am hopeless without my to-do list. The phone rings, I get distracted and forget to set the table or wash the lettuce. The party starts  and it doesn’t take long to get caught up in the frivolity and oops … forget to put on the rice or chop the parsley. For years I covered my kitchen cupboards with post-it note reminders. Now I make one long list and take immeasurable satisfaction in crossing off each and every item.

And finally, I put several years of yoga classes to good use. (Thank you Cathy Zoeller!) If I start to feel frazzled or stressed, I simply take a couple of deep breaths. And then a couple more. It has almost become a ritual. In the last few minutes before the door bell starts to ring, I put my hand on my belly and breathe deep. And then smile … ready to celebrate!

Enjoy the holiday season!

Bon appétit!

Braised Beef with Root Vegetables

Fill the house with the warm and wonderful aroma of beef and vegetables braising in red wine. Comforting on a cold night, it is a great dish for a party. Enjoy your guests while dinner bubbles in the oven.
Serves 8

4 ounces slab or thick cut bacon, roughly chopped
3 – 3 1/2 pounds thick cut London broil
Flour for dusting the beef
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
3-4 carrots, peeled and chopped
3-4 parsnips, peeled and chopped
3-4 stalks celery, chopped
2 teaspoons dried herbs de Provence
1/2 teaspoon dried chili flakes or to taste
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons cognac
3 cups dry red wine
2 cups homemade or low-sodium store-bought beef stock
2 cups crushed tomatoes
1 bay leaf
1 pound potatoes, halved or quartered
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Garnish:  fresh chopped parsley

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cook the bacon in a heavy casserole over medium-low heat until crisp and brown. Remove the bacon and reserve. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of bacon fat and reserve.
  3. Meanwhile, combine a little flour with salt and pepper. Dust both sides of the beef evenly with the seasoned flour and shake off any excess. Brown over medium-high heat for 3-5 minutes per side. Remove the beef and add to the reserved bacon.
  4. Reduce heat to medium. Add a little more bacon fat to the pot (if you run out of bacon fat, substitute with a little olive oil); add the onion, carrot, celery and garlic. Sprinkle with herbs de Provence and chili flakes and season with salt and pepper. Sauté, stirring frequently, until the onion is translucent. Add the cognac and cook 1-2 minutes more.
  5. Put the beef and bacon back into the stew pot. Add the potatoes, wine, stock, tomatoes and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, cover the pot and transfer to the oven. Cook at 350 degrees for about 2 1/2 hours or until the beef and vegetables are tender. If the stew gets too dry, add more wine and/or stock. Remove the beef from the casserole and cut across the grain in thick slices. Garnish with parsley, serve with the vegetables and sauce.

This dish can be made 2 or 3 days ahead. To reheat, bring to a simmer on top of the stove and then transfer to a 350 degree oven and cook until the meat and vegetables are warmed through.

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One Year Ago – Macadamia Nut Shortbread

What’s your favorite way to spend a cold, rainy day? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going. To make a comment, just click on Comments below. I’d be delighted to add you to the growing list of blog subscribers. To subscribe: just scroll back up, fill in your email address and click on the Sign Me Up button. You’ll get an email asking you to confirm your subscription … confirm and you will automatically receive a new story and recipe every week.

Feel free to visit my photoblog, Susan Nye 365 or my cleverly named other blog, Susan Nye’s Other Blog, or website www.susannye.com. You can find more than 200 recipes, links to magazine articles and lots more. I hope that you will take a minute to learn about my philanthropic project Eat Well-Do Good. ©Susan W. Nye, 2011

©Susan W. Nye, 2009