Oxtails with Gravy

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Yesterday at the Super Duper Market, I saw an enormous, tomato juice sized can of “turkey gravy” made by the Campbell’s soup company.  Well!  I called my husband over and pointed out this travesty of cuisine and all he said was “uh-huh”.  And that’s when I knew, after 38 years of marriage, that his mother probably bought canned gravy for the holidays.  She was no cook, but that’s neither good nor bad, it just is.  Not to embarrass him further, I quickly changed the subject by pointing out the variety of pretty apples and mentioned apple pie :D

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I left my pressure cooker in France because good cooking equipment is more expensive and harder to find in France than in the U.S., so I bought another one just like it for the house here.  While heating up the pressure cooker, I noticed that the pressure button was not rising.  I’m a fraidy cat when it comes to pressure cookers, so I called my husband to see what he thought.

He:  Tap it with a knife

Me:  I’m afraid to tap it with a knife

He:  I’ll tap it.

He tapped it and the button rose immediately, the hat on the steam spout began to rock gently and normal cooking began.  While waiting around, I looked at the Q&A section of the pressure cooker guide and was so surprised!

Me:  Hey, the guide book says if the pressure button doesn’t rise, tap it with a knife!

He:  I wrote that book.

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Making gravy, or roux as it’s called by sophisticated Lou-ezee-ana Creole people, is so easy but like white or hollandaise sauces, the preparation has been practically deified by egotistical, I-love-myself chefs, scaring the “bejesus” out of most common, everyday cooks. Not you Jamie.  To make one cup of gravy you’ll need 1 tbsp of fat(preferably left over from some meat you browned), 1 tbsp flour and 1 cup of water or broth or even milk.  Heat the fat, add the flour, then cook and stir/whisk over low heat until the flour is browned to your liking. Continuing to stir/whisk, slowly add your liquid until you have a smooth, well blended sauce.  At this point you’ll want to add salt and pepper, bring it to a boil, reduce to simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the gravy has thickened.  Normal gravy takes about 10-15 minutes to cook.  I don’t know about a roux, I think it takes days :D

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Unpacking and sorting continues.  My husband rented a dumpster for a couple of weeks to fill with packing materials and the sometimes bizarre objects we have accumulated over the decades.  Today, through no fault of our own, he had to throw Jesus in the dumpster. When we bought the house we inherited a peeling, deteriorating, plaster, garden statue of Jesus.  In its condition, it was neither spiritual nor inspiring, just ugly.  A good Roman Catholic, he did feel a little bad.  I hope the oxtails helped.

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Oxtails with Gravy

4 lbs oxtails

Salt and pepper

3 tbsp olive oil

2 onions, sliced

2-3 large garlic cloves, slivered

Numerous thyme sprigs

2 bay leaves

3 tbsp flour

2 cans beef broth

Season the oxtails with salt and pepper, then brown in a skillet in the olive oil on every side.  Remove the oxtails and place in a pressure cooker.  Place the onions, garlic, thyme and bay leaves on top.

In the same skillet, brown the flour, then add the beef broth to make a gravy.  Bring to a boil, simmer for about 3 minutes, then season with salt and pepper to taste.  Pour over the oxtails, then pressure cook for 45 minutes.

Serve with rice or orzo or noodles.

 

 

 

 

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My Breakfast Burrito

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I’m not going to claim this as the breakfast burrito of all time, no.  It’s just my breakfast burrito, of this morning, of my mood and of the refrigerator.  Flour tortilla, refried beans, scrambled eggs, cheese, bacon, hot salsa and a whimsical scattering of oregano leaves.

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Mine.

 

 

 

 

Posted in American, Cooking, Food and Wine, Main dishes, Recipes, Sandwich | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 23 Comments

Long Island Duck Breasts a l’Aquitaine

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Bitterly, I recall the many times I blithely suggested that the poor, disadvantaged food bloggers, with no access to lardon, use bacon.

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What a supercilious jerk I was!  Penitent in Pennsylvania, I hopelessly trawled the meat bins at Wegmans.  I unenthusiastically  considered the unsliced bacon slabs.  Way too fatty.  Finally I settled on a double package of thick sliced bacon; one to freeze and one to use as an everyday cooking lardon substitute.

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The bacon fried up nicely.  That’s because I am blessed and non-anemic after the fantastic spinach, bacon, onion, red bell pepper and garlic stir fry I made.

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Bacon doesn’t really count as a meat.  It’s a perfect condiment for vegetables.  Really. Although the spinach stir fry would have been fine without the bacon, it would have been different.  Lunch :)

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Long Island duck breasts are smaller than the duck breasts in France and Germany AND more expensive.  They cannot be called “magret” because they are neither from a Barbary duck nor have the ducks been submitted to “gavage” or force feeding.  The breast is definitely leaner with less fat and the meat seems to have a softer texture.

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Because there is less fat, when scoring the breasts, one should be careful about making the cuts too deep; I wasn’t and did cut into the meat portion several times.   I did worry a bit because I realized that I would need to adjust the cooking time for smaller breasts.  Still, they turned out okay.

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Sage butter linguine.

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Long Island Duck Breasts a l’Aquitaine

4 Long Island duck breasts, fat side scored

Salt and pepper

2 pkgs vanilla sugar

1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1/2 tsp black pepper

Sprinkle the duck breasts on both sides with salt, pepper, package of the vanilla sugar and 2 tbsp of balsamic vinegar.  Refrigerate for 2 hours.

Boil the 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar with the remaining package of vanilla sugar and black pepper until reduced by half.  Set aside and keep warm.

Sear the duck breasts in a hot skillet, fat side down, for 3-4 minutes.  Turn and continue to cook for 3-4 minutes.  Remove from the skillet and let rest for 5 minutes before slicing.

Slice and serve with the balsamic reduction.

Sage Butter Linguine

4 tbsp butter

8-10 sage leaves

2 tbsp lemon juice

1 lb cooked linguine

Grated Parmesan

Melt and cook the butter in a sauce pan until browned.  Add the sage leaves and remove from flame.  Stir in the lemon juice.  Toss the sauce with the cooked linguine and cheese.

 

 

Posted in Cooking, Food and Wine, French, Main dishes, Recipes, Vegetables | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 32 Comments

Showing a Little Leg

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Cornish game hens are not game birds but hybrid chickens.  Although I grew up eating these birds, I didn’t know that until today!  Never too old.

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So I guess that’s why I immediately liked the French poussin; just another little chicken.

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Haphazard in Honesdale, I sprinkled the hens with salt, pepper, garlic powder and smoked paprika and browned them in olive oil and butter.  A really large onion caught my eye, so I sliced it and some of the garlic cloves sitting next to it.  Other things happened and I ended up with Cornish game hens smothered in onions with mashed potatoes.

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Cornish Game Hens Smothered in Onions

2 Cornish game hens, spatchcocked

Salt

Black pepper

Garlic powder

Smoked paprika

1-2 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp butter

4 sprigs fresh rosemary

1 enormous onion, sliced

3-4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1/2 cup sherry

Season the hens with the salt, pepper, garlic powder and paprika.  Melt the olive oil and butter together in a large skillet, then brown the hens on both sides.  Remove the hens and place them skin side up in a roasting pan.  Tuck the rosemary sprigs around.

Add the onion and garlic to the skillet, then cook until the onion is soft and a little brown. Add the sherry to the skillet and boil for 1-2 minutes, then pour over the top of the hens.

Cover the roasting pan with aluminum foil, place in a 400 F oven, roast for 35 minutes, then remove the foil and continue to roast for another 10 minutes.

Divide each hen in two and serve with mashed potatoes.

 

 

Posted in American, Cooking, Food and Wine, Main dishes, Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , | 31 Comments

Salmon, Zucchini and Sweet Potatoes

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The wild salmon at the grocery store was all gone and all they had left was farm raised. The salmon from Canada had skin on, so I chose that.  The family has been whining for salmon for a couple of weeks and I didn’t want to disappoint them.  The reason I prefer the wild salmon is because U.S. farm raised fish seems to “taste like chicken” instead of fish.  Bland?

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To be on the safe side, I decided on a flavorful mustard/lemon/honey marinade before planking the salmon on the grill.  I just happened to have several jars of Amora Dijon mustard tucked away in the pantry and a nice jar of local Honesdale, Pennsylvania honey. I couldn’t go wrong :)

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I made enough marinade to add to the oven roasted sweet potatoes and onions.

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Making these roasted vegetables that are a favorite of my friends in France made me miss them.  But in a good way :)

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A new friend and a super neighbor gave me some pretty, little, pale green courgettes from the Scranton Farmers’ Market.  Caroline is a fantastic cook and has a fabulous kitchen that I am almost, but not quite, ashamed to say that I envy.

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I grilled the courgette with a lemon/olive oil/herbs vinaigrette.  Next time I’ll crush a clove of garlic with this but they were just fine without; a fresh, natural green vegetable taste.

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I still would have preferred the wild salmon but this was a nice, easy meal and everyone had seconds.

Planked Honey Mustard Salmon

1 cedar plank, soaked for at least 2 hours

4 salmon fillets, skin on

1/2 recipe honey mustard marinade (see recipe below)

Place the fillets in a zip lock bag with the marinade for about 4 hours.  Preheat the gas grill to 500-600 F.  Place the marinated fillets on the soaked cedar plank, turn off the flame on half the grill, then place the fillets on the cold side, close the top and grill for about 20 minutes, keeping the temperature at 400 F.

Honey Mustard Marinade

1/2 cup honey

3 tbsp Dijon mustard

2 tbsp lemon juice

1 tbsp olive oil

Whisk all ingredients together.

Roasted Honey Mustard Sweet Potatoes

3 sweet potatoes, chaos cut

1 onion, cut into eighths

6-8 sprigs thyme

Salt

1/2 recipe honey mustard marinade (see recipe above)

Mix all ingredients together, place in a baking pan and roast at 400 F for 45 minutes, stirring after 30 minutes.

Grilled Zucchini with Herbs

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp lemon juice

3/4 tsp salt

1 tsp fresh oregano, chopped

1 tsp fresh basil, chopped

3 medium sized zucchini, quartered lengthwise

Mix the olive oil, lemon juice, salt and herbs together.  Place the zucchini quarters in a zip lock, then pour the vinaigrette into the bag.  Gently squish around to cover the zucchini with the vinaigrette.  Set aside for about 30 minutes.

Place the marinated zucchini quarters on a grill pan, then place over a medium hot flame on the grill.  Turn and brown on all sides, brushing occasionally with left over vinaigrette.

 

Posted in American, Cooking, Food and Wine, Main dishes, Recipes, side dish, Vegetables | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 20 Comments

River Grill: Narrowsburg, New York

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Narrowsburg, New York is a quaint little town a few miles away and just across the Delaware River from Honesdale, Pennsylvania (our town).  The small main street is chock- a-block with restaurants and boutique shops; antiques, fine wines, furniture, clothing, etc. We’ve always liked this town and it gets a lot of visitors from New York City for the festivals and river sports.

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Although the trees in France do change colors in autumn, I have always thought that the colors were muted or maybe discreet at best.  What I have always loved about the U.S. east coast is that our autumn colors are striking, brash and boisterous, with the trees shouting “me, me, me.”  American, quoi :D

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Saturday was a gorgeous day with moderately warm weather and we drove over to Sullivan County, New York to drop Jade off at a birthday party for one of her cousins.  The hills and dales of Sullivan County are “pocked” with Mullallys and the boys all pretty much have the same first names; Brian, Kevin, Patrick, Michael.  A nightmare for the postman.  The girls’ names, while varied, are mostly along the same Irish theme; Kelly, Coleen, Megan, Margaret, Maura.  I love that.  Tradition!

Okay, you probably want to know about those moules/mussels in the top photo.

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We lunched at the River Grill on Main Street in Narrowsburg that has both indoor and outdoor tables with a fine view of the river.  Of course on this lovely day, we chose to sit outside.

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We were very excited about the menu!  In addition to the day’s “features” their menu offerings of duck breast, salmon and fresh pastas made our jaded, Francophile hearts go pitter-pat :)

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Normally this kind of food would make wine an essential part of the meal, but we have had so many bad experiences (dry=semi-dry, fruity=tastes like fruit, maybe raspberry, smokey=don’t-have-this), that we stoically decided not to possibly ruin our meal with upscale variations of Gallo’s Thunderbird and Night Train.  We’ll go back later just to try the wine.  Who knows?  It could be good….

Anyway.  The food was great!  As an appetizer, we shared a big bowl of mussels that had a peppery, garlic flavor that, while not traditional, was still interesting.  My one suggestion would be BUTTER and maybe SHALLOTS.  That’s two suggestions.  I’ll bet Jamie Oliver would hate me if he knew me :D

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Well we couldn’t all have the duck breast, so our son who is younger and hungrier was awarded the honor.  Long Island duck breasts come from Pekin ducks of Chinese origin and cannot be referred to as “magrets” because these ducks are not Barbary ducks nor are they force fed.  God forbid.  Still they are flavorful and although the breast was not served rare (there’s probably a law), our son said it was juicy, loved the cherry sauce, grilled vegetables and smashed potatoes.  We all liked the presentation.

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My husband had an enormous breaded pork chop that was reminiscent of German schnitzel, however, the Grill’s chef’s innovation was a marvelous lemon sauce topping.  I should have taken a picture of the empty plate.

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I have been absolutely craving fresh pappardelle pasta and this big, rich bowl of pasta bolognaise filled the bill.  There was really enough for 2 people but the men were ravenous and happy to help out :)  Of course we had no room for dessert but decided instead to go around the corner for espressos.

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Good sign.  Bad picture.  Who knew about that shadow :D  Coffee Creations has good tasting coffee and you can sit outside at little round tables on the sidewalk.  Coffee Creations has good French cafe like demi-tasse cups that they will not fill to the top.  If you order a double espresso, instead of filling up the demi-tasse, they give you a big cup that they don’t fill up either.  They did the same thing in Stuttgart!   I hate that.

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Posted in American, Appetizer, Cooking, Food and Wine, Main dishes | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

Legumes Moches

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I think it was Roger who mentioned the promotion of “ugly” vegetables and fruits in French grocery stores at a third of the price of “pretty” or regulation vegetables and fruits. I thought about this again after another dismal and disappointing visit to the weekly Farmers’ Market and comparison shopping for organic local vegetables in the supermarket.  I think I begin to see the light.

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The Farmers’ Market, maybe a half dozen tables with a handful of each variety of vegetables or fruit, looks like the aftermath of a holocaust, 10-20 years later when things are starting to grow again.  In this case, local organic means scarce, ugly and therefore outrageously expensive.  That can’t be right!  And it’s not.

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Many of the same farms that sell local, organic vegetables and fruits in the market, also sell to the supermarkets and while the produce is a bit more expensive than the non organic,  there is a lot of variety and appearance counts.  So, I think I will either buy in the supermarket or go directly to each farm for variety if nothing else.

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Uninspired, I didn’t know what I was going to cook today so I just added things to a pot until I had something.  My husband had bought some Italian sausage links on sale, God knows where, that I used along with some lean ground beef.

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Sauteing vegetables in olive oil is always a good beginning.

Random Ragout

1 lb bulk hot Italian sausage

1 lb lean ground beef

1 large purple onion, chopped

4 large garlic cloves, chopped

1/2 each orange and green bell pepper, diced

2 tbsp olive oil

1 1/2 cups grape tomatoes, halved

1 tbsp fresh oregano, chopped

1 tbsp fresh basil, chopped

1 bay leaf

1 can diced tomatoes

2 cans chicken broth

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

2 cans cannelini beans, drained

1 can yellow hominy, drained

Brown the sausage and beef together in a skillet, drain and set aside.

Saute the onion, garlic and bell peppers in the olive oil until the onion is soft.  Add the reserved ground meat, grape tomatoes, oregano, basil, bay leaf, diced tomatoes, broth, cumin, salt and pepper, then bring to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes.  Add the beans and hominy and continue to simmer for 20 minutes.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in American, Cooking, Food and Wine, Main dishes, Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , , | 17 Comments