Afternoon Holiday Cheer

My friend Laurie Smith and I have been getting together for champagne and Christmas celebration for years and it is always a special time. I love making the food for a late afternoon celebration.

Smoked salmon deviled eggs garnished with salmon roe
Tuna mousse and crostini
Caviar with creme fraîche and toast
Caviar with Potato Chips and Lemon Cream
Langres cheese with artisan crackers
Champagne of your choice-I love Taittinger!

Holiday cheer

Smoked Salmon deviled eggs garnished with salmon roe

Caviar secret
I love caviar and discovered that Costco has a seasonal sale of Plaza de Caviar’s farmed Bulgarian Osetra Sturgeon caviar that is delicious! Watch for it in November or December and stock up. I usually buy the package of three and it has a shelf life of at least a month, unopened of course, but often longer.

Tuna Mousse from Food and Wine
One 6-ounce can Italian tuna packed in olive oil, drained, 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar, 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, 1 teaspoon soy sauce, 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, 3 tablespoons heavy cream
In a food processor, combine the tuna with the vinegar, lemon juice and soy sauce. Add the butter and process until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Add the cream and pulse to blend. Scrape into a bowl and serve.

Caviar with Potato Chips and Lemon Cream

¼ cup crème fraîche or sour cream
¾ teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
4 ounces Salmon roe or other caviar
Potato chips
In a small bowl, whisk together crème fraîche and zest. Top each potato chip with a small dollop of crème fraîche and a spoonful of caviar.

Langres cheese

This cheese was new to me and I discovered it at Trader Joe’s. It is made in France in the Champagne region and has an orange rind on the outside with an indentation in the top. The tradition (according to TJ’s) is to make a vertical slit in the indentation and fill it with champagne! We let it settle and the cheese poofed into luxurious smoothness and was delicious!

Pulled Pork with a great rub

I think the key to pulled pork is the rub! Massaging it into the pork and letting it sit for an hour or two or overnight is key. I bought a pork butt that had the bone in and it is so flavorful. This recipe is from Melissa Clark at the NY Times and is perfect for pulled pork sandwiches with barbecue sauce and coleslaw!

1 ½ teaspoons whole coriander seed
1 ½ teaspoons whole cumin seed
1 ½ teaspoons black peppercorns
2 ¼ teaspoons coarse kosher salt
1 ½ teaspoons dry mustard powder
1 ½ teaspoons chile powder
3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
3 ½ pounds boneless pork shoulder
Hamburger or brioche buns, for serving
1 ½ cups ketchup
¼ cup packed dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons molasses
2 garlic cloves, minced or grated
¼ cup cider vinegar
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons sweet or hot paprika
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon dry mustard powder
Pinch of cayenne
Dash of hot sauce, more to taste
1 small head green cabbage, outer leaves removed, shredded (about 1 1/2 pounds)
½ small red onion, thinly sliced
1 large jalapeño, seeded if desired, thinly sliced
¾ cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
Black pepper
Pulled Pork fourth of july
Assemble the spice rub for the pork: In a dry, small skillet over medium-low heat, toast coriander, cumin and peppercorns until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Using a spice grinder or mortar and pestle, grind toasted spices into a fine powder. Transfer to a bowl and mix with salt, mustard powder, chile powder and sugar.
If your roast is tied up, untie it. Massage meat generously with spice rub. If you have time, let meat rest for an hour or two at room temperature, or refrigerate for several hours or overnight.
Heat oven to 300 degrees. Place pork in a baking pan and roast for 3 to 4 hours or until meat is pull-apart tender and internal temperature reads 200 degrees on a meat thermometer. Let meat cool for at least 30 minutes before pulling it apart and shredding with your hands or two forks. (This works best when the meat is warm but not hot.)
Prepare the barbecue sauce: Combine ingredients in a medium pot. Simmer over medium-low heat for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until sauce has deepened in color. Season with more hot sauce if you like. Add two-thirds of the sauce to meat and toss to coat, adding more sauce as needed. (Any leftover sauce will keep for at least 2 weeks in the refrigerator.)
Make the slaw: Combine cabbage, onion and jalapeño in a large bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper. Add dressing to cabbage and toss well.
Serve pulled pork with slaw, buns and hot sauce on the side, letting people assemble their own sandwiches.

Indian Feast

I am huge fan of Indian food and although it can be labor intensive, I am always so happy to have made the incredible meal. I rely on Madhur Jaffrey for most of my Indian meals but also have made most of the curries from the original Time-Life series from the 60’s or 70’s. I make my own garam masala every 5 or 10 years-it is a labor of love but so worth it. All of the recipes I made this week came from Madhur Jaffeys’ Indian Cooking, which I highly recommend.
Madhur J Indian
My menu was:
Lemony Chicken with fresh coriander
vegetable oil
2 pieces fresh gingerroot, coarsely chopped (1-inch cubes)
1⁄4 cup water
2⁄3 cup water
2 1⁄2 lbs bone-in chicken breasts, skinned
5 garlic cloves, minced
7 ounces cilantro, minced (this probably equates to a ‘bunch’ of just leaves)
1⁄2 jalapeno, minced
1⁄4 teaspoon cayenne
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
1⁄2 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Put the ginger and 1/4 cups water into a blender or processor. Blend until you have a paste; set aside.
Note: The original recipe doesn’t call for seasoning the chicken prior to browning, but I prefer the way the salt and pepper penetrates at this level. Also, I cut the breasts in half-or more pieces depending on size-sometimes 6 pc per breast. Procede by putting the oil in a wide, heavy pan over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, put in as many chicken pieces as the pan will hold in a single layer and brown on both sides. It’s not necessary to deeply brown because of the additional cook time later and they may become dry. Remove the chicken pieces with a slotted spoon and put them in a bowl. Sear all the chicken pieces this way.
Add the garlic to the hot oil. As soon as the pieces turn a medium-brown color, turn heat to medium and pour in the ginger paste. Stir-fry it for a minute. Add the fresh coriander, jalapeno, cayenne, cumin, coriander, turmeric and salt. Stir and cook for a minute.
Put in all the chicken pieces as well as any liquid that might have accumulated in the chicken bowl. Add 2/3 cup water and the lemon juice. Stir and bring to a boil. Cover tightly, turn heat to low and cook for 15 minutes.
Turn the chicken pieces over. Cover again and cook another 10 to 15 minutes or until the chicken is tender. If the sauce is too thin, uncover the pan and boil some of it away over a slightly higher heat.
Gujerati-style cabbage with carrots
3/4 pound cabbage (about 1/4 of a medium green head)
3/4 pound carrots
1/2 – 1 fresh, hot green chili
4 tablespoons oil
A pinch of ground asafetida (opt)
1 tablespoon whole black mustard seeds
1 whole, hot dried red chili
1.25 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
4 heaped tablespoons chopped fresh green coriander (opt)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Core the cabbage and cut in into fine, long shreds. Peel the carrots and grate them coarsely. Cut the green chili into thin, long strips.
Heat the oil in a wide, casserole-type pot over a medium-high flame. When hot, put in the asafetida. A second later, put in the mustard seeds. As soon as the mustard seeds begin to pop (this takes just a few seconds), put in the dried red chili. Stir once. The chili should turn dark red in seconds. Now put in the cabbage, carrots and green chili. Turn the heat down to medium and stir the vegetables around for half a minute. Add the salt, sugar, and green coriander. Stir and cook for another 4 minutes or until vegetables are just done and retain some of the their crispness. Add the lemon juice. Stir to mix. (Remove the whole red chili before serving
Spiced Basmati rice
2 cups uncooked basmati rice
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1/2 fresh hot green chile
1/2 teaspoon very finely minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon Madhur’s Garam Masala
1 teaspoon salt
2 2/3 cups Homemade Chicken Stock Homemade Chicken Stock
Pick over rice, and place it in a large bowl. Wash rice with several changes of water. Drain.
Pour 5 cups of fresh water over the rice, and let it soak for 30 minutes. Transfer to a sieve, and let drain for 20 minutes.
Heat oil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Add onion. Cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, until onion has lightly browned, 3 to 5 minutes. Add rice, green chile, garlic, Garam Masala, and salt. Stir gently until all the grains have been coated with oil, about 3 minutes. If the rice begins to stick to the bottom of the pan, reduce heat slightly.
Pour in the stock, and bring the rice to a boil. Cover with a tight-fitting lid, and reduce heat to low. Cook 25 minutes more; serve.

Turbo Sauce and Carne Adovada

Turbo sauce is made from the dried red New Mexican chilies that you see used in ristras. My friend Jane made it in many variations (add a can of tomatoes, or orange juice or tequila) and it was so good that we would eat the first batch with chips before we used it  in the dinner recipe. I have fond memories of those days and was excited to try it as a marinade from my favorite blog, Use real butter. It is a versatile recipe that can be used in addition to a marinade, in tacos or enchiladas and more. My photo does not do this dish justice but it is fork tender and absolutely delicious! I made a half recipe and had plenty for a few meals and some to freeze as there are only two of us.
Carne adovadajpg
16 dried, red chile pods
3 tsps salt
4 cloves garlic
2 tsps oregano
5 lbs. pork (any tender cut) (*jen’s note, use pork shoulder)

Preheat oven to 325°F. Remove stems from the chile pods. Place pods in a pan and bake for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until chiles are lightly roasted. Leave oven door open (I didn’t do this). Don’t breathe the fumes! I shook the seeds out of the pods and discarded them. Place pods in a medium bowl and cover them with boiling water. Let them sit for 30 minutes. Drain the water from the chile pods, but reserve about 2 cups for the purée. Place pods in a food processor or blender. Add the salt, garlic, and oregano. Cover the mixture with the chile water. Blend well for 2 minutes or until the skins disappear. Cut the pork into 2×4 inch strips. Place the pork in a ziploc bag and add the sauce. Thoroughly coat the pork. Refrigerate for 24 hours. Preheat oven to 325°F. Place pork and sauce in a baking dish. Cover and bake for 4 hours or until meat is tender. Shred or chop meat.


We used to have the most fun pizza parties where we would roll out a dozen pizzas and assemble lots of wonderful ingredients and invite friends to design their own pizzas. I had forgotten about Wolfgang Puck’s easy pizza dough until yesterday when I made it again. It is the nicest dough.You can make it in a mixer or in the food processor. I always make sure my yeast mixture has bloomed and is active (5 minutes) before adding it to the flour.
Raw pizza
1 package of yeast
1 1/2 c. lukewarm water (105-115 degrees)
1 T. honey
2 T. olive oil
3-4 c. unbleached flour
1 t. salt
Proof yeast in warm water and let stand 5 minutes. Add honey and olive oil.
Combine flour and salt-start with 3 c. flour. In a mixer with the paddle, mix the flour and yeast mixture until combined. Switch to the dough hook and mix for 5 minutes until the dough comes cleanly away from the sides of the bowl (you may need to add more flour). Turn the dough on to a lightly floured surface and knead for 2-3 minutes. The dough should be smooth and elastic. When you press it with your finger, it should slowly spring back and it should not feel tacky. Using a food processor: Mix together the yeast, honey, water and olive oil in a small bowl or measuring cup. Place the flour and salt in a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Pulse once or twice. Then, with the machine running, pour in the yeast mixture. Process until the dough forms a ball on the blades. Remove the dough from the processor and knead it on a lightly floured surface for a couple of minutes, adding flour as necessary, until it is smooth and elastic. Transfer the dough to a clean, lightly oiled bowl, rounded side down first and then rounded side up. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and leave in a warm spot for 30 minutes (you can leave it up to one hour). Divide the dough into 4 equal balls. Shape each ball by gently pulling down the sides of the dough and tucking each under the bottom of the ball. Roll the ball on a smooth surface under your palm until the ball feels smooth and firm, about 1 minute. Put the balls on a tray and covered with lightly oiled plastic wrap or a damp towel and let rise 30 minutes. At this point the dough balls can be refrigerated covered with lightly oiled plastic wrap and refrigerated for 1-2 days. You will need to pull the dough out at least an hour before baking, punch down and reform the balls. Let rise, covered for 1 hour before rolling into the pizza shape of your choice. There are endless toppings you can choose from!
Cooked pizza

Best Shrimp Bisque

This is a recipe from Bon Appetit It takes some time but is worth it! It is better than the Barefoot Contessa recipe because it has a very smooth and silky texture. It is very elegant! **Note I have just remade Ina’s Shrimp Bisque and find it just as good if not better IF you strain it through a sieve. I use a rubber spatula to push the soup through the strainer-do not get discouraged as it will all go through (patience!) except for about 1/4 cup of mass. We love a floater of sherry on top of the soup after it is served into a bowl!
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, divided
1 1/2 pounds medium shrimp (about 45), peeled, deveined, shells reserved
2 bay leaves, divided
2 carrots, peeled, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 cup brandy
1/4 cup long-grain white rice
2 tablespoons tomato paste
3 sprigs fresh flat-leaf parsley
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1/4 teaspoon (or more) cayenne pepper
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh chives
Shrimp puree for bisque
Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add shrimp shells and cook, stirring frequently, until they begin to brown, about 5 minutes. Add 1 bay leaf and 8 cups water. Simmer uncovered for 25 minutes. Set a fine-mesh strainer over a large bowl. Strain, discarding solids. DO AHEAD Shrimp stock can be made 3 days ahead. Let cool slightly; chill uncovered until cold, then cover and keep chilled.
Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add shrimp and cook, stirring occasionally, until just opaque in center, 3-4 minutes. Transfer shrimp to a plate. Add remaining 2 tablespoons butter to same pot. Add carrots, celery, and onion and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until very soft, about 20 minutes.
Remove pot from heat; add brandy. Return pot to heat and stir until almost evaporated, 2-3 minutes. Add rice and tomato paste; stir for 1 minute. Add shrimp stock, remaining bay leaf, parsley, thyme, and ¼ tsp. cayenne. Simmer uncovered until flavors meld and rice is soft, about 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Reserve 4 shrimp for garnish and stir remaining shrimp into bisque. Remove parsley, thyme, and bay leaf.
Working in batches, purée bisque in a blender until smooth. Pour through a fine-mesh strainer set over a clean pot. Discard solids in strainer. Stir in cream and reheat bisque over medium heat. Add lemon juice. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and more cayenne, if desired.
Mince reserved shrimp and mix with chives in a small bowl. Place 1 heaping tablespoon shrimp mixture in the center of large, shallow soup bowls. Ladle bisque around garnish and serve.

Recipe testing for The Yellow Table Cookbook

I have been reading the Yellow Table blog for the last year or more and really enjoy all of the recipes. Recently, the author Anna Watson Carl finished a very successful Kickstarter campaign to raise money to self publish her first cookbook. I was very excited to contribute! Anna and her editor Lauren asked for volunteers to test the recipes and I felt fortunate to be chosen. I was given an Elegant Fall Dinner Party menu and it did not disappoint. I had never cooked branzino before and it was easy and delicious. I also loved that I could make a few things ahead of the dinner party. Look for The Yellow Table cookbook to come out this fall-you will not be disappointed!

Crostini with Brie and Sundried Tomato Walnut Tapenade
Lemon and Herb Roasted Branzino with Brussels Sprouts
Citrus Roasted Carrots
Butterscotch Pudding with Kahlua, Whipped Cream and Caramelized Pecans

Crostini with Brie and Sundried Tomato Tapenade
Elegant Fall Dinner
Butterscotch Pudding
Butterscotch Pudding from The Yellow Table-This is a wonderful do ahead dessert. The nuts are beyond belief delicious! I am going to try them in my next batch of chocolate chip cookies.
Spicy Pecans
2 tsp pure maple syrup
1 tsp packed dark brown sugar
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp cayenne
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1 cup pecan halves
fine sea salt
Whipped Cream
¾ cup heavy whipping cream
1 -2 tbsp powdered sugar
½ tsp pure vanilla extract
Kahlua Butterscotch Puddings
2 1/2 cups whole milk
4 tbsp unsalted butter
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 lg egg yolks
3 tbsp cornstarch
½ tsp fine sea salt
1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
1 tbsp Kahlua
Spicy Pecans
Preheat oven to 350°
Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
In small bowl, whisk maple syrup, brown sugar, cinnamon and cayenne.
Drizzle in the olive oil and whisk.
Add pecans and stir.
Spread nuts onto paper, season with salt and bake until golden brown and beginning to crisp… 10-15 min.
Cool on rack.
Roughly chop and store in airtight container for up to a week.
Kahlua Butterscotch Puddings
Bring milk to a simmer in a small heavy bottomed sauce pan over med heat. Remove.
In small skillet, melt butter over med heat, stirring frequently. Add brown sugar, increase heat to med high, and cook stirring constantly, until mixture is golden and nutty smelling. ….4-5 min. Watch carefully, so as not to burn.
Slowly pour sugar mixture into warm milk, whisking constantly.
If mixture is clumpy, pour through a fine mesh strainer, pushing down solids with a spatula.
Place egg yolks in a heat proof medium bowl.
Whisk in ½ cup of the milk mixture, then add the cornstarch and salt and whisk until dissolved.
Pour in remaining hot milk mixture, place over med high heat, and cook, whisking constantly, until mixture thickens and begins to bubble. 3-4 min.
Remove from heat.
Whisk in vanilla and kahlua.
Divide evenly among 6 containers.
Place plastic wrap over each, pushing down onto pudding.
Chill overnight.
Whipped Cream
Combine heavy cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla and beat 2-3 min.
Assemble pudding, whipped cream and sprinkle with pecans.
Put bowl of nuts on table.

Can be made 2-3 days ahead.

Mocha Chocolate Ice Box Cake

Another great recipe from Ina Garten! This is very easy to make, especially if you make the cookies one day. You could also buy the cookies she recommends, Tate’s Bake Shop, but I preferred to make them myself. The mousse is full of flavor. This would be a great dessert for a party!

Mocha mousse

Cookie recipe

2 c. all purpose flour

1 t. baking soda

1 t. salt

1 c. butter

3/4 c. sugar

3/4 c. dark brown sugar, firmly packed

1 t. water

1 t. vanilla

2 large eggs

2 c. semi sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cookie sheets with parchment or grease them. Combine flour, baking soda and salt. Cream the butter and sugars. Add water and vanilla. Mix just until combined. Add eggs and mix lightly. Fold in flour mixture and stir in chocolate chips. Do not over mix. Drop cookies onto sheet pans using a small scoop or 2 T. Bake for 12 minutes or until the edges and center are brown. Cool on a rack. This makes a thin cookie. You will have leftovers.


2 c. cold heavy cream

12 oz. mascarpone cheese

1/2 c. sugar

1/4 c. coffee liqueur, such as Kahlua

2 T. unsweetened cocoa powder

1 t. instant espresso powder

1 t. pure vanilla extract


approx. 35 cookies

shaved semi sweet chocolate for garnish

In an electric mixer with the whisk attachment, combine the heavy cream, mascarpone, sugar, Kahlua, cocoa, espresso powder and vanilla. Mix on low to combine and then slowly raise the speed until it forms firm peaks.

Mousse cake

To assemble, arrange chocolate chip cookies flat in an 8″ springform pan, covering the bottom as much as possible. You can cut a cookie into quarters or whatever shape to fill in the spaces. Spread a fifth of the mocha mousse evenly over the cookies. Repeat until you have 5 layers of cookies and mousse, ending with a layer of cream. Smooth the top, cover with plastic and refrigerate overnight. Run a sharp knife around the edge of the pan and remove the sides of the pan. Sprinkle the top with shaved chocolate and cut into wedges. Serve cold.


Sopes with Shredded Beef

Kelsey Nixon has a cooking show called Kelsey’s Essentials that is very good. She presents all of the ingredients you are going to use in the recipe at the beginning of the show and is very organized. The recipe calls for tomatillo guacamole but I bought the guacamole as I couldn’t find a ripe avocado. I substituted sour cream for the crema. There are so many great flavors in this dish that you cannot go wrong. The dough is very easy to work with. I cut the sopes into 2 3/4″ because that is the size of the glass I had to cut them. The beef is beyond belief delicious and so tender.

3# boneless beef chuck, cut into 2″ pieces

1/2 c. lime juice, freshly squeezed

1/4 c. orange juice, freshly squeezed

3 T. chili powder

1 T. ground cumin

1 T. kosher salt

2 t. ground coriander

3 cloves garlic, crushed

Sope with beef

Combine all of the above ingredients into a Dutch oven or heavy bottomed pot and add just enough water to cover the meat. Bring to a boil and simmer, covered for 30 minutes. Remove lid and continue to cook at a gentle simmer for 2 1/2 to 3 hours, stirring occasionally.Once the beef is tender, cool in the braising liquid and shred the meat with two forks, while still in the pot so as to let it absorb all of the delicious sauce.

1 avocado, halved, pitted, peeled and diced

1/2 onion, chopped

juice of 1 lime

1/2 jalapeño or serrano, chopped (seeded if you don’t want hot)

2 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled

6-8 tomatillos, husked and quartered

3/4 cup coarsely chopped cilantro

1 t. ground cumin

1 t. salt

Combine all above in food processor and pulse until combined

3 c. masa harina

1/4 c. all purpose flour, plus more for dusting

1 t. baking soda

1 t. salt

2 c. warm water

Vegetable oil for frying

Combine masa,flour, baking powder and salt. Make a well in the middle and pour in the warm water slowly while stirring. When the dough comes together, flour an area and knead it for about 5 minutes. Roll out to 1/4 thickness and cut 2″ circles. You should get 36 circles. Create a ridge around the edge of each sope, using your thumb to help make a well. Fill a cast iron skillet with 1 1/2″ of oil and heat to 350 degrees. Fry the sops 3 minutes on each side, drain on a paper towel and season with salt.

Sopes complete


Refried beans-heat with a little butter or water until smooth and creamy

1/2 c. pickled jalapenos

2-4 roma tomatoes, diced

1/2 head green cabbage, grated

1 c. Mexican crema

1 c. grated cotija cheese, or any other you like

1 c. fresh cilantro leaves

Fill each sope with beans, shredded beef, and guacamole. Top with some of the cabbage, tomatoes, jalapeños, crema, cheese and cilantro.

Party Menu and a great vinaigrette

I had a lunch with four girlfriends yesterday and the menu was perfect!

Ina’s chunky blue cheese dip yogurt dip with tiny multi colored potatoes and asparagus crudite

Ina’s roasted figs and prosciutto

Ina’s roasted shrimp salad

Mixed greens with Jody’s vinaigrette including arugula from my garden and watercress, garnished with sliced avocado, cucumbers, diced mixed peppers and colorful cherry tomatoes

Thumbprint chocolate caramel tartlets

from my previous post!

Jody’s vinaigrette-my sister makes the best vinaigrette-these are the basic ingredients and adjust to the amount you want to make. I am giving the amounts I just made that yields about one cup.

1 clove chopped garlic

3 T. rice wine vinegar

1 T. balsamic vinegar

dash of soy sauce

dash of maple syrup or other sweetener

1/2 cup olive oil

Shake up in a jar!