I have heard from several people who were wondering where the photos of New Orleans are on the April 8, 2019 post, "About a Birthday...". If you receive my posts by email, you need to actually go into the website to see the slideshow. It will not come ...

 

New Orleans Slideshow and more...




New Orleans Slideshow

    
     I have heard from several people who were wondering where the photos of New Orleans are on the April 8, 2019 post, "About a Birthday...".  If you receive my posts by email, you need to actually go into the website to see the slideshow.  It will not come up within the email.  Sorry about that ;-)


     
 

About a Birthday...


     Today is my daughter Claire's 26th birthday and since Mondays are busy for everyone, our family celebrated this milestone yesterday.  Claire is a 6th grade stem-science teacher, and one week before her spring break began she said to me, "Let's go somewhere together!"  New Orleans is where we ended up... my first time there.  After having some great meals, and a roasted banana Gâteau Saint Honoré one night for dessert, this is what my daughter requested for her birthday cake.  This is my rendition of the Banana Gâteau Saint Honoré.
     I've been debating whether or not to print out the recipe.  I can't say it's a difficult dessert to make, but there were endless steps that I customized to make it exactly what I wanted the end result to be... pecan pâte brisée, choux pastry, roasted bananas, banana pastry cream, chiboust, caramel, whipped cream.  Many components.  Email me if interested??
     Below are several of my favorite photos from our trip to New Orleans.  Low 80's and humidity felt really good after experiencing the winter from hell in Minnesota this year.
 

          The birthday girl...


     
 

Happy Valentine's Day

my latest watercolor painting

"It's you and me forever"




     
 

Raspberry Éclairs

  
     It would be easy enough to say that I made éclairs à la framboise because Valentine's Day is this week.  All anyone needs to do is look at them to agree that Valentine's is the perfect time to bake and devour this pink pastry. 

     But it actually had more to do with the dismal weather we've been experiencing here in Saint Paul, Minnesota.  It started with the Polar Vortex.  The cold was a challenge for anyone heading outdoors, but especially difficult for my French Bulldog, Bisous.  I never let him outdoors during the extreme cold unless I accompanied him; a good decision after our first time out together in the backyard.  After two minutes, his feet were already so cold that he fell sideways and couldn't walk.  I scooped up that 30 pound "little man" and ran like hell towards the house.  Since then, it seems like every other day we've had ice or snow, or both.
     We've also been dealing with a very sick, little granddaughter for the past 10 days.  Liv is my culinary dream child... she loves everything that comes out of my kitchen.  But there were several days she wasn't able to eat, and when she finally did start feeling better I wanted to take her something special.  When I saw this New York Times recipe for raspberry eclairs, I knew immediately we all needed this colorful pastry!


   Raspberry and Cream Éclairs


        by Samantha Seneviratne | New York Times Cooking
recipe slightly adapted



FOR THE RASPBERRY CREAM:
• 1 tablespoon cold water
• 1 teaspoon gelatin
• 1  1/2 cups fresh raspberries
• 8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
• 3 tablespoons honey
• 2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
• 1  1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 1/2 cup freeze-dried raspberries (found at Trader Joe's), ground to a fine powder
• 3/4 cup heavy cream
FOR THE PUFFS:
• 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
• 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
• 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
• 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
• 3 large eggs
FOR THE GLAZE:
• 1 cup fresh raspberries
• 2 cups confectioners' sugar
• 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
• pinch of kosher salt

1.  Make the raspberry cream:  Add 1 tablespoon cold water to a small bowl; sprinkle the gelatin evenly on top.  Let the mixture stand for 5 minutes.  Meanwhile, smash 1/2 cup fresh raspberries in a large bowl.  Add the cream cheese, honey, confectioners' sugar, vanilla and half of the freeze-dried raspberry powder and beat with a wooden spoon until smooth and creamy.  Set aside.
2.  Heat 1/4 cup heavy cream in a small saucepan over medium-high.  Stir in the gelatin mixture and cook until the gelatin is completely dissolved, about 3 minutes.  Set aside to cool slightly, then stir into the cream cheese mixture until combined.  Cover and chill for at least 30 minutes.
3.  Prepare the puffs:  In a medium saucepan, bring the butter, granulated sugar, salt and 3/4 cup water to a simmer over medium heat, stirring with a wooden spoon to help the butter melt.  As soon as it comes to a boil, add all the flour at once; stir constantly until the dough forms a ball and pulls away from the sides of the pan, about 1 minute.  Remove the pan from the heat and let the mixture cool for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring the dough occasionally to cool.
4.  Heat oven to 450˚F.  Off the heat, add the eggs to the pan, one at a time, stirring vigorously with a wooden spoon (this can also be done in a stand mixer using the paddle attachment).  The dough will break apart and slide around in the pot before it comes back together.  Transfer the dough to a piping bag fitted with a large round or star tip.
5.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper (it helps to place a small dot of the pastry dough on the back of each corner to help secure the parchment to the baking sheet).  Pipe the dough into 4  1/2-inch-by 3/4-inch lengths about 3 inches apart.  With a damp fingertip, flatten any points.  Bake until deep golden brown and puffed, rotating the sheets halfway through, 20 to 24 minutes.  They should be light and crisp.  Turn the oven off.  Poke each éclair on either end with a toothpick to allow steam to escape.  Return the puffs to the oven and prop the oven door open slightly with the handle of a wooden spoon.  Alow the puffs to dry out completely, about 15 minutes.
6  Prepare the glaze:  Mash the fresh raspberries and push them through a fine-mesh sieve, reserving all the juice and discarding the seeds.  Add the confectioners' sugar, vanilla and salt to the reserved juice and whisk until smooth.
7.  Finely chop the remaining 1 cup fresh raspberries.  Whip the remaining 1/2 cup cream to soft peaks.  Gently stir the chilled raspberry cream to loosen it, then fold in the raspberries and whipped cream.  Transfer the cream to a pastry bag fitted with a large tip.  Slice the top third off each éclair and fill the lower portion with cream.  Dip the top of the top piece in the glaze, letting any excess drip off, and replace it.  Sprinkle with the remaining raspberry powder.  Serve immediately.   Éclairs are best eaten the day they are made, but if there are leftovers, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. 



 

     
 

New Year's Day, 2019


HAPPY NEW YEAR'S!  Wishing all of you the best in 2019...
     Yesterday was our 32nd (!) annual New Year's Day Brunch.  Two of our regulars, unfortunately, were in France and not celebrating with us this year (unfortunate for us, not for them ;)  We ended up being a group of eleven.
    
     This year's menu took on somewhat of an Italian theme.  I've been on a polenta kick recently, making pork ragu with polenta for Christmas dinner.  Yesterday, I switched out the pork for a mushroom ragu with marsala.  Of course, I hoped it would be good, but I was not expecting how goodRight now I cannot remember an entrée that I loved as much as this.  If you're in need of a supreme, comforting meal anytime soon, make this


The drinks table... Prosecco and orange juice, always.


To start off...



     Four of my favorite attendees...




     I used cremini, oyster, and shiitake mushrooms, a total of 3 pounds, for the ragu; enough to feed 12. 

 
     Dessert was an Italian Trifle with Marsala syrup.  The sponge cake was baked with fresh orange zest ( recipe HERE )


MUSHROOM RAGU
recipe, adapted, from Giada De Laurentis
+ The recipe below will feed 4 persons, although the original recipe says 6 persons.  For my brunch, I tripled this recipe to feed 12, using slightly less broth (4-4 3/4 cups) in the process.

• 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
• 1 large onion, chopped
• 2 garlic cloves, minced
• 1 pound mixed mushrooms (cremini, oyster, shiitake) chopped
• Salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 1/2 cup Marsala
• 2 cups chicken broth (if tripling this recipe, use less than 6 cups.  See above)
• 1/3 cup heavy cream
• 1/4 cup flat-leaf Italian parsley, chopped
• 1/2 to 3/4 cup grated Parmesan


In a large skillet heat the oil. When almost smoking, add the onions and garlic over medium-low heat until the onions have wilted, about 8 minutes. Add the mushrooms and season with salt and pepper. Raise heat to high and saute until mushrooms are tender and all the liquid has evaporated. Remove pan from heat and pour in Marsala. Return pan to stove and allow wine to evaporate, about 3 minutes. Add chicken broth and simmer for 1/2 hour until the sauce has reduced by half. Add heavy cream and mix well. Take the pan off the heat and add the fresh parsley and Parmesan and mix thoroughly.

CREAMY POLENTA
+ adapted recipe from allrecipes.com
Serves 4-6
• 4 cups water
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1 cup polenta
• 3 tablespoons butter
• 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Regianno cheese

1.  Bring water and salt to a boil in a large saucepan; pour polenta slowly into boiling water, whisking constantly until all polenta is stirred in and there are no lumps.
2.  Reduce heat to low and simmer, whisking often, until polenta starts to thicken, about 5 minutes. Polenta mixture should still be slightly loose. Cover and cook for about 30 minutes, whisking every 5 to 6 minutes.  Polenta is done when texture is creamy and the individual grains are tender.
3.  Turn off heat and gently stir butter into polenta until butter partially melts; mix 1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese into polenta until cheese has melted.  Stir and taste for salt before transferring to bowls.  Top with Mushroom Ragu and serve.