This Year's Turkey

Our turkey this year was a huge 20-lb. bird that took lots of stuffing and lots of cooking and basting.  We roasted it at 350 for five hours, and 425 for another 40 minutes, basting every 30 minutes with melted butter.  The seasonings ... interior, kosher salt and freshly ground five-peppercorn (from Williams Sonoma) ... exterior, garlic, salt and pepper.  Beneath the bird ... five carrots, five stalks of celery, two onions (quartered) and occasionally, a bit of hot water during roasting to keep veggies from browning too much.  After the bird was removed from the oven, we let it rest and pushed the veggies through a sieve to extract their flavor for our gravy.

Our son hovered in our kitchen this year, learning about cooking a turkey for his own newly-established home in New York City. Teaching him to cook is a true gift for the Empty Nester Gourmet!

Ah, to be in Italy in the Spring ... Risotto alla Milanese with Shrimp and Mushrooms

You can almost feel the pini of Rome swaying gently in the Borghese Gardens while preparing this lovely little dinner.  Fire up your iPod speakers with a selection from Respighi's classic, atmospheric symphony, Pina de Roma, and take a virtual trip to Italy while you put this easy and fast dinner for two (or more) together. The preparation is made all the more simple by the use of an excellent packaged risotto as well as pre-cleaned shrimp and sliced mushrooms. You can get this dinner from pantry to table in less than 1/2 hour!

1 package Alessi Risotto alla Milanese with Arborio Rice & Saffron (see photo at bottom)
1 lb. peeled and deveined raw shrimp
1/2 lb. sliced mushrooms
2 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
Lemon wedges and chopped fresh parsley

1. Prepare Risotto according to package directions.
2. Meanwhile, sauté shrimp in 1 tbsp. butter and 1 tbsp. olive oil, about 3 minutes; set aside.
3. Sauté mushrooms in remaining butter and olive oil; set aside.
4. Approximately 15 minutes before risotto is ready, stir in the shrimp and mushrooms into the risotto.
5. Top with fresh parsley and serve with a lemon wedge. Delicioso!

The Empty Nester Gourmet Recommends

Alessi Risotto alla Milanese ... Excellent, high quality product, and so easy to prepare.

Variations on a Theme: Torta Pesca Rustica*

* Rustic Peach Pie

We love peach pie, especially now when peaches are plentiful, reasonably priced, and oh-so-sweet and juicy.

Here's a delicious alternative to a two-crust pie that uses only a bottom crust it's easier and faster to prepare), and looks every bit as wonderful as our lattice pie, posted earlier.

As in the lattice peach pie, we use overripe peaches and a simple custard-like base that assures a non-watery, firm yet juicy and flavorful filling.

One pastry crust
6-8 overripe peaches, peeled, pitted, quartered and drained of extra juices
1 egg, slightly beaten with fork, for mixture
2/3 c. sugar
1/3 c. melted butter
2 tbsp. flour
1 additional egg + 1 tbsp. cold water, slightly beaten with fork, for egg wash
Ground cinnamon and sanding sugar, for dusting top of pie before baking

1. Preheat oven to 400F.

2. Gently press pastry crust into the bottom of a baking pie plate, leaving about 2" of crust for folding over peaches.
3. Place the prepared peaches into the crust.
4. Mix the egg, sugar, flour, melted butter in a small bowl. Pour over peaches.
5. Firmly fold the crust over the peaches, stretching slightly.
6. Brush with egg wash, and sprinkle with ground cinnamon and sanding sugar.
7. Bake at 400F for 15 mins. Then lower heat to 300F and bake for another 50 mins.
8. Remove from oven and let cool for two hours before serving.
We serve it with a super-creamy vanilla ice cream and a sprig of mint. Magnifico!

It's the Berries!

 Here's the Empty Nester Gourmet's adaptation of America's Test Kitchen's recipe. It uses six full cups of fresh blueberries, sugar and butter, but don't let it all scare you. It's easy to prep and even better to eat. Here's how:

Double pie crust (packaged or your own)
6 cups fresh blueberries
2 tbsp. quick-cook tapioca
1 Granny Smith apple, grated
Zest of one lemon + 2 tsp. lemon juice
3/4 c. granulated sugar
1/8 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 tbsp. butter, cut into small pieces
Sanding sugar
Egg wash (1 egg, slightly beaten with 1 tbsp. cold water)
1. Preheat oven to 400F degrees. 
2. Divide the blueberries into half. Simmer 3 cups blueberries and and sugar in a saucepan until reduced to a thick syrupy mixture. Set aside and let cool. When cooled, add them to the cold uncooked bluberries.
3. Mix in tapioca, grated apple, lemon zest, nutmeg, cinnamon and lemon juice.
4. Spread mixture into bottom crust. Top with butter.
5. Work lattice over top of mixture, seal with egg wash and egg wash over top of lattice.
6. Dust with sanding sugar.
7. Bake on parchment-lined, preheated cookie sheet (@400F) for 30 minutes.
8. Reduce heat to 350F, andn bake for another hour, or until filling is set and crust is a golden brown.

Serve with your favorite vanilla ice cream.

Creamy Dreamy Cream of Mushroom Soup

Creamy dreamy soup, just the thing for a really cold winter day. With props to The Barefoot Contessa, we created our own hearty brew for Saturday lunch with a few original twists and turns to add to the mushroom flavor and broth complexity. Big tip: Williams Sonoma has a new line of "stock starters" in different flavors, which we've used for both roast pork gravy and this mushroom soup. They are superb and well worth the cost. Adding only 1 tsp. to your stock or gravy will give it a depth that you cannot get easily in any other way.

Here's how we made the cream of mushroom soup:


For the Stock
10 oz. white mushrooms, sliced, caps removed
4 oz. cremini mushrooms, sliced, caps removed
4 oz. any portabello or other mushroom, sliced, caps removed
1 tbsp. Willliams Sonoma mushroom stock starter
1/2 c. carrot, chopped
1/2 c. onion, chopped
4 sprigs fresh thyme
5 cups water
1 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

For the soup
1/2 tsp. dried thyme leaves
2 leeks, only light green and white parts, chopped
1 shallot, chopped
3 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1/3 c. flour
2 beef bouillon cubes
3/4 c. good quality dry white wine
1/2 c. heavy cream
1/2 c. half and half
1/2 c. chopped fresh parsley


For the stock

1. Sauté the onion, shallot, carrot and mushroom stems in 1 tbsp. olive oil and 1 tbsp. butter. Add fresh thyme, Williams Sonoma mushroom gravy starter and water, simmer and skim as it cooks, for 30 minutes.
2. Remove from heat, strain.
3. Reserve broth and solids.

For the soup

1. Sauté leeks in 3 tbsp. butter and 1 tbsp. olive oil, until well wilted, about 20 mins.
2. Add mushroom caps and sauté 10 minutes more.
3. Add flour. Cook for a minute or two, to cook off the flour taste. All will "come together" in a loose ball. Stir well.
4. Add wine, dried thyme, bouillon cubes, and strained stock broth.
5. If desired (we did), add in some of the solids from the broth -- carrots, mushroom stems, onions, etc.

6. Simmer 15 minutes, stirring frequently, using a wooden spoon, to pull up anything on the bottom of the pot. (Note: If more white "foam" appears, skim it gently and discard.)

7. Reduce heat and add cream, half and half, fresh parsley, stir well.
8. Chill and reheat before serving, as this process renders the soup creamier and more flavorful.

Serving suggestion: Crisp mixed greens with vinaigrette dressing, crusty Italian bread, ice cold glass of Pinot Grigio or Chablis.  Serves four generous servings.

Love in the kitchen ... Tarte aux tomates et l'oignon gratinée

If you're like most food lovers, you can't get enough of fresh, sweet basil, vine-ripened tomatoes, cheeses and the piece de résistance, carmelized onions. Here's a recipe that combines all of the above, and believe it, you'll fall in love in your kitchen the minute you make and serve it. Using two kinds of cheeses (shredded French gruyere and freshly-grated Parmigiano Reggiano), succulent tomatoes, fresh basil, and a lovely sauté of thinly-sliced red onion, it's a best bet for Sunday game-watching, or a meatless Friday night supper. Make two or three and serve on a buffet.  Again, as with many of The Empty Nester Gourmet's recipes, less than an hour, from your grocer's shelf to your dinner table.

1 medium red onion, sliced paper thin
2 shallots, sliced paper thin
2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
1 tbsp. butter
4 vine-ripened tomatoes, sliced very thinly
2 tbsp. freshly-grated Parmigiano Reggiano
1/2 c. shredded French gruyere cheese
1 small bunch -- about 20 leaves -- fresh sweet basil
Fleur de sel and freshly grated pepper to taste
One pate brisée or store-bought dough, rolled to a 12" round.
Flour for rolling pin and surface

Preheat oven to 425F

1. Sauté onion, shallots and garlic in the olive oil and butter until brown and deeply carmelized. Allow to cool slightly and spread on rolled dough round.

2. Top with gruyere, layered tomatoes in a spiral-type pattern, basil, parmesan, salt and pepper. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.

3. Bake 10 minutes at 425F and 10 more minutes at 400F. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Panko Crusted Salmon

Mustard-roasted and Panko-coated, this is definitely not your mama's salmon! This flavorful twist on a low-calorie, high-protein dish will become an instant favorite in your home and among friends. It's so simple to prepare, takes less than an hour from start to finish. No sweet teryaki or salty soy here, but loaded with delicious herbs and spices.

Served with rice, or just a crispy salad of mixed greens, it's a meal that you'll make again and again.


1½ lbs. salmon filet
2 tbsp. mustard
2 tsp. fresh thyme (chopped)
2/3 c. Panko (Japanese dried breadcrumbs)
2 tbsp. chopped flat-leafed parsley
½ tsp. Hungarian or other good quality paprika
4 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400F.
1    1. Set salmon on foil lined baking sheet, skin side down.
2    2. Combine mustard and 1 tsp. thyme in small bowl.
3    3. In another bowl mix Panko w/1 tsp. thyme, 4 tsp. olive oil, parsley and paprika.
4    4. Spread mustard mixture on salmon.
5    5. Top w/bread crumb mixture.
6    6. Roast salmon at 400F degrees, 15-40 mins depending on thickness of salmon. Check after 15 mins. and adjust time.