Christmas Eve Paella (Also: New Year's Eve Paella)


Paella is one of our family's favorite dishes, and even though I've heard it's "easy," there are many ingredients and the assembly is tricky. Ron's dad had a great recipe that goes back three decades (which uses the oven), and I found a fantastic version by Janet Mandel, a Spanish cooking authority (which uses the stove top).  I put the two of them together, and also added my own touches.  I decided to use a large earthenware casserole dish and the oven method.  (Note: Assembly time: about an hour; cooking time, approximately another hour. Give yourself ample time, don't rush and enjoy the experience!)

Ingredients:
4 small chicken thighs, bone-in
4 small chicken breasts (or two breasts cut in half), bone-in
Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
10 strands of saffron, steeped in boiling water
2 cups long grain white rice
8 cups chicken broth
1 green pepper, cut in 1/2" x 1/4" strips
1 ripe plum tomato, chopped
1 lb. Spanish chorizo (sausage)
18 raw, peeled and deveined shrimp
18 mussels
18 littleneck clams
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 large Spanish onion, chopped (approximately 1 cup)
1/2 box frozen peas
4 oz. roasted red peppers

Note: Prepare your mis en table in advance; chop all tomatoes, onion, pepper, garlic, clean all seafood, etc. so the cooking and assembly process goes smoothly.

Preparation
Cook the chicken: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Salt and pepper both sides of all pieces of chicken in oven-proof frying pan. Sauté in olive oil on both sides until deep golden brown.  Pop into oven for 20 minutes.

Cook the chorizo: Fry chorizo in non-stick pan. When cooked through, cut into small pieces. Drain pan of excess fat. Return chorizo to pan. Add onion, garlic, chopped tomato and green pepper, adding olive oil if necessary. When onion and garlic are translucent, remove from heat and set aside.

Steep the saffron: Bring one cup water to a boil. Remove from heat, add saffron. Set aside.

Assembly
When chicken is cooked, arrange around edges of large open casserole or paella pan.  Sprinkle with rice and add chicken stock, chopped tomato, chorizo/onion/pepper mixture, saffron with water, stir and cover tightly. Cook for 40 minutes, stirring half way through.

Remove from oven, uncover, stir. Add peas, roasted red peppers and shrimp. Cover, put back in oven for 20 minutes.

After 20 minutes, add mussels and clams. Cook uncovered for 10 minutes, or until clams, shrimp and mussels are cooked. Shrimp should be firm and pink. Discard any mussels or clams that are not open.

Serve with salad and crisp white wine, such as Pinot Grigio (or Sangria, for you purists).

Paella also makes a fantastic party dish, as perfect for a crowd on New Year's Eve as on Christmas Eve.

Coquilles St. Jacques (Scallops in Cream Sauce)


Elegantly Simple ... And Simply Elegant.

If you are musing over what to serve on Christmas Eve and/or New Year's Eve, here's a surprisingly easy yet exquisite dish that works for two, four or six. Served over ris au four (baked rice) and accompanied by a chilled white wine or Prosecco, and garlic-sautéed haricots vert, it is a memorable meal for a special night. With abundant thanks my muse, master chef Pierre Franey, for his inspiration.

Ingredients

Coquilles (Scallops in Cream Sauce)
1-1/2 lbs. fresh bay scallops, well rinsed and patted dry
1/2 lb. mushrooms, sautéed in 2 tbsp. butter (can be done ahead)
1 shallot, minced
6 tbsp. butter
3 leeks, washed well, and chopped finely
2 cups heavy cream
2 tbsp. flour
1/4 c. dry white wine, such as a Pinot Grigio or Chardonnay
1 small shallot, chopped finely
3 cloves fresh garlic, minced
2 tbsp. Sambuca (or Pernod)
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Baked Rice


1-1/2 c. white rice
2-1/4 c. water or low-sodium chicken broth
1 small sweet onion, chopped finely
1 clove fresh garlic, minced
2 sprigs fresh thyme and 2 sprigs fresh parsley
1 small bay leaf
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Process

Prepare the rice first:
Preheat oven to 400F degrees.

1. In a small Le Creuset or similar casserole that can go from the range top to the oven, sauté the onion and garlic in butter until translucent. Stir in the rice and coat well.


2. Add water or broth, and all ingredients.
3. Cover with a lid and bake at 400F for 15 minutes.

While the rice is baking:
1. Sauté the leeks in butter until wilted. Add wine, and cook for a few minutes until it has given up its alcohol. Stir in cream, flour, salt and pepper to taste. Simmer over low heat to reduce and thicken, stirring frequently.


2. As cream mixture simmers, sauté shallots, salt and pepper in a large separate non-stick sauté pan. Add the scallops when shallots are translucent and sauté to a golden hue.

3. Add Sambuca and heat until it has given up its alcohol.
4. Combine scallop mixture with cream sauce, bring to a boil, and add remaining butter. Serve with baked rice.








Hot and Healthy Turkey Vegetable Soup


All it took was some leftover turkey from Thanksgiving and about an hour of time for the inspiration of this amazing turkey soup. It's sweetly simple to make, loaded with flavor, perfect for lunch or a light dinner, serves four generously.

Here's how:

Ingredients

1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp. butter
1 medium onion, chopped (generous 1/2 c.)
3 medium stalks celery with leaves, chopped (generous 1/2 c.)
3 cloves fresh garlic, minced
1/2 lb. carrots, cut into 1/2" pieces
Approx. 1-2 cups turkey, cut into 1" pieces
Two turkey wings
Bouquet garni made of three sprigs each of fresh parsley, fresh thyme, fresh rosemary
1 can chicken broth
6 c. water
2 cubes chicken boullion
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste


Process

1. Sauté onion, garlic, celery and carrots in butter and oil until wilted and soft, but not browned.
2. Add turkey, chicken broth, water and cubes of boullion. Bring to a boil over high heat.


3. Add turkey wings. Skim fat and other residue as soup simmers.
4. Lower heat, simmer 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
5. Serve alone or with hot bread and a salad.




Oven-Dried Bread Offers Stuffing Shortcut

So says the ProChef Smart Brief, quoting the Culinary Institute of America (CIA).

A handy way to make stuffing from same-day bread. You and trust the experts!

Here's the link and the article:

http://www.seriouseats.com/2016/11/stuffing-use-oven-to-dry-bread-instead-of-stale.html

Provençal Lamb Stew, Pommes de Terre au Persil


Nothing says French like an authentic French stew, especially on a cold wintry day, and this one adds a twist that keeps all of the flavor locked into the stew. Here we took license with the original French country recipe, by adding the peas as a side rather than incorporating into the stew, and by creating a spectacular, buttery mash of pommes de terre au persil (parslied potatoes) as an accompaniment. This version retains all of the hearty meat and mushroom taste, and puts us in mind of Provençal forests deep in winter, while adding perfect accents with potatoes, parsley and peas.

This recipe will take a few hours to prepare, so give yourself ample time some morning or afternoon and by all means, enjoy the process, as you lovingly craft a dinner with complex flavor for cherished family and/or friends that they can't get just anywhere. As with most soups or stews, for some reason this one tastes better after it has been cooled and reheated, or the next day.


It's a wonderful dinner to serve, feels very elegant and makes you appear an accomplished cook, especially when accompanied by a fine beaujolais and crusty baguette.

Ingredients
2-3 lbs. lamb steaks (round bone), cut into 1-2" pieces
1/2 to 1 c. hearty red wine (use only wine that you would drink at table!)
3 tbsp. flour
2 medium onions, chopped coarsely (about 1 cup)
1 lb. mushrooms, sliced and sautéed in butter
1 lb. carrots, cut into 2" pieces
1 lb. frozen peas
4 Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into thirds 
1/2 c. fresh parsley, chopped coarsely
4 - 6 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. olive oil
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 bay leaves
2 tsp. freshly chopped thyme or 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Process
1. Sauté the mushrooms in 1-2 tbsp. butter and olive oil until deeply browned and set aside.

2. In a large dutch oven, add 1-2 tbsp. butter and sauté the lamb in stages so as not to cool down the pot, until richly browned and leaving a fond or tiny bits on the bottom of the pot.
These are the crusty, caramelized bits you want to render from the meat; they are called the fond.
They will add flavor and character to your stew.

3. Remove the meat with a slotted spoon and set aside. In the juice of the meat, sauté the onion and garlic until wilted and soft, about five minutes, stirring frequently. 


This is how your onions will look after you've added the wine and the slurry.
4. While the onion is cooking, make a
slurry of 2-3 tbsp. flour and very hot water in a small bowl, stirring to dissolve the flour completely. Add to the cooked onions and stir until well incorporated.


5. Add back the meat, add in the carrots, mushrooms, bay leaf, thyme and stir well to incorporate.
6. Add more wine, about 1/3 cup. 
7. Allow to simmer for 10 minutes, stir to incorporate, lower heat and simmer on low heat, stirring every 10 - 15 minutes or so, making sure to scrape the bottom of the pot.
8. Meanwhile, in a separate saucepan, boil the potatoes in salted water.
9. When the potatoes are cooked (about 10 minutes, or when a fork slides through easily), drain and mash in same saucepan, using a fork or a potato masher. Add 2 tbsp. butter and freshly chopped parsley, mix and set aside.
10. Prepare the peas according to package directions, and when cooked, add butter, salt and pepper to taste.
11. After a few hours, check the stew and adjust flavorings to taste.
12. Serve with peas and potatoes, crusty bread and a hearty beaujolais.  Bon appetit!



Chicken Breasts in Tarragon Cream Sauce with Sautéed Mushrooms

Here's a delicious and impressive chicken entrée your family and guests will rave about.  An old French family recipe, it takes less than an hour from start to finish and uses everyday kitchen ingredients. Serve with rice or buttered noodles. Green beans are also a nice accompaniment, as is a salad. A perfect dish for every night or special occasions. Note: Dried tarragon is much stronger than fresh. As directed, use less.

Ingredients

1/2 lb. fresh mushrooms, sliced

1 T butter, plus 2 T 

1 T extra virgin olive oil, plus 1 T

1 lb. thinly sliced chicken breasts

Flour seasoned with salt and pepper for dredging, plus 3 T for mixing with broth

1-1/2 c chicken broth

1/2 c. heavy cream

1 T fresh tarragon (or 1 t. dried)


Process

1. Sauté mushrooms in butter and olive oil. Set aside.

2. Dredge chicken breasts in seasoned flour.

3. Melt 2 tbsp butter and 1 tbsp olive oil in deep sauté pan

4. Sauté chicken to golden brown.  Set aside.

5. Make a "slurry" with the 3/4 c chicken broth and 3 T flour. (Mix together in separate bowl.)

6. Add remaining ¾ cup of chicken broth to pan. Scrape bottom of pan to incorporate brown bits.

7.  Mix slurry into pan and drippings. Mix well. Reduce heat and stir in heavy cream.

8. Add tarragon, chicken and mushrooms.  Simmer for 3-5 mins until chicken is fully cooked.

Serve with buttered noodles or rice.




Serve over rice.

Italian Plum Cake - A Wonderful Late Summer Pastry


We've been enjoying this lovely European recipe for decades, which is best only at the end of the summer, when Italian plums are in season. Recently, we were delighted to learn that plum cake is a dessert widely eaten on Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year. Seems all ethnicities do come together at the table. (Props to Barrie Rubinstein for this sweet culinary info.)

It's simple, light and airy. The plums are tart, the sugar is sweet. And dusted cloves and cinnamon on top of the cake will fill your house with an irresistible autumn aroma. Enjoy with ice cream, more dusted confectioner's sugar, or plain with a cup of tea.

Ingredients

3 lbs. ripe Italian plums, pitted and quartered
1/4 lb. butter
3 eggs, separated
1-1/2 c. confectioner's sugar
1-1/2 c. flour
1 tsp. baking powder
Ground cinnamon for dusting
Gound clovves for dusting
Granulated or sanding sugar for dusting

Process

1. Preheat oven to 350F degrees.
2. Butter and flour a half cookie sheet.
3. Pit and quarter the plums and set aside.
4. Cream butter, 3 egg yolks and sugar with hand mixer.

5. Mix in baking powder and flour.
6. Beat 3 egg whites and gently fold into batter.
7. Spread on prepared cookie sheet.
8. Place plums on top of sheet, sprinkle with cinnamon, ground cloves and sanding/granulated sugar.

9. Bake for 30 minutes in 350F oven.

Finished, baked and ready to serve!




Celebrate Pie Day with a Peachiful Pie!

A delightful long weekend at the Cape and overripe peaches brought us to yearning for a delicious sweet fresh peach pie. As with most of the Empty Nester Gourmet's recipes, this one is easy and quick ... and on your dessert table, warm and ready to top with ice cream, in less than 90 minutes.

Ingredients

3 cups overripe peaches, peeled, pitted and cut in quarters or sixths
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 egg, beaten slightly with fork
2 tbsp. flour
1 tbsp. freshly-squeezed lemon juice
2/3 cup whipped butter, melted
1 pie crust/pate brisée (bottom and top for lattice)
Egg wash -- 1 egg + 1 tbsp. cold water, slightly beaten with fork
Sanding sugar -- approx. 1 tbsp.
Optional -- 1 tsp. ground cinnamon

Process
1. Preheat oven to 400F degrees.
2. Press bottom crust into pie plate, crimping edges decoratively.
3. Mix egg, sugar, flour, lemon juice and butter in a bowl until well blended. Set aside.
4. Peel, pit and slice peaches, and arrange in single layer on bottom of crust, then second layer.
5. Top with egg/sugar mixture.
6. Prepare lattice topping and layer on top of pie mixture, cutting edges and fitting snugly into crimped pie shell. (Use egg wash to seal edges.)
7. Brush top and crimped edges with egg wash, dust with sanding sugar, and cinnamon, if desired.
8. Place on baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake at 400F for 15 minutes, or until crust is browned. Reduce oven to 350F and bake for another 30-40 minutes, or until filling is well set. If crust browns too quickly, cover loosely with aluminum foil. Allow to cool for approx. 1 hour before eating. Top with your favorite ice cream, or whipped cream.


The Perfect Turkey Burger for your Memorial Day BBQ!



For your Memorial Day BBQ, here's an amazing, cumin-scented turkey burger, redolent with spices and juiciness. All credit to "Top Chef" Ariane Duarte, who created the original recipe. We've added our own special touches.

They take only minutes to prepare and are loaded with flavor. Serve them on your favorite brioche rolls with Heinz Hamburger Dill Chips, a slice of tomato, and a side of onion rings or fries.  Tip: You can make extras and freeze. They defrost quickly and there is no noticeable difference in flavor or texture.

Ingredients -- Serves 6



2 lbs. of ground white and dark meat turkey
1 or 2 jalapeño peppers, small dice (depending on how much heat you like)
1/2 c. chopped cilatro or flat-leaf Italian parsley
1 tbsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. chopped garlic
1 small onion, diced
1/3 c. bread crumbs
Salt and pepper to taste
12 slices Finlandia Swiss or Light Swiss cheese
6 burger buns of your choice

Process -- 10 minutes or less


In a bowl, combine all ingredients. Divide equally into four large burgers.

Grill on high heat -- 4 minutes on one side, then turn and finish for about 3 minutes to 4 minutes on the other. Add two slices of Finlandia Swiss and let melt.

Then place on your favorite bun and serve!







Arriba! Arriba! Cinco de Mayo! Fiesta Rolls!

Spice up your Cinco de Mayo feast with these awesome veggie treats that go from the hors d'oeuvre table to the dinner table ... They take less than 30 minutes to prepare, and just need a few hours in the 'fridge before serving. Serve with your favorite spicy salsa and guacamole. Makes four rolls, approximately 32 pieces.

Ingredients
One package of large ("burrito size") flour tortillas
Two containers (approx. 10 oz each) red pepper hummus
One green bell pepper, minced finely*
One yellow or red sweet pepper, minced finely*
One medium sweet onion, minced finely*
3 carrots, minced finely*
1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, minced finely*

*Can be processed (separately) in food processor; drain of any water before mixing together

Process
1. After mincing/draining veggies, measure out same amount of each ingredient and mix together.

2. Spread hummus thinly on large tortilla (approximately 1-2 tbsp. per tortilla)

3. Sprinkle with vegetable mixture.

4. Roll tightly.

5. Wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate 2-3 hours.
6. Unwrap, cut on diagonal.
7. Serve with your favorite Mexican tomato salsa. Delicioso!

Savory Early Springtime Sweet Potato Salad


If you're looking for savory ways to utilize your early crops of springtime herbs, here's an easy and delicious salad that goes to the table with sandwiches, pasta, seafood, or simply as a light and refreshing entrée. This recipe serves four, you can increase quantities for larger gatherings.

Ingredients

1/2 c. fresh basil
1/2 c. fresh parsley
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp. tarragon vinegar
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
One large sweet potato, boiled until fork tender, but not soft and cut into 1"- 2" pieces
1 c. sugar snap peas
1/2 c. red grapes

Process

1. In a small food processor, blend the first six ingredients until they become incorporated.
2. Put potato wedges, peas and grapes into bowl, pour dressing all over and mix well.
3. Serve with your favorite sandwich, seafood or as a refreshing entrée.





HOP HOP HOP OVER TO POPOVERS!


Always super delicious, eggy popovers are easy to make and are sure to wow the crowd. Great with confectioners sugar (dusted or drizzled frosting), butter or just on their own, hot from the oven. 

We used our favorite packaged mix, from the famous Jordan Pond in Maine. Tip: Order more than one 'cause you'll want to make them more than once!

Here's the link. Jordan Pond Popover Mix


Good Luck Lentil Soup!



In many families, it is a tradition to have lentils, black-eyed peas or some sort of bean on New Year's Day ... to usher in the new year with luck and good fortune. Here's our version of a hearty lentil soup that fills the bill ... It's easy to make, fills the house with amazing aromas, and with the addition of kielbasa, makes a meal unto itself. Just add your favorite beverage and hot crusty Italian bread!


Ingredients
1 16 oz bag dried lentils
2-3 T extra virgin olive oil for sautéeing
1 large onion, chopped
1 lb. kielbasa, cut into 1/2" pieces
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 stalks celery, cut into 1/4" pieces
1 lb. carrots, cut into 1/4" pieces
4 c beef broth (heated)
6 c water (heated)
1 bay leaf
French fleur de sel to taste
Freshly ground pepper to taste

Process
1. In a large Dutch oven, sauté the kielbasa in 1-2 T of olive oil until browned.
2. Add chopped onion, garlic and celery. Sauté until wilted. Add more olive oil if needed.
3. Add carrots, mix with kielbasa, onion, garlic and celery and sauté one-two minutes more.
4. Add warmed beef broth, bay leaf, warmed water, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir well.
5. Bring to a boil, then turn down heat to simmer for 1-1/2 hours.
6. Let cool slightly and serve with your favorite beverage and hot crusty Italian bread.

HAPPY NEW YEAR! May good fortune, good health and abundant joy be yours in the year to come!