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.








More Turkey Leftover Ideas - Turkey Pot Pie


Rich and spicy, filled with turkey, vegetables, potatoes and a smooth cream sauce, topped with a crusty, buttery pastry, this turkey pot pie is a wonderful way to serve the leftovers from your Thanksgiving feast.

This recipe makes six-eight servings, so this is a perfect meal you can enjoy with house guests who stay past the holiday. Goes nicely with a crisp salad and a cold glass of Pinot Grigio.
Ingredients

1 pkge. refrigerated pie crust (two crusts)
1 lb. fresh mushrooms, sautéed in 2 tbsp. butter and 1 tbsp. olive oil, until brown and all of their liquid is evaporated
1/3 c. butter
1/3 c. flour
1/3 c. onion, chopped finely
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/8 tsp. good quality paprika
Freshly ground pepper and salt to taste
1 tbsp. finely chopped fresh parsley
Freshly ground nutmeg
1-1/4 c. chicken broth
1/2 c. heavy cream or whole milk
2-1/2 cups cooked turkey, cut in bite-sized pieces
2 cups frozen mixed vegetables, thawed - OR - 2 cups fresh peas, chopped carrots and corn kernels
Egg wash: One egg + 1 tbsp. cool water, beaten slightly with fork

Process
1. Sauté mushrooms and set aside.
2. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
3. In saucepan, melt 1/3 cup (remaining) butter, add onion and sauté until translucent but not brown.
4. Add flour, paprika, salt and pepper, blend to a light roux.
5. Add heavy cream (or milk) and broth, and cook, stirring, until bubbly and thick. Add parsley and a light grinding of fresh nutmeg. Stir to combine.
6. Stir in turkey, sautéed mushrooms and mixed vegetables. Set aside.
7. Generously butter a deep dish pie plate and gently fit one of the pie crusts into it, stretching over edges to form lip.
8. Spoon mixture into crust. Brush edges with water, top with second pie crust, seal and crimp.
9. Cut slits in top crust, and brush with egg wash. Bake 30 to 40 minutes, or until crust is golden brown. (If desired, to keep edges from darkening too much or drying out, cover with foil for last 10 - 15 minutes of baking.
10. Remove from oven and let stand for 15 minutes before serving.

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.




We Give Thanks

The many things we give thanks for this year are the love of our family and friends, and the bounty on our table. As always, the turkey -- roasted to a golden brown and stuffed with savory bread and sausage stuffing -- is the centerpiece of our dinner table.

Next, the all-time, most-requested favorite -- sweet potato and pecan casserole -- again, from an old Southern family recipe. Both crunchy and smooth, sweet and savory, this casserole can be prepped two days in advance and cooked up in 45 minutes on Thanksgiving Day. Recipes below.

Here's our table, set for 10, before the food and guests arrive:
May you have a blessed Thanksgiving Day, filled with good things, loving family and faithful friends.

Grandma's Turkey Stuffing
(For 18 lb. bird)

Ingredients
1 package seasoned bread crumbs for turkey stuffing (Arnold)
1 stick butter
1 to 1-1/2 cups chicken broth
1 lb. good quality Italian sausage, out of casing
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup grated Parmegianno Reggiano cheese
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
3 eggs, slightly beaten with fork
Onion and garlic salt -- approx 1/8 tsp each
1 cup white raisins (optional)

1. Sauté sausage until cooked, about 10 minutes. Drain fat from pan. Set aside.
2. In large deep sauté pan, melt butter and broth. When butter is completely melted, add breadcrumbs, stir to combine until all liquid has been absorbed.
3. Pour breadcrumb mixture into a large deep mixing bowl.
4. Add seasonings, cheese, eggs and spices, mix well to combine.
5. Add sausage. Combine.

Stuff bird, reserving any extra stuffing for casserole to bake separately @ 400 degrees for 35 minutes.

Southern Sweet Potato & Pecan Casserole
Preheat oven to 400F degrees.


Ingredients
For casserole:
6 cups cooked sweet potatoes
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup whole milk
2/3 cup butter, melted
2 tsp. vanilla
4 eggs, beaten with fork
For topping:
2 cups flaked coconut
2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
2/3 cup flour
2/3 cup butter, melted
2 cups chopped pecans

Roast sweet potatoes for 40-60 minutes, or until soft. Cool, remove skin, and mash in a large bowl. Combine sweets with next five ingredients. Mix well. Spoon into a lightly-greased 13" x 9" casserole (or oval casserole of similar size).

Reduce oven temperature to 375F degrees.

Combine remaining ingredients, and sprinkle over the top of the sweet potato mixture. Bake @ 375F for 25 minutes or until golden brown. Yields 12+ servings.

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!



Party Pumpkin Squares


A pumpkin for your thoughts! Pumpkin is such a wonderful food, so loaded with health benefits, and available throughout the year, that it's a wonder we don't eat it more.  Now, during this season of pumpkin pies, pumpkin ice cream and pumpkin casseroles, I pulled out an old favorite of mine from many years ago and decided to give it a few new twists by adding ground cloves and allspice.  The result was "Pumpkin Party Squares," great for a buffet dessert because, like brownies, they need no forks or spoons to eat them .... unless, of course, you put a dollop of freshly-whipped heavy cream on them, as I did, or vanilla ice cream.  The result is a sumptuous dessert and is a real treat on a cold October or November night. A great gift for your Thanksgiving hostess, too!

Ingredients


For the crust:

1 package store-bought pound cake mix
1 egg, slightly beaten with fork
2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/8 tsp. ground allspice
2 tbsp. melted butter

For the topping:

8 oz. container of whipped cream cheese, at room temperature
1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk
2 eggs, slightly beaten with fork
2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 can (16 oz.) pumpkin pie filling
1/3 to 1/2 cup of walnuts, or as desired

Process

(1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

(2) Mix crust ingredients in bowl and press into a lightly greased and floured 13" x 9" baking pan. Mixture will be crumbly but firm.

(3) Whip the cream cheese, eggs, condensed milk and pumpkin pie filling in a large bowl with an electric mixer or wire whisk until well blended.

(4) Add dry ingredients -- pumpkin pie spice, salt, cinnamon -- and stir to combine.

(5) Pour filling on top of crust. Sprinkle with walnuts.

Bake 45 minutes until set.

Cool, cut into squares, and serve with ice cream or whipped cream, or just as they are!

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!