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.


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


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.

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!)

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

Step-by-Step Guide to The Perfect Thanksgiving Turkey

Roasting a turkey always looms as a daunting job. But it needn't be, if you plan ahead. Below we outline our fail-safe method for roasting a moist and flavorful turkey. Note: We always buy a fresh turkey. Never frozen.

Size Guidelines. 

For 4-6 servings, buy a 10-12 lb turkey.
For 8-10 servings, buy a 12-16 lb turkey.
For 12-16 servings, buy a 16-22 lb turkey.

Always get a turkey large enough for leftovers!

Stuffed or Unstuffed?

Note: NEVER stuff your turkey the night before. You will risk infecting the turkey (and your guests) with dangerous bacteria. ALWAYS stuff the day you are roasting the bird, even if that means getting up a tad early.

In general, turkeys take about 20 mins per pound. Stuffed turkeys always take longer to roast. Add 1/2 hour to roasting time for a stuffed bird. (I.e., if an unstuffed 12 lb bird takes 3-1/2 hours, a stuffed one will take 4 hours.)

The best way to know if your turkey is done: The turkey should register 165F on a good meat thermometer. Test all over the bird -- the thickest part of the breasts, the innermost section of the thighs, and the wings, between the breast and the wing bone.

After the bird is taken out of the oven, let it rest at least 1/2 hour to let the juices come back into the bird. Otherwise, the juices will flow out of the bird as you cut it and render a very dry bird. If you stuffed the turkey, remove the stuffing from the cavity, put it into a heated casserole, cover and set aside.

(Note: For a fabulous stuffing recipe, see our "Grandma's Turkey Stuffing" post.)

Making the Most Flavor!
Use a roasting pan large enough to hold the turkey with room on the sides. Instead of using a plain roasting rack, make a bed of veggies to cradle your bird.

We use:
4-5 stalks of celery with leaves
4-5 large carrots, peeled and left whole
3 onions, sliced in 1/3 pieces
3 cloves garlic, whole
Fresh parsley sprigs
Fresh thyme sprigs

Place the veggies on the bottom of your roasting pan. Season well with salt and pepper, and a few pats of butter. Make a bed approximately 1" thick.

Now carefully place the turkey on top of the veggies. Season the outside of the bird well with salt and pepper (we use garlic salt for an extra kick), and top with several pats of butter.

Roast for 1/2 hour at 450F, basting halfway through and again after 1/2 hour.  Lower the heat to 350F, and roast, basting often with the juices that are dripping off the bird.  If needed, add more butter. If the skin is getting burned, cover with foil, especially the legs.

Carving Your Turkey

This is not difficult, but it takes a little patience. And sharp knives! If you're able, have your knives professionally sharpened in advance of roasting your turkey.

First, remove the legs by inserting a your carving knife between the breast and the leg and twisting gently. The legs should come loose and detach from the bird easily. Place on your serving platter.

Next, carving from the top of the bird downward, cut off the breast on each side of the turkey. Set aside. Then go to the wings and thighs.

Here's the best video we've found on carving a turkey, and this is exactly how we do it:

Making the Creamiest Gravy!
When you are finished carving, set the turkey aside on a warm platter and make your gravy.

1. Remove the veggies from the bottom of the roasting pan.
2. Separate the fat from the drippings using a fat separator. (OXO Good Grips makes an excellent separator.) Return the drippings to the roasting pan.
3. Over low heat, deglaze the roasting pan using 2 cups chicken stock and 1/2 cup dry white wine. Scrape all the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. (That's where all the flavor is!)
4. Make a slurry using approximately 1/2 cup of the pan juices and 1/4 c flour.  Add back into the roasting pan and mix.
5. Stir all thoroughly, add approx. 2-3 tbsp Gravy Master to the pan. Mix well, and transfer all to a saucepan.
6. Put saucepan on low and let the gravy thicken to your desired consistency.

(Also see our "Easy Turkey Gravy" post.)

You're Ready to Serve!

Place your platter of turkey, casserole of stuffing and any other sides you've prepared (suggestions: our Southern Pecan Sweet Potato Casserole, sautéed green beans with garlic and butter, and creamy mashed potatoes), and the piping hot turkey gravy in a gravy boat.

Enjoy and Happy Thanksgiving!!

November Harvest Vegetable Soup

Have you ever been chilled to the bone on a rainy day in November? That's the kind of day it was when we created this hearty low-carb harvest vegetable soup. The robust flavor comes from a vegetable and seasoning blend of carrots, kale, mushrooms, celery, heirloom tomatoes, sautéed onions, garlic, fresh thyme, oregano and roasted butternut squash ... it's a soup harkening to the bounty of the harvest and heralding warmth for the crisp days ahead. (To make it vegetarian, use vegetable stock and vegetable bouillon instead of chicken.)


3 carrots, chopped into 1/2" chunks
3/4 c celery, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped finely
1/2 tsp garlic salt
10 oz fresh mushrooms, sliced and sautéed with butter
10 oz butternut squash, cubed and roasted
10 oz fresh kale, chopped into large pieces
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1 bay leaf
3 tsp fresh thyme, minced (2 tsp for roasting the butternut squash, 1 tsp for the soup)
Fleur de sel and freshly ground pepper to taste
Extra virgin olive oil (2-3 T) and butter (1 T)
2 c chicken or vegetable broth
6 c water
3 chicken or vegetable bouillon cubes
1/3 c fresh parsley, chopped
4-5 small mixed heirloom tomatoes, chopped and seeded


1. In advance, mix 1 T extra virgin olive oil with 2 tsp of minced fresh thyme with the butternut squash cubes. Spread on cookie sheet and roast at 350F for 25 minutes. Set aside and let cool.

2. Also in advance, slice and sauté fresh mushrooms in about 1 T of butter. Set aside.

3. In large dutch oven, sauté onion, garlic, carrots and celery until wilted. When they develop color, add the mushrooms and kale. Continue to sauté, adding garlic salt, oregano, the remainder of the fresh thyme, and salt and pepper ti taste. Mix well over a medium flame.

4. Add tomatoes, bay leaf, water, stock and bouillon. Let simmer for 1 hour or more. When almost ready to serve, add the roasted butternut squash and stir, combining all.

5.  Serve with your favorite apple cider beer or white wine, and crispy French bread. Serves about 6-8. The flavors get even better when reheated next day as a leftover!

Getting Ready for Thanksgiving - Easy Turkey Gravy

It's almost Thanksgiving. Time to think about your turkey and the trimmings. One of the best parts of the meal is rich, creamy, roast turkey gravy ... on top of buttery mashed potatoes, savory stuffing and roast turkey.

This gravy recipe is a combination of the best Italian, French and American cooks in our family, plus my own contemporary additions.  Its complex flavor comes from deglazing the pan filled with the rich drippings of the turkey (which is stuffed with an Italian sausage stuffing), plus a layering of seasonings and liquids (including white wine and chicken broth) ... and a hint of herbs.

Serves 8-10

Drippings from 18 lb. (more or less) turkey
2 cups chicken broth
3 tbsp. flour
1/4 c. white wine (good dry one)
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
3 tsp. Gravy Master
Hot water

Drain fat from bottom of turkey roasting pan.
• Over medium heat on range top, deglaze pan with 1/4 cup white wine and 2 cups chicken broth, making sure to scrape up brown bits.
• In small bowl, mix 3 tbsp. flour with hot water. Stir to dissolve flour. Add to pan drippings and broth.
• Let simmer 10 minutes over low heat, stirring continuously.
• Add Gravy Master. Stir in well.
• Add salt and pepper to taste, and if desired, herbs such as bay leaf, fresh sage, fresh rosemary and fresh thyme.
• Pour through sieve into a medium-sized saucepan, making sure not to leave any brown bits at bottom of roasting pan, but removing herb leaves.
• Allow to simmer over low heat for another 5-10 minutes until thick and creamy, adjusting salt and pepper seasonings as needed.  Serve hot with roast turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes.

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!


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


(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!

Chillin' with Summer Chicken Pasta Salad

If you're looking for a low-calorie, cool and delicious summer salad loaded with fresh herbs and lots of flavor, here's one that fits the bill! It's simple and quick to make -- less than 15 minutes start to finish -- and perfect for a cool summer dinner.

Here's how:


1 lb. thin skinless boneless chicken breasts
1/2 lb. penne rigate pasta
Fresh herbs minced -- dill, parsley, basil
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, cut in half
Salt and pepper to taste
Freshly shaved parmigiano reggiano to taste
Extra virgin olive oil as needed


1. Boil pasta, drain, sprinkle with olive oil, stir and let cool in a bowl
2. Quick sauté chicken, remove to platter and let cool
3. In a bowl, mix cherry tomatoes, minced herbs, parmigiano reggiano and a drizzle of olive oil
4. When cool, thinly julienne chicken.
5. Add pasta and chicken to herb mixture, season with salt and pepper, add more parmigiano reggiano if desired.
6. Mix all, cover tightly and refrigerate until ready to serve. Just before serving, check seasonings and add another drizzle of olive oil.



Here's a delightful, quickly-prepared tarte that will delight your friends and family. Only 45 minutes from start to finish, it's a wonderful summertime dessert or tea-time break!


3 ripe peaches, sliced in 1/4" slices
1 bottom pie crust
2 T butter, in small pieces
2 T sugar
1 T sanding sugar
Freshly ground cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves to taste
Cold water

Preheat oven to 425F.

1. Lay out the bottom pie crust on a cookie sheet.
2. Place the peach slices in in concentric circles, starting 3/4" from the edge of the crust and working towards the center.
3. Sprinkle with the cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and sugar.
4. Dot with the butter all around.
5. Brush edge of crust with cold water, and fold crust over/crimp.
6. Sprinkle with sanding sugar.
7. Bake for 30 mins @ 425F. Let cool completely before transferring to a serving dish.

To serve: Top with ice cream or whipped cream.

Fly Me to the Moon: On BBQ Wings!

Keeping with our Memorial Day theme, today we roasted plump little chicken wings. They were smothered in a sticky spicy red BBQ sauce that I made with a base of commercial sauce, and spiked with lime juice, lime pulp, garlic salt, chili powder and freshly ground pepper.  I purchased the wings whole, removed the end parts and cut them into little drumette and wing portions with a cleaver.  I used my trusty wooden reamer to squeeze out every last drop (and a little of the pulp) from a few limes, sprinkled with generous helpings of the garlic salt, pepper and chili powder and poured the sauce all over.  They roast in a preheated oven at 350º for 30 minutes, turning halfway through to re-do the spices and sauce other side.

We added celery stalks and homemade blue cheese dressing with crumbled blue cheese on top.  Every savory bite is a finger-licking juicy treat! Great for appetizers, an entrée, or a mid-afternoon snack while watching the game.  Be sure to have plenty of paper towels handy!

The Perfect Springtime Dessert

If you've eaten at Joe's Stone Crab in Miami, you'll know about their famous Key Lime Pie, just the best there is. They've generously shared their recipe online, and we are big fans ... making it frequently. It's a hit with young and old. Here's the link to their recipe, and thank you Joe's!!

Snow Soup!

In our house, the minute it starts snowing is the tip-off to get the split pea soup going! This recipe is rich, thick, hearty and works as an entire meal, especially if you add these buttery croutons which are insanely delicious! Allow time to simmer on the stove-top, at least an hour or until the peas have broken down and the ham is tender. Enjoy!


2-3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
One package split dry green peas
Ham bone from smoked ham
Extra ham from leftover shank or butt half, chopped
2 large carrots, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
4 small potatoes, cubed into 1/2" pieces
4 stalks celery, chopped (with leaves)
2 cloves garlic, minced
6 cups water
2 beef boullion cubes
Salt and pepper


1. Sauté the ham and ham bone, garlic, onion and carrot in dutch oven.
2. Add water, bouillon cubes and bring to a simmer.
3. Skim foam that comes to the top of the pot.

4. Add peas, carrots, celery, potatoes and bring to a simmer. Re-skim if necessary.

 5. Simmer and stir as vegetables and peas soften and break down.

6. Allow soup to simmer until well blended.

7. Serve with or without buttery croutons. (Recipe follows)

"Insane" Croutons!


3 cups day old Italian bread, cubed
2-3 tbsp. melted butter
2 tsp. extra virgin olive oil

1. Line cookie sheet with foil.
2. In a large bowl, combine bread cubes, salt and pepper, olive oil and melted butter (and optional* herbs if desired).
3. Mix with your very clean hands to be sure the cubes are covered completely with the butter/oil/herb mixture.
4. Spread out on to cookie sheet.
5. Bake 10 mins @ 400F, until crunchy and golden brown.
6. Serve with hot pea soup and watch them disappear!

*Optional herbs: Can add thyme, rosemary, 

Cuisinart Recall Results in Delay Replacements

If you own a Cuisinart Food Processor, you've probably heard about the recall due to shards of metal spinning off the blade and into your food. (If not, see the link below.)

In December, we checked the model number of our unit (see link below) and found that it was one of the recalled products. We filed for a replacement and at the end of January, had not received it. A phone call to customer service (after 1.5 hour wait to reach a live person!) resulted in sheer frustration. Our claim was nowhere to be found and we were forced to file a new claim. Fast forward to the end of February, another ridiculously long wait to reach a live person, and told that there was no replacement in the "forseeable future" because of the millions of blades that were on backorder.

Incredibly poor service. We recommend that our readers choose another manufacturer when buying a food processor, or any small appliance.

Cuisinart Recall Problems


Here's an authentic, spicy dish you can make in less than an hour!  We love it served with rice and a high-quality mango chutney. Garnish with a spritz of lemon and chopped cilantro. A sure winner, weeknight or weekend!

2 tbsp oil
2 c onion, chopped finely
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs

2 fresh tomatoes, chopped

1/4 to 1/3 c heavy cream

Spice mixture
1 tsp curry powder
1 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp celery seed
2 cloves garlic, crushed or finely chopped


1. Sauté onion in oil until translucent

2. Add tomatoes, chicken, spice mixture and sauté for 15 minutes, or until chicken is fully cooked.

3. Add cream, reduce heat to low, and sauté until thickened, about 5 minutes.

Serve over rice, with a high-quality mango chutney.  

Garnish with a spritz of lemon and chopped cilantro. 

Enjoy with a sparkling Reisling or Kingfisher beer!