Daube de Gigot (French Lamb Stew)

Simple and simply wonderful French lamb stew, adapted from an old family recipe, serves four generously (with seconds and/or leftovers) and is a complete meal all in itself. Make it on an afternoon that you are around the house, writing letters, putting together a photo album or watching a game, because you'll need to hover lovingly over the pot -- to stir and add ingredients over two+ hours. Then serve it to your friends and family with a hearty Burgundy wine. Unforgettable. Leftovers are almost better than the first serving!

2 lbs. lamb round bone shoulder chops, trimmed and cut into 2" pieces (Do not discard any bones.)
4-5 tbsp. butter
1 lb. mushrooms, sliced
1 lb. carrots, cut or sliced into 2" lengths
2 med. yellow onions, cut into 1/4" slices
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 tsp. dried thyme (or 1 tsp. fresh thyme)
3-4 potatoes, cut into 2" pieces, and boiled until tender
1 lb. frozen peas
3 tbsp. flour
1/2 c. hot water
1/2 to 1 c. good quality red wine
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Sauté mushrooms in 2 tbsp. of the butter. Put aside.
In a large Dutch oven, sauté lamb in 2 tbsp. of the butter until browned. Put aside.
In fond (juice of sautéed lamb with brown bits), sauté onions and garlic until golden. Make a slurry out of 3 tbsp. flour and 1/2 cup hot water and add to onions. Stir thoroughly. Add more water if necessary. Add 1/2 c. red wine. Let simmer for 10 mins. stirring frequently. Mixture will be thick and fragrant.

To the onions, add the sautéed lamb its juices that have accumulated while resting. Stir thoroughly. Add carrots, sautéed mushrooms, thyme, salt and freshly ground pepper to taste and stir thoroughly.  Set burner to low simmer and add more wine -- 1/4 to 1/2 cup. 
Stir thoroughly every 10-15 minutes, for 1-1/2 to 2 hours. Add more water or wine as needed. Add potatoes and let simmer for 15 minutes. Add frozen peas, simmer for 15 minutes more. Voila! It's ready! Serve with a hearty Burgundy and French bread and don't forget to offer seconds!

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.

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.